This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Community Contribution

By GIBSON aka KaipaLin
Hey guys! In case you missed the previous article, this is the second in a series of articles about the Nephilim, those wacky four-color guys from Ravnica who really should be legendary. Since they’re not actually legendary, but are interesting and unique both in flavor and mechanics, we’re exercising our house-ruling powers and making them playable anyway. A quick disclaimer for this series as a whole: in order to play with these non-standard generals, you absolutely must have your group’s agreement. Of course, the best way to convince any would-be naysayers is to have a strong reason for playing them in the first place; “I wanted to make a five-color combo deck but red is stupid” generally won’t cut the mustard. Instead, try focusing on building an interesting, unique deck, based around what your Nephilim does mechanically (for Melvin) and/or its color identity and flavor (for Vorthos).

Enter today’s Fallen: the Dune-Brood Nephilim. Eschewing the color blue, this guy spits out tokens based on the number of lands you control when he hits an opponent. Right off the bat we know several things about how to maximize this Nephilim’s monster of a saboteur trigger: the more lands we can get into play, the better, evasion-granting abilities are going to be very important, and anything that works well with tokens is going to love us a lot. So how does the color identity and flavor inform the deck design? Obviously broods, swarms and all types of infestations are going to comprise our token armies; bonus points for any of those names involved in the actual cards. Sand is a bit more difficult to incorporate, and this deck will for the most part ignore it.

As for color identity, the Dune-Brood Nephilim is defined by its rejection of the blue mindset, mind being precisely what we are concerned with here. The blue/nonblue conflict is rooted in the dilemma of thinking versus acting. Blue is the color of contemplation and meticulous planning, and given an infinite amount of time, it would quite likely never act, preferring instead to plot, chart, and formulate plans until every infinitesimal scrap of data was accounted for. More than any other color, blue wants to avoid any obstacles to its success, even going so far as to cancel its opponent’s plans with countermagic rather than compete on the battlefield. This desire for competition is shared by red, white, green and black. Green likes to compete, white wants concrete victory against its foes, black is perfectly happy to prove that it’s better than you, and red is in it for the thrill. Only blue would rather sit in a tower sipping tea and then defeat you at a stroke, before you ever knew there was a competition. So how do we go about channeling the flavor text of Sudden Impact? By emphasizing permanents which sit on the board generating presence and more permanents, and by building a deck that creates forward momentum. The Dune-Brood races. It attacks, it grows, it recycles and bounces back. Eventually, it overwhelms opponents with vigor, passion, action. So let’s quit philosophizing and get on with it!

(Before we begin, a disclaimer: This deck will not be budget friendly; it uses a lot of very popular and hence expensive cards. Fortunately for the try-hards out there, a lot of these are so popular that you’ve probably got a copy in your collection somewhere. For the budget players, the principles behind the choices remain the same, and budget alternatives are possible. Fire up magiccards.info and get creative!)

The Dunes (or, how to make a Mountain out of a mole)

First up, the dunes and how to build them. Since we want to make lots of little Sand tokens on each and every Nephilim strike, getting lands into play is very important. In addition, this is a mana-hungry deck, so permanent feeding (via lands) is generally more useful than fragile artifact mana.

Primal Growth
Cultivate
Primeval Titan
Oracle of Mul Daya
Perilous Forays
Emeria Angel
Seed the Land

Cultivate, Primeval Titan, and Oracle of Mul Daya are all staple ramp cards, yup, boring but useful. The Titan can fetch a number of interesting utility lands depending on the board state. Primal Growth is very good in any deck that can afford to throw away its creatures; in a token deck it often plays like a cheaper, better Explosive Vegetation. Skyshroud Claim is another possibility in this department, as it combines well with the Ravnica shocklands this deck loves.

