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Rafiq of the Platypus

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Welcome back! Last week I discussed my rules around building a tuned Commander deck. They were:

1. Serve the General
2. Know your plan
3. Seven by Nine, All the Time
4. Search and Destroy

This week @PlatypusJedi on Twitter asked for help on making his Rafiq of the Many deck more competitive for 1v1 play. We started trading tweets, and I asked if I could use his list for discussion on QS, to which he kindly agreed.

Here's the Platypus's list:

This is a pretty good starting list, with many of the things I'd automatically expect in a Rafiq deck, including a Stoneforge Mystic package, solid point removal, and a moderate counterspell theme. However, lets compare the decklist with the competitive deckbuilding rules above.

1. Serve the General & 2. Know your Plan

The strongest advantage of a Rafiq deck is it's ability to win the game through fast amounts of General damage. This makes it a certain type of aggro deck, with the desire to let through exactly one particular creature - Rafiq. Although Rafiq is great, essentially attacking as an 8/4, he can need a little help ensuring he connects, which is why support cards such as Whispersilk Cloak, Steel of the Godhead, and pinpoint removal is so important to the archtype. This is backed-up by cards to protect him, generally counterspells and other forms of disruption.

This deck serves the general with a Stoneforge Mystic package of some of the best equipment in Commander, has a decent number of counterspells, and a fine set of removal. However, the rest of the deck is all over the show: some tutors, some general disruption, some command effects, a drop of mass removal, some copy effects, and a smattering of finishers. The deck's plan doesn't seem to be to play the aggro role, but remain more of a control deck, looking for the right time to drop Rafiq. This reduced focus, however, means that it's path to maintaining control will be inconsistent, and therefore unreliable.

The deck includes some cards that seem to either have no place in the deck, or fight actively against it. Ethersworn Canonist is the type of card that could easily blow up in its face when paired against Sharuum the Hegemon or Arcum Dagsson. Vesuvan Shapeshifter seems slow, especially without the Pickles lock package. Venser, the Sojourner has very few enters-the0battlefield cards to abuse and could actively slow down a number of cards.

The deck is also slow. With almost no acceleration or mana fixing the deck will have an exteremely difficult time dropping a turn 4 Rafiq (let alone a turn 2 or 3). Most competitive decks - [card Azami Lady of Scrolls]Azami[/card], [card Erayo Soratami Ascendant]Erayo[/card], [card Arcum Dagsson]Arcum[/card], [card Jhoira of the Ghitu]Jhoira[/card] - will be off and running by the time this deck sees its first significant play. The deck also needs consistent ways to disrupt those decks and push the damage through.

So what functionality does the deck want to keep, and what does it want to lose? Here's my thoughts, trying to stay in line with the original intent of the deck as much as possible.

1. Tutors
2. Fast Mana/Fixing
3. Counterspells
4. Removal
5. Card Draw/Advantage
6. Disruption
7. Recursion
8. General Support - Stoneforge Mystic Package
9. Support Cards

To begin to drop it into the "Seven by Nine, All the Time" template, we end up with the following functionalities.

1. Tutors

Keep

1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Eladamris Call
1 Survival of the Fittest
1 Senseis Divining Top

Cut

Nothing

Add

1 Wargate
1 Expedition Map

The Enlightened Tutor is critical to the running of the deck. Survival of the Fittest isn't great in this deck, but it's ability to drop critters in the yard for reanimation with either Genesis or Sun Titan is critical. I really like Eladamri's Call. Wargate is a must for any Bant deck, a card that's great in the early game and brilliant in the late game. The last tutor, Expeidtion Map, is necessary to grab necessary cards such as Wasteland or Academy Ruins. Seven tutors is a minimum for any competitive deck. Fourteen would be perfect, but this deck can get away with the extra utility of Stoneforge Mystic and Knight of the Reliquary.

2. Mana Ramps

Keep

1 Sol Ring
1 Oracle of Mul Daya

Cut

Nothing

Add

1 Azorius Signet
1 Selesnya Signet
1 Simic Signet
1 Lotus Cobra
1 Noble Hierarch

The difficulty this deck will have is playing a fast Rafiq, especially considering his awkward Bant mana cost. The signets go a long way towards fixing this mess. The Noble Hierarch and Lotus Cobra can help get ahead of blue decks that don't have a Mana Crypt or Mana Vault in their starting hand. The Oracle of Mul Daya is slow, but in a long game, paired with Future Sight, it becomes entirely broken. The creatures also provide bodies for the various equipment in the deck, should Rafiq himself be neutralized somehow. The Sol Ring is a must.

