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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, dropping powerful tax pieces to hobble opposing strategies, then winning via quick, efficient combos (with token aggro as a backup strategy, should the combos fail).

Hapatra's first ability is very relevant — many popular cEDH creatures have 1 toughness, and on most cEDH tables at least one player will have no blockers. Under most circumstances, you can attack in the early game to remove dorks or Dark Confidants.

But her second ability is the reason to build her. Not only do we reliably snipe fragile creatures, not only does she combo off easily, but we can cast spells like Black Sun's Zenith to generate a horde 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 generate 5-10 snakes, trade them for mana/cards, then win with the overwhelming resource advantage. Not to mention, a bunch of expendable deathtouchers is a great way to erode opponents’ Naus margins.

There are four major infinite combos (detailed below), which give the deck the early-game power to match other popular cEDH decks. The deck very commonly threatens a combo victory on T3-4, and all the combos are creature-based so we have innate protection from most of the counterspells in the format.

But if those combos are disrupted, or we fail to draw the right pieces, we seamlessly transition to a powerful suite of stax/prison pieces, and grind our opponents’ life totals down with consistent aggro while digging for our own combos with help from Toski/Frostfang. Or just tutor Fynn, the Fangbearer and head-shot people!

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

  1. Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons + Yawgmoth, Thran Physician : This combo feels 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 5+ of cards, and is an outright wincon with Nest of Scarabs or Ivy Lane Denizen or Scurry Oak (by digging for Zulaport Cutthroat/Obelisk Spider as a finisher) as long as you have 20+ cards left in library. Nest of Scarabs can also replace Hapatra in this combo. Even without Hapatra to make more tokens, Yawgmoth is a powerful draw engine in his own right. I would recommend starting this combo while you control at least two expendable creatures, so that you can initiate another instance of the combo in response to removal on Yawgmoth. If you draw into Earthcraft during the combo, this also generates pseudo-infinite mana.
  2. Devoted Druid + Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons + Ivy Lane Denizen : This combo immediately generates infinite snakes, and infinite green mana as well 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. 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 (many opponents do not recognize Devoted Druid as a kill-on-sight target), hard to disrupt, and can be executed at instant-speed in response to removal. Similarly to above, I’d recommend trying to initiate this combo when Devoted Druid has a +1 counter, so that you can begin another instance of the combo in response to interaction.
  3. Ivy Lane Denizen + Scurry Oak : Creates infinite squirrels! This combo is easy to tutor (low CMC green creatures can be hit by all our tutors), but doesn’t win immediately. Still, this combo doesn’t require Hapatra/Nest and dodges Cursed Totem, unlike our other combos. And paired with Yawgmoth, we have an amount of card draw equal to our life total. Note that having Zulaport Cutthroat in play isn't *necessary* for this combo, but helps significantly (since it means that Toxic Deluge can't prevent your win).
  4. Scurry Oak + Yawgmoth, Thran Physician : Draws equal to life total, with no other pieces needed. Goes properly infinite with Zulaport Cutthroat / Obelisk Spider. This combo requires very specific timing: with Scurry Oak's "create a squirrel" trigger on the stack, use Yawgmoth to sacrifice a creature to put a -1/-1 counter on Scurry Oak until it’s a 0/1. Let the squirrel-creating trigger resolve, which will trigger Evolve due to the squirrel entering while Scurry Oak has 0 power. Let evolve resolve, which will trigger the "create a squirrel" ability, and repeat from the beginning. You can continue drawing cards as if you controlled Yawgmoth's Bargain.

