Thursday, June 30, 2011

Devour for Lunch: Damia, Sage of Stone Deck Tech

Devour for Power is the first deck where I’m tuning and building around the “other” general. Don’t get me wrong: The Mimeoplasm is an excellent card, and quite hilarious and awesome. But for me, Damia simply makes a compelling argument – she draws cards. The astute reader will have noticed by now that I have a noticeable weakness for drawing cards. I’ve lost games because I chose the option of tapping out to draw more cards rather than playing something more relevant.

Damia is no slouch in that department either. She’s not so straightforward as, say, Arcanis the Omnipotent. It takes a bit more work that just tapping her to benefit from her ability. Specifically, you want to have as few cards in hand as possible – the emptier your hand is, the more you’re going to draw. So she is somewhat of a build-around-me general, but only to an extent. By playing lands and casting spells, you’ll eventually empty your hand anyway. But just because it’ll eventually happen naturally doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t find ways to enable the process a little more.

As you’d expect by now, I’m going to start with the actual decklist for Devour for Power.

1 Damia, Sage of Stone

1  Acidic Slime
1  Artisan of Kozilek
1  Avatar of Woe
1  Brawn
1  Butcher of Malakir
1  Dark Hatchling
1  Desecrator Hag
1  Dreamborn Muse
1  Eternal Witness
1  Extractor Demon
1  Fleshbag Marauder
1  Gravedigger
1  Lhurgoyf
1 The Mimeoplasm
1  Mortivore
1  Mulldrifter
1  Nezumi Graverobber
1  Patron of the Nezumi
1  Riddlekeeper
1  Scythe Specter
1  Sewer Nemesis
1  Skullbriar, the Walking Grave
1  Slipstream Eel
1  Solemn Simulacrum
1  Szadek, Lord of Secrets
1  Triskelavus
1  Troll Ascetic
1  Vorosh, the Hunter
1  Vulturous Zombie
1  Wonder
1  Wrexial, the Risen Deep
1  Yavimaya Elder

1  Buried Alive
1  Cultivate
1  Dimir Signet
1  Fact or Fiction
1  Golgari Signet
1  Grave Pact
1  Lightning Greaves
1  Living Death
1  Memory Erosion
1  Minds Aglow
1  Oblivion Stone
1  Relic Crush
1  Rise from the Grave
1  Shared Trauma
1  Sign in Blood
1  Simic Signet
1  Sol Ring
1  Spell Crumple
1  Stitch Together
1  Syphon Flesh
1  Syphon Mind
1  Tribute to the Wild
1  Unnerve
1  Vow of Flight
1  Vow of Malice
1  Vow of Wildness
1  Windfall

1  Barren Moor
1  Command Tower
1  Dimir Aqueduct
1  Dreadship Reef
8  Forest
1  Golgari Rot Farm
8  Island
1  Jwar Isle Refuge
1  Lonely Sandbar
1  Rupture Spire
1  Simic Growth Chamber
1  Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
11  Swamp
1  Temple of the False God
1  Terramorphic Expanse
1  Tranquil Thicket

This deck is unique among the five in that I have a good deal of experience in playing this color combination, and this deck even functions much the same as my old Vorosh deck, albeit in a greatly diluted fashion. My original idea started with Genesis combined with creatures with built-in sacrificial effects. Specifically, the Evoke and Echo mechanics. The two best colors seemed to pair up with Green seemed to be Blue and Black, mostly just because Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw are two of my favorite cards ever, and they’re absolutely perfect for Genesis abuse.

This deck doesn’t include a Genesis, but it easily could have (and should have, IMO). However, there are some anti-synergetic themes at work here. On one hand some of the mill cards seem to want you to mill yourself, others only mill your opponents. Some creatures depend on a full graveyard to get huge, but there’s lots of Zombify and Regrowth effects that will shrink these creatures if used.

One word on the Incarnations. Trample and Flying are both excellent forms of evasion, but I can’t help but suggest adding Filth to the mix. Either replace Wonder or Brawn, depending on your preference, or just add him along side both. If you can find room for Urborg in your lands, you’ve just made your whole army unblockable.

Then, there are the utter turds like Slipstream Eel. While a certain amount of this is to be expected, there’s actually more to love than you’d think. They even met us halfway and threw in a Mulldrifter (but not a Shriekmaw).

Of the new cards, this one seems to have drawn the short end of the stick, mostly… however it does have the three best Vows in the cycle. Intimidate, Flying and Trample are all great forms of evasion, unlike First Strike and Vigilance on the Red and White versions. But the flip side to that is that we got the two worst Join Forces spells. Minds Aglow is absolutely GREAT when you’re not the one casting it, and I’ll happily draw some cards off other people’s mana, but I have never, EVER wanted to actually cast this spell in all the games I’ve drawn it. And that’s the better of the two! Shared Trauma is horrible. No one will EVER want to pay into this, unless they’re playing a deck built around abusing graveyards, and then you’re just helping them, which could turn out bad for you.

Tribute to the Wild has just proven vastly ineffective at dealing with problematic Artifacts or Enchantments. In my experience, my opponents will ALWAYS have a Signet or something to sac instead of their Sword of Fire and Ice that’s beating you to a pulp. Nice try, but no. Putrefy and Krosan Grip will get the job done far more reliably.