3. Counterspells

Keep

1 Hinder
1 Mystic Snake
1 Voidslime
1 Glen Elendra Archmage

Cut

1 Deprive
1 Counterspell

Add

1 Mana Drain
1 Last Word
1 Cryptic Command

The Mana Drain over the counterspell is obvious, but only if Platypus can afford it - otherwise Counterspell goes straight back in. Hinder is a 'tuck' effect (ie. it 'tucks' your opponents General into their library) that can be brutal against [card Zur the Enchanter]Zur[/card] or Jhoira decks. I've kept in Glen Alendra and Mystic Snake as sometimes all you want is body to carry a Sword, which is fine in a deck like this. The Last Word comes in as it can insta-win the Counterspell war, and Voidslime stays in for it's singular ability to stop spells or abilities. Cryptic Command provides the ability to either counter a spell or push through Rafiq damage; it's the perfect aggro-control card.

4. Instant-Speed Removal

Keep

1 Bant Charm
1 Capsize
1 Krosan Grip
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Path to Exile

Cut

1 Return to Dust

Add

1 Wipe Away
1 Beast Within

The variety of colors helps us sort out colour-protected creatures. Wipe Away and Krosan Grip have split second, which are brilliant for putting the kybosh on Erayo and Ooze Combo decks. With enough mana Capsize can help clear the path indefinitely. Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares are the best removal in the format and secret modal spells; but that's a discussion for next week. I cut the Return to Dust as though it is indisputably great, if this deck is trying to play catch-up to artifact-based decks it's probably going to lose. In a monowhite control deck, yes. In an aggro bant deck, even one with a control slant, not so much.

5. Card Draw/Advantage

Keep

1 Jace Beleren
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Future Sight
1 Cold-Eyed Selkie

Cut

Nothing

Add

1 Mulldrifter

I'm not sure about the Cold-Eyed Selkie, but I'd like to see how it played out. I'm sure there's a "Magical Christmasland" to be had with equiping it with a Sword and drawing a zillion cards. I feel like the deck wants more straight draw, such as Thirst for Knowledge, or even a smoother like Brainstorm, but this list is a great start. The Mulldrifter adds another body for the equipment, can be evoked repeatedly for value with Genesis in the yard, and is just a great spell overall.

6. Disruption

Keep

1 Vendilion Clique
1 Pithing Needle
1 Meddling Mage
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

Cut

1 Story Circle
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Azorius Guildmage

Add

1 Knowledge Pool
1 Venser, Shaper Savant

I admit it; I'm a sucker for an instant win, which is exactly what Teferi + Knowledge Pool allows. The deck has enough tutors to easily assemble the lock, so it's a viable alternate win strategy. In fact, this deck has an easier time assembling this lock than most monoblue decks. Meddling Mage is for keeping an opponent's General off the table. The rest? Well, it's no surprise that most of these are Generals in their own right, and can play havok amongst unsuspecting opponents.

7. Recursion

Keep

1 Eternal Witness
1 Genesis
1 Sun Titan

Cut

1 Mimic Vat

Add

1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Riftsweeper
1 Karmic Guide
1 Relic of Progenitus

The Mimic Vat comes out as it fails to work with almost all the removal in this deck, and as such there's little chance to choose how and what goes under it. The Crucible of Worlds is a must, especially against someone playing a lot of land destruction. Sun Titan is great as it acts like a finisher, and Genesis is perfect with the Survival of the Fittest. Witness is great recursion and aother body. Riftsweeper is secret tech at returning exiled creatures back to play while also frustrating Jhoira players. That Relic of Progenitus isn't recursion (no really?), it's actually anti-recursion, but I needed a bucket to put it in. Knowing when to bend (or break) your own rules is part of the fun.

