The Kitchen Table #205 — The Nexus, Part 2

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Welcome back! Today I am going to revisit a deck of mine that I outlined near the beginning of the year called the Nexus. The Nexus was a highlander deck almost 100 cards deep that focused on the intersection of several different tribes — rebel, mercenary, elf, goblin, merfolk, and zombie. It included multiple samples from each races designed to work around the same themes.

Welcome back! Today I am going to revisit a deck of mine that I outlined near the beginning of the year called the Nexus. The Nexus was a highlander deck almost 100 cards deep that focused on the intersection of several different tribes — rebel, mercenary, elf, goblin, merfolk, and zombie. It included multiple samples from each races designed to work around the same themes.

Quick Oracle Aside
While doing research for this article, I discovered that Goblin Shrine has been Oracle-ized to give it a wording no printed version has. All printed versions of Goblin Shrine say it has to be on a Mountain, but the Oracle says basic Mountain. That is an obvious change from every printed version of Goblin Shrine. Wizards, using your own policy, please change this back. Thank you.

Yes, I know that Goblin Caves say basic Mountain in Oracle, but they said basic Mountain on the card as printed, the Shrine did not. Therefore, the Shrine should be able to be played on a dual land, and the Caves should not. (Note that the Shrine has a disadvantage when it leaves play whereas the Caves do not, so there is a rationale for that).
End Quick Oracle Aside

In Lorwyn, three of those tribes are running around. That makes a difference in the deck. There are also these changelings that make the deck even better. I took apart the Nexus before I went to London, so now I have a chance to revamp and make it stronger.

How do these creature types interact? Nemesis.

In Nemesis, the following three rares were printed — Moggcatcher, Skyshroud Poacher, and Seahunter. Each of these creatures is a 2/2 for four mana with the ability to tap three, themselves, and search up a goblin/elf/merfolk from your deck and put it into play.

Here’s the interesting thing. The Poacher is a rebel, the other two are mercenaries. That means you can start a rebel chain, toss out a Skyshroud Poacher, and then search up elves. You can do the same from mercenaries with either one. Therefore, in the Nexus, one searcher will turn into a lot of creatures, whether goblin, elf, rebel, merfolk, or mercenary.

Where do zombies come from? In Planeshift, there’s an enchantment called Dralnu’s Crusade, and it turns all goblins into zombies too, makes them Black, and gives them +1/+1. Therefore my deck would play Lord of the Undead, Undead Warchief… and that’s pretty much it for zombies. Although it was a zombie deck in the technical sense, it really only including a few zombies, to help out the goblins.

After that, the deck had a healthy portion of cards that would benefit the theme. Cards like Conspiracy and Artificial Evolution were in the deck, plus a decent assortment of Mistform creatures that could be any of the creature types.

That’s where I am picking up today. I have this old deck, and this desire to make a new one using a bunch of cards from Lorwyn. Let’s take a look at the Nexus in detail, and then build this deck!

The Tribes

It’s important to know that goblins are the biggest tribe in the Nexus and they always have been. I tell the story of how this began with my JV Squad deck in the first Nexus article, so I’ll leave it lay there. There are some cards I absolutely have to play here. Goblin Assassin is my best removal card. Why?

With a Moggcatcher out, search out a Goblin Assassin. If you lose the flip, sac another creature. Other players may also lose their flips. Then search out Goblin Marshal and everybody flips three times. Did you lose a flip? Sac Goblin Marshal, make two more tokens, equalling two more flips. If anyone still has creatures out, next turn search out a Siege-Gang Commander and that should be the end of their creatures. Now that you have creature advantage, start swinging wildly. Bring out a goblin every time an opponent plays creatures that threaten your position.

With Lorwyn, now you can search out Auntie Wort after the first few searches and recur your Goblin Marshal or Siege-Gang Commander. She works perfectly in the deck.

The deck will also want a Mad Auntie and Goblin King, for the obvious reasons. I liked Arms Dealer in the past, because he can help control the board.

A few other cards to consider… In the past I played Goblin Dynamo. He was a nice big body to search out, and he could Blaze-kill a person. Tar Pitcher is pretty good, but he’s third string after the Commander and the Arms Dealer. If I want another token generator I can toss in Mogg War Marshal. I don’t know where Fodder Launch and Tarfire fit in, but I like them. There’s also the trio of Boggart Harbinger, Goblin Matron, and Goblin Recruiter. If they will go in or not is also unknown.

