A few weeks ago I wrote about what I thought was the Modern best card from each color in Phyrexia: All Will Be One. I pegged Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler as the multicolor card, and while Tyvar has seen play so far, it appears I missed the mark. Atraxa, Grand Unifier is the card proving to be relevant — not only in Modern but across every major, constructed format.
In the short time that Atraxa has been legal, she has had success in Standard, Pioneer, Modern and Legacy. It takes a special kind of card to be a player at that level, but the Grand Unifier seems to be a fitting name.
I’ve heard players say Atraxa may be better than Griselbrand as far as cheating a creature into play goes, and at first I thought that sounded crazy. Still, Atraxa continues to prove the doubters wrong.
Standard decks rarely make it to a point in the game where seven mana threats are reasonably castable without dedicated acceleration, nevermind one with four colors. Right away that often eliminates cards like Atraxa, Grand Unifier from contention…except in the case of Rakdos Atraxa.
That’s right — Rakdos and Atraxa next to each other. Atraxa has a lot of colored symbols, but none of them are red. Plus, Rakdos can’t make White, Green or Blue, so what is Atraxa doing here?
The answer is The Cruelty of Gix.
Bloodtithe Harvester, Cathartic Pyre, Liliana of the Veil and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker let you dump Atraxa into the graveyard, then the third chapter of The Cruelty of Gix can reanimate it. The card types in Rakdos Atraxa are varied enough that it isn’t uncommon to draw four or more cards when Atraxa enters the battlefield.
Rakdos gets to play a totally normal midrange game, at some point discarding Atraxa for value. Then, the player reanimates Atraxa, which will often win the game.
Unlike dedicated reanimator decks, Rakdos can easily win a game where it doesn’t reanimate Atraxa, getting by on card quality from Bloodtithe Harvester, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Fable of the Mirror Breaker alone. This is still enough of a Midrange deck to win the matches where interacting is important, but the deck also has the capability to go over the top of other slower competitors.
I’d expect Rakdos Atraxa to be a fixture in the Standard metagame for a while to come.
Pioneer is a fairly polarizing format as far as game length is concerned. Mono White Humans can certainly run people over with aggressive draws, and decks like Rakdos, Azorius Control and Enigmatic Fires can play long games on the other end of the spectrum.
Typically, in formats with powerful aggressive or combo decks, cards like Atraxa, Grand Unifier tend to fall by the wayside in favor of cheaper options. Fortunately for Atraxa, Enigmatic Incarnation changes that paradigm.
Incarnation enables a tool box strategy of large creatures in a deck that plays all five colors anyway and wants to play a longer game. This makes a perfect home for Atraxa.
Having one copy of Atraxa in a deck like Enigmatic Fires is incredibly powerful because it minimizes the risk you draw it naturally while still having a lot of access to it. Plus, it’s unlikely you’ll need more than one copy to win the game. But if you really want to trigger her effect again, you can use Yorion, Sky Nomad to do so.
I love Atraxa in this deck as a way to go way over the top of anyone playing fair, and expect to see Atraxa as a fixture in Enigmatic Fires for a long time.
Xfile put a new spin on an old favorite by refitting Modern Creativity to fit Atraxa, Grand Unifier.
Creativity makes a ton of sense when thinking about homes for Atraxa in Modern, given that she is one of the best creatures to cheat into play. Previously, Creativity played Archon of Cruelty and Persist — but with the swap from Archon to Atraxa, Persist also needed to become Goryo’s Vengeance.
While all the lands in Creativity still need to be mountains to support Dwarven Mine, xfile has reprioritized the specific lands from ones able to cast Archon of Cruelty to those that can cast Atraxa. That isn’t as hard as it may seem, either, because Leyline Binding was already a fixture in these decks.
This version of Creativity is a bit more combo focused than previous versions given how heavily it is leaning on Bitter Reunion plus Goryo’s Vengeance. Also, unlike the Persist builds, you’ll only have Atraxa around for one turn if you reanimate it with Goryo’s Vengeance, but you are incredibly likely to find another way to put an Atraxa into play given how many cards she tends to draw.
It looks like unless Archon is needed for specific metagame reasons, Atraxa simply outclasses it in updated Creativity lists, and I expect to see more of Atraxa sneaking into play early.
Speaking of sneaking Atraxa into play early, Sneak and Show master JPA93 has picked up the new Phyrexian Angel in one of the most powerful “creature” decks in Legacy.
Traditionally, Sneak and Show has been the Emrakul and Griselbrand show, so the bar for a new creature to make the deck is incredibly high. But along comes Atraxa, which is debatably better than Griselbrand when it comes to big creatures that draw cards — plus it has the upside of being something you can pitch to Force of Will.
Sneak and Show can definitely run into the issue of having its hand clogged with too many threats, so having one you actually want to play that ALSO enables Force of Will is much more important than it seems, despite the age old Legacy meme about pitching bad cards to Force. If you Sneak Attack Atraxa into play, it is overwhelmingly likely you will find another creature/Lotus Petal/Simian Spirit Guide to keep the ball rolling to get a kill that turn.
Sometimes we get surprised by the big, flashy Mythic of the set, and it actually turns out to be a multi-format player instead of making its way into bulk boxes or commander decks. Atraxa is proof of that.
There are even more decks than those I mentioned experimenting with the card, too. I’ve seen Pioneer Creativity lists trying it out and Legacy Reanimator likes Atraxa quite a bit — though I haven’t seen any strong results out of those lists just yet.
There isn’t a huge market for casting Atraxa in a fair capacity, but I have seen some builds of Four-Color Control in Modern with an Atraxa or two at the top end to find with Eladamri’s Call, and it notably pitches to Solitude, Subtlety and Endurance, which is also quite useful.
At any rate, as long as players are cheating big creatures into play, Atraxa will at the very least be in the discussion. As always, you can find me on Twitter @RappaciousOne for questions, comments, or feedback.
Have a great week, and I’ll see everyone back here next Friday!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.