Griefer Madness

Posted in From the Lab on May 12, 2011

By Noel deCordova

Hello and welcome back to the Lab. Today I'm taking a look at some of the terrifying New Phyrexian Praetors. These Praetors, each jockeying for a piece of Phyrexian leadership, are the ultimate representatives of their color... gone completely twisted. They each take an aspect of Magic that's a part of their color's DNA and inject it with pure grief.

Green has always loved mana, for example. Grief-y green therefore doubles mine and chokes yours, at least according to Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger. As someone who definitely recognizes the power and importance of the "grief combo deck"—y'all should see my Eye of the Storm + coin flip deck that I occasionally bust out in real life—I fully stand behind New Phyrexia and its entire "good for me, bad for you" vibe.

Praetors are big, expensive, and for the most part open-ended. Deckbuilding around them was a treat and led to some interesting creative choices. Let's have at it!


When I learned that Phyrexia was taking over every color on Mirrodin, I privately worried about how red, the color of passionate individuality, would blend with the infecting oil. Thus, I was very impressed with the red section of the Planeswalker's Guide to New Phyrexia (found over at Savor the Flavor), as my worries were quenched. Phyrexian red is strangely compassionate but isolated from the rest of the world most of the time. The red part of my blue-red mental makeup definitely corresponds to this. So next time I lapse into insanity in public, I'll start calling myself Urabrask and run around headbutting people. (Usually I just invent a seemingly stream-of-consciousness story that's actually a Magic combo in story form, then trail off into a mixture of strained silence and painful facial expressions, and end by viciously scratching my head and screaming "I'M JUST THE WEATHERMAN!")

By giving everything you control haste, Urabrask the Hidden falls into a straightforward deck concept: quick beats. I wanted to take some advantage of the Hidden's other ability though, which states that your opponent's creatures enter the battlefield tapped. Straight up bounce will frustrate your opponent to no end, then, and if my bounce spells are creatures, Urabrask can get them pumped up enough to swing immediately. Creatures like Man-o'-War and even the red Stingscourger work fine.

I liked this approach, so I shoved in some more "enters the battlefield" creatures. Embermage Goblin's always been a favorite of mine (and it's great with haste), so it went. Noggle Hedge-Mage steps in as another tapper and damager. Stalking Yeti is some nice creature removal that can be returned to your hand if need be (and it ushers in snow-covered lands, which are always fun to use, particularly with Skred.)

The final adds were two blue Auras: Glimmerdust Nap (to keep your opponent's guys tapped forever) and Dream Leash (stealing tapped creatures is fun!). Overall, a straightforward blue-red deck!

Speed Skiing

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    Cenobite Me

Let's move on to perhaps the flagship card of the set, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. White Phyrexia was already making waves last set, with the spellbinding Priests of Norn. Now we see Norn herself, with two amazing abilities and one giant faceplate. That thing is a weapon in itself. I imagine Norn has some struggles when trying to get through a door.

If all goes well with this next deck, though, Elesh Norn should be content to stay back and watch your armada swing in nearly uncontested. Hmmmmmm? How, you might ask? Elesh gives your creatures +2/+2 and your opponent's creatures -2/-2. Pretty swingy. Now anything your opponent controls with toughness 2 or fewer will just die.

Sounds to me like the perfect time to cast Natural Affinity! Animate all the lands on the field and pow! Suddenly you've wiped out your opponent's entire mana base, severely weakened his or her remaining creatures, and built up a sudden army of 4/4 lands ready to swing. How's that for griefing?

For some slight redundancy, I added Kamahl, Fist of Krosa as an interesting backup for Natural Affinity. With the Grand Cenobite out, you suddenly can kill lands repeatedly for . Wow. Kamahl's Overrun ability is pretty amazing as well. A classic problem I've had with green Kamahl (Kamahl, Pit Fighter is a far blunter of an instrument) is that I never have enough mana to animate a bunch of my lands, Overrun, and still swing. Well, its Praetor Week, and I've already veered into green and quasi-land-hate. I'll go for it and throw Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger in. The beefy green Praetor costs quite a lot, but once he's roaming the battlefield, you'll be swimming in mana while your opponent fights through the occasional drought.

The deck needed a full dose of land acceleration, to build up a base for an eventual Natural Affinity and to afford my expensive creatures. Instead of spells like Rampant Growth and Cultivate, I went with creatures like Sakura-Tribe Elder and Farhaven Elf, so Elesh Norn could pump them eventually. I also wanted some creatures to sink my intense amount of mana into, and Wolfbriar Elemental stepped up as a Wolf-making wonder. Since Time of Need was fetching my legendary cards anyway, I threw in a single Verdeloth the Ancient as well. Finally, I felt Gore Vassal would be fun here. Underused (by me, anyway), the Vassal can save one of your Praetors if need be, or put a -1/-1 counter on an opponent's creature. Plus, it's more white Phyrexia!

Nature's Wide Grin

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With two Praetors in this deck and the potential for tons of mana, I couldn't resist throwing in a Tooth and Nail to fetch them and get them onto the battlefield in one shot. That's a huge double whammy.


Next up is Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur. Clocking in at ten mana, the blue Phyrexian Praetor flashes out and surges your information while stripping it from your opponent. Flash him out during your opponent's end step and watch their hand disappear. The Core Augur singlehandedly shoves your opponent into topdeck mode. Ouch. Meanwhile you're drawing a new hand every turn.

I decided to build around both sides of Jin-Gitaxias, and find ways to feed the two sides at once. First, to alter my own maximum hand size, I turned to Reliquary Tower. The new Spellbook will keep your hand huge pre- and post-Jin-Gitaxias. With a huge hand, Psychosis Crawler became the ideal win condition. Even if your opponent manages to chump block it every turn (hard for a deck with piddling resources), the Crawler will still eat 8 life a turn (one for your regular draw, and seven more from Jin-G's research.)

Having an opponent with a hand size of zero allows for some funny plays. One is Turbulent Dreams. Discard a ton of cards from your hand (don't worry, a ton more are coming) to bounce all your opponent's non-land permanents. On their turn, they'll have to cast as many of them as they can and discard the rest. You can pull a similar trick with Tomoya the Revealer, the flipped half of Jushi Apprentice. Since your hand will be loaded the whole game, you can mill chunks of your opponent's library at a time.

To limit your opponent's chances of finding a way out, I added Lurking Informant. Fatespinner and Cephalid Constable further cramp your opponent's style. Empyreal Plate can go on any of your weenies to make them huge (especially the Constable), and Elixir of Immortality will keep you afloat. From there, Linessa, Zephyr Mage became an intriguing option, since you can likely draw and redraw into her other copies. Tezzeret's Gambit is a fun new proliferator that increases the counters on Everflowing Chalice and Dreadship Reef, which are my main mana rampers. Jin-Gitaxias costs ten, after all.

Compiled together, the deck becomes a mono-blue assault on your opponent's brain.

Psycho J

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    The Other Black Praetor

I was going to go ahead and build around Sheoldred, Whispering One, when two thoughts struck me. One, she seems more like a fun singleton then a build-around piece (no disrespect, O Whispering One.) And two, I love building around old cards, and theme weeks are a great way to stretch into the past. I'm telling you, it's all about card names (and newly updated creature types!). Thus, I think I'll take Sanguine Praetor for a spin this week.

This forgotten rare from Guildpact is expensive, but it packs a board clearing punch... if you have the right creatures to sacrifice to it. Since you have no idea what the converted mana costs of your opponent's creature will be beforehand, it makes sense to either a): hit a wide arc of converted mana costs through my own creatures or b): build around Shapeshifters, since they can enter the battlefield as copies of your opponent's creatures. And according to a little nugget in the Comprehensive Rules, copies mimic everything... including converted mana cost.

So let's say I have Shapesharer on the battlefield with Sanguine Praetor. The resulting creature says something like ", Sacrifice a Shapeshifter: Destroy target creature and all creatures that share a converted mana cost with it." You'll copy your opponent's creature, then sacrifice it and its shiny new converted mana cost to the Praetor, who then blows up everything with that mana cost. Sheoldred fits right in after all, returning your spent creatures to the battlefield while ensuring a perpetual sacrifice for your opponent.

Shapeshifters are a tribe that has always puzzled me. Many of them just look broken to me, but it's all part of their guile. They're just really sneaky. For instance, I tried breaking Cemetery Puca back when Shadowmoor was all the rage. Now that I'm killing creatures left and right, I saw the Puca on a list of Shapeshifters (thanks, Gatherer!) and thought, "Redemption." Dimir Doppelganger is another fun oldie that slides into the deck. Phyrexian Metamorph, meanwhile, is the latest insanity. Seriously, this card is mindblowing. Not only is it a way better Clone by also being a Sculpting Steel, and vice versa, but for a measly 2 life, any deck can cast it. It's amazing.

Grease the deck up with some mana and some utility and it's all set. A wacky card I found room for was Riptide Replicator. It can endlessly make Shapeshifter tokens if you run out of creatures to sacrifice to the Praetor.

Shaepe Shifting

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Until next time!

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