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Rootha, Champion of Lutri in Commander


Gillis Van Coninxloo, Landscape with the Judgement of Paris (Early 17th c). Giant Spectacle by Johann Bodin.

Am I going to go on about how companions should be banned in Commander and we should have been told from the get-go that if we wanted a companion in our deck we should just run it in the Command Zone as our commander and adhere to whatever deck-building restrictions we feel like adhering to?

Am I really going to beat that dead horse just a bit longer?

No. Well, except for this introduction, today I'm not going to bemoan one poor decision among many, many great decisions made by the Commander Rules Committee. I'm going to take a deep dive into what will hopefully not be too shallow a pool. Today I'm going to write about Rootha, Mercurial Artist, or as I'm calling her - Rootha, Champion of Lutri.

Rootha, Mercurial Artist

Rootha, like Lutri, the Spellchaser, is a Prismari commander whose party trick involves copying an instant or sorcery spell you control. Lutri was able to combo with the spell Baral's Expertise and when combined with an enter-the-battlefield damage source, you could kill a table quite nicely with that sweet little combo.

Rootha requires the investment of two mana to use her ability, and you'd have to re-cast her in order to use it again. That extra mana investment makes it much harder to go infinite with Rootha, and the Blue in her casting cost also complicates matters. Still, I do love a puzzle so today I'm going to see how easily we can break this mercurial Orc Shaman.

The Essentials

To build at least one combo into this deck, I'm going to need to include some key cards that will let me do what I want Rootha to be able to do. This might end up being complicated enough that it won't happen very often, but that's okay. Sometimes a rarely seen combo is more satisfying than one that's popping up in every other game.

Lutri has flash so you can cast it when you have other spells on the stack, allowing you to hold priority and get up to all sorts of craziness when you combo off. Rootha doesn't have flash, so she's going to need some help in that department.

Vedalken Orrery
Leyline of Anticipation
Emergence Zone

Vedalken Orrery, Leyline of Anticipation, Emergence Zone, and Winding Canyons can all let me cast Rootha at instant speed. Any combo I try to pull off will require this, but I'm also going to have to pay to re-cast Rootha and I'll need both Blue and Red mana to do so. The old Dramatic Reversal / Isochron Scepter combo can use my mana rocks to make infinite mana and if I've got the right rocks out, that mana can be Blue and Red. I will probably include them in this list, and infinite mana will solve my casting cost problem, but I'm looking for something interesting and new, not a tired old combo that you all know about already.

I want to find tired NEW combos that I've never played before!

Mana Geyser
Impact Tremors

If you cast Mana Geyser, you get mana added to your mana pool equal to the number of tapped lands your opponents control. That could be one mana, and it could be 21 mana. With Prismite on the field, you can take two of that Red mana, filter it into one Blue mana, and go to town.

With Rootha on the field and a flash enabler, you cast Mana Geyser. Then pay two mana to bounce Rootha to your hand, copying Mana Geyser. Let the original Mana Geyser resolve and if you've got at least six Red mana from it, you can pay Rootha's casting cost and then activate her again to copy your Mana Geyser copy. Then you let the old copy resolve and keep going. Chances are good you'll end up with infinite mana, but you'll also have infinite enter-the-battlefield triggers and with something like Impact Tremors on the field, you just kill the table.

I'm very fond of combo decks that have a lot of redundancy built into them. I don't think this list will ever be one of those combo decks that has a slew of replacement parts to let you combo off in a wide range of ways. Mana Geyser also combos with Reiterate and I'm going to want to run ways to copy my opponents spells anyway, so I'll throw it and some of its buddies into the list.

Dualcaster Mage
Narset's Reversal

Reiterate, Fork and Reverberate, along with Dualcaster Mage, Twincast, Narset's Reversal and Wild Ricochet are also going in because I really do love the flexibility of being able to piggy-back on an opponent's spell. If an opponent puts a Torment of Hailfire for 10 on the stack, I can copy it and then use Rootha to copy my copy spell. Since my copies go on the stack after the original, mine will resolve first, likely winning me the game.

I looked at ways to win from copying High Tide. I recently won a game in which I used a Counterspell to counter my own High Tide. If you're wondering what kind of deck would have a line of play where you'd want to counter YOUR OWN High Tide, it's Octavia, Living Thesis. I really wanted that extra Octavia trigger and that play helped me nail down a win.

With Rootha, you would need Blue to pay for Rootha's casting cost and to pay for High Tide, and the reality is that in a Prismari deck I'm more likely to have a mix of Mountains and Islands on the field making it much, much harder to assemble some sort of crazy infinite combo around that card.

Rousing Refrain
Stonework Packbeast
Deekah, Fractal Theorist

It's no Mana Geyser, but if I can catch an opponent with a full grip, or even more than seven cards in their hand, I might be able to pull off the same combo using Rousing Refrain. Stonework Packbeast and Signpost Scarecrow can both swap in for Prismite, serving to filter my mana into whatever color I require. I have a few options for my payoff. Impact Tremors and Purphoros, God of the Forge will kill the table, and Archmage Emeritus can draw me into either of those two. Deekah, Fractal Theorist will give me an army as large as I like if I'm able to loop Rootha to copy an instant or sorcery.

