Nullhide Ferox Is About to Make Nicol Bolas a Very Risky Choice

​In the wake of my last article, we have a new tool for green Stompy. A 6/6 hexproof for 2GG and it counters Nicol Bolas? Oh good, a fun and fair Magic card to add to the pile that I’m sure people won’t be sick of in 6 months…

Oh? You can’t cast noncreature spells? Your opponent can turn off the hexproof ability at will if they invest some mana? OK, this card has nuance. Also, words—wow, this card has a lot of words on it. Immediately what comes to mind is that this card is destined for creature-heavy decks leaning on numbers to get the job done with minimal help from pump or removal. Normally, this type of card would excel in midrange as well, but it hamstrings your options badly and really hurts the kind of sideboard cards you’d want to bring in. Good luck trying to shift to a discard-and-planeswalker strategy with a playset of these in your deck.

Focusing on Nullhide Ferox’s viability as a 4-drop, let’s consider that Vine Mare is already seeing play. Without knowing if there will be relevant deathtouch creatures seeing play, the Ferox seems better game 1​​. Notably, Vine Mare also holds up better against Vraska’s Contempt, since Ferox just gets eaten later.

Ferox is superior against red decks. It’s too large to effectively deal with and you rarely wanted to cast spells against them in the first place. Vine Mare ends up only being useful in racing situations as the card trades too easily in combat, and has no way around chump blockers. Ferox has the same combat issues, but it can actually hang back and block any large non-flyer. Worst-case, your opponent spends two cards and plenty of mana to trade with it in this scenario.

Notably, this gives the format a natural antagonist to Nicol Bolas. Instead of being free in Grixis Midrange or a Dragons deck, Nicol Bolas has an actual drawback now where you can get heavily punished for playing it on turn 4. If green decks are really common, then you have a serious issue moving forward.

Say you’re playing Grixis Midrange and you slam a Nicol Bolas onto the table. You watch in horror as your opponent throws down Nullhide Ferox. They untap, pay 2 to shut down the noncreature spells clause, pay 2 to make a trophy of your Dragon, and attack you for (at least) 6. That is game losing if they have anything on the board besides the Ferox. It just isn’t the line of play you can risk all that often unless you have a proactive board strategy and plenty of ways to take out larger creatures. Even so, the tempo swing is so big that it changes everything in matchups where these two cards will potentially run into each other.

Knowing what we do about the format, it seems that a Steel Stompy deck going Golgari with Overgrown Tomb to fit in Assassin’s Trophy is reasonable for a week 1 deck.

Golgari Steel Stompy

This deck really misses Scrapheap Scrounger and is waiting for one more solid 1- or 2-drop to round it out. Besides that, it gains a great catchall removal piece in Assassin’s Trophy and Status // Statue seems great in matchups where you end up battling against midrange board control style decks. Post-board, you can easily slide in cards like Treasure Map or Arguel’s Blood Fast alongside Vraska, Relic Seeker and go for a larger midrange option yourself. If you go that route, you’ll likely need to shave or fully board out Ferox, which adds another point of difficulty when using the card.

What strikes me is that the rate is so good compared to similarly priced cards, but the drawbacks are real. This could end up as a card that looks far better on paper than it plays in reality. Of course, it could also be a difficult-to-kill an undercosted 6/6, which wouldn’t be out of line with other recent mistakes… time will tell.

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