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Convertible Commander: Nikya of the Old Ways

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Last week’s Guild Summit demonstrates just how different each of us is. We have our own metas, our own ideas of how the game should be played, and our own concepts of what makes a card good in Commander. Simic Ascendancy is a good example: some of us love that card, others of us hate it. I, personally, regularly play with a guy who has a nasty Vorel of the Hull Clade deck. The Ascendancy will slot right in and make the deck even worse to play against, because it’s a difficult-to-manage alternate win-con that he’ll naturally work toward, and quickly. On the other hand, some people see the opportunity to put more counters on things and have a new way to win as a great thing. Both are correct. We are just different. It’s a strength of the game, not a weakness.

Nikya of the Old Ways

Which leads me to this week’s commander. Nikya of the Old Ways is not particularly startling. She’s got a reasonable Power/Toughness to CMC ratio, but that’s not unusual for Gruul (rg) or g, land of the six-mana 8/8. She doubles mana, and nicely only does it for us, but there are plenty of ways to do that in Commander; b does it all over the place, but g and r both have a history of Mana Flare and other effects, some global, some individual. She also drastically limits our ability to play Magic, seeing as how she limits us to precisely one type of card. We either have to get tricky with things like Roaring Primadox and keep casting her in order to get around it, or we just have dead cards in our hand. Or we can just build a deck with nothing but creatures.

It’s fairly linear. It’s pretty obvious. But to someone like me, it’s great fun.

Nikya of the Old Ways | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper


Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Sure, some of the choices may seem easy and the deck may seem to “build itself.” But truthfully, there is no reason even this level of restriction means we have to do the same thing as everyone else. Here’s a great example: there’s not a single {X} creature in this deck. Doubling mana? Seems like a great place for Hydras. You want to do that? Go for it. This deck leans in a different direction, attempting to grind value with ETB effects and leveraging the fact we’re not doing anything other than playing creatures.

The first guy to go in here was Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. Rather than force us to play creatures, he just punishes everyone who doesn’t, so having him around seemed to make a lot of sense. Cards like Khenra Charioteer and Aggressive Mammoth give our big dudes Trample. Bellowing Tanglewurm gives them all Intimidate. Archetype of Endurance grants Hexproof. We’re going to play out things which matter to our board state and make everyone else tap the top of their decks, hoping for a Wrath of God.

We’ve also got a bunch of ways to draw cards. Beast Whisperer, Garruk’s Packleader, Soul of the Harvest, the list goes on. Garruk’s Horde even extends our hand, and there’s a 60% chance we’ll have a creature on top. This will be important because we are going to want to overextend; making sure we keep cards flowing will be key to getting anywhere.

We’ve got a few answers, even. Flametongue Kavu is a wonderful guy. Ulvenwald Tracker lets us send two creatures into an arena to Fight it out, while several of our creatures have Fight right on them. rg loves to destroy artifacts, so cards like Vithian Renegades make an appearance, but we’ve also got our Acidic Slimes and Conclave Naturalists for even more options. Mold Shambler’s pricy but the chance to hit pretty much whatever is worth it. Even Huntmaster of the Fells, Standard devil he was at one time, can get in on the removal action. Tornado Elemental wipes the skies clean and threatens quite a bit of damage. Bane of Progress will often shut an entire table down for a turn or two while everyone regroups.

Craterhoof Behemoth
And then we win. Perhaps with Pathbreaker Ibex or Craterhoof Behemoth. Or we win with Viashino Shanktail or Skarrg Goliath. Thunderfoot Baloth. Legion Loyalist. Skarrg Goliath targeting Pathbreaker Ibex. Make a ton of mana, play a bunch of beefy creatures, then attack with them with some sort of bonus. It’ll be explosive, funny, and a great story about the time you attacked for 157 and everything had Trample and First Strike.

We also run 40 lands. Fixing color plus some utility. Since this deck doesn’t run anything like Wood Elves it’s pretty important to run that 40, mostly because we want to get to Nikya on time.

The other fun thing is that most of these pieces are interchangeable. Want to run with some Dragons (in addition to Dragonlord Atarka, that is)? Go for it. Want to go for a Beast tribal theme? That will definitely work. Heck, there might be something to mana dorks to help speed the process along. It may be “the deck that everyone will make,” but it doesn’t have to be. Make it your own, and even being linear it’ll still be unique.

That said, we can probably use an optionboard to toughen up a bit.

These five cards will make the deck significantly stronger, because drawing just one will create a very powerful effect. Fauna Shaman’s ability to pull anything out of the deck gives a ton of very powerful options. Purphoros will just sit out there and do damage while we do what we do, and not die while he’s at it. Urabrask will make our threats that much more absurd while supressing blockers.

Lurking Predators and Primal Surge have to be cast without Nikya on the field, though. Hopefully we get the Enchantment before we play our commander; then we just play it on turn six and play Nikya the following turn, then start to do stupid things.

Primal Surge
Primal Surge is going to be more of a “gonna have to figure it out” moment. Can you attack unprofitably and get someone to kill Nikya for you? Convince someone to shoot her with a Hero’s Downfall and float all your mana in response? Just survive long enough to play Primal Surge after a Wrath effect? Whatever it is, once Primal Surge happens, this deck will win the game (well, barring a Fog effect of some kind). There are a bunch of ways to grant Haste and Trample, so those are certain to be hit, and every land will hit the battlefield as well. One could try to figure out a way to get rid of Nikya oneself, but I’ll leave that to the ones who want that. This way still plays mostly fair; it just punishes a table who have the audacity to kill your commander.

It’s okay to build the obvious thing if that’s what you like. It’s also completely okay to build something no one has ever seen before. The most important things are to have fun and try to make sure everyone else is too. I love Gruul and I love smashing with giant creatures, just like I did when I first started playing this game in Unlimited. This is a great way to do it. To put it another way: You do you.

Now get out there and smash.

Thanks for reading.