Hey! Hayes here with the concept idea for a nearly all spells Nicol Bolas deck. Each installment of this Deck Story will cover deck changes, how the deck handles the meta I’m in, and the various challenges I will be faced with. Enjoy!
The Base Concept
I want to build a Grixis control deck but I don’t want it to look anything close to a Grixis deck people would expect. I decided to give myself a single restriction to make sure the deck feels off-beat: I can run only instants and sorceries.
The allure for this restriction came from me building and playing my Nearly All Spells Rashmi deck. It’s a deck that isn’t very expected, can play decently against most decks in the format, and is highly flexible.
With this Nicol Bolas deck I am building I want my main win condition to still be Rise From The Tides with Quicken thrown in there to help me cast it at instant speed. The reasons why I think Nicol Bolas could be good for a control deck are:
- Nicol Bolas has a high converted mana cost and isn’t that scary. I wanted to pick a commander that wouldn’t draw a ton of attention early in the game because I am trying to delay the game until I have a ton of lands in play – in order to survive that long I didn’t want people to be afraid of my deck or try to beat me down quickly.
- Nicol Bolas works really well with mass bounce spells because if you cast a mass bounce spell end-of-turn before your turn you can untap, cast Nicol Bolas, use a land (such as Hall of the Bandit Lord, Hanweir Battlements ) to give Bolas haste and hit someone. When you hit someone with Nicol Bolas this way they discard their hand – including the boardstate they previously had!
The First Draft of the Deck
The main win condition that I’m building towards is to try to survive until around turn 7 or 8 using all of your counter magic/draw spells/cantrips/disruption until you can turn the corner and start to assemble your own combos. Each turn you want to make your land drop. It’s why I’m running 40 lands – each turn I need to be playing a land so I can reach the late game.
Win Conditions in order of how easy they are to set up:
Rise From The Tides : This card creates tons of 2/2 zombies. Because we run almost only instants and sorceries we usually create enough zombies that we can kill one or two opponents with a single swing of our zombie horde. Quicken, Torrential Gearhulk, can enable you to cast Rise from the tides at instant speed so that your zombies can attack before your opponents can react. If you are super late into the game a simple Time Warp effect after Rise From the Tides enables your zombies to attack. Even if our opponents try to interact with our graveyard by exiling it we are probably OK as long as Rise From The Tides is not exiled. This isn’t that difficult – our deck is good enough at using spells to cantrip/fill up our graveyard that even if someone Bojuka bogs us we can refresh our yard within a few turns using cantrips.
Reins of Power : If an opponent ever over extends with their boardstate you can tutor/find Reins of Power and steal their board for a turn, trading away your empty boardstate. Reins of power can also be used to “Fog” an opponent for a turn. Cast it during their turn to steal their creatures before they attack (if you do it during combat it will also remove them from combat).
Rite of Replication and Dualcaster Mage : Target any creature in play with Rite and retain priority, casting Dualcaster Mage. Once your dualcaster resolves target the Rite with it’s copy ability. When that copy ability resolves you get a copy of Rite of Replication to put on the stack; target your dualcaster. This lets you create an infinite number of dualcaster mages (although they will not have haste). If you kick the initial rite of replication you can configure the stack to end up with an infinite number of any creature on the battlefield controlled by any player (without shroud/hexproof) because with each kicked Rite you can net dualcasters and because you net dualcasters you can spend excess dualcaster mage triggers to target other creatures with your rite of replication copies.
Late game Exsanguinate : ‘Nuff said! I anticipate not killing many people with this spell and just using it to stabilize my life total. This kill condition is better with Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmothin play.
Tips and Tech Tricks
- You can’t counter everything. You’ve only got so many counter spells and so much mana. With three other players it’s realistically impossible to counter everything. Instead try to determine what threats will kill you imminently and what threats you can ignore and plan so scoop up later with a mass bounce spell.
- Cabal Coffers can launch you into combo-like turns. Don’t run it out onto the battlefield until you have Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in play and about 9-10 other lands. Because every land is a swamp with Urborg in play, your Cabal Coffers can activate for a very large amount of mana. If you have Diabolic Revelation you can pay 3 for X and win the game provided you have enough lands in play. You can find two Time Warp effects and Rise From The Tides. Once Diabolic Revelation resolves you can Time Warp into your next turn. Cast Rise from the tides there and then cast another Time Warp effect so that you can untap your zombie horde and kill the players who need to be killed. If you want to get really fancy you can Diabolic Revelation for Frantic search so that you can untap Cabal Coffers to give yourself a fresh surge of black mana if needed. With that much mana you can probably kill the table with Exsanguinate.
- Information is power. Use your Duress, thoughtseize, peek, Gitaxian Probe to get intel on what your opponent’s plans are so that you know what needs to get countered and what is harmless.
- The miracle mechanic is your friend – you can use Brainstorm, Vampiric Tutor, and Mystical Tutor to put Devastation Tide or Temporal Mastery on top of your deck to surprise your opponents during your draw step or on another turn (you can set up the trick the turn before then cantrip on another player drawing your miracle card as the first card drawn that turn).
- Quicken is the most flexible card in your deck and should be used sparingly whenever possible. It can be used defensively to cast a instant speed Crush of Tenticles (!) or offensively to cast Diabolic Revelation with a high enough X value to win you the game on the spot (see Cabal Coffers section).
- Archaeomancer can be used to indefinitely loop mass bounce spells because when you cast the mass bounce spell you bring Archaeomancer back to your hand. This is very powerful versus decks that are not mana efficient. Torrential Gearhulk has similar capabilities but is more useful for recasting high costing spells from the graveyard both for free and playing sorceries when you normally can’t cast sorceries.
What I’m worried about initially
Land Destruction : I’m not so worried about Ruination style effects as I am with minor effects like Strip Mine, Wasteland, and creature driven land destruction like Acidic Slime. I think these abilities will be able to nic and tear at me and deny me the ability to develop the mana base I need to cantrip through my deck efficiently. There’s a Gitrog Monster deck that’s geared toward midrange action and I’m afraid its going to be really good at tutoring up land destruction effects and tearing my mana base apart.
I won’t hit my land drops : In my rashmi deck I had green so ramp spells were easy to come by. These don’t really exist in Grixis so I’m curious if not having access to ramp and spells like Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach that can refuel my hand and fix my colors will heavily effect me. I’m running 40 lands so I think I’ll be able to hit all the land drops I need.
I won’t have enough cards : not having Rashmi, Eternities Crafter around to trigger means I have to depend on the spells in my deck to refuel my hand. If I’m trying to trade counterspells occasionally with opponent’s spells and cast mass bounce spells I’ll eventually run out of cards in hand. I do think I run enough cards to refuel and cantrip towards my win conditions.
The Time Warps might not be good : I know people generally perceive that taking extra turns can be powerful but you need a way to capitalize with each Time Walk spell otherwise you are just cantripping and enabling another land drop. I’m concerned that I’ll get killed by my opponents while I have time walks stuck in my hand where I could have chosen to include more card draw effects or interaction.