A Cursed Standard Deck And Rishkar In Commander

Bennie Smith thinks his Standard deck might be cursed! While he tries to break its hold on his competitive Magic results, he offers a Rishkar, Peema Renegade deck in Commander!

#SCGRICH was interesting, as in Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times” interesting. On the balance I had a good time, but something weird happened on Friday and Saturday. I had settled on playing my mono-green “Creeping Mold” deck due to the immense success I’d had locally, but Friday night was the first time I had to test it out in the new post-banning, post-Aether Revolt Standard. The weirdness began at FNM, when close to 40% of my games were plagued by mana issues – the occasional land flood, but mostly stalling out on two lands for way too many turns. Even though I can operate on two lands if I draw one of my two mana accelerators (and it lives), it is certainly not ideal. I play 25 lands in addition to my eight mana accelerators for a reason, because my deck is all about lands. It was weird, but Magic being a game where variance plays a role, I figured maybe it was just my night to have some issues.

Unfortunately, the curse seemed to carry over into the Open on Saturday and got even worse. Fully half of my games seemed to be having this same issue. After Round 4 (when I was 2-2), I decided maybe I needed some new sleeves even though the sleeves I had were not particularly worn. I know. I was grasping at straws.

I went up to the helpful young man at the SCG tables.

“There’s something weird going on with my deck and I need to get my mojo back.”

His smile slips a little as he stares back at me.

“I think I need some new sleeves. Can you give me some with good mojo?”

“Um… What sort of sleeves do you want?”

“It’s not a matter of what I want. What I need are some sleeves that can reboot my mojo. Something to change my destiny. Right now something is terribly wrong and I need some help to get back on the right path.”

“Do you have any preference?”

“Something that will change my destiny.”


“I like these Tiger cub sleeves from the Creature Collection…”

“Alrighty then. Sold!”

Oh, I guess I should share the deck I was playing. Outside of the weird curse, I really liked it. One thing I will be changing going forward is removing Thought-Knot Seer from the maindeck. With combo decks featuring Felidar Guardian being so powerful and popular, everyone is packing plenty of ways to kill a four-toughness creature, so its effectiveness seems to have taken a hit. Maybe Matter Reshaper?

Unfortunately, the Tiger cub sleeves from the Creature Collection – while adorable – were not able to change my destiny. I won one match, lost another match, and finally threw in the towel at 3-3. If I hadn’t been operating under a curse and was playing normal games of Magic, I’d have hung in there just to get reps in the new Standard under my belt, but literally half the games were me just sitting there doing nothing, even after I’d taken aggressive mulligans to see if I could get something going.

I am really not sure what happened—I do plenty of shuffling between games, and 25 lands are pretty much what I’ve been playing for months. I also really like the deck—the games that I drew normally, whether I won or lost, I felt like I had game against most everything. In fact, I had one of the single most epic games of Standard I have ever played and it was something I’ll never forget!

My opponent was playing a G/W Thalia’s Lancers deck with a gaggle of legendary Angels, including Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light. Fliers can be tough, but luckily I’d draw a few Aethersphere Harvesters to hold the fort. Unfortunately, Bruna came down to meld with her sister Gisela, and suddenly I was facing down Brisela, Voice of Nightmares. A few chump blocks by Aethersphere Harvester left my opponent with a super-high life total but bought me time to cash in a Spawning Bed for enough creatures to sacrifice to Westvale Abbey, and now I had Ormendahl, Profane Prince to really hold down the fort! Still, my opponent was able to just keep smashing in with vigilance to gain life.

Then I drew Ulvenwald Hydra, which I cast, and fetched up Mirrorpool to go up to eight lands and a Clue token from Tireless Tracker. Next turn, I cracked a Clue and drew into another land, used Mirrorpool to copy the Hydra and get another Mirrorpool, and when the dust settled, I was up to nine lands. Cracking Clues got me the tenth land, so now my Hydras were big enough to attack into Brisela while Ormendahl held the fort. Another Mirrorpool activation and I was able to crash in with Hydras and knock massive chunks out of his super-high life total to finally get the win.

The game took about 40 minutes to finish up, and we weren’t able to finish the second game, in no small part due to Aethersphere Harvester’s lifelink and defense of the skies even though I was stalled on two lands, so I won the match.

Riding high from such a crazy game, I was disappointed when the curse translated into two swift game losses in the sixth match and I went ahead and dropped from the tournament. Thankfully, my Plan B was good – play Commander the rest of Saturday, and then come back for more Commander on Sunday! There were many fun, swingy games in true Commander fashion, and on Sunday I won all three of the games we played.

