Forgotten Harvest - Phantasmic Beasts and When to Damage Them

(Phantom Tiger | Art by Seb McKinnon)

Kyle is a Liar Sometimes!

Hey everyone! Welcome back to Forgotten Harvest, where we spotlight heavily underplayed cards in the Commander format. This time we're looking at the series of Phantom cards from Judgment. But before getting further into that strategy, I need to come clean on something: I am a dirty, rotten liar.

As hinted at in the last Forgotten HarvestI'm sure many of you were expecting a mono-green deck focused on damage prevention. I built that deck, helmed by Sekki, Seasons' Guide, and then quickly realized that adding white would make it significantly better! What you'll be reading about here is the result of that change. I'm so terribly sorry, and hopefully we can put this behind us for the rest of the article.

In the Spirit of Truthfulness

I'll start with the heart of the deck: cards in the Phantom series from Judgment. This series of creatures have zero toughness, but all enter with a number of +1/+1 counters and have the ability "If damage would be dealt to this creature, prevent that damage. Remove a +1/+1 counter from this creature." Phantom Nishoba and Phantom Nantuko have both appeared in separate Commander products, but there are five other creatures in the series, along with a handful of creatures with similar abilities that are worth a look.

Less powerful than the two Phantoms already mentioned, this deck can still make good use of Phantom Flock (112 decks), Phantom Tiger (97 decks), Phantom Centaur (129 decks), Phantom Nomad (50 decks), and Phantom Wurm (67 decks). Normally, these creatures would be fairly vanilla in an EDH deck. However, this build is going to focus on their damage prevention ability, making them the foundation of the deck's creature base. This is an ability ripe for abuse, and I'm shocked these cards don't see more play in Commander.

There's also a handful of other creatures not from the Phantom series that fit into the same strategy. Sekki, Seasons' Guide deals in damage prevention and +1/+1 counters, but provides token production as well. From Dissension, Sprouting Phytohydra doesn't have the prevention clause, but does replicate when dealt damage. Given some of the ways we're looking to abuse the Phantom ability, this will come in handy. And WotC must be aware of the powerful nature of this ability, as it's been fixed on more recently-printed cards. Case in point, War of the Spark's Ugin's Conjurant and Battle for Zendikar's Undergrowth Champion both have a nerfed version of this ability. Given the latter's 2/2 body and Landfall trigger, I've included it in the deck.

Embellishing the Story

Now that I have my all-star spirits laid out, I should get into how we're going to abuse the Phantom ability. From a careful reading, it's clear that these creatures don't require a +1/+1 counter be removed in order to prevent the damage. So, if I could get their toughness up to even a base value of one, I can score a damage-free army. And the best way to do that would be a commander with an anthem ability.

Enter Trostani Discordant. She'll make sure all our Phantoms survive, regardless of the waves of damage they take. Add to that the anthems themselves: Glorious Anthem and Gaea's Anthem. Not to mention the toughness-boosting powers of Spidersilk Armor and Leyline of Vitality. These effects are critical to keeping the Phantom team on the battlefield and in combat.

That's great and all, but what's to stop my opponents from overwhelming me with their own battalion?

The Truth Hurts for a Little While, But Lies Hurt Forever

Here we come to the reason I moved into white for this deck. Oddly enough, it was a green card that convinced me to go all-in on the Phantoms, and that card was Cyclone. When our team of creatures can't die, we can just keep pumping more and more green mana into the Cumulative Upkeep of this card, and pretty soon our Spirits are all that's left. And with it only appearing in 44 decks currently, this card could really use some more play! It's such a unique ability for green, potentially resulting in a board wipe if unchecked. Yes, there is the possibility of indestructible creatures to contend with, but Bonds of Mortality can help with that.

Once I found Cyclone, I expanded my search for green cards that damage. I also found Splintering Wind, which I'll even admit is a terrible card, and sees play in only 16 decks on EDHREC. To be honest, I'm still testing out this enchantment to see how reliable it'll be. I like the idea of making a bunch of 1/1 fliers in green, and I like it even more when Vigor's on the battlefield. Heck, that's really the only reason this enchantment is still around: Vigor makes it outstanding!

Hail Storm was another terrific find in green, and is currently in only 10 decks. It's a great taunt to only leave green mana open, and then spring this spell in combat when attacked. Few will see that coming! And while they're more well known than the cards I typically talk about, Wave of Reckoning and Lightmine Field are some great damage sources in white that can be abused here.

With all this damage flying around here, it would be a good idea to have some added protection. Hedron-Field Purists from Rise of the Eldrazi is an excellent form of that protection, helping to take the sting out of those Splinter tokens. And it's only seeing play in 290 decks at the moment. Operating as a second, far more limited Vigor, Candles' Glow (60 decks) can help protect some of the non-Phantom creatures in the deck, or help reload a waning spirit low on counters. From only 131 decks on EDHREC, Protective Sphere is an excellent way to minimize the hurt from a Cyclone after several turns. I've also included some mana-makers in the deck to give the Sphere more versatility in holding off opponents' volleys (see Chromatic Lantern among others).

One final card I should mention is Saltblast. I know it's not on-theme like the rest of the cards I've discussed. But in the wake of War of the Spark, I'm beginning to prep my decks for the wave of people in my playgroup trying out all kinds of new 'walkers. Saltblast is some excellent white removal that can handle the nonwhite loyalty countered, as well as lands and all other types of problem permanents. It's a real shame it only sees play in 101 decks. Please help me get that number higher!

With that out of the way, onto the deck:

Selesnya Damages

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Creatures (20)
Instants (7)
Sorceries (6)
Artifacts (7)
Enchantments (21)
Planeswalkers (2)
Land (36)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

I Think I Need to Lie Down

Well, that about does it for this iteration of Forgotten Harvest. Any questions, comments, or snide remarks you may have can be left in the comments below. I'll be there in the comments to get into why I played Kodama's Reach over Cultivate and which God-Eternal is my spirit animal.

What are some of the neglected series of cards like the Phantoms that you'd like to see featured in a deck? Are there any individual cards you've found that are hyper-underplayed and deserve their day in the sun? Let me know below! And I hope you stop by again next time, when I'll be tackling a five-color guild build helmed by Karn, Silver Golem. Or maybe not, you never know...

Midwest transplant to the Pacific Northwest, Kyle has been playing the jankiest of decks for nearly 20 years. He loves non-lethal combos, obscure deck themes, Cloudstone Curio, and winning with Coalition Victory. When he's not tapping lands or brewing decks, Kyle is enjoying his other ridiculously expensive hobby: building with Lego.

EDHREC Code of Conduct

Your opinions are welcome. We love hearing what you think about Magic! We ask that you are always respectful when commenting. Please keep in mind how your comments could be interpreted by others. Personal attacks on our writers or other commenters will not be tolerated. Your comments may be removed if your language could be interpreted as aggressive or disrespectful. You may also be banned from writing further comments.