Phyrexia: All Will Be One Commander has some cool new legends to build Commander decks around! Last week I shone a spotlight on Otharri, Suns’ Glory, the non-face commander from the Rebellion Rising deck. This week, I wanted to dive deep into another non-face commander, this time from the Corrupting Influence deck – Vishgraz, the Doomhive!
The toxic mechanic is an interesting spin on giving opponents poison counters in such a way as to not negate the utility of dealing regular damage. Meanwhile, cards with the corrupted ability word tend to power up when at least one opponent has three or more poison counters, and some get even more powerful for each opponent with at least three or more poison counters.
This line of play is quite a different style from where infect pushed us, where it’s best to focus all of your poison accumulation on one opponent at a time to get them to ten as quickly as possible. I actually like this a lot better than needing to focus on taking out one opponent at a time, since the ebb and flow of a Commander game can mean that whoever you started attacking early might end up needing to be an ally later against another opponent that’s pushed forward a threatening battlefield presence. By focusing on distributing poison counters more or less evenly during the course of a game, it leaves you with the ability to be flexible in your gameplay.
Going Big with Poison
Vishgraz, the Doomhive really exemplifies this style of play, since it gets a whopping +1/+1 for each poison counter your opponents control. If three opponents each have nine poison counters, Vishgraz, the Doomhive would be a whopping 30/30! But even if you’ve just got each opponent up to the corrupted threshold, that would mean Vishgraz is a 12/12, which is quite an impressive size for a five-mana commander.
But that’s not all! Vishgraz has menace, which means if someone wants to block, they need to throw two creatures in front of Vishgraz, and given its likely size, that’s probably taking down two creatures each combat. If they don’t block, Vishgraz’s toxic 1 ability will add another poison counter, which grows Vishgraz by one. And then, let’s not forget Vishgraz’s enters-the-battlefield trigger, which creates three 1/1 colorless Phyrexian Mite artifact creatures with toxic 1 so they can help with the overall corrupted strategy and also provide insulation from random sacrifice effects. They can also contribute to token synergies or artifact synergies too.
There is a lot going on with Vishgraz, so let’s dive in!
When I build Vishgraz, my inclination is to lean into the toxic strategies that will help make Vishgraz as big as possible. Thankfully, Phyrexia: All Will Be One and the Corrupting Influence Commander deck provide plenty of great toxic support. Venerated Rotpriest and Bloated Contaminator are awesome ways to push through early toxic triggers, and I simply love the later game potential of Tyrranax Rex, which cannot be countered and has trample, ward 4, haste, and toxic 4.
I played in the Early Access event for Magic Arena and got to run a deck featuring Skrelv, Defector Mite a few times. My impression is that Skrelv falls far short of Mother of Runes, which is probably a good thing, since having a Mother of Runes in your command zone might be misery to play against. I’d probably give it a try in this deck at first, but I could also see eventually just replacing it with Mother of Runes.
If we lean heavily into making Phyrexian Mite tokens, we’d likely want to run Mite Overseer, Mirrex, and Ria Ivor, Bane of Bladehold. I’d also consider White Sun’s Twilight, which can also serve as a battlefield sweeper in the late-game that also puts threats on the battlefield.
Bilious Skulldweller, Jawbone Duelist, and even Myr Convert can push through early toxic damage, while Necrogen Rotpriest can keep them relevant into the mid- or late-game. Prosthetic Injector is a super-cheap Equipment with a very cheap equip cost, and since toxic abilities can stack, you can push someone to corrupted levels of poison pretty quickly in the early-game.
If you’re not interested in spreading poison around the table, you can instead just lean into the infect mechanic and take down one opponent with ten poison counters before moving on to the next opponent. Glistener Elf can start the infect party as soon as Turn 1, and Plague Stinger, Plague Myr, and even Inkmoth Nexus can attack early. Phyrexian Crusader will typically offer up your first victim as the Boros player or whoever is playing red or white creatures. Triumph of the Hordes has long been feared at Commander tables as a finisher, and it supports this plan quite well.
Glistening Oil and Tainted Strike are finesse cards that I’ve played outside of poison decks, and I’d likely include both of them in Vishgraz no matter which angle I was shooting for.
