Can Ruhandle It?

Bruce Richard sounded the call last week to various Commander writers: “Fix my Ruhan of the Fomori deck!” This is my attempt to turn Rucan’t into Rucan.

I have a few principles in fixing a deck, whether for an article or an acquaintance:

  • If the existing plan makes sense, work with it as much as possible. If I want to make my own Ruhan deck, I should do that; deck fixing is different.
  • Work with the existing deck as much as possible. As much as I prefer certain utility creatures to others, there’s no reason to swap them around just to put my stamp on the deck. In this deck, Bruce has Gorilla Shaman for artifact destruction; the fact that I’d use something else for the job doesn’t mean I should replace it for that reason alone.
  • If I recommend a card over five dollars, it should be essential. Bruce doesn’t need me to say, “Oh, Enlightened Tutor would be great in this deck.” Of course it would be. That doesn’t help him shape the deck; it’s just an easy way for me not to have to think of a card. Besides, if he doesn’t have a spare copy, he’ll have to spend a good chunk of change to follow my advice, and there’s no point to going down that road. Although I change half of Bruce’s deck, buying all the new cards from scratch comes out to $27.73 from CoolStuffInc. Since we’re on identical Magic budgets—our compensation for writing these articles—I know $27.73 is doable, but even if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t want to recommend a total amount of changes over $50. Generally, no one card in a Commander deck will turn a deck from bad to good anyway, so why spend like it will?

So, what do we have? Here’s the list with Bruce’s original categories, with some renamed for brevity (it was missing a card when sent to me):

Reconstructing Ruhan of the Fomori begins with less red, less white, and less blue. Let’s try green for three reasons . . .

Sorry; wrong thing. First, Bruce wants some sort of Voltron plan so Ruhan can swing early and often. I’ve never made a Voltron deck, but red and white normally support Equipment well, so it shouldn’t be difficult to continue in this vein. Second, this deck’s the easiest on colored mana I’ve ever seen. My Commander decks normally run about eighty colored mana symbols in their mana costs, trying to avoid triple costs of any one color where possible. Not counting hybrids, Bruce’s list has only sixty colored symbols. This is partly from the Equipment, but it’s also because there are a lot of underpowered cards. His lands already fix his mana well, so we can ratchet up the color intensity if we need to. (I wound up only going to sixty-two colored mana symbols, but that’s because I added several artifacts . . . because I shied away from tough mana costs.)

Third, there are only six spells that cost five or more mana, which implies a lack of depth. There are some good defensive creatures, but if Caller of Gales has to put on a Loxodon Warhammer, Bruce isn’t surviving.

Firing up my R/W/U playlist, here’s what I excised and why.1

The Outs

Civilized Scholar
Magus of the Scroll, Stinkdrinker Daredevil, Goblin Ruinblaster, Keldon Vandals, Cloudchaser Eagle, Fog Bank, Civilized Scholar, Vedalken Plotter These utility creatures simply aren’t good enough to make the cut. There’s no obvious synergy with any of these and Plan A (Voltron Ruhan) or Plan B (Voltron on something else worth equipping). Stinkdrinker Daredevil’s nifty, and if Bruce had more Giants than his commander, it would stay, but a 1/3 that helps only one card doesn’t provide enough on any axis.

Bloodmark Mentor, Obsidian Acolyte, Ballynock Trapper, Jamuraan Lion, Caller of Gales, Merrow Levitator, Thundersong Trumpeter, Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer, Ballynock TrapperThese are intended to give evasion to Ruhan (a good idea) or eliminate specific blockers (a bad idea). What Ruhan really wants is to discourage all potential blockers. Ballynock Trapper and Jamuraan Lion can stop the biggest blocker while having marginal defensive utility, but that’s it. There are better ways to give Ruhan a path to the face, and there are better defensive measures.

