First Draft Friday: Najeela Reanimator!

Hello and welcome to First Draft Friday! This article series is the spiritual successor to Fresh Spice Friday, a short column I used to write for our Facebook page. This time, things are a bit different. Instead of showcasing new decks from the community, I will let you, dear reader, vote on which cards you want me to build a deck around. To facilitate this, I set up a poll at the end of this article. Each poll will feature four cards. The most popular option will be chosen for a future article, and the least popular option will be dropped from the poll. If there’s a card you would like to see on the poll, please let me know on Twitter,Discord or in the comment section below!

The decks in this series are meant to be exactly what the title says: first drafts. If you find any of these ideas interesting, I highly encourage you to pick them up and tinker with them. The aim here is not to create the most competitive decks on an absolute scale, but rather to explore interesting cards and ideas and provide outlines for decks that can be cEDH viable with further refinements.

First off, let’s take a quick look at the poll I put up in my last article. The choices were:

Unfortunately, Kaho ended up with the least amount of votes, so she will be dropped from the poll. With 64 votes at the time of writing, this week’s winner is… Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God! We’ll be taking a look at a deck that features him in the next First Draft Friday article.

Before we move on to the decklist, let’s take a quick look at today’s featured card: Ilharg, the Raze-Boar.

Now, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for, this week’s deck: Najeela Reanimator!


This time, I want to give special thanks to Pongo from Team Turn Three. Not only did he do an amazing job with the primer of the deck this is based on (Najeela Tempo), we also discussed various options for this deck while I was writing the article. He suggested some cool alternative win setups that I’m going to show you after we go through this deck.

The main build-around idea for Ilharg is that we can set up the Ilharg-Medomai infinite turns combo with Final Parting, Jarad’s Orders or Survival of the Fittest. All of these let us get Ilharg into the graveyard and Medomai into our hand. This means that any of these three cards plus any one of our four reanimation spells form a two-card combo.

Here’s where we encounter our first problem: Ilharg doesn’t have haste. If we do our setup with Jarad’s Orders or Final Parting, this means that Ilharg will have to sit on the battlefield for a full turn cycle before we can start going off. That’s a massive downside for such a big investment. While we do have a solution to this for the Survival of the Fittest case – doing a tutor chain of Anger into Ilharg into Medomai with a Mountain in play – there isn’t one for our other two setup cards. For those to work on the same turn, we would have to find one of those three pieces first.

Some of you might think “Why don’t we use Haste Reanimation like Shallow Grave or Corpse Dance?” Unfortunately, that is also not an option. The Ilharg-Medomai combo works as follows:

  1. Have Ilharg, the Raze-Boar in play and Medomai the Ageless in hand.
  2. Attack with Ilharg.
  3. With Ilharg’s attack trigger, put Medomai into play tapped and attacking.
  4. Medomai deals combat damage to a player and triggers, giving you an extra turn.
  5. Repeat Steps 1-4 on that extra turn to net another extra turn. This works because Ilharg puts Medomai into play as tapped and attacking, so the “can’t attack during extra turns” clause does not apply.

As you can see, Ilharg needs to stay in play on our extra turns. The only reanimation effect that doesn’t remove him at the end of our turn is Bond of Revival, which is much too expensive for a Reanimation spell at .

This brings me to the final downside of this deck. While the disclaimer at the start of the article states that my aim is not to create the most competitive decks on an absolute scale, I do try to find things that make these first drafts uniquely powerful. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is possible for a deck built around the Ilharg-Medomai combo. It just takes too many cards and/or too much setup to make his combo work well. We also have to pay some respect to already existing cEDH decks. If you want to play Reanimator, Razakats is a much more consistent, effective, and overall stronger option. If you want to play Najeela, Najeela Tempo is the way to go.

I want to go into a bit more detail about this deck’s relation to the Najeela Tempo build. Not every deck is going to benefit from having more win conditions or strategic elements added to it. For Najeela, I think this is almost universally true. Adding a graveyard-based angle and Ilharg synergies doesn’t help the deck in any way, and here’s why. When evaluating win conditions, these are some of the questions I ask myself:

  • How mana- and card-efficient is this win condition?
  • How much setup is required?
  • Does it come with any additional deckbuilding requirements/What’s the cost of including this?
  • Does including this combo make any other cards worth playing?
  • Which types of hate does it win through?
  • Which types of hate is it weak to?

Let’s go through this list for Najeela Tempo:

  • How mana- and card-efficient is this win condition?

Najeela’s three main win conditions – Druid’s Repository, Nature’s Will, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician – all cost 3-4 mana. Najeela herself costs 3 mana. This gives us three redundant pieces for a 1-card combo with our commander. That’s incredibly good.

  • How much setup is required?

Pongo has an entire section of his primer dedicated to answering this question. I highly recommend giving it a read. Overall, the setup costs for all three combos are very reasonable. They’re not the lowest in the format, but they’re quite easy to set up.

  • Does it come with any additional deckbuilding requirements?

Not really. All three cards work with Najeela and nothing else apart from a certain amount of creatures and/or lands on the field.

  • Does including this combo make any other cards worth playing?

