Commander 2020 Set Review – Ruthless Regiment

(Jirina Kudro | Art by Magali Villeneuve)

Greetings, Giant Bags of Mostly Water

Commander 2020 is here! Better yet, it’s early! Commander fanatics like us no longer have to wait for August to enjoy their favorite time of the year. But that’s not all: we’re getting more Commander decks and products throughout the year! In case you missed it, you learn more about what I’m talking about here.

For this article, we’ll be going into detail about the deck Ruthless Regiment. This deck is all about Humans. Humans are a heavily supported tribe in Magic‘s history, but haven’t made a large splash in Commander. There are just shy of 2,400 creatures with the type Human. However, there are only about 900 Human tribal decks on EDHREC at time of writing. When we take a look at the Human tribal page on EDHREC, the most popular commander is Sigarda, Heron’s Grace, which makes sense, as she gives Humans a lot of support. The next most popular commander is Morophon, the Boundless, the (admittedly good) generic tribal commander that always makes me think, “Okay, this tribe doesn’t have a strong dedicated general.” No longer! Humans are about to get several strong options to helm their decks, and we will see the number of Human-themed decks soar in the coming months.


Jirina Kudro

Our first new general is Jirina Kudro. Well, I suppose I should actually call her the general’s daughter, as her pops, General Kudro of Drannith, holds that official ranking. Jirina gives our Humans a huge aggro anthem, and that’s the usual plan when playing Humans: white weenie. Go wide, and pump up.

Aggro is a difficult strategy in Commander, as our opponents have a total of 120 life for us to take down, but adding in red and black to the white weenie strategy gives us lots of toys that can give this deck the power to keep up in the late game (as we’ve seen from Edgar Markov). Jirina also scales with the game, giving us more Humans when she enters for each time she’s been cast, and allowing us to rebuild our board faster with those feisty 3/1s. Some cards I’d like to add to this deck include Harmonious Archon, to make our Humans 5/3s and likely shrink our opponents’ bigger creatures. With Jirina pumping our Humans again, they’ll be much bigger than everything else. I’d also like to see Kessig Malcontents as a way to knock out an opponent once we have a bunch of Humans on board, and Archetype of Courage to give our Humans first strike since they have high power.

I also keep thinking her last name is Konda, since that’s already a thing in Magic. Lisa Kudrow, help me with a mnemonic and a segue!


Trynn & Silvar

The next new commander to gush over isn’t just one, it’s two! That’s right, Partner with is back! Each deck has a Partner pair, and I like ours the best because one of the two is a crazy cat lady: Trynn, Champion of Freedom rewards us for attacking by giving us a Human token at the end of our turn. Then, she murderously feeds those Humans to her beloved bonded monster-pet, Silvar, Devourer of the Free, who gets indestructible until end of turn and a +1/+1 counter. I can’t wait to hear the lore behind this duo.

I love this flavor and design, since it allows us to change gears from having lots of little Humans to one big, menacing, often indestructible Cat to eat our opponents’ faces. I don’t think we need to change much in our deck to switch over to this pair, as the same go-wide strategy lets Silvar grow into a giant kitty, and right out of the box this duo should be interchangeable with Jirina Kudro. A few cards that I want to see in this deck include Angel of Glory’s Rise, to bring back all those Humans from the dead, Outlaw’s Merriment to give us more sacrifice fodder, and Homura, Human Ascendant to sacrifice to Silvar and give our commander Cat +2/+2, flying, and firebreathing! These cards would also be great additions to the deck with Jirina as the commander.


Kelsien, the Plague

Next we have Kelsien, the Plague. This archer really wants to dip his arrows in poison, and a deck with him at the helm is going to love some Equipment like Basilisk Collar or Gorgon’s Head in combination with Thornbite Staff to mow down the opposing creatures. The Morph enchantment Gift of Doom doesn’t seem half bad, either! We might want to lean into this to be an Equipment-themed deck, utilizing all of the tutors available to us, and finish the game with trample Equipment like Embercleave or Shadowspear once Kelsien is enormous. (Shadowspear does extra work letting Kelsien target anything, and may even want to be supplemented by Arcane Lighthouse).

As a reminder, experience counters aren’t attached to the creature, they’re attached to the player, so even if Kelsien is removed, he can come right out again and smash our opponents the next turn with his innate haste. Pair with Athreos, Shroud-Veiled for some real fun shenanigans. I would feel uneasy sitting across from this archer at the table.


Call the Coppercoats

This has the potential to end games. If we’re staring down a field of many creatures on all of our opponents’ battlefields, we can activate this at the end step before our turn and instantly have as many creatures as all of them combined. They’ll have pseudo-haste, get pumped by a commander like Jirina Kudro, a creature like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, or set up a pretty bonkers Craterhoof Behemoth all on its own. Combine with Shared Animosity, Coat of Arms, Cathars’ Crusade, or Divine Visitation for the best kinds of Commander stories, which is, after all, why we’re all here.

As if that wasn’t enough, we can use it defensively if we’re being attacked! Secure the Wastes shows up in 4,600+ decks, and this is a much better rate. It may require our opponents to have creatures, but if Deploy to the Front can show up in over 1,000 decks, then this much-improved version can, too.

Darien, King of Kjeldor decks already make Soldier tokens and will put those Soldiers to good use with cards like Captain of the Watch, Catapult Master, and Daru Warchief. Rhys, the Redeemed decks frequently have a go-wide tokens theme that will love Call the Coppercoats, which may be just as good or better than the very similar March of the Multitudes in 60% of Rhys token decks. Orzhov token decks such as Teysa, Orzhov Scion and Krav, the Unredeemed will love sacrificing those soldiers for value.


Fireflux Squad

While this isn’t the best Polymorph effect available, it may be a welcome addition to decks with that theme. Red has a few other Polymorph cards, such as Indomitable Creativity (one of my pet cards), Reality Scramble, and Divergent Transformations. However, blue has quite a few more, with Polymorph, Mass Polymorph, Synthetic Destiny, Jalira, Master Polymorphist, and more.

Polymorph decks with Kykar, Wind’s Fury at the helm may enjoy this addition, but then again, dedicated Polymorph decks that want to flip into huge Void Winnowers or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyres will be bothered by the presence of another creature that would get in the way. Fireflux Squad may fly under the radar, maybe finding a home in Etali, Primal Storm for some fun attack trigger shenanigans, or in decks that want to attack with lots of creatures, like Iroas, God of Victory, or Aurelia, the Warleader, turning tokens into much bigger improvements. Better yet, pair with Act of Aggression effects to turn other peoples’ creatures into your own.


Flawless Maneuver

A sometimes-free instant that gives our team indestructible? Is this the new, fixed Teferi’s Protection? Even hard casting this for three mana is not bad at all. Teferi’s Protection is in 19,100 decks, Eerie Interlude in 10,600 decks, and Unbreakable Formation in 4,500 decks, and this is a phenomenal addition to the crowd.

Other similar effects are also highly played, such as Heroic Intervention in 23,800 decks, Boros Charm in 20,000 decks, and Golgari Charm in 7,500 decks. Many of these effects offer additional utility, but I’ve seen a Rootborn Defenses cast without a token to Populate and even that can be a huge blowout. Soul of New Phyrexia can fit into any deck, and is played in 7,300 despite being more expensive to cast and activate. Protecting your board during a Wrath is a powerful form of card advantage, will take many a player by complete surprise, and may even put you in a position to win outright. Like so many cards in this free-spell cycle, this is worth consideration in any deck that can play it, especially commander-centric lists that love to save a large army.


Frontier Warmonger

Frontier Warmonger has that group slug/everybody smash each other vibe that really moves games along. It will fit well in decks like Gahiji, Honored One, Marisi, Breaker of the Coil, and Thantis, the Warweaver. It’s inherent in these commanders’ abilities that they want to encourage your opponents to attack each other, but they’re also running cards to help make that happen, like Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, Fumiko, the Lowblood, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist, and Revenge of Ravens. Frontier Warmonger not only incentivizes opponents to attack other opponents, but makes it more likely that those creatures will go unblocked and survive to whittle your opponents down again the next turn.


Molten Echoes

This is another fun addition to the Flameshadow Conjuring (4,700 decks) and Mirror March (3,000 decks) family, but is specifically tied to tribes, limiting the number of decks that can use it. However, Molten Echoes has the significant upside of being cheaper to activate than Flameshadow Conjuring and cheaper to cast than Mirror March.

Dragon tribal decks could make use of Molten Echoes to copy powerful enter-the-battlefield effects and huge creatures. The Ur-Dragon, for example, loves big creatures. 80% of Ilharg, the Raze-Boar Dragon tribal decks are already playing Mirror March. Other tribes in red that have powerful enter-the-battlefield effects might be Vampires, Elementals, and Wizards, though the smaller the creatures in the tribe, the less likely they are to cast this particular card. Perhaps tribal decks that already want to copy creatures could use this, such as Inalla, Archmage Ritualist or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

Oh, and did I mention it can go infinite with a Felidar Guardian by having the copy repeatedly flicker the original? Then again, what doesn’t go infinite with that….


Sanctuary Blade

A lot of folks have been comparing this new Equipment to the ‘Sword of’ cycle, like Sword of Feast and Famine. Along those comparisons, it’s clear that this new addition leaves something to be desired.

