When Ob Nixilis, the Adversary was previewed, players went crazy. Almost instantly, people started calling for a ban and compared it to Oko. Spoiler alert, we're a few weeks into New Capenna Standard and Mob Nix is nothing like Oko.
While Ob does offer powerful combos with cards like Esika's Chariot, it isn't as broken as some may feared.
In fact, Ob Nixilis, the Adversary might even be a trap.
Could this high-powered planeswalker be hurting decks more than helping them? Should you be splashing into black/red just to play it?
Let's take a look at why you might want to say no to the mob boss in your Standard brews.
Deck Specific Fit
There's no denying that Mob Nix is powerful. In fact, he may be the second most powerful planeswalker in Standard outside of The Wandering Emperor. Though Lolth and Wrenn both deserve consideration.
Dropping two planeswalkers on turn three and draining your opponent can be very impactful. Without an efficient answer, most decks lose to it with certainty.
So how could Ob Nix possibly be a trap?
The answer is twofold. First, Standard currently offers a very efficient answer in the form of creatures. Compounding this problem is the fact that players are jamming Ob Nix in decks rather than building around him.
To put this in perspective, let's look at the card's main two abilities independently from the fact they're stapled onto a planeswalker.
"Each opponent loses two life unless they discard a card. If you control a demon or devil, you gain two life."
"Create a 1/1 red devil creature token with 'When this creature dies, it deals one damage to any target."
Think about the type of deck you'd want these effects in.
Chances are, the deck features a lot of other ways to drain your opponent or take advantage of creatures dying. Neither of those effects are really worth a card. In Ob's case, getting repeated value turn after turn is what makes them powerful. In a shell focusing on discard and sacrificing, their impact is amplified.
A deck like Rakdos Anvil is a perfect fit for Ob Nix. He offers bodies to clog the board, drains your opponent alongside Anvil and Meathook, and is already in the right colors.
But what about the rest of the decks running Mob Nix?
According to MTGGoldfish data, the planeswalker is seeing play in 14% of all Standard decks. It's worth noting that number may or may not be accurate given that we're in the early stages of the new format.
Anecdotally, I'm seeing Ob played in what feels like a lot more than 14% of matchups. More importantly, it is the type of decks he's seeing play in that's odd. Not just Rakdos Anvil.
I've seen Ob Nix splashed in a Naya Aggro build. I've played against him in Grixis Control. Ob has even found himself in a Mardu list that was essentially Mono-White but splashing Rakdos colors for the walker.
Why Ob Nixilis is a Trap in Standard
This gets us to the topic of why Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is a trap in our current Standard format. Again, don't take this as "Ob Nix" isn't good and you shouldn't be playing him.
That isn't true.
Rather, I'd argue that this planeswalker belongs in far fewer decks than people are currently running it in.
Vulnerable to Fliers
One of the biggest issues with Ob Nix is protecting it. While making a 1/1 devil blocker is decent, ticking your Mob Nix down isn't really what you want to be doing. You want to keep pushing the pace and forcing your opponent to make tough decisions. If you have to rely on that 1/1 blocker, you aren't getting maximum value from your play.
Casualty, meanwhile, is both a blessing and a curse for this card.
On one hand, sacrificing a creature gives you two planeswalkers that are less vulnerable to removal than most creatures. However, if you're playing on curve, this likely leaves you with an empty board or one creature.
If your opponent has creatures on the field, you are either forced to make a 1/1 devil or risk losing one of your planeswalkers. At that point, you're basically down two cards and still have to deal with your opponent's creatures.
Fliers are even more problematic.
Since Ob Nix doesn't have a way to protect himself against fliers, you have to rely on other removal or other creatures. Again, if you're playing on curve, you don't have the mana up for removal. You probably don't have a decent blocker on board either.
With the prevalence of cards like Raffine, Scheming Seer, Elite Spellbinder, Reidane, and the meta's various angels, this vulnerability is a big problem.
Simply put, you often won't have the resources to protect Ob Nixilis the turn he comes down. While most removal is generally inefficient against planeswalkers, Mob Nix can be taken out by creatures fairly easily.
Needs Back Up Pressure
On first glance, it seems like dropping two planeswalkers on turn three is game-winning. While that can be true, it isn't a given.
As discussed, Ob Nix's affects simply aren't powerful enough to close the game out on their own in a reasonable time. Even with two copies, you can only drain your opponent for four life per turn. The drain isn't guaranteed since they can always discard to avoid it.
All this also assumes you can keep your Ob Nix alive.
The issue with jamming Ob Nixilis, the Adversary into random decks is the lack of support it needs to close out games.
For instance, applying early pressure with aggressive creatures can drop your opponent's life total in the first few turns. Then, by the time Ob Nix hits the field, your opponent will be in a much more difficult situation.
Taking two life when you're at 10 and facing down a board with several creatures or a drain threat like Oni-Cult Anvil is a lot different than taking two life when you're at 20.
On the other end of the spectrum, decks wanting to take the control route need to prioritize protection for Ob Nix. If it sits on the field long enough, this planeswalker is powerful enough to win the game.
That said, expect to devote a lot of resources to keep him around. A shell with planeswalkers like Lolth and Sorin making tokens to jam up the board can be effective. Likewise, running lots of removal to keep the board clear can also protect your Mob Nix.
Lack of Control
One of the other problems for Ob Nix right now is the meta itself. Standard is currently lacking a true control deck.
Archetypes that tend to lean more control like Esper and Grixis are currently focusing on other things. Esper is split between angels and a strangely aggressive midrange plan with planeswalkers and Raffine. Grixis is trying to pull off tricks with Arcane Bombardment or playing the value game with Lier and Goldspan.
UW control is simply outclassed with other options right now.
Where Ob Nixilis really shines is in control matchups where creatures aren't a threat.
Thanks to casualty, opponents can't counter both copies of your walker without two spells. Their slower game plan also gives Ob Nix more time to do damage.
With the current prevalence of midrange and aggressive decks, Ob Nix simply isn't seeing its most favorable matchups that often. Until something changes, this decreases his power in Standard.
There's no denying that Ob Nixilis is powerful. However, he isn't as cracked as many people assumed during spoiler season. Part of the blame can be put on the meta itself.
Yet, Ob Nix is also seeing play in decks he probably shouldn't. Without the right support and protection, he simply isn't powerful enough. This isn't a walker like Jace the Mind Sculptor or Teferi 5 that can close out the game by itself. It needs to be built around to maximize your chances of success.
Going forward, I'd like to see people brewing more decks around Ob Nix rather than jamming him into whatever the rest of their plan is.
What are your thoughts on the new Ob Nixilis? Do you have a favorite deck to play him in? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!
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