Uncommonders - Who Taught Raff How to Drive?!

(Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage | Art by John Stanko)

Start Your Engines

Well, well, look at this! We are back again with some more Uncommonders goodness! My name is Seth Cross, but my friends call me DM. This series was inspired by the Dominaria set and its twenty legendary creatures printed at the uncommon rarity. Together, we dive into each one of these, along with callbacks to the many uncommon legendary creatures printed in Magic: the Gathering’s past, and brew something fun and exciting for the kitchen table and our best friends to “ooh” and “aah” over. Since we got excited over a recently rare-shifted legendary creature in last week’s article, we are back to Dominaria this week. I asked the Twitch Subscribers that have special access to the subs-only channel on the Praetor Magic Discord to supply me with their favorite Dominaria Uncommonders, and naturally has a Twitter poll to find the victor! The four options were Hallar, the Firefletcher, Danitha Capashen, Paragon, Slimefoot, the Stowaway, and of course, the winner for today's article:

Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage

Raff is one of Dominaria's uncommon legends - actually, one of the legends, regardless of rarity - that piqued my interest during preview week. What makes Raff slightly more interesting to me than some of the others are his colors. I talk about being a Golgari mage all the time, so Azorius can sometimes be a bit foreign to me. Raff is one of the Dominaria commanders that deal with the new 'historic' label. This new categorization of cards encompasses artifacts, spells that have the legendary supertype (whether they are creatures, artifacts, enchantments or even instants or sorceries), or the new Saga subtype. Come to think of it, if we get new Sagas in future sets, a Bant historic-based commander could make for an interesting Enchantress theme... oops! Sorry. We're not here for enchantments. We're actually here for Raff's historical artifacts!

Another fairly recent development within Magic: the Gathering is the Vehicle subtype. These artifacts become creatures when they are Crewed by tapping creatures with the right amount of power. The reason I find these so interesting is that a well-timed board wipe leaves us with part-time creatures on an empty field, putting us farther ahead in the game. Combined with Raff's ability to cast these artifacts with flash, it'll be even easier to finagle that timing to our advantage. That's right, this week we are talking about…

Raff Capashen, Pod Racer!

First, I want to draw attention to a simple fact: there are only 25 Vehicles in all of Magic: the Gathering. My first impulse was to throw them all into the deck to fulfill the theme, but looking at the list, I realized that some of them just did not need to be in the deck. I trimmed it down to a total of 17 Vehicles. Some were cut out because their payoff was lackluster (like Fell Flagship), and others were trimmed out based on their Crew cost (like Consulate Dreadnought).

Only two Vehicles in the deck have a Crew cost of 4 or more, meaning that they are the only Vehicles that Raff cannot bring to life on his own. The first such Vehicle is Peacewalker Colossus which made the cut because we can pay mana to animate other Vehicles without needing to Crew them. The second Vehicle with a Crew cost of 4 is Conqueror’s Galleon, which I kept for the chance to transform it into Conqueror’s Foothold as a means of recurring our cards from the graveyard.

Some other Vehicles also stood out in the list. Cultivator’s Caravan doubles up as ramp. (In case you were not sure, it can indeed tap the turn it enters the battlefield, because if it's not a creature, it doesn't have summoning sickness.) The famous and nostalgic Weatherlight and Smuggler’s Copter double up as forms of card advantage, helping dig deeper into the deck to keep our hand happy and full. Hailing from Kaladesh, the native plane of Vehicles, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship allows us to swing at our opponents’ life totals while also bolting either creatures or planeswalkers. Mobile Garrison allows us to untap the creature that Crewed it, leaving up potential for some crafty blocking plays. Daredevil Dragster is a unique card that only gets two attacks and/or blocks in before being sacrificed, but that sacrifice draws us two cards. With a recursion package - which we will talk about next - there is potential to keep bringing Dragster back for more and more card advantage. Let's be honest, no one says no to more cards, right?!

Spit, Polish, and Maintaining Our Pods

It is important to realize that there are many effects that are popular in Commander that wipe out or surgically remove artifacts, regardless of whether or not they are creatures. With that in mind, we want to run a few ways to protect or bring back our artifacts.

