First things first; a disclaimer: Yes, this commander is not strictly legal. While Nezumi Graverobber does eventually flip into a Legendary creature, it does not start as one, and neither does it have the ‘can be used as your commander’ rider found on some planeswalkers. While I am writing about this deck, which is the creation of a friend of mine (SimpleTurnipFarmer), I understand the issues that can arise when using a commander like this. Please make sure to ask your playgroup if they’re okay with Nezumi Graverobber. Do not assume that they’ll let you, and have a backup ready, just in case. Use Marrow Gnawer, or Patron of the Nezumi instead.
Nezumi Graverobber has the benefit of being both a reusable graveyard hater as well as a reusable reanimator spell. However, it is moderately awkward to use. Unless one of your opponents is nice, or is lacking graveyard synergies (which is fairly rare currently), you are going to be removing later reanimation targets by flipping the Graverobber. Fortunately, if you get Nezumi Graverobber out on turn two, not much has happened, and there is a good chance that you can flip into Nighteyes on turn three.
Let’s talk specific card choices:
I always find that playing mono-colored decks provides an interesting challenge as compared to multi-colored decks. There is a suite of cards that can go into every mono-colored deck, and then there are other payoffs for going into specific colors. Black has, in my opinion, the strongest payoff for going mono-black. There are several creatures that double the amount of mana you get from Swamps, and both Cabal Coffers and Cabal Stronghold are payoffs for running as many Swamps as possible, without needing Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to turn them on (though of course it makes them stronger). You need these cards to offset your deck being weaker against a variety of threats, otherwise your deck would be weaker on average.
It is important to keep at least one player’s graveyard close to empty for the duration of the game, in order to flip Nezumi Graverobber. These two cards are the best options to do that, without removing all players’ graveyards and thus getting rid of a lot of reanimation targets.
Void Maw is an interesting choice for this deck, and one of SimpleTurnipFarmer’s pet cards in the deck. Aside from being an evasive, growing threat that also makes for a great reanimation target, it ensures that your opponents cannot get creatures into their graveyards until you’re nice and ready for them – you can exile all of the good creatures with Void Maw, remove whatever is left with Nezumi Graverobber until he flips, then return good reanimation targets into your opponents graveyard with Void Maw. It fills several great niches in the deck, and the only drawback is its mana cost. It is not the most powerful card, but it is fun and unique.
There is a minor Rat tribal theme throughout this deck to allow for some interesting cards and tutors and the like. Ogre Slumlord and Ratcatcher are the two largest examples.
Ogre Slumlord is good at letting your small creatures attack, as they’re usually rats. This works very well with a mechanic that just came back for the first time since Kamigawa: Ninjutsu! There are four creatures with Ninjutsu in this deck, so while Ogre Slumlord won’t be extremely significant in most games, it will be excellent in the games where you have any of your ninjas in hand. That isn’t even accounting for his first ability, which can get out of hand pretty fast.
Ratcatcher is an excellent draw engine for this deck. It’s similar to Phyrexian Arena (which is also in the deck), but it tutors for rat cards. Since many of the rats are utility creatures, this turns Ratcatcher into a budget toolbox card.
These are the rat ninjas! Aside from working well with Ogre Slumlord, they are also useful for their dealing combat damage abilities.
Throat Slitter has Doom Blade on a semi-reusable basis alongside a 2/2 creature. Any kill spell with the potential for reuse is better than a regular kill spell, hands down. Skullsnatcher has excellent synergy with Nezumi Graverobber – you can remove most of one player’s graveyard, and get rid of the rest with your commander, letting it flip. Okiba-Gang Shinobi has a Mind Rot stapled onto it, similar to the Throat Slitter’s Doom Blade. Finally, Ink-Eyes is another outlet for reanimation, albeit one that doesn’t need the long, awkward chain of events that Nezumi Graverobber needs.
Chittering Rats, the bane of pauper. With a sacrifice outlet and enough mana (which you should have, you’re playing mono-black after all), you can really disrupt your opponents game plan.
Your opponents are letting you play an illegal Commander, so you may as well inquire as to whether you can play Dirty Rat as well. It is the only Unstable card in the deck, but it’s another copy of Ravenous Rats more than anything else. These are decent cards by themselves, good if you manage to reanimate them once, and excellent if you manage to reanimate them twice or more. Again, please ask your playgroup if they’re okay with Dirty Rat! Don’t assume!
The Big Boys
Reanimating small stuff is nice, but as is always true, my single favorite thing to do in Magic is cheat on mana costs. With a costed reanimate ability, such as Nighteyes, the Desecrator’s, you can get back something that costs more than the ability does for a net gain on mana. Additionally, black is excellent at getting Too Much Mana with doublers and Cabal Coffers and Cabal Stronghold, so often you will be able to just cast these big boys.
Sheoldred is another reanimator, and a kill spell. She’s eternally excellent in casual Commander, and she will continue to be excellent for the foreseeable future. Bloodgift Demon is a third copy of Phyrexian Arena, but if it’s killed you can get it back with all of the reanimation. You could also technically kill someone with it if they’re at one life, but that’s stretching really far for a corner case. Butcher of Malakir and Eater of Hope both operate well in this deck due to how often you can flood the board with tiny creatures. The majority of rats are simply not worth wasting removal or board wipes on once they’ve entered, and these cards capitalize on the fact that your opponents will probably hold onto those cards. Demon of Dark Schemes is a decent board wipe, and becomes a better Languish once you can bring it back repeatedly in a single turn. Don’t rely on the second ability too often, but it can be surprisingly useful.
These cards are for if you want to stop playing the game. Maybe you have a small child who needs to be put to bed and you need to leave, but don’t want to concede. Bloodlord is nice by itself because it is a large flyer that can be reanimated. Exquisite Blood is less useful, but it works with Crypt Ghast and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and both of those work well to get your life total back up after using Necropotence.
SimpleTurnipFarmer gave me a list of some cards that he would want to add if his budget allows for it, such as Damnation, Relic of Progenitus, Toxic Deluge, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. The deck is far from optimized, and that’s more than fine. Commander is about who you play with and how you want to play, it is not always about winning or having the strongest deck. Sometimes you want to play something unique with an open-ended strategy.
Lastly, if you enjoy this deck and would like to see Nezumi Graverobber legalized as a commander, be sure to tweet at the Rules Committee and ask them to make flip commanders legal.
Thank you all for reading, and as usual, here’s the decklist!: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/simpleturnipfarmers-nezumi-graverobber/?cb=1535031693
I’ll see y’all in two weeks,