Tonight, I plan to hit up the local Saturday night EDH tournament here in Albuquerque, held up at Active Imagination (known colloquially as “AI”). I just finished updating my deck, as it’s been approximately one year since last I wrote about my pet EDH spike deck. Below is a quick primer on the EDH deck I’m most familiar with. I’ll show you my decklist and talk about a couple new cards I intend to try, and then hopefully I will update the post with the glorious details of my victory at AI.
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary is among the most hated and feared tier 1 EDH generals. He’s constantly tip-toeing along the line of the banned list, blowing raspberries to Braids, Cabal Minion, the only banned EDH general at the time of this writing. There seem to be two camps of Rofellos players, generally speaking, or two ways to abuse Rofellos’ unique mana production capability. One camp focuses on an explosion of tokens, while the other focuses on fatties. Both camps have access to the same few combo pieces, and that combo aspect of Rofellos seems to be ubiquitous. I choose to go the fatty route, and since I’m typically playing 1v1, I also focus a lot on the combo pieces and a suite of land destruction control spells.
Rofellos costs 2 mana and taps for green mana equal to the number of forests you control. This means that your games end up highly consistent and scripted. You will normally drop Rofellos on the second turn, and on turn 3, you’ll play some degenerate 6-mana spell, followed by an 8-mana turn 4. With a mox, this becomes 5-mana turn 2s and 7-mana turn 3s.
The beauty of a general that costs so little is that the general itself becomes central to your early game. If your opponent stumbles at all, and lacks an early spot removal spell, you will have access to the above-mentioned epic mana ramping. But often, they will kill Rofellos once or twice before he ever gives you any mana. This is usually nothing to worry about though, because you can play Rofellos a second and third time before many generals even make their first appearance. So don’t stress when you slow roll your opponent by playing your general “naked,” to draw out their removal spells. Trust me, Rofellos is a “must answer” threat. When you play a general with converted mana cost of around three or less, it’s as if you’re playing the game with extra cards: every time you drop your genera, it’s as if you drew a card that was always that general.
Now, being monogreen means we don’t have the world’s deepest card drawing, so there are some concessions to that in this list. However, green does have access to top notch LD and land searching spells, which come in handy when your plan is to ramp as many forests onto the battlefield as possible. In addition, green has some gnarly and diverse creature tutoring which is used to find the right threat or answer for the current game state, or to simply further abuse Rofellos’ ability.
Let’s look at the list now. 100 cards is a lot to get through, so I’ll present the deck in sections with commentary after each portion.
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
A creature I flirt with from time to time is Elvish Harbinger, as it finds both wood elves and quirion ranger. But for now, she’s on the bench. Every one of these creatures serves a specific purpose, and there’s scant room among them for substitutions. The aforementioned Q. Ranger along with wirewood symbiote are here to untap rofellos. I’ve toyed with scryb ranger and seeker of skybreak as well, but the best of the best is symbiote. Wirewood symbiote is quite often the first thing I tutor for in this deck, as once you reach 3-4 forests with the insect and rofellos playing together, you’re off to the races. A very fun interaction is quirion ranger and wood elves, grabbing new forests as you untap rofellos. The hair that breaks this camel’s back, though, is the fact that once per turn, symbiote can save rofellos himself from a spot removal spell. With symbiote on board, rofellos is somewhat safe.
Chameleon Colossus is actually on the weaker side here, and is the first creature I might consider replacing. However, I have a dearth of 4-drops, and in a deck that can easily be producing 8 mana on turn 4, Colossus is a 16/16.
Masticore is part of a two-card combo with Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. These two make an excellent Tooth and Nail pairing as well in multi-player games, especially if you’ve ramped well and have a few mana left after the sorcery resolves. With these two on the board, you can quickly machine-gun all the opponents’ lands into oblivion, leaving very frustrated, but impotent mages to watch helplessly as you execute one of your win conditions. Both cards are ridiculous on their own with tons of mana at your disposal too, making them natural fits with Rofellos.
Silklash Spider is another marginal creature, but any chrome mox or mox diamond draw will likely have turn 2 5-drops, so it’s good to have a few floating around, or within easy tutor reach. There are few cards better designed to deal with Green’s traditional weakness against fliers, so silklash is in. Arashi, the Sky Asunder has made the list in the past, but was cut for Acidic Slime, since my deck is LD-heavy and the slime helps me reach that critical mass of LD effects.
