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Embracing The Chaos – Embracing The New Phyrexian Order

Sheldon Menery discusses the cards from New Phyrexia he believe will see play in Commander, notably Melira, Sylvok Outcast. Infinite persist!

I, for one, would like to welcome our new
insect

Phyrexian overlords. They bring us many new tools for our work (fostering their glorious society), not to mention that great sense of fostering their
glorious society.

The architects of New Phyrexia have already spoken to the Rules Committee, and although there have been some outcries of dissent from the fringes
(which have recently gone strangely silent), there are no cards that currently cause us concern. Yes, poison might be a more viable strategy (Triumph
of the Hordes will probably be a game ender most of the times it resolves), but there’s no evidence that changing the number of poison counters
is necessary. Karn will not make the world come crashing down in flames. I’m willing to bet that the times-to-played-to-times-ultimated ratio is
pretty high. Additionally, Karn’s ultimate is a way to get rid of poison counters.

If I were to keep a sharp eye on a card, it would be Melira, Sylvok Outcast. Its ability to combo with persist cards has already been well-discussed.
Combined with Woodfall Primus and a zero-cost sacrifice outlet, you have an infinite board wipe (save for the stuff with shroud). Combined with a
persist creature and Goblin Bombardment, you have infinite damage. She’s easy to cast but also easy to kill. As a General, she’s limited in
what she can bring to the table. In green, she only has Aerie Ouphes and Woodfall Primus (although the Primus is hardly an ‘only’), though
there are a number of zero-cost activation artifacts, like Altar of Dementia and Ashnod’s Altar, and of course, green’s Greater Good. In
other decks, like Kresh, she’s going to be pretty much insane. That said, it’s not like she’s going to provide the first-ever
three-card infinite combo in the format, so we’ll just keep our eyes open for the time being.

When I first went down the list, I pulled out about thirty cards that I thought have a reasonable chance of getting played in the format. Some of them
are obvious and have EDH players drooling. Others are a bit more subtle. Here are a few of the less obvious ones which caught my eye.

Hex Parasite: I think it’ll get used more for the “take counters off” portion of its ability, and the increased power will be a side benefit.
There must be a number of cumulative upkeep permanents that could benefit (Tombstone Stairwell?). There’s the obvious benefit of removing +1/+1
counters from your opponents’ creatures and that annoying -1/-1 from your persist guy.

Life’s Finale:
“Oh, it’s just another more-expensive Wrath,” you say. I say the Teneb players are lining up to get these. Or, simply, follow it up with
Bojuka Bog.

Chancellor of the Spires:
Clearly, this is going in Grixis Reanimator decks. And I just realized that you can wait for one opponent to search and Archive Trap someone else. Mind
Crank seems to be a real natural addition as well.

Praetor’s Grasp:
Yes, you have to pay for it when you cast the spell, but you have as much time as you want to do so. Either use an opponent’s weapon against him,
or simply keep him from ever using it. For three mana, that seems great.

Suture Priest:
Avenger of Zendikar, meet Suture Priest. Rith, the Awakener, meet Suture Priest. Storm Freaking Herd… you get the rest.

Urabrask the Hidden:
I suppose this one is on more radars than I might suspect. He’s not expensive, and he really slows down everyone else’s creature strategies
while speeding up yours. He might even be cheap enough to consider as a mono-red Commander, although I’ll concede he’s no Norin the Wary.

After the Prerelease, I’m going to take a look at the whole list and see which cards I can’t live without in each of my decks and report
back on that.

Playing the Thrax-Sliver deck let me to articulate something that I’ve known/felt for a while but didn’t coalesce until just last week.
There are decks you play with your friends, and there are decks you play with others. The ‘others’ decks still don’t have to be the
combo-out-on-T2 types, but it’s reasonable self-preservation to consider that in a League or other organized competition, there will be some
folks who play pretty rough (justifiably so, IMO), and you need to be prepared. You can try to create the ideal world while still living in the
practical one.

I thought the Thrax-Sliver deck would do a better job than it did of setting the pace of play, but while playing a number of games against a mono-green
Azusa, Lost but Seeking deck, I realized that it was completely outclassed in that regard. Consistently dropping a fifth land on turn 3 definitely sets
a narrative. It doesn’t mean the Azusa deck always wins—in fact, coming out of the gate that quickly is likely to get you ganged up
on—but it certainly dictates the way the game will go.

