Fat Stacks — Treading Ink

Feature Article from Cassidy Silver
Cassidy Silver
5/25/2016 11:00:00 AM
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There's never been a four-color Commander option. Yes, there are the four-colored Nephilim from Guildpact, but they are not legendary. Mark Rosewater once mentioned that they would probably be legendary if Commander had been popular when the set was printed, and indeed, some people do end up building with the Nephilim as if they were legendary.

I've never really felt the need to build around the Nephilim. Five-color seems just as easy to build, and you would never have to argue with someone who doesn't like that they aren't legends. On the other hand, I can definitely understand why someone would want to build around Dune-Brood Nephilim with his gross puke tokens, or Yore-Tiller Nephilim with its uber-reanimation effects.

 Ink-Treader Nephilim
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StigersBGG 1 $0.44
Traveling Merchant 1 $0.45
HatGames 1 $0.46
NCoastCollectorsMall 2 $0.46
GP Washington 3 $0.49
MTG Rares 2 $0.49
Alter Reality Games 5 $0.59
Priority Games 3 $0.59
TenthDimensionCards 1 $0.60
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Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Ink-Treader Nephilim Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

My favorite Nephilim, however, is Ink-Treader Nephilim, which has a built-in Radiate effect. This is similar to the more recent Zada, Hedron Grinder, though it will affect opposing creatures, and has three more colors to play around with. I know the Nephilim aren't actual legends, but we will have some soon enough. Let's pretend it is legendary, so we can take a snapshot of what a four-colored deck would look like before Commander 2016 comes out.

Ink-Treader Nephilim will copy ANY eligible spell cast its way, meaning that it will be vulnerable to spot removal. Each Lightning Bolt and Terror will also hit their creatures, but the fact remains that building a creature-heavy deck is not going to work well. Luckily Ink-Treader Nephilim only Radiates to creatures, so something like Vindicate will not destroy every permanent in play.

Since Ink-Treader Nephilim's ability goes towards every eligible creature on the board, the targeting on a card is important. For instance, Giant Growth will give all creatures +3/+3, which can still be good, but doesn't help much in most blocking situations. Cards like Ranger's Guile or Emerge Unscathed are only able to target a creature that we control, so Ink-Treader Nephilim would not be able to target opposing creatures with them.

Something like Vines of the Vastwood is even more interesting. It does not give a creature Hexproof. As a result, Vines of the Vastwood can counter a lot of things, such as an equip ability or a Rite of Replication.

Ink-Treader's Swell Combo by WriterofWrong
Main Deck
1 Abbot of Keral Keep
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Bloom Tender
1 Joiner Adept
1 Monastery Mentor
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Nivmagus Elemental
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Soulblade Djinn
1 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Weathered Wayfarer
Creatures [11]
1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
1 Narset Transcendent
Planeswalkers [2]
1 Act of Aggression
1 Ashnod's Altar
1 Banefire
1 Blessed Breath
1 Change of Heart
1 Chromatic Lantern
1 Coalition Relic
1 Comet Storm
1 Crypsis
1 Cryptolith Rite
1 Cultivate
1 Debt of Loyalty
1 Dominate
1 Earthcraft
1 Electrolyze
1 Emerge Unscathed
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Glacial Ray
1 Isochron Scepter
1 Jeskai Ascendancy
1 Kodama's Reach
1 Mind Games
1 Mystic Confluence
1 Nature's Lore
1 Niveous Wisps
1 Phyrexian Altar
1 Portent of Betrayal
1 Praetor's Counsel
1 Psychic Puppetry
1 Rampant Growth
1 Ranger's Guile
1 Shelter
1 Sheltering Word
1 Sigil Blessing
1 Snap
1 Spiritualize
1 Stun
1 Swell of Growth
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Touch of Invisibility
1 Traitorous Blood
1 Turn Against
1 Twitch
1 Verdant Confluence
1 Vines of Vastwood
1 Wild Defiance
1 Worldly Tutor
Spells [47]
1 Blighted Woodland
1 Breeding Pool
1 City of Brass
1 Command Tower
8 Forest (295)
6 Island (286)
1 Krosan Verge
6 Mountain (292)
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Opal Palace
6 Plains (283)
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Savannah
1 Stomping Ground
1 Taiga
1 Temple Garden
1 Tropical Island
Lands [39]
Deck Total [99]

