Tempted By The Ringwraiths? How To Use Nazgûl In Commander

Bennie Smith is ready to ride with the Nine into his next Commander game! Get his ideas for building around nine copies of Nazgûl from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth.

Nazgûl, illustrated by Nino Is

One of the ingenious things about Magic: The Gathering is, while there are (rather extensive) rules of the game, if a Magic card’s text “breaks” a rule, that Magic card’s text takes precedence. Back in Fifth Dawn, a simple uncommon named Relentless Rats broke the rule in a really cool way.

Relentless Rats

This was a sweet throwback to a classic card called Plague Rats, which got bigger and bigger the more Plague Rats you had on the battlefield. Before there was a formal tournament structure – or if you were just playing kitchen-table casual Magic – you would put as many Plague Rats as you owned in a deck and have at it.  Relentless Rats aimed to bring that same casual fun to formats where the rules of Magic would normally restrict you to having four copies of a card – or, in the case of Commander, just one copy.

People loved the design, and over the years, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) dipped their toes in that pond a few more times:

Shadowborn Apostle Rat Colony Persistent Petitioners Dragon's Approach

Rat Colony is a toned-down version of Relentless Rats, but it is on Magic Arena, so if you play Historic Brawl, you’ll run across Rat Colony decks from time to time.

Throne of Eldraine took this rule-breaking design and added flavor-inspired constraints on the rule-breaking with Seven Dwarves, inspired by the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves fairy tale:

Seven Dwarves

Which brings us to the latest addition to this rule-breaking design family, another flavor-inspired constraint on that rule breaking: the fearsome Nazgûl, also referred to as Ringwraiths!


Party of Nine

I love that they have created nine different artworks for the Nazgûl, giving each their own distinct personality, and providing collectors a bit of a mini-quest, especially if you want to build a deck featuring nine copies of Nazgûl. 

He could see them clearly now; they appeared to have cast aside their hoods and black cloaks, and they were robed in white and grey. Swords were naked in their pale hands; helms were on their heads. Their cold eyes glittered, and they called to him with fell voices.

Flight to the Ford, The Fellowship of the Ring

When Nazgûl enters the battlefield, the Ring tempts you, which is the cool new mechanic from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth.  I went deep into exploring the mechanic a few weeks back, so be sure to check out The Rings Tempts You! The Lord Of The Rings Meets Commander Magic if you haven’t already. But here’s the graphic that explains the mechanic, which will work well for our purposes here:

So the first time a Nazgûl enters the battlefield, the Ring tempts you, and it will put a +1/+1 counter on itself and any other Wraiths floating around your side of the battlefield. Now, if the Nazgûl becomes your Ring-bearer, its ability to grow can interfere with the first level of the Ring’s power, allowing it to be blocked by more creatures.  But luckily for our Mordor-loving black hearts, Nazgûl has deathtouch, which could discourage blocking and allow your Ring-bearer to attack and take advantage of some of the other levels of the Ring’s power each combat.

Let’s swoop in and see what sort of cards we may want to play alongside our Nine servants of Sauron!

Your Commander

Witch-king of Angmar Sauron, the Necromancer Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin Morophon, the Boundless

While each of the Nine have unique identities, their leader is well known from the novels and is realized in two (as of this writing) legendary cards in the set.  The one I think is the best choice is Witch-king of Angmar, since it also has a trigger for that crucial “the Ring tempts you” ability.

Upon it sat a shape, black-mantled, huge and threatening. A crown of steel he bore, but between rim and robe naught was there to see, save only a deadly gleam of eyes: the Lord of the Nazgûl. To the air he had returned, summoning his steed ere the darkness failed, and now he was come again, bringing ruin, turning hope to despair, and victory to death. A great black mace he wielded.

– The Battle of Pelennor Fields, The Return of the King

Technically, the Witch-king is one of the Nine Nazgûl, so if you want to be a lore stickler, you’ll only run eight Nazgûl in the deck if you’re also running one of the Witch-king cards. Me, I’d still run all copies of Nazgûl that I can put in the deck, because honestly, when are you ever going to have all nine of them along with Witch-king on the battlefield?

I’m not the biggest fan of triggers that force opponents to sacrifice creatures, so I like Witch-king of Angmar, since it leaves some power in the hands of your opponents. Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin picks off the smaller creature from defending players when attacking, but if the battlefield has been swept a few times and the only creature you’ve been able to cast is your commander, that can be a bit oppressive.

