Zimagic over at The Crazy 99 asked me for my current Rafiq list. I was attempting to send him a reply with a link to my list here at the blog, but I realized at that point, I hadn't actually posted the complete list, only discussed some of the Infect cards I'd added.
So, to rectify this oversight, I'm going to post the list here, for Zimagic and of course anyone else who might happen to stroll by...
As a quick recap, to start things off, I'll reiterate my intents with this deck. Rafiq has long been one of my all-time favortie generals, and this deck has always been on of my strongest decks for 1v1 play. However, as with many aggro decks, it was not optimal for multiplayer, and I wanted to see if I could improve on it's multiplayer viability without losing its 1v1 power.
Along came Scars of Mirrodin block, and with it came Infect. Infect has been a boon to all aggro fans out there in the EDH world, as it gives an aggro deck the reach necessary to take down multiple opponents instead of just one.
So, to make my Rafiq deck more viable for my 4-way FFA games, I threw in just a dash of Infect cards. I only chose the best and most appropriate - my playgroup is pretty racist against Infect for no good reason - most of them decided they hated Infect before they'd ever played a single game with or against any Infect cards. That kind of knee-jerk reaction is just plain silly, but at the same time I don't want to make my friends hate playing with me, so I kept the Infect to a minimum.
It seems to have worked out really well, so far, but with the release of the new Commander decks and all the shiny new generals to build around, I haven't really played the deck much. But enough preamble, let's talk about the list.
General: Rafiq of the Many
Akroma Angel of Wrath
Sakura Tribe Elder
Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Jenara, Asura of War
Rhox War Monk
Knight of New Alara
Sovereigns of Lost Alara
Simic Sky Swallower
Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Elspeth, Knight Errant
Wrath of God
Rite of Replication
Pattern of Rebirth
Shield of the Oversoul
Steel of the Godhead
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Sword of War and Peace
City of Brass
OK, that's the list as it stands.
Since the presence of Infect is probably the biggest talking point, let's discuss what did and didn't make it into the deck. As stated above, I wanted to keep the number of Infect cards low enough that my playgroup wouldn't shun me, but have enough that their presence would matter and improve my odds of winning.
First up, we'll start with the most recent addition - Blighted Agent. I've had Jhessian Infiltrator in the deck for a long, long time and have always been happy with its performance. In this deck, Blighted Agent is almost strictly better. It is cheap and easy to cast, and when compined with Rafiq it can kill very quickly.
Corrupted Conscience replaced Bribery simply because I needed a slot for the Enchantment, and Bribery was more useful in a different deck. Having the same CMC as well made it an easy swap, despite Bribery being overall the stronger card.
Inkmoth Nexus should be an obvious inclusion as well, but it's basically just another cheap, evasive Infect guy that happens to make mana in its spare time.
Putrefax is just another one-shot enabler, much like Might of Oaks or Sovereigns/Conscription. Saavy opponents should be used to Rafiq decks being able to one-shot them out of nowhere from time to time, so Putrefax should not be all that offensive.
Those are the four that made it in. There are some noteable exclusions that I would like to address as well.
The first and probably most notable exclusion is Blightsteel Colossus. It definitely could find a home here, but I avoided it for a few reasons. First, I don't own one. That's simple enough, but they're not exactly hard to acquire either so if I really wanted to, I could get one. The next reason is that of all the Infect cards it's probably the most likely to get groans and eye-rolls when you cast it. As I've stated, I want my playgroup to accept that I'm using Infect and this card would just make them mad. Perhaps the biggest single factor, for me, is the fact that Blightsteel doesn't NEED Rafiq to be a one-shot. Sure it can potentially take out two players in one turn with Finest Hour, but giving BSC +1/+1 and doublestrike is just win-more. Finally, aside from being too easy, it's also too expensive. My build focuses on a streamlined creature base with as low a curve as I can stand to get it. Akroma is the most expensive creature in the deck and I have trouble casting her sometimes. Adding an 11 mana creature to the mix would necessitate adding some more ramp, which would only dillute the threat-density.
The other big one is Triumph of the Hordes. Of all the Infect cards currently in print, this one has the highest potential for winning out of nowhere. In the right deck. My build, though, is not the right deck. To play this deck correctly, you're often only going to have two creatures on the field at a time, and only want to attack with one of them. Triumph of the Hordes would encourage you to play out as many threats at a time and possibly get blown-out by a Wrath. I feel like 90% of the time, Triumph would effectively just give ONE attacker +1/+1 and Infect. For 4 mana, that's just not appealing.
Spinebiter was an interesting idea, and I almost tried to find a spot for it. But, at six mana, it just sat too high on the curve.
