Unstable Mutation: Growing Threat

In Unstable Mutation we take a preconstructed Commander deck and offer insights into how to play the deck out of the box, what works well and what doesn’t for that theme, and then how to rebuild the deck to be more effective. In general we won’t ditch the main idea of a deck and will stick to using Commanders available in the deck.

This article is about Growing Threat, the Orzhov deck from the March of the Machine Commander companion decks.


New Cards


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Brimaz, Blight of Oreskos

The default Commander of the deck, Brimaz is a decent source of end-step consistent proliferate, alongside Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice. The inclusion of another consistent proliferate is actually pretty important for certain cards like Magistrate’s Scepter, at this point, if you have Scepter, Atraxa, Brimaz and say Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus or Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, you can easily take infinite turns.

His first ability is solid enough for artifact synergy strategies. Effectively every artifact you cast will give you 2 artifacts, which you can then sacrifice to a Krark-Clan Ironworks or do whatever it is you need to do with it to trigger Disciple of the Vault (or even turn it into a creature) and will synergize well with his proliferate ability.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Moira and Teshar

This is a decent reanimation path, the easiest historics to cast are usually artifacts, but Sagas and Legendaries, especially creatures, also abound. If you’re burying big fatties or things with huge ETBs in your yard this is a decent way to get them out, but the exile trigger means it’s not very re-usable, and lacking red to really cheat them out with Sneak Attack and its variants, it seems a bit underwhelming for 5 mana.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Darksteel Splicer

This card kind of makes me sad, I’ve had my eyes on making a Splicer Golem deck for a while, and this makes your Golems indestructible, which is rad, but his trigger only works on Phyrexians, not Golems. Sad Panda. Oh well, it’s 7 mana for a 1/1 that creates 3 3/3 Golems that will have indestructible, and if you flicker or reanimate it you’ll get more, which is pretty solid (10 power and toughness in 4 bodies, with 3 of them indestructible, for 7 mana.)


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Excise the Imperfect

I think this is a very strong control card. Yes, it’s expensive, but compare it to Generous Gift, and at times you need the flexibility to remove a creature or an enchantment or a planeswalker or whatever. The two white does hurt its splashability. Yes, you’re potentially handing out an X/X creature, but if it keeps you in the game, lets you win the game, or shuts down a stax piece, so what. This is a card that scales with how good your opponents are, at weaker tables it’s a weaker card. Overall really solid interaction. Really solid.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Filigree Vector

This is pretty nice, distributing +1/+1 counters on any number of creatures and charge counters, that’s solid. Saccing artifacts to proliferate is very reasonable, especially with the charge counter synergy.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Vulpine Harvester

Really solid artifact recursion, 4 for a 3/3 is fine for that. Grabbing back sacrificial artifacts or artifact creatures that do useful things like Sad Robot Solemn Simulacrum is pretty solid. It’s especially nice that it doesn’t have to be a creature, meaning all the eggs are possible, like Nimblewright Schematic.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Blight Titan

6 for a 6/6 that mills and incubates is pretty fun. Not like “good” “good” but like, good fun “fair”. There’s 43 cards now with Titan in the name, I think almost all of them are actually Giants like this, what I think of as the “true” Titans all have them paired, and the when this enters or attacks, do something thematic templating. Anyway big fatty, makes some small incubators though they could potentially get huge, fun to cheat out just ramp crazy into tons of Titan Giants.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Path of the Schemer

Probably over costed for an all mill 2, reanimate one creature from any graveyard (not necessarily that was just milled).


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Bitterthorn, Nissa’s Animus

Very solid IMO, 3 for a 1/1 that fetches basics, and can be equipped for 3. Ramping and thinning consistently like this is pretty good, and there’s now 3 sources of this, Sword of Hearth and Home, Sword of the Animist, and Bitterthorn, which is a lot of consistency for a very solid all around effect. Both White and Black somewhat struggle to ramp, aside from sacrificial effects for black and Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth which is just helped by this strategy. Not something you’d play at a competitive table but at battlecruiser, mid, and even high I can see this having a lot of impact over the game.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Ichor Elixir

So 4 to add 2 colorless is decent on its own. There’s several of these now, Hedron Archive; Sisay’s Ring; Stonespeaker Crystal; Ur-Golem’s Eye; and of course Thran Dynamo which taps for 3. If you need really absurd amounts of colorless mana, possibly to cast Eldrazi Titans, this is a way to get a lot of mana.

