Neheb, the Eternal was an important card from Hour to Devastation to watch. The raw power of this creature was explored right away in Commander / EDH. It showed promise as both a Commander and as one of the “other 99” cards in a variety of EDH decks.
Not every Magic the Gathering set has them, but Hour of Devastation has a number of cards that could be termed as “Kitchen Table Magic all-stars.” Neheb, the Eternal is definitely one of these. As a mythic rare in a small set, he was poised to be valuable in both the near future and the long-term.
How Does Neheb, the Eternal Work?
A five-mana Mono Red Minotaur with 4 power and 6 toughness is a good start. Having “afflict 3” puts him into contention for Standard playability. Essentially, Afflict means that whenever an opponent blocks a creature which Afflict, the defending player loses a certain amount of life. In this case, that’s 3 life, or 15 percent of a player’s starting life total. That’s a lot.
But for 5 mana, this isn’t quite enough to find a home in competitive play. It’s what his final ability reads. At the beginning of your post-combat main phase, you get 1 Red mana for each one life your opponents have lost this turn. This means that if you play Neheb, the Eternal before combat and deal damage after his summoning, you can gain Red mana in the same turn.
Typically, unless you have a creature with haste, or need it to satisfy some other condition, you play creatures after combat. But, because Neheb, the Eternal can offer you a benefit in the same turn that he’s cast, he can help pay for himself.
How to Use Neheb the Eternal in Standard, Modern, and other 60-card Competitive Formats
Typically, for cards with a converted mana cost of 5 or more to see consistent Standard play, they must have an immediate effect on the game as soon as they enter play. The same is true for Modern, as well. But, the bar is set much higher for the potency of the card’s effect. While Neheb, the Eternal can start paying for himself in the same turn, he would have to be able to attack immediately (i.e. have Haste) to plug into that higher echelon of the mana curve.
While Neheb is probably too slow a card for Modern, in the right deck, he could fit into certain strategies in Standard. You would need to build a midrange sort of deck that has a strong life-loss engine. If you play a lot of creatures with Afflict, for example, Neheb would fit at the top of that curve.
A deck with Neheb, the Eternal would also have to lean towards predominantly Red mana, which is probably not a problem. There is the ability to build a Standard deck that could play a copy or two of Neheb, the Eternal to be an endgame finisher. But, his true strength would be in a Mono-Red deck, where his mana production will be most effective.
Neheb, the Eternal did enjoy some competitive Standard play. The decks were typically Gruul Ramp, red/green decks that focused on bringing out big efficient creatures like World Breaker quickly. Neheb definitely fit the bill. Another deck that had some success with Neheb was a rather creative Gruul Historic deck featured at a PPTQ in Northglen, Colorado. In both cases, only one copy of Neheb, the Eternal was played. He never really saw real success in any mono-Red decks.
Neheb, the Eternal in EDH / Commander & Kitchen Table Magic
As soon as you enter the multiplayer world of EDH, Neheb, the Eternal’s power level expands incredibly. Red mana acceleration stapled on a 4/6 creature with Afflict 4 becomes pretty relevant. There are so many ways to “ping” players in EDH that Neheb can generate a large amount of mana in a hurry.
Turning that mana into direct damage can end games quite quickly. Think of the mana that he could generate as part of a Heartless Hidetsugu strategy. That Commander has an ability to halve players' life totals on a regular basis!
Even in one-on-one EDH, you can set up Neheb, the Eternal in such a way to be a powerful mana generator, as well as a strong attacker. He’s a better multiplayer Commander than a 1-vs-1 Commander, but he’s still a solid creature. There are so many decent 5-mana Red creatures in Commander, however. Neheb, the Eternal needs to be part of a greater life loss/direct damage strategy (such as Purphoros, God of the Forge) to be effective.
In casual “Kitchen Table” Magic, Neheb, the Eternal is definitely worthy of attention. He’s a force in casual multiplayer games. But, even in traditional one-on-one Magic, he’s just a really fun card to play with and build around. This is a good creature that definitely has a future in the EDH and Kitchen Table Magic world that enjoyed his day in the sun in Standard.