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Nalia Joins the Party


Anybody else a Thief? I didn't play D&D for long when I was a kid, but when I did, I always - always - wanted to be a Thief. This may be the reason I wanted to build my U/B Rogues deck; it certainly led to a love of video games like Thief, Splinter Cell, and Tenchu. Having a Thief - okay, Rogue - in your party was worthwhile in D&D. Someone who could scout ahead, get needed items you couldn't afford, knew the right person at the right time, and generally stay quiet was always a benefit.

Okay, I admit. Sometimes I wanted to be a Cleric. I like helping people, and there was value, I thought, in playing a character whose primary role was to make sure everyone else could keep going. Sometimes the Warrior took a hit that looked like would be the end for them, and being the Cleric meant I was responsible for keeping them going. Who else was going to take out that Ogre?

Well, the Wizard might be able to do something about the Ogre. Maybe they could throw a fireball, or freeze its feet to the ground, or just turn their club into sand or something. That would certainly help. Heck, if done right, the Wizard can just make the Ogre focus on the Cleric (who's trying to heal the Warrior) and the Rogue can just sneak up behind it...

Then again, that Ogre has a lot of HP. It's a good thing the Warrior ran in there first and got in those hits with that Obsidian Battle-Axe.

Yeah, it helps to have a party. Today's Commander surely agrees.

Nalia de'Arnise

Nalia lets us know what the top card of our Library is, which is valuable all by itself. She also lets us cast specific spells off the top, which can be useful. Finally, if we have a full Party, we get to put counters on all our creatures and give them Deathtouch till end of turn, which at least makes them harder to block.

Let's look at the decklist, but before we do, one quick point. A Shapeshifter with Changeling is all creature types. However, in order to have a party, you must have four unique creatures, and those four creatures have to include the four Creature types - Warrior, Rogue, Wizard, and Cleric. So, a Changeling can be any of the four but can't be all of the four. You can have one of each, four Changelings, or any other combination of four, but you must have four.

Party Up | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

The first big thing we're up to here is creating a Party. To do so, we have a good mix of creatures from the four types; we are a little light on Rogues because Nalia is one, so we always have access to one. Our exceptions are Grim Hireling, who makes us Treasures and can kill something for us, Mage's Attendant who also drops a Wizard, Morbid Opportunist who draws us cards, Oona's Blackguard who puts extra counters on our other Rogues, and Opposition Agent, who really ruins the gameplan of a lot of other decks, plus gives us access to our opponents' stuff.

Otherwise, we have quality creatures from the various types. Bloodtracker draws us more cards, as does Disciple of Bolas. Felisa, Fang of Silverquill will leave us with a pack of flying 2/1s should we get Wrathed. Giver of Runes protects our Creatures from removal. Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion puts more counters on things. Squad Commander makes more creatures and helps our Party when it attacks. Selfless Spirit can protect us from a Wrath effect as well.

Then we have a slate of Changelings. Because they can be all four, they can fill in a gap if we have can't find something; no Warrior? Play Universal Automaton, and poof! Full Party. It's also worth noting Graveshifter will Regrowth a Creature for us, Mirror Entity can be a weird and cool Overrun, Bloodline Pretender gives itself more counters, and Valiant Changeling will often be a two-mana 3/3 with Double Strike. Birthing Boughs and Maskwood Nexus both make Changelings, and the Nexus makes all our creatures Changelings, so that seems good. Oh, Stonework Packbeast isn't actually a Changeling, but for our purposes, it serves as one, since it's all four of the Party types.

We also want to care about the top of our Library. We have 29 Creatures not counting our Commander, and all of them can be cast off the top by Nalia. That's great, but thanks to Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, we have a few more spells we can cast. Unfortunately, many of them aren't really worth it (Morsel Theft is cute, but not necessary), but we at least can cast Obsidian Battle-Axe, Diviner's Wand, and Cloak and Dagger, since they are Warrior, Wizard, and Rogue spells, respectively. They also auto-Equip to their tribe or to any of our Changelings, which is fun. And we can cast Crip Swap from the top as well, which could be a nifty trick.

Additionally, we may want to be able to adjust the top. As such, we're running an extra number of fetch lands and Cycle lands; land on top? Cycle a Barren Moor, draw the land, and look at the next card! Warrior on top and need a Wizard? Crack that Fabled Passage, grab a Plains, and shuffle for the chance! We've also got Crystal Ball, which lets us Scry two for one mana. Sensei's Divining Top is probably great here, but Top can be really annoying, and it's also expensive. If you've got one, by all means, it'd be good here, but it's certainly not necessary.

We're going to care about having a Party. Since we're working this hard to get one, we may as well get some payoffs, so we are running a few cards which care about it. Journey to Oblivion is an Oblivion Ring which is likely to only cost usw. Deadly Alliance is a cheap kill spell (things aren't looking so good for that Ogre). Thwart the Grave is a Reanimate without the life loss, and Coveted Prize is a Demonic Tutor for b that also lets us cast a free spell. It's our only tutor, so people can be quiet.

wb is one of the best combinations for removal, so we've got it. Damning Verdict is probably our biggest win, since often we're going to use that as In Garruk's Wake for five. But Damn is a great option-giver, and cards like Despark, Dire Tactics, and Utter End give us great point removal to get rid of the one blocker with First Strike, Propaganda, or whatever.

We've got some really fun Enchantments. Felidar Retreat puts yet more counters on our Creatures, and Life Insurance draws us some extra cards and lets us leverage Extort. (A quick sidenote: I have won games with Extort triggers. It's a great way to use excess mana and can really add up.) But my two favorites are Together Forever and Sigarda's Summons. Together Forever will let us drop mana to bounce Creatures to our hand in the event of their death; this is great if we get Wrathed. With lots of mana, we can save most of our team, but even just one can make sure we're one step closer to rebuilding our party. And Sigarda's Summons buffs up every Creature we have (nothing we've got is bigger than a 3/3) and puts them all into the air. That, combined with all the +1/+1 counters should mean someone dies the turn we cast it.

I run Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire in my Rogues deck, and I considered it for here, but I felt like one face-down tutor (which at least is on-theme with the Party thing) was enough. It's not like we're a toolbox deck; we'd be using it to fill out our Party (which is something that should be partly left to chance, I think) or just get more power. If that's your thing, you go, but I prefer a mildly more random play experience. It might be worth it to run Snow Lands and Faceless Haven, but I don't think we need it. What do you think?

How would you build your party? Any way early D&D experiences shaped your life? What would you want in this deck? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

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