This deck abuses -1/-1 counters for fun and profit: it's a stax/combo deck, killing and maiming your opponents' creatures to delay their development, then winning via combo (with token aggro as a backup strategy, should the combos fail).

Hapatra's first ability is very relevant, surprisingly. You can take advantage of the fact that many tables will have at least one player without a creature on Turn 3, so you can usually swing to kill small utility creatures and get snakes. My favorite target to murder is Dark Confidant , heh, but it's also extremely valuable to kill early-game mana dorks in a high-power meta.

But her second ability is the reason to build around her. Spells like Black Sun's Zenith give disgusting value here: when you kill the board, you retain an army of deathtouching snakes! The snakes work equally well as attackers or defenders - deathtouch is an extremely powerful ability on expendable creatures. It's also ludicrously easy to get more than 10 snakes, trade them for mana/cards, then win with the overwhelming resource advantage.

There are six major infinite combos (detailed below), which give the deck early-game power. If the combos fail, for whatever reason, the deck can easily transition to being a pseudo-stax build (with Sadistic Hypnotist , Viridian Longbow on a snake, etc) and/or classic beatdown (with Eldrazi Monument , Triumph of the Hordes , Craterhoof Behemoth , etc). The deck runs a significant amount of reanimation and recursion to have late-game threats, and rarely has trouble closing out a game.

There are six main infinite combos in this deck, listed in order of relevance:

  1. Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons + Yawgmoth, Thran Physician : This combo is something like a fusion between Plague Wind and Yawgmoth's Bargain -- the printing of Yawgmoth completely revolutionized the deck's lines of play. Yawgmoth is almost always my first tutor: with Hapatra, he forms a hard lock against creatures, immediately draws a high number of cards, and is an outright wincon with Nest of Scarabs (by digging for Zulaport Cutthroat / Obelisk Spider as a finisher) as long as you have 20+ cards left in library. This combo tends to be good at all points in the game, but even without Hapatra to make more tokens, Yawgmoth is a powerful draw engine in his own right. Nest of Scarabs can also replace Hapatra in this combo, though less efficiently.
  2. Devoted Druid + Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons + Ivy Lane Denizen : This combo immediately generates infinite snakes, and infinite green mana if Devoted Druid doesn't have summoning sickness. I discovered this combo by accident! Unlike the other combos, Nest of Scarabs does *not* work as a replacement for Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons here. Note that this combo still generates immediate snakes without waiting for Devoted Druid 's summoning sickness to wear off. This combo is powerful because all of the pieces are low-CMC, making it an easy line in the early-game, and easy to tutor with creature tutors that care about CMC. Not to mention that it's obscure, hard to disrupt, and can be executed at instant-speed!
  3. Earthcraft + Squirrel Nest (+ a basic land): Creates an infinite number of tapped squirrels! Be aware that this combo will leave you somewhat vulnerable while pulling it off, as you'll be a threat with no additional untapped creatures. This is a backup combo, as it requires two noncreature cards (both hard to tutor). However, this combo is feasible even when your commander is prohibitively expensive or stolen, and it does not die to creature removal or Cursed Totem , unlike our other combos. Both halves of this combo are also good on their own in the deck, so it's been a good addition to the list. Note that having Zulaport Cutthroat in play isn't necessary for this combo, but helps significantly (since it means that a Wrath of God can't delay the inevitable).
  4. Devoted Druid + Mikaeus, the Unhallowed : This combo gives infinite death triggers and infinite -1/-1 counter placement. With Obelisk Spider or Blood Artist , this causes your opponents to lose infinite life. Paired with Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons or Nest of Scarabs , this creates infinite tokens. Paired with Lightning Greaves / Earthcraft , this also creates infinite mana. This combo is useful because it doesn't require our commander, but it IS shut down by GY hate (unlike the wincons above).
  5. Mikaeus, the Unhallowed + Yawgmoth, Thran Physician + two non-human creatures: This combo acts as a Yawgmoth's Bargain (fittingly enough), by bouncing -1/-1 counters between the two undying creatures to cancel their +1/+1 counters. You can also execute this combo with one non-human creature and a token-maker (Hapatra or Nest of Scarabs ). This combo allows you to dig for Zulaport Cutthroat / Obelisk Spider as the finisher. If you control Earthcraft while executing this combo, you also generate infinite mana. Like the previous combo, this is vulnerable to GY hate, but doesn't require our commander.
  6. Mikaeus, the Unhallowed + *{any creature that ETBs with a -1 counter on it}* + Yawgmoth, Thran Physician / Sadistic Hypnotist : This combo creates infinite death triggers and -1 counter placement without needing your commander. This combo is handy when other combos have been disrupted, or when Hapatra has been somehow neutralized, although it tends to be a backup plan (as it requires 3 non-commander pieces, and a lot of mana). Generally wins via Zulaport Cutthroat / Obelisk Spider , and can dig for them if Yawgmoth is the sac outlet. Once again, this combo is vulnerable to GY hate.

