Old School EDH Part Deux: Electric Boogaloo
Earlier in the week we took a look at the history of EDH and my crazy scheme to bring the feel of Old School to the Commander format. Today we are going to take a look at the deck I built as part of that thought experiment - Rubina, Hall Monitor.
One of the differences in playing Commander with an Old School twist, is that there are far fewer generals to choose from and fewer still that have a useful effect to build around - especially if you want to forgo the Elder Dragons. I chose the "Bant" legend Rubina, Soulsinger from 1994's Legends expansion. As a three color general, she opens up our card options and her casting cost of 5 means we can cast her fairly early - especially since we are playing green. Rubina's build around" mechanic is tapping to take control of one of your opponents creatures. We'll exploit this by adding similar effects to the deck and by including several sacrifice outlets to feed the creatures to, clearing the board so our creatures can reek havok.
In the early rounds (and sometimes into the mid-game) you will want to slow down your opponents to give yourself time to stabilize the board. This will be especially important if you're playing with folks outside of Old School - they are going to have a distinct speed advantage. Control cards should be your early focus, and while you won't be stealing creatures right from the start, these cards that will slow them down.
Vodalian Mage is a counterspell-on-a-stick. Almost useless late game, it will work great in the first six rounds or so, as your opponent has to play around her. Kismet is the ultimate speed bump, tapping your opponents stuff as it comes into play. The ridiculously named Ichneumon Druid, slows folks playing a lot of instants lest they take the 4 life penalty. And Angus... good 'ol Angus... one of the best hats in Magic - second only to Octopus Hat. Angus is the classic pillow fort encouraging your opponents to go after each other instead of you.
So your opponent has managed to get some decent presence on the board despite your best intentions. It's time to put Rubina to work and steal the best stuff on the board for yourself. Rubina doesn't have to do this alone - she brings a lot of tools with her.
Green's Willow Satyr and White's Preacher are two "off color pie" steal effects that make great additions to our build. The Satyr is particularly nasty, stealing generals from your opponents and completely shutting down their deck synergy. Don't worry about blue though, they still make the strongest showing here; with Control Magic, Binding Grasp, Ray of Command, Steal Artifact and Magus of the Unseen doing the lion's share of the work.
So now you have your opponents shiniest of items for yourself. What's a girl to do? Well you can keep them if they are still the best of things and use them against your opponent; or you can destroy them to make room for better stuff! There are four sacrifice outlets in this deck and you only need one to really make the deck work. If you draw a second I would keep it in your hand as a backup - don't be greedy (OK too greedy). Ashnod's Altar, Skull Catapult and Life Chisel are a triumvirate of artifacts that will destroy your opponent's stuff. None of the effects are really game-breaking, but they provide the engine for your madness. The fourth outlet City of Shadows is a land and the ultimate insult to your opponent, trading their huge creature for one counter that can be spent for a single colorless mana. This is my favorite of the four. As a land it is a "free" drop and a bit more expensive for your opponents to get rid of. Be warned - the minute you start this kind of chaos at the table you become the target - be prepared.
Commander games are much longer than a match of Old School, and the last thing you want to be doing is top decking every turn. This is a tough issue to overcome when restricted to an early card pool, since a lot of the blue card draw can be spendy. I have chosen more affordible cards for our build, while still avoiding symmetrical effects like Howling Mine.
Inheritance is great when you pair it with your sacrifice outlets. Knowledge Vault is a nice long-term play and will go unnoticed in EDH where there are so many other bomb artifacts. Library of Lat-Nam either draws you three or allows you to tutor - both exceptional results and finally Land Tax - while it doesn't draw cards it will thin your deck so you are always pulling "good stuff".
The "wild card" of this deck (outside of its main function) is manipulating the game in goofy ways. Old School Magic cards tend to do this more than their Modern equivalents, and its fun to introduce your opponents to their off the wall mechanics.
As the "hall monitor" of the table it is up to you to deal out justice and nothing says that like Arabian Nights' Eye for an Eye. Stop people from picking on each other with Deflection. Decide what student's are allowed to keep for themselves with Natural Selection. Finally, make sure those hallway scuffles are fair - with General Jarkeld. Who says you can't have a full flavor deck that is still effective?!?
So there you have it -an "Old School" EDH deck using the card pool from the very beginning of the format. You can find my full list here. It is a fairly affordable build and you can substitute a lot of the spendy cards and it will still work. This was a crazy amount of fun and I hope it inspires you to think outside of the "format box".
1996 was an interesting time for Magic and "Old School EDH" is placed right at the confluence of original Magic and its second wave of design. The decks ooze with nostalgia and feel like they jumped right out of the Pages of The Duelist or Inquest. Give this format a try at your next game night and bring Rubinia with you. Until my next crazy idea, enjoy the deck!
Nothing to do with the deck tech, but when researching this build I found a neat piece of trivia on Rubinia. Rob Alexander painted her based on the likeness or Carol Monahan. Carol is the former Director of Sales and Logistics for Wizards of the Coast. I just think it is neat when you can associate a real person with some of the early cards.
While Cynthia Sheppard's new take on Rubinia is stunning (and in high-definition which is why it serves as our splash art), I wish Wizards would take the time to honor the early art more often than it does. Some pieces of art are just iconic - and Rob's painting of Carol is one of them.