Underdog's Corner — Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith
Hello one, hello all, and welcome back to the Underdog's Corner! It's been a while since I have had the opportunity to write, but I am so excited to be back! A lot has happened during my small hiatus in the Magic: the Gathering world including the release of the highly anticipated Commander 2017. The other writers have done an incredible job covering a variety of commanders and topics, so please go show them love as well. Today, however, I get to bring to you one of the commanders that I grew more and more excited for throughout spoiler season. He is not as eye-popping as some of the new legends such as The Ur Dragon or Inalla, Ritualist Archmage, nor is he as innovative as Mairsil, the Pretender or Mathas, Fiend Seeker, but I do think he has a home in the format just as he found a new home in the lore. Our newest underdog comes from the land of Naya, but he has now settled into his new home of Bant. Everyone give a warm welcome to Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith!
Unlike a lot of the new legends in Commander 2017who broke new ground, Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith more or less reinvents the wheel when it comes to the equipment subtype. We even saw a new addition to this archetype with the introduction of Balan, Wandering Knight. However, the addition of green adds so much. Mostly, it adds mana acceleration to an archetype that has sorely needed it. I'm getting ahead of myself a bit, so let's look at the commander I'm so excited to share with you. At first, six mana is a hefty price to pay. So what does the commander offer to balance out that high mana cost?
"When Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith enters the battlefield, search your library for an Equipment card and reveal it. If you reveal a card named Hammer of Nazahn this way, put it onto the battlefield. Otherwise, put that card into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
Whenever an equipped creature you control attacks, you may tap target creature defending player controls."
Honestly, the reason Nazahn costs six is that he tutors his personal hammer into play when he arrives. Hammer of Nazahn is flat out amazing. It's one of my favorite equipment ever printed, and I would be hard-pressed to tutor up anything that isn't the hammer with Nazahn's enter the battlefield (ETB) trigger. The hammer lets us skimp out of paying equip costs the first time as well as making the equipped creature indestructible. So while Nazahn's card says that he is a 5/4, he's more often an indestructible 7/4. There are other good options to search for such as Blade of Selves that ramp up the search for more equipment, but I would keep Nazahn's hammer near the top of the list. Nazahn's second ability will see use, and it actually suggests a strategy that a lot of equipment decks don't use often which is going wide. Normally we would stack our Armory Automaton with every sword we could fit into its' robotic mitts, but Nazahn's second ability pushes us to share our equipment around. This makes Stone Haven Outfitter cry tears of joy.
The Usual Suspects
Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith's ETB reminded me immediately of two cards. Stoneforge Mystic is one of the most iconic cards for equipment strategies. She can tutor any equipment to your hand for two mana, and then she can cheat it into play once she is able to tap. Power like that, along with strong equipment, has landed her on another format's ban list. Nazahn reminds me also of Stonehewer Giant as he can tutor his personal weapon into play. Stonehewer's power is two-fold. He can either attack and tutor an equipment onto the field attached to a creature, or he can sit back, block, and then tutor necessary equipment. He's an incredibly versatile piece that should be highly considered.
Like I have said, Nazahn is more or less trying to reinvent the wheel with equipment decks by expanding the color-palette of our deck. Despite that, however, we still will be playing the staples of other equipment decks. Nazahn, for example, shares 7 of the same top cards as Kemba, Kha Regent.
Leonin Shikari, Puresteel Paladin, and Sram, Senior Edificer comprise appear in 83%, 66% and 61% of all Nazahn decks respectively. I believe all of these numbers should be higher, but I'll concede the dip is most likely due to some Nazahn decks heading up a tribal-focused build. We actually can see these differences now though! EDHREC has recently implemented a theme selection section!
As suspected, decks excluding those two are heavily focused on cat-tribal, but we can at least note from the theme pages that 88% of Nazahn decks have an equipment theme. That's strange, as I would expect that number to be near 100%.
One last note about the tribal aspect of Nazahn. I would recommend the inclusion of Path of Ancestry even if you're not committing to cat tribal. Nazahn's two creature types, cat and artificer encompass many cards that are often seen in his decks.
Letting the Cat out of the Bag
Now that I've given my disclaimer about how Nazahn will still look similar to other equipment decks, how will he look different? With the inclusion of green, we get access to many cards that help solve problems that exist in previous decks. White is a color without mana acceleration, but as soon as we add green we have access to ramp effects such as Cultivate and Explosive Vegetation, along with creatures like Birds of Paradise that can hold equipment in a pinch. The new Traverse the Outlands offers a major boon as any of our creatures can become large enough to power out many lands. Rishkar's Expertise and Soul's Majesty take that same power advantage and convert it to card advantage.
But if we dig deeper, what can we find? Two of the cards that I am most excited to try out in Nazahn appear in only 24 and 4 decks respectively.
Inspiring Statuary is incredible in Nazahn builds, but it only appears in 24 decks currently. Looking at current EDHREC stats, average Nazahn decks include 23 creatures and 21 artifacts. Only around five equipment have tap abilities, so Statuary will almost always allow us to tap our equipment to power out more creatures or more spells with little opportunity cost. Tapping our Skullclamp and Loxodon Warhammer to power out a Mirari's Wake sounds great to me. However, despite my excitement for windmill slamming Statuary into my own Nazahn deck, our next card's potential makes me giddy.
Appearing in only 4 out of 134 (3%) decks, Uncage the Menagerie is probably not the card you were expecting me to talk about. Hailing from Hour of Devastation, this humble green sorcery is the most exciting card for me to draw in Nazahn. If we cast it with X=2, we get two creatures that have a converted mana costs of two, if we cast it with X=3, we get three creatures that have coverted mana costs of 3, etc. Why is that exciting? If we cast Uncage the Menagerie at X=2, we can find any two of these:
That's an incredible amount of versatility. Do we need recursion and a beat stick? We can grab Den Protector and Restoration Specialist. Do we need card draw? We can grab Puresteel Paladin and Sram, Senior Edificer. The versatility is what truly makes Uncage the Menagerie one of the most exciting cards for this deck. As one last example, we could cast Uncage for X=3 and find recursion (Eternal Witness), a beat stick (Kemba, Kha Regent), and removal (Reclamation Sage).
New Cat on the Block
I have a few last notes on Nazahn before we wrap up. The newly introduced Heirloom Blade is a great addition to the deck. Not only is the overall cost to cast and equip great for us, most creatures in the deck share types. Artificers, Dwarves, Humans, Soldiers, Knights, Cats. You name it, and Heirloom Blade can find it. Pathbreaker Ibex and cards like Wild Beastmaster or Cultivator of Blades are all green cards that can really help to punch through for a lot of damage when we start to stall. Equipment will really help to stack their buffs so we're not only relying on swinging warhammers around.
Anyways, that will just about do it for this installment! I have been incredibly excited to write about Nazahn for a while, and I hope you enjoyed it as well. Below is my personal decklist for Nazahn that I have been working on, so I hope it's useful for you!
Nazahn, Revered Battle HostView on Archidekt
As always, thanks for joining me in the Underdog's Corner!