The Amonkhet Jumpstart

Sheldon Menery could wait for the full Amonkhet card image gallery to start brewing…but why?! Today he explores the possibilities of Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons and offers his first Amonkhet-legal Commander list!

It’s never too early to get started on brainstorming ideas for upcoming Magic releases. With previews for Amonkhet in full swing, the time is now. From the officially revealed cards, there are a number of exciting ideas for your Commander decks. With no intended slight to Regal Caracal and the host of Cat Tribal decks I’m hoping to see, today I’m going to take a look at Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons.

Putting -1/-1 counters on creatures is one of the central mechanics in Amonkhet. The mechanic is usually good enough on its own, as it gets rid of your opponents’ pesky creatures. Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons takes things to a new level, as it also gives you creatures when you do it—specifically, 1/1 green Snakes with deathtouch.

Hapatra and other cards from Amonkhet have abilities which say “…when you put a -1/-1 counter…” This is perfectly clear when you activate an ability or control a trigger that does something, but what about creature with Infect and Wither? The current rule (702.79) says only that these abilities “cause” -1/-1 counters to but put on the creature. I spoke with Magic Rules Manager Matt Tabak this past weekend, and he told me that the new wording on the rule will specifically say that the controller of the object with infect/wither will put on the counter.

Accepting that between now and the end of this week we’re going to see more cards than the 90 or so which have already been officially revealed, let’s examine the kinds of cards we might use in a Hapatra deck.

-1/-1 Counters Matter

We might as well start with the obvious one. Nearly everyone has already jumped on the idea of Black Sun’s Zenith making you recover more quickly than everyone else. You wipe out all the creatures on the battlefield and get a Snake (with deathtouch!) for each creature which Black Sun’s Zenith hits, whether or not the creature dies.

Let’s hope you have Dusk Urchins on the battlefield when you cast that thing for ten or so. If you can somehow keep Necroskitter alive through all of that (perhaps you have Melira, Sylvok Outcast on the battlefield), you have both fun and profit. Carnifex Demon is kind of Black Sun’s Zenith on a stick, and you might be able to engineer putting more counters on the Demon for later uses. Just remember that the abilities resolve one at a time (so you’re not going to draw a grip full of cards with Dusk Urchins).

Flourishing Defenses will do the same as Hapatra, but it gives you an Elf Warrior instead of a Snake. Amonkhet’s Nest of Scarabs does something similar, only you get as many Insect tokens as you put on counters. I sure hope the tokens which come with the set are suitably creepy.

You should have loads of fun delving into the cards which put -1/-1 counters on creatures. I’m happy to share with you a few of the cool ones I uncovered. My favorite so far is Blowfly Infestation. It could get a whole chain of nonsense going. Unfortunately, you can’t put the counter on the Snake you’re creating because it’s not yet on the battlefield to target when Blowfly Infestation triggers.

If you already have one on the battlefield in addition to the one you’ll kill, then you can, which might be relevant if you have permanents which trigger when creatures enter the battlefield, like with Essence Warden, or die, like with Blood Artist. You can wipe out your opponents’ teams with Grave Pact, Dictate of Erebos, or Butcher of Malakir simply by killing a Snake and creating a new one. Rules 116.5, “Timing and Priority;” 603, “Handling Triggered Abilities;” and 704, “State-Based Actions” all apply here (and make a nice review before you head off to the Prerelease next weekend). Here’s how it all works.

  • Put a -1/-1 counter on creature with one toughness (here’s where Vhati il-Dal comes in handy).
  • Hapatra triggers.
  • State-based actions check.
  • Creature dies, triggering Blowfly Infestation.
  • Both triggers go on the stack. Put the Snake-creator on the top, so it resolves first. Choose a target for Blowfly Infestation; you’ll need it to be something already on the battlefield (and for our chain to work, it has to have one toughness—maybe Necropede would make a nice fit).
  • Triggers resolve in order.
  • You get a Snake.
  • Blowfly Infestation puts a -1/-1 counter on the targeted creature.
  • We’re off to the races.

Harbinger of Night is a nice addition; you’ll have to be a little careful with it, since it puts counters on your creatures as well, but you have things like Hex Parasite and Vampire Hexmage to help you out. While Harbinger of Night does it as a beginning-of-upkeep trigger, Soul Snuffers does the same when it enters the battlefield. Of course, if you want to get rid of all the -1/-1 counters on your creatures and kill everyone’s planeswalkers while you’re at it, Thief of Blood does some quality work.

Fevered Convulsions might be a little pricey to activate, but it’s cheap to cast and it’s a permanent that will keep doing what you want to do. I think the jankiest find in all this is Aboroth, a 9/9 from Weatherlight with the cumulative upkeep of putting a -1/-1 counter on it.

You know what else puts -1/-1 counters on creatures? Persist. Puppeteer Clique and Woodfall Primus are two highly popular and extremely useful cards in the format. Cauldron of Souls is a bit of Wrath of God protection that gives you the ability to create even more creatures with Hapatra.

Then, of course, there are the two cards you’ve also probably already considered, Contagion Engine and Contagion Clasp, which lead into our next section.


It might be a little expensive to keep putting enough -1/-1 counters on creatures to kill them outright, so you might do it a little more slowly. Plaguemaw Beast can sacrifice one of those Snakes or Insects in order to add -1/-1 counters to everything that already has one. You can also buff up your own things with +1/+1 counters, should you find yourself playing them.

