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Double Trouble EDH ⫸PRIMER⫷

Commander / EDH GWU (Bant) Primer Voltron

DemMeowsephs

Maybeboard


Frontmatter

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Introduction & Origin

I welcome thee, to the one and only, Double Trouble EDH- PRIMER edition! Thank you, EVERYONE, for making this deck the NUMBER ONE (gosh..) Rafiq deck on tapped-out entirely, created around October of 2019. I know Rafiq isn't the most popular of commanders, and that reason may contribute to why this is the top deck for him on the site, but hopefully, by the time you sift through this primer you will have found some truly insane synergies and cards, that forge his power level into something else entirely, that you may not have originally seen! And mind you, NOT, as in absolutely not, in the traditional exalted way! I pride myself over the fact that this deck is exceptionally unique, with very few parallels, and in fact, the deck has advanced so much over the years that it can win quite often around turn 4 in a 1v1, WITHOUT ANY (and I mean any) infinite combos! It's inherently my child both on the site and in real life, and I'm quite happy to see it has advanced this much! I have worked super long on this primer, the decklist, and the CSS you see around you, and so if you enjoy that too be sure to drop a quick upvote, I'd appreciate it and I almost always upvote your decks in response! Enough talk though- let's see how exactly the deck works.

(On another note, beware reading on mobile- the CSS & text tends to become discolored and not function properly)

Piloting the Deck (Brief)

You are of course reading to learn about how this deck works- not its progress. So let me explain just that to you. To introduce you to the type of cards the deck plays, let me clue you into a short backstory. I started playing magic around Amonkhet, and when I was introduced to commander I knew very little about the format and had quite a low budget. After quite a bit of looking around, I found a commander I enjoyed- Rafiq of the Many . In all honesty, I can't say I saw something truly special or exceptional about him, I was just an inexperienced player- so I picked Rafiq, and put in a bunch of cheap buffing spells (i.e., things like Giant Growth ). And yet as the weeks went by, I won more and more with these cheap, fast, pump spells, until over time I became better at magic and gained knowledge about the cards. While this base may have been relatively simple, what you see now is not- many hours are spent for each cut, and yet it follows the same basic principles I originally used that are INFINITELY more effective than you may currently think.

So you see, this is of course a Voltron deck through and through, where we use low CMC spells to buff Rafiq and use even more cheap spells to make him unblockable, swinging for insane amounts of damage that 85% of the time are enough to kill someone on the spot with commander damage. You have to keep in mind- Rafiq has double strike, and in the deck you are NEVER going to be attacking with more than one creature, allowing that double strike ability to always work out (since it must be just him attacking for him to have it). Thus, a Might of Old Krosa turns into a 1 green +8/+8, insanely strong for just a single mana. With tons of these pump spells, and a small unblockable spell (such as Distortion Strike ), we swing in for 21+ commander damage and kill people out of literally nowhere. Many people diss my commander deck, saying it's not "proper Voltron", with their ideas of equipment and auras, but they tend to think differently after Rafiq demolishes them. I've certainly tested with auras, equipment, and even counters, and they are indeed good- but they tend to be slower- whereas we on the other hand invoke the essence of speed. The deck has tons of great lands, a wonderful ramp list to get Rafiq out fast, draw to ensure we get what we need, removal and disruption to keep everyone else in check, and SO much more! So to read about some of these interesting categories, spells, and synergies, sift through this primer! I guarantee you'll find some things that'll take you by surprise, as there is much more than what meets the eye...

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Why Rafiq?

Before I get into the deck, I wanted to answer a question I get quite a lot. Why Rafiq? Despite what it may seem, this decision now makes a great deal of sense compared to my first few months with him and is very thought out, even though I may have started with him by simply chancing upon him. I talked about how the deck works and wins, but not why Rafiq is the commander, as opposed to any other Voltron commander. Let's take a look at the colors first.

  • : The biggest and most important color to be able to use is green, for two major reasons. Green opens up a neverending list of options for ramping fast and efficiently, and without it most colors are left with a few common spells that work with their colors (I.e High Tide , Dark Ritual ), and artifacts. Instead, green opens up the use of virtually everything else, a key factor in getting Rafiq out fast. Green also enables pumping, as the only color than can then come close is white, though a great deal less effectively than green. Green has all sorts of pump spells, which are the core category of the deck.
  • : So what other colors are important? Well, for sure the deck needs unblockable spells to function as intended, and without blue you're simply stuck with things like Prowler's Helm and Whispersilk Cloak . Instead with blue, the concept of cheap, one-time use spells was opened up, as well as cheap enchantments. Blue also enabled virtually all counterspells, a very key part of disruption.
  • : The final color in the deck is white, the more debatable color. The reason we mainly play white is because it allows us to use Rafiq! Red and black (temur/sultai) simply don't have the proper commanders for this sort of deck, though Kalamax, the Stormsire is definitely up there. The thing is, Kalamax only copies our first spell, while Rafiq basically doubles every single one (double strike). Yes, Kalamax can double other things but for the speedy concept this deck aims for, Rafiq is our man!

But colors aside, Rafiq is seriously great, not only because of what his colors enable but also because of how he is built, and his abilities! He is literally a fighter in the lore, and perfectly fits our deck, for a number of reasons. Rafiq only needs +7/+7 to completely kill someone, because he begins at a 3/3, gets +1/+1 from his exalted trigger (saving us 2 points of damage to deal), meaning on his own he's basically a 4/4 doing 8 commander damage because of his double strike. Even everything after this is doubled because of his double strike ability, making a Giant Growth 6 commander damage out of 21- for just a single mana! Put these together with 1-2-3 pump spells, and an unblockable spell so our opponents can't block, and you can call it a game! This is why Rafiq is so strong, but let's keep reading to learn more about the card choices and deck itself!

On a side note, he is also great against many types of decks, especially lifegain ones. They can gain all the life we want, but in the end, all we care about is commander damage, making all that lifegain virtually useless (though this is true for most Voltron decks).

The Manabase

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Dual Lands

So let's jump into the deck! We all know the pain of not hitting our land drops, and I for one simply can't live with that feeling, stressing the importance of a strong landbase. I personally LOVE to play lands and ramp up a ton on early turns, and I think we can all agree it feels good. However, having a bunch of ramp and proper lands isn't just something entirely for fun- Rafiq needs to get out EARLY, and we can't afford for him to come out even the barest of turns later than he should- I can ensure this with yes ramp, but also with what you are about to see- a good land base! There are indeed some upgrades to come in the future, such as the rest of the fetch lands, but in the moment, let's check out all the dual lands! Each of these duals included is included with its brethren of the same ability, and while this is not so for every deck it is for this one as the color pie is relatively balanced and we need every color to get Rafiq our fast! If you're an experienced player and know the benefits of shocks and fetches, feel free to just scan the list- otherwise, let's go take a look! (On a side note, I utterly hate tap lands so you won't see too many here!)

  • Hallowed Fountain / Breeding Pool / Temple Garden : The shock lands are SUPER useful, providing access to 2 different colors and only a 1 time etb fee of simply two life, a fee that can be waived if they aren't immediately needed. This in itself makes them super useful and unconditional: either they come in tapped or not, no revealing lands or other checks to worsen them. What truly adds on to their power though is their ability to be tutored by fetch lands, something I'll talk about in just a moment.
  • Windswept Heath / Misty Rainforest / Flooded Strand : The fetch lands are by far the strongest lands in the deck, allowing me to get any colors I need instantly! Since they don't require you to search for basics you can search for anything with the subtypes specified by the fetch, and so something for example with a forest subtype can be searched for by either Windswept Heath or Misty Rainforest. The point this makes is that we can tutor for the shock lands (mentioned above) with these fetch lands, meaning if we have a misty rainforest and we need a white, we could find Hallowed Fountain / Temple Garden , as opposed to just a basic. In this deck they even have a special synergy with Sylvan Library , though that will be mentioned in card draw. To talk a little more about the fetches outside of this deck, they are super useful with cards like Crucible of Worlds , as you have to sac them to use them, meaning you can play a fetch land once every single turn, guaranteeing you land drops each turn. They also provide two landfall triggers, one with the fetch and one for what they search for, a great ability with something like Lotus Cobra (not in the deck). These extra synergies are excluded since I find them a bit conditional, and do not have all allowed fetches in the deck.
  • Polluted Delta / Marsh Flats / Arid Mesa / Wooded Foothills / Scalding Tarn : So we have the three fetches in our colors as mentioned above, and yet we also have the fetches NOT necessarily in our colors, that have at least ONE of our colors. This is because they work very similarly to the fetches IN our colors, as with any of these we can find any color we want- for example, with Polluted Delta , we could get green with Breeding Pool , white with Hallowed Fountain , and blue from either of the previous- a concept that works with all of these fetches. Additionally, they have similar benefits and functions to those outlined previously!
  • Razorverge Thicket / Seachrome Coast / Botanical Sanctum : These are the fast lands, and they are quite fast! Playing them early on allows you to use them instantly at no cost, and while this may be too conditional for some decks, it works just fine with us, as we rarely need more than 3 lands to get rafiq out due to the sheer number of ramp spells and low average CMC! While they can be a pain if they're the fourth land you draw with no ramp, this is a unlikely scenario and can be a great substitute for other fetch lands.
  • Adarkar Wastes / Brushland / Yavimaya Coast : These three pain lands are JUST GREAT, completely unconditional and can always provide colorless mana if you can't pay life. No coming in tapped, no conditions, just immediate use at the cost of but a single life! Having options is a key part of magic, and being able to use lands like this immediately even with the price of a small amount of life is truly key, especially in a speedy deck like this one!
  • Horizon Canopy / Waterlogged Grove : The horizon lands are super useful, and it is to my great disappointment that there is no one, though you can guarantee it'll come in the moment its printed! These guys are great for reasons similar to the pain lands, providing instant, free, mana at the expense of but a single life, with no strings attached! If you're low on cards, or simply have enough mana, these guys are super good, providing card draw for just a single extra mana with the sacrifice!

