Forgotten Harvest - Ragnar Regenerates
(Ragnar | Art by Melissa Benson)
And so we find ourselves on the precipice of yet another Forgotten Harvest, gearing up to talk about cards in 300 decks or less on EDHREC and how they fit into a terribly, horribly wonderful deck. This time, prepare to travel back in time almost a year, to the first time I ranted and raved about the cards you're not playing.
*Insert wavy "memory" lines here*
Such innocence in that first article! So unaware of just how many neglected cards out there needed my help! And such little mention of how people need to run Rimehorn Aurochs (only 13 decks, people)! My, how times have changed.
What I didn't tell you back then is that this deck is part of a personal project of mine. My goal has been to make Commander decks for terrible Reserved List legendary creatures from the set Legends, one for each shard. The Adun Oakenshield (76 decks) Hellbent build I discussed in that article was the first. Eventually, I hope to add Jacques Le Vert (13 decks), Lady Evangela (27 decks), and Tetsuo Umezawa (42 decks) to my list of decks, but today we're going to talk about my latest creation: Ragnar.
Not too surprising, Ragnar doesn't see a lot of play, according to EDHREC. He's only in 28 decks on the site, both as commander and as part of the 99. And, like with many of the legends I'm working with in this project, I can understand why his deck count is so low. Since Ragnar isn't the paradigm of superpower that his Thor-like visage projects, a deck with him at the helm will need to focus on synergy.
And there's just not a lot of synergy with Regeneration. Only a few niche cards like Spiny Starfish even mention the word "regenerate" without first having the phrase "can't be" in front of it. This means the deck would need to focus on Ragnar keeping creatures alive that were designed to die. But not the easy death of sacrificing for an effect, because Regeneration doesn't apply when a creature is sacrificed. No, these creatures would need to die a hero's death in order to Regenerate. A death by combat.
Yet Another Block Party
We've covered combat-based strategies a lot in this series, and there's good reason for that. Combat isn't a known, consistent thing from game to game. It varies by the decks on the table, the board state, and even the potential for trickery. Therefore, it's tough making combat a key aspect of a deck's synergy, and can frequently lead to a more evasive or protected creature making the cut, which is the right call in almost every instance. A card without evasion is worse than a card with evasion. Reliability is huge in a Singleton format, especially one encouraging high deck power and high starting life totals. The non-evasive, non-protected cards will end up neglected, which lets me talk about them.
On the other side of the coin, there are certainly those that thrive in a chaotic style of play (*cough* Kya Vess *cough*). But encouraging blocks, or allowing an opponent to make a decision as to how to block, doesn't seem to scratch the same itch as casting Scrambleverse with Hive Mind in play. While I'm not one for Scrambling a Verse, I've found enjoyment living in this realm where I give an opponent the freedom to choose. They can certainly make the right call, but they can also make the wrong one, and there are often more bad decisions than good ones. Plus, with a creature-saving Ragnar on my team, it can lead to some interesting interactions.
Take, for instance, the duo of blue creatures Saprazzan Heir (99 decks) and Tolarian Entrancer (36 decks). Both have some powerful abilities that trigger on blocks, and both are costed as if they'll only survive a single combat. But Ragnar can extend their lives and give them additional combat steps to create more mischief. Add in a card like Lure or the underplayed Indrik Umbra (265 decks), and the Entrancer can steal an opponent's whole board of untapped creatures turn after turn (sadly, this trick doesn't work for the Heir). And should we not be able to force the block, we have cards like Bident of Thassa to cash in on our unblocked attackers.
Blocking triggers aren't the only thing we can work with in a combat-centric deck. Queen of Ice (82 decks) can tap down opposing creatures after damaging them, making our opponents more vulnerable to attacks from across the table. A key part of this deck is going to be not looking like a threat until it's too late, and that will mean making others an easier target. Of note, I opted to use Queen of Ice in this deck over the similar Mercurial Kite (4 decks) because the Queen doesn't have flying. I'm trying to encourage mistakes and bad blocks at the table, so I want to maximize the number of possibilities for my opponent.
