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Warrior Queen [Najeela Midrange/Tempo cEDH Primer]

Commander / EDH Competitive Five Color Infinite Combo Midrange

Pongo_Pygmaeu5

Maybeboard


With the release of Battlebond (BBD), WotC kindly delivered a new Commander relevant to the competitive scene. Najeela’s viability immediately stood out to myself and others due to her all-encompassing color identity and potential to combo off with a multitude of 1-card win-cons. Her army-in-a-can can single-handedly provide enormous pressure and simply steamroll stalled board states. Finally, unlike with previous slot-efficient, 1-card win-con commanders such as Chain Veil Teferi, Najeela’s win-cons are never fully dead and can theoretically be played at any point in the game for advantage.

Thanks to the many hours of testing, tinkering, and collaboration of the Najeela Discord, we have largely settled on this highly interactive, modular shell. It plays the highest quality ramp, protection, tutors and draw engines in 5 colors.

Compared to the format’s premiere 5 color deck, Food Chain Tazri, our splashes into and from a core are a bit more significant: they give the deck great inevitability and grind potential and make the deck feel like a true 5 color deck. Competitive Najeela is defined by card quality, efficiency, and relevance.

The deck is capable of consistently threatening turn 4 wins. Additionally, it has multiple routes to win on turn 3 and can, in rare circumstances, win as early as turn 2. Najeela also thrives against stax and is happy to lean on powerful draw engines against interactive pods.

Given the interactive nature of the deck and its access to the game’s entire card pool, customization of the deck’s many flex slots to suit your meta is not just encouraged: it’s required. Thus, please find a number of additional meta-dependent card suggestions in the list’s Maybeboard.

Finally, I’d like to give one final shout-out and thanks to the entire Najeela Discord and users such as tw0handt0uch, Nakhla, jeacaveo as well as BestSmurgNA (among so many others) for their past and continued contributions to making this deck the best it can be. Without further ado, I present to you: Midrange Najeela.

Protect the Queen

One of Najeela’s greatest strengths as a midrange commander is her ability to take on a consistent, linear gameplan while also possessing the ability to seamlessly pivot to a more defensive role when the need arises. Although originally used in the context of 60 card formats, “Protect the Queen” is a turn of phrase used by famed Magic player Gerry Thompson that I feel succinctly describes this deck’s most common play pattern. In a nutshell: Disregard synergy in favor of raw power. Stick a high-quality threat (in our case, Najeela) on turn one or two and then interact with our opponents to disrupt their gameplans as well as to protect the Queen. Play the most powerful cards available to you and tune your deck to attack the expected meta-game.

In general, it is worth fighting over removal on Najeela as she needs to be in play for us to combo off. Additionally, being able to develop a board with her simplifies our winning lines tremendously while also providing an additional angle of attack through pressure on our opponents’ life totals. That said, she doesn’t always need to be able to attack for us to win; so long as we have an attacker able to connect with all our opponents and the ability to continuously generate WUBRG, we can win off a freshly cast Najeela. Additionally, it is very possible to sneak wins through finite activations of Najeela and the exponential growth of her warrior army.

Najeela’s combos are all fortunately quite straightforward, ultimately boiling down to being able to repeatedly generate during the combat step. That said, there are a few skills that are important to develop in order to pilot this deck to victory smoothly: knowing the minimum requirements for each win-con piece, being able to identify which win-con piece to prioritize given the infinite variability of possible board states and, finally, understanding the mechanics and steps of MTG's combat step to better abuse Najeela's ability.

We will start by examining the minimum requirements of each of the deck’s three combo pieces in the hopes that this also provides some insight into recognizing how to navigate potentially complex board states and knowing which win-con to prioritize in different situations. Bear in mind that these all obviously require Najeela in play and able to activate her ability. Also, you should pay special attention to how the math may change if opponents have creatures they are incentivized to block with. Finally, note that land enchantments such as Wild Growth and Utopia Sprawl can change the math a fair bit as well.

Basic

5 creatures able to declare an attack to generate WUBRG (note that warriors put into play attacking by Najeela’s ability don’t count right away due to the rules for attack triggers).

Advanced

X non-warrior creatures in play and able to declare an attack, Y warriors, and Z additional mana available to generate .

This is a somewhat complicated way of saying that so long as you are able to eventually hit the 5 declared attacks threshold over additional combat phases you can start with fewer than 5 attackers and pay the difference to activate Najeela’s activated ability with other mana sources. This works due to Najeela’s trigger creating new warriors and the fact that her activated ability gives attacking creatures haste whether the attacks were declared or not. Thus, you can theoretically start with the worst-case scenario of 1 attacking warrior and 4 extra mana for the first activation, 2 attacking warriors and 3 extra mana for the second activation, 4 attacking warriors and 1 extra mana for the third activation and go infinite from there (8 mana total). This calculation changes if some number of attackers are not warriors. The worst-case progression for 1 warrior, 1 non-warrior goes as follows: 2 attacking creatures and 3 extra mana (X+Y+Z=1+1+3), 3 attacking creatures and 2 extra mana (X+Y+Z=1+2+2) and infinite from here (X+Y=1+4). Thus, 5 additional mana is needed in this scenario.

Now while this does sound fairly difficult to achieve, it is important to keep in mind that we generally have a reasonably established board state just by virtue of Najeela’s trigger and all our mana dorks. That said, many of us are of the opinion that Druids' Repository is the weakest of our win-cons in a vacuum and not usually the one to prioritize.

Basic

1 creature able to deal combat damage to an opponent and 5 lands able to generate .

Advanced

2 creatures able to deal combat damage to 2 different opponents and 3 lands able to generate (one rainbow land and 2 duals with max 1 overlapping land type needed)

3 creatures able to deal combat damage to 3 different opponents and 2 lands able to generate (one rainbow land and any dual needed)

The reason these more advanced lines work is due to how Nature's Will is worded: it creates a separate trigger for each opponent dealt damage rather than for each creature that deals damage. All you need to do is float mana in between each trigger resolving in order to pay the full cost of activating Najeela's ability. Additionally, Nature's Will has some small additional utility in tapping opponents’ lands to protect you over successive combat phases. Thus, Nature's Will is the deck’s main avenue to getting the miracle turn 2 win; as always, usually thanks to the format’s busted fast mana.

Basic

5 attackers able to deal combat damage to any player(s).

Advanced

Unlike with Druids' Repository, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician can take advantage of Najeela’s newly-created warriors. Additionally, she can take advantage of permanents able to generate multiple mana (especially Bloom Tender) and, like with Druids' Repository, she can leverage extra untapped mana sources to help reach the 5 combat damage triggers through multiplying warriors over multiple combat steps. Thus, it is frequently possible to win starting with the worst-case scenario of 1 warrior able to deal combat damage. The first attack will generate 2 untap triggers and require 3 extra mana to activate Najeela. The subsequent attack will generate 4 triggers and only require 1 extra mana (for a total of 4 mana). Further attacks will suffice to go infinite and even generate additional tap/untap triggers. This math naturally changes if you happen to control any permanents able to generate multiple mana of different colors.

Given Derevi, Empyrial Tactician’s ETB trigger means that she often ends up only costing 2 mana, that she can be used to tap down opposing blockers, that she’s a creature herself, that she can even be used proactively to break parity on many stax pieces and the fact that she can untap any available mana source, it is my and many others’ opinion that she is Najeela’s strongest win-con piece. Nature's Will may be just as good or better in some situations (i.e. very early wins). One last thing to keep in mind is that while all of Derevi's combat damage triggers go on the stack simultaneously (and thus, you need to pick targets for them right away), they don't all resolve simultaneously. Thus, you can stack as many triggers on a single permanent as you like (say, a Command Tower) and activate abilities of that permanent in between triggers in order to float enough mana to activate Najeela.

