Precon to Player #1.3 – Vote for Don Pedro

A New Year means time for a new Il Commendatore to drag the opposition into the pit. Never be afraid to accept invitations to dinner or to respond in kind! Or to sink into the earth with your enemy in your grasp, for that matter.

BENNIEMoving onto the results of the selection poll between Nekusar and Jeleva. Among the 26 participants there was an even distribution between the options with each candidate garnering 13 votes. Developing a tie-breaker presented a few challenges. I considered the Bennie Smith tie-breaker, based on the inimitable StarCityGeezer’s tweet to me.

I contemplated treating this vote as a weak one for Nekusar to switch over to Jeleva in case of a tie. However, I then returned to the parameters of this article series. Precon to Player indicates a development of the preconstructed deck. While Jeleva presents a nice challenge, and is likely a more powerful Commander, Mind Seize as configured by the WotC crew presents more opportunity to grow into Nekusar than into Jeleva. As way of consolation, Jeleva will be awarded a set of steak knives and forthcoming feature in an In The Lab article, focused on blue skies brewing and deck doctoring.

Recapitulating the thematic resonances I outlined before the vote for each candidate, Nekusar presents “Minds aflame, ‘just when you think you have all the answers, I change the questions’, having the solution to the problem appear then slip away, interactive combo play in a format where the combos typically involve sitting around for seven minutes before you’re told if they got there or not.” Pretty heady brew; let us follow that white rabbit deeper and deeper.

We’re aiming to combine the deviousness of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper with the animating rage of Don Pedro’s vendetta to bring about the finale of “Kiss Me Deadly”, i.e. this.

In the last example, we’re whatever was in the box. Sign me up! To bring this about, let us take a deep dive into the potential build around of Nekusar. When building Commander decks, Gatherer is an invaluable resource to find all those lost treasures and hidden gems.

The Birds and the Bees

On the face of it Nekusar is the child of Howling Mine and Underworld Dreams. The angry older brother, Spiteful Visions, comes in the precon as well. The significantly older child, Seizan, Perverter of Truth, is a spicy option. Sadly his Oprah approach to Night’s Whisper doesn’t cause life loss from additional draws, but we can forgive him some pride if we value Seizan’s trigger enough. Underworld Dreams is a near autoinclude, but I dislike Howling Mine. Mine and its direct brethren (Font of Mythos) leak too many advantages. The other players draw the cards first; hence have the option to play the cards before you do. Lagging on card advantage and tempo is no way of going about rational play. If you like irrational play, more power to you, but I’m not interested. The precon comes with the superior Temple Bell anyway. Some other options from Mom’s side (Howling Mine) of the family:

Dad’s family is a bit smaller: Kederkt Parasite and Phyrexian Tyranny. Parasite is Underworld Dreams with a condition and body that falters to stern glares. I’m not interested. Phyrexian Tyranny is near autoinclude though. If New Phyrexia taught us anything, it’s that even reformed Phyrexia come to chew bubblegum and kick ass and they’re all out of bubblegum. So an OG Phyrexian card will get its due either in life loss or mana consumption.

Viable candidates: Underworld Dreams, Phyrexian Tyranny, Mikokoro, Jace Beleren, Anvil of Bogardan, Otherworld Atlas.

 In The Penal Colony

Commander decks, more so than other deck building, reflect the personality of their builder and pilot. As I want to showcase the mechanics of Nekusar with this deck, I am less interested in the combat phase than usual. Most of the damage dealt will come from spells and the triggers of permanents. The first style of permanent that dovetails with Nekusar is the Black Vise group. Sadly the Vise only targets one opponent, so is outmoded for our purposes.

  • Misers’ Cage: The first attempt to update Black Vise. Simplifies the effect to 2 damage for cresting above 4 cards in hand. Worthwhile.
  • Iron Maiden: Full update of Black Vise, affects all opponents and scales damage to how far over 4 cards. Worthwhile
  • Viseling: Same as above but also a 2/2 creature. Wary, but willing to test it as it comes in the precon
  • Skullcage: The fusion of the Misers’ and Paupers’ Cages for an additional mana. Maybe worth it.
  • Bulwark: Expensive, and only triggers on your upkeep, but could be useful.
  • Dark Suspicions: Merits testing above Bulwark.

Viable candidates: Misers’ Cage, Iron Maiden, Viseling, Skullcage, Dark Suspicion.

 Draw 7&7

The density of Wheels, Windfalls, and Winds of Change effects in this deck will probably be the hill it dies on for most Nekusar builds. This axis is the one we fight on and these effects are our most powerful tool. Admittedly this avenue presents itself immediately given Nekusar’s triggers, but what more can I do? To the inventory review:

