During the amazing Grand Prix Las Vegas, I did a deck tech with Uriah Oxford of #CMDR
Decks. When he asked which deck I wanted to do, I couldn’t think of anything better than Ruhan of the Fomori, also called “You Did This to Yourself.” Now
more than a year and a half old, it’s become one of my most popular and most-requested decks.
It was suggested by a single card: Parallectric Feedback, a vigilante fantasy brought to life. That theme got extended – I’m reasonably sure Acidic Soil
was the second card I picked – and here we are. The deck has undergone a number of individual card changes, but none have fundamentally changed what the
deck does. They’ve simply made the deck do what it does even better.
I’ve put together the list and a discussion of it in the Players’ Guide/Primer format that I hope to eventually get all my decks into. Here’s the list:
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Clone
- 1 Willbender
- 1 Gilded Drake
- 1 Mischievous Quanar
- 1 Chromeshell Crab
- 1 Viashino Heretic
- 1 Aura Thief
- 1 Goblin Flectomancer
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Ruhan of the Fomori
- 1 Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
- 1 New Prahv Guildmage
- 1 Molten Primordial
- 1 Boros Reckoner
- 1 Final Judgment
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Reverse Damage
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Harsh Justice
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Desertion
- 1 Repercussion
- 1 Hibernation
- 1 Gilded Lotus
- 1 Bribery
- 1 Helm of Obedience
- 1 Turn the Tables
- 1 Reflect Damage
- 1 Aether Flash
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Honorable Passage
- 1 Angel's Trumpet
- 1 Acidic Soil
- 1 Rhystic Study
- 1 Mirror Strike
- 1 Powerstone Minefield
- 1 Karmic Justice
- 1 Radiate
- 1 Boros Fury-Shield
- 1 Boros Signet
- 1 Copy Enchantment
- 1 Sunforger
- 1 Cerebral Vortex
- 1 Parallectric Feedback
- 1 Azorius Signet
- 1 Reiterate
- 1 Dawn Charm
- 1 Knowledge Exploitation
- 1 Gather Specimens
- 1 Sleep
- 1 Chain Reaction
- 1 Lightmine Field
- 1 Blue Sun's Zenith
- 1 Blasphemous Act
- 1 Martial Law
- 1 Essence Backlash
- 1 Aurelia's Fury
- 1 Blind Obedience
- 1 Restore the Peace
Why Play It?
It creates memorable games. Commander is a format of epic battles, and this deck always seems to add a little more epicness to them. It has an
outside-the-box path to victory most of the time. It doesn’t seek to control the game state so much as impact it, which has become a
common theme in my latest builds. Winning takes a back seat to doing things that make other players do things. It’s a nice secondary benefit to win games,
but I’m primarily motivated by trying to create game states and moments that people will talk about for a long time.
The deck is the Magic equivalent of judo. It uses the opponents’ own momentum and weapons against them. Without them trying to do something abusive, you
can’t actually hurt them too badly.
You’ll Like This Deck If…
You like being reactive instead of proactive.
You enjoy completely blowing out someone with their own things.
You want to create unusual board states.
You like putting your opponents in awkward circumstances.
You’re fond of the occasional bluff.
You relish the idea of killing the person who is trying to Exsanguinate for 50.
You like giving your opponents choices: bad and worse.
You Won’t Like This Deck If…
You want to attack with swarms of creatures.
You don’t like being reactive.
You’re overly reliant on creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers.
You like playing out of the graveyard.
You’re a fan of lots of recursion.
Playing blue without a fistful of counterspells makes you squicky.
You hate awesome.
What Does It Do?
Unless there’s a turn 1 Land Tax, the first real action this deck takes is casting the Commander, on turn 4 in most cases, turn 3 if you’re lucky. From
there, the idea is for Ruhan to start battling, keeping everyone on their heels and their resources back because they don’t know if they’re getting
attacked or not. The random determination of which player Ruhan will attack really keeps them guessing and unwilling to be aggressive themselves. After
that, it attempts to use the opponents’ resources against them, whether that’s getting one of their creatures with Bribery , casting Cerebral Vortex after
they’ve drawn a pile of cards, or casting Mirror Strike on their attacking Kresh. It sits and is patient. It occasionally eats some damage, although
Restore the Peace makes that a little more palatable.
The deck normally takes out only one player at a time, with things like the aforementioned Mirror Strike or Reflect Damage. Every now and again, Ruhan will
hit someone enough times for a Commander Damage kill, but without real dedication to making him bigger (Sunforger does transform him into a two-hit killer)
or unblockable, that’s somewhat rare. It will whittle down life totals comboing Aether Flash with Repercussion, and shaving them further with the addition
of Boros Reckoner. Occasionally it will help one opponent kill another opponent with Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. The only times it’s likely to kill
multiple players is with Repercussion and either Blasphemous Act or Chain Reaction.