It seems like Forgotten Ancient might be the right call, since you can spread around some +1/+1 counters to get rid of the -1/-1 counters on your creatures. You’ll have plenty of directions to go if you want to explore a proliferate theme. If you do, you’ll always want to think about Doubling Season, Hardened Scales, and Winding Constrictor, which dovetails nicely into our Tribal section.

Snake Tribal

It seems only right that we should consider a tribal sub-theme because Hapatra creates Snake tokens. There’s certainly room to look into the aforementioned Elf Warrior and Insect themes, but doing what the commander does is the most thematic call. There are quite a few fun Snakes to mess around with. You’ll ideally be creating quite a few creatures with which to battle, so Sakiko, Mother of Summer will create additional mana for you.

Seshiro the Anointed is the most powerful. Not only do your Snakes get +2/+2, but whenever they deal combat damage, you draw a card. Playing Nylea, God of the Hunt along with them ensures that chump blocks won’t prevent you from drawing. Sosuke, Son of Seshiro buffs up their power a little more.

Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro also allows your Shaman creatures to tap for two green mana—and there are quite a few useful ones. Reclamation Sage provides artifact and enchantment destruction, but then frequently doesn’t do much else. Having it generate mana makes it additionally useful. Same with Elvish Visionary. In fact, there are loads of excellent Elf Shamans to look up. You might want to hang onto Sakura-Tribe Elder an extra turn so that it can make mana and then get you the extra land drop. Tap Sylvok Replica for some mana (even the mana to pay for the activation!) before you blow up an artifact or enchantment. Thrun, the Last Troll is also a Shaman. And if it’s somehow possible, Deathrite Shaman can do even more.

Snake Tribal also leads to Pharika, God of Affliction, which provides some control over opponents’ graveyards. If you’re not doing too much graveyard recursion of your own, you could certainly use your own creatures to get your Snake army running. As I’ve seen Compost draw way more cards than anyone dreams it might, I suspect that Snake Pit will create far more creatures that your opponents might imagine, and it’s not likely to draw any targeted enchantment hate, since there are probably always more dangerous targets—like the somewhat-underrated Crumbling Ashes. Ohran Viper is simply one of my favorite Snakes in all of Magic history.

Hey, That’s a Cool Army

Once we’ve made a swarm of tokens, we can do neat things because of them. Regal Force will draw quite a few cards. Anything which sacrifices creatures for value works, whether that’s mana production from Phyrexian Altar, milling from Altar of Dementia, or card draw from Carnage Altar—all of which fit thematically well with the Shaman sub-theme.

Obviously, you have your Overrun variants, like Garruk Wildspeaker and Overwhelming Stampede. Only because this is a Snake deck, and snakes are poisonous, might I consider Triumph of the Hordes as a finisher; it’s otherwise a card I wouldn’t play because it just seems too easy to take out another player too early (and no, changing the number of poison counters required for a kill wouldn’t really make a difference).

Cards from Amonkhet

I don’t want to steal too much thunder from my forthcoming set review, but we’ve already gotten a peek at some Amonkhet cards which will fit into a Hapatra deck (and I’m certain there will be a few more to come). I’m already a huge fan of Archfiend of Ifnir. Crocodile of the Crossing might have some value if we can remove -1/-1 counters to do things (or just feed that Thief of Blood). Prowling Serpopard is a Snake and the cheapest creature to keep yours from being countered. Throne of the God-Pharaoh seems pretty outlandish if you’re creating swarms of attackers. Champion of Rhonas is a new method of getting creatures onto the battlefield for free.

Oracle’s Vault will no doubt create some crazy plays. They’re not all that splashy, but I’m quite taken with Bontu’s Monument, Hazoret’s Monument, Kefnet’s Monument, Oketra’s Monument, and Rhonas’s Monument. Of course, the cycling dual lands are quite something, and we’re all hoping that we’ll see the enemy-colored ones in a few months.

And no, Approach of the Second Sun isn’t getting emergency banned.

A Deck Idea

Once again understanding we haven’t yet seen all the cards from Amonkhet, here’s a wag at a deck. It takes advantage of Hapatra’s abilities, using many of the cards we discuss above.

Commander 2016 Rotisserie Draft

Between the time I wrote this and the time you’re reading it, our Commander 2016 Rotisserie Draft took place. We have two new drafters this time, @mtgradio star Tom Delia and Armada Games regular Anthony Rueda, to go along with returning drafters Keith and Shea. Since we’ll be featuring Amonkhet for the next few weeks, I’ll update you at the first opportunity on the madness and mayhem which took place. Amonkhet cards weren’t available when we drafted, but they will be ready for action on the first waiver wire!

This Week’s Idiotic Combo

Timesifter plus Paradox Haze. Without any setup, Timesifter is already silly enough.

Adding Paradox Haze just adds another level of chaos to an already-chaotic situation. I was once involved in a game which these two cards, plus Copy Artifact and Copy Enchantment were involved. We eventually gave up on the game because we lost track of who had stacked which turns on top of which other turns. We declared the person who had the Timesifter / Paradox Haze combo in his deck the winner, much the same way you call someone the winner in the credit card game.

This Week’s Deck Without Comment is Adun’s Toolbox.

Adun Oakenshield
Sheldon Menery
0th Place at Test deck on 12-04-2013
Magic Card Back

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Halloween with Karador; Dreaming of Intet; You Did This to Yourself;



Heliod, God of Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn Evil No. 9


Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever;

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Animar’s Swarm; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke’s Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith’s Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; You Take the Crown, I’ll Take Leovold; Zombies of Tresserhorn

Four Color

Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free; Saskia Unyielding; Breya Reshaped.


Children of a Greater God


Tana and Kydele


Animar Do-Over; Glissa Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan Do-Over

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”