Monday, October 28, 2019

Magic: The Gathering - Commander Night Playback - How to Make Friends with Nekusar

After our rounds of Commander a few weeks back, where one of friends brought in a Locust God deck, I was hit by a bolt of inspiration. I thought to myself, "Why should only one person draw all of those cards? It's only fair that everyone draws all of those extra cards." And as a good friend to the people of my table, I took the only logical course of action: Building a deck based on Nekusar, the Mindrazer.

What follows is a chronicle of friendship and camaraderie that Nekusar was happy to facilitate.


Our first match had my Nekusar go up against Krenko, Mob Boss, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, and Grumgully, the Generous and their horde of creatures.

I had a fairly slow start, as did Korvold, not getting much in terms of board presence. Krenko, on the other hand, enjoyed a very early lead thanks to a turn one Sol Ring into Lightning Greaves, with Krenko on turn 2. They were able to use that to start their goblin production, and with Quest for the Goblin Lord and Bloodmark Mentor, their board was looking mighty.

Grumgully was also starting to come online, with both their commander and a Krenko of their own, and a Doubling Season to go with it. On the other hand, Korvold was like me, in that they weren't doing much at this point. They did have a Necropotence out, but the Krenko player was throwing much at their aggression towards Korvold so it was eating away at their ability to draw cards. On the other hand, skipping their draw phase was shielding them from my Nekusar when I had him deployed.

Partly in retaliation, and partly to finally get their own foothold, they used 4 of their remaining five life to Toxic Deluge, performing the double duty of killing off Nekusar and the Goblin hordes. When they finally played Korvold, they used his ability to sacrifice Necropotence so that they had a draw step again.

This position allowed to table to largely ignore me for a long time, but that finally turned to my advantage. At this moment, I had enough mana where I could cast Nekusar again, and I knew nobody had a way to deal with him anymore. Doing so would absolutely kill Korvold, but the question was whether or not it my best interest to knock them out, especially since the other boards were on their way to reestablishing.

As I was thinking out loud, the Korvold player decided to parlay. Without giving details, they said to me, "I can deal with everyone's enchantments, if you spare me, I think you'll like the result". Listening to their argument, and looking at the boards between me, I opted to pass my turn and hope that this deal would work out. While Krenko was summoned once more, they were unable to attack into Korvold to deal that final point of damage. Taking the opening I had afforded them, Korvold played Wave of Vitriol after casting a Mayhem Devil. Though I had a mana rock that was lost, there were enough basic lands left in my deck to cover for my losses.

The resulting board state was one that gave Korvold an interesting decision, in light of the Mayhem Devil triggers. If they chose to, they could be a greedy capitalist, renege on our agreement, and kill me, giving them to opening they needed to hop up the other players. On the other hand, honoring our deal would leave them at a single life. With no mana or removal, my only logical move would be to summon Nekusar and let the card draw take care of the remaining life.

Knowing that killing me would likely kill the possibility of future deals, Korvold valiantly fell on their own sword, and the power of friendship prevailed.


Our 5th player had gotten back from work just as we were wrapping up, so we moved into our next match. I had stayed on Nekusar, but Korvold moved onto The First Sliver and Krenko moved onto Kambal, Council of Allocation. Our new player had brought in their build of Oona, Queen of the Fae and Grumgully moved onto Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig.

The game started off well for me. I had a few mana rocks and creatures to keep myself out of danger, but otherwise nothing impressive. The sliver deck managed to get out Sylvan Library and Scroll Rack, which gave then some leeway in manipulating their hand, which Kambal mostly just played their commander and used him to tax everyone for each non-creature spell they played.

Said tax really hindered Oona, whose strategy relied a lot of getting out mana artifacts so that they can set up an infinite mana combo. They had a Mana Vault, Rings of Brighthearth, Talisman of Dominance, and a Clock of Omens on board, along with their commander. This meant they were ramping well, but they didn't quite have the combo they needed to win the game and they were running low on cards. I'd gladly "help" them with Nekusar, but for my plans I couldn't make that commitment.

Such plans came to fruition once Yorvo finally started to come online. They had deployed a Mycoloth, which they pumped up with 4 +1/+1 counters takes to it's Devour clause, Yorvo, and Oran-Rief. In the next round, Oona would use their ability to mill Yorvo and claim some 1/1 tokens out of it, and Mycoloth would create Saprolings for Yorvo, swinging their available forces and Kambal to try to dent their growing life total. And that was when, in the following turn, I finally pulled the trigger on the Massacre Girl I had been holding onto, following her up with Stormfist Crusader to get some Menace on the board while getting some card draw flowing, even if Nekusar had yet to be deployed.

With the board cleared, the First Sliver made their move by cascading their commander into a Shifting Sliver and so on. While I finally placed Nekusar on board in the following turn, they used their unblockable slivers to attack Oona, leaving her with a low enough life total that between Kambal and Nekusar, the passive damage meant their days were numbered. Since they and I both knew their days were numbered, I asked if they would be willing to keep mana open so that I could do something silly on my turn. Shockingly, they agreed to it.

So when my round came up, I had both Mind's Aglow, Evacuation, and eight mana on board. Dumping two of my own mana, and 16 of Oona's mana into it, the whole table was compelled to draw 18 cards, which was enough to kill Oona and bring The First Sliver to a point where they couldn't continue between card draw and Kambal.

