Ranking Every Battlecruiser Card (8 CMC+) with EDHREC – Part 19: You Can't Handle the King

(Reaper King | Art by Jim Murray)

My Creative Spirit Has Left Me

You know, the hardest part of writing these articles is the opening. I can write a million-billion words on freaking Scornful Egotist, but sometimes I just stare at the blank space above an article for like 30 minutes trying to think of a clever way to say, "Here on this series we rank every 8-and-higher CMC based on how many decks they have on EDHREC."

And for all I know, people might just be jumping into the hot ranking action immediately and move straight past this bit. This intro is really just a framing device so I can ramble about Magic cards for however long it takes you to read this article. Do you even need the framework? I know why you're here. You know why you're here. Perhaps we're just humoring each other, never realizing neither of us need framework to discuss Magic cards, and the intro is simply a reflection of the human desire for structure even when no structure is truly needed....

Wait, what do you mean I've used this opening before? Are my existentialist MTG tendencies repeating themselves?! Um, I think I'm gonna move on before I think too hard about this, or before I start talking about Space: the Convergence again.

120: Reaper King: 3,352 Decks

(2,079 Decks as a Commander, 1,273 Decks in the 99)

What… is this card? Why does Reaper King exist? Who made this? Why did they make this?

Why is it five colors? Literally every other Scarecrow except for Straw Soldiers is colorless. There is no reason for King to be five colors, but that wasn't enough for Wizards. Why does he cost… how the heck am I even supposed to convey the mana cost through a text medium? {2/W}{2/U}{2/B}{2/R}{2/G}? It’s in the same style as those hybrid mono-color cards like Beseech the Queen but somehow ten times worse. It’s not like I'm gonna play Reaper King in a mono-color deck if he’s gonna cost 10. If you give me the option to play him for five, I’m gonna play him for five, so why even give me the option to spend colorless mana?

Why is Reaper King so freaking metal for such a mediocre tribe? That question can actually be for Scarecrows as a whole. The flavor of the Scarecrows is incredibly demented and they fit the plane of Lorwyn super well, but nobody was ever going to play Lurebound Scarecrow and friends outside of Limited, right? Well, until they made Reaper King the most busted lord ever. If people are playing Scarecrows now, it's not because they do something mechanically interesting; it's because Reaper King is a busted Magic card. Was that intentional, Wizards? Did you mean to make this busted trigger to incentivize people to play Scarecrows in spite of what the Scarecrows themselves actually did?

Did it work? Lorwyn block was the first block to give us a bunch of Changelings, and those seems like the obvious combos with this. The Changelings are a lot stronger than the Scarecrows, I’ll tell you. Nowadays, you can fill a whole deck with Changelings and not touch Scarecrows at all, and you're probably much better off. This feels like another reason not to make Reaper King five colors because now anyone incentivized to play King is not going to be playing it with Scarecrows. You might as well have had it say Goat, or Homunculus, or even Changeling if that’s all you wanted people to do with it. The more I look at this card, the more I'm just baffled by what they were trying to do. Look at this card, then look at the Lorwyn Scarecrows, and then explain to me why any of this exists.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: While doing research on Reaper King, I stumbled upon this article from 2008 that had this delicious line for me: “If you're not a fan of Reaper King, it's because you can't handle him. If you turn up your nose, it's because you're not worthy of His Rotting Gourdness.” Doug Beyer reached fifteen years into the future and personally attacked me.

119: Reiver Demon: 3,549 Decks

I prefer Dread Cacodemon to Reiver Demon by a wide margin. When Reiver Demon is at its best, it’s definitely better than Cacodemon, but that basically requires playing a mono-black deck against a field of no other black or artifact decks. Otherwise, there’s gonna be some creatures left over, and that seems very not worth it. Plus, Cacodemon could see play in non-mono-black decks. If you jam Reaver Demon in Kaalia, Zenith Seeker, you’re committing to blowing up your own stuff with it. The whole point of playing a card like this is so you can destroy your opponents' boards and keep your own. Reiver Demon seems worse at that job than either Cacodemon or Plague Wind.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Did you know Reiver Demon was first printed in Mirrodin? That somehow makes everything even worse.

118: Decree of Silence: 3,591 Decks

If you were gonna ask me where Decree of Silence was gonna place, I wouldn’t have put it above Decree of Annihilation. In my head, Decree of Silence is still a niche weird card that few people played because it scaled bad to Commander.

I guess I underestimated how much Gavi, Nest Warden and Solemnity did for this card. It’s pretty obvious why being a free counterspell or a piece of a two-card combo that prevents everyone from casting spells would give this card more of a home, but those are two synergies with a card that, on its own, is pretty mediocre. Don't get me wrong, when you can consistently assemble Decree of Silence + Solemnity, then they both are worth playing, but seeing Hanna, Ship's Navigator or Baral, Chief of Compliance decks playing this card with no Solemnity to go with it feels pretty iffy.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: It’s not even that great in Gavi. It’s a free Dismiss, which is good, but, like, $15 good? I don’t know.

117: Obliterate: 3,648 Decks

Okay, the image that's going to show up for Obliterate is likely the Eighth Edition one. Take a moment to read the flavor text on this card. Isn't it fantastic? I love it. Now go look up the flavor text for the original Invasion printing. Maybe look up who Barrin is if you don’t know, and then come back. I’ll wait.

Yeah, isn’t that horribly sad? The tonal whiplash between these two versions of the exact same card is amazing.

Yeah, I'm writing about the flavor text, because I don't know what else you want me to say about Obliterate. It’s Decree of Annihilation again. I think Decree is better for the flexibly of the Cycling ability, but if you’ve got some indestructible wincon, like Zurgo Helmsmasher, or just like watching the world burn (and the forest, and the city, and Barrin’s one chance at a happy fulfilling life), then you know how to make that happen.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: If they ever print Obliterate again, they’ll need to keep the same art, but create a brand new version of the flavor text that is somehow completely tonally different from the other two.

116: Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios: 3,691 Decks

(816 Decks as a Commander, 2,875 Decks in the 99)

Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios is a Simic commander that works well with making lots of mana, playing lots of card draw and counterspells, and then finishing the game with big sea monsters or Landfall creatures. 

Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait is a Simic commander that works well with making lots of mana, playing lots of card draw and counterspells, and then finishing the game with big sea monsters or Landfall creatures.

Grolnok, the Omnivore is a Simic commander that works well with making lots of mana, playing lots of card draw and counterspells, and then finishing the game with... I think you get the idea.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Forgive me for indulging a "lol, Simic is goodstuff.dec" writeup, but if you can earnestly find something unique to do with Jadzi, I'd love to see it.

115: Pestilence Demon: 3,727 Decks

Every time I play a Pestilence, I discover a new synergy with it. Anything that messes with creatures' toughness? You now have a murder machine. Anything that cares about dealing damage or causing loss of life? You can activate that at will. Anything that wants creatures to die? This does that super easily. It’s fantastic.

Plus, as I mentioned with Ashen Firebeast and Scourge of Kher Ridges, a creature version of this effect is even more synergistic. Find a way to give Pestilence Demon indestructible or deathtouch, and you're off to the races. Demon is not quite as good as the enchantment copies, since this costs eight, but if you’re already getting people with Pestilence, then why not jam another copy?

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: There might even be some decks that prefer the upside of the 7/6 body here.

114: Treacherous Terrain: 3,753 Decks

If I had the space, I'd probably gush about the entire cycle of Commander 2016 landcyclers because it is one of my favorite cycles printed in the last ten years, but I'll constrain myself to Treacherous Terrain, a solid burn spell that scales really well to Commander. It'll likely dome your opponents for 10+, and that's a great way to give your deck a little extra reach. That’s also assuming you aren’t fueling it with Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis or able to copy or recur it in Wort, the Raidmother. Ignoring the extra text, the card is a niche-but-still-explosive spell I'd play in certain decks; the fact that you can also cycle Terrain early on to help fix your mana in lower budget mana bases makes these an excellent tool I'm always happy to have in my arsenal.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: That goes for Ancient Excavation and Sylvan Reclamation, too. Heck, you can even throw in Grave Upheaval.

113: Impervious Greatwurm: 3,870 Decks

Knock knock, it's wurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrms.

Draco may hold the title of most expensive creature, but Impervious Greatwurm wins the Golden Egg for biggest creature in the game! Although unlike Draco, there’s less mythos to having the biggest creature, and I’m not 100% why. Maybe it’s just that creatures are generally assumed to be massive, or maybe it’s that Impervious Greatwurm is still going to be smaller than Malignus or Serra Avatar most of the time, but you don’t get the same type of nerd cred or euphoric joy for jamming Impervious Greatwurm in a big creature Commander deck like Selvala, Heart of the Wilds.

The question is, do you want a big expensive indestructible creature? Let me save you some time: if you’re in Gruul or mono-green, the answer is probably yes.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Have you ever attacked with an Impervious Greatwurm that’s been pumped by Xenagos, God of Revels? Would recommend.

112: Akroma, Angel of Fury: 3,888 Decks

(71 Deck as a Commander, 3,817 Decks in the 99)

I'll save the story of this Akroma for Akroma proper, but Akroma, Angel of Fury is fine. I don’t think she’s as big a threat on the table as something like Magmatic Force, and she’s almost just as fragile, but she can end an opponent pretty quickly. I enjoy jamming Akroma in my mono-red Polymorph deck, but outside of that, she's not especially good.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I also don’t know why they gave her Morph. It feels like anathema to the rest of her abilities, but it supplies her some play in Animorphs, I guess.

111: Progenitus: 3,933 Decks

(813 Decks as a Commander, 3,120 Decks in the 99)

There are some commanders, like Orvar, the All-Form, that can quickly end a game if you build your deck around them. Then there's Progenitus. Progenitus simply ends the game. It's always gonna threaten to kill an opponent in two or three attacks, and interaction for Progenitus tends to be few and far between. It takes over games just by existing.

It's more than agnostic to synergy; it's almost anti-synergy since it's got protection from all your stuff too. No Equipment or enchantments to speed up your clock. Not to say you can't make Progenitus into a quicker clock; I'm a fan of Rafiq of the Many as a one-shot kill, and mass pump, like Rhythm of the Wild, can easily get around the protection clause. However, I have seen many Progenitus decks that are just doing something unrelated with Maze's End or Paradox Haze and just backdoor into Progenitus as a wincon if they need it. Surprisingly, Progenitus doesn't need a lot to be worthwhile.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Should be no surprise that a card that wins the game by itself sees play in decks outside of being a commander. If you can cast it, it's probably gonna do good work

The Soul of the World is Terrifying

Well, I'll see you in the penultimate part before the top 100! In the meantime, let me know what you think about this batch. Can you handle the Reaper King? Is Progenitus your preferred five-color wincon? Let me know all about it in the comments. Until next week!

Joseph started playing in Theros Block but decided that the best way to play the game was to learn every single card and hope that would somehow make him good at Magic. It hasn't. He is a college student in Santa Fe, New Mexico and also enjoys reading and other games of all shapes and sizes.

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