With the unbanning of Protean Hulk the format got a strong combo enabler back, one that works in various colour combinations, the most popular being 4-colour without red. Especially Breakfast Hulk set a new record in average goldfish wins before turn 3, other self-milling versions like Shuffle and Sacred Hulk are equally fast. There are also Hulk decks killing with multiple Hulk searches to assemble a winning loop such as Mike/Ballista, Melira/Redcap or Karmic Guide/Saffi/Blood Artist. These Hulk lines either leave out white or red and they still work. So, why even use a 5c commander, of which almost none are really helping a deck from the command zone?

First of all it has to be said that the intention for this build is to have a fastcombo deck that solves some issues I have with other available options. Breakfast Hulk and the related milling hulk decks – and this is even acknowledged by the people who play it – have quite a few cards that are absolutely needed for the mill combo but otherwise completely useless. Despite all efforts to reduce the package, cephalid breakfast and hermit druid require stuff like Narcomoeba and Dread Return to work, also often Laboratory Maniac , Fatestitcher and others, Shuffle Hulk needs an eldrazi that you can't realistically cast and the same milling engine. Drawing into these cards feels bad because you can’t use them for something else or you might not even be able to pull off the combo while having them in hand. With Flash being an instant it's also sad that Breakfast Hulk only works at sorcery speed. Sacred and Shuffle Hulk, while trying to improve other aspects, also have the same problem that drawing into the wrong cards can make the winning line impossible. Working at instant speed, Sacred Hulk absolutely needs an extra mana to work, which means a Flash for 2 mana doesn't already result in a cheap win (which is one of the huge advantages of that card in my opinion). Other Hulk versions that can win off a resolved Flash without extra mana have in common that the combo is a loop that requires a sac outlet and at least two creatures, which enable using an etb trigger or activated ability often enough to kill everyone at the table. What they also have in common is that the winning combo has to be assembled by a dying Hulk because otherwise it’s too complex to find and get into play.

When using all colors we can use a winning combo that can be assembled in 3 different but very compact ways. We don’t add more dead combo pieces like Breakfast Hulk but we add 2 tutors/enablers for that combo. That results in having more flexibility in gameplay and higher chances of drawing naturally into a setup for a kill.

Our kill in 5c is Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Felidar Guardian to produce an arbitrary amount of cat tokens with haste. This combo can be assembled by using Buried Alive and one reanimation spell, which is a really cheap and easy setup. The other big player besides Kiki in the deck is Karmic Guide because it’s the 3rd creature to take with Buried Alive . Reanimate the Karmic Guide, which reanimates either Felidar or Kiki and then Karmic Guide (either blinked or copied) reanimates the last piece. The very same combo can also be tutored up within one turn with Birthing Pod , assuming you have any cmc 2 or higher creature in play. Finally, again the same combo can be put into play when Protean Hulk dies.

The combo pieces are red and white, Buried Alive adds black, Protean Hulk and Birthing Pod are green and Flash is blue. Therefore we need all 5 colours. The benefits of this win con compared to the ones given above are that Pod is a one card combo (and even a great toolbox tutor on its own) but without the risk of milling yourself, you can switch between the different enablers even after setting up one of them (you can for example flash hulk after the combo has been searched for with buried alive), you can easily play around cards that are in the “wrong” zones and we also have multiple instant speed and manaless hulk lines available…how exactly everything works and how the enablers share and use the different pieces will be explained below.

This deck has already been played years before Battlebond with two different commanders, Sliver Queen and Ramos. The above reasons for going 5c were convincing enough to use commanders that didn’t actually help the deck except for niche cases. Now there is a 5c commander available which can actively help this specific strategy.

The new commander Najeela, the Blade-Blossom has two important functions in the deck and otherwise serves as the backbone of the deck. One important aspect is to provide a starting point for the birthing pod combo in the command zone, which is really cool compared to Ramos. I could use Ramos to pod into Hulk or use Eldritch Evolution to get Razaketh, but all that meant having to play that big Dragon first, which was possible but often not necessary unless I had already run completely out of gas or the table had been staxed out completely. The second function of the new commander is to provide an alternative win con by infinite combat phases without adding lots of additional and otherwise clunky cards to the deck. I exchanged Deceiver Exarch (which had been the untapper at cmc 3 for Birthing Pod ) with Derevi, Empyrial Tactician to enable this alternative combo. Druids' Repository is another way to get infinite combat phases and the only extra card I have considered just because of Najeela – mostly because Repository is nice to have against Blood Moon or Back to Basics too. I currently don't have it included in the deck though because in all the games I had played with it, it never actually came up as an easier way to end the game, compared to other possible options.

