So, a week’s gone by since I wrote my thoughts on what we might expect War of the Spark to bring for Commander, and wow, have we had an avalanche of previews in the meantime! One of my main concerns about this new set was that there were going to be so many planeswalker cards that there wouldn’t be room for a new batch of legendary creatures.
I was happily so, so wrong on that count. In fact, in just the first week of previews we’ve been treated to a whole slew of cool new legends to build Commander decks around. I can’t wait to get brewing with some of these, and first on the list is one of the coolest legends I’ve seen in a while—Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion!
This is the third incarnation of Neheb, who started out as a leader of Minotaurs and then got transformed into a pawn of Bolas.
Now, I never built a deck around the original Neheb because frankly the Minotaur tribe has been woefully unsupported over the years. But the second version of Neheb was incredibly sweet—I’ve built a deck with Neheb as the commander, and I’ve added it to the 99 of a couple of decks too.
The latest version of Neheb is incredibly exciting in terms of raw power, and I love its calls back to the previous two incarnations. So, what do we want to keep in mind as we gather cards for our new Neheb deck?
First off, the mana cost is priced to move. You can cast Neheb on the second turn from a Turn 1 Sol Ring, or more likely you can cast one of a handful of two-mana artifacts that tap for mana and get your Neheb online Turn 3. Getting Neheb on the battlefield early ensures that you’ll be able to attack with Neheb and it will hopefully survive. Just imagine, if you’ve got four or five mana available when you attack with Neheb, and four or five cards you could discard, that’s eight to ten mana you can spend on your second main phase! We’ll want to look for ways to convert all that mana into big haymaker spells.
The ability triggers on combat damage dealt to a player or planeswalker, so having trample inherent to the card is a huge help. Five power isn’t small, but battlefields in Commander can get littered with larger creatures quite easily, so we’ll want some cards to help push damage through.
Lastly, we’ll want to have lots of ways of keeping our hand flush with cards that we can discard to Neheb’s triggered ability so we can churn through our deck and have mana to cast our best spells.
Okay, let’s get brewing!
I’ve got six cards here that can help get Neheb on the battlefield before Turn 4. Often these cards aren’t the best when you draw them late in the game, but Neheb’s triggered ability lets you discard them later for profit. Dowsing Dagger won’t get Neheb down early but helps boost its power and toughness so you can hit harder, and Neheb’s trample helps set up Dowsing Dagger’s transform trigger even if you have to run over a few Plant tokens along the way. I really like Conqueror’s Galleon here since Neheb can easily crew it and you will probably have a fairly stocked graveyard to plunder later.
Neheb’s power is wrapped up in attacking, and luckily for us red gives us a ton of options to help with that. Goblin Wardriver and Hero of Oxid Ridge have battle cry, which also triggers on attacking and boosts Neheb’s power. Another option is to give Neheb double strike so the combat damage trigger goes off twice—the extra mana you get will carry over to your second main phase. Then we’ve got ways of getting in extra attacks with cards like Seize the Day and Combat Celebrant. Aggravated Assault is the classic way of getting extra attacks and benefits from the extra mana that Neheb makes. And if you have at least five cards in your hand and can connect with combat damage, you can keep the attacks going over and over again.
I love that Sword of Light and Shadow give you extra cards each time you deal combat damage, which helps fuel Neheb’s ability.
Helm of the Host is a powerful card that is quite mana-intensive, so it’s nice that this deck can produce lots of extra mana. If you can’t send Neheb into combat and ensure its survival, Helm will let you send in a proxy instead.
Good With Trample
Boosting Neheb’s power obviously goes nicely with trample, but deathtouch from Basilisk Collar is the ultimate combo. Empyrial Plate can convert cards in hand into a big power and toughness boost. Bloodsworn Steward provides a nice boost and haste is quite handy too.
Nim Deathmantle is a favorite card of mine in just about any deck but shines quite nicely here. If Neheb dies in combat but is able to connect with combat damage, you can pitch four cards for four mana to pay for the Equipment’s triggered ability and bring Neheb right back from the graveyard with some bonus abilities.
Neheb’s triggered ability gets more and more potent the more cards you can discard to it, so we’ll want plenty of ways to keep the cards flowing. Red has quite a few options for “discard your hand, draw seven,” so I’ve included a fair number here. The Immortal Sun and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea provide raw card drawing, and Charmbreaker Devils can pick up any instant or sorcery that we’ve discarded or cast already and let us use that as further discard fuel.
Then of course we have the two Kozileks, and with the rush of mana that Neheb provides, we could potentially cast one of them on Turn 4. Both of them have a cast trigger that can draw some additional cards. Kozilek, the Great Distortion, aside from being a huge threat, lets you take the reigns as a mono-red control deck able to counter any spell that might stop you from executing your gameplan. Neheb’s ability will let you filter that cards in your hand so you can cover a wider range of potential casting costs.
Outside of the “discard your hand, draw seven cards” effects, I wanted some other ways to keep our hands flush, and red has some cards that come back to your hand from the graveyard. Squee, Goblin Nabob does it for free, but there are some other options that require mana like Death Spark and Firewing Phoenix. Since Neheb gives us mana back, the cost for getting these cards back is somewhat mitigated.
I’ve also included some other cards that give you value even if you discard them to Neheb. Drownyard Temple can eventually just become an extra land on the battlefield, and Anger gives all your creatures haste so long as you control a Mountain. Reckless Wurm’s madness makes it a perfect card to discard.
