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Rainbow Stairwell Commander


Hello folks and welcome to another day here on Commander Island. Here on the Island, in order to pass the time, we have created a number of Commander variants to play that can keep the fun of the format going with fresh new takes on cards both old and new.

Today, I want to combine two formats together, and then show you a deck I built using these rules as a pathway to suggest where to move next.

We’ll going to delve deep into Rainbow Stairwell. Now, as conceived around 20 years ago or so, this is a format for 60 cards that became very popular. The format was precise, and allowed 6 cards of each color, including colorless, with converted casting cost from 1-6, and then 24 lands. There is no room for duplication of any converted casting cost. So your White, for example, could be Savannah Lions, Mesa Pegasus, Pearled Unicorn, Karma, Serra Angel, and Personal Incarnation. Each of those has a converted mana cost of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. You couldn’t add in an Avatar of Hope as it’s more than 6, and you couldn’t toss in a Benalish Hero for free, as you already had your one-mana entry for White.

This has been a fun casual variant for decades. I’ve played it online and in real life, written about it, and I know it has a lot of adherents online.

And then inspiration struck me. Why not do an extended version of Rainbow Stairwell that uses the uniqueness of Commander to modernize it? Seems like a good idea, right?


So here is how Commander and Rainbow Stairwell works:

  1. You must have a Commander that gives you access to all five colors with its color identity. This does not count as one of the cards in the stairwell.
  2. In each of the colors, as well as colorless, you must have precisely one card of each converted cast cost 1-10.
    • So, for Green, you could have Wild Growth as your 1 and Vitalizing Wind as your 9.
    • You may not have more than one card of that cost. If you ran Tortured Existence as your Black 1-drop, then you couldn’t run any other Black 1-drops, such as Will-o'-the-Wisp.
    • A gold, split, aftermath or hybrid card can count as any of its colors or costs. So you could count Kitchen Finks as either a 3-drop in White or Green. Meanwhile Assault // Battery could be either a 1-drop in Red or a 4-drop in Green. You can choose.

  3. After adding in these 60 cards, plus your leader, you may add in any cards with a converted casting cost that you are not already playing. For example, you could add in the zero-cost Summoner's Pact for your Green zero-cost, or Lotus Petal as a zero-cost colorless card. You could go over 10 for colors or colorless as well.
    • Again, these extra cards cannot duplicate a cost you already have, so you can’t have three zero-cost colorless cards or two four-cost Green cards, as an example.

  4. Add in lands to suit the deck, and then call it at 100 cards. You are good to go, and thanks for playing.

And there we are!

Well that sounds like fun, right? Right!

So I decided to build a Five-Color deck around Ramos, Dragon Engine.

Ramos, Dragon Engine

Commanding the Rainbow Stairwell

Our Faithful Leader ? Commander | Abe Sargent

Dead Drop
Deep-Sea Kraken

One of the things I pushed in this deck was to regularly have expensive cards with alternate costs, like Deep-Sea Kraken’s suspend or Dead Drop’s delve. These are both solid cards for multiplayer. One is a 6/6 body of unblockable sexiness and the other is a classic double-Edict for someone to help to bring them back down to the rest of the table. You’ll also see Avatar of Fury and Greater Gargadon here as well.

Fist of Suns
Bringer of the Black Dawn
Bringer of the Blue Dawn
Bringer of the Red Dawn

The best cards on this genre are the three Bringers I included and Fist of Suns that can make every card is your deck cost just wubrg. The Bringers are an awesome cycle of beaters and powerful board-smashers from Fifth Dawn that rarely get the play they should in Commander due to their cheaper play-cost activation that technically gives them a five color identity. Bringer of the Green Dawn is overly weak today, but the other three Bringers are all solid options. Bringer of the Blue Dawn and Bringer of the Black Dawn are great. They dominate a table. Meanwhile, Bringer of the Red Dawn is very powerful. All of them have cheaper alternate costs as well.

Don’t sleep on the power of cards like these Bringers, Fist of Suns, and even the many five-color cards in here when combined with the mana making Ramos can bring. Pulling off five counters to get 10 mana, two of each color, is sexy awesome. You can easily use that to cast two cards with Fist of Suns, drop a Bringer, activate Door to Nothingness, or even cast Progenitus.

Door to Nothingness

And don’t forget that casting multicolored cards with the mana Ramos makes will also add more counters to Ramos. If you make the 10 mana from Ramos, and then follow with two five-color cards, you will now have ten counters on Ramos for future mana-making as well as beating. Ramos is now a two-hit kill for Commander.