All of these combos require some subset of Hapatra, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Devoted Druid, Scurry Oak, and Ivy Lane Denizen, so finding/protecting/reanimating these five creatures is a high priority. The best combo to choose in a specific situation depends on many factors: access to our commander, 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.
  • If Torpor Orb is on battlefield, Ivy Lane Denizen won’t work. I’d aggressively tutor for Yawgmoth and dig until you find an answer (or just win).
  • 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 either dig for Nest of Scarabs or combo 3. The deck honestly has difficulty without her, though her low CMC means she can viably be recast several times in a game, and we run a *decent* amount of recursion for her.
  • 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. Luckily, all of our combos are creature-based, which also means they dodge the majority of cEDH counterspells!
  • Oddly enough, because all of our combos are creature-based, Phyrexian Reclamation is actually fantastic here. We can usually keep threatening wins forever as long as it stays in play.

This deck runs six cards that I’d consider to be “hard” stax pieces:

  1. Collector Ouphe (anti-artifact)
  2. Dauthi Voidwalker (anti-graveyard)
  3. Opposition Agent (anti-tutor)
  4. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician (anti-creature)
  5. Contamination (anti-land)
  6. Trinisphere (anti-everything)

In the past I’ve run Null Rod and Karn, the Great Creator as well, but as the meta has shifted to Breach-Naus it’s proven less relevant. Besides, Collector Ouphe is easier to tutor for. If my meta gets heavier on Breach, I’m seriously considering Grafdigger's Cage.

Our wincons dodge all of our own stax pieces, and we run a lot of pieces to break parity on the stax effects that DO hamper us. Earthcraft, Gaea's Cradle, and Grim Hireling in particular break mana restrictions imposed by our own pieces, much like Blood Pod.

Note that Contamination + Collector Ouphe is a pretty damn hard lock, since we pick off dorks without any real issue.

The stax pieces we most hate to play AGAINST are probably Torpor Orb and Cursed Totem (as mentioned above). We aren’t affected by the most popular stax pieces in the format: we don’t care (much) about an opponent’s Dauthi Voidwalker or Rule of Law, and we can kill things like Opposition Agent with our commander’s ability. And even if we are staxed out, we always have a viable aggro plan.

Solemnity WRECKS us, but I haven’t seen it played in any cEDH pods in a long while.

Ammit Eternal + Ivy Lane Denizen: Generate a snake every time an opponent casts a spell.

Generos Patron + Black Sun's Zenith/Soul Snuffers: Even without Hapatra, this draws enough cards to find whatever you need.

Viridian Longbow + a snake token: This is 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. 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.

Urza's Saga: This fetches Skullclamp if you need draw, Viridian Longbow if you need removal, and Sol Ring if you need mana. If I ever DO add Grafdigger's Cage, it’s another silver bullet that could be grabbed with it.

Phyrexian Reclamation: Because all of our combos are low-cmc and creature-based, Reclamation can recur any countered/removed pieces we might need. Moreover, our deck can be very commander-reliant, and this keeps Hapatra always at 4 mana.

Agadeem's Awakening  : This can retrieve any of our combos from GY, because they all have different mana costs (as it happens). Devoted Druid and Hapatra at 2, Scurry Oak at 3, and Yawgmoth and Ivy Lane Denizen at 4. A bit mana-intensive, but hey, it’s a land most of the time.

Culling Ritual: This does hit our commander, but most of our wincons / critical pieces are 3 CMC or higher, and we’ll nearly always generate enough mana to recast our commander.

Wickerbough Elder: This is great in long, staxy games, destroying artifacts every time we put another -1 counter on it. It’s also great when you can hold up a G against Breach decks.

Fynn, the Fangbearer: This is the quickest way to make an aggro win happen. It’s pretty easy to hit an opponent with 5 snakes, especially if we can tutor Fynn at instant speed with something like Chord of Calling. Doubly good with Ohran Frostfang!

Noxious Revival: It’s great as hate against Breach or Razaketh, and decent recursion too.

Rushed Rebirth: Beyond being a great tutor in general, don’t forget we can target opponents’ creatures in response to removal. Or win in response to someone else’s Protean Hulk combo!

Plumb the Forbidden: Sometimes you have lots of tokens/dorks but can’t find Yawgmoth. Note that the copies dodge Trinisphere and most counterspells.

My current cEDH meta has the following decks:

Arcum Dagsson, Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom, Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, Naru Meha, Master Wizard, The Gitrog Monster, Tymna/Thrasios, Tymna/Silas, Kenrith, the Returned King, Kess, Dissident Mage, Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge, Magda, Brazen Outlaw, Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest, Winota, Joiner of Forces, Selvala, Heart of the Wilds, Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, and Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy.

In this meta, in 4-person pods, I have an 80% winrate. Seriously, no joke.

Though, to be fair, that's partly because Hapatra isn't a "popular" or well-recognized commander, so people often forget about the threat she poses ("hah, look at you bringing a jank counters commander to play with the big boys").

Or opponents misplay, sometimes because they're expecting me to cast Naus / Protean Hulk and ignore my wincons (which look rather innocuous until they go off).

In the current meta, we can assume that Underworld Breach and Ad Nauseam and Thassa's Oracle are the biggest threats. Most of our stax pieces are tuned to answer Breach and Naus decently well, and while Oracle is harder to answer, we can slow them down with Trinisphere and Contamination.

We run comparatively few artifacts/enchantments, so we don’t give as many treasures to opposing Docksides. We are almost never open for Tymna, and we eat Najeela decks alive with any -1 counter based boardwipe. There’s no feeling like “BSZ for X=1, remove 20 warriors, make 20 snakes”. In general, we do VERY very well against any creature-reliant cEDH deck. We beat Blood Pod at their own game, in exchange for a narrower suite of stax pieces. However, we struggle against decks which win entirely “on the stack” if we can’t establish stax pieces or an early combo. In those cases, our creature interaction and -1 counters do nothing.

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

Overall, Hapatra 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.

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.

  • Ad Nauseam: Let’s address the elephant in the room. This deck isn’t built to be a Naus deck. The average CMC is low enough, perhaps, but I don’t run the ramp suite to leverage it correctly. Moreover, it conflicts HARD with several of my stax pieces (particularly Trinisphere and Collector Ouphe) since the deck is built to play AGAINST Naus decks. Also, I’m stubborn, and want to prove that a Naus-less deck can still win in cEDH.
  • Blowfly Infestation: This is the iconic combo with Hapatra, so I'm sure it surprises many people that I'd cut it. Honestly, though, Blowfly can be VERY risky or dead in many hands, and requires a third piece to actually win. It’s hard to tutor for, and I was never pleased to draw 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 — I just don’t have enough discard outlets. I previously justified his inclusion by the fact that I could cycle him away if I didn't need him, but that wasn’t reason enough to keep the slot over better wincons.
  • 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. And with the release of Smell Fear, this lost any hope of being in the deck.
  • 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 enough without Flash, unfortunately. I could have warped the entire deck around him, but that requires ~10 otherwise dead slots, and was very vulnerable to Dauthi Voidwalker. 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.
  • Living Plane/Bayou/Chains of Mephistopheles: Trust me, I'd be running these if I had the money, hah. Maybe we'll get there someday!
  • There are also several cards I know I *should* test in the future, particularly Toxic Deluge and possibly Force of Despair. Beyond that, Compost/Choke/Withering Boon/Seedtime are meta-dependent options that may work well for others building the list.

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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! :)

What remaining cards would you add/cut?

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$25 Extreme Budget Hapatra EDH

Commander / EDH Daedalus19876

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Date added 5 years
Last updated 9 months
Key combos

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

16 - 1 Mythic Rares

51 - 6 Rares

16 - 2 Uncommons

13 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.00
Tokens Beast 3/3 G, Construct 0/0 C, Day, Insect 1/1 B, Night, Snake 1/1 G, Snake 1/1 G w/ Deathtouch, Spirit 1/1 C, Squirrel 1/1 G, Treasure
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Revision 138 See all

11 months ago)

+1 Bitter Ordeal side
+1 Chalice of the Void side