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Around the Wheel: Atraxa, Praetors' Voice


We have finally reached the last four-color commander, and this time, we have no Red. We've been exploring less-obvious paths with each of these commanders, which has been fun for me and I hope has sparked some ideas for you.

Last time, specifically, we worked on a deck that wasn't really trying to win. It could, I suppose, in the right pod and with the right set of draws, but the real point was to prove reanimator could work without Black in the mix. Before that, we did a couple of funky combo decks designed to win in a very specific way, which is one of those fun race-against-the-rest-of-the-table kind of games where we try to pull off our thing before someone else kills us.

EDHREC says this is the third most popular commander right now, which certainly attests to its power. But my first thought was to give today's commander another unusual goal.

Atraxa, Praetors' Voice

Atraxa Proliferates, so we could try to do something weird like amass a ton of Gold counters or uselessly put Oblivion counters on every permanent in the game, then make sure everything has more than one (I have no idea if that's possible). As I explored the commander more, though, I realized something: Almost everyone plays Atraxa like the beefier cousin of Vorel of the Hull Clade, putting +1/+1 counters on everything and making little things huge, or they play Superfriends because Proliferating Loyalty counters makes for easier ultimates. That's all well and good, but what if we tried to build a deck using Atraxa's Proliferate without a single +1/+1 counter or 'walker? Could lead to some interesting and fun interactions, without being as focused as a combo deck and still being a deck that is actually trying to win the game.

I set a couple of other goals. I personally like controlling decks, so I thought it'd be fun to build a deck for resilience rather than speed. This means the deck can act as a sort of traffic cop for the game, keeping others from getting too dominant. I also wanted to blank much of our opponents' removal, so while I didn't quite go creature-less, I wanted to win without creatures. Finally, no tutors. We're going to draw our win old-school.

We start, as always, with Mana. Our 40 lands are mostly there to make our colors work. We're fairly evenly balanced, with a slight weight toward White, so we want a good mix of various colors in our lands. We're not overly worried about speed, so lands that come into play tapped are just fine here; if you want to run the Shocks and stuff, you do you, but I'd save them for a deck that wants them much more. We've also got a few ramp/search spells. Not a ton, because we don't need to ramp super hard, but a Cultivate can come in handy if all we need is another Black source or whatever. There are also a few lands with special effects; Homeward Path is always good to have around, and Alchemist's Refuge is great for when a Wrath needs to be cast right now.

We can draw some cards, but we're not going huge into it, preferring a few quality ways over lots of incremental drawing. We've got some quick and dirty things like Brainstorm and Ponder, which are great at basically any point of the game for smoothing out draws. Rhystic Study has been around forever for a reason. Most people don't pay the 2, and we'll get the extra card. We've got some cards which Proliferate that also draw us a card or two. And finally, we have Mind Unbound, which we should be able to abuse pretty well to keep our hand full. Because of that, we're running Spellbook and Reliquary Tower.

Ichor Rats
Gutter Grime
Energy Vortex

We have a couple of ways to win. The most obvious one is to play an Ichor Rats, give everyone a Poison counter, and Proliferate them to death. This seems a fair way to win, because it gives people an opportunity to fight back by trying to keep Atraxa dead, plus it kills everyone all at once so the game just ends and no one has to sit out while everyone else tries to survive. We can hurry things along with Deepglow Skate. We can play a Helix Pinnacle and sit on it, let it gain counters whenever we have mana to spare plus our Proliferate, and win that way. Alternately, we can win with Black Market. All that mana can be used in myriad ways; I've chosen Torment of Hailfire because I think it's hilarious, but there are plenty of ways to use a lot of Black to kill people. We have Ominous Seas, which should be able to crank out 8/8s fairly regularly. Several of those can often win a game. Gutter Grime is a little weird because it probably counts on Atraxa getting killed before we can get it rolling, but if we can get a single Slime counter on it we can build up counters to make it much more profitable for us if Atraxa's killed again. Finally, we have the rather weird Energy Vortex. We can certainly cause problems for one of our opponents with that thing, if not outright kill them.

In order to stay alive and keep the board manageable, we have a combination of point removal, a few counterspell effects, and some board wipes. We should be able to do a pretty good job keeping serious threats at bay, at least long enough to cause some trouble. There are a couple of strange ones. Heliod's Punishment is like a bad Arrest, but it's funny for us because we can keep Proliferating the Task counters and never let the creature go. Fylgia is a weird way to keep Atraxa alive through an attack; it allows us to block much more aggressively and hold off much larger creatures. Archery Training is a very funny way to shoot down an opposing army; Atraxa will get very good with the bow and arrow. Lux Cannon is another strange one; it can get rid of anything, but it's slow and awkward. Proliferate makes it better.

Finally, just for fun, we've got a few spells which should help us in our goals. Archmage Ascension will buy back our spells for us, which is useful. As Foretold is likely to scare people, because it's going to end up being Omniscience for us. Eerie Ultimatum will return any of our Enchantments that have been destroyed back to the 'field for us, plus Ichor Rats if no one is letting us give that final needed Poison counter.

Atraxa | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

There are a lot of directions one could take this deck. A few tutors, even just for Enchantments, could focus us in on Black Market, which, in a deck like this, can be very powerful. Adding tutors for Ichor Rats, plus a couple other ways to distribute poison counters (Blighted Agent, anyone?) would push into killing-everyone-with-Infect, and would certainly raise the chance of winning (and the chance of making your friends unhappy). The deck also could go all in on Helix Pinnacle, trying to force that win. One could even cut some of the goofier things for more removal and more counters for a more cutthroat experience.

How would you play Atraxa, assuming you wanted to do something other than the obvious? Please let us know in the comments!

In the meantime, we've only got a couple more articles in the series. Any requests for which five-color commander to do?

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

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