Who is Nekusar?
Nekusar, the Mindrazer is a unique commander from the 2013 commander product that can be associated with group ‘hug’, storm, or even burn and mill strategies. He’s also a Zombie Wizard – both are creature types with heavy support in commander. He has a one-sided Spiteful Visions effect attached to his 2/4 body.
The Benefits of Nekusar
Card draw – card draw everywhere. Blue brings us the best card draw spells in the format followed close by black. Red even brings its own card draw even though red’s card draw is usually looting or net-neutral card draw effects where you are filtering your hand and not going net-positive on cards in hand. Blue/red/black also gives us access to all of the Whell of Fortune effects in the format.
Card selection. Black has the most robust tutor suite in the format and blue can compliment our Nekusar deck if we wish to tutor for instants/sorceries. Red has Gamble.
Group hug/Group pain effects – Nekusar can play a lot of Howling Mine and Font of Mythos effects and capitalize on them via pain effects that hurt players on spell cast ( Spellshock ) card draw ( Spiteful Visions ) or when they discard cards ( Liliana’s Caress ).
The Problems Nekusar Faces
Casting Wheel of Fortune and similar effects can often be a huge trap. If your opponents start the game with Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, or other fast mana starts they can play more cards faster. If you cast Wheel of Fortune after they’ve cast half the spells in their hand they are being mana and card efficient and they profit the most from everyone discarding their hand and drawing seven.
It’s not uncommon for you to cast Wheel of Fortune decks against combo decks and die after you pass turn – if combo decks are able to cast one part of a combo and draw seven cards into another part of the combo you will instantly loose the game. It’s a typical symptom of ‘Group Hug’ style decks that they randomly enable combo decks to win.
Graveyard decks also like Wheel of Fortune. Drawing seven cards and fleshing out your graveyard is a decent place to be. The Dredge mechanic from cards such as Golgari Grave-Troll can be particularly strong with draw seven effects.
These other issues aside when you cast the Wheel of Fortune or Howling Mine effects you are not proactively directly winning the game. They don’t shape your physical boardstate and they are not blocking opponent’s combos or threats.
Five Families of Nekusar
Let’s take a look at the five main families of Nekusar cards and how they collapse onto similar strategies via Nekusar. A lot of the strategy of building Nekusar is figuring out what route you want to take to win the game, and if that leans heavily on Wheels/Pain effects finding the right balance of card draw/damage enablers.
Wheel of Fortune Effects
Wheel of Fortune is the namesake, but there are many different cards that can pull the same effect. Dark Deal, Windfall, Incendiary Command, Molten Psyche (great finisher), Winds of Change, Whispering Madness, reforge the soul, even Wheel of Fate are all similar effects. Cards such as Day’s Undoing, Diminishing Returns, Temporal Cascade, Timetwister, and Time Reversal do similar effects but allow you to hate graveyards by shuffling them into your opponent’s decks.
All of these cards can be cast to give you a better hand or enable chunks of damage from Nekusar, the Mind Razer ‘s passive ping ability. Damnable Pact can be a good finisher as well.
Howling Mine Effects
Howling Mine is a classic group hug card but there are many similar cards: Kami of the Crescent Moon, Font of Mythos, Seizan, Perverter of Truth, Dictate of Kruphix, Master of the Feast, Otherworld Atlas, Anvil of Bogardan, Jace Beleren, and Well of Ideas make up this category. They draw you cards and enable minor damage each turn from Nekusar’s passive ping ability.
Spiteful Visions and Fevered Visions are both pain effects as well as howling mine effects. Fate Unraveler, Underworld Dreams, Psychosis Crawler, Kederekt Parasite and Phyrexian Tyranny make up the majority of the ping-per draw effects.
Supplementing these damage sources (beyond Nekusar himself) are effects that make opponents loose life when they discard. These are best paired with the Wheel of Fortune effects. They are: Liliana’s Caress, Megrim and Bloodchief Ascension (absolutely devastating once enabled). Painful Quandary is also a playable pain effect that can be difficult for opponents to play through.
When I say storm cards I mean cards that enable you to play lots of cards in a single turn. Where traditional storm mechanic cards like Ignite Memories are directly linked to how many spells you cast that turn most Nekusar decks care more about the raw amount of spells you cast to benefit Nekusar’s passive ability and any other pain enablers you have on the board. If you have two pain enablers in play and can cast a Wheel of Fortune effect into another Wheel of Fortune effect the damage really adds up.
Often storm decks will run cards such as Omniscience, Dream Halls, Eye of the Storm, Mind Over Matter and mana producing spells such as Dark Ritual, Desperate Ritual, Seething Song, Inner fire and Cabal Ritual. Omniscience and Dream Halls are probably the best enablers because its easy to cast spells off of them. You usually use rituals to ramp up into a payoff card such as Omniscience, Mind over Matter, or another enabler that can let you cast a bunch of spells in one turn. The rituals can also be used before you cast your wheel effects so you net mana as you draw cards. These ritual spells spells are very well paired with Past in Flames, Mizzix’s Mastery, or Yawgmoth’s Will because you can net mana as you recast all your rituals from your graveyard and recast your Wheel effects.
A lot of decks that run the card Doomsday set themselves up to cast Laboratory Maniac and use Doomsday to filter out the rest of their deck besides 5 cards. Because Nekusar decks like to run Wheel effects it can be super easy to win the game right after casting Laboratory Maniac.
Other Typical Nekusar Cards
Teferi’s Puzzle Box : A silly artifact that is bonkers with Nekusar because it makes your opponent basically redraw their hand each turn, thus enabling your damage output cards. It also makes sorcery speed tutoring and planning out turn-by-turn strategy difficult for opponents because their hands change each turn. (You draw a card first each turn then resolve Teferi’s Puzzle Box’s ability)
Notion Thief : This card is a little bit gimmicky but seriously useful if you are running lots of wheels. Flash him in the turn before you untap, then you can cast any wheel effect and make all your opponents discard their hands and you draw a crap ton of cards.
Phyresis : Phyresis or its brothers Tainted Strike / Glistening Oil can give Nekusar infect, which with 2 wheels (or a wheel and enough Howling Mine effects to ping your opponents during their draw step) can infect kill other players.
Helm of the Ghastlord and Curiosity can enable huge card draw turns. The Helm of the Ghastlord specifically can shut out players by making them discard all the cards they draw when it is attached to Nekusar.
Waste Not : This article wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk about this card. When I’ve seen this card do work it feels like there’s almost nothing it cant do – it makes creatures, mana, and lets you draw cards. Many of the most explosive Nekusar draws that I’ve seen involve this card. Its especially powerful
Forced Fruition : It seems cute (and it is often times more cute than powerful) but if you think games will be longer than shorter this card can be super effective at enabling Nekusar damage triggers. It can also at times enable discard triggers because your opponents will usually have over seven cards in hand at end of turn.
Hive Mind : A very dangerous card because it can benefit or hurt all players, Hive Mind allows you to essentially copy your wheel effects many times and stack enormous amounts of damage in any given turn.
How do you build Nekusar? Tell us more in the comments below. Share a link to your decklists!