There’s nothing in Magic more satisfying to me than helping a friend with a Commander deck. As much fun as it is to build for myself, going through that process with someone else, constructing something that suits their tastes and seeing the little spark in their eye when something comes together just right is so much better.
This time around, a friend of mine was looking for some ideas on how to build a list around a new legend from Strixhaven. Not one of the deans or Dragons – no, they wanted to build around the best little nuisance around: Blex, Vexing Pest. That’s all well and good, but first thing’s first: we have to track down the little bugger.
The target is one of the new legendary creature/sorcery MDFCs, a slippery blob on one side and an apt representation of the current hunt on the other. Blex is a lord over a few disparate tribes all at once, across the theme of “general nuisances” (though it does bother me that the group of types is different than those on Swarmyard, but I digress). The new wrinkle of being able to cast the back half, even if that pumps up the commander tax, adds some neat depth and flexibility to a card with an otherwise very straightforward front face.
1 Blex, Vexing Pest/Search for Blex 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 1 Beledros Witherbloom 1 Blightbeetle 1 Callous Bloodmage (Extended) 1 Caustic Caterpillar 1 Devouring Swarm 1 Decimator Beetle 1 Dirge Bat 1 Eternal Witness (Timeshifted) 1 Golgari Brownscale 1 Grave-Shell Scarab 1 Gravewaker 1 Hagra Constrictor 1 Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons 1 Hooded Blightfang 1 Hornet Nest 1 Hornet Queen 1 Iridescent Hornbeetle 1 Izoni, Thousand-Eyed 1 Kraul Harpooner 1 Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest 1 Ohran Frostfang 1 Ophiomancer 1 Pharika, God of Affliction 1 Ramunap Excavator 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder 1 Scute Swarm 1 Sedgemoor Witch 1 Swarm Shambler 1 Valentin, Dean of the Vein/Lisette, Dean of the Root 1 Yawgmoth, Thran Physician (Timeshifted) 1 Agadeem's Awakening/Agadeem, the Undercrypt 1 Bala Ged Recovery/Bala Ged Sanctuary 1 Beacon of Creation 1 Culling Ritual 1 Dread Return 1 Explore 1 Hunt for Specimens 1 Life from the Loam 1 Mulch 1 Regrowth 1 Seasons Past 1 Spider Spawning 1 Verdant Mastery 1 Witherbloom Command 1 Worm Harvest 1 Abrupt Decay (Timeshifted) 1 Arachnogenesis 1 Deathsprout 1 Golgari Charm 1 Grapple with the Past 1 Grisly Salvage 1 Moonlight Bargain 1 Plumb the Forbidden 1 Putrefy 1 Tend the Pests 1 Desecrated Tomb 1 Golgari Signet 1 Pestilent Cauldron/Restorative Burst 1 Sol Ring 1 Crawling Sensation 1 Nest of Scarabs 1 Snake Pit 1 Tortured Existence 1 Barren Moor 1 Blighted Woodland (Timeshifted) 1 Bojuka Bog (Timeshifted) 1 Command Tower 1 Dakmor Salvage 1 Darkbore Pathway/Slitherbore Pathway 1 Drownyard Temple 1 Evolving Wilds 1 Fabled Passage 4 Forest 1 Ghost Quarter 1 Golgari Rot Farm 1 Grim Backwoods 1 High Market 1 Llanowar Wastes 1 Lotus Field 1 Memorial to Folly 1 Myriad Landscape 1 Nurturing Peatland 1 Overgrown Tomb 4 Swamp 1 Tainted Wood 1 Terramorphic Expanse 1 Tranquil Thicket 1 Twilight Mire 1 Undergrowth Stadium 1 Verdant Catacombs 1 Woodland Cemetery 1 Woodland Chasm
If we’re going to hunt down Blex, we need to know where to look. This list is a great place to start, chock full of goodies for the overgrown monster.