8. General Support - Stoneforge Mystic Package

Keep

1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Umezawas Jitte
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Sword of Light and Shadow

Cut

Nothing

Add

1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Whispersilk Cloak

That's a lot of equipment. I still like to fit in either Behemoth Sledge or Loxodon Warhammer instead of one of the Swords, but I'm not sure what I'd cut. Skullclamp would also be great, but perhaps unnecessary in this deck. The double-duty shroud effects from Lightning Greaves and Whispersilk Cloak are a necessary evil in competitive EDH, even if the equip cost is a little slow. I also think Rancor deserves a spot and it helps pumps Rafiq into a very very fast clock and is hard to get rid of. [Editor's Note: What about Batterskull? Seems hot-to-trot here too!]

9. Support Cards

Keep

1 Trygon Predator
1 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Thada Adel, Acquisitor

Cut

1 Treachery
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Volition Reins
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
1 Spitting Image
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Martial Coup
1 Wrath of God
1 Mindslaver
1 Elspeth, Knight Errant
1 Venser, the Sojourner
1 Time Warp

Add

1 Finest Hour
1 Brooding Saurian
1 Dueling Grounds
1 Hallowed Burial

As much as I like the various theft/control elements in general, I don't think this deck is best served by them. The deck never really wants to enter an attrition war, but would rather deal the 21 requisite General damage and move onto the next game. Mindslaver, Elspeth, Time Warp - all these cards point towards a longer game plan rather than the aggro plant Rafiq desires.

10. Lands

Keep

1 Strip Mine
1 Seaside Citadel
1 Treva's Ruins
Reflecting Pool
Academy Ruins
Treetop Village
Celestial Colonnade
Stirring Wildwood
Glacial Fortress
Sunpetal Grove
Wooded Bastion
Mystic Gate
Flooded Grove
Sejiri Steppe
Minamo, School at Water's Edge
Plains
Forest
Island
Breeding Pool
Hallowed Fountain
Temple Garden
Savannah
Tropical Island
Verdant Catacombs
Scalding Tarn
Wooded Foothills
Marsh Flats
Arid Mesa
Windswept Heath
Misty Rainforest
Flooded Strand

Cut

1 Kor Haven
1 Tolaria West
1 Mishra's Factory
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Forest
1 Polluted Delta

Add

1 Wasteland
1 Maze of Ith

PlatypusJedi originally had 40 lands. I've dropped it to 36, but this adequately made up for with the fast-mana effects and lower mana curve of the deck overall. I've dumped two of the fetches and a manland, but put in Wasteland for some futher land destruction and Maze of Ith to give some extra game against the occasional turn 2 Blightsteel Colossus.

Here's the final decklist.

Rafiq of the Many

That's a pretty powerful list for hard-on 1v1 play. Heavy on the equipment-based aggro, but with a excellent counterspell + disruption suite. The control/theft elements have largely been dropped (Thada Adel snuck through), but the deck gains an accelleration package and a far better tutor ability. Ultimately, many of the suggestions I've made - especially those around split-second and uncounterable cards - have been based on the Commander Metagame and what you're likely to see in competitive play.

But There's a Catch

When Platypus email me, he also sent me a list of possible inclusion that he had access to. Most of the cards I selected are not on that list.

PlatypusJedi's possible card list:

Weathered Wayfarer
Mother of Runes
Spellskite
Trinket Mage
Seat of the Synod
Ancient Den
Tree of Tales
Relic of Progenitus
Tormod's Crypt
Aven Mindcensor
Cephalid Constable
Dauntless Escort
Great Sable Stag
Phyrexian Metamorph
Thrun, the Last Troll
Chameleon Colossus
Mulldrifter
Glory
Meloku the Clouded Mirror
Rhystic Study
Krosan Verge
Oblivion Ring
Muddle the Mixture
Rule of Law
Beast Within
Sword of Feast and Famine
Engineered Explosives
Isochron Scepter
Austere Command
Karn Liberated
Ajani Goldmane
Garruk Wildspeaker
Elspeth Tirel
Gideon Jura
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
Mirari's Wake
Humility

So my question for my readers is, based on the list above, plus the original list, how would you advise PlatypusJedi to build Rafiq? Perhaps there are cards not mentioned in this article you would include. Let me (And him!) know in the comments.