Broadly speaking, the "purpose" of the combos in this deck can be classified into three categories -- infinite counter placement (1 and 2), infinite tokens (3), and infinite death triggers (4, 5, and 6). Nearly all of the combos require some subset of Hapatra, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician , Devoted Druid , and Mikaeus, the Unhallowed , so finding/protecting/reanimating these four creatures is a high priority. The best combo to choose in a specific game depends on many factors: access to our commander, the presence of graveyard hate, whether Cursed Totem effects are on the battlefield, which tutors you possess, what cards you drew into naturally, etc.

But to summarize my personal preferences:

  • If Cursed Totem is on the battlefield, the only possible infinite combo is combo 3. Under this circumstance, aggro is often more viable than infinite combo. It's also possible to find removal for the Totem... but that often burns one of your unconditional tutors, making it harder to find the actual infinite combo as a finisher. Note that if the stax piece in question is Linvala, Keeper of Silence (or any other hatebear), it's comparatively easy to kill her via -1/-1 counters.
  • Hapatra is the deck's primary token-producer. If she's not available, it's difficult to win via non-Squirrel aggro, and the best plan is to dig for combos 3-6 (or combo 1, if you can find Nest of Scarabs ). The deck honestly has difficulty without her, though we run reanimation and protection to maintain access to her (and her low CMC means she can viably be recast several times in a game).
  • If GY hate is in play, our deck loses several combos (4-6). We also lose access to our recursion, which can hurt, but at least we cope better than a truly GY-reliant deck (such as Meren, Muldrotha, or sometimes Hulk Flash). Our non-Mikaeus combos (1-3) are already our primary wincon, though, so we aren't truly crippled by this form of hate.
  • I'd recommend conserving your unconditional tutors when possible (Demonic, Vampiric, Intent), given that the vast majority of our tutors can only tutor for creatures, and since they're the only cards that can tutor for combo 3. See the tutors section below for more details!
This deck uses its tokens as a resource (to find and support the combos, in addition to aggro), and generally performs best with at least four or five available. The best mass distributors for -1/-1 counters are Soul Snuffers and Black Sun's Zenith , though Ammit Eternal or any proliferate effect can also be handy in a pinch. Most of these methods will put counters on your snakes as well, but your snakes will return if you control Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons (or Nest of Scarabs ). Just try to ensure Hapatra has a way to survive the global counter placement, such as Ivy Lane Denizen .

Earthcraft is one of the most integral cards in the deck. It creates what I call a "snowball effect", where many spells will generate more mana than they cost (analogous to casting spells while controlling a Paradox Engine ). If you create snakes with some -1 counter placement effect, they can be immediately tapped to untap your lands and continue casting further spells. Make sure that you have at least one Forest and one Swamp , though! With the decreased number of Forest s and Swamp s, this is not a guarantee - sometimes it's better to fetch for a basic than your shock. Earthcraft can also allow Devoted Druid to "tap" for colored mana, generating more than one color of infinite mana with her in combos.