Spell Crumple is out on the grounds that I don’t like countermagic, and particularly Hinder-esque stuff that can tuck a General. It’s fine if you have some cutthroat Zur player or something, but in a truly casual fun-oriented group, Spell Crumpling someones Kaalia will simply make games less fun for everyone.

Skullbriar is badass, but totally out of place in this deck. I moved him over to the Ghave deck where he’s been far more relevant and benefits from the fact that you can put counters on him in response to a Wrath to “save” those counters for future use.

Sewer Nemesis and Riddlekeeper are neat, but not great. I actually really like the design on Riddlekeeper, and I think he’ll have a comfortable home in my Wrexial deck for sure. Sewer Nemesis is just big and stupid and I am not a fan of the card at all. If he had Swampwalk or something, maybe. He can get scary with a Wonder and/or Brawn in the yard, but it’s still too iffy and unreliable for my taste. Of all the times I’ve seen him on the battlefield, he’s just been a big Wall.

Scythe Specter I actually like a lot. He’d probably fit better in the Wrexial deck, too, but I’m going to leave him in this build for a while, just to see how he does. So far I’ve only connected with him one time and everyone just pitched a land – but eventually someone’s going to be forced to pitch a big Dragon or something and it’ll be glorious!

The Mimeoplasm fucking rocks. There’s no way in hell he’s getting cut, even if I do prefer Damia as the centerpiece of the deck.

As for the reprints, Devour for Power packs the biggest wallop. Eternal Witness, Solemn Simulacrum, Living Death, Grave Pact? Okay, sure! A few of them are somewhat perplexing choices for this specific deck, though. Solemn Simulacrum is fine here, but we’re in Green and have access to so much ramp that Sad Robot seems like he really belongs in one of the decks that DOESN’T have access to ramp. He should have been in Kaalia and/or Zedruu instead, as this deck can just as easily make do with Kodama’s Reach or Skyshroud Claim.

Or, my favorite ramp/utility combo: Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. Killing a problematic land (Volrath’s Stronghold, Kor Haven, Gaea’s Cradle, etc.) while ramping a bit is great, and even if you just set them back one mana by popping a basic, you’re getting ahead or catching up by two, but more often than not, killing one of their lands and ramping by one is just plain better than simply ramping by two.

Another issue is Sign in Blood. We’re in Blue, so we have access to so many draw spells that are just plain better, and I really just don’t see what made Sign in Blood more attractive than even just Divination. The option to target an opponent to force them to draw two and loose two life seems blatantly irrelevant. I seriously don’t see any realistic possibility of actually decking someone with this. It just boggles my mind that they didn’t put Deep Analysis in this slot.

But that’s okay, cause that’s what I put in. Deep Analysis is a fantastic choice for this deck because it’s fairly often that you’ll need to discard a few cards at some point, and you will rarely mind discarding a Flashback draw spell if you have to.

Other great options for beefing up your draw package include Frantic Search. One of the many broken “free” spells that made Urza Block so infamous. Plus the discard “downside” is a lot less of a drawback when you pitch an Incarnation and Deep Analysis to it.

Intuition is also good, or so I hear.

Just don’t go TOO overboard with the draw spells, as our general is also a card-drawing machine. It’s important to have a few for those times you can’t cast your general, or can’t get her to stay on the board long enough to trigger.

Aside from drawing cards, exploiting graveyards is definitely a major theme here. We already have Genesis as a means of exploiting our own, as well as Eternal Witness.

Rise from the Grave is fine, but Beacon of Unrest is almost strictly better. I also recommend most or all of the following: Geth, Lord of the Vault; Puppeteer Clique; Sheoldred, Whispering One;  and Coffin Queen have all proven themselves to be potent tools of reanimation.

On the removal front, we’ve got Fleshbag Marauder and Dark Hatchling for killing dudes. Fleshbag is excellent, but the Hatchling is far less exciting. I already mentioned Shriekmaw and that’s my #1 pick for the Hatchling’s slot, but Bone Shredder also fits nicely – it’s easy on the mana curve and Echo plays just as well with Genesis as Evoke does. For mass-removal, look no further than Kagemaro, First to Suffer. He’s great for getting rid of stuff that doesn’t die to the usual Wrath effect, and as a creature, he’s endlessly repeatable with Genesis.

Big Game Hunter is another tech-y piece of removal that synergizes nicely with the deck’s themes.

Duplicant is also an extremely potent form of removal as well, and absolutely needs to be in the deck.

Blue allows for the option of using theft as a sort of removal. The two best “control magic” effects I’ve found are Treachery – always great as another “free” spell from the Urza block, and Sower of Temptation. I usually find the Sower to be too fragile for use in EDH, but the high number of sac outlets and the multiple ways to recur creatures makes her far more playable here than she’d normally be.

Another option that appears to have become far more playable with Damia than before, is Overtaker. This spellshaper turns any card in your deck into Ray of Command. I’ve already mentioned we’re going to have plenty of sac-outlets, so it’s pretty likely you won’t even have to give the creature back when you’re done with it. Furthermore, you won’t really mind pitching a card to a Spellshaper, since Damia will always refill your hand!

