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The Knowledge Pool – Riku of Two Reflections
Hi everyone! Welcome back to The Knowledge Pool!
I feel like every week I proclaim my devotion to Temur in some form, and this week will be no different. In fact, the only difference this week is that we will actually be looking at a Temur deck!
One of my favorite aspects of the Temur combination is just how versatile it is, with one through line: everything it does is big. This is obvious when we look back at my previous articles on the Maelstrom Wanderer (you can find my articles here: part 1 & part 2), where the gist of my deck design is “6 and 7 drop tribal.” Another one of my favorite decks is based around Animar, Soul of Elements, which plays a heavy density of creatures to enlarge Animar and power out giant monsters. For both of these decks, our “big” things tend to be permanents, and for most decks aiming to do big things in Commander, permanents tend to be the end game.
As a potential commander, Riku of Two Reflections can play with both creatures and spells. As a creature-centric brew, Riku plays well with effects like Parallel Lives and Doubling Season to duplicate his token production. This version of Riku can also abuse blink effects to re-trigger Riku’s copy ability, and by extension he can benefit from cards like Panharmonicon to generate a bounty of enter-the-battlefield triggers. The cards that go into a creature-focused Riku brew are right in my wheelhouse, but this is not the direction I’ve taken the deck we’ll be demo-ing today. Instead, we will be building around Riku’s Izzet trigger to copy spells. One might even call it an Epic Experiment.
In Commander, and in most formats, the Izzet colors are known for their tendency towards spellslinging. In other words, many Izzet cards reward us for casting a large number of spells. A quick look through the Izzet commanders on EDHREC shows Mizzix of the Izmagnus and Melek, Izzet Paragon among the top 4 most popular commanders, both of which have abilities centered around casting spells. With Riku, we get all of the same potent blue and red cards that find homes in Melek and Mizzix decks, with a commander that will let us copy our spells for a nominal fee, and the addition of green to our spellslinging arsenal. The ability to copy spells should be an obvious boon for a deck like this, but what does green offer? Ramp. Lots and lots of ramp. With Riku on board, every ramp spell increases in explosive potential. Skyshroud Claim is already an amazing card, but now for two extra mana we get to find 4 lands. Cultivate now lets us put two lands into play and put two lands into hand for five mana. Even a card like Rampant Growth now mimics Explosive Vegetation. Effectively, Riku helps ensure that all of our green ramp spells scale with the game state.
Now if you’re familiar with Storm strategies in Commander, I know what you’re thinking: “that all sounds nice, but it’s way too slow to work with my combos.” And I agree. Riku probably isn’t the commander we want to helm a traditional Storm strategy. However, while Riku is inefficient for a brew aiming to eke out small advantages, he does lend himself incredibly well to a deck playing X-cost spells; when he copies the spell, he also copies the value of X, and there are great X spells in these colors to pump our mana into. We get a slew of Fireball effects in red, Stroke of Genius effects in blue, and Genesis Wave effects in green. The card I’ve been most excited to try? Epic Experiment.
Right off the bat, there are several things working against Epic Experiment in Commander. The most glaring problem is that most decks, especially those with green land ramp, will be playing with 2/5s of their card slots devoted to lands. Moreover, each creature, enchantment, artifact, or counterspell we include is one more potential miss for our Epic Experiment, meaning that even if we skew heavily towards instants and sorceries, we’re likely looking at about a 50% hit rate with Experiment. This sounds bad on its surface, but there are a few things we need to consider.
First, every green ramp spell we play will remove lands from our deck, increasing the density of spells in the deck while fueling a larger Experiment. We can even go as far as including a card like Mana Severance to completely eliminate lands from our deck, but some initial testing suggested it clashed too much with our green ramp. I also want to point out that The Commander’s Brew podcast built a similar Experiment deck that ran a low land count and used spells to help them find the lands they needed to play each turn. Their episode inspired me to brew this version of the deck, but I found that playing such a low land count often set me back too far to reliably execute my gameplan. This is a deck that really needs to hit each land drop so that we can cast a large Experiment as quickly as possible, so I opted for the higher land count.
Second, Riku’s ability to copy spells applies to Experiment, and once we have paid the X cost on Experiment, the copy will also have the same value. This means we will be able to see twice as many cards for a rather small investment, giving us a good chance to reveal a spell that will put us in a winning position. Finally, if all else fails, we can expect to cast Experiment for X = 9 a lot of the time. This will ensure that we can cast any spell revealed from the top of our deck, but given our 50% hit rate, it ensures that we get about 4-5 spells for “free.” Basically, it’s still good value.
