Nefarious Nefarox For Commander

Bennie hits up another new legend from M13 to build a sweet Commander deck around this week: Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis! Check out this mono-black Commander brew.

This week we’re hitting up another new legend from M13 to build a sweet Commander deck around. Two weeks back I did Yeva, Nature’s Herald (check it out if you haven’t seen it); this time I picked the legendary Demon Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis for our new Commander!

Before I roll up my sleeves and get to work, I did want to pause a moment to ponder the design of this card. Let’s take a look at Nefarox:

Now let’s look at this one:

Whenever I look at Nefarox, Rafiq always pops into my head like the Old Spice Man:

"Hello, Magic players. Look at Nefarox, now back at me, now back at Nefarox, now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me, but if he could give his extra exalted ability to another creature attacking alone, he could smell like me."

Rafiq was so awesome in no small part because both of his abilities "had haste"—when you played him and then attacked with another creature already in play, that creature got the +1/+1 bonus and the double strike ability.

Now when you look back at Nefarox, only one of his abilities "has haste"—when you play him and then attack with another creature already in play, that creature only gets the +1/+1 bonus. The "if attacking alone opponent sacrifices a creature" ability Nefarox keeps for itself.

And maybe that was deliberate; perhaps this is illustrating the difference between black’s exalted as opposed to the exalted as practiced by the other colors. Maybe showing black as being selfish? I think that’s unfortunate because it certainly powers down the card and makes the legendary Demon much less exciting.

That said… I think it’s still a mighty fine card to want to build a deck around! I mean, why wouldn’t you want to attack with this guy anyway and kill people with commander damage? All by his lonesome he can kill someone in four swings, but black certainly has ways to boost him up.

Since Nefarox doesn’t really push for or demand a linear approach, we’ve got a lot of options. One thought is to go heavy black control with lots of creature sweepers, hand destruction, and eventually dropping Nefarox to start pounding away as your eventual win condition. While I’ll have some of that going on in my build, I love creatures too much to lean too heavily in that direction. I could also toss in some sweet black combos (the classic Vampire Hexmage / Dark Depths or the new devastating Sanguine Bond / Exquisite Blood), but instead I’m going to keep the focus on keeping the potential blocking population down so that Nefarox’s exalted abilities work better.

Creature Removal

Executioner’s Capsule, Tragic Slip, Abyssal Gatekeeper, Carrionette, Fleshbag Marauder, Oblivion Stone, Sudden Spoiling, Murder, Damnation, Mutilate, Consuming Vapors, Shriekmaw, Syphon Flesh; Kagemaro, First to Suffer; Massacre Wurm; Sheoldred, Whispering One; Pestilence Demon

Even though I said I wasn’t going too heavy on the control route, I’ve still loaded up on plenty of creature control. Nefarox’s ability is amazing when your opponent has a solitary creature on his side of the board—especially one that’s large and/or has shroud or hexproof. Nefarox’s ability is really lame when your opponent has a zillion token creatures or some other horde of weenies. I’ve included a mix of sweepers and pinpoint removal, along with other "opponent sacrifices a creature" spells to parallel what the deck is already doing for Nefarox.

When looking for interesting removal low on the casting cost curve, I ran across two old favorites I thought I’d give a try! Abyssal Gatekeeper is a nice little rattlesnake card that can wave people away from attacking you early, and you can sacrifice it to Skullclamp if you want to force the issue. Carrionette’s ability is clunky and certainly not mana efficient, but once it’s in your graveyard you can keep players on their toes, worried about tapping down their mana too far or else Carrionette can carry off their best creature into the most permanent place in the game—exile. I’m already going to want to have lots of mana acceleration in this deck anyway, so I don’t think the activated ability will hurt too badly.

Haste, Evasion

Shizo, Death’s Storehouse; Hall of the Bandit Lord, Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, Dragon Shadow, Dauthi Embrace, Maze of Ith

Of course, the one complaint on Nefarox’s exalted abilities can be remedied by giving him haste and attacking with him the turn he comes into play! I’ve included the usual suspects, along with Hall of the Bandit Lord—a little painful, but worth it with this Commander. Dauthi Embrace provides nearly the ultimate in evasion since there aren’t many creatures with shadow played at the Commander table; it’s particularly sweet since you can give creatures your opponents control shadow, making something huge unblockable to take out someone who’s otherwise turtled-up or getting ready to combo out.

Shizo and Dragon Shadow provide some evasion, and I particularly like the fact you can use Dragon Shadow early on and, once it’s in the graveyard, when you cast Nefarox you can get that aura and put it right on your main man. Maze of Ith is a sweet way to take advantage of the Nefarox’s attack trigger while not risking getting killed by a surviving blocker.

