Unstable Mutation: Corrupting Influence

Toxic Influence is one of two Commander precons coming out with the Phyrexia: All Will be One expansion. Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa is apparently a spawn of Atraxa, the corrupted Angel of yore. On EDHrec Atraxa has been the number one Commander for deck construction for years running. I always take EDHrec stats with a grain of salt, I personally have in excess of 400 decks theorycrafted on Moxfield, which is feeding in to the measurement of Commander popularity – 11 of which are Atraxa decks, in total I have one printed Atraxa deck.

Nonetheless there’s likely to be a lot of excitement around Atraxa Jr. Abzan instead of sans-red isn’t a particularly big loss, though you’re losing access to the all the 0-cost counterspells.


Copyright Wizards of the Coast

If we’re going to build around this Commander it might as well be a toxic / infect / poison/ corrupted deck. It’s nice to see corrupted exist as a mechanic, for some kind of payoff for poison counters, it makes it somewhat more justifiable to run poison as a win condition. There’s a serious problem, in my opinion, with Commander players and threat detection, and I think Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa is going to run right into it. Commander players are very likely to not let Ixhel sit or stay on the board, even disregarding more pressing threats and throwing away resources they shouldn’t to avoid getting even a single poison counter.

If you play this deck straight out of the box it’s pretty decent for a precon. The mana curve isn’t terrible, and has a lot of decent 2 drops which helps defray some of the damage from enters the battlefield tapped lands. There are some decent small creatures that will let you swing out to distribute initial poison counters, so that when you manage to get Ixhel out on turn 5-6 and then start swinging with him on 6-7 you should be able to start triggering his corrupted ability, netting you card advantage. Flying is generally going to be enough of an evasion ability to get through. There’s quite a few pillowfort cards to protect you, and while stopping you from losing isn’t the same as winning, the combination of Norn’s Decree, Norn’s Annex, Windborn Muse, and Ghostly Prison should probably make it painful enough to attack you people will avoid it. However, Ixhel is pretty vulnerable, and there aren’t a lot of protective spells to keep him on the field.

The deck really doesn’t ramp out to high levels of mana to keep recasting Ixhel, but if you can get a couple of players with 3+ poison counters then every time he hits the board you should help recover some of that lost card advantage.

There’s the usual problems – 8 enters the battlefield tapped lands, 3 conditionally tapped, not enough ramp, not enough interaction, a bunch of non-targeted board clear that frankly makes no sense, the deck runs 9 creatures at 2 CMV or less and another at 3, so if you are hitting the reset button it’s going to be wasting your resources as well, with only 1 payoff for creature deaths.

Winning with Ixhel in your pod or LGS is probably going to involve some diplomacy and strategic patience since dropping a 5 toughness creature without ward or hexproof or anything like that is most likely to end with him getting blown up. I’d recommend basically ramping peacefully and trying to distribute a few poison tokens, and bringing him out once the first round of spells are thrown down or a board clear lands or something like that. Ixhel is a value Commander, and also a threat, but the value only triggers if people have 3+ counters on the end step, so bringing him out to early is an invitation to uptick your Commander tax.

Playing out of the box:

There’s a lot of options to upgrade this deck, leaning into proliferate could also involve some of the powerful artifacts that function off of charge or other counters, rapidly ticking them up. Magistrate’s Scepter could potentially be a source of extra turns, and a way to pay for escalating Commander tax via artifacts like Replicating Ring and Empowered Autogenerator.

A second option is to lean into expensive fatties with access to infect and double strike and reanimation spells. Tyrranax Rex, Paladin of Predation, cards like that. Double strike can be combined with toxic and infect. You can really dish out a lot of poison, instantaneously, with these combinations of triggers.

Going deep on infect and poison is likely to make you table enemy, so you just need to accept that going in to the deck. Without mommy Atraxa’s blue, you don’t have free counter magic to protect you Commander and your pieces, so running a lot of lands and land ramp via sorceries means you should be able to recover from Ixhel getting blown up repeatedly.