Generous Patron is a host unto herself. Hoooooly mother of god, that card is good. She frequently will draw 5+ cards per turn, and nearly always draws 2 cards upon ETBing. She's an extremely good card to tutor for when you simply need to refill your hand. She shares this role with the new staple Yawgmoth, Thran Physician , who synergizes extremely well with her ;)

Speaking of Yawgmoth... As mentioned above, he's by far the strongest addition to this deck since its inception. He forms a hard anti-creature lock with Hapatra (sacrifice a Snake, place a -1 counter on an opponent's creature, draw a card, get a snake, repeat), resulting in something between Kuro, Pitlord and Yawgmoth's Bargain for four mana. It's worth mentioning that the life loss isn't irrelevant with his ability, so Zulaport Cutthroat / Obelisk Spider is a good addition to dig for using Yawgmoth's card draw. And of course he's integral to several of the infinite combos in the deck!

Yawgmoth's only major downside is that you can't place -1/-1 counters on him with Hapatra's triggered ability, as he has protection from Humans. Bonus points if you control Necroskitter while killing things with his ability! It's usually not relevant, but the fact that he can draw at instant speed also makes Vampiric Tutor ing for an immediate answer ( Force of Vigor , Heroic Intervention , Chord of Calling , etc) viable.

Natural Order (and similar effects) frequently grab Craterhoof Behemoth for lethal T5 or earlier, or Bane of Progress against an artifact-centric deck. This can be enough to close out a game alone against an unprepared opponent. Meanwhile, Triumph of the Hordes forces your opponents into a sadistic choice: if they block, you get more snakes because the infecting creatures deal combat damage in the form of -1 counters. If they choose not to block, even five snakes can prove deadly. And while proliferate is not a primary focus in this deck, Karn's Bastion or Yawgmoth, Thran Physician (or other proliferate effects) can give you those last few poison counters.

Viridian Longbow equipped to a snake gives you a mana-free Murder each turn, which can be a brutal control/stax effect against decks that rely on creatures for their wincon, doubly so if you repeatedly kill their commander upon it entering the battlefield. It's worth mentioning that Viridian Longbow attached to Necroskitter guarantees you one snake per turn, and can steal mana dorks and other 1-toughness creatures. Remember that Viridian Longbow gives the tap ability to the equipped creature: Collecter Ouphe doesn't shut it down, but DOES prevent re-equipping if the equipped creature dies.

Heartwood Storyteller is a somewhat new addition, but in theory none of our infinite combos involve casting many non-creature spells. The hope is that our opponents will use their additional cards stopping one another rather than this deck, and this deck can at least function without casting many non-creature spells (unlike most other competitive lists). If he doesn't work out, Runic Armasaur may be going back in.

And of course while Crop Rotation is primarily intended to fetch Gaea's Cradle , it's a powerful toolbox effect. It can decrease your commander tax ( Command Beacon ), provide instant-speed graveyard hate ( Scavenger Grounds ), give you land destruction ( Strip Mine ), find evasion ( Shizo, Death's Storehouse ), or give you basics for Earthcraft . Not to mention that in a REAL pinch, you can tutor Ifnir Deadlands for the counter placement, heh. On the topic of utility lands, note that Ifnir Deadlands and Scavenger Grounds can each sacrifice the other land to their own ability, if you'd prefer to get one of those abilities twice.

