Play-By-Play With Rith, The Awakener!

Sheldon Menery’s famous Commander Play-by-Play returns as the format’s VIPs descend on a certain Florida residence for spellslinging and good times!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a play-by-play—seven months, to be exact—and the last time was when a few Magic luminaries were visiting. A few weeks ago, some of them visited again, so the time was ripe for the runbacks. Joining fellow Commander Rules Committee (RC) members Scott Larabee and Toby Elliott was former Level 4 judge and longtime friend Seamus Campbell, who was in town for the NWSL championship game. Congrats to his hometown team the Portland Thorns on a well-earned victory. In the midst of a week-long indulgence of decadence, between inventorying the wine cellar and playing Terraforming Mars, we got in some battles.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen one of these play-by-plays, I keep the language as succinct as possible while still making sure I convey all the relevant information. If a card has a long name, I’ll write it out fully the first time and then shorthand it later. Life total changes are noted in parentheses. Sometimes, later in games, descriptions of large events have fewer details, just to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

Seamus is playing my Rakdos Reimagined deck, Scott has Karlov of the Ghost Council, and Toby is on Tasigur, the Golden Fang. I have a nice keeper, with some lands and Karametra, God of Harvests. I’ve seen the other decks before. Toby’s is a graveyard deck with some dredge elements. Scott’s is about lifegain and using the best of the cards that go with it.

Turn 1

Me (Rith): Temple Garden, tapped.

Toby (Tasigur): Watery Grave, tapped.

Seamus (Rakdos): Bojuka Bog, tapped. We suspect his hand is not that great.

Scott (Karlov): Marsh Flats, activates it to get Godless Shrine (39).

Turn 2

Me (Rith): Peel Sol Ring. Cast it, play a Forest.

Toby (Tasigur): Verdant Catacombs to get Overgrown Tomb (39).

Seamus (Rakdos): Bloodstained Mire. I tell him I’m not sure there are any kind of dual lands in there. There aren’t and he gets a Mountain (39). Casts Mind Stone.

Scott (Karlov): Swamp, Karlov of the Ghost Council.

Turn 3

Me (Rith): Mountain, Karametra. I’m out of lands but suspect my Harvest God will get some for me.

Toby (Tasigur): Command Tower, Stinkweed Imp.

Seamus (Rakdos): Cabal Coffers, Bloodchief Ascension. Now I feel kind of bad for not playing dual lands, because I suspect that he kept a weaker hand, not knowing he’d whiff finding Swamps.

Scott (Karlov): Plains, Karmic Justice.

Turn 4

Me (Rith): I miss a land drop, but can cast Brion Stoutarm. With the Karametra trigger, get Plateau.

Toby (Tasigur): Sunken Ruins, Nyx Weaver.

Seamus (Rakdos): Dragonskull Summit and Erebos, God of the Dead. This puts a crimp in Scott’s style right away and will have a lasting impact on all of us.

Scott (Karlov): Kor Haven, Crypt Ghast.

Turn 5

Me (Rith): Miss another land drop, but casting Oketra the True gets me Stomping Ground. While I’m in there, I get the Plains I’ll search up for Rampant Growth.

Toby (Tasigur): Mills Solemn Simulacrum and Beacon of Unrest from the Nyx Weaver trigger. Attacks Seamus (36) and Scott (38). After combat, he exiles Verdant Catacombs to be able to cast Tasigur.

Seamus (Rakdos): Digging for lands, he draws two cards off Erebos (32). Unfortunately, he misses both times.

Scott (Karlov): Command Beacon into Archfiend of Depravity, extorting it. I go to (39), Seamus (31), and Toby (38). I secretly hope I misremember that Archfiend of Depravity is the -1/-1 counter cycling one, but it’s not (that’s Archfiend of Ifnir). He battles Seamus with Karlov and Crypt Ghast (I think he was salty about not gaining life from his extort), sending him to (27). Seems like an unfortunate situation for Seamus—being behind on land and being the target due to Erebos.

Turn 6

Me (Rith): Cast Rith, get Plains from Karametra. Leave up a red mana to be able to activate Brion Stoutarm. When Archfiend of Depravity triggers at end of turn, I fling Oketra at Scott’s face (35).

Toby (Tasigur): Mills Tracker’s Instincts and Golgari Grave Troll. Drops Forest, casts Codex Shredder. Attacks Scott (34). Activates Tasigur, mills, and Seamus picks Black Sun’s Zenith. At end of turn, sacrifices down by getting rid of Stinkweed Imp.

Seamus (Rakdos): Pays twice again with Erebos, missing both times. At end of turn, discards Patriarch’s Bidding, Eldrazi Monument, and Fiend of Shadows.

Scott (Karlov): Vesuva, copying his own Godless Shrine. Phyrexian Arena, extorting it; Seamus (22), Toby (37), me (38). Then attacks Seamus (18).

