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Radha Returns To Commander!

Radha’s new incarnation promises to make a big impact on the aggro Commander builds of the world! Bennie Smith makes the case for the Grand Warlord here!

One thing of the many things I love about what Wizards R&D has been
doing with legends lately is making a lot of them aggressive. Now, I love a
good long grindy game of Commander as much as the next person, but I also
like movement towards resolution. Games that get reset over and over and
over get boring after a while. It’s nice that R&D has been making more
legends that do something cool when you attack or deal combat damage to a
player.

Dominaria
continues the trend, and I’d like to talk about one of the new aggressive
legends today: Grand Warlord Radha!

It’s awesome that this card shows us an older, wiser, and more badass
version of the original incarnation, Radha, Heir to Keld. It’s been many
years, but Radha’s elvish blood has kept her alive and kicking and leading
her people to victory. I also love that Radha’s attack trigger has evolved.

Before, all she cared about was just herself attacking and giving you the
two red mana. The new Radha isn’t about self-aggrandizing; she’s about
leading an army into battle. She’s also wiser, being able to give you
whatever combination of red or green mana you may need, and letting that
mana carry over into your main phase after combat. You can use it for some
sort of combat trick, or use it to cast some spells after the dust settles
post-combat.

Now, she’d make a fine tribal Commander for an Elf deck, a Warrior deck, or
even an Elf Warrior deck, but there are no shortage of good Elf tribal
lists floating around out there. Commander 2017 gave us tons of
good tribal support, so if you want to go that route it’s pretty easy to
cook up a great list. Instead, I just want to focus on making good use of
Radha’s attack trigger, so let’s get brewing!

Attack!

There are a lot of great cards that support an aggressive deck that wants
to attack, and I’ve included many of them here. Tilonalli’s Summoner is the
poster child for what Grand Warlord Radha is looking for, a creature that
has an attack trigger that makes for a great mana sink, and makes even more
creatures that provide more and more mana each subsequent attack. Triumph
of the Hordes, Beastmaster Ascension, and Marton Stromgald do great work
making your attacking army even more fearsome. Frenzied Goblin and Goblin
Heelcutter do a nice job in neutralizing a blocker that might otherwise
stall your attacks. Maze of Ith can help some of your squishier attackers
from dying in their attack – a combo with Marton Stromgald as old as time.

Savage Ventmaw and Neheb, the Eternal provide some redundant synergies with
Radha’s mana generation and help ensure we can execute our game plan even
if Radha gets neutralized.

Heroic Intervention is a great way to ensure your horde of creatures don’t
get blocked and killed by a superior force of blockers.

Helm of the Host is a great Commander card, though it’s quite pricey when
you account for its mana cost plus equip cost. But this deck likes
attacking, and generates hopefully plenty of mana to make up for all the
mana you spend on this. Equipping to Grand Warlord Radha can really
generate an insane amount of mana when you attack with enough creatures.

Zealous Conscripts does a nice job of stealing the biggest creature an
opponent controls and temporarily conscript them into joining Radha’s army.

Mana Ramp

Radha is relatively cheap and provides some mana boost to us, but we’re
playing green so we might as well make use of the usual mana ramp suspects.
I like that Sakura-Tribe Elder and Solemn Simulacrum can provide bodies for
attacking if we want.

Card Draw

Next up, all good Commander deck needs to include cards that keep the gas
flowing throughout the game. We’ve got the colorless lands that we can
include in just about any Commander deck without too heavy a color
requirement, and lots of green card draw and card selection. Red is not
without some card drawing power too, but I’ve just gone with Magus of the
Wheel since it can provide an attacking body for Radha when you don’t quite
need a fresh hand.

Mana Sink

Okay, so we’ve got a bumper crop of mana, now what? The obvious choice is
Aggravated Assault and Hellkite Charger, which give you another attack step
and presumably more Radha mana. With enough attackers you could conceivably
generate a whole lot of attack steps, so be aware of your opponents
nervously counting how many creatures you’re accumulating on the
Battlefield. Asceticism lets you use some of Radha’s mana to set up
regeneration shields for any attackers that might otherwise die. Nim
Deathmantle can work in a similar fashion, bringing dying creature cards
back from the graveyard at four mana a pop.

Kessig Wolf Run and Ghitu War Cry can make blocking your attackers
problematic. Chameleon Colossus could go nuts doubling in size with enough
mana, or you can just make all the mana green and grow Omnath, Locus of
Mana to massive proportions.

Speaking of Omnath, that’s a great way to hold onto Radha’s mana you don’t
otherwise spend at the end of the turn. Another option is Magus of the
Candelabra, where you can untap your lands and have them available during
your opponents’ turns. Or you can store all that mana in Mana Bloom.

Removal

A lot of the usual suspects here. Artifact Mutation can provide a surprise
gang of attackers to join Radha’s army. I like Silklash Spider and Steel
Hellkite as great ways to use Radha mana. Release the Gremlins is also a
great mana sink that will generate more bodies to join Radha’s army.

Making Creatures

Radha gets better the more creatures she attacks with, so I wanted to pick
some ways to generate more bodies than just individual cards. Hornet Queen
is awesome because the creatures all have evasion and the deathtouch means
that opponents will be loath to block with bigger creatures. Arachnogenesis
does some good work, since we’re already wanting to attack with all our
creatures if we can, that’ll probably mean opponents will want to attack
back. And boom-instant Spider army!

Hangarback Walker is a great inclusion here, both as a great mana sink, and
then a way to recover from the inevitable battlefield sweeper that will try
to put a stop to your attacking shenanigans.

Gruul Goodstuff

A couple other cards I wanted to include that didn’t fit neatly into our
other buckets. Blackblade Reforged is a card I’m very high on for just
about any Commander deck, especially one that cares about attacking. Radha
does love to attack, but she can get outclassed on the Battlefield quite
easily. Blackblade Reforged can scale her up quickly into a real
frightening presence. Weatherseed Treefolk is an old favorite, provides a
sizeable body with trample, and is something you can easily add to any
attack and be fine with the outcome. If it dies, you can just recast it
post-combat with some of the Radha mana.

Sweet deck! But wait… there are too many cards! I thought this time around
I’d show my process of making the hard cuts to trim down to 99 cards.

Let’s start by taking a look at our mana curve:

1 mana: 8

2 mana: 15

3 mana: 17

4 mana: 14+Commander

5 mana: 9

6 mana: 8

7+ mana/X-spells: 7

78 total cards, plus 37 lands, equals 15 cards too many. I start first by
looking higher up my mana curve first. Wildest Dreams is fun and all, but
Seasons Past plays a similar role and is just a better card. I like all the
other X-spells so let’s move on. Blasphemous Act, Zendikar Resurgent, and
Hornet Queen are just way too good to cut, so let’s look at six mana
spells. Pathbreaker Ibex looks to be the most expendable there. The rest of
the creatures at six are so good… but I think I’m going to have to cut
Flameblast Dragon. The Fireball for a creature is nice, but is probably not
killing the creature you really want to kill.

Okay, three down, twelve to go so let’s move on to five mana. Shamanic
Revelation is a fine card, but we’re already pretty deep on card draw.
While I do want to equip Zealous Conscripts with Helm of the Host someday,
I don’t think Zealous Conscripts does enough work here.

At four mana, Warcry Phoenix seems like an easy cut. Its body is small, and
hardly seems to be worth the trouble even with the recursion. Rubblebelt
Raiders and Fangren Firstborn feel similar, but I think I’d rather pump the
team with Fangren Firstborn than just pumping Rubblebelt Raiders, so I’m
cutting the Human Warrior.

Three mana is swole with great cards, as is often the case with Commander.
I think I’m going to cut Ghitu War Cry because some number of my lands will
not be producing red, and I can see times the enchantment won’t be doing
much. Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach both do the same thing so I’m going to
trim one of them, keeping the cooler sounding Kodama’s Reach. Reiterate can
do some fun stuff but sometimes it’s going to rot in your hand, so let’s
cut that for now.

Is there anything two or less that isn’t pulling its weight? Bonds of
Mortality is a cantrip that surprises in how useful it is sometimes, but
hard cuts demand some sacrifices. Magus of the Candelabra is another one
I’m not sure will be all that great in practice, so I’m cutting it as well.

Alright, so that’s twelve down, we just need three more!

These two cards do similar things for our deck. Either can combine with
Radha and enough creatures to let us attack over and over and over. If I
wanted to ensure that happened as many games as possible I’d include them
both, but I’m fine with just one effect so that it can happen every once in
a while. Aggravated Assault costs less mana to cast and to activate, but
Hellkite Charger is attached to a body that can join in the attack. In a
Radha deck I think Hellkite Charger wins out.

At this point I’m showing thirteen cards at three and four mana, so that
suggests to me I should look at four mana for the next cut.

This is a hard choice. Triumph of the Hordes just ends games. Gruul War
Chant makes it easier to attack with a lot of creatures and avoiding
blockers. In the end, I think I’m going to choose the permanent rather than
the sorcery, but I fully admit to perhaps being wrong.

What’s the last cut? I’ve looked up and down the list and I don’t see
anything I don’t think deserves a place here. I guess I could just go down
to 36 lands that produce mana, but I’m not entirely comfortable with that.
I’ll go back to the top of the curve and… I’m going to cut Release the
Gremlins. Sometimes that card is going to be awesome, but sometimes it’s
not going to do much. Now if there’s always the person who brings an
artifact deck at my table then I might want to choose something else, but
in an unknown metagame I think that’s the last cut to make.

Here’s the full list with the lands added to the mix:

Grand Warlord Radha
Bennie Smith
0th Place at Test deck on 05-15-2018
Commander


So, what do you think? Do you agree with the cuts, or would you have gone
another way? Are there any great cards I overlooked?


Don’t forget: #SCGCON is
less than a month away! I’m so excited to be a part of the

Commander Celebration

alongside Sheldon and the Commander Vs crew, so if you love Commander, make
sure to come to Roanoke and play with us. There’s also going to be some
great artists, great cosplayers, The Professor from Tolarian Community
College, and even Gavin Verhey from Wizards of the Coast will be dropping
in!