Single Lands

Duals are just great, but what about all the great and unique lands that stand alone? The deck would not be the same without these guys, and while the balance of duals is great, these guys do a ton of work, efficiently working the mana base! Let's check them out!

  • Ancient Tomb : One of the best lands in the deck and a staple in most games, Ancient tomb is simply an amazing card! It works great in playing our artifacts, especially on early turns, allowing us to cast things like Talisman of Curiosity , Sol Ring , and Arcane Signet quickly and ramp super fast! While it can be a real feel bad when our only other lands are things that also produce colorless, it is a huge asset in the deck and works wonderfully.
  • Command Tower : Is there anything that needs to be said here? Any color we want or need, with no expense. Yeah it's staying in the list forever.
  • Reflecting Pool : An awesome card that works nicely with any "any color" producing sources I may happen to have! Indeed it also disregards activation costs, and can produce any color that anything I have can produce, whether I can pay an activation or not. This means it works great at dodging life costs on things like City of Brass . It's a pretty big feel bad on turn 1 though, but if that's what you had in your hand you should have mulliganed- so you aren't often in that situation!
  • City of Brass / Mana Confluence : As is a common pattern you may have noticed, these lands are great as they are unconditional, come in untapped, and provide ANY color we may need! While the life can add up, these are probably the most efficient lands the deck has to offer.
  • Prismatic Vista : This is also a great fetch land allowing you to chose, yes, from basics, but still they come in untapped and can be very useful in almost all situations. Just like the previous fetches, it too works great with Sylvan Library , though again, that will be mentioned later when Sylvan library is mentioned. Fetches are super useful, and even though the deck doesn't run many basics, it also doesn't run many effects that need to search for basics, and so prismatic vista is a super safe play since you'll almost always be able to find the basic you need, and certainly a basic in general.

(I'll talk about the land I missed, Reliquary Tower , a bit later!). If you want to see more about lands, there are certainly a few I'm considering down below in my maybe board decisions section!

And so, that about sums up the land section! However- the manabase has MUCH more to offer than that! Let's take a look at the ramp spells!

Mana Dorks

And now, we move on to ramp! Ramping is by far, one of the most crucial and important parts of this deck, as getting Rafiq out early can EASILY decide the fate of the game. With the ramp cards in this deck, you can get him out anywhere from turn 2 and beyond, thus giving you a hopefully speedy win as the theme of the deck goes. Some people have mentioned that there is too much ramp in the deck, but trust me, the deck has the perfect amount of ramp necessary to win, no more and no less! And so, first off, mana dorks. This is a pretty interesting and synergistic section, and since the dorks don't need to be mentioned too much individually, this will begin as one exceptionally section in itself! Before we go over the connections between the dorks, let's look at them individually.

  • Noble Hierarch : Not only does it provide any kind of mana this deck could need, but it ALSO has exalted, buffing Rafiq and giving mana, making it one of the best ramp cards in the deck, especially for just a single mana! While I certainly don't base the deck on the typical exalted theme, having a dork with it is ALWAYS welcome, especially since its easy to miss killing someone by just a point!
  • Bloom Tender : By far one of the best dorks in the deck, as at worse it will simply tap for a green, acting as an "eh" 2 mana dork. While it costs a green and would tap for a green with nothing else out, this can pay for the in Rafiq's cost, as long as you can pay the , which you most likely will be able to do. What makes it great, is that AFTER Rafiq is out or if we have other permanent spells with different colors (some likely ones are Mother of Runes , Giver of Runes , Soothsaying , and more), then tender will tap for MORE than one- once Rafiq is out it taps for 3, and if you can pay 4 for Rafiq and still leave bloomer untapped, when you put him out you'll be able to immediately tap bloom and essentially do anything necessary, especially things that might protect Rafiq.
  • Birds of Paradise : A great flying blocker, costs simply 1 green, and taps for ANY color we might need! A great dork in the deck, and an extremely useful one at that.
  • Sylvan Caryatid , another great blocker that can add any sort of mana we need. These cheaper, permanent dorks that can add any color are seriously a huge help in the deck, as it is those first two turns of ramp that are really the most crucial.
  • Ilysian Caryatid : a dork that has brought much fortune and aid to the deck since its addition, providing mana to cast Rafiq and giving us more once he is out/attacks, etc. A simple strategy for Illysian is to attack, making Rafiq have a power of 4 (allowing Illysian to tap for two), then tap Ilysian and play pump spells! Like was stated with Sylvan, having these smaller dorks that add 1 are truly a great asset in the deck, especially when played on earlier turns.
  • Selvala, Heart of the Wilds : a dork that sadly does NOT typically help put Rafiq out, unless I'm on turn 3 with no ramp, in which case it can help if we miss our turn 4 land drop, but this is really just trivial as its power post-Rafiq is just INSANE! You can pump Rafiq in whichever ways you want, even during combat, and then tap a green and selvala to add TONS of mana, typically around 10-11, which can be used to cast more pump spells, empty out our hand, and synergize greatly with tons of card draw! It also can possibly draw us a card if we have it out before Rafiq enters!

A huge synergy though for three of those dorks is the use of Pemmin's Aura . I originally bought it for the deck (unbeknownst of its synergy) as it can protect, buff, and have a chance at getting Rafiqs damage through. Especially if we just need that extra point of damage in, Pemmin can be super powerful. However, the real power is the fact that Bloom Tender + Pemmin's Aura , Pemmin's Aura + Selvala, Heart of the Wilds , AND Ilysian Caryatid + Pemmin's Aura all give me infinite mana, which is a great addition to the deck if it comes up. For those who don't know, you can essentially tap the dork for more than 2 mana (one of which must be blue), and then untap it with one blue, and repeat infinitely for infinite mana. Keep in mind, since bloom tender produces one of each with it you only get infinite /, though even that should be enough to do whatever you need. Normally this infinite mana SURPRISINGLY isn't so useful, as we don't have many mana sinks, though of course, it's obviously a great synergy between the cards! A sink that will be mentioned later though, is Soothsaying .

Rocks & Ramp Spells

Aside from these dorks and their synergies, there are still a great many Ramp spells. The core idea of ramp in the deck involves small, early spells as opposed to big crazy rampers, like Kodama's Reach or Oracle of Mul Daya , which cost way too much mana. So let's take a look at the rest of my ramp choices for the deck!

  • Three Visits / Nature's Lore : These guys work WONDERFULLY for a few reasons, the first being their similarity to the fetch lands- unlike many typical ramp spells ( Cultivate , Kodama's Reach , etc.), these guys don't require a basic subtype, more like Farseek all things considered. However, with shock lands, they are MUCH better than farseek, since you can get any color you need- need a blue? Fetch Breeding Pool . White? Temple Garden ! To even further this ability, they allow the lands to come in UNTAPPED, essentially allowing us to use them immediately, synergizing great with any extra 1 drops we might want to play, such as Birds of Paradise or Soothsaying . Even if you don't use that extra land you got into play right then, it's basically a net 1 colorless to get that for later turns.
  • Sol Ring / Talisman of Curiosity / Arcane Signet : Other permanent ramp spells are my mana rocks! Sol ring is a huge staple in so many commander decks and is GREAT in ramping, especially on turn 1. Sol ring can be used immediately (the turn it is put out) and offers two colorless- one of which can help Rafiq, but can also be used to cast SO many other things, including ALL of the other mana rocks mentioned here, pump spells, and basically half the deck! It's a very useful rock just as the game progresses, and works great on cards that have in their mana cost, for obvious reasons. Talisman of Curiosity is personally my favorite, as it costs (great with Ancient Tomb / Sol Ring ), and can add either of the simic colors the turn it is put out at the expense of only a single life. This means, by playing this, you can immediately play any one-drops (which works great on early turns when you have things like Noble Hierarch , and other such 1 mana cards that work nicely from an early standpoint). Lastly, Arcane Signet is a SUPER powerful card, functioning similar to the talisman but even better, as it adds ANY color we need, and does not cost us life, having the same benefits as the talisman: we can use it immediately, and tap it for one mana spells the turn its out, or even bigger spells (most likely dorks on early turns) if we have extra lands open. All of these rocks are just great in putting us a turn ahead, and work great on both early turns, and as support even later.
  • Lotus Petal : One card I've been testing and enjoying lately is Lotus Petal, a great card in a deck that likes to focus on a speedy win. This can help me EASILY get Rafiq out earlier, especially with other ramp spells or on turn 3 with no other ramp, and costs literally nothing which is great since we can use it immediately. While it is a one-time use ramp spell that doesn't give us anything permanent, it can help put us a turn ahead at no other cost. We can even sacrifice it in response to something destroying it, whether we use the mana or not, giving us a great option until the end of the phase! It's also super great with mass card draw with cards mentioned later, as if we draw it, we can play it for nothing, and use it to play more things from our hand. It's additionally great on early turns, if we want to play a dork or card draw or anything really early on, allowing us to get stuff from our hand that we normally wouldn't be able to without a land- and it's even better in double mana costs like Selvala, Heart of the Wilds or Pemmin's Aura .
  • Bear Umbra : The most costly ramp spell in the deck, and unlike almost everything else does NOT help in putting Rafiq out, but instead has a super strong ability in Ramp and in multiple other categories. While it may seem like a lot to play in a speedy deck like this one (that could be 4 mana of Pump spells...), it can pay off the exact turn its played. Untapping your lands can give you more mana to play pump spells DURING combat which can be very unexpected and helpful in almost all games, additionally letting us play anything we can play at instant speed. Keep in mind, this isn't even a damage based trigger, it's on ATTACK, meaning we can play things before the damage, etc. But this in itself isn't exactly worth it- the fact that it also protects Rafiq is something truly important in a deck that revolves around him, as it's essentially giving him a minor form of indestructible, and discourages attacks against him, allowing us to more likely untap those lands! Heck, it even gives him a +2/+2 buff, proving very important, believe it or not, as we do have to make up for the spells we may have wanted to cast at sorcery speed. But anyway, that about sums up the Ramp section- but alas my friend we are JUST getting started! Let's take a look at the stuff the deck REALLY works with- pump and unblockable spells!

