Underdog's Corner - Rienne, Angel of Rebirth
(Rienne, Angel of Rebirth | Art by Kieran Yanner)
Another Day, Another Rebirth
Hello, everyone! Welcome back to another installment of the Underdog’s Corner! If you haven't joined me before, this is where I discuss a commander that may be overlooked or underplayed and shine a spotlight on them to give them a fighting chance. This week I'm delving into one of the legends from Core Set 2020! We received an entire cycle of new wedge-colored legendary creatures, which is incredibly exciting!
However, I'm not looking to discuss any of those five. Our legend today is the lone shard-colored commander from the set, the Buy-a-Box promo, Rienne, Angel of Rebirth! With a total of 39 decks at the time of writing, Rienne stands above only Atemsis, All-Seeing and Drakuseth, Maw of Flames among the twelve legends of Core Set 2020. Let's see what Rienne's all about.
Rienne, Angel of Rebirth
While the Vanilla Test is hardly a way to evaluate a commander, it's still helpful as a survivability metric. Rienne passes it with flying colors as a five-mana 5/4 flyer, giving us a powerful attacker and blocker when the need arises. I consider five mana to be the bottom of the curve for expensive commanders, but since Rienne has green in her color identity, we should be able to play her multiple times in a game without worry. We'll actually be able to double down on this with her abilities.
Other multicolored creatures you control get +1/+0.
Whenever another multicolored creature you control dies, return it to its owner’s hand at the beginning of the next end step.
Rienne cares about multicolored creatures through and through, which gives us a direction and a restriction at the same time. One avenue we could explore is leaning into her as an additional anthem-lite effect for an aggro build. Her second ability could then be a safety net for the eventual Wrath that snuffs out aggro's chances. A decent direction, but not the one we're exploring today. I'm personally going to look into how we can get the most out of her second ability.
Not Quite Necromancy
How can Rienne's colors help us? While she lacks the most prominent and powerful color for recursion, green and white are the second and third best colors for recurring creatures from the graveyard, even if it's to our hand. We'll also need to remember that Rienne's specific brand of recursion is limited to multicolored creatures.
If we want a janky angle, we can include Scuttlemutt or the recently-unbanned Painter's Servant to have the opportunity to recur all of our creatures. That's not going to be consistent, so we won't want to rely heavily on that.
Let's therefore discuss a card that is simply perfect for Rienne. I've talked about a Saffi Eriksdotter deck in my series before, but she is more often played in the 99, either as a combo enabler or as a powerful support piece. For two mana, we can recur any creature on the battlefield if it dies at the cost of sacrificing Saffi. This can be a protective measure or a means to accelerate value, depending on our board state. We can even protect Rienne with this ability and still return Saffi at our end step.
With Rienne's focus on multicolored creatures, we're starting with a broad spectrum of choices. We can choose to run the best overall multicolored creatures we have access to, or we can pick a theme and focus on it. Cards in either direction will overlap, but it gives us direction. For this article, I'm going to focus on a "value" build, namely creatures with "enters/leaves the battlefield" abilities or those with self-sacrifice effects. We'll want to double up on these abilities.
Rienne's EDHREC page gives us a nice head start on this venture.
First up we have a suite of protection for our creatures. Returning our creatures en masse is a great boon, but sometimes we don't want to be hit by that tempo disadvantage. Dauntless Escort and Loxodon Hierarch ask our opponents to either remove them before casting a Wrath, or to have a Wrath effect that circumvents their protection. For a creature-heavy build, I think these will be mainstays.
Remember when I said we were going to bring the value? Qasali Pridemage, Knight of Autumn, Duergar Hedge-Mage, Harmonic Sliver, and Vithian Renegades all give us access to sources of repeatable removal for a total cost of three mana each. Having access to artifact and enchantment removal is never a bad thing. While the rate may not be exceptional, we'll have ways to make each of these count.
We also have access to impactful effects that we will want to repeat over and over. While Bloodbraid Elf isn't as powerful in Commander as it is in Modern, being able to get a four-mana Cascade each turn will help us turn the corner and pull off a victory. Zacama, Primal Calamity doesn't immediately strike me as a card we'd want to spend each of our turns recasting, but the longer a game runs, the more powerful Zacama's ability becomes. Casting Zacama with lands that create more than one mana can also provide us with a net gain on mana, turning the card into a very expensive ritual which can help fuel massively swingy turns. Lastly, Gruul Ragebeast turns each of our creatures into potential kill spells. With Rienne out, not only can we throw our creatures into battle immediately just to get them back, but her buffing ability also allows them to punch above their weight class.
