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Convertible Commander: Niambi, Faithful Healer


We live in a world of Lord Windgraces and Ob Nixilis of the Black Oaths. After (no doubt) hours of negotiation between Wizards of the Coast and the Rules Committee, we got this one line of text: “[Insert name of Planeswalker here] can be your commander.” Suddenly, we must deal with the idea a deck might not have commander damage as a thing at all. Does the commander tax work the same way? How will it change our game?

It has changed the game, at least in my meta, but that’s not the point of today’s article. The point of today’s article comes about because sometimes I find myself in a situation where I want to play heads-up Magic with someone and we don’t feel like trying to make one of our 100-card stacks work. So, I tend to keep the Planeswalker decks around; they’re relatively easy to pilot, generally well-matched, and come out of the box ready to be played. Somewhat recently I was doing exactly that, and wound up playing the Teferi, Timebender deck, an Azorius (uw) build. It was fine, but for those of you who haven’t played with this product, each deck comes with a single ‘walker plus a couple of cards which search for it. Teferi’sdeck is specifically interesting because his tutor is this gal:

Niambi, Faithful Healer

This was compelling because it effectively gives us a Planeswalker commander who doesn’t have that magic line of text - we have access to Niambi all the time, which means unless we have Teferi hit with a Vraska's Contempt or some other exiling spell, we can always get Teferi. Let’s see what we can do with that, shall we?

Niambi, Faithful Healer | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Thran Dynamo
We have a few very specific things to deal with. First off, Teferi doesn’t exactly win us games. In fact, he’s pretty terrible at it. Sure, maybe we can pop off an extra turn or two, but we certainly can’t guarantee it. The second thing is the price difference between Niambi and Teferi. Niambi’s CMC is 3, but Teferi’s is 6. We really want to cast Teferi right away (more on that in a second), so we’ve got to reduce that difference.

Let’s work backwards. The second problem - the mana difference - is settled with a time-honored EDH tradition: Ramp. We’re going to use artifacts to speed up our mana so we can play Niambi and stick Teferi in one or two turns, not three. The nice thing is Teferi untaps those artifacts for us, giving us more mana to use in subsequent turns; it’s pretty impressive what you can do when you can untap your Thran Dynamo, even in a single turn.

The first problem is a little tougher, because we’re going to need a way to win the game. The fun thing is, Niambi will wave a giant flag saying “I’M GOING TO DO SOMETHING WITH TEFERI” so maybe we can use that. If we distract our opponents with some Planeswalker shininess, perhaps we can slip in a win some other way. And since most Planeswalker-helmed decks can’t win with commander damage, what if we were to try? What if the humble servant Niambi her very self were our win condition?

We start, as ever, with our mana. 40 lands, most of which come into play untapped. We need our mana in the early turns of the game pretty badly, but if you don’t feel like springing for shocks and fetches, don’t worry about it, because Guildgates and other tap lands will be fine. Ideally, though, we play a ramp spell on turn two, Niambi on turn three, then (if we hit Sol Ring) Teferi on 4, or another ramp spell, followed by Teferi on 5. Sometimes, though, it’s going to be Niambi, mana rock, Teferi, but that’s fine, we just don’t want to have to wait for our sixth land drop to play our big, flashy spell we can always search for.

The Chain Veil
And we’re not just running Teferi. We’re running a bunch of ‘walkers, all of which seem pretty wild and should keep our opponents guessing. Dovin Baan? Venser, the Sojourner? Narset Transendant? Play them out, grin maniacally, and do things with their abilities. Keep your opponents on their toes and make them wonder what you’re up to. We can also mess with our ‘walkers with things like The Chain Veil.

Meanwhile, the rest of the deck is entirely Historic spells - artifacts, Legendary spells, and sagas, except we ended up not running any of the sagas. We’ve got a bit of a support staff in place - Jhoira's Familiar and the like are here to lean into the Historic theme. Because that gives us access to artifacts, though, which can make our vanilla commander into the silver bullet in our deck.

We’ve got Equipment - nasty, nasty equipment - we’re going to slide on to Niambi to hack away at our opponents’ life totals. All the Swords of X and Y. Quietus Spike. Whispersilk Cloak. We’re going to suit her up and thump away out of nowhere, all while terrifying our friends we’re about to do something stupid with Elspeth, Sun's Champion (does it combo with Heliod, God of the Sun? How about Bident of Thassa? They’ll never know, because Niambi will kill them before they can figure it out.)

We’ve got a few ways to draw, some artifact- and legendary-based removal, plus a few other random, fun, Historic interactions, but the basic gist is to keep the table’s focus on the planeswalkers and surprise the crap out of them with Niambi when she suddenly hits for 13 or whatever.

So we’re going to distract our opponents with ‘walkers and other stuff while we sneak in our kills with a vanilla 2/2 (at least, vanilla after she searches for what appears to be our real commander). But what else can we do with this build?

The first thing we’re going to do is change commanders. We’re promoting Medomai the Ageless to the top spot and taking out Niambi and her ward. We’ll also probably take out the rest of the Planeswalkers, and the cards which interact with them. Then we’ll slot in these 15 cards and go to town.

Because we already had a good slate of equipment to help slip a creature by, there aren’t many better choices than Medomai. Extra turns? Don’t mind if I do! We’ll add in a bit more interaction in the form of some counterspells and point removal, a couple more wrath effects to keep the board clear, and a few spells which interact with Medomai specifically. Helm of the Host is particularly fun, because having three of four of them out means taking a lot of turns in a row. Of course, giving Medomai Double Strike also means we take two extra turns, so that seems worth it as well.

Keep in mind this is a starting point - chances are Niambi needs more interaction and fewer ways to buff herself, and the Convertible deck may need a couple more big creatures, like Myr Battlesphere (which is also great with Brago) or even a Diluvian Primodial or Frost Titan. It also may simply not be viable, because your friends may see through the plot or may play decks too powerful to allow something like this to work. Certainly, however, the idea of fetching a Planewalker with your commander must be viable. And Medomai will annoy everyone, because no one likes it when you take extra turns, so be careful with that. It’s a good reason to have it be an alternative method of playing the deck, so everyone doesn’t groan the moment you pull it out.

So get out there and fool everyone. Or just take all the turns. Either way, good luck and have fun!

Thanks for reading.