Hello and welcome to A Seat at the Table, the column where I pick a commander and talk about what I’d include in the 99. This week, a Phyrexia: All Will Be One Commander precon leader that has been “accidentally” previewed on a Portuguese site featured on the box art.
Let’s talk about Ixhel, Descedent of Atraxa! Coming into play for a mere 1WBG, this 2/5 Legendary Phyrexian Angel has flying, vigilance, and Toxic 2, which means that players Ixhel hits get two poison counters. The last ability is what makes this legend interesting. Let’s see the rest of that textbox:
“Corrupted – At the beginning of your end step, each opponent who has three or more poison counters exiles the top card of their library face down. You may look at and play those cards as long as they remain exiled, and you may spend mana as though it were mana of any color to cast those spells.”
So what are some things to consider when building Ixhel with the card pool available to us?
- Toxic triggers on combat damage to players only.
- Your opponents need three poison counters for you to benefit from the end step trigger. You can focus on one player if you think their deck will help your cause. That said, you need them alive for their cards.
- Lots of Commander players hate Infect and poison counters. It chops their life total to 25%. You will be likely be targeted.
- If you do things right, you’ll be getting a lot of cards, so make sure you’ve got your mana.
Let’s get started. Bear in mind that this is before the precon deck list and the main set are released, so I may be naming cards that are in the deck already. I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re going to get some “cast from exile” payoffs in the precon, like the Prosper, Tome-Bound precon.
Ichor Rats / Caress of Phyrexia / Ajani, Sleeper Agent / Evolution Sage / Contagion Engine / Grateful Apparition / Karn’s Bastion / Duelist’s Heritage (Proliferators)
Okay, let’s start with ways to get your opponents to have poison counters. Ichor Rats ETBs and gives everybody a starter poison counter, which you can then proliferate for your opponents with something like Evolution Sage or Grateful Apparition. Ajani, Sleeper Agent’s ultimate ability can just be an outright game ender, but it’ll get you some cards to keep fuelling the poison if Ixhel is out.
Contagion Engine is costly but it will get the job done and draw hate despite just one activation sealing the deal. Proliferating twice with a poison counter on each opponent while your commander is out means that you’re going to basically draw three at your end step.
Another way to ensure that at least one player will net you a card at your end step is to give Ixhel Double Strike. Hitting with Toxic 2 twice will not only put a clock on your opponent, but it will also net you their top card at the end step.
If you are in a hurry to get someone to three poison counters, Caress of Phyrexia can give them three cards and also three poison counters, ready for your end step.
In these colours, these were the only payoffs for casting from exile. Poxwalkers will keep coming back from the graveyard for extra value when you cast your opponents’ stuff from exile.
Brainstealer Dragon is the top end here. Not only is it an automatic end step trigger like your commander, it also pays off playing nonland permanents, making your opponents lose life equal to the mana value. If you blink creatures of theirs with Conjurer’s Closet, you’ll trigger the life loss again. It also triggers off of stuff like playing cards exiled off of Elder Brain.
Tlincalli Hunter reduces creatures you cast from exile to 0 once a turn. That’s a huge discount, potentially!
Seedborn Muse / Drumbellower + Bloom Tender (or other dorks) / Smothering Tithe / Empowered Autogenerator / Azusa, Lost but Seeking / Vedalken Orrery
With all those cards you’ll be exiling and still need to cast, you’ll need a ton of mana. Smothering Tithe is in your colours and Treasure tokens are Lotus Petals that speed things along. Azusa, Lost but Seeking will allow you to play multiple lands, and if you exile a few lands from your opponents or have a bunch of lands in your hand, getting them into play will mean being able to do more, more, more!
Empowered Autogenerator adds mana equal to the charge counters on it, and if you’ve got some proliferators, this one can get out of hand. You’ll want to untap it every turn.
Speaking of untapping every turn, Seedborn Muse is a great way to get Contagion Engine to really put a clock on the game. Why would you want to untap every turn? What if you have some instants in exile? Drumbellower and Bloom Tender will likely net you three mana a turn.
What about casting other things during other players’ turns? Vedalken Orrery will allow you to do that. Vivien, Champion of the Wilds will let you cast creatures at instant speed. This means that if you’ve got castable creatures in exile and Tlincalli Hunter, every turn is a free creature.
If you want to go deep on the theme of stealing your opponents cards and playing them like a Gonti, Lord of Luxury deck, Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor is an excellent inclusion if you’ve got a full grip of cards and a ton of mana. You get to cast spells without paying, which can be absolutely massive. A solid role player that opponents will enjoy too.
I’ve been waiting for the right deck for Kaya, Orzhov Usurper and I feel like we may have found it. With the possibility of Doubling Season or Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider being in play in a poison counter deck, you might be able to sneak an ultimate activation after exiling 20 cards from a player over the course of the game and taking back that life. I really like Kaya for this strategy.
Honorable Mention: Dream Devourer
If this precon deck does make more payoff cards for casting from exile or “anywhere but your hand”, Dream Devourer could be a great tool to put spells on layaway until you’ve got your payoffs set up. If that’s the case, I would be surprised if Dream Devourer wasn’t included in the precon list. That said, if it isn’t, snap up your copies. It’s just a really solid card.
That does it for now! We await official previews starting in a week or so. Until then, message me @mikecarrozza and let me know what you’d like me to cover!