Most of the tutors in this deck grab creatures. And while a large portion of the strategy in the deck is learning to tutor for the right thing at the right time, here's a rough outline:

Let's start by acknowledging that Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is frequently the best creature to tutor in general, unless you can immediately threaten an infinite combo. He establishes a strong lock, converts your tokens into card draw and removal, allows proliferation... With all that upside, he's rarely a bad choice! He also tends to draw into other tutors, "replacing" the card advantage spent by tutoring him initially. Apart from Yawgmoth, however:

Natural Order also usually grabs Craterhoof Behemoth (feels like Legacy Elves!), but it can also grab a combo piece directly, Seshiro the Anointed as a card draw and aggro enabler, or just a useful creature at the time. Eldritch Evolution and Chord of Calling usually vary heavily based on board state, but Devoted Druid is almost never a bad choice. The other major targets for these three spells are Bane of Progress / Collector Ouphe (to deal with artifact-centric decks), Generous Patron / Seshiro the Anointed for card draw, or Meren of Clan Nel Toth (to recur our commander, or other creatures in the late-game).

Survival of the Fittest deserves its own section. This deck unfortunately has a lower creature count than Survival would prefer, but it's still an absolutely vicious card. If you want to play a bit more of a long-game, you can tutor for Meren of Clan Nel Toth to guarantee you have a creature in hand to discard every turn, to continue tutoring with Survival. If you need more snakes, Soul Snuffers is a good choice, while Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and Generous Patron are powerful sources of card draw. Don't forget that you can reanimate the creatures you discard using Reanimate , Victimize , etc - tutoring for a Craterhoof Behemoth , discarding it, and reanimating it is an easy and low-CMC trick to murder an unsuspecting opponent. I've been considering Phyrexian Delver as tutorable reanimation for this purpose as well. Just make sure that you have an extra G available when you cast it, because it'll generally be destroyed very quickly, haha.

Your non-creature tutors will usually grab Earthcraft or Squirrel Nest , but these can also be very context-dependent. I've occasionally even tutored for a Natural Order , to cheat on mana costs! ;)

This deck thrives in a "mixed meta" - as in, where at least one player has very few creatures (so you can connect with Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons to get guaranteed snakes) and at least one player has several creatures, especially mana dorks (so that you have targets to put -1 counters on).

These are not insurmountable challenges: if all of your opponents have creatures, you can rely on cards other than Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons to place -1 counters. If none of your opponents have creatures, you can place counters on your own creatures without harming your gameplan TOO much - indeed, your infinite combos rely on doing so. They just tend to slow down the deck's tempo. Or you can use cards such as Forbidden Orchard to guarantee targets for your -1 counter placement.

The deck is primarily geared towards multiplayer (simply because more creatures = more -1 counters from global effects like Black Sun's Zenith , and ). However, if playing in 1v1, the best plan is to prioritize stax cards against a controlling opponent, and early "rattlesnake" blockers against aggro decks.

Against a control deck, your combos will usually be disrupted. If you control Sadistic Hypnotist , you can empty their hand before comboing. If this is not feasible, you can force them to waste their counterspells on your combo pieces, then push for a win through a token-aggro approach. If Hapatra is countered, we have the option of putting her into the GY and reanimating her, but I'd caution against this course of play if you're concerned they will be able to counter your reanimation (as that will leave you SOL).

This deck has undergone a significant amount of changes over the last two years, and several cards generally considered "staples" have been removed from the list after not pulling their weight. I thought I should include a quick explanation of which cards haven't made the cut, and their pluses and minuses, so that other Hapatra players can try them out for themselves.

