Welcomeelcome to Part 2 of the Rhys the Redeemed primer. If you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1, where I discuss the philosophy behind Rhys and walk through all of the staples of the deck. This time around, there are several discussion points on the agenda that should round out this primer. First off, I’ll cover some of the various combos that can be found in the deck, and how to best set them up. Afterwards, I’ll go over the deck’s “paths to victory”, or the many ways to set yourself up for a win. And finally, I’ll provide a few card suggestions if you want to take your Rhys deck beyond the list provided in Part 1. Let’s get started!
Make it a Combo, Deck Synergy
One of the most exciting parts of playing Magic is figuring out how certain cards can be abused in combination with other cards, and this aspect has never been more alive than in the Commander format. Some of these combos might be very obvious, while some are perhaps a bit more obscure. Either way, both categories allow you to abuse the cards in the deck to their maximum potential, and can lead to some very sweet wins. One of the things you won’t find in this section, however, are infinite combos. Part of this is my own personal preference: while I have discussed this subject elsewhere, I am not a huge fan of infinite combos in Commander because I think they detract from the fun of the game. That said, if you see the potential for any infinite combos in the deck, please don’t hesitate to point them out in the comments. I have absolutely no problem if others want to include potentially limitless combos in their decks, and this primer is meant to be for everyone. That all said, let’s take a look at some of the interactions in the deck (in no particular order):
Skullclamp + Tokens
I’ve mentioned this one several times, but it bears repeating. Skullclamp is a draw engine in this deck. It goes well with any 1/1 token, but one of the cards to look out for is Awakening Zone. After the up-front three mana investment to play the enchantment, you gain the ability to draw two extra cards a turn for just one mana. Skullclamp also works nicely with Wirewood Herald and Twilight Drover.
A simple and self-explanatory combo that nevertheless gives you some nice card advantage.
Mimic Vat can be a fun card because it allows you to copy anything that your opponents send to the graveyard. With Rhys or Doubling Season, you get to keep a permanent copy of that token out. This means that you can start copying other things with your Mimic Vat and still get the benefit from the previous cards you copied.
Glare of Subdual + Tokens
Another obvious combo that can do some interesting things. It also works quite well with Quest for Renewal. For one thing, it gives you a fresh set of creatures to tap during each of your opponents’ turns, but Glare of Subdual allows you to activate the Quest very easily, without actually putting your creatures in harms way. Glare of Subdual also works well with Sunblast Angel. You’ll lose a few tokens, but that should be nothing compared to what you can force your opponents to lose.
This is a very efficient combination. With these two cards, you can search up a creature from your library every turn for the low cost of four mana. Basically, you can continue to discard/recur the same creature card over and over again in order to fetch up new creatures each turn. Plus, if Fauna Shaman does die (which is likely), you will be able to bring her back with Genesis and keep on searching. Genesis also works quite well with Llanowar Mentor, or really any card that asks you to discard, such as Slate of Ancestry.
Kamahl, Fist of Krosa + Mass Removal
I talked about this combo briefly in Part 1, and it most certainly needs repeating. While Kamahl can be a great win condition on it’s own, it can also be a one-sided Armageddon if you have enough mana. Basically, if one of your opponents’ casts a creature board-wipe, you can use Kamahl’s ability to animate all of their lands (which are then destroyed).
With these two cards on the board together, every ability that produces a 1/1 token produces two 5/5 tokens instead. That is a fantastic increase in value. Because of the nature of Doubling Season, it’s hard to even call this a combo, since it works with every token generating effect. It is especially potent with Avenger of Zendikar, which both produces tokens as well as puts counters on them. And just try to imagine this card with Storm Herd. That’s a lot of creatures.
Victory Road, Playing to Win
In the philosophy section of the Rhys primer, I talked about how the goal of the Rhys deck is to win through creature damage. A game with Rhys will basically involve creating a bunch of small tokens, until you have a fairly large army of weenie creatures. The problem with these creatures is that they are often outclassed by the cards being played on your opponents’ sides. Which means that in order to win, you’ll have to boost them up in some manner. Admittedly, some games are won simply because you have too many 1/1 creatures to stop. More often, however, you will win the game through some kind of Overrun that effects all of your creatures at once and makes them (temporarily) very large. There are quite a few cards in the deck that do this:
The Warcaller might be a tribal card, but since most of the tokens you are creating will be elves anyway (because of Rhys), the lord-effect will be mostly global. Late game you should have the ability to tap for some absurd amounts of mana, which will make kicking this guy multiple times easy to do. To a lesser extent, you can also use Elvish Archdruid in this same manner. Also, if you happen to have him hooked up to a Soul Foundry, you can make multiples.
While one of the functions of this card is to create more tokens (in this case, saprolings), it can also serve as one of your win conditions through its second ability. If you have enough creatures, you really do not need giants to get through if, say, half-lings are enough. By this I mean that even if you can only activate the +1/+1 ability three or four times, if you have enough creatures that small increase should be enough to end most games. In a Rhys deck which specializes in tokens and mana, this should never be an issue.
This is a big one. Perhaps I overemphasize this card, but it seems that I end up winning with this card more than any others. You want to hold on to this card as a finisher, which means you shouldn’t play it until the turn you are going to swing in for the win. The boost this gives your creatures is insane, and often you can take out the entire table in one turn with this card.
Use this card in the same way as Beastmaster Ascension: as a finisher. More than likely the air will be clear, so even though the boost from this card isn’t all that special, the fact that your creatures will now be flying over your opponents’ boards makes up for this. And that your creatures are now immune to most forms of removal is no small matter either. Of course, this card goes along naturally with other creature-boosting effects.
Of course, we talked about Kamah’s first ability in the combo section, but he also has a built-in Overrun (very similar to Ezuri, Renegade Leader, which can also be a very efficient path to victory). There are quite a few cards in the deck that provide this ability. The other notable one is Garruk Wildspeaker. Kamahl is probably the best of the bunch because it affects all of your creatures (unlike Ezuri) and it can be activated multiple times in a turn (unlike Garruk).
This card is basically a very supped-up Glorious Anthem that also can act as a board-wipe for your opponents’ creatures. Not only do you get a sort of Overrun effect for your creatures (minus the trample), but you will also be clearing the board of the chaff that might have been able to chump some of your attackers.
As you can certainly see from this list, there are quite a few ways for this deck to win, which is one of it’s strengths. It does not rely on any specific combos. All it needs is a lot of creatures, and any one of the above cards to achieve victory.
Expanding Horizons, Going Beyond the List
If you thought that the list in Part 1 was missing some of your favorite cards for this type of deck, fear not. In this section, I’ll be going over some other potential adds to the deck that did not make it into the first list. Note, there are several reasons why these cards might not have made it in: personal preference, budget constraints, or sub-theme limitations. By this last I mean that some cards are a bit limited in their interaction, and require other support cards in the deck to be good (for example, the lifegain sub-theme that we have already discussed).
In order to keep things relatively organized, I’m going to use the same categories here as I did in Part 1 where I covered deck staples and card evaluations.
This card might be expensive, but it can produce a lot of tokens. In a multiplayer format like Commander, this card generates four tokens each turn rotation. Over several turns, this card can single-handily create a very large army.
Another slightly expensive card to cast and activate, however it has the advantage of being an enchantment, and therefore more difficult to remove than your typical creature token-generator. In addition, it can be activated multiple times a turn, so it can be a great mana sink, especially if you have cards like Seedborn Muse out on the field.
This is another great enchantment that produces tokens. If you team it up with card draw effects (like Skullclamp or Sylvan Library) you can generate 2/2 creatures for a very efficient cost without having to sacrifice your card draw.
This card requires no extensive explanation. With all the creatures the deck can generate, you can use the Shards to destroy all kinds of artifacts and enchantments. That said, you probably won’t be a favorite at the table after this, but the effect is definitely worth the hate.
This card seems fantastic, and will be making it into future versions of my Rhys deck. For all practical purposes, it is another Eldrazi Monument or Beastmaster Ascension for the deck. For the low cost of seven mana, you get to turn every creature on your side of the board into Akroma, Angel of Wrath. If you have pump spells of any kind, your creatures can become simply ridiculous.
In some ways, this card could be classified as both a token generator and as a token abuser, since while it does create tokens, it requires tokens to already be on the battlefield for it to be useful at all. Either way, this card seems fantastic. It is somewhat vulnerable to board wipes or removal, but it seems like it should be worth it if you can double up your tokens. My only concern with this particular card is that in some situations it might just be a “win more” card. But most of the time, it will probably enable you to set up a spectacular finish, assuming you have some way to protect your board, at least for a turn. Also, it has Flashback, so even if the board does get wiped, you can still bring it back later for another try.
This card can also be part of multiple categories, but there are several compelling reasons to include it here. It is primarily a mana-generator, but it requires lots of creatures to make it good, and as such, works more as a token-abuser. It can also produce some interesting combos. For instance, if you have a Nim Deathmantle out, and a creature that produces at least two tokens when it enters the battlefield (such as Deranged Hermit, or Avenger of Zendikar), you can get infinite mana and tokens. If you have a persist creature instead of a token generator, you can use the Altar and the Deathmantle to continually recur the persist creature.
A very efficient card for what it does. It also has the benefit of being an instant, so you can play it during your opponents’ end steps. The downside is that you have to reveal the cards, and that if you choose to fetch three creatures and do not have a means of drawing the cards immediately, you’re stalling out your next two draws. If this is late game and you have all the answers you need, and all you lack is creatures, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
A bit limited since it can only fetch green creatures, but then again, that’s most of the deck. It also has the drawback of being a sorcery. However, it does put the creature directly into play, which does not give your opponents much time to respond. Also, unless your spell is countered, the Zenith gets shuffled back into your library and you have a chance to draw it again.
