George Lambert, View of Box Hill, Surrey (1733). Grand Warlord Radha by Anna Steinbauer.
It’s not often that a five-color tribal commander gets released outside of the yearly Commander precons. Last year was the only time it’s happened in a Commander product. This week’s Commanderruminations is about the build I’m working on for a new tribal five-color commander coming out in Battlebond, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom. Let’s take a look at her.
Najeela, the Blade-Blossom is a legendary 3/2 Human Warrior who has a low mana cost of and has 2 powerful abilities. Her first party trick lets you go wide. When Najeela is on the battlefield, whenever a Warrior attacks, you may have its controller create a 1/1 White Warrior creature token that’s tapped and attacking. This part made me want to build a Warrior tribal deck for the first time since I was given a copy of Zurgo Helmsmasher for Christmas a few years ago
Her second ability is what gives her a five color identity. For you can untap all attacking creatures. They gain trample, lifelink, and haste until end of turn. You can only do this during combat, and after the current combat phase there is an additional combat phase.
That’s what we’ve got to work with.
Even if you’re not into building tribal decks, it’s got a lot of potential. I’m going to show you where my deck-building instincts take me for Najeela. Hopefully, if you’re interested in her, there will be something new in here that you can take away for your own build.
Where to Start?
The fact that we’ve got all five colors available for us to build with is both a blessing and a curse. With every great card ever printed in Magic available for us to use, it’s going to feel like there simply isn’t room to fit in everything I want in this deck.
While we’re going to have the capacity to produce infinite combat steps, my goal is going to be to build a relatively fair deck. There will be a number of avenues to victory, but ultimately I am going to have to go to combat a lot. Lately, I’ve been building decks that want to hang out, get ignored, and combo off. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that, but it doesn’t feel quite as fair and the wins aren’t quite as sweet as when you leap into the trenches and duke it out with your opponents.
The other thing worth noting is that you don’t have to build this deck as a Warrior tribal deck. You can use Najeela’s final ability to great effect, load your deck up with other extra combats from Hellkite Charger, Aggravated Assault, and Aurelia, the Warleader and even load up on extra turn spells if that’s how you roll. If you go that route, you might not even bother with Warriors, and it will probably wind up as a more powerful build. I took apart my Zurgo Helmsmasher deck last year so I’ve got bits and pieces of a Warrior deck lying around and ready to get thrown into this project. I’m definitely going to go Warrior tribal with Najeela.
The last big question before we begin is what colors we want to build with. Najeela’s color identity may be but we could build this deck as a Mono-Red Warrior deck if we wanted to. There are loads of Red Warriors, especially in the goblin tribe, but going with even two or three colors would cut us off from some essential creatures and spells that are worth including. That means the mana base is going to be important. It also means that we get to include many of the best Warriors from across all of the color pie.
These decisions are probably going to make this deck slightly worse, but I’m looking forward to exploring some things I’ve long wanted to put into a build. Once it’s sleeved up and has seen a few games I’ll probably start tweaking it to pull out what isn’t working and make sure it runs as smoothly as possible. As always, I encourage you to look at this list as one of many ways to approach building Najeela. As a first draft it will surely have its issues, so keep in mind that this is my starting point.
The Wild, Wild World of Warriors
I’m going to try to build a Warrior tribal deck that pulls from all colors and tries to bring together the best of the best, the cold hard truth is that this is probably going to look more like a four-color deck than a five-color deck.
There just aren’t many Warriors in Blue and it’s not worth forcing bad options into the deck just to represent that color. Battlebond has a number of Warrior reprints that are tempting but the one Warrior with Blue that I’m including isn’t among them.
Aven Wind Guide may not be Mono-Blue but it will give our creature tokens flying and vigilance, and we can bring it back as a White Zombie Bird Warrior with its Embalm ability if we need some mid or late game evasion. Cyclonic Rift is probably worth splashing blue on its own, but Aven Wind Guide also makes a strong case for building in five colors.
