Pharika, Lady of Snakes

“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” Because they’re fun! Bennie Smith crafts a Snake Tribal Commander deck led by Journey into Nyx deity Pharika, God of Affliction!

Let’s talk about snakes, baby

Let’s talk about you and me

Let’s talk about all the graveyards and the 1/1s that may be

Let’s talk about snakes!

My monoblack King Macar, the Gold-Cursed Commander deck got a lot of great feedback from all y’all a couple of weeks back, but you know my green/black Golgari heart
has been itching to come home to Pharika, God of Affliction!

Like many folks, I initially wasn’t exactly high on Pharika, in large part because her ability seemed relatively weak compared to most of the other gods.
Especially when you think about predecessors like Night Soil and Necrogenesis, which give you the token creature no matter which graveyard you dipped into,
this seemed like a strange blow to the power level of a card that’s supposed to be a deity.

But then I read somewhere (I think it might have been a Q&A with someone from Wizards on something like Reddit) someone pointed out how miserable it
would be to play against a “non-fixed” Pharika-attack with a creature, Pharika makes a snake to block, the snake’s deathtouch kills the attacking creature,
and now there’s another creature in the graveyard to make another snake to kill the next creature that attacks. Pharika plus one creature kill spell or a
chump blocker and you completely stymie any sort of ground attack. As someone who enjoys playing creatures, that does indeed sound miserable, so bravo to
R&D for testing that out and fixing that noise before it saw print. Sure, they could have fixed it by taking away deathtouch, but that would make
Pharika just a fancy Necrogenesis. This way she’s much more interesting, especially around a multiplayer table where you might want to make 1/1 deathtouch
dudes for an opponent for political reasons.

As a Commander, I think Pharika, God of Affliction would work fine as a black/green “good stuff” deck with a bias towards colored permanents in general to
turn on her devotion and creature permanents specifically that may die but will then fuel her activated ability. One day I’ll probably go that route, but
for my first stab at a Pharika deck I think it’s pretty natural to want to gravitate towards Snake tribal. Since Pharika is half green, you get to dip deep
into all the wonderful Snake tribal cards from Kamigawa block, while black gives you options that a monogreen Seshiro the Anointed deck wouldn’t have.
What’s particularly cool about this route is that tribal Snakes is going to encourage a board presence of Snake creatures, which will hopefully wake up
Pharika and let her indestructible self rule the Red Zone…but if something rude happens, like a Wrath of God or Oblivion Stone sends your snakes to the
graveyard, suddenly you’ve got plenty of fuel for Pharika’s activated ability…that also happens to play nicely with any other Snake tribal cards you play
after that. So speaking of Snake tribal, let’s go ahead and see what we want here.

Snake Tribal

Kashi-Tribe Elite; Sosuke’s Summons; Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro; Shisato, Whispering Hunter; Sosuke, Son of Seshiro; Sakiko, Mother of Summer; Seshiro
the Anointed; Patron of the Orochi

These are all the usual suspects you’d expect in a Snake tribal deck. They don’t always fit together perfectly-Sachi’s bonkers with Shaman cards, Sosuke
gives a big buff to Warriors-but by and large they’re all good Snake creatures on their own that provide at least a little bump to other Snake creatures. I
will often leave Shisato, Whispering Hunter out of other Snake tribal decks because he can be a miserable draw after someone has swept the board, but
Pharika makes all those dead creature cards into more snakes that can feed Shisato. In fact, I decided to stick some Swords in here to help make Shisato
hard to block to really take advantage of his triggered ability and make him a big threat in this deck. It doesn’t hurt that Pharika does a pretty good job
carrying a Sword for Commander damage beatdown, if you can wake her up.

Snake Footsoldiers

Orochi Leafcaller, Sakura-Tribe Scout, Vector Asp, Wasteland Viper, Blight Mamba, Lotus Cobra, Matsu-Tribe Sniper, Mire Boa, River Boa, Sakura-Tribe
Elder, Ohran Viper, Marsh Viper, Sakura-Tribe Springcaller, Zombie Boa, Serpent Generator, Nemesis of Mortals, Orochi Hatchery

Of course, to support the Snake tribal cards we need a gaggle of creatures with the Snake creature type, and I picked most of the good ones here. Zombie
Boa might be stretching the definition of “good” just a little bit, but since we’re dipping into black I thought I’d give him a try. I love that Nemesis of
Mortals is a Snake, and can become a really gigantic Snake that is sure to be the stuff of nightmares for Indiana Jones as well as your opponents’ life
totals. But if your opponents happen to have arbitrarily large life totals-not unheard-of in Commander-it’s nice that there are Snake cards that can dish
out poison counters to keep us on the tribal theme while giving us another angle of attack.

