The Suite-est Thing - Reckoning with Redirection
(Boros Reckoner | Art by Howard Lyon)
IT'S RECKONING TIME!
Hello, EDHRECkoners! I'm glad you could join me for this debut edition of The Suite-est Thing, where I’ll be exploring the role of card packages in deckbuilding.
When you’re building your Commander deck, you usually don’t do so one card at a time, even if you know which ones you want. You should also try and find cards with similar effects to play as “extra copies,” or cards which synergize with that first card to build up a sub-theme. For experienced players, there are certain combinations of cards which feel inseparable - when you add Land Tax to your white deck, for instance, you’re already reaching for Scroll Rack with your other hand.
Not all suites of cards are as well known though, and cards which synergize in less obvious ways can be hard to track down, even by searching rules text. The Suite-est Thing is here to shine a spotlight on some of the coolest card packages in the format, and show you the process by which you can expand on the themes in your own deck!
As you might have picked up from the little hints at the start of this article, our first source of inspiration is going to be Boros Reckoner.
This is the kind of card a lot of people would love to fit into their 99. It’s seen plenty of play in Standard and even Modern, has great art, and is strongly affiliated with the Boros guild. It has a unique and powerful ability to redirect damage. However, since a 3/3 with optional first strike is a lot less impactful in Commander than other formats, we need to bring in more cards to really justify the Minotaur Wizard by leveraging that ability.
As usual, we’re looking for consistency - cards with a similar effect - as well as synergy to round out our “damage redirection package."
A great starting point is the “High Synergy” section of Boros Reckoner’s EDHREC page, which shows what cards other people have been sleeving up alongside it. This gives us a good suggestion of which cards might work for us, even if we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for to start with.
Already, we can see Truefire Captain as another creature which can redirect damage and combo with the same cards we’re playing to synergize with our Reckoner. Obviously as we build up our theme in support of Reckoner, we will need as many of these as possible to ensure we can always draw one.
We can also spot Blasphemous Act and Star of Extinction, which demonstrate the easiest way for us to win big off Reckoner, Captain, and their pals. Red has tons of super-explosive ways to deal efficient damage to creatures, and we can use them to blast our opponents' life totals while also keeping the board clear of threats. The #1 synergy card, Boros Charm, is cheap and flexible while giving our Reckoner a chance to survive one of these sweeper effects and generate extra value! Deflecting Palm offers a second form of damage redirection which can help us leverage cards like Earthquake.
If you already have a RW Commander deck you’re just tinkering with to add Reckoner, perhaps this is as far as you need to go! All these cards are solid choices when drawn on their own, and you’ll see fireworks fly in the games that you cast them together. One of the best parts of card suites is that they’re scale-able to each player’s needs. Once you start thinking about deckbuilding this way, you can easily test out different ideas and keep things fresh.
Even your most-played deck will be a different experience if you swap your Equipment package for a damage redirection one! And by adding the whole suite of cards together, you know your deck is going to have adequate support to get the most out of Boros Reckoner.
Going Even… Further… BEYOND!
But what if you don’t want to stop here? What if you love Boros Reckoner, and you want to try and win as many games as possible by dropping Star of Extinction to wipe out the opposition? Well, time to do a bit more detective work and super-size this redirection package! More synergy! More consistency!
First up, what other creatures can redirect the damage from our big red spells to our opponent’s face? Mogg Maniac, Spitemare, Spiteful Sliver (alone or with other Slivers!) and Stuffy Doll all fit the bill. Coalhauler Swine is expensive and also damages each player, which is a real drawback despite being useful at a multiplayer table. However, I’m still most excited about the Swine as a deckbuilder, because it makes an incredible starting point for further exploring this theme. Confused?
Data-driven tools like the EDHREC High Synergy section are incredibly powerful ways to identify strong card choices for your deck, but you need a way to filter through the inevitable “noise” - that is, cards that are just in decks because they’re accessible, or generically the best in those colors. Boros Guildgate is the #2 rated card for synergy with Boros Reckoner, for example. That's just noise, and doesn't help our search.
