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Classic Commander: Rith, the Awakener


One of my favorite things when it comes to writing about Classic Commander is simply how many cool old legends I get to talk about. Part of it is talking about the decks I love, sure, but I don't think most people really know or care about legends like Purraj, Jor Kadeen, or Ulasht. That said, there's a number that really are that great. The kinds of legends that everyone knows in some capacity or might have a storied history behind them. If you think about it, I'm sure that you can come up with several. The one I want to talk about this week, though, is Rith, the Awakener.

Rith, the Awakener

I love Rith for a number of reasons. A big one is the original set of elder dragons from Legends. They were some of the first legends I saw as a kid and they blew me away with how big and cool looking they were. Seeing the new ones from Invasion just a year or two later was practically jaw-dropping, and Rith was clearly one of the best of the bunch. What's more, Rith was also a part of the Fires deck back in the Standard of its day, famously piloted by Brian Kibler. In his version - a Fires list without the namesake Fires of Yavimaya - Kibler played Rith alongside Armadillo Cloak to incredible effect, landing him in the Top 4 of Pro Tour Chicago 2000.

Rith also has some special memories from my time playing Commander as well. In fact, Rith was the first Commander I ever ended up playing against. The friend of mine who introduced me to the format in the first place, a buddy named David, ran Rith and it was how he showed and explained it to me. Without David and his Rith list, I might not have gotten back into Magic nearly as hard as I did. While his list was more of a "binder rare pile" kind of list, I instead built one to take better advantage of certain synergies. Let's check out the list!

Classic Rith | Commander | Paige Smith

With this list I tried to focus on two areas a bit: ramp and saprolings. I definitely feel like I didn't end up including nearly as much ramp as I'd like, but I did add a decent enough amount that it works for this list. The idea here is to get a couple early ramp effects like Birds of Paradise, Joraga Treespeaker, or Lotus Cobra online so you can cast Rith as quickly as possible. Once Rith is on the board, you can start attacking in and spitting out tons and tons of saprolings. The best part too is that the more saprolings you have on the board, the more that Rith's ability ends up making, meaning that the amount of tokens you create grows exponentially.

Joraga Treespeaker
Utopia Mycon
Coat of Arms

There're other ways to get saprolings down than just Rith, though. Thallids (and Thallid related cards) get a little opportunity to shine here. It's not as much as if you were running, say, a Thelon of Havenwood, but it's still there. I largely forewent the majority of the ones from Fallen Empires because unless you're looking to make it the whole theme, like with Thelon, they're just not all that great. The ones from Time Spiral block, though? Those are excellent. Utopia Mycon, Mycologist, Vitaspore Thallid, and Psychotrope Thallid all allow you to sacrifice saprolings for a small beneficial effect which helps when you're making tons of them. Pallid Mycoderm is one of the best, though, once you really get going as it pumps up all your tokens repeatedly to go in for the kill.

Speaking of, that's one of the other big aspects to the deck: pumping your creatures. Going wide is great and all, but you need a way to get them big enough that you can start taking out opponents. A bunch of 1/1s are great, but they're often not nearly enough to get there on their own. As such, there's a number of potent mass pump effects here. The aforementioned Pallid Mycoderm is only one, but there's also other great ones like Wilt-Leaf Liege and Marshal's Anthem. Those tend to be kind of one-shot, though, and you can get some much larger power ups with the aid of Coat of Arms, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, Mirror Entity, Selesnya Guildmage, and Beastmaster Ascension.

Armadillo Cloak
Fires of Yavimaya
Dauntless Escort

Of course, I couldn't put this list together without adding a couple of classic tributes in the mix, so both Armadillo Cloak and Fires of Yavimaya show up here - even if the latter didn't show up in Kibler's famous list - and they still work quite well all these years later. There're a couple small nods to my buddy David's old deck too, where I remember cards like Dauntless Escort being played, and some other big classics like Verdant Force and Mirari's Wake. What you get is a really sweet list that's tons of fun to play no matter your skill level. Take it to your next Commander night, take it for a spin, and run all your friends over with a monstrous saproling army!

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: TheMaverickGal

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