Combat

Unblockable Spells

You pump Rafiq, than attack, but what happens if your opponents just block? Yes, you could give it flying, but what if your opponents have fliers? I hated that about Voltron Decks, and since blocking was the main reason I continued to lose, I knew I had to do something about it. I would end up having so many pump spells, and then my opponents would just block, and I'd end up flipping the table. To avoid broken tables, I added a good deal of spells that can help Rafiq give that Commander Damage without worrying about blocking. I understand these take-up spots that could be well used in a commander deck for other cards, a good deal of spots for that matter, but having them can change the tides of most games by not giving my opponents a way out, and coming in very unexpected. Seriously- I should be adding MORE of these, not less, and I guarantee this deck will be 90% worse without them, especially if you play against people who know what to expect. Their small mana costs and easy use allow me to easily add them on in a turn of pump spells, and swing in for a one-hit KO- and having the amount I do in the deck ensures that I can continue this 1 hit KO against multiple people- while also ensuring I have one at all when facing someone. Let's take a close look at the unblockable spells I included. Additionally, rather than organize these by card they are sorted into bulleted categories since each unblockable spell doesn't need to be explained individually.

  • Shadow Rift / Slip Through Space / Aqueous Form : These first two provide very helpful card draw, which is always good in getting me the last pump spell I needed to kill someone in one turn, with a similar effect from Aqueous Form, though not as immediate. Sometimes, if I have a few unblockable spells, I feel comfortable with simply using these on their own and just drawing a card, even if Rafiq isn't it out yet, especially if I need another land or ramp spell, etc. Since the effects last until the end of turn, you can safely just target an opponent's creature since they obviously can't attack on your turn, or you can simply target a mana dork if you need to have a target for the spell to resolve. Either way, while the card draw is minimal, it can really help you get those last few cards you need to set up the gameplan, and since they also can give Rafiq unblockable, they simply had to be included- especially with such cheap costs! On a side note, Aqueous form is one of the best unblockable spells in the deck, being permanent, costing a mere blue like the rest, and also allows us to scry- it can even be played the turn we play Rafiq if we have an extra blue open.
  • Artful Dodge / Distortion Strike / Thassa, God of the Sea : Another important type of unblockable spell in the deck are the reusable ones! That's right ladys and gents- ALWAYS recycle your unblockable spells! It's great for the environment! But for real, something like Artful Dodge is amazing, because of its cheap flashback cost, which really makes it two unblockable spells in one. That means from one card, I can have two ensured turns of unblockableness (is that a word?) for Rafiq, with only one blue mana per turn. If I don't draw any other unblockable spells, Artful is ridiculously powerful, and I have to say it has truly saved me many games. Distortion Strike s second ability is also similar to Artful Dodge , except even better, as it does not even require a mana cost at the next turn, basically giving us two entire turns of unblockable, which is almost always enough to kill someone, at the expense of just one mana. The good thing about Artful dodge though when compared to Distortion strike, is that if someone kills Rafiq by that time, I can simply flash it back later, but with Distortion, I have no choice but to cast it the following turn- as in, I can't cast it on a turn besides the following one. The last and possibly one of the riskiest is Thassa, God of the Sea ! Thassa definitely breaks my mana cost rule, but sometimes you really just don't have enough spells to have unblockable 4+ times to kill multiple players, especially if you can't knock out each one in one hit. That's where Thassa comes in- for 3 mana to cast we get to scry continuously, and also have the 2 mana option (not so bad) to make Rafiq unblockable. So Thassa is great, though if you draw it AFTER Rafiq is cast it can be a bit problematic due to (surprise, surprise!) mana costs. But, it is also hard to get rid of due to its indestructible abilities, so if someone is having a hard time with these unblockable spells that just sucks for them, unless of course they can counter abilities or something similar.
  • Aether Tunnel / Spirit Mantle / Steel of the Godhead : Sometimes though, unblockable spells AREN'T just unblockable spells. They're pump spells too! Just like you saw previously on Distortion Strike , cards like Aether Tunnel , Spirit Mantle , and Steel of the Godhead , also have similar effects- with some bonuses too. All 3 of these new cards are enchantments, meaning for just a mana more we don't have to deal with problems like recasting- they stay with Rafiq unless he is killed! Spirit Mantle fulfills this (since protection includes not being blocked), but it also protects Rafiq from abilities, damage, and any other sort of thing we might have to deal with due to creatures- and, gives him a small buff. Aether tunnel isn't as good as this, but it too is permanent and gives Rafiq a similar buff! Finally, steel is the most expensive in mana, but is INSANELY better, as for just 1 mana more not only does Rafiq get an extra buff compared to the others, but he also gets lifelink- meaning we are pretty much gaining around 15 life a turn, JUST off of that! While lifelink really doesn't contribute to our main goal, it certainly can be game-saving and is a wonderful extra effect- especially since the in steel can come from thinks like Sol Ring and Ancient Tomb .
  • Giver of Runes / Mother of Runes : Another effect similar to what was seen on Spirit mantle is protection effects! Giver of Runes can protect him from other spells as well, in the same way Spirit Mantle did and can be put out earlier, making it a super good card. Having it out there can really discourage attacks at him, and they also provide a first target rather than Rafiq being the primary one. It's actually a TON better than spirit mantle since I can use this to give him protection from a certain color, which is super powerful against removal. If I have giver untapped, someone plays a removal spell, I can tap giver in response and give him protection from that color, making the removal spell fizzle out, useless! And of course, the primary use, where I give him protection from a color, making him unblockable to that color- which doesn't always work against multicolored decks but is still DEFINITELY worth it due to the flexibility of the giver. Mother of Runes is quite similar, and while it does not offer protection from colorless spells, it also does allow "any target". This means if someone tries to get rid of it, I can activate it in response and protect itself, whereas the giver can not do that as it says "Other" creatures.
  • Last but not least, very briefly I have two very standard unblockable spells, with no extra effects besides the obvious use: Cloak of Mists , and Infiltrate great because of their cheap and effective cost, despite not giving extra effects like others! They still always beat bulky things like Whispersilk Cloak / Prowler's Helm and continue to revolve around and work for our theme!

Pump Spells

Now pump spells are, as you may have guessed, pretty much the most important aspect of the deck. They are all relatively cheap in mana, which is what makes them just so powerful. As is known, there is strength in numbers (pun intended). Again, I know many people prefer super big equipment spells and enchantments, but for Rafiq, we simply use one time use spells, or cheap equipment/enchantments that can make a difference, that pump A LOT!