Najeela as the backbone of the deck is something you have to discover by playing the deck because in the current version the deck offers so many synergies that you will come across something new in almost every match. Some obvious ones are for example to have Edric, Spymaster of Trest , Azra Oddsmaker Mindblade Render and Tymna the Weaver as possible options for the draw slots, Aura Shards as removal and Bloom Tender instead of Priest of Titania among the ramp slots. These are all great on their own in a creature based combo deck but they get absolutely ridiculous with the commander. Najeela providing a token on an otherwise empty board for a manaless Razaketh kill is also something that has happened several times so far…but more about that later.

We have seen decks popping up that focus completely on combat combos with Najeela, but whatever is done there is definitely slower than having hulk and pod as plan A. As it is, the deck consistently threatens kills between turn 2 and 4, with the majority being on turn 3. This means we are firmly in fastcombo territory, equally fast as any other Hulk deck, while a combat combo Najeela will always be at least one or two turns slower, dependent on stopping other peoples' faster kill attempts and protecting the commander for several turns at the same time, which again depends on having the correct answers available in the early game.

With this deck we don't care at all if opponents waste their early resources on the commander or hatebears, if anything it's even beneficial when people focus on stopping the combat tricks because it clears the way for the actual gameplan. If they let Najeela stay on the board though we do have the exact same options as a "combat only" deck and the exponentially growing warriors escalate just as quickly, even with manual beatdown. We also have ways of slowing people down but we never go into an actual stax or control mode and instead always push for a win, recklessly, because no setup for a kill will get us in a risky position (compare to hermit druid or losing Najeela in a combat focused build) and even if disrupted we can often just threaten a win again in the next one or two turns. By doing so, we sometimes intentionally force the opponents to deal with each other's threats and spend their interaction in order to not lose. This exploits the dynamics of an actually competitive table.

How to win - combo enablers explained

This section provides detailed information on the possible combos and winning lines of play as well as some insight in card choices and strategy. The following explanations will show how the deck offers rather slot efficient (for a layered hulk combo deck), overlapping and interchangeable routes to victory by using always the same key cards along with cards that are already included in the deck for non-combo purposes (such as tutors, draw, disruption…)

Birthing Pod is a one card combo with the contents of the deck. Once it resolves there is one searching sequence that ends in a winning combo and otherwise Pod can be used as a toolbox tutor, which is both described below.

Birthing Pod needs to be in play, then follow these steps:
1. sacrifice any creature with cmc 2, search for Derevi, Empyrial Tactician , untap Birthing Pod
2. sacrifice Derevi, Empyrial Tactician , search for Felidar Guardian , blink Birthing Pod
3. sacrifice Felidar Guardian , search for Karmic Guide , reanimate Felidar Guardian and blink Birthing Pod (or blink Guide to reanimate Derevi and untap Pod)
4. sacrifice Felidar Guardian , search for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
5. tap Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to copy Karmic Guide , reanimate Felidar Guardian and blink Kiki-Jiki

Starting with a random cmc 2 creature, this sequence requires 4 mana and 8 life to work. Starting with a cmc 3 or 4 creature or having Kiki-jiki in the graveyard reduces the cost and the searching processes. It’s interesting to note that Lion's Eye Diamond , can be used to get additional mana for Pod activations (because you don’t need a hand for that) and it can also get combo pieces that are stuck in hand ( Karmic Guide , Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker ) into the graveyard at the same time. Body Double is the search for cmc 5 in the line given above when Karmic Guide is in the graveyard.
Besides being a one card combo, Birthing Pod also provides huge value as a tutor engine. This is often relevant when pod resolves but there isn’t enough mana to go straight for the kill or if there are pieces preventing that killing line. In that case pod is used to get creatures that have a high impact on the current situation and which can be found in the cmc 2 and 3 slots. Even tokens from Najeela could be turned into a Deathrite Shaman for example. Dorks fetch a Gilded Drake , Leonin Relic-Warder , Dockside Extortionist or maybe a Mindblade Render , Dark Confidant or Bloom Tender . In the cmc 3 slots we find for example Spellseeker , Aven Mindcensor , Derevi, empyreal tactitian or Azra Oddsmaker . The hatebears I play at the moment have a rather broad effect. If you feel like certain matchups require additional hate I could see more specific pieces in their place or in addition. Lavinia, Azorius Renegade or Kataki, War's Wage would be interesting for example.
There are various ways to get Protean Hulk into play and let it die again. The best ones are obviously Hulk in hand + Flash and Hulk in graveyard + Necromancy at a time when only instants can be cast. Both options bring the Hulk on the table and let it die without further help needed. Having a sac outlet already in play and reanimating or even hardcasting Hulk is also an option, although not as often used. The lines below explain what happens when the death trigger of Hulk resolves. The cards in the deck offer lines of play for different situations, to remove stax pieces or to play around certain unavailable cards.

