Last updated on September 29, 2023

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin - Illustration by Zezhou Chen

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin | Illustration by Zezhou Chen

Ob Nixilis is a deeply complicated, multilayered character. He went on a murder spree on Zendikar, orchestrated a Hostile Takeover of New Capenna, and loves torturing little birds.

Maybe he’s actually just evil.

Channel your Inner Demon with this Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin Commander deck! Ob’s seventh iteration in Magic will teach you the power of the #1, and you just know it’s going to be a devilishly good time.

The Deck

Walking Ballista - Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren

Walking Ballista | Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren

Commander (1)

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin

Battle (1)

Invasion of Azgol

Planeswalkers (4)

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
Chandra, Dressed to Kill
Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
Chandra, Awakened Inferno

Creatures (24)

Walking Ballista
Rabbit Battery
Zulaport Cutthroat
Stormfist Crusader
Gibbering Fiend
Blood Artist
Lizard Blades
Nether Traitor
Crypt Rats
Pain Distributor
Zurzoth, Chaos Rider
Voldaren Thrillseeker
Rampaging Ferocidon
Judith, the Scourge Diva
Kardur, Doomscourge
Garna, Bloodfist of Keld
Spawn of Mayhem
Rankle, Master of Pranks
Wild-Magic Sorcerer
Nightshade Harvester
Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant
Sower of Discord
Keeper of Secrets

Instants (10)

Needle Drop
Gut Shot
Lava Dart
Flame Jab
Spikefield Hazard
Kazuul's Fury
Chaos Warp
Bolt Bend

Sorceries (4)

Feed the Swarm
Burn Down the House
Blasphemous Act

Enchantments (12)

Kumano Faces Kakkazan
Warlock Class
Goblin Bombardment
Roiling Vortex
Lithoform Blight
Impact Tremors
The Meathook Massacre
Bastion of Remembrence
Theater of Horrors

Artifacts (8)

Sol Ring
Wayfarer's Bauble
Fire Diamond
Rakdos Charm
Talisman of Indulgence
Arcane Signet
Lightning Greaves
Cryptolith Fragment

Lands (36)

Command Tower
Mount Doom
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Luxury Suite
Haunted Ridge
Smoldering Marsh
Canyon Slough
Dragonskull Summit
Blightstep Pathway
Graven Cairns
Temple of Malice
Rakdos Carnarium
Leechridden Swamp
Bojuka Bog
Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
Castle Locthwain
Piranha Marsh
Den of the Bugbear
Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
Kher Keep
Shivan Gorge
Sunscorched Desert
Temple of the False God
Myriad Landscape
Swamp x5
Mountain x6

The Commander

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin

There’s something comical about Ob Nixilis being stuck on New Capenna with the entire plane aimed at taking revenge against him. The events of March of the Machine: The Aftermath left him without a spark for the second time, so he really can’t catch a break. I dunno, maybe stop with the mass murders and torture shenanigans?

Think of playing this deck like role-playing. You’re the arrogant demon who overthrew an entire plane, and your opponents are the New Capenna family leaders, out for your blood.

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin is a Rakdos commander centered around dealing damage in increments of one. Whenever one or more opponents lose exactly one life, Ob gets bigger and you impulse draw a card. The gameplan is spelled out on the card, you’ve just got to find the right tools for the job.

I’ve seen some misconceptions on how this ability works. Ob only triggers once if multiple opponents lose one life at the same time. Cards like Thermo-Alchemist are great for this deck, but you only get one +1/+1 counter and impulse draw per activation, not three.

The exiled card is only playable until your next end step, not the end of your next turn. That means if you trigger Ob Nixilis during your own turn, you have until the end of the current turn to play the card. If Ob triggers during an opponent’s turn, you have an opportunity to play the exiled card during your next turn.

If multiple sources of one damage happen to the same opponent simultaneously, Ob doesn’t trigger. If you deal combat damage to an opponent with two 1/1s at the same time, the result is that your opponent loses two life, which doesn’t satisfy the conditions for Ob’s trigger. Ob doesn’t care about damage dealt, just the resulting life loss.

I’ve noticed Rakdos Charm is one of the top synergy cards for this deck on EDHREC, but it doesn’t synergize with Ob Nixilis that well. There seems to be confusion that Ob triggers for each creature your opponents control, but that’s not the case because the damage dealt by your opponents’ creatures usually results in more than one life lost per player. If an opponent has exactly one creature on board, Rakdos Charm fulfills the trigger conditions. In other words, Rakdos Charm can trigger Ob Nixilis a maximum of one time.

You also probably want to avoid damage amplifiers like Fiery Emancipation or Solphim, Mayhem Dominus. Despite being a damage-focused deck, they actually prevent damage-based effects from triggering your commander.

Welcome to Ping City

The demonic meat and potatoes of this deck are the “ping” effects that cause your opponents to lose exactly one life. Let’s zoom in on some of the best pingers in the deck.