Still, Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale doesn’t care about the Equip cost, and neither does Puresteel Paladin. Pair with a Leonin Shikari and you’re able to stifle any and all spot removal that tries to come for any of your creatures. And you know what, it’s kind of cool for Diaochan, Artful Beauty decks, too, since protection from red will prevent opponents from targeting her. Maybe you’ll upgrade out of this into the bigger, badder Swords of X and Y, but as starting Equipment go, this is a pretty cool one, and it’s likely to be quite a bit more budget-friendly than those other options while still packing a fun punch. I can see myself forgetting about this card for many months and then encountering it in the wild when it completely wrecks my day.


Species Specialist

The Specialist pairs especially well with Trynn and Silvar at the helm since we’ll be sacrificing plenty Humans. It’s great draw in most tribal decks with black, similar to a Grim Haruspex or Midnight Reaper. The improvement Species Specialist has on these cards is that it counts tokens, like an easier-to-cast Dark Prophecy, which helps it really shine in token tribal decks.

Commanders that specifically want to sacrifice one type of creature will benefit the most from this, such as Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder, and Slimefoot, the Stowaway. However, general tribal commanders in black will get phenomenal incidental value from their team dying, such as Edgar Markov or Varina, Lich Queen, though you will have to figure out your own level of comfort playing a card that isn’t a member of that tribe in your tribal deck. Going one step further, the Specialist would also be great in Shadowborn Apostles and Rat Colony brews. Oh, and to the Grismold the Dreadsower players out there? The ones who love their Plague Engineer effects to create and kill tons of Plant tokens every turn? Go nuts, my friends!


Titan Hunter

This card is kind of a trap. It looks good in Aristocrats decks that love to sacrifice their own creatures, but those decks already have plenty more sacrifice outlets that don’t cost any mana to use. In fact, they usually provide mana to flit away their creatures. Not only that, but Aristocrats lists like sacrificing their own creatures during other players’ turns, rendering this end step trigger moot. Maybe use this in a Mogis, God of Slaughter or other such punisher deck to throw extra gas on the fire, but even those probably have more reliable damage sources than this.


Verge Rangers

Verge Rangers is a decent way to give card advantage to mono-white. About 40% of the time we will have a land on top and will be able to “draw a card” with this ability. At that rate, I’m not excited about drawing a card less than every other turn, but it’s white, so I guess we’ll take what we can get. That said, in combination with some topdeck manipulation like Scroll Rack, Sensei’s Divining Top, or shuffle effects, we could get more value out of this.

Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign and Aminatou, the Fateshifter may appreciate having another way to peek at the top, but I don’t know if that is enough to warrant a card slot, as Future Sight is only played in 7% of Aminatou decks and 28% of Yennett decks. This is certainly a card worth talking about, and will likely make the most impact in mono-white and Boros decks, but not everyone seems excited by this Courser of Kruphix knockoff. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Bonder’s Ornament

I appreciate the repeatable, if expensive, card draw tacked on, and the potential for politics. If you think about this as a Manalith (in 6,100 decks) with a Jayemdae Tome stapled to it, it might sound okay. If an ally has a Bonder’s Ornament, too, you can make a deal to help each other draw cards. However, that line of thinking comes with the very real downside that a player you don’t want to give cards has a Bonder’s Ornament, as well. I think this will be very interesting in the environment of playing the preconstructed decks against each other. Outside of that, we won’t be able to count on enough people running this to get political value out of it. If you’re running a Manalith, this could be a mild upgrade, but we’re also getting reprints of the Signets, so consider those first.


Summary

All in all, this deck looks very fun to play. It’s crafted very well and is plenty synergistic, while leaving some room for improvements. Taking a look at the stats, we have 9 ramp spells, 10-12 draw spells, 8-10 removal/interaction spells, 3 board wipes, and 36 lands. I think Wizards did a great job with their proportions here (and no, they aren’t paying me to say that). Many of the new commanders and cards in the 99 are spicy enough to make an impact on the format. Reprint-wise, I’m sure we’ll always want more, but there are several gems here, including Knight of the White Orchid, Skullclamp, all of the Signets, and some decent dual lands, including Path of Ancestry.

I’m a bit sad, for flavor and theme, that General Kudro of Drannith was left out, since he’s our main commander’s father. Add him to your Jirina deck immediately!

What do you think of the Ruthless Regiment precon deck? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comics from the legendary Bill Watterson that I think embodies the bonder/companion theme of this set.

Jevin Lortie has been playing magic on and off since Portal. He was terrible at Magic as a kid because he built singleton kitchen table decks. He is a nutrition science grad student, so he always tells people to get a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables – especially ramples and drawnanas. You can see him ramble about non-magic topics at https://medium.com/@jlortie