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The Only Girl in the World



I'm not confining myself to Strixhaven proper because it turns out the Commander 2021 decks are full of really powerful spells and creatures and it would be a shame if we didn't start exploring the possibilities. There are a lot of different ways to build a 75% deck and I feel like I have gotten into a bit of a rut lately, focusing on ways to steal their spells and permanents because this set gave us so many ways to do it, mostly. I love exploring that space a lot because it's my favorite way to make sure our deck matches up with theirs, and because it's kind of become my "thing." We run the risk of pigeon-holing 75% building, though, if we only play in the exact same space, and that's a disservice to you as much as it is to the ethos. So, this week I really wanted to play around in something that's the opposite of stealing their cards - making our of our own.

Things that say "double" either explicitly or implicitly are the foundation of Commander as a format. Doubling Season was a bulk rare until Commander took off, because Commander is where a card like Doubling Season belongs. We have the ramp (or patience) for a five-mana spell that doesn't immediately impact the board, we have the quirky cards that benefit from the doubled counters and we know we'll live long enough for the investment to pay off. It makes sense that the more we get double value out of our own spells, the more quickly we'll surpass players getting single value. I'm not, like, explaining how this works. Of course you know how it works, but I am interested in reminding people that there's more to 75% than just stealing their cards. I include myself in "people," by the way - we could all use a refresher.

With a new commitment to playing in some other interesting design space, it was time to select a commander that allowed me to double up on things. I found what is basically a Red Orvar and fell in love immediately. As much fun as Orvar is, being in Mono-Blue isn't exactly where I want to be since I don't want to play bad spells like Whim of Volrath. I want to play good spells, and Red has those. You know what else Red has?

Rionya, Fire Dancer

Rionya hits the battlefield and immediately says "What's my name?" to the table. If you can get her to Stay in play, she generates a ton of advantage in the form of hasty tokens that can be copies of your cards. If you have any Diamonds in the rough, so to speak, multiple copies of them can help you close the game out faster. This card does serious Work - Where Have You Been all my life, Rionya? I got not one, but two really good ideas about directions I could take this card when I first saw it, and I think that despite the two approaches diverging a bit, they still fit under the same umbrella.



Ok, enough of that bit, let's move on.

The stock Rionya list is pretty close to what my initial idea was, no surprise there. We play spells to generate mana which lets us play more spells so we can have a big swing with a ton of copies of cards like Goldspan Dragon. That seems simple enough, but as I started thinking about it more, I realized that Red doesn't have all of the kinds of creatures I need to solve our problems. Sure, I can make a lot of copies of big, dumb, Red creatures and stomp them, and I can even make copies of creatures that give us extra combat steps for a very fun way to do a ton of damage, but being Mono-Red limits our options a lot. What if I want to copy Acidic Slime or Noxious Gearhulk? Being limited to the creatures we have control of means we're limited to the answers Mono-Red has to offer.

Except... no we aren't!

Red does one thing exceedingly well, and that's borrow creatures from them. By taking control of their creatures pre-combat, we can select their creatures to make tons of copies of and then swing with them. If they play Acidic Slime, we can play seven Acidic Slimes and really terrorize the board. I didn't invite Blightsteel Colossus to the party but I'll certainly send one in every direction. Borrowing creatures is already something I love to do in Mono-Red, and being able to make lots of copies of one of those creatures is the best possible motivation for really leaning into that capability. Here is what I think that list would look like.

As a take on the stock list, I really like steering into the "borrowing" aspect of the deck. You could go much further than this if you wanted, adding a few more threaten effects and sac outlets so you never have to give the creatures back. As it is, I like Goblin Bombardment in the deck anyway because the tokens you make go away at the end of the turn and you might as well launch them before they disappear. Having a ton of sac outlets can mitigate the loss of those tokens, especially if you can channel them into drawn cards with Phyrexian Vault or maybe add some planeswalkers and Throne of Geth. Stealing their stuff is nice and all, but I like the idea of doing a lot with a little - and that means we won't have to play the relatively mana-hungry strategy of stealing their creatures a lot. What if we just did a lot of combats?

This deck looks like it's pretty potent. It has two game-ending combos in it - Kiki-Conscripts and Godo-Helm. If you're not interested in that sort of thing, yank 'em. I personally think games of Magic: The Gathering should end, so I don't mind combos like this if you don't have tutors. That said, Godo tutors for Helm, so bear that in mind, but I also think it's tough to get that combo to go off in a game where players are interacting a lot with the board, and when they're not, it usually means the board is gummed up and you should wrap it up anyway. A lot can stop the Godo combo besides removal, so I think it's fine in a 75% deck. That said, I'm not the final arbiter of how you feel. If you're reading this because aspects of the 75% ethos resonate with you but you're not feeling a few of my ideas, go with your gut. I'm here to tell you how I'd build. Make 75% your own thing.

I think I would likely end up playing a hybrid of these two decks, but it was a lot of fun to take each to its extreme. Whether you're using lots of their creatures once or a few of your creatures lots of times, or both, Rionya is a powerful and fun commander who is sure to leave you asking "Why does everyone say Mono-Red is weak?" They won't for long, I bet. That does it for me, everyone. Which of these two decks is more your style? Leave it for me in the comments section. Until next time!

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