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The Witherbloom Signature Spell


Have you sent in your wizard-school application yet? Read here to find your college. Last week we applied to Strixhaven by building an Oathbreaker deck around Silverquill Command. Now we're doing the same thing for another college that is more potent and, admittedly, pungent.

Witherbloom Command

Goth wizards understand the beauty of life, of which death is a part. For some illogical reason, other students are squeamish about decomposers like maggots and glowing green fungus. Gross them out with a rootworm down their shirt or an essay about the splendor of mortality. By embracing death you live more fully. Though your college shares much with the Golgari, that Ravnica guild reprocessed other people's shit; Witherbloom flings it back in their faces.

The Witherbloom motto is, "Get your hands dirty." So, we're playing infect in multiplayer.

Oathbreaker is a casual format with two non-creature cards in the command zone: a Planeswalker and their signature spell. As long as you have your 'Walker in play, you can cast their instant or sorcery, taxed two more each time. This allows us to build a deck around Witherbloom Command. The first thing to do is find the perfect card to go with it.

Nissa of Shadowed Boughs

Our top-line mode of Witherbloom Command can mill creatures into the graveyard for Nissa of Shadowed Boughs to reanimate, while finding us lands to gain her loyalty. The other modes may glean us some giblets, but we're mainly using it for the first. While we may want to gain two life, we don't care about lowering an opponent's life total. We're winning with infect.

Infect feels potent and unfair in Commander, where it usually takes forty points of damage to win or at least twenty-one commander damage. In Oathbreaker the ability is merely potent. Everyone starts out with twenty life, and an infect win of ten poison feels less like cheating. Here infect creatures essentially have double strike, and they circumvent any of the life gain White decks love bringing to the format, such as last week's Silverquill deck.


We're playing infect because it makes best use of the +2/+2 given by Nissa of Shadowed Boughs whenever she reanimates. A Flensermite suddenly becomes terrifying, when it's the size of a hill giant. Also, our Witherbloom colors are the natural home of infect. We resisted playing it in Silverquill, and now it's time to get down with the sickness.

Our command zone gives us staying power. Pump spells could help us kill one foe, but we have three. After a wrath clears the board, Nissa of Shadowed Boughs can keep up the contagion. Her -5 can return an infect creature, while here +1 will pressure enemy walkers. You may even be able to get a surprise lethal with a Forest and a Tainted Strike. (Remember you can give an opponent's creature infect to assassinate a common foe, or to even prevent lethal damage against yourself.)

Because our command zone cares about land and creature card types, I faced significant deck-building challenges. I had to keep those permanent concentration high, which is why I played with the mana dork, Birds of Paradise, instead of Nature's Lore. I even chose a basic land over Vastwood Fortification, although the +1/+1 is twice as scary on our plague vectors. In this singleton format there aren't too many good infect creatures, and we're playing cards like Grisly Salvage and Oath of Nissa to find them. We also need those versatile cards, or we would have to play more lands.

I emphasized that to explain why we aren't playing more pump spells. I didn't find nearly enough room for them. I will include Berserk and other pricy options later. For now, it's important to realize infect in multiplayer does not play out like it does in other formats. We are less a combo deck and more of a creature deck with staying power and lots of poison counters. Other than counters from our commander, we're also playing equipment to give our creatures an edge, or a hammer.

Sword of Truth and Justice
Loxodon Warhammer

The Sword of Truth and Justice is perfect for our deck. The proliferation will make our creatures into plague lords. It will up the counters of our Planeswalker, and it can increase the poison counters on our foes directly. On top of all that, protection from White will allow us to attack past many of the format's pesky blockers.

Evasion is critical. Loxodon Warhammer gives us that while also providing us the life to survive a counter attack. The trample will also make our select pump spells scarier, such as Scale Up. If we were playing Infect in a competitive format, Blighted Agent could sneak past any blocker. In that case we would rather have pump spells that give the most power. In this singleton format, Blue lacks sufficient creatures to field an infect deck. What creatures we do have want trample, especially if they already have received counters from our Planeswalker. That's why I chose Predator's Strike over many other options.

I wanted to include some spicy spells like Enlarge and Stonewood Invocation, but I needed to leave some room for removal. We have less than I would like, but Fatal Push can kill blockers and problem creatures like Drannith Magistrate. Casualties of War will allow me to play my own mini-game: Can I achieve the five-for-one? I just might on a cluttered board.

You can make inexpensive Oathbreaker decks. In this case our Planeswalker is only a few bucks. Thought our decklist does contain some non-budget cards, they're important. If you have more pricy cards lying around, you certainly should consider playing them. If you don't, don't worry about it. I made a list of expensive options, including more mythical swords. In Oathbreaker, I rarely get excited by Sword of Fire and Ice because don't trigger if you attack Planeswalkers. Here, I'm keen on them. We want to be infecting players, not their commanders, so the swords fit into your game plan.

You could add more fetch lands to enable Nissa of Shadowed Boughs. The play pattern I would pursue would be to play her on turn five, followed by a fetch land. If you add more fetches, also consider Dryad Arbor and Green Sun's Zenith.

Though you could buy more of the pricy cards above, play this deck first. I think you'll find it will be able to fight at most Oathbreaker tables. You could try to make the deck more cutthroat and competitive, but those Oathbreaker tables are less fun; you would likely have to change your Planeswalker and have Invigorate or Veil of Summer as your signature spell.

Do you hope to be accepted to Witherbloom College? What's your arcane field of study?

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