Yawgmoth, Thran Physician | Illustration by Mark Winters
Magic’s past few sets have heavily focused on the rise of the New Phyrexians and their plans to conquer the entire Multiverse. But this is far from the first time we’ve seen Phyrexians attempting an interplanar conquest. A large part of the old stories set in Dominaria were focused on the efforts to prevent and stop an invasion from the monstrous machines.
This old invasion was Yawgmoth’s long-overdue revenge against Dominaria for exiling him and keeping him locked away. So what better way to preface the coming New Phyrexian invasion than with a Yawgmoth, Thran Physician EDH deck?
Vilis, Broker of Blood | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson
Ayara, First of Locthwain
Butcher of Malakir
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Pawn of Ulamog
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
Vilis, Broker of Blood
Probably the best way to think of this is as a cEDH deck made by someone who doesn’t really like or play cEDH. It’s a relatively optimized combo deck made stand its ground against decks on the more competitive end of things.
I tend to focus on more casual builds so I can safely say there’s tons of space for improvement for this deck. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is one of the strongest mono black commanders out there, and it’s a great engine.
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is an absurdly good card. Its first ability makes it a sacrifice outlet and repeatable card advantage and removal. The best part is that you can choose to not use the -1/-1 counter if your opponents don’t have anything you want to take down, or you just want to avoid giving them a reason to attack you. Its second ability has a more limited use depending on how you play your deck.
What makes Yawgmoth the best choice of commander for this deck is that it can pretty easily go into an infinite combo. Its main combo needs at least four pieces, but there are some other combos in the deck that can work with only three pieces.
This deck’s main combo needs three pieces besides the commander.
I’ll go over how these combos work and other possible combos with the cards in the deck later on.
You obviously can’t expect this deck to only work when its commander is on the field, so there are a few ways to sacrifice your own creatures for different benefits that can push your strategy forward if the Father of Machines is getting too much hate.
Ashnod’s Altar and Phyrexian Altar are possibly the most classic and straightforward sac outlets, and for good reason. They allow you to turn any creature into much needed mana. Ashnod’s in particular can be instrumental in working around the commander tax.
A handful of the instants and sorceries also depend on sacrifices. Culling the Weak is a great way to cheat some mana in a time of need.
Hell’s Caretaker can prove to be especially useful to return some of your most important creature after you’ve sacrificed them.
A big chunk of the creatures in the deck fulfill the role of victims to the various outlets you have. They could be separated into two main categories: the ones that can take themselves back to the battlefield somehow, and the ones that need to be brought back by other means.
Butcher Ghoul, Geralf’s Messenger, Gravecrawler, Nether Traitor, Bloodghast, and Reassembling Skeleton all fall into the first category. Most of them still need some extra help to be brought back, but they’ll be returning to your battlefield pretty consistently.
The second category can technically include all the other creatures in the deck since you can sacrifice them if you need to. But cards like Phyrexian Walker, Doomed Dissenter, and Solemn Simulacrum are in this deck exclusively to act as sacrifices.
One important thing about sacrifice decks is that creatures are a valuable resource. Your deck needs to havesome way to profit from those sacrifices aside from the sac outlets.
Blood Artist, Deathgreeter, Zulaport Cutthroat, and Falkenrath Noble are all key cards to have in play if you plan on using Yawgmoth, Thran Physician’s ability. Being able to neutralize the life cost on it can make a huge difference in determining when to activate it, not to mention that it’s strictly necessary to activate the combo.
On the other hand you also have Ogre Slumlord and Pawn of Ulamog to consistently replenish your ranks as you sacrifice your nontoken creatures. It should go without mentioning that these tokens make for excellent targets for your sacrifice outlets.
-1/-1 Counters Interactions
Nest of Scarabs is the most important card in this section since it’s a key piece in the deck’s main combo.
I kept this deck’s mana base mostly basic lands with a handful of key utility lands. I play a slightly different version of this decklist, but my land base is this exact one and it’s worked consistently on pretty much every game so far.
This also means that you’re probably not gonna be able to keep your commander on the field for too long at a time. That shouldn’t be much of a problem as long as you can set up a relatively functional engine of sacrificing creatures and reaping the benefits. The deck also has ways to give you some last-second recursion like Undying Evil so you don’t have to keep Yawgmoth in the command zone until you’ve set up your combo out of fear.
I left -1/-1 counters on the side for this deck, I tried to optimize its main strategy as much as possible instead to avoid the deck being too all over the place.
I’d advise you to not even bother to take this deck to your very-casual playgroup. Most casual playgroups frown on infinite combos, and this deck is basically built around being able to play combos.
