The time has come for Commander to become compleat. Too long, made for EDH cards have dominated the format, turning it into a blasphemous, rotating format with no imagination. As hyperbolic as that may sound, I realized it was high time for my beloved Phyrexians to make their return and demonstrate what true perfection is.
I decided to challenge myself by building five new EDH decks, one for each Phyrexian praetor. However, I would not just copy pasta from EDHrec, oh no. I would set further limitations on myself to get to make sure I was being thoughtful about construction. So before I dive in, lets establish those rules.
Rule One: Lore-Locked Cards
Each deck would only have cards from planes where Phyrexians have been or currently are. So that means Dominaria, Phyrexia, Rath, and Mirrodin/New Phyrexia. However, I also thought any card printed in an ancillary product that specifically referenced Domarian/Phyrexian lore would be fair game as well. I wanted to do this for two reasons. One, it would focus my attention to the earliest sets in Magic and bring up cards that people may not have seen before or thought of in awhile. Two, flavor. There are lots of reasons people play commander, but I feel that flavor is definitely an underappreciated one. A lot of the times the games seem to become a showcase powerful synergies first and flavor is incidental. While that is all well and good, I wanted flavor to come first and power second.
Rule Two: Built Like Pre-Cons
I created this rule a little while after I started building each deck because I realized I was using a lot of the same cards across decks. I wanted each deck to be unique, so backtracked and made this rule. For those of you who don't know, the rarity of commander pre-cons mean something different than traditional sets. Mythic rares and rares only appear in one of the decks, uncommons appear in only two, and commons can appear in any of them. This rule will keep me from just throwing cards like Wurmcoil Engine, Blightsteel Colossus, and Darksteel Forge in all of them, etc. I also made sure each one has an alternate commander that can be used and compleated cycles, such as the zenith, myr mana generators, and certain land cycles to tie them together.
Rule Three: Establish a Clear Theme
This is sort of a sub-rule to rule #2. Commander pre-cons are always presented with a theme that lets the buyer get an idea of what kind of strategy they can expect. So I sat down and wrote out what I wanted each deck to do. This is especially important since I am using the same sets for each deck, it allows me to have a clear direction for my deck building and showcase the strategy I want.
Rule Four: Can Any of Them Be the Sheriff?
This is less of a hard rule and more of a guide. For the newbies, there is a type of commander game called Sheriff, which is my favorite way to play EDH. It requires a minimum of five players, but can be played up to 7 or 8. At the start of the game, each person receives a basic land type that tells them their role. Forest is the sheriff, this is the only person who can reveal their role (have their basic land face up), and they start with 60 life as opposed to 40. Their goal is to win the game. Simple. One person receives a plains, making them the deputy. Their goal is to help the sheriff win the game. Two people receive mountains (or swamps), and they are the outlaws. Their goal is to kill the sheriff. Lastly, someone receives an island (or swamp) and they are the Renegade. Their goal is to kill everyone else and THEN kill the sheriff last. It's a super fun way to play commander, and I highly recommend it. It also is reflective of the New Phyrexian lore itself, with each Praetor battling for dominance. That being said, I wanted to make sure each deck's power level was relatively even so that any one of them could fulfill the role of sheriff and people still have a good time.
So before I dive in, I just wanted to be clear that these decks are focused on flavor and synergies. Although I was able to include some powerful cards, their power level is NOT intended to be competitive with traditional decks. I built them and intend to have them in paper to be used in a Sheriff game together.
All that said, here is what I came up with!