  • Might of Old Krosa : Might of old Krosa is a great card, giving Rafiq +4/+4 for only one mana, though it also gives us the option to be cast as an instant for only +2/+2, which is not an amazing option, but still an option nonetheless. An important thought to keep in mind is that Rafiq needs +7/+7 not including his exalted trigger to get a one-hit kill, and thus, having +4/+4 can seriously help support that especially if I only need one more for +3/+3 or less to automatically get the kill. We typically end up casting this at sorcery speed, since our opponents won't usually be able to block anyway, though instant speed is also always an option.
  • Groundswell : Groundswell is a card less driven by choice, and while it usually gives Rafiq +4/+4 anyway, situations do happen where it doesn't work out. If you didn't somehow play a land that turn, there is of course the weaker option though I would rather recommend waiting until later turns, unless of course +2/+2 is all you need to knock someone out. I don't enjoy using conditional cards as such, but sometimes they end up being one of the best options, just like in this case, as groundswell can usually turn out quite fine in my experiences.
  • Giant Growth : While this is well known and self explanatory, do keep in mind that these are some of the most efficient pump spells in magic for this sort of theme, and giant growth fits in just perfectly. While it only pumps for 3/7 damage needed to kill someone, it costs very little, and it is usually the kind of pump spell we need to add on to literally ANY other pump spell in order to kill someone, assuming you get the maximum out of the other spell (i.e., +4 from either of the two above, not +2). It is very cheap, easily can be added on to other spells, and works perfectly.
  • Phytoburst : Phyto gives Rafiq +5/+5, almost everything he needs to perform a one-hit KO, though of course, it is sadly a sorcery- except for Rafiq that isn't a huge deal. Why? Because as mentioned before, we don't typically have to worry about blockers due to the immense evasion in the deck. Nonetheless, if our opponents know what is happening when we swing it can get quite dangerous, though again in many of my experiences, it doesn't make a ridiculously large difference. If people can kill Rafiq on our turn, they can obviously respond at instant speed just as effectively. Titanic Growth : Titanic is pretty straightforward, can be cast at instant speed, pumps Rafiq with 4/7 of what is needed, and isn't conditional whatsoever. Larger Than Life / Monstrous Growth : Larger and monstrous are similar to Phytoburst and with each other, and while they obviously aren't the best, we have to remember, that this 2 mana for +4/+4 is basically +8/+4 for 2 mana instead, obviously being extremely powerful. While we don't use trample (in regard to larger than life), it can indeed work great if you need to get that damage in (say with something like Hunter's Insight , mentioned later).
  • Might of the Nephilim : Might of the Nephilim is possibly one of the best here, doing everything I need to one-hit someone aside from a single point of damage, that I can almost always deal with using a separate pump spell or on the following turn. +6+6 is INSANE for only two mana, essentially giving us +12/+12, at instant speed. Aside from it's great strength, there isn't too much to mention here.
  • Might of Oaks : Might of oaks, the one pump spell that completely knocks someone out aside from the use of any other pump spells. While it does cost 4 mana, 3 of that is colorless which I can usually easily get with all the ramp I have in the deck, as I never usually have to cast it for all 4. Might of oaks is all we need to buff Rafiq, and the great thing about it is that it can be cast at instant speed, after blockers are declared. So we can easily bluff and swing with Rafiq and then kill someone out of nowhere if we have no unblockable spells.
  • Blossoming Defense : Blossoming Defense is AWESOME, as it provides protection and can (and has) save Rafiq from being killed or targeted by virtually anything, a very valuable ability, and yet on top of this ALSO pumps him, helping us get that last few points of damage we may need to win. I seriously can't overstate the power of protecting Rafiq like this, and as blossoming defense not only protects but also pumps, it is a super valuable card.
  • Vines of Vastwood : Like blossoming defense, Vines of vastwood is also SUPER powerful, as for the average two mana like pump spells mentioned above, it can pump by 4, and is also an instant, not a sorcery. And yet we ALSO get the advantage of protection for Rafiq with the spell, proving exceptionally strong, especially compared to ones like Monstrous Growth . Even if we don't have the full 2 mana open, and just per say need to protect Rafiq against a spell someone cast, we can also do that, by not kicking it! Spells that give you options like this are extremely useful in the deck, and I can't emphasize their importance enough.
  • Stonewood Invocation : Now here's a pump spell that most definitely isn't so straightforward. For 4 mana we get a very large buff, looking at +10/+10 in total due to double strike, and while for the same mana we can get a K/O with something like Triumph of the Hordes which isn't in the deck, this card can be cast at instant speed, and protects Rafiq a LOT. It gives him hexproof so we can most definitely swing in for the damage we want, but most of all, it can't be countered and makes it so nothing else can be played on the stack. This ensures we can get our damage through, but can also be used to stop a combo we have a feeling is coming, as our opponent might play an ability that they need to combo with, and if they don't hold priority we can play this so they can't respond to the ability in time to combo. Pretty weird, but it works like a charm!
  • Briar Shield : Briar shield is an awesome card, and while it may look like it would be used as an enchantment, it's more along the lines of a temporary pump spell. For just a single green, we can enchant Rafiq (working wonderfully if you have a single extra mana after you play him), and get the minor buff for the time being. Then, when we move to attack (whether it being the same turn or a turn before), we can sacrifice it, and get a Giant Growth -like buff. Typically our opponents forget it can be sacced, and even if they don't, an interesting tactic to consider is that if they move to destroy it, sacrifice it in response, so you essentially get the buff anyway and they wasted a spell.
  • Seal of Strength : Seal of strength is quite amazing for the same reasons as Briar shield above- you can play it for a single mana even BEFORE Rafiq comes out, though of course, you'd have to be wary of enchantment removal. People typically don't see its power until it is too late though, meaning I can usually do such safely. It is also good because if someone goes to destroy it, you can sacrifice it in response and still get the pumping part, as was stated with Briar shield, making it quite flexible with whatever is going on. Having it out before the turn Rafiq can attack is valuable, as that extra mana can seriously save us in many, MANY, instances.
  • Mutagenic Growth / Invigorate : These literally cost no mana and are almost never seen coming, increasing the chance of your victory, and helping you win even if you don't have any mana left over. You typically don't want to hard cast them, though I suppose that is also always an option. For mutagenic though, it's almost always better to cas it with life, since you don't know what kind of pay-mana counterspells your opponents may have. Playing things like this after you are tapped out for such a small price is so strong, as they can usually finish the job if I'm tapped out from pump and unblockable spells. Even if I'm not, they are still ridiculously powerful, for SURE. While Invigorate is indeed conditional, we usually have a forest, due to the basics, shocks, fetches, and other cards that can give us forest subtypes.
  • Berserk : Berserk is an expensive but amazing pump spell, though by itself it isn't necessarily the best. After you play one of the lesser pump spells, Berserk can completely finish the job, and is super cheap in mana letting us usually have some mana leftover afterward as well, to cast anything else I may wish to do. Even by itself, it is basically a 1 mana +/3+3 which is already the strength of Briar Shield or Giant Growth ! After that, it just gets even stronger. One of the most amazing parts about Bersek is also, its synergy with indestructible since it says "DESTROY", oddly enough rather than sacrifice. Some cards mentioned later give Rafiq this ability, letting us double his power for one mana at no second cost.
  • But alas, what about the more permanent pump spells? well- enchantments make up the majority of this sub-section! Blessing of the Nephilim wouldn't normally be something you'd want, but due to the fact it lasts much longer than something like Giant Growth , it has functioned very well in the deck and is a great supporter for something like berserk. It also helps represent white more in the deck and even out the colors used.
  • Bastion Protector : Bastion is an awesome card, helping represent white more in the deck and can be played BEFORE Rafiq comes out, working great with cards that give 2 colorless like Ancient Tomb and Sol Ring . Having this buff can be extremely helpful to add on to other pump spells, and the indestructible on the other hand can be very useful in protecting Rafiq, also synergizing well with Berserk. Having a buff and protection is very useful on the same card, especially when it can be played before Rafiq is out!
  • Shield of the Oversoul : Shield is also quite synergistic with berserk, due to the indestructible, and it too gives Rafiq +2/+2 in addition to this ability. While it cannot be put out before Rafiq is out, it is much more flexible in its mana cost, and also gives Rafiq the extra flier ability, which is always great especially if your opponents obviously don't have fliers, as it saves us the cost of unblockable spells.
  • Favor of the Overbeing is also similar to Shield, allowing us to save Rafiq as a blocker and giving us a better chance at getting his damage in, and of course pumping him by two extra, which actually turns out to 4 due to his double strike, just like with the previous two cards. Like shield, it is also flexible in its mana cost, and costs very little.

Keep in mind, there are quite a few cards I will talk about or have talked about in other sections that also buff Rafiq! To quickly state these cards, there is Aether Tunnel , Distortion Strike , Noble Hierarch , Spirit Mantle , Pemmin's Aura , Bear Umbra and Steel of the Godhead .

Utility

Draw/Tutors/Filters

Another point I want to make is card draw! At first glance, you may just see the card draw section with only a few cards and go wow, this dude doesn't have too much draw! You're right, I don't have too much, but in fact I have quite a few other cards as well that are also card draw as secondary effects- first let's talk about the main card draw spells.