Other Tribal Goodness

Cavern of Souls, Mutavault, Runed Stalactite, Cover of Darkness, Chameleon Colossus, Door of Destinies, Cairn Wanderer, Coat of Arms, Patriarch’s

Then we have the goodies that go in any tribal deck. Runed Stalactite is particularly handy since our Commander isn’t herself a Snake but may want all the
Snakish benefits. Chameleon Colossus is always a huge beating in any green tribal deck, while Cairn Wanderer might cobble together a handful of unbeatable
abilities from dead creatures. I’m not entirely sure Patriarch’s Bidding fits in this deck since Pharika likes to make lemons (snakes) out of lemonade
(dead creatures).


Arena; Basilisk Collar; Ulvenwald Tracker; Primal Rage; Setessan Tactics; Bow of Nylea; Spidersilk Armor; Nylea, God of the Hunt; Kamahl, Fist of
Krosa; Hornet Queen

Since presumably Pharika will provide a somewhat steady stream of deathtouch creatures, I thought it would be smart to include some cards to take advantage
of that. Arena, Ulvenwald Tracker, and Setessan Tactics can all enable lowly 1/1 deathtouch creatures to trade with creatures much bigger than they are.
Spidersilk Armor allows them to provide a formidable barrier to flying attackers. To ensure that Pharika’s snakes don’t have all the deathtouch fun, I
included Basilisk Collar and Bow of Nylea to spread the affliction. Hornet Queen provides some additional deathtouch air defenses while also giving a
healthy dose of devotion for Pharika.

With all the deathtouch we have going on-and tribal ways to boost our snakes-it seemed a shame not to include ways to give our guys trample too, such as
Primal Rage; Nylea, God of the Hunt; and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. Since one point of deathtouch damage is lethal, any extra power is applied directly to our
opponent’s forehead.


Doomwake Giant, Goldenhide Ox

One thing we shouldn’t forget is that each little snake Pharika makes is an enchantment creature, so it will trigger constellation abilities. I did a
search to see if there were enough constellation creatures in green and black to make this a heavy theme and there really aren’t enough to populate a
singleton deck. I do think a five-color constellation enchantment deck might be worth exploring in Commander (with all ten gods!), but for Pharika I think
we’ll likely just add a couple. Doomwake Giant does a nice job of clearing away opposing token strategies without our own tokens becoming collateral
damage, and Goldenhide Ox gives us a sweet reusable Lure effect that can have our deathtouch snakes trade up.

Here’s my first pass at Pharika, God of Affliction:

Pharika, God of Affliction
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 11-30--0001
Magic Card Back

Arbor Colossus looks a little weird, but I thought it would be a decent inclusion to help with devotion and also handle a must-kill flier. Regal Force is
always a good call in a deck that makes a lot of tokens and can also generate a fair amount of mana.

I was a bit torn whether to squeeze in black creature removal, but I think going with deathtouch on one hand and ways to protect our own creatures on the
other is better. Akroma’s Memorial is always fun times, and Eldrazi Monument is particularly awesome in a deck that can easily generate tokens and also
doesn’t mind actual creature cards going to the graveyard. Is giving our creatures deathtouch, +1/+1, indestructible, flying, first strike, vigilance,
trample, haste, and protection from black and from red too much to ask?

I picked Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of Light and Shadow both because I think they’re the best Swords for Commander and also because they combine
with Cover of Darkness to make a creature unblockable except to artifact creatures (though Scuttlemutt can solve that little problem).

So did I surprise you with any of my choices? What other cards are you considering for your own Pharika, God of Affliction Commander deck?

Standard fans, be sure to check my Twitter, I plan on playing an update to my RUG Courser of Kruphix deck for Friday Night Magic and will tweet my progress
towards a win-a-box!

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