Nahiri in Modern

After Peter Ingram won SCG Indianapolis there was rampant speculation that she would power Jeskai decks to top tier. It’s yet to be seen if that will end up being the case, but it certainly seems that Nahiri is better than many gave her credit for at first.

Nahiri is potentially the most impactful planeswalker to be added to the modern card pool since the original Innistrad block and Liliana of the Veil. In the past few weeks she has started showing up in not just control style decks, but also in Kiki Chord and Valakut Ramp decks. She is very potent when you don’t have to worry about just losing if you tap out at 4 mana, and the cost to include her as a win condition is very low compared to other “combos”.

The Combos

The standard deck using Nahiri utilizes her as means to end the game by using her -8 ability. The normal target is Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but Blightsteel Colossus is likely a fine replacement that can end the game even better at times. Both of these usually will end the game in a single attack and can be discarded with Nahiri’s +2 ability at no cost (as they end up back in your library after). Using either is very similar to how Jeskai control decks at times would play Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker as a win condition to end the game on the spot. That combo would often be 6 total cards in the deck, which would often have decent value due to the ability to flicker or copy things like Snapcaster Mage, Wall of Omens, or Kitchen Finks. Nahiri used in this way is a total of 5 cards, and Nahiri is no slouch on her own while you build to her -8. But there are certainly other combos that can be included:

  • Restoration Angel/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker: this is the second most common way to utilize Nahiri. Decks can run a full set of Angels which will get tons of value flickering creatures, and then utilize Nahiri or Chord of Calling to get Kiki-Jiki to win. The combo creatures also utilize the same colors as Nahiri, meaning you can keep it as a two color deck or splash any third color, depending on your preferences.
  • Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry: I actually forgot that Nahiri could grab artifacts, and played a version of the deck that utilized this combo for a side event at Charlotte. The downside is that this combo doesn’t end the game super fast like the others do. The upside is that at times Emrakul will not win the game, whereas this pair will even if it takes a few turns. It’s also at times harder to interact with an artifact based combo as opposed to a creature based one, especially if you play Academy Ruins (extra points for recurring Engineered Explosives). Note that this works out a lot better if you get the Sword of the Meek with the -8, as it won’t be returned to your hand assuming you sacrifice it at least once during your turn (as it comes back as a new object).
  • Primeval Titan: Let’s assume that you play Nahiri at 4 mana and can manage to -8 her two turns later (at 6 lands). Chances are at least 5 of these are mountains. Titan comes down, gets two copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and then you can attack and likely deal 12 damage on the spot (or 9 if you get the third Valakut). Then Prime Time gets returned to your hand to be cast again next turn, dealing another 12+ damage and ending the game.

These are currently the most common combos that you could run, but that’s not to say that it is an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other two card combos that Nahiri can help set up (Grand Architect/Pila-Pala for example). The trick is finding ones that aren’t totally dead when you draw only half of the combo (this is the biggest problem with Sword/Foundry). It’s also possible that you just use the -8 to get insane value, even if it doesn’t win the game on the spot. Getting a Grave Titan or Sun Titan, attacking with it, and then getting to cast it again next turn for additional value puts you very far ahead of your opponent.

Getting to the Combo

Nahiri’s other two abilities work really well at keeping her alive, especially with a bit of support. Jeskai Control works well as it has enough removal to keep the board clear, and if needed Nahiri also works as additional removal (at the cost of delaying her ultimate) or helps dig to find more. There are a ton of other options that come down earlier to help gum up the works in order to keep her moving towards her -8, basically everything in Kiki Chord or even Sakura-Tribe Elder in the Valakut Ramp decks. Another thing to think about is playing cards that mitigate the discard aspect of the +2 ability, either spells with Flashback already (Lingering Souls) or ones you plan to give Flashback with Snapcaster Mage, are the most common.

Overall Nahiri is turning out to be an exciting card that can fit into a number of powerful strategies, and we’ve only just begun to see how powerful she can make decks in modern. I’ll likely be posting more about her in the near future, as I found playing with her to be quite enjoyable and I happen to have a modern tournament that I’ll actually be playing in coming up in about a month (unless I ended up working Friday of GP Pittsburgh as well).

Chris Wendelboe

Chris is a level 2 judge from Ashland, New Hampshire. He enjoys Scapeshift, modern, and putting on the best events possible.