Commander Compare And Contrast: Nahiri, The Lithomancer

Bennie Smith breaks down the similarities and differences between his Nahiri, the Lithomancer Commander deck and that of Anthony Alongi. Even “narrow” commanders have lots of room for different builds!

Hello, and welcome to the second installment of Commander Compare and Contrast! In these columns I’ll be reaching out to various other Magic Community members, ask them the favorite commander they currently have a deck built around, build my own version, and then bump it against their build. I think it’ll be fun and illuminating to see where we come down on the same card choices and where we differ.

For the first one I took a look at a Feldon of the Third Path deck The Professor from Tolarian Community College loves to play. This week, we’re going to take a look at Anthony Alongi’s Nahiri, the Lithomancer deck!

Anthony Alongi was a pioneer in writing about multiplayer Magic long before Commander/EDH was more than just a glimmer in Sheldon Menery’s eye. He started writing about it for one of Magic’s first websites, The Magic Dojo, and then was one of the first writers right here at Star City Games. He also wrote the Serious Fun column over at Wizards of the Coast’s Magic website. More recently, you can find Anthony doing a Commander podcast with Sheldon Menery called Elder Dragon Statesmen and he marked his triumphant return to SCG with a few columns about Commander Cube, so be sure to check it out!

Okay, here’s his Nahiri deck:

I don’t currently have a Nahiri deck built, but before looking at Anthony’s list I went ahead and worked on one of my own. Here’s what I’ve cooked up:

Nahiri, the Lithomancer
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 03-04-2019

Unsurprisingly given the abilities of our planeswalker commander, both of us went deep on Equipment themes. Using my Excel-Fu, I’ve crunched the decklists together to see what cards we have in common and which ones are different, so let’s dig in, starting with the cards we have in common!

Equipment in Common

It is a little surprising that we’ve only got six Equipment cards in common, but really there are so many good choices I suppose it’s not all that surprising. Basilisk Collar is such an efficient card it can find a home in pretty much any creature deck, much less one focused on Equipment. Sword of the Animist does a nice job of providing some much-needed mana ramp for a mono-white deck. I’m a big fan of Sword of Light and Shadow in Commander because of the creature recursion aspects and the protection it offers from so many good pinpoint removal spells.

Argentum Armor has an incredibly powerful combat damage trigger, but it comes at a huge mana cost if you have to move it around to different creatures. Luckily, mono-white provides quite a few ways to cheat that cost, and Anthony and I both make use of many of those cards.

Equipment Matters in Common

Speaking of ways to cheat equip costs, there are Puresteel Paladin and Stonehewer Giant! The other cards provide all sorts of advantages for any deck chock-full of Equipment cards. I particularly love that Leonin Shikari and Sigarda’s Aid let us do stuff with Equipment at instant speed.

Graveyard Recursion in Common

Even though mono-white doesn’t provide too many sources of raw card advantage, there are some good graveyard recursion options that can generate some advantages and Anthony and I both dip into those.

Mana Ramp in Common

Anthony doesn’t go too deep into mana ramp in his build, but we both jumped on these useful staples.

Lands in Common

Really? Wow, the only land other than Myriad Landscape and Emeria, the Sky Ruin we have in common is Mistveil Plains? Anthony does run 34 basic Plains where I only run 24, so his nonbasic land selection is much smaller than mine. This means Anthony’s Emeria, the Sky Ruin will likely come on line much faster than mine will.

Okay, let’s take a look at where we differ!

Differences – Equipment


Anthony goes hard on Equipment cards that have potent combat triggers, and as you’ll see later on, that pairs nicely with his creature selection. Loxodon Warhammer helps push damage through with trample so those triggers become more reliable.

Deathrender and Helm of the Host also fit nicely with another theme that Anthony pushes hard in his deck—that of mass removal. As you’ll see below, he runs a ton of mass removal! Deathrender and Helm of the Host help Anthony keep a decent battlefield presence despite the mass destruction.


I’m not going to lie—I simply love the Kaldra Equipment, and I have foil Prerelease versions of all three, so I find every opportunity I can to put them in a deck where I have a reasonable chance to assemble all three on the battlefield. I’m also a big fan of utility Equipment like Nim Deathmantle, Dowsing Dagger, and Captain’s Claws. I like Ring of Thune in this particular deck because of the vigilance, since it helps ensure your attacker can also block for your planeswalker commander.

Differences – Equipment Matters


I definitely lean much harder into “Equipment matters” than Anthony does, but Relic Seeker didn’t make the cut in my deck mainly because I don’t feel my deck is reliable for getting combat damage through to get the renown trigger often enough, yet Anthony’s deck seems much more set-up for that. I like his inclusion of Leonin Abunas and wish I’d remembered it for my list.


I like the built-in card advantage of Sram, Senior Edificer, Stone Haven Outfitter, and Scrap Trawler. I like that Balan, Wandering Knight and Armory Automaton can become huge Voltron threats, and I absolutely love how the huge threat that Heavenly Blademaster represents.

Metalwork Colossus strikes me as great inclusion into a deck like this, since each Equipment card shaves off mana from its casting cost. With a Nim Deathmantle, Forebear’s Blade, and Sword of Kaldra on the battlefield, Metalwork Colossus only costs two mana. Plus, if its in your graveyard and anyone casts removal spells to destroy your Equipment, you can sacrifice two of them to get Colossus back to your hand.

Differences – Removal


I have to say I was a bit shocked at the sheer volume of mass removal Anthony has in his deck.

My instinct would be to play some creatures, equip them with sweet Equipment cards, and force my opponents to pull the trigger on mass removal to stop me. But Anthony’s approach makes a lot of sense given the way he’s built his deck. For one thing, keeping the battlefield uncluttered helps keep his planeswalker commander from getting overwhelmed by attackers, and Nahiri’s primary ability generates a post-sweeper battlefield presence. Some of his mass removal spells also leave a creature behind, like Phyrexian Rebirth.

And another thing, Anthony leans hard on Equipment cards that have combat damage triggers, and once he casts his second or third battlefield sweeper, there is bound to be at least one player who is struggling to rebuild their creatures. This makes it much more likely that he can connect with something like Sword of Feast and Famine.


As you can see, my mass removal spells are Settle the Wreckage and Steel Hellkite, which leave my own battlefield presence intact. I also make use of pinpoint removal spells to take care of individual threats that pose a problem for me. I probably should have made room for at least Wrath of God somewhere.

Differences – Mana Ramp


Anthony plays a whopping 40 lands in his deck and isn’t worried too much about mana ramping, though Knight of the White Orchid is a good one, especially given that it can often be returned from the graveyard later in the game and used again.


I have quite a few lands too, just one shy of Anthony’s at 39. I also squeezed in a fair amount of mana ramp because playing Equipment and paying equip costs can be quite costly. The high-tech choice in a deck like this is Inspiring Statuary, which will let you tap Equipment cards to pay for nonartifact spells. How awesome is that?

Differences – Graveyard Recursion


I strongly considered adding Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle to my deck but ultimately worried I wouldn’t necessarily have too many artifacts that I’d cast after casting Tehsar to make it worthwhile. I’m probably wrong on that.

Bishop of Rebirth is like a mini-Sun Titan in a deck that wants to attack a lot like Anthony does.


I feel that Reveillark and Karmic Guide occupy the same space here. I like that Reveillark hits harder on its own and operates as sweeper insurance.

Differences – Major Theme

Anthony: Sweet Creatures

While I went much harder on creatures that support Equipment themes, Anthony just went deep on high-quality creatures that like to attack. In fact, he goes deep on creatures with double strike, which have the benefit of giving you twice the combat triggers when the equipped creature deals damage to an opponent. My one lower-cost creature with double strike, Kor Duelist, is probably a sub-par choice compared with Anthony’s Adorned Pouncer given its eternalize ability, though there is something to be said for some of the Soldier synergies in come of my cards.

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn costs a lot of mana but is an absolute terror to equip with something and attack with double strike, and easily shrugs off just about all of Anthony’s mass removal. Given how much mana ramp I run, I should probably make room for it in my list!

Hundred-Handed One is a great way to protect a planeswalker commander and something I should probably find room for too.