Not as good as Congregation at Dawn, but it does cost one less mana to cast. Something to consider if you want to lower your curve.
This actually seems like a very powerful card. The issue is setting it up. Once you play it, your opponents are going to know what’s up and will act accordingly. Worse comes to worse, it causes your opponents’ to start attacking each other in an attempt to make sure none of them have three creatures on the board (or they just kill your enchantment). However, if you can get it to stick, you’re basically paying four mana for any two creatures in your deck, and they go right into play. I’d say that’s definitely worth it.
A more green-intensive Green Sun’s Zenith, but the convoke means you can search for something very large and only play three green, assuming you have enough creatures on the battlefield. Unlike the Zenith though, it does not shuffle back into your library, but it is an instant, which is a reasonable trade-off.
It does not get any simpler than this. One mana to search up a creature at instant speed and put it on top of your library. You have to reveal it, but overall this is decent value.
This card was in the initial list, but I removed it early because I figured I did not want my opponents to take advantage of it. After playing Commander a bit longer, I have realized that my evaluation was partially incorrect. While your opponents will be able to take advantage of the card draw if their creatures die, since you are producing vastly more creatures than they are, you should always maintain the lead in terms of card advantage. This also makes board wipes a lot better for you than your opponents. My only advice: have a Reliquary Tower handy.
This is a great card because it allows to you get what you need, when you need it. If you’re looking for extra mana, no problem. If it’s late game and you’d rather not draw any more land, this card has you covered. Also, it combos quite nicely with several other must-adds, notably Sylvan Library. The two of these cards together basically read: draw three extra cards each turn.
Speaking of Sylvan Library, this one is a definite add. It lets you filter your deck to some degree, and if you really need those extra cards, you can pay four life to keep them. This is not the drawback it normally is in other constructed formats, since you have more life to begin with, but the Library should probably be used with other cards (like Abundance or Venser’s Journal) to avoid having to lose any life at all.
A reasonable piece of card draw. Personally, if I was going to add an effect like this to the deck, I’d rather be playing Regal Force. It is one more mana, but you do get a creature out of the deal, plus if you manage to copy it on a Mimic Vat, for instance, you can get a very sweet card draw engine going.
While this is not technically a card draw spell, it is functionally the same if you have enough cards in your graveyard. It lets you get back all the goodies that were destroyed earlier in the game by your opponents’ board wipes (plus grabbing all of your non-creature permanents as well) and acts as a permanent (and irremovable) Reliquary Tower for the rest of the game.
This is a staple of the Commander format, and while it is not necessarily at its best in this particular deck, it is certainly worth considering. It allows you to filter your deck, similar to Sylvan Library, but it is almost impossible to remove since your opponents will need two consecutive removal spells to get it.
Also not technically card draw, but it allows you to filter your deck, which can be quite handy. In this instance, I’d rather have a Top. The upside to this card is that it activates without you having to pay any mana, but it is more vulnerable to removal and does not give you the option to draw a card.
One of the downsides to playing the Rhys deck is that it does not have that many ways to interact directly with the opponent. If this is something you want to balance in your build, you can add a few white staples. For instance, more mass removal such as Wrath of God, or targeted removal like Swords to Plowshares, Condemn, and Path to Exile. These are just a few options, and really it is up to your personal preference. While it is a downside that the deck does not feature that much interaction, I have found that I would rather have utility or token abusers in those slots.
Unfortunately it does not work when creatures are destroyed, but it does give you some protection for your enchantments, lands, and artifacts. Your opponents will probably think twice about blowing up your stuff when they know that you are going to hit them right back. It also has the advantage of coming down relatively early, and not being very color intensive.
This card is definitely going in the next build, because it just seems plain nuts. Just considering Rhys alone, you can double up on his token generation. In terms of his second ability, an extra two mana for twice the number of tokens is fantastic. If you consider the two abilities together, you are basically quadrupling every token on the board.
If you can afford this card, it is a must include. With all the creatures you are generating, this land will make sure you have enough mana to do basically anything you want. It is fairly self-explanatory, so I’ll stop here.
If you have been following my Rhys the Redeemed deck series from the beginning, we’ve finally reached the end (in a manner of speaking). If you have not, be sure to check them out. They talk about the evolution of the deck, plus recount a lot of the games that I played with the deck. Even if Rhys is not your thing, you might find a few other combos and cards from other decks that may interest you. As stated in Part 1 of this primer, the goal of these two articles is to provide a complete overview of Rhys as a Commander. We’ve barely started this process. What you see above (and in Part 1) is just the beginning. Commander is such an ambitious format to tackle, and there are probably hundreds of cards that we have not considered in this primer. If you have a card suggestion that you believe should be mentioned in this primer, please let us know in the comments. These articles will be continuously updated over the coming months and years as new sets are released in order to bring you the most up-to-date information.
Thank you for reading, and please leave your feedback in the comments.