So, I’ve always had a bit of an issue with Red in Commander (Sorry, Jimmy Wong). Red’s playstyle and casual impermanence has always struck me, a diehard lover of value and more tangible card advantage, as lacking. I admit, it’s mostly personal preference that turns me away from Red when I’m building new Commander decks, but there will be a card that draws my attention every once and a while, a card that tempts me to venture to the other side of the color pie. Daretti, Scrap Savant was the first card to make me consider building Mono-Red, throwing a bunch of busted artifacts into the deck and recurring them with the Planeswalker general himself. That ended up being more of a Brown deck with a Red splash, though. The next option came with Conspiracy: Take the Crown in the form of Grenzo, Havoc Raiser. I even wrote an article about him! I loved the idea of turning other peoples’ cards against them while doing what Red wants to do anyway: Beat down! I ended up making a budget version of the deck from my article for a Budget Commander League, and it was fun but lacked some punch and the mana to really capitalize on the cards you were exiling. You would spend mana pre-combat on something to help get your squad through, but then your options would be limited when it came time to actually cast the spoils . . .
Then I saw what, to me, seemed like the perfect solution. Neheb, the Eternal.
Oh yes. This is good. I can hear Red calling to me, begging me to iterate on Grenzo with the addition of certain Zombie Minotaur Warrior. Let’s start by breaking down the card before we launch into the myriad of ways I plan to abuse it going forward.
- Neheb is a 4/6 for . 4 power and 6 toughness is certainly nothing to scoff at for 5 mana. He doesn’t have a built-in form of evasion, per se, but that won’t stop Neheb from getting in the red zone anyway because . . .
- Neheb has Afflict 3. Afflict is a new mechanic from Hour of Devastation that appears on creatures. If a creature with Afflict is blocked, a trigger will go on the stack for the defending player to lose life equal to whatever the Afflict value is. In Neheb’s case, the defending player will lose 3 life for blocking your minotaur. So, they either take 4 by not blocking, or take 3 by blocking. Either way, they’re taking damage, which feeds into Neheb’s main draw . . .
- Filling your postcombat mana pool with sweet, sweet mana. Neheb gives you a Red mana for each 1 life your opponents lost this turn, which, as we just established, will be 3 minimum if they don’t get rid of him before blocking. If you have other creatures . . . that number will start to go up pretty fast. There’s a lot Red can do with copious amounts of mana, so strap in as we ride on Neheb’s Fury Road!
We Ride Eternal, Shiny and Chrome!
I think it’s pretty obvious the card is very good in a Grenzo, Havoc Raiser deck. You have Grenzo and a small army of tokens or evasive dudes to help you get through, and then you drop Neheb pre-combat. Normally, playing something like Eldrazi Monument or Pyreheart Wolf before combat to get the team through leaves you with too little mana to take advantage of the cards you exiled. Neheb kind of fixes that problem by providing you with the mana to cast those exiled cards post-combat. Of course, nothing is stopping you from casting your own big spells with that mana.
spells are a good place to start, as they get exponentially better the more mana you have. Getting in for a bunch of damage (any type of damage, Neheb doesn’t specify combat damage) and then burning out a player or two with a super-charged Comet Storm on the back of Neheb seems like a good way to end the game. Or, you could just funnel all of that mana into making more tokens with Hangarback Walker or Goblin Offensive. More bodies means more mana from Neheb, which means you can cast more things on future turns. You could empty your hand, cast Reforge the Soul or another Wheel of Fortune effect to refill, and then you still might be able to cast more stuff after that. That kind of mana production is something only Gauntlet of Might or Caged Sun has been able to provide for Red before, so it’s very exciting to think about what having a third mana fountain for Red will do for the color.
Large amounts of mana are also very good for casting some very large threats. I’m not usually one for running the Eldrazi Titans in my Commander decks (I think they’re so good that they’re boring and safe at this point), but I would definitely consider running Kozilek, Butcher of Truth with Neheb around. You’ve got some more interesting options, though, in Red. I’ve always thought about giving Molten Primordial a shot, and it seems like it would do good work alongside Grenzo and Neheb, letting you exile more cards and get in for more damage. Of course, there’s no shortage of big dragons to cast in Red, and I’ve been looking for an easier way to cast my Scourge of the Throne and Skyline Despot for a while now. Giant Colorless beaters also abound, with Myr Battlesphere pulling double duty as a mana sink and generator of bodies to ramp Neheb’s mana production.
I want to take a second to reiterate that Neheb doesn’t care where damage came from. You could throw down Purphoros, God of the Forge, make a bunch of tokens with Goblin Offensive, deal a bunch of damage with the ETB triggers from Purphoros, and then figure out something to do with the massive amount of mana you will have generated after combat from Neheb . . . That is just so much mana. I guess you Tempt with Vengeance and kill people at that point? Probably. We can figure something out.
I’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do with Neheb, the Eternal in Commander. There’s a lot of potential for this card, and I’m excited to retool my Grenzo, Havoc Raiser deck to take advantage of the copious amounts of mana Neheb will invariably produce. So, what powerful things do you want to do with Neheb? Am I overblowing his ability? Let me know! But, I take my leave for now with one more Fury Road reference.
Neheb was awaited, and I will carry him to the gates of Valhalla myself!