Turn 7

Me (Rith): Knowing I have to do this now rather than later, cast Acidic Slime (getting Plains) to take out Karmic Justice. Scott targets Brion Stoutarm; I let it die without casting anything else. I then cast Aura Shards, which would have obviously been the target of Karmic Justice had I played things in the other order. We have a brief discussion of how much we all like enchantments. At end of turn, Toby Shreds himself, milling Slippery Karst.

Toby (Tasigur): Mirror-Mad Phantasm and Tranquil Thicket go into the graveyard. No other action for Toby.

Seamus (Rakdos): Casts Purphoros, God of the Forge, which I suspect will hasten his end.

Scott (Karlov): Phyrexian Arena takes him to (33). Plays Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx; taps it for six and casts Campaign of Vengeance and then Deathbringer Liege. We mention that he might have wanted to cast them the other way around, and he facepalms.

Turn 8

Me (Rith): Cast Knight of the White Orchid, which doesn’t get me anything besides the Forest from Karametra. I blow up Phyrexian Arena with Aura Shards. At end of turn, Toby Shreds himself for Deranged Assistant and then activates Tasigur for Forbidden Alchemy and Forest. Seamus gives him Tracker’s Instincts.

Toby (Tasigur): Elvish Abomination and Damnation go into the graveyard. I remark internally how I like the politics of having things in the graveyard that another player might be willing to give me with Tasigur. Toby casts Tracker’s Instincts, revealing Swamp, Breeding Pool, Lonely Sandbar, and Body Double, which he keeps.

Seamus (Rakdos): Rakdos Cluestone, and now that he has black mana, Viscera Seer. Purphoros trigger puts Toby to (35), Scott to (31), me to (36). At end of turn, I Comet Storm for four, copying it twice to take out Deathbringer Liege, Archfiend of Depravity, and Crypt Ghast.

Scott (Karlov): Scott draws and says, “Hey, I have no mana anymore.” Still manages to cast Attrition and the ouch-inducing Ob Nixilis, Unshackled.

Turn 9

Me (Rith): I cast Anointed Procession, knowing I’m going to battle with Rith. Attack Scott; he lets it through, going to (25). Trigger resolves and I choose black, getting twelve tokens. Blow up everything that belongs to everyone else, save for Seamus’s Mind Stone. I mention that the play violates my idea of “build casually, play competitively,” but I just didn’t want to kick a brother that hard when he’s down. He deadpans something like “We all make choices.” In retrospect, you don’t give someone a break when they have Purphoros on the battlefield—but I liked my battlefield position and was hoping that risking my own life total would also put Toby’s and Scott’s in peril.

Toby (Tasigur): Mills Compulsion and Twisted Abomination. Drops Myriad Landscape and then casts Black Sun’s Zenith for four. Seamus scrys with Viscera Seer. Tasigur, Rith, and Karametra, which was a creature, all survive with counters on them.

Seamus (Rakdos): Finally gets a Swamp. Drops Kalastria Highborn. Toby (33), Scott (23), me (34).

Scott (Karlov): Re-casts Karlov.

Turn 10

Me (Rith): Cast Soul of Theros and Gideon’s Avenger, getting two more lands. Battle Seamus with the smallest Rith ever (16). This time, white is the color, netting me fourteen tokens. This time, I also blow up Mind Stone, and Seamus draws off it.

Toby (Tasigur): Casts Ancestral Memories. Survival of the Fittest, Vengeful Pharaoh, Millikin, Think Twice, and Forest end up in the graveyard. Plays Island, then at end of turn discards Greenwarden of Murasa.

Seamus (Rakdos): Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Me to (32), Scott (21), Toby (31).

Scott (Karlov): Damnation. Kalastria Highborn drains Scott (19), Seamus to (18).

Turn 11

Me (Rith): I cast Rith again, getting Plains and turning back on Karametra. At end of turn, Toby activates Myriad Landscape, getting two Forests.

Toby (Tasigur): Flooded Grove, Avatar of Woe. Casts Body Double, copying Greenwarden of Murasa, obviously getting back the one in the graveyard.

Seamus (Rakdos): Stromkirk Captain. Me to (30), Scott (17), Toby (29).

Scott (Karlov): Casts Ravos, Soultender and Serra Ascendant, which doubly does “not much.”

Turn 12

Me (Rith): Attack Seamus with Rith (12), getting twelve tokens. No further action.

Toby (Tasigur): Path of Ancestry. Casts Tasigur, delving Elvish Aberration, Millikin, and Deranged Assistant.

Seamus (Rakdos): Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief: me (28), Scott (15), Toby (27).

Scott (Karlov): During his upkeep, Ravos gets back Crypt Ghast and he casts it. He follows up with Expedition Map, getting Scrubland, and then casts Ghost Council of Orzhova, putting me at (27).

