Commander With Kid Gloves

So I finally pulled the trigger. I’ve gone ahead and built a Commander deck around her. Yes her … the Commander that you can’t cast from the Command Zone without losing the game. Phage the Untouchable!

[Just a quick follow-up of sorts to my rant from last week A Green Mage’s Lament… while the results of GP Orlando didn’t exactly counter the points I raised—it was green ramp vs. blue-based control in the finals—I was thrilled to see two rogue spins on those dominant strategies take down all comers. Congrats to Star City’s own Patrick Chapin making the finals, and to rogue meister Conley Woods for taking down the whole thing!]

So I finally pulled the trigger. Inspired by my Single Card Strategy on Sundial of the Infinite and some of your comments and suggestions, I’ve gone ahead and built a Commander deck around her.

Yes her … the Commander that you can’t cast from the Command Zone without losing the game.

Phage the Untouchable!

Yes, I’m in full-on Johnny mode here, taking what is arguably one of the “worst” legends you could pick as a Commander, and I’m going to try and kick people’s butts with her so long as she doesn’t kill me herself.


Phage is a nasty wench, and if you’re going to play her you’ve got to handle her with kid gloves. So here are the cards we’re playing so you can play her without losing the game:

So Totally In: Sundial of the Infinite, Platinum Angel, Torpor Orb

I talked about the Sundial quite a bit just a few weeks ago (see the link above) so I won’t go into it again here other than to just point out that you cast Phage from the Command Zone, put the “you lose the game” trigger on the stack, and then end the turn. With Platinum Angel you can’t lose the game so that trigger bothers you not. Torpor Orb says “creatures entering the battlefield don’t cause abilities to trigger” so Phage is free to enter the battlefield from wherever you please… plus, it just so happens to hose all those sweet value creatures everyone else has stuffed into their Commander decks—Prime Time… but nothing’s on, suck it!!

To help find one of these beauties I’m going to run Vampiric Tutor and Demonic Tutor.


Okay, so we get Phage in play. Now she just needs to connect!

Considering: Dragon Shadow, Trailblazer’s Boots, Rime Transfusion, Vow of Malice, Whispersilk Cloak, Dauthi Embrace, Filth, Power Matrix, Traitor’s Clutch, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Light and Shadow, Zombie Trailblazer

Black certainly provides some nice options—Dragon Shadow is always going to pop out of the graveyard and enchant Phage when you cast her. Filth is a classic combo with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Power Matrix is an old favorite of mine. I particularly like Dauthi Embrace and Traitor’s Clutch because—who plays with shadow creatures? I also thought I’d try out some Sean McKeown Rime Transfusion tech because—who plays with snow creatures? I haven’t broken out my pile of Snow-Covered Swamps in a long while.


Phage is a needy wench, requiring a boatload of mana to come out to play, so a Phage deck needs to be stuffed to the gills with mana producers.

Considering: Everflowing Chalice, Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Fellwar Stone, Mind Stone, Grim Monolith, Darksteel Ingot, Coalition Relic, Phyrexian Totem, Pristine Talisman, Scuttlemutt, Worn Powerstone, Thran Dynamo, Magus of the Coffers, Gauntlet of Power, Caged Sun, Gilded Lotus, Dreamstone Hedron, Cabal Coffers

When building my deck I’ll probably start with all these, and then start culling where need be. The 3-mana spot on Commander decks’ curves tend to be choked with good stuff, so things are going to be tough for the 3-drop mana artifacts. I’ll be leaning on Mind Stone and Dreamstone Hedron to help avoid mana glut since you can cash them out for cards.


Even if you manage to cast Phage and keep her out there on the battlefield, you still run some risk from jokers with blink effects (oh nice Venser, the Sojourner you have there…) so it would be wise to have some ways to get Phage off the battlefield in response.

Considering: Despotic Scepter, Claws of Gix, Phyrexian Tower, Diamond Valley, High Market; Miren, the Moaning Well; Viscera Seer, Culling Dais, Plunge into Darkness, Spawning Pit, Carrion, Stronghold Assassin, Helm of Possession, Phyrexian Plaguelord

Phyrexian Tower is a no-brainer, and I’ll probably throw in Claws of Gix as well. I’m lucky enough to still have my Diamond Valley after all these years so that will definitely go in.


While I’ll certainly get style points for getting Phage out of the Command Zone that doesn’t mean the table’s not going to be a bit freaked out at having to face down a commander that says “you lose the game.” So you’ll be wise to provide her with some level of protection.

