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[cEDH] You can't beat me! I'm full of tinier men!

Commander / EDH* Aggro Birthing Pod Combo Competitive Five Color Infinite Combo

ChaosHazard


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Back in 2015, after reading the primer from u/cobblepott about Boonweaver Karador, I was inspired. I put the deck together, practiced it and made it my own with tweaks and changes. The meta adapted, and I tried to keep up, but others adding plentiful grave hate for fear of my deck made it harder and harder. I adapted the list to be 5 color under Sliver Queen, as per the primer by Kahno on MTGS as it seemed a bit more resilient and a LOT faster, thanks in no small part to the inclusion of Sneak Attack, Intuition and counterspells. I thought the deck was as fun and as powerful as it could get.

And then, all of a sudden, Protean Hulk came back.

You should play this deck if you enjoy:

  • Fast combo.
  • Moving to Combat
  • Having your interaction and other effects on creatures rather than instants/sorceries
  • Survival of the Fittest

You should avoid this deck if you don't like:

  • Fast combo.
  • Going into the tank /frequently/
  • Realizing you could have won the previous turn by taking a different line

How does the deck win?

In Dissention, Protean Hulk was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. It enabled Turn 0 Combos in Legacy until Flash became banned, and after Hulk spent some time itself on the EDH banlist, it finally broke free from its chains of oppression and found its way into my life. The main combo piece with Protean Hulk is, as previously noted, Flash. This plus Hulk equals a two card combo that wins the game at instant speed for the low, low price of 1U. But how?

After Flashing in Hulk, you elect to not pay the cost reduced by 2. This kills the Hulk and lets you search for up to 6cmc worth of creatures from your deck, putting them directly into play. This will generally (aside from cobbling together a combo if some of the combo pieces have been exiled or what have you) grab the following chain, leading you to victory:

  1. Hulk dies, brings in Karmic Guide (5)(reanimating Hulk), and Carrion Feeder / Viscera Seer (1).
  2. Sacrifice Hulk, Hulk trigger brings in Felidar Guardian (4) and Zulaport Cutthroat (2), Guardian ETB trigger targets Guide (holding priority).
  3. In response to the trigger, sacrifice the Guardian to your sac outlet, draining your opponents for 1, then let the blink trigger targeting Guide resolve.
  4. Guide gets blinked, ETB trigger targets Guardian in your graveyard.
  5. Guardian comes back into play, ETB trigger targets Guide (hold priority again); in response to trigger sacrifice Guardian to your outlet to drain table for 1.
  6. Repeat steps 4 & 5 until table is dead.

This can win the game on any step/phase of any player's turn. This is also not the be-all, end-all line, as everything is totally modular. I don't know if I could list all of the possible combinations if I tried; I've even found a way to win under an opposing Elesh Norn before.

The main thing to think about is the assembling an "infinite pair" with a way to deal damage.

Zulaport Cutthroat (or, optionally, Blood Artist ) does this with pairs that create infinite death triggers, like the above example, or Reveillark plus Body Double / Saffi Eriksdotter / Karmic Guide . These pairs can also incidentally combo with Goblin Bombardment operating as both your sac outlet and the source of the damage.

One thing to note with regards to Reveillark is that its ability triggers as it leaves the battlefield, and is NOT an ETB. This has been relevant a few times, and with the help of Body Double (also not an ETB!) I was able to combo off while facing down a Torpor Orb , which is generally quite good against our combos.

The classic Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Felidar Guardian creates an arbitrarily large amount of creatures that you can either attack with or sacrifice to an outlet.

There are also a ton of ways to win the game with Pod and certain creatures in play, since we run ways to reset Pod and get multiple activations off (Felidar Guardian, Deceiver Exarch) who then also combo with Kiki.

A fairly basic chain involves Birthing Pod , and a 2 CMC creature in play, with 4 generic mana and at least 9 life.

  1. Pod 2 CMC creature into Deceiver Exarch / Derevi, Empyrial Tactician , untap Pod (1 mana, 2 life)
  2. Pod Deceiver/Derevi into Felidar Guardian , blink pod (2 mana, 4 life)
  3. Pod Felidar Guardian into Karmic Guide , reanimating Felidar to blink pod (3 mana, 6 life)
  4. Pod Felidar Guardian into Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (4 mana, 8 life)
  5. Activate Kiki targeting Karmic Guide to make a copy, reanimating Felidar Guardian who then blinks Kiki, rinse and repeat.

Generally, if you have a 2 or 3 cmc creature with Pod in play, you can find a line to win the game.

With the introduction of Najeela, the Blade-Blossom in Battlebond, our early game has been nearly single-handedly fixed. Najeela makes tokens, and those tokens happen to also make tokens. With a few quick changes to the list, we're able to complement her token making with ways to utilize her combat step ability, or, in the face of things like Cursed Totem and Linvala, we can still just attack with a large amount of tinier men.

Najeela with her army (left unchecked) can kill the entire table in just 6 attacks.

Attack 1: 4 (4 total) (3 + 1 warrior)

Attack 2: 7 (11 total) (3 + 3 warriors)

Attack 3: 10 (21 total) (3 + 7 warriors)

Attack 4: 18 (39 total) (3 + 15 warriors)

Attack 5: 34 (73 total) (3 + 31 warriors)

Attack 6: 66 (139 total) (3 + 63 warriors)

Cards that interact positively with Najeela:

  1. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician : Derevi allows us to untap land/dorks whenever we hit with any creature, even those who were just created by Najeela. This can very easily give us WUBRG for Najeela's ability, with each subsequent combat step giving us more tokens which, in turn, untaps more mana. Derevi also happens to turn on Pod lines, and is all in all just a very strong inclusion in the deck.
  2. Nature's Will : With Nature's Will triggering off of each opponent individually, it's technically possible to combo out with only 2 lands (one would have to be City of Brass/Mana Confluence, but Najeela gives your creatures lifelink so it doesn't even matter lol). Very powerful enabler for infinite combats, good for tapping out control players, tutorable off of Academy Rector in a pinch.
  3. Druids' Repository : Serves much the same purpose as Nature's Will, while also incidentally shoring up one of our major weaknesses: Blood Moon / Back to Basics . If we're able to get the Repository down, it allows us to play around generally backbreaking stax effects while also interacting positively with Najeela. Slightly weaker than Nature's Will for comboing purposes, but all in all I've been very impressed with it.

Acceleration and Consistency

We play all of the regular cEDH artifact ramp pieces in order to get our explosive starts:

As well as most of the mana dorks we have available, ramping us into a T2 Najeela or fixing our colours for tutors/Flash.

We play all of the decent tutors as most of the time they translate into the combo piece we're missing for the win.

As well as Windfall and Wheel of Fortune , to refill our hand if need be.

Spellseeker is absolutely insane in this deck, by the way. Can find either part of the Flash Hulk combo by tutoring for Flash or Summoner's Pact , can be found off of or pitched to Survival of the Fittest , and is just insanely flexible as far as tutors go.

There are quite a few stax pieces that really slow us down, so we need to have a decent amount of ways to prevent/remove them in order for us to secure the victory.

General Strategy

You generally want to be developing early mana in dorks or rocks, tutoring for win conditions, finding an engine (Birthing Pod, Survival of the Fittest) to set up for either the win (if the coast is clear) or to set up for the midgame if people are dropping stax pieces. Alternately, if we have no early game action, a very solid turn 2/3 play is just to cast Najeela and start swinging. She (with the help of her army of Warriors) can present lethal surprisingly quickly.

Deathrite Shaman , Mystical Tutor , Lim-Dul's Vault , Felidar Guardian , Reveillark , Watery Grave , Scalding Tarn
  • This hand is alright. We have an T1 mana dork, the ability to Lim Dul's for Hulk and Mystical Tutor for Flash, making this a turn 4 kill. Unfortunately no protection, and we have to use our draw steps to get the tutored cards into our hand, so it's a little slow but overall pretty good. I'd keep this.

Sneak Attack , Saffi Eriksdotter , Imperial Seal , Swords to Plowshares , Sol Ring , Mana Crypt , Command Tower

  • This hand is pretty bonkers. We can either T1 Najeela or Sneak Attack, we can Seal for Hulk on T2 and then Sneak it into play on T3 if we wanted to win that way, or we could play Sneak on T2 and Seal for Derevi, then Sneak Derevi into play and attempt to take infinite combats by untapping our Command Tower with Derevi 5 times for WUBRG (attacking with Najeela on T2 makes 1 soldier, then attacking with Najeela and Warrior to make 2 more tokens as well as Derevi who has haste from Sneak is 5 triggers). Actually yeah, this hand is nuts. Snap keep.

Windswept Heath , Blood Crypt , Mana Crypt , Sensei's Divining Top , Animate Dead , Enlightened Tutor , Mystical Tutor

  • This is a very good hand. This is a T1 Najeela for pressure, we have Top plus a fetch to look for either protection or redundancy, and we have Enlightened Tutor for Goblin Bombardment as well as Mystical Tutor for Entomb to turn on the Animate Dead for a Hulk line. Definite keep.

