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Ravnica Elite Commander


Hello folks! I hope your day is going well. Last week I gave you a top ten list that included a number of formats that folks forgot about, or for some, never knew existed. Commander has become the dominant, and often time, only format that is getting played at kitchen tables around the land or pickup games at local gaming stores. That's just who we are.

I overviewed a number of formats in that article like Centurion, Tribal Wars, Five Color and Peasant, as well as some lesser known formats here and there to give them a shout out. I also slid in a format that never existed until I wrote that article, as a fun way to lampshade the fact that most folks reading the article aren't going to know due to the dominance of the single format of Commander. They'll likely just see a fun format and then move on.

The format I created is called "Ravnica Elite", and here are the rules and the flavor.

As one of the central calling cards of the planes, and after the Nicol Bolas war was finished on their homeworld, Ravnica won't let you use any of their resources, unless you agree to only use Ravnica resources as a way to rebuild their economy and infrastructure.

For this format, you may only use cards that were printed in these nine sets:

  • The first Ravnica Block
  • Return to Ravnica Block
  • Ravnica Allegiance
  • Guilds of Ravnica
  • War of the Spark

And that's it! Just those three blocks. Now as we saw in my description last week, that's roughly 2,150 cards, which is a lot of cards. For comparison's sake, right now in Standard we have around 1,450 cards, so you can expect to get a lot more in Ravnica Elite.

But here is my question - can I make a good Ravnica Elite Commander deck? I think so, but I am not sure.

Let's build two for you as a part of this article just to see how it might work. I'll grab Rakdos and Azorius, as I built a quick 60 card Simic deck last week. Thus, I will have used all five colors once at least.

Rakdos Party Favors | Ravnica Elite Commander | Abe Sargent

Lyzolda, the Blood Witch

There we are! For my Rakdos deck I wanted to built it around Rakdos sacrificing effects via Lyzolda, the Blood Witch. We have a few other sacrificial options like Rakdos Riteknife and cards like Midnight Reaper and Judith that care about our stuff dying.

Honor the God-Pharaoh
Dreadhorde Invasion

I have a few ways in here to build up my creature base so I can have enough cards to sacrifice for various effects. All of the Zombie Armies are Black, so you can sacrifice them for cards to my leader. I try to increase my creature count with tokens and other similarly fun cards.

Pack Rat
Ogre Slumlord
Mayhem Devil

That theme continues with these two Rat flavored cards. Pack Rat has always been fun as you can discard and kill with an army of Pack Rats, but here, it's designed to turn cards you may not want into a sacrifice for another card. You can also start making those sweet Rats as your creature cards start dying. It's a nice death trigger you can make work very easily. Note that it works whenever any dork bites it, not just your own. We also have fun cards like Mayhem Devil that play into this space.

Grave Betrayal

In a similar vein, take a look at Grave Betrayal. As you kill opposing forces, they will come back stronger under your control. Not only will his work well with effects like Wrecking Ball and Dreadbore, but it will work whenever forces die to combat damage, other opponents' removal effects, and loads more. It also can provide more fodder for the machine.


As can Gutterbones! Sacrifice it. Recur it and sacrifice it. Repeat. As long as you've dealt a single damage this turn, which is likely, you can recur it as long as you have mana. Now because it heads to your hand it does have to be recast, so that takes three mana each iteration, but the result is a lot of synergy for your build!

Skeletal Vampire

Skeletal Vampire brings some favors to the party as well, and if you start digging, you'll notice more cards in this genre.

God-Eternal Bontu
Finale of Eternity

God-Eternal Bontu is amazing here because on arrival you sacrifice however many permanents you desire. Churn them into cards! Also, as it dies, you can reload it over and over again. The Finale of Eternity is strong at killing some stuff, and later when you can set it to 12 mana total, you can bring back all of your sacrificed dorks. Just setting five mana into the X means you can kill up to three opposing dorks with 5 toughness or fewer. That ain't bad.

