January 26, 2021 update: Originally, this article contained errors—including the fact that Fynn required ten hits with a Deathtouch creature to poison an enemy out, a misinterpretation of the card that was generously corrected by Twitter user @jorygraham. Obviously, requiring only five hits makes the card an order of magnitude better, although five hits is still a high threshold. The article has been edited to reflect this, and we really appreciate both Jory’s note and your own patience and forgiveness.

I love poison strategies: I tried to make a poison pyromancer work in Dark Souls 2; I default to the archetype in Slay the Spire; I forced it in every single Scars of Mirrodin draft I did. The combination of inevitability and noninteraction baits me for reasons that would make my therapist sit up straighter. So I was initially very excited for Kaldheim’s Fynn, the Fangbearer—a card that combines my two favorite niche strategies, pseudo-Infect and Deathtouch Tribal.

Deathtouch has never been stronger than it is in Standard right now. Wizards has tacked the ability on to cards that have respectable stats to begin with, from Nighthawk Scavenger to Questing Beast. Yet that strength ironically undercuts Fynn: why bother adding weaker cards to your deck of efficient beaters like those?

The issue with Fynn is that if you’re connecting five times, you should have won anyway; poison is unnecessary. Legacy and Modern Infect decks worked because they effectively reduced your opponent to 10 life; the efficiency of pump spells in an Infect deck are doubled, whereas they’re useless in a Fynn deck. Fynn demands you connect consistently with a Deathtouch creature small enough not to kill your opponent with traditional damage—notably, it’s the same dynamic that made poison so weak in the early days of Magic.

Back when poision was new, hitting your opponent ten times with Crypt Cobra would kill them with damage three attacks before they died from poison, so it was an exercise in overkill—although it did get through Circle of Protection: Black, which was more relevant than you might think. This overkill issue was corrected in Alliances  and Visions with Swamp Mosquito and Suq’Ata Assassin with evasion and reduced attack power to steal victories. I hope to see Swamp Mosquito in March’s Time Spiral Remastered—it’s a slow clock without more poison effects in the format, but winning a game in Limited with the Mosquito has been a goal of mine since 2006.

Fynn requires half the number of hits as Swamp Mosquito or Suq’Ata Assassin—or Flensermite or Plague Myr; that helps. The issue is that we’ll have to go all-in with Fynn and play Deathtouch creatures, so as not to dilute our attack strategy with traditional damage. This was the downfall of a bad Scars of Mirrodin Draft deck—you’d wind up dealing eight damage and six poison to your opponent and stall out.

I have high hopes for Fynn in Commander, particularly in Sultai colors: Bow of Nylea, Ohran Frostfang, Phyrexian Swarmlord, Graveblade Marauder, Poison-Tip Archer, a smattering of Infect creatures—the deck basically builds itself. It’s not as obnoxious as some poison Commander decks, although I’d recommend packing a backup for your individual playgroup, especially if you got the Atraxa route.

Damia, Sage of Stone is a reasonable general, but I’m switching up my Yarok deck a bit to prioritize Deathtouch—Baleful Strix and Ice-Fang Coatl were already considerations for Yarok, and now they’re locks.

But what about sixty-card decks? I’ve been playing a Deathtouch deck since Ikoria dropped for best-of-one Standard on Arena. It’s a great deal of fun to play, but honestly, most of the wins I’ve scrounged together with Deathtouch Tribal on Arena have been from Hooded Blightfang triggers or from a huge attack with a Primal Mighted Questing Beast. Fynn wouldn’t add much in those instances, leading me to believe that he doesn’t offer much benefit in Standard.

Modern is obviously out of the question. As badly as I want to run Nightshade Peddler outside of Avacyn Restored Limited; Modern Infect doesn’t quite get there, and I don’t think running two-mana 1/1’s will pick up the slack. For the same reason, I’m resisting running Fetid Imp in a Fynn deck; it feels like capitulation to do so. However, I think this strategy becomes more interesting in Historic. There you have more small Deathtouch creatures and the option of Proliferate to get the last few poison counters on your opponent.

First, you can essentially adapt Modern Infect—Fynn and Tetsuko Umezawa are a decent combination when backed up by Tajuru Blightblade and Narnam Renegade. Admiral’s Orders does a reasonable approximation of Infect’s protection spells, and a peppering of counters to keep your vital creatures safe is necessary. Add Vraska, Swarm’s Eminence as your top end and the underused Oakhame Adversary in the sideboard, and you have a fair approximation of the Modern stalwart.

Fair in every sense—it still requires you attacking and connecting ten times and is very susceptible to mass removal, so I’d call it more of a palate cleanser and not a tournament contender. A Time of Need reprint would help, but I’m not expecting that, especially with Kethis lurking around. We could run Collected Company and hope to get lucky, but I don’t love our chances—instead, I’d recommend a Pioneer list with Chord of Calling once physical Magic becomes an option once more.

We could start even more simply with a mono-green Elves list, something like:

Elves of Deep Purple

Creatures (30)
Narnam Renegade
Tajuru Blightblade
Fynn, the Fangbearer
Elvish Clancaller
Wren's Run Vanquisher
Evolution Sage
Imperious Perfect
Elvish Archdruid
Oakhame Adversary
Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
Hornet Queen

Spells (7)
Collected Company
Growing Rites of Itlimoc
Lands (23)
16 Forest
Castle Garenbrig
Blast Zone

Again, this runs into the same issue we see in Standard (and saw back in 1994-1996): you will have won from damage long before you win from poison. That could prove difficult to overcome.

Deathtouch is firmly planted in the overlap of green and black, so if we want to win with Fynn, I would be drawn to Golgari. What if we pivot to a more focused deck, where Vampire of the Dire Moon is your Glistener Elf analogue? Chevill, Bane of Monsters, a card for whom I’ve been longing to find a place, is a great addition.

You Didn't Go To Jarad

Creatures (20)
Vampire of the Dire Moon
Foulmire Knight0
Chevill, Bane of Monsters
Fynn, the Fangbearer
Gifted Aetherborn
Witch of the Moors

Spells (17)
Fatal Push
Assassin's Trophy
Maelstrom Pulse
Vraska, Swarm's Eminence
Key to the City
Lands (23)
Blightchannel Pathway
Overgrown Tomb
Woodland Cemetery
Phyrexian Tower

What if we move away from creatures with natural Deathtouch? The most efficient Deathtouch granter in Historic is Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord, and the most efficient/repeatable token producer is Dreadhorde Invasion. Gingerbrute and Bomat Courier are excellent targets for Sorin’s +1 with Fynn out.

You could go in a different direction with Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, but we lack enough -1/-1 synergy in the format as it stands now. A return to New Phyrexia would potentially help the deck, but I don’t think it’s there yet. Any of these decks would be a blast to play—if only to say that you poisoned someone in a Historic tournament—but I can’t shake the feeling that Fynn by himself isn’t enough.

Fynn may prove to be a tease of what’s to come, a warm-up before poison becomes a real strategy again. We’re meant to see Fynn as a challenge, and I intend to live up to that challenge. Sometimes, playing Magic is about winning, and sometimes its about the bragging rights, something with which Fynn would agree.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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