You Lika The Juice? – Nephilim in EDH

Read Bennie Smith every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Thursday, December 18th – So what did you think of Worlds? I know Wizards goes out of its way to promote the personalities on the Pro Tour, but honestly I was much more interested to see what the Pros did to further define the new Standard and Extended formats. Standard to see what netdeckers might be bringing to Friday Night Magic, and Extended to figure out what deck to play at the local PTQ in January.

Ramblin’ about Worlds
So what did you think of Worlds? I know Wizards goes out of its way to promote the personalities on the Pro Tour, but honestly I was much more interested to see what the Pros did to further define the new Standard and Extended formats. Standard to see what netdeckers might be bringing to Friday Night Magic, and Extended to figure out what deck to play at the local PTQ in January.

Did anyone else groan while going over the Standard decks being played by the Top 8 on Sunday? Faeries, Kithkin, Faeries, Five-Color Control, Faeries, Blightning Red, Faeries, Faeries… six playsets of Cryptic CommandSnooooooooore… I have to say, given that Faerie decks are so strong as to be a major force even in the hyper-powered Extended format, and I just don’t see anything much changing for Standard until Lorwyn block rotates out. It’s a bit depressing, because Standard has always been my favorite format. I’m glad that the only Standard tournaments I have in my near future are all FNMs, which are more casual and laid back. Sure, there will be netdeckers there who’re going to play one of the dominating decks, but I can at least bank on there being fewer in number and maybe played less well than you’d see at a bigger tournament. I’ve got a few ideas I’d like to try out that would likely get smoked in a higher level tournament. Don’t worry – I’ll be sure to share them with you once I get them fleshed out!

Thankfully, Extended seems to be much more interesting. Of the undefeated decks in Extended, you’ve got All-In Red, Swans, Zoo, Riptide Wizards/Faeries (twice), and Death Cloud Rock. Nary a scary Elfball deck to be found without at least one loss. As always, knowledge is power, and now that people know about the threat of the elf deck, it doesn’t seem to be nearly as devastating. So what will I end up playing? Well, like many of you I’m constricted by time and my collection; I will probably only get to play in the one PTQ right here in Richmond, and so it doesn’t make much sense to go out and acquire too many cards outside of my collection. As luck would have it, I’m just one Glimpse shy of having the complete Elfball deck, so I figure why not go creature combo for once? It’s powerful, it can win out of nowhere, it’s got a strong Plan B, and since it didn’t seem to be nearly as dominating at Worlds, I hopefully won’t have to wade through overwhelming hate games 2 and 3.

Another plus in choosing the combo deck is that I can actually get some value out of goldfishing the deck, something I should be able to do much more frequently than I will actually be able to scramble together full-blown playtesting time. For the next couple of weeks I’ll be poring over the top decklists from Extended to see what card changes occurred between Berlin and Memphis to keep the Elf Menace in check so I can figure out what to keep an eye out for and what needs to be played around. If any of y’all happen to be particularly well-versed in playing the extended Elfball deck, I’d love to get any and all advice. Just think of my as your hick cousin from the backwoods of Virginia and lay some wisdom on me.

My backup plan is likely Death Cloud Rock. Again, I have all those cards, it seems to be doing pretty well and I’m always comfortable sitting down with a mid-range deck. Besides, it’s running Crime / Punishment – you gotta love that! Jay wants me to play Dredge because I’m the Original Dredgster and all but lord I’d have to beg, borrow and steal so many high-end cards – starting with the Chrome Moxen and Glimpses, that I think it highly unlikely I’d be able to cobble together the cards without spending a bunch of money right after Christmas.

I got kids. My bank account will be in the red after Christmas. Spending an extra $100 or so just to play in one tournament? Ain’t gonna happen…

Elder Dragon Highlander
Anyway, enough on the serious stuff – let’s pivot back to Elder Dragon Highlander. I hear that some of the guys from Wizards of the Coast brought EDH decks, so if any of you were fortunate enough to go to Worlds and play some EDH with any of them, drop me a line and let me know how it went, what you played, what they played, any fun plays, etc.

Here in town, Richmond Comix is holding another Elder Dragon Highlander game on January 4th. No Vanguard shenanigans this time around, just straight up EDH, and this time I’ve decided I want to play the Nephilim — which of course means running a five-color deck.

I have to admit I have a soft spot in my heart for the Nephilim. Back when I wrote for the mothership (and piloted the very last comprehensive MTGO column, Into The Aether), I wrote Nephilim are Prismatastic! where I built a huge 250 card deck for the online Prismatic deck format. You gotta play 20 cards of each color, and as I was fleshing out the many colors of the rainbow, I ended up tossing in each of the Nephilim because… well, why not?

As a side note, the deck I ended up building was only possible because I had a Wizards God account with every online card available to play with. Click on the link and check out that deck – sheer beauty! You gotta admit though, with a God account it could have been a lot more ridiculous – I could have been playing Pernicious Deeds and other Invasion obnoxiousness, but I thought I’d show some restraint. Ahh, those were the days…

Anyway, I had a real good time playing with that deck, and the Nephilim almost always added an interesting stamp on the game. So – why not build a Nephilim deck for EDH?

Why not indeed? Well, for one thing, they aren’t legends, so I couldn’t pick one for my general – and if I did, it would preclude me from playing the others. Since I can only play one copy of each Nephilim in my deck, and can’t use it as a general, I’d need to make sure I played plenty of ways to find them. Between that and the mana fixing you need for a reliable five-color deck (especially since I don’t own a copy of all the dual lands in existence), I foresee a deckbuilding challenge! With the limited “other” cards in the deck, how do you go about making sure to take advantage of all that the Nephilim offer?

