Brewing Nadu, Winged Wisdom in cEDH

Sam Black • June 12, 2024

Nadu, Winged Wisdom by Daren Bader

Nadu is one of the most anticipated cards in MH3, and with good reason. It's a relatively huge, cheap creature that kind of protects itself and your other creatures that also happens to combo with almost anything in a way that can result in basically putting your entire deck onto the battlefield in a single turn. Some of the cards it combos best with aren't very good if you don't have Nadu, which makes it especially appealing as a commander, since you always have access to it.

Despite the fact that I'm writing this shortly before the MH3 prerelease, I've both already played a good number of games with Nadu as my commander and have looked at several other players' takes on the deck, and I'm pretty happy with my list. I'll explain how the deck works as I explain my card choices; let's just get into it.

Nadu Targeters

Nadu triggers when you target your creatures, so you want cards that do that efficiently. We're not looking for cards like Mutagenic Growth, that can target a creature for free, that only cycles; what we want is things that can target multiple things or multiple times to generate multiple triggers to generate card and mana advantage.

The easiest way to repeatedly target all of your creatures is with Equipment that can equip for free. I'm playing only the most efficient options. Many other players choose to include Umbral Mantle, but I think it's too expensive. These cards are great for letting your combo off, but they kind of suffer from being too great: your opponents have to try to destroy them or kill Nadu when you're going to have both on the battlefield, or, more likely, they have to counter the Equipment. The fact that you can only equip as a sorcery means that, if all they have is removal, you're only going to get a single target trigger out of them. These cards are great, but I just think the cost of Umbral Mantle is too high given how much resistance I expect it to face.

Paradise Mantle costs a mana to equip, but if you equip it to an untapped creature without summoning sickness, it can give you a mana back. It's also free to cast and a decent card on its own, so I like it quite a bit. It also helps that it's limited by mana, because it means it draws a little less heat (more on that later), which means opponents will sometimes let you get a few triggers because it usually won't immediately end the game.

These creatures have activated abilities that target your creatures. Unctus is extremely important to the deck because it's a "free" target effect that you can find with creature tutors, so it gives you a lot more access to that kind of card. Additionally, the ability to draw and discard a card whenever a blue creature becomes tapped can allow you to loot through your entire deck to find the perfect cards. Elvish Herder is much less powerful, but it offers a unique advantage compared to Unctus and the Equipment, which is the ability to be activated at instant speed.

This means that, if someone kills the Elvish Herder, you can activate it several times in response, and it also means that you can generate triggers on other players' turns, which means you can get more than two triggers per creature per turn cycle when you're limited by the number of creatures you control. Additionally, being a green creature means you can find it off Summoner's Pact and Green Sun's Zenith, and it's very important for those cards to give you access to this effect. It's a "bad card," but the deck needs it.

These only generate a finite number of triggers, but they're still among the most powerful cards in the deck because they require no additional setup. If you have one of these and Nadu, you can tap it to untap itself twice on your turn, then twice on each other players' turn, and on the last turn before you untap, you can also target a different creature, which gives you nine Nadu triggers per turn rotation, so your best start is often just to play one of these, then Nadu, and if no one has removal, you'll probably win on your following turn.

These also open up a few other combos. If you have either of these with Unctus, as alluded to above, you can tap and untap them as many times as you want to loot through your whole deck. Note that this works with Seeker of Skybreak because you can target it with Unctus's ability to make it blue before you start. Additionally, if you target either of these creatures with Legolas's Quick Reflexes, you can kill every creature you want, and also target your own creatures as many times as you want as long as you're willing to damage them. Thanks to hexproof and split second, this is extremely difficult to interact with.

These cards protect your other cards, which is valuable, but they can also generate Nadu triggers. When you redirect something to Spellskite, it will trigger, as it's becoming the target, so you can, for example, activate Paradise Mantle targeting Nadu to trigger Nadu, then pay two life to redirect the Paradise Mantle to Spellskite to generate an additional trigger without needing to spend an extra mana. You can also interfere with random other targeting, such as from Orcish Bowmasters, to generate additional Nadu triggers.

Sylvan Safekeeper makes your creatures functionally immune to targeted removal and also lets you sacrifice lands just to trigger Nadu in a pinch, or sacrifice lands just to get them in the graveyard, which can be relevant for end-game considerations.

Bristly Bill gives you a free, instant-speed target effect whenever a land enters, which is perfect, because Nadu will put lands onto the battlefield, so every time you hit a land, you get to go again as long as you have a creature that hasn't already been targeted twice; fetch lands let you go two more times. In many ways, Nadu is a Landfall deck, and Bristly Bill is the first piece of that.