Phyrexian Hydra looks pretty playable here, too, but ultimately seemed a bit underpowered.
Finally, Grafted Exoskeleton was a strong contender that nearly made the cut. It can turn Rafiq or nearly any other creature into a potential one-hit kill. Ultimately, that's the reason I chose not to include it, that potential to just make games revolve around me trying to tutor it up, equip it to something and kill someone with one attack. Also, it does have that potential liability to 2-for-1 you if an opponent blows it up. For any playgroup that is less opposed to Infect cards, I would rate this Equipment as a must-run.
The remaining Infect cards were passed over for being off-color or not good enough to warrant inclusion, but if you wanted to really push the Infect them there are a few others that are worth considering.
Other notable cards that are missing from this list include Jace, the Mind Sculptor (took him out for another deck that needed him more). Jace is not particularly synergystic with the deck, save that he can remove pesky blockers. This is the one deck where I'm more likely to use his Unsummon ability than not. Also, his brainstorm ability lets you put Eldrazi Conscription back into your library should you draw into it. Overall, though, he's just really good, and often fools oppoents into wasting time and resources trying to deal with him, while you set up a Rafiq kill.
Keiga the Tide Star and Yosei the Morning Star both really should be in here somewhere, and both were until recently, but I had to swap them out due to other decks needing them more.
Many players would likely want to add in some countermagic, and that's not really a bad idea. I just don't like counterspells. They're not fun, to me, so I've left them out, but throwing in a Cryptic Command and a few others would certainly not hurt the deck.
One issue with the list I posted above is that I probably have too much card-drawing. With a bunch of combat-damage-triggered draw like Cold-Eyed Selkie (this card is nuts with Rafiq!) and Hystrodon, and some spell-based draw like Foresee, I really probably overdid it there, but I am fine with that. Drawing cards is my favorite thing to do ever, and I hate being in top-deck mode more than anything else in Magic. So I tend to err on the side of abundance when selecting my card-drawers.
Cephalid Constable is one of the newest additions to the deck. I haven't had it in long enough to speak to its reliability or consistency, but the one time I did cast it and connect with an opponent, I bounced four permanents thanks to Rafiq's assistance, and that was early enough in the game that my opponent was so far behind after that one attack he scooped at 36 life.
Sphinx Ambassador was in the deck for a short time, because the thought of getting double-Bribery's off his attack trigger (go doublestrike!) was too hilarious to pass up. However, the big blue Sphinx just costs too damn much, and it NEVER survives long enough to hit anyone. The one and only time I ever successfully attacked into an opponent with the Sphinx while having Rafiq out, my opponent just scooped on the spot.
Wincat, or Felidar Sovereign, was in for a while too, and he's not bad at all, but for a less cheesey Lifelinker, Baneslayer Angel or Exalted Angel are both worthwhile inclusions, and all 3 have been in my deck at some point.
Birthing Pod is a card I fell in love with at first sight, much like Mimic Vat, but unlike Mimic Vat it hasn't panned out to be as universally good as I expected it to be. In the right deck, the Pod is almost BETTER than Survival of the Fittest, but only in the right decks. Here, though, it hasn't proved as useful as I'd hoped. I've flat-out one a game or two because of it (usually it just chains into Sovereigns FTW) but just as often I've been disappointed to draw it. I'm probably going to cut it for Mimic Vat or something else.
Green Sun's Zenith was in this slot before Birthing Pod, and it was just as disappointing. 90% of the time I cast it I desperately needed Sovereigns or Duplicant, but had to settle on Primeval Titan. It sounds weird saying that, but Prime Time just didn't do much for the deck. So he, too, was cut for other decks that needed his help way more than this deck. He's not WRONG to add if you have him, but the deck ran fine way before he was printed and it's working fine without him now, too.
Martial Coup might seem an odd choice... of all the Wrath variant, why that one? Well, simply because of Thraximundar. The deck usually relies on having one or two creatures in play at a time, rarely ever more than two. So, Thraxi was giving me quite a thrashing, forcing me to sac one guy and block with another, then I had to somehow try to cast two more creatures on my next turn or start taking General Damage.
For a while, I had Decree of Justice and Martial Coup as token-producers. Decree was better, because it could make the tokens at Instant Speed, but the Coup was a much-needed sweeper too. I also toyed with adding White Sun's Zenith, but the triple W cost was a bit unweildy. In a Thraximundar-free environment, I think Martial Coup should be swapped for nearly any other sweeper.
Tuck effects like Bant Charm or Spin into Myth probably would be great additions too, if your playgroup is fine with those effects. Mine is not, and that's ok by me.
Well, that's about it, I guess. If you have any questions about other card choices, lemme know in the comments section.