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Embracing the Madness: A Nekusar Primer

Commander / EDH Combo Competitive Discard Forcefeed Primer UBR (Grixis)


Embrace the Madess!

This is my current Nekusar, the Mindrazer deck, up to date as of 2017 with the current set (Ixalan). I've played it in some variation since back when he was first released in Commander 2013, and I'd like to walk you through some of what I've learned about the deck and how I think it plays best.

All I wanted to do with this version was build a relatively competitive deck within my playgroups that's not unfun for my opponents. I want to be able to kill the table with relative efficiency, but without really doing anything terribly unfair or impossible to interact with. In the end, Nekusar is most generous. Surely my opponents can think of some way to stay alive...

The Main Strategy: Plan A

The main strategy of the deck is to ramp into basically emptying my hand as quickly as possible, playing some mana rocks and some punishment like Underworld Dreams or Liliana's Caress , then cast one Wheel of Fortune -type card into another and reload over and over, killing my opponents by making them all take lots of damage as they draw and discard.

Secondary Combos

In this sense, the whole deck is basically one big combo, but no infinite, "oops I win" stuff. Curiosity is primarily intended to enchant Nekusar himself for crazy card advantage, but of course it can kill a player or two if it enchants Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind . Curiosity + Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind can repeat damage for as long as you can keep drawing cards. In fact, spells like Time Spiral that shuffle the graveyard back into the library will allow Niv to keep going and kill the whole table. (Note that Curiosity is a "may" card that costs one mana, allowing you to stop before you draw out. I don't run Helm of the Ghastlord because it is not a may and costs significantly more to cast. But it is pretty brutal so I wouldn't fault you for including it.)

Mind Over Matter + Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind can do the same thing as making the firemind curious, more or less, though the main strength of that card is in its ability to fuel as many wheels per turn as I can draw. Mind Over Matter + Temple Bell works too as long as there is a source of punishment like Underworld Dreams (or just Nekusar) in play.

These powerful interactions around Niv Mizzet and Mind Over Matter are as close to "infinite combo" as the deck gets. But they're pretty secondary. All of these cards work individually towards Plan A in significant ways. If they organically come together then that's fine, but since they all work as part of the general Nekusar strategy I don't tutor for the combo but tend to stick with the standard route to victory through punishing wheels.

Engines of Pain

The deck sort of plays like a storm deck, in that it wants to cast as many wheels in a turn as possible. The mana rocks are key to enabling that, and Paradox Engine , Waste Not , and Mind Over Matter can function as engines that will enable that as well. These cards give me a lot of mana to work with as I wheel, so that I can wheel indefinitely. Some decks play Dream Halls for the same reason, but in my experience it is too risky, especially in a three color deck where you might just Dark Deal into Windfall and have to just pass.

Since most of the wheels discard, I like to play out of the graveyard too. I can recur wheels to cast them twice with cards like Snapcaster Mage and Yawgmoth's Will .

Crazy Like a Fox, or, how to embrace the madness safely

There are also cards in here that will hurt you when you draw as well, and not just opponents: Phyrexian Tyranny and Spiteful Visions . If you are under a lot of pressure or expect to be, it may be best to wheel these cards away unless they will be immediately deadly to your opponents, killing them on the spot or on their draw steps before they could possibly kill you. Against more aggressive decks where these cards aren't so strong defensive cards like No Mercy , Crawlspace , and Propaganda really shine and should be prioritized to make it easier to win a damage race. Often board wipes like Damnation and Blasphemous Act will help, especially since I don't really care too much about having creatures in play myself, since enchantments are often doing a lot more of the heavy lifting.

This vs. That build of Nekusar

This deck is different from a lot of Nekusar decks in several ways. I've tried most of these things, but have decided based on my own experience to go the way that I have, and I'll outline some of these difference here. Based on your playgroup your mileage may vary.

There are versions of the deck that run more Howling Mine effects. I don't really like this strategy because I don't really want to feed my opponents a bunch of extra cards. After all, this isn't a Group Hug deck. So all of the cards that give my opponents extra draws also punish them (like Fevered Visions , Spiteful Visions , or the lich king himself) or make them draw a bunch and then get rid of them so they don't gain significantly from it, like the wheel spells and cards like Teferi's Puzzle Box . Often these more Howling Mine oriented builds are playing cards like Iron Maiden and Viseling , but the idea of my deck's power resting on my opponents having as many cards in hand as possible all the time doesn't sit too well with me. Similarly, I'd include Forced Fruition in this category. There are just too many ways for this strategy to go wrong if the punishment gets removed. Ultimately, I'd rather play more punishment in place of more cards like Howling Mine . Better that they should draw two and take 6 damage than draw 6 and take 6.

There are also versions of the deck that run more Counterspell cards and targeted removal like Terminate . I choose not to go that way for two reasons. First, cutting those cards leaves more room for the types of cards that make up the core of the decks strategy. Second, being built around Wheel of Fortune effects, you can't hold onto a hand full of control spells. Embrace the madness!! Hahahaha! Sorry.

There are also versions that like to give Nekusar infect via Phyresis , Glistening Oil , or Grafted Exoskeleton . This version avoids that. Most significantly it simply dilutes the main strategy. If you give Nekusar infect, it splits your damage into poison from Nekusar and normal damage from everything else, making both less effective. Removal of the source of poison before the count gets to ten sets Nekusar way back. With infect it would still take two Wheel of Fortune s to give my opponents enough poison counters to die, and by the time I'm doing that I should have accumulated enough punishment and damage to kill them the old fashioned way.

Lastly, obviously there are a lot of big splashy cards in Grixis that the deck could play, like Price of Knowledge and Dragon Mage , but I'd rather keep the mana curve lower over all and play more spells per turn than invest so much mana and time into something like that.

If you found this little walk-through helpful, please upvote/+1! And thanks for reading!

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