If you’re going to be hated, I say really go for it and stax out your opponents artifacts. This should help balance the ramp, and Abzan has all access to all the best anti-artifact stax pieces: Collector Ouphe in green, Stony Silence in white, and Karn, the Great Creator and Null Rod in colorless.

Another viable path is to go for proliferates to generate huge amounts of mana later in the game, this often comes from artifacts that get more counters as the game goes on and so can generate some enormous amounts of mana, but this works better with Atraxa, since proliferate is built in (and blue, because a lot of proliferate lives in blue).

However Ixhel really wins by killing your opponents with poison, so there is a fair amount of proliferate. There’s also a full bevy of the available new cards that just hand out poison counters, which historically has been pretty unusual. Ichor Rats has existed for some time and also hits you, but there’s also Phyresis Outbreak, Infectious Bite, Vraska’s Fall as well as the weirdly powerful, and possibly to be banned, Venerated Rotpriest. Rotpriest is currently dominating as a semi-meme deck but serves as a decent deterrent to your creatures being targeted with removal.

Because of the hostility towards poison I think it’s generally best to sort of slow play this deck. Try to get one or more value pieces into play, like Tocasia’s Welcome or Welcoming Vampire, if you creature tutor for an Esper Sentinel. Mid-Late game, once you’ve put out some poison counters your opponents may be more inspired to counter your value pieces to keep you from being able to close the deal.

Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa is a value Commander in a sense, potentially exiling 3 cards per turn you can play, but doing so has a very high hurdle rate, that of giving out 3 poison counters. Thankfully once the cards are exiled they are used to play whether Ixhel is out or not, but in general I’d tend to not want to rush out Ixhel, since I’d be afraid my opponents would see blowing him up as a 2 for 1 – avoiding poison counters and avoiding giving me draw. In general, in a meta sense you probably want to bring Ixhel out once at least one of your opponents already has the 3 counters, but this is more or less a delicate negotiating act.

Given the reanimation spells you may want to let Ixhel go to your yard and just reanimate him rather than incurring Commander tax every time. A potentially safer way to run the deck would be to swap out the artifact stax for the cards that give Silence on your turn – Ranger-Captain of Eos; Grand Abolisher; Myrel, Shield of Argive. This would mean you can get out your poison and get your triggers more safely. It would also mean your opponents have to hold off blowing up Ixhel or something else until you’ve already got the draw, which in theory should be changing the math for them.

Final deck list:

  • Here’s the list of cards I suggest adding, but you can certainly do so piecemeal:
    1 Animate Dead
    1 Farseek
    1 Rampant Growth
    1 Heroic Intervention
    1 Ohran Frostfang
    1 Eldritch Evolution
    1 Godless Shrine
    1 Abrupt Decay
    1 Overgrown Tomb
    1 Temple Garden
    1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
    1 Hand of the Praetors
    1 Autumn’s Veil
    1 Into the North
    1 Karn, the Great Creator
    1 Collector Ouphe
    1 Castle Garenbrig
    1 Null Rod
    1 Stony Silence
    1 Cabal Coffers
    1 Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire
    1 Three Visits
    1 Victimize
    1 Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
    5 Snow-Covered Swamp
    6 Snow-Covered Forest
    6 Snow-Covered Plains
    1 Emergent Sequence
    1 Esper Sentinel
    1 Persist
    1 Smell Fear
    1 Reanimate
    1 Welcoming Vampire
    1 Boseiju, Who Endures
    1 Kodama’s Reach
    1 Assassin’s Trophy
    1 Birds of Paradise
    1 Tocasia’s Welcome
    1 Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
    1 Nature’s Lore
    1 Sylvan Library
    1 Venerated Rotpriest
    1 Skrelv, Defector Mite
    1 Skrelv’s Hive
    1 Mirrex
    1 Bloated Contaminator
    1 Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting
    1 Anoint with Affliction
    1 Necrogen Rotpriest
    1 Infectious Bite


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