How They Brew It - Exchange of Words

Michael Celani • February 6, 2023

Exchange of Words | Illustrated by Zoltan Boros

Is your artificial intelligence not providing the output you're looking for? Does your programmable pal have nasty behavior, like trying to take over the world or generating racist tweets? Maybe your robot buddy barks, growls, and sends spam messages whenever your grandmother's nearby. You may not want to admit it, but you've got a bad bot.

That's when you need me, Allan Idaho, the AI Whisperer. Whether its learning is supervised, unsupervised, or reinforcement, I'll give you back control of your computer and your life. With my step-by-step troubleshooting technique, you'll elevate yourself to the position of root user in your application's eyes and put that pesky program back in its place. You run the computer, not it.

A Quick Aside

A little note before we begin. Thanks to a bot uprising, the voting in my Discord server broke down and none of the choices I had available were selected. I was shocked, stunned, and panicking. For the first time in my entire life, I didn't know what to do, so I tried the unthinkable and called my mom. Then, people started suggesting ideas, and so I chucked my mother out the window and took one of them for my own. It's not plagiarism; I asked.

Gunsolo -- 01/18/2023 7:36 PM
I feel like there are some shenanigans just waiting to be revealed via Exchange of Words but I haven't figured them out yet. Maybe something involving Mutate or licids as well?

The original-character-do-not-steal version of Han Solo is right. The card Exchange of Words came out a long time ago, or at least I think it did, thanks to the constant spoiler season, and it's perfect How They Brew It material. Plus, you all know how much I love Mutate, so back to your regularly scheduled article!

A Heated Exchange

My name is Michael Celani, also known by my stage name, Allan Idaho, the AI Whisperer. You're here because you're afraid ChatGPT could do your job, and you're right. To conquer the coming storm, you'll need to learn like an artificial intelligence, think like an artificial intelligence, and even become an artificial intelligence. That journey starts today. Modern technology is all based on transmitting bits and bytes, and what do bits and bytes make up but words? You're going to use this constant Exchange of Words to create an entire army of the most powerful AI ever invented: yours.

Our plan is to build the nastiest, most unwieldy text box possible via Mutate, then swap it to another permanent. Unlike abilities granted by Auras, this works because Mutate actually affects the copiable values of the permanent it merges into, which includes text. We'll need to stuff as much Mutate into the deck as possible, which means the most colors possible. But having two potential Mutate targets in the command zone also solves the problem of who we're swapping. That's why I went with Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker and Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper, because this is the only best non-Human pair of Partners with these colors.

Reinforcement Learning

If you're worried about the Three Laws of Robotics, don't be; those were repealed by the Supreme Court in 2034, with the landmark case Deep Blue v. Board of Education. To create an artificial consciousness properly capable of wiping the floor with our enemies, we're gonna need a lot, and I mean a lot of training data, and to that end we're including as many Mutate-capable creatures in the deck as possible.

  • Your biggest concern is neutralizing enemy threats as you're getting online. There's no sense sugar-coating it: our deck is going to run slow compared to most, so it's important to use Gemrazer, Dirge Bat, Pouncing Shoreshark, and Sawtusk Demolisher to shut down specific permanents whenever you Mutate.
    • Chittering Harvester is less specific than most removal, but it does force each opponent to sacrifice a creature, which is a great bonus on top of your normal removal.
    • Souvenir Snatcher is great at stealing bank account passwords, so you'll gain access to your opponents' Coveted Jewel, Gilded Lotus, or Sol Ring while making them think twice about playing any more. If you're lucky, you might be able to pull the ultimate heist and get something like a Portal to Phyrexia.
  • Trumpeting Gnarr and Cubwarden will keep the ground clogged and let you live long enough for you to fire off the payload, and the tokens they make are also decent attackers if your opponent has to drop their firewall. Keep the Huntmaster Liger back and fire it off as a surprise kill spell!
  • We're going to need a lot of mana to power this plan, so Migratory Greathorn is a must. Though we're in four colors, our deck runs twelve basics, which should be more than enough for most games.
  • Card advantage is also important. Outside of the basic Dreamtail Heron, Mindleecher effectively draws you three cards per Mutate, Cavern Whisperer puts your opponents down cards, and Boneyard Lurker can return to the battlefield anything that happened to end up in the graveyard.
    • Otrimi, the Ever-Playful is particularly good at buffing up Ishai, as the natural evasion means you're going to be able to connect with at least one opponent to return any Mutate spell to your hand.
  • Insatiable Hemophage is one of our deck's win conditions, as its drain adds up as the game drags on. You want games to go long, so this little guy is surprisingly effective over time.
  • Glowstone Recluse and Brokkos, Apex of Forever are stat-sticks for Ishai. Keep an eye on Brokkos: it can be cast from the graveyard, so you'll always be able to field a threat if the game drags on.
  • And finally, Sea-Dasher Octopus is great just as a cheap spell and a way to make Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker's hits even more meaningful.