This is the preferred line, since it requires no mana and kills at instant speed. It can be used at any time, also during an opponent’s turn.

1. Get Karmic Guide / Viscera Seer , Karmic Guide etb reanimates Protean Hulk
2. Sac Hulk to get Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker , copy guide to reanimate Hulk
3. Sac Hulk to get Felidar Guardian / Blood Artist
4. Produce Felidar tokens with Kiki-Jiki and go to combat and/or sac the tokens for lifeloss from Blood Artist

I would do it in this order (3 and 2 could be exchanged so Felidar blinks Guide to reanimate Hulk) because having Kiki in play is a better position than having Felidar/Blood Artist, should anything happen that stops the combo kill. Of course, the contents of library, hand and graveyard as well as the boardstate play a role in deciding in which order you search. Body Double replaces Karmic Guide or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker if they happen to be in the graveyard. You can go for this hulk line even if you used Buried Alive on Kiki/Felidar/Karmic Guide before.
Cursed Totem and Linvala, Keeper of Silence stop the winning combo, but there is a Hulk line to deal with both. This needs to be done at sorcery speed and it takes one black mana post-hulk:

Anti-totem-line: Needs in pool
1. Spellseeker / Leonin Relic-Warder / Viscera Seer
2. ETB of Leonin exiles cursed totem, Spellseeker finds Reanimate
3. Reanimate Hulk and proceed with the usual line

Anti-Linvala-line: same as above, needs in pool
1. Spellseeker / Gilded Drake / Viscera Seer
2. Exchange Gilded Drake for the opponent's Linvala, Keeper of Silence , Spellseeker finds Reanimate
3. Reanimate Hulk and proceed with the usual line

This manaless line can be used when Felidar Guardian is unavailable, meaning when it’s in exile or in hand

1. Get Karmic Guide / Viscera Seer , Karmic Guide etb reanimates Protean Hulk
2. Sac Hulk to get Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
3. Copy Karmic Guide and in response to Kiki’s ability sac Kiki
4. Karmic Guide token ETB reanimates Kiki
5. Proceed to make Karmic Guide tokens with haste and attack

If Blood Artist is in the library or graveyard this line can be instant speed without the need to attack: after producing a large enough number of tokens, use the last token’s ETB to reanimate Hulk and search for Blood Artist or reanimate it instead of Hulk when it’s in the graveyard.
If Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is unavailable, we need to loop Karmic Guide and Felidar Guardian with Blood Artist in play. This line is also manaless and instant speed.

1. Get Karmic Guide / Viscera Seer , Karmic Guide etb reanimates Protean Hulk
2. Sac Hulk to get Felidar Guardian / Blood Artist
3. In response to Felidar’s ETB targeting Karmic Guide , sac Felidar
4. Karmic Guide ETB reanimates Felidar Guardian
5. Repeat steps 3 + 4

A rather tricky situation for winning with Hulk is when Karmic Guide is stuck in hand. In the past I have experimented with stuff like Body Snatcher to discard pieces when needed but that’s all just adding extra cards. Body Double is the only redundancy to Karmic Guide because it fits in the Pod line and it works after Buried Alive or discarding combo pieces as well, but unfortunately this won’t help here. There is still a way to win with Karmic Guide in hand though:

1. Get Body Double / Viscera Seer , Body Double enters as Protean Hulk
2. Sac Body Double to get Azra Oddsmaker / Spellseeker , Spellseeker finds Reanimate
3. Go to combat, discard Karmic Guide with Azra Oddsmaker
4. 2nd main Reanimate Karmic Guide , ETB reanimates Hulk
5. Sac Hulk to find the winning combo

So, this line works but it needs mana like the removal lines and it needs to happen before combat on our turn. The great aspect here is that it doesn’t require additional cards to be added to the deck. Azra Oddsmaker is played for the looting anyway and he also has a nice synergy with Mindblade Render and Najeela.
1. Get Body Double / Viscera Seer , Body Double enters as Protean Hulk
2. Sac Body Double to get Derevi, Empyrial Tactician / Eternal Witness , Eternal Witness gets Flash back to hand, ETB of Derevi untaps a mana source
3. Cast Flash again to put Karmic Guide into play - it is already in the gy when the ETB trigger goes on the stack, so it reanimates itself and then Protean Hulk
5. Sac Hulk to find the winning combo

With this line Derevi produces mana on ETB, which means you only need one additional generic mana to pull this off. Compared to the Oddsmaker line it has the upside of being useable at instant speed when there's one mana available. This line enables a manaless 2nd Flash if you can still go to combat and attack with at least one creature to untap another mana source with Derevi. It has to be noted that the above line assumes that Hulk has been used with Flash and thus it is in the graveyard. If Hulk has been killed in another way, Eternal Witness has to be replaced with Spellseeker , which then searches for Flash .
Razaketh, the Foulblooded is a reanimation target and usually what will be taken with Entomb . Often Razaketh will just have to sac two creatures and get Flash / Protean Hulk but this requires 2 mana post-reanimation, which can be restrictive. There is a line with fewer requirements, a manaless kill on an almost empty board. This needs two creatures in play besides Razaketh:

Sac creature 1, get LED, crack LED for GGG
Sac creature 2, get Eternal Witness , Return LED, crack LED for BBB
Sac Witness, get Reanimate , reanimate Witness, return Reanimate to hand
Sac Witness, get Protean Hulk , reanimate Witness, return LED to hand
Crack LED for BBB to discard Hulk, sac Witness to get another reanimation effect and reanimate Hulk
Sac Hulk to Razaketh

If there is only one creature, but we can spend and have two lands in play, we can do the same as above by sacrificing the creature to get Life and turn all our lands into creatures. Then we have two creatures and can use them as described above.
Razaketh is really hard to disrupt because he can fetch counterspells at instant speed for every additional creature on the board. Another trick is to get Gaea's Cradle after Life if we need more mana for some reason.
It's fairly easy to assemble the Schrödinger's Cat Loop manually and just reanimate Leonin Relic-Warder with a Blood Artist in play. Any of the reanimation enchantments work. ETB of Leonin exiles Animate Dead , Leonin dies, leave trigger returns Animate Dead from exile and we choose Leonin in our graveyard and we repeat the loop… Blood Artist kills all opponents in the process.
This combo is interesting to know because it bypasses Cursed Totem / Linvala, Keeper of Silence and requires no cards to be added to the deck that we wouldn’t already play. Leonin is needed for the removal Hulk lines and Blood Artist enables the instant speed Hulk lines.
Another interesting synergy with Leonin Relic-Warder is with Razaketh, the Foulblooded . Leonin can use an Animate Dead or Necromancy that has been used to get Razaketh into play:
ETB of Leonin exiles the enchantment. The leave trigger would cause Razaketh to die, but in response we sac Leonin to return the enchantment from exile and reanimate Leonin with it again. With that trick we can stack tutors from Razaketh (they all resolve after we choose a creature other than Leonin to reanimate with Animate Dead ) while the first leave trigger of Animate Dead is still on the stack. Again, this is just good to know but it doesn’t add any combo-only cards to the deck.
Najeela is a win con on her own and she’s even a very efficient one. Firstly she bypasses graveyard hate and Torpor Orb , which is what hurts our main plan and secondly it’s always just a two card combo, of which one is the commander.
Derevi, empyreal tactician is used as the cmc 3 untapper for the Birthing Pod line explained above and it happens to be a combo piece for Najeela as well. If we have a close look at how they interact, we see that it takes very little mana and creatures to start infinite combat phases. Najeela produces at least one warrior upon attacking, so we untap 2 mana sources upon dmg and need only 3 more mana for the first activation of her ability. With the next attack we already have 4 creatures that trigger Derevi upon dmg, so it’s only one more extra mana. After that, attacks untap more mana sources than we need for activating Najeela over and over again.
The only card I would consider adding just because of the commander is Druids' Repository . It’s cheap and rather easy to trigger. It also helps against Blood Moon and Back to Basics or other stuff that aims at hurting the mana production.
It has to be noted that with Najeela we can even use Hulk to get Derevi and something for up to 3 cmc, for example if there’s a Torpor Orb in play. Obviously needs to be done pre-combat but it’s an option that can save your ass.

How to play this deck

To judge opening hands correctly we need to be aware of what the deck can possibly do in different stages of the game and how a certain hand would play out. As we have a fast and cheap win con with Hulk, opening hands that already contain one piece have to be inspected closely. Is there a tutor? Do we have enough mana in the right colours to ensure a fast Hulk win? Is there protection, a stax piece or a clear setup for following turns should the first attempt fail? Cards you want to see for an early game kill attempt are for example Protean Hulk , Flash , Entomb , Buried Alive , Necromancy along with mana dorks and tutors.

