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 legend that is pretty innocuous, but can threaten players with an early loss.
I’m talking about Venser, Corpse Puppet. First of all, NOOOOO, VENSER!!!!! We knew he was dead, but not like this!
Secondly, I expected a much cooler card considering his return and the art. That said, I want to take a positive spin and put together a deck that will shine around our returned sweet boy.
For UB, Venser is a legendary Phyrexian Zombie Wizard 1/3 with lifelink and Toxic 1. Let’s see the rest of that textbox:
“Whenever you proliferate, choose one –
– If you don’t control a creature named The Hollow Sentinel, create The Hollow Sentinel, a legendary 3/3 colorless Phyrexian Golem artifact creature token.
– Target artifact creature you control gains flying and lifelink until end of turn.”
My first thoughts were “what am I supposed to do with this?!” and “Venser, NOOOOO!” Here are things to remember:
- Venser costs two mana, so he hits the board fast and furious looking like Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal. This means you’ll likely be hitting someone turn three (or even two somehow) and getting the poison counters rolling.
- Proliferate has gotten so much support and this counts each instance of Proliferate for the triggers. The thing is it’s redundant to give a creature flying and lifelink again. Does this mean we go wide or we focus on making The Hollow Sentinel?
- You can’t make The Hollow Sentinel when you already control The Hollow Sentinel. Let’s find ways to abuse the creation of The Hollow Sentinel and sacrificing him whenever we want.
- You don’t need anything to Proliferate for the Proliferate to count for Venser. Even if there are no counters on players or permanents, it will work.
Let’s start with the enablers, the cards that’ll be triggering Venser, Corpse Puppet. As far as I’m concerned, the top end of the Proliferators are Inexorable Tide and Flux Channeler – they effectively turn every spell or noncreature spell respectively into whatever the Proliferate version of a cantrip is. You’ll be off to the races with Inexorable Tide or FC out.
Activating Contagion Engine, Contagion Clasp, Viral Drake, or Karn’s Bastion will require a lot of mana, but will pay you off well while you’re holding up your mana to be responsive in this deck. The Drake can even swing in for some poison on top of the ability.
Thrummingbird and Blightbelly Rat are triggered proliferators that you’ll find yourself appreciating, and while Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting falls into the same category, you’re getting more value out of her.
You can go overkill with Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus, doubling your proliferating. Staff of Compleation allows you to have more flexibility, and because of Venser’s lifelink-granting ability, the cost of life might not be a big deal. Throne of Geth gets the thumbs up for not only being a proliferator but also being a sacrifice outlet. Surprise! The Hollow Sentinel was tapped, sacrifice it to the Throne, boom proliferate! Now, the Sentinel is on blocks!
The question to ask is how you’d like to build this deck. Do you want extra turns like with Magistrate’s Scepter or Magosi, the Waterveil? Do you want Darksteel Reactor alt wincon? Scheming Aspirant drains your opponents for two each proliferate, maybe turbo Aspirant is fun.
You can also Ichormoon Gauntlet and build a band of Planeswalkers like Tezzeret, Jace, Vraska, Tamiyo, Ashiok, Kaito, Karn, Liliana, Tevesh Szat, Will Kenrith, Ugin, and of course Teferi. Don’t forget your Sivitri, Dragon Master if you go this route.
Serum Sovereign is a great way to keep your hand sculpted. Crystalline Crawler and Mindless Automaton can swing in the red zone with Venser’s lifelink and flying blessing while also keeping your ramp up and your hand stacked. Vat of Rebirth can keep bringing back important creatures from your graveyard.
Finally, a fun brew I can foresee some folks brewing around is Sagas! Proliferate through your Sagas so you get payoffs when you want them, on your own time. Satsuki, the Living Lore has an enemy parallel in Venser!
Getting the Poison Party Started
This section is self-explanatory. Let’s find ways to give poison counters that isn’t just Venser. Ichor Rats enters and gives everybody a poison counter. Prologue to Phyresis and Vraska’s Fall do the same for your opponents but with some more upside for you. Reaper of Sheoldred is an excellent rattlesnake defender. Mirrex can crank out little Mites to Toxic at your foes.
Give Venser Necrogen Communion or Prosthetic Injector Toxic to up his count. Slap Glistening Oil or Grafted Exoskeleton onto The Hollowed Sentiel, send it flying and end some opponents’ games. Can’t forget classics like Inkmoth Nexus and Tainted Strike. I know there’s a big one missing, but he’s coming later.
You want ways to sacrifice The Hollowed Sentinel so that when you Proliferate you make a new one? Here comes the fun.
Classic Aristocrat staples Ashnod’s Altar, Phyrexian Altar, Altar of Dementia, and Viscera Seer all get that job done. Throw in a Carrion Feeder for good measure. Hurt your opponents with Vraan, Executioner Thane, Zulaport Cutthroat, and Agent of the Iron Throne. Attrition to take out nonblack creatures. Grave Pact and Dictate of Erebos if you’re nasty! Take advantage of The Hollow Sentinel being an artifact with Krark-Clan Ironworks, Clan Crafter, Chronomancer, and Throne of Geth. Master Transmuter can “bounce” The Hollow Sentinel to your hand and surprise the table with a huge artifact from your hand. Costly Plunder and Deadly Dispute your Sentinel in response to a Proliferate for extra value. Ruthless Technomancer can eat the Sentinel and grant you three Treasures. Academy Manufactor loves that!
Take advantage of both types on The Hollow Sentinel with Fain, the Broker giving you much modality along the way.
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is double duty as a proliferator and a sacrifice outlet and Braids, Arisen Nightmare guaranteeing that your opponents will sacrifice something on their board unless their greediness gets the best of them.
You want something to get flying and lifelink, it’s time to make some artifact creatures. Big daddy Blightsteel Colossus can end games quick. Solemn Simulacrum gains utility as a flying blocker. Myr Battlesphere needs you lots of life. Noxious Gearhulk and Duplicant are great removal and can pack a punch.
Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge loves when you’ve got artifacts, not only for discounts but also for draining your opponents.
Mycosynth Lattice, Encroaching Mycosynth, and Darksteel Forge help make your board indestructible while Silas Renn, Seeker Adept picks up the pieces when they fall. More utility comes from Cryptek, Foundry Inspector, Baleful Strix, and Liberator, Urza’s Battlethopter (remember I talked about Flash?).
Some of my favourite artifact creatures for the deck are Kappa Cannoneer, Canoptek Scarab Swarm, and The Omenkeel. If you want to be pretty mean, toss in Memnarch and start swinging at opponents in the air with their own beaters while you gain that life back.
I am absolutely shocked at how much I like Venser!
I can’t wait to put him together and see you at Commander night at Three Kings Loot. If you have a suggestion for a commander, please let me know @mikecarrozza on socials. Take care!