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Usually Bones is so casual when he’s off duty that people on board can forget that he knows all their personal information. Not that he’d ever misuse it. But one night everyone was very drunk, amd Jim was insisting that Bones couldn’t possibly remember who on board has an appendix. So everyone lined up and Bones walked down the aisle. Yes. Yes. No. No. Yes. Yes. No. Yes. No. No. No. You’re species doesn’t have one. Yes. Yes.
100% correct.

Cryptic Commander #9: Why Did it Have to Be Snakes

Don’t you just love it when a new Legendary Creature gets spoiled and you know it was meant to be? I got to experience that yesterday when a certain Commander-to-be got spoiled over Twitter, and man am I head-over-heels for this card. Let’s cut to the chase:

(You see what I did there? The card was spoiled by Elaine Chase over on Twitter. You know what? It isn’t funny anymore. I had to explain it. Forget I said anything.)

So, brief personal aside on my experience with BG in Commander. I’ve tried to build a couple of different decks with the color combo, and I ultimately end up with what feels like the same deck. Graveyard Shenanigans.dek. There’s nothing wrong with graveyard decks, I’m just really tired of how the BG ones play out. Jarad and Meren did their best, but I could not be convinced to play BG after I finally took them apart. None of the other BG generals really appealed to me, from Nath of the Gilt Leaf to Sapling of Colfenor. Then they spoiled Hapatra, and the gears started turning immediately. I started playing Magic just before Scars of Mirrodin came out, so -1/-1 counters were part of my formative Magic experience. It has been too long since we had -1/-1 counters, and now they’re giving us a Commander in BG that cares about -1/-1 counters. Thank you based Wizards for bestowing this gift upon me and all the other lovers of -1/-1 counters in this game. We are truly #blessed.

So, what sort of things can you do with Hapatra? I suppose you could attack with her, suiting her up with a Whispersilk Cloak so she can get in unopposed and slowly build up counters and snakes for you. You could do that, and it’s probably a decent thing to include in whatever deck you build, just to have a back-up plan; but, I like to dream big. There are a handful of very playable Commander cards that like to throw -1/-1 counters around to every creature. Thanks to the wording on Hapatra, you won’t be rewarded for placing a bunch of -1/-1 counters on a single creature as part of the same affect (see “Whenever one or more” wording), but putting one counter on a bunch creatures means an army of snakes in the making. The following are some of the best at this:

Black Sun’s Zenith for one has never been so rewarding! Paying three mana to weaken the entire board and make a bunch of snakes seems like a great plan. You could also just wrath the board and be the only one left with creatures at the end of it. Even if Hapatra dies in the process, you’ll still get all the snakes because she’ll see the counters placed on everything before hitting the bin. Carnifex Demon gives you another good, recurring source of -1/-1 counters. If you have a way to get counters on it besides the ones it comes into play with (like Hapatra’s ability or something like Gnarled Effigy), the demon can be a real problem. Contagion Engine kind of speaks for itself. Putting a counter on each of an opponent’s creatures and then proliferating twice will get you three separate triggers from Hapatra for three times the snakes. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg, the most obvious thing you can do.

Alright, we’re starting to get somewhere now. Crumbling Ashes insures that you never have to commit too many counters to the same creature. It’ll die sooner or later anyway. Blowfly Infestation lets you recycle some of the counters from dying creatures for another Hapatra trigger and more value. Necroskitter makes those sweet creatures your opponents have work for you after they die with a counter on them. It’s finally time for Necroskitter’s day in the sun! However, you don’t just have to put counters on your opponents’ creatures. Have you considered putting counters on your own creatures?

There are a couple of creatures that like to have -1/-1 counters on them for utility purposes. Blow up more artifacts by keeping your Wickerbough Elder fully stocked. Beat down hard with a resilient threat in the form of Deity of Scars. Grim Poppet lets you pinpoint the counters you want to disseminate and take out problematic creatures. You also have the option of throwing Quillspike into the deck for what can only be described as shenanigans. Quillspike will let you remove counters from any of your creatures, which means Persist creatures are gonna get to come back for multiple go-arounds. Puppeteer Clique and Woodfall Primus say hi! And that’s only the fair thing you can do with Quillspike. Turns out Quillspike goes infinite with Devoted Druid. Put a counter on Devoted Druid to untap it, tap it for a Green mana, use the Green mana to remove the counter with Quillspike’s ability, repeat ad infinitum. If you have Hapatra in play, this means infinite snakes. Seems pretty good to me, but treat infinite combos with care. It isn’t fun to lose to them, or win with them, all the time. Be nice about, huh?

Considering how few sets have featured -1/-1 counters in the history of Magic, there are certainly a lot of cool things you can do with them. There’s even an Enchantment that basically has Hapatra’s ability, except it makes Elves instead. Flourishing Defenses. There’s all sorts of things you can do with a Hapatra deck, and I am really excited to try them out!

So, what do you think of the newest BG Legendary? New hotness or soon to be forgotten? Let me know what you think! Any cool interactions I might not have noticed? I would love to see them! Until then, enjoy the rest of spoiler season for Amonkhet and hopefully there will be even more Commander goodies to discuss.

Robert Burrows