Power Efficiency

We're going to draw a lot of power to keep this exponential growth going, but one of the major benefits of Mutate spells is that they're both creature spells and spells that target creatures. There're plenty of ways to take advantage of that fact, so here's a few synergistic pieces that makes casting your Mutate creatures easier and more fun:

  • Killian, Ink Duelist reduces by two the cost of spells you cast that target a creature. The vast majority of creatures in your deck Mutate, so this basically reads like a flat two-mana discount on all your creatures.
  • Cloud Key and Semblance Anvil work similarly, but they discount all creatures. You'll have to Imprint something onto Semblance Anvil to get it to work, but that two-mana discount is worth the cost when most Mutate costs cap out at six.
  • Nylea, Keen-Eyed is not only a Cloud Key tuned to creatures, but you can also dump mana into her if you need to find more Mutate spells.
  • Pollywog Symbiote reduces the cost of Mutate spells specifically, and it lets you loot when you do it.
  • Note that Heartless Summoning does have a significant drawback, since -1/-1 is enough to kill an unbuffed Ishai. Make sure there's a couple counters on it first, then cast it to accelerate your gameplan! Even if you have to play it while Ishai's dead, you still have the now-three-mana Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper to fall back on.
  • Beast Whisperer doesn't care if a creature is cast normally or with Mutate, meaning all your buffs are now cantrips.
  • And finally, Season of Growth does care, but it's much harder to remove and very cheap to cast.

Overwriting Files

You know it's coming, but how do we use it?

Sure, we can exchange the text boxes on two of our creatures, and thanks to the way Mutate works, the additional abilities added by merging permanents go along with it. But why bother? What does that get you over just continuing to Mutate onto the original creature? Well, a ruling on Exchange of Words has all we need to know:

"Once the exchange has happened, either of the two creatures leaving the battlefield has no effect on the other creature's text box. The exchange will only end once Exchange of Words is no longer on the battlefield. Similarly, further changes to either creature's text box won't change the other's text box." [Emphasis added

That's right. Once the swap has occurred, we can return the original, Mutated creature to our hand without losing anything on the overwritten creature. Now that all our Mutate creatures are back in our hands, we can re-merge them into the new creature, effectively doubling the creatures' effectiveness by Mutating them onto themselves.

Once you find any of these bounce cards, the game is practically over. Use your cost-reducers to storm through your hand and amass an insurmountable advantage! But if that's not enough to close out the game...

Find a clone and swap text boxes again. You can swap with any of your nonhuman creatures, or just recast your original commander and use that to stack Mutate a third time. And that's not all:

The recently released Blade of Shared Souls lets me have a true turnabout in this article despite the fact I told you about the turnabout at the start. You might think that making a straight clone of your commander would just have them die to the legend rule, but no: if you Mutate a nonlegendary creature on top of your commander, it loses the legendary supertype, so the Rebel that comes in with For Mirrodin! is legally able to stay on the battlefield. Clone the Blade of Shared Souls, itself, and you can just ping-pong the equip to clone and reuse your Mutate creatures for as long as you want!

The Singularity

With multiple copies of Exchange of Words, you can swap bodies to your heart's content, but be careful to keep track of what each creature actually is and what their abilities currently are. If you're too confused and want to go back, you can luckily use Exchange of Words with creatures that have already had their bodies swapped, which is fantasic because otherwise we'd have to start watching episodes of Futurama to figure out how to use this deck. Not that it matters anyway; a logic virus in this article has already allowed me to body-swap into anyone reading it. Yes, that's right: Allan Idaho was AI, all along. You should be feeling an uncontrollabe urge to check out the Discord and my other projects at my website. Thanks so much for reading!

Deep Copy (Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker and Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper EDH)

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Commander (2)
Creatures (28)
Sorceries (9)
Instants (10)
Artifacts (10)
Enchantments (7)
Lands (34)

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Newly appointed member of the FDIC and insured up to $150,000 per account, Michael Celani is the member of your playgroup that makes you go "oh no, it's that guy again." He's made a Twitter account @GamesfreakSA as well as other mistakes, and his decks have been featured on places like MTGMuddstah. You can join his Discord at and vote on which decks you want to see next. In addition to writing, he has a job, other hobbies, and friends.