Because this is limited to once each turn, it's not very explosive, but it's a pretty good card in a deck with creatures that tap for mana, and it can activate on each turn, so it's probably worth playing, but I'd understand trimming it. I think it's the least essential card in this class of cards.

These cards are broken in this deck. They're my favorite targeters because they're impossible to interact with. When you put one on the stack, you've already targeted everything you want and generated a Nadu trigger for each target, so it doesn't really matter if your opponent has any kind of response. March of Swirling Mist is the weakest of these because it's constrained by mana or cards, but the fact that the spell actually does something itself, answering things like Collector Ouphe or protecting your creatures, makes it good enough to play.

My basic gameplan is just to get as many creatures onto the battlefield as I can, then cast one of these for 5+ and hope that gives me enough cards and mana to assemble a combo that lets me go through my whole deck. I've heard that some people aren't sold on these from their goldfishing of the deck because they don't quickly present a win by themselves, but when you're actually playing against opponents who try to interact with you, these become the best cards in the deck.

Those are the 15 cards I choose to play that let me go off with Nadu, and I'm generally looking to have at least one of them or a way to find one of them in any opening hand, though it's not strictly required if the hand is otherwise broken (such as any hand with Rhystic Study, a blue land, and Mana Crypt).

Creatures to Target

In order to get started, you need ways to target your creatures; in order to keep going, you need more creatures to target.

These are the cards that fully allow you to combo. Once you have a free way to target creatures, you'll "draw" two cards for each creature you control (notably Nadu doesn't draw, which means it ignores cards like Narset, Parter of Veils and Orcish Bowmasters), and you'll put lands onto the battlefield. This will generate extra mana, which can let you cast more creatures to keep going, but you won't find enough lands and enough creatures to get through your whole deck. However, if every land makes an additional creature for free, it becomes a lot easier, and once you have Scute Swarm and it starts copying itself, you quickly reach the point where you have more creatures than you could ever really target, or at least enough to get through your whole deck.

These cards are all essential, and I wouldn't think about cutting any of them. You're always trying to find at least one of them to go off with.

At this point I should probably get around to explaining what this deck actually does and how it wins.

Your basic play pattern is to set up Nadu with a way to target things, then start targeting things to get more mana and cards, which can let you find more efficient ways to target things, and one of these cards that gives you more things to target, and maybe a card that lets you transition from treading water to going big. Pause, let me introduce those cards:

Going Big

Lotus Cobra and Earthcraft mean that you generate huge amounts of mana as you're going, so rather than just treading water, you start to actually be able to use all the cards you draw. Sakashima, Spark Double, Displacer Kitten, and Essence Flux all basically make Nadu more powerful. Sakashima and Spark Double allow you to have multiple copies of Nadu on the battlefield, which means each time you target a creature once you'll generate two triggers. With this, you can realistically start sacrificing lands to Sylvan Safekeeper to target things and find more lands to keep going. Also, if you've already targeted everything and then you copy Nadu, you can now target your old creatures for one trigger each. Essence Flux and Displacer Kitten allow you to flicker Nadu, which resets the abilities on all of your creatures, allowing you to start over with targeting all of them.

Any of these cards make it easy to transition to your end game, though you can still do it without them. Incidentally, other lists I've seen don't include Sakashima or Spark Double, and I don't believe they're strictly necessary. I could see cutting them as being "win more", though I'd note that the deck kind of wants some amount of "win more" because I find that I often don't win the first turn I start targeting things, I just go for a while and then run out of something and have to pass the turn, and passing the turn can be deadly in cEDH.

Anyway, with these cards, we can get to our end game, so what is that?

Nadu Wincons

We make a bunch of creatures and target all of them and draw through our entire deck. At that point, we need to kill the table. The easy way to do this is by casting a big Finale of Devastation and attacking, but it's important to have a backup plan.

Some players like Endurance loops, but I think there's a better plan for reusing our cards.


Noxious Revival is a messed up card in this deck. You have essentially the most broken card in the game once you get set up in Sea Kings' Blessing, so being able to rebuy that is huge; you also rely on very specific engine pieces that your opponents are trying to disrupt, so getting those back can easily grant you the win, but more commonly, you'll find spots where it's crucial for Nadu to reveal a land, and putting a fetch land back on top your deck is just what you need to get going. This means it's a good card in the deck for regular use. Eternal Witness is good for the same reasons, and it's also a creature, so you can tutor for it and you can target it once it's on the battlefield. It also let you generate as many Nadu triggers as you have blue mana for with Essence Flux, since every time you Essence Flux Eternal Witness, you reset the Nadu triggers and return the Essence Flux to your hand.