Augmented Domination: Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Sol Ring 1 Alloy Myr 1 Skullclamp 1 Norn's Annex 1 Master's Call 1 Pearl Medallion 1 Extraplanar Lens 1 Choking Fumes 1 Divine Offering 1 Dispatch 1 Shriek Raptor 1 Revoke Existence 1 Priests of Norn 1 Gold Myr 1 Chancellor of the Annex 1 White Sun's Zenith 1 Lightning Greaves 1 Altar's Light 1 Grafted Exoskeleton 1 Arrest 1 Mirran Crusader 1 Aura of Silence 1 Marrow Shards 1 Tine Shrike 1 Suture Priest 1 Tempered Steel 1 Razor Hippogriff 1 Remember the Fallen 1 Lost Leonin 1 Palladium Myr 1 Sword of War and Peace 1 True Conviction 1 Indomitable Archangel 1 Victory's Herald 1 Banishment Decree 1 Phyrexian Rebirth 1 Blade Splicer 1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero 1 Hero of Bladehold 1 Master Splicer 1 Myrsmith 1 Mind Stone 1 Myr Turbine 1 Riptide Replicator 1 Myr Battlesphere 1 Shrine of Loyal Legions 1 Myr Propagator 1 Sensor Splicer 1 Thopter Assembly 1 Caged Sun 1 Ashnod's Altar 1 Argivian Find 1 Kemba, Kha Regent 1 Batterskull 1 Leonin Abunas 1 Steelshaper's Gift 1 Argentum Armor 1 Blinding Souleater 1 Luminous Angel 1 Shield of Kaldra 1 Swords to Plowshares 1 Helm of Kaldra 1 Mask of Memory 1 Sword of Kaldra 1 Golem Foundry 1 Kjeldoran Outpost 1 Flagstones of Trokair 23 Plains 1 Ancient Tomb 1 Ancient Den 1 Drifting Meadow 1 Kor Haven 1 Blasted Landscape 1 Secluded Steppe 1 Temple of the False God 1 Terrain Generator 1 Blinkmoth Nexus 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
The goal of Elesh Norn's deck is to create, buff, and protect her token army. Important token enablers include
Shrine of Loyal Legions,
Myr Matrix, and
Myr Turbine. The great thing about Turbine is that it enables you to find other important Myr creatures that further build and buff your army like
Myr Propagator and
Myrs aren't going to be the sole tokens in the deck. The deck also includes golem synergies with the splicer creatures and
Golem Foundry. Other cards like
Hero of Bladehold, and
Kemba, Kha Regent will give you plenty of other tokens. Last but not least is
White Sun's Zenith to fill out the strategy. For fun, I included one of my favorite cards,
Riptide Replicator in the deck. While it may be mana intensive, its quite useful in making even more myrs or golems.
The deck includes powerful equipment like
Argentum Armor, and anthem effects like
Tempered Steel and
True Conviction. While Tempered won't affect your Kemba's, Hero's or the angel's tokens, it is key in making your golem and myr army even more imposing.
One thing this deck does well is removal and protecting itself. Based on the power level of other decks, I had no problem including card's like Swords to Plowshares and Dispatch. Not to mention the many artifact and enchantment spells. Norn's Annex will also be a formidable obstacle for the other decks as it means that they have no choice but to pay 2 life for each creature in order to attack you. will have to pay with blood if they intend to attack you.
As white is one of the worst colors for both ramp and card draw, it was important to save powerful cards from the selected blocks for this deck in particular. Caged Sun , Ashnod's Altar and various mana rocks will put the deck on a slightly more even footing with the other strategies.
Corrupted Control: Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
1 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur 1 Sapphire Medallion 1 Blue Sun's Zenith 1 Silver Myr 1 Chancellor of the Spires 1 Psychosis Crawler 1 Ancestral Vision 1 Phyrexian Metamorph 1 Consecrated Sphinx 1 Temporal Cascade 1 Thoughtcast 1 Thirst for Knowledge 1 Memnarch 1 Neurok Stealthsuit 1 Platinum Angel 1 Sword of Body and Mind 1 Gilded Lotus 1 Mycosynth Lattice 1 Blinkmoth Urn 1 Chrome Mox 1 Mindslaver 1 Darksteel Ingot 1 Doubling Cube 1 Vedalken Shackles 1 Solemn Simulacrum 1 Silent Arbiter 1 Thopter Assembly 1 Shimmer Myr 1 Staff of Domination 1 Acquire1 Chained Throatseeker 1 Vedalken Orrery 1 Unwinding Clock 1 Annul 1 Serum Visions 1 Trinket Mage 1 Fabricate 1 Cryptoplasm 1 Fatespinner 1 Last Word 1 Synod Artificer 1 Vivisection 1 March of the Machines 1 Volition Reins 1 Vedalken Engineer 1 Pulse of the Grid 1 Riddlesmith 1 Carry Away 1 Blighted Agent 1 Treasure Mage 1 Reshape 1 Treachery 1 Time Spiral 1 Windfall 1 Thran Dynamo 1 Evacuation 1 Propaganda 1 Venser's Journal 1 Sol Ring 1 Pact of Negation 1 Vedalken Archmage 1 Corrupted Conscience 1 Phyrexian Ingester 1 Duplicant 1 Voltaic Key 1 Rhystic Study 1 Temple of the False God 1 Seat of the Synod 25 Island 1 Blasted Landscape 1 AcademyRuins 1 Blinkmoth Well 1 Darksteel Citadel 1 Remote Isle 1 Tower of the Magistrate 1 Lonely Sandbar
The goal of Jin-Gitaxias is to conquer the other decks from two axes; stealing permanents, and drawing cards. This deck was loosely based on my
Memnarch edh deck, and it was only right to make
Memnarch the alternate commander.