It was then very fortunate that I had saved up the mana required to cast Evacuation, because I ended up having an alternative use for it once I drew into my 18 cards. Specifically, I played Phyresis on Nekusar, and used Windfall to deal more than enough infect damage to win the game outright. Twice, in the same night, I had managed to secure a win through the power of friendship. Despite his fearsome appearance as a Zombie Wizard, it was clear to me that Nekusar was the perfect way to build up alliances and support my playgroup in the best way possible.


That said, I couldn't help but wonder about the deck I had built. Despite winning two games with it, the fact that both of them were due to the loving support of my competitors made me wonder if the deck was, well.... good.

And for that reason, I ran it for a third time that night, seeing as how I really haven't had the kind of explosive, sudden victory that Nekusar is apparently know for. Oona had swapped off to play their deck based off Emry, Lurker of the Loch from Eldraine. While Yorvo swapped back onto Grumgully, The First Silver remained on that deck.

The match started well enough for me. Thanks to a turn 2 Arcane Signet, I was able to play Spiteful Visions on my third turn. With another land in hand, I was all set to play Nekusar on turn 4 and just watch the cards and damage flow.

Meanwhile, Emry has getting a decent synergy going by using their ability to recur Expedition Map for free with the discount from Etherium Scupltor. At the same time, Grumgully had been setting up as well with both their commander and some early pressure.

This left The First Sliver, who had another strong Sylvan Library/Scroll Rack opening. Luckily for me, using Sylvan Library constitutes drawing extra cards, even if they don't keep them, so Spiteful Visions was disproportionately affecting them. Then, they played Pir's Whim, they chose Foe for me hoping I would get rid of Spiteful Visions, but I instead chose the Arcane Signet, while Grumgully got a land and Emry had to sacrifice, and later reanimate their Sculptor.

While Spiteful Visions was still in play, I still couldn't capitalize on it like I wanted to with my commander, which significantly derailed my plans. The middle of the match was a bit of a blur, as while not much of note was happening, Spiteful Visions served as the biggest source of damage to all players. Aside from Grumgully, not many people were able to swing in. The constant pings, and a couple of wheel effects, eventually knocked Emry out of the game and left myself, Grumgully, and The First Sliver in a fight for the finish.

I was in a bad spot. My attempt to knock The First Sliver out and cleanup Grumgully in one swoop with a Fell Specter and Dark Deal got countered by The First Sliver's Force of Will. And with Spiteful Visions still in play, there was a strong chance I would die to my own damage source. Thinking I probably don't have a chance, but still wanting to see how badly I can ruin the game, I played Teferi's Puzzle Box. Between the Steel Hellkite and Tendershoot Dryad's army of Saprolings, Grumgully had enough of a force to kill both myself and The First Sliver. It seemed light's out... except for one crucial detail.

The First Sliver had Quick Sliver out, along with a few others, and they had chosen not to make any moves and leave their mana untapped the turn prior. Grumgully needed to make a gamble on whether or not that could commit to enough of an attack to kill me, but still leave enough to take out The First Sliver. Ultimately, they chose to hit me for just enough to make my own Spiteful Visions hurt, but commit the rest of the board to swinging at our Sliver friend.

Immediately, they cast The First Sliver and used Scroll Rack to fix the top of the library to fix the cascade chain, ending in Living End. Not only did that bring back their Sliver Legion and a whole host of previously discarded and destroyed slivers. The army was a verifiable force with whole host of keywords that I can't remember, let alone put down here. It would seem that the tides have turned and slivers were going to come out on top... except for two crucial details.

My earlier wheel effects hit everyone, and silvers weren't the only deck with a host of creatures in the graveyard that everyone forgot about. For example, the Grumgully player had a Siege-Gang Commander in the grave. Fittingly enough, they had enough mana left open to pop a Goblin with it and deal the remaining 2 points of damage that, when combined with my Puzzle Box and Spiteful Visions, would finish off the Silver before they could swing.

Knowing that any act of aggression would force Grumgully to pull the trigger, The First Sliver begrudgingly ceased hostilities and passed their turn. With just enough life to survive a few Siege-Gang hits, I deployed Nekusar and hoped the passive damage would be enough. And I was all set to turn the tide and win the match... except for one crucial detail.

Way earlier, Grumgully had played a Mosswort Bridge, and while they had the mana to pop a Siege-Gang goblin, their actual reason for leaving it open was to crack open the Mosswort Bridge to play their Thorn Mammoth when I inevitably played my Nekusar as expected. If The First Sliver had attacked, then I would had the opening I needed to win the game. Because they chose restraint, Grumgully was free to completely negate my play. And ultimately, this won them the game. They finally threw that goblin at The First Sliver and their board overwhelming my own.

It was an absolutely wild game, and probably one of the best series of matches I have ever had. I'm not convinced that Nekusar is the most powerful deck I've ever run, but it created a hectic enough environment that the resulting games were really exciting. It's a deck I'll need to keep under my hat for when some of my other ones like Marchesa and Yuriko begin to draw too much heat. (Marchesa, in particular, has drawn so much heat that several people at the table have taken to putting Homeward Path in their deck so I would stop stealing their creatures.)

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