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Herigast, Erupting Nullkite in Commander


From the first time I started looking over Modern Horizons 3 previews, there was one card that kept catching my eye. I don't normally play Eldrazi decks. I don't love the feel of swinging with Annihilator in casual EDH. My decks often fly under the radar more often than they put a target on my back by doing something splashy like slapping a big legendary Eldrazi onto the battlefield. Still, my eyes kept going back to a legendary Eldrazi that seemed like it might be a really neat commander to build around.

Last week I shared a mono-Green deck that was loaded up with way, way too many creatures. That Eladamri, Korvedcal list had over 40 creatures, and it turns out today's commander has me playing much the same tune - but this time I'm in red instead of Green.

Herigast, Erupting Nullkite

Herigast, Erupting Nullkite is the first Eldrazi Dragon and the only red creature with emerge in all of Magic. It's a 6/6 flyer who costs a whopping 9 mana, but it has an alternate casting cost. You can cast Herigast for its emerge cost by sacrificing a creature and paying reduced by the sacrificed creature's mana cost. That cost reduction can't pay for the Red mana in the emerge cost, but you could get away with casting Herigast for just two red mana if you were to sacrifice a creature with a mana value of 6 or higher.

The big payoff for having Herigast in play is that each creature spell you cast will have emerge, with the emerge cost equal to the spell's mana cost. My creatures with Red in their mana costs can be made cheaper, but I'll still need to pony up that red mana even if I'm sacrificing something to make them easier to cast. Commander tax is an additional cost so if I'm casting Herigast after the first time out of the command zone, I'll still need to pay my taxes.

While Eladamri had me loading up on 1 mana creatures, Herigast is going to want me to load up on creatures that I don't mind sacrificing. I could have just loaded up on colorless Eldrazi and artifact creatures, as they can have their mana cost completely offset, but I decided I wanted to do something more interesting.

The Sacrifice Game

The first thing I wanted to focus on when building this deck was creatures that would come back when they die. If I can sacrifice a creature and have it come right back into play, that extra cost is going to feel like much less of a drawback.

The two keywords that jumped to mind for Herigast were persist and undying. A creature with either of these abilities will return to the battlefield when they die. Persist will have them return with a -1/-1 counter and undying will have them return with a +1/+1 counter. If the creature already has the specified counter and dies, the ability on that creature will not trigger.

Furystoke Giant
Flayer of the Hatebound
Cauldron of Souls

These creatures can be used twice instead of being used once to reduce the cost of your creature spells by casting them for their emerge cost. This list has three creatures with each of those keywords. Flayer of the Hatebound, Hound of Griselbrand, and Nearheath Stalker have undying and Pyreheart Wolf, Thunderblust, and Furystoke Giant have persist.

I'm also running Cauldron of Souls, an artifact that can tap to give creatures you control persist until end of turn. It's worth noting that activating Cauldron of Souls will only affect creatures on the battlefield at the time it is activated. New creatures or ones that return to play after that activation won't have persist unless they already had it.

Rekindling Phoenix
Wurmcoil Engine
Conquering Manticore

Rekindling Phoenix might not have undying or persist, but when it dies it will leave behind a 0/1 Red Elemental creature token. If I can keep that token alive until my next turn I'll sacrifice it and get my Phoenix back. I'm also running Flame-Wreathed Phoenix, which is a 3/3 with tribute 2. That means an opponent can make it a 5/5 by agreeing to pay the tribute and put two +1/+1 counters on it. If the tribute was not paid, it gains the ability that when it dies it will go back to my hand. I could see a Phoenix typal build for Herigast, but I only decided to run those two.

I did lean pretty heavily into creatures that leave behind other creatures when they die. Wurmcoil Engine might be the best known. It's a 6/6 artifact Wurm with deathtouch and lifelink that leaves behind two 3/3 Wurms, one with deathtouch and one with lifelink. I'm also running Triplicate Titan and Phyrexian Triniform. The former is a 9/9 Golem with flying, vigilance, and trample that upon dying will leave behind three 3/3 Golems, each with one of those keywords. The latter is a 9 mana 9/9 Phyrexian Golem that dies to leave behind three 3/3 Phyrexian Golems. Phyrexian Triniform also has an encore that costs a whopping 12 mana. Last but not least, I'm running Ancient Stone Idol, a 12/12 Golem with flash and trample that leaves behind a 6/12 construct with trample when it dies.

An interesting Herigast build might involve leaning into stealing creatures from your opponents. I'm running two ways to do this, both of which are tacked onto creatures. Conquering Manticore is a six-mana 5/5 Manticore that will let me gain control of target creature an opponent controls until end of turn. I'll untap that creature and it will gain haste, but it's unlikely they'll get it back. If I've got a creature to cast I'm better off sacrificing an opponent's creature than one of my own. My other kidnapper is Jeering Instigator, a 2/1 Goblin Rogue with morph. If I play it face down for three mana I can pay two and a red to flip it up and gain control of another target creature until end of turn. Again, the stolen creature will gain haste and I'll likely want to use it to offset the casting cost of another of my own creatures.

So far you've seen a lot of synergistic cards that aim to make Herigast, Erupting Nullkite into an efficient, creature-based aggro deck, but it's worth asking how we want to win. I'm running Nim Deathmantle for its synergy with creatures going to the graveyard, but I didn't build this as a combo deck. You could certainly do that but I'm going for something a bit more old fashioned - Dragons!

