When I saw Nicol Bolas in Hour of Devastation, I was psyched for another four-ability planeswalker. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh was the flashy bad guy I wanted to lead me back to the promise land of playing Grixis. He wasn’t at the highest levels of play, but he’s been my Brawler of choice since then.
Fast-forward to Core 2019 and we’re getting a much improved version of Nicol Bolas, and my bet is that its his best form yet. In case you haven’t seen him, take a look at Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen:
Just on rate, we have a 4-mana 4/4 flyer that has a Ravenous Rats ability. That alone would be a playable card in most formats. This may struggle in current Standard because of cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria being able to answer it and stick around. But even in those scenarios, you’ve reduced their planeswalker’s loyalty to 1, and you’ve taken a card out of their hand. If you do this more than once, your opponent quickly finds themselves either discarding the lands to play their key spells, or discarding spells, both excellent positions to be in.
Then we get to the transform ability. For 7 mana, you lose a 4/4 flyer, and you get a four-ability planeswalker. His modes? Divination, kill an enemy creature or planeswalker (for the most part), resurrect the best creature or planeswalker for yourself, and the ultimate gives your opponent one turn to live. Historically, a planeswalker that can protect itself, provide card advantage, and potentially do both at the same time, is unbelievably strong. I’m thinking of how Jace, Architect of Thought protected himself, and he saw tons of play, but Jace was never a 4-mana 4/4 flyer that attacked my opponent’s planeswalkers, discarded their cards, and then resurrected my opponent’s best threats!
Most of Nicol Bolas’s play will be in Standard. That being said, I love Grixis, and the bar is exceptionally high to get into Modern or Legacy, but this card has a shot. In Modern, it’s a standalone threat—you don’t need to do any work. When you play it, you’re getting your value from this card. You can bring it back with Kolaghan’s Command, and when you get to 7 mana, you can transform Nicol Bolas to the Arisen side and I don’t know many decks in Modern that can compete with his back half. I, for one, want to see a Tron player fight through their own Ugins.
In Legacy, this falls into that camp of a 4-mana threat that pitches to Force of Will, grinds card advantage, and that you can recur with Liliana, the Last Hope and Kolaghan’s Command. I think in Legacy this is more of a stretch than Modern, but if I was going to play some Legacy in the future, it would be on my list of cards to try.
When Nicol Bolas comes out, this is the first deck I’ll be looking at for a Standard tournament:
Grixis Legendary Midrange
This looks like a really strong Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering deck. You have plenty of legendary planeswalkers and creatures, and the idea of bringing back Nicol Bolas for another round of discards and threatening transformation just sounds like heaven to me. I can’t wait to play with Nicol Bolas, and see what damage he and I can do together at the first Standard tournament with Core 19.
As a member of the Grixis Cabal, I bow before my new leader, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. I hope to see you join our forces. Otherwise, you will become the hunted one once Core 19 launches!