Technically Playable - Tor Wauki the Younger

(Tor Wauki the Younger | Karl Kopinski)

Technically Playable - Tor Wauki the Younger

Welcome to Technically Playable, where our mission statement is "Every commander is Technically playable" (the best kind of playable). The way this works is every article will have a commander generated using EDHREC's random button, I'll talk through the card and then write about how we can build around it!

This week's random commander is Tor Wauki the Younger!

While not a fully mono-red card, I'm a massive fan of burn decks, and this is one that has been living rent-free and unbuilt in my brain since it was released. I'm really excited to get the opportunity to dive into it and have a look through some fun cards for the deck. Both for the sake of this article, and to decide whether or not I'll build it in paper.

A lot of the text on this card would lead you to think it's a mono-red card. After all, it has similar text to Guttersnipe and almost the same text as Jaya, Venerated Firemage. But it has lifelink, so it couldn't be mono-red. And don't tell all of my red decks this, but that does make the deck quite a lot better.

Killin' Creatures

If you've played Magic before, you know that red and black are two colors that love to kill creatures (and if you haven't played Magic just yet, welcome. Pull up a chair and enjoy the article!). Tor Wauki plays to these strengths and can sometimes seem like the best way to play the deck is like one of those Historic Brawl decks. You know, the ones led by Professor Onyx or Rusko, Clockmaker where you play your commander, stack the deck with removal and card draw, and hope your opponent concedes before you draw more than one land in a row. The main difference between Tor and cards like Onyx or Rusko is that Tor only hits one target, but the benefit of this is that it is any target so slap a deathtouch Equipment like Gorgon's Head on him and machinegun down all of your opponent's creatures.

While Tor Wauki doesn't benefit as much from being a pure removal deck as the Professor Onyx Brawl decks do, there are some removal spells that work really well. Anything you can cast multiple times is amazing. Sever the Bloodline gives you a slightly overcosted removal spell (that exiles which is pretty rare in Rakdos) that also works as a onesided board wipe against token decks. Unfortunately, there aren't many removal spells that you can cast multiple times and Chainer's Edict isn't that good in a game where board states become saturated with utility creatures and tokens.

Our solution to this problem is through Past in Flames or the more broken Underworld Breach. These cards allow us to double up on damage from Tor while also keeping control of the board state. This is a powerful effect combined with spot removal like Hero's Downfall or Infernal Grasp but if you have a way to keep Tor Wauki alive they become incredibly potent with board wipes like Damnation and especially Blasphemous Act since it'll probably only cost you one mana.

Removing creatures is great and there are a lot of ways to do it. What makes these spells even better is when they're able to help you win the game. Obviously, Tor Wauki is one way to leverage spells in this way, and I'll talk about similar cards below and why Tor Wauki by himself probably won't get you there. What makes these removal spells really good is when they do double duty as a way to get rid of threats and to threaten opponents themselves. Fireball is probably the most iconic card in this category but it has slowly been power crept. Earthquake is obviously great if you're running fliers but if not I prefer Rolling Earthquake since it hits players and all creatures, even fliers (and if you cast this into a board full of Horsemanship creatures I don't know what to say except, sorry?).

The best cards that do this double duty are probably Comet Storm and Torment of Hailfire. Comet Storm was, for a very long time, the go-to mana sink for red decks. It allows you to deal a huge amount of damage while paying the low cost of one to deal that damage to another target. This gives you control over when to use it, do you go for a big blowout in an attempt to end the game or are you better off killing some threats or planeswalkers? On the other hand, Torment of Hailfire is arguably more powerful but with less control. Each mana you put into it is a potential 3 damage, but it's your opponents that get to control if they take that damage or if they remove creatures/discard cards. These are both incredibly powerful spells in their own right but they thrive in very different situations. I'd probably run Comet Storm in this deck if I had to choose just one but honestly, they both deserve a spot in the list.

Castin' Spells

When it comes to Tor Wauki, casting spells is the name of the game, and Rakdos is a great color combination to get the job done. Red is famous (infamous?) for being the color of Storm with variations of different Storm decks across lots of different formats. Whether you're playing Underworld Breach and Brain Freeze in cEDH or some pile of nonsense with Hazoret's Undying Fury in Legacy. Red loves playing lots of spells and Tor Wauki wants that. I definitely wouldn't go as far as to say you want to play Storm in a Tor Wauki deck. I don't even think that the rituals are good in this deck, but Storm decks of days gone past do give us some clues as to how we can take advantage of playing lots of spells and the cards that help us up our SPT (Spells Per Turn).

The majority of my Storm experience comes from Modern. The way these decks played was using cards like Goblin Electromancer to make spells cheaper than casting Desperate Ritual and Pyretic Ritual to build up a huge mana reserve and then dump it into a ton of spells before dropping Grapeshot for the win. As I mentioned we're not looking to necessarily play Grapeshot but I do think we can take a lesson or two from this gameplan. Let's start with rituals. While Rakdos does have access to all of the completely overpowered rituals like Dark Ritual these cards aren't great in Commander, they're a one-off and don't do anything if you draw them late game. Instead, we should look at cards that either have an even bigger impact on the turn you play them like Mana Geyser, cards that give us mana that sticks around like Dockside Extortionist or cards that are more flexible like Jeska's Will.

Of these Dockside and Jeska's Will are extremely well-known, but I do think that Mana Geyser often gets left to the wayside due to its cost. Yes, it is a five-mana spell but I don't think I've ever seen it resolve for less than 15 mana. Using that mana to drop something key to your strategy like Virtue of Courage, Double Vision, Return the Past or some combination of these cards can put you several turns ahead of your opponent's gameplans.

I talked before about doubling up on our spells and how Past in Flames, Underworld Breach and the aforementioned Return the Past help us to do that. These cards give us access to spells we've cast before which is vital because if we only count the damage from Tor Wauki it would take... forty divided by two... carry the one... sixty instants and sorceries to kill all three opponents. On average, you're looking at around forty lands in a deck, probably thirty-odd creatures given the high power level of creatures in recent years, leaving us with thirty other spells including enchantments and artifacts. Tor only counts instants and sorceries... so let's say around half of those thirty other spells fall into those two card types and that gives us 15 cards to play with, around a quarter of the number needed to win the game. So as well as these permanents and spells that let us recast our spells we also need to look into other ways we can get extra spell casts.

I talk a lot in my articles about cards with Flashback. It's probably my favorite mechanic, of course I'm biased because I love graveyard decks, but I just think it's a subtle way to break parity with the Singleton rule and can make for some really interesting game states where an innocuous spell in a graveyard can make a huge impact late into the game. It keeps people on their toes and makes sure people are paying attention to what is going on. Retrace is something I never gave the same amount of love, but for this deck, it fits perfectly. Late into the game, you can turn flooding into extra spell casts which in turn become removal or chip damage that can cause your opponents some real issues.

I think my favorite Retrace card for this deck is Throes of Chaos. It's a bit cheesy and can sometimes backfire with any X spells but a lot of the win conditions and utility in this deck cost three or less mana making it a crazy amount of value and turning those lands into useful cards, taking into account the fact that you cast the spells you hit off of Cascade and you're suddenly looking at four or more damage from Tor Wauki from discarding a useless land and casting Throes from your graveyard.

Winnin' Games

Okay, okay. I've talked a lot about spells, killing stuff and Return the Past but if we have to cast 60 Instants and Sorceries to win the game, well that's just not going to happen surely? So obviously that was hyperbole. You're never going to just cast Tor Wauki and leave it at that, but what is a good way to win in a Rakdos burn deck in Commander? As I alluded to earlier the secret lies in Guttersnipe which has the magical word that I wish Tor Wauki had. "each". What makes this word so magical is that it cuts that big 60 down to 20. Still a huge number of cards to play but it is significantly lower and only five more than the number of Instants and Sorceries I assumed a deck would have in the section above. Suddenly if you land just one of your cards that lets you rebuy instants and sorceries from your graveyard it's looking like a totally doable task.

I also really like redundancy though. Playing Guttersnipe only to have it eat a Path to Exile sucks. There are tons of creatures that deal damage or benefit from your casting spells so I'll just cover a few key ones. Kessig Flamebreather and [/el]Firebrand Archer[/el] only deal one damage but have the benefit of being cheaper creatures but the best option in my opinion isn't even a creature. Fiery Inscription is an enchantment that has the same effect as Guttersnipe, it's two damage and says each. The best thing about this not being a creature is it allows you to pivot from a burn deck to a control deck at a moment's notice since it dodges board wipes.

But just looking at the creatures that trigger off of damage will make this deck take way too long to win in a color combination with far too few tools to keep itself alive. To solve this, we need to ramp up our damage exponentially. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is amazing at doing this. Since all of our win conditions deal very small amounts of damage but do it incrementally, we get the most value we can out of Torbran's ability. If you're feeling particularly greedy you could also go for Fiery Emancipation or City on Fire to build up damage, I think that cards like Torbran and Mechanized Warfare are much more efficient, but there is something really funny about hitting an opponent for lethal with just a Lightning Bolt and Guttersnipe.

Probably the best new win condition in the deck though is Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might. This means that even your low-cost pingers like Firebrand Archer are throwing around massive amounts of damage. Four per spell is a really quick clock and if that's on each opponent you will be closing games out very. While Ojer Axonil doesn't fully dodge removal like Fiery Inscription it does have some built-in resilience since it's so easy to fulfill the ability on its land side.

As with all Technically Playable articles, this was a very quick look at Tor Wauki the Younger as a commander and a few of the cards that can really make a deck with him as the commander tick.

When I say this was a really quick look at Tor Wauki I'm not kidding. There are tons of sweet micro-interactions in this deck like using Aetherflux Reservoir in conjunction with Tor Wauki's lifelink to turn the reservoir into the biggest burn spell around. Or the great value you can get from Mirrodin Avenged and You Are Already Dead in combination with Tor Wauuki's ability (you can target a creature, trigger Tor to hit that creature and effectively have removal spells that replace themselves!). Or the interactions with Pestilent Spirit which sadly don't make up for this deck not being able to use Soulfire Grand Master but do allow you to turn End the Festivities into a DIY one-sided Blasphemous Act. Like I said, this deck has been brewing on my mind for a while and I could talk about it for hours.

Let me know in the comments below if you play Tor Wauki, if you want to build a Tor Wauki deck, or even if you just enjoyed this article. And hey, if you want to see some more in-depth stuff let me know that too!

Hey there, I'm Paul. I've been writing about magic for a really long time. I love to write about obscure commanders (one of my really early articles back in 2015 was about Skeleton Ship) and how you can make decks around them work, no matter how unplayable they are. I love Gruul, I love Mountains and I love casting Lightning Bolt.

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