[card]

18 thoughts on “Rafiq of the Platypus

  1. I'm a bit confused on three points: 1. Why add Expedition Map but cut Tolaria West? Other than for blue-fixing isn't the land usually better (since you aren't running Trinket Mage)? 2. Also, why does the Stoneforge package have to fit the number of card slots since they're intended to be tutored for rather than drawn? 3. Finally, why doesn't this deck run Mana Crypt for ramp. If you're the aggressor, won't it usually be better than Sol Ring (not that you should cut that, just for comparison)?

    That aside, I enjoyed getting a look into your process for building competitive Commander decks even though it's not really my thing. If you do something like this again, I'd personally like to see a bit more explication of why you chose the specific categories you did. Obviously they support aggression, but why not have slots devoted to bounce etc.?

    On cards from the given list to use, while not a 1v1 Commander expert, my inclination would be to add in Mother of Runes. She acts as both removal (if their blockers share a color, they have no blockers) or counter-disruption (by keeping her untapped to stop removal). Additionally, I'm not sure if Cold-Eyed Selkie is worthwhile, but if it is, Cephalid Constable should be better (they get no lands!).

  2. Interesting. Not what I expected but it looks very good.

    First, please note that the list of possible inclusions are cards that I would play in my deck but I'm not sure of what to cut. The list is not comprehensive, it's simply what I could think of.

    I found it interesting that you cut Polluted Delta. (if I added a Tundra would that change anything?)

    In regards to Cold-Eyed Selkie, that card is a house. It has Islandwalk! And it into Rafiq draws 4 cards! Or it just sits there and pretends to be Phyrexian Arena without the life loss.

    Would Inkmoth Nexus be an interesting inclusion as the colorless creature land?

    I really like the idea of Phyrexian Metamorph. Seems good and is found by many tutors.

    Elspeth isn't negotiable due to it being amazing with many cards (including Rafiq).

    Is Tectonic Edge a reasonable inclusion?

    Major props to Neale Talbot for writing this article and giving me ideas about it's direction!

  3. @JulesRobins

    1. Why add Expedition Map but cut Tolaria West?

    I can split the Expedition Map cost over two turns for colourless, and activate it at instant speed when the mana is free. Tolaria West, while the effect is generally uncounterable, requires two blue mana, which is not what you want when mana fixing (especially if searching for that blue).

    2. Also, why does the Stoneforge package have to fit the number of card slots since they're intended to be tutored for rather than drawn?

    It doesn't. In this deck, however, I like having that many options for equipment to tutor for. The runs so many small creatures that with Rafiq gone, it'll be equipment that saves the day in the end. The rules are flexible – an equipment could easily have been dropped to add Stonehewer Giant.

    3. Finally, why doesn't this deck run Mana Crypt for ramp. If you're the aggressor, won't it usually be better than Sol Ring (not that you should cut that, just for comparison)?

    Mana Crypt is both a wonder and a curse. Yes, it's conditionally better than Sol Ring, and a deck like this could do well to run both. But the deck doesn't have an awful lot of access to lifegain, so I decided to run with the Sol Ring instead. Maybe "both" is the best option.

  4. +Birds of Paradisse
    Nature's Lore
    Rampant Growth
    Might Of Oaks
    Sovereigns of The Lost Alara Package:
    Eldrazi Conscription
    Steel of the Godhead
    Shield Of The Oversoul
    Mana Crypt
    Counterspell
    Loxodon Warhammer
    Tolaria West
    Qasali Pridemage
    Forest

    -Oath
    Survival
    Expedition Map
    Capsize
    Last Word
    Cryptic Command
    Future Sight
    Riftsweeper
    Sword Of Light And Shadow
    Dueling Grounds
    Brooding Saurian
    Minamo, School at Water's Edge
    Knight Of The Reliquary
    Treetop Village

    Maximize your early Rafiq in 1 vs 1 protect him a bit and win. I'd also like Azorius Guildmage back in there because it just wins games. Tapping down Rafiq's potential blockers is huge and stifling Maze of Ith effects is a big game.

  5. Mother of Runes is a great addition. But wanting to cut Selkie shows you haven't played with it. The card is amazing.

    Changes are happening slowly but surely in the deck. We'll see what's effective.

  6. Definitely add the Sovereigns of The Lost Alara + Eldrazi Conscription package.

    Perhaps even Diplomatic Immunity? Not nearly as good as Greaves, but could still prove to be the perfect followup to casting Rafiq.