There are plenty of other Spellshapers worth looking into, but my favorite (other than Overtaker) is Dreamscape Artist, a blue guy that slings Harrows like mad. Weird, but cool, and you definitely can use the mana! Outside of blue, my top candidates for black and green are Urborg Syphon Mage and Dawnstrider respectively. Repeatable mini-Exsanguinates and Fogs seem playable.

But here’s where discarding your own stuff really gets interesting. First up is Null Profusion, or as it was originally known, Recycle. It’s a high-risk, high reward card, but the potential of this Enchantment combined with Damia makes it quite exciting. Every turn you discard down to two, but you’ll draw back up to seven the next turn. Even just making your land drop for the turn is a cantrip!

Also great are the Dreams from Torment – Insidious, Nostalgic and Turbulent are all vastly more powerful when combined with Damia’s draw potential. Insidious Dreams in particular is amazing. Simply cast it on your upkeep with Damia’s ability on the stack, pitch your whole hand (or as much of it as you like) and sculpt the absolute best possible seven-card hand you can – it truly feels like cheating stacking 5 or 6 carefully selected cards on top of your library knowing your guaranteed to draw all of them right away (Watch out for a well-timed Plagiarize, though!).

Turbulent Dreams is pretty mediocre usually, but it and Nostalgic Dreams can just turn a few lands into gas very cheaply.

A great piece of tech for Damia is a little card called Seedborn Muse. Now, on her own the Muse might not even make the cut… but combine her with Leyline of Anticipation, Vedalken Orrery or Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Now you can just draw up to seven, lay a land, and say “Go.” At that point everything you do is instant speed, and you can just flash stuff into play in response to things. Flashing in a blocker during combat, or casting Turbulent Dreams at your opponent’s end of turn step…

And it only gets better in multiplayer. Every opponent’s turn is another opportunity to untap and empty your hand, so you can draw more on your next turn! Add in the aforementioned Null Profusion and you can easily cast two or three spells on every single opponent’s turn and never run out of cards in hand.

Magus of the Library has never once crossed my mind as playable… until now. Damia pretty much guarantees you will have seven cards in hand most of the time, so for once the Magus actually becomes very reliable and easy to work with. The fact that he helps you accelerate to Damia is just icing on the cake.

Mimic Vat is obligatory, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. For the record I accidentally put two copies in my deck, but that’s just how good it is. If I were allowed to run two copies of one single card, it’d be Mimic Vat.

Same goes for Primeval Titan – It feels stupid to suggest this guy, and I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I think I’m clever or original throwing his name out there. I realize that if you OWN Primeval Titan you’d probably be playing him without needing me to tell you to. But, for the sake of thoroughness, I’m running him in my build, so I feel like I must give him a mention.

I do have good reason to mention Grave Titan and Frost Titan. I tested Grave Titan a bit, and found him to be less stellar than I thought he’d be. I don’t think he’s TERRIBLE, but he’s not good enough that I’d really recommend him. If you have a hole that needs filling, he can do that much quite well, but I just never got much value out of him.

Frost Titan, on the other hand, is probably worth trying out, but I haven’t felt like I needed him here. He does make a game-ending target for Rite of Replication though, and since Rite is definitely going in this deck, Frost Titan could feasibly come in handy.

So anyway, Rite of Replication is damn near a must in any deck with Blue in it. Same goes for the new hotness, Phyrexian Metamorph. Body Double is another very good Clone-variant that is both thematically appropriate and quite powerful. The Mimeoplasm is like a Body Double on steroids, and he might be enough for you, but I like the original, too.

As for the sacrifice outlets I’ve mentioned but not specified, it’s probably no surprise that Greater Good is among them. A fantastic card drawing engine for green, this deck makes good use of it by stealing opposing creatures and then feeding them to Greater Good for more cards.

Another one is Dimir House Guard, a key role-player in this deck. Why wouldn’t I just run a hard tutor like Demonic Tutor? Well, the House Guard most often transmutes for Grave Pact, Greater Good or Damnation, and honestly most of the time those are the top choices for Demonic Tutor anyway. But the Guard also doubles as a sac outlet, which is great against certain decks anyway, but also is fantastic to drop right before you cast Living Death. Sac everything to the Guard so that you get it all back with the Living Death.

Another good tutor that is less obvious than Demonic, is Diabolic Intent. I cannot tell you how many times the “drawback” of sac-ing a creature to this has actually been a boon. It’s especially great when the sacrificial lamb is Keiga, the Tide Star or a stolen Yosei.

One cool card I tried out but ended up being underwhelmed by is Diviner’s Wand. This Equipment plays of the fact that Damia is a Wizard and draws lots of cards. When you drop Damia into play, the Wand equips for free, automatically, which is nice. Then when Damia refills your hand, she becomes huge, often 7/7 or better, making her a legitimate threat in the red zone. But yet, somehow, I couldn’t really get the Wand to work for me. It’s still a cute trick, so I mention it here anyway.

Pernicious Deed is another of those super-obvious “Good Stuff” inclusions, but what can I say? This is meant to be a control deck, and the Deed gets it done dirt cheap (okay it’s actually kinda pricey money-wise and mana-wise. Just go with it, okay?).

Profane Command is another all star, usually reanimating your guy and killing theirs.

