By Gibson aka KaipaLin
Lists! Everyone loves lists!
Through bounce, blink, tap, and burn shenanigans, it has become increasingly apparent that the Ink-Treader Nephilim is the most rules-heavy of Ravnica’s tentacular Fallen. Some things to remember and/or make sure your opponents know:
1. The Ink-Treader copies only instants and sorceries, and only those that have no other targets.
1.a. The copy trigger will fire if the spell has multiple targets, but they are all the Ink-Treader.
2. The Ink-Treader’s copies ONLY target creatures. Vindicate will destroy all the creatures, but not other permanents. (Unless they too happen to be creatures.)
3. Opponents can and will makes use of the copy ability, so knowing how it plays out on the stack is important:
3.a. The spell targets the Nephilim, and the “copy for dudes” ability triggers.
3.b. Everyone has to pass priority before the “copy for dudes trigger” resolves.
3.c. When everyone does, all the copies spew onto the stack, and you may order them as you wish.
3.e. Only once all the copying is done does the original spell on the Nephilim resolve.
4. The copies that the Nephilim’s ability makes are controlled by you. This means any instance of “you” in the card text refers to you, the Nephilim’s controller, regardless of who cast the original spell.
So now that we’re (hopefully) more or less clear on how the magic works, let’s get to the smashing, the bashing, the crashing. Entah da red zone!!
The first, arguably most powerful, and definitely most controversial category of cards that the Ink-Treader loves is the Threaten contingent. Though first showing up in blue with Ray of Command, this venerable mechanic has long been part of red’s color pie. Normally these effects are on the weak side for EDH, as they don’t typically provide card advantage or a lasting effect, but when the Ink-Treader Nephilim hears your Word of Command, suddenly every creature on the board is clamoring to bat for your team.
Yes, when enhanced by some Nephilitic magic, the humble Threaten becomes a game-shaking Insurrection, and given the numerous tweaks Threaten has received over the years, you may find yourself playing something like ten Insurrections in your deck. If your playgroup is fine and dandy with such treatment, then go ahead and knock yourself out. However, it’s quite likely that being repeatedly subjected to death via one’s own creatures will leave behind a bad taste, and this is precisely one of the things we want to avoid in deck design.
Limiting the number of Threaten effects or eliminating them wholesale does power down the deck, it’s true, but replacing those cards with more interactive options increases everyone’s fun. The irony of interactivity is that by its very nature, you’re making it harder for yourself because your opponents can affect your plan. On the other hand, including options that mess right back creates a game state where all of the players are constantly engaged, making meaningful decisions in the game, and experiencing a state of flow. Whether we know it consciously or not, it’s this absorption that everyone seeks when they sit down to play Magic- why not make it easier for everyone to find, including yourself?
If you do insist on shopping at the discount Insurrection store, then you’ll want to stock up on instants. While the timing bonus doesn’t help as much on the offense, it can do wonders defensively- in response to a lethal strike against you, it’s suddenly party time in Nephilim-town! Act of Aggression can be cast with any color of mana, a great boon in a deck with such heavy color commitments all across the board, while Word of Seizing has unmatched flexibility and the split second ensures you hit what you aim for. In the sorcery department, stealies that pump the target are crucial for turning a lightly populated Insurrection into a board-stomping alpha strike. Especially in environments with relatively few creatures, Traitorous Instinct or a Mark of Mutiny can spell the difference between a home run and striking out. Traitorous Blood, on the other hand, does relatively little work, as blocking seldom occurs when you control all the creatures on the board.
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
What does require some more thought, on the other hand, is combat. There is a reason the combat phase has more steps in it than any other in the game- it is a seriously complex interaction. Lots of things, maybe even the most important things, happen during this one phase, so how do we go about making it interesting, while still supporting the Ink-Treader’s goal of communal unification? Well, if our opponents are so willful as to continue playing their own creatures, in defiance of the glorious principle of unity our beloved tentacle lord upholds, then we’ll just have to show those creatures the error of their ways. Specifically, by showing them what life would be like under the Ink-Treader. It’s propaganda you can beat down with!
Rite of Replication and Spitting Image are your heavy hitters here; everyone knows about the ridiculous power level of a kicked Rite by now, but it gets even crazier when targeting the Nephilim. Take every creature on the board and acquire them five-fold? Sounds good! Spitting Image allows you to toss excess lands and reload on creatures. Heat Shimmer is more of an alpha-strike set-up, although with any number of ETB creatures, it can have quite a bit more value. Cytoshape, meanwhile, is probably the single card closest to the Nephilim’s philosophy. If a lord or maybe a Hydra Omnivore is in play, things get ridiculous, and ridiculous is always the goal. A word of caution to this tale: since we’re treating the Ink-Treader as our general, we consider it legendary, and thus the legend rule will kill it in the event of a copy. So you may want to set up a bro-bar blink before attempting to xerox the board.
Hans & Franz
As you wander through the fields of Commander, you may notice that a good deal of the creatures you encounter have enters-the-battlefield abilities, and while their effects are powerful, their power and toughness often leave something to be desired. In order to win in the red zone with these little girlie men, then, we must pump *clap!* them up. Besides, math is fun! Everybody likes math! Right?
Getting the splashiest out of the way first, we have Sigil Blessing and Rally the Righteous. Both of these can be total headaches to resolve, but typically result in power levels over 9000. Another category to consider is pump with built-in evasion, a la Colossal Might and Distortion Strike, although it should be noted that these are by definition less interactive. Berserk and its mortgage-free alternative Fatal Frenzy are particularly nasty with Threaten effects, helping you dispose of the evidence after post-insurrection.