The Backup Win

With Displacer Kitten, you can loop any two noncreature spells by flickering Eternal Witness with each one to return the other one. This can cost mana. Fortunately, you can make infinite mana once your engine is established thanks to Noxious Revival, Displacer Kitten, Eternal Witness, and Sylvan Safekeeper. Sacrifice Gaea's Cradle, cast Noxious Revival to put Gaea's Cradle on top of your library, flicker Eternal Witness to return any instant or sorcery. Sacrifice another land to Sylvan Safekeeper to trigger Nadu, put Gaea's Cradle onto the battlefield from the top of your library, tap it for mana, repeat.

Each time you do this, your Landfall cards will generate more creatures for you to target. You can do the same thing with any other land instead of Cradle to make other colors of mana. Once you have infinite mana, you can do the same thing with Cephalid Coliseum to deck all of your opponents. They'll draw cards, but this won't matter, as you've drawn your deck and can infinitely reuse all of your counterspells.

The Lands

Ordinarily, I don't really get into all the lands I'm playing; they're mostly just there to cast your spells, and the best ones are pretty well established. This deck plays an unusually high number of lands because you're generally hoping to hit lands with Nadu triggers, and a lot of the lands do interesting things. The land choices are a lot more difficult with this deck than most, and a lot of the most important cards are lands, like the aforementioned Gaea's Cradle and Cephalid Coliseum.


This is a Landfall deck, so you need to play all the good fetchlands that are available to you. However, because we want to play so many fetchlands and we see so many cards, it's possible to run out of lands we can find, so we want to play a few extras to be safe:

Fetchable Lands

I'm tempted to include Snow-Covered Island, but this has felt like enough, and land space is tight, since there are a lot of ways to squeeze extra value out of lands. Dryad Arbor is the most important of these. The deck has Green Sun's Zenith, so it's valuable to be able to find Dryad Arbor for mana, but more importantly, it means that any fetchland that can find a Forest can get a creature for you to target to keep going.

Creature Lands

When you get set up with a free way to target creatures, you're limited only by the number of creatures you have. This means that any land you hit that either generates creatures or can become a creature, you have two more triggers, making these extremely valuable. There are a lot of creature lands to choose from, but I went with Mishra's Factory and Blinkmoth Nexus because they can tap to animate themselves right when you hit them, and when you don't have a strong engine set up you can animate them and then tap them to target themselves to get one Nadu trigger, which isn't huge, but it can matter, and the opportunity cost is low.

Targeting Lands

Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers is a little more reliable than Pendelhaven, but this deck will usually have a 1/1 creature, and not costing a mana to use makes Pendelhaven better. On the other hand, I'm playing Minamo, School at Water's Edge over Tolaria because Tolaria can only be used in the upkeep, and Minamo is also very good with Gaea's Cradle. Talon Gates of Madara is an incredible card that randomly gives you a free target trigger when you hit it with Nadu, but it can also protect Nadu or phase out problematic creatures. This is very important with Crop Rotation.

Other Interesting Nadu Lands

Some tables will repeatedly counter or kill Nadu, so the tax can get high enough that Command Beacon is helpful, but that's not the reason to play it. This deck entirely revolves around Nadu and it doesn't have a lot of removal, so Command Beacon is important as a way to play against Drannith Magistrate.

Shifting Woodland is primarily there as a way to get a backup when your opponents answer your best targeters: if they counter Lightning Greaves, just make Shifting Woodland a copy and start going off.

Urza's Saga is another way to get a free target going without using the stack, just find Shuko. I'll often go out of my way to play Urza's Saga as my first land to get to the third chapter as soon as possible.

This deck plays enough colorless lands that Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth can be important, but more importantly, it lets you use fetchlands for mana and save them on the battlefield until you want to activate them for the Landfall trigger.

The Rest of the Deck

The cards above cover the unique aspects of Nadu. The rest of the deck is just "cards that let you play a game of cEDH": you need fast mana because that's how cEDH works and you need extra creatures to target, so the deck is playing Birds of Paradise and all the Llanowar Elves variants. You're playing cEDH, so it has all the broken artifacts that tap for mana. It's a blue deck so it has Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study and a bunch of free counterspells. The deck revolves around establishing a particular combination of cards, so it's playing a bunch of good tutors for those cards.

Notable Omissions and Inclusions

I'm playing Merchant Scroll because I think Sea Kings' Blessing is that good, but it also might find a free counterspell or Essence Flux some portion of the time. Similarly, I'm playing Spellseeker for the same cards. I'm playing Trinket Mage primarily to find Shuko, but I'm not playing Tribute Mage because it's too much total mana to find and cast Lightning Greaves. I'm not currently playing Mystical Tutor or Worldly Tutor, but both would be totally reasonable to play.

I'm playing Chain of Vapor, Cyclonic Rift, and Snap in addition to Legolas's Quick Reflexes as my answers to opposing permanents because they're versatile: Chain of Vapor can generate multiple Nadu triggers with my own creatures, Snap goes off with Eternal Witness, and Cyclonic Rift answers everything. I think it would reasonable to include a card like Pongify, Resculpt, or Force of Vigor, but I don't currently have those.

I typically don't like Force of Negation because it doesn't do much to help you win, but this deck is on the slower side compared to the really fast decks in the format and very good at generating card advantage, so I think it's important to buy time here. I actually think it's possible that it's helpful to think about the deck a little less like Kinnan and a little more like Niv-Mizzet, acknowledging that, while you're a Simic combo deck that can go off quickly, you can't race the Rakdos turbo decks, so you might be better off positioning yourself as a control deck with a redundant combo engine. I'm tentatively playing Strix Serenade as a nod to that kind of philosophy, but I could see warping the deck a lot more in that direction.

I'm not playing Roaring Earth or Retreat to Coralhelm because I think they're a little expensive and unreliable for what they offer; while Bristly Bill is very good, you have a lot of ways to search for it and no way to search for these, and I think the added redundancy is less valuable than the space for other things, especially interaction given that I think the deck is a little slow in a way that requires it to be able to interact with faster opponents.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Deck

The core strength of the deck is its resilience, as is often the case with green decks. You have a lot of recursion and redundancy, and a lot of the times that people try to interact with you it just feeds you more cards. Given time, you can keep presenting ways to churn through your deck until something sticks.

The deck has a few key weaknesses. First, you're very reliant on your commander, so cards like Drannith Magistrate or Gilded Drake can cause a big problem (Homeward Path is a reasonable land to include if you expect to play against a lot of Gilded Drake effects).

The deck also draws a lot of heat. In fact, it draws so much heat that it inspired me to really think about this concept as a way to evaluate decks in a way I hadn't before: Nadu has a play pattern where you need a lot of pieces in play, what you're doing is very obvious, and there are clear interaction points. You present non-deterministic wins, but there'll be situations where, once you start going, it'll become harder and harder for your opponents to interact as you get going. This forces them to cut you off before you get started in a way that drains the table's interaction before anyone, including you, is really trying to win. You end up trading a lot of cards one-for-one in the early game as your opponents are forced to target your stuff, which is frustrating as a Nadu player, but really their only option.

For all of the deck's explosive turns, it's not ultimately that fast. You're not racing Rograkh decks, you don't have Dockside Extortionist or real rituals, and you need several permanents in play to start going off. You can have crazy draws, but it's ultimately pretty unlikely that you're going to present a win before your fourth turn.

The deck needs multiple creatures on the battlefield in order to function. Nadu is good against targeted removal, but if someone resolves an actual sweeper, it can be really hard to recover.

After testing the deck quite a bit, I think it's powerful, but I've decided not to play it in tournaments for now because of these weaknesses. I suspect it's ultimately best played as a bit more of a reactive deck, but I want to get that way gradually as I find other cards that are underperforming. If I had to identify the flex slots now, I'd say Quirion Ranger, Allosaurus Shepherd, Chain of Vapor, Strix Serenade, Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, Spark Double, and Lotus Petal. I could see cutting any or all of those for more counterspells or other cards that have the goal of slowing down other players to make up for the fact that this isn't the fastest deck.

The full list is available here.

Sam Black's cEDH Nadu, Winged Wisdom Deck

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Commander (1)
Lands (35)
Instants (23)
Creatures (24)
Sorceries (5)
Artifacts (9)
Enchantments (3)

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Sam Black is a former professional Magic player, longtime Magic writer, host of the Drafting Archetypes podcast, and Twitch streamer. Sam enjoys a wide range of formats, especially limited and unofficial fan formats like Old School and Premodern in addition to cEDH.