The Do Over Project: Ruric Thar, The Unbowed

Sheldon Menery has a Do Over Project problem: he put most of the good cards in the first version of Ruric Thar, the Unbowed! But that just gave him a reason to include some unusual cards you can get for your own Commander games!

The Do Over Project steams into Christmas week on a red and green train. Finding the next 99 for Ruric Thar, the Unbowed has long nettled me because it can be one of those commanders which can lock people out of games. I’m okay with making them less likely to want to cast spells, but I’m not a fan of games in which everyone else is doing lots of nothing. It’s fine with me if what they want to do hurts, but I never want to be the person playing a game of solitaire.

One of the things I have trouble doing when building new decks is avoiding going back to the same wells over and over. There are things which I like to do when playing Commander. I’m going to see if I can at least in some measure break out of my comfort zone with this deck. The original, Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club, is heavily thematic. It contains only a few noncreature spells, and nearly all of the creatures are Beasts. This one will have to look completely different. It still has to do what R/G decks tend to do, which means it will be heavy with creatures, simply not as exclusively as the previous version.

What I’d like to do with the deck is some gaining of life while I’m battling in order to mitigate the effects of my commander. The card that would be perfect for the deck is Thragtusk, but since it’s in the original, it’s off-limits. I initially considered Platinum Emperion as way to help out, but that would kind of ruin the lifegain. Ruric Thar’s mana cost is a little expensive, so we’ll need do some ramping if we want to make sure that we can recast him. Unfortunately, some of the good land-getting creatures are also in the original. But we’ll get there. Let’s take a look at the list and then I’ll go over the individual choices:

The Commander

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed is nearly a single-card strategy. I almost played Possibility Storm in order to double up the damage, but that might be going over the top. A 6/6 with vigilance and reach is already pretty good for six mana, so we’ll be aggressive enough that the extra damage is more likely to hurt everyone else worse than it hurts us. The creature is also large enough to have to worry about commander damage kills.

Creatures (29)

Acidic Slime: The deck is mostly about casting creatures that can bash. We need Acidic Slime to do some battlefield control.

Burnished Hart: With most of the other land-searchers in the original deck, we have to rely on other choices. Fortunately, Burnished Hart is an excellent choice.

Courser of Kruphix: You’ll hear me occasionally talk about virtual card draw. To “draw” a card has a meaning in Magic; virtual card draw mirrors some of the effect of drawing cards. Playing a land off the top of your library with Courser of Kruphix does that.

Deathgorge Scavenger: A little graveyard control which also provides some of the lifegain we’d like.

Drumhunter: One of the hidden gems of the deck, Drumhunter provides a mana boost as well as drawing cards for the large creatures you cast with said mana.

Elvish Visionary: Simple card draw; I’ve chosen this inexpensive one to go with other cards, specifically Stampeding Serow and Stampeding Wildebeests.

Engulfing Slagwurm: Both an offensive and defensive weapon, Engulfing Slagwurm might just keep someone else’s Lord of Extinction off your face.

Essence Warden: You don’t need to create lots of creatures yourself for Essence Warden to be well worth its cost.

Fangren Marauder: This deck sports some good artifacts. People are going to want to blow up some of them. We might as well gain some life off it (and, by the way, all the other artifacts).

Farhaven Elf: A little bit of ramping by my side.

Filigree Familiar: When Solemn Simulacrum isn’t available, Filigree Familiar takes over.

Giant Adephage: One simply must use non-foil versions of Giant Adephage to represent the tokens. Pair liberally with Verdant Sun’s Avatar.

Malignus: You’ve probably already notices that there’s not much red in the deck. Malignus pairs quite well with Verdant Sun’s Avatar for some spectacular lifegain. And then, of course, for Fog-free beatings.

Masked Admirers: I’ve had some trouble in the past with Masked Admirers. First, there was the deck I discovered that I had three of them in—one foil, one non-foil, one non-English. You know how it is when you update decks without paying as much attention as you should. Fortunately, I called myself on it when one triggered and I drew another. That was the better part of six years ago, and the folks at the shop still won’t let me live it down. The other occasional issue with the card is the extra mana. This deck should have it.