Palisade Giant is a fearsome card to equip with one of the Swords, pretty much shutting down any opponent that’s playing that color and relying on combat damage to kill you.

Bennie: Planeswalker Support

I went a little deeper into building in consideration for having a planeswalker commander. Authority of the Consuls turns off hasty creatures that might otherwise pester Nahiri after a battlefield sweeper. Oath of Gideon and Ajani Steadfast give Nahiri a loyalty boost, and The Chain Veil is obviously insane with planeswalkers.

I like Forebear’s Blade in this role since it provides vigilance to an attacker, and if that creature blocks and dies defending your planeswalker, you can equip it to another creature that can block the next turn.

Difference – Lands


All three of Anthony’s choices here play particularly well with his huge number of mass removal spells keeping the battlefield sparsely populated.


When playing a monocolor deck, I make use of many lands that provide utility abilities without using up nonland deck slots. Several of them provide some raw card drawing, like Sea Gate Wreckage. I’ve also included three cycling lands to help mitigate flooding out on lands even though generally I’m going to want to play all the lands I draw.


So tell me, which approach to Nahiri do you like the best? Anthony’s heavy mass removal and combat damage style, or my approach that focuses more heavily on Equipment synergies? Or is there some other approach that both of us are missing out on?

By the way, if you’re curious to read some of Anthony’s multiplayer writings, here are two I consider classic must-reads:

One from his stint on Star City Games: The Renovated Alongi School Of Multiplayer Magic.

And here’s one from his days writing for Wizards of the Coast: What’s the Big Idea?

You can find his and Sheldon’s podcast Elder Dragon Statesmen here, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

Speaking of Twitter, make sure you’re following me over there too since I tweet a lot about Commander! And right now I’m building a Commander deck with votes from the Magic community over Twitter. Follow the hashtag #TwitterBuiltCMDR.

Do me a solid and subscribe to my channel too! I’m posting Top 5 cards from many of my Star City Games columns as a preview for each article, but I plan on adding other content too. Also, I’ve gotten some cool video editing software that I’m slowly learning, so the video quality will improve as I learn better techniques.

Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January 2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith” and the commander name into Google and it should pop right up. I’ve written a lot about Commander — and Magic in general — so if you want to explore further, the Star City Games article archives have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Ravnica Allegiance

The Haunt of Hightower, Teysa Karlov, Prime Speaker Vannifar, Rakdos, the Showstopper, Nikya of the Old Ways, Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, Judith, the Scourge Diva

SCG CON Winter 2018

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, Grothama, All-Devouring; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis; Feldon of the Third Path; Ramos, Dragon Engine; Inalla, Archmage Ritualist; Prossh, Skyraider of Kher; Brago, King Eternal

Ultimate Masters

Garna, the Bloodflame

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun, Emmara, Soul of the Accord, Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments), Tajic, Legion’s Edge, Etrata, the Silencer, Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter, Xantcha, Sleeper Agent, Lord Windgrace, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist, Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire, Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, Grand Warlord Radha, Arvad the Cursed, Muldrotha, the Grave Tide, Slimefoot, the Stowaway, Yargle, Glutton of Urborg, Squee, the Immortal, Firesong and Sunspeaker, Jodah, Archmage Eternal, Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

Masters 25

Hanna, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer, Etali, Primal Storm, Nezahal, Primal Tide, Zacama, Primal Calamity, Tetzimoc, Primal Death, Zetalpa, Primal Dawn, Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher, Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan, Tishana, Voice of Thunder, Admiral Beckett Brass, Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith, Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist, O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami, Mairsil, the Pretender, Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded, Zur, the Enchanter (Mummy’s Curse), Djeru, With Eyes Open, The Locust God, Karona, False God (All the Deserts), Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True, Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun, Atogatog (Cartouches & Trials), Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, Samut, Voice of Dissent, Rhonas the Indomitable, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (Five-Color Energy), Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

The Ultimate Golgari Deck, Anafenza, the Foremost (shutting down shenanigans), Momir Vig, Simic Visionary (no green creatures), Kytheon, Hero of Akros (Tribal Gideon), Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Commander Strategy

Commander Compare & Contrast: Feldon of the Third Path,

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander