This weekend was the M15 prerelease. I did not attend. Weird-ass fertility rituals called from South Jersey. Instead, I spent the weekend around family, putting on a surprise baby shower for a beloved in-law who a) knew, and b) really didn’t like the idea of a surprise baby shower. Personally, I was with her. Even if the whole thing hadn’t been weird to me, an only child, it definitely didn’t seem like the type of party that you spring on a person.


Surprise parties are awful!


I’m sure you’re going to hear plenty about M15 in the next few days, though, and I plan to discuss some of the new cards myself come next week, once I’ve had some hands-on time. So, instead, today I am going to talk about one of my newer Commander decks, Pharika, God of Affliction.


Some say she’s useless, but I know her as the Stig! I mean, the Mulldrifter Queen!


When Pharika was first spoiled, I was very salty about her abilities. I, like most others, saw an over-costed Necrogenesis or a more durable Ogre Slumlord, and the Slumlord in particular made Design’s complaints seem hollow. See, Design claimed they templated her as they did, with her giving snakes to the exiled card’s owner, to avoid the feel-bad situation in which each of your snakes trades with a card and then replaces itself. Since this is exactly how Ogre Slumlord used to take over draft games, it seemed like they were protesting too much. Too this day, I honestly think they could have fixed it if she just made vanilla snakes, and then gave all your snakes deathtouch. But that’s not important to this story.


This card is sooooo good in EDH!


A month or so later, when I was writing my column on the pan-god deck, I took a second look at her. I wasn’t blown away, but when I stopped looking at what she could be, and started to look at what she is, I came around on her value. See, I tend to like recursion in my decks. There are tons of ways to recur things, and I like almost all of them. I flicker, I reanimate, I bounce and replay my things… but there’s no good way to recur exiled cards. And for this reason I tend to shy away from exile effects that hit my creatures or my graveyard. I just don’t like to waste my resources!


maybe someday?

I have not yet come around to playing this card in EDH…


Obviously, this is a blind spot for me. And I like to lance those when I catch them. I’ve built Armageddon decks, and combo decks, and blisteringly fast aggro decks, and each time the reason behind my act of creation was, “I don’t like this, so I should at least be informed in my hate.” Pharika, God of Affliction started out as one of those decks, only it turned out I actually enjoyed the way she played.


Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who recurs more artifacts than y’all?


But first I had to clear the way for a new green/black deck, and that meant saying goodbye to Pharika’s opposite, Glissa, the Traitor. Glissa was set up to primarily be an artifact deck, with her super powerful engine allowing me to replay my host of spellbombs and Traveler’s Amulet effects over and over again. It did absolutely nothing, drew nothing but aggro, and was completely screwed during board stalls and if my general got tucked. So taking the deck apart shouldn’t have been hard, but it still hurt. The deck had been together for ages, largely due to a paucity of overlapping cards, and I develop sentimental attachments to those types of decks. I’m the type of player with over 20 EDH decks sleeved up at the moment, hitting almost every color combination and deck style. And yes, many of those decks haven’t been played within the last year.


Like this lucky lady, who proved so dominant that no one else wants her to come out and play.


Pharika is going to see some play, though. I structured Pharika to consist primarily of creature cards whose effects net me card advantage as soon as they hit the table, so that when I do get around to exiling them from my graveyard, I could do it guilt-free. I also included a fair number of enchantments, to turn Pharika on, as well as a number of cards that sacrificed themselves or cycled to feed my graveyards with their effects. The end result was a deck that proved surprisingly powerful, despite being made up of mostly bulk rares and commons (with a few notable exceptions).


*cough* I cracked a Conspiracy one of these, okay, and I’ve been dying to use it!


Here’s the list:


Pharika, God of Affliction


Draw Engines: Heartwood Storyteller; Dark Prophecy; Erebos, God of the Dead; Deathreap Ritual; Graveborn Muse; Foster; Masked Admirers; Eidolon of Blossoms; Bloodgift Demon; Harvester of Souls; Soul of the Harvest; Baleful Force

Mulldrifters: Carven Caryatid; Solemn Simulacrum; Street Wraith; Phyrexian Gargantua; Pelakka Wurm

Baneslayers: Lotleth Troll; Predator Ooze; Nylea, God of the Hunt; Spiritmonger

Rampishness: Sakura-Tribe Elder; Satyr Wayfinder; Commune with the Gods; Mulch; Grisly Salvage; Burnished Hart; Yavimaya Elder; Courser of Kruphix; Twisted Abomination; Elvish Aberration; Krosan Tusker

Creature Removal: Wasteland Viper; Ulvenwald Tracker; Bone Shredder; Doomwake Giant; Stingerfling Spider; Silklash Spider; Dark Hatchling; Hythonia the Cruel

Permanent Removal: Sylvok Replica; Pernicious Deed; Acidic Slime; Brutalizer Exarch; Bane of Progress; Gaze of Granite

Graveyard Manipulation: Loaming Shaman; Spliterfright; Nyx Weaver; Faerie Macabre; Extractor Demon

Graveyard Reliant: Deathrite Shaman; Life from the Loam; Varolz, the Scar-Striped; Nighthowler; Whip of Erebos; Pharika’s Mender; Deadbridge Chant

Other: Mimic Vat; Bow of Nylea; Reaper of the Wilds

Lands: Golgari Guildgate; Golgari Rot Farm; Gilt-Leaf Palace; Vivid Grove; Vivid Marsh; Jund Panorama; Terramorphic Expanse; Terminal Moraine; Tranquil Thicket; Barren Moor; Dakmor Salvage; Encroaching Wastes; Svogthos, the Restless Tomb; Bojuka Bog; Grim Backwoods; Reliquary Tower; Temple of the False God; Forest x11; Swamp x9


As you can see, the deck has some definite play. At one point during a match against Clayton’s Oloro, Ageless Ascetic deck he hit me with a Celestial Flare effect while I was swinging in with Pharika. In response, I had the ability to sacrifice my Sakura-Tribe Elder, de-animating Pharika and making her immune to the removal effect. The deck kept a consistent seven cards in hand, and the killer snakes did yeoman’s work on offense and defense.


What’s shakin’, kraken?


I was particularly amused, however, with the degree to which the deck seemed immune to Clayton’s Wrexial, the Risen Deep. That card is normally a complete beating against me, since most of my decks run either swamps or islands for card draw and powerful instants and sorceries. In this deck, though, Clayton just managed to steal a Grisly Salvage and a Commune with the Gods, one of which cleared a necessary Wrath of God off the top of his deck. I squeaked by against him, winning a game I had no business winning, largely due to the power of a turn three Pharika. She might not be the most powerful god, but it turns out access to a turn three indestructible 5/5 is pretty sweet stuff.


In the end, she passes what I’m now dubbing the Cobra Commander test: she’s super durable, without being equally threatening. It’s a sweet spot to hit, and she can do it because she’s a lot less offensive than most of the other gods. Yes, she’s not an unbroken powerhouse like we all wanted her to be, but she’s still fun, and that counts! Plus, now I have a stack of these sweet snake tokens that I can pass around the table, adding a major (and pretty) tool to my political arsenal.

Triggering constellation since Journey Into Nyx!

Triggering constellation since Journey Into Nyx!


That’s it for this week! Join me again next week, when we talk M15. I have some complaints about the slivers I am dying to get off my chest!


Jess Stirba is a sliver purist.

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