  • Hunter's Insight : Hunter's insight is one of the best cards in the deck and is AMAZING for me, as in the average swing, Rafiq deals from 14-28 damage in one hit. That's a TON of cards to draw in one turn. With all these cards you simply take the best pump spells, an unblockable spell or two, maybe some removal (more on that in a second), or anything you happen to find. After this happens, there's almost no stopping Rafiq. It works great with some effects like that on Larger Than Life , because even if we don't have more pump spells, the damage from trample gets through and draws us a few cards. With our usual unblockable spells, we can be talking 14-28 cards in a swing, especially with Mutagenic Growth -like effects. Additionally, if you can set up an infinite mana combo, it can be pretty cool to be able to play anything you need from your hand, or if you can keep the hand with a Reliquary Tower .
  • Hunter's Prowess : Being very similar to Hunter's Insight , this card works great in drawing us a TON of cards, and again synergizes nicely with trample effects, Reliquary Tower , and the infinite mana combos. However, this is one of the most expensive cards in the deck, an insane amount of mana for one spell for us. With the amount of Ramp we have it isn't unlikely to be played, but the chance to add on an unblockable spell WITH pump spells is unlikely, and so this is one of the few cards saved for a longer game.
  • Day's Undoing : Another factor is when you run out of cards- it happens to everyone obviously, but in this deck, it happens FAST. The average mana cost has stayed under 2 for very long, and there are very few huge mana cards. I end up playing all my pump spells and unblockable spells, with most of my Ramp spells already out from earlier, and by the end of the turn I have virtually nothing left in my hand. When this happens you just hope you can swing in with Rafiq and not die. OR NOT. Cards like Day's Undoing are a HUGE part of this deck that I really love. When you have only 1-2 cards left in your hand or even less, get a refresh, and possibly ruin your opponent's hands too, though there is of course the risk they may benefit from the new hand. You can also swing with Rafiq and THEN play Days too because it automatically ends the turn, so it's good to get that swing in if you can.
  • Sylvan Library : Sylvan library is one of the best card draw spells the deck has to offer, working best when played early (preferably pre-Rafiq), and can get us a TON of cards- essentially draw 3 per turn if we want, which we usually will take in order to ease the speedy win. Even if you don't like the cards on top, you should be taking the cards so that you can drew better ones that may come after. It also has a great synergy with fetch lands- you can look at the top few and do your thing with the triggers (choosing most likely all 3 in this scenario), and then cracking the fetch in response to the draw trigger during your draw step that allows you to draw additional ones. This essentially shuffles the library before the trigger, and then still letting you draw the cards just different ones if the ones on top weren't in your favor at that moment.
  • Rhystic Study : While Rhystic doesn't typically help us from early on (it most certainly still can), it's insane level of power after its played simply meant it had to be included, even if it doesn't seem to be in our speedy theme. The turn cycle after we play it draws us basically around 5 cards if not more before the following turn, possibly giving us land drops or ramp that we may have needed to put Rafiq out, where after that we can get any other cards we need, obviously synergizing great with Reliquary Tower and again, infinite mana combos, much more so than the rest besides the hunter pair. It can also be played easily when paired with Sol Ring / Ancient Tomb .
  • Mystic Remora : Now Mystic definitely fits into our speedy win, not lasting too long (you don't want to be paying 3 and not playing other things because of it), but in its short time can prove very effective, in a similar way to Rhystic Study. While it is only non-creature spells, this means all the rocks, most other ramp spells, anything necessary besides dorks to build a fundamental gameplan counts, and in higher-power games, it only gets stronger. Just be mindful of the timing, as if this is a time your opponent might play their commander, or not need to ramp, you might want to save it for a better time- especially in the earlier turns.
  • Brainstorm : For just a single blue at instant speed (meaning it can be played on our opponents end-step), we can draw THREE cards, quite a lot of cards for just a single blue, allowing us to hit a land drop if we needed to at that moment, get that last pump spell we needed or possibly an unblockable spell, or even help us find an answer to disrupt our opponents! While we do have to put two cards FROM OUR HAND (not necessarily what we drew) back on the top, we essentially get to redraw those cards later, and thus if we needed ramp or lands, we can easily put cards we need LATER such as pump spells on top, and just draw them as the game progresses, allowing us to ramp in the moment and pump later. Brainstorm is a very powerful card, and costs very little mana! It's also a super fun card on turn 1, especially if we can hit some other ramp spells to play it before playing it.
  • Mirri's Guile : Mirri's is quite self-explanatory, and while it doesn't let us draw cards, it's in the deck for a few reasons. First of all, it's super cheap in mana and can usually be played and function as a great engine right from early on. Then, since the trigger is before draw, we can essentially order what we need to come first, so that if I need an extra land drop, a ramp spell, or virtually anything in that instant, it can help make that happen, at a very small cost and no other conditions.
  • While the cards listed above were indeed the MAIN draw spells, but there are of course a few other cards previously mentioned that ALSO incorporate card draw, despite that not being their main focus. For example, Shadow Rift and Slip Through Space both allow me to draw cards, something that I sometimes mainly use them for, simply targeting any creature with the unblockable part so I may draw a card. Another example is on the horizon lands, such as Horizon Canopy and Waterlogged Grove , both of which have card draw capabilities as well. There are even some scry abilities on previous cards, such as card:Aqeuous Form and Thassa, God of the Sea .
  • Reliquary Tower : Reliquary is straightforward, but also can get SUPER synergistic, and can even be played AFTER some of the card draw spells, namely Hunter's Insight and its twin. Simply use their abilities, draw the tower, then if you haven't played a land yet, simply play it! In this case, if you know you might draw it and then don't need to a plan a land immediately, then do what you need to do, try and draw the tower, and if you do play it, if not play another land! The tower is really such a great card, and is super synergistic if we have an infinite mana combo and can essentially keep our hand until we can set it up and then play everything!
  • Mystical Tutor : Mystical tutor can search for basically ANYTHING we need, be it removal, a handy Hunter's Insight , pump spells, unblockable spells, any essentially anything we need in the moment. Some go to unblockable spells are the reusable ones (like Artful Dodge ), whereas pump spells can vary based on what you want in the moment. A good trick I like to do with it or any sort of instant speed tutors like it is to play it on my opponents end step right before my turn that way people have fewer resources and knowledge before I can actually use the card, as for example they might have tapped themselves out or something similar. If you know you are going to draw cards from virtually any of the above you may also want to play the tutor first so you can draw the card off the top of the library, rather than drawing a card, then playing a tutor which makes the card stay at the top of your library. But the BEST part FOR SURE about Mystical Tutor is its insane synergy with Temporal Mastery . We can tutor for temporal, draw it, and get an extra turn for ONLY TWO MANA. Even without the tutor, if we can manage to get lucky and draw it, temporal is one of the best cards, since we can get an extra turn to swing with Rafiq, draw any cards that can help us out, and ultimately usually win the game.

Removal & Disruption

On to Removal! In recent months, the deck has improved dramatically in stopping my opponent, and I am happy to say it works relatively well now, though it is certainly not at its best. Any thoughts on cuts for more removal would be deeply appreciated!

  • Nature's Claim : What's great about Nature's Claim is that it costs only a single green mana, meaning we can easily save it for our opponents turn, or do extra effects unlike playing something such as Generous Gift (not in the deck), which costs a considerable amount of mana. Then, it has the flexibility of either artifacts or enchantments, something very useful in many games, especially when we come across detrimental enchantments to Rafiq such as Compulsory Rest . To top it all off, 4 life means virtually nothing to Rafiq, since he only cares about commander damage, a fact that improves its use drastically.
  • Force of Vigor : This is SUCH a great removal spell, almost always allowing us to cast it for free at instant speed due to the sheer number of green spells in the deck (especially pump spells), and then allowing us to destroy either 2 artifacts, 2 enchantments, or one of each, easily helping us get rid of problematic things that might either help our opponents too much or harm US too much. The fact that we can easily cast it for free when we are tapped out is very powerful, and makes it a great card!
  • Swords to Plowshares : Just like with Nature's Claim , swords works even better than usual as we care very little about our opponents life totals, and so even if it was a huge creature bothering us, it shouldn't make much of a difference. Also like nature's claim, it costs very little and can easily be added additionally on our opponent's turns while still playing a multitude of other spells.
  • Cataclysm : Cataclysm is the Rafiq-themed board wipe, forcing ALL players to not destroy, but SACRIFICE everything, meaning it gets around indestructible, hexproof, AND SHROUD, wiping everything everyone has, including lands. This isn't typically a big deal for us, since we can easily rely on temporary spells, and we usually don't have much out anyway, and also doesn't affect us as much as it may seem since we can keep Rafiq, an enchantment on him, and rely on a single land that we build up to cast pump and unblockable spells, whereas everyone else is usually affected much more. It's a much better board wipe than things like Wrath of God and Supreme Verdict , as it not only makes our opponents sacrifice instead but also lets us keep Rafiq.
  • Swan Song : Swan song is quite self-explanatory, as it costs only a single mana which we will almost always have open on our opponents turns, and still have the capability to play other things. It counters most removal, disruption, many combos, and nearly anything we may need to get rid of. While our opponents do get a flyer, this shouldn't be a huge deal due to our unblockable spells.
  • Fierce Guardianship : One of the strongest counterspells printed, this card works insanely well, as we almost always have Rafiq out since he is the core card of the deck, and anything worthy of countering that could harm us is typically cast after Rafiq is out, though of course we may want to counter important parts of our opponent's gameplan which may occur while he isn't out. Nonetheless, the fact that we don't need to have any mana open for it, and that we can even draw it off of something like Rhystic Study on our opponents turns and play it immediately, is extremely strong.
  • Orim's Chant : Believe it or not, this is probably one of the best here, as (the cheap factor coming in yet again), it costs very little mana, and for just a single white, can completely shut down an opponents turn, whether they were about to combo off, synergize greatly, kill you, or do anything. If it's even your turn, or the turn before you'll win, you can cast it to ensure an opponent doesn't interrupt your win. What ensures that even more is the kicker, making them not only unable to cast spells, but also attack, essentially stopping them from everything besides landrops and abilities of already existing creatures. This card has saved me dozens of games, and can even interrupt infinite combos.
  • Cyclonic Rift : Cyclonic rift is just obviously such an amazing card, giving us a great bounce ability that allows us to target almost anything, getting rid of an important blocker, a combo piece, maybe something that was enchanted or had a ton of counters, or really just anything as such, especially with commanders. And yet its overload cost is obviously the real deal here, allowing us to completely wipe our opponents boards, except even better since it does not harm us, getting rid of any blockers, and actually everything! This functions great against very developed board states, and has saved me in quite a number of games.
  • Silent Arbiter : The arbiter is just a super synergistic card with Rafiq, usually acting similar to Orim's Chant 's kicker ability in a more permanent way, and can save us from taking a ton of damage against the many decks that revolve around attacking. Since we only ever attack with Rafiq and none other, we are almost never affected, and while the blocking part is less relevant, it does indeed function as a way to protect Rafiq if we are short of unblockable spells. Altogether this is a wonderful hatebear card, and it has functioned quite well.

Protection

So we have pumps, the unblockable spells, the removal, the ramp, and even the card draw, BUT the question is- how do we PROTECT Rafiq? This is where the gameplan is very fragile, as killing Rafiq can put us back a turn or two or even more, and locking him down is all that needs to happen for things to fall apart. AND so, the solution is obviously protecting Rafiq, even though I don't have as much protection as I'd like. So let's go over some protection!