Yes – given that they don’t depend on any other cards in the deck, Demonic Consultation, Plunge into Darkness, and Tainted Pact become very good.

  • Which types of hate does it win through?

It beats graveyard hate, Rule of Law effects, Null Rod, and Sphere of Resistance effects.

  • Which types of hate is it weak to?

It struggles against Cursed Totem effects and Blood Moon.

Let’s go through the same list again, this time for the Ilharg Reanimator package:

  • How mana- and card-efficient is this win condition?

It’s a 2-card combo with Ilharg and Medomai. No redundant pieces. Ilharg can be played for or reanimated for () if he has been sent to the graveyard. In the reanimation case, Jarad’s Orders, Final Parting, and Survival of the Fittest form a 2-card combo with any reanimation spell.

  • How much setup is required?

To enable a same-turn win, Haste is required. This adds another card to the Jarad’s Orders/Final Parting + Reanimation setup, effectively turning it into a 3-card combo. Otherwise, the combo has to take place over two turn cycles with heavy telegraphing.

  • Does it come with any additional deckbuilding requirements/What’s the cost of including this?

We can’t run graveyard hate and we lose out on a number of useful cards whose slots are taken up by the Reanimator strategy. When counting the deck slots that would be taken up by a particular strategy or combo, I always count every card I wouldn’t be playing if I weren’t using this strategy/combo. The total slot commitment is Final Parting, Jarad’s Orders, Reanimate, Entomb, Frantic Search, Intuition, Anger, Azra Oddsmaker, Consecrated Sphinx, Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, Medomai the Ageless, Animate Dead, Necromancy, Life // Death, and Survival of the Fittest. 17 slots.

  • Does including this combo make any other cards worth playing?

Wanting Reanimation targets in the graveyard makes Azra Oddsmaker, Frantic Search, and Wheel of Fortune effects better than they would be in a standard Najeela list.

  • Which types of hate does it win through?

Cursed Totem, Null Rod, Sphere of Resistance effects, Rule of Law in some cases.

  • Which types of hate is it weak to?

All types of graveyard hate, Humility.

After going through each question for Najeela Tempo and for the Reanimator package, we need to ask ourselves the following question:

Does adding this package solve any of the original deck’s problems, and if it does, is it worth the downside?

In this case, the answer is a resounding no. While it technically wins through Cursed Totem, Tempo Najeela already has plans for that. Najeela beats can get out of hand very quickly; she deals enough damage to kill one player within 3-4 turn cycles from an empty board. So even if we can’t find a removal piece for the Cursed Totem, the option of removing players is always there. Furthermore, since Demonic Consultation and Tainted Pact are already worth playing in Najeela, adding Jace, Wielder of Mysteries for another Cursed Totem- and even Humility-proof win comes at the low cost of a single card slot. In other words, the Reanimator package does not solve any of the issues Najeela has, and it adds a number of weakness and some very clunky draws.

In goldfishing, this evaluation proved to be true. Instead of going for the clunky Ilharg setups, I ended up looking for my two standard Najeela win conditions most of the time. They were much easier to set up for and finding the pieces was also much easier. The Reanimator package didn’t add anything meaningful to the deck, and it even took away from what was already there.

While I can’t recommend you give this week’s deck a try, I hope you all were able to learn something from this failed experiment. Not everything you try is going to work. And that’s ok. If you want to continue living the Ilharg dream, here some food for thought. Pongo came up with these two Protean Hulk piles while we were discussing the deck:

First pile requirements: Cast Flash before your combat step, , no other White cards in the deck

  1. Flash Hulk for Body Snatcher + Torch Courier + Viscera Seer
  2. Sacrifice Body Snatcher to Viscera Seer to return Hulk
  3. Sacrifice Protean Hulk to Viscera Seer/ to find Ilharg + Sacred Guide
  4. Activate Sacred Guide to find Medomai
  5. Sacrifice Torch Courier to give Ilharg Haste
  6. Go to combat and swing, do the Medomai combo

Second pile requirements: Cast Flash before your combat step,

  1. Flash Hulk for Karmic Guide + Viscera Seer
  2. Reanimate Hulk with the Karmic Guide ETB trigger
  3. Sacrifice Protean Hulk to Viscera Seer to find Phantasmal Image and Fierce Empath
  4. Phatasmal Image copies Karmic Guide, Fierce Empath finds Medomai
  5. Second Karmic Guide ETB trigger returns Hulk
  6. Sacrifice Hulk to Viscera Seer to find Ilharg + Torch Courier
  7. Sacrifice Torch Courier to give Ilharg Haste
  8. Go to combat and swing, do the Medomai combo

All in all, I do think Ilharg is a sweet card. He has built-in resiliency and he can allow you to do some really funky things with our reanimation targets and even smaller value creatures. Using him to get a free draw 7 with Jin, to break parity on Edric’s effect or to make the Notion ThiefWheel of Fortune combo a lot cheaper is neat. This is one of the rare cases where our build-around card is better at value than it is at being a combo piece. If any of you end up finding more success with the Boar God than I did, please let me know.

Finally, please don’t forget to vote for the card you’d like to see featured in a future article! I’ve got some sweet ideas for these four, so stay tuned. The next First Draft Friday article will release on the 24th of May.

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