Forgotten Harvest – Mairsil, Pretending to be a Voltron

(Mairsil, the Pretender | Art by Izzy)

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Once again, it’s time for another Forgotten Harvest, the article series where I highlight the most underplayed cards on EDHREC, clocking in at 300 decks or less. And, as has become common practice for me in this series, I’ll be taking a commander that isn’t supposed to “Voltron” and suiting it up for battle. We did it with Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient, and then again with Muldrotha, the Gravetide. This time, Mairsil, the Pretender gets a chance to supersize!

Now, before I get into some of the interesting and hyper-underplayed cards that can help Mairsil get swole, it’s important to mention those that have covered the Pretender before me: fellow EDHREC writers Joseph Schultz and Andrew Cummings both did a great job covering many options for Mairsil. I’m going to be covering a few of the cards that they’ve mentioned before, but I highly recommend checking those articles out to get the full picture of this commander. I’ve limited my deck to specifically pumping up Mairsil with +1/+1 counters via his cage counter trick. To do this, we’ll be leaning on looting and self-mill effects to ensure a plethora of targets, as well as effects that allow Mairsil to hit the battlefield multiple times, plus a healthy amount of evasion.

There are also a fair number of cards which can function as stand-ins for Mairsil should he find himself Imprisoned in the Moon or listening to a Song of the Dryads: Necrotic Ooze is a fantastic alternative, but Quicksilver Elemental and Havengul Lich can do more than just copy activated abilities: if Mairsil is on the field, they can borrow his activated abilities.

Alright, let’s find those underplayed gems that help make Mairsil a Voltron!


Counter Argument

First on our list of hyper-underplayed cards is Souldrinker. It sees play in just 58 decks on EDHREC, but putting +1/+1 counters on a creature doesn’t get any easier: trading three life for a +1/+1 counter is an easy, systematic way to buff our Voltron. And don’t forget that, while Mairsil only allows each activated ability to be used once a turn, Souldrinker‘s “free” ability is something you can do each turn: by the time it gets to be your turn again, Mairsil could already be an 8/8.

But, then, if you happen to have the mana, and maybe some extra cards in your hand, Markov Dreadknight can certainly pump up Mairsil faster and with less life lost. Plus, the Dreadknight (263 decks) also has the potential to do some damage on its own, as it has evasion baked right in. The cost of discarding a card is actually a benefit here since it will allow Mairsil to pluck creatures and artifacts with tasty activated abilities right out of the graveyard.

Looking at the decklist below reveals the large number of artifacts in this Grixis build, so it makes sense to include Syndicate Trafficker, both for the easy +1/+1 counter, but also the protection of indestructibility it can grant to Mairsil when caged. It sees play in 248 decks, but offers some much needed protection in this deck to our critically important commander.

Adding one or two counters at a time is nice, but what about really cranking Mairsil’s stats up to 11? For that we have Anthroplasm, one of the first cards I ever brewed with way back in Urza’s Legacy. Only 245 decks have this card right now, but it seems tailor-made for our purposes here. Throw a cage counter on Anthroplasm when our commander hits the field, and the next turn pump as much mana as possible into growing Mairsil into a beast. Sadly, Anthroplasm‘s ability doesn’t stack well, as it removes all counters on the card before adding the new ones.

But maybe Mairsil could use Anthroplasm’s ability as a start, and then follow it up with the activated ability on Solarion the next turn. This card, and a couple other Sunburst cards I’ll talk about later, seem right at home in this deck, even if they can’t be cast for their full potential. But if that option is appealing, I have included cards like Chromatic Lantern and Exotic Orchard to help turn make this Grixis deck capable of all five colors. As an aside, Solarion sees play in only 101 decks on the site.

While slightly on the expensive side, Consumptive Goo provides another route for +1/+1 counter amplification, while also removing a weenie in the process. Ideally used as a quick combat trick, the Goo is only found in 101 decks. Honestly, if I were looking at cards to cut, this would probably be high on the list due to the cost of the ability, but for now it helps keep the mana curve in check, and it functions well on its own without our commander.


