Sunday, November 13, 2016

Breed Lethality: 10 Essential Additions

Ah, finally… we come to the main event, the headline act. Atraxa was the first commander spoiled, and as much as we all love the chaos and potential value Ydris brings us (and he’s still my favorite from a pure excitement level), Atraxa is almost certainly the best overall, and most popular of the new four-color commanders. As the face of the Breed Lethality deck, Atraxa is a near-perfect commander, from a design standpoint. She is a build-around-me commander rather than a generic good stuff commander, but is still open-ended enough to not pigeon hole herself into one theme.

I mean, on some level, almost every Atraxa deck out there will be built around some kind of counters to proliferate, so if you consider “counters” a single theme, I guess she’s pretty narrow. But, let’s be real: “counters” in Magic encompasses a LOT of ground. Let’s just run through a few types of counters that you could build around: Energy, Poison, Loyalty, +1/+1, Charge, -1/-1,  Age (admittedly this one is almost certainly a terrible idea, but still!), Level (hey, will Level Up cards finally be good?! NO!), Spore (thallids!), Time (like Age, probably a terrible idea). Sure some of these are jank as hell and I threw them out half-jokingly, but you get the idea. Ultimately, I think Loyalty and +1/+1 will be two defaults, but if Energy gets enough support it could easily be a close third. Infect will also be pretty popular, among groups that don’t absolutely loathe poison.

So, personally, I’m more excited about the possibility to finally merge a Simic +1/+1 counters deck with an Abzan +1/+1 counters deck. Superfriends is a cool way to go, but it’s also pretty well guaranteed to be the most heavily-played Atraxa archetype, by many miles. The decks aren’t even out yet, and I’m already bored with that deck, though I’m sure within a couple of years, I’ll just have to break down and give it a shot myself. Besides, with a limit of only 10 cards to change at this stage, we’d basically be guaranteed to have a list of Doubling Season and 9 Planeswalkers. I can’t see  Superfriends really working out with only 9 or even 10 ‘walkers. So, for that reason, and because it’s more interesting to me anyway, we’re going +1/+1 counters. This decision was the easy one, y’all. Pairing the list of essentials down to only 10… that’s the hard one.

But, I'll give it my best! Let's get to work.

Doubling Season
Inexorable Tide

Ah, yes, the big, dumb, obvious ones. Of course we were going to start with Doubling Season. But, unlike Inexorable Tide which really, REALLY should have come in the precon to start with, I get why Doubling Season wasn't in the list. It needs a reprint, but Atraxa herself is already making this one of the harder-to-get C16 decks. Adding such a high value reprint like Doubling Season as well, and we'd have another Mind Seize situation, which WotC is trying very hard to avoid. Fair enough.

Tempt with Glory
Archangel of Thune
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar

One potential issue I've discovered while studying this decklist is, what happens if we draw a bunch of stuff that doesn't actually come with counters or add counters? Like what if the only creatures I draw are Vorel, Bane of the Living and Deepglow Skate, while the rest of my hand is lands, mana rocks and stuff like Brave the Sands? We need ways to ensure we can distribute counters effectively, so here are a few. I never thought I'd actually be in a position to recommend Tempt with Glory for any kind of deck, but I actually do think it's solid gold here. Even if no one takes our tempting offer, we'll still get at least one counter on everything for Atraxa to proliferate. Archangel of Thune works well with Atraxa's lifelink. And Nissa is the most on-point Planeswalker for a +1/+1 counter deck there is.

Cultivator of Blades
Verdurous Gearhulk
Armorcraft Judge

We have to have a couple of cards from the newest set, Kaladesh, and fortunately for us, Kaladesh came packing a bit of a +1/+1 counters theme. There was a lot to choose from, but I narrowed it down to three green cards, mainly because all the non-green stuff with Fabricate is more likely to wind up in Breya's deck. Anyway, Armorcraft Judge is more card draw, something I never can get enough of. Gearhulk is obvious enough. And, Cultivator just seemed like a cool way to buff our whole team once it's time to start winning.

Cold-Eyed Selkie 

Remember what I said about never having too much draw? Yup. Just need to find a way to get one counter on her, and Atraxa will do the rest.

Pentad Prism

Here's another card I never thought I'd even consider running in EDH but holy cow could this potentially get out of hand. The deck already has some cute tech like this in Astral Cornucopia and Crystalline Crawler. However, neither of those actually help us ramp INTO Atraxa herself, at least not on their own. But a T2 Prism into T3 Atraxa seems pretty strong if you use three lands and one charge counter to cast her. From there you can proliferate that counter endlessly, but if you ever have an emergency need of that one extra mana, it's there.

Noble Hierarch
Ezuri, Claw of Progress

I'll be honest, I've impressed with myself for getting this list down to 12, even. It's a feat of self-restraint and I've never been known for having much self-restraint. Anyway, Noble Hierarch does not seem very thematic, I know; and she isn't meant to be. She just gets Atraxa out a turn sooner, then lets her swing for 5 instead of 4. A simple yet powerful difference. Ezuri is cool because he works well with proliferate along two axes - you can proliferate the experience counters he gives you, and you can proliferate the +1/+1 counters he gives your creatures. The only thing that sucks about him here is that he isn't your commander so you won't just always have him.

Well, folks, that's it for this series. I hope you enjoyed these little doses of theorycraft. My next project will of course be updating the C16 decks FOR REALS! I've now gotten to actually play a few games with these decks and I'm very eager to get started on improvements.



  1. The vivid lands also work very well with Atraxa, no? One can also try the timespiral storage lands for ramping hard with the proliferate subtheme.
    Of course, such additions are only interesting when you don't have fetches and biland nor shocklands in your collection. But for a budget atraxa manabase, I feel like they warrant some tests. :)

    Again and as usual, great and insightful article !

    1. Good call! I'm so used to writing off the vivids as preconstructed chaff that I didn't consider their synergy with Atraxa. Thanks for the cool tip!

  2. this deck need an alternative path to thinks...

    1. What'd you have in mind? I generally dislike alt-win cards like, say, Felidar Sovereign or Helix Pinnacle. But I'm open to ideas if you got some cool tech in mind...

    2. I was thinking of adding in some infect cards. You get a single infect token on a player and proliferate you could kills someone, or everyone really quickly.

  3. Jarad, galgari lich lord might work as a win condition

  4. Dark Steel reactor might be a fun alternate win con