There are a few more options in Black than in Blue, but for any color we’re going to need to be careful to not play creatures or spells that require too much of that color. That’s why I didn’t include Phantom Warrior in the previous section. Fortunately, there are some good Black Warriors that only include a single Black mana in their casting cost.
I didn’t include many of the other Warriors in Battlebond, but Thrasher Brute has to go in. Whenever he or another Warrior enters the battlefield under our control target opponent loses 1 life and we gain 1 life. That might not seem like much, but in the late game it could really make a difference.
Blood-Chin Rager will just give our Warriors menace. In a deck that looks to go wide, that should make for some real headaches for our opponents if he’s out when we attack with a decent sized army. Fleshbag Marauder and its functional reprint, Merciless Executioner, are both Warriors who will force our opponents to sacrifice a creature when they enter the battlefield. That might not seem game-breaking, but there will be times when it might be our only way to send an indestructible, hexproof voltron commander back to the command zone.
We could have built this deck with every half-decent Mono-Red Warrior we could find, and while that might have smoothed out any mana issues we’re going to run into, it would have meant a lot of goblins. I’ve already got a goblin deck (or two). So, for Najeela, we’re leaving those smelly little guys on the sidelines. We’ll start with Brighthearth Banneret, who will reduce the casting cost of all of our Warriors by 1 mana.
We’ve got over two dozen 1 and 2 power Warriors in this first draft, so Alesha, Who Smiles at Death will fit right in. Since we’ll be going to combat a lot, there’s every reason to believe we’ll have bodies in the graveyard for her to bring back out.
The other two Red Warriors we’ll be running are both Giants and are found at the top end of our mana curve. Hamletback Goliath may cost seven mana, but he’ll gain +1/+1 counters from each of the Warriors we’ll be creating when we attack. Boldwyr Intimidator, newly reprinted in Battlebond, also costs 7 mana, though he requires two Red mana, not one. The best thing about Boldwyr Intimidator is probably the first line on the card — “Cowards can’t block Warriors”. While that means that Changelings can’t block any of our Warriors, that’s not the big reason we’re running him in this deck. For a Red mana we can have target creature become a coward until end of turn. We likely won’t be able to make a ton of Red mana with this deck, but there will be times where we’re going to need to turn a few key blockers into Cowards and that could be enough to make for a profitable attack.
There are decent White Warriors, but this is a color we’re not going to focus on too heavily. At the low end of the curve we’ll throw in Aven Skirmisher, as even one flying blocker can sometimes make it easy for an opponent to swing their flyers at someone else.
Another interesting 1-drop White Warrior we’re going to include is Mardu Woe-Reaper. Many graveyard decks care about buried creatures more than any other card type and this little guy will let us exile a creature for every Warrior we have enter the battlefield under our control. While it won’t exile anything but creatures, it’s important to try to include graveyard hate in every deck, especially if it synergizes with what you’re trying to build anyways.
Herald of Dromoka is just a 2/2 Human Warrior with vigilance who will give our other creatures vigilance. I might do better just playing Reconnaissance so I can untap my attackers after the damage step but this first draft is going to really push the Warrior theme, and Herald of Dromoka is a Warrior. He isn’t much of a finisher, but our last White Warrior sure is. Jazal Goldmane will allow us to give our attacking creatures +X/+X where X is the number of attacking creatures. Unlike attack triggers that won’t see the creatures we cheat into play tapped and attacking, Jazal’s ability will if we use it after they have entered the battlefield. I suspect that many opponents will recognize Jazal as a big danger, but won’t remember to include all those extra attackers until it’s too late.
I’ll be including Heir of the Wilds and Narnam Renegade as another pair of deathtouch Warriors for my list. If I save them as blockers, they won’t be generating any additional 1/1 White Warriors, so I’ll definitely have some decisions to make when I go to combat. There are much better Green Warriors I’ll be including besides those two.
