Nicol Bolas: Tainted Grixis Reanimator

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Post by benjameenbear » 6 months ago




Nicol Bolas: Tainted Grixis Reanimator






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Introduction

Nicol Bolas has a long and storied history in MTG. As one of the first Legends every printed, and an OG Elder Dragon at that, Nicol Bolas has been a fixture of the MTG storyline for decades.

"The essence of every world, every spell, and every thought is power. Nothing else matters, because nothing else exists." - Nicol Bolas, here





Commander Analysis

Now that you know the awesomeness of Nicol Bolas, and his subsequent tragic handling during WAR, why should you actually play Bolas as your Commander?

Pros
Pros
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Cons
Cons
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"No fact escapes me. Why do you think you can?" - Nicol Bolas, here




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Current Decklist

Scroll down just a bit further to see the decklist I'm currently running. I personally find it easier to see each card sorted according to function, so I've listed the decklist accordingly. Each section is sorted by the Converted Mana Cost (CMC) of the card.

An important thought before the decklist is presented. I do not claim that the one presented below is the absolute end-all-be-all of Nicol Bolas decklists for two reasons:
  • The list below is a selection of the cards that have been most effective in the games that I have played. There might be cards that work for your playstyle better than others, and the list below is a reflection of what has been most optimal given my game experience.
  • I believe that competitive Commander is an exercise in metagaming; no list you read online will be perfect for your own hometown meta, so it's important that you consider your own playgroup's interactions and needs as you build your deck.
Nicol Bolas Grixis Reanimator Combo Decklist

Reanimation/Recursion Effects (8)


1 Reanimate
1 Animate Dead
1 Dance of the Dead
1 Exhume
1 Victimize
1 Necromancy
1 Kess, Dissident Mage
1 Havengul Lich
Approximate Total Cost:

"Even Gods shall kneel." - Nicol Bolas, here





Card Choices

"Your contract is in default. You belong to me now. Serve, or die." - Nicol Bolas, here





Deck Philosophy

"The hero with the magic sword slays the dragon? Not this time." - Nicol Bolas, here





Deck Strategy

"Your pathetic ideas lie in shambles, Planeswalker. Where is your arrogant pride now?" - Nicol Bolas, here





Credits & Thanks

"Lord Bolas has shown me how each miserable little life holds untold resources." - here





Changelog




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Post by sweetwaterbob » 6 months ago

Came across this deck and boy do I love me an interesting Grixis deck!

I was wondering why you chose Bolas over Kess?

So far I am seeing these as the primary win conditions.

1. Consult Lines
2. Tidespout Win Con
3. Wheel Synergy with Waste Not and Niv Mizzet Parun
4. Nicol Bolas, Dragon God ultimate.

This deck looks very 75%-90% and fun at the same time!

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Post by benjameenbear » 6 months ago

[mention]sweetwaterbob[/mention] Thanks for the compliment!

I chose Nicol Bolas, the Ravager over Kess because... I'm a Vorthos geek and have decks built around my favorite characters in the MTG storyline. And Bolas is one of those characters, despite his atrocious plot line and characterization in War of the Spark (still seething about that...). So, yup, it's mostly down to Vorthos preferences.

However, Bolas is also an outlet for infinite mana during the Tidespout Tyrant loops. Once you achieve infinite mana by bouncing rocks, you can then cast Bolas, Transform him, activate his Plus ability, and then return him to hand via the Tyrant trigger. This also has an incidental effect of guaranteeing your win since you'll be Discarding your opponent's hands along the way. Once you draw your deck in this fashion (or a sufficient amount of it), you can then loop Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh to exile your opponent's decks and nuke their life total. Or cast nu-Jace/Lab-Man and win. Or cast Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker and leave your opponents with empty Boards and empty hands so you can win at your leisure. Or clear out your opponent's hands and Boards with Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God and tick up to his ultimate after a few turns.

Additionally, when Bolas is transformed he has a natural minus ability that allows you to Reanimate any creature OR Planeswalker (making his other Planeswalker versions viable Reanimator targets!) with no life penalty and with no enchantment vulnerability, while also offering Board Control and raw Card Draw as well. This makes his transformed state extremely flexible and affords me a lot of different strategy lines based on what I have in hand and what's on the Board. Additionally, Bolas is a payoff for fast mana rocks. This makes the heavy mana rock count in the list purposeful and additionally useful since transforming Bolas quickly can generate some serious advantages in the long run. So far, my record is a T3 transformed Bolas and winning that game was pretty trivial.

