A Common Disease – Building a Poison Counter Common Deck (M:tG)

Today’s Magic: the Gathering article is gonna be about a deck that is peculiar in two aspects:

Firstly, the deck I am going to discuss is a Common-Deck, a deck containing only Common cards (the least rare type of cards in M:tG), and secondly, this deck does not win by dealing 20 damage to the opponent like normal, but rather by “poisoning”  your adversary.

As I like casual, fun and low-budget decks and also am fond of  (self-set) “deckbuilding challenges”, that is building the best deck(s) possible out of a limited pool of cards. That is why Common-Decks are of great interest to me. Common cards are easily accessible (you can order Common Sets with playsets of all Commons in one Edition for about 5 bucks on ebay for instance) and diverse, albeit not as powerful in general as the Uncommon, Rare or (nowadays) even Mythic Rare cards. Building a good deck solely composed off Common cards is surely challenging and interesting, and the result can be a very rewarding gameplay experience, especially when you manage to beat the c*** out of a hellishly expensive, maxed-out, über-tuned opponent deck with your lowly all-Commons deck.

Now as I was planning on doing a Common-Deck, I looked through the Common cards in the newer Editions, which I had not been familiar with at all since it has been like half a year that I hadn’t looked at a single Magic card or played a single game of Magic, and noticed one thing: They were doing “Poison Counters” again. Being a huge fan of alternative roads to victory, not only in M:tG but other similar games as well, the concept of poisoning the opponent instead of inflicting a lethal 20 damage had always intrigued me. For those who know nothing about Poison Counters in Magic, here is how it works. It is plain and simple: A player who has at least 10 Poison Counters loses immediately. Now what kept me from making a “good” Poison Counter deck was the lack of playable cards which inflicted Poison Counters and the disappointing overall power-level and playability of the old Poison Counter cards like this one for example:

As I explored the cards of the last three blocks released, I was mighty pleased that Wizards (of the Coast) has been showing a lot of love to this almost forgotten alternative way to victory by introducing the Infect ability/keyword and releasing lots of powerful Creatures they attached it to. Now a Creature with Infect does the following: It inflicts damage to a Creature in the form of -1/-1 Counters (which can be handy to kill off a big opponent Creature over several turns as the -1/-1 counters will not “heal” at each end of turn as regular damage would) and damage to a player in the form of Poison Counters. Now what makes a Poison strategy really viable is not only the considerable power level of the Creatures they stuck the new keyword onto, but also the sheer number of Creatures with Infect that were released, moslty in green and black. According to statistics there are almost 50 Creatures with the Infect ability, and many, and not only the weakest, happen to be common cards, just like this awesome fellow:

No, you are not hallucinating: Blight Agent has infect and is UNBLOCKABLE at a meager cost of 1U! This one got me. I had to make a Poison Counter Deck! As there are many at least decent other Commons with Infect, and as I wanted to build an all-Commons Deck anyways, I thought “why not kill two birds with one stone” and do a Poison Counter Common deck? The result can be seen below:

A Common Disease:

Creatures…24

4 x Glistener Elf (G)

4 x Llanowar Elves (G)

4 x Blight Mamba (1G)

4 x Blight Agent (1G)

4 x Viridian Betrayers (1GG)

4 x Rot Wolf (2G)

Instants…16

4 x Giant Growth (G)

4 x Mutagenic Growth (G)

4 x Vapor Snag (U)

4 x Mana Leak

4 x Predator’s Strike

Lands…20

4 x Soaring Seacliff

4 x Island

12 x Forest

Well there you have it. The first of probably many Common-decks to come. A green Poison Counter deck with a splash of blue to support the awesome Blight Agent! In total this deck features 20 Creatures which have Infect (Viridian Betrayers only have Infect when the opponent is already poisoned – a condition not all to hard to meet in this deck)

Let me comment on the cards I have chosen to run in this one:

Glistener Elf:

A 1/1 Infect Creature for G. Pretty simple, pretty powerful especially when powered-up via Giant Growth / Mutagenic Growth / Predator’s Strike.

Llanowar Elves: 

These guys ensure that you can drop your 3 mana Creatures on turn 2. Also useful to produce extra mana needed to power up your Creatures with Giant Growth etc.

Blight Mamba:

Another 1/1 with Infect that regenerates. Inferior to the unblockable Blight Agent however.

Blight Agent:

My absolute favorite card in this deck. I remember one of my very first Magic Decks, which was all about unblockables and actually quite similar to this deck. Back then, Metathran Soldier, an unblockable 1/1 for 1U was considered good. But take Metathran Soldier and stick the new Infect abiltiy onto it  and you got yourself one great card for a Poison Counter deck like this one. Just imagine the not all too unlikely scenario of summoning the Agent on turn 2, then launching an unblockable attack on turn 3, slamming down some of your cheap boosting instants such as Giant Growth and Mutagenic Growth to inflict a ton of Poison Counters early on! In fact, a tripple Giant Growth on Blight Agent on turn 3, however unlikely it is to actually happen, spells game over for your opponent.

Viridian Betrayers:

A 3/1 for 3 mana that will in most cases have Infect. Not a bad deal at all for a lowly Common!

Rot Wolf:

Well he is slightly weaker than the above Viridian Betrayers at 2/2 but he has got a pretty great ability: Whenever a Creature Rot Wolf damaged dies, you draw a card. I love cards that draw you more cards and this one will draw you some, especially when combined with your boost instants to kill off larger enemy Creatures.

Giant Growth/Mutagenic Growth/Predator’s Strike:

Three different cards, one purpose: Boosting the power of your Creatures in order to inflict as many Poison Counters as possible and, to a lesser extent, strengthen your Creatures for battles with opponent Creatures. As mentioned above, these three Instants are deadly when combined with the impossible to block Blight Agent for example. Each of the three has their merits to it: Giant Growth gives +3/+3 for one Mana, Mutagenic Growth only +2/+2 but can be cast without paying any mana by paying 2 life instead and Predator’s Strike, while costing 1 more than Giant Growth, gives a Creature Trample in addition to a +3/+3 stats boost. The Trample bit may actually matter considering you want to inflict 10 Poison Counters on your opponent as fast as possible and don’t have Blight Agent at the ready.

Vapor Snag:

I decided to include this one to get rid of potential blockers and also of any bothersome opponent Creatures, as the overall strenght of my own Creatures is quite lacking.

Mana Leak:

Well, countering early on with the very splashable Mana Leak can be useful in many situations, still this is the card I am least sure about if it is really necessary in this particular deck. I may drop this one for something more useful sooner or later.

Soaring Seacliff:

This card is fantastic in a deck like this one, the reason being that it gives one of your Creatures Flying for one turn when it comes into play. This is awesome as it makes one of your Poisonous critters hard to block for one turn, which may result in many Poison Counters for your opponent, and that at zero cost. Soaring Seacliff is best kept in your hand, unless you need a blue Mana Source badly, until a worthy target for its ability is ready to attack. A recommended target would be Viridian Betrayers (if you opponent has at least 1 Poison Counter, thus giving Infect to Betrayers) as they have a base attack of 3. Of course, Flying is not exactly a rare ability to be seen in other decks, so the Flying bonus granted by Soaring Seacliff my not do any good in some match-ups. Still I think it is a good addition to my Poison Counter Common Deck!

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