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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Apr 05 2012 11:54am
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Welcome back!  First off, I just want to apologize for missing the article last week.  Sometimes real life gets in the way, and unfortunately I just wasn't able to put together a coherent article for you guys in time.  Fortunately I am back in the saddle and able to provide you with another deck today!  Good times, right?

When last we hung out together I began my quest to build a deck using each of the Elder Dragons.  I started off using Arcades Sabboth which you can find HERE.  Sabboth was fun but for my next deck I wanted to explore my dark side a little bit.  As such I decided to build a deck around the original big bad of Magic, Nicol Bolas!  It has been a while since I built a Grixis deck and I knew that I had a challenge ahead of me.  The main reason for the challenge?  I wanted to avoid playing a control deck!  And control is what Grixis is generally about.  However I found something that was a little outside the box and I think you guys will like it.


Before we start talking about the deck, here he is in all his glory:

That's right, I use the From the Vaults version because it's the best.  No one wants to play with a crusty old dragon reading books in a library.  Bring me youth and Vigor!  Our boy Bolas here has a pretty sick ability.  If he hits an opponent, they have to discard their entire hand!  Just brutal.  As such, Bolas typically goes into a control deck.  Just make sure that the board stays clear of threats, bring out Bolas, and beat down.  As a matter of fact that is the most common type of Bolas deck.  It also brings a good amount of hate from opponents.  So I wanted something a little different.  

I was browsing the Commander forum over at MTGSalvation looking at Grixis decks when I came across a "Group Hug" deck.  (For some reason I can't seem to find it anymore, otherwise I would link to the post.)  The deck had a lot of draw and discard effects, as well as cards like Underworld Dreams to make the drawing hurt.  The deck had a bunch of one shot mana accelerators like Seething Song and Dark Ritual and didn't have much in the way of creature defense.  The object of the deck was to string together a bunch of draw cards and make it hurt for your opponents more than it hurts you.  Sounds different and unusual to me at least, so it looked like I found a winner!  There was some other stuff that I didn't like about the initial version but I had a good template to work from at least.  

Before we go any further I just want to point out that a lot of people consider this to be a "griefer" deck, but I don't really agree.  In my mind a griefer deck basically makes people annoyed by preventing them from being able to play the game.  If this deck gets going, people get a new hand of cards every turn and never miss land drops!  I think that's not a bad thing for most opponents.  Of course, the cost your opponents pay for that generosity is a little tough sometimes and control decks really don't like losing their cards all the time.  But at least everyone always get something from this deck!

So without further ado, after a whole mess of tweaking and play testing here is the list I settled on: 

Nicol Bolas
A Commander Deck

1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Jace's Archivist
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Psychosis Crawler
1 Sangromancer
6 cards

Other Spells
1 Anvil of Bogardan
1 Coalition Relic
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Dimir Signet
1 Everflowing Chalice
1 Font of Mythos
1 Geth's Grimoire
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Howling Mine
1 Izzet Signet
1 Mana Crypt
1 Memory Jar
1 Mox Diamond
1 Mox Opal
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Sol Ring
1 Teferi's Puzzle Box
1 Temple Bell
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Liliana Vess
1 Tezzeret the Seeker
1 Copy Artifact
1 Copy Enchantment
1 Forced Fruition
1 Forsaken Wastes
1 Liliana's Caress
1 Megrim
1 No Mercy
1 Phyrexian Tyranny
1 Propaganda
1 Rain of Gore
1 Spiteful Visions
1 Underworld Dreams
1 Evacuation
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Runeflare Trap
1 Starstorm
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Wheel and Deal
1 Damnation
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Diminishing Returns
1 Grim Tutor
1 Imperial Seal
1 Incendiary Command
1 Minds Aglow
1 Molten Psyche
1 Mystic Retrieval
1 Personal Tutor
1 Temporal Cascade
1 Time Reversal
1 Time Spiral
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Windfall
1 Winds of Change
1 Yawgmoth's Will
57 cards

1 Academy Ruins
1 Badlands
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Command Tower
1 Dragonskull Summit
1 Drowned Catacomb
1 Great Furnace
1 Maze of Ith
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Polluted Delta
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Seat of the Synod
5 Snow-Covered Island
3 Snow-Covered Mountain
4 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Temple of the False God
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
1 Underground Sea
1 Vault of Whispers
1 Volcanic Island
1 Watery Grave
36 cards

1 Nicol Bolas
1 cards
Underworld Dreams


For those of you that have read my articles for a while you can bet that this deck was way outside of my comfort zone.  A deck that doesn't win with combat damage?  What the heck?

Draw 7  
time spiral

Memory JarForced FruitionWheel and DealTemporal CascadeTime SpiralWheel of Fortunetime reversal  
Memory Jar, Forced Fruition, Wheel and Deal, Temporal Cascade, Time Spiral, Wheel of Fortune, Time Reversal:  Obviously these are the most powerful cards in the deck.  Not only do they refill your hand, they force your opponents to draw.  My favorite among these is Time Spiral due to the untap effect as it allows you to cast the cards that you just drew.  It also puts your graveyard back into your library, just like Time Reversal, so that you can replay all the stuff that you already played or has been destroyed.  Ideally with these cards you can draw into another draw effect and keep the chain going.  Of course by shuffling graveyards into libraries you often run into the same problem cards opponents have played all over again, but that's just the price you pay I guess.

Also, notice that Diminishing Returns isn't listed here.  That's because draw from that card is optional.  Just something to point out.

Just Draw  
minds aglow

Jace's ArchivistAnvil of BogardanFont of MythosHowling MineTeferi's Puzzle BoxTemple BellSpiteful VisionsIncendiary CommandMinds AglowMolten PsycheWindfallMikokoro, Center of the Sea  
Jace's Archivist, Anvil of Bogardan, Font of Mythos, Howling Mine, Teferi's Puzzle Box, Temple Bell, Spiteful Visions, Incendiary Command, Minds Aglow, Molten Psyche, Windfall, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea:  These are your other draw spells.  They can cause draws of anywhere from 1 to 7, to even more depending on circumstances.  Many of these, such as Howling Mine, are not threatening and won't be bothered until you make them so.  You can tell who the spikier opponents are by how fast they blow up these draw cards.  The funny thing is that Anvil of Bogardan can lead to some big hands, leading to some even bigger Windfalls.

Don't forget that cards like Temple Bell and Mikokoro are good for drawing stuff you tutored that goes on top of your library.  But the Puzzle Box doesn't work with those types of tutors at all.

Draw Hurts  
psychosis crawler

Niv-Mizzet, the FiremindPsychosis CrawlerPhyrexian TyrannySpiteful VisionsUnderworld DreamsRuneflare TrapMolten Psyche 
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, Psychosis Crawler, Phyrexian Tyranny, Spiteful Visions, Underworld Dreams, Runeflare Trap, Molten Psyche -This is the meat of the deck, and how you do most of your damage.  Underworld Dreams is the workhorse, followed closely by Psychosis Crawler.  Both of these cards are also important because they are not symmetrical, like Phyrexian Tyranny and Spiteful Visions.  You definitely have to watch out how things go when you have the latter two cards out, as you won't want to go overboard with Consecrated Sphinx.

I originally had Cerebral Vortex in the deck, but replaced it with Runeflare Trap just due to the mana cost. An argument could definitely be made for including the Vortex though. 


Jace's ArchivistMemory JarIncendiary CommandTemporal CascadeWheel of FortuneWindfall 
Jace's Archivist, Memory Jar, Incendiary Command, Temporal Cascade, Wheel of Fortune, Windfall:  You will find that whether a draw card makes you and your opponents discard matters a lot with this deck.  Sometimes you don't want to get rid of the other cards in your hand, and that's when you don't want these cards.  But there is a subset of cards in this deck that do like it when cards are sent directly to the graveyard. 

And don't forget, Nicol Bolas can make opponents discard as well!

