Last updated on September 29, 2023
Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin | Illustration by Zezhou Chen
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.
Walking Ballista | Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren
Zurzoth, Chaos Rider
Judith, the Scourge Diva
Garna, Bloodfist of Keld
Spawn of Mayhem
Rankle, Master of Pranks
Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant
Sower of Discord
Keeper of Secrets
Temple of Malice
Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
Den of the Bugbear
Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
Temple of the False God
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.
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.
There’s also The Meathook Massacre, though it has a somewhat prohibitive price tag.
Goblin Bombardment plays into this slice of the deck perfectly.
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 can ricochet a ping effect onto another player, effectively triggering Ob Nixilis twice off one effect.
Cryptolith Fragment basically draws cards while adding mana, though the back half is negligible.
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 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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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