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Don't Play This Ramses, Assassin Lord Deck!


The Commander writers over at Coolstuffinc.com have a Discord. It's a little like Fight Club, so I probably shouldn't be talking about it, but you need to know to understand.

We were talking about which new Dominaria United Legends we wanted to write about. People started speaking up (pro tip: watch for the articles coming down the pipeline. Some great ones from some really good writers!)

Here's what I said:

"I think someone should do a combo deck which wins with Ramses, Assassin Lord. I think it should be me. I'm going to call it "don't play this deck" and it's going to be the jerkiest, meanest, fastest-winning deck I can make it. Cool with that?"

No one responded, so I took that as permission. Ready?

Don't Play This Deck | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Your playgroup doesn't like tutors? This deck isn't for you. How about one that doesn't like infinite combos? Not for you. Decks which pick on a single player? Nope. This deck looks at every line in the sand drawn by the social contract and runs them over with a steamroller.

One of the worst parts is it's not even a cEDH deck. I don't really know how to build one of those (they all seem to run Ancient Tomb), but I'm fairly certain at a highly-tuned table, this deck would just get run over. If it didn't, it would probably just annoy everyone. But at a casual table, this will make everyone never want to play against it again.

Let's take another look at Ramses, shall we?

Ramses, Assassin Lord

We get a 4/4 with a relevant keyword ability for 2ub, which is already on curve and decently solid. Additionally, it serves as a Lord for a woefully underserved and very cool tribe. But it's that last ability we're going to use. We're going to attack someone, then we're going to kill them, and in so doing, we're going to win the game.

What this means is we're fundamentally a combo deck, though rather than going for an infinite combo which kills everyone, we're going to go for a combo which kills someone. If we've attacked that player with Ramses, or another Assassin, for that matter, we simply win the game right there and then.

In case you're unfamiliar with my work, I normally like to go through all the basic parts of a Commander deck - Mana, Draw, Threats, Answers, and Synergy - but in this case, I'm going to skip most of that. The mana works and you want the rocks because some of these combos require some mana to pull off. We have a few answers but mostly we're just blindly shooting for a combo and going for the win. No answers really needed. And we do have a few Assassins kicking around, because sometimes we're going to have to attack into a large Creature or a known kill spell, and if we lose Ramses to that we won't get our "they lose the game" trigger and we won't win. Better to point that Murder at a Midnight Assassin we don't actually care about.

No, we're going to spend our time digging into the combos. We have a few, and the idea is you assess the situation and which pieces of which combo you draw, and fill in the rest of the pieces. If you have a lot of mana, like an early Expedition Map and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in hand, you go for one of the more expensive ones. If you have an opponent you know will be open, maybe go for an attack-based one. Read the table and your cards, then make a decision.

Sanguine Bond
Exquisite Blood

Combo number 1: Sanguine Bond + Exquisite Blood + any life gain or opponent's life loss = DEAD. Of course, I'm already breaking my rules because this one actually goes infinite on the whole table. However, you can choose to stop it with one person dead, so do that and let Ramses take it home. Here's a fun one: get both the Enchantments on the Battlefield, then flip up Ruthless Ripper to start the combo. Everyone will expect it to be an actually good Morph card! Also note Sign in Blood can be pointed at someone else, which is why it's here.

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
Blood Tribute

Combo number 2: Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose + Blood Tribute (kicked, but you can tap Vito for the Kicker) = DEAD. They're at 40. They lose 20, we gain 20, then Vito makes sure they lose 20 more. Make sure you don't do this till after you've attacked with an Assassin, so second Main Phase, or use a trick (Leyline of Anticipation, Quicken) to be able to cast Blood Tribute at Instant speed. It's worth noting Blood Tribute also works with Sanguine Bond, but you need another Vampire to tap to Kick Blood Tribute. We have a couple more, so don't rule it out, but it's more complicated and more expensive. Go with Vito whenever possible.

Archfiend of Despair
Wound Reflection
Peer into the Abyss

Combo number 3: Archfiend of Despair or Wound Reflection + Peer into the Abyss = DEAD on End Step. Both Archfiend and Wound Reflection trigger on the End Step, but Peer into the Abyss will always cost someone half their life, and the Creature or the Enchantment will take care of the rest. Again, as long as we attacked this turn, we'll win at EOT. This one is particularly costly, but with lots of mana it can all be done after Combat, which can make it trickier to stop. And for what it's worth, Blood Tribute can take the place of Peer into the Abyss here, without needing the Kicker cost.

Combo number 4: Commander + Double Strike + Tainted Strike = DEAD. This is probably the meanest of the bunch, but only because people don't seem to like Infect at all. But it's also our fastest. Let's say you start lucky, on Sol Ring. That means you cast Ramses on turn two. On turn three, you play out Brass Knuckles, and on turn four you Equip them both and attack someone who's defenseless, or someone with a Birds of Paradise they don't want to give up because it's making them mana. They can handle eight Commander damage, right? Wrong. You pay (B) and hit for 10 Infect damage, plus you attacked with an Assassin. They die and you win. Ha!

Unfortunately, mill combos don't work here. I had visions of milling someone out and winning that way, but they lose on their Draw step, so they won't have been attacked by an Assassin this turn. It was fun to think about, though.

The rest of the deck is aimed at getting one of these combos into our hand where we can use it. If you start with decent mana and Fireshrieker, go get Tainted Strike with that Profane Tutor. Already have Wound Reflection? Get Cabal Coffers with Increasing Ambition, then Flash it Back to get Urborg and Peer into the Abyss.

Is there a playgroup that actually wants to play against a deck like this? Is it yours? Would you build this or something like it, or never? If never, how would you build around the new Ramses? Let us know in the comments.

One final note: as is often the case, this deck is kind of a first draft. I suspect some adjustments will be needed to make sure we can pull one of our combos off quickly and consistently. Keep that in mind if you decide to construct this one. And if you do, let me know how it goes!

Thanks for reading.

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