Bramblewood Paragon will have each other Warrior we control come into play with an additional +1/+1 counter on it, and any creature we control with +1/+1 counters will have trample. I’m looking at you, Hamletback Goliath.
Yasova Dragonclaw is a 4/2 Human Warrior with trample who will let us pay mana at the beginning of combat to steal target creature an opponent controls with power less than Yasova’s. That might wind up being an opponent’s deathtouch blocker or some key creature we can then send at someone to block and kill it for the good of the table.
Champion of Lambholt might be one of the best cards in this entire deck. For this 1/1 Human Warrior will make our creatures unblockable except by creatures with greater power than Champion of Lambholt has. While it starts out as a 1/1, whenever a creature enters the battlefield under our control we get to put a +1/+1 counter on it. That will get out of hand pretty quickly if this creature sticks around, and making our creatures unblockable is one of the best ways for this deck to really get going.
Some of the best Warriors we’re going to find are ones that have more than one color in their casting cost. While this deck is clearly going to have some challenges getting the right colors to cast what we’re drawing into, I think it’s worth it to include some of these guys. They cover a range of mana costs and power levels and will make the deck much more interesting.
Chief of the Edge and Chief of the Scale are both tempting to include, but I’ve decided to only invite the former, which boosts our Warriors’ power by 1. The number of times the latter’s extra toughness boost will be worth it is questionable, and I simply have too many other interesting cards I want to include.
Shanna, Sisay's Legacy is fairly cheap and will have the potential to get really huge, as her power and toughness is equal to the number of creatures we control. The bump she’ll be getting when we go to combat should be sizable. Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist is another legendary who will prevent our opponents from blocking with more than one creature. If she is tapped, they also can’t attack us with more than one creature.
Since we hope to be able to give our attacking creatures lifelink, Cliffhaven Vampire makes for an excellent addition to the team. If we get 10 Warriors attacking with lifelink, that will be 10 separate instances of life gain and each opponent will lose 10 life. In the right conditions, this Vampire Warrior Ally might even win us a game.
If we’re in a position to be able to save up our mana, Garna, the Bloodflame will allow us to return to our hand all creatures that were put into our graveyard this turn. That might not be as good as simply surviving or dodging a boardwipe, but this legendary creature is on theme and also gives our team haste.
The last Warrior in this section is the one I built my first Warrior tribal deck around — Zurgo Helmsmasher. What can I say about Zurgo. He’s big. He’s mean. He likes to attack and on your turn he’s very hard to kill. Zurgo is a better voltron commander than a tribal commander, but I think he’s going to fit in really nicely with Najeela and will make for a serious threat that I won’t have to worry about losing in combat.
Draw and Anthems
In five colors we’ve got every great draw spell available to use. We could be running Rhystic Study, Consecrated Sphinx, and Ad Nauseam, but if we were to load up on tons of quality draw spells, where would we put all our Warriors? I’m going to start off with a few decent draw spells for my first draft and will likely add more as we go if the deck proves lacking in card advantage. It probably will — most of my first drafts are a little too light on draw.
While we don’t really want to sacrifice our Warriors just to draw cards, if this deck plays the way I think it will we should have lots of chances to use Skullclamp to try to draw into what we need to loop into infinite combats.
Overwhelming Instinct will give us a card draw for every combat phase in which we attack with three or more creatures. Raiders' Spoils will give us the chance to pay a life and draw a card for every Warrior we control that does combat damage to a player. Since we can give our team lifelink with Najeela’s final ability we should be able to gain that life back eventually. I’ll also be throwing in Shamanic Revelation, as that is fantastic in any deck that goes wide.
We’re also going to want to run at least a few more anthem effects. Lovisa Coldeyes might not be a Warrior but she’ll give our Warriors +2/+2 and haste. I’m also going to throw in a foil Intangible Virtue to give my creature tokens +1/+1 and vigilance. It might not be the best card ever but I had it lying around and vigilance can be very powerful. It’s worth noting that it won’t untap the 1/1 white Warriors that enter tapped and attacking.
