Atraxa, Grand Unifier was released in the Phyrexia: All Will Be One set, in early 2023, and quickly conquered its space in several game formats – you can check out articles about using this card at Legacy and at Pioneer here at Cards Realm – and of course Commander was no exception!
In this article, we'll talk about using Atraxa, Grand Unifier as a commander, highlighting some of its strengths and weaknesses, and we'll bring you three decklists to inspire you when building this commander.
Atraxa, Grand Unifier: meeting the commander
““Drown, so you can breathe again.””
- Atraxa on “Norn's Wellspring”
Many players are familiar with the creature from its previous print – Atraxa, Praetors' Voice – which was originally released as the commander of the “Breed Lethality” preconstructed deck in 2016, and it generated immense hype when the announcements from the set began to come out and players realized the possibility of having a new version of our favorite Phyrexian angel.
In the story, Atraxa was an angel from Mirrodin who fought valiantly against the Phyrexian corruption of the plane. After being captured by her enemies, the praetor Elesh Norn decided to bless her with the perfection of New Phyrexia and allowed other praetors to contribute to this creation.
At the time, the only praetor who opposed the creation of Atraxa was Urabrask and for that reason, the creature has no red mana. Each keyword on the card is associated with a color, with vigilance being white, flying being blue, deathtouch being green, and lifelink being black.
Today, Atraxa is known by other Phyrexians as the "Great Unifier" and fights to uphold the ideals of Elesh Norn, bringing the Phyrexian perfection to the Multiverse.
Atraxa, Grand Unifier has interesting features for the Commander format, and among them, we can highlight its strengths:
Commander with high power
There is a way to eliminate opponents in Commander using only its commander, but for that to happen, it is necessary to cause 21 points of combat damage to the opponent's life using this creature.
As we can see in the card, Atraxa, Grand Unifier is a 7/7 with several interesting keywords like flying, vigilance, deathtouch and lifelink.
Thinking about commander damage, this creature needs its attack damage to only pass three times on the opponent for them to lose the game instantly.
Opponents that use few creatures with flying or reach in their deck will definitely have trouble dealing with it. As previously mentioned, the card has deathtouch, so if the opponent's creatures cannot defend themselves with a keyword like Indestructible, each attack promises to take a resource from the opponent's board.
Also, extra life gained through the keyword “lifelink” is always welcome in any match.
Upon entering the battlefield, Atraxa allows you to reveal the top 10 cards of your library, select one of each revealed card type, and put it into your hand. Unselected cards go to the bottom in random order.
The types considered for this trigger are:
Just by entering the battlefield, Atraxa lets you fill your hand with useful cards of many different types.
If your deck has cards like Thassa, Deep-Dwelling , which have the types "Creature" and "Enchantment", you can choose it from the amount revealed as a creature and take another enchantment and vice versa.
We've talked about them before, but we couldn't help but reinforce: Atraxa's keywords are great.
Having vigilance and lifelink, the commander does not need to tap to attack in combat and manages to recover seven life with each attack. Since she doesn't tap, she can fend off any enemy attacks with her deathtouch and flying.
As we'll delve further into this article, there are countless possibilities for building decks that use Grand Unifier as a commander.
Blink, reanimate, Phyrexian tribal themes, and even experience counters can all be used in this Phyrexian angel's deck.
Even though it doesn't talk much with the 99 cards in the deck, Atraxa could be one of those commanders that you only cast when you want resources, and you don't need to be in your battlefield all the time.
No Tutors Needed!
Even if the card doesn't guarantee hits, it will do its best to fill your hand with useful tools, and that's a great differentiator.
The best of each color
Atraxa is a creature with four different colors, and that's wonderful because you can use the best of each color in your deck. Ramps, protections, draws, and a variety of removal cards are available to turn your deck into a toolbox.
Like any Magic: the Gathering card, Atraxa also has weaknesses that help balance the game and make it less "broken". In this regard, we can highlight:
High mana cost
This card practically makes food, coffee and puts you to sleep with a kiss on the forehead. So, it couldn't be any different: it costs seven mana and will increase two mana each time it returns to the command zone.
Like Atraxa, Grand Unifier has green among its colors, it's quite possible that you'll be able to look for land cards and cast it before turn seven, but you probably won't be able to cast other cards in the same turn.
Calm down, we know that “generic” is a rather strong term, but let's explain why it's being used here.
As said earlier, the card does it all: fetches resources for you and is still efficient at attacking and blocking. However, even with the incredible effects, it's a fact that she doesn't have anything that "Phyrexian" besides her subtype.
Even with an excellent ETB effect and great keywords, Atraxa, Grand Unifier could be a creature by any other name in any other set. Also, we can't ignore the resemblance it has to Niv-Mizzet Reborn.
Some examples of cards that keep the Phyrexian theme well and are part of the same set are:
As you might have noticed, these are cards with effects that make you think, “well, this could only be part of a set about New Phyrexia”.
Even if it doesn't affect the game play and/or usability of the card, being "generic" representing a creature relevant to that moment in history is something that causes a level of disappointment for fans of the lore.
Thinking about the story and the lack of red mana, it's completely understandable that the card lacks Haste. However, thinking about aggro-oriented strategies, players who like to attack whenever they can, will possibly be frustrated by the lack of this keyword.
In a Commander game, you will have at least three opponents who, in their turns, will look for some answer to protect themselves and/or remove when Atraxa she attacks.
This impacts the deck and makes cards like Crashing Drawbridge very valuable for players who want to attack their opponents as much as possible.
I miss “Proliferate”
The ability to proliferate for free at the end of each turn has made Atraxa, Praetors' Voice one of the top choices for Planeswalker-focused decks and has greatly popularized the card, consequently also making the creature well known.
It's not hard to find players who claim that Praetors' Voice was one of the best cards ever printed for Commander. Also, "proliferate" is commonly associated with Phyrexia compleating Atraxa and making her their voice.
It is undeniable that this card fits well with the Phyrexian theme. However, Atraxa, Grand Unifier doesn't have this ability and caused some dissatisfaction among players due to the lack of something so iconic and associated with the creature.
Synergistic cards with Atraxa, Grand Unifier
Many cards have high synergy with this commander, and here we are going to highlight some of them. In our honorable mentions, we have:
You may have noticed that most of these cards allow the ETB effect to happen more than once per turn, or do the famous blink effect with another permanent.
Even if you don't want to work with a blink-only deck, these are interesting pieces that help you get more out of the commander and other creatures in the deck, and can even protect them from your opponents' spells with cards like Eerie Interlude and Ghostly Flicker.
3 Commander Decks with Atraxa, Grand Unifier
In the budget version we managed to work well with blink using cards like Momentary Blink and Planar Incision. Additionally, Spitting Image and Croaking Counterpart allow you to copy creatures to take advantage of ETB effects.
It is worth mentioning that these cards don't remove the legendary rule from Atraxa, Grand Unifier, however, the goal is to have the ETB of this creature more than once.
Who doesn't like the good old tribal?
With many cards that use infect, toxic and proliferate, this is an example of a deck that uses Atraxa, Grand Unifier just to pull resources when necessary.
In addition to taking the best black cards that work with the famous reanimate, you can take advantage of what other color combinations have the best to offer and use cards like Eerie Ultimatum, Muldrotha, the Gravetide, Sun Titan.
This is another example of a deck that uses the commander to take resources from the deck, not requiring her to be on the battlefield for the strategy to work.
This is a creature with many positive points and has incredible versatility, while inverting the logic followed by many players of building the deck around the commander, as with it, your imagination will be the true protagonist of the deck.
If you have the opportunity to build this commander, just gather your cards and have fun. Regardless of which archetype you want for your deck, Atraxa, Grand Unifier promises to give you the support you need to make it work.
See you in the next article!