Commander: Neheb, the Eternal

The Magic Online Multiplayer Commander format has returned to its former glory (or whatever you want to call it). I’ve got my computer and internet set up in my new place, and we have a new set. It’s the perfect formula for a new article!

I’m a control player most of the time, but I’ve always had a soft spot for mono-red. Usually I’m a Goblins type of person, but I’ve done that plenty of times, and the Commander I had my eye on when Hour of Devastation dropped didn’t exactly scream “aggro.” In fact, he’s a little more on the combo-control side of things. I’m talking, of course, about Neheb, the Eternal.

After experiencing the displeasure of playing against this card in Limited (and beating it in a close game 3 after losing a not-so-close game 2 to Glorybringer) I knew I had to break off a deck list for this one. The edge you can gain by simply attacking with Neheb and generating 3-4 extra mana in your second main phase was extraordinary even in Limited, so a deck built to leverage Neheb’s mana-generating capabilities sounded like a good time.

Before I get moving, I want to address something. I’m not including any cards that generate extra combats. Sure, it would be easy to generate infinite combats with Aggravated Assault, or even just a few with one-shot effects, but that’s an easy, obvious route for this deck, and I’m sure you can search up a deck list for that in seconds. Longtime readers will know that I prefer decks that encourage interactive games, so this should come as no surprise.

I knew that I needed cards that would allow Neheb to generate mana by dealing damage in the first main or in combat, and I knew cards that could hit all my opponents would be key. With that in mind, I grabbed some of the following:

These are some obvious ones, but they’re important. Casting them before casting Neheb is ideal, and you have plenty of mana rocks you can use to make that happen, but it’s even better if you have Neheb protected by Shield of Kaldra or Darksteel Plate beforehand. If neither of those options are available, even a small Earthquake for 4 or 5 can keep Neheb alive and generate plenty of post-combat mana.

It’s worth noting that Comet Storm is a little different and can also be used as a win condition later in the game. It’s also worth noting that this is the first time in a while (ever?) that I’ve intentionally sleeved up Meteor Blast.

These are some similar effects that don’t require X in their costs. Pyrohemia is a great Neheb activator or finisher, and Chandra’s Ignition is particularly potent as a board clear that doesn’t send damage to your own face. Fiery Confluence is an amazing card that I think gets much less recognition than it deserves (though maybe I’m just in small-sample-size land.)

Some medium-to-large friends for Neheb should help keep pressure on your opponents while generating value for the post-combat trigger. Flameblast Dragon is a great way to turn N mana pre-combat into N-1 face damage and N-1 mana post-combat, which is a fantastic rate. Moltensteel Dragon is bad Channel in this deck, and who doesn’t love bad Channel?

The finishers. Eldrazi are ridiculously common in the high-drop slots as finishers in Commander these days, but that’s just how it is when you have access to world-ending monstrosities. Neheb’s mana is often at its best when you get to sink it into something the God-Pharaoh could only dream of. Devil’s Play is a one-two punch you can use to take a player out of the game altogether, and Fanning the Flames plays a similar role, though it requires the higher investment up front instead of at the end.

And Walking Ballista? Well… it’s Walking Ballista, isn’t it?

Damage isn’t really damage unless it’s doubled, and double damage means double mana! Hopefully this risk is worth the reward.

I decided I’d take Neheb for a spin in the Just for Fun room on Magic Online, so I threw some cards together and came up with this first draft:

Neheb 1.0

Commander: Neheb, the Eternal

This version of the deck performed fine, but along the way, I figured out it had some issues. First off, the Furnace of Rath effects were underperforming. Most of the time they languished in my hand—as early drops they were risky, since I didn’t have much going on, and as late drops they were even riskier, as armies can appear out of nowhere in Commander. Curse of Bloodletting was great, but the universal ones had to go, and Gratuitous Violence wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

Next, I discovered that the hate cards were a little imbalanced. I had plenty of graveyard hate—too much, even—and the artifact hate wasn’t quite right. Specifically, Release the Gremlins was a late-game solution for when Neheb was online, and I needed cards I could lean on earlier. Vandalblast and Shattering Spree made nice replacements there, and both looked good alongside Fiery Confluence. Scavenger Grounds also snuck in while I was changing my motley assortment of random Mountains into a sleek fleet of original Zendikar lands. Even on Magic Online, I need things to look good.

I also figured out that I needed to draw more cards. Font of Mythos and Rites of Flourishing fueled great performances for me in a couple of games, but I couldn’t rely on helpful opponents every game. I thought about including Howling Mine effects in this list, and I’m still not sure that’s wrong—after all, if Neheb is online, I can use the cards better than nearly anyone else. I decided to hedge this time around, though, including cards like Outpost Siege, Seer’s Sundial, and Staff of Nin instead. I considered Commune with Lava, and that may make it into a future version of this deck. I’ll probably try the Howling Mine/Font of Mythos/Anvil of Bogardan package out in the future.

Finally, I was missing early interaction. Getting mana rocks on the board to get turns of spells + Neheb going early was a good plan, but adding some cards that could deal early damage and prime the engine had to be a priority. After some better Gatherer searches, cards like Thermo-Alchemist, Nettle Drone, Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh, and Cryptolith Fragment made their way into my list as repeatable sources of damage that come down early. One of the searches also caught Acidic Soil, which is definitely up for future consideration.

Somehow I also missed Fall of the Titans and Inferno Titan in my initial build, leading me to worry that I have some secret anti-Titan filter. I wonder if it’s related to all the Xena, Warrior Princess episodes I’ve been watching.

After all that tinkering (and some more) I ended up with this list, which is a decent departure from the previous version:

Commander: Neheb, the Eternal

This version (which I arrived at over multiple games) felt a lot better. The threats were better distributed, and Neheb performed better. From a results-based standpoint, a timely Vandalblast also saved me from some kind of crazy Mirrorworks/Blinkmoth Urn/Thopter Assembly combo. Overall, I absolutely think it’s more powerful, though I’m still a bit concerned about card draw as well as the creature count. I’m also worried I don’t have enough good mana sinks for longer games, as Flamewave Invoker can’t be everywhere all the time. I’ll keep tinkering with this, and I’ll update you if I have any exciting breakthroughs.

That’s it for this one! Let me know what Commander you’d like to see next time by sounding off in the comments! Suggestions for cards to include in Neheb are also welcome, as long as you also provide a suggested cut. See you next time!

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