Archetune-Up - Season's Beatings

(Ruric Thar, the Unbowed | Art by Tyler Jacobson)

Deck the Halls Your Friends!

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, an article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme Pages!

It's the holiday season once again, and gosh, I always forget how much I struggle with it. All the stress, all the running around, all the get-togethers... I just want to sit home and pet my cat, okay? Is that too much to ask??

Despite my negative disposition on this time of the year, I am nothing if not a man who enjoys writing timely, thematic articles. From Valentine's Day to Halloween, I enjoy capturing the spirit of various holidays when the time comes, which is why my previous Christmas-adjacent articles have been Jin-Gitaxias's Blue Christmas and Blim, the Bad Santa, since they really capture how I feel during this time of the year. Naturally, this article is no different!

Instead of Stax-ing opponents out with a mono-blue deck, or giving opponents gifts worse than coal with Blim, Comedic Genius, this year I wanted to pick a legend in the traditional Christmas colors of red and green who could also give a gift... of pain!

In an attempt to get some ideas from the public, I posed the question on Twitter, and one commander embodied this idea more than any other:

Average Ruric Thar

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Commander (1)
Creatures (44)
Instants (4)
Sorceries (5)
Enchantments (6)
Planeswalkers (1)
Artifacts (5)
Lands (34)

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Yep. The plan this year is to deck the halls, and our friends, with a brutal Gruul deck! To help facilitate this style of build, I went to the Group Slug theme page to see what goodies it had in store for us.

There were plenty of painful presents, many of which were easy swaps. When all was said and done, I had cut 13 cards from this average decklist, and bumped the land count up from 34 to 36. Not-so-brutal cards, like Jeweled Lotus and Runic Armasaur, were the first to be let go during my first pass at the deck. Yeah, Lotus is strong, but it's almost $100, and at that price, I don't care about it enough to keep it in the list. Armasaur, on the other hand, is just too low-impact for what I want from this deck.

Similarly, the average Ruric Thar deck is really afraid of blue decks for some reason. There are so many spells in the average starting list that want to counter blue spells, or make our creatures uncounterable, it's almost funny. No matter the blue deck, they can't counter every spell of ours, especially when there are two other opponents at the table. Living in fear of counterspells to this extent is a bit ridiculous. As such, I cut some of the excessive anti-blue tech to make way for more additions.

If you would like to see all of my swaps, feel free to check out the list here; all the cuts are in the Maybeboard.

Jingle Bells and Raising Hell

I added seven cards from the Group Slug theme, four of which are enchantments that really put your opponents in a bind.

Citadel of Pain and Primal Order help put the squeeze on opponents by attacking their mana base. Citadel of Pain is a great way to dissuade instant-speed tricks and counterspells in a powerful way, forcing opponents to tap out during their turns, or risk taking a LOT of damage. This is a proper way to try and punish blue decks if you're afraid of instant-speed interaction. Primal Order also pressures lands, punishing greedy mana bases as well as decks that rely on multiple colors. I rearranged the mana in this deck a bit to include more basics, so that this card (and some of the other spells in the deck) will hurt us less than our opponents.

Smoke is one of my favorite red enchantments, as it's strong and does something that is so far out of red's usual slice of the color pie. Due to Ruric Thar having vigilance, we'll often be the only player on the board with two untapped creatures, unless our opponents opt to not attack, which is also something we are completely fine with. Smoke really helps keep the table under control; whether it's deterring opponents from attacking, or punishing players who do, we'll always come out ahead thanks to our commander's inherent vigilance and impressive stat line!

Lastly, we have Klothys, God of Destiny. Klothys is a flexible God that can ramp, hate on the graveyard, or hit every opponent for two damage while also gaining us a bit of life! On top of that, she has a respectable 4/5 body, and thanks to being a creature, she won't make Ruric Thar hurt us when we cast her! She isn't absurdly powerful, but all of these little gains add up to a fantastic card.

