Riding With Ruhan

This week, Bennie Smith gets back to talking about Commander. Going in a different direction than usual, he’s built a sweet equipment-themed deck around Ruhan of the Fomori. Check it out!

I haven’t done a full-blown Commander deck build here in a while, and since I seem to do a fair number of green and/or black Commander decks, this week I’ve decided to stray from my well-worn path. The Commander decks offered up a handful of new non-green and non-black legends to build around, and one of the ones that has intrigued me the most is Ruhan of the Fomori — so let’s dig in, shall we?

Random Ruhan

On the surface Ruhan is just a big dumb beater, a creature whose “special ability” is being oversized for his casting cost. Not only is he dumb, he’s also random; something that can drive some players nuts. Me, I find that drawback fascinating since the randomness can potentially absolve you of blame for who you end up attacking. One big part of multiplayer Magic is the politics of who and when you attack—are you being a bully at the table or the hero? Are you provoking someone to go on revenge tilt? Do you just sit back and try to keep a low profile even if there’s a player or two wide open?

With Ruhan, though, all those questions that typically go through your head fly right out the window. Ruhan doesn’t care what you’re thinking about; he’s going to attack someone each turn if able.

You can manage this a little bit. For instance, if you can give your creatures haste, you can declare your attack step before casting Ruhan if you want to hold him back a turn (for instance, if you want to equip him with Swiftfoot Boots for the hexproof but need to fend off an attack).

Another possible angle is playing Zedruu the Greathearted, who’s conveniently in the same colors as Ruhan, alongside the sweet Vows from Commander (Vow of Duty, Vow of Flight, and Vow of Lightning). Enchanting Ruhan with a Vow and then giving control of that Vow to a player you don’t want Ruhan to attack can be a pretty nifty way to push the big Giant Warrior in a desired direction.

I also think it wouldn’t hurt to consider how the randomness of Ruhan is resolved. For instance, if you assign each player a number and then roll dice, even though the dice are determining who Ruhan attacks you are still the one who rolled them. I have different method that may help lend a little more psychological weight to the idea that you are not to be held responsible for who Ruhan attacks:  assign each player a card and have each card’s duplicate in a stack in front of you. Whenever it’s time for Ruhan to attack, shuffle the stack and have one of your opponent’s pick the card to see who Ruhan goes after. Oh man, you picked yourself! Sorry dude… It’s a subtle difference that may not really yield any benefits, but you never know, it just might!

Fomori to the Face

Of course, once Ruhan is committed to the attack you want him to get through and hit someone and not necessarily just get chump blocked by some token. Evasion and protection aren’t abilities Ruhan has naturally but there are plenty of ways you can put in your deck to give those to him—equipment, auras, Mother of Runes, incarnations like Anger, Wonder, and Glory. Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer can Pacify any big scary blockers. Master Warcraft can manage who blocks and who doesn’t.

Even though Ruhan is a big boy, he still needs to connect with someone three times to kill them with commander damage. Due to the random nature of Ruhan’s attack, it may take a while to actually accumulate enough hits to finally kill off an opponent. This means that you’ll likely want to take a “Voltron” approach to Ruhan, enhancing him with abilities to make him lethal in just one or two swings. Luckily Ruhan gives you access to all the fantastic equipment-based Magic cards that can really enable this strategy to be quite strong.

Playing Defense

Of course, with Ruhan constantly attacking and potentially provoking counterattacks from opponents who either don’t buy into the “it’s Ruhan’s fault, not mine!” defense or decide that the best way to remove the threat of Ruhan is to remove you, you likely need to protect yourself. White, blue, and red give you access to a pretty solid collection of “attack tax” cards you can load up on: Windborn Muse, Ghostly Prison, Propaganda, Collective Restraint, and Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs are all great cards that just get even crazier in multiples. Heck, Copy Enchantment and other copy cards are in blue if you want to really double up the defenses! Let’s also not forget about staples like Maze of Ith and Mystifying Maze.

Then there are ways to untap Ruhan after he’s attacked; cards like Reveille Squad, Sword of the Paruns, Aggravated Assault, and Thousand-Year Elixir. Crackleburr can help untap if you’ve got enough red or blue creatures to reliably have out there. Techy Masako the Humorless lets Ruhan play defense even if he’s tapped, with flash to make it a surprise the first time!

Giving Ruhan lifelink with cards like Loxodon Warhammer, Basilisk Collar, Scourge of the Nobilis, Steel of the Godhead, Batterskull, and True Conviction can help you just race any counterattacks.

Keeping these three themes in mind, it’s pretty clear we can go several different directions with Ruhan. I’m quite intrigued by the notion of Zedruu and the Vows in a Ruhan deck, but I think for my first pass I’m going to instead focus on a very strong equipment theme. Here’s what I’ve got built currently:

You’ll notice that I’ve only got one land in here that produces colorless mana. My rule of thumb when building three-color decks—especially those without green—is that you want all your mana to produce some color of mana. Sunhome is worth making an exception for. Panorama’s produce colorless mana but are there as fetchlands you can hold off using so long as you don’t desperately need the basic land. That way, you can use it as a mana source until you’re ready to shuffle your library (in this list, combining with Sensei’s Divining Top).

To take advantage of all the great equipment-themed cards requires this build to be pretty heavy on the white side of the wedge. I’ve chosen Quest for the Holy Relic, Auriok Steelshaper, Leonin Shikari, Stoneforge Mystic, Puresteel Paladin, Grand Abolisher, Leonin Abunas, and Stonehewer Giant in white, and Godo, Bandit Warlord in red. These give you lots of ways to find equipment and put them into play, pay equip costs cheaper and sometimes at instant speed, let you equip unmolested, turn equipment into cantrips, and protect equipment from direct removal.

There are so many choices, but I eventually settled on the following pieces of equipment:  Basilisk Collar, Swiftfoot Boots, Trailblazer’s Boots, Nim Deathmantle, Sword of Feast and Famine, Loxodon Warhammer, Sunforger, Kusari-Gama, Tenza, Godo’s Maul, Helm of Kaldra, Shield of Kaldra, and Sword of Kaldra. I think the Kaldra pieces give a solid Voltron Plan B in case you can’t get Ruhan to stick around. Kusari-Gama sets up a nice damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation with your opponents deciding whether or not to block Ruhan. My personal fave, Nim Deathmantle, works nicely alongside some of the creatures with comes into play abilities in this deck such as Trinket Mage, Stoneforge Mystic, and Karmic Guide, as well as making Spellskite and Flagbearer even more resilient at keeping the heat off Ruhan.

When I first compiled this list, I forgot about Sunforger, and had to make some revisions to add more cards to take advantage of the Tutoring ability for red or white instants:  Path to Exile, Rebuff the Wicked, Angel’s Grace, Momentary Blink, Dawn Charm, Chaos Warp, Oblation, Oona’s Grace, Sudden Impact, Wild Ricochet, and Master Warcraft. I’m particularly excited about Oona’s Grace, which will let you cycle away excess lands later in the game to keep your hand chock full of gas. Rebuff the Wicked and Dawn Charm give some surprise counterability to the Sunforger activation.

I also decided one way to get around Ruhan’s randomness was to just increase the number of attacks you make each turn. Red gives you some nice options here, like Waves of Aggression which turns any extra lands you get (hello Journeyer’s Kite) into extra attack steps. Aggravated Assault is particularly nasty in combination with Sword of Feast and Famine—assuming you hit an opponent, you’ll get to untap all your lands and then pay five mana to untap all your creatures and get another attack step potentially over and over again. Scuttlemutt can tap to manage the colors of potential blockers (and keep untapping each attack), allowing the Sword’s protection abilities to let Ruhan connect. Hellkite Charger is a bit more expensive but can provide a similar combination.

Instead of trying to set up some sort of graveyard recursion, I decided to go with Trinket Mage + Elixir of Immortality to shuffle stuff back into the deck, especially since I have some ways of Tutoring things from the library.

So there you have it—one take on making a kickass Ruhan deck! I got an email from the awesome Bruce Richard (previously of SCG Talent Search fame, contributor to the Muse Vessel blog, and currently featured on Kitchen Table Tuesdays over at GatheringMagic.com), and he’s working on his own Ruhan deck. He’s interested in drawing comparisons between various takes on Ruhan in an upcoming column, so keep your eyes peeled for my deck and other people’s Ruhan decks over there in the coming weeks! I have to admit I nabbed some ideas from his deck for mine: Sunforger, Goblin Ruinblaster, Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion, and Godo, Bandit Warlord are all thanks to Mr. Richard.

Shout out to Sheldon Menery for suggesting a Tolkien-themed “Riders of Rohan” Ruhan deck on Twitter… I just might incorporate that into Ruhan, Part 2:  The Vows of Zedruu. Hero of Bladehold seems like a slam-dunk choice for Éowyn and maybe Ranger of Eos for Aragorn. Sadly, Dwarves in Magic suck really bad (don’t get me started again on this) so there’s nothing remotely on par with badass Gimli, though I suppose Dwarven Miner would at least be a solid utility card. The choices for non-green Elves are really slim and nothing of quality is available to wear the name Legolas. Searching for badass Kithkin for the hobbit Merry—sworn to the service of the King of Rohan—leads me to think Figure of Destiny is the best pick here, though Mistmeadow Skulk is a flavorful choice—protection from converted mana cost three or greater calls to mind Merry’s role in killing the Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the NazgÔl.

That’s it for this week! I hope you have a great weekend whatever you have planned… Though I know where many of you will be Sunday night, just like me—glued to AMC watching the season finale of The Walking Dead. I’m literally buzzing with excitement and can’t wait! Can you believe how the second half of this season has unfolded? Wow!!!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

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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:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: