32 Colour Combinations: A Commanding Challenge – Deck 1: Neheb, the Eternal AKA. How Many Creature Types? (Mono-R)
32 Colour Combinations – The Premise
What exactly is this “challenge”? In short, the idea is to build a Commander deck for every colour combination. That means a deck for each mono colour (including colourless), each Ravnica Guild, each Shard/Tarkir clan, each Nephilim combination and of course WUBRG or five colour.
This appealed to me on two levels. Firstly, I love brewing for Commander. Building decks is just so fun to me, whether it’s “Good Stuff” decks or decks with a theme or even just a sub-theme, something about it is so relaxing.
Secondly, I love the challenge that it provides. From choosing an interesting general for each deck to trying to make them play differently and enjoyably. There are so many things to think about when building for Commander.
I decided that instead of just building these lists and leaving them to gather dust in my Tappedout folder I’d write an article for each one. I highly recommend you try this out too. I’m only about half way through the decks and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.
I am not planning to do these articles in any particular order so I hope that they don’t get too confusing!
Overview of the deck
I’m kicking off this series of articles with both a new legendary creature as well as a deck in what is undoubtedly my favourite colour. Neheb, the Eternal.
As soon as this card was spoiled, it ignited the spark of brewing within me. I knew that I had to build around this guy, either as the general of his own deck or in the 99 of a deck like Rakdos, Lord of Riots or Heartless Hidetsugu.
I decided to build a deck with Neheb as the general for two reasons:
- There are so many sweet things you can do with this Zombie Minotaur Warrior and having him as your commander is the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to have him out almost all the time.
- I’ve recently started buying foils of any commander I play and I think he’d look fantastic (just imagine that flaming spear in foil).
I decided to move away from the token swarming strategies commonly employed by Red Commander decks and towards the big dumb dragon strategies that a lot of other decks go for, focusing on one of my favourite mechanics, Storm.
Mono-Red Storm is one of the more difficult builds in Commander. You lose out on a lot of good draw spells available to Izzet or Grixis Storm, as well as other great win conditions such as Mind’s Desire and Tendrils of Agony. This makes it harder for your Mono-Red Storm deck to win, a problem that the increased life totals in Commander already cause for Storm decks (I go into this in more detail in my old Nekusar Storm deck article).
The biggest benefit of going Mono-Red is that you won’t have any issues in terms of your manabase and therefore it’s highly unlikely you’ll struggle with your colours (since everything is red)
Finally, this deck runs basically the best Magic card every printed. Mountain.
Neheb, the Eternal Commander Decklist
The deck’s main gameplay goal
The main goal of this deck is jam something in the range of a million spells over the course of a turn, taking around 4 hours to do so, and then cast Grapeshot or Ignite Memories to kill your opponents (who are probably playing Magikarp Jump on their phones by this point). Fun and interactive Magic!
You’ll only be able to do this if you draw enough cards, and if these contain enough rituals or burn spells for Neheb, which I’ll cover below. If you’re not living in this Magical Christmas Land, the deck has a few other win conditions including casting Fall of the Titans, Rolling Earthquake or Earthquake for lethal using your Neheb mana, or abusing the new card that people are crying out to be banned, Paradox Engine alongside Isochron Scepterp with an imprinted Desperate Ritual or Lightning Bolt (or more hilariously Gut Shot.
This is the core focus of the deck. I’d say that this is only really viable due to Neheb’s ability to generate a ton of mana from extremely cheap spells. Flame Rift generates 12 mana in your postcombat main phase and Fiery Confluence generates 18, giving you more then enough resources to draw into a ton of cards and go off in one huge Storm turn, hopefully ending with your opponents losing to a two mana spell that deals 1 damage.
As well as the actual Storm cards I’ve included the pseudo-storm artifact from Kaladesh, Aetherflux Reservoir. Once I found out that this counts all of the spells you cast before you cast the Reservoir I knew I had to add it to all of my combo decks. This adds redundancy to the Storm combo, and allows you to combo over one or two turns or keep yourself alive until you can find a different combo.
