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How to deal with Poison Counters in Magic: The Gathering's Commander format

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

With Magic: The Gathering’s next expansion on the way, it’s time to talk about Poison counters once again. Phyrexia: All Will Be One features some incredibly fast ways to stack the game-ending counters onto your opponents and, unfortunately, it’s incredibly hard to stop.

While this could change someday in 2023, there are still only a handful of ways to slow or prevent the growth of Poison counters from your opponents. In fact, there’s only one card in the game’s entire history that actively removes the Poison counters from a player. Whether these are worth running in your 100-card deck is up to you in Magic: The Gathering, but here are a few options.

Poison counters are frustrating in Magic: The Gathering’s Commander format

The only card in Magic: The Gathering that removes Poison counters is from the maligned Homelands set. While many fans were disappointed by the power of this strange set, it included the only Poison counter-removing card in the entire game.

Although Magic: The Gathering boasts over 20,000 cards, it has only one option to remove Poison Counters - Leeches. Interestingly, it’s not even an Instant and is cast at Sorcery speed. For 3 mana, you can make a target player lose all Poison counters. It should be noted that there’s a catch to this method, as the player also takes 1 damage per Poison counter removed in this manner.

An enterprising player could certainly use this as a win condition, but it’s unlikely. If an opponent removes your ability to hand out Poison counters, an Infect-based deck could run this strategy. Just cast it on the other player to make them potentially take lethal damage in Magic: The Gathering.

A legendary creature in Magic: The Gathering has two different options to deal with Poison counters, but they don’t remove the counters that are already in existence. The first version prevents the counters from being dealt to players. This is Melira, Sylvok Outcast.

This useful creature prevents you from receiving Poison counters, and as a pleasant bonus, prevents your creatures from receiving -1/-1 counters. She also removes Infect from your opponent’s creatures. Now, if you already have Poison counters, this doesn’t remove them, but it stops any further spread.

Finally, there’s a new version of Melira that doesn’t stop the growth of Poison counters, but does slow them down. Melira, the Living Cure is a new Green/White creature that can slow growth down. If you would get 1 or more Poison counters, you only receive 1 instead.

Furthermore, you can’t receive additional Poison counters during this turn. This nullifies the power of Venerated Rotpriest in particular, which can defeat a player in one turn by easily stacking piles of Poison counters, even in Magic: The Gathering’s Standard meta.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways to get rid of Poison counters. There’s a fair chance that these three cards could increase in value, based on the number of Poison counter options that have hit the card game with Phyrexia: All Will Be One.

Between the new Toxic mechanic and the wealth of Proliferate options that players have, it’s going to be easier than ever to deliver the winning blow with Poison.

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