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The Opposite of 75%


If you had asked me a few years ago what the opposite of 75% was, I probably would have used the tenets I use to guide my building to try and reverse engineer an answer. If the goal is to use spells that scale to the power level of their deck, the opposite is to use the most powerful spells possible, maybe? If I think it's incorrect to build 75% by starting with a stronger deck and weakening it, perhaps you get the opposite of 75% by adding bad cards to a cEDH deck? Should I skew away from power by skewing toward consistency? All of my guidelines have concepts that are the opposite of them, but you can't unify the opposite of 75% principles the way you can unify 75% principles. Doing the opposite of all of them won't give you the opposite of a 75% deck, it will give you a mess that's impossible to reconcile, and ignoring all of them means just... sort of building a stock list, I guess? Is building a deck without any goal in mind really the opposite of 75%? I would have been stumped.

In 1964, US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was ruling on a case involving a film the state of Ohio had deemed obscene and was trying to ban and a phrase he used in his concurrence with the majority opinion has been imitated countless times since then.

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

I don't know how to define what the opposite of 75% is, but I always assumed I would know it when I saw it. Today, I saw it.

Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant

My reaction to seeing this somewhat unassuming card was a visceral one. This card is anathema to what I'm trying to do with 75% and I knew it when I saw it. It took me some time to gather my thoughts about this card because I'm sure "THIS is the problem" is a fairly controversial stance in a format with Oloro, Urza, Meren, Najeela and Narset but I hope you'll all bear with me.

What could such an expensive, cute, durdly and otherwise unassuming card have done to rankle me so? Is this card a problem in Commander? Is the 75% ethos not robust enough to incorporate a card like this? No, I don't think this card is a problem mechanically but rather philosophically. Let's break down what the card actually does.

Nevinyrral costs six mana, which is sort of a lot and makes it fairly tough to cast him from the Command Zone more than two or three times.

Nevinyrral cannot be Enchanted, which removes a lot of ways decks have to deal with problem commanders with nasty abilities. Darksteel Mutation, Sign of the Dryads, Lignify, Imprison in the Moon and other ways to remove his triggered abilities are ruled out.

Nevinyrral can generate quite a few zombies, which is fine, I am glad he does something cool, even though his design encourages players to play a lot of board wipes.

Finally, Nevinyrral's Disks. When he dies, he wipes out all artifacts, creatures and enchantments the same way his eponymous Disk does. This part is the problem, to me.

The last few weeks I have been writing about cards that Commander players say they hate the most. My findings were that it seems like players hate cards that prolong the game most of all. Cards like Shaharazad and Sway of the Stars that reset the game are outright banned, Worldfire is banned, Upheaval is banned, Balance is banned. The #1 most-hated card is Stasis, Winter Orb has been Top 3 both times we did the survey, and the Top 25 is heavily populated with Mass Land Destruction (MLD) spells. Sunder, Boil, Land Equilibrium, Mana Vortex - even fairly obscure cards make the list. No one wants their mana messed with.

Isn't my dislike of Nev a little counterintuitive? Isn't a Nev's Disk, a card that's not on the Top 100 saltiest cards anywhere, the opposite of all of those spells? People don't like their mana messed with and Nev's Disk and Nev himself leave lands unscathed. Isn't this card the opposite of a problem?

It's more complicated than that. In the same way that you can't build the opposite of a 75% deck by just not doing the pro-social things I do to build 75%, you can't stop the anger people feel at having their lands blown up by blowing up everything but their lands. Repeatably. Irrespective of which cards you draw in the game.

Nevinyrral starts the game in the Command Zone, meaning you have access to Nevinyrral at all times. No matter how many or how few Wrath effects you draw, you have access to at least one. You don't have to draw well, pack the deck full to ensure you draw at least one, tutor or get lucky - you'll always have a card that destroys a lot of permanents. I feel like cards that you always have access to are always much more of a problem than cards you don't always have access to with the exact same effect. Having access to the card at all times removes some of the luck that balances the game out.

It's not that it wasn't fairly simple to use Nev's Disk recursively - it was almost trivial. Decks from Daretti, to Glissa to Muldrotha all used Disk before to keep resetting the board if they needed to, ensuring they played around it better than opponents. However, it always required two cards to do that. There was always a component to those interactions that required you to draw something you didn't begin the game with to pair with something you did. Nevinyrral is a one card combo that recurs himself by virtue of the way the rules of Commander work, so he's a card with both of the abilities of the two cards in the Muldrotha/Disk combo (synergy?). Again, removing luck and replacing it with inevitability can make the game fairly miserable.

Nevinyrral encourages the player using it to wipe the board. The more creatures die, the more zombies Nevinyrral creates with the only one of his abilities that actually contribute to winning the game. Knowing when you wipe the board so that you can reset faster than your opponents is a skill players have to learn, but Nevinyrral takes a lot of the guesswork out of it by giving you more creatures to try and win with the more you wipe. Every time you get anything with his wipe, you'll have at least something on board, so you don't have to play your wipes with as much nuance as normal. However, despite giving you a scaling amount of value based on how much tumult you cause to the board, 2/2 Zombies are fairly paltry and won't usually be enough to win you the game while everyone else rebuilds without some major help. Cyclonic Rift leaves you with your entire board intact and players still routinely fail to close out the game after a Rift sets everyone but them back to the stone age. Since one Disk effect usually won't be enough to end the game, the Nevinyrral player will have to wipe the board often to make sure they can beat everyone. The first wipe isn't that irritating, but every subsequent wipe makes the game longer and more miserable.

I don't think Nevinyrral's Disk is that anti-social a card. I don't think it violates any 75% principles. I don't think Disk is a problem. However, always having access to a Disk effect, repeatably and rewarding the player for constantly resetting the board will drag games out, fail to put the Disk player far enough ahead to benefit from the upheaval to the board and will in general make the game more miserable. I have played in enough games with tons of board wipes to know how long and drawn-out the games can get and that's why I think this card seems like a mistake to me from a 75% standpoint.

Luckily, I like almost every other card in the set and I can't wait to brew with something fun and show you another 75% deck next week. Until then, stay healthy, stay safe and stay 75%. Until next time!

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