Hellhole Rats
Rakdos Firewheeler
Burglar Rat

I also have a few decent cards that are here for value. You can sacrifice them after they arrive for various effects. All of their enters-the-battlefield effects are awesome, and then they can provide fodder for your Lyzolda machine.

Illusionist's Bracers

Duh. How could you not want to run this?

All right, there's Rakdos done. Next?

The Senate's Rules | Ravnica Elite Commander | Abe Sargent

Isperia the Inscrutable

There you are! This is a fun control build that takes its lead from Isperia the Inscrutable. When you smash face, you can tutor for a flyer, and we have a whole lot of flyers in this deck!

Dream Eater
Elite Guardmage

We have flyers that will bounce something or flyers that will draw cards and gain life like Elite Guardmage! Both of them are very useful for smash-ery and various effects, and they aren't the end of the conversation either!

God-Eternal Kefnet

God-Eternal Kefnet has a big body that's on the battlefield, and can turn your cards drawn into free instants and sorceries if you wish. In addition to flyers, we have a number of sorceries and instants and such in the build that may prove fun, such as Chemister's Insight or Cyclonic Rift that getting a free copy for two mana fewer to use will be useful.

Sky Hussar
Pride of the Clouds

For some different style of bodies, you could grab one of these Forecasting goodies. The Sky Hussar has a useful body and can untap your team on arrival, which can help after you swing in the air mostly unopposed. You can also tap two dorks for a card for free in your upkeep. I suspect you'll likely find the latter to be the best use of it. The Pride of the Clouds is the best Elemental Kitty out there. It's cheap and will rise in size based on your number of flyers. You can also invest some mana in your upkeep for a 1/1 flying Bird. They work very well together as the Pride can make the creatures that the Sky Hussar taps.

Sphinx of Foresight

We also have a few other flying cool options to flesh out your deck from the powerful 1-drop Pteramander to the useful scrying of the Sphinx of Foresight. The Sphinx is awesome in your opening hand, and doesn't suck later after you send over Isperia and you fetch it out.

And of course, that's not it! Any Azorius deck like this one is going to want to run some other cards too...

Smothering Tithe
Blind Obedience

We have powerful enchantments like Smothering Tithe and Blind Obedience that will help to net you time or mana-boosts to get to the good stuff. These are both powerful Commander staples, and we have a number of powerful staples in the Ravnica Elite format, such as Doubling Season or Chromatic Lantern.

Dovin, Grand Arbiter
Teferi, Time Raveler

Also note that this deck is running a nice helping of planeswalkers, which will give you some additional mid-range power. I am running ones that fit the deck, such as Dovin, Grand Arbiter making 1/1 flyers, or Teferi, Time Raveler removing your foe's ability to interact with your stuff on your own turn. Both are great here!

While we do have a few counters like Dovin's Veto and Absorb here and there that is not this deck. I really saw this as more of a mid-range deck, and you'll notice that I am not running that many bigger, expensive, splashy controlling cards (just a couple to tutor with like Diluvian Primordial).

And there we are! Azorius for the win-rius!

As you can see, the format and stuff that's legal seems to be pretty good at supporting a wide variety of archetypes.

The best part of Ravnica Elite (in regards to Commander) is the War of the Spark set. Why?

Prior to it, you only had two-color options for leaders. After it, you have multiple options for single-color Commander decks as well as the five-color awesome majesty of our leader Niv-Mizzet Reborn. The only mono-colored legendary creature that was in print prior to War of the Spark was the promo The Haunt of Hightower from Ravnica Allegiance.

Therefore, running Commander now can let you run 16 potential colors, with only three and fours not available currently. (Unless you use the unofficial errata to allow Nephilim to lead a deck, and then you can add in those five options too)

I hope you enjoyed today's double feature, as well as Ravnica Elite. Good luck with the format!

P.S. - Next week I'll be out of the country in Iceland, so I have written an article already that's generic, we'll be looking at the next version of my Budget Commander series, but I won't be able to respond to any comments or anything until I return on the 18th. I will read them and respond to them, as it's very humbling that you take time out of your day to respond to something I wrote.

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