Oh, and don’t forget to recur that Door to Nothingness with your Academy Ruins. Nasty right?

Too bad Fist of Suns prevented me from running some sick cards with these cards in the deck, like Chromatic Lantern. But them’s the breaks.

Not just those! I also emphasize the quartet of many-colors making nasty Maelstrom Madness with their best “Cast some spells” tricks! Take a look-see:

Maelstrom Archangel
Maelstrom Nexus
Maelstrom Wanderer
Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder

Three of these will push your cascade triggers hard. Because they cascade, you will get more Ramos triggers from the cascading card if it was also multicolored. Can you imagine dropping Maelstrom Wanderer into Maelstrom Nexus or even Maelstrom Archangel? Man, you are about to break this game! While you are building up Ramos! And don’t forget to Conflux for some of this stuff as well!

Lobber Crew

We can also rack up those sweet damage-based triggers off the multicolored stuff as well!

Now, the goal of this deck is to clearly establish your dominance. We have a number of options to do precisely that. Here’s a good example —

Charnelhoard Wurm

Charnelhoard Wurm is a solid body with a good 6/6 trampling presence and it also has a built-in aspect of beatingness. I like it as a fun card that can surprise a lot of people with how well it plays when it’s not the most obvious peril on the board. And we have a few other fatties here too, like Simic Sky Swallower and even Akroma, Angel of Wrath.

Another place I began to look into was protection and defense, especially early on. I ran four various Propaganda effects, including the nasty Collective Restraint. That also reminded me of one of the best domain cards ever made that people either never knew about or forgot — Ordered Migration. I won more games with Ordered Migration during the era of Five Color’s dominance than by any other card. (Five Color was the default casual format of its day, and required all five colors, at least 250 cards, and at least 18 cards of each color. Today the requirements are at 300 and 20.) Making four or five 1/1 flying Bird Tokens for five mana is a nice result for your mana, and it is hard to stop. I also would use them to chump block a big flyer for a few turns until I could find an answer. It’s like five Fogs on defense. Harkening back to those times, I tossed in Ordered Migration and Tribal Flames as well to similarly evoke that Five Color good times.

My deck is running three cards that aren’t in the 1-10 staircase. Ancestral Vision (Blue Zero), Everflowing Chalice (Colorless Zero) and Draco (Colorless 16). I don’t think that any of those will be a surprise to see here, and I’m sure you can see the value added to a deck like Ramos, Dragon Engine.

We do have two lands out there that get you all five colors. So, I would want to veer for those —

Crystal Quarry
Cascading Cataracts

The first is the one from Odyssey, the set immediately following the multicolored block, and right after cards like Last Stand and Cromat were printed. Cascading Cataracts is a better card as it’s indestructible and it will make any combination of colors, so you could make urggg or bbbbb or wubrg instead. Whatever you need. Both of these lands well immediately give you access to your entire deck. Don’t be afraid to Demonic Tutor for Cascading Cataracts in this deck, and drop it turn three.

And then we have a lot of fun cards and support in here for Ramos, Dragon Engine and the multicolored theme.

When you look at potential archetypes you could go with various leaders, I think a few stand out:

  1. Five Color Dragons with Scion of the Ur-Dragon or The Ur-Dragon proper
  2. Five Color Elementals with Horde of Notions
  3. Five Color Slivers with Sliver Queen, Sliver Overlord, Sliver Hivelord, or Sliver Legion.
  4. Five Color Allies with General Tazri
  5. Five Color Atog Tribal with Atogatog
  6. Five Color Spirits with O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami
  7. Five Color Scarecrow Tribal with Reaper King
  8. Five Color Tribal with any other tribe with Karona, False God
  9. Five Color Multicolored Matters with Ramos, Dragon Engine
  10. Five Color Good Stuff with multiple options. Maybe Cromat?
  11. Five Color Control with Child of Alara
  12. Five Color Progenitus

That’s a lot of options! I hewed the #9 path suggested by Ramos, Dragon Engine that cared about more than one color from the cards you played to speed up its mana-ramping. But you can clearly see the results above as one example. You can easily find any Five Color theme in there, like Five Color Superfriends or Five Color Reanimation and many more.

So, what did you think? I hope that you enjoyed our article today, with the Commander Rainbow Stairwell option. Any thoughts or questions? Just let me know!

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