The Wheel + Payoff package is also EXTREMELY powerful as well. Winning after combining Notion Thief + Windfall is pretty easy to do and simply a delightful experience for any true Grixis mage. I've selected a straight Discard Wheel suite so that I can build towards a nu-Jace/Lab-Man win while also fueling a Reanimator strategy. Timetwister, while very powerful and the next cheapest "Wheel" effect in the game, undoes all the hard work I put into stocking my 'yard, so it's actually a liability in the long run.

The omission of Counterspells is intentional, definitely making this a High Powered deck and not cEDH material, so I hope it inspires you and other readers! Eventually, I'll be Primer-izing this so I can have Primers for the decks that I have in real life on MTGNexus. The creature suite could also be improved, but I like the current Reanimation target package as it includes some of my favorite Grixis colored creatures.
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Post by sweetwaterbob » 6 months ago

Wow thanks for the detailed response! It's definitely helping me evaluate this deck better! I too love the bolas ravager as a commander and would have never thought of looping tide with bolas! That is hilarious.

So from what I am seeing the super flavorful bolas win line is

1. Tidespout + rocks = Infinite mana
2. Play Bolas from cmd zone + discard trigger ->Flip Bolas + 2 to draw cards ->repeat step two until
3. God Pharoh is found and you then loop him and can technically win by casting everyones deck.


Image

There are additional lines here but I love it!

I definitely agree with the wheel/discard package. I'm just happy you jammed the Parun into the deck. I love that guy.

Clarification on your meta and edh personality are definitely helping me understand choices made here. I have a bolas deck in paper and I play Kess Consult online using cockatrice/untap.in.

A few last questions:

1. How has Vilis been?
2. Have you tested Bone Miser at all (I love this card and the art is fantastic)?
3. Thraximundar looks like a pretty spicy pick. Any thoughts on him?


Anyways I look forward to the full primer and will def be looking at putting the tidespout win con in my deck.

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Post by benjameenbear » 6 months ago

sweetwaterbob wrote:
6 months ago
Wow thanks for the detailed response! It's definitely helping me evaluate this deck better! I too love the bolas ravager as a commander and would have never thought of looping tide with bolas! That is hilarious.

So from what I am seeing the super flavorful bolas win line is

1. Tidespout + rocks = Infinite mana
2. Play Bolas from cmd zone + discard trigger ->Flip Bolas + 2 to draw cards ->repeat step two until
3. God Pharoh is found and you then loop him and can technically win by casting everyones deck.


Image

There are additional lines here but I love it!

I definitely agree with the wheel/discard package. I'm just happy you jammed the Parun into the deck. I love that guy.

Clarification on your meta and edh personality are definitely helping me understand choices made here. I have a bolas deck in paper and I play Kess Consult online using cockatrice/untap.in.

A few last questions:

1. How has Vilis been?
2. Have you tested Bone Miser at all (I love this card and the art is fantastic)?
3. Thraximundar looks like a pretty spicy pick. Any thoughts on him?


Anyways I look forward to the full primer and will def be looking at putting the tidespout win con in my deck.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun is one of the payoff cards for Wheel effects, so I often try to Reanimate him first if I have a Wheel effect or two in hand. Triggering Niv's ability 7 times with a Wheel of Fortune or Windfall is an excellent way to clear the Board of creatures while also crunching through life totals quickly. And with the high density of Instants/Sorceries in the deck you can often reliably trigger him even without a Wheel effect. He turns Faithless Looting into a can-tripping Bolt effect, which is supremely awesome value. He's an excellent Reanimation target and inexpensive to boot, making him a solid inclusion in any Grixis Reanimator decklist imo.

