Nefarox Commander

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis
In the last few weeks since Magic 2013 hit the scene, we’ve seen a lot of decks built around cards from the set. In Commander, a lot of time has been spent devoted to the legendary creatures that recently debuted. You have Odric, Krenko, and Talrand decks, each featuring its respective creature as its commander. However, Yeva and Nefarox seem to be left out.

I thought it would be nice to build a deck around one of the less used legendary creatures from Magic 2013, and after a bit of contemplation, I decided to roll with Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis. Let’s take a closer look at our commander and what we can expect with him.

Our Demon lord is a 5/5 flyer for an investment of 6 mana. It has exalted, and when it attacks alone, you force the defender to sacrifice a critter of his or her choice. I would love to build a Nefarox Commander deck with white, but I either have to have a different legendary creature or I have to hang up the idea of playing white. Since the whole point of this article was to build a Commander deck with either Nefarox or Yeva as my ruler, I’ll just sadly skip past the white.

Exalted is a bit clunky in multiplayer anyway. You usually only attack with one creature, so you are vulnerable to a bounce spell or spot of removal. A simple Repulse or Murder will generate a lot of tempo against you. Then, your five exalted creatures bite it to a mass removal spell, and you are down in the card count. By staying away from white, I can skip most of the exalted cards I might want to add, and that may end up strengthening my deck. I’ll miss Angelic Benediction, but I’ll survive.

Demonic Rising
I like the idea of Avacyn Restored (AR) black combined with Nefarox. Imagine a table with nothing but Homicidal Seclusion and Nefarox. You attack, exalted triggers, and you are swinging with a 9/7 flying lifelink commander. Black’s theme in AR is its creatures standing on their own against the forces of the light. I added a few other cards from AR that fit a deck with few creatures. In addition to Homicidal Seclusion, I decided to add Demonic Taskmaster, Demonic Rising, and since it looks like I’m heading toward a Demon theme, Harvester of Souls. Obviously, Cathedral of War went into the deck, but no other exalted cards made the cut.

Demons are cool! With a building Demon theme, Blood Speaker was my next choice for the deck. You can sacrifice it to tutor for any Demon. It then recurs itself when you bring a Demon to your battlefield. Play it again, sacrifice it, and find another Demon.

Considering the Demon theme, I added a few great Demons. Bloodgift Demon likes to party. Carnifex Demon hits all other creatures twice for some shriveling, but since this deck will be playing few creatures, it should play well. Stronghold Overseer is impossible to block. Spirit of the Night is always fun. Rune-Scarred Demon is an obvious choice because you get to tutor, and Reiver Demon is similarly obvious because you get to Damnation most of the board. Despite its cost, Dread Cacodemon goes in to also destroy your foes. In a Demon deck, Reaper from the Abyss is really strong. If someone has Angels, Halo Hunter is fun, and if no one does, you still have a 6-power intimidate Demon in play.

Kagemaro, First to Suffer
There are some trickier Demons out there we are tossing in as well. Kagemaro, First to Suffer is going in because this Demon Spirit can be more nice removal. With 40 starting life, Kuro, Pitlord also acts as massive removal. Pestilence Demon clears out a lot of small dudes when needed. Our final demon is Ob Nixilis, the Fallen. When you play a land, you pull 3 life from a foe and make this guy massively stronger.

This gives the deck fifteen Demons in addition to Nefarox and a Blood Speaker. With such a small number of creatures, you can really see the Demons-standing-on-their-own theme of Avacyn Restored—and to a lesser degree Nefarox.

I decided to push the deck toward more of a Demon theme by adding some flavorful cards. In went Demonic Tutor and Diabolic Tutor. After that, I added Promise of Power to draw cards and/or make a Demon token. Because of the theme of this deck, I had to add Elbrus to it. I would love to make a giant Demon!

As you can see, a lot of the cards already in the deck have a high casting cost. I felt that mana production was important enough to chart in the next section. To begin, I added Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. These are obvious additions. I included the artifacts that pump mana as well: Caged Sun, Gauntlet of Power, and Extraplanar Lens.

Homicidal Seclusion
I added typical mana acceleration such as Sol Ring and Thran Dynamo. Then, I put the new Liliana of the Dark Realms into the deck as well. The ability to fetch a Swamp every turn was too good to pass up. Armillary Sphere and Expedition Map were thrown in as well. The Sphere will find two Swamps, and the Map will find either a Coffers or any other land you may need at the time. I wanted Solemn Simulacrum or Liliana's Shade, but I didn’t want to run into having too many creatures to keep the powerful Homicidal Seclusion from being active.

The next place I went for inspiration was creature removal. Damnation fit into a creature-light deck quite nicely. With my Swamp theme, Mutilate is a fine backup removal spell. Decree of Pain can be played late for massive card advantage tied to removal. Plague Wind also serviced as great mass removal later.

Hellfire would be a very flavorful removal spell, but I kept it out due to its disadvantage of life loss. For pinpoint removal, in went the restrictionless Murder along with classics such as Annihilate, Expunge, and Seal of Doom. This gives me a nice suite of removal. I particularly enjoy the Seal because people often won’t attack into it (see last week’s article for more about that).

Ancient Craving
Next was card drawing. In went both Ancient Craving and Ambition's Cost. I also included Phyrexian Arena—a known power in Commander already. Another established power in Syphon Mind rocks the multiplayer world and is added to the deck. Necrologia also joined the deck.

When you have a Cabal Coffers in play, tapping two Swamps for a Jayemdae Tome doesn’t seem that bad, right? I threw it in as well. (It’s not bad even when you don’t have a Coffers out).

Since we are playing black anyway, it seems like a shame not to toss in a few cards to bring back a Demon that has died. We’re in the color of reanimation, so let’s use that. Dread Return is a fine Zombify effect, and perhaps we’ll be in a place to flash it back. I doubt it, but it could happen, and I like options. Rise from the Grave is a bit pricey, but you can grab a creature from any graveyard that strikes your fancy. For similar reasons, Beacon of Unrest is great because you can take a creature from any discard pile—or an artifact—and put it right onto the battlefield.

Consume Spirit
The next few cards that I want to include are some X spells to use our mana-making capabilities to the fullest. Profane Command is the first choice. It’s very flexible, giving you the option to pick from four different things that would make your deck. You can use it for reanimation just like the above cards, to kill a dude, pull some life from a foe, or to make some creatures feared. I never use the last ability, but choosing two of the first three is good enough. Consume Spirit is the next entry because it uses our black mana production. I adore Exsanguinate in a multiplayer deck that can produce some serious mana, and this deck qualifies. As a cross between a mass removal spell and that X spell, Black Sun's Zenith is another proud entry into the deck. For the final spell, I want the graveyard-hosing Suffer the Past. Not only does it remove cards at instant speed (which can fight other recursion or tricks), but it also drains life from your foe and gives it to you.

I also want a bit more graveyard removal. Nihil Spellbomb draws me a card when I use it, so I toss it in. Phyrexian Furnace will be a nice adjunct. I can always sacrifice it to draw a card if I don’t need it. I don’t want to spend too much of my time fighting graveyards, but I do want to have some game against them, so in goes Bojuka Bog, and I call it.

In addition to Liliana, there are some other planewalkers for this deck. It screams for Karn because he can handle permanents black normally can’t. I think Sorin Markov is also really keen. When starting with 40 life, his second ability has the power of an ultimate. Finally, the original Liliana, Liliana Vess, is also pretty powerful in multiplayer. I love to tutor or discard with her as needed.

Swiftfoot Boots
I want a bit more Equipment than I already have. Lashwrithe is just perfect here. It adds a big creature to the table when you need it or you can just equip it to your solitary beater and lose the Germ token if you have out Seclusion or Rising. With such a small number of creatures, I want to protect them and get in hits when I can. Both Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots assist in this role.

After doing all of that, I had three spots left in the deck, so I looked for another triplet of cards to sauce the deck lightly with love. I thought about an Edict or two, but with Nefarox as the commander, you already have a built-in Edict. Instead, I decided to toss in one more mass removal spell in Life's Finale. I also added Beseech the Queen to give me another tutor. Mass removal and tutoring are always valuable.

What is the final nonland card? I felt that the deck wanted one more creature, but not one that was always a creature, if that makes sense. So I looked and then found my guy: Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang. I can play this as a piece of Equipment that gives a creature +5/+5. Or I can spend 6 mana to exile the Fang and make a 5/5 flying blue Dragon. When that token dies, the Fang comes right back to do it all again. It tags well with my mass removal, and I can make a creature when needed or pump a creature when needed.

In order to help with the deck, I added a few lands that become creatures. I included Spawning Pool and Mishra's Factory. You can make one a creature to trigger Demonic Rising or to get the value of a Seclusion when you have no creatures.

This deck cries out for a bunch of Swamps, so the last nonbasic to make the cut is the blatantly powerful Volrath's Stronghold. Bringing back a creature for another go is vital in a deck with such a small number of them. The Stronghold is the seventh nonbasic land to make the cut, and after that, it’s just twenty-eight Swamps.

Here’s the deck!

I thought it would be fun to build a Commander deck around a new legendary critter from Magic 2013. Here is the result: a deck built around Nefarox! Now we have a deck to use and abuse several recently printed cards such as Liliana of the Dark Realms, Demonic Rising, Homicidal Seclusion, and the aforementioned Nefarox!

See you next week,
Abe Sargent