Commander Spotlight: Phyrexian Tyranny

Unless you’ve never played Commander before, or you’ve only delved into it through the preconstructed decks, you’ve had the experience of building an EDH deck. The selection of a Commander aside, we all know it takes time. There’s only so many spaces in the deck, and due to the singleton nature of the format, you want to make sure every card is going to be helpful. Whether it matches your ideas for its mechanics, theme, flavor, or desire for utter chaos, you generally put thought into building your deck. Taking time to planning and building decks is good, and it’s not uncommon that you’ll find yourself agonizing over what cards get put in versus what get left out.

A common technique to help find that desired balance for these decks is to break the cards you want to use down into categories of functional criteria. Instead of just ‘Creatures’ / ‘Non-Creatures’ / ‘Land’, you’ll end up with groups like ‘Mana Acceleration’, ‘Lifegain’, ‘Win Condition’, or ‘Removal’. It’s a helpful practice so that you can visually break down the deck into its component parts to ensure that it’s doing all the things that you want it to do, whatever it may be.

There are, of course, a few categories that are practically ubiquitous in Commander. Mana acceleration, be it through adding extra mana or land ramp, is the most common. The second most is card draw. Regardless of the type of deck you make, more often than not you want the ability to be able to draw more cards.

Getting a couple extra cards here and there is usually fine politically, and there are more than a few permanents that provide it as a repeated effect. That’s acceptable, and it’s a healthy component to the format. Sometimes, though, when someone hyper-focuses on card draw, it turns the odds too far in that player’s favor. Letting someone draw an excessive amount of cards rarely works in your favor, even if you happen to be holding a Sudden Impact. So here’s one suggestion at putting a stop to those who would like to play their deck at you.

Today we have: Phyrexian Tyranny

Name: Phyrexian Tyranny

Edition: Planeshift

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Life Loss

Highlights: First off, we’re dealing with Phyrexian material, so it’s no surprise that this affects everyone equally. On the one hand, this could help to mitigate the negative attention it will receive since you too are affected. On the other, much like other “pay or pain” effects, it can grow tiresome to other players fairly quickly; bear that in mind when it’s deployed.

Phyrexian Tyranny’s behavior in Commander will really be dependent on when you cast it. If you cast the Tyranny early in the game, chances are that players will have to take the life loss, or risk being unable to do anything. This will speed up the tempo of the game, and likely won’t make many friends.

On the other hand, biding your time before dropping it will allow for more opportunity for the card to be installed against its ideal target. As the game progresses, players who caught in Crovax’s indiscriminate hate will be able to afford mana tax. Should someone attempt to draw multiple cards though, the cost for doing so rises substantially. Paying mana for a couple cards will severely hamper their options to cast other spells, and paying 2 life per card when you’re drawing quite a few can be risky in Commander. It is, as the card name implies, quite painful no matter how you look at it.

And yes, while the intent here is a card drawing deterrent card, Phyrexian Tyranny can be used offensively with the right ammunition, although how evil you want to be, well, we’ll leave up to you.


Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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