If you just need a good, solid threat, there aren’t many things better than a Simic Sky Swallower here. He makes a great finisher that is hard to answer without a Wrath effect.

With Damia and Greater Good as massive draw Engines, I’m looking at Psychosis Crawler as a way to turn that supposed card advantage into a legitimate way to kill opponents. It’s highly unlikely it’ll get there all the way from forty, but an opponent with life in the teens could easily die in a single turn to the Crawler, if you have Greater Good on the board.

Early game creatures usually will include stuff like Shadowmage Infiltrator that provide small, unassuming bodies to attack and block with, that also draw you cards now and then. SEE ALSO: Ohran Viper, Cold-Eyed Selkie or Vedalken Heretic.

Ramp guys like Sakura Tribe Elder and Wood Elves are a must as well.

I also run both Indrik Stomphowler and Acidic Slime for reusable, creature-based answers to Enchantments and Artifacts, with the Ooze in particular making a great blocker.

Sometimes with this deck, you’ll draw stuff you’d rather have in your graveyard, like Genesis. You could play him and hope he dies in combat, but that opens up the possibility of an opponent RFG-ing him somehow, which could really blow. I like Undead Gladiator as a way to get him straight into the ‘yard from my hand. This little zombie is great, though, interacting with Big Game Hunter or other Madness cards, turning a usesless land in hand into something else, etc… he’s a bit slow and costly, but I’ve gotten great use out of him.

Ana Battlemage is another janky card that seems to work wonders for me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve cast this guy with the blue kicker and targeted an opponent with exactly three cards in hand. And the black kicker has come in quite handy numerous times as well. Particularly good against Infect guys like Blightsteel Colossus – give them a taste of their own Poison! Even more fun is using it against a huge Kresh the Bloodbraided – dying to general damage from your own general has got to be the most humiliating way to lose a game of EDH.

If you max out your reanimation capabilities with cards like Geth and Sheoldred (and I recommend you do!), River Kelpie can be an awesome draw engine. Works wonders with Retrace and Flashback spells too, so look at how many of those you wind up with.

If you need addition creature removal, I’ve already mentioned Damnation, and that is the first place you should start. Life’s Finale is a great budget alternative, though, and especially if you’re running Geth and Puppeteer Clique.

I have always had either Barter in Blood or Consuming Vapors in this deck. Both are exceptional in different situations. Sometimes I’ll have Barter in Blood when I’d rather have Consuming Vapors, but I think Barter is the overall best choice, especially in a creature-centric multiplayer metagame. Against Voltron generals like Uril and, to a lesser extent, Rafiq – Consuming Vapors is often better. Just pay attention to your meta – if you have a player that frequently puts all his effort into sticking one guy, go with the Vapors, but for everyone else, use Barter.

Finally, if you have room for Equipment, there are some great, but obvious, choices. Pretty much any of the five Swords are wonderful, with even the worst of the bunch – Body and Mind – being acceptable here, because stocking your opponents graveyards can help out a lot. Light and Shadow is probably the overall best here, with Feast and Famine narrowly beating Fire and Ice for second best. War and Peace is fine because you’ll almost always be gaining 6 or 7 life when you hit with it, but if you have any kind of discard going, the “war” half won’t do much. I’d really only run this one if you have a R/W deck in your meta.

Nim Deathmantle is probably the single most popular piece of Equipment in EDH that isn’t named Sword of ‘something’ and ‘something’, and of course it’s no slouch here, as we have a general we’re very keen on protecting while our opponents are likely just as keen on killing her. If you have the Seedborn Muse out, Nim Deathmantle make killing Damia quite tricky without a RFG effect.

As for lands, the obvious duals and Volrath’s Stronghold apply here as usual. However, I also recommend Phyrexian Tower – part sac outlet, part accelerant. Also, High Market and even Miren the Moaning Well are superb. Urborg is helpful if you have Sheoldred and Wrexial in the deck, and especially Filth! But truly, Volrath’s Stronghold will be a clutch card in many games, so if you find it being blown up too often, maybe try Crucible of Worlds or Life From the Loam.

Creeping Tar Pit and the other manlands are great, if you have some badass Equipment for them to carry. I’ve had games that came down to my Treetop Village going to town with a Sword of Fire and Ice being the only thing that saved me from doom. Without solid buffs, they might not be red-zone material, but they also give you uncounterable dudes if you have to worry about countermagic too.

Really many of my suggestions are fairly obvious. That’s because I really think the best way to build this deck is in the “Good Stuff Control” mode, with just a slight concession to things that interact well with Damia. Other than the Dreams, Seedborn Muse, the Flash Enablers and Magus of the Library, all of these cards are things I was already playing in Vorosh. But that’s the thing with Good Stuff – it’s all pretty much the same. Bribery, Prime Time, Consecrated Sphinx, etc… obvious, but still totally worth it!

Last but not least is Zedruu... actually it probably will be least because that's the deck I have the least experience with, and the fewest ideas for, but I'm sure to come up with a few interesting ideas, at least.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lunch Mastery: Riku of Two Reflections Deck Tech

For our third examination of the new Commander decks from WotC, we’re going to pick apart the BRG deck, commanded by Riku of Two Reflections. As the name of the deck, and it’s signature Commander’s title would suggest, the BRG wedge is all about copying, cloning, and doubling things. Do a quick Gatherer search for the word cards with the word “double” or “copy” in their rules text, and  quite a few of the results are in the BRG color wheel. Red, Blue and Green all have a variety of effects that double something or copy something, whether it be creatures, spells, mana or damage. 

