Epic Experiment - Piñata Riku
(Riku of Two Reflections | Art by Izzy)
Hello EDHREC! I’m Bernardo Melibeu and this is Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual strategies, changing how we normally play our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up is half the fun.
In this article we'll be exploring a very flexible commander, one that can be used for both spell-heavy and creature-heavy builds. It's time for Riku of Two Reflections.
Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell, you may pay UR. If you do, copy that spell. You may choose new targets for the copy.
Whenever another nontoken creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may pay GU. If you do, create a token that's a copy of that creature.
Riku is the definition of an open-ended commander. He tells you what he likes, but the choice on how to build him is entirely up to you.
Even though the choice is open-ended, it's safe to say that we should plan on including big effects. Paying two mana to copy something that costs two mana doesn't generate as much advantage as copying, say, a six-mana card.
He's needs a lot of ramp to function properly.
The second trigger is when the creature enters the battlefield, not when they're cast, which could be relevant.
The Old Formula
Now, let's see how folks usually build Riku.
On the High Synergy cards, we see the split between spellslinger staples and creature enablers, a funny combination that really summarizes the commander in question. On the Top Cards we see many slots occupied by ramp and common staples, which shows that Riku doesn't have a well-defined identity.
The Epic Ingredients
With Modern Horizons, I came across a card that surprised me: Spiteful Sliver. The more I thought about it, the more uses I discovered for it. One of the most interesting parts of the card is that, unlike similar Stuffy Doll effects, it scales with how many copies there are in play. While it's true that Spiteful Sliver is potentially the best of this type of effect ever printed, we can't rely on it to do the entire job for us. Luckily, there're plenty of similar effects across red and green.
Deal damage to our own creatures to deal damage to our enemies! Riku of Two Reflections has the unique opportunity of having a decent color identity for this strategy while also having relevant abilities to support it. We benefit from both having our spells copied and making tokens of our pieces.
For our Stuffy Doll effects we have: Coalhauler Swine, which is a dangerous piece that hit everyone on the table; Mogg Maniac, a cheap and safe effect; Stuffy Doll, a well-known card with handy indestructibility, but which can only target a single opponent; and Arcbond, which can supplement the aforementioned pieces. Aside from those direct damage effects, we're also using some alternatives ones too - Grothama, All-Devouring can net us some cards when we deal tons of damage to it.
The last piece of our combo are the damage cards - the explosion. There are a plenty of choices, and they all have their ups and downs, so the choice is primarily based on personal taste. Star of Extinction is a bit heavy on the mana cost, but it hits opposing planeswalkers and it deals 20 freaking damage! Blasphemous Act is one of the best damage-based wipes, almost always costing less than four mana. Magmaquake can cost a lot of mana, but being instant speed more then compensates for the price. Finally, there're two Fireball effects, the OG itself and Comet Storm. While it's true that they aren't board wipes, they can also target a player, which in the end can double the damage count.
Now that we've discussed strategy, let's see the support for it. Angrath's Marauders, Furnace of Rath and Dictate of the Twin Gods are efficient ways to crank up the damage to get to lethal. Think of it: damage dealt to our Stuffy Doll is doubled, and then the Doll deals damage to an opponent, which is also doubled. The end result is four times the damage! We just need to be careful when playing these cards since the damage dealt to us quickly adds up.
Volcano Hellion is the type of critter that could do very little on its own, but when it comes down into an advantageous board (mostly through those damage multipliers) it's crazy strong. Just be careful with the value math.
Clone effects have a crucial role as support to this strategy, as they give us more of our Stuffy Doll effects and we very often have some way to get more value from them later on. Cackling Counterpart and Quasiduplicate are basically the same card. Both create a copy of a creature and have a way to be played again from the graveyard. Rite of Replication is more mana-intensive but has the upside of the huge Kicker effect. Spitting Image is basically an engine that can trade extra lands into new copies.
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The list, as you can see, ended up like a spellslinger combo deck with lots of ways to ramp and dig through our library to try to quickly assemble our combo.
We are running quite a varied array of tutors. Worldly Tutor is cheap and can be used before our turn to arrange our draw (just don't double it with Riku). Finale of Devastation is a powerful new card, somewhat expensive compare to the other tutors, but it lets us find the cards we need and put them right into play. Imperial Recruiter is a great way to catch some of the more important Stuffy Doll effects, like Spiteful Sliver.
The final tutor, Tooth and Nail, deserves a paragraph for its own. It's a powerful card and this deck can take full advantage of it. There're many lines of play that we can take to win, depending on our board, such as the "grab the Spiteful Sliver and Clever Impersonator before casting a Blasphemous Act" or the "grab anything plus an Eternal Witness and cast Tooth and Nail again next turn." Knowing the best possible line will be crucial for our success, since the explosiveness of the card allow us to finish off unaware players.
This is a mana-intensive deck, and as such, in our opening hand, we need to have either the ramp to get ahead or the draw to dig through our deck. Since there's so much redundancy on the list we're very likely to find a random part of our combo right in our opening seven. This doesn't mean that we need to hold it until we combo, but it's a good starting point for a game plan.
In the early game we need to focus on board development and draw. We start off as a nonthreatening durdly deck, and as such we need to hold on to our protection pieces and try to gain political value. Riku of Two Reflections can be cast as an early play (especially if the plan is to follow up with a copied ramp), as his presence on the field will facilitate our ability to go off.
In the mid-game we start to chain a couple of spells together, and we should think about assembling whichever part of the combo we're missing. By this point we probably have come across a creature tutor effect, which means that we have access to our two main ways of killing our opponents: Spiteful Sliver and Stuffy Doll. From there, finding ways to copy them is extremely important. It might be prudent to set up a damage doubler before committing the target creature to the board.
By the late game we'll be close, yet so far from winning. On the one hand we have a very explosive combo that isn't as mana-intensive as it seems. On the other hand, we still need to assemble a somewhat telegraphed board state, which can be easy to disrupt. Cards like Tooth and Nail shine at this stage, as there'll be plenty of mana to spend (especially if we get to copy ramp spells with our commander).
This is the portion where I usually suggest some potential changes to the list. For this article I will go a little bit further and suggest different potential commanders altogether! When looking for similar effects, I noticed how there are many white/Boros effects with Stuff Doll-style abilities, like Boros Reckoner. Thus, my first suggestion when looking for an alternate option would be to try Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis, as they give us access to white and have a good ramping ability. A bolder suggestion would be to cut colors and go with the basic Boros by playing Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. She's a damage doubler in the command zone that also make us take less damage, though keep in mind that she'd reduce the damage dealt to our Stuffy Dolls before doubling back to a normal amount when we deal it to an opponent. Still, she has access to a good number of enablers and payoffs. Each of these could be a potential new path to beat up your own creatures and deal that damage right back to your unsuspecting enemies.
That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? What do you think about this take on Riku? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!