You Lika The Juice? To The Pain!

Bennie Smith makes movie references while creating Commander decks, namely one with Nin, the Pain Artist as the general.

Prince Humperdinck: First things first, to the death.

Westley: No. To the pain.

Prince Humperdinck: I don’t think I’m quite familiar with that phrase.

Westley: I’ll explain and I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon.

Prince Humperdinck: That may be the first time in my life a man has dared insult me.

Westley: It won’t be the last. To the pain means the first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists. Next your nose.

Prince Humperdinck: And then my tongue I suppose, I killed you too quickly the last time. A mistake I don’t mean to duplicate tonight.

Westley: I wasn’t finished. The next thing you will lose will be your left eye followed by your right.

Prince Humperdinck: And then my ears, I understand let’s get on with it.

Westley: WRONG. Your ears you keep, and I’ll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, “Dear God! What is that thing,” will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.

A couple weeks back I wrapped up my “Unpacking” series on the Commander decks, where I went over each deck and discussed how I’d go about updating it with additional cards. The idea was to help guide people just getting into Commander how to take one of the precon decks and power it up without spending too much money. I also hoped that even seasoned Commander players might find some interesting ideas as well.

In the comments I’d often get readers asking how I’d go about building these decks fully powered up out of my substantial Commander card stock, and yes—they’d certainly be quite different than the decklists I provided. While I will no doubt be revisiting the pre-chosen Commanders featured in each deck again at some point (for instance, I do have a totally different Ghave, Guru of Spores deck built), since I just wrote about them I won’t be doing it for a while. Besides those five Commanders, there are a whole host of cool new Legends to build around, and today I’d like to focus on Nim, the Pain Artist!

When building a Commander deck from scratch, it’s useful to sit down with your Legend and listen to what he or she has to say. Open yourself up to their desires, what it is they really want to do… and think about what needs to be done to facilitate that. You are their architect; you are entrusted to make their dreams a reality. Can you rise to the challenge?

In the case of Nin, the Pain Artist, try not to get distracted by her cleavage.

“Your body is a delicate instrument that tells me truths. These devices help me ‘tune’ that instrument.”

So what does Nin desire? She’s not coy or subtle about it. She wants to inflict damage on creatures and have players draw cards, so that’s what a Nin deck wants to focus on. Sure, she can just be an interesting Commander to stick in your favorite U/R goodstuff deck, but what’s the fun in that?

There’s one other major consideration that her ability demands attention to, and that’s mana production. She requires XUR mana to do her thing, and at some point you’re going to want X to be a significant number—either to kill something that needs killing, or to have someone draw a large number of cards.

With those things in mind, let’s look at individual cards that satisfy Nin’s desires.

Delicate Instruments

A fair amount of time you’re going to want to use Nin’s ability on your own creatures so you can draw cards. Unfortunately the two best cards for the job—Spitemare and Swans of Bryn Argoll—require you to have white in your deck, so with Nin as your Commander that’s not going to work. Fortunately, the next two best cards for the job are available—Stuffy Doll and Mogg Maniac. Mogg Maniac is only good for one shot, but you don’t have to decide who gets whacked until the time is right. Stuffy Doll is much more durable, but the instant you play Stuffy Doll you’ve got to declare which poor sap is going to be taking a beating… hopefully they can’t effectively retaliate right away.

Stuffy Doll shows us that our own indestructible dudes make pretty good targets for Nin’s ability, so Darksteel Myr and the new Creepy Doll from Innistrad likely deserve slots. Deep-Slumber Titan is an interesting choice—for just four mana, he’s big enough to take a big poke from Nin and survive and has the benefit of untapping whenever she does so. For those who like to live dangerously, Coalhauler Swine can dish out the pain to the entire table (including yourself) while you draw the cards. Tuktuk the Explorer was made to take a hit from Nin for value, as was Rushing-Tide Zubera. Token-making cards like Kher Keep, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Mimic Vat can provide a steady stream of victims for Nin to poke. Soramaro, First to Dream is a nice choice—if you target Soramaro with the ability he gets the size boost before the damage resolves so you can’t kill him with Nin.

In Commander you can only play one copy of these cards, but blue lets you circumvent that with cards like Clone, Phyrexian Metamorph, Rite of Replication, and the new Innistrad gem Cackling Counterpart.

Tuning Devices

The mana-boosting usual suspects like Sol Ring, Mana Vault, and Darksteel Ingot obviously make the cut. Training Grounds acts like a Sol Ring for Nin, and Braid of Fire can grow quite large for you. Having access to Tolaria West and Expedition Map (fetchable with Trinket Mage) makes me think squeezing in a Cloudpost, Glimmerpost, and Vesuva would be worth the slots.

