Have you ever felt like you’re being watched?
Think about it. The mailman, the jogger, the protester being beaten up by cops — you see them every morning; are they on a loop? Do events feel scripted, like nothing you do matters and your choices are pointless? And this intro; are you sure you haven’t read it somewhere before? Look at the clock. Look at the calendar. Wasn’t yesterday Arbor Day, too?
Dun Dun Dun
My name is Michael Celani, and I’m caught in a Groundhog Day loop. Every morning, I wake up at seven and read Digg on my phone until I attend my first work meeting from bed two hours later. Then, after resisting the urge to commit arson, I make sure to use the restroom on company time and—
Oh, you’re telling me that’s not a mystical curse, that’s just called being employed? Well, if I’m getting paid, then I have all the reason in the world to keep the loop going!
Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed can sacrifice himself at Portal: Three Kingdoms speed to return any black card from your graveyard to your hand. That’s not just a black creature, by the way: it’s any black card, even instants like One With Nothing! Our graveyard truly is a second hand with him at the helm, making him the perfect commander to loop anything we need!
The Spellshaper of Water
Of course, if we want to take advantage of Xiahou’s amazing ability to give up his own body and soul to create value for his boss (in other words, employment), we’ll need to put some cards in the graveyard first. We could just cast them, but
that’s stupid and boring instants and sorceries in black are situational, and we won’t have the time to set up a sacrifice engine. So let’s use the cards themselves as fuel!
- If you need a quick blocker, Cryptbreaker’s tokens will stop your opponents from breaking through. Once you have a small army of zombies, you can even recoup your losses, a strategy I’ve dubbed “investing in cryptocurrency.”
- Spellshapers let you cast one card as another. For instance, tap Cackling Witch to trade a card in your hand for a Howl From Beyond. Paired with Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed’s horsemanship, you’ve got quite the Hail Mary if you’re faced with a game-ending threat.
- If you need to find one specific card to get out of trouble, Divining Witch’s Demonic Consultation impression is serviceable. You can also use it to find a common Swamp if you’re lacking land drops.
- Instigator is a forced-combat card for an opponent, but note that they’re not goaded. In particular, they still retain the right to attack you. If an opponent has nothing but engine creatures, this can be a great way to remove some of their pieces for cheap.
- Bog Witch lets you cast some of the higher end spells in the deck much more consistently.
- Urborg Syphon-Mage drinks up everyone else’s milkshake, leaving you well-nourished should the game go long.
- Notorious Assassin isn’t quite up to the task of committing Murder, so you’ll have to settle for a plain old Dark Banishing instead.
- Though their ability is a bit pricier, Greel, Mind Raker’s discard hits players at random and you can wait until the end of a draw step to activate it!
- Trade cards for mana one-for-one with Skirge Familiar. Since it doesn’t need to tap, you can activate this as soon as it hits the field.
- It’s not quite a spellshaper creature, but Oblivion Crown turns Xiahou into a powerhouse faster than you can say “stop, you’ve violated the law.”
- Be sure to discard one of your many madness cards to the spellshapers if you get the chance. From Under the Floorboards, Big Game Hunter and especially Call to the Netherworld are all excellent cards that are fairly usable on their own if need be.
- Absent madness, Archfiend of Ifnir and Bone Miser also reward you for discarding your own cards, so keep them on board for a little extra value.
- If you take one thing away from this section at all, it’s that in nineteen ninety eight the Undertaker threw mankind off hеll in a cell, and plummeted sixteen feet through an announcer’s table.
Eye of the Beholder
Of course, a one-to-one, eye-for-an-eye trade was never the limit for Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed. There are plenty of ways to get back more than one piece of cardboard for your troubles, and plenty of ways to boost his attacking power should you need to knock out a troublesome opponent!
- Fireshrieker and Lashwrithe are a match made in BDSM heaven, and once they’re on Xiahou, it’ll be tough not to kill an opponent with commander damage.
- Howl from Beyond not only describes Russel Crowe’s singing, it’s also a wonderful way to knock out your opponents from nowhere should you not find the equipment. Substitute Hatred for it if you really want to threaten people from nowhere!
- Once you have the mana, nothing’s more satisfying than Vorpal Sword’s snicker-snack. Crypt Ghast and Bubbling Muck both make it possible to play, equip, and activate it all in one turn, too!
- Wand of Orcus rewards your murder spree with walking corpses that keep you safe from the crackback. You only get one zombie per point of damage, but to compensate, they come in untapped.
- For double the recursion, try copying the activated ability with Rings of Brighthearth or Lithoform Engine. You can even move Xiahou to the graveyard once he dies and recover him with the copied ability, since he’ll be a valid target by that point.
Welcome to Deathloop
Well, since I’m in a Groundhog Day loop, we might as well invite everyone else to the fun! You and I both knew that this commander wasn’t going to be killing anyone by throwing his horse at them or however horsemanship works. Xiahou is going to kill himself to everyone else’s death, and the culprit card that makes it possible is something you’ve probably seen very recently.
Undying Malice and its five or six twin brothers (such as Supernatural Stamina) each resurrect a creature once it dies. That means that Undying Malice will be in the graveyard and thus a valid target for Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed’s ability, so you can return it to your hand and return Xiahou to the battlefield in one swoop. Don’t worry about Xiahou coming in tapped, either; his activated ability doesn’t specify tapping as a cost, so you can do this as soon as he hits the battlefield. How to kill your opponent with this loop is an exercise to the reader that I will immediately provide the answer key to.
If that’s too aristocratic for you, you can also use Blood on the Snow to knock out everyone else’s creatures for as long as you’d like, or Rise of the Dread Marn to create a gigantic army. Just make sure you keep track of the gravestorm count.
Breaking the Chain
Unfortunately, I think I’m going to be stuck in this Groundhog Day loop forever, so— Hang on, I’m getting a phone call. What’s that? Unemployed? That’s something I can be?! Awesome!
The Off-Ramp (Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed EDH)