Whenever Proliferate in Commander is mentioned, it’s hard not to think of Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice. Created by Praetors as a testament to Phyrexia, Atraxa is arguably the most popular commander of the past two years. And it’s easy to see why!
A four-color 4/4 with four keywords is already a great commander, but the ability to proliferate on your end step as well? I’m all for it. Like plenty of other popular commanders, Atraxa’s design allows for a variety of game plans, such as infect or +1/+1 counters. But what really excites me is Superfriends, so let’s take a better look at this infamous archetype!
WHAT IS THE SUPERFRIENDS ARCHETYPE?
Superfriends can be considered the “Avengers… Assemble!” of commander decks. This archetype looks to enlist the help of many of the 297 planeswalkers printed, filling the table with your spark-ignited buddies and popping off those loyalty abilities all over the shop. Unlike a traditional commander deck, a Superfriends deck is crammed with plenty of planeswalkers and only a handful of creatures. You get to hand pick your very own all-star team – the Harlem Globetrotters of Magic: The Gathering, if you will. The aim is to use that team to overwhelm your opponents with value, activate loyalty abilities as often as possible, and close the game out with powerful ultimates and emblems.
WHERE TO START?
With the huge pool of Planeswalkers to choose from, it can be difficult to choose a focus for your Superfriends build. You may be looking to optimize your deck with the best Planeswalkers available, or maybe it’s pure Phyrexian flavor you’re after with all of the newly Compleated Planeswalkers [ED. NOTE: I mean, not Lukka or Nahiri, but you get the point]! Whatever your style may be, the good news is that there’s plenty of options for you out there. Just keep in mind the usual deckbuilding ethos applies: you’ll want Planeswalkers that can draw you cards, ramp your mana and keep themselves safe by generating blockers is absolutely vital to the game plan.
STRATEGIES AND SYNERGIES
The appeal of running at least twenty Planeswalkers in a deck is the sheer variety of gameplay you can experience. With so many loyalty abilities between them, you’re presented with a near infinite combination of interactions and synergies. So the strategy here is to maximize your possibilities. If it’s simple yet elegant value you’re looking for, cards like Rings of Brighthearth can double up those loyalty abilities. Or maybe you’re looking to get those ultimates off early, with a Deepglow Skate – the table will no doubt recoil in horror as you fire off several devastating minus abilities.
Copying loyalty abilities is all well and good but it’s not actually helping you to tick up those loyalty counters. The inclusion of some key enchantments like Oath of Teferi or Urza Assembles the Titans can allow multiple activations of Planeswalkers per turn, pushing the balance of power in your favor a lot sooner than your opponents would expect. The latter synergizes exceptionally well with Atraxa’s proliferation plan, firing off several chapters in one turn. You could even start it on two with its Read Ahead ability, play a six mana Planeswalker AND cast a proliferate spell to activate it twice that turn… chef’s kiss!
Speaking of proliferation, let’s take a look at the meat and gravy behind the Superfriends deck. Additional counters is the name of the game in these parts and should really be your main focus when it comes to facilitating these heroes. The quantity of great proliferate cards available goes well beyond the word count for this article and it can be hard to decide which ones to include and which ones to cut. However, a good rule of thumb is to prioritize cards like Inexorable Tide and Evolution Sage that use Proliferate as a triggered ability, so that you can reap the benefits over and over again. Of course, it’s not just Planeswalkers that benefit from this ability; start proliferating As Foretold and you will very quickly be playing some powerful spells for free.
With the proliferation game plan, you can really get the most out of otherwise mediocre spells. Loyalty counters and +1/+1 counters aren’t the only thing you can take advantage of and finding these synergies is a lot of fun. You could choose to cast a card like Suspend and then proliferate those time counters every turn, forcing that creature to remain exiled indefinitely. Or a fairly slow card like Pursuit of Knowledge becomes a quick draw seven, especially with the help of Tezzeret’s Gambit.
Ok, you’re doubling up on loyalty abilities and adding extra counters, let’s really spice things up. Two cards that are an absolute must have in any Superfriends deck that’s running green are Doubling Season and Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. These absolute powerhouse permanents aren’t interested in an additional counter here and there, they’re talking double the amount. So any Planeswalker you cast from here on in is entering the battlefield with double the number of loyalty counters and activating that ultimate ability faster than your opponents can say “preposterously punishing Planeswalkers!”. Important to note here; adding counters to activate a loyalty ability is a COST and not an EFFECT, so Vorinclex would let you put twice as many counters on, but Doubling Season would not.
When a deck includes so many Planeswalkers it’s easy to find ways to abuse their abilities with some interesting combos. The all star of any Superfriends deck is The Chain Veil. An artifact that taps to give Planeswalkers extra activations is deadly in the right combination and that combination is Teferi. As long as you’ve got some big mana from the likes of Chromatic Orrey or Faeburrow Elder, Teferi, Temporal Archmage or Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset can repeatedly untap The Chain Veil and the mana producer/s for infinite activations, infinite mana and even infinite card draw (note: Teferi, Temporal Archmage is using a minus ability, so you’ll need a way to proliferate to keep the party rocking).
With a Teferi and The Chain Veil facilitating infinite loyalty activations, all of your other planeswalkers are going to have a field day and certain Planeswalkers can use this to immediately end games. Jace, Memory Adept can mill all of your opponent’s libraries with his 0 ability and Kaya, Intangible Slayer can continuously activate her +2 ability to gain you life and drain your opponents at the same time.