Deck Goals: We will dig towards Epic Experiment and use our green mana ramp to cast it for at least X = 9. We will protect our Experiment with counterspells, and we will use Time Walk effects to buy time until we can find a win condition. We will win the game with Storm effects, or with a giant Fireball.
The Riku Experiment
The Scientific Method
Taking a look at our deck, we have a fairly mid-sized curve with an average around 3.5. We need a good mix of top end spells to get the most bang out of our Experiment, but we also need our protection and card filtering spells to be on the cheaper end. Luckily, with 11 dedicated land ramp spells and 38 lands, we shouldn’t have any trouble casting our spells on time if not early.
The aspect of this deck that likely jumped out to you is the density of instants and sorceries. Previously I described the importance of skewing our deck in this way, and combined we have 56 slots in our deck devoted to these spells. This will give us about a 50% chance to successfully reveal spells when we cast our Experiment.
This high density of spells means our non-land permanent selections are fairly limited. We have two enchantments, two creatures, and one artifact, and of these, I chose only the ones most crucial to enabling our strategy. There were also a handful nonland permanents that I ended up cutting from this list, but I’ll cover some of those at the end of the article.
Like all of my decks, this one was built with card function in mind. For most of my decks, there’s a clear divide between core synergistic elements and utility options. However, for this deck, the waters are muddied. The bulk of what our deck aims to do is draw/filter cards and ramp. These will propel us towards our win conditions or else high costed payoff spells, and the more spells we play, the more likely we are to be winning the game.
Let’s start by addressing our intended win conditions, and then fill in the support as we go.
Brewing a Storm
First and foremost, this deck aims to cast a giant Epic Experiment. Oftentimes this will result in us finding a win condition, or else it will allow us to cast enough spells to win the game, but we can’t exactly consider Experiment a win condition on its own. Simply, Experiment is our best enabler.
Given that we aim to be casting a lot of spells with Experiment, Storm is a great mechanic on a lot of cards that would result in a game-winning scenario. However, there’s a small problem. Typical Storm spells like Grapeshot or Brain Freeze are not at their best when cast randomly, and considering the random nature of Experiment, there’s a good chance we might cast one of these at an inopportune time. As a result, I opted instead for two cards that we can play in the mid-game that will let us take advantage of Storm-like abilities more passively. I would like to note that if testing reveals that winning the game is too difficult with these cards alone, I would consider Brain freeze, Temporal Fissure, Ignite Memories, or Grapeshot as potential additions.
The first win condition is Aetherflux Reservoir. While we don’t have any other sources of life gain to support this card, I don’t imagine we’ll need them in a lot of cases. If we can manage to cast a big Experiment, and then copy it with Riku or another spell, we’ll gain a lot of life really quickly. I can easily see us gaining enough life after one or two Experiments to wipe out a couple opponents, or else being in a position to continue casting spells until we’re able to wipe out everyone.
The second win condition is Metallurgic Summonings. The primary reason to run Summonings is that it will create dudes for us even if we aren’t ready to cast an Experiment. Since it’s an enchantment, it’s also more resilient than Reservoir. The fact that the dudes it makes scale in size with the spells we cast means that even if we can’t necessarily cast a ton of spells, we will still be in a winning position if we cast just a couple big ones. Summonings also has an activated ability that lets us recover all of our instants and sorceries. This ability is good insurance if we’re out of gas, but I imagine that if we’re in a position to activate it, we’re probably already winning. The biggest con of Summonings is the fact that the creatures it creates lack haste. This means that if we cast a big Epic Experiment, and create enough power to kill all our opponents, they’ll have a full turn around the table to answer our board. However, there’s an easy solution to this problem, and it comes in the form of the extra turns spells we’re playing.
This deck is currently playing five extra turn spells: Time Warp, Part the Waterveil, Walk the Aeons, Temporal Mastery, and Expropriate. I could also see adding in Temporal Manipulation and Nexus of Fate at some point too. In my experience thus far, these spells are some of our best Experiment targets, and even if we don’t cast them off Experiment, the potential to copy them will often give us the time we need to find game-winning pieces. Once we begin stacking a few extra turns, it becomes very difficult for our opponents to interact with us in a meaningful way. For this reason, we can often think of these as pseudo-wincons depending on the state of the board. It’s also worth pointing out that casting a Time Warp on turn five isn’t a terrible play either. The extra turn to get another land drop, and potentially power out a 6-cost spell might be just the acceleration we need to turn the game in our favor. The fact that we have so many ways to interact with the spells in our graveyard means that we can afford to cast these spells early with the realistic expectation of getting them back later.
I would like to quickly highlight Expropriate from among these “taking turns” spells. Expropriate on its own will usually be enough to win the game, and for this reason it’s our only 9-drop spell. Ideally, we’ll be using it to take extra turns, but I can also envision situations where stealing certain permanents will be game-winning. I’ve also included Blatant Thievery for similar reasons.
There are two alternate win conditions to support our Storm spells. Copying a kicked Rite of Replication will usually win the game, especially in conjunction with a Time Warp effect, and hitting Rite off of an Experiment is also not a bad position to be in.
The second alternate win condition is Comet Storm. Mason at the Underdog’s Corner recommended this to me as I was working on this list, and while I wasn’t impressed at first, testing proved me wrong. I’ve found that in a lot of games we can easily generate more than 30 or 40 mana, and pumping all that mana into Comet Storm will easily wipe out a single player. Combined with Riku’s copy ability, Storm can take down an entire table quickly. I’ve found this to be the way I win the game most often. Most tables will know well enough to destroy Metallurgic Summonings or Aetherflux Reservoir, but a Comet Storm with counter backup is pretty hard for any deck to deal with.
Now that we can visualize our endgame, let’s dig in to the cards that are going to get us there. This will be possible through a mix of card draw/selection, ramp, tutors, and recursion.
Dig, Ramp, Tutors, and Recursion
For each one of these three categories, we have cards sporting a variety of mana costs. This is important for synergizing with Experiment, and our spells riding the line between being too low impact or too clunky.
“Dig” is my catchall term for card selection and card draw, and for a deck like this, both are equally valuable. In the early game we will want to set up our future plays with spells like Brainstorm, Ponder, and Preordain, but once we hit the mid-game, we’ll be more concerned about raw advantage with cards like Urban Evolution and Recurring Insight. It’s also worth noting that once we are poised to cast Experiment, our top deck manipulation effects like Brainstorm now double as a means of ensuring value from our Experiment.
Of my options for digging, Supreme Will and Mystic Confluence double as protection for our Experiment. Admittedly, the three and five mana required to cast these spells is likely more than we hope to hold up when we’re dumping mana into Experiment, but the utility of these spells to operate in this way is worth acknowledging.
It’s worth noting that even our less impactful spells like Anticipate and Impulse become far more powerful with Riku. Copying these suddenly turns them into four mana Dig Through Time, and will give us a really good chance of finding Experiment in the later game. Again, Riku helps ensure that our spells scale effectively with the state of the game, easing some of the burden of playing traditionally underpowered cards in our deck.
Offering a similar utility as our digging spells, we have a handful of Tutors incorporated to ensure we find Experiment consistently. The best of these is Mystical Tutor, which not only finds Experiment, but can also be used set up the top of our deck once we’re ready to cast it. Muddle the Mixture is another card working double duty. Muddle will protect our Experiment from the spells most likely to disrupt it for a good rate, while also letting us Transmute for our Experiment in a pinch. Spellseeker is one of the two creatures included in this deck, in large part because it can find Experiment. If we have Experiment already, Spellseeker also represents a copy spell, a Ramp spell, a removal spell, or a counterspell, giving it incredible utility.
The last Tutor I’ve included isn’t intended to find Experiment, but to protect it. Sylvan Scrying is here primarily to find Boseiju, Who Shelters All, which is one of our best options for protecting Experiment with virtually no investment. Boseiju is our only utility land, so if we managed to find it organically, Scrying now serves as fixing and deck thinning, two things we’re likely to need anyway.
Our ramp package is fairly straightforward, offering a mix of the best green ramp spells in the format. Two cards I want to highlight are Mana Geyser and Boundless Realms. In a game with 3 opponents, I imagine Geyser will net us about 10 mana (five per opponent) under average conditions. While red mana is not in high demand for this deck, Experiment will be happy to accept all of it as we pay into X. Boundless Realms is our one “mana doubler.” We have 25 basic lands, giving us a really good chance of doubling our land count. Pulling so many lands from the deck also does a good job of deck thinning, and after resolving a Boundless Realms we’re likely set to combo off as soon as we can untap.
Speaking of untapping, I want to point out the inclusion of Turnabout, Early Harvest, and Rude Awakening. Initially I only included Turnabout in this deck, but after some testing I decided to include Harvest and Awakening. Without any other support, these cards likely represent an additional 5-7 mana, but if we can copy one of them, we’re suddenly working with more than double the amount of mana that our lands could normally produce. This line of play should be the step we need to go off, and sometimes we’ll even be able to cast a giant Experiment much earlier than it appears like we can.
The last element of our spell package that we need to address is our recursion package. Cards like Regrowth and Mystic Retrieval will ensure that we’re Experimenting over and over until will finally win the game. Recursion also play quite nicely with our extra turn spells, and could prevent our opponents from ever having another turn again.
Spelltwine will let us cast our best spell again for “free”, and will grant us access to our opponents used spells as well. We aren’t running much in the way of removal, so I imagine Spelltwine will usually end up targeting an opponent’s Wrath from the graveyard. Mizzix’s Mastery is included for similar functions, and if we Overload it, we’ll usually have the resources to end the game.
When Science Goes too Far
Up until now, we’ve looked at cards that I consider essential for us to achieve our gameplan. But let’s be honest, sometimes it’s fun to win a little more.
By now you’re probably tired of reading about how good certain cards are when Riku copies them, and I feel like I’ve been saying it about most of the cards in this deck. But what if we don’t have Riku? After all, Riku costs five, and his reputation alone is likely enough to get you some unwanted attention. Luckily, even if we can’t get Riku to stick, we have a handful of cards included to help us get the most out of our experimenting. Let’s take a look.
These five cards will let us copy whatever spells are most valuable to us at the time, and it’s also worth noting that Twincast and Reverberate can also copy our opponent’s counters to protect our Experiment.
However, things start to get really weird once we cast a Bonus Round or Swarm Intelligence. When these cards were spoiled, I knew they would be incredibly powerful, but I never had a deck for them. In this particular deck, they will copy our Experiment, and then copy every spell we cast from our Experiment. In the case of Bonus Round, we can also copy it with Riku, and then we’re looking at three copies of every spell we play. Needless to say, if we can pull off one of these scenarios, the stack is going to become a mess really quickly, and you’ll have more spells than you know what to do with. These cards are straight up fun. They might not be necessary, but they enable some of the most explosive plays I’ve ever seen in Commander. Who said only creature decks can go big?
The Cut List
We’ve now covered the bulk of the important pieces of this deck, and have arrived at the cards that narrowly missed the cut.
The very last cut I made was Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. I really like this card on paper: it lets us dig a bit deeper each turn, and when it flips we get to cast spells from our graveyard. Sadly, the fact that he’s a creature ended up being his downfall.
Primal Amulet and Pyromancer’s Goggles seemed like natural inclusions for this deck. Unfortunately, the fact that both are artifacts made them additional misses for Experiment, and they both felt low-impact for the cost.
Reiterate is a copy spell that most of these kinds of decks include, but I feel like it functions much better in a Mizzix deck than it does here. For us, it feels just a little too expensive in comparison to its contemporaries.
Guttersnipe and Talrand, Sky Summoner were both originally in my list as Storm win conditions with the same justification as Aetherflux Reservoir and Metallurgic Summonings. However, they are really fragile, and once our opponents know what we’re doing, they won’t be surviving long. These ended up being easy cuts in favor of more spells.
Insidious Will is a card I’ve wanted a home for for a long time, and this seemed like the perfect place for it. In theory, we love the utility: it protects our Experiment and can be played proactively to copy it. The issue here is the cost. In testing it always felt dead in hand, and I could never leave up four mana for the counter. At least in the cases of Mystic Confluence and Supreme Will we’re happy to cash in both for the ability to dig, and both offer the ability to dig at a good rate. But if Reiterate isn’t a good enough rate for a copy spell, then Insidious Will definitely isn’t.
There are a few final things I would like to point out about this deck before closing.
If you have difficulty finding Experiment, or else would like more tutoring power, Personal Tutor is a good option.
I didn’t have a natural place to talk about Kruphix, God of Horizons, but I think he’s worth addressing. Kruphix is here primarily to let us build up our mana from turn to turn as we prepare to Experiment. So far in testing, he has seemed to be a solid play, although I imagine he could be considered low-impact depending of the speed of your playgroup.
I could see running a spell like Stroke of Genius or Blue Sun’s Zenith as an alternate win condition to mill out opponents. X spells are a bit of a nonbo with Experiment, so I tried to limit the number I included in my deck, but I could see either of these being solid additions.
The counterspells I included were chosen with color considerations in mind. For example, Counterspell was omitted in favor of Negate, since both serve the same purpose in this deck, and Negate is easier to cast.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my article! This has been my favorite deck for a little while now, and I’ve really enjoyed writing about it.
Until next time, I wish you all the best and happy brewing!