The Kitchen Table: Nekusar, The Mind-Commander

When he saw all the new legendary creatures in Commander 2013, Abe knew he wanted to build his first Commander deck around Nekusar, the Mindrazer.

When a blast of new legendary creatures is printed for the latest Commander set, a lot of people begin to look at the cards and consider ideas. But now that we have the cards in hand, the ability to play with the cards and add them to decks can help inspire ideas across the board. I knew that I wanted my first deck to be built around a legendary card from Commander 2013 to be Nekusar.

The basic combination of Underworld Dreams and Howling Mine on a single card is very intoxicating. People have combined those sorts of cards ever since the early days of Magic, and in a real way it’s a throwback card suitable for the twentieth anniversary of Magic.

With that mindset, I began to consider how I could use Nekusar for my project. So let’s take a look.

This deck wants to build around both Howling Mine and the life loss of drawn cards. Both aspects of Nekusar are respected here! I added all sorts of love to the deck in large numbers in order to facilitate the goal. The first place I went was with engine cards that are core cards. For example, Underworld Dreams was an obvious choice. Then I included Phyrexian Tyranny and stuff like Psychosis Crawler to the deck. These all trigger when stuff is drawn and enable me to start the engines of Nekusar. The good thing about having a trigger for death in the commander itself is that I don’t need a lot of adjunct trigger elements in the deck. That’s good because few have been printed.

Instead, I moved to mass card draw. I left out a few options, such as Winds of Change, Wheel of Fate, and Whirlpool Warrior. But I did include many—Wheel of Fortune and Reforge the Soul will each force a draw seven. To that we add the mass card draw of Windfall and Whispering Madness. That helps draw a lot of cards as well. I also included Memory Jar to dole out some card drawing as well.

I dug deep into some other cards. Take a look at Wheel and Deal. It forces anyone else to discard their hand and draw seven cards. (Plus, it cantrips for a card.) It’s a great card for the Nekusar trigger and a clever card.

Then I dug into creatures as well. Take a look at Barbed Shocker. With both trample and haste, it’s a huge improvement over the original Shocker, and it forces a mass draw effect. The same is true of Dragon Mage, who is a Wheel of Fortune whenever you smash someone with it.

Notice how there is a strong discard element inherent in many of these mass draw cards? I included the trio of Megrim, Liliana’s Caress, and Geth’s Grimoire. The triumvirate of strong discard triggers should prove very nasty to a lot of people since discarding happens a lot even when I’m not involved via a smash with a Dragon’s Mage or a use of a Memory Jar. That makes me happy.

With those various cards in the deck, I push the mass card draw theme. While I steered clear of such cards as Prosperity and Skyscribing, I still ran into stuff like Mikokoro, Howling Mine, Font of Mythos, Jace Beleren, Kami of the Crescent Moon, and Temple Bell. These six cards give the deck mana-free card draw, which should start to get crazy with Nekusar and friends.

We are truly building an Underworld Dreams / Howling Mine deck now!

The next place I moved was the creature base. Too often these sorts of decks can push enchantments, artifacts, and spells to the max without fleshing out the critters. Most decks need bodies. The only non-general creatures I had were Niv-Mizzet, Consecrated Sphinx, Psychosis Crawler, the Kami, the Dragon Mage, and Barbed Shocker. So I needed some more. What cards would be good for this sort of deck?

Well, certainly Adamaro jumped to mind. For a three-mana investment, this deck sees a quality high power/toughness return. It should easily smash face. Another odd but suiting body was Slithermuse. It’s a midrange dork that will jump our hand something fierce when it dies. I also added the mana bodies of Burnished Hart and Solemn Simulacrum to the discussion.

I wanted beaters, so in went Ulamog for two major reasons. First, it will help in case we find danger of being decked. Secondly, it adds the useful indestructible body and Vindicate ability. Both are quite helpful in a deck like Nekusar demands. Also included were Avatar of Woe and Visara to smash creatures and give some large bodies to the cause. That gave me a bit of beef.

This deck seems to put a lot of cards in everybody’s graveyard, so I valued some game there. I desired to reload my deck while fighting against enemy recursion. While I can use Reito Lantern and Junktroller for pulling out a reanimation target and putting it into a library, they are really there for me to slowly restock the goods. Since I expected to blow through cards at times, I also added Anger and Wonder to my creature section to help give my stuff some nasty abilities. (For graveyard fighting, see Bojuka Bog, Crypt Incursion, Nihil Spellbomb, and Suffer the Past).