The next best thing about being able to generate so much mana is that you can use it all on one big X costed spell. This can be especially effective if you have two in hand and you’re in the later stages of the game. If you cast Earthquake for 10 in a four-player game you can generate 30 mana in your postcombat main phase, allowing you to cast Rolling Earthquake for 28 and probably ending the game. This type of sequencing can be dangerous to both yourself and Neheb, something that I will cover later on in the article.
Luckily, the way that Isochron Scepter is worded allows it to activate Paradox Engine. This means that if you have a mana rock that generates 2 or more mana (Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, or Thran Dynamo for example) you can continue to activate the Scepter until either someone intervenes or your opponents are dead.
There are two main uses for this in the deck. Isochron Scepter + Lightning Bolt/Gut Shot/Price of Progress(if your opponents have nonbasic lands) will loop and eventually kill all of your opponents. The other use is to make an inordinate amount of mana by imprinting Desperate Ritual or Pyretic Ritual and then casting one of the Fireballs in the deck. This infinite mana can also be used in conjunction with the two enchantments in the deck, Aggravated Assault and Pyrohemia to give yourself infinite combat steps or to ping your opponents to death.
These give the deck redundancy should storming out fail, as well as a way to race some of the slower combo decks in the format.
Like every red deck this deck can just win through beats. Neheb, the Eternal is no small Zombie Minotaur Warrior. As a 4/6, he is a 6 turn clock of commander damage (and can beat down faster if you pump him with Haze of Rage).
The deck also includes Hostility to go along with all of the global burn spells allowing you to make a ton of guys which, should they make contact, will end up generating more mana than the burn spells would (neat!).
Hostility isn’t the only card dropping tokens. Young Pyromancer, staple of every deck he’s every shown his face in, can generate a huge number of tokens (or infinite in conjunction with the Isochron Scepter combos above). Hostility is also a great buffer against mill decks, it prevents you from losing all the cards in your deck and then lets you flash back Past in Flames and cast all the spells in your graveyard.
Bedlam Reveler should probably be in the section where I talk about card draw, but I feel like he’s more likely just going to punch people in the face for a huge amount after a ton of prowess triggers. Another sweet thing about this card is that it’ll probably only cost me RR 9 games out of 10.
This deck definitely struggles to win the longer the game goes (and the higher Neheb’s commander tax becomes), so there is a decent amount of ramp to make sure that you can get off to a lightning fast start. The commander staple Sol Ring is obviously here as well as it’s 0 mana cousin Mana Crypt. The other mana rocks range from Fire Diamond and Coldsteel Heart to the Isochron Scepter combo pieces like Gilded Lotus and Thran Dynamo.
While you’ll more likely want to use them to help you storm out you can use the rituals to ramp into some of your big win conditions like Paradox Engine and Hostility. As well as the usual rituals this deck also runs Geosurge to let you cast your general and the artifact combo pieces easier and Mana Geyser, as card which can simply win you the game by itself against the creature-based decks that love to tap out on their own turn.
Finally is the Legacy and Modern combo staple Simian Spirit Guide. This is a bit of a weird addition but the number of times in Commander games I’ve been a single mana off of a huge turn or even winning are so high that I thought I’d give this card a try.
Like a lot of combo decks, this one is incredibly light on removal. It simply wants to go off and doesn’t care about what other decks are doing. It does run Chandra, Torch of Defiance which can remove some mid-sized creatures, but if something really needs removing it’ll likely be with one of the X spells like Rolling Earthquake or Earthquake. Lightning Bolt can also remove some of creature-based combo pieces and Planeswalkers.
Getting More Cards
Card draw and card advantage are huge parts of Magic, and combo decks are no different. Making sure you have the right cards at the right time can be the difference between winning or losing a game. Red is not well known for its card advantage engines, so as you can expect, this deck does not have a huge number of ways to get the right cards into its hand (hence the extra win conditions outside of Storm).
That being said, when I was building this deck I tried as hard as I could to cram in card draw. The main downside of the red draw spells is that they force you to discard either before or after you draw. Cards like Faithless Looting and Cathartic Reunion can become 2 for 1s against yourself if they’re countered but also give you a huge amount of card selection in the cards you do and don’t need, and a lot of this downside is actually negated in this deck with the inclusion of Past in Flames allowing you to discard basically any instant or sorcery since you can recast it from your graveyard later.
The other big draw cards in Red are often called ”Wheels” after the first of their kind Wheel of Fortune. These cards are fantastic in combo decks as they allow you to get a whole new hand of cards while discarding ones you don’t need. A downside that as mentioned above can be quite easily negated. This deck runs both the OG Wheel of Fortune and the Miracle version, Reforge the Soul. These help to dig through a huge chunk of the deck to find either the next ritual you need or a combo piece.
Red is also not known for great tutors, not being allowed a card like Demonic Tutor or even Mystical Tutor hurts, but Gamble is also a fantastic 1 drop tutor. Even though the card often seems to read as ”search your library for a card, put that card into your graveyard at random”, there is also a chance that you can search for a card and keep it. The best way to use this card is to search for something that you don’t mind losing (See: Past in Flames) and then discarding a card at random with no fear.
Finally is probably the best card draw in the deck, Knollspine Dragon. This card has fantastic synergy with Neheb if you decide to go down this combo focused route or not as they both card about your opponents losing as much life as possible. I first found this card when brewing my Borborygmos Enraged (who is also part of this 32 commander challenge, watch this space) commander deck and have loved it every since. In red it’s quite easy to deal 7+ damage at which point it becomes a 7/5 flier that also lets you draw a new grip of card, very powerful indeed.
Fun Cards and Interactions
If I was writing about 60-card constructed I’d probably call this section ”Fun-ofs” but since commander is a singleton format it doesn’t really work in the same way.
A lot of this deck is pretty heavily focused on the Neheb combo engine but there are some cards that are good enough that you can easily take a turn off to get the extra bit of value from them.
When looking through this decklist there are two cards that stand out, Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of War and Peace. Sword of Fire and Ice in my opinion is probably the best sword of the cycle, drawing cards and killing small creatures are two of the best things in Magic, so this card doesn’t really need a reason to be in this deck.
Sword of War and Peace is in my opinion one of the worst of the cycle and does need a reason to be in this deck. In fact, there are two reasons why it is included, and the first also extends to Sword of Fire and Ice. Both swords give Neheb protection from red and allow you to cast your Earthquakes without worrying about killing the source of all of that lovely, lovely mana. The second reason to include War and Peace is to combat control decks. I know that this deck will struggle in longer games where the Blue control players are allowed to fill up their hands and hold up counterspells. Sword of War and Peace will give me that extra damage from them having a stacked hand, and therefore generate extra mana to help me kill the control player.
Alhammarret’s Archive was a late edition to the deck when I realised that I didn’t have much card draw at all. This card does double duties, allowing me to draw twice as many cards while halving the amount of time that it takes to get to the magic number of 50 life for Aetherflux Reservoir, one of my backup win conditions. The fact that this card does both of these things in one small package made me think that its high mana cost would easily be made up.
Lastly is Glacial Chasm. Similarly to the swords this card allows you to cast as many Earthquakes or [/c]Rolling Earthquake[/c]s as you want without the fear of accidentally killing yourself. It also allows you to abuse Treasonous Ogre to bleed your life total dry without the fear of dying to something silly like a goblin token.
In conclusion, while I haven’t been able to play this deck (since Hour of Devastation isn’t out for another couple of weeks) on paper this looks like the kind of deck that I’d love to play, a bunch of burn spells, some hasty creatures and of course, basic Mountains.
I hope that you enjoyed my take on the new legend and as always let me know what you’d do with this Zombie Minotaur Warrior. If you like this article let me know what you liked about it and what you’d like to see from the rest of this series.
Thanks for Reading