In addition to being excited about You Make the Card 4 (yay, enchantment!!!), like many others I've also been intrigued by some of the card previews we've seen recently. In particular, I think this monster is exciting!
Creature -- Ogre Warrior, 6/6
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed attacks each turn if able.
Whenever a player casts a noncreature spell, Ruric Thar deals 6 damage to that player.
I have to admit, I haven't been overly excited about playing red/green in Standard because I don't typically like aggressive decks. Mainly, I just hate the feeling I get when I've not yet killed my opponent, they've stabilized the board, and I start drawing creatures that are only good in the early game and are downright awful drawn late. It's one of many reasons why there's a midrange heart beating in my chest.
Ruric Thar is definitely a big hunka midrange loving! I saw this card and laughed since it reminded me that oftentimes when brewing decks I sometimes end up mono-creatures and have to work hard to squeeze in some utility spells. Ruric Thar, however, just scowls and shouts, "NONCREATURE SPELLS SUCK!"
Reading some of the initial reaction to the card—outside this article by Patrick Chapin—most people seem to have dismissed Ruric as a casual card, maybe something you'll only see at a Commander game. Me, I smell a bit of Titan wafting from Mr. Unbowed! Six mana, 6/6, and stuffed with special abilities…sure, it's not on part with Primeval Titan, but it can put your opponent in a bit of a pickle if they don't have enough creatures on the board to kill it by blocking.
The best they can hope for is to have a creature removal spell—though Ultimate Price won't do it—and take six to the face, which makes Ruric like an improved, cantrip Lava Axe. And if your opponent has to burn off Think Twice or even Sphinx's Revelation to search for the removal spell? That's a lot of pain, my spell-loving friend!
So what sort of creature-heavy or mono-creature deck might we want to play Mr. Unbowed in? I immediately thought of the Naya deck I built around Boros Reckoner when Gatecrash was spoiled, which stopped at Thragtusk at the top of the curve and had a smattering of noncreature spells. With some adjustments, I've come up with this:
- 3 Angel of Serenity
- 2 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 2 Frontline Medic
- 2 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Gyre Sage
- 3 Sublime Archangel
- 4 Thragtusk
- 4 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 3 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Gyre Sage comes in for Farseek, which I know will strike some as a Blasphemous Act, but I think it's the right call in this deck. Not only can it potentially accelerate even faster than Farseek, but it can also beat down in a pinch—potentially giving Frontline Medic a third for his battalion—or lend another body for Sublime Archangel's super exalted. I know Restoration Angel is the usual go-to at four mana for midrange white decks, but I think Sublime Archangel's ability to immediately turn one of your smaller guys into a gigantic attacker is worth it here.
I'm sure Dragon's Maze will give us other potential creatures to play with, but right out the gate I would totally sleeve this up and give it a whirl!
Dragon's Maze wasn't the only spoiler goodie; we also got to see some cards from Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014, which means these have a pretty good shot at being in Magic 2014. This one looked pretty sweet:
Creature – Demon, 5/6
When Shadowborn Demon enters the battlefield, destroy target non-Demon creature.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if there are fewer than six creatures in your graveyard, sacrifice a creature.
I immediately thought of Nekrataal, a tournament staple while it was available in Standard. For one mana more, you get a much bigger body with evasion and a better destroy effect. For all that bonus, you also must deal with a drawback—a graveyard threshold that can be tough to deal with in the early game—but if you play enough creatures (and potentially ways to fill your own graveyard) the drawback can be turned off. Worst-case scenario, you play the Demon, kill off your opponent's biggest threat, and then stick around to block next turn before sacrificing the Demon to itself, which actually isn't a horrible deal for five mana. And what about Restoration Angel or Cloudshift shenanigans? Yowza!
Of course, Shadowborn Demon wasn't spoiled alone; he also got a very interesting follower:
Creature – Human Cleric, 1/1
A deck can have any number of cards named Shadowborn Apostle.
B, sacrifice six creatures named Shadowborn Apostle: Search your library for a Demon creature and put it onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.
Holy Relentless Rats, Batman! We get to break the rules with this card if we want to. Do we want to? Rather than getting bigger and bigger and being a self-contained threat like Relentless Rats, Shadowborn Apostles just stand around looking silly until there are six of them in play and they can potentially search up some big, bad Demon to come play. Six! Can you ever really hope to keep five little 1/1s in play, much less wait for the sixth one?
What's the best-case scenario? Turn 1: drop an Apostle. Turn 2: drop two more Apostles. Turn 3: drop three more Apostles for the six you need, but you don't have the extra black mana to activate the ability, so… If you somehow keep all six around until turn 4, you're ready for Demon shenanigans!
Well, for a six-card, seven-mana investment, that Demon better be impressive! I searched for Standard-legal Demons, and really the only one worth doing this for would be Griselbrand, which conveniently replaces the six cards you spent on him and then some. Reaper of the Abyss, maybe, if you really, really need to kill a creature with the morbid activation.
We can actually cook up an Apostle/Demon deck as an interesting thought exercise:
21 Shadowborn Apostle
4 Desecration Demon
4 Shadowborn Demon
1 Reaper from the Abyss
4 Immortal Servitude
3 Vault of the Archangel
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Godless Shrine
I splashed white here for Vault of the Archangel—seems to be a low opportunity cost to do this, and it can make the otherwise mediocre 1/1s into something more useful if you don't have six of them.
When thinking about the slim odds of ever having six Shadowborn Apostles in play, I remembered some of the work I did with Immortal Servitude in a funky Junk deck I've been working on. X=1 is only four mana and would actually help make getting six Apostles in play at a time much more reliable.
Going with the Demon theme, Desecration Demon is actually still a really good four-mana creature, and Shadowborn is still a great five-mana creature. While your opponent is worrying about 1/1 Apostles getting together to summon Griselbrand, you can realistically just beat down with your midrange Demons, especially if you've got Vault of the Archangel giving them lifelink!
And as frosting on the cake, imagine how easy it would be to write this up on a deck registration sheet!
I sure hope these cards are indeed in Magic 2014!
Speaking of the funky Junk deck I've been working on, I think I've mentioned it a few times before, but I don't know that I've actually gone into detail about it. I had some initial ideas, started comparing notes and ideas with Walter C. McManigal over on my writer Facebook page, and developed a deck I called "The Terrible Twos." It basically was chock full of two-drops: Elvish Visionary, Cartel Aristocrat, Blood Artist, Vizkopa Guildmage, Ravenous Rats. When enough of them died, I'd cast Immortal Servitude with X=2 and get them all back. Sometimes the card advantage and life drain was enough to pull through—but then there was also Plan B.
Notice Vizkopa Guildmage? I also was running Tree of Redemption, and if I got down to like three life, I could activate Vizkopa Guildmage and then activate Tree of Redemption, gaining ten life and draining my opponent for ten. If I had six mana, I could activate the Guildmage twice, and then the Tree of Redemption life gain would be doubled.
Note: When switching your life total with the Tree's toughness, if your life ends up higher, it is considered gaining life, so it does work with Vizkopa Guildmage even if it might not seem like it by just reading the cards (you can see the official ruling here).
The deck was cheap enough that I built it on Magic Online and ran some practice games. What I found out was that the "Twos" plan with Immortal Servitude was fairly weak, and I was winning most of my games with Tree of Redemption and Vizkopa Guildmage. So I finally decided to ditch the two-drop/Servitude element and round out the deck with higher-quality cards. This is what I have currently:
- 4 Gloom Surgeon
- 3 Rhox Faithmender
- 4 Thragtusk
- 4 Tree of Redemption
- 4 Vampire Nighthawk
- 4 Vizkopa Guildmage
I certainly can't afford to build this exact version online—the Thragtusks and planeswalkers were expensive enough to acquire for paper Magic—but I'm going to be testing this at FNM and with my roommate to see how it rolls. I suspect it's probably a little weak to G/B/W Reanimator (especially game 1), but if the metagame shifts to being more aggressive, this feels like a decent choice. Taking a bunch of early damage plays right into the Tree of Redemption / Vizkopa Guildmage plan, and there's tons of life gain here to buffer your life total when needed.
So what do you think of Ruric Thar and the Shadowborn twins? What about Vizkopa Cabana? Let me know in the comments below, and have a great weekend!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I've also created a Facebook page where I'll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Aurelia, the Warleader (plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Yeva, Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)