Another option is to have Sauron, the Necromancer be your commander, since the Nazgûl are his servants. You can use the Ring tempts you mechanic to make Sauron the Ring-bearer to turbo-charge its graveyard copying ability.

Here’s another wild idea—how about Morophon, the Boundless?  Since it has the changeling ability, it’s technically a Wraith, and it will unlock cards from all five colors if you want to go beyond mono-black.

The Same Name

Echoing Return Secret Salvage Pattern Matcher Assembly Hall Pirated Copy Remembrance Bloodbond March Pack Hunt

We don’t get to use Magic cards that key upon all cards of the same name very much, so it’s nice when we can dust off these for a Commander deck like this one. Assembly Hall makes me giggle a bit at the flavor—somewhere, there’s a weird cabin in the woods where the Nazgûl gather, but you need to have one on hand first to start calling the others to join. What does a Nazgûl “call to assemble” sound like?  I imagine it’s not very pleasant.

If you’ve got Morophon as your commander, you can dip into other colors for cards like Pirated Copy and especially Bloodbond March!

Other Wraiths

Street Wraith Canoptek Wraith Odylic Wraith Bog Wraith Dirtwater Wraith Bog Tatters

Sadly, the Wraith creature type hasn’t received much love over the years. These six are the sum total of all printings so far.  We can expect that new Wraiths will pop up here and there over time, so if Wraith tribal is your jam, it’s a long-term project that might get more juice whenever we end up on a Magic plane that’s full of shadowy evil.

One thing that’s common among many of these Wraiths is the swampwalk ability, so if you have an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, you’ll definitely want to toss one in your deck.  That would make one of these swampwalking Wraiths the perfect Ring-bearer!


Black Market Connections Maskwood Nexus Changeling Outcast Bloodline Pretender Graveshifter Skeletal Changeling Cairn Wanderer Moonglove Changeling Ghostly Changeling

To expand our army of Wraiths, we can always dip into creatures with the changeling ability, and all of these cards can go into our mono-black deck.  If we’re playing Morophon, we can unlock a ton of creatures with changeling across all the colors, making a totally weird but wild five-color Wraith tribal deck!

The Ring Tempts You

Call of the Ring Gollum, Patient Plotter One Ring to Rule Them All Gollum's Bite The One Ring

These are the cards previewed so far with the Ring tempts you mechanic. I expect there will be more!  I’m also including The One Ring because, well, that’s the very thing these Nazgûl are after for their master Sauron.

Small Critters as Ringbearers

Bitterblossom Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose Academy Manufactor Morbid Opportunist Reassembling Skeleton Nether Traitor Creeping Bloodsucker Scaretiller Persistent Specimen Hooded Blightfang

Since Nazgûl will tend to grow whenever the Ring tempts you, let’s consider rounding out the deck with smaller creatures that we can use as our Ring-bearers that might prove more difficult to block. I’ve got Reassembling Skeleton and Persistent Specimen as resilient creatures that can keep coming back after dying; Nether Traitor comes back as well, and since it has shadow, it becomes a very effective – and flavorful – Ring-bearer!

With all the Nazgûl having deathtouch, we might consider Hooded Blightfang, especially if your Commander crew likes to play with planeswalkers.

Discard Matters (The Ring)

Big Game Hunter Shadowgrange Archfiend Call to the Netherworld Dark Withering Bone Miser Containment Construct Archfiend of Ifnir Dying to Serve

Focusing in on the abilities the Ring gives your Ring-bearer, I might round out the deck with cards that care about you yourself discarding.  Bone Miser is a wonderful card I’m always looking for reasons to play, and it can generate some nice value here. Cards with madness make excellent cards to discard; Big Game Hunter is awesome, since it will take out a big threat when it enters the battlefield, and as a 1/1 creature it can make an evasive Ring-bearer.

Card Draw Matters (The Ring)

Gixian Puppeteer Gurgling Anointer Psychosis Crawler Sheoldred, the Apocalypse

Having a Ring-bearer likely means you’ll be drawing an extra card each turn, so I looked for cards that synergize with that. Gixian Puppeteer and Gurgling Anointer care about the second card you draw each turn, and they also provide some measure of reanimation for dead creatures, such as any Nazgûl that have met an untimely end. Then there are Psychosis Crawler, which turns those extra draws into life loss for your opponents, and Sheoldred, which turns the extra draws into more life for you.

Are you planning on building a deck around the Nazgûl, the Nine mortal men, doomed to die? Whom would you run as your commander?  What other cards might I have overlooked would fit in this deck?

Talk to Me

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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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