We don't really run any stax pieces (although we could slot in things like Eidolon of Rhetoric , Linvala, Keeper of Silence , Gaddock Teeg , Spirit of the Labyrinth etc. if the meta called for it), opting instead to run consistency/redundancy and ways to power out our win conditions. The real roadblock for our opponents comes from the unpredictable and modular nature of the deck which makes it hard for them to figure out what axis of interaction is necessary to adequately prevent the win, as well as the ability to continue pressuring the win on successive turns.

My meta includes a lot of stax/control strategies (notably u/chefsati's Nin list) as well as combo (Gitrog Dredge, Doomsday Zur/Jeleva, Thras/Tymna Breakfast Hulk, Breya Bomberman) with a large lean towards fast mana and enchantment based stax pieces, so I've put in a decent amount of artifact/enchantment hate. This can be substituted for creature hate (Linvala, Elesh Norn, Massacre Wurm even) if you find your meta to tend more towards mana dork strategies, and Stony Silence and Null Rod are also good options in mana rock heavy metas as our deck runs fairly lean on those. The deck is very toolboxy, and therefore has a lot to offer to differing metas.

More Counterspells (Counterspell, Flusterstorm, Spell Pierce, Daze, Force of Will, etc)

  • Not enough room. Would have to shave redundant combo pieces to fit a more robust package in, but I enjoy the resiliency and would prefer to continue jamming threats rather than fight counter wars. The mana base is fairly thin, being 5c, so having consistent access to blue mana to continue casting counters is unlikely.

Thras/Tymna over Najeela

  • I enjoy winning with Kiki-Jiki. Like, a lot. And I think the flexibility of being able to Pod into it or Hulk into it is really great. It's really just a matter of preference, and if I end up noticing a severe drop in performance I might consider changing it up but for the time being the deck performs very well in my meta.

Admittedly, I think I've gone a little overboard on including redundant combo pieces, and I believe I can afford to pare some of them down to add more dorks/counterspells in the future.

As mentioned, a major strength of the deck is its speed, resiliency, and unpredictability. As we have the option of comboing out at instant speed, we can wait for opportune moments after people have tapped out and sneak in wins after counter wars have been fought.

  • Stranglehold / Aven Mindcensor are very tough for this deck to deal with, as we're a combo deck but also a toolbox deck so not being able to search our library to grab specific pieces will slow us down hard.

  • Humility is downright impossible for us to deal with if we don't have Nature's Claim, but thankfully none of the decks in my meta play it. If it becomes an issue, I'll be slotting in Ray of Revelation and other non-creature ways to deal with it.

  • Nonbasic Land hate ( Back to Basics , Blood Moon , Wasteland , Ruination , etc) is a pretty decent obstacle for us as we only run 1 basic Forest, so it slows our game down tremendously. If you find yourself losing to these, I would recommend cutting one or more Shocklands to add in basic lands (Island and Plains would be the ones to prioritize) to be able to play around hate more consistently. Blood Moon is actually one of the easier ones for us to play against, if you can prepare for it, mainly due to Sneak Attack and Kiki-Jiki.

We have a fairly good matchup against most decks, as we can adapt our strategy (to some degree) depending on what we're up against. We have the ability to race non-interactive combo decks, to patiently build resources and apply pressure with Najeela vs. stax decks and we can even brickwall aggro decks (as infrequent as they are). While we don't have a mode that shines brighter than the others, I think the flexibility is far and above the most valuable feature of the deck.

Changelog

Changes:

  • -Harmonic Sliver
  • -Sun Titan
  • -Notion Thief
  • +Worldly Tutor
  • +Diabolic Intent
  • +Noble Hierarch

Changes:

  • -Chain of Vapor
  • -Renegade Rallier
  • -Sliver Queen CMDR
  • +Najeela, the Blade-Blossom CMDR
  • +Imperial Recruiter
  • +Spellseeker
  • +Derevi, Empyrial Tactician

Changes:

CUT:

  • -Chain of Vapor
  • -Crop Rotation
  • -Wheel of Fortune
  • -Windfall
  • -Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
  • -Mirror Entity
  • -Sensei's Divining Top
  • -Gaea's Cradle
  • -Plateau
  • -Sacred Foundry

ADD:

  • +Brainstorm
  • +Dovin's Veto
  • +Mana Drain
  • +Negate
  • +Meltdown
  • +Ponder
  • +Collector Ouphe
  • +Gilded Drake
  • +Mindblade Render
  • +Mystic Remora

First big update in quite a while!

This marks a sort of convergence with the Tempo list by Pongo, adding interaction and counterspells, and cutting wheels in favour of card advantage engines (will be finding a spot for good ol Dark Confidant when I get my hands on one).

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