  • Diminishing Returns: First crack at fixing an obviously powerful card (Timetwister) and I think it’s a success. However the draw seven aspect is optional. “Up to seven cards” daggers my nostalgia right in the tender parts. While still playable in a dedicated combo Nekusar list, it’s not high on my list of candidates. Sadness.
  • Dragon Mage: A 5/5 Dragon that has a Wheel of Fortune trigger. Viable
  • Forced Fruition: Cheeky, little too autopilot for my tastes unless we’re on a mill backup strategy
  • Magus of the Jar: Most of the virtues of Memory Jar with a different set of vices. Its slow roll out is the kiss of death though.
  • Memory Jar: Auto-include. The first and last card that merited an emergency ban by the DCI. That it is not on the Commander Banned List is frankly stupid.
  • Reforge the Soul: Sometimes Wheel for 3RR, sometime Wheel for 1R. Sold. {EDITOR’S NOTE: You passed on this? Really? SOULD? You disappoint me!}
  • Temporal Cascade: Third attempt at fixing Timetwister is a modal spell that costs 7UU to unmode it… nope
  • Time Reversal: Fourth outing of fix is 3UU Timetwister sans abuse potential. Thumbs Up.
  • Time Spiral: Second try at a safe Timetwiter. Then they made it a free spell. Oops. It is a rationale choice, but the proliferation of High Tide-esque combo decks in my own meta inclines me to hedge.
  • Timetwister: The original. Definite auto-include. However this series’ parameters include a “sensible” budget. So, smoke ‘em if you got ’em. Otherwise I have some envy in your size. (NB: I don’t own or have access to Timetwister, poor, poor, pitiful me.)
  • Wheel and Deal: 3U Opponents Wheel & you cantrip. Rational choice, but again in line with a combo list I’m not too hot on.
  • Wheel of Fate: Wheel of Fortune as a suspend card. Slow, but acceptable.
  • Wheel of Fortune: The old standby. Auto-include.
  • Jace’s Archivist: Seal of Windfall. I’m interested. Also already in the precon!
  • Whispering Madness: Windfall for an additional B that can repeat for free. Acceptable
  • Windfall: Yes
  • Barbed Shocker: Fun, but fragile. Probably a no. Unless, Thassa’s ability or the like gets involved.
  • Incendiary Command: 3RR, Winds of Change plus another mode. The other three modes don’t pull enough weight I believe. But as it’s in the precon, we’ll test.
  • Molten Psyche: Yes. It’s boring but yes. Winds with a potential of more damage is good enough
  • Robber Fly: One of those strange creatures from Masques that have an interesting ability but have been left in the dust with the improvement in creature quality since 2000.
  • Shocker: What Barbed Shocker calls back to. Also build dependent.
  • Teferi’s Puzzle Box: Not going to win you any accolades, but raw power is too good to pass on. Plus I appreciate playing such a disruptive card.
  • Whirlpool Warrior: Seal of Winds of Change that can refresh your own hand. Decent.
  • Winds of Change: Benchmark card. Runnable but could be trimmed in future as this effect may not be worth a slot qua this effect.

Viable candidates: Dragon Mage, Memory Jar, Reforge the Soul, Time Reversal, Wheel of Fortune, Jace’s Archivist. Whispering Madness, Windfall, Molten Psyche, Teferi’s Puzzle Box, Whirlpool Warrior, Winds of Change, Time Spiral, Wheel of Fate, Wheel and Deal

 When You Get to a Fork in the Road, Take It

Given the centrality of leveraging the density of Wheels, Windfalls, and Winds of Change to this deck, Forks are a worth inclusion to supplement any deceits or to add even more to it. More is more is more is more. These effects also open the possibility to access advantageous Instants and Sorceries the opposition casts. Forking a Counterspell is a naughty play from a Mono Red list. Forking a Blue Sun’s Zenith seems downright nasty in Nekusar.

  •  Chandra, the Firebrand: Being able to recharge a Fork trigger and interact with the board state is an attractive option.
  • Djinn Illuminatus: Replicate cost equivalent to converted mana cost may be more of a Storm list attraction.
  • Echo Mage: Little slow, but potentially worthwhile. Already in the precon too.
  • Fork: Benchmark for the effect. The copied spell is Red too.
  • Increasing Vengeance: Can only copy our spells, so halves the utility of the effect. But a consideration for the raw power of it.
  • Melek, Izzet Paragon: Possibly more of a dedicated combo list’s power player, but worthy of testing and consideration.
  • Meletis Charlatan: A little expensive and a little political. But for a buck its worth a try.
  • Mirari: Why yes, yes I like this marquee Legend from Odyssey block.
  • Mischievous Quanar: Reseting for a Fork trigger may prove irresistible. May drag some more morphers along to play for the shell game aspect of it.
  • Nivix Guildmage: Comes in the precon and has two relevant activated abilities.
  • Reiterate: Fork with buyback. Again more for the combo version of a Nekusar deck. Begs to be abused with High Tide or Mana Geyser.
  • Reverberate: Cleaned up version of Fork. Benchmark effect. Worth a slot as long as said effect is that important.
  • Twincast: Same as above, but for UU.
  • Uyo, Silent Prophet: Expensive, but as it is in the precon, merits testing.
  • Wild Richochet: Same as above.

Candidates: Chandra, the Firebrand, Echo Mage, Fork, Meletis, Mirari, Nivix Guildmage, Reverberate, Twincast, Uyo, Silent Prophet, Wild Richochet, Melek, Izzet Paragon, Increasing Vengeance

 Risk Compensation

There exists a streak in brewing with Nekusar to include a potential to make him infectious. While dealing 10 instead of 40 with him is an easier achievement it is also a less fulfilling one. It’s entirely too simple of an exercise to build it into the deck.

Infect itself serves to galvanize Commander players, with many thinking it unfun. I find it is frequently used incorrectly to my view of the format and that the Rules Committee could be useful in revising the number of poison counters that is lethal in Commander. The go to ratio for other Magic formats is half of starting life totals, meaning 10 in constructed and 15 in two headed giant.

I advocate to converse with the gamers you play with before jumping into the deep end of the pool. You shouldn’t count on them to always initiate their displeasure and a conversation is preferable to not playing with them.

A note on Sudden Impact.

While cards that are analogues to Sudden Impact will be good in many Nekusar decks in some number, this article aimed to a more blue skies approach that melded the flavorful, thematic resonances with the mechanical ones. During the deck tuning process a few will find their way into the 99.

 Budget Report

budgetAnother quiet front on this article. Dreaming and blue skies brewer are both free. However as we want a healthy balance forward, I’m sticking with the plan outlined in 1.1 and assigning a fifteen dollar credit to roll forward.

Until next time,

Alex Smith

@smithwits on Twitter