Discard Effects  
Liliana's Caress SangromancerGeth's GrimoireLiliana's CaressMegrim  
Sangromancer, Geth's Grimoire, Liliana's Caress, Megrim:  That's right, you can definitely benefit when your opponents discard their hands.  Whether it is to draw cards with the Grimoire, gain life with Sangromancer, or just to make them hurt even more, making opponents discard has never felt so good!  As a matter of fact, what cards you tutor for will really depend on what cards you have in your hand or play.  I know that's pretty common sense, but there's nothing wrong with reiterating the point. 

No MercyPropagandaEvacuationStarstormDamnationThe Tabernacle at Pendrell Valeincendiary commandMaze of Ith 
No Mercy, Propaganda, Evacuation, Starstorm, Damnation, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, Incendiary Command, Maze of Ith:  There isn't a whole lot of defense in here, but all of it is pretty effective.  Typically the first card I tutor for is either No Mercy or Propaganda.  By playing these cards early people typically focus their attentions elsewhere.  This gives you enough time to get going and set up.

The Tabernacle is pretty sweet.  It hoses token strategies and keeps people tapped down so that they can't play a ton of spells.  This is particularly nice when people keep getting new hands.  Incendiary Command does double duty as a weenie killer and card drawer. 

diabolic tutor

Liliana VessTezzeret the SeekerMystical TutorVampiric TutorDemonic TutorDiabolic TutorGrim TutorImperial SealPersonal Tutor 
Liliana Vess, Tezzeret the Seeker, Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, Grim Tutor, Imperial Seal, Personal Tutor:  So other than my Numot deck which looked to consistently assemble Kaldra this is the highest amount of tutors I have ever played with. And playing with this many tutors is pretty difficult for me as it requires a lot of decision making and thinking about the optimal play.  The deck needs to consistently have draw spells to function properly, and to have a defensive spell when it really needs it.  Therefore the more tutors it has, the better.

I initially included Long-term Plans in the deck but it didn't work as well as I wanted.  I also didn't like the idea of discarding a card to Gamble.  But I think this is a pretty good amount of tutors, especially with the amount of draw the deck has.  

time reversal Diminishing ReturnsMolten PsycheTemporal CascadeTime ReversalTime SpiralWinds of Change 
Diminishing Returns, Molten Psyche, Temporal Cascade, Time Reversal, Time Spiral, Winds of Change:  It is important to know which of the draw spells shuffle your library before you get to draw due to the high number of Mirage tutors that put cards on top of your library.  This is so that you don't play 3 life to Vampiric Tutor just to have it get shuffled away when you Winds of Change.  Unfortunately, this happened an embarrassingly high number of times for me so I ended up having to make this list for myself just so I would remember what I was doing.  You guys probably aren't as dumb as me though, but I am leaving this for you just in case.

Along with all this we have a lot of artifact acceleration.  This is because Grixis decks generally come out of the gates slower than any deck with Green.  In addition, the Moxes plus other low cost artifacts are all helpful in getting additional mana so that you can continue on with your turn.  Ideally you can cast a draw 7 effect and draw into some artifact mana and another draw 7 effect, or at least another tutor so that you can try and start the process again the following turn.  The deck also contains a few copy effects in Phyrexian Metamorph, Copy Enchantment and Copy Artifact.  Don't forget that you can copy anything on the table, not just your stuff.

For a while I tried playing with sorcery doubling effects like Fork and Chandra, the Firebrand, but I found that they were unnecessary for the most part.  I would either not have enough mana to cast them, or they would be dead cards in my hand waiting to draw something I wanted.  There were a couple times when they worked great, but I decided to cut them for a little more defense.

Ideally in the early game you either play a defensive enchantment or a nice card draw artifact like Howling Mine or Anvil of Bogardan.  Essentially nothing too threatening, while you start looking for draw effects.  Unfortunately the cat gets out of the bag pretty quickly once you drop something like Spiteful Visions and you will be targeted.  As such the 2 most important cards in the deck are probably Underworld Dreams and Sangromancer.  Underworld Dreams is great because it isn't symmetrical).  And Sangromancer actually gains you a ton of life with Wheel effects.  There are plenty of times when you are behind on life and need an out or way to get back into the game, and Sangromancer usually does the trick.  If she ever gets exiled it can be rough going.

