Hello happy Commander players! Have you ever looked at those legendary creatures in your bulk box or at the back of that trade binder and wondered how anyone could ever build a Commander deck around them?
Obviously some legendary creatures are easier to build around than others. Some just obviously suggest certain avenues to attack and various approaches to mine. Others require more construction to get a build that works. But that's okay, the deck is still an Commander deck.
But there are a number of legendary creatures (often from the dark days of Magic when Sivitri Scarzam was the norm) that are virtually impossible to build around.
And that's where this series steps in. I take one of these impossible commanders and then build a deck around it.
Since Dragons of Tarkir was printed recently, it seemed like a good time to brush off an older, forgotten, and pretty impossible legendary creature to lead your team.
So let's begin to unpack why Rashida Scalebane is such a difficult leader
She Can Only Take Out Dragons – Sure, post Dragons of Tarkir, Dragons might be on an upswing in Commander circles, but Rashida still won't be able to work against the vast majority of creatures being played. That's very unfortunate.
She Is The Wrong Color For Creature Type Fun – If Rashida Scalebane were blue, then you could easily combine her with cards like Imagecrafter and Unnatural Selection to turn opposing creatures to Dragons so you can pop them with Rashida.
She Is Limited to Working on Just Attackers And Blockers – Rashida can only be used against an opposing Dragon that is attacking or blocking. If you have an opponent with a draconic threat, and even if everything works out in your favor, you still have some issue actually taking them out since they can just sit back and refuse to attack or block with them until they take out Rashida or find some creature protection.
She Is Only A Killer of Dragons – You spend five mana, and all you get for your investment is a 3/4 creature without any other abilities. We don't have any combat abilities like flying or double strike, no haste or shroud. Nothing. She is a vanilla 3/4 creature for five mana. It's very difficult to have her ability work, and when it doesn't there's nothing else to lean on.
How do you build around Rashida Scalebane? Clearly, she is an impossible commander!
Now, I suppose that I could build a soldier deck with her as the leader. But that seems to me like a cop out, like I just went and avoided the challenge completely. That's not what I ever want to do with an Impossible Commander challenge unless the creature specifically supports a tribe (such as Zuberi, Golden Feather or something like that).
Another way to build Rashida might be to ensure that I have Dragons by playing a lot of my own! I could run stuff like Eternal Dragon or Yosei, the Morning Star alongside cards such as Twilight Shepherd to bring them back. But while that might work mechanically, and it's playing fair, I don't like the flavor. I don't like the idea of a leader called Scalebane using Dragons as anything more than a Mask. (Maybe, at best, some sort of tamed steed.)
I'm going to play into the ability of Rashida as much as possible.
- 1 Antler Skulkin
- 1 Gold Myr
- 1 Palladium Myr
- 1 Ballynock Trapper
- 1 Baneslayer Angel
- 1 Deftblade Elite
- 1 Devoted Caretaker
- 1 Devout Chaplain
- 1 Dragon Hunter
- 1 Evangel of Heliod
- 1 Hand of Justice
- 1 Intrepid Hero
- 1 Kor Cartographer
- 1 Lowland Tracker
- 1 Mother of Runes
- 1 Northern Paladin
- 1 Oracle en-Vec
- 1 Pentarch Paladin
- 1 Preacher
- 1 Resplendent Mentor
- 1 Riders of Gavony
- 1 Southern Paladin
- 1 Steam Catapult
- 1 Thraben Doomsayer
- 1 Undead Slayer
- 1 Weathered Wayfarer
- 1 Commander Eesha
- 1 Odric, Master Tactician
- 1 Orim, Samite Healer
- 1 Rashida Scalebane
- 1 Heliod, God of the Sun
- 1 Bullwhip
- 1 Grappling Hook
- 1 Isochron Scepter
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Magewright's Stone
- 1 Marble Diamond
- 1 Nemesis Mask
- 1 Puppet Strings
- 1 Rings of Brighthearth
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Staff of Domination
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Thousand-Year Elixir
- 1 Umbral Mantle
- 1 Aura of Silence
- 1 Citadel Siege
- 1 Alarum
- 1 Angelsong
- 1 Blaze of Glory
- 1 Enlightened Tutor
- 1 Oblation
- 1 Scout's Warning
- 1 Shelter
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 To Arms!