On the higher end I’m also running Eldrazi Monument. It costs five and will give our creatures +1/+1 and more importantly, it will make them indestructible. In a deck where we should be making lots of tokens every combat, it should be easy to keep up with the requirement that we sacrifice a creature at the beginning of our upkeep.
Emmara Tandris is going to be on the top end of our mana curve, but keeping our creature tokens from taking damage should be worth the cost. If it isn’t, this might be one of the first cards we drop out in favor of adding more draw.
Making More Tokens
We’re going to be making as many Warrior tokens as possible because attacking with Warriors will make more Warriors. Two Warriors becomes four Warriors becomes eight Warriors, and so on. If we build this right, things can get out of hand pretty quickly.
Doubling Season is getting a much-needed reprint in Battlebond, and will double both the tokens we generate and any counters we are able to put on permanents. We’ll also run Anointed Procession and Parallel Lives, as any token doubling we can get will be well worth it. Having two Warriors become four and then eight is good, but with even one of these out we’ll have two Warriors become six and then six will become eighteen. I’ll throw Rhys the Redeemed and Oketra's Monument in as well, as both can generate more Warriors. If we get enough mana, Rhys can even double our Warrior token army.
Kindred Charge will double the number of Warriors we have by creating tokens copies of each of them. Those tokens will go away at the beginning of the next end step, but they have haste and attacking with them will let Najeela generate yet more Warriors.
Even a meager number of Warriors will make Kindred Summons worth including. This instant will let us cheat more Warriors into play and at instant speed we can cast it before damage so attacking into a stronger board might still be worth it if we cheat the right Warriors out from our library.
Our final token generator is the X spell Secure the Wastes. If we hold up mana and cast it on the end step of the player to our right, we’ll be able to create a bunch of Warriors and then attack with them, making another Warrior for each of the Warriors we had just created.
Five Color Goodstuff
While including Warriors from every part of the color pie makes for a really interesting tribal deck, it’s worth looking at some of the best cards we can find to advance our game plan.
Cathars' Crusade is an amazing enchantment to run in a deck that will generate token creatures. As you will be creating new Warrior tokens when you attack, your original Warriors are going to get a lot of +1/+1 counters. Beastmaster Ascension won’t be giving you +1/+1 counters but it will give them all +5/+5 even if they were just created by Najeela’s ability when you attack. Any newly created Warriors won’t be giving you any quest counters for Beastmaster Ascension but it should be relatively easy to get up to seven with this deck.
If we’re going to be creating lots of Warrior creature tokens, Purphoros, God of the Forge and its little buddy, Impact Tremors, will both be worth including. Attacking with 5 Warriors will generate 10 damage to each opponent with Purphoros on the field, and if our opponents can’t find an answer quickly it will only get worse each combat step after that.
While I wasn’t able to find any classic goodstuff cards in Black that I wanted to include, I’m certainly going to be running Cyclonic Rift. This deck may be very light in Blue spells, but this one is a staple in the format for a reason. It just wins games.
The Special Sauce
So far this has been a fun walk through the Warrior tribe with lots of good cards that will probably make it a force at midrange Commander tables, but I haven’t yet included anything that really makes it my own. The “special sauce” of a build is that unique, clever touch that makes it your own and that most deck-builders might never have thought of. It might even make the deck worse, but it make it yours and yours alone.
This deck wants you to build with Warriors but it also gives you the ability to give your opponents' creatures trample, lifelink and haste. You also give them an extra combat phase, which is obviously very risky.
My “special sauce” is to try to leverage Najeela’s ability to force your opponents to gain life.
Tainted Remedy () will take any opponent's lifegain and turn it into life loss instead. That means if you have open and Tainted Remedy on the field, any opponent who attacks had better be ready to lose as much life as they were hoping to inflict.
