In Commander Focus, Pseudanonymous looks at key Commanders, how to build around them, and what makes their decks work. In this first installment, he’s looking at Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice.
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice is a powerful and flexible commander that has been popular since release in the commander 2016. Part of a cycle of 4-color commanders, including Ydris, Maelstrom Wielder, Saskia the Unyielding, Kyanios and Tiro of Meletis, and Breya, Etherium Shaper, Atraxa is arguably the most playable as a commander, both for her color combination and her rules text – she has a flexible triggered ability and a strong keyword soup of abilities.
Flying, vigilance, deathtouch, and lifelink. The last is probably the least useful, especially in Commander given Atraxa’s 4 power / 4 toughness body. But even so gaining life can frequently be useful.
With Atraxa’s color identity and ability, you can build a number of decks around her and craft some truly weird hybrids. Proliferating every turn means that Planeswalkers and creatures that use counters gain a significant advantage. Comboing with cards like Doubling Season, Hardened Scales, and Pir, Imaginative Rascal, you can really power out counters. You can also use this ability to generate hideous amounts of mana with Marwyn, the Nurturer and other creatures that tap for additional mana as their power grows. You can take advantage of her ability to proliferate every turn to ramp with Everflowing Chalice and Astral Cornucopia, growing huge amounts of mana rapidly.
You can also make a fairly threatening Infect deck with Atraxa, and she also has the ability to take a lot of turns. If a game stalls out at all her stats are good enough to help break through: At 4/4 with flying, deathtouch and vigilance, she’ll be dishing out commander damage or else killing planeswalkers virtually every turn, while still being available to protect you or your planeswalkers at the same time. Wizards also has a new mechanic based around gaining 3 or more life this turn, which Atraxa’s lifelink will easily satisfy see cards like Indulging Patrician. If you want the capability to simply take people out of the game Atraxa has green in her color identity, so it’s trivial to throw two giant growths on top of her, and if she gets double-strike that’s easily in range to take someone out in a turn. Or simply pop infect onto her at the last second.
I love the idea of making an infect deck. Games will end, relatively quickly. Infect in my opinion is a cool mechanic. It’s also in some ways tailor made for commander – like a lot of numbers, the impact on commander is either double or half. Commander games start with 40 life, which means that paying life for crack lands, or pain duals, or giving players life via cards like Swords to Plowshares becomes relatively meaningless. It’s uncommon, but not entirely unheard of for players to die to simple damage without a combo or some kind of recursive effect, though this all depends on what “level” of commander your pod plays at. In cEDH games players tend to ruthlessly use their life as a resource, because effectively they have twice as much of it, and effectively even more because players are not typically overly focused on dealing combat damage. So in a weird way life may actually be more vulnerable as a resource as cEDH and at battlecruiser and lower levels. In the middle and high ground games, players may be less likely to get low due to depleting their own lives. Regardless, in commander, you have 40 life, but still, only take 10 poison counters to lose the game as a state-based effect. 10 counters is truly not a lot. Atraxa is a 4/4 Flier, give her infect and 2 giant growths and that’s game. And she has every color that has infect in it. If you want to get cutesy a creature can have both poisonous and infect (though not the pseudo-poison creatures who lack the actual keyword) because dealing poison counters from a creature with infect counts as dealing combat damage. There are also several creatures that give poison counters whenever they deal simple damage, rather than combat damage, so it is possible to give them one of the “Tim” artifacts or enchantments and simply ping people or creatures to give them poison tokens.
Infect is a fun, but not too serious deck, and while Atrexa can easily take someone out, it suffers from the difficulty that many one-punch decks do, finishing a 4 player game after taking someone out. In addition, Atraxas proliferate by its very nature is beneficial in grindy type games.
Working from our end game, we simply want to put out small creatures that either have infect or are difficult to block. Our win is via poison counters. We’ll protect our creatures with a few spells but we’ll primarily rely on the nature of the game being not very interactive. This is a for fun deck. Our draws will typically come from dealing combat damage, since we plan to do that anyway with small creatures with evasion who will frequently have or gain infect. Finally we’ll ramp via artifacts and creatures, especially since the creatures themselves can be the targets of things like Tainted Strike and Invigorate.
Atraxa taking turns
Atraxa is probably more in her element in a combo-ish deck. Her Proliferate ability lets you ramp up to combo while maintaining some control meanwhile. This deck works around taking extra turns, by putting lots of counters on things, especially Sage of Hours, though it’s equally possible to go off with various planeswalkers, by using The Chain Veil, or Magistrate’s Scepter. The Ozolith and bouncing permanents can easily allow you to move counters around to the most critical creatures, and several draw engines mean that you can simply force draw into your combo pieces rather than trying to tutor everything out. However, the deck is somewhat lacking in interaction, being inward-focused on achieving the combo.
Our end game is to win via taking taking endless turns, and either simply beating other players to death with Atraxa or using whatever emblems and planeswalker abilities we have spare to exile or bounce creatures out of the way then beat them to death. Alternatively you can via Simic Ascendancy, which may happen near accidentally once you get a couple of doubling effects, or a couple of multiply triggering proliferate abilities.
Atraxa Taking Turns
Atraxa’s special friends
Perhaps the most common approach to a competitive Atraxa deck is to simply build around the concept of casting and protecting powerful planeswalkers. Given her keyword soup, Atraxa is a very strong blocker to keep planeswalkers in the game gaining counters. If you get an emblem or two you can easily secure a game-winning advantage. There are a lot of potential directions you can go with this and there’s tons of room to experiment with your own designs.
That wraps up our look at Atraxa and hopefully you’ve got a good idea of how you can build a playable deck around her. As always if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.