Counters as a Cost

Since we’re putting all these counters on Mairsil, it might be good to put those counters to use. Maybe we can use them to knock down planeswalkers with Spinal Parasite. In only 14 measly decks on EDHREC, this Sunburst artifact creature is the only creature ever printed to have a negative toughness. And while that’s not a very good reason to play it, the versatility in removing generic counters from permanents does come in handy.

Another Sunburst creature, Suncrusher (95 decks), pulls double duty for us: not only can it turn extra +1/+1 counters into creature removal, but it can also give Mairsil the ability to bounce himself, allowing for a recast and another card exiled with a cage counter on it. While nine mana is high, I think there’s great versatility here, and the chances that it’ll wind up on the battlefield as opposed to just feeding Mairsil are low.

Molten Hydra‘s abilities allow for both the addition of counters to Mairsil and a mass damage move. After a few turns of Solarion, there may be enough +1/+1 counters on Mairsil for him to go lethal using Molten Hydra‘s second ability. The Hydra sees play in 102 decks, and while I’m sure there are better iterations of both of its abilities, getting them both on a single card is very valuable.


Through the Line

Now that we’ve talked about ways to make Mairsil huge, we should spend some time on just how he’s going to connect with opponents. First up, we have an excellent option in Marchesa’s Smuggler. Only seeing play in 282 decks, this has to be one of my favorite Izzet cards! The creature is well-costed, as is its activated ability, and it doesn’t need any other card to work thanks to Dethrone. In this deck, it provides the best evasion, as well as some very relevant haste, all thanks to an activated ability that could end up on a Necrotic Ooze or Havengul Lich. A perfect fit!

I looked very hard at the series of “Avenger” cards printed throughout Magic. The two I settled on for this deck were Urza’s Avenger and Jodah’s Avenger. Played in 27 and 263 decks, respectively, these cards have some great evasion-granting activated abilities, and they’re just begging to get “caged” by Mairsil. While it does hurt that you can only use the effect once a turn, having multiple Avengers can help that. Maybe having even a third or fourth version of the card would be beneficial.

While the typical Mairsil, the Pretender deck runs untapping cards like Leech Bonder and Hateflayer, I like my untap effects to come with some evasion. Hence, I’ve included Merrow Wavebreakers in the deck. Providing a cheap way to untap Mairsil while also granting evasion fits right in line with this deck’s gameplan. Anymore, this kind of effect seems to be found more in white, so I’m glad to see it in blue here. The Wavebreakers are in only 30 decks on the site, which seems low to me for a good Merfork card with a unique ability.

Lastly, I’ve included a card to help add some chaos to your Mairsil games: Bane Alley Broker (99 decks). While it may not seem like a very good card, getting the Broker’s ability on Mairsil while you also have Myr Welder in a cage can lead to some very interesting interactions, not to mention what happens if you exile it using Dark Impostor‘s ability. Let me know in the comments if you pick up on any of the other fun interactions this card can create in the deck.

And speaking of the deck, here it is.

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I Could’ve Been a Pretender!

That’s about all there is for this Forgotten Harvest. Questions? Suggestions? Snide remarks? Leave them for me below in the comments. I’ll be around to talk about how I left Horseshoe Crab and Soliton off of my list, and why I can’t seem to stop making Voltron decks in this article series. What are some of the more interesting activated abilities that Mairsil could gain, especially from hyper-underplayed cards? Are there any activated ability interactions in Grixis that need more attention? Let me know, and I’ll see you next time!

Midwest transplant to the Pacific Northwest, Kyle has been playing the jankiest of decks for nearly 20 years. He loves non-lethal combos, obscure deck themes, Cloudstone Curio, and winning with Coalition Victory. When he's not tapping lands or brewing decks, Kyle is enjoying his other ridiculously expensive hobby: building with Lego.