Since Nin lets you trade mana for cards, I think one-shot mana boosts like High Tide, Drain Power, Inner Fire, Seething Song, and Mana Geyser deserve a look, and if you have a Mana Drain, why not?

If your build ends up heavy red with lots of Mountains, Koth of the Hammer could be the man your planeswalker could smell like. If you go heavy tribal (Nin is a Wizard and a Vedalken) then Mana Echoes could really yield you a ton of mana.

Lastly, I’d suggest taking a look at Apprentice Wizard (turning a blue mana into three colorless mana) and one of my favorites, Soulbright Flamekin. Soulbright Flamekin can turn six mana of any color into eight red mana so long as there are three different creatures around, with the side benefit of being able to give trample to other people’s creatures (particularly helpful when they’re attacking someone else). So, not only could you net two extra mana for Nin, you can then hit a blocking creature with enough damage so that the attacking monster you just gave trample to has to deal less to get to lethal and more carries over to the face (in effect, giving the attacker firebreathing).

What “To the Pain” Means

Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about using Nin for our own advantage, so now let’s talk about using it against opponent’s creatures so they can draw cards—and a lot of times you’ll use Nin politically to help certain players when you need to win allies to your cause. But let’s face it—Nin also demands that you have ways to punish them for the gift of cards. Cerebral Vortex, Molten Psyche, Sword of War and Peace, Gaze of Adamaro, Sudden Impact, and Runeflare Trap can all seriously “bring the pain” to those who’ve just drawn a bunch of cards thanks to Nin. So can Adamaro, First to Desire—who can benefit from one opponent drawing the cards while you smash him into someone else.

Of course, sometimes it’s painful for your opponents when you’re the one drawing the cards. Psychosis Crawler is a perfect creature for Nin—like we talked about with Soramaro, you can’t kill the Crawler with Nin now matter how big she pokes it because he’ll be X bigger due to the cards drawn before the X damage is dealt. Then there are the cards like Ivory Tower and Venser’s Journal that’ll net you a ton of life, and no one likes to see that.

With all those card ideas swirling around in my head, here’s what I ended up for my first pass at a Nin, the Pain Artist Commander deck:

Some notes on cards I didn’t talk about above:

Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, Champion’s Helm

When you build a deck focused tightly on your Commander, it behooves you to add this essential trifecta to your deck. Nim Deathmantle offers similar protection, while also letting you get additional mileage from one-shots like Mogg Maniac.

Basilisk Collar

When you need to kill a creature, three mana and one card for the opponent is sometimes all you want to spend.

Blasphemous Act

This insane new Innistrad card gives multiplayer red access to a potent—and usually dirt cheap—mass removal spell, that just so happens to be doubly insane with Mogg Maniac and Stuffy Doll. Thirteen points of damage to all creatures!!!

Elixir of Immortality

In a deck like this that can often end up drawing a lot of cards, I like having this reset button available (and fetch-able with Trinket Mage).

Snapcaster Mage

When one Sudden Impact just isn’t enough! Mmmm, more Innistrad goodness…


In Nin’s Magical Christmasland, I equip Mogg Maniac with Deathrender, then torture him with Nin’s poke for, I don’t know, maybe six or seven cards… find my Consecrated Sphinx in those cards, then when the Maniac dies I put the Sphinx into play equipped to Deathrender. Boo-ya!

High Tide

I went with heavy blue in this build to better support the mana boost from High Tide. If I were a jerk I’d probably add Palinchron to the mix…

Crystal Shard, Erratic Portal

It sucks when your Stuffy Doll victim dies and you’ve still got other opponents to deal with; these artifacts help with that problem—not to mention being fun with Trinket Mage, Clone, Metamorph, etc.

Vicious Shadows

An obnoxiously powerful card that I think warrants consideration for banning in Commander, it’s just way too sick with Nin not to play—hit your opponent’s creature with a Nin poke big enough to kill it, and when it dies he takes that much more damage from the Shadows. Ouch! All those extra cards don’t do you much good when you’re dead.

If you have any questions about my card choices, or suggestions to improve the deck or take it other directions, please let me know in the comments below.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend everyone!

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!

I’ve started a blog, it’s not Magic-related but you may find it fun to read and comment on. I update at least once a week so check on it often and let me know what you think! This week I got to do a guest-spot on a much more popular blog called Simply Solo, and that was pretty exciting—it drove quite a bit of traffic my way. I also recently revamped my blog header with a perfect drawing from the awesome MJ Scott, check it out!

New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: