Well, I decided to do a complete overhaul of the deck and focus instead on a solid Reanimator strategy. And I've had a lot more success with it in goldfishing and in the games that I've actually played. While there are some expensive cards present in the deck, This deck could easily be tweaked to include different mana rocks and spell so that it's cheaper.
The reason I decided to lean in to the Reanimator strategy is because Nicol Bolas, the Arisen is so absurdly powerful. It has card draw, removal, and a Reanimation effect All in one-card that requires you to spend 11 mana. I decided that I would build my list to try and capitalize on the back half of the card, particularly focusing on The Arisen's -4 ability.
This decklist still has some Nicol Bolas flavor cards present, so it's not a total Vorthos loss either, which makes my inner Vorthos geek happy.
The point of the deck is to cast and transform Bolas as quickly as possible so that you can Reanimate an awesome creature and start accumulating massive advantage with it. The cards I've chosen all do a lot to generate card advantage, with the exception of the OG Nicol Bolas; I've gotta play the OG Bolas in a deck ABOUT Bolas!
Then you filter that infinite colorless mana into infinite colored mana via the Signets, Visage of Bolas, Coalition Relic, or Gilded Lotus. You repeat the same step as above, instead alternating between one of the previous mana rocks and the colored producing mana rock.
Then once, infinite colored mana is achieved, you then cast Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, returning a mana rock to your hand. Spend some of the infinite mana to transform The Ravager into The Arisen and activate his +2 ability to draw 2 cards. Cast the mana rock that you picked up from casting The Racager and return The Arisen to your hand. Repeat this process to draw through your deck, or enough of it to find a win condition.
You can then repeat this looping process with Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh to exile each opponents library or infinitely deal 7 damage enough times until they're all dead. Or you can use Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver to torment them all to death. Or you can destroy/steal all of their permanents via Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker and then kill them all with combat damage via your Reanimator targets or grind them out and activate Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God's ultimate ability since they won't have any permanents/interaction to stop you.
Dire Undercurrents seems to be too ambitious with only like 4-5 creatures to trigger it. Maybe change into Omniscience with a sweet Nicol Bolas art?
Reins of Power can win games out of nowhere and has minotaurs on a picture, most importantly it sounds like the most Bolas card ever. Also Soul's Fire depicting Ajani who later kicked the heck out Nicol works really well with a dragon.
Haven of the Spirit Dragon seems nice - especially that you can return Ugin. Maybe instead of Volrath's Stronghold since Volrath has nothing to do with Nicol?
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I have divined your fate. You shall find your nemesis, a catastrophic clash. Devastation, misery for all, the unleashing of horrible curses and ferocious powers. Ruin, such ruin that I dream each night of blessed peace, assured that the universe is in balance once more...
Good suggestions! I feel like Dire Undercurrents is more suggestive of the most recent stories that have come out on the mothership, and it forms a pseudo-infinite combo with The Locust God, so I'm reluctant to take it out. I want to find room for Omniscience, I just can't think of what could reasonably go. I might take out Syphon Mind for it, since I'm not really concerned about the curve being a flavor-themed deck.
Reins of Power is definitely a very Nicol Bolas themed card, but it's just not very good in the games I played it in. I've never been impressed with it.
I like that Volrath's Stronghold can return any creature to the top of my library, not just Ugin. I admit it's one of the weaker flavor cards in the list, but I feel like the deck needs some sort of recursion.
I'll be making some tweaks to the deck as well as adding a budget option for the deck since a number of the pieces are fairly expensive. It's a fun deck to goldfish, and I'll be slowly picking up the pieces since I'm on a tight budget right now.
Touched up the main decklist with the cards that I'm actually playing. I've decided to go for a more casual playstyle, although there are some heavy control elements present in the deck.
Interestingly, I kinda want to add more Dragons to the list. They're a lot of fun to play and their really quite swingy. Sadly, I'll have to see which cards underperform as I like every single card in the list for nostalgia, flavor, or effectiveness reasons. The dragons I want to somehow slide in the deck are:
My brother hosted a draft for me, my wife, and his friends, and he pulled a copy of The Scarab God. I'm going to trade him a gold-bordered Gaea's Cradle for it (to complete his Freyalise Elfball deck), and I will definitely add this God to the decklist!
I also decided to pick up a copy of The Scorpion God since it's both a removal and draw engine that is totally in flavor with Nicol Bolas and his schemes. Not the most effective engine, of course, but tons of fun.
I'm also considering Sire of Stagnation as an additional draw engine. Basically, the deck is already a Grixis Goodstuff deck with a cool combo finish and I think I might cut some of the combo pieces and add in more flavor/control elements.
Cut // Ribbons has actually been surprisingly good. It kills a T2 general (focusing especially on Animar, Zur, Arcum, and Kaalia) all the time while also offering a win condition that opponents totally forget about. I've been able to take advantage of that by killing one or two people with the Ribbons half when I only had a card or two in my hand. I highly recommend it. I don't think you're running Lightning Bolt and Mizzium Mortars, but I love their flexibility in being able to kill pretty much any creature that I see throughout the course of the game.