There are some other ways to give your opponents poison counters, from super-old-school cards like Swamp Mosquito for style points to the weirdo Aura from Future Sight Snake Cult Initiation, which will give enchanted creature poisonous 3. Phyresis Outbreak, Vraska’s Fall and Infectious Bite give each of your opponents a poison counter to get the corrupted party started, but they permanently give your commander +3/+3 if nothing else.
Norn’s Decree is an interesting enchantment that might tempt opponents to attack each other if you’ve given them poison counters, because deep in the beating heart of every Magic player is a person who just wants to draw extra cards. That’s not to mention effectively giving you an extra card each turn you’re attacking someone with a poison counter because that’s what our deck is set up to want to do.
The payoffs for getting one or more opponents to three poison counters are all these sweet, sweet corrupted cards! Skrelv’s Hive is no Bitterblossom or even Dreadhorde Invasion, but it seems pretty easy to turn on the corrupted bonus in this deck, and giving all our toxic creatures lifelink will be quite useful in racing, especially if Vishgraz is on the table! Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa offers a potent corruption payoff, but keep in mind that it’s super-awkward for webcam games, so swap it out before you play over Spelltable or Discord. I’m a big fan of the corrupted payoffs for Contaminant Grafter and Goliath Hatchery, since they involve drawing cards.
Cards with proliferate offer a way to cause opponents to lose outside of the combat step, assuming you’ve given them at least one poison counter one way or another. I played with Staff of Compleation in the Early Access event, and while the card was decent, it was incredibly painful and I wouldn’t run it unless my deck had a hefty lifegain component.
Sword of Truth and Justice offers potential evasion for a toxic creature to proliferate each turn. Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting is surprisingly strong, with all loyalty abilities easily in the mix. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is a bit expensive to pick up, but if you own one, you’d definitely want to slip this in the deck, especially since it can convert Mite tokens into card draw and the -1/-1 counter gives another angle for proliferate to attack from. Both Plaguemaw Beast and Throne of Geth can sacrifice Mite tokens to proliferate too!
Planewide Celebration is wild in this deck. You could potentially proliferate four times, and if all three opponents already have at least one poison counter, that’s +12/+12 for Vishgraz!
If we lean heavily on making Mites or other token creatures, the Abzan color combination offers tons of token-making support, with Anointed Procession and Doubling Season at the top of the heap. Divine Visitation doesn’t exactly play towards the corrupted plan, but I think turning 1/1 Mites into 4/4 flying Angel creatures is well worth the non-synergy. I also like that Jaheira, Friend of the Forest can let you tap those Mite tokens for green mana if that’s what you need.
Assuming enough cards in the deck that can start the poison train by the time we cast Vishgraz, we can count on our commander to be quite large. And that means cards like Return of the Wildspeaker and Rishkar’s Expertise will draw us a lot of cards! Mosswort Bridge’s hideaway ability should be easy to activate, and Ghalta, Primal Hunger and The Great Henge should be cheap to cast. With a horde of token creatures alongside Vishgraz on the battlefield, Overwhelming Stampede should spell big trouble for one or more opponents!
Leveraging Vishgraz’s large side, I’d be looking for ways to further boost it, especially ways to give it trample, like Rancor and Sword of Vengeance. I also really like Mask of Griselbrand, which provides flying and lifelink, but if Vishgraz dies, you can end up drawing a bunch of cards.
Since I’d probably be playing a fair number of Equipment cards to enhance Vishgraz, along with Mite tokens being artifacts, we might want to include some artifact synergies too. Trading Post is always a welcome addition, and you can sacrifice a Mite as an artifact to draw a card or as a creature to return an artifact card from your graveyard to your hand. Kuldotha Forgemaster can turn three Mites – such as the three that Vishgraz makes – into the best artifact that’s still in your deck.
Lastly, we might consider that Vishgraz is an Insect, so at the very least you’d want to play Swarmyard to regenerate it from destroy effects. If you wanted to search for a higher density of Insects for the deck – for instance, Phyrexian Swarmlord is an infect Insect that makes Insect token creatures with infect – then we might even consider Blex, Vexing Pest as an Insect “lord” of sorts.
What other cards would you want in a Vishgraz, the Doomhive deck? Would you go the corrupted route or lean hard on killing with poison through infect or proliferate?
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