All in all it’s a decent set of new cards, but nothing truly groundbreaking. One potential staple in interaction.

The deck leans heavily into using incubator tokens, which represent a new type of situation, a transformable token.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (April 14, 2023—March of the Machine)

Incubator Token
An Incubator token is a transforming double-faced token. Its front face is a colorless Incubator artifact with “{2}: Transform this artifact.” Its back face is a 0/0 colorless Phyrexian artifact creature named “Phyrexian Token.” For more information about predefined tokens, see rule 111.10.

Basically they come out as non-creature artifacts, you pay 2 mana and they turn into a creature. This is pretty useful for a number of reasons, one they are non-creature artifacts, so they can be sacrificed for artifact effects but will also dodge creature destroying board clears. So you can have some incubator tokens out then cast a Wrath of God, then transform your tokens to come out and start attacking. Tokens can also have counters of types that don’t really do anything, so these artifacts sit around with +1/+1 counters on them, and they can even be proliferated or moved off them, and they’ll keep chilling out.


The Vanilla Deck

Coming out of the box this deck, in my opinion, is really going to be slow and ponderous and just struggle. It does have a fairly solid selection of the basic mana rocks you might want, though for a deck this mana intensive I’d run more.. a lot more. Diamonds, more of the 2 cost mana rocks, load them up. There’s 18 creatures with mana value of 5 or more. 18. So what you’ll generally expect with a deck like this is to stall out around 3-4 mana. You really want to smoothly roll out Brimaz and then be casting a creature or artifact spell every turn. There’s also, not shockingly, a lack of decent interaction, this deck more or less relies on not losing somehow, and then dropping bigger creatures than your opponents have. The intensive need for mana doesn’t even take into account the incubation tokens.


If you do make it to mid/late game the deck doesn’t have a lot of triggers to grow your threats, and not a lot of big close out spells, so actually killing people is going to require you to just attack them over and over. Hopefully you can incubate past a board clear and then hopefully kill that person off.



To make the deck more effective, the focus is switched to aristocrats, but it’s still quite mana hungry. More rocks, and the fetch basics equipment, combined with Victory Chimes, Clock of Omens, and Unwinding Clock should let you have a ton of incubator tokens, but also mana untapping on every turn, available to transform your incubator tokens. The incubator tokens themselves are artifacts, so you can use them with Clock of Omens to untap your mana rocks or other things.

These sources of small creatures fits really well into the more or less default Orzhov theme, aristocrats. Small, +1/+1 pumped creatures you can turn around and sacrifice to generate card draw and life loss is perfect.


Rebuilding the Deck

Rebuilding the deck includes much more of a focus on the synergy of ramp, to enable a mid-game build up of incubator tokens that get bigger and bigger, and then generating the mana to transform your army to kill your opponents, generally through doubling and tripling tokens. There’s also the Phyrexian Obliterator and Phyrexian Vindicator just for fun, which in turn drives cards like Mana Confluence being in a 2-color deck. The life loss should be fairly negligible when compared to the life gain from your aristocrats effects.

If you double the creation of tokens, like say from Anointed Procession, the second token may not, and generally won’t, get any +1/+1 counters on it from the incubation effect but we don’t really care. The purpose of the incubation tokens is mainly just to die, so turning it into a 0/0 with no +1/+1 counters on it is perfectly fine, it will go to the graveyard as a state based effect when you transform it, since it has 0 toughness, and you’ll get a death trigger.

Cards to cut include some okay value cards and some cards that could be good if the deck went that way, but it doesn’t. Here’s a list:

Burnished Hart Neat but doesn’t fit game plan
Coveted Jewel Way too expensive, no way to defend
Evolving Wilds ETB tapped lands are bad
First-Sphere Gargantua Way too expensive
Night’s Whisper Better to draw off triggers
Ambition’s Cost Better to draw off triggers
Temple of Silence ETB tapped lands are bad
Meteor Golem Decent control but way too expensive
Master Splicer Not enough Golems for a Golem sideline
Commander’s Sphere Over costed, no need to mana fix
Myr Battlesphere Way too expensive
Terramorphic Expanse ETB tapped lands are bad
Ancient Stone Idol Way too expensive
Hedron Archive Too expensive
Phyrexian Rebirth We don’t want a board clear like this
Phyrexian Ghoul Okay sacrificer but there are better
Phyrexian Gargantua Way too expensive
Duplicant Way too expensive
Shattered Angel This doesn’t belong in the deck at all
Orzhov Locket Another overly expensive rock
Cataclysmic Gearhulk Too expensive control card
Noxious Gearhulk Too expensive control card
Scrap Trawler Part of a combo without the other pieces
Spire of Industry Don’t need to mana fix this badly
Blade Splicer Not enough Golems for a Golem sideline
Soul of New Phyrexia Potentially okay but too expensive
Sculpting Steel Value copying is mediocre, generally
Bone Shredder Too expensive control card
Graveshifter Weird recursive card
Psychosis Crawler Has no real synergy, expensive
Shimmer Myr Flash is fun but this doesn’t really help us
Scytheclaw Both expensive and dangerous without being good
Phyrexian Scriptures Could be solid, but gameplan doesnt fit
Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering Expensive control card / reanimator
Phyrexian Triniform Way too expensive
Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor Neat but no mill synergy
Bloodline Pretender Just here to be a big Phyrexian
Shineshadow Snarl Potentially ETB tapped lands also bad
Silverquill Campus You’ll never have 4 mana extra
Angel of the Ruins Too expensive control card
Goldmire Bridge ETB tapped lands are bad
Nettlecyst This is just, here, cuz Germs are like incubator tokens
Excise the Imperfect Solid, doesn’t fit that well, want death triggers
Darksteel Splicer Not enough Golems for a Golem sideline
Path of the Schemer Too expensive and inconsistent
Ichor Elixir Too expensive


Cards to add:

Phyrexian Obliterator Fun Phyrexian to make trigger
Phyrexian Vindicator Fun Phyrexian to make trigger
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse Solid Phyrexian to make trigger
Skrelv, Defector Mite Really solid defensive Phyrexian, makes Mites to sac
Essence of Orthodoxy Synergistic Phyrexian
Norn’s Inquisitor Synergistic Phyrexian

Death / Aristocrats triggers:
Teysa Karlov
Zulaport Cutthroat
Vraan, Executioner Thane
Drivnod, Carnage Dominus
Bastion of Remembrance
The Meathook Massacre
Agent of the Iron Throne
Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim

Black Market Connections Card draw, Treasure and Phyrexian creation
Smuggler’s Share Card draw and Treasure creation

Sacrificial card draw:
Erebos, Bleak-Hearted
Transmogrant’s Crown

Mana Rocks:

Relic of Legends Untappable mana rock
Myr Convert Phyrexian mana rock effectively
Wand of the Worldsoul Testing out new mana rock
Everflowing Chalice Scaling colorless rock
Clock of Omens Use incubators to untap rocks
Unwinding Clock Untap rocks on all turns
Victory Chimes Untaps on all turns
Sword of the Animist Fetch more lands
Sword of Hearth and Home Fetch more lands
Infernal Grasp Solid control card
Path to Exile Solid control card

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth Ramping land
Cabal Coffers Ramping land
Godless Shrine Mana fixing
Myriad Landscape Ramping land
Brightclimb Pathway // Grimclimb Pathway Mana fixing
Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire Solid MDFC
Agadeem’s Awakening // Agadeem, the Undercrypt Solid MDFC
Mana Confluence


Reanimate Solid reanimation card
Dread Return Reusable reanimation
Unearth Reanimation card
Vat of Rebirth Recursion card
Diabolic Intent Synergistic sacrifice tutor
Vampiric Rites Recursion Card
Priest of Forgotten Gods Amazing sacrificer
Phyrexian Reclamation Recursion Card

Synergizes with incubator tokens:
Elesh Norn // The Argent Etchings Dangerous but powerful
Mondrak, Glory Dominus Doubling tokens
Anointed Procession Doubling tokens
The Ozolith Keeping your +1/+1 counters to make a really big incubator (or something else)

Phyrexian Revoker Control card that generates incubator token


And there you go, a solid aristocrats black white deck built around ramping out smoothly to token generators that will grow your board state while hammering at opponents life totals over the course of the game.

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