While I was disappointed in the curse that ruined my Standard run, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how much fun it is to play Ulvenwald Hydra. So while I was doing some brainstorming on how to go about building a Commander deck around Rishkar, Peema Renegade, I had Hydras on my mind. It occurred to me that some of Ulvenwald Hydra’s cousins would be perfect with Rishkar—creatures with +1/+1 counters that could tap for mana with Rishkar on the table and be used to fuel even bigger Hydras!

I know +1/+1 counter themes run across other colors like blue, white, and black, but there are plenty of them in green, so I think we can just go monocolor with Rishkar, Peema Renegade as our Commander. Let’s see what we can cook up.

+1/+1 Counters Matter

Green gives us tons of +1/+1 counters matter cards, starting with the Mack Daddy of them all, Doubling Season! Kalonian Hydra and Solidarity of Heroes does a good job doubling counters too, and with most all of our creatures producing mana with Rishkar, it should be easy to pay the Strive cost on Solidarity of Heroes. We might not be able to take advantage of Winding Constrictor, but we can play with the original Hardened Scales.

We get evasion from Champion of Lambholt, and Longshot Squad gives us reach (in case we run into any more Brisela, Voice of Nightmares). We’d want to include Renegade Krasis for its +1/+1 counter abilities, but I think Rishkar appreciates a fellow renegade on the team. The trample from Tuskguard Captain and the deathtouch from Bow of Nylea combine Voltron-style to make all of creatures a true headache to block.

+1/+1 Counters Creatures

Then of course we can fill out our creature ranks with creatures that naturally have +1/+1 counters. Many of them do cool things already – we get to “Fog” with Spike Weaver, search up lands with Fertilid, chow down on graveyard shenanigans with Scavenging Ooze – but the important thing is each of these taps for mana with Rishkar on the battlefield. Cranking out that sort of mana advantage is huge, and it means that even if your opponents kill Rishkar quite often (and I imagine they will) you can usually keep recasting her and still have mana left over from your creatures.


Being mono-green means creature removal is rather scarce, so I have dug into the arsenal of “fight” cards to help with that. We even have Mutant’s Prey, which can be used at instant speed. Walking Ballista has been impressive in Standard, but it’s going to be absolutely nuts in a deck like this that can generate a ton of mana and where you can equip with Basilisk Collar. Ballista, Basilisk, Ballista, Basilisk… my tongue trips up when I try to say them both.

Save the Creatures

Since having creatures with +1/+1 counters is crucial to our plan of having a ton of mana available to us, battlefield sweepers are going to be a problem. Luckily for us, we have a fair number of ways to help mitigate that. I really love the new card Heroic Intervention; even though the mana cost is only two mana, it’s normally going to be a pain to have hold that mana back each turn to counteract removal, but in this deck that shouldn’t be a problem. Inspiring Call is another one where you’d ideally want to hold up mana to save your creatures, but three mana is a lot, so having all this extra mana really helps. Cauldron of Souls giving your creatures Persist is sweet, since most of your creatures have +1/+1 counters on them naturally that would knock off those -1/-1 counters.

Card Draw/Selection

We can run quite a bit of card draw and selection, from the classic Sylvan Library to new hits like Smuggler’s Copter and Throne of the High City. What would our Rishkar deck be without Rishkar’s Expertise, which is going to be a Commander all-star in just about any green deck? We’ve even got a couple of Hydras that give us some nice card advantage with Genesis Hydra and Lifeblood Hydra.


I am pretty sure Paradox Engine is going to rapidly infest a large percentage of Commander decks, but a deck like this one is going to be particularly insane with Paradox Engine. Imagine this battlefield: you’ve got Rishkar, Paradox Engine, Avenger of Zendikar and a bunch of Plant tokens, and you’ve played a land to give them all +1/+1 counters. Tap all your creatures with +1/+1 counters on them for mana and cast Lifecrafter’s Bestiary. Untap all your creatures. Tap for more mana and cast a creature, paying a green to draw a card. Untap and do it again. And again. And again.

Insanity! And I thought Seedborn Muse was disgusting. Folks, after Aether Revolt, you need to make sure you’re packing plenty of ways to get rid of artifacts—I sure am!

Okay, so here’s the deck as it stands currently:

Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 02-03-2017
Magic Card Back

What do you think? Have I overlooked something too good to ignore? How would you go about building a Commander deck around Rishkar, Peema Renegade?

And most importantly—do you know any good way to rid yourself of a crazy curse on your Standard deck?

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visionary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo ( The Indestructibles)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius ( new player-friendly)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Progenitus (

Fist of Suns and Bringers


Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)

Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)