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Discipline for Thee, Not for Me



If you've noticed a bit of a lack of overlap in the coverage of commanders from Strixhaven and Commander 2021 here on Coolstuff, it's because we've become a bit more organized and have begun to divvy up the commanders amongst ourselves to ensure even coverage. The result is that a "draft" of sorts takes place and I have to say, this week I came across a pick late in the draft that I couldn't believe was still in the pack. Maybe it's because I have a bit of a unique way of building my decks or maybe it's because everyone else slept on this card the way I did or maybe it's just that I'm overrating the card. Whatever the case is, I am very happy to be writing this late in the cycle about a commander I'm not only not disappointed to be writing about but which I'm actively excited about. Let me introduce you to my new bff.

Nils, Discipline Enforcer

Nils is a bit of a bureaucrat and can slow the game down considerably, which isn't always exactly great, though, is it? I think one of the reasons I slept on Nils at first was that he seemed like almost a bad version of an enchantment I might put in a deck that wasn't limited to one color. Nils is much easier to remove than, say, Ghostly Prison, and Ghostly Prison doesn't require me to make my opponents' creatures better. So why am I excited about playing this card? Well, put simply, it occurred to me that I might want to make my opponents' creatures better.

There are two reasons you might want to make your opponents' creatures bigger and better and I think you can probably steer into both of them to have your pick of different ways to build Nils. Let's look into it. I tried to think of a way to make this paragraph longer but this is the best I could do. I realize it's jarring, sorry.

You can make those creatures bigger so they finish your opponents off for you. An underrated card that came out of the Jund precon that everyone built a boring Lord Windgrace (yes, even you, your Windgrace deck is boring until you prove otherwise) deck out of was a little spidey who wanted to see the whole world tear itself apart.

Thantis, the Warweaver

Thantis goads the table into beating down and punishes them pretty hard for attacking you. Thantis does not, per se, prevent them from attacking you and being in Jund colors puts you very squarely in the "not Propaganda and Sphere of Safety" part of the spectrum. You could play Koskun Falls, a card that is basically good for tapping King Macar and Archelos, or you could just accept the possibility that someone won't take kindly to you goading their utility dorks and will come at your face. Thantis games are never pretty but they're usually fast. While Nils doesn't per se compel your opponents to engage each other in fights to the death, Nils does make it inconvenient to attack you, and if you're buffing their aggressive creatures rather than forcing their utility creatures to attack, why even would they? They'll beat up on easier targets and make it easier for you to mop up when they're done fighting each other. Over the years, this game has given us myriad ways to help our opponents beat each other up better and while White has never been in that mix, really, it doesn't mean White wouldn't do a decent job at it. Quick, no googling, what's the White creature in the Hunted cycle from Ravnica. Dragon, Troll, Horror, Phantasm - everyone knows those. What's the White one called? Is there even one? There is, and if you aren't worried about the creature it makes hitting you (you aren't) it's... kind of really solid.

Hunted Lammasu

You know, Lammasu. The ancient Mesopatamian chimera with the body of a bull and face of a man. This is how deep into the past they had to dig to find a White creature that was huntable but also beefy enough to make it worth giving them a creature ("Hunted Unicorn" makes sense but it took them until like last year to make a Unicorn worth playing). If the 4/4 Horror isn't coming at us, we get a 5/5 flying beater and also a problem for someone else to worry about. I like that a lot. We could cause a lot of problems on purpose, couldn't we? The only thing more annoying for an opponent who is just trying to play a bunch of lands and amass utility dorks suddenly getting some static because they have a 4/4 is when you slap this on it.

Vow of Duty

Yes, White got an entry in this cycle (Black got 2) and it sees some play but not as much as some other colors because White has better ways for you to not get attacked. But if we are building big creatures for opponents to hit each other with, we can actually play our Standard pillow fort shenanigans and sort of stay out of it until they are too weak to stop us. Sure, we'll buff their creatures, but they'll lose a lot to attrition fighting each other and we should be able to polish off whoever survives if they can't afford to attack us.

So, what would a deck like this, built around being the neutral arbiter of everyone beating each other, look like?

Nils to pay the Bills | Commander | Jason Alt

The other reason we might want to buff their creatures is that we want to steal them. Traditionally, Mono-White isn't the go-to color for stealing their stuff, and admittedly, the pickings are a bit slim. They're very real slim. It's 4 cards, and they're all super hard to use.

Debt of Loyalty
Jabari's Influence

That said, building with Preacher in mind could be kind of fun.

Umbral Mantle
Ashnod's Altar

Throw in a Heartstone and you've got a stew, baby! This seems like a bit of a Rube Goldberg Wrath of God at first, but when you think about it, you stop when you get the creature you want, and they can just give you the creature you want first so you don't blow through their entire board, allowing them to decide how much you hurt them. The word for that in Commander is "politics" and I could get used to playing this way. Throwing a ton of +1/+1 counters on their creatures, knowing you plan to steal them later is some mad genius level of magicing and while you won't get this Preacher part often, it's not really the foundation of the deck, and if you're buffing all of their creatures, there isn't actually a bad target with Preacher, is there? It's just a free creature whenever you feel like it.

We have a few other ways to gain control of their creatures like Helm of Possession, but most pillow fort players already know that we're likely taking advantage of the many ways Mono-White decks give us 4/4 angel tokens and we're already figuring that's how we'll mostly win. Gaining control of their creatures is as much a way to disrupt their board development as anything else, and the act of buffing their creatures makes it harder to attack you, meaning you'll stay safe long enough to build your fort. Besides, this may be the first pillow fort deck in history that doesn't scoop to Merciless Eviction.

If we are adding counters to their stuff for the purposes of swiping it and bashing them with it, what does our deck end up looking like?

Nillennium | Commander | Jason Alt

So, there you have it - two different ways to lean into a commander who encourages you to make their creatures buff. I didn't even get into the possibilities associated with adding other counters - you could add Contagion Engine, Serrated Arrows and you could have a proliferation subtheme to be able to tag anything you didn't want hitting you. I thought that sort of business was too aggressive - we want them leaving you alone and buffing their creatures and being inconvenient to attack can only take you so far if you're not careful. There are a lot of ways to build Nils, it turns out, and I hope you like the two 75% builds we explored here.

That does it for me, everyone. Thanks for reading, and thanks for bearing with my weird combos this week. Until next time!

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