- 1 Valorous Stance
- 1 Fell the Mighty
- 1 Retribution of the Meek
- 1 Shields of Velis Vel
There we are!
It's no secret that a lot of players at the kitchen table build their Commander deck around a Dragon. From Dragonlord Silumgar to Dromoka the Eternal, we've seen a large number of command-worthy bodies hitting print recently. Plus you can delve into lots of others from the Dragons' Greatest Hits album, from Rith the Awakener to Teneb, the Harvester, from Niv-Mizzet to Prossh, Skyraider of Kher. At a time when even a Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck is seriously in vogue, Rashida Scalebane is a valuable choice at the kitchen table. Even old-school players still rock a Nicol Bolas or Chromium!
And that doesn't include the oodles of options out there in the 99: from Steel Hellkite to Kokusho, the Evening Star, people are playing a wide number of Dragons without running a specific Dragon-themed deck. Today is the best day to roll out Rashida at your kitchen table. Get your Rashida Scalebane deck on!
We don't have a lot of tools. Pretty much the only Dragon-making card in white is Shields of Velis Vel, but at least you can force a whole team into channeling their inner Dragon. Since it's an instant, you can drop it as someone swings, and then pop their best threat with Rashida. You also have some built in anti-Dragon defense with stuff like Baneslayer Angel or Dragon Hunter.
It's likely that you'll encounter Dragons even without the Shields of Velis Vel, so how do you force them to attack or block so that Rashida can actually be a part of the game? You are in the wrong color for effects like Alluring Siren or Nettling Imp. Gideon Jura and Oracle en-Vec are about it. But at least that's two tools to force them to attack.
Instead, we'll need to force them block so that Rashida can tap to kill them, and then we can gain some life. How can we do it? That's really more of a red and green mechanic.
Well, one way is to brush off that provoke mechanic. I used it a few weeks ago when I built a deck around Iroas, God of Victory. Frankly, this is a perfect home for Deftblade Elite. Swing with it, untap some (hopefully Dragon) creature and force it to block. Then pop it with Rashida, and if anyone else joins the block to try and kill your Elite, just spend two mana and prevent the damage. (See also: Lowland Tracker.)
And that's not all. You can swing with a few creatures and Odric, Master Tactician to force the right creatures to block. Just set up that awesome-looking Dragon for a block and tap to axe it. Rashida wins again! (See also: Grappling Hook, Nemesis Mask.)
But let's set the Throwback Machine to Pre-History and head all the way to Alpha where we can unearth Blaze of Glory.
It works! You cast it on a target creature and yes, it can block everything that attacks. But also note that it must block everything that it can. So as long as you bring the heat with at least one blockable creature, that opposing creature has to block, which brings Rashida Scalebane into the fight. Dead Dragon!
Plus, you can use the Blaze defensively if you like.
Now, I don't run Isochron Scepter very often, but this feels like a great place. Considering just how much of a blowout Shields of Velis Vel can be, imprinting it on the Scepter for use and reuse is the perfect way to set up future anti-Dragon turns. Blaze of Glory wants to get Sceptered as well. If you are feeling a bit Spike-ish today and want to push your deck as far as it'll go, you can also unload Enlightened Tutor to grab more and more stuff that works for your deck.
Angelsong can Fog for a surprise way to prevent damage, cycles if you don't need it, and turns into a compelling Scepter card to use over and over again. Scout's Warning will draw you a card and provides a useful trick to flash out a creature – and again, is a very intriguing Scepter target. Shelter and Valorous Stance also work quite well.
If we want to reuse and abuse Rashida's ability, then we can use cards that help use double- and triple-tapping its effects. Let's dig into that soon, but meanwhile we can find some more spells that play into that Sceptering theme.
Creatures with tap abilities are so useful here that we have multiple untapping cards that I added to the Scepter options. A simple To Arms! on the Scepter will untap your creatures and draw you a card too. You can use it to create a blocking horde post-alpha strike, untap a bunch of creatures so they can tap for another slate of abilities, or even to just draw the occasional card. Shoot, I even tossed in Alarum for further janky Scepter magic.
Cards like Magewright's Stone and Thousand-Year Elixir can untap your Rashida for more uses, and Rings of Brighthearth is here as well for double activations. Plus we can untap with things like Umbral Mantle, Staff of Domination or even Puppet Strings. Now that I've built the shell, let's add some fun decorations.
Here's one fun decoration:
Tap some white creatures, and then destroy a creature. By the way, notice that there are no restrictions – you can destroy any creature! Hand of Justice used to be one of the truly iconic cards from Fallen Empires, so again, we are really pushing into the fun zone today.
More decorations follow. I want ones that don't require mana to use, because then they are reusable with the mana-guzzling untapping cards. How about Thraben Doomsayer? It'll tap to make a token, a great effect to get multiple uses out of. Mother of Runes is always hot too. Ballynock Trapper is a useful tapper, since it doesn't take mana (unlike Master Decoy and lots of other options) and you can untap it by playing white stuff.
Whoa – Preacher. You are nasty here. Tap Preacher and leave its ability on the stack, Untap it. Tap again and again, as many times as you can repeat. Then, with the Preacher finally tapped from its last activation, all of those abilities resolve. The Preacher's steal-creatures ability works as long as Preacher is tapped, and it doesn't care if it became untapped in the middle – so you resolve the ability a few times and get multiple creatures, just so long as you don't untap your Preacher.
Actually, I don't mind spending some mana if the ability is really good. Weathered Wayfarer can grab a few lands. (Grab a cycling land to cycle it for a card if you have two or three uses from it). Undead Slayers exiles as well (and it works against a foe that was Shields of Velis Vel'ed).
Hmm... Undead Slayer suggest something else that in flavor. Rashida Scalebane is known for going out and slaying Dragons, right? So why stop there? Can't we run soldiers that also head out to slay the bad stuff? Undead Slayer works on some undead. Yay! But why not include Northern Paladin and Southern Paladin as well? They work. So does Intrepid Hero. Shoot, run Pentarch Paladin if you like. Again, people killing bad stuff suits this deck very well, and the tap themes can be forked with Rings of Brighthearth or reused with To Arms! on an Isochron Scepter or by using Magewright's Stone.
I love it!
Let's add in a few more tapping effects like, say, Devout Chaplain. That works very well. In fact, Riders of Gavony can make your humans pro-Dragon, which works well too. (Or anything else if you prefer). Now I don't want to turn this into a human deck, so we won't be intentionally seeking out and running other Human cards just for their creature types, but those two fit quite nicely. (If I had the space, I could push to Gallows at Willow Hill)
Resplendent Mentor fits into a different space, but you can easily push a life-gaining angle into your deck as well.
Know what else also fits? Yup! The entire theme of this deck is often little guys beating up big creatures. And Dragons.
I'm even tossing in Elspeth, Sun's Champion and killer of bigger creatures.
You could toss in on-theme cards like Slayer of the Wicked, Illusionist's Bracers or Witch Hunter.
Today's Rashida Scalebane deck includes some of the latest anti-Dragon tools and technology like Dragon Hunter, Valorous Stance and Fell the Mighty and then dips into some of the oldest cards we have, from Preacher to Hand of Justice. Not only does it span the history of Magic, from oldest to youngest sets, but it's also a solid example of how a lot of legendary creatures may not be so impossible after all.
I hope that you got something out of today's article. But more importantly, I hope that you enjoyed it.
Are there any impossible Commanders you'd like to see me tackle? Any other ways you'd have gone with Rashida?
Death to Dragons!
The Appendix Of Impossible Adventures
1) Flipping power and toughness of all creatures not only seems pretty random, but also pretty useless in red that has a high number of high-power/low-toughness creatures, right? Right? Mannichi, the Fevered Dream disagrees.
2) How do you build a deck around Brothers Yamazaki when you can only play one? How about by building a deck that is meant to play with two copies in Two-Headed Giant? That'd work!
3) Hazduhr the Abbot was the inspiration for this old-school project with just cards printed through 1995. No worries, I have an updated deck later in the article for those that want it – two decks for the price of one article!
6) Iname as One is the most expensive (legal) leader for your Commander deck. And you don't get a lot for your investment. So.. ummm... how do you build a deck around it?