But Wait—There’s Myrrh!

Enchantments aren't the only cards I got from the Group Slug theme page, though!

Since we're applying pressure on noncreature spells and lands, why not also apply pressure via opponents' commanders as well? Crimson Honor Guard punishes decks with expensive commanders, Eminence legends, and commanders who have accrued a large amount of commander tax. Four damage every turn might not seem like a lot, but when we're dealing damage in so many other ways, and when it comes attached to a 4/5 trampling body, it really helps cut down opponents' life totals in a big way.

The final two cards from this theme are Tibalt's Trickery and Valakut AwakeningTibalt's Trickery, like Citadel of Pain, is another way to address this deck's fear of blue in a more healthy way. With Trickery, we aren't beholden to countering just blue spells - we can counter any spell, which can save us big time, especially later in the game when Blightsteel Colossuses and Cyclonic Rifts start getting thrown around. Valakut Awakening, on the other hand, is just a simple bread-and-butter spell that every red deck should be running. Pivoting between a land and a card filtering spell is incredible flexibility that I will always make room for.

Sleigh-ing All Who Oppose

While I am the first one to cite EDHREC's Theme Pages as one of its best tools, I will also be the first to acknowledge their shortcomings. The Theme Pages are great for broad, general ideas that can really help specific archetypes overall, but it isn't always the best at catering to a specific commander. This is why I think it is best to use the Theme Pages and Commander's pages in tandem.

The reason why I bring this up is because I felt that, while the broad strokes of the deck were covered with the Group Slug theme, there were ways to tailor it specifically to our two-headed commander with the help of their EDHREC Page!

The first change I made was swapping Blood Moon for Magus of the Moon. My thought process with this is that while Blood Moon is harder to get rid of, there are way more creature synergies in the deck that we can take advantage of with Magus of the Moon. From drawing a card with Beast Whisperer, to dodging our own Bane of Progress (and of course not causing Ruric Thar to hit us), Magus of the Moon is a home-run over its enchantment counterpart.

The second card that caught my attention was Grafted Exoskeleton. Once we attach it to our commander, we put the table in a real bind. Casting two noncreature spells is a death sentence, since Ruric Thar will deal everyone six points of Infect damage for each spell. Exoskeleton is perfect in this deck, and it'll end games in a short order, which is exactly what we want. Just be careful, since it could poison us as well!

The final three are a class of cards I wanted to be sure to include: Equipment that grant lifelink. Because Ruric Thar is throwing around incredible amounts of damage, we can easily take advantage of that with Equipment like Shadowspear, Basilisk Collar, and Loxodon Warhammer. With them, any damage Ruric Thar deals, whether it's through combat or their ability, will pad our life total! This makes it much harder for opponents to knock us out of the game, or it can simply negate the damage of casting our own noncreature spells!

This is the exact kind of commander-specific tech that I was interested in uncovering, so I am incredibly happy I decided to rummage through Ruric Thar's page!


There we have it! A barbarous and bloodthirsty deck that perfectly embodies the fervor of the holiday season!

Wait, no one else thinks that? Just me? Well, this is awkward.

In Commander, I'm a fan of decks that actively progress the game, and as such, I fully endorse a Group Slug deck like this one. Game's gotta end! Ruric Thar is an incredibly solid commander who has persisted in the Commander consciousness since their debut in Dragon's Maze, and has over 1,800 decks to their name still, which is impressive for a legend who came out over eight years ago. Good job, you two!

What are your thoughts, though? Do you think there is a better theme for this duo, or does Group Slug fit them well? Would there be any other painful cards that you'd add into this list? Do you think there's a better commander to capture the essence of the holidays? Make sure you let me know down below!

Until next time, enjoy your holidays, your family time, and any time off you might have. Everyone deserves some time to rest and relax, especially you.

As always, you can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, get vaccinated, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.

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Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.