Recently, I've been getting a ton of emails about the new Commanders from the pre-constructed decks. Being the new guys on the block, and capable of doing new and exciting things, these commanders are incredibly popular. There are a ton of people who are putting their own spin on them. In particular, Riku of Two Reflections has been getting a ton of attention. Who doesn't love copying gigantic spells and creatures, right?
The interesting thing about [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] is the sheer variety of powerful things you can do with him. I've been discussing different approaches to [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] with a a few readers over the last few weeks. It was really interesting to see so many different takes, and explore the sheer breadth and power of interactions there are with Riku. To give you an idea, Michael sent in a build that was based on Clones, Rite of Replication, and Parallel Evolution; Tim sent in a version that played every Time Warp and Anarchist effect available in the color combination; finally, Scott sent in a build that focused on comboing out as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Based on the experiences I've had playing with and against different [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] lists, I think there are two baseline approaches: Combo and Midrange. The combo decks are the ones that try to do something inherently unfair that results in some kind of infinite combo with turns, creatures, or something else. The midrange decks are the ones that play all the the value creatures, and are using [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] to copy generically good cards as opposed to using him to do something degenerate. The rest of the article will focus on outlining different ways to build these decks, as well as the things that I do and don't like about each of the approaches.
We'll start with the combo builds. The way I see it, there are two different ways to build combo-[card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card]. You can either build a Time Warp-based deck, or a creature-based deck. There's no reason you couldn't run these together, but there just isn't enough overlap between the two to make it worthwhile. There also isn't enough space to fit all of the cards that these two archetypes want without skimping on ramp and utility. That said, the Time Warp deck is pretty straightforward, and a skeleton would look something like this:
Time Warp Riku
[deckbox did="a122" size="small" width="560"]
The plan here, for anyone who hasn't seen anything like it before, is to spend the early turns ramping. Then you find a Time Warp and copy it with [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card]. Hopefully that will give you enough time to find another Time Warp effect, and you can start chaining your turns. Eventually, you can Call to Mind back two Time Warps and then Regrowth both Call to Mind and Time Warp, and take infinite turns. Even if things don't go exactly as planned, if you can take a number of turns with cards like Oracle of Mul Daya, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and other cards that give you incremental value, you can pull incredibly far ahead with "just" one Time Warp.
[deckbox did="a123" size="small" width="560"]
Similarly to the Time Warp build, this one wants to spend the first few turns ramping their mana. However, instead of taking extra turns once you get to seven or so mana, this one wants to get to nine or ten mana and just win. How do you do that? Well, the deck runs a multitude of one- and two-card combos with [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] that let you do just that, as well as just two-card combos that win without [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card]. Let's take a quick run-down of the combos in the deck:
Any two of these pieces lets you make infinite hasty guys and attack for the win. This deck is going to run near-infinite tutors for creatures to be able to set this combo up, since it is your fastest combo, but you're also going to run cards like Tooth and Nail and Defense of the Heart to just drop the combo into play.
Casting and copying Palinchron costs nine mana, and generates fourteen. Bouncing Palinchron costs four more, leaving you with a net gain of one mana. Generate infinite mana, and then do something absurd with it. Pretty straightforward, right?
This is the most non-intuitive combo in the deck, and seems hilariously appropriate with the unbanning of Worldgorger Dragon. Have a creature with an ETB effect and [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] in play. Cast Worldgorger Dragon, and with it's ETB trigger on the stack copy it. The copy enters the battlefield, triggers, and removes everything else from the game. Then the original ETB trigger resolves, and removes the copy from the game. Now all of your permanents enter the battlefield again, and you can repeat the cycle. The important thing to clarify is that, here, the order in which you stack things matters. Assuming just [card Worldgorger Dragon]WGD[/card], [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card], and another card are in play, here's what you want it to look like:
Riku trigger (Worldgorger Dragon)
Worldgorger Dragon EtB Trigger
Riku Trigger (other creature)
Now, you can loop this as many times as you want, never allowing the Riku triggers for your other creature to resolve. Once you've generated infinite mana and triggers by blinking everything, you can choose NOT to copy Worlgorger Dragon and allow it to remove all your permanents from the battlefield, and then pay for all of the stacked [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] triggers, and have infinite creatures, infinite of a particular effect, or whatever you set up. It's important to remember that depending on what the creature is you may want to stack things differently, but in general this is how the combo is going to work.
If you have any of the "free" creatures from Urza's Saga, Cloudstone Curio and [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] in play, you can generate infinite mana and creatures. You cast the free creature, untap your lands, copy the free creature with [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card], and then have the copy bounce the original, and net both mana and a creature each cycle.
And here's another infinite creatures combo. Casting and copying Peregrine Drake costs seven mana. Then casting and copying Shrieking Drake costs three. The Shrieking Drakes bounce the original copy of both Peregrine Drake and Shrieking Drake, and you repeat the loop, netting a 1/1 and 2/3 flier each iteration.
Now, personally, I don't think I'd like playing either of these decks. For me, the fun of taking extra turns was spoiled when I realized I wasn't just taking an extra turn, but rather skipping everyone else's turns. I don't fault anyone for enjoying taking extra turns; there are very few things that are as much fun, but it's just something I'm not interested in doing.
Similarly, I don't like playing a deck that can just put two or three cards on the table and just win the game. I really don't find this to be particularly interactive or fulfilling, and don't think that my playgroup would appreciate it either. That said, I definitely enjoy designing decks like this, and can appreciate the elegance of combo win conditions. I'm also sure that if I played with more people who enjoyed comboing off, I'd be much more inclined to play something combo oriented. Now that we've taken a look at two different 'unfair' [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] decks, let's take a look at a 'fair' Riku deck:
[deckbox did="a124" size="small" width="560"]
Now this is a deck I can get behind! Ramp in the early game, and then take a trip to Value Town with your utility guys. [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card]'s abilities give you an exceedingly unfair late-game plan that can generate absurd amounts of card advantage. Why creatures over spells? To be honest, it's just easier to abuse creatures. Crystal Shard and Genesis make creatures easier to 'reuse' than spells. Consider also that creatures are more likely to progress the game than spells are, just because you can copy them to create a board presence then start attacking for two.
The thing that I like most about this deck, though, is that it has a ton of cute cards that do interesting things. Birthing Pod and Wild Pair are cards that I really like in the deck. The small recursion elements that you get from Caldron of Souls, Nim Deathmantle, and Mimic Vat are awesome, especially when you start assembling multiple pieces!
Now, just because this deck isn't a combo deck doesn't mean it doesn't have very powerful interactions. You do have the Peregrine Drake/Shrieking Drake combo. You also have Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir or Winding Canyons plus Seedborn Muse to let you play during everyone's turns. With Wild Pair in play, you can chain Avenger of Zendikar into Chancellor of the Forge, potentially copy both of them, and make a billion plants and hasty goblins. Alternatively, you could potentially deck yourself by chaining Avenger of Zenidkar into Regal Force.
The thing that I like about this build of the deck is that the cards are good at any point in the game. You have a ton of mana-sinks that want you to double up on ramp spells, even very late in the game. [card Riku of Two Reflections]Riku[/card] plus powerful engine artifact and enchantments give you a very consistent, powerful, and synergistic late game that can just crush people with card advantage. Who doesn't love a deck that goes big, and focuses on the interactions of fun and powerful cards?
Hopefully that's a pretty good overview of the kinds of approaches one can take when you're building a Riku of Two Reflections deck. The card is obviously very powerful, and can be a ton of fun to play both with and against, and I'm looking forward to seeing what other people are doing with him!
As I'm sure most of you are aware, Grand Prix Pittsburgh is this weekend (August 27-28), and I'm pretty excited for it! This is going to be my first Grand Prix, and I'm really hyped to meet some of the people I've been talking to for the past few months, and I'm really hoping to get in some Cube and Commander games after I scrub out of the main event! Let me know if you're planning on being there; I'm really looking forward to a weekend of gaming!
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