Yes, the deck can get blown out by Austere Command and Akroma's Vengeance type decks.  Yes, when someone casts that you are usually pretty far behind.  Of course you can always pack counter magic, but that just seems unnecessarily annoying, especially since you are going to be shuffling away your hand a lot.  However, I have managed to get back into games 2 times after someone has wiped my board, both times when other opponents quickly become threats and everyone else has to re-focus their attentions.  So it can be done.

The other problem the deck has is battling life gain.  People just need to hit you a couple of times with a Battlegrace Angel or something, and they can stick around long enough to fine the Austere Command they are looking for.  And trust me, with all the Wheel effects they probably will find it.  As such, I included Forsaken Wastes and Rain of Gore.  Of course, Rain of Gore is a non-bo with Sangromancer, so make sure that you don't play the 2 together.  But it is pretty sweet when someone else is playing with Sangromancer!

Finally, Bolas actually serves a purpose in this deck.  As a matter of fact, I cast him 3 times!  That's more than I cast Arcades in my last deck.  Of course, if you are casting Bolas that's usually a bad sign that you're hurting and haven't drawn anything good, but it's still worth doing sometimes.  Just remember that by using Bolas as your Commander you sometimes invite hate automatically.  Don't feel bad about tutoring for defense!

Let's take a look at how it does in practice.


In this game I am up against Zur, Riku and Jaya Ballard, Task Mage.  Zur and Riku are a couple of pretty strong Commanders, and Jaya is usually an anti-Blue deck.  Luckily for me both of my opponents are playing with Blue as well, so I'm not overly worried.  My opening hand has 4 lands, Minds Aglow, Yawgmoth's Will and Diabolic Tutor, so I decide to keep.  The first couple of turns aren't that impressive but I do manage to play Propaganda, which isn't that great with Jaya waiting to come out to play.  On my 4th turn, I play Minds Aglow, contributing 1 mana.  Zur adds 3, Riku adds 1, and Jaya abstains so everyone draws 5.  Everyone likes early card draw so this will hopefully make people like me! My draw includes a Signet, Wheel and Deal and Coalition Relic, so at least I have some accel.  Zur seems to be having mana problems even with the extra cards.  Jaya plays Basilisk Collar and Swiftfoot Boots, while Riku uses Snapcaster Mage to cast Cultivate again and accelerate some more.  He ends his turn by using Worldly Tutor to put Pestermite on top of his library.  That means he is probably playing some type of combo, and the other guys perk their ears up when I point this out.  Riku says he can't really do anything but doesn't deny that the combo with Kiki-jiki or Splinter Twin is in his deck.

On the next turn the biggest plays are Jaya playing her Commander and equipping her with the Boots, while Riku plays Intet, the Dreamer. On my turn I use Diabolic Tutor to grab Underworld Dreams, but don't cast it yet.  Riku has done enough to make people wary and I don't want to change the focus to me at this point.  Nothing much happens next, with Riku hitting Zur with Intet.  On my turn I play Underworld Dreams and nothing else.

I want to wait to cast Wheel and Deal until just before my turn.  Zur casts Oblivion Ring, luckily taking out Intet instead of Underworld Dreams.  Before Zur can attack with his Commander, Jaya destroys him with her Commander, tossing Squee.  That's a nice little combo right there.  Riku plays Lightning Greaves and Jace Beleren, and I'm fine with that.  Just before my turn, I play Wheel and Deal, anticipating using Yawgmoth's Will to play it again on my turn.  However, Jaya Reverberates my Wheel and Deal, making me dump my hand, but hitting everyone else for some decent damage.  Luckily one of the cards I discarded was Mystic Retrieval, so I'm cool with that.  Interestingly Jaya doesn't hit Zur with her copy of Wheel and Deal.  When that's done Zur is at (26), Jaya is at (34) and Riku is at (23).  On my turn I cast Psychosis Crawler, then try to cast Incendiary Command to wipe the board of creatures and make everyone draw some more.  Unfortunately Zur has Rewind for my Command.