I needed some defense too. In went Maze of Ith, but also Silent Arbiter. Windreader Sphinx has a big ol’ butt and can block a lot of flying dorks. It’s a great defensive-minded soul who can also draw cards in mass quantities.

I tossed in a bit of reanimation with Profane Command and Beacon of Unrest. I love the Beacon for its sheer flexibility—you can retrieve any artifact or creature from any graveyard. The Profane Command does similarly, killing something, fearing an army, or being an X spell. Doing two from that list is great.

Next up was removal and countermagic. I looked for cards that worked well with the deck. It needed some more beef, and both Desertion and Draining Whelk can qualify. I also included some milling abilities with cards such as Grisly Spectacle and Induce Paranoia. Finally, a touch of flexible removal was considered with a certain Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker.

Nekusar is easily the sort of general to benefit from cards like Rhystic Study and Mind’s Eye. They were easily added.

I thought long and hard about Forced Fruition. It can often backfire because it gives too much card advantage to folks. But I felt the potential cost was worth it because it can explode a library. Note that the mass card draw can fight against one commonly played way of surviving being decked in Commander. Often it’s hard to deck someone because they have a few cards that shuffle to their library when they arrive at the library (such as the aforementioned Ulamog). Just mill them until four or five cards are left and then play a mass draw spell such as Wheel and Deal or Wheel of Fortune to win the game by drawing them past their deck.

I didn’t stop there; two more combo elements were added. I felt that the basic Sudden Impact cards from red were a bit underwhelming in a 40-life environment, but the recursive aspect of Vicious Shadows is a lot more than that. Every time a creature dies, you can Sudden Impact target player. That means I can attack Betty with Liliana’s Specter, watch it get blocked and killed by her Deathless Angel, and then shoot Sam for nine damage from that Vicious Shadows. It plays quite nicely in this deck.

The other card is Dark Suspicions. At the beginning of your upkeep, lose a life for each card you have in your hand in excess of mine. Not only is this a great encouragement not to have people hide behind a lot of cards (perhaps fueled by a Reliquary Tower) but it also works well with the basic deck concept. Did I play Windfall and then drop three cards from my hand? Then everyone is losing three life I guess!

After that obvious cards began to leap into the deck. Reliquary Tower, Sol Ring, Thran Dynamo, Everflowing Chalice, Armillary Sphere, Cyclonic Rift, Lightning Greaves, Academy Ruins, and Volrath’s Stronghold.

Cards that could have easily made the cut include Jace’s Erasure, Jace’s Archivist, Magus of the Jar, Syphon Mind, Dread, Words of War, Words of Wind, Breathstealer’s Crypt, Sudden Impact, and more. You could push the discard theme with cards such as Abyssal Nocturne, Telekinetic Bonds, or even Chains of Mephistopheles.

Now, the cards I included for this deck often included more expensive cards. I don’t run the original dual lands in my deck unless specifically called for by the deck concept, but I do think there is room for land such as the Ravnica shock duals. We do have some expensive cards in here though, so if that does not fit your deck stock that’s fine. Salt to taste and collection!

I don’t usually build this sort of Commander deck. I prefer more Timmy-esque decks with big stuff or more Johnny-esque decks with more craziness. While this is a deck with a strong Johnny style, is also has a bit of a Spike streak that is not my normal genre. I have to mix it up for my readers, though, because if every deck I build is a Johnny/Timmy smash deck that’s not going to hit all of my readers out there. So yes, the deck has a bit of a griefer theme, with Nekusar as one of the worst offenders.

But this deck does meet the theme, which is important. It follows the general quite nicely, and everything is in flavor. Maybe you might want to power it down a bit and find replacements for cards such as Mind’s Eye or Rhystic Study. Perhaps you instead want to amp up the power by adding fetch lands, original dual lands, and cards such as Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir to the deck.

I also think that an interesting direction would be to add a variety of tempo-prison style cards to the deck to slow down the speed under which people could play cards. Then add in Black Vise style cards, such as Viseling. Cards like Nether Void come to mind. You can take this in many directions.

So have fun with it and get your Nekusar on!

Until later,
Abe Sargent