Hour of Devastation is almost upon us, and there are some awesome preview cards on the horizon. We’ve seen Theros gods and Amonkhet gods before, but we’ve never seen plague gods. Scorpions and scarabs are terrifying, but the one that frightens me most is The Locust God.
This giant insect will cost you six mana for a 4/4 with flying, and like any pesky insect, it’s very tough to kill. Unlike previous gods, the new deities from Hour of Devastation don’t have indestructible. Instead, they return to their owner’s hand after they die, to be cast afresh without the burden of commander tax.
In addition, The Locust God boasts one of the scariest abilities I’ve seen in a while: whenever you draw a card, create a 1/1 insect token with flying and haste. Abilities that care about players drawing cards are exceptionally dangerous. Just ask anyone who pilots a Nekusar, the Mindrazer deck, or anyone who’s recently played against Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix. Drawing cards is what blue does best, so we can expect this thing to make a lot of tokens. It even has an extra ability to draw and discard a card if you need help getting that engine running.
Of course, a red-blue 4/4 with flying for six mana that cares about drawing cards sounds pretty familiar…
Hailing from the original Ravnica set, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind has a bone to pick with our new locust friend. Niv doesn’t waste his time with tokens; he’d rather do the damage himself, pinging his opponents whenever you draw a card. He can even target creatures that annoy him, something The Locust God can’t do. Plus, instead of paying mana to loot, Niv taps to draw a card, triggering his own ability. This makes him one of the coolest Prodigal Sorcerers out there.
So how will the new god compete with the Izzet guild leader? Let’s take a look.
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind has long been famous for his nigh-infinite combos with cards like Curiosity. This handy little aura draws you a card whenever the enchanted creature deals damage. Since Niv-Mizzet deals damage whenever you draw a card, combining the two of them lets you draw your entire library, dealing massive amounts of damage along the way.
It’s worth noting that enchantments like Curiosity and Ophidian Eye are may abilities, so you can stop drawing cards whenever you desire. Other enablers, like Tandem Lookout, are mandatory triggers, so you could deck yourself out if you aren’t careful. For more safety (and more money, unfortunately) some Niv-Mizzet players prefer Mind over Matter, which can untap Niv-Mizzet by simply drawing the cards he draws for you.
Since this is EDH, we have a lot of cards in our libraries, which makes this combo very dangerous. However, since this is EDH, we have multiple opponents, each with 40 life, which makes this combo very problematic. If you have three opponents, that’s 120 life you have to blaze through, and unless you’re cheating, your library is definitely not big enough to mow down your opposition. That’s why Niv-Mizzet players tend to run additional insurance in their decks:
You may not have enough cards in your library to ping everyone to death individually, but Psychosis Crawler spreads the love to each opponent simultaneously. With Niv’s combo, the Crawler turns 70 cards in your library into 70 life lost from each opponent, which is just obscene. Additionally, the infamous Laboratory Maniac shows up in 40% of Niv-Mizzet decks, changing the combo’s weakness into its strength. Not enough cards in your library? No worries, the Maniac will reward you for it.
There are other ways to work around the combo, too. Your library may be too small to win the game when everyone’s at 40, but if life totals are low enough, drawing those 70 cards might be enough to take them out after all. To that end, Windfall effects help get the ball rolling. Combined with a draw-doubler like Alhammarret’s Archive, a single wheel can put opponents into the perfect range to be mowed down by a combo. Particularly helpful are the spells that don’t discard your hand, but put it back into your library, so you don’t run out of cards. Winds of Change and Mindmoil stand out as good examples. Better yet, Time Reversal will reset your library entirely, so you won’t run out of cards to draw. Cracking an Elixir of Immortality or discarding a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth can help as well. Since Niv draws approximately one bazillion cards, some players also use Omniscience, to cast all those spells for free. If you’re clever enough, you can find ways to set up Niv for a win, despite the number of cards in your library.
Okay, just one last thing before we get to The Locust God. We’ve talked a lot about Niv’s big combo, but a combo is only a handful of cards in the 99. If we want to see how the big scary insect compares to Niv-Mizzet, we need a good sense of Niv’s entire library, so let’s take a look at his average decklist.
There are seven or eight different counterspells in Niv-Mizzet’s average deck, and all of them are there to protect him from harm. Everyone knows the Curiosity combo, which means ol’ Niv will have a great big target on his head. There are almost no other cards in his deck that do what he can do, so without him, the deck loses its engine and sputters to a halt. Keeping your commander alive is paramount, and counterspells help keep that glass cannon from shattering apart.
In true Izzet fashion, Niv-Mizzet decks hover on the line between immediately winning you the game and immediately losing you the game. Prepare your combos with precision, and handle them with care, or the deck might blow up in your face.
Okay, now we can talk about The Locust God. If you skipped straight to this section of the article, I can hardly blame you. I’m excited to talk about him, too. I just wanted to provide some context for his competition.