  7. I agree with Jonathan that Phyrexian Metamorph (replaces Clone for the mirror match) and Condemn should be included. I would also suggest Oblation as yet another tuck effect.

    If you're going to run the Mystic package I would recommend the following changes:

    – Thada Adel, Acquisitor (no telling how many artifacts are in the opponent's deck, plus it's anti-synergy with Brooding Saurian)
    – Oath of Druids

    + Grafted Exoskeleton (Rafiq can kill in one hit without the aid of Finest Hour)
    + Stonehewer Giant (Redudancy and can surprise equip the Exoskeleton)

    xxxbretweedxxx: I would add Unquestioned Authority and possibly Rancor to your Sovereigns of Lost Alara package.

    What is the general consensus as to which is better: Mystic or Sovereigns package (obviously not room for both)?

    Some other suggestions:

    – Treetop Village (
    I don't think the Manlands available to Rafiq are worth it except for Colonnade)
    – Stirring Wildwood
    – Treva's Ruins
    – Seaside Citadel
    – Jace Beleren

    + Yavimaya Hollow
    + Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
    + Tundra
    + Polluted Delta
    + Rhystic Study (people always forget to pay the extra 1)

    Some other cards to consider, although I don't know where you'd fit them:

    Sylvan Safekeeper, Mother of Runes (maybe in Knight of the Reliquary's spot?)
    Oblivion Ring, Allay (if you need more removal)
    Loxodon Gatekeeper, Aven Mindcensor, Gaddock Teeg, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV (if you want a more controllish build)
    Cephalid Constable (this is the nuts, I would sub it in for Brooding Saurian in a playgroup that wasn't playing alot of steal effects)

    On a final note, liked the article, and will be showing my friend for sure (who has a Rafiq deck of his own). Any chance this can turn into a regular series? Also, how about a finance article as it relates to EDH?

  8. @justin & @jonathan I'm seeing the "Metamorph replaces clone" meme around a lot at the moment. The single best thing about clone is that it doesn't target. You can use it to kill opposing Generals with shroud or protection. Metamorph targets, so while it has more utility, it is not as efficient a General Killer.

    @justin I'm happy to do more articles like these. I'll see if I can arrange some way of submitting decklists for review with Adam. I won't write about finance however, not my area of expertise by any means.

    I like the idea of the Mythic Conscription Package, maybe by taking out two equipment and putting those guys in instead. Mother of Runes seems a good choice for a fast game. Quasali Pridemage doesn't do anything for me in this format, but some people like him. Gaddock Teeg would be a very interesting choice, especially if you sheered off some of the higher mana curve.

    I'm really interested to see how the final decklist looks after you reword it Jedi.

    1. Pridemage is a cheap tutorable enchantment/artifact removal spell that pumps Rafiq until a good target comes out. It's good for an early beater as a 3/3 for two that swings for 8 when Rafiq enters the equation. It's also an awesome recursion target for Sun Titan and Genesis. I like it better than Trygon Predator myself because your main goal should be to swing with Rafiq and TP requires you to swing with it.

  9. I could not help but notice the lack of Umezawa’s Jitte in this list. Given that Rafiq is usually a double-striker, the Jitte gets 4 counters per attack and that is just completely nuts in this deck.

    1. It's 1v1, just win instead. You should be killing not controlling. the control elements of a good 1v1 Rafiq deck are answers to things that stop you from attacking with Rafiq unimpeded.

  10. Ordinarily I don’t like auras but what about Shield of the Oversoul?

    I’m working on a multiplayer Rafiq deck at the moment and saw some interesting additions but am still not sure on tempo and lasting power and would love to hear other people’s take on that angle

  11. Many, the pod usually consists of 4-6 people with two being very good(husband and wife playing 10+ years with comprehensive understanding of the finer points of the rules and deck building) 2-3 are newer that haven't learned how to assess threats properly, cover the various needs of a deck(enchantment/artifact removal, recursion, graveyard hate, choosing cards like Doom Blade over Shriekmaw, etc) that allows their decks to have a greater threat density . What usually happens is the husband and wife have a plan and while the others squabble amongst themselves since they don't want to be targeted I have to convince them to look at the bigger picture and hope they catch on. This usually makes it difficult to deal with the couple(who luckily, are purely competitive and will not help each other) because I'm the principle threat to them until that happens :/

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