The Other Ability - Atraxa's Four Other Abilities (They're Keywords)

Atraxa hovers slightly above a circle of phyrexians reaching upwards to her. Her wings span the whole image nearly eclipsing two other floating phyrexians behind her.
(Atraxa, Grand Unifier/ By Marta Nael)

Blink, and You'll Miss It

Commander players can be greedy.

Case in point, Atraxa, Grand Unifier.

Whenever she enters the battlefield, she lets you look at the top 10 cards of your library and up to 8 of those cards go to hand. Digging that deep and picking specific cards is tremendously powerful. This is a game-ending amount of value.

However, players want to do this every turn. Multiple times a turn; filling your hand with more cards than you can possibly cast. Atraxa, Grand Unifier, in my mind, is the premier “winmore.deck”

Blink strategies are the most popular build path for this Atraxa. Blink is shorthand for any effect that exiles a permanent and then returns it to the battlefield. This lets players get ETB, enter the battlefield, triggers multiple times instead of once.

These decks have no problem controlling a board or accruing an incredible amount of resources. The problem these decks face is turning that into victory.

The strategy I'm about to outline is just as "win more" as any other Atraxa brew. Like her original iteration, even less optimized decks will still be powerful. This strategy creates an unstoppable, impenetrable board state. Atraxa won't be in and out gathering supplies. She's going to lead the invasion firsthand.

The Other Abilities

Atraxa's unique combination of keywords make combat a nightmare for our opponents.


Atraxa has no issue finding someone to fly over. Players often don't have an answer to flyers barring an incidental instance of flying or reach. The rest only hope to draw removal.


Atraxa is online at all times. Without vigilance, an offensive creature is effectively gone after the attack. After swinging a big creature, that player is left open on their opponent's turns. Atraxa gets to swing and stays open to block each other turn.


Atraxa always collects. The biggest downside to big attacking creatures without trample is chump blocks. Your opponents will gladly sacrifice a Bird token to prevent losing seven. Lifelink ensures that we get value out of every single swing and block. Each swing and block grants you a substantial chunk of health back.

This pairs well with vigilance. Opponents will have to be careful not to increase your life from swinging into your blockers.


Atraxa is taking her threats down with her. If you wanted to power past Atraxa you have one more thing to consider. Is swinging at the Atraxa player worth losing whatever I'm swinging with? It doesn’t matter if you're swinging with some gigantic monstrosity. Any instance of damage will be lethal.

Secret Weapon

Atraxa's keywords make it difficult for our opponents to approach.

But what if every single creature you control had those game-warping abilities?

Our secret commander, Odric, Lunarch Marshal does just that.

This is my first secret commander deck of the series.

Secret commander decks are where the “Build around card” is a card in the deck not the command zone.

I am a fan of this strategy as it allows for deck building outside of a commander's colors, and allows for building around cards that aren’t legendary creatures.

Black and green have several tutor spells to pull Odric from the deck. With some luck, Atraxa's ETB trigger is pretty good at finding him herself.

Odric is the premier "Keywords" commander. This wall of text effectively reads:

At the beginning of each combat, creatures you control gain each keyword for each keyword on a creature you control.

In our case, with Atraxa on the field, Odric would gain flying, vigilance, deathtouch, and lifelink at the beginning of combat. Each other creature you control gains those abilities too!

Some nuances:

  • This is includes your opponent's combat steps
  • The abilities remain on each creature until end of turn
  • It covers 13 specific keywords, not all of them

Key to Victory

Now for the fun part, the keywords that push Atraxa from powerful to unstoppable.

Double Strike

What's better than a 7/7 body? One that hits twice! Double strike lets you deal damage on the first strike step and the regular damage step of combat. Alongside deathtouch, anything blocking Atraxa will die before it deals damage. Anything that gets blocked will face the same fate.

First strike will interact the same way with deathtouch except there won't be an additional instance of damage at the regular damage step.


What's better than a 7/7 blocker entering the battlefield? One that can attack that same turn.

Crashing Drawbridge is boots on a stick. What I mean by that ridiculous sentence is that Lightning Greaves grants haste to one creature at a time, where Crashing Drawbridge grants haste to each creature, every turn.

Hall of the Bandit Lord takes a chunk of life to use, but after your Atraxa swings immediately, you actually come ahead due to lifelink. Also, that haste doesn't go away from end of turn. So if you have Odric out (which is the point of the deck) your whole board has haste. I'd pay three life for that.