For the Combo

So it turns out that Magic's combat system is a little bit more complicated than many people are aware. The Combat Phase is actually broken down, itself, into 5 steps and Najeela can technically be activated during any of these. Complicating matters further is the fact that mana pools empty between phases and steps. In general, you'll usually want to activate Najeela after declaring attackers and letting her trigger resolve. This will allow you to untap and grant haste to all the new warriors Najeela produces--thus permitting them to attack again in the subsequent combat phase. You can do this at the end of the declare attackers step, after resolving Najeela's trigger, during the declare blockers phase (after your opponents declare any blocks they may want to make), during the combat damage step or even in the end of combat step. It can be tricky to know when to activate Najeela since circumstances can warrant using one phase or another but, in general, you should know these points:

--Derevi, Empyrial Tactician will require you to activate Najeela during the combat damage step if you happen to be stacking multiple triggers on a single permanent in order to float . If you are simply untapping enough permanents to generate that mana, you can disregard this and activate Najeela in the end of combat step. This can be especially relevant if you are using extra triggers to tap down opponents' permanents such that they won't have access to any mana they float in response to your tap triggers.

--Nature's Will has the upside of tapping opponents' lands as part of its trigger. As such, if you aren't abusing the multiple opponents/multiple triggers ability of the card in order to float enough mana to activate Najeela, you'll usually want to wait until the end of combat step so that your opponents' mana pools empty before you activate her.

--Druids' Repository triggers during the declare attackers step and for each creature you declare as an attacker. Thus, in theory, you could use the mana it generates to do some cute stuff like activate Najeela to give your attackers trample and lifelink before (or immediately following) blocks are declared. This will gain you a bit of extra life and can possibly help you push through some extra damage thanks to trample. Alternatively, you can always wait on activating Najeela until the very last second to try and hide your true intentions.

Maximizing lifelink

In some grindier games, you may find yourself in a position where you need to activate Najeela's ability a finite number of times to gain some life (yes, the ability gives trample, haste and lifelink to attacking creatures until the end of the turn). This can happen when everybody is low on resources after multiple failed attempts at winning and the game devolves to creature combat. Fortunately, we are very favoured in this position. That doesn't mean we shouldn't/will never need to play as optimally as possible to put ourselves well ahead in the race.

In this situation, you always want to activate Najeela in the declare blockers step after blocks are declared to have the most amount of information possible. This is, unfortunately, your last chance to do so unless you are prepared to pass up the life gain during that particular combat. If you pass priority during this step and none of your opponents play any spells (thus creating a new round of priority), then the game will immediately proceed to the combat damage step where no player normally gets priority until after damage is dealt. Unfortunately, damage doesn't use the stack anymore so we have limited options when it comes to playing around removal before committing mana to Najeela's activated ability.

Najeela is well-equipped to fight through all of the format’s commonly played stax pieces. Fortunately, Humility is not commonly played! All of the deck’s win-cons can operate through Rule of Law, graveyard hate, Null Rod and sphere effects. We are only seriously affected by Cursed Totem, Linvala, Keeper of Silence and Blood Moon. Thankfully, we run plenty of answers to all of these effects. We can also just beat the offending player into dust through them a lot of the time.

Indeed, six combat steps is usually more than enough to beat down three opponents, based on the following damage progression and the (imperfect) assumption that dealing 120 damage is enough to win:

-- Combat 1 (Najeela attacks alone): 4 damage (3+1 from new token)

-- Combat 2 (Najeela+1 warrior): 10 damage (3+3 from tokens)

-- Combat 3 (Najeela+3 warriors): 21 damage (3+8 from tokens)

-- Combat 4 (Najeela+8 warriors): 40 damage (3+16 from tokens)

-- Combat 5 (Najeela+16 warriors): 75 damage (3+32 from tokens)

-- Combat 6 (Najeela+32 warriors): 140 damage (3+64 from tokens)

Najeela’s access to all five colors and her resistance to stax means that she is highly adaptable to any meta. In general, this fact has resulted in alternate, hatebear-style builds similar to Blood Pod leaning on permanent-based stax for interaction. This has the obvious advantage of increasing the deck’s creature density to help with the deck’s attack-oriented lines to victory but does increase the deck’s vulnerability to board wipes. As it stands, I've chosen to stick to a high density of stack-based interaction due to its inherent versatility as an answer as well as combo protection. Still, many hatebears can be slotted into this more permission-based shell if your meta calls for it. Cards like Containment Priest, Linvala, Keeper of Silence or Hushwing Gryff can be potent answers to many opposing strategies.

