The new set of five preconstructed decks released with March of the Machine all have their own appeal. They all seem fun, but there’s also definitely room to improve each of them. This article is focused on Growing Threat, the Phyrexian-themed Orzhov deck.
The Game Plan
The game plan of Growing Threat is difficult to summarise in a single sentence. The deck’s Commander, Brimaz, Blight of Oreskos demonstrates the multitude of strategies this deck seeks to employ. Brimaz rewards players for casting Phyrexian and Artifact Creature spells by creating an Incubator token with X +1/+1 counters on it, where X is equal to the mana cost of the spell in question. Brimaz then Proliferates at the end of any turn where one of its controller’s Phyrexian creatures dies.
Brimaz shows that this deck cares about both Artifact and Phyrexian tribal themes. Brimaz’s Proliferate effect is used to make the incubator tokens he generates stronger, but also opens up the possibility for creative brewers to use him to spread different kinds of counters. The fact that Brimaz’s Proliferate ability activates when Phyrexians die also works alongside the sacrifice cards in the deck like Victimize and Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor.Moira and Teshar, the deck’s sub-commander, has an ability that is a bit more generic than Brimaz’s but can be just as useful. Moira and Teshar return a nonland permanent from the graveyard to play whenever their controller casts a Historic spell. As a reminder, Historic spells are Artifacts, Legendary cards, and Sagas. While in the current build of the deck, this “historic” effect will almost always trigger when the player casts an Artifact, alternative builds of this deck, with Moira and Teshar in the Command zone could care about Legendary cards and Sagas as well. Decks built around Moria and Teshar probably want to run some self-mill options and to adopt more of a Graveyard matters theme, as the card effectively turns a huge number of other cards into temporary reanimation effects.
For players looking to expand the Phyrexian tribal themes of this deck Grafted Butcher is a nice cheap addition. When Grafted Bucher enters play it gives every Phyrexian you control Menace for a turn, along with providing them all with a +1/+1 bonus for as long as it remains alive. The butcher can also be returned from the Graveyard for four mana, and a sacrifice, allowing it to grant everything Menace again as it returns to play.
Phyrexian CensorPhyrexian Censor is another valuable card for players looking to emphasize this deck’s Phyrexian tribal nature. This card prevents more than one non-Phyrexian spell from being cast in a turn and causes all non-Phyrexian creatures to enter play tapped. With a high number of Phyrexian creatures in your deck, you will be able to continue building up your board state, while your opponents are limited to a single spell every turn.
For players looking to pilot this deck as an “artifact creatures matter” deck, rather than (or as well as) a Phyrexian tribal deck, Tempered Steel makes a pretty great addition. This card is an Enchantment that provides all of your Artifact Creatures with a +2/+2 bonus to their stats. The fact that this card is an Enchantment makes it tricky to destroy, and its +2/+2 bonus makes a very impactful difference that can turn the course of fights.
Progenitor Exarch helps support Brimaz, Blight of Oreskos in getting a huge number of Incubator tokens into play and then transforming them. Progenitor Exarch’s strength scales with the amount of mana used to cast it and it becomes gradually more useful as the game goes on. For three mana, the Exarch creates a single 3/3 Incubator token, for five it creates two and for seven it creates three. The ability of the Exarch to transform an Incubator into a Creature without spending any mana is great for getting the ball rolling once it becomes time to go on the offensive.
Priest of Yawgmoth
Finally for those players looking to run more of a Sacrifice focussed build, the ancient card Priest of Yawgmoth is a great Sacrifice outlet. There are already several cards in the deck which work nicely with Priest of Yawgmoth’s ability to sacrifice them for Black mana, none more so than Coveted Jewel. The jewel can be tapped down and then sacrificed to the priest to generate a grand total of nine mana, this also has the upside of preventing any opponents from stealing the jewel and drawing cards with it. It can be tricky to get a Priest of Yawgmoth in good condition, due to the card’s age, but it makes a great addition to this deck.