Pyrewild Shaman can be a combat trick with the bloodrush ability, but either way you can get it back from the graveyard for three mana.
Let’s round things out with some cool cards. I like Mogg Maniac as an early drop that can easily defend against larger creatures that don’t have evasion. Disrupt Decorum is a nice way to help unclog a battlefield that might otherwise not be very Neheb-friendly. Psychosis Crawler goes with card drawing effects like peanut butter goes with jelly.
And then there’s Apex of Power. I’m pretty sure I’ve never put that card in a deck before, but the fact that I can realistically have ten mana available in the mid-game from a successful Neheb attack means that I can cast it from my hand and get the ten mana back to cast a bunch of spells. And if for some reason I don’t want to cast it, I can always discard it to Neheb and replace it with another card.
Sweet deck! But wait, there are too many cards. I’ll start by looking at our mana curve:
Converted Mana Cost
Number of Cards
7+ / X
69 total cards plus 39 lands equal eight cards too many, so we need to make some cuts! Let’s see what we can trim, starting with the top of our curve.
I love Electrodominance in Commander and figured it would be awesome with all the mana I could potentially be making. But then it occurred to me that my rush of mana is during my own turn, and Electrodominance is at its best when you’re taking advantage of instant speed, so I think it’s a good cut here. Conduit of Ruin searching up Kozilek, Butcher of Truth seemed like a good way to get several different parties started, but I like all the other high cost-cards in my deck, so something has to give. I’m hoping that all the card filtering will help me find Kozilek by the time I need it.
Of all the Phoenix cards I’ve included, Shard Phoenix is the weakest because its recursive use is so restrictive and you may want to get the card back outside of your upkeep. I really love Wild Ricochet in this deck since it’s a card that’s situationally amazing and you can easily cash it in for a new card with Neheb if it’s not doing anything for you, but I’m not willing to cut any of the other four-mana cards instead.
I’ve got a glut of two-mana spells, so this was where I made some deep cuts. Three of these cards aren’t exactly all-stars, so I feel pretty safe in setting them aside, but I’m hesitant on cutting Strionic Resonator. It doesn’t necessary do incredible things with Neheb, but I do like to daydream about pairing it up with Etali. Can you see something else you’d rather cut instead?
Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Mogg Maniac
- 1 Anger
- 1 Dragon Mage
- 1 Gorilla Shaman
- 1 Iron Myr
- 1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
- 1 Reckless Wurm
- 1 Magma Phoenix
- 1 Hellkite Charger
- 1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
- 1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Goblin Wardriver
- 1 Hero of Oxid Ridge
- 1 Psychosis Crawler
- 1 Plague Myr
- 1 Charmbreaker Devils
- 1 Firewing Phoenix
- 1 Wrecking Ogre
- 1 Pyrewild Shaman
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Dualcaster Mage
- 1 Feldon of the Third Path
- 1 Magus of the Wheel
- 1 Kozilek, the Great Distortion
- 1 Hedron Crawler
- 1 Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
- 1 Runehorn Hellkite
- 1 Combat Celebrant
- 1 Neheb, the Eternal
- 1 Bloodsworn Steward
- 1 Etali, Primal Storm
- 1 Meteor Golem
- 1 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Death Spark
- 1 Sword of Light and Shadow
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Empyrial Plate
- 1 Savage Beating
- 1 Aggravated Assault
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Seize the Day
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Chaos Warp
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Reforge the Soul
- 1 Vandalblast
- 1 Berserkers' Onslaught
- 1 Thought Vessel
- 1 Disrupt Decorum
- 1 Conqueror's Galleon
- 1 Dowsing Dagger
- 1 The Immortal Sun
- 1 Helm of the Host
- 1 Stolen Strategy
- 1 Apex of Power
- 1 Enchanter's Bane
Check out the new card Emergence Zone! I really love this one-shot card that lets you get cards involved in some sort of interaction that you have no business doing otherwise. I expect to play this card in just about any deck that isn’t too heavily invested in colored mana.
What do you think? Are there any other slam-dunk inclusions I’ve overlooked? And if you see any new cards from War of the Spark that should find a home here, let me know!
Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter! I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!
Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January 2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith” and the commander name into Google and it should pop right up. I’ve written a lot about Commander — and Magic in general — so if you want to explore further, the Star City Games article archives have my articles all the way back to January 2000!
Commander Compare & Contrast
Zedruu, the Greathearted with Emma Handy
Nahiri, the Lithomancer with Anthony Alongi
Feldon of the Third Path with The Professor
Why You Should Commander Like Me
Let’s Talk About Lands
Who Should I Attack?
Targeted Removal in Commander
SCG CON Winter 2018
Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, Grothama, All-Devouring; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis; Feldon of the Third Path; Ramos, Dragon Engine; Inalla, Archmage Ritualist; Prossh, Skyraider of Kher; Brago, King Eternal
Guilds of Ravnica
Core Set 2019
Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, Grand Warlord Radha, Arvad the Cursed, Muldrotha, the Grave Tide, Slimefoot, the Stowaway, Yargle, Glutton of Urborg, Squee, the Immortal, Firesong and Sunspeaker, Jodah, Archmage Eternal, Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker
Rivals of Ixalan
Other Commander Decks
Thada Adel, Acquisitor, The Ultimate Golgari Deck, Anafenza, the Foremost (shutting down shenanigans), Momir Vig, Simic Visionary (no green creatures), Kytheon, Hero of Akros (Tribal Gideon), Tasigur, the Golden Fang