I would always recommend casting Najeela as early as possible, unless there is a clear turn 2/3 kill visible on the opening hand. There’s hardly a reason for not doing that because she escalates pretty fast just by manually attacking and the tokens can be turned into massive card advantage as well (see the section about card choices). While assembling a kill we can already beat face with her and once Najeela is in play there’s also the chance of easily pulling off the backup combo out of seemingly nowhere.

Opening hands with long-term plans require more experience with the deck to be judged correctly. These might contain for example (but not limted to) Aven Mindcensor , Manglehorn , Sylvan Library , Rhystic Study , ( Edric, Spymaster of Trest ), Aura Shards , Birthing Pod , Survival of the Fittest , Azra Oddsmaker , Dark Confidant ,…basically hands that don’t offer a clear winning line by turn 2/3 but effective ways of slowing the game down for everyone or strong carddraw/tutor engines, that need more mana and turns to set up a win.

We have to keep in mind though that while the deck has a really strong mid and late game, we still need to make an impact in the early game. The “slow” hands we keep would still allow for turn 4/5 kills if undisrupted, we simply allow more time and resources for setup and hatebears with these starts.
The mid game is where the most action takes place. If the game isn’t over by turn 3 we have probably some draw engine in play, Najeela might already have attacked once or there have been some hatebear and disruption plays. The following turns will be dedicated to stabilising the situation, generating more card advantage and preventing other players from developing their gameplan. We are still aggressive now, disrupting opponents is only done when it doesn’t keep us from progressing our own plan. We aren’t equipped for passive play so we sometimes intentionally leave the interaction with possible threats to the other opponents and simply push for the win.

Cards you want to see there are obviously various tutors to find whatever is missing. If there’s no single missing card that would start a winning line, we want to draw stuff like ( Edric, Spymaster of Trest ), Rhystic Study , Birthing Pod , Survival of the Fittest , Sylvan Library , Wheel of Fortune , Azra Oddsmaker , ( Tymna the Weaver ), Aura Shards , Meltdown ,…pretty much the same cards that would have made us keep a “slow” opening hand. The cmc 3 cards with higher value and impact are definitely preferred in this stage but a Mindblade Render or Dark Confidant is also still great to have.

In the mid game Intuition is a really powerful card because we already have a board and know what we would like to have in our hand and graveyard and thus can make game winning piles rather easily.If the early game consisted of casting Najeela and attacking with her at least once, we can also avoid already played stax pieces and try to find Derevi, Empyrial Tactician or Druids' Repository . The mid game is also the time for Birthing Pod value searches and attempting to kill with it. Don’t make the mistake of trying to actually control the game with pod searches. We are not playing a large enough toolbox for a real stax game with pod, so any activations before going for the kill should just help us survive a turn until we can fetch up to cmc 5. We have draw, removal and additional mana in the cmc 2 slot, and on 3 we have Mindcensor, Edric, Manglehorn and Tymna, which are suited to either give us a massive card advantage or stall the game for a while. Stopping at 3 with Derevi is only preferable when Najeela is in play and/or the untapping in combat enables a powerful or game winning play in the 2nd main.
If the game drags on (past turn 5/6 or so) we might face a puzzle of stax pieces or we have lost important cards and need to navigate around them. If we get to this stage of the game we should not aggressively push for a win anymore but rather try to generate value from what we have on the board and sculpt a hand with protection, redundancy (like double reanimation effects) and removal for the threats and stax of our opponents.

Najeela is a valuable source of pressure in the late game, especially because she’s often not worth wasting resources at first but then she can escalate even with manual beatdown. A well timed Meltdown is also a possible game winner then and we will always be able to cast a topdecked Birthing Pod and go straight for the winning line.

It is very important to be creative with the Hulk, Razaketh and Pod lines and remember possible ways around stax pieces and having cards in wrong zones. Having a lot of different ways to assemble a kill with the same pieces is what makes the deck shine in the late game, but you have to realize a winning line is actually available.

Card Choices

This section gives an overview on the specific card choices for various effects and their relevance in the context of the whole deck.