Silvos, Rogue Elemental is simply a big fat monster, and marks the beginning of the pure fat category… remember, our 6-drops are coming down on turn 3 a lot of the time. Kamahl and Duplicant round out the sixes. Kamahl is a win condition in his own right, and ‘Dupe is tutorable spot removal for monogreen.
On 7 we have Regal Force and Panglacial Wurm. Force is incredible card draw for a color with few such options, and the wurm represents its own unique play. This deck has approximately one million ways to search the library, so always keep the wurm in mind… it’s an “every game” occurrence to see the wurm played from the library at some point. Again, green needs to get card advantage every way it can, and this is one more way to abuse having silly amounts of mana coming out your ass.
Our four 8-drops are Woodfall Primus, Patron of the Orochi, Terastodon, and Sundering Titan. Patron gives us a big fatty, plus additional mana ramping. The other three all have the ability to decimate an opponent’s manabase, with Primus and Terastodon being extra flexible, and able to deal with a variety of problem permanents. Titan is pure hell on the many multi-colored EDH decks, and relatively benign to our monocolored strategy.
Darksteel Colossus and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn finish our creature section, and they’re just tooth and nail targets, pure and simple. Emrakul is, alas, the only Eldrazi spell I’m able to test at this time, and I like that he gives the deck a gaeas blessing type effect. EDH has (or had) many mill combos to contend with, from painters servant / grindstone to helm of obedience / planar void, to vendillion clique / hinder / tunnel vision. Of these, only the helm-line combo seems as scary as it was in the recent past, and the rest could see a steep decline in popularity soon. Hooray for the pre-release foil!
The moxen are a contentious inclusion that many eschew, but I usually play 1v1, and it’s great to hit 5-drops on turn 2. I pack a lot of LD components, and the faster I can either ramp my own mana ahead of my opponent, or nuke a few of his lands directly, the faster my endgame comes online.
Lightning Greaves is very strong with Rofellos, protecting him from removal and speeding him up a turn. Usually, the turn 2 greaves leads to a turn 3 with a protected, hasty rofellos, and ~4 extra mana. I’ve seen some paranoid players also running Whispersilk Cloak, but I find that haste is what pushes greaves over the top, and I feel the list is too tight to include the cloak. Cloak isn’t anywhere near the top of the sizeable list of cards I’d like to try to include. On thing to remember with the greaves is that you cannot untap rofellos so long as he has shroud. This is a tradeoff, but the 0-cost equip helps make it very livable.
Umezawas Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice are ways to make lowly creatures imposing, or fatties insane. I don’t think they need much explanation or justification. I’ve actually won a few games with rofellos due to general damage, though it’s far more common to do this with Umbral Mantle, below.
Crucible of Worlds is a card that really cuts to the heart of who you are, and why you play EDH. It’s like a one-card psychological profile detector. Any EDH deck can run both Strip Mine and Crucible, along with all the appropriately colored fetch lands. It’s very strong, and as much of a must-play as anything in a LD deck. But playing cards like these reveal that you’re in this to win, not for any timmy flavor or johnny coolness. You are embracing your inner spike by making this card choice, and the other players will draw this same conclusion. I, for one, think that choosing Rofellos in the first place is to “walk on the Spike Side,” so it makes no sense to me to blush at playing Crucible. But beware that certain mavens of the game would look down upon you, and question your intelligence, sense of humor, and moral character merely on the basis of your embodiment of this player archetype.
Umbral Mantle and Staff of Domination are two combo pieces, either of which will let you go infinite on mana and win the game essentially immediately. In the case of umbral mantle, you only need 3 forests in play for rofellos to be able to grow himself arbitrarily large this combo has ended games for me on turn 3, when opponents failed to disrupt or provide an early blocker. The staff is a step more broken even than mantle, but it’s a tad slower. With 5 forests and a staff, you have instantly won the game. For 3 of that 5 mana, the staff will untap rofellos, and for another 1, will untap itself, leaving you with a net gain of one green mana. With this infinite mana source, you can now activate the staff’s card drawing ability arbitrarily, drawing your entire deck. It is then possible to crash through with every creature in the deck, thanks to concordant crossroads, and as a “fallback” plan, you can put out a helix pinnacle with 100 counters. Don’t forget to destroy every land on the board with masticore and kamahl, either, should some smug mage show you a fog.
