Hey guys, this is Kaleb from the Command Valley coming at you with another Ikoria Deck Tech. Here on the Command Valley we talk about all things commander, provide you with weekly deck techs to help you brew, gameplay videos, and so much more. The latest episode of our gameplay series, Duel of the Peaks, is out so be sure to check it out on YouTube. Let me introduce this week’s commander, Nethroi, Apex of Death. Nethroi costs two generic, one white, one black, and one green to cast. He is a 5/5 Legendary Creature Cat Nightmare Beast. He has an alternate Mutate cost that is four generic, one white/green hybrid, and two black. He has deathtouch and lifelink. Lastly, and most importantly, the reason you are probably building this deck is that he says “Whenever this creature mutates, return any number of target creature cards with total power 10 or less from your graveyard to the battlefield.” This ability makes him truly the Apex of Death.
Mutate is a unique and sometimes confusing, new ability. I am not going to write about all the different interactions that creatures with Mutate will have with other creatures and abilities in this article. The most important thing to probably remember when it comes to Mutate is that you cannot mutate onto humans. Therefore, be super careful that you don’t include too many in your deck.
Let’s dive into the strategy of building a Nethroi deck. Obviously, we are going to be trying to use his Mutate ability to generate a ton of value by reanimating as many creatures as we can. But what should we reanimate? The thing that made me want to write about and build Nethroi is that there are tons of different ways you can take this deck. You can go with aristocrats, 0/0 tribal, combos with creatures that instantly win you the game, a go wide token strategy, etc. I am going to be focusing on what I thought would be the most fun and that is 0/0 tribal with +1/+1 counters and self-mill as sub-themes. And of course, we’ll talk about some combos that can win us the game.
What creatures are we going to try to reanimate with Nethroi? Creatures with base power and toughness 0/0 were practically made for Nethroi and there are a lot of good ones–and some pretty mediocre ones. A lot of our options are creatures that get +1/+1 counters when they enter the battlefield like Polukranos, Unchained. Polukranos costs two generic, one black, and one green mana to cast. He is a 0/0, and says “Polukranos enters the battlefield with six +1/+1 counters on it. It escapes with twelve +1/+1 counters on it instead. If damage would be dealt to Polukranos while it has a +1/+1 counter it, prevent that damage and remove that many +1/+1 counters from it.” He also fights another target creature for one generic, one black, and one green mana and escapes for four generic, one black, and one green mana plus you have to exile 6 other cards from your graveyard. Polukranos is super flexible! He is target removal on a stick, he is relatively cheap to cast, and he is exactly the kind of 0/0 monster we want to see in our graveyard when we mutate Nethroi.
Kalonian Hydra is another absolute monster in this deck. It has trample, it enters the battlefield with four +1/+1 counters on it, and whenever it attacks you double the number of +1/+1 counters on each creature you control. The main goal of this deck is to reanimate as many base 0/0 creatures that enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters to then swing at our opponents knocking them out of the game and Kalonian Hydra can give us a huge boost. We’ll go over how to reanimate our creatures and destroy our opponents swiftly and overwhelmingly in just a bit.
The dreaded Phantom Nishoba was an absolute nightmare for me to play against as a kid. I had a buddy that would run it back in middle school and every time he played his seventh land I would silently pray he didn’t have this thing in hand. Years later, I’m finally picking one up for myself because it’s time my enemies shared my fear. Even though Phantom Nishoba isn’t as scary as he was fifteen years ago, he still gets seven +1/+1 counters when he enters the battlefield, has lifelink, and if damage would be dealt to him you prevent it and remove a +1/+1 counter from it. I love this guy and he’s super cheap to pick up.
Because we are going to be running a sub +1/+1 counters theme, cards like Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar are good, but not the greatest. He has reach and trample. He gets +1/+1 for each land you control and each land card in your graveyard. And you can pay two and return two lands you control to your hand to then return him from the graveyard to your hand. He’s good in other strategies that have to do with lands but remember that we are going for that +1/+1 counters theme so try to make sure as many of your 0/0 creatures follow that theme.