A few decks have already been made here on EDHREC for The Locust God, and in them, we see a lot of the same cards as Niv-Mizzet: Windfall, Fateful Showdown, Jace’s Archivist, and the like. Both of these commanders love to draw cards, after all, and these spells can draw lots of cards for a low mana cost. The Locust God makes creatures instead of pinging, though, and there are plenty of new cards to take advantage of all those tokens.
When drawing cards creates creature tokens… and your creature tokens draw you more cards… it’s hard not to get giddy just thinking about it. Bident of Thassa and Coastal Piracy are stellar cards to enable this engine. The tokens have haste, too, so you don’t have to wait a full round in fear of a Wrath of God before they start dishing out the pain.
The real standout, though, is Skullclamp. Equipping this to an insect token draws you two more cards, which makes you two more tokens. That’s just insane. Combine it with an Ashnod’s Altar and you start getting really nutty. Sacrifice one token to the Altar, pay one mana to equip the Skullclamp and draw two cards, making two new tokens, one of which can be sacrificed to the Altar–you get the idea. You draw your entire library and get a bunch of mana as you go. That Laboratory Maniac is rearing his crazy head again.
In fact, there are a number of combos The Locust God enables. Playing Intruder Alarm + Bonded Fetch (or Merfolk Looter, or Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind) creates as many insect tokens as you like. Azami, Lady of Scrolls + Xenograft turns each of your hasty insects into a wizard, so you can tap them to draw even more cards and make even more insects! This here Locust God is shaping up to be quite the combo commander in its own right, just with slight variations on the combos Niv-Mizzet introduced. (If only the locust could play Dire Undercurrents, things would really go crazy!)
With so many creatures entering the battlefield, though, combos aren’t the only way to win:
If you’ve ever played against a Purphoros, God of the Forge deck, you know how fast those games can go. Purphoros, Impact Tremors, and Warstorm Surge can absolutely melt life totals in the blink of an eye. Pairing these two gods together, a single Brainstorm becomes six damage to each opponent, a rate that frankly makes Nekusar, the Mindrazer jealous.
Meanwhile, Mana Echoes blows my mind. With this and our insect overlord on the table, drawing seven cards off a single Wheel of Fortune will net you 28 mana. No joke, 28 mana, because the tokens count themselves. Be prepared for the hate to come your way, because every single opponent will want to kill you dead before you can take advantage of this glorious synergy.
Oh, and speaking of creature types…
Shared Animosity and Coat of Arms are powerful tribal cards, and while this may not be a tribal deck, all those insects do share a creature type. Dropping either of these will make your insects crazy buff. The Locust God takes the typical Izzet gameplan and twists it a bit. Red-blue doesn’t usually like to do combat, but the locust is a combat specialist. Niv-Mizzet doesn’t bother with combat; for him, each card drawn is one damage, plain and simple. The Locust God, however, can drop a tribal artifact and turn each card drawn into one, three, or even seven points of damage.
This isn’t to say that The Locust God is 100% better. It just interacts with the game in a different way. Think of it like the Lorwyn card Hostility. The damage output has the potential to be higher, but that also brings along a new set of weaknesses, such as Propaganda effects, or Authority of the Consuls. What’s more, The Locust God has combos, but they may be harder to set up than Niv-Mizzet’s, because they need a few more pieces, while Niv just needs a single Ophidian Eye to go full throttle.
Since the set isn’t even out yet, there aren’t many decks for The Locust God here on EDHREC, so an average decklist might not be very illuminating. Instead, I hope you won’t mind if I throw my hat into the ring and come up with my own idea for a plague-of-locusts deck. Check it out:
Niv-Mizzet is a combo-tastic but fragile deck, highly dependent upon the commander to work properly. The Locust God is similarly combo-tastic, but is actually more analogous to a Purphoros, God of the Forge or Krenko, Mob Boss deck, rapidly filling the field with creatures. Many players were surprised that locusts would have a red-blue color identity, but the frenetic swarm this commander summons forth is chaotic in a perfectly Izzetonian way.
As stated previously, for this section I’d like to go over some of the noteworthy inclusions in the decklist I made above. Some of these cards might slip under most player’s radars, but I encourage you to give them a second glance. While I’m at it, I’ll include some under-the-radar cards for Niv-Mizzet decks too.
The Locust God approaches, and from what I can tell, it means serious business. Niv-Mizzet is a proud dragon, though, so I think he’ll be able to hold his ground pretty well. Both offer some awesome combos, and I really love the new strategies the locust provides for Izzet decks. Hour of Devastation looks intense, and with amazing cards like The Locust God, it’s guaranteed to shake up the EDH format just as much as Nicol Bolas has shaken up Amonkhet.
So which commander would you play? What Showdown should be next? Let me know below.
Til next time!