Separating my decks into “Friends” and “Others,” I realize that I don’t have too many “Others.” Kresh
certainly goes there, and Karrthus probably does, but the rest of them being kind of thematic or just cards I wanted to play in those colors mean
they’re perfect “Friends” decks.

This thought leads me to reassembling the Intet deck, just to have another Others. The thing is it wouldn’t be particularly ethical of me to see
who I was sitting with, then choose which deck to play, since I’d probably have a pretty good idea of what they’re playing. Does that mean
just planning on playing an Others deck in League every time? I’d be sad if that were the case, since I’d say most of the folks that play
in the League play on the Friends side. I guess this is the eternal dilemma of the format.

I don’t mind a good, hard-fought game. In fact, we had one last week before League started. Sam Riley, one of the top players among the Armada
regulars, brought his Angus MacKenzie deck, playing against my reassembled Intet (since I knew all these guys were playing rough), Shea with Teneb, the
Harvester, Kyle with Azusa, Lost but Seeking, and Matt with Numot, the Devastator. At one point, Sam and I had dueling Consecrated Sphinxes going (his
was a Clone of mine), so you can imagine the insanity. There was a fair amount of back-and-forth, with Shea and Kyle coming out of the gate pretty
quickly; there being some Wraths and general humming-along of the decks. Eventually, Sam got Hunting Grounds out to go with his Seedborn Muse and
Sterling Grove, and things changed. Using Dust Elemental, Mystic Snake, Clone, and Terastodon, among others, Sam put himself in the driver’s
seat. He even countered a Krosan Grip, which you don’t see every day. He eventually blew up all of Matt’s lands because Matt’s deck
involves a great deal of copying. He started working on Shea, first getting rid of Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

If you’ve read this column, you know I’m not a fan of prison/lock decks, and this was starting to get painful (because it was so
time-consuming), but since it was only a soft lock, it provided an interesting challenge. I knew we had outs. (Although Matt eventually scooped up when
he had no lands; he didn’t rage-quit. He just kind of shrugged and said “I’m going for food before League starts,” which was
reasonable.) It started when I suspended Detritivore, taking out his white-producing lands, since the Dust Elemental was really the major fuel. Then,
when I cast Ulamog and Kyle followed with one of his own, we got rid of the Grove and Hunting Grounds. I thought this meant a kind of restart to the
game, but Kyle continued his turn by casting Rude Awakening, generating a pile of mana, and casting Hurricane to take out everyone (including himself).
That wasn’t an issue, since we were ten minutes before League start time.

Being a little disappointed with Sliver-Thrax, I decided to sleeve up one of the runners-up, Sebastian Rauskolb’s effort. I had to make a few
substitutions, since I’m finding that I’m missing some commons, of all things (like Dimir House Guard—I substituted Oversold
Cemetery), and I couldn’t find a Glen Elendra Archmage (so I put in Cerebral Vortex). I also couldn’t find a Miren, the Moaning Well that
wasn’t already in a deck, so I tossed in Diamond Valley.

GAME 1

I’m seated with Shawn (Jacques le Vert), Kevin (Chainer, Dementia Master), and Kyle (Azusa, Lost but Seeking). We’re still dealing with
range of one, so Kevin is outside my influence. I expect that Kyle, like normal, is going to ramp into a bunch of land and be an early threat. The game
doesn’t really play out that way.

As a side note, I’m going to put the play-by-play to rest for a while. I like having the results, but taking the notes truly negatively impacts
my enjoyment of the games. It may return someday, but for now, I’m going to focus on enjoying myself, not to mention the ability to spend more
time actually thinking about the game I’m playing.

In fact, Kyle gets stuck for a bit on four lands, one of them being Temple of the False God. The big hit to him and Shawn is Kevin dropping a turn 2
Deathgrip. This really slows down Kyle and occasionally annoys Shawn. By the time Kyle starts his buildup, he’s taken a few Thraximundar hits. I
delay getting the final damage on him because that means Kevin is not able to work with my graveyard, which sees Fleshbag Marauder, Bone Shredder, and
Shriekmaw all in it. Eventually, Kyle starts ramping into a few giant monsters, so when I have the opportunity, I kill what he thinks are enough
blockers, then take him out.