The original design of the deck had in it a Sunforger package. It came out because I thought the commitment to it was a little weak, but now it’s back in.
There are eleven choices to pick up with a Sunforger activation: Boros Fury-Shield (although you can’t pay the red mana part), Cerebral Vortex, Dawn Charm,
Essence Backlash, Harsh Justice, Honorable Passage, Mirror Strike, Parallectric Feedback, Reiterate (it’s pretty sweet to cast it off of Sunforger and also
pay the buyback), Restore the Peace, and Reverse Damage. Technically you can cast Aurelia’s Fury, but that’s not worth much without paying the X. Mistveil
Plains is there to put things back into the library from the graveyard. Eleven cards is a little thin for a great Sunforger package, which is why I took it
out the first time. As time goes on, we might expand that a little—but in the end, it’s only one feature of the deck, not the linchpin. With no tutoring
for it (going tutorless has also been a recent habit), it just has to come up. It’s not a part of every game the deck plays.
The deck Wraths occasionally, with Blasphemous Act, Chain Reaction, and Final Judgment, plus the occasional Decree of Pain out of someone else’s deck with
Knowledge Exploitation. It occurs to me that with Blind Obedience, Sunblast Angel might be an interesting card to play.
The deck also creates uncomfortable attacking situations with three cards: Angel’s Trumpet, Powerstone Minefield, and Lightmine Field. Either they attack
and potentially kill off their own creatures, or they don’t attack, which means having the creatures tapped and the player taking damage. This fundamental
shift in the combat decision tree gives opponents a great deal to think about. Adding Boros Reckoner to this mix—especially in the face of a giant
ground-pounding attacker—makes it even more difficult on them.
I love that the deck makes players twitchy about attacking me. Players who’ve seen the deck in action have watched their friends get murdered with
Honorable Passage, and they don’t want to end up in the same boat. One of the first times I played the deck, I dared a player with a 49/49 Omnath (and no
mana sink) to attack me by using Stewie Griffin’s taunt “You haven’t got the grapes,” voice and all. He bit, I Mirror Striked, and a legend was born. Then,
of course, there was the time I was playing with Eric Klug and his Heartless Hidetsugu deck—which promptly got Reflect Damaged to the face. The story was
so good that he ended up altering a Reflect Damage with Heartless Hidetsugu on it for me.
Besides casting Parallectric Feedback on someone who casts a greedy X spell (Genesis Wave for 25?), my favorite way to win is by casting Acidic Soil when
players have gotten greedy with the land ramp. Even late game, my land total is probably only going to be about 10-12, where opponents may have up to 20.
You did this to yourself.
What Doesn’t It Do?
The first thing that it doesn’t do is put extra lands into play. Without a lucky break—Reiterate on someone’s Boundless Realms would be sweet—it’s going to
rely on those mana rocks to get through the early part of the game. On turn three, I’d certainly consider casting Reiterate without buyback on another
As mentioned, it doesn’t create its own creature swarms. The creatures are mostly there for their utility abilities. Ruhan is the creature most likely to
be dealing out piles of damage, although Gisela, Blade of Goldnight makes any creature twice as good. Thinking about Gisela always makes me think about
Aurelia, and then I head down the path of extra attack steps…which gets away from the purpose of the deck. Maybe there’s some future build of Ruhan as a
truly aggressive strategy, but for now the deck wins in the red zone, just in an untraditional way.
The deck doesn’t cast Ruhan too often, even though he’s pretty cost-effective. When he’s gotten killed a few times, the mana to recast him is better left
up for protection or removal spells. This changes if I’m lucky with Land Tax and have double-digit lands in play, since I’d have the mana to cast him again
plus still be able to protect myself.
Save for Mistveil Plains, there’s not much recursion in the deck. Academy Ruins is there primarily to recur Helm of Obedience. After that, there aren’t too
many other repeatable elements.
It doesn’t draw cards particularly well. Most of the resources are tied up in damage prevention and retribution, so Rhystic Study and Blue Sun’s Zenith
have to do the heavy lifting.
Besides Viashino Heretic and potentially Karmic Justice, the non-creature removal suite is kind of lacking. To some extent, I’d like other players to keep
their utility stuff so that they can cast bigger and better creatures—which I can then kill them with.
How Does It Lose?
The deck loses by not having enough answers for all the other players. Once I’ve expended resources killing a player or keeping from being killed, there’s
a window where I’m vulnerable. If the other three players are all running aggressive decks, I could be in a fair amount of trouble.
Although it’s rare, the deck loses when I don’t get enough control or threat elements. There have been times when I’ve been fortunate enough to get the
early mana rocks, but then start blanking on other draws. The below-average card drawing hurts here.
