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 Post subject: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-17 5:27 pm 
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There have been a number of discussions about poison in Commander, but most of them have been focused purely arguments over power level. I wanted to take a more strategic look at the ways I've seen poison appearing in EDH and the implications of each.

1) Dedicated Poison Decks

Generally green/black or green/black/blue, these are decks that run a large number of infect creatures, using poison as their primary win condition. Since most of the infect creatures are very small, it is often supplemented with equipment strategies or pump spells.

This sort of deck can be very lethal but is at best moderately effective in small games, and gets exponentially worse as the number of players increases. You have to run a lot of sub-par cards begin with, and the fact that you're interacting with a different life total than the other players makes the deck scale very poorly.

This can be a fun way to shake up metagames a bit, but is far from dominating and is very unlikely to win 4+ player games.

2) Skithiryx as Commander

This is the other type of deck that can use poison as a primary win condition, but is an entirely different beast from the multicolor infect deck. You may well not even run any other infect creatures.

Skithiryx is an extremely deadly commander, killing in three hits for only five mana (six if he comes out with haste). Cards like Nightmare Lash can easily allow him to kill an opponent the turn he comes out.

Otherwise, this deck is pretty much classic MBC EDH. You have the same weaknesses (lack of artifact/enchantment removal) and the same strengths (Cabal Coffers). Skithiryx is certainly the most lethal general available to the archetype, but not necessarily better than Anowon, Geth, or Drana.

3) Supplemental Infect Creatures

This is still a relatively rare strategy, but it's the one I find most interesting: The use of a few infect creatures in an otherwise normal deck. I think we'll see more and more of this as we get more used to the mechanic as a normal part of Magic.

Blightsteel Colossus and Skithiryx are the most commonly used due to their combination of resilience and lethality, but I've had good luck with Phyrexian Crusader and Inkmoth Nexus in my equipment deck. I can imagine other cards like Viridian Corrupter seeing play as a removal spell/incidental five-turn clock.

These cards suffer from a magnified version of the damage-not-stacking problem, since it doesn't even interact with the rest of your deck. Even Blightsteel Colossus can get chumped by a 2/2 and exiled, rendering the "nine damage" it did to your opponent completely null.

4) Giving Creatures Infect

There are currently four cards that can grant infect - Tainted Strike, Grafted Exoskeleton, Phyresis, and Corrupted Conscience. They all have the ability to make single creatures kill very quickly, but all have their own disadvantages in non-infect decks.

Phyresis is by far the weakest of the three, providing the usual aura card disadvantage and lacking the surprise factor of instant speed. I can imagine seeing it in sub-par Zur and Geth decklists, but I don't think it's going to be wrecking any metas.

Grafted Exoskeleton is a very powerful equipment, making even the smallest creatures a very short clock. Fortunately, that power comes at a heavy cost - any artifact removal spell can easily net a two-for-one, and even a bounce spell will be enough to kill the equipped creature. The card certainly has it's place (Godo can tutor it out and kill in one turn while equipped) but the high risk keeps it in check.

Tainted Strike is probably the scariest of the cards, leaping out at instant speed to kill players unexpectedly, sometimes even pumping an opponent's creature. Someone even started a thread asking if the card was too dickish to play in casual games. The thing about this card, though, is that it only kills you if you're already taking a 9+ power creature to the face. Yes, it can potentially kill out of nowhere, but it does so in a narrow (and predictable) enough margin that I don't think it warrants much concern.

Corrupted Conscience is a very interesting card that I have not fully explored. Creature-steal effects can be powerful in EDH, and CC has the upside of drastically increasingly the lethality of the stolen creature. The prospect of seeing this card steal my Akroma, Angel of Wrath is terrifying indeed. If anything, I would compare this card to having a single infect creature like Skithiryx or BSC in your deck - potentially deadly, but a removal spell can effectively undo all the damage the creature has done.

Conclusions

I think poison definitely has a place in Commander, and I don't think that any of it's roles are so powerful or unfun that it needs to be nerfed. If anything, I'd like to see it encourage players to run a bit more instant spot-removal in their decks, which I believe is more conducive to good games than clogged boards or an overabundance of sweepers.

There are currently only about five infect creatures that approach the card quality I expect of creatures in EDH. Dedicated infect decks have to suffer heavily in card quality to get a critical mass of infect creatures.

What do you guys think? Did I forget any important poison archetypes? Any particular point you disagree with?

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-17 5:53 pm 
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I think that's an excellent synopsis of where poison stands in EDH at the moment.

The RC is certainly aware of poison and the fact that 10 < 40. We're waiting to see what the rest of the block brings, before making any decisions about poison in the commander rules, but for the moment I think I'll use this as my go-to link for explaining how I feel about the subject.

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-17 6:03 pm 
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It's not really infect acting on its own, so you may have intetionally left it out, but there's infect with the intent to proliferate. In a proliferate-heavy deck, you need only get one poison counter on each opponent, sit back and do your thing. This is made easier with the pressence of Ichor Rats, Virulent Wound, and Pistus Strike. I'm not qualified to rate it's power, but as far as infect is concerned, I worry about it more than anything but Sithiryx.

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-17 6:16 pm 
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Proliferate can change the situation somewhat, especially if there are non-infect decks trying to use it. Taking one hit from Skithiryx before he dies is a lot scarier if Experiment Kraj is sitting two seats down with Contagion Engine.

That said, there are few enough repeatable proliferators that I don't think it changes the argument dramatically. Even the best of them, Contagion Engine, will rarely be worth playing outside of a counter-based deck. I've seen proliferate kill someone with the last counter or two, but I've never seen it successfully grin someone all the way from Pistis Strike to death at 10 counters.