Thrax pounds on Shawn some, lowering his life total. I get Minion Reflector going (Sebastian’s submission was the only one with what I’m
now discovering is an excellent card), and when Greater Gargadon comes off suspension, I make a copy in order to try to kill Shawn. Kevin unfortunately
has Butcher of Malakir and can get me to the point where I have to sacrifice one of the tokens.

It’s down to a tense battle between me and Kevin. He has the Butcher, and he’s Nightmared Kiki-Jiki out of my graveyard for double
sacrifice effects. One of the saving graces for me is peeling Skeletal Vampire and making a copy so there are plenty of Bats around to sacrifice. The
good news is that Kevin is spending life reanimating stuff. The bad news is that he’s gaining life by sacrificing Spine of Ish Sah to Claws of
Gix.

The Living Inferno in my hand isn’t doing me any good until I realize that the Minion Reflector copy will have haste. After Kevin has swung in
for some damage then reanimated my Vampire for some blockers, I cast Living Inferno, make the copy, and deal enough damage to kill Chainer (getting rid
of all of his Nightmares), and ping the Bat tokens. Thrax gets in for enough to kill him, but he sacrifices enough stuff to stay at one. I cast
Siege-Gang Commander but am out of red mana when he kills it at my EOT. At his EOT, I do have enough to Corpse Dance it back into play and copy it
(also giving me the point for Chumpzilla as well), clearing the way for Thraximundar to swing for another Generalissimo. After End of Game points are
added—the eliminated players with highest life total, fewest artifacts, fewest lands, fewest creatures all get a point—I take the table by
a slim margin over Kevin.

GAME 2

After having sixteen players for round one, we only have fifteen for round 2, as one of them had to leave. Instead of four tables for four, we have
three fives. I’m a fan of pentagram when there are five players. It leads to interesting games that can’t just be able killing everyone.
That said, pentagram in the League is a little awkward, since points still determine the table winners.

I’m seated with David (Omnath, Locus of Mana), Chris (Kresh the Bloodbraided), Shea (Teneb, the Harvester), and Danny (Sliver Queen). Chris
starts with Leyline of Punishment in play, but it’s Shea that comes out of the gate most quickly, with a turn 5 Primeval Titan, getting Urborg,
Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Cabal Coffers. David gets Omnath going early, as usual, and Danny makes it worse by playing Awakening. He ends up generating a
great number of Sliver tokens with it, but at the same time, Omnath is at one point 105/105. The game becomes exemplar EDH, with giant stuff happening
all over the place.

I take a few large hits down to twenty. With Leyline of Punishment in play, my Sword of Light and Shadow is less useful. When Chris casts Prince of
Thralls and Shea follows it up with Wrath of God, I have some hard choices to make. I end up paying six life, and I know I’m on the edge. A few
turns go by, then Danny casts Dual Nature, which has some possibilities.

I cast Magus of the Jar, get the copy from Dual Nature, and then make a copy with Minion Reflector. I have Blue Sun’s Zenith, Twincast, and
Cerebral Vortex in hand, but I only have one Island—the rest of my blue comes from Gilded Lotus, meaning it doesn’t get untapped with
Awakening. Unfortunately, I know that either Chris, who has cast Steel Hellkite and Rite of Replication on it, or Shea, who has quite an army, is going
to kill me. If Magus of the Jar is hasty, I can cast the Vortex targeting either Shea or Chris, then sacrifice all three Magi. Unfortunately,
they’re not, so I just die to Chris’s Profane Command for fourteen.

On the drive home, I realize that I could have guaranteed at least three of the four end-of-game points because I had Greater Gargadon suspended. I
couldn’t have survived, but I could have sacrificed all my relevant stuff. Points missed.

I liked the way this Thraximundar deck played (although I really need to find that copy of Glen Elendra Archmage). It has some powerful and interesting
ways of Embracing the Chaos that you have to think about and play, not just drop on the table, making it very compelling to me.

I’ll say that I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t much matter what you build around him; the decks are all about Thrax himself. His
ability to get into the Red Zone with haste makes him a powerful and viable killer. That there are a number of instantiations of doing this
doesn’t diminish the all-Thrax, all-the-time message. That’s not to say it’s a message I disapprove of. I’ll most likely be
slinging this version again next week, as we wrap up Armada Games’ EDH League 9.