Perilous Forays is the repeatable, permanent-based version of Primal Growth, trading creatures for tutored lands. Able to fetch up more than half of the lands in the deck (note, it grabs any land with a basic type, not just basics), Perilous Forays is one of the most powerful and useful cards in the deck. Tutor for and play it often, you’ll love it.  Emeria Angel and Seed the Land put a token-based twist on the popular Bloodghast combo, allowing you to grab as many lands as you have mana available. Rampaging Baloths also fits the bill here, and could be added, but personally I feel really sad whenever I sacrifice a token that large to get a land. Seed the Land, on the other hand, is a mostly forgotten rare from Kamigawa block that offers some political favor and prolongs the game via chump-blocks, a major bonus for this rather slow and grindy deck.

The Brood (or, Penny Power!)

Moving on to the, ahem, meat of the deck, it’s time to talk tokens. Did you know that there are (at least) three primary types of token-makers? I prefer an even mix of T, M, & B token producers, but feel free to mix and match as you please and as best suits your meta. Welding together a coherent group of token generation effects from the hundreds that exist is well-nigh impossible, so a few honorable mentions of each category are included; these could make good substitutes if you prefer a different style or balance.

Type T: Time-based

Type T token producers are characterized by their inherently limited output. This sad fact is counteracted by the fact that they take little or no mana to produce their tokens, instead requiring only time. While non-creature token makers are all around more durable, this is the category that most benefits from the extra time non-creatures tend to spend in play.

Garruk Relentless
Bitterblossom
Dragon Broodmother
Dragonmaster Outcast
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs

Since this type is so limited in production, why play them at all? The simple answer is that like the Energizer Bunny, they keep going and going and going. Left unmolested (though such is a rarity), any one can consistently power your token engines for a long, long time. Landing one of these in the early game also allows you to produce tokens while continuing to build up your board state, instead of investing early mana in tokens which all get carried away by the first wrath spell. These specific generators were chosen for flexibility, early-game potential, speed, offensive power, and defensive power respectively.

Some honorable mentions for this category include Words of Wilding, Master of the Wild Hunt, and planeswalkers like Garruk, Primal Hunter, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, and both versions of Elspeth Tirel. A related category of Type T is the land-based token producers like Kjeldoran Outpost, Urza’s Factory, and Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree (the only card name with two hyphens), which trade durability for the unforgiveable sin of costing mana to activate.

Type M: Mana-based

Type M token-makers are limited only by the amount of mana available on any given turn; thus they shine in the mid-game. Once a few support pieces have been set up, you can go all-in on the current token generator and jam it as hard as possible until it’s dealt with (or you win). Meanwhile, you’re accruing extra cards and expanding your options for when the hammer inevitably falls.

Sprout Swarm
Jade Mage
Necrogenesis
Night Soil
Sacred Mesa

The type Ms generally have the most potential for making infinite dudes. Since it’s hard to represent infinity with pieces of cardboard, I recommend picking a very large number, say 500, and just carrying that many pennies (or dollars, if you roll deep [editor’s note: or Giant Sharks for the real ballers]) with you to a game. Even if you don’t need all of them, they’re a great way to pelt annoying opponents.

Anyway, these are fairly basic. Sprout Swarm grows exponentially when you’re being cautious, plays around countermagic, and can recover your tokens even from total board-wipes like Oblivion Stone or Akroma’s Vengeance. Some say it’s underwhelming for EDH, but I love how well it functions in this deck. Jade Mage is similarly less powerful, but it is cheap, an important factor if you commonly face aggressive decks. Necrogenesis and Night Soil are your graveyard hate, and are often comically ignored until right after you wreck some well-laid plans. Sacred Mesa is the weakest in context, but the little horsies beat face the best.

Some possible substitute M generators include Ant Queen, Luminarch Ascension, Mobilization, Nemata, Grove Guardian , Spawnsire of Ulamog, and Wren’s Run Packmaster. These are generally stronger or more combotastic but are commensurately more expensive on the initial investment. If you choose to lean more heavily on type Ms, I would highly recommend finding space for Seedborn Muse, as it supercharges this sort of engine.

Type B: Tokens go boom!

Lastly, we have the token bombs. The cards that, when they go off, essentially tell the opponent, “You must deal with me, or lose.” These are especially dangerous because they represent so much power, but are often not quite strong enough to stand up to all the attention your opponents will show you after one resolves.

Dune-Brood Nephilim
Avenger of Zendikar
Army of the Damned
Martial Coup
Artifact Mutation
Aura Mutation

The Dune-Brood Nephilim is the Commander for a reason: of all the token producers ever printed, none comes close to this guy’s numerical potential. The fact that it is repeatable, scaling, and as a general, resilient, makes it a very scary monster indeed. Avenger of Zendikar is the OG army in a can, thoroughly played out and yet constantly played anyway because it is just. that. strong. I personally am quite conflicted on its account; I have swapped it out with Hornet Queen several times, and still can’t decide. Army of the Damned provides that lovely 52 points of power in two convenient installments of just 8 and 10 mana, along with convenient built-in wrath protection. Speaking of wraths, Martial Coup is old hat for most players, but it gets the job done. The Mutation cards are notable because of their flexibility; they can come down early game and get better the scarier your opponents’ cards are. Don’t be afraid to blow them for just a few tokens though, because Skullclamps and Survivals really need to die quickly.

Honorary mentions include Hornet Queen, White Sun’s Zenith, Chancellor of the Forge, Decree of Justice, and Storm Herd.

Evasive Maneuvers (or, these are my face-stomping boots)

So, remember how I was raving about Dune-Brood’s potential a little ways back? Unfortunately for us, the poor guy needs some help crossing the red-zone safely. That’s where this next group of cards comes in: various forms of evasion-granting and red-zone-clearing help make the most of that killer saboteur trigger.

Dauthi Embrace
Glare of Subdual
Eldrazi Monument
Nim Deathmantle
Trailblazer’s Boots
Whispersilk Cloak

Methods of getting there range from the utterly simple (Whispersilk Cloak) to the amusingly roundabout (Dauthi Embrace, Trailblazer’s Boots); the key is to attack from as many angles as the deck can feasibly support. Glare of Subdual lets you play politics with your tokens and provides a reasonable defense after your current tokens clear the way for the Nephilim. Eldrazi Monument’s evasion and sacrifice trigger are almost more useful here than the indestructibility it’s normally known for. Finally, Nim Deathmantle is one of the deck’s main combo cards. In concert with various mana-generators, going infinite is astonishingly easy and it rebuys your best guys to boot.

A Little Leverage (or, now you see them, now you don’t)

At this point it is important to talk about the difference between the principles underlying a deck’s construction and the optimal way to play that deck in a game. While the deck is constructed as an homage to overwhelming, continual production and action, this need not be your motivation while piloting the deck in a real game. I have found that the major weakness of token decks, especially in EDH, is not the existence of frequently-wrathing decks. Rather, the token deck will fold to (usually unwarranted) combined pressure from the whole table. Since tokens take up more table space and thereby more brain space, the token player’s board state is often perceived as more threatening than is actually warranted, and then you die to a disproportionate response while the blue player Forbid-locks the table.

The heavy sacrifice and reuse themes running through the deck allow us to minimize the impact of this negative attention, but actual in-game play can do the lion’s share of the work here. Play your token generators carefully and strategically; you can overwhelm other board positions so suddenly and well that racing is more likely to be detrimental than useful. Use your token-leveraging cards politically rather than as blunt hammers: for instance, consider allowing a second player to get in free swings at a third with Glare of Subdual, or saving the enchantment guy from the mono-black player’s Corrupt with Martyr’s Cause (after all, you’ve got answers, what are you afraid of?). And for the love of Zedruu, don’t use Aura Shards like a machine-gun if you can’t stand up to everyone responding with extreme prejudice. Budget-guy’s Ravnica Signets are simply not on the same level as Vicious Shadows, Mana Reflection, and Nevinyrral’s Disk.

Anywho, this section is a bit of a catchall category for all those things that are included because of their awesome interactions with tokens, but don’t have a home otherwise. They let you get value out of your tokens without having to beat face every turn forever.

Rhys the Redeemed
Doubling Season
Parallel Lives
Hellrider
Intangible Virtue
Shared Animosity
Soul Warden
Aura Shards
Earthcraft
Mana Echoes
Hour of Reckoning

EDH token champions Rhys and Doubling Season are joined by newcomer Parallel Lives. Really, if you get any one of these going for a turn or two, it’s hard to lose (and hard to not go infinite). Hellrider, Intangible Virtue, and Shared Animosity are your offensively oriented anthem effects, getting in for extra damage and in the case of the Virtue allowing for an equally strong defense. Hour of Reckoning usually allows you a free swing at one or more people, but be warned that random tokens show up in other decks with surprising frequency, so it may not be a perfect Plague Wind every time. Aura Shards is on the top 50 EDH cards for a reason: Disenchants, disenchants everywhere can flummox even the strongest deck. Finally, Mana Echoes and Earthcraft both allow you to convert token generation into mana, which at worst ramps or fixes and at best allows for massive, never-ending waves of tokens.

Death Rites (or, what to do when the mob comes to town)

In case you hadn’t noticed, the first reaction of most players to a board containing several creatures is to kill it with fire. Or the Wrath of God. Since we’re explicitly setting out to make such a board state, we’d best be prepared to deal with the inevitable consequences.

Phyrexian Altar
Skullclamp
Spawning Pit
Attrition
Goblin Bombardment
Malevolent Awakening
Martyr’s Cause
Ghave, Guru of Spores

Opponents trying to destroy my creatures? Well, to can play at that game! All the various sacrifice outlets here are included for their utility: while card advantage, board defense, and recursion feature heavily in our sac suite, some with weaker effects but mana-less activation costs allow us to go infinite or generate instant advantage while tapped out.

Deathgreeter
Falkenrath Noble
Hissing Iguanar
Requiem Angel
Fecundity
Grave Pact
Vicious Shadows

The second morbid group of cards cares about creatures dying rather than doing the job themselves. They create a win-win situation for you: if an opponent wraths the board despite one or two of these, the advantages you reap can finish off an opponent without any further assistance and if, on the other hand, they are sufficiently deterred, then you’ve gained a great deal of tempo. Vicious Shadows is rightly feared by those who have seen it in action; its little siblings Hissing Iguanar and Falkenrath Noble similarly ratchet up the strength of your sac outlets or punish opponents who dare to touch your precious tokens. Fecundity can turn a board of tokens into an overflowing hand post-wrath; while it helps opponents as well, you go through approximately sixty creatures in a given game, a number most other decks can’t even approach. Grave Pact, on the other hand, almost never helps anyone. It’s extraordinarily effective at suppressing opponents’ creatures, but depending on your playgroup it may turn out to be excessively oppressive. Requiem Angel is just a wonderful card- making your entire board reappear as soon as it’s wiped wins games. Its close cousin Pawn of Ulamog gets an honorary mention here; if you want to focus more on the sacrifice shenanigans, he’s also probably worth including.

Utility (or, has anyone seen the remote?)

In case it wasn’t totally obvious, enchantment tutors are useful in a deck that’s a quarter enchantments. Not much really to say about these guys, but if you want to have more fun, don’t automatically chase after the combo pieces; try pulling out threats instead and see what happens!

Academy Rector
Ranger of Eos
Night Dealings
Sterling Grove
Enlightened Tutor
Creeping Renaissance
Replenish

Ranger of Eos has four available targets: two life-gain dorks, Rhys, and the Outcast, a decently powerful bunch for 1-drops. Night Dealings does solid work in the damage-oriented combo game this deck can play, but don’t forget to remove the exact number of counters you want, as it’s rather picky that way. Sterling Grove is a phenomenal card; no matter when you draw it, it’s live.

Fault Lines (or, how to fix your mana without a socket wrench)

Lastly, but most certainly not least, we come to the lands. The mana base for this deck has some intrinsic tensions that need to be resolved; this list shows my personal solution, but if you prefer a different style, change it up. The mana base for this deck pulls in three ways: they want to have basic types to maximize the power of Perilous Forays, a key engine card, they want to be powerful non-basic mana-fixers to play all four colors of cards with regularity, and they want to be strong utility lands that leverage your tokens.

