Let's Discuss: Pharika, God of Affliction

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Posted on Aug. 30, 2018, 8:08 a.m. by TypicalTimmy

I'd like to ask a few questions about Pharika, God of Affliction when the Theros block was in Standard.

See, I wasn't playing MTG back then. I came in during the release of Magic: Origins. Though I did play from time to time throughout my highschool years (2004 - 2007) and later in college (2009 - 2012), but I didn't actually start buying and building decks until M:O. Simply put, it was a passive interest and I'd just borrow a friend's deck for the day.

No, my questions are these:

  • When Pharika, God of Affliction was in Standard, was there an over-abundance of creature removal? Because her ability seems to specifically target creatures which have already been killed / discarded / milled?
  • Was there a lot of graveyard tricks around the Theros block, and thus the potency of exiling creatures was of great benefit?
  • What was the mechanical purpose of giving your opponent a 1/1 token? I understand that paying for a permanent removal from the game is really cheap, so the cost is offset in some way, but why give them a 1/1 DEATHTOUCH chump blocker?

She's always struck me as the odd-ball of the Gods. They are all so darn straight-forward.

  • Iroas, God of Victory gives your guys Menace. That's awesome!

  • Mogis, God of Slaughter is an Indestructible sac-engine. Oooh, boy and I use him very often in my Rakdos decks.

  • Erebos, God of the Dead stomps out life totals and is a seriously under-rated draw engine. I mean, SERIOUSLY YOU DON'T EVEN TAP HIM WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE?!

  • Kruphix, God of Horizons - Dude, just stop. I've run decks where I pool over 100 mana and people end up forgetting about it until I drop bombs like I'm ((insert outdated reference of your choice, here.))

  • Karametra, God of Harvests Oh. My. God. "Hey, I see you tapped your lands this turn to play a creature. Let me help you out with that <3"

I mean they are all soooo good.

Then there's Pharika.

"Hey, I heard you like combat tricks, hand manipulation, sac, burn, draw engines, land drops... so how about I create some 1/1 Deathtouch tokens for your opponent?"

Seriously. I can't logically wrap my head around her. Either you exile your own graveyard for some chump blockers which I guess is okay, or you give your opponent said chump blockers and, well let's hope you've got yourself Nylea, God of the Hunt and they don't have Archetype of Courage.

I just... I don't see it.

Were you supposed to combo Nylea, God of the Hunt + Erebos, God of the Dead + Pharika, God of Affliction and hope you get all three out so you can swing for damage that can't be recovered from? Because honestly, that seems really difficult to do.

So what's going on here? What am I missing? What was Standard like back then that warranted a card like this to be made?

Thanks.

(Wait, was Dredge a thing around this time? Then I could understand it. Discarding / milling yourself and turning them into protection seems like a logical method, but I don't know if that was a thing or not in Standard. Hence the thread.)

Gidgetimer says... #2

I've never played standard so take my analysis with a grain of salt.

Theros block was right after RTR block, so was already priced into graveyard interactions from the Golgari guild. I don't believe that the second ability was ever intended to be used on your oponent's graveyard. I believe the intent was for a way to recycle your creatures that didn't already have interactions from the graveyard into "Destroy target attacking creature without flying". Pharika is by far the worst of the gods in my opinion though. I opened three of her from the 10 or so packs of JOU I opened, and frankly I would have rather gotten 75% of the rares and 100% of the other mythics than her

August 30, 2018 9:53 a.m.

clayperce says... #3

TypicalTimmy,
If I recall correctly, she didn't see a ton of play, but was a common one-of in all the Sultai decks playing Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.

Brain Maggot was a thing at the time too, and she was really good with that card. Disrupt an opponent's hand, then chump-block, then we're set up to Flash in a chump-blocker with Deathtouch whenever we need? Yeah, I'll take some of that! In the same way, she made late-game mana dorks better too.

August 30, 2018 9:59 a.m.

Boza says... #4

Balance is the only thing I can think of. She is basically a deathtouch chump block maker at instant speed, which is actually very powerful. If you chump with said 1/1 snake an opponents creature, it means free food for the next snake! It literally feeds the engine to make more snakes, which is quite powerful. Restricting this way makes it a viable graveyard hate at instant speed, while stopping it from being OP.

August 30, 2018 10:15 a.m.

Gleeock says... #5

Playtested my Thantis, the Warweaver deck. She is REALLY good in there.... but that is incredibly niche :)

August 30, 2018 9:20 p.m.

TypicalTimmy says... #6

Gleeock, do you have Dragon Broodmother and Dragonlair Spider in there, too?

Some of my favorite token makers.

August 30, 2018 11:52 p.m.

Gleeock says... #7

TypicalTimmy I love those cards but I actually do not use them in my new deck because it has been "tokens matters" for opponents, sounds like a surefire way to die but playtesting showed otherwise. Actually it held its own in heads up surprisingly well considering it NEEDS to be groupslug. Played against Arcades, the Strategist, Dinos, and The Gitrog Monster & won against gitrog...made a go of it against walls - pretty good considering he could kindof choose when he was going to attack with the wall theme.

August 31, 2018 2:43 p.m.

Gleeock says... #8

She is the godly oddball though, I agree with the post... but she is slowly seeing more synergy & use. Think about her in all these Jund Reanimate Lands themes too, where you are not looking to bring creatures out of the graveyard but they end up there by happenstance... Gives you some graveyard use for those creatures. Not to mention some solid hate.

August 31, 2018 6:01 p.m.

Arvail says... #9

She saw some play in RTR + THS standard mainly in Golgari decks that ran stuff like Grisly Salvage, Satyr Wayfinder, Lotleth Troll, Nyx Weaver, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Nighthowler, etc. Some sultai stuff was also around that used her.

People mostly remember that Standard rotation as containing lots of UWx control that absolutely abused Sphinx's Revelation and Supreme Verdict as well as mono B and BW decks centered around Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Cards like Nightveil Specter, Pack Rat, Underworld Connections, and so on proved to be easy ways to increase devotion counts. Mono blue devotion was also a thing around then, as was GR monsters lists that abused ramping with Voyaging Satyr and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

Lastly, that standard era was defined by the insane power of Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Midrange decks that weren't Elspeth decks needed other ways to close games to stay relevant as long as she stayed around.

As far as removal was concerned, no, there wasn't an overabundance of great options. For example, Hero's Downfall was a $15 card when it came out. It's pretty good, but that's the best outside of Verdict. The biggest graveyard abuse that took place during this era came from Whip of Erebos. Still, remember that Rest in Peace debuted in Ravnica and did very little work in the format. It was a junk rare for a long time.

Hope that helps. If you have other questions, I can answer them.

August 31, 2018 6:06 p.m.

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