True-Name Nemesis is an actual card. An actually very-very-very good card.
Reading the initial spoiler for True-Name was one of those moments where you’re looking at a card and wondering if you’re really reading what is does or if you’re imagining a power level much higher than what’s being presented. Over and over I read what TNN does, trying to truly understand what I’m reading. Magic essentially printed Progenitus in blue at CMC 3, a card that in 1 on 1 match ups is an actual beast. Perhaps I’m late to the party in heralding TNN’s power, but it’s hard to comprehend how truly dominating this card can be against certain decks.
For starters, True-Name Nemesis is a threat that finds itself in 99% of the blue decks. Other than storm combo—which is in the minority of blue decks drafted, even in cubes that actively support that combo you’re not guaranteed to find a storm combo versus a blue deck in general—he is the perfect cog at just about the perfect spot for any blue deck. Blue tempo? You have a high-power threat at a cheap cost that naturally protects itself and lends itself to be protected by your Dazes, Forces and what-not. Blue control? This could conceivably be your only creature-threat in your deck, one that can act as an early blocker and finish off your opponent through a relatively small amount of turns while you keep them locked down with your spells. Other…erm…blue decks? Well, he’s awesome there too. He’s not crazy as a splash, but if you’re looking to splash a 1UU card then either your fixing is crazy or you’re probably making a mistake.
True-Name Nemesis’ power and role as a blue-tempo type dude makes a decent amount of other blue cards more playable and makes the tempo-archetype and the dedicated blue cards for that archetype look real appealing. The card a lot of people looked at was Master of Waves, since the master was a heavy player in standard at the time of TNN’s release and the possibility of a blue-symbols deck strongly surfaced. There are classic early-blue beaters like Coralhelm Commander, Wake Thrasher, Serendib Efreet and even Delver that deal damage as permanents early and give Master a substantial devotion level to hopefully end the turn soon after. (Yes, some of those guys are classics now—their power is still high and I don’t think time has rendered them unplayed, just which archetypes a cube supports.) Master’s buddy Thassa, God of the Sea also lends herself nicely to this strategy by improving your draws and giving you unblockable threats past TNN while eventually turning into a mammoth beast herself. I still wonder if Master of Waves is playable though. Protection from Red is nice, but there is enough white and black removal that you can easily get your 4 drop nullified by a doom blade or a swords, rendering all that power useless. There are times where you can support her with cheap bounce or counters, but you can’t always depend on having those cards. That’s why creatures like Glen Elendra, Sower, or Dungeon Geists are nice, because they can either live through that first piece of removal or at least give you a mini fog for a turn if they kill the guy after untapping.
Talking about removal leads to how True-Name Nemesis is not impossible to deal with, but the difficulty of lifting her off the table can warp drafts and strategies that you’ll be able to use in a draft. Wraths are the obvious one, but they’re expensive in relation to TNN and a counter or bounce could definitely be there for TNN and make your Wrath pretty bad. Again, they won’t always have these cards and answers, but they exist and make True-Name that much more difficult to handle. Edicts are a thing and are much cheaper, but they are tricky once you land more threats and can be countered by some of the flash creatures (Restoration Angel, Pestermite if Jiki Combo is a thing, etc.) and can never be a guarantee. True Name Nemesis is really difficult to remove.
Is True Name Nemesis too good? Personally I’m of the school of nothing being too good, but even in an unpowered environment where you’re consciously lowering the power level I think he’s fine. Again, he is not impossible to remove. Trample creatures can get around him and if you have a pro-blue sword you’re good for swings as well. And frankly I don’t think there’s an issue with having a strong threat at a cheap cost, since CMC 3 isn’t even really that cheap. There are plenty of decks that try to win with threats and spells under that cost. Also TNN isn’t going to be in every draft and you’re not always going to draw it. That may be a “cheap” justification but I think it’s a fine way to look at it. Having a variety from one draft to another is good, and the variety of a card not showing up is fine as well if you ask me since you still have to keep every card in consideration anyways since there are a number of picks you’re not going to know. But as always, the best way to figure out if you want to play a card is to just play it yourself, so go out there and play! Or something! Thanks for reading!