It takes a few different approaches to utilizing Blex. Since the front side is a lord, we did work some tribal synergies into the deck, heavily prioritizing cards that were or made tokens of the right type. However, there’s no single lord that easily hits all the creature types Blex does, so the other “tribal” effects work on other axes, mostly deathtouch or +1/+1 counters. Mixed in with that are some graveyard synergies, utilizing some dredge and the backside of Blex to stock the yard and start cycling some cards through it.
The first port of call is with all the Pests, so we can start at the beginning and check in with the tenders and get an idea of just where Blex might have gone from there.
“Young Pest-omancer” Sedgemoor Witch is a pretty adept Pest producer, tacking an extra body onto all your spells, though the other stats are nice, if not as useful in our format as others.
Tend the Pests can give a nice jump to your body count, and after that the cards that make Pests fall off a bit. Callous Bloodmage is flexible, but only offers the one, but enough to make the cut, while Hunt for Specimens makes one and Learns. That really isn’t anything too special in Commander, but it does work well with the couple dredgers in the list.
If Blex isn’t with the Pests, perhaps it’s gone on to pal around with some of the Insects. Izoni, Thousand-Eyed is a prime example of the list’s graveyard interactions, especially how many of them are nestled in here amongst the bugs.
Crawling Sensation is also a powerful source of consistent bodies and is a little bit of an engine itself, milling to trigger itself and also set up other engines. Some of these engines may come in the form of some dredgers, from Grave-Shell Scarab to Life from the Loam.
With Crawling Sensation and Scute Swarm, there’s a little through-line of lands mattering, while Hornet Queen and Nest of Scarabs do a good job tying in well to themes that are better represented over with a tribe that is more… limb-challenged.
Perhaps our quarry is over in the herpetarium, nestled in with some scalier brethren. The Hooded Blightfang and Ohran Frostfang are a great one-two punch, draining opponents whenever anything attacks and helping to keep your hand stocked up with your, frankly, lower powered cards to help overwhelm them.
Tending to them, Hapatra and Yawgmoth, Thran Physician form a machine gun that can mow down creatures, draw cards and more. Snake Pit should trigger plenty in most games of Commander, and in the rare instances it won’t be, well, you have myriad other options.
Seems like Blex isn’t there, so perhaps the pesky Pest is hiding away down in one of these crypts or caves. Bats are certainly a bit of a rarity when it comes to creature types that Blex cares about, but the couple we use are certainly worth their weight.
Dirge Bat is a simple, clean removal spell attached to a creature, with added synergy with +1/+1 counters. Desecrated Tomb really shines, though, combining with the dredge creatures and Tortured Existence loops to unleash a swarm of Bats on our foes.
Now, while Spiders aren’t actually that scarce, a particular tweak made to this deck is the intentional lack of them due to this friend’s severe aversion to them. Spider Spawning and Arachnogenesis make the cut due to being able to just use tokens as a stand-in, but this is a spot where your personal seasoning could change up the list, adding powerful options in Ishkanah, Grafwidow, Rotwidow Pack and Nyx Weaver to start.
Well, we haven’t turned up Blex yet, but we’re stirring up all sorts of other critters at this point. Between ours and, worse, other players’, we need to have a few options to make sure we aren’t just overrun.
A robust suite of removal ensures you’re able to swat any pesky permanents that pop up. Culling Ritual in particular is a new toy that both clears out small creatures and can fuel a powerful turn to put you far ahead of the others at the table and at the mercy of your pests.
Ah! Looks like the threat of extermination scared Blex out of hiding! Now, you just snag the problem critter, just add a good little seasoning of ramp, some spells to help you dig through your library for lands, creatures, or both, all while dumping the rest into the graveyard, and you have a list that should handily pester casual tables.
Personally, I’m looking forward to sitting down across from this list and seeing just how it plays out. If you want to give it a shot yourself, there’s nowhere better than ChannelFireball to pick up all the cards you need to round it out. Now, I have to find somewhere more secure to keep Blex until I’m ready to use them. Until next time!