The deck wants to develop as much mana as possible, using its mana rocks in conjuction with cards like
doubling cube and
blinkmoth urn to fuel stealing permanents with
Memnarch and taking out an opponent with
Blue Sun's Zenith. Ideally, you would hold of on casting your zenith until your
Psychosis Crawler is on the board. The deck has a LOT of card draw, and it is going to need it since it won't be able to keep up with creature decks like it would be if it had
Corrupted Conscience and
Volition Reins should be useful in taking your opponents scariest creature.
Carry Away can also be used to take useful non-artifacts as well. And there are several counter spells that the deck can utilize to slow the others down while it races to its combo.
For those wondering, I made the intentional choice to keep
Grim Monolith and
Power Artifact out of the deck. None of the other decks have infinite combos, and I didn't feel like it was fair for this one to have one. However, once they are built and I have chances to play them, I may revisit it. For those of you who intend on building this deck, I think its one of the first things that should be upgraded.
Ichor Swarm: Sheoldred, Whispering One
1 Go for the Throat 1 Life's Finale 1 Bubbling Muck 1 Reaper of Sheoldred 1 Whispering Specter 1 Beacon of Unrest 1 Slaughter Pact 1 Praetor's Grasp 1 Yawgmoth's Vile Offering 1 Phyrexian Reclamation 1 Caress of Phyrexia 1 Plague Stinger 1 Phyrexian Crusader 1 Hatred 1 Magus of the Coffers 1 Necroskitter 1 Jet Medallion 1 Bonehoard 1 K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth 1 Reiver Demon 1 Dread Return 1 Chancellor of the Dross 1 Sol Ring 1 Cranial Plating 1 Alloy Myr 1 Nightmare Lash 1 Phyresis 1 Aether Snap 1 Leaden Myr 1 Attrition 1 Ascendant Evincar 1 Black Sun's Zenith 1 Body Snatcher 1 Blind Zealot 1 Bane of the Living 1 Black Market 1 Buried Alive 1 Carnifex Demon 1 Commander Greven il-Vec 1 Contagious Nim 1 Nim Deathmantle 1 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon 1 Lashwrithe 1 Whispersilk Cloak 1 Glistening Oil 1 Sword of Light and Shadow 1 Hand of the Praetors 1 Diabolic Tutor 1 Dregs of Sorrow 1 Dismember 1 Diabolic Intent 1 Enslave 1 Dross Harvester 1 Entomber Exarch 1 Reanimate1 Entomb 1 Exsanguinate 1 Expunge 1 Geth, Lord of the Vault 1 Grave Pact1 Ichor Rats 1 Phyrexian Arena 1 Massacre Wurm 1 Charcoal Diamond 1 Worn Powerstone 1 Vault of Whispers 1 Cabal Stronghold 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 1 Volrath's Stronghold 1 Barren Moor 26 Swamp 1 Phyrexian Tower 1 Lake of the Dead 1 Polluted Mire 1 Sheoldred, Whispering One
As a black mage, this deck was my favorite to build. Black has the strongest infect related cards in these sets, so it was only prudent to make Sheoldred the infect deck of the group. While all the other decks have infect creatures and cards for flavor, this is the main strategy of the Ichor Swarm. Now, for those of you may cry that infect is unfair. My house rule is that you must deal 20 infect damage to kill your opponent, not ten.