Step 1: Picking the General
There are actually not too many options when it comes to five-color Generals. Atogatog is funny but not very useful; Karona, False God is… well, a challenge all his own and deserving of his own deck. Sliver Legion would demand a bunch of Slivers, which would certainly overshadow the poor Nephilim. Cromat is a Swiss-army knife of cool abilities all his own. Sliver Queen is pretty good all her own too (so long as nobody is playing Sliver Overlord).

Then we have the other “tribal”-oriented legends: Scion of the Ur-Dragon, Horde of Notions, Reaper King, and Sliver Overlord. The reason these are interesting are because you could play something like Conspiracy, making all your Nephilim also of that tribe and synergistic with your general. Right now, I’m leaning towards Horde of Notions—not only is he just a beating his own bad self, but there are plenty of utility Elemental cards I can see as easily splashed into a five-color deck to go with your Horde until your Conspiracy comes online. Also, if your goal is to do cool stuff with your Nephilim, you’re likely going to want to have extra means to retrieving them from the graveyard when your opponents start doing mean things to stop your fun.

Step 2: Manafixing
You know, prior to Lorwyn I’d imagine that mana-fixing might be a little bit of a concern — just a little bit. But good lord, between Lorwyn, Shadowmoor, and Shards of Alara? We live in a post-color-disciplined world, so there are no worries!

I’m actually thinking about leaning towards making sure I use plenty of actual basic land types, with plenty of lands and spells to fetch them. If I’m going to be playing five colors, I might as well tap into some Domain power, and maybe even some of the Incarnations like Brawn and Wonder. You can best believe I’m gonna make good use of the new Panoramas in addition to as many Onslaught Fetchlands I can scrounge up. Yavimaya Elder and Kodama’s Reach are a given, as is Krosan Tusker, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Solemn Simulacrum. Of course, there is the Godfather of basic land fetching – Land Tax, but I’m torn. Land Tax is so powerful, I’d worry about it setting off too many player’s threat antennas. What does Land Tax do at your EDH table?

I’m definitely going to be playing Darksteel Ingot; that card is very nearly the most reliable five-color source you can have. Coalition Relic is another winner. Fellwar Stone will very likely be able to provide you any color mana with a big enough table. Mox Diamond is nice, but I worry about it being too much of a juicy target for someone itching to get 3-for-1 out of their Viridian Shaman (as opposed to waiting and hitting something really important).

Step 3: Maximizing the Nephilim
3a: Finding them: Since there are only five of the Nephilim Tribe, one major issue will be finding the buggers and getting them into play. Survival of the Fittest is an obvious choice, though I’ll need to be careful because last time I played the enchantment it certainly fired off everyone’s threat antennas; maybe the much more ponderous Citanul Flute would be a more diplomatic choice? Chord of Calling is heavy Green, but it looks like we’re going to be base Green anyway so the Convoke should help offset that. Eladamri’s Call, Worldly Tutor, Primal Command, and Summoner’s Pact all get the job done without seeming too broken.

3b: Using them: Each of the Nephilim has cool abilities that we’ll want to keep in mind when filling out the deck if we’re going to go to the trouble of finding them and putting them into play, right? Let’s take a look at each of them:

Ink-Treader Nephilim: In my mind, this one is the most powerful of the crew, and also potentially the most dangerous. You haven’t lived until you’ve targeted this bad boy with a Wildsize when there are 10 or more other creatures around the board – boy, howdy that’s good times! Thankfully, there are quite a few cards that target creatures that also cantrip, so I think we’ll definitely be making room for some of those, goodies like Fire / Ice, Carom, and Twitch.

Yore-Tiller Nephilim: Reanimation is a potent ability and there are all sorts of potentially scary things you could put into play and attacking – not least of which is an Ink-Treader Nephilim your opponent may have killed before its time!

Witch-Maw Nephilim: This little guy gets large and intimidating pretty darn quickly, especially if you, you know, play spells. Note he gets the counters whether or not your spell resolves, but too bad he won’t trigger off a slew of copied spells off your Inky N. I’m thinking some number of buyback spells would be helpful alongside this fellow, something like Invulnerability, Mind Games, Sprout Swarm (Witchy N is Green for Convoking), Whispers of the Muse.

Glint-Eye Nephilim: This one has card-drawing built in, but you gotta work to make it happen – you’ve got to attack and get through to a player with combat damage to make it work. Empyrial Plate might be an interesting option to help him feed on himself, right? Of course, if you’re already drawing made cards from Ink-Treader shenanigans, Glinty N starts to get a lot scarier.

Dune-Brood Nephilim: Last but not least we have this guy, who has the potential of making a metric truckload of little dudes in the later games – which, coincidentally, helps Inky’s copies to have even more copies – just be careful not to deck yourself, right? With the mana-fixing I’m thinking about having in this deck, all that extra land will end up translating into dudes.

So what’s my Nephilim deck looking like so far? Well, it’s still under construction, but I also want to keep a few surprises under my hat to spring on people on January 4th. Rest assured I will write up the blow-by-blow for that Thursday’s You Lika The Juice, just a few weeks away! In the meantime, if you’ve got any ideas for my deck or stories about your experience with Nephilim, either in your deck or in your opponent’s deck, I’d love to hear ‘em!

Okay, so next week is Christmas, and I wanted to make sure I extend good Holiday wishes to you and yours; have fun, surround yourself with people who love you and just enjoy the good times. It’ll be over with way too soon, and then we’ll be back to the daily grind.

Take care!


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