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75% – Infairently Unhair


Welcome back, readers! A lot of you have been sending me decklists, and I really appreciate it. I have had plenty of inspiration, and a deck sent to me inspired me to tackle a commander I considered impossible to build as a 75% deck.

Really quickly as an aside before I forget, I want to take a look at our poll from last week. I asked whether we thought Smokestack was okay as a card in a 75% deck. There was no clear winner, which surprised me. Even if you combine the thought, “This breaks our rule about preventing our opponents from doing things” (the option with the most votes, at 30%), and the thought, “It’s not in the spirit of 75%,” you barely get a majority. I think it all comes down to what you do with it. Some cards aren’t really inherently unfair.

It’s with that spirit that I went into this week. There are certain commanders that I thought would be impossible to build around as 75% decks. Certain commanders just lend themselves to unfair decks, and you can’t really build them 75% without breaking one of our rules—usually the one that says, “Don’t make a stronger deck weaker.” I took a second look at a commander I considered inherently unfair this week.

Redditor /u/KomodoDrake sent me a Nekusar, the Mindrazer list and wanted my take on it. He thinks it is a good mix of “strong” and “fair,” and at first, I thought it would be tough to make a 75% Nekusar deck. Nekusar punishes people for doing something they can’t not do. It’s miserable to be pantsed by a Teferi's Puzzle Box or Wheel of Fortune out of a Nekusar deck. Let’s take a look at KomodoDrake’s deck and see what we’re looking at—and then see if Nekusar really is too inherently unfair to be built around.

75% Nekusar, the Mindrazer ? Commander | KomodoDrake

  • Commander (0)

A couple things jumped out at me right away. First of all, we have Demonic Tutor, which I really don’t like in 75% decks. Remember that we prefer face-up tutors to face-down tutors in 75% decks and instant-speed ones to sorcery-speed ones. Demonic Tutor doesn’t really belong in a 75% deck, and it doesn’t even really appear to belong in this one either—due to its power level compared to the rest of the deck. If Demonic Tutor is the best card in this deck and Nekusar is the second-best, third-best is something like Sol Ring. This looks a lot like the precon.

Nekusar, the Mindrazer
Looking like the precon is not necessarily a bad thing. We have tuned up plenty of decks in this series, and a precon is a great place to start. I think this deck is on track to improve from the precon even more and come closer to being 75%.

And I think that’s the problem. I don’t really think we can tune this deck because I think once we start swapping out weaker cards such as Diviner Spirit and Nightmarish End and resolving our nonbos—like the dissonance between Propaganda and Silent Arbiter—we’ll end up with a deck that is quite possibly a little too oppressive. You’ll have a target painted on you against tuned decks, but you should be able to be unfair enough to beat them. You’ll smoke casuals if you build well enough to do that. At that point, you can’t make the deck more fun for casuals to play against without breaking our rule prohibiting weakening the deck to make it 75%.

Why is that rule in place? In part, it’s a deck-building challenge, but it’s also philosophical. Taking a tuned, unfair deck and pulling out good cards is not particularly creative. Worse, it leaves intact certain other unfair strategies. You’re the same unfair deck with a little less consistency. While powering up by sacrificing consistency has worked for us, powering down by doing so doesn’t solve our problems. We want to make our deck closer to a 75% ideal by making better card choices, not worse ones.

So, I think this Nekusar deck can be better, but I am not sure it can be 75%. We can pick better cards, but at a certain point, we’re going to be either too good or just a bad version of an unfair deck. I don’t want to do that.

I received some feedback online that Nekusar could be made 75% if you decided to build him as the leader of a Zombie deck. I became really excited. I started brewing, and I really liked what I had going for me. As a Zombie tribal deck, Nekusar was fun and potent, and the deck played a lot of my favorite Commander cards, such as Deathbringer Thoctar and Coat of Arms, and it even had fun cards such as Lightning Reaver. I made it three quarters of the way through the deck before I realized something.

Coat of Arms
You can’t make every unfair commander into a 75% deck by building it tribal. I realized this was becoming my go-to solution. I did that with Talrand, Sky Summoner, and I was happy with it. Fewer than two months later, I did it again with Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, but weeks had passed, so by the time I did it again, I felt that I was doing something new. If any of you noticed, no one said anything. Here I was again, about to jam another tribal deck. I can either make up a new principle for the series—

  • When it doubt, just build a tribal deck—copy sixty percent of the cards from the last tribal deck.