But Coalhauler Swine is our key, what I think of as a “signpost card” for this damage redirection suite. The card is so narrow and obscure that of the 175 players on EDHREC running it, we can be sure that almost all of them are interested in the same themes we are! Sure enough, the synergy section for Coalhauler Swine is chock-full of great ideas.
Let’s quickly work through top to bottom. All the other redirection creatures are here, in case you missed any on your initial search. Arcbond has incredible synergy with our theme as well as improving consistency - it turns any creature in play into a redirector, and if we have other redirectors in play it becomes an absurd damage multiplier. Pyrohemia is a great tool for controlling the battlefield and provides “reusable” damage with our redirectors in between giant bombs like Blasphemous Act and Star of Extinction.
Repercussion initially seems counterproductive in a deck focused on damaging our own creatures. In reality though, we are not compelled to play our cards when they might be bad for us, and the number of games where Repercussion turns on our gameplan without us needing to draw Reckoner are going to outweigh the times when it’s temporarily a dead draw. It’s a hugely powerful enchantment and in a deck so focused on red sweepers it would be a mistake to ignore it.
Dictate of the Twin Gods and Furnace of Rath highlight the favorable interaction between damage redirection and damage doubling effects. When redirecting damage from Star of Extinction, Dictate and Furnace first double the amount dealt by Star to our Boros Reckoner, then double that amount again when Reckoner redirects it, for a total of 80 damage! If you really enjoy large numbers, you’ll be pleased to know that these effects stack multiplicatively, and that red has a ton of them we can play. Thanks, Coalhauler Swine!
Rounding Out the Theme
We can take even more general card clues from further down the Swine’s EDHREC page. If you’re not certain which of the many, many red damage sweepers to play in Commander, you can find some top candidates here. Chain Reaction, Comet Storm, Molten Disaster & Starstorm are in the Top Cards section. Martyrdom, Gideon’s Sacrifice, Saving Grace, Pariah and Pariah’s Shield let us use Boros Reckoner as a lethal line of defense.
Darksteel Plate and Indestructibility help us reuse redirection creatures, and lifelink granters like Deafening Clarion to help us work around self-damage from Repercussion or Coalhauler Swine itself. There are also a hoard of useful staples to make a slower Boros deck competitive, which you may not know about if you haven’t explored this particular niche of Commander before. And if you haven’t looked up Boros Reckoner decks in Modern, you can find here the hidden gem of Volcano Hellion - the only Magic card which allows you to deal an amount of damage of your choice!
Pick a number, any number....
Thanks to identifying our key card, we already have enough redundant copies of key effects and powerful synergy cards to build a full deck around our damage redirection strategy! To round out our pool of ideas, I had a look at the “Group Slug” theme, which contains many effects centered around red direct damage.
I then compared the Top Commanders section for Boros Reckoner and Coalhauler Swine. Ranking highly for both cards were Archangel Avacyn and Firesong and Sunspeaker - each great enablers for this card suite in their own way. Those commander pages can then help identify even more excellent, on-theme card options, until our list is finally complete!
I chose Firesong and Sunspeaker to helm the ship this time. Using Avacyn in conjunction with our red sweepers can be tricky because we usually want to dump all our mana into them. The Minotaur Clerics are easier to get value out of. Even if we can’t redirect the damage to immediately win, resolving something like Blasphemous Act with our commander in play will give us a very considerable life buffer.
Since our theme encompasses a good amount of board control already, the slots we haven’t already discussed are mostly dedicated to card draw, mana generation to cast big sweepers, and some quality spot removal. A couple of very cost-efficient red damage spells have been added in the form of Skred and Shivan Meteor, while Jaya Ballard, Task Mage provides a reusable damage outlet and heavily punishes pesky blue mages. Sunforger and Smoke are awesome in this kind of controlling list and I thoroughly recommend both if you haven’t tried them before.
So, that’s our suite for the day! If you’re excited about damage redirection, I hope that this exploration of the theme helps you find the right package for your own deck. If not, then at least next time you’re looking into a new Commander theme you can consider the advantages of EDHREC’s synergy ratings for rapidly discovering niche cards. And remember to check back here as well - perhaps the next Suite-est Thing article will have researched that package for you!