Here There Be Dragons

I'm still interested in creatures that can be sacrificed for some benefit, so my first step was to load up with as many dragons as might fit that description.

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky
Leyline Tyrant
Hoarding Dragon

Both of the Kamigawa legendary Red Dragon Spirits are in this list. Atsushi, the Blazing Sky's death trigger will let me impulse draw the top two cards of my library or make three Treasure tokens. Ryusei, the Falling Star's death trigger will deal 5 damage to each creature without flying. The former is a 4/4 flyer with trample and the latter is just a 5/5 flyer.

Leyline Tyrant is a 4/4 flying Dragon who lets me save up my unspent mana. Normally mana in your mana pool goes away at the end of steps and phases, but if I save it up, Leyline Tyrant has a death trigger that can put it to good use. When it dies I may pay any amount of red and when I do, it will deal that much damage to any target.

My favorite fit for this deck might be Hoarding Dragon. It's a 4/4 flying Dragon that will let me search my library for and exile an artifact card when it enters the battlefield. When it dies I'll put the exiled card into my hand. It doesn't specify noncreature artifact, so I can go get my Cauldron of Souls, Nim Deathmantle, Triplicate Titan, Solemn Simulacrum, or any other artifact or artifact creature I feel like tutoring up.

I decided to include a few Dragons that often don't make the cut in my decks because of their higher casting cost. In today's EDH it's hard to play too many creatures above 6 mana, but Herigast makes those high costs much more playable. I'm running five 7 mana Dragons and one 8 mana Dragon in today's list.

Balefire Dragon
Knollspine Dragon
Utvara Hellkite

Balefire Dragon is a 6/6 flyer with a combat damage trigger. If it deals combat damage to a player it will deal that much damage to each creature that player controls. Drakuseth, Maw of Flames is also in the mix. That legendary 7/7 Dragon has an attack trigger that will deal 4 damage to any target and three damage to each of up to two other targets.

Card draw is always a challenge but I was able to throw in two Dragons that might help with that. Knollspine Dragon is a 7/5 flyer who will let me discard my hand and draw cards equal to the amount of damage dealt to target opponent this turn. Dragon Mage is a 5/5 flyer who will force each player to discard their hand and draw seven cards when it deals damage to a player. It'll be rare for me to have even five or six cards in hand by the mid-game so Dragon Mage could well set me up to drop a bunch of creatures in my second main phase.

Utvara Hellkite is an 8-mana problem for any table that isn't running enough removal and doesn't have flying or reach blockers. This 6/6 flying Dragon will have me create a 6/6 red Dragon creature token with flying every time a Dragon I control attacks. That could spin out of control rather quickly, as those token Dragons will be able to attack and make more Dragons and so on, and so on. This bad boy isn't an instant win, but it's something that your tablemates will definitely need an answer for.

Emerging Dragons

I'm optimistic that at a casual table this list would be fun and interesting to play. If Herigast gets removed too many times, you might struggle to keep up with the rest of the table, but if you are able to get a little momentum you might be surprised at how well the sac-fodder synergy ends up working. It probably won't be able to keep up with a high-powered table, but not every deck needs to be able to play in high power EDH or right at the edge of cEDH.

This list might be too much for a low-powered table, as I'm assuming that once you get Herigast on the field you'll be able to play out some pretty decent threats and put real pressure on the rest of the table fairly quickly, though card draw is often a limiting factor in red. Leaning into Dragons should set you up to play well against decks that haven't committed to having ways to deal with flyers. That's more common than you might think, though every meta is different so you may not have an easy time even with an army of Dragons.

This is a fairly budget-friendly build that should play well at mid-powered tables. If you wanted to tune it up, there are lots of changes you would want to make. Patron of the Arts would swap out for Dockside Extortionist and you might want to aim for a Nim Deathmantle combo plan with cards that have Impact Tremors effects as your wincon. If you wanted to tune the list up but keep on my Dragon theme you'd want to run Goldspan Dragon, Ancient Copper Dragon, Scourge of Valkas, Dragon Tempest and a lot of the other staples you find in Lathliss, Dragon Queen and other mono-Red Dragon decks.

If you wanted to tune this list down you could drop the budget and power level by dropping Jeska's Will and a few of the more powerful and expensive cards. Red has plenty of big creatures so you could lean into any number of creature types for an interesting Herigast deck.

Herigast's creature types don't have to match the deck it's leading to still benefit from your creatures having emerge. You could look at the dozens and dozens of Giants, seventeen Hellions, twelve Demons, or the nearly two hundred Elementals in Red that are available in our format. I'm not saying any of those would be better than Dragons, but you should view this list as a starting point and you should build your own deck for your meta, matching your playstyle and your personality.

Final Thoughts

I do think Herigast could be a fantastic commander for a deck built around Eldrazi and you might argue that it was a missed opportunity not to focus on that creature type. I can see the temptation of making your creatures able to have their entire cost offset by sacrificing another creature, but it also felt a bit obvious.

Maybe building a Red Dragon Herigast deck is every bit as obvious, but this is the year of the Dragon and I have seen plenty of EDH games where the ability to fly over your opponents' blockers was a key to victory. I don't think I'll rebuild my beloved Lathliss, Dragon Queen deck to build Herigast, but I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't just a little tempted. I may well play this list online where you can easily try out any deck without having to sleeve or unsleeve anything.

That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!

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