False Cure () is an instant that does the same thing, but even better. Until end of turn, when a player gains life, that player loses 2 life for each 1 life they would have gained.
If you're planning on setting your opponents up to be able to hit them with a bunch of damage by giving their team lifelink, you can expect that they may want to hit you during that extra combat step. That means that you probably want to save this trick for when it will either eliminate an opponent or bring them so low that they will not dare attack again.
You will also need to be ready for instant-speed removal on your Tainted Remedy. There will surely be games where your clever plans turn into a big advantage for your opponents, but no plan is foolproof. The times where you cause someone to kill themselves or you prevent them from swinging with a lethal threat will be worth it.
Ramp & Mana Generation
Building a five-color mana base isn’t easy to do well, and if you want your deck to perform, you’ll wind up spending a pretty penny for your efforts.
For this deck I’m going to build in something I’ve had in a binder for a long time and have never really gone after. I’m going to set up my build with all 10 guildgates and a Maze's End. I have a promo Maze's End from when I first got into Magic and I’ve never put it in a deck. This seems like an opportune time to do so.
That means that my deck will be set up with ramp options that tutor for non-basic lands and it also means I expect to spend an awful lot of time assuring my opponents that I’ve never won with Maze's End, never really expect to win with Maze's End and that they shouldn’t really worry about it.
If I trigger the ability on Maze's End and I control ten or more gates with different names, I win the game. It’s not the sort of wincon you might expect to see in a Warrior tribal deck, but it’s long past time to break this bad boy out and play it in a game.
The guildgates are generally considered to be too slow for competitive play and are often frowned upon in midrange Commander circles. As decks get faster and metas get more competitive, lands that enter tapped are less and less viable, as the delay in being able to tap for mana can be a real problem. That’s where Amulet of Vigor comes in. This one-mana artifact will untap any permanent you control that enters the battlefield tapped, and that includes the Warriors that Najeela will bring in tapped and attacking.
We want lots of ways to fetch up our guildgates. Cards like Expedition Map, Sylvan Scrying, and Tempt with Discovery are Maze's End staples, but we’ll also be including Crop Rotation, Reap and Sow, and Scapeshift, which can end the game right then and there if you’ve got enough lands out. It’s worth noting that Scapeshift isn’t cheap. Building an optimized Maze's End deck is a little pricey compared to most of the decks I tend to put together.
I’m probably going to include a few minor departures from our Warrior theme in order to try to add a little extra nonbasic land tutoring. Weathered Wayfarer and Ulvenwald Hydra will both do the job and the former is repeatable so long as an opponent has more lands than us.
My ramp package will also contain old standbys like Sol Ring and Commander Sphere. I’ll also be running Chromatic Lantern, as there will be games where it will be a key to being able to generate mana in every color to pay for our extra combat steps.
There aren’t many Warriors that generate mana and I don’t want to stray too far from our Warrior tribe. I will be running both Radha, Heir to Keld and Grand Warlord Radha, even if she isn’t really as huge as I made her out to be in the artwork at the top of this article. Whenever one or more creatures we control attack, she will let us add that much mana in any combination of Red and/or Green and we don’t lose that mana as steps and phases end. If we can find a way to filter that mana into we’ll get infinite combats.
Druids' Repository is an enchantment that costs and will let you put a charge counter on it for each creature you attack with. While the Warriors that enter the battlefield tapped and attacking won’t give you charge counters, all you need is five when you declare attackers and you’ll be able to pay for your extra combat steps. I’ll also be including both Bear Umbra and Sword of Feast and Famine so that when I attack I can untap my lands and hopefully generate WUBRG mana.
As I write this I’m think I may need to go back and look at including Time of Need, which is a Green sorcery that will tutor for a legendary creature. Between Zurgo, Rhys, Yasova, Garna, Shanna, Mirri, Jazal and Radha, it seems like having the ability to tutor up a legendary Warrior would probably come in really handy.