Here is a list of other possible creatures you can include in your deck for this category:
As I said, there are a lot and these aren’t even all of them.
Remember, cards with */* as their power and toughness or */3 in Renata, Called to the Hunt’s case, do not count as 0/0s in the graveyard or anywhere else. Renata’s power is equal to your devotion to green; therefore, if your devotion to green is ten and she is in your graveyard she still has ten power and would be the only card you could bring back with Nethroi if you targeted her with his Mutate ability.
Self-mill is going to be an important part of our strategy because we need to get creatures into our graveyard. There are TONS of cards that you can use in this section of the deck. These cards come in a few different forms such as cards with dredge like Golgari Thug, noncreature spells like Grisly Salvage which is an instant that lets you reveal the top 5 cards of your library, put a creature or land from among them into your hand, then put the rest into your graveyard, and creatures like World Shaper that put cards from your library into your graveyard when they enter the battlefield or do something else.
Other dredge cards you can play include Life from the Loam, Stinkweed Imp, and Dakmor Salvage. If a card like Life from the Loam, which has Dredge 3, is in your graveyard, any time you would draw a card you could instead put exactly three cards from the top of your library into your graveyard and if you do, return the card with dredge to your hand. This is a great way to mill yourself essentially “for free”.
Like Grisly Salvage, you can play any of the following:
Most of these cards have similar costs and effects so run the best of whichever ones you have. A really interesting card that I am excited to try out for the first time is Morality Shift which is a sorcery that costs five generic and two black mana to cast and says “Exchange your graveyard and library. Then shuffle your library.” One interesting rule about Morality Shift that may come up for you is that if either your graveyard or your library is empty this still works. Be careful when playing this crazy card!
Here are some more creatures that you can run in this section of the deck:
If you’re sitting on a good amount of life, Doom Whisperer can be an absolute powerhouse–and even if you’re not, he’s a fantastic card. Nyx Weaver is an all-star in a deck like Nethroi because it mills you and it has an ability to return a card from your graveyard to your hand by paying three mana and exiling Nyx Weaver. Underrealm Lich is awesome card selection and is almost like a Sylvan Library that fills up our grave for us.
You may be wondering what you should do if you end up with Polukranos or Phantom Nishoba in your hand instead of in your graveyard where you want them. You might as well play Polukranos because he is super powerful and he is only a four drop. But what about the Phantom Nishoba that costs as much as our commander does to mutate? You can always discard your reanimate targets using cards such as these:
Fauna Shaman does double work in our deck by discarding our reanimate targets and grabbing other creatures or parts of our combo packages exactly when we need them. Liliana is crazy expensive, but she’ll do work especially if you can protect her for multiple turns. Lotleth Troll is a 2/1 Zombie Troll that costs one black and one green to cast. It has trample and pay one black to regenerate it (making it a great target for Nethroi) and an ability that allows you to discard a card at instant speed to put a +1/+1 counter on Lotleth Troll. Putrid Imp also helps us to fill our graveyard by allowing us to discard cards at instant speed to give it flying until end of turn. Trained Pronghorn is the same except by discarding a card you can prevent all damage that would be dealt to it until end of turn.
Greater Good is an enchantment that allows us to sacrifice a creature to draw cards equal to that sacrificed creature’s power then discard three cards. This can help us get value out of creatures like Polukranos while they are on the field by turning them into card draw and the ability to discard other cards that we can later get out with Nethroi.
The most accurate way to get exactly what we want into our graveyard is with cards such as Entomb, Buried Alive, Corpse Connoisseur, Final Parting, and Jarad’s Orders. These cards allow you to search for creatures and other cards that you want in your graveyard straight from your deck. Buried Alive is absolutely nuts and it gets us three potential targets for Nethroi to reanimate. Entomb is the same but for just one card and it only costs one black–it can actually search for any card, not just a creature, which goes well with Eternal Witness or Regrowth. Jarad’s Orders lets you search your deck for two creatures putting one into your hand and the other into your graveyard. Final parting is the same but costs one more mana and it searches for any type of card not just creatures. These last two are great for grabbing win cons and or combos!
Ramp should be an easy thing to come by since we are playing green. You’ve got the obvious cards like Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Farseek, Rampant Growth, Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Skyshroud Claim, Wood Elves, etc. However, let’s also talk about some other ramp options that go well with our commander and strategy. Birds of Paradise is a classic mana dork that you can later mutate onto and is joined by Deathrite Shaman, Elves of Deep Shadow, Paradise Druid, and Sylvan Caryatid. Faeburrow Elder is a fantastic card in this deck because it is a 0/0, gets +1/+1 for each color among permanents you control (essentially making him a 3/3 in Nethroi), and he has Bloom Tender’s much-coveted ability to tap and for each color among permanents you control, add one mana of that color. Migratory Greathorn can mutate onto one of our creatures early game to go find a basic land and put it onto our battlefield OR it can be used as a card to mutate onto Nethroi causing it’s Mutate ability to go off and return tons of our creatures in the late game.
With all of the self-mill floating around in our deck, Splendid Reclamation has the potential to be a way better Migratory Greathorn or Explosive Vegetation by returning all of our land cards from our graveyard to the battlefield tapped. Smothering Tithe can be absolutely bonkers at best and a removal sponge at its worst. The Great Henge is currently pretty expensive but if you have one and you want to throw it in it’s an incredible card. It also slots in as card advantage.
Jumping back to our 0/0 creatures that enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters, let’s talk about some cards that can beef them up. Hardened Scales, Pir Imaginative Rascal, and Winding Constrictor all basically say “If one or more +1/+1 counters would be placed on a creature you control, that many plus one +1/+1 counters are placed on it instead.” So if you cast Polukranos with Hardened Scales on the field, then he will come in with 7 counters instead of 6. If Winding Constrictor and Hardened Scales are on the field then Polukranos would enter with 8.
Corpsejack Menace is a 4/4 that costs two generic, one black, and one green mana and it doubles +1/+1 counters that are put on creatures you control. That means that when Phantom Nishoba enters the battlefield, instead of getting seven +1/+1 counters it will get fourteen. Doubling Season is an enchantment that doubles all effects that would make tokens as well as counters; although, it is pretty pricey at the moment.
Lastly, another enchantment that will get your army of 0/0 creatures even more +1/+1 counters is Cathars’ Crusade. For three generic and two white mana it is an enchantment that says, “Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control.” Remember that when you mutate Nethroi onto a creature he is not entering the battlefield so Cathars’ Crusade will not trigger; however, if you bring back twelve creatures with Nethroi’s Mutate ability then all of your creatures will get twelve +1/+1 counters when they enter the battlefield. Note that even the creatures you reanimate with Nethroi will see each other when they enter the battlefield and will get a +1/+1 counter for each creature including itself (assuming it is still on the battlefield when the triggers resolve).
It may be wise to pack some extra Mutate cards as well as some specific creatures for Nethroi to target when he mutates. Cards like Silhana Ledgewalker, Dungrove Elder, Troll Ascetic, and Witchstalker all of hexproof making it much harder for your opponents to remove them in response to mutating Nethroi. If you attempt to mutate Nethroi onto a creature and one of your opponents removes it in response, then Nethroi would enter the battlefield normally without the Mutate ability triggering. We want to stop this from happening by whatever means necessary because it takes A LOT of work to get our graveyard ready for Nethroi. The best of the best is Thrun, the Last Troll because he can’t be countered, he has hexproof, and you can regenerate him for one and a green. He’s super good for this deck.
Gemrazer, Necropanther, Huntmaster Liger are great in this deck and can get us extra value when we mutate Nethroi onto them or vise versa. If you ever need to, you can always stack Huntmaster Liger’s and Nethroi’s Mutate abilities so that Nethroi’s activates first, bringing in a ton of creatures and then they can get a bit of a pump from Huntmaster Liger until end of turn. Though this is a bit of a corner case, we can make it and the rest of our Nethroi strategy work way better with the cards in the next section.