I play almost ALL of the cmc 1 mana dorks that produce 1 coloured mana. I have not included Fyndhorn Elves at the moment. In this deck I prefer dorks over additional fastmana such as Dark Ritual or Lotus Petal because the creatures are still fast, reliable but also valuable later in the game, as fodder for Pod and Razaketh, as removal with Aura Shards or as attackers for Derevi or Azra Oddsmaker (and Edric).
Here we have the usual 4 - Mox Diamond , Chrome Mox , Sol Ring and Mana Crypt - that no deck should miss. In addition I play Carpet of Flowers and Druids' Repository is an option to be considered because it combos with the commander. I also run Utopia Sprawl to have another non-dork ramp for that doesn't care about a Cursed Totem . It's vulnerable to Blood Moon though because it will fall off any nonbasic forest.

One spicier mana source is Lion's Eye Diamond . It’s the main source of mana when using Razaketh but it can also fuel Pod lines or I crack it in response to a tutor. In such a combination it often acts as a discard outlet too, for example tutor for reanimation, crack LED to discard reanimation target and use the mana to cast the tutored spell…Also in response to a search with Survival of the Fittest or a wheel…
The deck’s dominant colours are green and black, then comes blue and even fewer white and red. It’s obvious that we want to play all duals including one of the dominant colours. Having lands that produce all colours is also important and therefore I play the best except Forbidden Orchard (don’t want the opponents to get blockers in this deck). Plateau is a rather obvious exclusion because it’s the dual that contains only the splash colours. Volcanic Island and Tundra are duals with the 3rd most important colour and a splash colour and it’s debatable if they are worth playing. I play Overgrown Tomb to have another fetchable land in my most important colours and I've tried switching another land slot between Stomping Ground , Cephalid Coliseum and Exotic Orchard . Breeding Pool is also an option for that slot. Then there’s space for 3 basics and Gaea's Cradle .
The tutors in this deck are chosen because of their cheap cost and usability. The obvious ones are Vampiric Tutor , Demonic Tutor , Imperial Seal , Worldly Tutor , Mystical Tutor , Enlightened Tutor . Diabolic Intent is also great because the additional cost doesn’t really hurt with the mass of creatures we have.

Cards to put creatures into the graveyard are Entomb , Buried Alive , Intuition and Survival of the Fittest .

With Intuition we can put a game winning pile together if we are aware of the options that the hand, board and graveyard offer at the time we cast it. Bluffing piles are also easy (for example when people have to guess if you want Hulk for Flash or Necromancy ) to create.

With Survival of the Fittest we can either assemble the whole Kiki/Felidar/Guide combo in our graveyard (then maybe even a Spellseeker for Reanimate ?) and it also allows us to search for and reanimate Razaketh, the Foulblooded for . Discard any creature, then Razaketh, then cast Loyal Retainers and reanimate him.

Spellseeker gets all important instants/sorceries and is also used in the removal lines for Hulk.

I'm currently testing Eladamri's Call , Summoner's Pact and Eldritch Evolution .
Because we have a critical mass of creatures, combat based draw is really effective in this deck. The best combat draw engine we have available is definitely Azra Oddsmaker (important because it lets us discard as well). Mindblade Render is also very strong because it's cheap and supports warriors. Tymna the Weaver and Edric, Spymaster of Trest are also interesting but currently not included. Having no carddraw in the command zone means we need strong and repeatable draw in the 99. These creatures can also draw in the same turn as we play them because they trigger off other creatures too.

More repeatable carddraw on permanents can be found in Rhystic Study , Mystic Remora , Sylvan Library and Dark Confidant .

Finally, one-time draws on instants/sorceries are Brainstorm (important to shuffle back Hulk pieces), Ponder , Gitaxian Probe and Frantic Search . There’s also Cephalid Coliseum for looting to be considered. Because we have some reanimation spells available, being able to discard can be important in various situations.

In general, this deck can use the existing resources for one sided draws in larger numbers, which is why Timetwister and Windfall are excluded. The permanent based draws focus on quantity and refilling the hand after the first early game actions. We hope to draw tutors, which provide us with the needed card quality then.
Since Birthing Pod is a win con in the deck, it makes sense to have at least a part of the disruption on creatures. I tried to balance the slots in a way that offers the most important effects spread among creature and noncreature cards.
Removal on creatures is available on Leonin Relic-Warder , Manglehorn and Gilded Drake . These can be fetched with Pod, Survival of the Fittest and even implemented in Hulk lines.

Aven Mindcensor is a universal stax piece that helps against everything. Just like a Manglehorn it buys time against opposing decks that are equally fast.