Of course, the full suite of black infect creatures is featured, including one of my favorite cards of all time and the alternate commander of this deck,
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. Oh all I want for Christmas to slam a
Nightmare Lash on you, Skithy. Speaking of, since most of the other creatures are small and fragile, I included special equipment like the lash and
Lashwrithe, as well as
Hatred to buff up the swarm.
Whispersilk Cloak was a necessary inclusion, and something the other decks will need to kill on sight.
Hand of the Praetors is also a key card in the strategy, as it allows for poison counters to build up even quicker.
As for the reanimation strategy, the deck also utilizes
Geth, Lord of the Vault, the traditional reanimate spells,
Beacon of Unrest and fun cards like
Life's Finale. I was happy to include a card that could both get rid of a difficult board state and fuel Sheoldred's ability.
Besides the infect strategy, Sheoldred allows you to use your creatures death for cards like
Attrition without being sorry for the loss. Imagine
Grave Pact, and
Black Market on the battlefield. Okay so maybe the deck is still too good. Sue me.
Fury of the Furnace: Urabrask, the Hidden
1 Urabrask, the Hidden 1 Phyrexian Juggernaut 1 Ruby Medallion 1 Bludgeon Brawl 1 Red Sun's Zenith 1 Iron Myr 1 Grafted Exoskeleton 1 Lightning Greaves 1 Golem-Skin Gauntlets 1 Palladium Myr 1 Mind Stone 1 Skullclamp 1 Sol Ring 1 Darksteel Plate 1 Sword of Fire and Ice 1 Chancellor of the Forge 1 Detonate 1 Furnace Dragon 1 Molten Psyche 1 Hoard-Smelter Dragon 1 Trash for Treasure 1 Ogre Geargrabber 1 Savage Beating 1 Furnace Celebration 1 Hellkite Igniter 1 Moltensteel Dragon 1 Kuldotha Phoenix 1 Barbed Battlegear 1 Kuldotha Ringleader 1 Magma Giant 1 Into the Core 1 Vulshok Battlemaster 1 Invader Parasite 1 Banshee's Blade 1 Priest of Urabrask 1 Shrine of Burning Rage 1 Darksteel Colossus 1 Bosh, Iron Golem 1 Mox Opal 1 Sundering Titan 1 Covetous Dragon 1 Steel Hellkite 1 Spine of Ish Sah 1 Worldslayer 1 Gauntlet of Power 1 Goblin Welder 1 Junk Diver 1 Soul of New Phyrexia 1 Bogardan Hellkite 1 Wurmcoil Engine 1 Kuldotha Forgemaster 1 Blightsteel Colossus 1 Furnace of Rath 1 Thran Temporal Gateway 1 Thran Dynamo 1 Mind's Eye 1 Loxodon Warhammer 1 Darksteel Ingot 1 Voltaic Key 1 Insurrection 1 Cathodion 1 Worn Powerstone 1 Platinum Emperion 1 Darksteel Forge 1 Urza's Mine 1 Ancient Tomb 1 Phyrexia's Core 1 Darksteel Citadel 1 Urza's Power Plant 26 Mountain 1 Urza's Tower 1 Great Furnace 1 Smoldering Crater 1 Forgotten Cave
Urabrask wants to be on the field as quickly as possible and turning creatures sideways. Heavy hitting creatures like
Platinum Emperion, and even
Blightsteel Colossus can all be cheated into play with
Thran Temporal Gateway. Considering the lack of ramp this deck has, that card will be key more often than not.
Furnace of Rath,
Savage Beating, and
Insurrection help maximize the deck's aggression.
Vulshok Battlemaster and
Ogre Geargrabber were fun equipment relevant cards to include. Loading up the battlemaster with tons of equipment, including
Golem-Skin Gauntlets and giving it infect with
Grafted Exoskeleton is definitely a dream play for me. Geargrabber nabbing an opposing
whispersilk cloak or other useful equipment isn't bad either, especially if you have the opportunity to sacrifice said equipment before your opponents can get it back.
Speaking of sacrifice, the alternate commander for this deck is
Bosh, Iron Golem, which is key for enabling the sacrifice game plan of the deck. I mean who wouldn't want to sacrifice a
Darksteel Colossus to Bosh while a
Furnace of Rath is on the board. Exquisite.
Tangle's Hunger: Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
1 Eternal Witness 1 Plated Slagwurm 1 Tanglewalker 1 Viridian Shaman 1 Viridian Zealot 1 Putrefax1 Acid Web Spider 1 Liege of the Tangle 1 Fangren Marauder 1 Riftsweeper 1 Sol Ring 1 Chancellor of the Tangle 1 Summoner's Pact 1 Emerald Medallion 1 Praetor's Counsel 1 Whispersilk Cloak 1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast 1 Glissa Sunseeker 1 Phyrexian Swarmlord 1 Triumph of the Hordes 1 Spinebiter 1 Viridian Corrupter 1 Wood Elves 1 Copper Myr 1 Phyrexian Hydra 1 Green Sun's Zenith 1 Sword of Feast and Famine 1 Carpet of Flowers 1 Phyrexian Colossus 1 Defense Grid 1 Greater Good 1 Vernal Bloom 1 Rampant Growth 1 Rhox 1 Brutalizer Exarch 1 Creeping Corrosion 1 Molder Slug 1 Tooth and Nail 1 Mycosynth Fiend 1 Fangren Firstborn 1 Exploration 1 Maul Splicer 1 Llanowar Elves 1 Fangren Pathcutter 1 Tornado Elemental 1 Glistener Elf 1 Quilled Slagwurm 1 Bellowing Tanglewurm 1 Blight Mamba 1 Asceticism 1 Plaguemaw Beast 1 Beast Within 1 Viridian Betrayers 1 Tel-Jilad Fallen 1 Natural Order 1 Quicksilver Amulet 1 Panglacial Wurm 1 Engulfing Slagwurm 1 Genesis Wave 1 Roaring Slagwurm 1 Living Hive 1 Grow from the Ashes 1 Verdant Force 1 Hickory Woodlot 1 Lotus Vale 1 Jungle Basin 1 Hollow Trees 27 Forest 1 Inkmoth Nexus 1 Heart of Yavimaya 1 Slippery Karst 1 Tree of Tales 1 Tranquil Thicket 1 Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Last but not least, Vorinclex's very hangry horde. With 42 creatures, including Vorinclex, this deck is the epitome of green, mean, and phyrexian. Its good that the deck has as many creatures as it does, because you want as many hits for your eventual
Genesis Wave as possible.
Besides mana dorks,
Carpet of Flowers,
Vernal Bloom will get you to your commander and everything else much quicker.
Quicksilver Amulet is also an excellent way to cheat your huge slagwurms into play as well.
The creatures of the tangle aren't just big and dumb (although I did include a vanilla
Quilled Slagwurm for the flavor text). They each serve an important function. The first is protection.
Melira, Sylvok Outcast protects you from getting infected.
Tanglewalker allows your field to be potentially unblockable from everyone since each deck plays its artifact land. Several creatures destroy pesky opposing artifacts, including the alternate commander for this deck,
Glissa Sunseeker. Another group helps in building a wider board state with tokens, including
Liege of the Tangle, and
Phyrexian Swarmlord. All this is to create an ideal board state to cast your
Triumph of the Hordes and consume the opposing praetors once and for all.
Five praetors, five armies, which one will conquer? My personal favorite is Sheoldred, but I'm sure each deck can pull out a win out of nowhere. Hopefully, they are relatively balanced, although I'm sure tweaks may be necessary. Building five commander decks around each other was very difficult. And I have a newfound respect for Wizards design team.
I hope you all enjoyed this article, and maybe once this coronavirus is passed and conventions come back, we can play a game of Sheriff together and you can tell me what you think in person! For now, be sure to leave a comment or @ me on Twitter and tell me what you think.