Nevinyrrals Disk is a great sweeper for a color lacking them, and Memory Jar is an insane piece of card drawing machinery, especially when you see the graveyard regrowth package below. I’ve had turns in which I’ve activated memory jar three or more times.
Our deck has these 17 ways to search your deck for something, along with four fetchlands, the expedition map, and a wood elves for a total of 23 tutors. This makes our sensei’s divining top better, and gives us plenty of chances to eventually play panglacial wurm from our library. Many of these are tutors for forests, which are an integral part of this deck’s consistency. It may look like a lot of such effects (I mean, do we really need to go so far as Three Visits and Nature’s Lore?), but reduce that number carefully. I don’t think all the tutors necssarily need to be explained on an individual basis, but there are some interesting interactions to point out.
Reap and Sow, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, and Primal Command all double as LD cards, as does Tooth and Nail quite often, getting sundering titan and the like. Again, my default first creature tutor target is wirewood symbiote. The first land I get is usually Wirewood Lodge or Strip Mine. Remember to chain genesis into the graveyard on your way to whatever creature you really want any time you draw Survival of the Fittest.
Berserk is a card I go back and forth on, and I sometimes think it would be a slot better used to further add to the density of some other type of card, be it a tutor or a fatty or something. But for now, it’s still in here, as I have chameleon colossus as a good creature to call up when you have berserk in hand. Lignify, however, is a card I’ve been very happy with, and I try as hard as possible to reserve it for my opponent’s general. I don’t have a lot of dedicated spot removal because I have a lot of flexible cards that play LD, but can fill in the gaps when needed.
Speaking of LD, the theme continues with Thermokarst, Creeping Mold, Plow Under, and even Desert Twister. When you see cards like desert twister, it’s imperative to remember that for us, it’s a turn 3 play as often as not. Plow Under is among the five-drops that can seal a game up when played on turn 2 with the aid of a mox. How does a two-turn head start sound, when you’re already the fastest deck around?
When it comes to reusing cards you’ve played once, green is where it’s at. So many of our spells, like the recently touted Plow Under and its sister LD spells, are even more devastating when played repeatedly. Reclaim, Revive, Regrowth, Restock, and Nostalgic Dreams join Eternal Witness in helping our arsenal do double-, triple-, and quadruple- duty. Natures Spiral is one I’ve been considering, but it’s not in this build. I find these cards to be both useful, and psychologically effective. They undermine your opponent’s spirit, making them feel lost in the morass of your deck, and breaking their will to fight.
The manabase has ebbed and flowed over time, but I like to keep the non-forests to a minimum. Thus, the current list keeps it tight at 4 non-forests (I count the fetchlands as essentially forests here… their job is to thin the deck out, and to provide additional panglacial wurm searches). Wirewood Lodge, Gaeas Cradle, Maze of Ith, and Strip Mine are the only “real” non-basics. Lodge is nuts with Our Hero, and Maze of Ith is great at stalling past big fat generals. Strip Mine is our offering to the Gods of Spikedom, and Gaea’s Cradle is like a second rofellos in the late game. The bummer with cradle is when you draw it early, and believe it or not, I’ve considered replacing it with forest #26. But for now, I’ve left it in and stuck with 25 forests, so I know that roughly speaking, every fourth card should be a forest, while with 33 land, every third card is some kind of land.
And that’s the deck! I’ll update you below with tales of glory.
UPDATE: Prepare for anti-climax! The tournament was cancelled for lacking the requisite 8 mages. Curses upon the Nationals Tune-up tournament being held concurrently. Oh well. I did get to play one friendly match, a three-way affair between Our Hero, Wrexial “Sexy Wrexy” the Risen Deep, and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. The game had a memorable play when I ramped up to an early 5-forest staff of domination that met a suicide pact of negation from the Wrexy pilot, who had but 4 lands on board, lacking the upkeep cost. He gave Teferi a fighting chance though, but Masticore and Darksteel Colossus came to play, and the wood elves / symbiote combo ensured that I quickly found the mana to blast away his defenses and sneak in for the win.
I will say that my current build, with its emphasis on LD, is far from ideal for a group game of any size. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this update to Rofellos, and I hope you’ll post comments if you have anything to declare. Perhaps in the near future I’ll update this article with a list of cards I’ve been considering off and on.