Blazing Shoal, Pillage, Molten Rain, Wild Swing, Kithkin Armor, Celestial Purge, Afterlife, Arrest, Steel of the Godhead, Candles of Leng, Sunforger Fine cards in their own right, and the right idea in several decks, but not fine here. Sunforger doesn’t have nearly enough targets to be worthwhile, and +4/+0 doesn’t compensate for a weak toolbox. Steel of the Godhead is great only on Ruhan and only if he’s hexproof; there weren’t enough other W/U creatures to put it on to keep it in. As the only card-draw spell apart from Nin, Candles of Leng wasn’t going to do enough. An Equipment deck often has spare mana issues, and the 4 mana for Candles wasn’t going to show up a lot. This deck doesn’t have many slots to devote to card-draw, so what slots it has should go big with it.

Planning for Change

So, those are the three blocks of changed cards. Here’s what I built around:

Stoneforge Mystic
Keywords and colorless sources – Bruce is going deeper than the Equipment to bling Ruhan out; he’s got Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion, Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep, and Soaring Seacliff to push Ruhan through the red zone. All those colorless sources and the desire for evasion imply that Ruhan would like protection from colors; there’s a lot less need for tapping if an entire side can’t block. This is also why the few Auras came out; we don’t want the boons to fall off anyone, and especially not Ruhan. While we’re here, it makes sense to add depth by finding more creatures to equip.

Finding equipment – Stoneforge Mystic, Godo, Bandit Warlord, and Taj-Nar Swordsmith are good at their job; there’s every reason to give them shinier toys. Hanna, Ship's Navigator will pull those Equipment back . . . or any enchantment we’re using for evasion.

The Ins

I changed twenty-nine cards, including swapping a Plains for a Mountain. In the groups where they make sense:

Azorius Signet, Boros Signet, Izzet Signet Bruce doesn’t have color-fixing problems due to all the artifacts, but Sol Ring was his only way to land a third-turn Ruhan, and third-turn Ruhan is so much better than a fourth-turn Ruhan that the Signets made sense. They also help with the fact that I increased the curve.

Long-Term Plans
Stonehewer Giant, Long-Term Plans, Acquire, Drift of Phantasms, Ethereal Usher Tutors of various types that have other utility in the deck. Acquire expands your equipment toolbox into your opponents’ decks. Stonehewer Giant can find Equipment, Drift of Phantasms can find either Equipment or Hanna, and Ethereal Usher can find several bombs or make Ruhan unblockable. The vigilance on Stonehewer Giant and flying on Drift of Phantasms are handy as well.

Illuminate, Vanish into Memory, Walking Archive, Laccolith Rig, Gustcloak Savior, Kusari-Gama, Remember the Fallen The first three are the card-draw package replacing Candles of Leng. Illuminate looks slow, but most of the time, you ignore the red kicker and just pay the clunky {X}{3}{U}{R} to deal X to a creature and draw X cards. It’s definitely a topdeck you want to see in the late game, as any X above 3 is worth it. Vanish into Memory isn’t on many radars, but it’s supremely flexible. If your Ruhan has a Loxodon Warhammer on it and is about to die, Vanish it, draw ten cards, and discard seven when your turn comes around; you probably found what you were looking for at that point. A massive looting from an attacker coming your way is fine, too, and if you snag a token (say, from Rite of Replication), you might win the game with the card advantage alone.

In the world of Howling Mine effects, Walking Archive gives a little bit of control, and depending on the group, there might be some people who want to save it. It’s also fantastic with Vanish into Memory for what it’s worth.

Laccolith Rig is the type of combat trick this deck wants over tapping. If you can’t give Ruhan evasion, it’s best to punish players for blocking, and a Laccolith Rig on Ruhan says that any block kills the opponent’s best creature . . . unless of course you send the Rig damage to some other opponent’s creature, which gives you some rare political capital for a randomness-based commander. “If you chump-block, I’ll kill that Titan you’ve been hating,” works fine for a one-mana Aura. It’s at its strangest, however, when you Rig an opposing creature. If that creature ever becomes blocked, you can replace its combat damage by damaging a target of your choice. If your opponent becomes mad at you about this situation, attacking you doesn’t help—you’ll just block and kill something else! It’s so cool I used an exclamation mark for it! Kusari-Gama isn’t as flexible but does the same basic thing, while Gustcloak Savior lets you get out of random jail free.

