Every so often, a card or group of cards ends up resonating with the MTG community more than initially expected. This could be as simple as a common becoming a meme within the community, as was the deal with Colossal Dreadmaw. In the case of Colossal Dreadmaw specifically, we’ve seen a ton of reprints of the card in different environments, including as a Brachiosaurus in a recent Secret Lair drop.
Typically, when a card or group of cards is considered highly desirable by enough players, there end up being plentiful reprints. One type of card in this vein, though, has not made a triumphant return in many years. This Creature type is none other than Nephilim. Nephilim first appeared way back in Guildpact in 2006, as the second set in the original Ravnica block. With the upcoming premier set, Murders at Karlov Manor, designed to take place on Ravnica once more, players have been wondering if Nephilim will ever get their time in the spotlight again.
Unfortunately for Nephilim enjoyers, according to Mark Rosewater, there are no current plans for Nephilim to return. There are some key reasons why this is likely the case, but it’s hard to deny the popularity of Nephilim within the MTG community. Today, we are going to take a deep dive and look at exactly what Nephilim are, how they largely disappeared from the world of MTG, and what a future set with them might look like. Let’s start by going over the roots of how Nephilim originally came to be.
The Nephilim were a group of powerful Creatures that symbolized the old ways of Ravnica, prior to the creation of the Guildpact. Long before the events that were highlighted on Ravnica, Nephilim themselves were trapped under the plane’s surface. Eventually, five of them were able to obtain the powers of a dragon by feasting on its dead flesh, resulting in their massive growth.
Their emergence was rather timely, as it helped spark the initial downfall of the Guildpact, which was utilized as a way to help keep order and maintain lawfulness among the guilds. The five Nephilim were soon defeated once more, be it by being killed by Rakdos, Niv-Mizzet, or an explosion. Since then, Nephilim have hardly been heard from again.
Nephilim themselves were incredibly unique Creatures back in the day, but their disappearance within the storyline largely coincided with their lack of future printings. When they were originally debuted, they were the first Creatures in MTG that featured mana costs with only four differing color symbols. As such, even though they weren’t super powerful, their individuality set them apart and helped them grow in popularity.
Interestingly, though, despite being intriguing monstrosities that held specific purposes within the storyline, they were not printed as legendary Creatures. This meant that they could not be used in typical games of Commander as the generals themselves. Despite receiving questions regarding the potential ability to errata these Creatures to be legends years later, Mark Rosewater essentially stated that changing these cards retroactively would be setting a bad precedent. He did admit, however, that making them legendary in the first place could’ve been a better decision in hindsight.
While Nephilim were printed in 2006, it wouldn’t be until Commander 2016 that we would see four-color generals. We also never saw any new Nephilim Creatures printed since Guildpact. As far as reprints are concerned, some of Nephilim appeared on The List. Meanwhile, Glint-Eye Nephilim was reprinted in Commander 2016 and Dominaria United Commander, and Ink-Treader Nephilim only appeared in Guildpact.
A Future Home?
Unfortunately, despite being a strangely beloved Creature type by many, it’s unlikely we’ll see Nephilim return in a premier set. A large part of this is due to their unique color identity which was initially seen as an out by Wizards. In Guildpact, a huge part of the reason Nephilim appeared in the first place was due to fear that players may not enjoy the guild concept. For better or worse, however, the guilds on Ravnica have been a massive success, so Wizards needn’t play it safe.
From a lore perspective, it also seems unlikely that the Nephilim will re-emerge without some sort of fracture within the guild system. Even with all the murders going on right now, it is rather set in stone, however, there is another option. By printing two-color cards with two-color abilities, Wizards could sate the demand for four-color Commanders.
In theory, this is the perfect solution as it works thematically while also having interesting mechanical possibilities. Unfortunately, however, there’s no if or when Wizards would utilize such an idea. Thankfully, what we do know is that Wizards should make more four-color Commanders eventually.
Most likely, though, if Nephilim return, it will be in a supplemental product. It’s perfectly reasonable that Nephilim have been largely considered a novelty that doesn’t fit premier sets. After all, unless excellent mana fixing is provided or the cards themselves are extremely strong, Nephilim may not have a good place in a Limited environment.
Ultimately, this makes a future set designed for Commander feel like the perfect place to include new Nephilim Creatures. It would be rather cool to see the evolution of these Creatures and to be given more powerful, legendary variants to appease Commander players. Only time will tell if we ever see Nephilim again but never say never.