Neheb, the Eternal is an important card from Hour to Devastation to watch. The raw power of this creature is still being explored in Commander as both a Commander and as one of the “other 99” cards in a variety of Commander decks. While demand from the Commander crowd is definitely real, what has caused Neheb to fall to $2.50 and steadily climb back up to $4 in such a short amount of time.
Not every Magic the Gathering set has them, but Hour of Devastation has a number of cards which I would term “casual all-stars.” Neheb, the Eternal is definitely one of these, and as a mythic rare in a small set, he could be very 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 4” 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 4 life, or 20 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 he’s probably too slow a card for Modern, in the right deck, he can 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. The deck 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 in Commander (EDH) and Casual Play
As soon as you enter the multiplayer world of Commander, 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 Commander 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, in which player’s life totals are halved on a regular basis!
Even in one-on-one Commander, 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, that 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 worth of attention. He’s a force in multiplayer casual games. But even in traditional one-on-one Magic, he’s just a really fun card to play with and build around.
The Organic Rise and Fall of Neheb, the Eternal’s Price
What there’s most to like about Neheb, the Eternal is that his price seems to be gaining stability rather quickly. After pre-ordering for $5, an initial surge of supply cut his price in half. Then, even after no competitive Standard play thus far, his price rebounded to $4.50 before a second wave of supply brought it back down to $4. What does this tell us? People really want this guy.
As I doubt that competitive players are eating up this guy, it seems that your everyday Magic player is looking to add these to their deck-building toolbox. There’s always talk of Magic card price speculation driving up prices. That doesn’t seem to be the case at all here.
What is the price ceiling on a card like Neheb, the Eternal? We’ve seen that $2.50 is probably a reasonable floor, and if he sees any Standard play at all, his price could reach the realm of around $10. You probably missed your chance at getting Neheb at his floor, especially as Minotaur Tribal fans are picking him up quickly. As for Neheb, the Eternal foils, they are already pushing $15, which for a mythic rare that is definitely playable in Commander, is already a fair price.
As reviews are mixed on this set for now, the supply is probably not going to be nearly as high as Amonkhet’s. This means a card like Neheb, the Eternal looks like a good investment. While I would hardly speculate on him, this is a good creature that definitely has a future in the casual Magic world, and may even have his day in the sun in Standard.