This whole deck is a huge engine of sacrifice interactions and combos. The thing you need to know to understand the main combo is that -1/-1 and +1/+1 counters cancel each other out. This means that a creature with undying can keep coming back as long as you use -1/-1 counters to take the +1/+1 ones away.
This combo requires Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and Zulaport Cutthroat plus two other cards. The other two cards can be either Nest of Scarabs or Pawn of Ulamog and Butcher Ghoul or Geralf’s Messenger. I’ll explain it with Nest of Scarabs and Butcher Ghoul.
You start by activating Yawgmoth’s ability and sacrificing Butcher Ghoul. This triggers the card’s undying as well as Zulaport Cutthroat’s ability. Resolve both and recover the life you lost activating Yawgmoth while damaging your opponents.
Now place the -1/-1 counter on any creature (if you have no other targets on the field you can target Yawgmoth itself, but make sure that doesn’t make it vulnerable to something like Lightning Bolt). Placing the counter triggers Nest of Scarabs, and finally you draw your card.
Now you can start repeating the process indefinitely, creating a Scarab with every -1/-1 you place (which can be used both as sacrifices and as targets for your -1/-1 counters to keep producing other Scarabs) while also sacrificing and returning Butcher Ghoul. This gives you infinite card draw and triggers of Zulaport Cutthroat to take out your opponents.
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician’s other big combo requires Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and either (or both) Ayara, First of Locthwain and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. This combo also needs you to have any other nontoken nonhuman creature on the field.
With your sacrifice targets now having undying you can infinitely sacrifice one to place a -1/-1 counter on the other to reset, infinitely triggering Ayara or Gray Merchant’s ETB effects.
Other combos in this deck make use of Reassembling Skeleton, Ashnod’s Altar, and Pitiless Plunderer to infinitely sacrifice Reassembling Skeleton for infinite death, LTB and ETB triggers, and colorless mana.
Rule 0 Violations Check
The list of possible combos in this deck actually goes on with various combinations of the cards I’ve already mentioned, plus some others in the deck. This helps make it extremely versatile and keeps you from depending on your commander too much. And just to drive the point home it also makes it a big no-no for casual playgroups.
This deck plays quite a few pricey cards, and some of them can’t really be replaced or it’d take some of the possible combos away. Luckily the main combo doesn’t require any extremely expensive cards if you’re not counting Yawgmoth, Thran Physician itself.
Some cards, like Bloodghast and Kokusho, the Evening Star, can be replaced relatively easily with some decent creatures with LTB effects or recursion. Something like Bloodsoaked Champion is a viable replacement for Bloodghast. Kokusho, the Evening Star’s effect is especially powerful and hard to replace, but it’s not instrumental to how the deck works so you don’t need to worry about it too much.
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Pitiless Plunderer both enable a ton of alternative combos, so if you’re going for the combo strategy of this decklist I’d advice investing a little on them. Or you could turn to proxies, which is what I do for expensive cards.
Both Sheoldred, The Apocalypse and Sheoldred, Whispering One are massive utility cards that can put your opponents in tough spots, but they can be replaced without breaking the game’s main strategy. Plaguecrafter can be pretty useful in plenty of situations, and it can work as a kind of one-time Sheoldred, Whispering One.
Phyrexian Tower and Phyrexian Altar can be replaced by mana rocks or sacrifice outlets depending on what you want to prioritize in your playstyle. There are plenty of viable alternatives to Vampiric Tutor, but Diabolic Tutor is easily the most classic one.
Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth are in the deck to ensure massive amounts of mana. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps cheat around commander tax. Nirkana Revenant and basic Swamps are a good alternative to make sure you still have tons of mana.
There’s a handful of things you can build around Yawgmoth, Thran Physician without needing to go into sacrifice combos. A stronger focus on -1/-1 counters has a ton of potential for some nice payoff. Taking that one step further would be an infect deck but that could get you into some Rule 0 issues depending on your group.
My favorite alternate build for Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is possibly a Phyrexian tribal or lore-based casual deck. I adore theme decks, and a mono black Phyrexian deck led by the Father of Machines and creator of Phyrexia himself would be a massive flavor win. This’d definitely stray away from the more competitive possibilities this commander offers, but it could easily stand its ground against most casual decks if built right.
Nest of Scarabs | Illustration by Jason A. Engle
I probably have a strong bias in favor of Yawgmoth, Thran Physician since I was already a huge fan of old Phyrexia and wanted a card depicting him since I started playing Magic. But that bias doesn’t make it any less of a powerful card, and I think this deck proves that.
But enough about what I think, what do you think? Do you like this deck? Would you have built it differently? Did I miss any must-include cards? Feel free to let me know on the comments below and don’t forget to head over to the Draftsim Discord to join our amazing community.
That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and remember to embrace Phyrexian perfection!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: