Last updated on August 14, 2023
Lord of the Nazgûl | Illustration by Anton Solovianchyk
The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth introduced a major boon to the unappreciated wraith creature type. Before now, the best wraith in of Magic probably had to be Street Wraith; now, we’ve got Lord of the Nazgûl, the Witch-king of Angmar, the Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin, Ringwraiths, and, of course, the nine Nazgûl.
Let’s dive into a Commander deck with the primary object of delivering justice to these new wraiths and finding a home to play nine copies of the mythical Nazgûl in Commander.
Glasspool Mimic | Illustration by Johan Grenier
An Offer You Can't Refuse
Dig Through Time
Fact or Fiction
Go for the Throat
Meeting of Minds
Slip Out the Back
Stroke of Genius
At the heart of this Lord of the Nazgûl deck are the titular wraiths, the Nazgûl. It runs every new representation of the Ringwraiths. The remainder of the list looks to generate extra wraiths the Nazgûl can pump up, and there’s plenty of card draw and protection to keep the wheels turning and your legion of monstrosities expanding.
Lord of the Nazgûl gives you a straightforward, three-step process to lead you to victory:
- Casts instants and sorceries
- Create Wraiths
- Attack with nine or more 9/9 wraiths with evasion
Where commanders like Talrand, Sky Summoner and Alela, Artful Provocateur give you a similar “cast spell, make token” strategy, Lord of the Nazgûl also empowers all the tokens on its own. All you need to do is get eight extra wraiths in play and you’re set up to attack with 9/9s. It’s the engine and win condition nicely bundled in one; all you’re left to do is turn on the win condition by using its token generating ability, all while supplementing them with powerful wraiths!
Obviously, the big nine wraiths in the deck are the Nazgûl. They aren’t the most impactful spells on their own, you’re adding +1/+1 counters to each wraith that’s already in play while adding more of them to the board.
One on its own isn’t going to scare anyone; two start to feel a bit spooky. Three or more and each subsequent wraith is adding four extra counters to your entire board.
Ringwraiths, Witch-king of Angmar, and Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin complete the list of Ringwraith representations from the LTR set. They aren’t uniquely powerful but deserve to be here on flavor grounds alone. This is a deck for the Lord of the Nazgûl; they kind of all need to be here.
Secret Salvage lets you exile a Nazgûl from the bin to find the other eight while generating a wraith on cast with your commander in play. One exiled Nazgûl is an easy cost to pay to draw eight others.
Mitotic Manipulation (an underrated blue ramp piece in its own right) can find Islands and Swamps when you want extra mana, but it can also be a way to dig for another Nazgûl to have the Ring tempt you and pump the team.
A convenient element of playing a payoff for casting spells in the command zone is all the card draw and interaction you’re packing doubles up as token makers and a win condition with your commander in play.
You’ve got all the classic instants and sorceries that draw you more cards to give you more gas to cast more instants and sorceries; Night's Whisper, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Fact or Fiction are all staples for a reason.
Ponder is the perfect example of efficient cantrips to trigger all these effects, including your commander. You’re packing all the usual suspects cantrip-wise, which all feel excellent when you add “Create a 3/3 wraith with menace” on top of their effects.
Stroke of Genius is another notable card because instant speed draw effects are invaluable. Having the opportunity to hold up mana and use it on countermagic or card draw as you see fit majorly enhances what the deck is capable of doing.
You’re packing 35 instants and sorceries, so you can play some other payoffs for these to get a bit more juice out of each than just a 3/3 wraith with menace.
Archmage Emeritus draws a card for each cast. One mana cantrips drawing you two cards each? Yes, please!
You’re running a ton of cheap protection effects like Arcane Denial, Counterspell, Slip Out the Back, and Swan Song to keep the Lord of the Nazgûl protected while building up the wraith army. Often, holding up a piece of interaction when you cast your commander is recommended because a 4/3 flier that generates 3/3s is going to draw a lot of attention.
You’ve got two one-sided board clears with Toxic Deluge, which often you can set up to clear everything with 8 toughness and lower and miss your 9/9s.
You’re working with a standard Dimir mana base on the cheaper end of budgets. You’re incentivized to have a large chunk of basics for Mitotic Manipulation, and as a 2-color deck, you don’t need a ton of other fixing lands.
Mystic Sanctuary stands out in a spell-slinger style deck as an important tool to buy back interaction or card draw as needed. Sometimes you just need a way to get more cards and need to dig out a Stroke of Genius. Other times, one Go for the Throat just isn’t enough.
Dimir Signet is the signpost mana rock you’re working with. You’ve got ten artifacts in the deck, all that come out on turn one or two to get you mana fast so you can cast and protect your commander as soon as possible.
Lord of the Nazgûl has a clear game plan to follow.
Your number one priority is getting your commander out quickly and getting it to stick. You’re packing ten 2-mana or cheaper mana sources to get out of the gate fast; often, you’re going to have a turn two mana rock (like a Dimir Signet or Planar Atlas), which you’ll look to follow up setting up with a Nazgûl or engine piece like Archmage Emeritus or Talrand. Everflowing Chalice does double duty here, acting as both a 2- and 4-mana rock.
From here, your objective is to set up a turn when you can cast your commander and hold up mana to protect it. Six mana is typically going to be plenty, often set up for turns 5 or 6. Once it’s on the battlefield, the game plan from there is straightforward: keep up instants to draw cards, protect the Lord, and create wraiths.
With just a turn or two after your commander hits the battlefield, you’re able to string together four to five instants or sorceries with a few other wraiths to have the needed nine to get the big boost in power. Your abundance of 1- and 2-mana instants and sorceries line you up to generate three or four 3/3s a turn, which you can follow up with a Nazgûl or two and a cantrip to pump up the team and dish out hundreds of damage.
The largest interaction to keep in mind is when the Lord of the Nazgûl’s team pump occurs. The resolution of the effect creates a wraith, then checks your total wraith count. Your opponents can respond to your commander’s trigger before a wraith is created to kill a wraith or your commander to drop your wraith count, preventing the base 9/9 from occurring.
This can also work in our favor, though. Waiting until the last second to pump the team can turn an otherwise wimpy attack of five or six 3/3s and your commander into sudden triple damage with a pair of instant speed cantrips.
Another important interaction is how Nazgûl work in groups. Each one has a trigger for when the Ring tempts you, and each has a separate enters the battlefield trigger that causes the Ring to tempt you.
Each Nazgûl in play puts a +1/+1 counter on each wraith you control. If you have played a lone Nazgûl, your wraiths get one +1/+1 counter. If you have two other Nazgûls in play and play a third, each gets three +1/+1 counters: one from the two already on the battlefield and the third from the third entering. The more you have, the more dangerous they become.
Perilous Research has a somewhat unique interaction in decks that generate tokens on spell-cast, which includes Lord of the Nazgûl. The sacrifice occurs on the resolution of the spell which occurs after a token is generated. You can then sacrifice the token your commander makes to Perilous Research, making it a super-efficient little card draw effect that’s very easy to cast.
Toxic Deluge is a bit harder to replace because it’s a selective -X/-X that you can sculpt to fit with your board. One-sided cheap board clears are tricky to find, but options like Crippling Fear can make for a reasonable budget replacement.
At time of writing, each Nazgûl art is going for $10 or more, and each of the Witch-kings is going for $4 or $5. If you want a deck focused around Nazgûl as characters, they’re kind of uncuttable. If you’re looking to improve your deck and save some costs, cutting these 11 cards opens up room for further redundancy focused around the Lord of the Nazgûl’s abilities over the wraith theme.
The main alternate route to pursue is dipping out of the typal elements and focusing more on full-blown Dimir Spellslinger.
That predominately looks like including more instant and sorcery matters payoffs like Niblis of Frost, Sedgemoor Witch, and Swarm Intelligence. These add redundancy for known powerful effects and typically come together as a powerful known quantity, like a Talrand, Sky Summoner deck, but with black and team pump in the command zone.
You can also shape a deck around a specific kind of instant or sorcery, like targeted instants and sorceries paired with heroic creatures to get additional value. Creatures like Triton Fortune Hunter, Stormchaser Drake, Agent of the Fates, and Sage of Hours paired with 1-mana target draw spells like Cerulean Wisps, Aphotic Wisps, and Fleeting Distraction can give the deck a unique spin that empowers the target protection effects it already wants to run to keep the Lord of the Nazgûl on the battlefield.
If you want to commit even harder to the wraith typal theme, changelings are a great place to start with Black Market Connections, Changeling Outcast, and Maskwood Nexus. You can even build towards tutoring up Maskwood Nexus with any number of blue artifact tutors or black general tutors and look to turn every creature you’ve got into 9/9s!
There are only six wraiths left out of this deck. While none of them are particularly stellar, they could make for a great extra challenge to commit to playing for the ultimate wraith deck that runs every printed wraith in Magic.
One last alternate build route deviates a bit from the commander’s main game plan to instead go all in on Nazgûl, enter the battlefield triggers, and “the Ring tempts you” cards and payoffs. Each time the Ring tempts you, Nazgûl pump all your wraiths. You’re already running the cheapest version of this with Birthday Escape, but you could load up your deck with instants and sorceries that tempt you to get additional triggers from each Nazgûl in play. Cards like Call of the Ring, Ringsight, Sam's Desperate Rescue, and Sauron's Ransom all easily slot into that version of the deck.
This last version can even run flicker effects like Thassa, Deep-Dwelling to get more enters the battlefield ring temptations. Deadeye Navigator and Peregrine Drake combo in this deck could give your wraiths infinite power with endless temptation!
Ponder | Illustration by Dan Scott
If you’re itching to play some Nazgûl, look no further than Lord of the Nazgûl. You can pick it up from the Tales of Middle-earth Commander deck, The Hosts of Mordor and find Nazgûl by cracking some draft, set, or collector boosters.
What do you think of this deck, and how would you build it yourself? Let me know in the comments below or over on the Draftsim Discord! And if you want more commander content, check out some other great articles featuring the Bant Commanders ranked or this Aragorn, the Unifier deck tech!
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