The deck will lose to having its manabase attacked. Even in a local environment where we don’t face much mass land destruction, a Nevinyrral’s Disk or
Oblivion Stone wiping out the mana rocks can be a huge setback.
The deck will lose to non-creature based strategies like mill or repeatable direct damage. Hopefully the well-timed Honorable Passage will keep too many
Comet Storms from getting pointed at your face.
Cards That Aren’t There
Aetherize: A Gatecrash card that I love a great deal, it’s not in the deck because I want things to try to damage me. My favorite play with Aetherize is
when one opponent attacks another. You let the damage happen, then cast Aetherize during the end of combat step. They’re still “attacking creatures”
through the end of the phase, so they return to hand.
Alpha Brawl: A card that was awesome when it worked and an eight-mana waste when it didn’t, like when the opponent had a way to get rid of the original
creature. Now that I think about the card, it should probably go into Ruric Thar and His Werewolf Fight Club.
Boldwyr Intimidator: Ruhan is a Warrior, but the deck simply isn’t aggressive enough to warrant the awesomeness of Cowards Can’t Block Warriors.
Cyclonic Rift: Yeah, can’t think of a really good reason to not have it that isn’t “it’s in other decks.” This is a note-to-self moment.
Darien, King of Kjeldor: Fun with a shockland or Mana Crypt, Darien was creating uncomfortable situations for me whenever I had Repercussion in play.
Luminate Primordial: I only had so many copies, and without ways to blink it, it’s less exciting.
Martyr’s Bond: I don’t have that much that people want to destroy, so Martyr’s Bond has a pretty low EV. Karmic Justice fills the same basic role at half
the mana cost.
Michiko Konda: I had hoped that Michiko would prove more of a rattlesnake than she did. Sure, it sometimes kept hordes off of me, but most of the time it
was less than inspiring. There were times that players attacked me because they actually wanted to sacrifice a particular permanent. I didn’t want to give
them that option.
Mindslaver: The ultimate in “you did this to yourself,” I found casting and activating Mindslaver a tad too expensive for this particular deck.
Moat: I had it in for a while and took it out to put it into Trostani. Had it stayed in, I’m sure I would have eventually succumbed to the temptation of
also playing Siren’s Call.
Oblation: A nice thing to pick up with Sunforger, Oblation has been in and out of the deck at least twice. If I beef up the Sunforger package, it’ll come
in for the express purpose of tucking Commanders.
Pollen Lullaby: A real hidden gem, I’m playing it in my Oros the Avenger deck, which also has Sunforger in it. If this deck’s package expands, it will be a
Propaganda (and friends): I want people to attack me. Otherwise there’s no super-lolz blowout.
Reins of Power: Originally, it was out because it wasn’t something I could get with Sunforger. Now it’s just something I haven’t thought to put in,
although given the mana cost it’s probably worth it.
Restoration Angel: There aren’t enough creatures in the deck with spicy enters-the-battlefield triggers, plus I’m playing Resto in several other decks.
Swords to Plowshares: One-for-ones don’t do much for me in the format, although now that there’s a new version of this floating around, it might be time to
get one just for the pimpiness.
Thada Adel, Acquisitor: I took Thada out in favor of Tamiyo when it first came out. I’m on the verge of swapping it back in because casting Tamiyo
generally turns out to mean spending five mana to make everyone attack me—which is eminently fair, because once this deck has a Tamiyo emblem, good luck
dealing damage without killing yourself.
War’s Toll: There was at one point an entire “must attack” subtheme (Grand Melee, Avatar of Slaughter), so that opponents couldn’t hold back when they
suspected I had Mirror Strike on me. War’s Toll was part of it. Making tapping mana awkward for all opponents was a reasonable feature, but I found that
the card drew directed hate onto my head, and the deck isn’t robust enough to regularly handle continual onslaught of each other player all the time.
Ruhan and the Future
Ruhan fits the deck because it doesn’t, well, fit the deck. Zedruu would probably be the “more correct” thing to play, but I like that Ruhan creates
pressure right away, giving me time to marshal my other forces. If there’s a creature in a future set which fits the theme to a T (“Bob the Punisher” or
somesuch), then maybe I’ll consider it, and probably build an aggro Ruhan deck. Until such a time, I’ll continue to look for new cards that fit the theme
and improve on what the deck already does without changing the vector.
“You Did This to Yourself” was an idea that grew organically from watching how other players play the format and using the things that they do to the
extremes against them. If Commander is the battle-cruiser Magic format, then this deck is the laser-guided space missile defense system. It’s not going to
hurt you unless you try to do something really bad. Give it a try. You’ll be happy you did.
Embracing the Chaos,
Facebook = Sheldon Menery
Twitter = @SheldonMenery
Food and Wine Blog = http://discoveriesinfoodandwine.com/
If you want to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group
“Sheldon Menery Monday Night Gamers.”