The new Elesh Norn is the perfect Praetor to compleat this deck. The card’s front side is a decently strong creature that provides a neat Norn’s Annex like effect to keep you safe. It’s The Argent Etchings saga on the reverse side of this card that really makes it a great fit though. The first chapter of the Etchings grants you five new 2/2 Incubators, and hatches all of your Incubators. Then the Etchings grant every creature you control +1/+1 and Double Strike for a turn, before finally destroying everything which isn’t an Artifact, a Phyrexian, or a land. Elesh Norn is a flavorful, thematically appropriate, and incredibly powerful addition to this deck.
Sheoldred, the ApocalypseSheoldred, the Apocalypse is simply an incredibly powerful card that also happens to be a Phyrexian. Drawing cards is an essential part of MTG gameplay and Sheoldred harshly penalizes your opponents for this while rewarding you. The card also enables some powerful two-card combos while it is in your deck, enabling any opponent to be immediately killed by targeting them with Peer Into the Abyss. Sheoldred can also allow its controller to draw their entire deck, without losing due to self-mill, when combined with Lich’s Mastery.
Wurmcoil Engine is one of the most iconic Artifact Creatures in the game, and is also a Phyrexian to boot, making it an ideal fit for this deck. This card’s strength is very well known at this stage, and the multiple bodies that it provides make it very hard to properly answer. This card is a timeless classic that happens to fit well into this deck.
Speaking of powerful Phyrexian Wurms, Phyrexian Fleshgorger is another. The main power of Phyrexian Fleshgorger comes from its variable casting cost. Due to the Prototype mechanic, it can be used either as a mid-sized early-game attacker or a powerful late-game threat. The variety of reanimation effects in this deck like Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering and Path of the Schemere also work nicely with the Fleshgorger as it always returns from the Graveyard in its more powerful 7/7 form.
As the only board wipes this deck currently has are Phyrexian Rebirth and Phyrexian Scriptures it definitely needs access to a few more to get it out of sticky situations. The best board wipes are one-sided ones that destroy your opponents’ Creatures, but leave your own unharmed. Organic Extinction can usually offer that for this deck, as many of its Creatures are also artifacts. It may be worth dialing up the ratio of Artifact Creatures to regular Creatures if you plan on using Organic Extinction, but it’s definitely a worthwhile inclusion.
Cards To Cut
Ambition’s CostAmbition’s Cost is a generic Black card draw spell that ends up getting crammed into a lot of EDH precons to fill them out. It’s an easy cut and can be replaced by cheaper and better Black card draw spells like Sign In Blood or Read the Bones.
When you’re spending six mana on a card in Commander it has to matter and First-Sphere Gargantua just doesn’t. The card draw and ability to unearth the Gargantua are neat to be sure, but for the same mana value you could also be casting Massacre Wurm or Blight Titan.
In Commander, there are decks that want Meteor Golem and decks that don’t. For the steep cost of seven mana, Meteor Golem can destroy any kind of non-land permanent when it enters play. This is extremely useful for decks that have trouble destroying certain Permanent types. For example, Mono-Red decks might choose to run Meteor Golem so they have a way of dealing with Enchantments. Growing Threat has no difficulty dealing with permanents of every type and is stuffed with cards like Utter End and Despark that can do Meteor Golem’s job far more cheaply and effectively. While Meteor Golem does synergize with some of the cards in this deck like Master Splicer and Darksteel Splicer it’s ultimately still a card that you are better off cutting.
There are much better Phyrexians out there than Bone Shredder. Three mana is not worth it for the highly limited removal effect this card offers. The 1/1 flying body this creature offers is also rarely relevant, especially because you need to spend an additional three mana every turn just to keep it alive.
Ichor ElixirIchor Elixir is a bad mana rock, slotted into all of the March of the Machine precons to encourage players to play around with their Planechase cards. Even if you are playing a Planechase game, you would probably still be better off with a Thran Dynamo than this.
Thematically, Growing Threat is very clearly a Phyrexian deck, but mechanically this is represented in many different ways from Phyrexian tribal to a Sacrifice subtheme. Players looking to improve the deck are probably best advised to pick a lane and focus on emphasizing one of this deck’s many themes, whilst downplaying or cutting the others.