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An Affliction of the Divine Sort

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Confession time: I’m a bit of a Johnny. I love coming up with ideas for decks that are a bit outside of the normal scope of the mechanics of a card. That’s why spoiler time can be a bit bittersweet for me. You see, I love reading articles with cards all spoiled nice and neat. As I read the article, I’ll begin jotting down mental notes of how I can use the card and of what sorts of decks I might build.

But then the author begins to build decks with this card. And suddenly, my idea is all used up. The author had a week or longer to sit with the card, and I just had a few minutes, and yet, already, my idea is exhausted because his writer had a head start. Stung by my deck up there in lights, my enthusiasm deflates, and I move on to other cards.

If you are a Johnny as I am, and you are disappointed by preview articles that do too much with the spoiled card, I promise you upfront: You won’t have to worry—I will build no decks. Outside of some general ideas and a few sample cards, I will leave stones unturned. I have a lot of ideas of directions to take this card, but I will let you uncover them on your own. After all, I’ve had days to think about the card.

Night Soil
And it is a great card. So let me set things up.

Night Soil is one of my favorite cards from Fallen Empires. It has long been a classic of multiplayer—you can both clean out someone’s graveyard and make goodies for yourself! It’s no surprise that Night Soil was in a Commander (2013 Edition) deck (Power Hungry).

And Night Soil is not the only time we’ve seen this ability either. Consider Necrogenesis for a similar ability. We all know the amount of graveyard abuse that kitchen tables around the land see, so cards like Night Soil and Necrogenesis help fight this issue while also making 1/1 dorks for your team.

Now imagine if the enchantment would exile a critter from any graveyard, like Necrogenesis, but instead of making a 1/1 for you, it would make one for that player. How would that play in multiplayer? You could help someone by giving him or her a chump-blocker or keep someone from becoming too upset by exiling his or her great creature by giving that player a token in consolation. It would be an effect that plays nicely.

So, let’s take a look at one of the Gods of Theros, the sexy snake herself, Pharika, God of Affliction.

Wow! It is my privilege to bring to you one of the Gods of Theros and a major casual Magic player. For 3 mana, you have the normal 5/5 indestructible body that fades in and out, but you also have a great version of Night Soil.

And did you notice something interesting about our fair gorgon? That’s right, the little snakes that she makes have deathtouch.

Now let’s take a look under the hood of just how potent Pharika is.

Typhoid Rats
A lot of people play cards like Typhoid Rats and Sedge Scorpion. When dialing it up against multiple players, someone will often see that cheap little deathtouch dork and head elsewhere. Deathtouch is like that loud rattle on a snake that warns you off. Somebody else eats that attack, and you have guided the table subtly as a result.

Imagine that you have untapped lands to activate Pharika plus a creature card in your graveyard. People have to assume that you can make a deathtouch blocker to take care of any ground-based attacker that might swing your way. So you will often gain the effect of Pharika without having to use her. And that’s the best part! You don’t even need to pay the cost of exiling the goods in order to gain the effect. In order to assist, fire off Pharika a couple of times to demonstrate your willingness to do so. Then people will respect you.

You can also play serious politics. If Dan attacks Suzy with his Molten Primordial, you can give Suzy a blocker to trade with the Primordial. She’ll probably be happy, while you’ve exiled one of her best creatures from the graveyard—which eliminates one potential problem from the graveyards.

Feel free to use Pharika in response to something greedy, such as a Dread Return targeting someone’s Avacyn, Angel of Hope or It That Betrays. Well, now you just have a 1/1 dork for your efforts, but hey, thanks for playing! Just having mana free with Pharika out could keep people from becoming overly egregious with their stuff. As mentioned earlier, because you are giving someone a 1/1 with deathtouch, you can hope he or she will be less upset about your exiling his or her target after the player has tried to use Volrath's Stronghold.

Because Pharika has indestructible, our good God will survive most mass removal, but the tokens won’t. So when someone casts the inevitable Wrath of God or pops an Oblivion Stone, exile some creature cards in response, and the tokens that are made will die. So you can sneak in some free graveyard-cleaning. It never hurts to be proactive with this stuff. We all know how nasty graveyard abuse can often become, so it’s nice to have an indestructible method to fight that.

Jarad's Orders
A great thing about Pharika is how well her ability works in the Golgari colors. There are a ton of effects that can chew creatures and others into the graveyard in order to stock up for Pharika. From Buried Alive or Jarad's Orders to Mulch, Satyr Wayfinder, and Grisly Salvage, we have a lot to recommend.

In fact, I’d recommend using creature-oriented ways of what might normally be a spell. A perfect example is Sakura-Tribe Elder. You can play it like a Rampant Growth, sac to search up a land, and then exile the Snake to make a Snake, so it’s like the circle of life in action. Since Golgari is also the color pair of sacrifice engines in Ravnica, you can easily find a lot of flavorful creatures or engines to use for various effects—and then continue by churning out 1/1 Snakes.

To sum things up, I love Pharika for a few reasons.

  • She fights reanimation and graveyard tricks.
  • She creates nasty blockers for you.
  • She plays powerful politics.
  • She works well in the colors.
  • She is hard to destroy.

Remember that you gain all five benefits for just a 3-mana investment. Pharika is For-Real-ka. (Groans ensue.)

So, what are some ideas you have for Pharika? What sort of decks, cards, and thoughts do you have? And are you a Johnny like I am, who sometimes grows a little disappointed when your cool idea was in one of these preview articles? Leave some comments, and let’s chat!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent


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