Some of the nonbasics in this mana base are quite expensive; while they are all powerful additions to the deck, a workable mana base can be constructed with much cheaper options. I would, however, recommend acquiring a few utility lands, as they are all essentially spells that also tap for mana and tend to be relatively cheap (look to the uncommon cycle from Ravnica block, for instance). The utility land package can be customized to your tastes; potential candidates include Kessig Wolf Run, Gavony Township, Grim Backwoods, Vault of the Archangel, Skarrg, the Rage Pits, Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, and the token-producers mentioned earlier. I have found that four to five seems to be in the right area, but if you’re feeling daring, you could always run more.

Putting all that together, here’s the final list:

Upward the Dunes, Forward the Brood- Dune-Brood Nephilim EDH

General – Dune-Brood Nephilim (hurrr)

Creatures (18)
1x Academy Rector
1x Avenger of Zendikar
1x Deathgreeter
1x Dragon Broodmother
1x Dragonmaster Outcast
1x Emeria Angel
1x Falkenrath Noble
1x Ghave, Guru of Spores
1x Hellrider
1x Hissing Iguanar
1x Jade Mage
1x Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
1x Oracle of Mul Daya
1x Primeval Titan
1x Ranger of Eos
1x Requiem Angel
1x Rhys the Redeemed
1x Soul Warden

Enchantments (24)
1x Attrition
1x Aura Shards
1x Bitterblossom
1x Dauthi Embrace
1x Doubling Season
1x Earthcraft
1x Fecundity
1x Glare of Subdual
1x Goblin Bombardment
1x Grave Pact
1x Intangible Virtue
1x Malevolent Awakening
1x Mana Echoes
1x Martyr’s Cause
1x Necrogenesis
1x Night Dealings
1x Night Soil
1x Parallel Lives
1x Perilous Forays
1x Sacred Mesa
1x Seed the Land
1x Shared Animosity
1x Sterling Grove
1x Vicious Shadows

Artifacts (7)
1x Eldrazi Monument
1x Nim Deathmantle
1x Phyrexian Altar
1x Skullclamp
1x Spawning Pit
1x Trailblazer’s Boots
1x Whispersilk Cloak

Planeswalkers (1)
1x Garruk Relentless

Sorceries (7)
1x Army of the Damned
1x Creeping Renaissance
1x Cultivate
1x Hour of Reckoning
1x Martial Coup
1x Primal Growth
1x Replenish

Instants (4)
1x Artifact Mutation
1x Aura Mutation
1x Enlightened Tutor
1x Sprout Swarm

Lands (38)
2x Mountain
3x Swamp
3x Plains
5x Forest
1x Windbrisk Heights
1x Vivid Grove
1x Badlands (only because it sort of resembles a dune)
1x Plateau (ditto)
1x Blood Crypt
1x Godless Shrine
1x Overgrown Tomb
1x Sacred Foundry
1x Stomping Ground
1x Temple Garden
1x Murmuring Bosk
1x Fetid Heath
1x Fire-Lit Thicket
1x Wooded Bastion
1x Rootbound Crag
1x Sunpetal Grove
1x Command Tower
1x Reflecting Pool
1x Gaea’s Cradle
1x Serra’s Sanctum
1x Gavony Township
1x Grim Backwoods
1x Kessig Wolf Run
1x Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
1x Vault of the Archangel

The deck is interesting to play, especially for fans of long games with build up and those who enjoy assembling and reassembling odd little death machines powered by pennies. It lends itself to a control role, but the emphasis on battlefield interactivity means it feels engaging and rarely oppressive. Give it a shot and have fun taking down opponents with coins and bits of string!

I hope you’ll join me next time, when I explore the possibilities of +1/+1 counters and lock-outs with the Witch-Maw Nephilim. Until then, may you enjoy progress for its own sake!

Gibson Haynes
@KaipaLin on Twitter and MTGSalvation

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