There are two utility goblins that I like as well. In the previous deck, the only zombie that was not a lord or another creature type that I played was Gravedigger, because he got me a creature back, and that is key in this deck. Lorwyn brought me Warren Pilferers, and I really like them. Mogg Maniac is one of the single best blockers in multiplayer because people will fear attacking you with anything on the ground. Imagine searching it up when someone attacks me with a big ground creature that does not have trample. Either of these would be nice additions to the deck.

At this point however, only these cards are for sure:

Mad Auntie
Auntie Wort
Arms Dealer
Goblin Assassin
Goblin Marshal
Siege-Gang Commander
Goblin King

There are some essentials in the mercenary section. Rebels search up and get bigger creatures, whereas mercenaries search down and get smaller ones. That means I need five mana or greater mercenary searchers in order to get a Moggcatcher or Seahunter out of my deck. There’s aren’t that many that are really good.

In the last version, I played seven mercenaries including Goblin Turncoat, but I am pulling that out, leaving me with six from the previous Nexus. The problem is that we have a very Black-centric casting cost spread among the mercenaries. Five of the six mercs have double or more Black in their play cost, and that is something. Still, the deck calls for them, so I must play them

Three mercs are good enough to play and can also search out a Hunter/Catcher. Cateran Slaver is a beefy 5/5 with swampwalk for six mana, and he can bring the mercenary love. Cateran Enforcer is a nice sized 4/3 with fear for five mana, and he’ll likewise search up your needed creatures. Lastly, the expensive Cateran Overlord is your biggest creature at 7/5 with a modest regenerate ability for seven mana. He costs three Black, but he can search for every other mercenary, including the 5/5 swampwalking Slaver.

These three mercs must be played, they are simply too good to ignore. After that we had three other mercs with useful abilities in the deck.

Two were assassins. Rathi Assassin and Silent Assassin team up to take down creatures that may offend. This deck needs removal, and these guys really help. The Rathi Assassin can search up the Silent one, or the other creature — Doomed Necromancer. The Necromancer is one of the few ways of getting a creature back once dead, and it pretty useful. If I drop an Overlord, my first search the Necromancer, so if someone kills it, I can bring it back.

Therefore, I am putting the Necromancer in, but I’ll hold off on the Assassins for now, because they aren’t obviously essential.

Cateran Slaver
Cateran Enforcer
Cateran Overlord
Doomed Necromancer

The other tribe searchable by mercenaries is the merfolk of happiness. In the previous deck, this was pretty small, but with Lorwyn, there is some potential here.

Seahunter taps and gets you a Lord of Atlantis and now a Merrow Reejerey. These two cards are obvious inclusions into the deck. After that, we are left with choices.

Merfolk give us a lot of utility that no other tribe can offer. For example, we can get a Merfolk Looter to dig into our deck. Ambassador Laquatus is a slow winning condition against 60 card decks. Vodalian Illusionist can be creature salvation or control, as can the new Stonybrook Angler.

Cards from Jolting Merfolk to Whirlpool Warrior to Sygg, River Guide have uses. There’s even the Harbinger and Summon the School to consider. I have no idea how I am ultimately going to build my merfolk up, but I know two things. I need card drawing/filtering, and answers to big creatures. That leaves me with a few obvious choices. I’ll add more later if I have room. I can get tappers for just one mana with rebels, so I’ll leave behind the Angler as well.

Merrow Reejerey
Lord of Atlantis
Merfolk Looter
Vodalian Illusionist

The first of the two rebel tribes brings another large tribe, much like the goblins. There is a lot going on here, and it can be tough to figure out what to bring to the deck.

Skyshroud Poacher brings any elf into play. Just like with the merfolk, I know that I will begin with the two lords: Elvish Champion and Imperious Perfect. I’m not interested in shroud, so no Eladamri.

Elves also have a few things they can do that others stumble performing. Civic Wayfinder can help to smooth my mana. It’s an auto-include. I can also look at Joiner Adept or another mana helper later. The other thing elves bring is the giantesque Elvish Soultiller. Having some beef is good, and having beef that puts creatures back into your library to keep searching them out is great.

The elves have a lot of creatures that like having elves in play for their abilities. From Timberwatch Elves to Wellwisher, Priest of Titania to Immaculate Magistrate, there are a lot of creatures that like having more elves in play. I am going to avoid them for now.

Should I run Elvish Harbinger or Eyeblight’s Ending? Possibly, but for now, I’m going to steer clear.

For utility, I could run the deathtouch elves. They would be a great surprise to search up and block and attacker, but I am not sure I need them. I could also run Selesnya Guildmage, Caller of the Claw, Fierce Empath, or other creatures, but for now, I want to stick with the basics.

I don’t have anything in my deck that attacks artifacts and enchantments, and my elves can help me here. There are several options like Viridian Zealot. I settle on Glissa Sunseeker and Nullmage Shepherd. Both are reusable and are tacked to a decent sized body. That leaves me with the following:

Skyshroud Poacher
Elvish Champion
Imperious Perfect
Civic Wayfinder
Elvish Soultiller
Nullmage Shepherd
Glissa Sunseeker

Rebels are a pretty good tribe for building up, and I am running several. My rebel chain is unchanged from the Nexus deck except for one addition.

Drop a Ramosian Sergeant on the first turn, and you can build up to Lin-Sivvi and then go nuts from there. Of the two-drop searchers, I went with the 2/1 Seekers, but I could understand the 1/1 Defiant Falcon considering the lack of flyers in the deck.

After that, I ran Defiant Vanguard for its deathtouch ability. You can search up Lin-Sivvi from there. I chose not to keep amping up the rebel engine from there. The creatures are underwhelming, especially when you consider that there are no lords to make them better.

I do need some creature control. There are two rebels tappers that have some value to me, so I am tossing them in (Whipcorder, Rathi Trapper). I’m also tossing in one of the best defensive creatures of all time, Cho-Manno.

There are a lot of other choices, from the pro-Red, pro-Black flyers to the pro-Green Dunerider Outlaw. Big Game Hunter is removal, but I just don’t have enough spaces yet. I also like Bound in Silence, but not right now. I’d prefer my immediate removal to not be Disenchantable. I might toss one in later.

Ramosian Sergeant
Amrou Seekers
Defiant Vanguard
Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Rathi Trapper
Cho-Manno, Revolutionary

The only remaining tribe are the zombies. I’m not sure I’m going to run zombies in this version. That means, no double lords, no Unholy Grotto as a land, no Deadapult. I could still run Dralnu’s Crusade in order to give my goblins +1/+1. That’s pretty handy. If I toss in zombies later, I could look at creatures like Withered Wretch or Twisted Abomination for backup.

Dralnu’s Crusade

We now have 30 creatures and an enchantment.

In the previous incarnation, this would be taken with the mistform creatures. Today, I will leaving one in and that’s it. The rest are the brand new changelings.

Mistform Ultimus
Fire-Belly Changeling
Avian Changeling
Amoeboid Changeling
Skeletal Changeling
Woodland Changeling
Ghostly Changeling
Changeling Hero
Changeling Titan
Turtleshell Changeling
Changeling Berserker
Mirror Entity
Cairn Wanderer

I also like Mistform Wall because early defense is good, but I’ll steer clear for now.

We are up to 45 cards. What’s next?

These cards are the ones that are obvious selections for the deck. They really help the team, and work well with the theme. These were largely in the previous version as well.

The first section of cards are those that make creature(s) change type when under your control. They include Conspiracy, Imagecrafter, Runed Stalactite, and Unnatural Selection. For now, I’m skipping past Standardize and new cards like Blades of Velis Vel.

The next are lords that I can change to match what I have in play. These are Brass Herald and Shared Triumph. These will allow you to pump whatever tribe you have out, including rebels and mercs.

The next two cards use the creature type theme to do something. Peer Pressure uses it to steal your creatures while Artificial Evolution is obviously useful in this deck. I’ve given merfolk +1/+1 and Forestwalk or enabled Swarmyard to regenerate goblins.

Unnatural Selection
Runed Stalactite
Brass Herald
Shared Triumph
Peer Pressure
Artificial Evolution

I am not committing to Coat of Arms, or cards like the changeling spells. I also have not yet begun to consider creature enablers, like Hibernation’s End or Wild Pair.

We now have 53 cards, 46 of which are critters.

Now I am going to go back and add some cards that make sense.

Adding New Cards

I am going to start with the trio of goblin search cards and the two goblin spells. I also want the Pilferers. I would love to search out a goblin, find Goblin Matron, then search up a Tarfire and put it into my hand. Thus, the following goblins are making the cut:

Warren Pilferers
Fodder Launch
Goblin Matron
Goblin Recruiter
Boggart Harbinger

Now we are at 59 cards. How high will I go? How about 120 highlander or such. That would give me space for around 21 more cards.

For the same reason that I like Tarfire and Fodder Launch getting searched up, let’s toss in Nameless Inversion and Crib Swap. Everything will search them up.

Nameless Inversion
Crib Swap

61 cards and counting. I want more creature removal and control in my creatures. Let’s return the merc assassins to the deck. I’ll also throw in the Stonybrook Angler, even though its tapping ability requires two mana, because we need it. I’ll even go for the Elvish Harbinger and Eyeblight’s Ending. Now I have a nicer selection of recursion.

Rathi Assassin
Silent Assassin
Stonybrook Angler
Elvish Harbinger
Eyeblight’s Ending

We are now at 66 cards. Do I toss zombies back in? I could throw in the two lords and a Gravedigger right now. Ah, why not.

Undead Warchief
Lord of the Undead

They can be useful as generic lords for the changelings or Ultimus. Dralnu’s Crusade allows them to pump goblins. Artificial Evolution makes them more useful, and all of the ways to change creature types gives them some use there as well. We are now at 69 cards.

Should I add generic lords like Lovisa Coldeyes or Might Sliver to the deck? There are enough creatures to benefit. For now, I’ll steer clear, but it is an interesting question at least.

I’m going to flesh out the fish a bit more. The Harbinger and Warrior each do something interesting, so let’s toss them in as well, putting us at 71 cards. The Warrior especially has some uses with its Winds of Change ability. The other merfolk just don’t make me a believer in their power.

Merrow Harbinger
Whirlpool Warrior

I have a stack of the card I am considering beside me. To cut a long story short, I go through it several times, and pull out the final nine cards to make the cut. They are

Pyre Zombie — Damage dealing and recursive.
Viridian Zealot — One more Naturalize effect for the deck
Caller of the Claw — Anti-mass removal tech
Joiner Adept — Mana helping
Twisted Abomination — Mana helping and beef later in the game
Wirewood Guardian — Mana helping and late game beef as above
Hibernation’s End — Get some creatures
Wild Pair — Seriously, get some creatures
Mistform Wall — I know it costs mana to use, but we needed the defense

In the 40 lands, I will include:

Unholy Grotto — Bring back those zombies
SwarmyardRegenerate a bunch of creatures in the deck

The remaining lands in my deck will include the large number of tribal tap lands from Lorwyn, lairs, painlands, and duals that I have sitting around. If your manabase is more suspect, might I suggest that you include your land count by up to ten extra lands?

At our multiplayer table, we use basic 250 mulligan rules. If someone had no lands, that’s a mulligan on the table. If someone has one land, that’s on the table. If they have all lands, that’s there too. Then you can use any number of mulligans on the table to until you’ve used them all. That allows your decks to run a little lighter on the mana count than I would normally advise.

If your table is like that, then the 120-card deck should suffice. If not, then add some land to your nexus to bring it to 130.

Some other cards I considered but ultimately rejected:

Griffin Canyon — Interesting ability but your opponents can see it from a mile away

Wall of Mulch — Sacs Mistform and changeling creatures as well as itself for cards

Daru Encampment, Daru Warchief, Field Marshal, etc — There was no support for the soldier tribe in my deck. I wanted to stay away from playing every popular tribe ever. The Nexus has enough without adding more, even if that more is just lords.

Goblin Burrows — Not a bad card, and I have a lot of goblins + changelings. Play this if you want. I preferred the more powerful stuff like Swarmyard, but this is solid.

Goblin Caves, Goblin Shrine — Not enough Mountains.

Zombie Master, Eladamri, Goblin Warchief — I’m not looking to bring in every creature that helps my creature types. These didn’t bring enough to the table.

Coat of Arms — I had this in my last deck, but I felt that it was a little underwhelming there.

Might Sliver, Muscle Sliver, Sinew Sliver — I like the pumping, but I never want to help another sliver deck. That would be disgusting.

Lovisa Coldeyes — Of the lords that pumped few things in my deck, this was the one I most considered. +2/+2 and haste is nothing to sneeze at. I do have three warriors in the elf section of the deck. I ultimately decided against Lovisa because she helped my opponents. I had enough opponent helping lords without adding another.

Tarpitcher, Summon the School , Bound in Silence — I mentioned these. There were times when each would make the final cut and then I reconsidered. I’m happy with my final 80 cards, but I would have liked to have seen these in the deck. Still, I have to make cuts somewhere.

Starlit Sanctum — Like other cards, this one would have been used solely with the changelings and the creature type changers. It had some power, but I ultimately decided against it.

Some lousy cards in the previous version did not make the cut here, like Goblin Turncoat, Festering Goblin, Proteus Machine, and such. Proteus Machine is the worst ever morph.

Well, there you have it. Hope you enjoyed yet another trek through all things Nexus-ish.

Until later,

Abe Sargent