Nylea’s Disciple: The devotion to green should be quite significant in this deck, which is also the reason Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is in the deck. A devotion sub-theme suggested itself, but I chose to not explore it.

Ondu Giant: A little more ramp on a wide-bodied package, Ondu Giant could also be Carven Caryatid. Obviously, the latter draws a card instead of ramping a land, but it also ticks up the devotion one more.

Pelakka Wurm: Speaking of devoted, I love me some Pelakka Wurm. Maybe Magic will survive long enough for us to have a deck full of cards that do something when they enter the battlefield and then draw a card when they die. And if Pelakka Wurm isn’t dying, it’s bashing.

Primordial Sage: Cast creatures, draw cards. It’s a basic but satisfying formula.

Scavenging Ooze: Of course this is a little more graveyard control, but even though folks remember the +1/+1 counters, sometimes we forget the lifegain.

Sifter Wurm: Maybe I’m just addicted to 7/7s because of the original Elder Dragons. Or maybe they just kill people.

Spike Feeder: I considered a whole “+1/+1 counters matter” strategy, but since I already have a few decks like that (most notably Prime Speaker Zegana), I didn’t head that direction here. Spike Feeder, however, is just good.

Stampeding Serow: Committing too heavily to creatures can get you wrecked. With cards that have excellent enters-the-battlefield triggers, putting one back into your hand every turn is a good idea. At last that way, when someone Wraths, you’ve gotten extra uses out of stuff.

Stampeding Wildebeests: A differently-named copy of Stampeding Serow, Stampeding Wildebeests came first, from back in a time when we didn’t understand yet how really cool creatures could be.

Terastodon: It’s all about the battlefield control. There are precious few pieces of it in this deck, so Terastodon might have to do some heavy lifting. Good thing its shoulders are broad.

Verdant Sun’s Avatar: When we’re casting lots of creatures, Verdant Sun’s Avatar will provide us with enough life to cast lots of noncreatures, too.

Vizier of the Menagerie: Back to virtual card draw, anything that lets you play off the top of your library effectively makes your hand size larger (without any of the drawbacks that might come if someone plays Storm Seeker). One of the things we learn pretty quickly when we have abilities like this is to play off the top as much as you can, since doing so will just dig deeper into your deck and its goodies.

Wall of Blossoms: Simple and classic.

Wild Wanderer: A more aggressive Ondu Giant, Wild Wanderer got me thinking about both Elf and Druid themes for the deck. Since the original is already tribal, I decided to do something different.

Wurmcoil Engine: There aren’t that many creatures in the R/G color identity which have lifelink, so Wurmcoil Engine hits a very sweet spot.

Legendary Creatures (4)

Nylea, God of the Hunt: I’ve noticed my recent tendency to include lots of legendary creatures in my decks, so I wanted to dial it back a little here. Nylea will frequently be on, gives everyone else trample, and is pretty hard to kill.

Selvala, Heart of the Wilds: If there were a Watch List for the format, Selvala, Heart of the Wilds would probably be on it. She can fuel out some pretty insane stuff. It doesn’t help that she’s ridiculous with Paradox Engine.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: I like my legendary creatures indestructible and capable of blowing up stuff. Newlamog doesn’t even have to attack to make a huge impact on the game (but of course, it’s getting into the red zone as often as possible)

Xenagos, God of Revels: I want Ruric Thar to be a bit of a threat to kill with commander damage, which merits the inclusion of Xenagos, God of Revels. Also, it can make Malignus one-shot lethal.

Artifacts (10)

Alhammarret’s Archive: Two great tastes that taste great together, lifegain and card draw.

Akroma’s Memorial: We obviously think about Akroma’s Memorial as an offensive tool since it gives our creatures so many abilities, but vigilance is also a thing which helps in the absence of much defense.

Batterskull: Batterskull is a good card and one I don’t think I’m playing in any other decks, which is a real head-scratcher.

Minion Reflector: When you have strong enters-the-battlefield creatures, copying them for just a little bit of mana is extremely powerful.

Mirage Mirror: Of course, when you can also change something cheap like Mirage Mirror into something scary, like Pelakka Wurm, you’re also cooking with gas.

Pristine Talisman: I’m not much on mana rocks in decks with green in them, but Pristine Talisman also offers some lifegain.

Rhonas’s Monument: Lots of green creatures; let’s make them cheaper. Cost-reducers are strong because if you’re casting more than one applicable thing in the turn, it’s like having additional lands.

Sol Ring: I’m still not completely sold that the deck needs it, but we’ll see. It’s in most cases not worth doming myself late in the game.

Sword of Light and Shadow: Creatures will get killed. Sword of Light and Shadow will gain some life and bring them back.

Well of Lost Dreams: This card has paid so many dividends in my Trostani deck that I think it put me in a higher tax bracket.

Enchantments (5)

Elemental Bond: Garruk’s Packleader is unfortunately in the original, but thankfully, the enchantment version is available.

Leyline of Vitality: Essence Warden Version 2 is one of those cards that you look at, think isn’t that great, and get proven wrong.

Roots of Life: Another card that I suppose I have to annoy people about making in a foil version. Again, trying something different.

Wild Pair: Clearly the six-mana enchantment you want is Lurking Predators, but I really wanted to do something different. 7/7s getting more 7/7s is what life is all about.

Zendikar Resurgent: This card is dumb. That is all. Yes, it costs seven. It’s still dumb. Lovably, lovably dumb.

Instants (4)

Blunt the Assault: Maybe a little expensive as Fogs go, the extra two or so mana probably gets returned in lifegain.

Heal the Scars: Another off-the-beaten-path card, Heal the Scars doesn’t have to target a creature you control.

Respite: Another mostly unheard-of Fog which gains life, Respite is another that you don’t have to cast when you’re getting attacked (although you probably want to save it until you are).

Sheltering Word: This one has to target one of your own, but it’s around in case anyone wants to try to steal that Ulamog.

Sorceries (8)

Cultivate: The best of the ramp spells, since it gets you plus one and puts the next drop into your hand.

Harmonize: I would pay six life to draw three cards in most circumstances, so in Harmonize we have a cards that I might not have to pay the life for (or more correctly, take the damage).

Kodama’s Reach: A Cultivate that you can splice something onto if you like.

Nissa’s Revelation: I once whiffed with this card in a deck with 40 creatures. Math happens. Fortunately, not that often.

Praetor’s Counsel: The one question-mark card. My local environment, replete with its many Wrath of God effects, says that it’s worthwhile. Your mileage might well vary.

Rampant Growth: If I were Rampant Growth, I’d be pretty satisfied there’s a mechanic named after me.

Ranger’s Path: The inexpensive Skyshroud Claim. Sure, they enter the battlefield tapped, but on Turn 4, who cares?

Star of Extinction: The Star of Extinction dream combo involves hitting a Maze of Ith while I have Akroma’s Memorial on the battlefield.

Planeswalkers (2)

Garruk Wildspeaker: There are more enters-the-battlefield tapped lands than I normally like, so original Garruk is in part an effort to mitigate some of that and then later just Overrun.

Xenagos, the Reveler: This Xenagos is all about the mana. I don’t need it to produce mana in bucketsful, just in a strong, steady supply. Like generating one titanium a turn in Terraforming Mars. Eventually, there will be a big payday. Okay, it’s nothing like that at all, but I took the opportunity to mention the best board game ever—one which has gotten my actual rocket scientist wife into gaming (next up for her: Twilight Struggle).


The Ruric Thar Do Over deck will be fun in that way that will have you making animal noises every time you cast stuff, whether you’re kicking around someone else or wrecking your own face. Its particular appeal is in that it contains quite a few cards which you don’t see flying around Commander tables all that often, which is a reason in itself to sleeve it up.

Before I wish you a Happy New Year, I’ll offer you what I hope to be a present. In 2018 I’ll be pairing up with former SCG writer Anthony Alongi on a Commander-oriented podcast called Elder Dragon Statesmen, the only Magic podcast with a hundred years’ worth of hosts. Anthony and I will regularly be talking about Magic community issues, some lifestyle things (you can guess that it’ll be mostly food and booze), and, of course, the best format in Magic. Stay tuned for more details.

This week’s Deck Without Comment is the original Ruric Thar, so you can see I didn’t cheat.

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Sheldon Menery
Test deck on 04-30-2014

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


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; Borrowing Stuff at Cutlass Point; 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.


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.”