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How Skrelv, Defector Mite is a Sneaky Good Commander in Magic the Gathering

Skrelv, Defector Mite is a one-mana Legendary Creature card from the Phyrexia: All Will Be One set of Magic: The Gathering. This unassuming Phyrexian Mite shouldn’t be underestimated, however. It has Toxic, one of the key mechanics from the All Will Be One set, which delivers poison counters much like Infect from the Scars of Mirrodin, Mirrodin Besieged, and New Phyrexia sets of years past. 

More importantly, Skrelv has a tap ability to give another creature you control hex proof from a chosen color and that creature can’t be blocked by creatures of that color that turn. This ability costs just one White Phyrexian mana, meaning you can pay either one white mana or pay 2 life. Because of this flexible cost, and the fact you start with 40 life in a typical game of Commander, you’re likely to tap out your regular mana sources without concern, as Skrelv’s ability is still live.

Skrelv’s ability to protect its key attackers while also providing a cheap body that can be recast many times throughout a game from the Command Zone makes it a sneaky good Commander. Even being limited to playing White and colorless cards, with the right support cards and strategies, Skrelv can quickly overwhelm opponents with poison counters. As the poison counter count of ten is still lethal to Commander players, Toxic is a competitive, and perhaps even better, strategy than its Infect counterpart from earlier sets.

How Do You Build a Skrelv, Defector Mite Commander Deck?

Even being mono-White, a Skrelv deck has access to plenty of strong cards to further its Poison counter based strategy. One of the most prominent cards to pair with Skrelv is naturally Skrelv’s Hive. This Enchantment creates a 1/1 Phyrexian Mite artifact creature token with Toxic 1 during each of your upkeeps at the cost of 1 life. While these tokens, like Skrelv, can’t block, why would you want to block with them in the first place? 

Also, the Hive features the Corrupted mechanic, another major mechanic of the All Will Be One set. Corrupted abilities activate when an opponent has three or more poison counters. In this case, Skrelv’s Hive gives all creatures you control lifelink, which in a Commander setting is extremely helpful in keeping your life total relatively stable.

There’s also a nonbasic land called Mirrex in the same set, which for three generic mana can tap to create a 1/1 Mite itself. It can also tap for any color of mana, but only on the turn when it first enters play. It’s a quiet source of constant Toxic Mites, though, and shouldn’t ever be forgotten about.

With a couple consistent sources of cheap Toxic creatures, Skrelv also has a host of Toxic creatures to join its mission to toxify opponents. These include Annex Sentry, Crawling Chorus, Duelist of Deep Faith, Dune Mover, Flensing Raptor, Indoctrinate Attendant, Jawbone Duelist, Mite Overseer, and Myr Convert. Another creature called Basilica Shepherd brings two Phyrexian Mites with Toxic into play alongside.

Of course, since Commander has access to sets dating back to the beginnings of Magic, Skrelv EDH decks have access to Infect creatures, too. These creatures deal their combat damage in the form of poison counters, but also deal damage to opposing creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters. In fact, Infect can be even more lethal than Toxic, and in concert with one another, forms quite an intimidating pair of poison dealing damage sources.

Infect creatures that Skrelv has access to include Core Prowler, Corpse Cur, Ichorclaw Myr, Lost Leonin, Necropede, Phyrexian Digester, Shriek Raptor, and Tine Shrike. Also, past sets included Equipment that gives the equipped creature Infect, including Grafted Exoskeleton. The All Will Be One set also features an Equipment that gives the equipped creature Toxic called Prosthetic Injector, which is an auto-include for a Skrelv Commander deck. Another Equipment you should consider from the set is Infested Fleshcutter, which gives the equipped creature both a two power boost and the ability to create a Toxic Mite whenever it declares an attack.

If you’re willing to invest the money in this deck, or already have copies in your collection, you can also include Inkmoth Nexus and Urza’s Saga. The Nexus is just another source of Infect damage, but the more the merrier. The Saga is mostly helpful for its final Chapter ability to seek out an artifact with mana value 1 or less, since there are many in a Skrelv EDH deck. However, the Construct tokens the Saga can create have power and toughness X where X is the number of artifacts you have in play. Therefore, they are going to be huge threats.

While there are many creatures with Corrupted abilities, which will be active quite often when playing Skrelv, the only notable one you should definitely use is Incisor Glider. Although the Glider doesn’t have Toxic, its Corrupted ability boosts all creatures you control by +1/+1 whenever it attacks. Since it’s easy to simply use Skrelv’s ability on it to give it Toxic and protect it from being blocked by creatures of a particular color, it’s a nice little piece to give Skrelv decks a bit of extra oomph.

The final must includes for Skrelv decks involve the Proliferate mechanic. Proliferate is extremely powerful in that it can add a counter of any that already exist on a given player or permanent. Obviously, you can Proliferate poison counters, as well as any other counters you may have on permanents you control. There are several creatures and artifacts that provide Proliferate as an ability.

For creatures with Proliferate, the aforementioned Core Prowler and an overlooked creature from War of the Spark called Martyr for the Cause both give you a chance to Proliferate when they die (in that they are put into a graveyard from the battlefield.) Norn’s Choirmaster, a Commander deck exclusive, allows you to proliferate whenever a Commander you control enters the battlefield or attacks. Grateful Apparition is a two-mana flying creature that allows you to Proliferate whenever it deals combat damage.

When it comes to non creature artifacts with proliferate abilities, there’s actually only a few to consider: Contagion Clasp, Contagion Engine, and Throne of Geth. The Engine is particularly good since it also puts a -1/-1 counter on each creature a target player controls, giving you some more useful things to proliferate. The Clasp is just a mini version of Engine, which puts a -1/-1 counter on just one creature.

Throne of Geth requires that you sacrifice an artifact to proliferate, but since many of the Mites that are created by this deck are, in fact, artifact creatures, as is Skrelv itself, the Throne is actually very good in this deck. There’s even a nonbasic land called Karn’s Bastion that allows you to pay four generic mana to proliferate!

There’s also one sorcery that you should definitely consider called White Sun’s Twilight. It’s a White Spell that costs X and two White mana. You create X 1/1 Phyrexian Mite artifact creature tokens, and if X is 5 or more, you destroy all other creatures. Generally, you’ll want to likely cast it for 4 or less, but having an option to board wipe is also quite handy. It’s a brutal swing in draft and sealed deck play, and perhaps even more so in a Commander game.

What are Good Support Cards for a Skrelv EDH Deck?

One of the advantages of Toxic over Infect as a mechanic is that Toxic creatures deal regular combat damage in addition to their Toxic poison damage. So, there are several ways to support the core theme of the deck. First off, you’ll want to protect Skrelv with the traditional Commander staple equipments like Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves, which can give it hexproof or shroud, respectively.

Equipment cards like Whispersilk Cloak and Trailblazer’s Boots can give Skrelv and its Toxic allies unblockable. However, the Cloak also provides shroud, like with Lightning Greaves, meaning Skrelv can’t target that creature any more. Also, while the Cloak and Greaves are good on Skrelv itself by protecting it from targeted removal, there are some reasons why being unable to target Skrelv yourself can be an issue.

If you’re willing to skip giving Skrelv shroud, the best way to best support Skrelv is to be able to untap it. Thanks to being an artifact itself, there are more options to untap Skrelv than most other non-artifact Commanders. Manifold Key, Thousand-Year Elixir, and Umbral Mantle are excellent support cards for untapping Skrelv to give its benefits to more than one creature per turn.  

Another option you could consider is Key to the City, which can both provide unblockable to a creature, albeit at the cost of discarding a card, and even draw you cards for just a couple of generic mana when it becomes untapped. An artifact that can essentially loot cards (discard to draw) and provide a way to get through Toxic or Infect damage seems an obvious play to me.

To make sure you’re always getting more gas, there are a couple ways to get some free card draw, which aren’t expensive to the wallet at all. These are Mentor of the Meek and Welcoming Vampire, each of which let you draw a card when a creature with power 2 or less enters play. Mentor of the Meek requires that you pay a generic mana, but you can do it as much as you can pay for the cost. Welcoming Vampire’s draw ability only triggers once per turn.

If you’re willing to fork over the cash, you can upgrade the deck considerably by adding Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite to pump all your creatures by +2/+2 while making all creatures your opponents control get -2/-2. This effect alone will often give you enough of a chance to go wide to win the game outright. 

The other really big card to add would be Mondrak, Glory Dominus, who doubles all tokens you create; not only is it a great Commander in its own right, but it’s Standard playable, and also part of many other token Commander strategies already. Therefore, it’s carrying a much higher price tag than most other cards in the set.

For card draw, the Modern staple Esper Sentinel can help you passively draw cards. It forces opponents to either pay X generic mana each time they cast their first non creature spell in a turn, where X is Esper Sentinel’s power. Considering that it’s not hard to boost the power of creatures in a Skrelv deck, in a multiplayer setting, you could net one, two, or even three extra cards per turn.

Of course, you could also play the new Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, who not only doubles all of your enters the battlefield triggers, but also shuts down those of your opponents. To be fair, there aren’t many Commander decks that couldn’t play MoM, so having a copy is probably a good idea anyway; fortunately, she’s not required for this deck to be successful.

Why Play Skrelv Over Other Toxic and Infect Commander Decks?

Being that Toxic is all over the Phyrexia: All Will Be One set, it’s also a major theme of the related Commander products. Just from this set alone, we’ve been given Vishgraz, the Doomhive and Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa. Also, while Ria Ivor, Bane of Bladehold doesn’t have Toxic herself, she can create Toxic mite tokens. All of these three Commanders do have White mana as part of their color identity, too, and can take advantage of all the same cards as Skrelv, including the Defector Mite itself.

However, Skrelv has a few obvious advantages. Vishgraz and Ixhel are both three-color commanders, while Ria Ivor is two colors. Skrelv is only one color. This means that your mana base is much cheaper and simpler, cutting down immensely on the cost of the deck. Also, many of the cards in Skrelv are very cheap, as most of your Toxic and Infect core are commons and uncommon. This makes Skrelv a budget Commander deck which can be easily upgraded, but could otherwise be built under $100 quite easily.

Plus, if you decide you’d rather upgrade to one of the other Toxic Commanders in the set, or even the best poison commander of all in Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice, you already have most of the key cards you would need. All in all, Skrelv gives you both a great Toxic and Infect toolbox to start with that can be competitive all on its own,.

Overall, Skrelv, Defector Mite is a powerful and sneaky commander that can quickly overwhelm opponents with unblocked Toxic damage. By focusing on cards allowing it to abuse its abilities and protect it and its Toxic and Infect allies from removal, Skrelv can be a formidable force at the Commander table.

What do you think of Skrelv, Defector Mite?

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Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy. Personal Website: https://www.thephoenixdesertsong.com

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