Riku himself is a Xerox machine with legs and a bad J-RPG hairdo. Let’s get the cursory “official” decklist out of the way, and get to the Tech.

1  Æthersnipe
1  Animar, Soul of Elements
1  Artisan of Kozilek
1  Avatar of Fury
1  Baloth Woodcrasher
1  Chartooth Cougar
1  Conundrum Sphinx
1  Deadwood Treefolk
1  Edric, Spymaster of Trest
1  Elvish Aberration
1  Faultgrinder
1  Fierce Empath
1  Hydra Omnivore
1  Intet, the Dreamer
1  Krosan Tusker
1  Magmatic Force
1  Magus of the Vineyard
1  Nucklavee
1  Rapacious One
1  Simic Sky Swallower
1  Spitebellows
1  Trench Gorger
1  Valley Rannet
1  Veteran Explorer

1  Armillary Sphere
1  Brainstorm
1  Call the Skybreaker
1  Chain Reaction
1  Collective Voyage
1  Colossal Might
1  Cultivate
1  Death by Dragons
1  Disaster Radius
1  Electrolyze
1  Explosive Vegetation
1  Fire/Ice
1  Firespout
1  Gruul Signet
1  Hull Breach
1  Hunting Pack
1  Invigorate
1  Izzet Signet
1  Kodama's Reach
1  Lightning Greaves
1  Prophetic Bolt
1  Prophetic Prism
1  Ray of Command
1  Ruination
1  Savage Twister
1  Simic Signet
1  Sol Ring
1  Spell Crumple
1  Tribute to the Wild
1  Vengeful Rebirth
1  Vow of Flight
1  Vow of Lightning
1  Vow of Wildness
1  Garruk Wildspeaker

1  Command Tower
1  Evolving Wilds
13  Forest
1  Fungal Reaches
1  Gruul Turf
1  Homeward Path
7  Island
1  Izzet Boilerworks
1  Kazandu Refuge
8  Mountain
1  Rupture Spire
1  Simic Growth Chamber
1  Temple of the False God
1  Vivid Crag
1  Vivid Creek
1  Vivid Grove

So, there are some juicy big-mana spells and creatures that should prove fun to copy. Magmatic Force, Simic Sky Swallower, Call the Skybreaker, etc… yeah, those can win some games, especially when you have two of them.

One thing that strikes me as odd about this deck is that it contains no other ways to copy things – there is zero redundancy here, which kinda sucks, because as a 2/2 with no way to protect himself, Riku dies a lot – even more than Kaalia! One of the very first things I did to this deck was to move Champion’s Helm from the Zedruu deck into this one. Hexproof is relevant for obvious reasons, but the +2/+2 is significant because it helps Riku survive several of the “mass removal” spells included in these decks. Firespout, Evincar’s Justice, Sulfurous Blast, etc… all kill Riku unless he’s protected by the helm.

Another great option is Magebane Armor. Unlike Kaalia, swinging into the red zone is not a big thing for Riku, so protection from non-Combat damage keeps him safe from stuff like Savage Twister, Earthquake or Flametongue Kavu.

The by-now-obvious suggestion of Asceticism comes in at this point. Pretty much the go-to for green decks with fragile generals, Asceticism really shines here, where it protects Riku and the many, many creature tokens he will create.

We need to be very careful not to run too many enchantments or artifacts, as those are things Riku cannot copy. It’d be very tough and equally foolish to build a deck with nothing but Creatures, Instants and Sorceries, so a few non-copy-able spells is a necessary evil. Remember: Do not be a slave to your theme. Sticking too close to any theme can leave you with massive weaknesses and cost you games.

But, for the sake of making Riku worth casting repeatedly (because he will get killed, believe me) we’ll try to minimize the number of cards he can’t duplicate.

One of the first things I’d do is take out the Ravnica Signets. They’re great, and I’m a big fan usually, but I’d rather play a copy-able ramp spell instead. Starting off, we have Collective Voyage, Cultivate and Explosive Vegetation. Those are fine, but we can supplement those with the additions of Explore, Kodama’s Reach and Wood Elves. I’d also consider Farhaven Elf and Silverglade Elemental.

Harrow is awesome in this deck, if you aren’t worried about it being countered. Remember: If you copy Harrow with Riku or Mirari, you don’t have to sac land to the copy, just the original!

I also really like Collective Voyage here, as it’s one of only two Join Forces cards I really don’t mind playing. The other is, of course the Dragon. Collective Voyage helps everyone ramp up, but this deck is likely to be able to exploit all that extra mana moreso than your opponents – they likely mulliganed a hand that was a bit top-heavy, but with this deck you want at least one BIG thing early on, and Collective Voyage can help you hit your badass stuff faster than anyone else.

If you have the ABUR Duals or Ravnica Duals, then Skyshroud Claim is often just plain better than Explosive Veggies. Getting Breeding Pool and Stomping Ground untapped is usually better than getting Island and Mountain tapped.