A favorite of "Ping" decks from back in my heyday, Charisma (287 decks) is a very solid, but also color-intensive, way to repeatedly nab some creatures from across the battlefield. I'm a little concerned about how Devoted to blue I'll need to be in a three-color deck, but the reward is quite nice. The deck runs a small package of Aura tutors including Heliod's Pilgrim to help Charisma make a timely appearance.
Combat also means a number of our creatures will be taking damage, and both green and white have a fair number of creatures that know how to take damage well, whether it's Dinosaurs with Enrage or Phantoms from Judgment. Some of the Dinos made this list, but so did the Plant Beast Phytohydra (225 decks). This menace is going to get bigger and bigger with each block it absorbs. Meanwhile, Ragnar can help him escape some targeted removal. The Plant also fuels an alternate wincon for the deck, +1/+1 counters with Simic Ascendancy, but if you don't have that in play, you can always swing your team plus Phytohydra into blockers with a Mirrorweave in hand.
I also wanted this deck to have some creature-based means of saving my bacon should my life total begin to dip. While Pariah was an easy solution, I also added in Weathered Bodyguards (66 decks). I can use the Bodyguards to soak up damage from an opposing force, perhaps one coerced with the Bident of Thassa, and just toss on a Regeneration shield before combat damage is dealt. This may require multiple Regenerations from Ragnar (along with some untapping thanks to the nuances of its ability) but there's Kiora's Follower and Asceticism to help out.
Support and Distractions
For our hyper-underplayed creatures, that just leaves Vortex Elemental left to talk about. Admittedly, I threw this card in as a Red Herring, of sorts. I can attack with it; if my opponent blocks correctly, I just Regenerate it, but if the defender blocks poorly, I can shuffle it and the blocking creature back into their respective decks. More than likely, I'll just be using this card to rustle some jimmies at the table. Or I could have Portal of Sanctuary in play, and the real fun can begin.
I did choose to play Portal of Sanctuary (230 decks) in this deck over Crystal Shard, and the main reason is the number of critical Auras I'm using. I want to get the most out of my Lure and Pariah, but I can't do that if they're heading to the graveyard should Ragnar not be able to save the enchanted creature. I did think about Flickerform, but the cost to use it is fairly high, and the restriction that I only use the Portal on my turn is not too terrible in this specific circumstance. Your results may vary, and I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
A pet card of mine that I'm always looking to fit into a deck, Debt of Loyalty (198 decks) seemed too on-theme to stay out of this Ragnar build. I feel like, with the release of Theros Beyond Death, there's a lot of discussion about white still sitting at the kid's table during the EDH feast. I don't disagree, as white desperately needs ramp and/or draw of some kind, but I also find hope in cards like Debt of Loyalty that the color pie can be bent (or even broken) to allow white access to proper Commander resources.
Enough specifics, here's the deck!
Ragnar RegeneratesView on Archidekt
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
That's Latin for "Goodbye, Everyone!" I hope you've enjoyed this final Forgotten Harvest, as well as my other articles in this series. I've had a lot of fun flexing my deckbuilding muscle every other week to spin up some unconventional brews. And I hope you were inspired to further look into bulk boxes and past Magic sets for interesting and unique cards to create a very synergistic deck. Before you leave your questions, comments, and snide remarks in the comments below, here's what I hope you walk away with:
- Deck synergy can close a power level gap. It's not everything, but it helps.
- From my research for this series, rares and mythics generally see more play in Commander than commons and uncommons. This effect grows more apparent as a set ages, but, for older sets, card power and rarity aren't as closely linked as they are in modern sets. Look to the past for answers, especially when on a budget.
- Playing a fun deck that does interesting things is far more important to me than winning. Winning is predictable and boring.
So long, and thanks for reading!