In more control-oriented metas, cards like Autumn's Veil, Red Elemental Blast or even Vexing Shusher can be powerful answers to opposing permission. Secure the Wastes can be a powerful tool to immediately provide you with the necessary board presence to combo off before you even start your turn.

Additional graveyard hate such as Grafdigger's Cage (also great against Yisan) or even Leyline of the Void is easily slotted in and can be a good idea in a meta overrun with Hulk, reanimator or Kess decks. Null Rod and Stony Silence are potent answers to storm and Paradox-Scepter Thrasios decks. We are even able to run Rule of Law or tax effects of our own if the meta calls for it (though at this point I would suggest trimming on stack-based interaction).

Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Skullclamp, Meltdown, Rhystic Study all have a super high ceiling for value with an appreciably high floor as well. They might not always be the perfect fit for any meta, however. Edric, Spymaster of Trest in particular can be risky in metas overrun with other creature-based decks (although in my experience he's less risky than say, playing a Timetwister at some point in the midgame). Skullclamp is best reserved for grindy matchups where it allows you to offset the risk of getting blown out by boardwipes by allowing you to trade Najeela's tokens for concrete (and often substantial) card advantage. Similarly, Rhystic Study is a nice engine card and especially powerful if you face mana denial like Thorn of Amethyst. Finally, Meltdown is less of a lock than Null Rod is--but it has additional value as removal for annoying static hate pieces such as Cursed Totem if you happen to see it a lot.

i.e. Tainted Pact, Demonic Consultation and Plunge into Darkness.

Yes, I know these tutors look scary. Demonic Consultation, in particular, runs the risk of backfiring and exiling our entire library. Like with Food Chain Tazri, it is often worth taking these risks simply due to the incredible power-level of these tutors (and the boon that is having a super-high tutor density in a deck). It is important to note that most of our deck is simply redundant good stuff and, by having redundant 1-card win-cons, we can afford to lose some permanently in the name of running some of the game’s strongest tutor effects. If all else fails, put your faith in the queen, I guess? :shrug:

Tainted Pact is often an instant speed Demonic Tutor (strictly better Demonic Tutor?!) and Demonic Consultation can often be even better than that by imitating an instant speed Demonic Tutor for just the low cost of a (wew). All for the small risk of losing on the spot (typically) less than 1/10th of the times you end up using it. Plunge into Darkness is a modal Impulse that can either cantrip for a small life payment early on or dig super deep when the time is right. Put aside your fears; there is great power to be had dabbling with the dark side and in dealing with demons.

-- Sword of Feast and Famine: It's inarguably a strong card, especially 1v1. The fact that it has a somewhat high mana cost (3 to play, then 2 to equip), always requires from 5 lands (making it pretty slow), plays poorly with Null Rod effects, and has reasonably high blowout potential (somebody destroys it or the creature it’s equipped to as you move to combat) makes it weaker than the options we currently run. Ultimately, it’s almost always easier to depend on having 3 or so attackers along with a tiny amount of leftover mana than it is to expect to have 5 lands in a cutthroat format like cEDH.

-- Bear Umbra: It's nice in that it doesn’t require you to actually connect with the creature it’s attached to but, at 4 mana and with insane blowout potential (i.e. somebody removes the creature being targeted by it in response to its cast), I feel extremely uncomfortable running this card in competitive pods.

-- Cryptolith Rite: This seems alright on the surface given its usefulness early on and efficiency. When you actually crunch the numbers to see what the minimum requirement to go off with it is, however, it turns out that you’ll typically need something on the order of 10 warriors minimum before this card gets you there. Expecting to have a board of 2-3 creatures is not unreasonable; expecting to have 10 warriors on the board is a little too optimistic for my liking and, as such, I’m not feeling it. It’s not a terrible card though, so more power to you if you want to try running it.