Since this is one of my more casual decks, I'm trying to fine-tune it for the decks that it was playing against, and the previous iteration wasn't good enough. I played against Mad-Nath and Edgar Markov and each of those decks revealed the need for more mass removal to be in the deck and for each card to be impactful to the board state. I don't have enough tutors in the deck to reliably assemble the combo pieces I needed and there were too many times when The Chain Veil sat in hand doing nothing. Lightning Bolt doesn't kill any of the generals that I'm playing against. Overall, the changes are with the goal of making each draw, when I'm in top-deck mode (which has happened way too much... I can't tell if it's just bad luck or if I need more card-draw), relevant and effective. In other news, Storm Cauldron is absolutely awful to play against, haha. Vandalblast will make the cut for being cheap artifact removal with the upside of scaling into mass artifact destruction. My brother and I opened The Scarab God in a draft, so that was really exciting and he graciously traded it to me for a gold-bordered Gaea's Cradle I had laying around.
Um... Because I can't count, clearly? That's awkward. I now need to check my math for each of my lists, haha.
To cut my deck to size, and because it is sadly not impactful enough:
Waste Not is a card I want to abuse so very much in this deck, but it's more often than not a durdle do nothing card. The deck is fairly casual as well, and I like where it's performing currently. I played a game with this list against a newly built and newly minted EDH player's Inalla deck and Brion Stoutarm. It was a really enjoyable game and the deck's power level is exactly where I want it. This means that the deck was able to interact favorably at all stages of the game, had enough consistency in drawing mana and board state answers, and wasn't over-powered enough to completely dominate the table. I do have a game report, but I'll need to post it later since my day is already getting busy.
I tweaked this deck really heavily to be a little bit more streamlined and effective. There's also a new batch of Nicol Bolas themed cards that came out recently that need to be included. The OP list will reflect the changes, but the ones of note are The Eldest Reborn, In Bolas's Clutches, and Demonlord Belzenlok. The list has now gravitated towards a Grixis ETB deck with some strong synergies, albeit a more casual deck.
EDIT: I'll emphasize that this is a casual deck and admit that the curve is atrocious. But it's meant to play with my brother, who has become decidedly more casual of a player. Anyways, the list has now been officially updated. It has a bunch of fun cards and other vorthos themed cards along with a pretty powerful ETB suite of creatures.
The new Core set is absolutely dripping with Vorthos flavored cards. The piece-de-resistance, of course, being His Majesty himself, printed as the glorious new Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. An ETB discard effect and with 4CMC, this iteration is everything I've wanted for a Nicol Bolas Commander. I will be pre-ordering one of these ASAP.
Patient Rebuilding and Apex of Power are cards that I will also be considering as well. I'll need to reimagine the decklist again and see if I can lower the curve and streamline the deck. It's also possible that a cEDH list could be helmed by our Glorious Overlord. I love this new set!
EDIT: Tweaking this decklist is proving more difficult than I thought. I'm still tweaking it, but it's difficult finding slots for all the cards I want to play.
EDIT 2: After seriously thinking about it, this deck is going to remain a casual Grixis ETB deck with some Nicol Bolas vorthos flavored cards. Hopefully it will win some games, haha.
From the new set, there's a couple of cool cards that could possibly join the Forever Serpent and his Army.
Guilds of Ravnica
Lazav, the Multifarious - a really cool Vorthos character that perfectly embodies what Nicol Bolas does as a villain: scheme and assume disguises. I feel like I should include this card on principle since Lazav is basically like Nicol Bolas. He does have a decent ETB ability too, so he wouldn't be a bad card by any means. I just don't think that I have enough static abilities for Lazav's ability to really be useful. I could tweak the deck to accommodate this, however. I'll definitely consider it.
Etrata, the Silencer - cool card is cool. And exiling creatures on combat damage is nothing to scoff at. Sadly, Etrata shuffles itself into your deck after triggering, which makes her a nice one-off effect for exiling a dangerous creature, but that's about it.
Ral, Izzet Viceroy - so good to see a minion rise to power and prominence. Not the right type of card for this deck, since we're not a Spellslinger deck in the slightest.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun - wow, I've never seen a card cost so much colored mana before. While it's a really cool card, and is a nice boost to the various Niv-Mizzet decks out there we won't be actively taking advantage of the Parun. Neither will we be casting him, pretty much ever, with a tri-colored mana base.
Connive // Concoct - this might be the best non-Nicol Bolas yet Nicol Bolas vorthos card in the set. Each of these things is something that the Forever Serpent would do. Again, I think I should just include this card on principle.
Dream Eater - a really nice ETB creature that can bounce permanents we're struggling to deal with. I wish the Sphinx drew a card after Surveiling, but we can't have it all. A solid inclusion to the deck, if I can find room for it.
Disdainful Stroke - reprint is reprint and this Counterspell is actually useful on the course of a game.
Chromatic Lantern - I'm glad they reprinted this. It definitely needed the reprint and the mana fixing this card provides is great. Probably going to pick up a copy, once the price bottoms out in a few weeks.
Ravnica Allegiance Set Review Bedevil - this is a VERY welcome inclusion to the deck since it's so damn versatile. I'll be finding room for this somewhere, methinks.
Font of Agonies - while my gut is to include the card simply because Nicol Bolas features in the flavor text, it has no synergy with the deck at all sadly.
Mass Manipulation - the sheer amount of vorthos flavor this card implies means that I should probably find room for this card SOMEWHERE. It's just too good at describing at what Nicol Bolas actually does.
EDIT: Updated the list to make it meet the 99 card max. Oops.