1 Ink-Treader Nephilim
Sideboard [1]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Ink-Treader Nephilim can get pretty broken. If we target him with a Threaten, it becomes Insurrection. Since spot removal is so good against Ink-Treader Nephilim, the deck can't really pack a lot of creatures, so using opponents' creatures to kill them is a sound strategy. It is easy to go overboard on these cards, but I decided to keep around the most relevant ones: Traitorous Blood for trample, and Act of Aggression / Turn Against because of their instant speed. Portent of Betrayal is probably the best though because of all the scry triggers.

Not only does this deck break the game via threats, but it also has a lot of spells that will draw a bunch of cards when Ink-Treader Nephilim Radiates them. Any card that targets a creature and has a cantrip effect, like Shelter, is going to turn into massive card draw.

Spiritualize is a lot like Vines of Vastwood in that its wording doesn't feel like normal card design. It effectively Fogs each turn, though it still doesn't prevent Commander damage or poison counters. To be even more defensive, Niveous Wisp or Twitch can tap all creatures and draw a bunch of cards.

I have a few ideas for what to do with all those cards. First off, I love Swell of Growth in this deck. Yes, it will give all creatures +2/+2, but more importantly, we will be able to play a land from hand for each copy. Verdant Confluence is also quite good here – if Ink-Treader Nephilim is the only target, we can choose the Rampant Growth option as the other 1-2 choices and get a ton of basic lands into play.

Snap is a good example of the the untap theme in the deck. If Ink-Treader Nephilim gets Snapped, it bounces every creature in play and yields two mana back for each copy.

Even though there aren't a ton of creatures in here, there's technology to get value from them. On top of Twitch, there's Crypsis, Psychic Puppetry, and of course, all of the already borked Act of Aggression effects in here. We also have Jeskai Ascendancy, which will not necessarily interact with the spell-copying ability, but we definitely have plenty of noncreatures in here to trigger it multiple times a turn. Birds of Paradise, Sylvan Caryatid, and Bloom Tender are all synergistic with all the untapping effects, and Weathered Wayfarer will help fix the manabase. Cryptolith Rite makes any of our creatures into Birds of Paradise, and Earthcraft will pair with it nicely.

 Monastery Mentor
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MonkeysGaming 1 $7.00
Gardner Game Knights 1 $7.00
XiaShop 1 $7.31
Stelz Nation 1 $7.50
BlackDiamondGames 1 $7.61
MTG outlet 1 $7.75
Erics Card Shop 2 $7.77
Kaiser's Kard House 1 $7.99
Corner Pocket 1 $8.00
Downtown Dice 1 $8.00
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Monastery Mentor Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Prowess doesn't go crazy with spell copying, but there's a high enough density of cards that will trigger prowess anyways. Hands-down, the best prowess card in the deck is Monastery Mentor, which serves as a great win condition. Tokens are definitely weak to removal when Ink-Treader Nephilim is in play, but these tokens are easy to grow with prowess triggers, and Monastery Mentor is a compact enough package to make it worth including. I was tempted to run Monastery Swiftspear and Stormchaser Mage, and if the deck was more of an aggro build, they would be in here for sure.

From there, I want to shore up some strategies, such as adding Phyrexian Altar and Ashnod's Altar to combine well with the Threaten effects. While we are adding artifacts, Coalition Relic and Chromatic Lantern will help smooth out the mana base.

I do want to quickly point out Nivmagus Elemental, which will help scrub copies from the stack that are not beneficial, and can actually stop the original spell that targeted Ink-Treader. There are also quite a few arcane spells in here that can create a lot advantage via splicing.

Thanks for reading!

- Cassidy Silver

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