Zombies have long been a popular tribe in Magic the Gathering, and for quite some time, Blue & Black Zombies have made noise in Commander. In the original Innistrad days, mono-Black Zombies were a dominant force in competitive play. Now, Blue and Black Zombies may once again gain a competitive edge in not just Standard, but perhaps even Modern, with a Zombie creature doubling card called Necroduality!
This mythic rare from Innistrad: Crimson Vow makes it so that whenever a nontoken Zombie creature comes into play on your side of the battlefield, you get a token copy of that creature! They don’t even have to be cast, so whether they return from the graveyard, or come straight into play from your hand or your library, you get the free copy.
In older formats, the popular trigger doubling artifact Panharmonicon gets you an additional token with Necroduality. The popular enchantment Rooftop Storm, which lets you cast Zombie creature cards for free, essentially gives you two free copies of a creature.
Perhaps the only awkward thing about Necroduality is that it’s not all that fun when casting Legendary Creatures, since you can only control one copy in play at a time. Necroduality entered a Standard format with multiple good Legendary Zombies, including Acererak the Archlich, Ludevic, Necrogenius and Narfi, the Zombie King all seeing significant play in Zombie decks. However, keep in mind that you then get an additional enter the battlefield trigger. That’s good for Acererak, who can give you an additional chance to Venture into the Dungeons from Adventures of the Forgotten Realms. Ludevic will mill you an additional card, which can be both good or bad depending on the build of your particular Zombie deck. Narfi doesn’t have an enter the battlefield trigger, so you basically get a useless token you have to sacrifice. But, are these tokens you have to sacrifice actually useless?
Keep in mind that in older formats there are many cards that have synergy with having to sacrifice permanents. These include Commanders such as Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth, which whenever a creature you control dies, you get to investigate – create a Clue token you can sacrifice for two generic mana to draw a card. I’ve never seen a Zombie build of the deck, but there is another Legendary Creature, Kels, Fight Fixer who does see play in some Zombie Commander decks. She’s a Mono-Black Azra Warlock that whenever you sacrifice a creature allows you to pay either a Blue or Black mana to draw a card.
So, yes, there are opportunities where doubling a Legendary Creature that you then have to sacrifice a copy to the legendary rule actually can benefit you. It’s also notable that you could choose to sacrifice the nontoken copy, then bring back the original nontoken creature to get another trigger on Necroduality and repeat the process. There are many other cards that have these sacrifice benefits, although none that perfectly synergize with Necroduality. Still, keep these potential niche interactions in mind because they may come into play more often than you’d think.
Necroduality and Exploit Creatures
Another potential issue with Necroduality in the Standard format it enters is that it’s extremely awkward with the Exploit creatures also from the Innistrad: Crimson Vow set. The issue here is that if you chose to activate the Exploit ability of a Zombie creature like Overcharged Amalgam, you then have no choice but to Exploit twice. That means sacrificing two creatures instead of just one. Of course, there are applications where this isn’t bad.
For example, you can choose to play the Amalgam in response to not only something being cast, but also an activated or triggered ability that is caused by that spell being cast. It would seem that the very activated ability of Necroduality could be countered by the first nontoken copy of the Amalgam coming into play, but I’m not a rules expert, and not sure that would work. Of course, why would you use the Exploit trigger to counter your own activation? However, you certainly could use this double Exploit opportunity to counter an opponent’s Necroduality and a potential counterspell that comes down in response. Again, this is a major corner case, but it’s good to keep these things in mind.
It’s also not clear that taking your turn off to cast Necroduality in Standard is actually worth it. While the payoff is huge, with the amount of counter-magic that pervades Standard, you could waste your entire turn. There’s also a fair number of ways in Standard to remove Enchantments, including the popular Skyclave Apparition, who can hit up to four mana permanents. The payoffs seem worth it, but you’ll need some extremely powerful enter the battlefield abilities to copy to take that risk on a regular basis.
Necroduality and Mono-Black Devotion?
Fortunately, there are other formats in Magic, and even in Modern, where a four-mana Enchantment may not seem worth it, many amazing Zombies exist. For example, Grey Merchant of Asphodel, the Mono-Black Devotion all-star of several past Standard formats, is in fact a Zombie. Grey Merchant drains your opponent for X life, where X is your devotion to Black. While yes, you want pretty much exclusively Black mana symbols in a Grey Merchant deck, it’s probably not horrible to splash Blue just to make Grey Merchant twice as deadly. You can also play Fleshbag Marauder and sacrifice the token copy to its ability, while your opponent is still down a creature.
It also helps that Mono-Black Devotion decks play Geralf’s Messenger. Not only does the Messenger have three Black mana symbols in its casting cost, but its ability is extremely powerful, draining an opponent for two life whenever it comes into play. Also, because it has an Undying trigger, it returns when it dies. While the token copy doesn’t return, the original nontoken does, potentially bringing with it an additional Geralf’s Messenger token.
Here’s the major question: do those copies bring with them the mana symbols? We know in the past with Pack Rat which created a token copy of itself, that its copies did retain their black Mana symbol, despite the tokens themselves not having mana value. If you get to copy the mana symbols, suddenly splashing Blue for Necroduality in Mono-Black Devotion looks bonkers. If it’s ruled that the tokens don’t get the mana symbols, that’s a bummer. Also, it seems stupid that you’d play a Mono-Blue Enchantment in a Mono-Black deck in Modern, but of course, if it works, it’s a strong enough combo for Commander that any Blue/Black/X Zombie commander can adopt.
Necroduality and the Bladewing the Risen Reanimator Combo
Hilariously, Necroduality also works with a popular old Dragon called Bladewing the Risen. While not printed on the original card, Bladewing has since been typed as a Zombie Dragon. This allows for an infinite combo in Commander or the Historic format on Magic Arena! There have been many infinite combos with Bladewing over the years that stem from its reanimation ability, so this is just another way of doing so. Because of how the Legend rule works, you sacrifice the nontoken version of Bladewing, then using the tokens reanimation ability already on the stack, you bring back the original Bladewing. Then, because the nontoken enters, you create yet another token.
Of course, you have to benefit from this loop somehow with a payoff, such as Terror of the Peaks or Purphoros of the Forge to deal damage, a when it dies effect like Blood Artist, or a sacrifice outlet to make infinite mana like Ashnod’s Altar or Phyrexian Arena, already in play. It helps that you gain yet another way to create this infinite loop, and it may pop up in five-Color or Grixis-colored (Red/Blue/Black) Dragon Commander decks as an alternate win condition. But, now since you get two reanimation triggers at once, you can bring back the original Bladewing with the copy, while also getting another Dragon with the original Bladewing. Essentially, it’s a more efficient reanimation combo that can benefit from the same payoffs.
Speaking of infinite combinations, there’s the infamous Gravecrawler and Phyrexian Altar combo that now becomes twice as effective! Because Phyrexian Altar creates a colored mana whenever you sacrifice a creature to it, you could endlessly bring back the same copy of Gravecrawler. Now, you can actually create infinite mana, thanks to being able to also sacrifice the token copy!
Necroduality is a New Zombie Commander Staple
Crazy infinite combos aside, Necroduality is going to go into pretty much every Zombie deck that has Blue mana in it. You could build a deck as simple as playing nothing but Zombie lords, that is, creatures that power up all other Zombies. Since plenty of viable Zombie lords exist – Bladestitched Skaab, Death Baron, Liliana’s Devotee, Lord of the Accursed, and Death-Priest of Myrkul in Modern alone – they can all simply boost one another and beat down. Lord of the Accursed can even give your Zombies menace until end of turn, making a deadly alpha strike quite possible. The Enchantment Graf Harvest even gives your Zombies menace permanently. Top that off with The Scarab God as a finisher and Zombie Lord Tribal with Necroduality is going to be a fun deck, even if it’s not necessarily competitive.
Perhaps the most relevant Commander for Necroduality is none other than the Midnight Hunt Legendary Creature himself Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver. He has two ability that synergize perfectly with Necroduality. The first: “Whenever another Zombie creature you control dies, if it didn’t have decayed, you create a 2/2 black Zombie creature token with decayed.” The second: “At the beginning of your end step, you may sacrifice a Zombie. If you do, draw a card.”
By doubling your Zombie creatures, including the decayed tokens, you give Wilhelt far more fuel to draw cards. It also helps that if you happen to copy your Legendary Zombie Creatures, Wilhelt included, you get an additional 2/2 decayed Zombie creature token to replace the copy sacrificed to the Legend rule. Sure, decayed Zombies have to be sacrificed if they attack, but there are plenty of ways to sacrifice them before the end of combat to extract value from them before they would be otherwise lost to their own sacrifice trigger. Necroduality simply adds to the value engine that Wilhelt already provides as the most popular of all Zombie Commanders.
There are several other Commanders that benefit from Necroduality. An important one includes Gisa and Geralf, who then gets to mill eight cards and not just four, giving you more fuel for your graveyard shenanigans. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant gets two triggers of her enter the battlefield ability, milling you six cards and potentially netting you two 2/2 Zombie creature tokens. Grimgrin, the Corpse-Born, who usually comes into play tapped, can use his own ability to sacrifice his copy to essentially come into play untapped.
Heck, even older and often now overlooked Commanders like Thraximundar get better, as his sacrificed copy immediately gives him a +1/+1 counter, thanks to his “Whenever a player sacrifices a creature” clause. Also, while he can’t play Necroduality in his own Mono-Black decks, other Zombie decks that play Josu Vess can cast him for his kicker cost and get sixteen 2/2 Zombie creature tokens instead of eight.
Necroduality has thousands of potential interactions, making it easily one of the best Enchantments printed in Magic the Gathering history that’s tied to a single Tribe. Also, when it comes to Changelings, who are every creature type at once, the sky is the limit as to what you can accomplish with Necroduality. This is easily one of the best cards in Innistrad: Crimson Vow and it will be a chase card for years to come.
How would you play Necroduality?