The Fun Stuff

To be honest, while I really enjoy combo, I enjoy playing decks that play in new and different ways in every game. That's a tall order for a deck that's genuinely trying to win the game. When playing a strategy that involves copying spells you can get that experience with Rootha.

The combo I walked you through isn't sleek or efficient. It involves at least four cards, making it one of those delightful yet frustrating wincons that you might not see for many games. Assembling the right four cards in the best of circumstances can be difficult, and if you're playing at a table where folks actually play interaction, it gets much, much harder.

Landing a genuinely difficult combo can be very rewarding, but I suspect a lot of the fun in playing Rootha will come from playing your opponents' decks.

Explosive Vegetation
Cyclonic Rift
In Garruk's Wake

Nobody plays Explosive Vegetation these days, but imagine if you were able to catch one on the stack with Rootha on the field and a Fork in your hand. You'll dig that fork right into those Veggies, putting your own copy of Explosive Vegetation on the field. Then you pay 2 mana to bounce Rootha and make another copy. With good timing and a little luck you could have turns where you're ramping so much, you'll make the Green decks at the table green with envy. You might even want to do this with a Rampant Growth, Cultivate or Kodama's Reach, but there are much better ramp spells played in our format and if you're lucky you might catch a good one.

I should note that I've had a game with my old Lutri deck (played with the okay of my tablemates, as it's not legal in Commander) where the player to my right played two consecutive ramp spells that I was all ready to copy until I realized those spells ONLY searched for Forests. I wasn't running any shock lands with Forest subtype, so I had to sit there and let them resolve without being able to piggyback on my tablemate's ramp spell.

Your opponents might not hesitate to cast a Cyclonic Rift while you've got Rootha on the field. Rootha can only copy your own instants and sorceries, and they're probably ready with interaction to stop you even if you do try something. With Rootha and a copy spell like Reverberate, you can cast your Reverberate and if they counter it, you can use Rootha to copy your it to make sure their nonland permanents also get bounced. Any one-sided spell that an opponent might use to set everyone else back is a prime candidate for this treatment, but it does require that copy spell so you have a spell on the stack. With an asymmetrical boardwipe like In Garruk's Wake, you'd want to bounce Rootha to make that extra copy just so you can cast her from your hand and avoid that pesky commander tax.

It's hard to really imagine all the scenarios in which you might want to copy an opponent's spell and then use Rootha to make your own copy, but anyone who has played much Commander at all has seen opponents put powerful instants and sorceries on the stack. EDH is a game of big splashy spells and powerful haymakers, so part of the fun of playing Rootha is absolutely going to be seeing what your tablemates give you to play with. That means you'll have games where they don't give you much to work with and you don't end up finding all the pieces to your silly combo. You might still be able to win those games, but this isn't really meant to be a high powered, highly efficient deck.

I think it'll be fun, and while it might not be quite as fun as Lutri, it's actually legal in our format.

Rootha, Champion of Lutri

While I like this list and I do think it could be a lot of fun, I think I'm still a little bitter about not being able to just play Lutri, Spellchaser as a legal commander. I know... I should let go of these things, but I was just so ready to fall in love with that adorable otter. If Wizards of the Coast had made this card Rootha, Spellbouncer and made it an otter, I probably would have been happy to fall in love with Rootha. Sadly, I've only fallen in like with her, but I still think she'll be a fun medium-powered deck that you can tune up or down from this first draft fairly easily.

Would it be worth picking up Rootha and doing an otter alter of her? Maybe, but I have to admit that I've still got last Thursday's Octavia deck on my mind. I played Octavia in an online game and just loved how much fun it was. This list might be every bit as much fun, but I haven't had a chance to play it yet and a single game might not be a big enough sample size to really come away with a fair assessment. Picking up the Prismari precon will get me a copy of both Rootha and Octavia, so I guess my options will be open for building both of these exciting new legendary creatures.

Final Thoughts

Rootha might fall into the surprisingly large shadow of Lutri, but that doesn't mean this isn't worth building.

I could definitely see an argument for building Rootha around way more card draw spells than I've included in this list. My focus was on the incredible variance you get from copying your opponents' spells, but variance isn't for everybody. If you went all-in on card draw and used Rootha to turn that dial up to 11, you would probably have more consistency and you'd be able to draw into your tutors and combo pieces more reliably.

I can't imagine building a Prismari Orc or Shaman tribal for Rootha, but the beautiful thing about Commander is that at lower power levels there is room for all kinds of weird deck themes and strategies. There are 66 Orc cards in Magic, and 40 of them are in Rootha's colors. I could see an Orc tribal build, but most of those creatures are in Red so you'd find yourself leaning a bit away from Blue.

That's all I've got for today. If you've built Rootha, I'd love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you back in here in a few days with another look at a Strixhaven commander.

Commander HQ: Decklists and Strategy for Strixhaven's Legendary Creatures!

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