I promised you we could swiftly overwhelm our opponents if we play our cards right. And the cards to play to make that happen are cards that will give our creatures flash. Vivien, Champion of the Wilds, Yeva, Nature’s Herald, and (of course) Vedalken Orrery can give our creatures flash. This includes Nehtroi and any other creature with Mutate when we want to mutate them because it is just an alternate casting cost. Savage Summoning and Scout’s Warning are super cheap instants that say, “The next creature card you cast this turn can be cast as though it had flash.” Mutating Nethroi and reanimating a ton of our creatures at instant speed at the end of our opponent’s turn right before ours is the surest way of making use of Nethroi and our army of terrifying monsters right away. Crashing Drawbridge is another option that can give all our creatures haste and it’s significantly cheaper than a Vedalken Orrery.
Since the goal of our deck is to reanimate tons of creatures from our graveyard, it doesn’t hurt to have some redundancy. Reanimate and Animate Dead are cheap to cast and can bring back a single creature from our graveyard. Eerie Ultimatum and Living Death bring back our entire graveyard. Playing one of these spells the turn after you cast Morality Shift is sure to load up your entire board no mutation necessary.
Now that we know what we want to get into our graveyard, how to get it there, and how to get it back out super quickly, how are we going to win? Well, since we aren’t including a complex aristocrats package, we’re going to do it the old fashioned way. By beating face. Remember that we can reanimate up to 10 power out of our graveyard. With the many 0/0s we are running, that gives us plenty of room to reanimate Siege Behemoth and Pathbreaker Ibex. Siege Behemoth is a 7/4 with hexproof that says “As long as Siege Behemoth is attacking, for each creature you control, you may have that creature assign its combat damage as though it weren’t blocked.” Your creatures will still take damage but you get to choose whether your creatures deal damage to your opponent’s blockers or straight to their face. When Pathbreaker Ibex attacks, creatures you control gain trample and get +X/+X where X is the greatest power among creatures you control. With all of our +1/+1 counter shenanigans, hopefully, this should pump our guys by a lot!
Before we flash in Nethroi at the end of our opponent’s turn, we could have also tutored up End-Raze Forerunners or Craterhoof Behemoth. On our turn, we simply cast one of these insane beasts, pump up our recently reanimated creatures and give them trample, and swing. That is GG right there.
There are many infinite combos that we can choose to include and many different creature packages we could bring back with Nethroi to immediately win the game. The well-known Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder combo is an easy way of gaining us infinite life and pumping up our team of recently resurrected fatties beyond any reasonable limit. Gain a billion life, give all your creatures a billion +1/+1 counters, and start swinging. Even if you don’t have trample and your opponents have 50 blockers, you’re gonna win.
If you a really precise and simple combo that immediately wins you the game you can always send Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Triskelion to the yard, and bring them back with either Nethroi or any other means. Mikaeus and Triskelion are already good cards to run in the deck, but together they create a deadly two-card combo. The way this combo works is Triskelion enters with 3 +1/+1 counters on it and can remove one at instant speed to deal 1 damage to a creature or player. Note that because it is a Construct, Mikaeus will buff it by giving it +1/+1 and undying. A creature with Undying will return to the battlefield after it dies as long as it didn’t have any +1/+1 counters on it. So, remove one counter from Triskelion, deal 1 damage. Then, because it would be a 2/2 without its +1/+1 counters, remove the last two counters to deal Triskelion 2 damage causing it to die. The Undying from Mikaeus will then bring it back with an extra +1/+1 counter and you can start dealing 2 damage to whatever you want an infinite amount of times.
Alright, you’ve made it to the end of the article. Thanks so much for reading. I have left a lot of the deckbuilding decisions up to you and you don’t have to include the super expensive cards or infinite combos if you don’t want to. Nethroi is still sure to be a super fun reanimate commander. Also, please check out and like the video, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and hit that bell to be notified about our weekly deck techs, set reviews, and gameplay videos. Subscribing to our channel is the easiest way to help support us and it’s completely free. We really appreciate all of you and your support. Thanks, everybody! Stay safe out there.