Currently not in the deck but still interesting hatebears/removal to consider are for example eidolon of rethoric, Kataki, War's Wage , Qasali Pridemage , Goblin Cratermaker , Lavinia, Azorius Renegade , Anafenza, the Foremost ,…
Removal are also available on noncreature cards in order to get rid of problematic pieces when creature effects are disabled, for example by Torpor Orb . Meltdown is probably the most powerful one in here, also Nature's Claim is a must play. Abrupt Decay is a catch all removal and I'm considering Assassin's Trophy for testing at the moment. Aura Shards is really powerful with the mass of creatures we run and ridiculous with the commander in play.

For protection I have included the cheapest and/or free counters the deck can support: Pact of Negation , Flusterstorm , Mental Misstep , Spell Pierce , Red Elemental Blast . No Force of Will because there is too little blue in the deck and Mana Drain has been tried and cut because of the double blue cost and the lack of actual uses for the extra colorless mana. I found that Silence should be played as well because it's great for offense and defense alike.

Noxious Revival is both recursion and disruption, a very flexible card and being free to cast makes it awesome. Currently not in the deck, but I might go back to it when I miss it too much in testing.

Threats that need to be addressed

Playing a 5 colour combo deck comes with a huge lot of flexibility and reliability but also has it's weaknesses. There are certain cards that stop the deck from setting up and/or going off. Most of these problematic pieces are artifacts/enchantments. For that reason I play some removal that are implemented on creatures as well as Aura Shards and Nature's Claim / Meltdown .

Cursed Totem is obvious. prevents the most important abilities needed for a kill, not necessarily prevents the Combos from being assembled though. Can be removed during a Hulk line.
Torpor Orb prevents pretty much everything here, worse than totem but not as frequently played. artifact removal will have to do, especially Meltdown . Najeela still works, backup plan might have to come forth.
Taking away much of the coloured mana hurts but the deck is still somehow playable in the current build. mana dorks, carpet of's not too bad if I already have nonland mana sources. Druids' Repository can be both combo piece and anti-moon-tech.
Disabling the lands completely hurts more than making them red, only solution is getting nonland mana sources and removal for back to basics. Playing around it is possible with mana dorks and Carpet of Flowers / Druids' Repository .
Timing is everything, permanent based gy hate such as Rest in Peace or Grafdigger's Cage definitely needs removal and instant exiling effects can set the deck back a lot if too many of the important cards are lost. I don't risk everything by milling myself like BUG Sidisi or breakfast hulk does, but graveyard hate is a known weakness of all hulk and reanimator decks. Najeela offers a win con without using the graveyard though, so it's not as bad as it is in other builds.
Effects that make creatures etb tapped, such as Thalia, Heretic Cathar or Blind Obedience , prevent the Kiki-Jiki combo. However, the “No Kiki line” gets around that easily when we can get Hulk to die. Both removal lines work as well, either to take the opposing Thalia with Gilded Drake or exile the Enchantment with Leonin Relic-Warder . The Pod kill won’t work but with Pod already in play we can just take fetch a creature that removes the problematic piece before going for the killing line.
Just go fuck yourself and I flip the table if I don't have Nature's Claim or Aura Shards !


I have started collecting data on all our local matches and tournaments in January 2019. I use that data to calculate win rates of all our players and their decks so that we can get some insight on our meta and look up which decks performed better or worse in general or against specific opponents. I also think it's pretty cool to show other people what the meta is like, so they don't have to be satisfied with vague descriptions of what is played and how hard it is to beat. We play every Wednesday and I try to update the data every week. The decklists I have linked in the sheet might not be what people actually play, because the tappedout lists are sometimes not up to date. If you want to check upon Najeela's local performance you can look HERE


This section is supposed to give some insight in how I judge opening hands and play the deck. I've just recently started recording online games so it might take some time until I can collect more videos of spicy moves and creative solutions to complicated boardstates. We sometimes stream our local games on Twitch as well but there you won't see the hands.

This game shows how well the deck can recover after losing the whole board and it's a nice example for why the efficient win con as plan A is a lot easier than constantly protecting the commander. Even though I missed an EOT action I had planned (that would have won a turn earlier, considering that the pact couldn't have been played a turn earlier and muddle wouldn't have hit Loyal Retainers either - post Razaketh reanimation one counterspell isn't enough to stop it). And yes, I could have just gone for LRW loop but I wanted to get the Hulk on camera in the first attempt.
I kept this hand mostly because of the t1 Najeela and the misstep. Until someone deals with Najeela it's pretty realistic that I draw into something strong and the lots of mana enable hardcasting even the most expensive crap. Recasting Najeela would be possible just like the Body Double could have been a castable reanimation effect...the post-wheel situation shows how to get around a Karmic Guide in hand and how to win in 2nd main.
coming soon

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There's only one card I want to have in here from the most recent commander set and that is Dockside Extortionist . My first experience with the card was in grixis storm and going last that guy served me well over 10 treasures on turn 2. Later another player drew his own goblin and the result was similar, a pretty much game winning amount of cheap mana. So, what does that mean for THIS deck?

The swap I have already made in the list is Frantic Search ==> Dockside Extortionist

Why does a huge ramp spell replace a looting slot? The looting effect was in the deck to get rid of currently uncastable creatures because usually the hand is the worst place for them to be, whether you draw reanimation effects or can somehow get a hulk to trigger. There are hulk lines around pieces being stuck in your hand, but when you somehow end up with mutliple pieces of the hulk package in hand, you need some preparation. Razaketh is also a card you don't really want to see in your han, unless you have Survival of the Fittest already in sight. What Dockside Extortionist does for these cases is simple: enabling hardcasting everything up to Razaketh from your hand instead of doing a workaround with looting/reanimation.

Now, there's the question if DE can replace Eternal Witness in the Razaketh lines (spoiler: yes it can, but it has an impact on the possible hulk lines)...Obviously to be any help, DE has to produce treasures. How many treasures do we need to get from it in order to make it work with Razaketh?

The calculation I have made so far is:
sac 1 - LED
sac 2 - DE (R in pool + X treasures)
sac DE - Reanimate (R + X treasures * 2) cost: B
sac DE - Spellseeker (getting Flash ) cost: 2UB
sac Spellseeker to find Protean Hulk , cast Flash
total mana spent: 3UUB

You have one R left from LED and the total cost for the line is 6 mana, so you can do it with DE producing 3 tokens for each etb. This also works when you have to use Animate Dead or Death instead of Reanimate because of the one spare mana. The line with 3 treasures can be used when you start with either 2 creatures and no mana or 1 creature and G, using Life to turn your (minimum) 2 lands into creatures.

Can we do it with only 2 treasures as well?
sac 1 - LED
sac 2 - DE (R + 2 treasures)
sac DE - Life (R + 1 treasure)
sac 2 lands for Flash / Protean Hulk , cast with treasures
total mana spent: 1UG

This line is pretty simple, but it needs Life to still be in the deck, so you can't start it with the 1 creature, G, 2 lands requirement which already uses the card before you tutor up LED and DE.

Both lines are better than the witness lines because they consume less life and are become a lot more flexible in avoiding certain cards the more treasures DE produces. What they are worse at is that they assume 2-3 treasures from DE as a must at any given time in a competitive game. If for some reason DE doesn't produce at least 2 treasures, the manaless Razaketh kill won't work with only 2 creatures to start from. The decision is basically between having another free slot for something else while relying on a boardstate that can actually be viewed as granted...and having a backup that even works in the unrealistic case of no one having artifacts/enchantments in play, for a killing line that is not the only way you can take in the deck.

Speaking from my experience in playing the deck, I would say it has happened that I went all in with a t2 Razaketh kill (t1 dork, t2 entomb, reanimate) but it's not happening that often. And if it happens, other people might have had their fast starts as well and 3 treasures are already granted. It's really just a matter of the very early game in which DE might be useless and the Razaketh kill impossible if I throw out witness. There is one reason though that currently keeps me from removing witness and that is having a manaless instant speed hulk kill even when Karmic Guide is stuck in hand (see the hulk lines in the primer). As it is, the deck can use the existing pieces to play around parts of the hulk package being stuck in your hand, which is something no other hulk deck is capable of as far as I know. Before DE being printed the line for Karmic Guide in hand involved paying one more generic mana and using the ETB of Derevi to untap a blue source for a 2nd casting of Flash to get the Karmic Guide into the loop and the hulk back from the graveyard at the same time. Now with DE the line has become completely manaless, as soon as opponents have at least 2 artifacts/enchantments. Being able to hulk through almost any hand/board/graveyard constellations is something that I would not recommend giving up, if it's not a huge improvement in another aspect. witness isn't that bad on its own to justify giving up that hulk line and the razaketh line that doesn't depend on opponents at all.

I am now playing with these changes to the deck, a little more tuning towards speed and reliability:
Azra Oddsmaker
Eladamri's Call
Arbor Elf
Frantic Search
Abrupt Decay

Dockside Extortionist
Noxious Revival
Fyndhorn Elves
Summoner's Pact

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