  • Pemmin's Aura : This card is super multi-purpose, ALL of which's abilities can be utilized greatly in the deck. Once it's attached to Rafiq, it can easily untap him at instant speed if we need Rafiq as a blocker, or against card:Take Veangeance-type effects, or even against the dozens of Claustrophobia -type effects! As mentioned previously, this effect ALSO gives us infinite mana with a few of our friends in the ramp section up above. It can give Rafiq flying which is a GREAT substitute for unblockable spells if our opponents don't have flyers, or even if THEY do and we need to have something to block with on our side! The most useful ability and the reason it's in the deck (for the most part) is due to the fact that for one blue, you can give Rafiq shroud (not hexproof) until the end of turn, and while yes, doing this makes it so he can't be targeted, it is still an easy way of discouraging and preventing attacks on Rafiq. Plus- any enchantments still on him won't fall off because of shroud, it just means you can't enchant him AFTERwards. And of course, finally, we can buff him if necessary, or give him a greater toughness, the second one of which can be a super useful trick when blocking, targetted with a kill spell based on p/t, etc.
  • While the cards above are the only STRAIGHT-FORWARD protection cards, there are TONS of cards in the deck that actually DO function as protection, which is how the deck gets by in this area! Spirit Mantle , Giver of Runes , and Mother of Runes all give Rafiq protection, the last two of which are super cheap and flexible, allowing us to give him protection even in response to spells. In addition to this, they can be put before Rafiq comes out, and provide unblockable tactics. Bastion Protector , Bear Umbra , and Shield of the Oversoul all give Rafiq some form of indestructible, protecting him obviously against damage and all sorts of destroy spells. Vines of Vastwood Blossoming Defense , and Stonewood Invocation can give him hexproof, protecting him from virtually any spells or effects that may be cast. And of course we have counterspells like Fierce Guardianship and Swan Song to counter things sent our way!

That about sums it up for the protection section! Hope you enjoyed it- but I'm not done yet! I have a couple more things I'd like to say, and I would deeply appreciate it if you finished this primer! I worked long and hard on it :), and you're SO CLOSE TO THE FINISH LINE!

Maybeboard & Cuts

While I love my deck so much as it is, there are SO many cards that really should be in here, except I just can't bring myself to cut anything for them! Here in the following, you will find an explanation for all the cards I want to include some way or another, or cards that I MAY include that I don't necessarily want to as of yet, and why I want to do so! Afterward, you will see the current cuts for the deck I am planning to do eventually or thinking about, updated whenever I make cuts. On a side note, as I mentioned before I do not post updates for the deck when exchanging cards (I noticed the updates feature much too late), however anything that has been in the deck that might come back as well as cards I wish to include, are again, on the maybe board and are about to be explained! So if you ever wonder what cards might have originally been in the deck, feel free to ask me or check out the maybeboard!

High Priority

  • Preordain / Ponder : Cheap card draw and filtering for very little mana.
  • Path to Exile : This card has gone in and out of the deck SO many times, and at the moment it is out! The deck needed more pump spells and less removal, and so this is what I decided to cut! The land can be quite dangerous, but what it lacks in that aspect it gains in its super cheap mana cost. However, my removal section is pretty solid and can work without it for now.
  • Sylvan Safekeeper : Very versatile and can be used easily without mana, not only able to target Rafiq but also itself, without the need to pay mana and a possibly early play and even if necessary, a chump blocker.
  • Mammoth Growth : It doesn't cost NOTHING, but it also deals with altered mana costs! What's great about this card is that I can easily pay two on an earlier turn to foretell it, before Rafiq is even out, so that once he IS out, it's basically a Might of Old Krosa or Groundswell with no other conditions. And even if Rafiq is already out I can easily foretell it for a future turn, or if I have the mana just hard cast it! This will be the next pump spell I add in if I can.
  • card:Propoganda, Ghostly Prison , Norn's Annex : These all can help stax our opponents out and protect us from tons of damage, working very well against creature heavy decks, and while this is most decks, it is not all decks, especially with most combo decks, and so these might be a little limited in the disruption they carry. However, this is not the case most times and one or two could be extremely helpful.
  • Canopy Cover : In true games of commander, it is easy for me to lose, as Rafiq can get killed again and again and again, meaning Rafiq needs a lot of protection when these games occur. Canopy cover can make Rafiq partially unblockable while providing this protection he needs.
  • Guardian Augmenter : This card just seems to attract to Rafiq! It can be put out BEFORE Rafiq is cast and has flash which literally makes it like an instant pump spell for us, and only costs 3 mana just like our friend Bastion Protector . Similar to Bastion, we get a nice buff, and ALSO protects him deeply, especially since it has flash and can be played in response to things!
  • Lotus Cobra : Synergistic with fetchlands, and I have quite a few of them.
  • Heroic Intervention : Not only protects Rafiq, but everything I own as well, giving them both hexproof and indestructible. This is very useful, as of course Rafiq is often targeted, and having something like this up my sleeve (or up a sleeve!) is very useful thing to have, making it high on my priority list.
  • Teferi's Protection : Protect Rafiq, protects lands, protects- EVERYTHING!!! Definitely, something I am considering, as this can make us completely immune until we need to swing out with Rafiq and win it once and for all.
  • Silence : The sheer amount of times Orim's Chant has saved me is simply uncountable, and I'm sure silence would prove to be immeasurably useful as well, if I could find a cut for it.
  • Divine Reckoning : A very good card for Rafiq, though unfortunately Cataclysm beat it into the deck for now. I don't need two cards with the same effect unless I seriously need it or have enough space, neither of which are true for this card- so far. The flashback ability is also something to take into account though.

Pump Spells

  • Finest Hour : Pretty good and common voltron card, but way too expensive in mana for me! Nonetheless, it's an option so here it is.
  • Simic Charm : A SUPER flexible card, giving us the option for a buff (but a small one at that), the option for protection, or the ability to return a troublesome creature or blocker to it's owners hand.
  • Inquisitor's Flail : Usually, we only go to combat with unblockable spells, so we don't have to worry about the downside as much- DOUBLE, DOUBLE damage! Pretty insane, meaning we need to buff him by only TWO power (including the exalted trigger)! The downside is, it's rather expensive in mana, though it can indeed be played before Rafiq is out.
  • Sword of the Chosen : Continous +2/+2, costs only 2 colorless, and can be played BEFORE Rafiq comes out.
  • Corrupted Conscience : Gives him infect, or takes an opponents creature and gives it infect, but probably too expensive in mana for us to include- the card slot could be better used elsewhere
  • Triumph of the Hordes : This card would function similarly to card:Might if Oaks, being a one hit kill, as well as providing this to more of my creatures, along with giving them a buff and trample. The reason it is not in the deck is due to the fact that it is a sorcery, and can be avoided since it is such with blockers. Might of oaks can be completely unexpected and can be played after blockers, which is why it is in the deck and this is not.
  • Hunt the Hunter : A pump spell I am considering. It can slightly double as creature removal, making it quite good to have. However, for one mana it only gives a very small buff, compared to other cards I currently have in the deck. In addition, it can only harm green creatures, making it weaker and conditional, and is thus something not currently in the deck.
  • Shadowspear : The ability to remove such abilities from my opponent's creatures is good but doesn't really fit my theme too much, and aside from that the buff is quite small. Trample doesn't really matter here due to unblockable abilities, and so it's really just +1/+1 and lifelink which I can do without at the moment.
  • Blackblade Reforged : Cards like this just really take way too long to use. My deck is meant to have a fast theme, and while these artifacts have good abilities, using them just completely counteracts my entire theme that I am going for, and starts to turn Rafiq into every other slow, similar, Rafiq deck. However, if I need a card or two like this, here it is in case.
  • Sword of the Animist : Costs quite a decent amount of mana for my deck, gives only the smallest of buffs, and gives us some ramp that also comes in tapped, as well as the fact that this deck is low on basics. While it's possible, this probably won't join Rafiq's 99 very soon.
  • Civic Saber : It can be played before Rafiq comes out for any type of mana, that way when he's out I can just tap anything and slap it on him, giving us a permanent +3. I don't really care about the defense part, as it doesn't really ever get used or needed in the game.

Protection & Unblockable

  • Unquestioned Authority : Protection (unblockable), and card draw, though costly in mana.
  • Veil of Secrecy : Temporary unblockable, but also gives Rafiq hexproof! This is a great unblockable spell I am considering, but the fact that it cost two mana and isn't even permanent kind of brings it down in my eyes.
  • Esior, Wardwing Familiar : No, it doesn't completely protect Rafiq, but it's great for a few reasons- for starters, the deck REALLY can use blockers in case something bad goes down, and the fact that Esior has a relatively nice toughness (3) and flying (can block a wider variety of cards) means it can really be a great blocker if we need to sacrifice something for the great good, as opposed to something like Rafiq. It also super cheap in mana, costing only 2 one of which is colorless, and can be played before Rafiq is out, as opposed to other enchantments. It then makes ALL spells our opponents try to cast THREE mana more, meaning that path to exile actually costs 4- a taxing amount for the times killing Rafiq is necessary. Nonetheless, it doesn't completely protect him and wastes space in the deck.
  • Reconnaissance : A GREAT way of protecting Rafiq, and is definitely something to consider soon. Having that ability can protect Rafiq from combat tricks, the thing is, if I am going to attack with Rafiq he will usually be unblockable first, making the chance of combat tricks relatively slim. It could be good against some "destroy target tapped creature" abilities, but those aren't seen TOO often either.
  • Hyena Umbra : This guy is pretty great and provides everything the deck focuses on: cheap mana, a buff, first strike, and a great form of protection. It's not currently in the deck due to how small the buff is, but its many uses make it something to certainly think about.
  • Invisibility : If I ever need some extra unblockable spells because I am finding the amount I have now isn't working, my next choice will definitely be this, as it is both permanent and usually gets the damage through. It can make you feel very bad when you play against Arcades, the Strategist though...
  • Swiftfoot Boots : Easily castable with Ancient Tomb / Sol Ring , protects Rafiq, and allows for earlier attacks. However, we very rarely use haste as we like to use unblockable to swing in for powerful turns, to avoid blockers, which we most likely can't cast the turn we play him. Thus, 3 mana permanent hexproof could be better used elsewhere even if the 2 can be paid before he enters.
  • Vanishing : DEFINITELY something I have been looking at for quite a while, as Rafiq is truly a target in most games when you know his power in this deck, and so having vanishing could truly be an asset, protecting him until my next turn. However, I won't always have two blue mana open every turn cycle, but nonetheless is certainly possible and is thus high on my priority for consideration.
  • Prowler's Helm : Does not require a certain color, but does indeed cost quite a lot when you put its two costs together, as well as being conditional. Not something I will use probably, but its good to see all my options.
  • Riding Red Hare : Guaranteed you've never heard of this card. It buffs Rafiq, and makes him unblockable, though is quite pricy in mana. The chance we can play this and something else ends up being quite slim. Nonetheless, it is certainly up there and may one day enter the deck.

Draw/Tutors/Filters

  • Merchant Scroll : A very useful tutor, allowing us to search for Mystical Tutor or a key unblockable spell. If blue removal enters the deck, this card might have to also join the ranks. Probably not just yet though, as I can't just see myself spending two mana to tutor for a 1 mana unblockable spell that the deck has a bunch of.
  • Soothsaying : While it doesn't specifically let us draw cards, it ensures the cards we draw are the ones we need, whether its hitting a land drop, getting an unblockable spell we need in the moment, and much more. What I personally like is the fact that at instant speed (typically the end of your opponents turn before it's your turn), you can just sink all your excess mana into the card, and filter out what you need. It also is a semi good sink with infinite mana, allowing us to essentially order our entire deck how we want, which is pretty powerful. Nonetheless, the deck has needed more actual card draw as opposed to filtering, and so this is out for the moment.
  • Treasure Cruise / Dig Through Time : Both great with the delve abilities, especially with all the fetches and no way to recur them, and all the temporary pump spells and unblockable spells.
  • Windfall / Diminishing Returns : These are both wonderful cards that are the exact type of draw that works best in this deck. The problem? Windfall means we might not draw 7 cards and instead will usually be a lot less after we have played pump spells, while returns exiles ten cards that may be important in the gameplan. Nonetheless, they could both still function very well and are being considered for sure. Out of the two, returns is much more likely to make it into the deck if I find I am constantly in need of card draw
  • Life's Legacy : While this could let us draw a lot of cards, it would mean getting rid of my entire gameplan, which personally doesn't seem very worth it to me. I'd much rather use something safer like Hunter's Insight . However, card draw is important and I am still considering it.
  • Gitaxian Probe : Great cEdh card, allowing card draw and an advantage against our enemies
  • Kaho, Minamo Historian : A very unique and fun card to think about! Kaho could set up everything we need, with unblockable spells, pump spells, and even something like Hunter's Insight ! Having everything we need in one card is a WONDERFUL resource, and though he is pricy in mana, he makes up for that in his ability. Nonetheless, he's more of a fun card for longer games, not something speedy and competitive like the deck plays.

Ramp & Lands

  • Smothering Tithe : Great, but built for the longer more drawn out games, and would have too small of an impact in the time frame my deck goes for. I prefer to win fast, and using all my turns mana on a smothering tithe just doesn't add up in my head.
  • Land Tax a magnificent art, but just a bit too conditional. I usually have more or the same amount of lands, and don't run an insane amount of basics.
  • Wild Growth / Utopia Sprawl : These useful additions could potentially increase the amount of mana our lands produce INSTANTLY, however, utopia can only enchant forests and wild only produces green. Nonetheless, they are something to think about.
  • Explore / Growth Spiral : While these are great I found that the deck needed more cards that directly gave us mana rather than relying on chance and hoping for the best. Instead, cards like Nature's Lore and Arcane Signet work much better here.
  • Fabled Passage : I prefer not to risk lands that come in tapped, and while it would be untapped by the time we have to play Rafiq, we might be playing him with less lands and more dorks meaning it would come in tapped when we need it. Altogether tap lands are much too risky.
  • Talisman of Unity / Talisman of Progress : The other two talismans, probably won't have space for them but they are great mana rocks that can be used immediately and should definitely be considered.
  • Somberwald Sage : Super great dork, could nearly pay for Rafiq on its own and then allow us to play other things with him, especially protection.
  • Exploration : What's great about this guy, is that it only costs a single green and is then on here permanently, and allows us to play an additional land every turn, including the turn it's out- with this in mind, we could basically get 4 lands on turn 2 and have Rafiq able to attack by turn 3- an INSANE synergy and power level, as it's usually turn 3-4 that we get Rafiq out, not 2! This also synergizes greatly with any 1 drops assuming all other mana is tapped, and can basically start churning value the moment it's out. The darker side involves the fact that the deck isn't ridiculously high on lands, and instead revolves more around Ramp, since we have very little land-caring effects besides this. While it is conditional, it can almost always get us at least 1 turn ahead in lands, and make our turns more synergistic. The thing is, the deck is low on lands and it doesn't actually give us mana if we don't have lands- I'm sad to not have it in the deck, but we just aren't a lands deck, and this card would make us want to have more lands.
  • Burgeoning : An interesting card to think about, as it essentially could put Rafiq out turn 2 similar to Exploration . However, we don't run too many lands and as this went in testing I found things that can guarantee generate mana work better.
  • Leyline of Abundance : This card is great because it could make all our dorks go infinite with Pemmin's Aura and of course allow them to produce extra mana, especially if we put it out soon enough with its opening hand ability. And if we get infinite mana, it could act as a mana sink to let us win. However, its a dud if we don't get one of the six dorks and after testing I've decided it can be better used elsewhere.
  • Carpet of Flowers : This card would be a TON of fun not to mention powerful, I love upkeep triggers and blue is a very powerful, highly used color, especially among multiple players. I'd love to include this card in my deck, but it is conditional for if they have islands and thus not the best in 1v1's, and only adds one color, whereas Rafiq needs quite a few.
  • Pearl Medallion / Sapphire Medallion : While these guys are certainly good (and I have the green version in the deck) I just don't have enough white or blue cards that also use colorless mana in the deck for them to be worth it. There is of course Rafiq himself, but there are better ways of going about Ramp than these. However, they certainly could be used if the deck needs more ramp.
  • Tarnished Citadel / Forbidden Orchard : If I feel like the deck needs more mana fixing which it really doesn't and probably won't ever have. Just in case though, here they are.
  • Dryad Arbor : Synergistic with Green Sun's Zenith and can be tutored up with Nature's Lore effects but essentially has summoning sickness and thus comes in tapped, which is too much of a pain.
  • Magus of the Vineyard : Actually a pretty interesting card, I'd love to use this to cast free pump spells, especially at the expense of only 1 mana, and even cast Rafiq like two turns earlier- this dude could be super helpful, but at a great expense.
  • Simic Signet / Azorius Signet / Selesnya Signet : We gotta love em, but sadly I created the deck long before I knew of their existence, and nowadays it's just quite hard to find even a single cut, much less two. If any, I'd probably put in the simic one since it has the best colors for us to use, however, I just hate their activation cost and they really only add a net one mana, which can be better used with dorks even if they can be used right away.
  • Ramunap Excavator : Can be run to get 1 guaranteed land every turn with one of the four fetch lands I run. Is it worth it though, to play something like that on turn THREE, a time where we really only need one more mana to get going? Probably not, especially since we need the fetches with it.
  • Monologue Tax : 3 mana is a great cost for a card like this, especially using the fact that 2 of the mana is colorless (hello Ancient Tomb / Sol Ring !) While it's max 4 treasures a cycle, people are almost always casting a second spell if not more, so I think its definitely safe to say this card could work great for us! Nonetheless, it might not help get Rafiq out so it's something to table for now.
  • Emerald Medallion : Can help take that extra 1 off Rafiq and other green spells, but simply isn't utilized enough in the deck as many of our green spells don't require colorless mana.
  • Green Sun's Zenith : The zenith is an extremely great ramp (yes ramp spell) as it can search for any green creature (the color of all the creatures in our deck for the most part) and then put it on the battlefield. This means for two mana we can search for Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch (the latter being preferred due to its buff), AND put them on the battlefield, making green sun a dork essentially. If we have Pemmin's Aura as discussed earlier, this can even be a tutor for something like Bloom Tender so that we can get infinite mana- pretty handy. I've been told it works great with Dryad Arbor , which I'm sure it does, but the fact that we can't immediately use the Arbor and that the arbor only taps for green is just a bit iffy for me, even if it is a creature. The thing is though we can do better for 3 mana or 2 mana ramp, and at that point we can just be running similar dorks, and it is just all around not as powerful and used as a real tutor as it should be for a card slot.
  • Flooded Grove / Mystic Gate / Wooded Bastion : I love the filter lands, but in this deck we can't risk having multiple only colorless producing sources on turn 1, and the fact that to produce colored mana they are conditional is just a bit much. Yes they can help cast double color mana costs but it's still not worth it especially compared to something like the fetches.
  • Exotic Orchard : Not bad as many play my colors, but is way too conditional and is a huge feel bad on turn 1 if we aren't going first, or if our opponents get their mana in other ways. Essentially way too conditional.
  • Verdant Catacombs : Another fetch / land if necessary or if Lotus Cobra comes in.
  • Shaman of Forgotten Ways : Costs 3, but since two is colorless we have a good chance of being able to cast it earlier, and it can definitely ensure we have enough to cast Rafiq and hopefully play extra things on him like an Aqueous Form , Blessing of the Nephilim , etc.
  • Gemstone Mine : Pretty good as we don't often cast more than this many spells in a 1v1, but still is not great due to its conditionality- still, it was in the deck for a while and could be considered at all times.
  • Gemstone Caverns : Good, but too risky, I'd rather not have the chance at just using another colorless source, and is not really worth the risk for this deck. It is something to think about though.
  • Bant Panorama : An interesting thing to think about, except it, really doesn't put us ahead in mana. We would play the land, and simply get a different land (tapped) in replace for it, putting us ahead by nothing. If I needed mana fixing, I would use this, but alas I do not!
  • Mark of Sakiko : Insane with the ramp, yes, but after combat, I have no real use for green mana. My entire deck plays before the combat step, so while the synergy may be godly, I don't know what use I would have for it and it would end up going to waste, making it quite a pointless card here.

