True-Name Nemesis

Sam is interested in updating a few decks for Grand Prix DC next week with four copies of a card from the Commander 2013 decks. What metagame changes come along with True-Name Nemesis the Baby Progenitus?

True-Name Nemesis seems completely unreasonable to me. The card asks so little to offer so much. It’s a great threat or blocker on its own, and it’s both outstanding with any help and open to a lot of different kinds of support. For now, my questions for Grand Prix DC are how I’ll get True-Name Nemesis, since StarCityGames.com is sold out of them at the time I’m writing this, and what my other 56 cards will be once I get them.

True-Name Nemesis

By itself, it offers a pretty fast clock that’s very difficult to stop, which to me makes it an ideal threat in a deck like Delver that just wants to apply a bit of pressure while keeping the opponent off their game. It could definitely just replace green creatures in a deck like RUG Delver, at which point it doesn’t need to be green anymore, so possibly R/U Delver or R/W/U Delver. This basically plays it as an unblockable shroud creature.

Instead, you could take advantage of the fact that it’s functionally a hexproof creature and try to enchant or equip it. Likely this just means playing it with Stoneforge Mystic and putting a Sword of some kind or Umezawa’s Jitte on it, but it could potentially mean targeting it with enchantments as a faster way of getting a similar result.

The last use that’s interesting to me is taking advantage of its creature type and simply updating Merfolk with the card, which takes the least advantage of the standalone power level, while still using it in a synergistic way that might offer a useful new dimension to a deck that was already close to good enough.

Let’s go through how I’d imagine implementing each of these ideas.

For the Delver-style deck, I think it makes sense to go light on threats and high on interaction, expecting True-Name Nemesis to be able to do most of the heavy lifting as a threat.

The Curfew, Runechanter’s Pike, and Spell Pierces could also be a set of Stifles if you’re into that kind of thing, and the Snapcaster Mage could be Young Pyromancer without really changing anything else – even a mix is fine too. I don’t personally have a lot of experience with the archetype, but some players I respect are really down on Stifle and I think it’s in the deck largely to steal wins. While this deck can easily find itself in a racing position, ultimately True-Name Nemesis isn’t that fast, so you’re going to need to actually beat what the opponent is doing eventually rather than just mana-screwing them. Curfew works really well with Snapcaster Mage and answers some things that are really hard to answer (Progenitus, Emrakul). Spell Pierce just helps us play fair magic, especially against combo, and Runechanter’s Pike can cut several turns off your clock. Young Pyromancer is nice with True-Name Nemesis because it fights Edict effects, which are probably the best answers to the Merfolk, and it can give you blockers to buy the last few turns for your unblockable creature to finish them off. At the same time, it opens you up to removal a little more than Snapcaster Mage does, and you are otherwise making it hard for them to get ahead with their removal spells. If I’m cutting Snapcaster entirely, I’d probably play something else instead of Curfew.

The land count is a little higher than RUG Delver even though it’s only two colors because True-Name Nemesis (and Snapcaster to some extent) bring the curve up a little. The sideboard is a little loose – it might want Jace, The Mind Sculptor, it might want an answer to artifacts, maybe Pithing Needle, or even Grafdigger’s Cage if you have Young Pyromancer instead of Snapcaster Mage… but the basic idea is clear. Envelop is good right now after the recent surge of Sneak and Show, but I think Red Blasts are just better, and the Spell Pierce in the sideboard would be another Flusterstorm except that I want to be sure I can counter Sneak Attack.

This deck can also easily add another color – updating Grixis Delver deck with True-Name Nemesis; in that case, I’d probably want Young Pyromancer over Snapcaster Mage to work with Cabal Therapy. Maybe it could be reasonable to replace Geist of Saint Traft in a deck like Ben Friedman second-place deck this from this weekend’s Legacy Open.

This deck will be a little slower than RUG Delver, but True-Name Nemesis isn’t vulnerable to graveyard hate like Tarmogoyf and Nimble Mongoose are, and it never loses a creature fight or runs into a blocker.

The next style of deck is really looking to play True-Name Nemesis on turn two and win the game in a greatly decreased number of hits using equipment. This deck is certainly in the same vein as Reid Duke winning Bant deck from this weekend’s Legacy open.

Compared to Reid’s deck, True-Name Nemesis is replacing Knight of the Reliquary, which makes Green Sun’s Zenith less appealing. Green’s Sun Zenith functions largely as an additional accelerant with Dryad Arbor, so Deathrite Shaman takes its place here and conveniently covers some of the functionality of the missing Scavenging Ooze. The additional blue cards and slightly more aggressive nature of True-Name Nemesis encouraged me to move Force of Will to the maindeck, which covers space that Gaddock Teeg was occupying for Reid.