Digging for Gold
Since our gameplan is to proactively recur our creatures, we'll need sacrifice outlets. For the most part, we can get away with running some of the usual suspects, but there are a few I'd prioritize. Greater Good is the first I'll mention since it lets us draw through our deck. Notably, we get a small bump from Rienne's ability as we get to draw an additional card from the power boost. Evolutionary Leap is a mainstay in almost every green deck I have, and it's even better here. We get to recast creatures for more value, and we get to draw another creature to loop.
Dark-Dweller Oracle is a bit of an outlier, but additional sac outlets that don't have obvious homes is something that I look for. After that, we have the ever-powerful Birthing Pod. Yes, I would like to have access to several chains at any given point.
A Magic Goldberg Machine
I want to talk about a pair of cards that currently appears in zero Rienne, Angel of Rebirth. The first is fun, and the second is more powerful.
I've always wanted to find a home for Desecrated Tomb, and out of sheer luck, Rienne happens to work spectacularly with it. Thankfully, Rienne triggers for each creature, so we get a Bat token for each creature that gets returned by her ability. That's not the most impactful effect in the world, but being able to potentially churn out several tokens for free each turn is certainly noteworthy.
Now let's talk about the powerhouse pick for the article.
Aluren is one of the more powerful cards in Magic, and it even has an entire Legacy deck named after it. It allows each player to cast creatures with a converted mana cost of three or less without paying their mana costs, and as though they had flash! With Rienne and a sac outlet, we can cast and recur each of our low-drop gold creatures once a turn. That's insanely powerful.
On the low end of power we can cast Knight of Autumn and gain 16 life each round. We could also sacrifice Saffi each turn to recur a creature that is much larger. Since we're also still casting creatures with this effect, we can trigger Karametra, God of Harvests or Beast Whisperer that many times as well. Aluren opens up an absurd number of lines that players can customize.
One thing Aluren shows us as well is the power of flash in this deck. Repeated effects are powerful, but getting them outside of our turn is even better, turning our creature-based, normally-sorcery-speed-only deck into a trickier problem for our enemies. This makes cards like Yeva, Nature's Herald, Vedalken Orrery, and Vivien, Champion of the Wilds a little more potent in our deck.
Aluren isn't the only crazy interaction we get to include though.
Let me summarize the following section, briefly. If this card's ETB resolves with Rienne and a sacrifice outlet on board, and our opponents are not able to remove any of the pieces with their floating mana, the game will effectively end. They can attempt to fight through it, but it will be mostly miserable. This is assuming that we (as the Rienne player) won't die to effects that are already on board.
When Realm Razer enters the battlefield, it exiles all lands. Everyone's mana production is then tied to any mana rocks that are left in play (which we'll hopefully have been targeting with Knight of Autumn effects over the earlier parts of the game). If Realm Razer resolves, the remainder of the game will follow a similar pattern. When we gain priority before moving to the end step of the opponent's turn prior to ours, we sacrifice Realm Razer to whatever sac outlet we have. This returns all exiled lands to the battlefield tapped. At the beginning of the end step, Rienne will return Realm Razer to our hand. We will then untap, with all of our opponents being tapped out, aside from any lands they played on their turn. We can then repeat this loop every turn. We can attack with Rienne each turn to deal lethal commander damage over the course of the next several turns, or we can continue to draw into other cards to hasten this kill condition. While it's not quite infinite, this combo is very likely to end the game.
I hope you have enjoyed a brief look at this incredibly intriguing Naya commander. While she quickly got overlooked in the face of an entire new cycle of wedge-colored legends, Rienne, Angel of Rebirth offers a novel way to approach her color combination. While I covered a few distinct interactions and cards, there is still so much left to be discovered, and I hope someone out in the world dives in and really discovers all of what can make her great. For now though, I leave you with a deck with a few of my ideas.
Giving Naya New LifeView on Archidekt
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