Very few people know this, but the first Commander I ever assembled a deck for was Rubinia Soulsinger, a popular Bant leader. Once Shards of Alara was released, however, it became apparent that I was making a change. My Rafiq of the Many deck lasted a very short time at our table in the early days, as it often just overwhelmed the table one opponent at a time, sometimes two at a time due to Finest Hour, and shortly thereafter the group rallied for a change. I put down the mighty deck, and thought I would never assemble another one. Thankfully, as with all good things in time, the overall power of the decks at my table has increased along with the tolerance for powerful interactions. This allowed me to rebuild the deck, and sweeten it up with all sorts of goodies from the last three years of MTG releases. This is where is stands today.
Rafiq of the Many by Scott McCallum
There is actually a lot going on here for a deck that is supposed to be a one trick pony. The trap many people fall into when they are building all-in Voltron style strategies is a lack of redundancy. Once someone puts your Commander into your deck, you cannot afford to crumble afterward. It’s no secret that I love the frustrated look in my opponents’ eyes as they spend exhaustive amounts of resources to foil my gameplan, only to see me recover instantly with just a few cards. I have learned to value resilience in my threat packages, and that shows very well here. Cards with protections built in like Mirran Crusader, Lavinia of the Tenth, and creatures with hexproof like Thrun, The Last Troll and Sigarda, Host of Herons are already wonderful targets for any of the multiple equipments or enchantments. These creatures are very tough to deal with, let alone when they are suited up with something. Angel of Serenity and Sun Titan make for some powerful recursion capacities, especially when Saffi Eriksdotter, Karmic Guide, Reveillark, and Dauntless Escort are in the same deck. Let’s not forget about the lonely Genesis here either.
The threats are curved in such a way that you should be able to provide pressure on your opponent with each turn, adding a resource to the table that furthers your control of the game tempo and threatening to interfere with the opponents every step of the way. Gaddock Teeg is a wonderful example of this, and he just wouldn’t be at home in a deck without his guardian angel, Linvala, Keeper of Secrets. Between these two, it should be very difficult for your opponents to effectively use the resources at their disposal, giving you some breathing room.
Many of the smaller creatures also perform similar, albeit sometimes innocuous, functions. Azorius Guildmage is an All-Star performer ever since its release, and it has a new partner in crime with the release of Return to Ravnica: New Prahv Guildmage. Giving a creature flying is powerful enough in this deck, but being able to detain permanents at will is an extremely valuable tool for clearing out blockers and holding off any pesky activated abilities of even noncreatures, like Oblivion Ring, Pernicious Deed, and classic advantage engines such as Survival of the Fittest and Greater Good. Lavinia serves the same function, but typically en masse instead of so surgically. Many people don’t realize it, but against a deck heavily reliant on mana rocks, Lavinia can often simply be a Time Walk for you against that opponent, and in a deck like this one where every attack step counts, that can be of great value.
There are a ton of ways to get the most out of our creatures in this list, as many of the cards are in place to make sure of just that. Swords and Auras are both present aplenty, and so are the tools to fetch them up with. Stoneforge Mystic, Stonehewer Giant, and Sovereigns of Lost Alara all present a way to pull the most powerful tools out of the deck directly into play, often smashing your opponent in the process. There is also a pile of exalted creatures in the deck, helping to make the most out of each combat step. In order to ensure the rest of the table plays by your rules of attacking alone, Dueling Grounds is an obvious conclusion that will help preserve your own life total while decimating your opposition’s. Add Finest Hour to the mix, and any creature is suddenly a huge threat.
The deck also plays a significant amount of removal and card draw, even though at first glance it might not seem that way. Aura Shards is a great way to clear out opposing enchantments or artifacts, and is supplemented by both Qasali Pridemage and Trygon Predator. The cycle of charms from RTR block have all proven their value with their ability to answer threats, save my own creatures, and add to my offensive potential, all at the same time; let’s not forget about the detain creatures either. Sylvan Library, Greater Good, and Sensei’s Divining Top all ensure a steady stream selection, with Consecrated Sphinx and Prime Speaker Zegana both providing raw drawing potential.
I can’t tell you how much fun this deck has been for me to play. It is powerful, agile, and interactive. It’s also FAST. There have been many occasions where Turn 4 is Rafiq landing after Stoneforge Mystic dumps a Batterskull into play. There are very few things as rewarding to a Spike looking to get into the format, or if you are just looking for a way to speed up your Commander games at home. It will make your opponents very, very frustrated … as you pound them into the dirt.
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