-- Laboratory Maniac: With the presence of Tainted Pact and Demonic Consultation in the list, this guy looks appealing. For very little mana and deck slots, it’s possible to win with next to no board state, through just about every stax piece and without needing Najeela. In fact, this is the go-to win-con for an increasing number of competitive decks.

So, given all that, I tried it out. The biggest issue with it in this deck is our relatively low density of cantrips makes it much harder to pull off in practice than one would expect. We are basically on the “pass turn with Laboratory Maniac out and use Consult/Pact in upkeep” plan…which is highly telegraphed and not usually where you want to be with such an all-in win-con.

All that said, I think this is currently the backup win-con with the most potential to make its way back into the deck—perhaps with the addition of a few extra cantrips such as Gitaxian Probe and Opt.

-- Ad Nauseam: Another card that was put through its paces and tested for a good amount of time. While this deck is, in theory, an excellent Naus deck (look at dat average cmc tho), in practice it turns out that we can't really win by just casting it and drawing 20. As we are required to have a somewhat established board to win, Naus ends up being a very powerful--but also very expensive--draw engine. This alone is probably an okay reason to run it but what makes matters worse for the card is that we aren't on the same density of fast mana as more dedicated Naus decks (e.g. Dark Ritual, Mana Vault, Grim Monolith, etc.) such that it is both harder to actually hit 5 mana to cast Naus and it's also less profitable to do so.

The power of the card is undeniable, however. Don't be surprised to see it potentially come in and out of this deck as I continually test and retest different tweaks.

Coming soon!

17/10/2018: -Into the Roil, +Mana Leak. The addition of Assassin's Trophy as another super-versatile removal spell has led me to reconsider the deck's removal/counterspell ratio. Mana Leak is the next best piece of permission in cEDH and arguably underplayed.

10/05/2018: -Abrade, +Assassin's Trophy. Guilds of Ravnica is finally upon us! Assassin's Trophy is an incredibly versatile removal spell that will definitely see a ton of play in cEDH. Blowing up a The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale should be satisfying.

9/02/2018: -Skullclamp, +Zealous Persecution. Clamp has proven to be either busted or utterly useless. Very "feast or famine" and I don't particularly like such situationally good cards. Zealous Persecution is also situational but the floor seems higher given that everybody is playing green with mana dorks these days. While those blockers only occasionally prove problematic in my experience, wiping opponents' dork mana can be very strong.

Don't forget that the card actually represents a +2 power/toughness swing in our favor which means that a warrior token can gobble up an attacking Tymna the Weaver without trading. The card can have a very high "gotcha" factor if you make otherwise poor attacks into opponents with blockers up.

8/31/2018: -Meltdown, +Natural State. Meltdown hasn't impressed me that much and I'd prefer to have another instant speed response to artifact combo pieces/stax. Natural State is also much stronger in the face of Blood Moon--which I've been seeing a lot more of locally as people wise up to its effectiveness against "the 5c deck."

8/22/2018: -Steam Vents, +Hallowed Fountain. White is a more significant splash than red, even if we technically need red mana early to cast Najeela. A very small change but worth testing.

8/20/2018: Testing Meltdown, Skullclamp

If you appreciate this primer, smash that upvote button. It's greatly appreciated! :)

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Date added 3 months
Last updated 4 minutes
Legality

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 1.54
Tokens 1/1 Warrior, 1/1 Bird
Folders Uncategorized, Primers, 5 color, Combo Deck Ideas, cEDH Ideas, Cool decks, Commander, Competitive edh, Deck Ideas, Interesting Decks to Study Better Later, See all 21
Top rank #1 on 2018-08-26
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Revision 10 See all

4 days ago)

-1 Into the Roil main
+1 Mana Leak main
+1 Into the Roil maybe
+1 Wear maybe