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Budget Commander: Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion

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I was lucky enough to contribute to Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion's spoiler article a few days ago, where I covered the new Neheb's potential use in the Commander format, both as part of the 99 of lots of decks and as the commander of his own deck, along with a sample deck list. The deck looked so fun that I decided to flesh it out further in its own article! So we're back with a new Budget Commander talking about Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion: let's burn through our library, draw tons of cards, generate tons of mana, and win the game in a glorious fashion!

Voltron / Graveyard Hybrid

My take on Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion is a a mix between Voltron and Graveyard strategies. At first glance, Neheb doesn't look like a great Voltron commander: he doesn't have the raw one-shot potential of someone like Rafiq of the Many or Grunn, the Lonely King, he lacks the built-in defense against removal of Uril, the Miststalker, and he can't grow himself to absurd sizes like The Haunt of Hightower or Bruna, Light of Alabaster. But Neheb is an insane engine when paired with one of Red's specialties: extra combat steps! Neheb's triggered ability can generate all the mana you need to pay for spells like Seize the Day and Relentless Assault, stringing them together while you cycle through your deck to find more extra combat spells! In fact, Neheb straight-up just goes infinite with Aggravated Assault if you have 5+ cards in hand! Neheb can be played basically like Narset, Enlightened Master, except less miserable.

The great and unique thing about Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion compared to other Voltron decks is that his Plan A, dishing out commander damage, directly fuels Plan B, Graveyard strategies, because discarding cards to draw cards and generate mana will quickly fill your graveyard with fun things to recur. If you have a heavy Artifact theme, then looting away a whole bunch of artifacts to set up Scrap Mastery is amazing, and same can be said if you're going for Spellslinger and discard a bunch of instants/sorceries to cast them all at once with Mizzix's Mastery! So if your Voltron strategy doesn't kill everyone -- or you just don't push a Voltron strategy -- Neheb is setting you up for some insane graveyard shenanigans!

You might like the deck if ...

  • You want a versatile Red deck that has numerous powerful builds to try out
  • You want the option of both a powerful Voltron deck and a Graveyard deck
  • You like the idea of being able to win out of nowhere, but also being able to grind out your opponents
  • You want to draw TONS of cards
  • You want to generate TONS of mana

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You want a more straightforward, linear deck with a single goal
  • You hate combat
  • You don't want any sort of Voltron and/or Graveyard strategy
  • Your playgroup is physically and emotionally scarred by Narset, Enlightened Master and will flip the table the moment you say "extra combat step"

Want a versatile, Voltron-meets-Graveyard deck that can be built numerous ways? Want to see your entire deck each game as you cycle through it like a maniac? Then Neheb is the deck for you!

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Voltron Stuff

Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion is an unassuming Voltron commander, but trust me, he's absolutely brutal thanks to Red's extra combat steps. Imagine this sequence:

  • Attack with Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion, triggering his ability
  • Discard 4+ cards, keeping your extra combat spells and generating 4+ mana
  • Cast Relentless Assault and attack again
  • Discard 4+ cards again, keep your extra combat spells and generate 4+ mana
  • Cast Seize the Day and do it all over again
  • Flashback Seize the Day ...
  • Watch as the spark of joy leaves your friends' faces as you take them out in one glorious turn

This is something that happens consistently in a well-built Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion deck, if that's what you want to do. For this strategy to work, the more extra combat steps the better. Here are some of the options I could find:

Of these, Aggravated Assault is by far the best since you can take infinite combat steps as long as you can discard five cards per combat step. Hellkite Charger can do the same thing but you need to discard seven cards. But pretty much all of them are worth considering.

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Extra combat steps is only one part of the Voltron equation, however! There's another keyword that can both double our Neheb triggers and halve the amount of attacks needed to kill people: double strike. With double strike, Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion is hitting an opponent two times, which means double the commander damage, double our looting, and double our mana ramp! Not only that, but it helps Neheb survive combat, since double strike can let him kill potential blockers before they can deal 4 damage to him. These cards are just as essential to the strategy as the extra combat spells since they compliment each other so nicely. These are my favorite double strike sources for the deck:

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If our plan involves repeatedly punching our opponents in the face to trigger Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion's combat ability, we might as well toss in other cards that can also benefit from similar cards! Dragon Mage keeps our hand full of seven cards so we always have plenty of things to discard, Hellkite Tyrant steals all the artifacts, and equipment like Mask of Memory, Sword of War and Peace, and Sword of Light and Shadow generate card advantage! The Sword cycle is actually INSANE with Neheb because it also bumps his power to seven so that he can 3-shot opponents and offers both protection from targeted removal and evasion to get around blockers! (Please reprint the Swords, WOTC!)

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The final step to our Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion Voltron plan is throwing in utility cards to keep him protected and give him haste. Anger is the best haste enabler in the deck by a long shot since you'll always have a mountain on the battlefield and we have numerous ways to get it into the graveyard. Obsidian Battle-Axe is the perfect fit since Neheb is a Warrior so it's free to equip if you cast him after and it bumps Neheb's power so he can 3-shot folks.