  • Blowfly Infestation : This is the iconic combo with Hapatra, so I'm sure it surprises many people that I'd cut it. Honestly, though, Squirrelcraft is a better 2-piece non-creature combo (less reliance on commander, etc) and Blowfly can be VERY risky or dead in many hands. I was never pleased to draw it, and I never tutored for it -- when Yawgmoth was released, this was one of the natural cuts for his inclusion.
  • Archfiend of Ifnir : This card always had an awkward role in this deck. He's very good with Survival of the Fittest and Necropotence , and forms a Gitrog-esque pseudo-infinite combo with Generous Patron if you end the turn with 8+ cards in hand. However, outside of these corner cases, he was rarely good despite his high ceiling (because I have almost zero discard outlets in the deck). I previously justified his inclusion by the fact that I could cycle him away if I didn't need him. But with the release of Yawgmoth, I have an even better way to perform almost exactly the same combo -- notably, letting me draw cards on my turn with it and turn it into an outright wincon.
  • Contagion Engine : Too much mana, too little utility. I rarely found enough value from targeting only a single opponent with it. The double proliferate was cute, but... I don't want to invest 10 mana without winning.
  • Contagion Clasp : This one was better than Engine in general, but got swapped with Karn's Bastion . I'd rather have the extra source of mana than another cheap way to place counters, though eventually I could be persuaded to run both.
  • Evolution Sage : Too slow, though it was cute when I tried it. Wasn't bad, but... better options exist? I'd probably run Sword of Truth and Justice over it anyway, for the protection.
  • Priest of Forgotten Gods : Very hit or miss, and waiting for summoning sickness to wear off was irritating. The point here was to turn creatures into draw and removal, but once again Yawgmoth did the job better.
  • Defense of the Heart : This was a hard cut. But the card made me a target, could be inconsistent depending on my opponents' decks, and didn't tutor until my next turn (even assuming it wasn't removed). It got cut for Finale of Devastation , and I haven't looked back since.
  • Protean Hulk : I know, cutting this card seems like heresy. He tutors for most of my infinite combos, too! The issue was that I had no efficient way to 1) tutor him to battlefield since most of my tutors are based on CMC and 2) I had few good ways to sacrifice him at will. Basically, he wasn't good without Flash , unfortunately. He just never worked out correctly, and was removed for more efficient wincons.
  • Quillspike : Conversely, this card is just BAD in the deck. Dies to any global -1/-1 placement effect, only combos with Devoted Druid once the latter's summoning sickness has worn off, pretty useless outside of that combo... HARD pass; I cut him after the first week of testing.
  • Dowsing Dagger  Flip: This is a very tempting card, honestly. It gives bodies to put -1/-1 counters on, it gives a significant boost to mana, and it can occasionally work as politics. The issue was really that it doesn't play nice with Collector Ouphe , and that it's a little too... "cute". When it works well it works, but it can eat up mana in early turns that I'd prefer be used for other tasks. It might meander back in eventually, but I'm not extremely optimistic.
  • Blood Artist : This recently got cut for Zulaport Cutthroat with the addition of Yawgmoth, Thran Physician , because as I embrace Yawgmoth combo lines, one fundamental limiter is the number of cards in my library. If I have Zulaport, I only need 40 sacrifice triggers to win, whereas with Blood Artist I'd need 120. This is slightly academic, given that Obelisk Spider does the job well on its own, but it's good to have redundancy. The only downside to this swap so far is that Blood Artist is another non-human creature for Mikaeus's ability.
  • Living Plane / Bayou / Chains of Mephistopheles : Trust me, I'd be running these if I had the money, haha. Maybe we'll get there someday!
  • There are also several cards I know I *should* test in the future, when I get around to it. Chief among them is Contamination , but that would require the addition of a LOT more mana dorks to compensate. I also feel that I should probably test Toxic Deluge and possibly Force of Despair here. Beyond that, Compost / Choke / Withering Boon / Seedtime are meta-dependent options that may work well for others building the list. I'm eventually planning on testing a proper cEDH version of this deck, in which case these changes will most likely be included.

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As is typical for me, I started building this about 2 minutes after she was first spoiled, so this is likely the oldest Hapatra deck on the internet! :)

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$25 Extreme Budget Hapatra EDH

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Date added 2 years
Last updated 2 weeks
Key combos

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.48
Tokens 0/1 Insect, 1/1 Squirrel, 3/3 Beast, 1/1 Snake, 1/1 Spirit, Experience
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-1 Heartwood Storyteller main
+1 Runic Armasaur main
-1 Runic Armasaur maybe