This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series (Vexing) Devil's Advocate

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“You suck, your deck sucks, and your face sucks.” Jack fumed as his opponent’s general ticked his poison counters up to ten.

“Maybe a slight overreaction?” Jill responded coolly as she picked up her Skithiryx deck.

“No it’s not, poison is cheap. You should knock my life total down the legitimate way.”

“Really?” Jill said, giving a pointed and skeptical look at Jack’s general. He had opened the foil Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice during the Return to Ravnica prerelease, and quickly built a powerful life gain deck around the card. It was not uncommon for Jack to end up with a life total that broke triple digits.

“Fine, fair point.” Jack conceded. “But there are alternatives.You can always just kill me with general damage!”

Jill just smirked and replied “I did.”

"Nobody wants to play with me!"

“Nobody wants to play with me!”

Poison is one of the most hated strategies in Commander. And no one screams poison more than Skittles the B!%&# Dragon. He is the poison coach, quarterback, cheerleader and mascot all rolled up in one ugly little package. And he’s here to urinate on everything you love.

Or at least that’s what everyone seems to believe, and it’s easy to see why. He is a three turn clock without any pump at all. He has haste, evasion, and resilience. When you look at all those abilities and stick poison on it, it’s just unfair. Right?

In My Client’s Defence…

It’s ironic that Skithiryx’s biggest weakness is the same thing that makes him so scary. The Infect ability that makes him such a short clock also means his applications are much more narrow than any of the other three hit generals. If you were playing deck such as Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund or Ruhan of the Fomori, you always have the option to beat face with your other creatures and save your commander for the last few points of damage. With Skithiryx, the Infect prevents all the normal damage that is usually done alongside general damage. If you’re going in with Skithiryx, you’re going all in.

“But Eric, you newb/idiot/scrub!” you cry out indignantly. “You can just play all those other black poison creatures! Then all your other creatures contribute to the ten turn clock too!”

And while I will admit that is true, I would also invite you to take a look at all those other monoblack poison critters. Go ahead, hop on Gatherer. I’ll wait.

Back? Goodie goodie gumdrops. Have a nice long look? Did those seem like the optimal cards to play in your EDH deck? Yeah, didn’t think so. So you’re left with a choice, Skithiryx does his thing pretty much solo, or you get to water down your deck with sweet picks like this guy.

Totally worth titan mana.

Yeah, this is totally worth titan mana.

So you end up putting all your eggs in the Skithiryx-bites-face basket, depending on him to get ten poison to your opponent’s dome in the most efficient and hilariously violent manner possible, a viable but fundamentally fragile option.

And while people may whine about you killing them with poison, always remember that the keyword was introduced to magic for a reason. Poison is used to up the threat of creatures, allowing for more powerful aggro strategies and a counter to life gain. And in a format so often dominated by combos and hard locks, anything that helps a creature kill a player by swinging for the red zone is okay with me.

Kryptonite Rings and Silver Bullets

However, if there is a Skithiryx deck in your meta that is causing you gastrointestinal distress, fear not! There are plenty of ways to deal with giant skeleton dragons trying to snack on your softer bits, and your other problem can be solved by some good ol’ fashioned Pepto Bismol.

For the treatment of nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and NERDRAGE!

For the treatment of nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and NERDRAGE!

Always remember that whether your opponent is trying to build up equipment, soften you up with other infect creatures, or just control you down while they ramp, they ultimately just want to get Skithiryx on the board. A Skithiryx deck will always be commander-centric, so anything that deals with Skithiryx permanently is a nightmare for your opponent. Cards like Chaos Warp, Condemn, Terminus, Oblation, and Spin Into Myth will give your opponent fits.

Cards like Meddling Mage and Voidstone Gargoyle can stop your opponent from ever fielding their general at all. But the king of dealing with Skithiryx this way has got to be Nevermore. The fact that it is an enchantment means your monoblack opponent has almost no way to interact with it. Their Skithiryx is just left in the command zone, glaring at you and making unkind comments about your mother.

Another thing to remember is that Skithiryx players like to set the stage before they play him. Many of them will not play him before they have eight mana because they want to give him haste and hold up mana for regeneration. Others will wait until they have some kind of pump effect so they can turn him into a one hit kill. Smashing an opponent’s set up cards (Cabal Coffers, Nightmare Lash, etc.) is another good way to make an opponent reticent to play their general, thus keeping him off the board.

And of course special mention must be made of Melira, Sylvok Outcast. This green combo queen shuts down your opponent’s ability to give you poison counters, forcing them to hack away at your life total the old fashioned way.

We, the Jury, Find the Defendant…

I’m not saying Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon is a weak general. He’s incredibly strong, but so are all the other three hit generals. There are other commanders who have built in haste (Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund) or are cheaper to cast (Ruhan of the Fomori). Gisela, Blade of Goldnight also becomes a two hit kill with any pump at all, and does it while simultaneously protecting and pumping all your other creatures. And if we’re talking about the Scariest three hit general of all, that title probably belongs to Maelstrom Wanderer.

You should be cautious when playing against a Skithiryx deck, but there is no reason for the nightmarish fear and hulk-like rage that everyone seems to get when exposed to him. He is a good at what he does, but what he does is a glass cannon. Powerful, narrow, and easily disrupted.

So next time you’re groaning as your friend takes his Skithiryx deck out of the box, always remember that it could be worse. He could be playing Omniscience.

Why!? Why would someone think this was a good idea!?

Why!? Why would someone think this was a good idea!?

 

Eric is a new writer for Commandercast.com who tackles the most reviled Commander strategies, generals, and cards in his weekly column: (Vexing) Devil’s Advocate. If you want to submit a suggestion for a card or strategy to spotlight, feel free to drop him a comment below or  send him an email about your nemesis at EricBonvie@gmail.com.

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