This deck is mana-hungry, so the biggest pitfall trap to avoid is cutting your ramp back to make room for splashy spells. Don’t do this. Run the ramp, and I assure you, you’ll have plenty of room for splashy stuff too. You’ll be re-casting Riku often, and without sufficient ramp, you’ll but JUST re-casting him, and not getting to do anything relevant.

Which brings me back to the redundancy issue. Whatever your strategy, if you are counting on having your general out to facilitate that strategy, you better bring a back-up plan. There’s a chance Riku will become too expensive to reasonably expect to cast him and still have mana to do stuff. Fortunately we have plenty of options, and here are a few:

Phyrexian Metamorph (and every other Clone variant)

I’m probably missing a few more, but this is a good start. And we don’t want to overdo it here – winding up with a handful of copy spells, but nothing to copy would suck big time. Ideally, we want a couple that copy creatures and  a couple that copy spells.

Creatures tend to die often in EDH, so stuff like Echo Mage and Djinn Illuminatus are not appealing to me, as I would expect them to die before I’d gotten my mana’s worth out of them. In short, they’re bad investments. I love the potential they offer, but the fact is that they’ll rarely, if ever actually deliver on that potential.

On the flip side, I do like effects like Phyrexian Metamorph for sheer utility. They can copy a Legend to kill it, or something with an ETBF effect, or whatever. It’s easier to get a return on your investment, and they’re usually a lot cheaper than leveling up an Echo Mage.

Mirari and Minion Reflector are both highly recommended. They can do Riku’s job in his absence, survive most board-wipes and if Riku does show up, they can double his doubling power.

Spitting Image is also a strong contender, as it is both versatile and reusable. Once it’s in your graveyard, your opponents will have to think very hard about casting their generals. The reverse effect is Sakashima, the Imposter, who would be just another Clone if it weren’t for the fact that she can copy a Legend without killing it! This is handy if you want to do really degenerate things by copying Riku so you can copy everything twice instead of once, or if an opponent has a General you’d like to abuse. Having your own Damia or Karador could lead to broken things!

Kiki-Jiki is a strong inclusion as well, despite the slightly more narrow applications, simply making a hasted copy of a Primeval Titan can lead to tremendous board advantage.

I think we probably want one or two ways to copy other players’ spells. Twincast and Wild Ricochet get my votes. Wild Ricochet is just too fun and awesome, and since I chose it as the red spell, I wanted to pick Twincast to balance out the red/blue mana requirements. Reiterate is good, but I rarely have the mana open for Buyback, especially when playing a deck this mana-hungry.

Finally, Rite of Replication is probably the single best spell in the list above, as it can often end games on the spot when Kicked. It’s powerful and swingy, and can do really funny things too. A great card in any deck, it’s a perfect fit for this one.

Drawing cards is going to be important. I’ve seen the Riku deck as-is ramp up to obscene mana, and then just run out of gas after playing and copying one big creature or spell, then having nothing to do with all that mana the rest of the game.

Obviously, some creature-based draw will be great – Mulldrifter, Regal Force and Consecrated Sphinx are all fantastic inclusions. I especially like the way Mulldrifter interacts – you can evoke it for 2U, copy it for UG, draw four cards and still have a Mulldrifter token in play.

Similar to the Evoke mechanic, stuff like Sneak Attack will achieve similar results. You can Sneak Attack something in, copy it with Riku, and while the original will die EOT, the token copy will stick around!

Eternal Witness is a big fat “Duh!”, and should have been included in this deck over Devour For Power. Fortunately they did give us Vengeful Rebirth, a card I’ve long considered too expensive for its effect and have never really played. But in this deck, it really does make quite an impact. I’ve seen it do some sick things in the Riku precon, so I’m rather surprised to find that I’m leaving it in my modified build.

Also, Izzet Chronarch has been far, far better to me than Nucklavee. Nucklavee is just too restrictive and I NEVER once got to return more than a single card with it anyway, and there was usually a Harmonize or some other green spell that I really wanted to get, so I just swapped out the Nuck for the Chronarch and I’ve been much happier.

Restock or All Suns' Dawn might be worth considering as well.

On the spell side, we have almost boundless options, but I want to focus on the early game because this is a deck with a stupidly high curve, overall. Explore and Coiling Oracle are kinda draw/ramp in one package… in fact Coiling Oracle might be the single most egregious omission of all, in this deck. Treasure Hunt is actually pretty awesome here, too. Late game it has the potential to draw you a bunch of lands to fuel your Retrace spells, and it’ll ALWAYS give you one non-Land card, guaranteed.

At the four-mana slot, we have a variety of options. Harmonize is great, and I’m really excited to copy a Foresee. Scry 8, draw 4, for only six mana? Sounds like a great deal to me. Deep Analysis is always solid, but not necessarily the best choice in this deck.

My absolute favorite late-game topdeck has to be Fathom Trawl. Just when you run out of gas and your opponents think they finally have room to breath, this shows up and refills your hand… but it’s ALL gas! How many times have you cast a Wheel of Fortune hoping to refuel, only to draw 4 or 5 worthless lands out of that 7? How about only drawing three cards instead, but they’re ALL non-lands? Yeah, and if you copy it, it’s SIX non-land cards, every time. In this deck, Fathom Trawl is almost like casting Conflux in a five-color deck. It will break the backs of the weak and win games for the strong!

The next area to work on is early-to-midgame defense. Spitebellows is actually a fantastic card, and I’m glad they included it. We could use a Flametongue Kavu as well. I’ve already mentioned Mulldrifter as a card-drawer, but he can also be an early flier to block with. Aethersnipe is fun and we could easily use Man-O-War here too. I generally find a tempo/bounce effect like Man-O-War to be not really worth it in EDH. But with the ability to copy it, it’s value increases slightly.

Instead of the jellyfish, though, I want to suggest Temporal Spring. This card can do a pretty decent impression of a Vindicate for 1UG, but copying this putting a sizeable threat back on the library, with a comes-into-play-tapped land on top of that threat can really set an opponent back. It’s still little more than a stall tactic, but it can buy you the time you need to start dropping big threats yourself.

Plow Under is an attractive choice, but I feel like it might be a bit too mean and unfun for my opponents, so I’ll be pass, but feel free to try it out on your group.

Undo is another good bounce spell that packs just enough punch to make it possibly worth running. I still like Temporal Spring better, but if you have some fast aggro decks in your group, you should consider both.

Evacuation doesn’t really do anything extra if you copy it, but it’s probably worth including as a potential reset if someone manages to get out more creatures than you. Or you could just use Red’s arsenal of blow-up-the-world effect and massive damage spells like Starstorm and the already included Savage Twister.

All of these big spells makes me think of Jhoira of the Ghitu – which is sure to get a lot of groans and eye-rolls, as she’s degenerate and played-out as a general, but if you just throw her in here and you don’t do the whole Obliterate then un-Suspend a bunch of guys thing, she’s totally fair. You can suspend some stuff, then if you manage to keep Riku alive for it to un-Suspend, you’ll have all that mana open to copy the shit out of everything.

One of the spells included in the deck is Prophetic Bolt. I’m a big fan of this card already, but it is so much fun to copy! I love it. Fire // Ice and Electrolyze, however have not proven effective, at least for me. Even copying them has not really gotten the kind of mileage we want from them. I replaced them with Beast Within and Chaos Warp in my build. Chaos Warp is fun to copy - I never know weather to use it on my utility guy and hope for a big threat, or use it on my opponent's big threat and hope he hits a land!

I need more ways to deal with problematic Lands, Equipment and Enchantments in my metagame – Hull Breach is great, but it’s not quite enough. I suggest Acidic Slime and Indrik Stomphowler, both obvious staples, so I won’t spend any more time on them. They’re just good.

Primal Command is a great spell to copy. The copy has to have the same modes as the original, but it’s still usually worth it. 7 mana to Plow Under and gain 14 life? Or screw the guy playing out of everyone’s graveyards while you tutor up two creatures? Brilliant!

Doubling Season is a great card to add, but that was probably painfully obvious already, and I put it in the Ghave deck so we’ll give it a rest. It’s harder to find a deck Doubling Season is NOT good in at this point.

Same goes for Mana Reflection. While I’ve never been the biggest fan of this 6-mana enchantment, a deck this greedy should probably make good use of it. Taking the whole “doubling” theme to the extreme, we could do Thought and Rage Reflections as well, but I’m not advocating this – just throwing the idea out there if anyone wants it.

Magmatic Force has actually been pretty stellar, overall, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have Bogardan Hellkite and Inferno Titan over the Force. Somehow, I managed to fit all three into my build, but it’s starting to become clear that triple R’s in the casting cost puts a serious strain on my mana base even with all the ramp and color-fixing! I may have to cut it, as I’m trying to avoid creatures that require more than two of any color to cast.

Speaking of Titans, Primeval and Frost versions are equally recommended, especially Prime Time (duh, again). All three are great when copied with Riku or Minion Reflector, and casting Rite of Replication, kicked, and then copied with Riku should pretty much end a game on the spot. Especially if you have ways to give them Haste…

On that note, obviously Fires of Yavimaya and Sarkhan Vol are going to be terrific inclusions, but In the Web of War and Urabrask the Hidden can participate if you prefer. Lightning Greaves is already in the deck, and should not be cut for anything ever! Akroma’s Memorial is just plain awesome, and grants Haste as well as a bunch of other relevant bonuses.

Other big, dumb guys that are fun to copy:
Darksteel Colossus (Or Blightsteel if you’re mean like that)

With all the huge guys we’re probably going to be running, Spearbreaker Behemoth looks promising as well. Eldrazi Monument also grants mass-Indestructibility but the upkeep is kinda tough in a deck like this – we don’t really pump out massive hordes of tokens, just a few really big ones! Probably best to just go with the Spearbreaker.

A quick note on the other Legends:

I’ve found Animar to be quite good as one of the 99 in a Riku deck. With only two counters on him, he makes many creatures cheap enough that you can cast and copy them for the original CMC of the creature. That alone is good enough, but when you’re dropping Inferno Titans for RR and Avenger of Zendikar for GG, well, you tend to win those games.

Edric is fun but he doesn’t really do much for this deck. I found him to be a largely useless card 90% of the time, and only drew me 1 or 2 cards before a Wrath came down the rest of the time. I like him much better as a general or just in some other deck than this one (I currently have him earmarked for Rafiq).

Intet is cool, and has a some synergy with Riku – she lets you play stuff for free, which frees your mana up to do other things, like copy the stuff she plays for free. But to make Intet reliable enough to be worth playing you need some additional support. Sensei’s Divining Top, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Sphinx of Jwar Isle all come to mind, as well as Crystal Ball and Scroll Rack. If you have all these, and can find room for them, they make a fine Plan B of “getting free shit with Intet”, while interacting with your existing Plan A of “copy shit”. If not, I’d cut the Dragon for something less complicated.

Stuff like Future Sight and Oracle of Mul Daya can help too, but I don’t realy like my opponents to see what’s coming, so I’m avoiding those effects for that reason alone. Otherwise I’d say that Oracle of Mul Daya was a must-run.

Sphinx Ambassador really tickles me because you can obviously copy the Sphinx, but whenever one or both hit, you get two creatures which Riku can also copy! Bribery does the same thing, of course – copy the Bribery, get two guys, then copy those guys. It’s 11 mana to do all that, but trust me, it’s worth it.

Knowledge Exploitation is similar, but at seven mana it’s a tad more difficult to pull off. Probably worth it if you manage to do it, though. Also, it can be used in an emergency as a Wrath effect – just target the player most likely to have a few sweepers in his deck.

The money-shot for Blue (other than Rite of Replication), though, has to be Blatant Thievery. Permanent Insurrection FTW?

At this point I feel I should point out that I’m not forgetting or overlooking Time Stretch and Time Warp, etc. I’m ignoring them, because A) they’re friggin obvious, and b) LAME!

Green has the ubiquitous Tooth and Nail, and probably Genesis Wave, but I’m still trying to find something a little less overused. Praetor's Counsel is the new hotness for big-mana Green, but it doesn’t actually do anything more if you copy it, so that’s pointless. I’m actually looking at something a little less expensive for Green’s big win-the-game spell: Overwhelming Stampede. Dubbed “Super Overrun” by me, just this very minute, it seems like casting this once and copying it once should generally result in your guys getting, oh, somewhere around +18/+18 and Trample, assuming you have a Titan out, that’s +6/+6 when the copy resolves, then the original comes in and grants +12/+12. Swingy enough for you?

Red is tricky, though. Many of its game-enders and big-mana effects are damage spells, usually X-mana stuff. Then there’s Warp World and the like, which again, don’t do a whole lot copied – yeah, you get some ETBF triggers after each one, but that’s just not really what we’re looking for here. Disaster Radius is pretty keen, and I have dreams of killing the whole table buy dropping a Repercussion and then playing Disaster Radius on a board full of guys. But no, that’s not likely to happen, and Repurcussion can be a serious liability in a creature-oriented deck like this.

If you want to push the sorcery/instant theme more, and cut back on creatures it could work, though.

So neither Insurrection nor Warp World appeal to me, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t playable. Just not really contributing to the THEME per se. But as I said, don’t be a slave to the theme – if copying Warp World is what floats your boat, go for it.

One other option is to double your attack phases. Red has plenty of spells that do this, but I’m thinking of Savage Beating in particular. It’s the biggest and splashiest of them all, with the potential to give you two attack phases AND give all your guys Doublstrike!  Talk about game-ending, you probably won’t even NEED to copy this one to win, but if you do, holy shit!

I feel I’m beating a dead horse with these next few cards, but Mimic Vat and Birthing Pod go hand-in-hand with any deck that care about creatures. Mimic Vat doesn’t really interact with Riku, of course, but believe me when I say your creatures will die a lot, so chucking any Titan or even Mulldrifter onto the Vat will be perfectly fine. Birthing Pod has a more desirable interaction – you can sac TOKEN copies of creatures to get ACTUAL creatures, then copy THOSE too!

If your build is really creature-heavy, Wild Pair will probably be over-the-top busted. Uh, for 10 mana, I’ll cast Inferno Titan, copy it, Wild Pair for Frost Titan, copy it too. Shenanigans abound! Free creatures! Card Advantage! WHAT HAS SCIENCE DONE?!

There is a lot of room for variety and customization with this deck – the key is to just minimize the number of things that aren’t copy-able, ramp like mad, and then just start doing everything twice!

As for the land base, I can only really give you one very important piece of advice – minimize the colorless producing lands as much as possible. Temple of the False God is great in this deck, and I’d probably run High Market as an out for opposing theft effects, but beyond that you need all of your lands to make colored mana.

I cut the Vivid lands for the Ravnica duals, and cut some sub-par stuff like Rupture Spire for the Shadowmoor/Eventide filter lands. Homeward Path wound up in the Zedruu deck where it made more sense, thus creating the need for High Market as a theft deterrent.  I suppose I could make a case for Yavimaya Hollow, too, to regenerate Riku where applicable. But yeah, most important rule is: COLORED MANA!

One final idea I had, briefly, was to go with an Ally tribal theme, as Riku’s copying ability would be pretty busted with that particular tribe! However, RGU isn’t really the optimal color combination. For every all-star we’d get like Harabaz Druid and Sea Gate Loremaster, we’d also be reduced to playing turds like Seascape Aerialist and Tuktuk Grunts. Still, with some judicious use of Changelings and Xenograft, it could be done!