—or I could do something a little more creative. I like solving our 75% problem by building with restrictions. I like building with a theme in mind. I like Nekusar as a lord in a Zombie tribal deck, but you’re literally ninety-nine hundredths of a Thraximundar tribal deck with a commander that is arguably less effective and will still make people groan. It didn’t take long for me to figure out which way I wanted to go with it.

We’re going to build Nekusar Voltron.

75% Nekusar Voltron ? Commander | Jason Alt

  • Commander (0)

I really like what’s going on here. Nekusar is nothing special in combat, but if you put a few decent Auras or Equipment on him, he’ll go to town. Add to that pumps from Zombie lords, and he will be formidable in combat. I added quite a few creature cards more than I thought I was going to initially, but that’s fine.

Breathstealer's Crypt
Creatures in this deck all pump Nekusar or aid your strategy, and I like having them. They are a bit of a nonbo with Breathstealer's Crypt, but you can probably shrug off a few damage. I like Crypt in this deck, and I feel that, even though it may be construed as a card that prevents players from doing something (drawing creatures), I construe it as something that punishes those players for doing something (not discarding them), and with Nekusar pinging those players and giving them extra draws, that card will matter.

I put some general stuff in: anti-tuck and commander protection since this is Voltron, after all, but any of the Equipment in the deck is fine on any of the creatures. Quietus Spike is good on an unblocked Nekusar, but it’s even funnier on a Deathbringer Thoctar. The best part is that Quietus Spike isn’t the only way to grant deathtouch to Thoctar; Death Baron grants Zombies deathtouch as well. I would have explored more of this in a tribal deck, but this combo is still potent and hard to assemble, so I think it’s classic 75% material.

Originally, I had almost no creatures, but I added some lords to pump Nekusar, and I then added a few utility Zombies and then quickly realized if Nekusar became neutralized somehow, I should have other creatures that can do things. I feel that I struck a good balance. I didn’t go tribal with the deck, but there are still some synergistic elements.

I think Curiosity and Ophidian Eye and Helm of the Ghastlord all work well on Nekusar. Niv-Mizzet may seem jammed in just to work that silly combo, but I feel that Niv-Mizzet drawing you extra cards is going to help you immensely, so the Dragon is good on its own. I can certainly see an argument for removing it. I would jam it if I built this though. I eschewed tutors and even some of the card-draw that Nekusar decks run, so assembling that combo is pure luck.

Anvil of Bogardan
I took out all of the elements of traditional Nekusar decks, save a few. Anvil of Bogardan seems fine to me. It does something when Nekusar isn’t out, and it combos well with the commander. Ebony Owl Netsuke is also a situational card, so I don’t think it’s too oppressive. I excluded all of the traditional Nekusar jazz, such as Wheel of Fortune effects, Howling Mine effects, and so on. Sure, this deck would be potent with Puzzle Box and Windfall jammed in, but I’m not trying to build that kind of deck. The one exception is Whispering Madness. I think this card will encourage you to serve with Nekusar and can wrap the game up if you’re executing your Voltron plan. The other players may team up and try to stop you, which I encourage.

The deck is very different, and it was a challenge for me to build it. I actually found myself scouring Gatherer for Auras in my colors, hoping there was an equivalent to Battle Mastery, Righteous Authority, or Bear Umbra. No such luck. I did find some fun stuff—such as Elder Mastery, Pemmin's Aura, and Auramancer's Guise—that I think will do fine.

The Equipment suite is potent as well. Tenza, Godo's Maul is very good on a commander like Nekusar, and it’s even better than it would be on a creature like Bruna, Light of Alabaster in a more traditional Voltron deck. Sword of War and Peace actually fits the theme of the deck, and it pleased me to find a card that worked better in Nekusar Voltron than it would in a more traditional Nekusar deck. This makes me think I am gaining power out of the synergy of my strategy rather than the raw power of the cards I’m jamming—and Sword of War and Peace is a card that barely needs help.

All in all, I am happy with this deck. I know it’s not perfect, and I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback. Any non-75% compliant cards here? Do you have any better ideas? Is this too good? Not good enough? Who’s your pick to win the Stanley Cup? How was Grand Prix Minneapolis? Leave it in the comments, and have a great day. I’m off to watch some ’80s Korean anime after writing “Voltron” three dozen times. Later!

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