Atraxa, Praetor's Accountant: Counting Counters
Do you like keeping track of large piles of dice? Is your goal to have more dice on the table than cards? If you play Atraxa, then you probably answered yes to both of these questions. Atraxa is a powerful commander who keeps ticking up every counter she pleases, whether they be poison, wither, or +1/+1 counters. Today, we’ll be talking about her two followers, Corpsejack Menace and Juniper Order Ranger.
Introduced in Return to Ravnica, the Corpsejack Menace is a powerful card seeing consistent play in EDH. Thanks to Iconic Masters, this horror has been downshifted to an uncommon, and can now be our fungal commander. Whenever we would place a +1/+1 counter on a creature we control, we place twice that many counters. Since we’ll be running some creatures that come in with counters on them already, this even means they’ll be coming in double counters. As with any deck you play, make sure you know your own rules interactions before bringing it to the table.
Since I feel this deck has a very obvious direction to take it, I won’t be talking about weird themes to build around. No fungus tribal here, sorry. Instead, we’ll talk about mechanics and synergies that make this commander quite potent. Let’s kick this off with a theme close to Corpsejack’s home plane, Undying. Undying says that if this creature would die, it returns to play with a +1/+1 counter if died without one.
In a similar vein to Undying, we have Persist. Instead of the +1/+1 counter, persist instead gives a -1/-1 counter, weakening the creature that just died. Sadly, we only have two persist creatures we can run in the deck, but we want them both, since they are part of a combo with Ivy Lane Denizen. We can sacrifice a persist creature, then when it reenters, we give it the persist counter, then Ivy Lane Denizen will give it a +1/+1 counter to cancel out the minus one. This means that we can infinitely sacrifice a creature, getting infinite triggers.
Since I brought up the infinite loop, let’s talk about what we use with it to set up a win. Falkenreath Noble combos well here, since each time a persist creature dies, we gain a life, and deal a damage to target player. With this infinite loop, we can kill every opponent at once. Instead, if we have Deathgreeter or Essence Warden out, we will be gaining infinite life, which is plenty of time to win via other means.
What do we do however, if we don’t have the infinite combo together? Well, thanks to our commander, we can just win by beating with doubly huge creatures. We want creatures that can keep giving themselves or others counters, rather than creatures that only enter with counters. Carrion Feeder is great here, since it can be one of our sacrifice outlets for the combo. Spike Drone is also amazing in the deck, since with our commander out, we can pay two mana to give it a counter. This works by paying two and taking a counter off it, then putting one back on, but Corpsejack will give it another one.
Next, I think some spells to give our creatures counters would be a great option for the deck. Obviously, these spells have double potency with our commander, and can turn even our smallest mana dorks into threatening monsters. The enchantments below can keep growing our creatures to terrifying proportions, leaving our opponents scrambling for an answer.
The versatility of this deck can make it a powerful threat at any stage of the game. We can simply overrun our enemies with giant creatures or we can chain together a combo to gain infinite life, grow an infinite creature, or simply end the game. This is similar to how the second commander plays, Juniper Order Ranger.
The ranger doesn’t double up on counters, but he does give them out for free, no extra steps required. This means that we can run plenty of cards that make extra tokens, as each 1/1 we make turns into a 2/2, while also making our commander larger. This makes many cards go from ‘all right’ to ‘remove on sight.’ We’ll start with some token making powerhouses.
So, let’s take a step back and have a look at our commander. If two creatures come into play at the same time, our commander will get two counters, and each of those creatures will get a counter. As such, our commander will grow to immense size quite quickly. Since we’re looking to run a lot of tokens, let’s take a look at a mechanic from the Ravnican guild Selesnya, Populate. Having populate on these cards grants us extra value because of the stat boosting our commander does.
Since we talked about infinite combos in Corpsejack Menace, let’s take a look at some infinites in this deck too. We’ll be using a familiar face here, Ivy Lane Denizen, as part of a combo. The main two cards we’ll use to combo are so well known that there’s a pauper combo deck named after them: Midnight Gond. Kithkin Spellduster is another card that combos for us, and is quite potent against enchantment decks, for obvious reasons.
The Midnight Gond combo works by enchanting the Presence of Gond onto the Midnight Guard, then tapping the Guard to make a creature token, which untaps the Guard, which lets us retap the Guard to make a creature, which untaps the Guard, etc. This combo is incredibly potent, but can also be easily removed. Many people know of it, and as soon as the Guard comes in, you have a target on your head. But how can we get the combo into play more easily? We don’t have much for searching for creatures, but we -can- search for auras.
Since we’re heavily invested into tokens, let’s take a look at some of the best token making spells. The spells I looked at are repeatable effects, meaning that as long as they aren’t countered or removed, we can get continuous value throughout the game. Sprout Swarm can be cast by using only creatures, including the Buyback cost. Night Soil is incredibly useful for us since we are not reanimating creatures from our graveyard, and it can shut out graveyard decks at the same time. The last one here has one of my favorite mechanics, Retrace. Retrace turns our late game land draws into valuable spells.
Both commanders love their +1/+1 counters, but go about it different ways. Corpsejack Menace will be growing a pile of counters high, while Juniper Order Ranger will be spreading the love to all who join his army. While we don’t have access to the powerful Proliferate each turn, we can still grow a tower of counters that will leave us reaching for more dice. I hope you fine folks have enjoyed the trek through Commander 2016 and discovered some new cards that may even find a home in your EDH decks. I had a blast writing this series, and will be continuing the spirit soon with a journey into Commander 2015!