I didn't forget about trample. Only, with a whole board of flyers, trample becomes a little redundant. There's an incidental smattering of trample in the deck. It plays well with deathtouch. As we only need to assign one point of deathtouch damage to a blocker for it to be lethal. Meaning our 7/7 can assign the other six other damage to our opponent regardless of the blocker's toughness.

Attacking From a Different Angle

Arkoma has been long beloved for having a staggering amount of keywords. She has so many keywords she had keywords before they existed. She's a fast, resilient threat that makes opponents think twice when engaging in any form of combat. She brings four unique keywords to our board that Atraxa doesn't provide: Haste, first strike, protection from black and red, and trample. Because this deck aims to grant every creature the same swath of keywords, this makes Akroma one of the best cards in the deck. You can discard her and get those juicy keywords in play with one of our graveyard centric Keyword cards.

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn can be used similarly. While not having haste, Zetalpa brings indestructible, trample, and double strike to the field. Every keyword you could want more on Atraxa, Zetalpa brings.

The original Commander Legends product brought a phenomenal update to Akroma. She brings first strike and trample to the table, but more importantly a +1/+1 buff to each other creature for every keyword they have. This payoff is game-ending. Atraxa alone becomes an 11/11, letting her kill anyone after two swings from commander damage. If Odric is out, it's a +6/+6 to every creature you control. While unlikely, this brew is capable at maxing out at +10/+10 to each creature alongside ten bonkers keywords.

Preparing For Invasion

Atrxa is a magnet for removal. And for good reason. An Atraxa player left unchecked will have little issue taking over a game. That's why a chunk of our strategy is dedicated to make removing her as difficult as possible.

Prevention beats a cure. A key weakness to any big spell strategy is counterspells. If a player answers our seven mana commander for two, that is a huge loss of value for us. If a player can counter Atraxa before she hits the field, they will. That's why we don't give our opponents that option.

I wanted to highlight Thryx, the Sudden Storm specifically. In a deck packed with huge spells, Thryx takes away the guess work. We cast these Angels easier, unafraid of counterspells.

Elvish Piper and other similar cards are fantastic for this deck. It lets us play or huge creatures much faster and stops opponents from using conventional counter magic to stop us.

If you've managed to resolve Atraxa, the next step is keeping her on the battlefield. Indestructible is pretty good at that. Swinging and blocking become even easier. Most board wipes and removal spells become a fleeting gesture.

Hexproof, like indestructible, is an ability we want on Atraxa at all times. Your opponents will remove her if given the opportunity. So don't give them that opportunity. If you're lucky, they'll send it somewhere else too.

The only way around Atraxa from this point, are specific board wipes, that exile, bounce, or reduce toughness. That's what our counter magic is for.

Nothing is stopping compleat invasion.

Atraxa Keywords

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Commander (1)
Creatures (35)
Instants (9)
Enchantments (5)
Artifacts (6)
Sorceries (9)
Lands (35)

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Final Words of Advice

While she remains unique for her color combination, I would argue that those four keywords are what make her as iconic as a commander.

I feel keywords are underrated in general. Their power is demonstrated with standout cards like Akroma's Memorial or Akroma's Will. However, the strategy itself is not particularly popular.

There are already blink decks, there are already proliferate decks. There are decks that love putting cards in hand. While Atraxa can pull off each of these strategies with great success, I am more interested in pulling off a strategy that no other commander has; blessing a board of creatures with a unique combination of keywords.

Each Atraxa represents the format itself in a way. Her combined popularity is a testament to that. They are powerful, but allow for countless directions to brew in. This brew itself could be modified in a few different directions. In my mind, that's where much of the fun of Commander is. Pulling off ridiculous, absurdly powerful board states and interactions. Each Atraxa represents this desire perfectly.

I am not the first to brew Atraxa as a "Keywords" commander, and I am certain new ways to build will continue to evolve with time.

Thanks for exploring keywords with me! I'd love to hear how your brews are going.

What is your favorite way to brew with Atraxa? What are your favorite combination of keywords?

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Jonathan has been a Magic fan for an eternity in internet years. IRL, since 2016. Jonathan is a professional overthinker and an advocate for diversity. You can find him scrawling gibberish into loose papers, supporting local art, or trying out new recipes.

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