It’s the week following Amonkhet spoiler season, and you know what that means! Or, maybe you don’t, since this column has only existed for one prior set release. In which case: it’s time to highlight one of the new legends! Without further ado, let me introduce our new snake-y friend, Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons:
Way back in my budget deck for Rishkar, Peema Renegade, you might recall a discussion of resources and resource exchange: many interesting commanders exist at the intersection of two otherwise unconnected resources. Rishkar combined mana generation and +1/+1 counters, two themes that are respectively integral to Magic, and used in nearly every set. Hapatra is… a little more niche; however, that doesn’t mean there isn’t support! Let’s take a deep dive into Amonkhet, New Phyrexia, and Shadowmoor to see what we find!
Carnifex Demon art by Aleksi Briclot
When building a commander for its “usual” theme, I like to include a section on cards particular to that theme, because such cards aren’t always easily categorized into ramp, removal, and so forth. That is absolutely not the case for Hapatra, if only because -1/-1 counters happen to be pretty good for removing creatures. Carnifex Demon, Black Sun’s Zenith, Harbinger of Night, and Midnight Banshee are mass-removal cards that also generate baskets full of snakes. Cauldron of Souls acts as recursion whose usual limitation is suddenly an upside. And, depending on our build, the -1/-1 counter theme can easily provide straightforward win conditions via combo.
Given how wildly different playgroups’ opinions vary on the topic of infinite combos, it’s up to you whether you wish to use them. That said, I am including a few infinite combos in our base list, because they are precisely on-theme. One combo is the classic pairing of Quillspike and Devoted Druid, for an arbitrarily-large Quillspike. Combine this with one piece of evasion like our Bellowing Tanglewurm, Rogue’s Passage, or Thunderfoot Baloth when you need to go in for the kill. Even when we’re not comboing, Quillspike can help by pulling -1/-1 counter off of our creatures.
For table-kills, we can turn to Blowfly Infestation. As long as Hapatra is on the field and we have two snakes, we can kill one snake with any -1/-1 counter effect, which both creates another snake and triggers Blowfly Infestation. Combine this effect with Blood Artist and these infinite death triggers become infinite lifeloss for every opponent. If you prefer your deck to focus more on death triggers, perhaps the death triggers caused by little nips from deathtouching snakes, you might include other Blood Artist effects like Zulaport Cutthroat or Falkenrath Noble.
Decimator of the Provinces art by Svetlin Velinov
If those kinds of combos aren’t your speed, there’s always the option of donking our opponents with a horde of tokens. In addition to Hapatra’s own effect, the enchantments Nest of Scarabs and Flourishing Defenses assist with our token output. Once we have a critical mass of tokens, we can drop Thunderfoot Baloth or Decimator of the Provinces before swinging out.
Considering all the snakes popping out of the aether, we’re within our rights to apply snake-tribal themes (and since I love snake tribal, I’m absolutely going to take this opportunity). Seshiro the Anointed provides a static boost to our snake tokens, and presents a useful catch-22: opponents can block the deathtouch snakes and lose a creature, or block nothing and let us draw cards. In the department of less-fun-but-no-less-effective, Shisato, Whispering Hunter often locks one player out of the game so long as either Hapatra or another -1/-1 counter effect creates one snake per turn.
Archfiend of Ifnir art by Seb McKinnon
There is a long and growing list entitled, “Things Bryce Likes in Commander”. Today, we’ll make sure the cycling mechanic is on that list too. As a deck, Hapatra is not immediately predisposed to cycling themes, but when I saw how powerful Archfiend of Ifnir could be in our deck, I just had to build for it. I squeezed a few cycling cards into multiple corners: some are lands, some are removal, some are ramp. Ruthless Sniper is another Amonkhet card to help us bridge Cycling and -1/-1 counters, albeit less efficiently than the Archfiend.
Shefet Monitor is a decent piece of ramp with an additional use in our deck, because it fetches the new Grasping Dunes, and thus can be used to convert a land into a deathtouch snakes in times of great need (but only at sorcery speed).
Oh look, a new closing segment! Exchanges and Returns is a space to glance back at old deck lists when exciting new cards come to light. For this first installment, we’re pulling Sedris, the Traitor King out of the graveyard to show him Embalmer’s Tools, whose highly-specific cost reduction lets us Unearth creatures for two mana instead of three. With a stronger zombie theme, we can also use its activated ability to mill more creatures for later Unearthing. And now, back to Hapatra!
Thanks to our reverence to the mighty God-Pharaoh, our deck list will run us a little under $60.00, according to TCG Player’s Mid pricing. If I’ve learned anything from this deck tech article, it’s that Hapatra is a wonderfully versatile commander. This list straddles the lines of multiple themes, but I could easily imagine Hapatra decks that fully commit to one of combo, midrange/tokens, infect, snake tribal, or beyond. Want to share your own Hapatra brew? Interested in gushing about how great Cycling and snakes are? Say hello on Tumblr, tweet some tweets on my Twitter, or send me an email. And until next we meet, enjoy your time browsing the Low Market.