Always keep an eye out for cantripping 1 or otherwise 2 advantageous 3 pump spells; should you choose the noble path of the beatdown, the extra cards and consistency can help keep you in the game through multiple sweepers. Meanwhile, Wild Defiance is the gold standard for pump-style Ink-Treader decks; you’ll get free Giant Growths no matter what you’re targeting the Nephilim with.
Nitwit, Blubber, Oddment, Tweak
Magic has some 10,000+ unique cards; in amongst them are some particularly unique gems for the aspiring Nephilimage:
Divine Reckoning is your sweeper of choice, typically eliminating opposing swarms while keeping around your Nephilim. Of course, your opponents each keep their best creature too, but you can next-level that in short order with a handy copy or steal spell. In the “oops, I permanently stole every creature” department we have Debt of Loyalty and Dominate- play the latter for 0 in response to an Avenger of Zendikar-filled board for extra fun! If you happen to have a vigilant creature out (say, one of these), Seize the Day can provide a truly absurd number of extra combat steps- keep track of your personal record! (Mine’s 32) Last but not least, Swift Silence lets you play evil mastermind with your opponent- not only can you draw an entire new grip while countering efforts to utilize your general, but also thanks to point 3c up there, you can let deleterious spells wreak havoc on opponents’ creatures before countering the copies targeting your own. Of course, if you prefer a more brute force route, the various stifle-ing effects are all available for use as well.
The Gang’s All Here
His Tentacley-ness really only cares about creatures, so we want to provide it with as many as possible to play with. After all, the more copies it spawns, the more epic the stories afterward! To help with that, we turn to an old favorite- tokens. But let’s not be greedy; it doesn’t matter who gets the tokens, just as long as they’re on the battlefield.
We’re in Naya colors, so we have access to most of the best token producers; I prefer the instant-armies like Siege-Gang Commander because they interact with blinks quite well. Precursor Golem does an excellent Ink-Treader impression in the event of tucking, while Day of Dragons can upgrade your tokens, disappear a stolen army, and eventually re-trigger all your ETB effects all by itself.
Possibly more exciting are the cards that give your opponents more creatures. Just a touch of group-hug lets us play political favors, and if absolutely necessary we have the option of temporarily threatening them into our service. Of especial notice here are Ravnica’s Hunted creatures, who can provide a quite substantial number of bodies for a super discount, and Forbidden Orchard, which gives us full mana flexibility and extra bodies both. Thank goodness for the randomly synergystic cards.
When you take your pick of all the strategies and styles available and smash them together, you’re sure to find a favorite list. My current version looks something like this:
The Primrose Path – Ink-Treader Nephilim EDH
General – Shit, seriously? Why do I include this line? Do you need it? For all our sakes I hope not.
1x Chancellor of the Forge
1x Charmbreaker Devils
1x Deranged Hermit
1x Eternal Witness
1x Farhaven Elf
1x Hornet Queen
1x Izzet Chronarch
1x Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
1x Karmic Guide
1x Lunar Mystic
1x Ondu Giant
1x Precursor Golem
1x Primeval Titan
1x Phelddagrif or Questing Phelddagrif
1x Siege-Gang Commander
1x Solemn Simulacrum
1x Stoic Angel
1x Wood Elves
1x Act of Aggression
1x Bant Charm
1x Cackling Counterpart
1x Cerulean Wisps
1x Crimson Wisps
1x Debt of Loyalty
1x Grab the Reins
1x Mind Games
1x Momentary Blink
1x Naya Charm
1x Niveous Wisps
1x Path to Exile
1x Rally the Righteous
1x Sigil Blessing
1x Swift Silence
1x Swords to Plowshares
1x Twisted Image
1x Viridescent Wisps
1x Whirlpool Whelm
1x Word of Seizing
1x Arid Mesa
1x Breeding Pool
1x Cascade Bluffs
1x Command Tower
1x Fire-Lit Thicket
1x Flooded Grove
1x Forbidden Orchard
1x Hallowed Fountain
1x Jungle Shrine
1x Misty Rainforest
1x Mystic Gate
1x Reflecting Pool
1x Rugged Prairie
1x Sacred Foundry
1x Scalding Tarn
1x Seaside Citadel
1x Steam Vents
1x Stomping Ground
1x Sulfur Falls
1x Sunpetal Grove
1x Temple Garden
1x Wooded Bastion
My list here is a fairly unfocused amalgam of most of the categories listed in both articles. It tends to emphasize tapping as a defensive measure, and plays out quite slowly. The density of colors is very high, but the colors are also quite evenly balanced- bad strategically, perhaps, but excellent support for the “why I’m playing a 4-c0lor Nephilim” argument. The ramp is mostly in creature form (and yes, this is where I put my single PrimeTime), since it gives me a few more bodies, and a few silly tutors – Sunforger, Wild Research, and Kaho, Minamo Historian – round out what is ultimately a very ridiculous, very explosive, and, above all, very fun deck.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our jaunt around Ravnica and dalliances with its wondrous, slightly gelatinous Cthulhian denizens! Join me in two weeks, when I embark on a new journey to add some red to my ledger.
Until then, may you bring your joy to every game!
@KaipaLin on Twitter and MTGSalvation