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 backup legend that has been gaining some traction online: Vishgraz, the Doomhive.

Vishgraz is fresh from the Phyrexia: All Will Be One Commander preconstructed decks as the secondary commander to Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa. Given that they both come from the poison counters matter precons, of course I’ll be discussing poison counters. Heads up.

A quick word on poison counters: They are hated because of the perceived rate at which you can die to it. Ten counters versus 40 life and life gain doesn’t remove poison counters means that you’ll be squeezed a little tighter than you think. However, it must be focused to really get someone out all while amplifying the target on the poison player’s back. So it’s not the strongest archetype, but it does draw an immense amount of hate. Because of its return in a standard set, it means it’s coming to Commander. The precon made that clear. This time Toxic over Infect, but we still get to use Infect goodies, so let’s get started.

Vishgraz, the Doomgive is a 3/3 legendary creature Phyrexian Insect for 2WBG with a text box that doesn’t leave room for any of the flavour this guy deserves:

Menace, toxic 1 (Players dealt combat damage by this creature also get a poison counter.)

When Vishgraz, the Doomhive enters the battlefield, create three 1/1 colorless Phyrexian Mite artifact creature tokens with toxic 1 and “This creature can’t block.”  

Vishgraz gets +1/+1 for each poison counter your opponents have.”  

For a card without red, this is one of the reddest cards I’ve read.

Things to remember:

  1. Toxic is not Infect. A creature with Infect does not deal damage, instead putting -1/-1 counters on creatures and poison counters on players. Toxic is a combat damage trigger that adds a number of poison counters equal to their toxic number on combat damage to a player. That means a creature with Toxic 1 dealing 10 damage to an opponent will do 10 damage and one poison counter. A creature with Infect hitting an opponent for 10 power will result in 10 poison counters and no damage. To that point, infect nullifies Toxic. So if you hit an opponent with a Toxic creature, it must deal damage. If a creature with Toxic gains Infect, it will not stack. Infect replaces the damage. Toxic triggers off of it.
  2. Toxic stacks. If you have a way to give your Toxic 1 creatures another Toxic 1, they effectively have Toxic 2.
  3. Vishgraz gets a boost for each poison counter your opponents have, so you want to keep some of them around to make sure he keeps his bonus pumps.

Let’s get into the 99. Heads up, I will be avoiding new cards included in the precon deck.

     1. Voltron / Evasion

I strongly believe that the best way to play Vishgraz is to slam a bunch of ramp, play your Swiftfoot Boots and Asceticism, get your commander out and smash. Make Vishgraz unblockable while you crank the poison. Alpha Authority and Familiar Ground with Vish’s Menace means unblockable. Add Vorrac Battlehorns and Wolfrider’s Saddle to that list. Canopy Cover isn’t exactly that, but some decks don’t have enough flyers or reach to blocker a big beefy menace effectively!

Attack alone! Use those Mites you have to pump your big boy with Angelic Exaltation and get a blocker out of the way with Angelic Benediction.

Untap your lands and protect your commander with Bear Umbra, pump up the slams with Bone Sabres, and give your boy double strike with Duelist’s Heritage – an equally impressive political tool.

     2. Swarm

If you don’t want to go the Voltron route, I cannot recommend Druids’ Repository more. Make your tokens when Vishgraz comes down, maybe blink him with a Teleportation Circle or Conjurer’s Closet to keep the Mites churning. Skrelv’s Hive and its analogue Bitterblossom belong in this version of the deck. Swing with them, add counters onto the Repository, then Proliferate those because of course you have some Proliferate effects, this is a poison deck!

Charge of the Mites is fun removal. White Sun’s Twilight is a board wipe and an army in one. Cathars’ Crusade will make Vishgraz a 7/7 before the poison counter buffs and your there Mites 4/4s. Give them all lifelink and double strike with True Conviction and take the game. Time to shuffle up.

     3. Proliferate

I said of course you’re going to have Proliferate, but I’d like to mention a few interesting ones I like for this category. We know of the Evolution Sage and Contagion Engine but what about these neat lil’ freaks.

  • Park Heights Maverick – Evasive, inexpensive, it grows, and when it dies or deals combat damage, it proliferates? Sign me up.
  • Planewide Celebration – Take a big swing and get everybody to 6 poison, letting them think “oh, no big deal, we can kill them on the next turn”, then slamming this in your second main  phase with a clean 4x Proliferate.
  • Smell Fear – A fight spell that can likely +3/+3 your commander or even take someone out.
  • Yawgmoth, Thran Physician – On the higher end, Yawgmoth is super powerful, can use your Mite tokens well, but that final Proliferate ability is oft-forgotten and super useful here.

     4. Toxic/Infect/Corrupted

You can slap Glistening Oil onto your commander for some kill action, play Triumph of the Hordes or Tainted Strike to end it all.

Necrogen Rotpriest and Plague Nurse are standouts from the new set for our new Toxic king. A lot of the best Corrupted payoffs are in the precon deck and I urge you to check out that list for your fave tech. Phyrexian Atlas is maybe my fave innocuous little guy besides Skrelv’s Hive, which has already gotten some love this article.

     5. Other wincons

You can make a ton of tokens and that means I want to recommend Altar of the Brood and Altar of Dementia for your alt win condition. Throw an Eldrazi Displacer and an Ashnod’s Altar in the deck and you’ve got yourself infinite blink and infinite mana and infinite Mites right there at instant speed. Why not mill your opponents out that way instead of just attacking? Come on, live a little!

This wouldn’t be an article of mine if I didn’t mention aristocrats. If you do make all of those tokens, please include a Zulaport Cutthroat or a Martyr’s Bond. For me.

If there’s any commander you want covered, message me @mikecarrozza! Thanks again for reading!

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