How They Brew It - The Zero-Day Exploit

Michael Celani • August 9, 2021

Zaxara, the Exemplary by

Good, you made it. Don't mind the pat down; we need to make sure you don't have any cell phones, PDAs, or pacemakers on you. Also, although it's unlikely, standard procedure means we're going to force you to view this trigger image. If you're a sleeper agent for any of the one hundred and thirty seven extant shadow governments, this picture will kill you immediately, and even if you're not it's got a twenty-or-so percent chance.



Still breathing? Looks like you're good. Sorry about all that. I know it was a rough ride to get here, but our building is shielded from all six G's, so you're safe now. You're here because your hacking skills uncovered knowledge that made you a target. A target with no chance to escape. A target with nobody left to go back to. A target so plump, juicy, and round that even a turkey on Thanksgiving wouldn't envy you. Well, let's get started.

Access Granted

My name is Michael Celani, and this is Enki's current base of operations. Yes, that Enki: the hacktivist collective who cracked into Bain Capital's servers, infected the New York Stock Exchange with malware that subtlety altered the value of transactions, and caused the 2008 economic collapse. Of course, you know that we did all of that to stop a young boy named Tom Holland from becoming the next Prime Minister of Britain and plunging Earth into World War IV. You say we skipped World War III? Oh, you have so much to learn.

These leaked files on Zaxara, the Exemplary are truly terrifying reminders of how scary it can be to forget your pool floats when swimming in the deep end of the state. For just four mana, Zaxara is a dork with deathtouch that taps to add two of any color, but that's not all; whenever you cast a spell with X in the cost, you'll create an X/X hydra creature token. It's already been decided: we must take immediate action.

Zero Index

People typically play Zaxara EDH to cast gigantic spells, and then slam the huge hydra tokens into their enemies. Trample enablers such as Garruk's Uprising or flat out evasion in Whispersilk Cloak decimate an overconfident player's life total, and Unbound Flourishing guarantees that each spell's effect is incredibly punishing.

But it turns out you can also cast X spells for zero.

If a creature like Stonecoil Serpent or Endless One are cast for nothing, they'll enter the battlefield and immediately die. But first, the 0/0 hydra token is created thanks to Zaxara's triggered ability! That too, will enter the battlefield and immediately die. Do you see where we're going with this?

This is our zero-day exploit, and that's how you're going to turn warfare cyber. Your goal is to play like a normal Zaxara EDH player until you've crafted the perfect board state to execute the payload!

  • Your first bit of business is to make sure you can keep your engine going when you're ready to drop the bomb on your opponents.
    • Grim Haruspex, Midnight Reaper, and Harvester of Souls may only care about nontoken creatures, but since our deck is filled with X-cost creatures like Shifting Wall, you'll still be able to cycle a significant portion of your deck.
    • Fecundity and Moldervine Reclamation are less picky, and so you get two cards for the price of one when these guys are out.
    • Species Specialist should name hydra, so the creatures created by Zaxara will trigger its ability. Most of your creatures are hydras as well, so you'll also be able to double dip on them here.
    • Liliana's Standard Bearer is very similar, but it's much less telegraphed and you can even play it after a board wipe has resolved.
  • Cards are useless unless you have the resources to cast them, so let's add a few ways to generate mana upon death. Pitiless Plunderer makes a treasure whenever a creature dies, and Faces of the Past will untap Zaxara, the Exemplary whenever a hydra dies so you can grab an additional two mana.
  • Finally, the payload: an aristocratic assault that turns each death on your side into damage on theirs. We're using the fantastic five -- Zulaport Cutthroat, Poison-Tip Archer, Vindictive Vampire, Syr Konrad, the Grim, and Bastion of Remembrance -- which each deal one damage to your opponents whenever any creature you control dies.

Quine Time

Of course, corporate espionage is like a bag of Lays: betcha can't engage just once! We have to target everybody, everywhere if we really want to bring justice to the world. To do this, our program is going to have to take on a life of its own. Your opponents will be seeing a lot of the same cards again and again as we whittle them down to 0. How can we do that?

  • Deadly Brew is not only the official energy drink of hacktivists everywhere (Deadly Brew: Do The Brew®), it's also a way to get back a permanent and get rid of one for each of your opponents.
  • Phyrexian Reclamation is the quintessential recovery spell. For two mana and two life, you can use its activated ability to bring a creature back from your graveyard to your hand. Cast a 0-cost spell again and again to push those death triggers to the limit.
  • Death Denied is a much more concentrated burst of recovery, and unlike Wildest Dreams (which we also run), it doesn't exile itself upon resolution. That way, you can get this back with a Bala Ged Recovery or even a Timeless Witness.
  • Forever Young is the perfect way to recover all of your creatures. If you have something like Moldervine Reclamation in play, all you have to do is put every creature on top and slide your way back down to where you were.
  • Finally, Ecological Appreciation not only recovers two 0-cost creatures from your graveyard to the battlefield, it even lets you search your library for all of them! It's a combination Chord of Calling / Buried Alive / Finale of Devastation that costs only three mana.

20 GOTO 10

There's one more way to blow everyone's mind and destroy everyone's computers: we're going to force them to spin endlessly and use up all their processing power. Despite how utterly worthless this would make every device on the planet, it's still a better use of their energy than mining Bitcoin. Let me introduce you to Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker.

Whenever a creature with power 1 or less dies, Shirei will resurrect that creature at the start of the next end step. Of course, if the creature that died was a 0/0 Ivy Elemental, Shirei will revive a 0/0 who will immediately die, setting up the trigger for the next end step. And then at that end step, it will happen again! This infinte loop will persist until Shirei is killed or your graveyard is exiled!

Logging Off

Thank you for sharing what you know with us. With these new plans, us nerds will finally be able to tell the world everything that's wrong with it...u-using the internet. Oh, by the way, since you're a wanted criminal on the run from every government on the planet, you're going to need a new identity. How about Pasquali Fontina?

Zero-Day Exploit (Zaxara, the Exemplary EDH)

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Commander (1)
Creatures (26)
Sorceries (15)
Instants (8)
Artifacts (7)
Enchantments (7)
Lands (36)

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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.