Considering: Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves, Darksteel Plate, Mask of Avacyn, Champion’s Helm, General’s Kabuto, Shield of Kaldra, Eldrazi Monument

What’s interesting about Phage is that you really don’t necessarily need power boosts because you’re not going to be killing people with general damage, so Mask of Avacyn and Champion’s Helm are less appealing. If I’m playing enough creatures (including black’s recurrable ones) then Eldrazi Monument certainly becomes appealing—and provides evasion too! General’s Kabuto is interesting since it provides the protection of shroud and keeps Phage—she’s only a 4/4—from dying in combat.


Speaking of combat, Phage’s deadly touch makes giving her first strike something to think about.

Considering: Midnight Charm, Bladed Pinions, Phyrexian Splicer, Helm of Kaldra, Akroma’s Memorial

How funny that in the “alternate reality” of Planar Chaos, that black gets first strike in Midnight Charm. Bladed Pinions provides flying and first strike and is rarely considered in Commander since it does not provide any power boost—but again, Phage really doesn’t need that. Helm of Kaldra gives us another Kaldra piece that might work nicely—should we play the trifecta?

I’m already down with Power Matrix providing evasion, but it giving Phage first strike just makes it a slam dunk for the deck.


Since it might take a while to cast Phage, it might behoove me to play a bit of a monoblack control game for a while, and we certainly have lots of choices here.

Considering: Damnation, Mutilate, Hellfire, Life’s Finale, Tsabo’s Decree, Decree of Pain, Plague Wind, Barter in Blood, Syphon Flesh, Slaughter Pact, Executioner’s Capsule, Go for the Throat, Hero’s Demise, Victim of Night; Kagemaro, First to Suffer

While you certainly want the standard board sweepers, you also don’t want to neglect pinpoint removal. I think it’s especially valuable in a Phage deck, since people might extend themselves a bit, keeping a blocker back on Phage patrol, then end of turn you pop it off, and swing in for the deadly embrace.

Tsabo’s Decree can be used that way, pretty much nailing anything you really want to kill, even those protected with Hexproof or Shroud, while also just being a great way to mop up tokens that have gotten out of hand.


You may not know just by looking at her, but Phage isn’t just a minion, she’s a zombie minion—Zombie OMG! Zombies are one of the more powerful tribes you can play in Commander, so you can totally play up that theme if you want to. Unfortunately, if we’re playing Torpor Orb we don’t get to rock some of the more insane zombies (Noxious Ghoul, Vengeful Dead) but there are still some good ones we’ll want.

Considering: Unholy Grotto, Stronghold Assassin, Undead Gladiator, Corpse Harvester, Zombie Master, Graveborn Zombie, Withered Wretch

I’m particularly stoked to run Undead Gladiator in this deck since it provides another way to avoid mana flood. Zombie Master is fun, providing Phage swampwalk and regeneration. If Phage gets victimized by a tuck effect, you can search her back up with Corpse Harvester.


Considering: Sensei’s Divining Top, Skullclamp, Phyrexian Arena, Vedalken Orrery, Witchbane Orb, Syphon Mind, Scroll Rack, Memory Jar

Of course there are other cards you just want to have in most Commander decks: Top, Witchbane Orb. Scroll Rack + Memory Jar should let us dig real deep for our kid gloves. Vedalken Orrery is a staple, but particularly good here since being able to play sorcery removal at instant speed can often leave someone quite vulnerable to a Phage attack.

So, after dumping in all the stuff I wanted and culling down to a sleek, on-curve 100 cards, this is what I’ve cooked up for what just might be the first Phage commander deck—at least, I’ve not read about one before now!

I decided to give Grim Harvest (a la Sean McKeown Commander Card of the Week in the SCG Newsletter) a try. I’ve often looked at that card and wondered about it, but I typically play so many creatures that I’d imagine I’d find myself getting hosed by the recover trigger too often. However, this deck is just playing 13 creatures, most of which you’d like to recover (Kagemaro, Platinum Angel), and with all the mana you want to play anyway it shouldn’t be hard to manage the recover trigger. We’ve even got some sacrifice outlets to help Grim Harvest dodge graveyard hate.

All in all, I’m pretty excited to give Phage a spin. What do you think? Anything I’ve forgotten? How do you think your Commander group would react to seeing a Phage deck at the table?

That’s it for this week! I can’t wait to start digging into Dark Ascension spoilers starting next week!! There has certainly been some stuff to sooth my midrange green mage’s soul…

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

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New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: