Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Pairing Atraxa With Keruga in Commander
Atraxa Praetors' Voice is a four-color general whose proliferate ability leads to counter-based decks, where she replicates +1/+1s on creatures, loyalty on planeswalkers, and charges on artifacts. On the surface, it might not seem like potential companion Keruga the Macrosage has much synergy with her, as his effect doesn't have anything to do with counters (he draws on entry for each other permanent you control with cost three or more).
That said, he's a cheap addition (costing less than one dollar), and having another card available throughout the match definitely helps, as does the card advantage and 5/4 body. Keruga's companion cost also fits well with Atraxa's tempo; on turn three, you can add Keruga to hand for three, turn four cast Atraxa, and turn five play Keruga.
However, Keruga's companion restriction is that your deck can only have lands and spells with cost three or more. But clever players will still find ways to wield one and two-cost plays—here are 30 great cards for Atraxa-Keruga commander decks in Magic: The Gathering!
30. Obscuring Haze
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3
Remember, Keruga requires spells of cost three or more, so we're examining high-cost plays with options to discount themselves. Enter Obscuring Haze, which you can cast for free if you control a commander. It's basically a better version of Fog, preventing all damage that opposing creatures (but not yours) deal that turn.
This lets you safely block with Atraxa's deathtouch to kill an attacker. And note that you can freely cast Haze by controlling any commander, not just yours, so if you've stolen one with Confiscation Coup or the like, you're set.
29. Valiant Changeling
7 for a 3/3 is terrible, except that Changeling's costs decreases (by a maximum of five) per unique creature subtype you control. Atraxa and Keruga have four between them (angel, horror, dinosaur, and hippo), so adding any other nets you a 3/3 double strike for two!
My one gripe is that Changeling doesn't have any counters for Atraxa to proliferate, but he does bear changeling, giving him every subtype to empower tribal supports.
28. Winged Words
Using Keruga means you have less need for advantage spells, but this one's still worth a look. Words is a strictly-better version of Divination, spending three mana for two draws, or two for two if you control a creature with flying. You know, like Atraxa.
This shifts the rate from mediocre to competitive, and it's an easy requirement to fulfill while giving Keruga decks an appreciated two-cost play (though you probably won't be able to use it on turn two).
27. Far // Away
CMC: 2/3 (5 total)
Thing about split spells is that, for deck-building purposes, their cost counts as the total cost of both sides, so it's fine for Keruga to use them as long as they add up to three or more.
Keruga decks tend to be slower control builds, so you want spells to stall aggro. Both halves here instantly do that, with Far bouncing a creature and Away forcing a player to sacrifice one. And thanks to fuse, you can cast either half or both depending on available mana.
26. Consign // Oblivion
CMC: 2/5 (7 total)
Another two-cost spell you can cheat with Keruga thanks to its second half, Consign instantly bounces any non-land permanent. Then, once in the graveyard, you can spend five to cast and exile Oblivion, which simples makes an opponent discard twice.
In short, you've got a rare Keruga two-drop, a potential seven-cost play, and synergy with self-milling cards.
Spells with miracle, while often dependent on luck, work well with Keruga thanks to their reduced price if cast when revealed as your first draw that turn. In this case, miracling Vanishment reduces its price down to one, and it doesn't just bounce a non-land but places it on top of its owner's deck, effectively killing their next draw.
You can even miracle it on opposing turns if you draw on their round.
24. Devastation Tide/Terminus
To help Keruga stall aggro at amazing rates, try these miracle board wipes. Tide costs five at base or two with miracle, bouncing all non-lands back to hand. Terminus costs 6 at base or one with miracle, placing all creatures on bottom of their respective decks.
Both are great ways to handle multiple threats at once, just remember they can remove your own cards too.
23. Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty
Puny 3/1 Imoti doesn't have any counters to proliferate or cost-reduction, but she cascades, freely casting the next spell of lower cost from your deck. Since almost all cards in your deck are cost three or more, this means you're much more likely to nab a useful 3 or 4 cost play and not a less-desirable 0, 1, or 2.
Plus, Imoti gives your spells of cost six or more cascade. Keruga and Atraxa don't quite fit this, but with Keruga's requirement, many of your other cards will.
22. Curtains' Call
Several of black's best cheap removals (Doom Blades and the like) can't be used with Keruga. So you'll want some nukes, but sometimes you also need cards like this to handle opposing threats without hitting your own board.
Try Call, which instantly destroys two creatures and reduces its cost by one per opponent you have. This means it'll be at most five mana, and often just three in four-player EDH games, basically giving you two Murder spells in one.
21. Avatar of Woe
Eight mana is hard to get, but if there are at least ten creatures across all graveyards, Woe plummets in cost down to two! That's an amazing rate for a 6/5 with fear who can tap to destroy a creature and prevent it from regenerating.
20. Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft
You can cast Borrower right off the bat, but you probably want to first play Petty Theft, instantly bouncing a non-land back for two. Theft then heads to exile, from where you can cast Borrower.
As a creature, Borrower is an unimpressive 3/1 with flying who can only block flyers, but at least you can flash him in. He also activates flying synergy if something happens to Atraxa, letting you utilize cards like…
19. Gust of Wind
At full price, Gust of Wind is basically a kicked Into the Roil minus the instant speed, bouncing a non-land and drawing a card. However, if you control a creature with flying, it halves its cost to two! While being a sorcery does make it slower, two mana for a bounce/draw is a great rate.
18. Mystical Dispute
Blue's arguably the most popular commander color, and Dispute's one of the best ways to thwart it. It counters a spell unless its owner pays three extra mana, and if used on a blue card, its cost decreases from three to one. Keeping one mana open is pretty easy in rigid Keruga builds, and you'll be glad when you stop a Time Warp or other big threat.
17. Sanguine Indulgence
Here's one that's great for Atraxa decks with several sources of lifegain (though Atraxa herself often suffices). Indulgence returns two creatures from graveyard to hand, but if you've gained at least three life that turn, its cost drops to one black!
That discount makes a mediocre card fantastic; if Atraxa's lifelink isn't ready to trigger the reduction, try planeswalkers like Ajani, the Greathearted.
16. Find // Finality
CMC: 2/6 (8 total)
This split spell doesn't have fuse, so you'll only get one half even if you could afford both. Thankfully, both impress; Find accepts either Golgari color and returns two creatures from graveyard to hand while Finality places two +1/+1s on a creature (which Atraxa can proliferate), then gives all creatures -4/-4 for the turn, wiping most opposing boards.
15. Hamza, Guardian of Arashin
In proliferate decks, Hamza can get as low as two mana by reducing his price by per creature you control with a +1/+1 counter. He himself is a sturdy 5/5, and while out, he reduces the costs of your other creature spells by one per +1/+1 creature you control.
This can help recast Atraxa (paying for her commander tax), take a big chunk off Keruga, and help swarm, adding some much-needed speed to your theme.
14. Primeval Protector
Instead of relying on your creatures to discount himself, Protector takes one off his price per creature your opponents control. In large four-player games, it's not uncommon to see him drop to one mana, and he enters as a formidable 10/10 who places a +1/+1 on your other creatures, letting Atraxa proliferate them to lethal heights.
13. Price of Fame
If your deck feels short on removals, consider Price of Fame. It instantly destroys a creature, and costs two less if targeting a legendary, which you'll see many of in commander.
But whether you use the discount or not, you also get to surveil two, looking at the top two cards of your deck and placing them back on top or in your graveyard, a handy way to ensure land drops or prep graveyard abilities.
Shriekmaw destroys a non-artifact, non-black creature on entry, and if cast for full price, stays fielded as a respectable 3/2 with fear. But you can also evoke him for two, where you still get his removal but he's sacrificed after entering the field.
Not only is this a useful two-cost option for Keruga, it works better than instant or sorcery removals with black's creature-based recovery effects.
11. Depose // Deploy
CMC: 2/4 (6 total)
Depose offers a two-cost split spell that takes either white or blue mana, helping ensure you aren't color-screwed out of it early on. It simply taps a creature and draws a card, helping you stall aggro.
Deploy isn't quite as useful, creating two 1/1 artifact tokens with flying, then giving one life per creature you control, but it can still catch foes off-guard with surprise blockers and empower artifact-based planeswalkers like Tezzeret.
10. Storage Lands
You might consider these storage lands in regular Atraxa builds, but they're especially useful with Keruga because they effectively give turn-two options that can yield big payoffs later. Each can tap for colorless or tap and spend one to gain a storage counter. From there, by spending a colorless and removing X counters, you gain X mana in any comination of two colors (listed below). Be sure to proliferate the counters as much as possible before using them to gain crazy amounts of resources.
- White/blue: Calciform Pools
- White/green: Saltcrusted Steppe
- Black/blue: Dreadship Reef
9. Consecrate // Consume
CMC: 2/4 (6 total)
Consecrate offers a small bit of graveyard hate, exiling a card from a graveyard while drawing one. Small benefits, sure, but its instant speed and acceptance of white or black help.
Plus, Consume's pretty good too, forcing a player to sacrifice their creature with the highest power, then you gain that amount of life, a useful way to bypass big threats with hexproof while bolstering your health.
What these creatures all have in common is the ability to cycle themselves for two mana to find specific land types listed below. Note these don't have to be basics, meaning Atraxa decks usually want non-basics like "Overgrown Tomb".
They're not particularly strong for their cost if played as creatures, but having fodder in the graveyard can set up other effects, and each provides useful turn-two plays that can be used at instant speed. Also note that Eternal Dragon can recover himself from your graveyard by spending five at your upkeep.
- Plains or Forest: Pale Recluse
- Plains or Island: Sanctum Plowbeast
- Island or Swamp: Jhessian Zombies
- Plains: Eternal Dragon
7. Glassdust Hulk/Streetwraith
We just saw several useful cyclers, and these guys are even better thanks to cheaper costs. Glassdust Hulk needs blue or white mana, but you can cycle him (for a regular draw) with just one mana. Streetwraith is even easier, cycling for no mana but paying two life.
If you happen to get them onto the field, perhaps with graveyard-reviving effects, they're not outstanding but far from unplayable at 3/4. Hulk also gets +1/+1 and becomes unblockable the turn you play an artifact, and Streetwraith has swampwalk.
6. Snuff Out
Snuff Out instantly destroys a non-black creature and prevents it from regenerating. That's alright for four mana, but if you control a swamp (basic or not), you can spend four life instead of paying mana! When opponents see you tapped out, they'll think it's a safe time to enchant their creatures or play big threats, only for this to ruin their day.
Be sure to use non-basic swamps that give multiple colors (like "Zagoth Triome") to ensure you have access. And don't worry about the lifeloss; thanks to commander's 40 starting life and Atraxa's lifelink, your deck should have health to spare.
5. Whiplash Trap
For five, this instant bounces two creatures back to hand. But if an opponent has two or more creatures enter their field in one turn, you can play Whiplash for a single mana, effectively giving you two Unsummons for the price of one. Foes frequently meet this condition, and you can bounce any creatures on the field, not just those from the player who triggered the discount.
4. Discovery // Dispersal
CMC: 2/5 (7 total)
Split spells continue to shine with Keruga, and both halves here impress. Discovery takes either Dimir color to surveil two, then draw a card, ensuring you have what you need and possibly filling your graveyard.
Dispersal works great in multiplayer, as it bounces every opponent's highest-cost spell, then discards one from their hand, and it's one of few higher-cost spell halves that works as an instant.
3. Life // Death
CMC: 1/2 (3 total)
With its sides adding up to 3, Life/Death just barely meets Keruga's deck requirement. Life isn't normally something you need, turning all your lands into 1/1 creatures for the turn, a weak effect that can very occasionally help you swing for the win.
What we're really after is Death, which revives a creature from your graveyard. You lose life equal to its cost, but that's a small price for such a powerful two-cost play cheated into the deck.
2. Temporal Mastery
Our final miracle, Mastery exiles itself and gives you an extra turn, which honestly isn't bad for seven mana. But if it's your first card drawn that turn, you can miracle it for just two, an amazing discount (standard extra-turn spells typically cost five).
Remember, anything that scries or surveils can help you rig miracles to your favor.
This card has just about anything Keruga could ask for in single-target removal. It instantly gives a creature -5/-5, a brutal debuff that outright kills most foes, and weakens the few who survive it enough that (if cast after attacking) makes them easy prey in battle.
Even better, the phyrexian mana symbols give you the option of paying two life or one black, meaning if you shell out four health, you can pay for Dismember with one mana of any color!
Cards You Can't Use with Keruga
While Keruga's often worth missing out on some aces, here's a quick list of Atraxa staples to be aware you'll have to cut:
- Everflowing Chalice
- Astral Cornucopia
- Mana Crypt
- Sol Ring
- Serra Ascendant
- Umezawa's Jitte
- Mana Drain
- Bloom Tender
- Contentious Plan
But for now, share your thoughts on Keruga as Atraxa's companion and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2021 Jeremy Gill