This deck is pretty straightforward. It’s a versatile value deck that can both ride a fast clock and turn around and defend a planeswalker with an impenetrable roadblock. True-Name Nemesis can’t grind card advantage the same way that Knight of the Reliquary does, but there’s a lot to be said for ramping into a creature that can’t be targeted and Knight of the Reliquary has a tendency to get hit by Swords to Plowshares and Submerge fairly often. True-Name Nemesis gets even better when you’re planning to equip it, as you are at zero risk to a big tempo swing at the hands of a removal spell.

The final deck I’m interested in is Merfolk, a deck that may have some interesting tools aside from True-Name Nemesis.

This deck replaces Merrow Reejerey, a staple Merfolk lord, with True-Name Nemesis… which will usually make the deck less explosive, but in exchange it offers a way to beat decks that try to overload on spot removal and is just an extremely powerful card (a recurring theme in this article). Additionally, the extra point of Devotion supports Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves, both of which I’ve ported over here from Standard. Master of Waves is too expensive against combo decks, but it’s one of the best things you can do against fair decks that won’t reliably be able to kill it and the Merfolk tribe tends to be excellent at generating devotion to blue. Thassa is another card (like Master of Waves) that I’ve already started playing with in Merfolk a little, and I’ve been pretty impressed. The scry ability is outstanding against people who are slowing you down, and the 5/5 is obviously impressive against people who aren’t. It can be hard to trust a “Standard-only card” in Legacy, but I think both of these cards are easily powerful enough to earn their keep.

Tidebinder Mage in the sideboard replaces the Submerges that I’ve previously had, which will play much better with devotion. I’ve been tempted to cut Silvergill Adept from the maindeck in favor of Tidebinder Mage to increase my devotion, but I think Silvergill Adept is just too powerful.

Phantasmal Image is a great card all around, and it is particularly good with lords, but this deck contains two new uses that I’m excited out. First, if you copy True-Name Nemesis, the drawback of the Phantasmal Image becomes largely irrelevant since your opponent can’t target it anyway. This curves perfectly with Aether Vial and True-Name Nemesis:

Turn 1: Aether Vial

Turn 2: Anything

Turn 3: put a second charge counter on Aether Vial, play a third land, cast True-Name Nemesis, tap Aether Vial to put Phantasmal Image into play copying True-Name Nemesis.

The other card I’m excited to copy with Phantasmal Image is Master of Waves: again, particularly with Aether Vial, as a way to both save the Elemental tokens I’ve already made and make more of them.

I’ve always considered basic Islands to be one of the major strengths of Merfolk, but I think fighting Sneak and Show with discard is a little more effective than fighting it with counterspells, so I could see adding a black splash for Thoughtseize and Cabal Therapy. If I’m moving away from basic lands I might even consider cutting Daze so that I can play some Darkslick Shores to help dodge Choke. Cabal Therapy obviously works well in a deck with this many creatures, and removing Daze can give you room to push the critical mass / Devotion angle. I might even try Tidebinder Mage or Coralhelm Commander main at that point, and leave the interaction for the sideboard.

I’m excited about Merfolk because I feel like the games Merfolk generally lost were games where removal kept their critical mass in check, and then their creatures were independently beaten by larger creatures. To show how long it’s been since last I played Merfolk, I’m thinking here about decks like Zoo… but a similar thing happens now with Jund, and True-Name Nemesis is exactly the right card to fight back against that kind of strategy.

Lords and Aether Vial have always been a great recipe for beating fair blue decks, so I think combo and control become the big concerns. This is why I currently have Spell Pierce in the main instead of Dismember – I should be able to trump most creatures anyway. The sideboard is currently slanted toward fighting those strategies with counterspells and graveyard hate.

I think the most threatening decks at this point are creature combo decks like Elves, Goblins, and Enchantress (which is sort of a creature combo) – Tidebinder Mage is good but not great against Elves and Goblins (obviously I think it’s good enough to warrant space). Yet another advantage here to the black concept would be a sideboard that can access Engineered Plague, Perish, or even Toxic Deluge (which is pretty awesome with lords) to help with some of these issues.

Four Relic of Progenitus is definitely a lot, but I think it’s often an extremely high-impact card and I hate to not have it when I’m playing a deck that doesn’t use its graveyard at all.

Overall, I think Merfolk has a good chance of being primed for a serious resurgence between Theros and True-Name Nemesis. Incidentally, I would love to find a way to work Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx into the deck, but it will definitely require accurately predicting the field to tune the sideboard. I’m afraid of the power level of True-Name Nemesis, but I think I like the kinds of decks it encourages.


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