There are six instants and sorceries in this category, many of which let you double-dip in one way or another. Lava Dart, Flame Jab, and Grapeshot can give you multiple triggers off a single card.

Spikefield Hazard can be played as a land if needed, while Needle Drop is a clean 1-mana draw-2 in this deck.

Gut Shot

And no one ever expects Gut Shot.

There’s an aristocrats package that includes Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat, Garna, Bloodfist of Keld, Judith, the Scourge Diva, and Bastion of Remembrance, all of which proc Ob Nixilis triggers in different ways.

The Meathook Massacre

There’s also The Meathook Massacre, though it has a somewhat prohibitive price tag.

Goblin Bombardment

Goblin Bombardment plays into this slice of the deck perfectly.

Gibbering Fiend

I’ve included some obscure tech cards that don’t typically have a place to shine in Commander. Gibbering Fiend encourages getting delirium, after which it pings players on their upkeeps.

Lizard Blades and Rabbit Battery can reconfigure and power up your commander, but they also peck in for that pivotal one damage on their own.

Kumano Faces Kakkazan works well here and leaves you with incidental graveyard hate from Etching of Kumano.

The list goes on, with 55 of the 100 cards in this deck capable of triggering your commander, including some personal favorites.

Sower of Discord

Sower of Discord can ricochet a ping effect onto another player, effectively triggering Ob Nixilis twice off one effect.

Cryptolith Fragment

Cryptolith Fragment basically draws cards while adding mana, though the back half is negligible.

Roiling Vortex

There’s also Roiling Vortex, which you can think of as a Phyrexian Arena that hurts your opponents, shuts off lifegain, and punishes people for casting free spells.

All Aboard the Pain Train

You’re pinging your opponents to death and drawing cards with Ob Nixilis while you do it, but small cuts only get so far. How do you close out the game? Besides attacking for lethal commander damage (which is very possible here), there’s some other built-in win-cons.

Warlock Class

Warlock Class is a personal favorite. The default level already does what you want for this deck, with level two putting you up a card and level three being a legitimate win-con à la Wound Reflection. It serves the role of a damage doubler without interfering with the commander.

Kazuul's Fury and Voldaren Thrillseeker are Fling effects that can toss a giant Ob Nixilis at an opponent for lethal. I love that Thrillseeker usually leaves behind a 1/1 body that can deal one damage on a whim.

Keeper of Secrets

Keeper of Secrets is a Warhammer 40k card, which usually means it’s amazing. It shoots your opponents whenever you cast a card from exile. With Ob Nixilis on board, Keeper can chain together 1-mana spells from exile while growing the commander in the process.

Chandra, Awakened Inferno

You also have Chandra, Awakened Inferno to provide inevitability in a prolonged game. Chandra’s a mini-sweeper if you need it to be, but those emblems from the +2 ability are permanent ways to fuel Ob Nixilis while sapping your opponents’ life totals.

Next Stop: Interaction Junction

As fun as it is to build your own monstrous Kingpin and take over one damage at a time, you still have to stop and interact with your opponents. No worries, you’re Rakdos baby! It’s all interaction all day!

Blasphemous Act

First up: sweepers. You don’t necessarily want to sweep the entire board, but Blasphemous Act is a good reset button to have access to.

Burn Down the House

Burn Down the House is less effective, but it has the alternate mode of spitting out a few Devils, the perfect tokens for this deck.

Pyrohemia, Pestilence, and Crypt Rats are adjustable sweepers that fulfil your commander’s trigger condition. Ob Nixilis also survives a few of these sweepers, which is nice bonus.

Pin-point removal includes usuals like Bedevil and Terminate.

Feed the Swarm and Chaos Warp are here to deal with permanents that Rakdos usually struggles with.

Lithoform Blight

I’ve included a copy of Lithoform Blight to deal with problematic lands. Your opponent can still tap that land for colored mana, but it’ll cost them one Ob Nixilis trigger to do so.

Deflecting Swat

I left Deflecting Swat out of the list to leave some room for improvement, but Bolt Bend is an effective equivalent that gives the deck some much-needed protection.

You also have Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant and Kardur, Doomscourge to keep looming threats off your back while getting in some pings.

The Mana Base

2-color decks are my favorite because they open themselves up to more utility lands without much trouble. You’ll find all the obvious dual lands and a healthy number of basics, but you also get to play some sweet bulk-box lands.

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin breathes new life into normal duds like Sunscorched Desert, Shivan Gorge, Leechridden Swamp, and Piranha Marsh. That’s right, I just told you to put Piranha Marsh in an EDH deck and I wasn’t even joking.

Den of the Bugbear and Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance add some 1/1 bodies to the board, while Kher Keep is pretty free to play here and gives you a repeatable token-making engine for effects like Goblin Bombardment and Impact Tremors. Damage on the way in and the way out.

The Strategy

If you’ve read any of my Commander deck guides, you probably know by now I’m the king(pin) of making decks that don’t really function without the commander. You don’t want to be caught with cards like Lava Dart and Gibbering Fiend if Ob Nixilis isn’t there to pay you off for playing them. The primary goal is to get Ob on board and either protect it with Lightning Greaves or Bolt Bend, or have a few spells/abilities at the ready to get a few cards out of it before it dies.

Scenario number one: Ob Nixilis is on board and your opponents haven’t killed it. It’s time to ping-ping-ping-ping-ping to your heart’s content. It’s possible to have a chain of spells going with this deck, which can make Ob Nixilis huge in a hurry. Ob can become a one-shot or two-hit commander over a couple turns, and it flies. Ping as much as possible, make Ob Nixilis huge, try to take out a player or two, and hurl your commander at the last one with Kazuul's Fury.

Scenario number two: your opponents know what’s up and kill Ob Nixilis on the spot. Time for a back-up plan! At this point you want to transition towards the aristocrats plan. Build out a board and bleed your opponents out with Judith, the Scourge Diva, Zulaport Cutthroat, and so on. You can play board control with single-target removal and effects like Pyrohemia, then wrap up with a flurry of death triggers.

If all else fails, you can try to get the alternate win with Triskaidekaphobia. Achievement unlocked!

Combos and Interactions

This entire deck is one well-oiled combo machine. You don’t have any immediate infinite combos, but your commander keys off over half of the deck.


Grapeshot is a key card to look out for. If you expect to have a long chain of spells in a single turn, save Grapeshot for last for a huge burst of Ob Nixilis triggers.

Note that Pestilence, Pyrohemia, and Crypt Rats can’t actually kill your commander. No matter how many activations you put on the stack, they resolve individually, growing Ob Nixilis after each one and putting it out of harm’s way.

Flame Jab

Prioritize playing lands exiled with Ob Nixilis before playing lands from your hand. The lands in your hand have extra utility for cards like Flame Jab, while the lands exiled from Ob go to waste if you don’t play them.

Budget Options

As always, budget options for this deck go both ways. You can power up the list with some obvious includes like Jeweled Lotus, Deflecting Swat, and everyone’s favorite unbanned goblin Dockside Extortionist. Fast mana makes the deck better, but also puts it in a power level category that I’m not necessarily aiming for here.

Cutting costs is also easy. The Meathook Massacre is a pricey piece of cardboard, but the effect it provides is covered by at least four or five other cards in the deck, so you don’t need it. Your deck is so redundant that no one card is that necessary. If you’re looking for alternatives to pricier options, I suggest doing an advanced Scryfall search for effects that deal one damage to your opponents. It’s a huge list of cards.

You can also downgrade the mana base. Shocks and fetches and fancy duals are great to have, but they don’t add that much to your win percentage. You’ll do just fine with a budget mana base full of Bloodfell Caves and Rakdos Guildgates if that’s what you’ve got.

Other Builds

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin leaves some room for deckbuilding creativity. One direction you can take this is a storm route focused on chaining as many spells together as possible. Ob Nixilis gets enormous in the process, and you can end the chain with a large Grapeshot or Ignite Memories. I’d recommend a copy of Birgi, God of Storytelling for this approach.

My version has an “aristocrats package,” but you can play more heavily into the sac-and-drain side of the deck. Most cards like Zulaport Cutthroat just naturally work with Ob Nixilis, so I wouldn’t worry much about that part. You can adjust the list to include more sac outlets and token generators to maximize your Blood Artist effects. Ophiomancer, High Market, and Mayhem Devil come to mind for this version.

You can also go full-on combo with Ob Nixilis. All Will Be One creates an endless loop with Ob, allowing you to deal one damage every time Ob triggers, which can hit an opponent and trigger Ob again. This isn’t a guaranteed kill, since you’re forced to exile a card every time this happens and you’re only dealing one damage at a time. Your opponents’ collective life total might outnumber the cards in your library, but it’s pretty easy to ping two players to death and just attack the third with an enormous Ob Nixilis. It’s not my cup of tea, but this version probably wants Demonic Tutor and friends to combo more consistently.

Reignited and it Feels So Good

Lightning Greaves (Secret Lair) - Illustration by Rudy Siswanto

Lightning Greaves (Secret Lair) | Illustration by Rudy Siswanto

That’s what Ob Nixilis would be saying, had he not just lost his planeswalker spark for the second time. Poor, unfairly treated Ob Nixilis.

I’m a big fan of this new Ob’s design. It’s powerful, open-ended, and gives a home to some otherwise questionable cards (looking at you, Shivan Gorge). I don’t have a feel yet for how “scary” this commander appears to other players, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ob nets himself the “kill-on-sight” status.

Have you seen Ob Nixilis 7.0 in action? How did it fair, and what’s your spicy tech card to make it work? Let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.

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