Turn 13

Me (Rith): Attack Seamus with twelve Saprolings and Rith, which Toby kills with Avatar of Woe. Seamus blocks two of the Saprolings to stay alive at (2). At end of turn, Toby activates Tasigur, milling Mystic Teachings and Creeping Renaissance. Seamus gives me Ancestral Memories.

Toby (Tasigur): Dredges with Golgari Grave-Troll, putting lots of stuff into his graveyard. Attacks me for eight (19), then plays the Grave-Troll.

Seamus (Rakdos): Swamp, but no action.

Scott (Karlov): Ravos Soultender returns Deathbringer Liege to his hand, casts Suture Priest and extorts. Me (18), Seamus (1), Toby (26). Taps Nythkos to cast Deathbringer Liege and will obviously extort it; in response to the trigger going on the stack, Seamus kills Deathbringer Liege with Drana. Seamus dies, I go to (17), Toby to (25). Attacks me with Serra Ascendant, which now at least has lifelink. I’m at (15), Scott (17).

Turn 14

Me (Rith): Make a solid peel in Akroma’s Memorial. Need to go for it here, so I battle all ten of my Saprolings at Scott. He can’t block, so I exile Soul of Theros to give my team +2/+2 and lifelink. That kills Scott and puts me to (45).

Toby (Tasigur): Woodfall Primus takes out Akroma’s Memorial and then he (too late for Scott) Bojuka Bogs me.

Turn 15

Me (Rith): I cast Avenger of Zendikar (which I’d been holding for a while), getting 26 Plant tokens. I play Gaea’s Cradle and Godsend, which I equip to a Saproling. I then attack with all ten Saprolings; Toby blocks five of them (and not the equipped one), going to (17). I figure at this point, if I get his life total low enough, I can get him with nearly anything in my deck, so I don’t worry about defense—especially given that I have Boros Battleshaper, well, shaping battles. At end of turn, he kills Avenger of Zendikar with Avatar of Woe.

Toby (Tasigur): Greenwarden of Murasa gets back Black Sun’s Zenith. Casts it for two, killing all my creatures except the equipped token. He attacks me for 24, most of it being from the Grave-Troll (21).

Turn 16

Me (Rith): I draw Elemental Bond, which isn’t as much help as I want but might get me there. I cast Boros Battleshaper and draw. I then pay ten for Rith and draw. Go to combat, making Greenwarden of Murasa unable to block. Toby to (13). Vengeful Pharaoh kills the token after damage. At end of turn, he turns the game with Murderous Cut, killing the Battleshaper, which I had hoped would keep Golgari Grave-Troll from attacking.

Toby (Tasigur): Draws Vengeful Pharaoh. Going for the kill, activates Avatar of Woe, targeting Rith. In response, I cast Boros Charm (which I had maybe hoped would be a finisher) to make my things indestructible. He responds with Dig Through Time, paying for some of it by delving. He attacks with everything. I block Grave-Troll with Karametra and Greenwarden with Rith (12). After combat, he casts Spitting Image, copying Greenwarden to return Murderous Cut to his hand. Ugh.

Turn 17

Me (Rith): During my upkeep, he casts Murderous Cut on Rith, turning off Karametra. I draw no help. I pay twelve to recast Rith, and still draw no help.

Toby (Tasigur): Kills me.

After the fact, I wonder if I might have given myself a better chance at the end had I played a little more conservatively. I know he’s going to continue to Spitting Image that Greenwarden of Murasa (so lots of Murderous Cut), so I still only had a short amount of time. Perhaps keeping back the whole host of tokens gives me more chance to draw into something large like Aurelia’s Fury or Titanic Ultimatum. In the end, I’ll call it a win because we had some fun—which is the whole point in the first place.

This week’s Deck Without (Much) Comment is the Rith’s Tokens list I play above. Since this game, I took out Godsend to put into my Commander 2017 Draft deck, replacing it with Growing Rites of Itlimoc. As an added bonus, I’ve listed Scott’s and Toby’s decks as well.

Rith, the Awakener
Sheldon Menery
Test deck on 12-30-2012
Magic Card Back

Karlov of the Ghost Council
Scott Larabee
Test deck on 10-24-2017
Magic Card Back

Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Toby Elliott
Test deck on 10-24-2017
Magic Card Back


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Halloween with Karador; Dreaming of Intet; You Did This to Yourself.



Heliod, God of Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn Evil No. 9.


Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever.

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Angry, Angry Dinos; Animar’s Swarm; Ikra and Kydele; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke’s Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith’s Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; Zombies of Tresserhorn.

Four Color

Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free; Saskia Unyielding; Breya Reshaped.


Children of a Greater God


Tana and Kydele; Kynaios and Tiro; Ikra and Kydele.


Animar Do-Over; Glissa Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Kresh Do-Over; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Lord of Tresserhorn Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan Do-Over.

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”