Atraxa doesn’t just stop at Planeswalker combos, she herself likes to get in on the action too. With a counter on Magistrate’s Scepter and Contagion Engine in play, Atraxa allows you to put 3 counters on the Scepter in one turn. Meaning you can activate it for an extra turn over and over again until you’ve thoroughly destroyed your opponents. Four mana for infinite turns sounds like a bargain to me and is reasonably achievable with the three pieces needed. These are just some of the combos available to you in a Superfriends deck, CommanderSpellbook is an excellent place to find plenty more and learn how they work.
You’ve amassed your legends, buried them in counters and gone absolutely wild activating abilities, but how do you win? The trick with Atraxa is to gauge your position and more importantly, your opponents. With so many powerful Planeswalkers, there’s an ultimate ability for all occasions. If you’re set up with good card draw and a full grip, Ajani, Sleeper Agent’s -6 can dish out the poison counters with ease. Are your opponent’s graveyards filled to the brim with creatures? Liliana Vess can make use of that! Or you could even go for the combination of Vraska the Unseen and a simple Rogue’s Passage for a swift assassination.
These are just a few examples of the powerful finishing moves that Planeswalkers can throw down, but they’re not the only options. Other Planeswalkers can lock opponents out in a grindy finish or tip the scales with a few extra turns for good measure. Alternatively, there are some nifty ways to win outside of ultimate abilities. With the amount of proliferate available, you can reach that magic number twenty with Darksteel Reactor or Simic Ascendancy with surprising ease.
With so many Planeswalkers in one deck, you will no doubt be feeling the restricted number of other spells. So it’s important that those spells that do make the cut can protect your Planeswalkers from your opponents’ pressures. Although plenty of Planeswalkers can make blockers and help evade threats, they can still be fairly vulnerable without help. Cards like Norn’s Annex and Sphere of Safety can make it too costly to attack your walkers and Shalai, Voice of Plenty does an excellent job of stopping your Planeswalkers from being targeted by spells either. A personal favorite of mine and an often overlooked option for evasion is Luxior, Giada’s Gift. An artifact that can be equipped to a Planeswalker to allow it to attack and block is already cool, but the fact that the equipped is no longer a Planeswalker means your opponents can’t target it with attacking creatures! Luxior, Giada’s Gift also pairs perfectly with Elspeth Resplendent, who can then target herself with a First Strike counter to help keep her loyalty counters when she clashes with your opponents creatures.
Damage prevention and hardy blockers are also a key piece of the protection puzzle. Being able to prevent damage with Fog type effects can get you out of a sticky situation and you can even turn that damage negation into a returned blow at your opponents with cards like Comeuppance. If you’re not looking to take up valuable slots with spells, you’ve got the option of lands too. Maze of Ith and Kor Haven can render an opponent’s attack useless and will often even simply dissuade players from attacking you in the first place. If Fog cards aren’t enough then what about a Fog Bank? There are some solid blockers available in Atraxa’s colors, including Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus. Not only can this Phyrexian Horror become an indestructible blocker, but it’s also a must have in any proliferate deck running blue.
Sometimes taxing combat and preventing damage just isn’t enough, especially late game when your opponents may have amassed a menacing board state and plenty of mana. So cards like Teferi’s Protection can really come in clutch in those vital moments. Probably the most important piece of protection for a Superfriends deck is any spell that destroys or exiles all creatures. Atraxa is often going to be the only creature we have on the battlefield so wiping the board this way will most often leave you fairly unscathed and primed to take full advantage of the devastation. In Garruk’s Wake does a good job to keep your board safe and Time Wipe is an ideal piece to fill this slot, as it conveniently plucks Atraxa back into your hand before the board is wiped clean.
BUILDING A MANA BASE
Like any four color commander deck, it’s really important to get the mana base right. You don’t want to be missing that fourth or even third color with a handful of Planeswalkers that you can’t cast as a result. If you’re willing to invest in your lands then cards like the triomes and shock lands are key to smoothing out your mana, especially if you’re willing to splash out on some shock lands to make it even easier to dig for the key colors that you need.
Alternatively you can still put together a solid four color mana base without breaking the bank. With the right lands, fixing and ramp, building a mana base on a budget can be fairly easy. Three color tapped lands are much more affordable and there are plenty of cheap two color lands that get the job down. And that’s without even mentioning all of the regular automatic inclusions, with the likes of Command Tower, Exotic Orchard and Evolving Wilds, to name a few.
Regardless of budget, there is thankfully plenty of mana rocks to synergise with our proliferate plans. Cards like Astral Cornucopia, Empowered Autogenerator and Everflowing Chalice can take advantage of the added counters and provide a great deal of mana advantage. I’m a big fan of Replicating Ring in this deck as it will very quickly become nine mana rocks! Glistening Sphere from the new Corrupting Influence precon is a good piece for proliferating and becomes a very strong artifact if your Superfriends deck is built with Poison counters in mind.
THE END STEP
I hope this guide has inspired you to give Superfriends a go, or at least informed you of the intricacies and beauties of the archetype. Like any Commander deck, Atraxa Superfriends can be taken in many directions and it’s important to find the playstyle that best suits you. Whoever your favorite Planeswalker may be, there’s a place for them all in Atraxa’s dream team…Unless they’re red.
Check out my decklist in detail here: https://www.moxfield.com/decks/iV6OmfNBKUKvL6ewDpO9lQ