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-17 6:43 pm 

Joined: 2008-Nov-10 2:14 am
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Other than the already mentioned proliferate situation (which I think is mostly relevant in the supplemental infect style, or as splash damage from another deck), this is pretty much bang-on how I feel right now. A well thought out and detailed post.

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-18 7:02 pm 

Joined: 2008-Aug-02 10:17 am
Age: Elder Dragon
@obsidiandice: I agree with Genomancer - excellent read, and a great summary.

Rollcage wrote:
It's not really infect acting on its own, so you may have intetionally left it out, but there's infect with the intent to proliferate. In a proliferate-heavy deck, you need only get one poison counter on each opponent, sit back and do your thing. This is made easier with the pressence of Ichor Rats, Virulent Wound, and Pistus Strike. I'm not qualified to rate it's power, but as far as infect is concerned, I worry about it more than anything but Sithiryx.


Of the proliferate cards that allow repeated use, only tree are really playable. Contagion Engine is a powerhouse, but costs 10 mana to give two additional counters. When it comes out, you should be able to destroy it. Thrummingbird is much faster, but a 1/1 creature. Throne of Geth is the only one that has both speed and power. Tezzereting for artifact lands with this thing is powerful.

Proliferating someone to death feels weird as it's a mechanic we're not used to. But having a clock of 5-9 after getting one counter doesn't seem to make poison any more broken.

You can really see that wizards looked at proliferate carefully. There aren't to many cards that have the ability, and they are very much kept in check. I'm working on a 5 color deck that uses proliferate with planeswalkers, and I can't in any way see a reason to use poison as an alternate win-con.

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-24 6:56 am 
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There is a guy who frequents the store I play at. He runs a Glissa, the Traitor deck with nothing but infectors and creatures buffs (such as Rancor). It's a fast, and very hard to deal with deck. Not many people run single-target removal on a mass scale, so you're eating 5+ poison a turn. Not too much fun. The game lasted much longer than another game someone cheated a BSC into play on turn 4, but we had to waste a lot of tutoring to find answers for his shennanigans.

I view poison about the same as the "set life to 10" cards. They are there, and we have to live with them. Hopefully nobody uses them too often, and if they do I'll find someone else to play against.

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-24 2:35 pm 
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I personally love the addition of poison to this format. It makes serious beatdown decks a real threat in a format that is generally defined by control and huge sorceries.

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-24 2:46 pm 
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Good synopses over all I just feel that you missed a huge part of the giving creatures infect. Sure it can be used to beat face faster, and the unexpected kills from Tainted strike. But it has ridiculous power on any kind of ping creature. for example: Bloodshot Cyclops Bloodfire Colossus Bosh, Iron Golem Brion Stoutarm Hammerfist Giant Heartless Hidetsugu Kaervek the Merciless Molten-Tail Masticore Skirk Fire Marshal Stalking Vengeance Stuffy Doll

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-24 4:06 pm 

Joined: 2008-Nov-30 12:36 pm
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Bruticus wrote:
Good synopses over all I just feel that you missed a huge part of the giving creatures infect. Sure it can be used to beat face faster, and the unexpected kills from Tainted strike. But it has ridiculous power on any kind of ping creature. for example: Bloodshot Cyclops Bloodfire Colossus Bosh, Iron Golem Brion Stoutarm Hammerfist Giant Heartless Hidetsugu Kaervek the Merciless Molten-Tail Masticore Skirk Fire Marshal Stalking Vengeance Stuffy Doll



I think you might be overstating this slice of the Poison Counter Pie a little bit, but you still have a good point... personally I think giving Infect to a Skirk Fire Marshal is absolutely hilarious, and I hope I live to see it happen in a multi-player game some day... "you know what? everyone drinks the kool-aid, no exceptions!"

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-24 4:55 pm 
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thaumaturge wrote:
Bruticus wrote:
Good synopses over all I just feel that you missed a huge part of the giving creatures infect. Sure it can be used to beat face faster, and the unexpected kills from Tainted strike. But it has ridiculous power on any kind of ping creature. for example: Bloodshot Cyclops Bloodfire Colossus Bosh, Iron Golem Brion Stoutarm Hammerfist Giant Heartless Hidetsugu Kaervek the Merciless Molten-Tail Masticore Skirk Fire Marshal Stalking Vengeance Stuffy Doll



I think you might be overstating this slice of the Poison Counter Pie a little bit, but you still have a good point... personally I think giving Infect to a Skirk Fire Marshal is absolutely hilarious, and I hope I live to see it happen in a multi-player game some day... "you know what? everyone drinks the kool-aid, no exceptions!"


As noted in the BSC thread: More hilarious is a Heartless Hidetsugu deck that burns ITSELF down to 19, gets Grafted Exoskeleton on the field, plays Hidetsugu using Shinka or something to give him haste, and equips it. "Oops, I win." The bad part about this deck is that it would probably only work once.

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Feb-25 8:09 am 

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One win I'll never forget was when I randomly decided to put in Corrupted Conscience into my Niv-Mizzet deck and later realize I can use it on my Niv... Draw a card, give a poison counter.


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Mar-01 8:02 pm 

Joined: 2011-Mar-01 12:09 pm
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I'm okay with allowing infection as a win condition in EDH, but I have a problem with ten counters = dead. It seems natural to me that the General or Commander should have a greater base power than other creatures in the deck: General 21 points = dead ; other creatures, 40 points. But how can you justify increasing any infect creature's base power to twice that of a General's? Infect 10 seems to do that. Some of the players I know use 20 infect as an acceptable game over.


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of Poison in Commander
AgePosted: 2011-Mar-02 1:34 pm 

Joined: 2011-Mar-01 12:09 pm
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Sorry about that. You started out by saying that you didn't really want to focus on poison power levels and that's just what I did. Please ignore the newb.


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