Disruption & Other

  • Rapid Hybridization : A funny and useful card, though not as good as some others as it only destroys, not exiles, making it horrible against graveyard decks or decks that can retrieve things.
  • Collector Ouphe / Stony Silence : I run very little artifacts in the deck and these could mess up our opponents big time. However, we don't want them to render our rocks useless.
  • AEther Barrier : We run few creatures and this can be detrimental to our opponents, but I can see it limiting our play what with dorks, protection creatures, etc., and I'm not sure if I'm willing to run it just yet.
  • Winds of Abandon : OP for the overload cost, but gives them a bunch of lands, which is usually a big mistake in edh.
  • Force of Negation : Easily counter more spells without opponents seeing it coming- however the deck already has enough counterspells and even has Fierce Guardianship , which is quite similar.
  • Strip Mine : It is obviously largely land destruction and disruption, functioning especially well in 1v1's, as it can put out opponent back a turn, and is great against things like Maze of Ith , Glacial Chasm , or huge land creatures created with something like Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor . However, it is not often that we end up wanting to sacrifice a land (and put ourselves back a turn) just to stax our opponents a little. We revolve around speed, and this is not speedy.
  • Supreme Verdict : Very scary. The fact that it gets rid of Rafiq too kind of makes it worse sadly, though there are multiple indestructible effects that can make this much more worthwhile, like Bastion Protector . Definitely something to think about.
  • Misdirection : A very funny and unique way of countering something that I would love to try out at some point! This could allow us to steal and effect, or throw it back in someone's face! The bad part is, we normally would only have unblockable spells that we could use for its cost, and we typically do NOT want to get rid of those.
  • Stoic Angel : Super synergistic with Rafiq as we typically only need to untap him, but it can mess with our dorks and if our opponents creatures weren't tapped then this can't help much- plus it's super prime to being removed and we already have Silent Arbiter in the deck which is much more efficient.
  • Crawlspace : Similar to our arbiter, but not a creature, and allows 2 not one swinger. This can still be dangerous, and while good is simply not as useful as we could use for a card slot, but definitely something to monitor.
  • Maze of Ith : This is a great voltron card undoubtedly, however it underwent testing and I just feel like at the moment it's hard for the deck to afford missing a land drop for this card even if we do have Exploration . It's meant for longer games, and less for us, though it is indeed a good card and I have to keep my eye on it.
  • Generous Gift : If more permanent removal is necessary, helps represent white, but costs way too much.
  • Slash the Ranks : Protects Rafiq, but is super expensive in mana and can save other people's key creatures as well, not to mention Planeswalkers. It is a good idea, but I have better ones at the moment and I can't see it staying in the deck very long.
  • Regrowth : This is a very important concept to consider: graveyard recursion. After playing unblockable spells, pump spells, and even removal spells, this card could allow us to recast them, giving us double value on some of the best cards. It could even return other things that people have destroyed, making it a SUPER useful card I am deeply considering!!! On the other hand, it would cost the two mana return and then the extra mana to play whatever was returned, and noxious revival is probably better.
  • Time Warp : Extra turns could be SUPER useful with Rafiq, allowing us to get the final damage we need to win! However, they are very expensive in mana, and sadly we are not in mono-red meaning we can not play some of the cheaper ones like Last Chance and Final Fortune . Despite that, it could still come in useful and I do have a few infinite-mana combos running around, so who knows, maybe this will indeed come into the deck!
  • Noxious Revival : Reuse pump spells, unblockable spells, removal spells, BASICALLY ANYTHING! This is especially great since we can cast it with life, at instant speed! Definitely something to consider.
  • Helix Pinnacle : Can work EASILY, for just a single mana, if we get one of the THREE Pemmin's Aura infinite mana combos, giving us an instant, cheap win.

Possible cuts: Forest if necessary for a dif land maybe more pump, early draw hit landrops maybe more lands

Concluding Details

Enemies of Rafiq

This deck is extremely fast and strong, yet it has a number of enemy themes and enemy cards that can completely lock down the game for me once and for all. Decks that are heavy on removal can completely shut me out, because if I can never play Rafiq there's basically no way to win. This is why I tend to like getting him out early, while people are still setting up their gameplan. Another thing to trick them with is really the fact that you don't see Rafiq coming. He is typically played in equipment decks, so when you see him you don't think of him as a threat, but all of the sudden with a couple of instant speed pump spells that can all completely change. This is what makes protection cards like Blossoming Defense , Giver of Runes , etc., so powerful and necessary in decks like these. Cards that don't let Rafiq untap or attack (like Encrust ), or even get played (like Meddling Mage ) can be a huge stopper for me, and they can completely ruin a game both fun-wise and winning-wise. While we have removal of our own and ways to get around tap effects, these are still pretty detrimental. There are some protection spells and ways for us to obviously get around this, but without the few of those I'm absolutely done for. Without Rafiq there's no real way to win, and I can't afford to remove cards for other win conditions, as it ruins Rafiq's speedy theme. Thus, any decks or commanders that can directly harm or disable Rafiq tend to be my greatest enemies, which can sadly happen VERY OFTEN in cEdh.

Conclusion

Anyways though, thanks For Reading! If there are any questions or advice on the deck, shout it out below, I would LOVE to know what people think! In the past I have refrained from responding to comments on my own decks, as I for some reason saw it differently than it is, though I am pleased to say that has certainly changed and I'd love to discuss the deck with others! If you want help on your deck, also feel free to comment it down below or mention it under my profile, I don't mind helping out people! If anyone wants to know how to style their deck like this, include backgrounds, and use pictures behind your dropdowns, just ask! I'll show anyone how to work the CSS, though I did not create or learn it myself, and you can go down to my helper shrine to see the true masters behind this deck's styling. Now also, I'm sure I'm not the first one to make a deck like this, but I've worked very hard on it and thought each individual detail out, so I'd deeply appreciate it if nobody recreated my deck or proxied it, without popping a quick comment below saying just that. Obviously, I can't stop you, but I would value and appreciate it if you did! I also have my entire magic inventory (not including commons and uncommons of course) up on deckstats, with all my rares/mythics/legendaries with any expensive uncommons/commons so feel free to check that out as well! Last but not least, do consider dropping in my other decks, some of which you can see below!

But seriously, thanks for reading this far! Let me know in the chat you read this far, or say the code word (cookies) and I'll give all your decks (not passed 20) an upvote! I do also want to mention all the amazing people who helped me with this deck styling, some of which are below!

Shrine to the Helpers

The Excellently Eccentric Extra Exotic Special Thanks Section! I think I should add exhausting to that name, because it's a mouthful. But I really did want to thank.... Drumroll.... Some more drumrolls... Even more drumrolls...

And of course, everyone that has commented with both support and new suggestions! 20-30 cards in my deck are from suggestions, and the gameplan would never be the same without all of those amazing people. Now also, below I have a list of future cuts I may or am going to make! When I have made the cut, I usually remove it from below so there may not be anything, as it mostly acts as a reference so I can remember what the cuts I was going to make are. Also sadly I never did use the updates feature, and as a result, most of my deck has not been shown over time in the updates, and I feel that it is too late to start doing so now. But alas, many cards I am still thinking of having or that I liked in the past are up on the maybe board, so you can always check that out too.

The Deck IRL

(May be slightly outdated, but you get the point)

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Date added 1 year
Last updated 1 day
Key combos
Legality

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

7 - 0 Mythic Rares

45 - 0 Rares

15 - 0 Uncommons

26 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.03
Tokens 2/2 U Token Creature Bird
Folders My Decks, Rafiq, Bant, ..., Bant, BANT EDH, Deck references, Inspirations, Test, Fun Deck To Try, See all 15
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Revision 96 See all

1 day ago)

-1 Damping Sphere maybe
-1 Defense Grid maybe
-1 Kataki, War's Wage maybe
-1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty maybe