For my next installment in this series, I would like to take a look at one of my favorite legendary creatures, which is also one of the first ones I ever owned.
He is in colors I dislike, and his ability is pretty weak for the cost, but I still love him.
Let’s take a look at Nebuchadnezzar.
First printed in the early days of Magic (when they didn’t care about bringing real-world characters into the game), Nebuchadnezzar is named after – and not designed to be anything at all like – Nebuchadnezzar II, one of the kings of the Babylonian Empire – circa 600 BCE.
For those of you who are not massive history nerds, Nebuchadnezzar II is credited with building the Hanging Gardens, and also with the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple. Historically, he went a little crazy for a while, living in the woods like an animal before coming back to his throne and being accepted because…well, that’s how things worked back then apparently.
Anyway, on to the card:
He’s in Dimir colors, which some people like (I guess…) His ability, however, is what I want to look at today because we’ll be discussing how to build this deck around it.
X, tap, name a card: Target opponent reveals X cards at random from his or her hand. If the named card is among them, that player discards it. Use this ability only during your turn.
Honestly, that seems…bad. Especially on a 3/3 for five mana. And it seems bad because objectively it is bad…but that’s the point. We don’t want to build powerhouse decks that pilot themselves; we want to build niche decks that people ignore until it’s too late and that are fun to play.
The main problems with this card are that you need to dump X mana into it, it only hits one person, and you need to be lucky enough to know what is in their hand. Some secondary problems are that it is usable on your turn only, and there’s the fact that you’ll be filling graveyards for people. Not always a great call.
You kind of have to approach games with Nebuchadnezzar using a pretty solid understanding of what decks contain what cards, and which of those cards are the really serious threats; I’ll leave that up to you because that changes drastically across different metagames – do your homework to make the most of him.
I want to focus on how you can get the most out of this ability.
DIVINATION (FOR FUN AND PROFIT)
First, we’ll solve the ‘drawback’ of a lucky guess. Let’s just make everyone play with their hands revealed!
[Deck title=Show Me What You Got]
The best two options here are Telepathy and Seer’s Vision, because you don’t reveal your hand and they are enchantments (which are easier to protect.) I like the extra ability on Seer’s Vision, but I prefer the low cost on Telepathy. All four should be in your deck for redundancy.
You can also cheat a bit and use spells that show you somebody’s hand temporarily. These are pretty common and should be well known, but things like Thoughtseize and Duress are often overlooked in EDH because of the relatively minimal effect. With this deck, the discard result on these spells is secondary – we really just want to see what is in your hand, so we can name something we know is there.
PAY THAT MAN HIS MONEY
The next biggest issue here is the X-cost in the ability, and how we get the mana to reliably hit all of the cards in a player’s hand. Black and blue are not known for their land ramping abilities, so we’re going to be relying on rocks for this. Dimir Charm, Darksteel Ingot, and Dimir Cluestone should be obvious inclusions; Mana Vault and Everflowing Chalice are beasts in this for the massive jump in mana you get out of them. A mid-game Chalice could be all you need to reliably hit X equal to someone’s whole hand for the rest of the game.
On that point – hitting just one person with this seems like a waste of mana production. Luckily, we can get around that with some obvious tools – Rings of Brighthearth, obviously. Also, Illusionist’s Bracers and Quicksilver Elemental can expand your ability to hit multiple people. Note that the Elemental does not copy the ability, but copies the abilities of target creature, making it a poor choice until the very late game when you’re swimming in mana.
I do need to point out the real speed-bump with this general – only being able to activate Neb’ on your turn is a pretty big problem, I will admit. We love to do things at instant speed, and foiling the plans of someone on their turn is a tingly-feeling moment. Sadly, we’re just not getting this with Nebuchadnezzar.
The one ‘solution’ to this, of course, is to make sure it is your turn as often as possible.
I will not encourage this. Moving on.
Finally, we have the graveyard problem. When we activate Nebuchadnezzar, we’re not naming Sakura-Tribe Elder. We’re naming Sun Titan, or Palinchron, or Exsanguinate. We’re hitting bombs as often as possible. The problem there is that most EDH decks have ways to use their graveyard effectively. We can approach this in two ways – and I actually prefer a mix of the two.
We can hate out graveyards with Bojuka Bog or Tormod’s Crypt and similar effects. You know these – simple and effective. We can also use those graveyards to our advantage; Necrotic Ooze is a hilarious card that gets a lot of mileage in decks like this. I would consider ignoring a bomb in hand for a useful activated ability instead with the Ooze on the table. Rise of the Dark Realms is a card, and one that I always pack in black decks because sometimes you need to be the twirly-mustached bad guy.
Reanimating your opponent’s’ dead creatures is a time-honored tactic in Magic, and EDH is rife with good targets. Do your worst – this isn’t an auto-pilot strategy like you get playing [Geth, Lord of the Vault[/card], so you get a hall pass when you choose to play Nebuchadnezzar.
Admittedly, you’re unlikely to win a lot of games with this deck. Discard is a great strategy in 1v1 games and 6o-card formats, but in a multiplayer environment it is just not going to be hugely effective. Normally, a discard deck would be sporting things like The Rack, but that’s not really useful here. You’re not keeping everybody’s hand small enough to do so in a useful and effective way.
However, you can ruin some plans, and help to keep the table fair. You can stop combo players before they are ready, and you can force combat to be the path to victory, which generally leads to more engaging games and people having more fun anyway. It’s hilarious to turn seven cards sideways and hope the math works out; It’s less funny to see somebody draw a card and proceed to combo out. Nebuchadnezzar helps with that.
Also, it says “Name a card.”. Note that it is not “Name a non-land card.” There is the small chance that you could, at some point, name “Plains” and absolutely destroy somebody.
I live for those moments.