Last but not least, Remember the Fallen is one of this wedge’s few ways of recurring multiple permanents, and they’re conveniently the types of permanents you want. Bringing back Godo, Bandit Warlord and Loxodon Warhammer with the same card works for me.

Concerted Effort
Concerted Effort, Earnest Fellowship These two cards are the heart of my revisions. My remaining additions are creatures and Equipment that synergize with these two enchantments. Either of these enchantments (or both!) with Ruhan on the board turns the deck nasty in a hurry, and they also give that same nastiness to your other creatures, enabling the depth this deck sorely needs.

Concerted Effort grants certain keywords to your entire team each upkeep if at least one of your creatures has that keyword. Because it isn’t an intervening if clause (the way most of these are worded), you can respond to the trigger by giving one of your creatures a keyword from the menu. While vigilance, flying, and trample are the bread-and-butter interactions, protection’s the most interesting. There are some surprising protection abilities out there, and almost all of them are useful. It’s also a reason to leave Trailblazer's Boots in; when all your creatures are Dryad Sophisticate, it’s a lot better.

Earnest Fellowship is the grandpappy of all protection abilities in the deck. Few decks want their creatures to have protection from their own colors, but a three-colored commander definitely wants that. If you’ve become tired of Animar, Soul of Elements having protection from two colors, try when Ruhan has protection from three. Earnest Fellowship’s a little bit risky because those same colors you’re protected from can swing back at you, but you should have enough mono-colored and artifact creatures to block as necessary.

Jodah's Avenger
Tahngarth, Talruum Hero, Akroma, Angel of Fury, Jodah's Avenger, Lightning Angel, Sword of Vengeance These are the keywordmongers for Concerted Effort, and they’re fine by themselves or with Equipment. Tahngarth is the perfect sort of depth in this deck; a 4/4 vigilance does plenty, and you’ll clean up small creatures as well. Lightning Angel is tough to get through, and it’s even worse equipped. Jodah's Avenger is evasive in whatever way you’d like, but working with Concerted Effort for free is too good to pass up. Akroma needs no introduction . . . just a face to smash. Sword of Vengeance grants four keywords to one creature, and with Concerted Effort, it will grant first strike, vigilance, and trample to all your creatures. It’s like Akroma's Memorial except it doesn’t cost twenty dollars and doesn’t make you as much of an auto-target.

Pristine Angel, Iridescent Angel, Mirror Golem, Opal Titan, Nim Deathmantle, Scuttlemutt As with the keywordmongers, these cards do plenty without combos, but stick Concerted Effort or a good Equipment, and the damage will fly. If you can get your whole team to have protection from all colors, you’re going to have fun. If you can’t manage that, Scuttlemutt with Earnest Fellowship out will do the same thing for whatever creature you’d like to get through. Nim Deathmantle flaunts the oddities by making the equipped creature black; it’s also useful graveyard recursion, which the deck sorely wanted. Mirror Golem can be recurred with Hanna, is colorless so it can block whatever’s coming at you, is targeted graveyard exile, and is the only card that can gain specific protection from planeswalkers or tribal cards. All that protection lets you play offense or defense as the situation warrants. Opal Titan’s not as versatile, but it’s plenty efficient and works with Hanna.

The Final Decklist

So, there it is. It turns out by the end of the process that this is the direction I’d take with Ruhan if I were building for myself, though that’s largely because I’ve been looking to use Earnest Fellowship in a deck for a while. What do you think?


1 I have hour-long playlists for every color combination from zero to three colors based on color pie philosophy and how those ideas are expressed in music. My playlist for this wedge is:

“Ignition” by Easily Embarrassed
“1969” by Boards of Canada
“45 Minutes” by Cardamar
“Small Truths” by Blu Mar Ten
“Memories in a Sea of Forgetfulness” by BT
“Sea of Tears” by Goldie
“The Feeling (Remix)” by Blu Mar Ten
“Aerial Procession” by Nodens Ictus
“The Journey” by Easily Embarrassed
“Deep Red” by Deadly Avenger