Hello Folks! I hope that you are doing quite ably today and keeping yourself safe in our modern COVID-19 world!!!
Today I want to turn to another legendary dork from Commander Legends to build around. This is my 6th such article (in a row) I've done for you on my Tuesdays.
Want to check out my previous ones? Okay!
- A few weeks ago, I built a fun Jund midrange deck around Yurlok of Scorch Thrash that plays a little pillow forty, a little nice to everyone, with some fun dragon win cons. Check it out here.
- Then I built an enchantment-based Mardu deck around Ghen, Arcanum Weaver that combines the enchantment loving of white with the graveyard filling of black. You can find it here.
- The following week I built a deck around Blim, Comedic Genius that gave away things like Rogue Skycaptain, Rainbow Vale, Sleeper Agent, and other Rakdos cards to help give away so you can ratchet up that life loss and card discard. You can grab it here.
- The next week built a deck around Amareth, the Lustrous. This awesome dragon wants you to build around one permanent type. Which did I choose? Probably the hardest - planeswalkers! Want to check out this Bant Buddies Build? It's here.
- Then I turned to Tuya Bearclaw and I built a nasty power matters decks in Gruul around Phyrexian Dreadnought and Illusionary Mask. It's pretty powerful. Wanna check it out? You can find it here!
What did I want to build around today? This classic Lich!
It's Larry Niven...er...Nevinyrral! This name is back when WOTC had a policy of including names that were taken from real people (Jayemdae Tome), anagrams of silly words (Telim'Tor, aka Mr. Toilet) and more. This was a reference to Hugo winning science fiction writer Larry Niven who wrote books like Ringworld, and co-wrote classics like Lucifer's Hammer and The Mote in God's Eye with Jerry Pournelle.
By the by, I have reviewed some of Niven's works for my YouTube channel in case you want to take a looksee. See below. My favorite Larry Niven work I've read is Lucifer's Hammer, which at one point in time was my favorite novel. (No longer though).
How do I see unleashing Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant at the kitchen table? He has three abilities. The first is relatively minor. A creature with an enters-the-battlefield trigger like Ravenous Chupacabra won't kill the Lich on arrival, but that's pretty minor. If it had protection from those three types it would have mattered more, but that might have been overpowering as pro-creatures is really powerful for combat purposes.
The key ability here is to make a tapped 2/2 dork on arrival for each creature that died this turn, so your six-mana investment can make a lot more than his 3/6 size. And then when your Lich dies, you can spend a mana to sacrifice for a Nevinyrral's Disk's effect, and if you recast him the same turn... that's a lots of Zombies!
Now I can quickly think of three ways to build around our Urborg Tyrant:
- Control - The first is control. Don't run that many creatures, and lean on him for sacrificing for Disk'ing, his tokens add to your body of dorks. You can lean into counters, removal, and exiling, as well as stealing and massively impacting the board.
- Esper Zombies - A very different way to go is Esper Zombies. Both Nevinyrral and his tokens are Zombies. On Amonkhet, Zombies were Black and White. On Innistrad, Zombies were Blue and Black. With Esper you can unlock all of the Zombies, everywhere!
- Esper Friends - The only nonland permanent type that Nevinyrral doesn't clear is planeswalkers. You could build a nasty planeswalker deck!
Which one am I doing? Let's go Zombies! And... let's go Control as well! Both #1 and #2. Maybe with a nod to #3.
I have a combo in mind that should push those Zombies into next week breaking the synergy of Nevinyrral... ready?
Let's begin with Nevinyrral's key ability in this build:
Being killed! Now he cannot be bounced or exiled or tucked and placed in our Command Zone, he needs to be destroyed and die. We want that to happen. A lot. Like a lot a lot. In order to make that happen, we'll run things like Phyrexian Tower that can allow you to sacrifice the Urborg Tyrant himself. Then you invest one generic mana and you get a sweeping of three key permanents, including your own.
We'll need to kill Nevinyrral a lot! That way we can bring him back and net that trigger for many Zombies if something died, and I have a cool combo for that below...
I also said this going to be a tribal deck... so how do we keep our dorks from death at the hands of an Angry Nevinyrral? I am willing to trade the inability to sweep my dorks and make a smaller number of tokens on arrival in order to have a better position with creatures.
With Eldrazi Monument! We'll use a card like this to give the entire creature team indestructible, and then when Nevinyrral bites it, we won't have to worry about our own destruction. Our stuff is better than a bunch of 2/2s anyway. Also, as a bonus, you can sacrifice Nevinyrral in your upkeep to sacrifice to keep up the Monument and then recast him with the Commander Tax if that works, although I have other ideas about that.
The first idea is that I am running cards like Ancient Tomb, Cabal Coffers, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Temple of the False God, among others, to help with the mana. (I also tossed in Black Market for all of the mana making it'll provide over time...) Don't forget that I am running tutors those lands like Expedition Map and Demonic Tutor. We'll look at my other ways to get around the tax later in the article.
Now, how can I keep a key artifact or enchantment alive through our leader's removal?
Great question! You can drop Aegis Angel and then give a key non-creature permanent indestructible, like the aforementioned Black Market or something like Eldrazi Monument. Note that the Angel won't have indestructible herself, but she'll get it along with others with the Monument and similar effects elsewhere. You can also tap That Which Was Taken and place a divinity counter on any permanent to distribute that indestructible-ness to key cards you seek to protect.
Another key route to protect everything is Avacyn, Angel of Hope. She's a bit on the pricey side of mana, but she'll come down and protect anything that Nevinyrral might otherwise seek to sweep upon death. From mana rocks to combo cards to all of the creatures, she'll be your bear. She'll even protect herself, your planeswalkers, and your lands from removal via destruction. Soul of New Phyrexia can be activated to give everything you own an Avacyn ability for a turn. It's cheaper and easier to drop, but the activation is expensive. If it's in your graveyard, you may exile it for a one time use of protection, but beware and only use that when the game in on the line as we have some ways to bring back dead things we'll review later.
Don't have those out? That's fine! We can just get more Zombies tokens! Or you can just remember, just choose not to spend the mana when Nevinyrral dies and your combos won't die with him! (I also have some spells that will play into the same space like Rootborn Defenses that can also make you another Zombie token with its populate).
Run Athreos, Shroud-Veiled in your build and drop the god. Put a coin counter on your Commander. Then sacrifice him on your next turn, or on a foe's and clear the board of the three key permanents (other than yours). Now Nevinyrral returns to the battlefield for no mana cost that turn, and his ability will trigger with the tons of tokens. You can keep this wagon train going! Nasty stuff, right? Right! (It's also indestructible which will keep it around even when those giving cards aren't).
All right now let's move into some Zombies!
Know what our Lich Wizard needs? A Queen! I got you covered! Welcome Varina, Lich Queen to the build. She is a Night Soil for Zombies tokens but will only work on your graveyard, so burn lands and spells and non-creature permanents you won't be able to bring back. Use this self-exiling sparingly with dorks as you'll have ways to bring back those. When Varina is on the battlefield, swings by Zombies turn into Looting effects that draw and discard for key card flowing as well as graveyard filling. It's a great way to dump lands and get value for them once you are set with the mana.
Take a look at this duet! Aren't they cute? When I thought of "Esper Zombies" this duo came to my mind as key ways to build around that. Diregraf Captain is awesome with the creature pumping of your Zombies, and it's deathtouch will let it trade up. Did someone kill one of your precious Zombies? Did Nevinyrral die? Sad! Make someone lose a life in penance! Meanwhile Wayward Servant will drain a life from each foe as other Zombies arrive to the party. It's cheap enough to get dropped early, and it works for tokens as well, so when your Commander arrives and brings that Zombie token to the battlefield, you'll hit your foes for 2 life each and gain that. In this sort of a deck? I expect it to stack very quickly!
Remember what I spoke about above with option #3? What is the one key permanent type other than lands that the effect on Nevinyrral misses? Planeswalkers!
I added in some 'walkers to help your team, 2/3rds of which are Liliana's. Her Death's Majesty version will make a Zombie, mill some stuff into your graveyard, and reanimate dead dorks as Zombies, which is very good as we have some non-Zombies in the build like Aegis Angel and Solemn Simulacrum. Her Dreadhorde General will net cards as your dorks die, and make a 2/2, work as a Barter in Blood, and rocking a nasty ultimate should you need.
The best Liliana for this deck? Liliana, Untouched by Death. On arrival you can -3 her and then cast all of those Zombies from your graveyard. That's nasty good! You can also self-mill and drain life if you hit a Zombie, or use her for creature control, as needed. You may even want to let Nevinyrral die, and then recast him from the graveyard without any Commander tax.
I do have two non-Liliana's in here. Elspeth, Knight-Errant is here for her ultimate, which can get you a nasty emblem for this build. Jumping up a Zombie while pumping it can be great, and you can make non-Zombie dorks, should you desire to do so. I know that may be weird, but's she's here for the emblem. Sorin, Grim Nemesis is here for his +1 to draw cards and the ability to force your foes to lose life, thus serving as a useful clock. He can also kill a dork or planeswalker if needed. Enjoy!
Actually, I feel like my deck is being more into the controlling arena and less Zombies with Avacyn, Angel of Hope and other accoutrements, so let's push into Zombies hard here at the end.
Both of these gods are Zombies. And both are nasty good in this build. My favorite is God-Eternal Oketra as she'll bring a 4/4 Zombie to the battlefield as you cast dorks, and we have 35 dorks in the deck with a good chance of that firing. It's a cast trigger so even if your spell was countered, you'll still net the 4/4 Zombie Warrior with vigilance. Nice! I love God-Eternal Bontu as well. It's sizable. When it arrives, you can churn your extra permanents into sweet cards. Zombie Tokens? Nevinyrral? Extra mana rocks you no longer need? A Solemn Simulacrum looking for a sacrifice for a card? Nasty card flow will ensue. I love this when you have a Zombie Apocalypse in your hand, sacrifice all Zombies and then bring them back! Both of these Gods can linger after dying, or exiling, by being tucked, and will have added value with the stickiness of this build.
Much like God-Eternal Bontu, on arrival you can sacrifice a dork and add your sacrifice options. You can also tutor when you do and grab the best combo card or creature for your situation. The deathtouch isn't bad either as you can trade up or keep grounded stuff from swinging your way.
I needed some more sacrifice outlets for my Commander, and Corpse Harvester came to mind. It'll tap and sac your leader (or another dork) for a Zombie and a Swamp from your library. Get a dual land Swamp like Watery Grave, and the best Zombie for your given situation. Enjoy!
I also added in Ghoulcaller Gisa to be a backup sacrifice engine for Nevinyrral, who will make you three 2/2 Zombies when you sacrifice it, which is pretty nice. Enjoy the sacrificing fun times! That reminded me of Gisa and Geralf which are great here! You can cast a Zombie from your graveyard each of your turns, and that's pretty cool. They are a great way to get more uses from Nevinyrral, as your Commander tax may be too much, but it'll always have a converted casting cost of six from your graveyard with Gisa and Geralf! You can also bring back a ton of great stuff or something you just sacrificed. Did you sacrifice a Zombie to Ghoulcaller Gisa or Corpse Harvester? No problem! Recast it! They are great value over time, and they self-mill on arrival to help fuel various effects in the deck.
Just like Gisa and Geralf, Havengul Lich will let you cast some dorks from your graveyard. Unlike them, it takes a full mana to activate it, but unlike them you can use it multiple times a turn. You can also recur non-Zombies like Burnished Hart. You can also use activated abilities. Bring back Ghoulcaller Gisa, and then tap the Lich and sacrifice a dork for Zombie tokens. Again, you can also bring back a dead Commander for his trigger.
Ready for that nasty combo I mentioned above?
Another way I have layered in Zombie ways of resiliency is Dark Mike. He is a strong force of Zombie loving nature. Did Humans deal damage to you? How dare they! In payment, they will die! And your non-Humans also will get +1/+1 which is pretty much everything not named Gisa. Also, when they die, they will come back with a +1/+1 counter on them, which is awesome. Control Dark Mike, and then drop God-Eternal Bontu to sacrifice all of your non-tokens and draw a ton of cards, bringing your creatures back better than ever with +1/+1 counters!
Mikaeus also combos with Nevinyrral and you don't have to spend any mana to bring him back the turn he dies! It'll bring back a dying Nevinyrral once after you sacrificed it and triggers its removal. This thing is just nasty here!
I heard that you liked Zombie Tokens? Boy do I have the duo for you! Win the game with these nasty powerful sets of Zombies. You can get mana with Cabal Coffers, and with Black Market, for reliable token making that will win you the game in a few swings.
Wanna see my deck proper? Sure thing!
Here you are!
Controlling Zombies | Commander | Abe Sargent
- Commander (1)
- 1 Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant
- Creatures (34)
- 1 Aegis Angel
- 1 Athreos, Shroud-Veiled
- 1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Cemetery Reaper
- 1 Corpse Knight
- 1 Death Baron
- 1 Diregraf Captain
- 1 Fleshbag Marauder
- 1 Ghoulcaller Gisa
- 1 Gisa and Geralf
- 1 God-Eternal Bontu
- 1 God-Eternal Oketra
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Graveborn Muse
- 1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
- 1 Havengul Lich
- 1 Josu Vess, Lich Knight
- 1 Lich Lord of Unx
- 1 Lord of the Undead
- 1 Magus of the Disk
- 1 Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
- 1 Murderous Rider
- 1 Relentless Dead
- 1 Rot Hulk
- 1 Sidisi, Undead Vizier
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Soul of New Phyrexia
- 1 The Scarab God
- 1 Tomebound Lich
- 1 Undead Warchief
- 1 Varina, Lich Queen
- 1 Vengeful Dead
- 1 Wayward Servant
- Planeswalkers (6)
- 1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
- 1 Liliana Vess
- 1 Liliana, Death's Majesty
- 1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General
- 1 Liliana, Untouched by Death
- 1 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
- Instants (5)
- 1 Anguished Unmaking
- 1 Generous Gift
- 1 Lazotep Plating
- 1 Rootborn Defenses
- 1 Unbreakable Formation
- Enchantments (15)
- 1 Black Market
- 1 Call to the Grave
- 1 Endless Ranks of the Dead
- 1 Etchings of the Chosen
- 1 Liliana's Mastery
- 1 Necromancer's Covenant
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Commander's Sphere
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Darksteel Plate
- 1 Eldrazi Monument
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Nevinyrral's Disk
- 1 Skyclave Relic
- 1 That Which Was Taken
- Lands (34)
- 2 Island
- 2 Plains
- 4 Swamp
- 1 Ancient Tomb
- 1 Arcane Sanctum
- 1 Azorius Chancery
- 1 Cabal Coffers
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Dimir Aqueduct
- 1 Dromar's Cavern
- 1 Evolving Wilds
- 1 Godless Shrine
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Kor Haven
- 1 Mana Confluence
- 1 Orzhov Basilica
- 1 Path of Ancestry
- 1 Phyrexian Tower
- 1 Reflecting Pool
- 1 Temple of Deceit
- 1 Temple of Enlightenment
- 1 Temple of Silence
- 1 Temple of the False God
- 1 Terramorphic Expanse
- 1 Unholy Grotto
- 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
- 1 Volrath's Stronghold
- 1 Watery Grave
And there you are! Anything in here that I missed or that inspired your own builds? What did you think of my deck!
Thanks for reading and stay... safely safe! (redundancy inteneded)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Appendix A - Larry Niven Reviews on YouTube
Below are my six reviews on my YouTube channel on Larry Niven's stuff.
- Ringworld - Larry Niven's Ringworld - YouTube
- The Mote in God's Eye (With Jerry Pournelle) - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye - YouTube
- The Gripping Hand (With Jerry Pournelle) - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's The Gripping Hand - YouTube
- Lucifer's Hammer (With Jerry Pournelle) - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Lucifer's Hammer - YouTube
- Dream Park (With Steven Barnes) - Larry Niven and Steven Barnes' Dream Park - YouTube
- The Flying Sorcerers (With David Gerrold) - David Gerrold and Larry Niven's The Flying Sorcerers - YouTube