Card Draw

Skullclamp, Phyrexian Reclamation, Sign in Blood, Ashen Powder, Blood Speaker, Syphon Mind, Beacon of Unrest, Puppeteer Clique, Bloodgift Demon, Harvester of Souls; Geth, Lord of the Vault; Salvaging Station, It That Betrays, Diabolic Revelation

I’ve got a lot of the expected card draw available in black and colorless, but I’ve also included some of the Reanimation spells as "card draw" since they can provide card advantage of sorts by "drawing" a relevant creature card and immediately putting it into play. Blood Speaker is a card I love to run when I’ve got enough Demons to make it worthwhile—the new Harvester of Souls is a Demon!—and he helps protect you against "tuck" effects on your Commander.

I just love how this card always lets you get the Demon you need for the job without costing you mana the turn you want to cast the Demon. Is it early in the game? Find your Bloodgift Demon. Desperate need of a creature sweeper? Grab Kagemaro, First to Suffer to bring the pain. Need some weenie suppression? Pestilence Demon is your answer. Need to Tutor up something other than a Demon? Rune-Scarred Demon to the rescue!

Salvaging Station is a nice source of card advantage that I’m always looking to work into my decks, but often it gets cut to make room for another six-drop and other zero-to-one drops outside of artifacts you sacrifice for effect. Once I’d added Executioner’s Capsule and Expedition Map to my list, I immediately thought about Salvaging Station—it’s particularly brutal with the Capsule since activating the Capsule to kill a creature triggers the untap ability on the Station, letting you kill a bunch of creatures for 1B a pop. Scroll of Griselbrand looked like a sweet thing to recur with the Station since your commander is a Demon, and Nihil Spellbomb is a brutal way to keep graveyard shenanigans under control while drawing cards.

Mana Acceleration

Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Mind Stone, Scuttlemutt, Darksteel Ingot, Spoils of Evil, Black Market, Nirkana Revenant, Caged Sun, Cabal Coffers (Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth)

At six mana, Nefarox ain’t cheap, and he’s certainly not going to be ignored by your opponent so you’ll likely need to recast him several times throughout the game. Luckily, black provides tons of ways to boost mana production—and if I had a Liliana of the Dark Realms, I’d probably add her in the deck as well. I particularly like Black Market here since it synergizes so well with Nefarox’s ability and what you want to be doing in this deck anyway: killing off lots of creatures. Keep in mind that Scuttlemutt can be used to "turn on" removal that can only target nonblack creatures such as Shriekmaw and that Spoils of Evil can be used as instant speed life gain in a pinch.

Other Goodies

Basilisk Collar:  Some much needed life gain and a way to make your smaller creatures into rattlesnakes. Pair up with Pestilence Demon for mass destruction, though keep in mind it’ll kill itself!

Tainted Strike:  Sometimes you need to poison someone out, even/especially when it’s someone else’s creature attacking another opponent.

Cellar Door:  Anti-tuck tech that can just nab a random Zombie sometimes in a pinch (aim this at the green deck).

Sudden Spoiling:  Never leave your black deck at home without it, especially if anyone’s got Deadeye Navigator shenanigans on tap!

Mimic Vat:  Since you’re killing lots of stuff, this should nab something that’s quite potent for you! Can permanently remove a recurring threat if need be. Also pretty sweet to put your own Fleshbag Marauder or Shriekmaw on it.

Lashwrithe / Nightmare Lash:  While it’s great to just make something gigantic (since you’re playing a bunch of Swamps anyway), it’s quite nice to ensure that one of your own creatures can survive your Mutilate.

Lim-Dul the Necromancer and It That Betrays:  Pretty sure these are Nefarox’s main homeboys!

Here’s what my Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis deck looks like:

I have to admit, from a flavor perspective I’m a bit bummed my "Overlord of Grixis" deck can’t have red or blue in it, but it’s always fun to have a new mono-black deck to play around with! While there are a ton of different cards you could put in a non-linear black deck, I’m curious to hear what other cards you’d want to pair up specifically to take advantage of Nefarox or complement his abilities. Let me know in the comments below!

And I’m also still taking suggestions on apps for my new iPhone 4, Magic-related or not.

One final note—next weekend I’ll be heading up to the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Washington, D.C., so I hope to see some of you there! If you’ve got any deck ideas or tech you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you! I’m also looking for a place to stay in case there are not enough of us to split a hotel.

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I’ve also created a Facebook page where I’ll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!

New to Commander? 
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My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

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