To borrow a metaphor from Conley Woods on Monday Night Magic, Christmas comes early in New Phyrexia. It’s not the measured buildup of excitement that
we’re used to when a new set is on the cusp of being released to the public; instead, we wake up one random morning, and the presents are all out,
unwrapped… Christmas. Compleat. What. A. Treat.
There’s shock, yes, and even excitementâ€”after all, there are new Legos and video games you can start playing with. Yet you can’t help but feel some
disappointment in missing out on the pre-Christmas hype and anticipation.
That disappointment is mitigated to a large degree by just how awesome this set is. Granted, for me, every new set is my favorite set of all
time; New Phyrexia just feels like it’s bursting with new cards willing and able to remake Standard. I certainly hope and pray that’s true.
While the high-level pundits and pros go on about how cool and diverse Standard is, gushing over yet another Jace deck innovation cracking into the
other Jace decks crowding the latest Top 8, most of us down here in the trenches find the format stale, dull, and depressing. I’m not working this
Friday, and I have zero interest in playing Standard at Friday Night Magic. Me, I’m going to grind Commander games all night long!
All that Standard ho-hum is going to change when I can actually get my hands on New Phyrexian cards and start playing with some awesome new brews, and
I’ve got a couple I’d like to share with you today.
First up are some ideas regarding Birthing Pod.
Patrick Chapin wrote at length about this card
back when it was first spoiled in Japanese (translated as “Spawning Shell”), and I agree that the card has a lot of sweet potential. One thing he
talked about keeping an eye out for unfortunately didn’t materializeâ€”a creature that cost five mana, with two payable with Phyrexian mana, so you could
conceivably cast it on turn two or three, then drop Birthing Pod the following turn and instantly upgrade into a Titan. The only five-mana creatures
with Phyrexian mana just have one Phyrexian mana in their casting cost, and neither is particularly screaming to be put in Constructed decks (Pith
Driller and Slash Panther).
Are there other ways to cheat in high-cost creatures that can then be sacrificed to the Pod for something huge? Summoning Trap springs to mind, but
there are too many random variables there to rely on it for Podfood. Hand of Emrakul and Demon of Death’s Gate both have alternative casting costs of
sacrificing creatures to cheat into play early. So what’s at ten worth cheating? Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is a 12/12 beatstick with a sizeable
annihilator, but you miss out on the card-drawing when he’s cheated in, and he’s pretty easily dealt with by any number of spells. Spawnsire of Ulamog
is really only awesome when you’ve generated twenty mana. The new Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, on the other (or third) hand, is an awesome card well worth
cheating in! Of course, now we’re talking about a deck with either Hands of Emrakul or Demons of Death’s Gate, plus creatures that will stick around to
be sacrificed to them, and how good are they going to be if you never actually get around to drawing and using Birthing Pod?
I decided to shift gears and started thinking about it in terms of playing a deck chock full of creatures that do great stuff when they come into play,
and I inevitably started messing around with Fauna Shaman. Of course, with Fauna Shaman and Green Sun’s Zenith, a green-based deck already has tons of
flexible tutoring available (which also made me worried that having Green Sun’s Zenith and Birthing Pod probably does not bode well for my beloved
Fauna Shaman making the cut for M12…). Then I thought:
Why limit yourself to green decks? After all, Birthing Pod’s Phyrexian green mana can be paid for with life instead…
Hm, that’s certainly an interesting thought, right? I mean, we’d probably want to cough up a green source of mana eventually or have some way to gain a
lot of life. Then I thought about the Emeria decksâ€”they run a bunch of value white creatures, which seems perfect for upgrading with the Pod, since
you’ll eventually be able to get those creatures back through Emeria, the Sky Ruin or Sun Titan. A white creature-based deck could easily load up on
good lifegain to offset the Phyrexian mana, and you could even run Pilgrim’s Eye to eventually find a green mana for the mid- to late-game. Excited by
the notion, here’s what I cooked up:
- 1 Baneslayer Angel
- 1 Kor Cartographer
- 4 Pilgrim's Eye
- 4 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
- 1 Soul's Attendant
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Kemba, Kha Regent
- 1 Sunblast Angel
- 1 Precursor Golem
- 1 Mirran Crusader
- 1 Hero of Bladehold
Turn two, drop a Hawk or Mystic, then you can drop Pilgrim’s Eye on turn three, then Birthing Pod on turn four (and four life) to sac the Eye for a
Cartographer, and then turn five, upgrade to Baneslayer or Precursor Golem and use the Forest to do so. Next turn, cash in the Golem (leaving his two
3/3 buddies behind) for Sun Titan or Wurmcoil Engine.
Stoneforge Mystic gives you lots of life-gaining options, from Basilisk Collar and Sylvok Lifestaff to the awesome new Sword of War and Peace and
Another interesting option to explore is splashing the Pod into a mostly black deck with early Vampires you can cash in for Phyrexian Obliterator or
Abyssal Persecutor, with the Pod providing another opportunity to sacrifice the Persecutor when it’s time for you to win, say, after he swings for
lethal. Maybe something like this?
- 4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
- 3 Malakir Bloodwitch
- 1 Vampire Hexmage
- 4 Vampire Nighthawk
- 1 Abyssal Persecutor
- 1 Kalastria Highborn
- 1 Pilgrim's Eye
- 4 Viscera Seer
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 4 Phyrexian Obliterator
- 1 Forest
- 19 Swamp
- 4 Verdant Catacombs
I probably need some Inquisitions of Kozilek or Despises in here, but there’s an interesting skeleton here to tinker with.
Now, it’s pretty easy to see that Birthing Pod is an awesome way to tutor up creatures with cool comes-into-the-battlefield abilities, but another
angle to take advantage of is how it puts creatures into the graveyard. What good is that? What good is that? Necrotic Ooze would like to remind
you he likes creatures in the graveyard that have nifty activated abilities.
Necrotic Ooze was a card I loved from the start, and I even made a go at a Necrotic Ooze deck for State Champs last year. Unfortunately, when
researching cards for the Nooze deck, I was shocked to realize how few quality creatures there are with activated abilities you’d want to stitch onto a
four-mana black creature. I crossed my fingers that Mirrodin Besieged would provide some tasty treats for my Ooze friend, but alas, it was not
meant to be.
? It’s pretty slim pickings until we get to the artifacts. Well, well, well… check out the Souleater cycle!
These abilities activate using Phyrexian mana, which gives Necrotic Ooze the flexibility to trade life for mana when the need arises. Since Fauna
Shaman goes right along with Necrotic Ooze, I first looked at the green and black Souleaters, and check that out: trample and infect! Two perfect
abilities to make Necrotic Ooze scary. Immolating Souleater is interesting since it gives you a “Hatred” ability, which is a fine trade if you’re going
with infect. Trespassing Souleater’s ability is better than trample. Blinding Souleater doesn’t overtly add to the aggressive combo-kill we’re trying
to set up with Nooze, but Tumble Magnet has shown us how valuable it can be to tap down Titans or creatures equipped with Swords or worse. What the
heck, let’s play with all of them!
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Vampire Hexmage
- 1 Gigantomancer
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Sylvan Ranger
- 1 Molten-Tail Masticore
- 4 Necrotic Ooze
- 4 Spellskite
- 1 Hex Parasite
- 1 Trespassing Souleater
- 1 Blinding Souleater
- 1 Immolating Souleater
- 1 Insatiable Souleater
- 1 Pestilent Souleater
While I originally had four Birthing Pods when I first started this list, after tinkering with it, I realized that we really only need one, since Fauna
Shaman does everything you really want to do, and if Fauna Shaman dies, Necrotic Ooze can act as a Fauna Shaman as well. Another new card that I
thought belonged in this list was Spellskiteâ€”like the Souleaters, it’s got a Phyrexian mana activated ability that goes a long way towards protecting
specific creatures in your deck. Since the deck really wants to keep Necrotic Ooze and Fauna Shaman in play, having a “flagbearer” like Spellskite
seems like a no-brainer.
I have to admit I’m really looking forward to giving Necrotic Ooze infect, then shooting opponents in the face a couple times with the Masticore
ability! Ah, to live the dream…
I’m also really looking forward to adding New Phyrexia cards to my Commander decks, but I’ve still got lots of deck ideas I’m working on right
now. One thing that’s been on the agenda is building a Glissa, the Traitor deck, especially since I’ve got Glissa Sunseeker built, and it would be cool
to have both versions ready. I’ve been tinkering with it for about a week now, and I think it’s ready for prime time Friday night. The general idea is
to run a lot of artifacts, especially ones that sacrifice for benefit and then pair it with black removal to make sure you keep getting those artifacts
back. I also need to remember that creatures die a lot around a Commander table, even if I’m not doing something directly. Executioner’s Capsule
is the ideal Glissa card and is first of 99. Urza’s Bauble and Mishra’s Bauble seem like a good and cheap way to turn creatures dying into extra cards.
Other solid choices: Tormod’s Crypt, Expedition Map, Mind Stone, Sylvok Replica, Memory Jar, and Dreamstone Hedron. Other artifacts that just might
incidentally die for profit and be worth bringing back: Solemn Simulacrum, Wurmcoil Engine, and Duplicant.
Since I’m already going heavy on the artifacts, why not keep going? After all, even if someone Wraths away the board with Glissa out there, I’ll still
get a bunch of artifacts back that might have been destroyed earlier. Let’s add in the usual artifact suspects: Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Skullclamp,
Sensei’s Divining Top, Lightning Greaves, Scroll Rack, Vedalken Orrery, Venser’s Journal, Steel Hellkite, Spine of Ish Sah. Add in Guardian Beast to
protect them, Etched Champion, Ezuri’s Brigade, and Darksteel Juggernaut to take advantage of the high artifact count.
For creature kill, there’s no shortage of good choices in black. I selected Bone Shredder, Pernicious Deed, Damnation, Nekrataal, Shriekmaw, and Dark
Hatchling. To help with the “non-black” clause on the pinpoint removal, I’ve included the handy Distorting Lens and Scuttlemutt. I’ve added Oblivion
Stone, but I’m not sure if that’s the best idea considering how many of my own artifacts that might end up nuking. Of course, with Glissa out there,
odds are pretty good I’d just get to recoup most of the artifacts.
I picked two pieces of equipment specifically for Glissa shenanigansâ€”Viridian Longbow to make her deathtouch far-reaching and Loxodon Warhammer to take
advantage of the sweet deathtouch/first strike/trample interaction (not to mention some nice life-gaining to boot). I rounded out the deck with some
green Good Stuff: Tranquil Grove (look, Maâ€”no enchantments!), Sakura-Tribe Elder, Eternal Witness, Harmonize, Citanul Hierophants, Seedborn Muse boo, hiss!), Silklash Spider, Indrik Stomphowler, Acidic Slime, and Deadwood Treefolk. Here’s the decklist below. Did I miss anything too
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Nekrataal
- 1 Genesis
- 1 Silklash Spider
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Guardian Beast
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Bone Shredder
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Dark Hatchling
- 1 Citanul Hierophants
- 1 Indrik Stomphowler
- 1 Deadwood Treefolk
- 1 Riftsweeper
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 1 Scuttlemutt
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Ezuri's Brigade
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Sylvok Replica
- 1 Etched Champion
- 1 Darksteel Juggernaut
- 1 Glissa, the Traitor
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Scroll Rack
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Ivory Tower
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Memory Jar
- 1 Oblivion Stone
- 1 Loxodon Warhammer
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Viridian Longbow
- 1 Distorting Lens
- 1 Tranquil Grove
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Erratic Portal
- 1 Power Matrix
- 1 Pernicious Deed
- 1 Urza's Bauble
- 1 Tormod's Crypt
- 1 Golgari Signet
- 1 Putrefy
- 1 Mishra's Bauble
- 1 Sudden Spoiling
- 1 Damnation
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Cauldron of Souls
- 1 Executioner's Capsule
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Dreamstone Hedron
- 1 Venser's Journal
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Bonehoard
- 1 Spine of Ish Sah
I can’t wait to give this a couple runs at the Richmond Comix tables, and my vicious Wort, the Raidmother is ready to rock Richmond Comix tonight.
There are too many surprises in that deck for me to write about it quite yet, but if I take enough scouts tonight, I’ll be sharing it with you soon.
Maybe I’ll see some of you for Commander this weekend?
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me
feedback, ideas, and random thoughts on Magic and life.
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:
- Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists):
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
Fist of Suns and Bringers