Zur plays Sigil of the Empty Throne, which is interesting in a Zur deck.  Most Zur decks don't anticipate casting their enchantments but obviously this one does.  Zur then plays Phantasmal Image, taking out Jaya.  Jaya plays Ashling the Pilgrim and has enough mana to blow stuff up.  On my turn I flash back Mystic Retrieval to get Yawgmoth's Will.  I then play Thran Dynamo and Spiteful Visions, holding my Will for next turn.  Spiteful Visions goes well with Underworld Dreams in this deck.  However, Zur plays Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar, which gets around all the draw shenanigans.  Luckily I still have Psychosis Crawler to hurt him.  Jaya equips Ashling with the Basilisk Collar, which can lead to some big life gain for Jaya.  On his turn, Riku is about to drop to (16) due to draw effects and concedes despite having a ton of mana.

On my turn, I have the opportunity to cause some massive damage and screw it up.  I drew Wheel of Fortune.  What I should have done was cast Yawgmoth's Will, then Wheel of Fortune, then Windfall from my graveyard.  This would have knocked out Zur and left Jaya crippled.

Instead, I cast Yawgmoth's Will then go right for Windfall.  This knocks Zur to (11) and Jaya to (5).  I then cast Wheel and Deal from my graveyard, and in response Jaya blows up Ashling, gaining some life and taking out my Psychosis Crawler while Zur dies.  I then hit Jaya with Runeflare Trap.  When it's all done she's at (10) and I'm at (18).  On her turn Jaya plays Heartless Hidetsugu, equips him with the Boots and Basilisk Collar, and activates him, putting her at (18) and me at (9).  During my upkeep I Mystical Tutor for Molten Psyche, which should be enough to win.  Unfortunately I screw up with the stack, and kill myself before he dies.  I also could have avoided this by playing a land and another spell in my hand like Mystical Tutor or something.  But in my haste I screwed up a clear win.  Ah well.


So in this game things went pretty well.  I only had one spell countered, and 3 permanents destroyed (one of which was Psychosis Crawler), so I managed to "win" a game fairly easily.  Most games don't go this smoothly but it is nice when things work out as planned.

This deck has an extremely large decision tree when playing, and probably has the most decisions to be made during a game of any deck I have ever made.  It was very difficult to play correctly specifically because I don't play this type of deck and I made numerous play errors game after game, typically tutoring for sub-standard cards when others would have been more effective.  I hadn't thought this much while playing Magic since I made my Karn deck.  And honestly this deck was harder to pilot than that one.  The deck can also create huge stacks which can be super annoying.  So get used to using F7 as most of the time that will help make things better.

In addition, this deck has hard times with powerful decks with low CMC spells.  There are plenty of games where you can only get one Wheel effect off a turn.  The powerful decks will dump their hands and just wait for the next Wheel effect.  After about the 4th turn or so of the game people will not miss land drops.  Which means that they will almost always have mana to cast their spells.  So hopefully you can get things going quickly and not give opponents a chance to get their powerful spells off.

So yeah, the deck doesn't have any way to interact with non-creature permanents, it only has 4 creatures, and gives your opponents a new hand just about every turn and make my head hurt when I play it.  But it is fun, and definitely something outside of my comfort zone.  It takes some practice to get used to but once it gets going and you know what you're doing it does well.  Just get used to being the number one target at the table most of the time and you'll do fine.

Hope you enjoyed this deck.  Until next time!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com



Completely forgot to mention by Leviathan at Fri, 04/06/2012 - 14:03
Leviathan's picture

Completely forgot to mention that if you wanted to be really mean you could easily shoe horn in the Mindcrank/Bloodchief Ascension combo. Would be pretty easy to assemble and get to go off in this deck. Felt a little too rough for my tastes though.

You could also squeeze in Mind Over Matter as it would combo with a couple of other cards. Again, felt a little cheap. As is the deck makes you work for your win and I liked that.

I had to look twice at your by KaraZorEl at Fri, 04/06/2012 - 18:46
KaraZorEl's picture

I had to look twice at your list to make sure Ebony Owl Netsuke wasn't in there. This seems like the perfect for your build. :)