2, May, 23

MTG Aftermath Card Propels Hated Combo to New Heights!

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Even though the set was leaked before spoiler season began, many MTG players waited until the official reveal before looking at what MTG’s first mini-set had to offer. While there are a ton of incredibly exciting cards to look at in March of the Machine: The Aftermath, one card has definitely stolen the spotlight for many MTG players. The card threatens to revive a hated MTG combo and propel it to obscene heights. While many MTG Arena players may have some disturbing flashbacks to the Cat Oven combo decks that dominated the client, this change may ultimately be a good one for MTG’s most competitive format. Let’s take a look at Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin!

Cat Oven Gets Absurd Support

One thing that Ob Nixilis has a lot of experience with is losing his spark. March of the Machine: The Aftermath showcases ten different characters that have lost their sparks as a result of the events of the Phyrexian Invasion, and Ob Nixilis’s card had the biggest first impression. While his position on New Capenna is indeed an event to note for lore enthusiasts, Ob Nixilis is making waves because the card may be the card that a tier two Pioneer archetype needed to propel to the top tier: Rakdos Sacrifice.

Like many sacrifice-centered strategies since the release of Throne of Eldraine, this deck is focused around an incredibly infamous synergy from the perspective of MTG Arena players: the Cat Oven combo. This refers to the interaction between Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven.

Basically, players can sacrifice Cauldron Familiar with the oven and create a Food token. This Food token can then be sacrificed to bring back Cauldron Familiar. This allows for a single point of drain between players thanks to Cauldron Familar’s ETB effect, which will occur each time the cat re-enters the battlefield after the sacrifice loop is applied (or being cast). This is obscenely strong against creature decks since the cat can, essentially, block a free creature each combat. Both the cat and the Food tokens also gain life, and the Oven is a fantastic outlet to effects that steal your opponent’s creatures like Claim the Firstborn.

For MTG Arena players, this combo was the bane of many existences. Not only was the combo strong enough alongside enablers like Trail of Crumbs and Mayhem Devil to warp metagames, but the combo was viable for an extended period in every single MTGA format. Golgari Sacrifice dominated Historic for an unhealthy period of time before the cat got a digital-only nerf and was incredible for its entire Standard-legal run.

Nowadays, the Cat Oven combo is still a viable option in Pioneer, but it’s probably best in Explorer. The deck isn’t a plague in Pioneer since the format inherently has a lot of ‘ships passing in the night’ strategies that don’t care a lot about what the Sacrifice deck is trying to do. These strategies aren’t at their best in Explorer yet, which gives the Sacrifice deck a better matchup spread. Rakdos Sacrifice needs this card to compete with the other strong options in Pioneer and should be a fantastic addition to the format.

Why is Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin Good in Rakdos Sacrifice?

korvold, fae-cursed king

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin offers the Rakdos Sacrifice archetype, in Pioneer and Explorer, the finisher that the deck direly needed. While the sacrifice deck has some favorable matchups against top decks, and an incredibly advantageous matchup against other creature decks, the deck also had some pretty atrocious matchups. Not finding a Mayhem Devil (or targeted sideboard hate) against a solitaire deck like Lotus Field Combo in the first few turns usually meant the deck just folded to the non-interactive clock that the combo deck presents. In other words, this archetype, as it is in the Pioneer format, has a lot of trouble closing games.

The lack of strong finisher cards has also been an issue in traditionally grindy formats where the Rakdos synergy was bested by its Jund counterpart. The deck lost a bit of consistency (and speed) but gained a fantastic finisher in the form of Korvold Fae-Cursed King. This card grew big at an incredibly fast rate, and could refill a sacrifice player’s hand with little effort – providing a powerful finisher and a card that can easily grind into the lategame. Unfortunately, this card is too slow for the Pioneer format.

This is where Ob Nixilis comes in. Not only is the card in Rakdos colors, avoiding the need for a splash, but the card has a lower mana value and the Trample keyword, meaning that, should this card increase in size, preventing the damage is going to be very difficult. It will also enter the battlefield earlier in the game-helping to do the two things that this deck traditionally struggles with, close the game and grind against noncreature strategies.

Whenever an opponent loses exactly one life, Ob Nixilis triggers. The creature grows, gaining a +1/+1 counter, and exiles the top card of your library. Like most of the red card advantage that Wizards of the Coast has been printing recently, you may play those cards until your next end step. The card won’t trigger as much as Korvold does with the Cat combo assembled, but one cat loop will trigger the creature and give you an extra card to use. Combat damage with Cauldron Familiar and other smaller sacrifice fodder in the deck, like Voldaren Epicure and Unlucky Witness will also trigger Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin.

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A Perfect Partnership

Ob Nixilis gets truly out-of-hand when partnered with the other massive payoff card that the archetype offers: Mayhem Devil. This card pings a target every time a permanent is sacrificed, turning the Cat Oven combo into three potential damage per loop in one-damage increments. That’s three triggers for Ob Nixilis. Of course, should you accumulate a horde of Food tokens, you can stack Cauldron Familiar triggers from your graveyard to sacrifice multiple Food tokens and trigger Mayhem Devil a ton of times in one turn.

This is all to summarize that Ob Nixilis can make a great Korvold Impression while allowing the deck to stay two colors instead of splashing a third. This allows for the deck to continue running some number of utility lands like Castle Locthwain, Hive of the Eye Tyrant, and Mutavault. The card advantage that Ob Nixilis provides is not as great since it can only be used until your next end step, but the card is more aggressively costed and picks up the Trample keyword, which can be a big deal.

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The Card is Also Absurd in Commander

All Will Be One already enables a disgusting amount of infinite combos, and Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin, just adds to that list. When Ob Nixilis gains a counter, All Will Be One will deal a damage to an opponent which will trigger the Kingpin again. Rinse and repeat.

As pointed out by this Twitter user, the card is also very strong when your opponent is a Fetch Land enjoyer. Whether you’re playing Modern or Commander, Ob Nixilis will gain a +1/+1 counter and exile a card for you to use until your next endstep whenever your opponent uses them.

All in all, there is a lot of early excitement for Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin. While the card may cause Arena players who want Cat Oven strategies to be a thing of the past some problems, I don’t think this will raise the Sacrifice archetype to a problematic power level in the Pioneer format. It will, however, probably make the deck a lot better, potentially a tier one contender. Explorer, on the other hand, may be seeing a lot of this guy shortly, but the format does have Atraxa Creativity and Control archetypes which aren’t free matchups for the Sacrifice deck, so it might be fine.

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