It should also be noted that while I’m lacking in draw, I’m woefully lacking in removal. My focus on Warriors has led me down the rosy path of building a glass cannon. Short of Cyclonic Rift (all hail Cyclonic Rift!) there aren’t many ways to deal with threats my opponents put on the board. While that might not seem like a big deal, it only takes one Crawlspace or Lightmine Field to stop a “go wide” deck like this in its tracks. Every deck doesn’t have to have answers, but every good deck does, and I eventually hope to turn this into a pretty good deck.
The last oversight I’ll admit to — and there will always be oversights — is my willingness to only lean on Najeela for my extra combat steps. I didn’t bother including Aggravated Assault or Hellkite Charger or any of the many other ways to loop into infinite combats. It’s possible an optimized build would have at least one other way to combo off, but I’m comfortable using the one I’ve got in the command zone. I’ll always know where it is and with any luck I’ll be able to afford her commander tax if it doesn’t get too high.
Najeela?s Amazing Warriors ? Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
- Creatures (32)
- 1 Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
- 1 Aven Skirmisher
- 1 Aven Wind Guide
- 1 Blood-Chin Rager
- 1 Boldwyr Intimidator
- 1 Bramblewood Paragon
- 1 Brighthearth Banneret
- 1 Champion of Lambholt
- 1 Chief of the Edge
- 1 Cliffhaven Vampire
- 1 Emmara Tandris
- 1 Fleshbag Marauder
- 1 Garna, the Bloodflame
- 1 Grand Warlord Radha
- 1 Hamletback Goliath
- 1 Heir of the Wilds
- 1 Herald of Dromoka
- 1 Jazal Goldmane
- 1 Joiner Adept
- 1 Lovisa Coldeyes
- 1 Mardu Woe-Reaper
- 1 Merciless Executioner
- 1 Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist
- 1 Narnam Renegade
- 1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
- 1 Radha, Heir to Keld
- 1 Rhys the Redeemed
- 1 Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
- 1 Thrasher Brute
- 1 Weathered Wayfarer
- 1 Yasova Dragonclaw
- 1 Zurgo Helmsmasher
- Sorceries (6)
- 1 Kindred Charge
- 1 Reap and Sow
- 1 Scapeshift
- 1 Shamanic Revelation
- 1 Sylvan Scrying
- 1 Tempt with Discovery
- Enchantments (12)
- 1 Anointed Procession
- 1 Bear Umbra
- 1 Beastmaster Ascension
- 1 Cathars' Crusade
- 1 Doubling Season
- 1 Druids' Repository
- 1 Impact Tremors
- 1 Intangible Virtue
- 1 Overwhelming Instinct
- 1 Parallel Lives
- 1 Raiders' Spoils
- 1 Tainted Remedy
- Artifacts (9)
- 1 Amulet of Vigor
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Commander's Sphere
- 1 Eldrazi Monument
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Oketra's Monument
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
With as much potential as Najeela, the Blade-Blossom brings to a build, I’m hesitant to get too excited about this first draft. I think it’ll be fun, it will take us into the trenches where we’ll win or lose by combat. If we get lucky we’ll have a backup win condition of Maze's End. We might just fly under the radar of anyone who looks at Guildgates and assumes we’ve built a really bad deck.
In truth, we might have built a bad deck, but the art of deck-building for me is about crafting and shaping a deck over many games, many sets and even many moods until wins enough games with enough consistency to deserve a spot among my favorite decks that will probably never get taken apart.
Only time will tell if this is one of those builds. If you’ve been working on a Najeela deck of your own, I’d love to hear what you’re doing with yours and if any of my ideas struck your fancy or will make it into your own list.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week. I’ve been taking a short break from keeping notes about my own Commander games and Commander League play, but I expect to return to that in a week or so.
See you next week!