To answer your questions:
  • Vilis, Broker of Blood has been absolutely incredible. I once had him and Niv-Mizzet, Parun in play at the same time. Every creature died, and in spectacular fashion. His life loss trigger is one of the most broken abilities available in multi-Player MTG since he turns incidental damage into Card Draw. Fetching a land draws you cards. Mana Crypt's damage trigger becomes straight awesome. Mana Confluence and City of Brass draw cards every time you tap them for mana. In short, Vilis has serious Card Draw power. He also kills mana dorks and X/2 creatures super reliably, making him a threat to your opponent's creature suite. And heaven help your opponents if they decide to try and attack you for value... In short, Vilis is excellent and I HIGHLY recommend him for all Reanimator strategies everywhere.
  • I haven't tested Bone Miser explicitly yet, but I don't need to in order to know he'll be solid. I often see at least 2 Wheel effects in any game I sit down for, so his usefulness is pretty assured in my mind. Additionally, he rewards me for Jin-Gitaxias's trigger, the Looting effects I play a la Careful Study and Co., and Sire of Insanity's trigger. I look forward to playing him in paper!
  • Thraximundar is a nostalgia card for me, as one of the first Mythic rares I remember chasing. Thrax, Sedris, and Prince of Thralls have a lot of nostalgia value for me even if they aren't particularly powerful. And Thrax also has the ability to stress my opponents' ability to maintain any sort of meaningful Board presence. Reanimating Thrax after a Wrath effect means that you can keep the Board under a pretty solid lock-down state all while chunking out people's life totals. He's a fun Reanimator target that I often go for when I'm playing against more casual Commander decks so that they don't feel super oppressed.
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Post by sweetwaterbob » 6 months ago

Thanks again for the quick replies.

I definitely need to pick up a broker ASAP. I was wondering about board control but using a combination of Parun/Vilis/Thrax makes a lot of sense.

You've got me excited about my deck again!

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Post by benjameenbear » 6 months ago

Vilis is cheap right now and very much worth the $1 you spend to acquire him!

I'm glad you're excited about your deck again! This decklist is meant to be a High-Power decklist with strong resilience to Hate. I play against my wife's Kaalia deck frequently and it's a nice litmus test for which decks are competitive and viable and which are not.
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Post by sweetwaterbob » 6 months ago

Like I love my deck but it sorta had no win condition so this fixes it and makes it super flavorful. Can't wait to see the look on my friends face when I go Bolas Infinite lol.

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Post by benjameenbear » 6 months ago

The best kind of infinite...
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Post by benjameenbear » 6 months ago

I played against my wife last night with Bolas and I was able to get Niv-Mizzet and Vilis into play alongside each other again. Holy Richard Garfield, that duo is absolutely INCREDIBLE for Board control and erasing life totals. My wife attacked me for 21 damage, not fully realizing how Vilis and Niv-Mizzet interact with each other and promptly died on the crackback.

I don't think I can state this highly enough, but any Multi-Player Reanimator deck ABSOLUTELY needs to be running Vilis in their 99. The sheer amount of draw power he offers is shockingly awesome and I think he's even better than Jin-Gitaxias in most circumstances. He's awesome.
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Post by sweetwaterbob » 5 months ago

So I won a 20+ turn game today with my Bolas deck generating infinite mana from tidespout into Infinite god pharaoh activations to play everybody's library. It was beautiful.

I lost about 25+ life to painlands and vilis draw triggers and was sitting at 9 life for the majority of the game lol. Reanimate into vilis is pretty amazing. It feels like a suicide grixis deck which was kind of exciting.

I added Ashiok Dream Render to my list and that proved to be a huge mvp towards the end.

Any thoughts on Ashiok from your meta's perspective?

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Post by benjameenbear » 5 months ago

Congrats on the win! I'm glad Vilis is working out for you. He's one of the best Reanimation targets I've seen in a long time. Sorry, Nezahal.

I've been trying to find room for Ashiok recently, actually. Being able to shut off opposing Tutors has been very valuable and I've fielded this deck against 'yard based strategies enough to warrant Ashiok's inclusion. I've made some tweaks to my decklist to try and include some more Vorthos elements to the deck, so I'll be updating the OP later today I think.
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Post by sweetwaterbob » 5 months ago

I know you don't really run any counters but also Narset's Reversal has proven to be amazing. It's a great soft counter in the sense that you get a free spell and potentially time walk your opponent. My all-stars lately have been 1. Villis 2. Ashiok 3. Narset's Reversal in that order. Ashiok literally kills peoples dreams at the table.

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