Come Out to Playeeaay

Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
This week was going to be the week I wrote that overdue magnum opus of an article about what 75% truly means because I keep seeing confusion about it among people who aren’t aware that a single article let alone a long-running series has been written on the subject. In order to clear things up for the folks who have never read an article about what 75% deck-building is all about, I’m going to write an article that clarifies things for them. This was the perfect week to do that, that is until a card came out in Battlebond that is so compelling I have to set that project aside for the week and brew a deck with it. It’s not often that I come across a commander this compelling, so I’m sure I’ll write that other article next week.

It’s been a good year for players who want to play five color commanders. Before, options were very limited and a lot of the time, the commander was a placeholder card, something to occupy the command zone so you could have access to all five colors for your superfriends or enchantress or Bear tribal deck. If you happened to summon that Progenitus and win the game with it, even better, or if your Child of Alara had to leave the command zone and reset the board, it was nice to have that option, but the commander wasn’t central to that strategy. This year, however, we got some new 5-color commanders that people really seemed to like, including The Ur-Dragon to give 5-color dragon players some options, Jodah, Archmage Eternal, a 5-color Fist of Suns on a stick, and the newest Tazri variant, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom.

Far from a placeholder commander, Najeela is a warriors-focused creature that has a lot of combat potential. People have been incredibly excited about brewing this deck ever since Najeela was spoiled, and Battlebond contains a non-zero number of great Warriors to add to our ranks. The deck has a lot of potential, but how much potential does it actually have? Isn’t it going to be pretty linear to build given how focused it is on doing one thing? How do I put a 75% spin on the deck and avoid putting out a stock list?

The last time I decided I needed to write an article that should be the one article about 75% EDH that someone reads if they only plan to read one, I actually wrote it, and I think it turned out to be a pretty good article and a pretty good introduction to the concept. It’s hyperlinked at the top of this article in bold letters in the (vain) hope that people read it instead of the very first article I ever wrote on the subject 4 and a half years ago. The 8 Simple Rules article is a nice collection of all of the guidelines I had come up with up to that point and re-reading it sometimes helps me figure out a direction to take a deck in, especially one that seems sort of obvious and straightforward like Najeela. We’re going to be a deck with Warriors, true, and we’re going to focus on combat, also true, but the dozens of Najeela decks I’ve looked at all had one thing in common that I think a 75% take on the deck shouldn’t have — they include a lot of non-Warriors. Not today.

Shared Animosity
EDHREC’s Dana Roach gets pretty worked up over tribal decks that contain creatures not from that tribe to an extent that the ratio is almost 50/50. Even EDHREC itself classifies a deck as tribal if (ironically) 75% of the creatures in the deck are from that tribe. I’m with Dana. If you’re Sphinx tribal, you go tribal. You don’t run Draining Whelk and a bunch of Angels and call it a day. Am I guilty of jamming creatures like Eternal Witness into some of my other “tribal” decks? Yup. Am I going to do that in a 75% build? I don’t think we should. I think if we’re going to be a Warriors deck, we don’t want to fill the deck full of Hi-Hats, Turnball ACs or Baseball Furies — it’s all Warriors all day because that 8 Simple Rules article reminded me to impose restrictions on myself to breed creativity and force me to focus on synergy over raw power.

Synergy in this case means I’m free to use the non-Warrior slots in the deck to make sure we can get the job done. To do that, I want to reliably get extra combat steps and there are a lot of ways to do that. We can use Cryptolith Rites to get the mana we need to activate Najeela because we’ll be generating creatures each time we attack. We can use Reconnaissance to untap our tokens, sac them to Phyrexian Altar, blast our opponents in the face with Goblin Bombardment and Impact Tremors and we can even use the Aggravated Assault/Bear Umbra trick we’ve used before in this series. We’ll teach a new dog new tricks too as Dominaria coughs up some cards we’ll want, like Song of Freyalise which can act as a second Cryptolith Rite in a pinch. If we can’t get our combo pieces with our 0 tutors, we can always just be an aggro deck with a lot of Warriors synergizing with cards like Shared Animosity and Cathars’ Crusade because the combo win is not even plan A. I would be remiss if I didn’t use Gatherer to look up every creature that’s a Warrior (I am sure there are a bunch I didn’t know were granted Warrior status with errata) and try and find a few hidden gems that fit my playstyle. This is going to be fun.

What does a 75% Najeela deck look like and how is it different from a stock Najeela list? Let’s find out!

No Sleep ‘til Coney Island — Commander | Jason Alt

Commander (1)
Creatures (26)
Instants (9)
Sorceries (6)
Enchantments (15)
Artifacts (10)
Lands (35)
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Some interesting Warriors I found that might make a nice “Warrior Sideboard” to play the deck in a known meta include:

Akki Lavarunner — Makes Impact Tremors’ job way easier
Ash Zealot — Take that, Muldrotha
Aven Wind Guide — Evasion wins games
Champion of Rhonas — I have a soft spot in my heart for bad Elvish Pipers. See also Arcane Artisan
Den Protector — I won’t put Eternal Witness in this deck because it’s not a Warrior, but I found a workaround
Furystoke Giant — This can help you kill someone you can’t attack by using the combat phases where you attack other players to give you enough creatures to ping them out
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs — Red Ghostly Prison shouldn’t be overlooked
Nacatl War-Pride — If you want less combo and more aggro, this is a good card to swap in
Nath of the Gilt-Leaf — This will make the deck play slower but is a great disruption tool
Ogre Battledriver — Pure aggro
Viridian Zealot — Utility creatures are useful and if they have to be a Warrior, cards like this are a must
Vulshok Battlemaster — This should be more play than it does, but I can see it being sort of a mess to attack with it and give them a bunch of triggers
Zealous Conscripts — This is about as close as we get to stealing their creatures, unless you want to pay a million mana for a Keldon Overseer

I think this deck turned out pretty good. Something I came across in my Gatherer research was a whole pile of creatures that were both Goblins and Warriors. I’m not going to mock it up since I took up a lot of your time already, but if you wanted to have Najeela helm a goblin deck, you could have a pretty formidable list with cards like Krenko, Mob Boss, Beetleback Chief, and Goblin Marshal all doing serious work. You’d have access to non-Red Goblin cards made over the years like Razorfin Hunter and a lot of the Black Goblins from the year 2000 or so, which isn’t that exciting, but it’s worth it because you can’t usually include them in a Goblin deck in Commander. Krenko would do a ton of work in the deck and you could hide the fact that you were basically a Krenko deck by having a different commander — one you could Moggcatcher or Recruiter for. It’s a thought.

The list I made is not as far from a stock list as I’d like since there are very few non-Warriors typically included. I think the “sideboard” of inclusions is worth a look and you can use that list to customize the deck. If you wanted to throttle back on the combo wins, that’s an easy fix. You can take out the cards like Druids’ Repository, Nature’s Will, Cryptolith Rite and other cards that are clearly in the deck to help with the combo. Add more cards that help you just attack and be a Warrior deck like Patriarch’s Bidding, Call to the Kindred, Kindred Discovery, and Descendants’ Path.

If you don’t care about Warriors, you can take this deck out of 75% territory and just be a strong Warriors deck by adding a few cards like Godo, Bandit Warlord, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, and Mirror Entity. Those are powerful cards and are only excluded on a basis of their made-up fantasy tribal affiliation, which doesn’t seem fair, but it is how we had to build this week. Those cards and others should do a lot of work and help you be the best combo deck you can.

That does it for me, readers. If you think I missed something or just want to share your Najeela list with me, hit me up in the comments section. As always, thanks for reading and keep the tweets and e-mails coming. Until next time!


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