Before we begin, my list is not running Darksteel Forge and honestly, how dare I, right? In all honesty, I felt like artifacts have so many ways to be recurred that simple indestructibility is just too easy and a touch boring. Cards like Junk Diver, Myr Retriever, and the artifact staple Trading Post help our artifacts come back to the battlefield. We also have Sun Titan and even another Dominaria addition, Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, which is slightly more restrictive. In addition to Teshar, Hanna, Ship’s Navigator uniquely synergizes with Raff because she counts as a historic card that can be flashed in. Then, Indomitable Archangel and Padeem, Consul of Innovation making targeting our artifacts much more difficult for our opponents.

Fuel for the Engines

Ramp in an artifact deck can be deceptive. Sure, running eight or more mana rocks can easily give us access to twice as much mana as anyone else on the board. When combined with discounting effects like Etherium Sculptor we can suddenly cast ultra-big artifacts multiple times a turn. However, my main issue with this thinking is that mana rocks are not permanent sources of mana in the way that lands are. At least, not unless your meta is more comfortable with land destruction. If they are, then good for you! I personally think we are too against the idea of balancing mana sources, but I digress. My point is that we should be careful with vulnerable mana sources.

Because artifacts have such great recursion and we are running so many effects in the deck, I went with the classic Burnished Hart and Solemn Simulacrum to fetch for lands. While for most decks, that does not seem that odd, I was surprised at the folks who suggested them as cuts when I was slimming down the deck. The mentality was that we ran enough discount effects and rocks to ramp hard enough already, but did not sit right with me, so I stuck with my gut, and these should diversify our mana capabilities. Plus, they can Crew Vehicles!

I was excited to include Smothering Tithe in the list, a new card from Ravnica Allegiance that seems like it is going to become very popular in most white decks. I debated going a bit more tax-based with a few other cards, but realized something like Grand Arbiter Augustin IV does not benefit us enough, considering most of our cards are colorless. Since we don't get the classic Arbiter, we are running three kinds of discounts for artifacts (or historic cards) in the form of Etherium Sculptor, Foundry Inspector, and the newer Jhoira’s Familiar.

Throw everything together with some more draw, ramp and then the right removal and Wrath effects, and the list looks like this:

Pod Racer Champion Raff

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Commander (1)
Creatures (35)
Planeswalkers (3)
Enchantments (4)
Artifacts (9)
Instant (6)
Sorcery (5)
Lands (37)

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NOTE: For the sake of the list, I included the Vehicles as creatures, which makes it look like there are tons of creatures. As we touched on earlier, some of the Vehicles fulfill different categories or simply do not need to be creatures in order to provide value. Just something to keep in mind when looking at the list!

Beep Beep, Outta the Way!

When Raff first came out in a set with twenty uncommon legendary creatures and a host of rare and mythic rare legendary creatures, my first thought was to flash in all the white and blue legendary creatures I could stick into a deck. Then, when Sagas were revealed, I had the idea to do an Azorius Enchantress-type deck. Sadly, only six Sagas exist in these colors, so that idea quickly went out the window. I resisted the urge to do a basic artifact deck with Raff, because Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain exists in the same set and she seems like such a better artifact commander. In the end, the Vehicle idea seemed fun, and brewing the list proved it to be true, especially with all the surprise combat shenanigans Raff is capable of sneaking into play. I enjoy a unique twist on my decks, so this is the icing on the cake.

To wrap this up, my favorite comment from last week’s article came from /u/GRxBerserker on the /r/EDH subreddit. They said:

This looks like an awesome budget deck! I play Shirei without consideration for budget and it still looks awfully similar. Good work.

I enjoyed this comment so much because it illustrates how powerful of a deck you can build in the 3DH format. To recap, 3DH is 3 Dollar Highlander, where we play Commander on Magic: the Gathering Online and each deck can cost no more than 3 TIX (which equates to $3). Because of the unique Online economy, there are very powerful cards that sometimes cost next to nothing. My favorite example is always that Vampiric Tutor only costs a penny for Season 3.

If this sounds like fun for you, make sure you check out the Praetor Magic Discord! We talk about the format and you can sign up to play on the games I stream every Wednesday and Friday at 9 PM EST. You can also throw questions at me on the big blue bird site by following me there and see some of my older games on the Praetor Magic YouTube channel.

Until next time, keep brewing and keep casting those bombs!

DM Cross started playing Magic: the Gathering when he was 8 years old. Currently 29 years old, he's become an avid lover of the EDH/Commander format and is constantly keeping an eye on everything coming out to see how to tune and tweak his favorite decks. DM can be found on Twitter @DM_Cross

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