For protection, Champion's Helm is perfect since it also enables Neheb to 3-shot people. And of course, Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots combine the best of both worlds by providing both protection from targeted removal and haste to Neheb. It's a bit harder to protect him from board wipes, but Darksteel Plate and Hammer of Nazahn can do the job, and Command Beacon can help you recast him after he's died a few times.

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You're going to be drawing lots of cards. A LOT OF CARDS. It's important, then, that you run some ways to make sure you aren't decking yourself. Add one or two of these cards to make sure that you can keep drawing cards forever!


Discard Stuff

We're going to be discarding a ton of cards with Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion as we go off looting and ramping. It would be a shame not to put those discarded cards to use! While Black is usually the color people usually associate with Graveyard strategies, Red has its fair share, with most of its recursion options centered around two archetypes: Spellslinger and Artifacts. Both have their own payoff cards, coincidentally both called "Mastery": for Artifacts it's Scrap Mastery, while Spellslinger has Mizzix's Mastery. Once your graveyard is nice and full with the relevant card type, these Mastery cards are insane powerhouses that skyrocket you ahead of the game, if not outright winning it for you.

Red also has some creature recursion: Feldon of the Third Path is often leading his own deck, but he's also great here as part of the 99 if we run a decent amount of creatures that either have ETB or combat triggers. God-Pharaoh's Gift is my favorite of the bunch though because it makes a token at the beginning of each combat step which synergizes beautifully with our extra combat spells!

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While we have plenty of recursion options of Red, we also have a couple ways to benefit from the act of discarding cards, specifically the madness keyword. Unfortunately, most Red cards with madness aren't very good in this deck, but a couple are okayish if you're on an extreme budget.

Pssst, hey! Want to know my favorite two pet cards for this deck? Of course you do! It's Squee, Goblin Nabob and Thunderblade Charge. Squee is a looter's best friend, always returning to your hand to discard him again for free! He basically turns your looting into net card advantage! He's so, so good, and you never even cast him! Ahhhh the value! Second is Thunderblade Charge, which is janky as hell, I know, and you should never play Lightning Bolt in Commander, I know, but c'mon! It's a repeatable bolt sitting in your graveyard! You can ignore it most of the time, but when there's an Oracle of Mul Daya on the battlefield, BAM! DEAD! POW! SO GOOD!

For less pet card and more "holy crap this is busted as hell" synergy with Neheb, there's of course Alhammarret's Archive. Discard 5, draw ... 10?! Sign me up!

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Here or some of my favorite Graveyard/Discard cards to take advantage of Neheb's looting effect:

I feel obligated to mention Red's self-reanimating creatures, the Phoenixes: they're not good. I've tried to make them work in Commander Clash. Richard has tried. Most of them are bad. They cost too much mana to bring back or are too small to be threatening in combat. If you're specifically trying to build a Phoenix Tribal deck though, Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion is probably the best commander for it, but if you're not going for that specific archetype then I'd pass on all of them.

Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion is our best looter in the deck, but we can't rely on him to be our sole looter if we're running a bunch of cards that must be discarded to get real value out of. Luckily Red is amazing at looting. I'm counting looting (Faithless Looting) and wheels (Wheel of Fortune) because both are excellent at discarding our cards. Here are some of my favorite options:


Putting It All Together

We went over the core function of the deck, now it's time to fill it out. As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 sources of "card advantage;" I use this term loosely but am mostly looking for card draw or any spell that nets me 2+ non-land cards in hand / directly into play
  • 6 targeted removal, split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; because you never forget to add some graveyard hate in your deck, right? Right? Right?!
  • 1 surprise "I Win" card; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with play testing. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.


Sample Deck Lists

We went over the core parts that makes Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion: Voltron and Discard/Graveyard cards that make him tick. The rest of the deck is filled with ramp, card draw, and interaction. Here's two sample decks to show how everything comes together.

The first list is the cheapest I can make it without sacrificing too much power. I tried to keep most of the cards under $1 at the time of writing this, with a few exceptions. The game plan is to get in there with Neheb, smashing faces while maximizing his combat trigger with double strike and extra combat steps, hopefully taking people out with combat damage. While we're looting away, we're also filling our graveyard for our powerful recursion spells like God-Pharaoh's Gift. Even if Neheb gets shut down, our Graveyard recursion plan helps us grind out opponents to win a longer game too!

This next list is just an upgraded version of the first, so we're still focusing on Voltron with a Graveyard/Artifact subtheme. Everything from ramp to card draw is upgraded and shows my thought process on how I go about upgrading things. I really hope that the Swords cycle gets reprinted because gosh are they so expensive now!


That's All, Folks!

The new set has certainly sparked my motivation to write more Budget Commander. Which new legendary creature should I build around next? Let me know in the comments section!

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