Artisan Brewery: Riku of Two ReflXions

Hey everyone, welcome to another edition of Artisan Brewery, where we focus on deckbuilding with a twist! This time around, we'll be taking a look at a deck that uses one of the most popular commanders in Temur colors (red, blue, and green), Riku of Two Reflections, but going with a quite unusual theme. We're going to be theming the deck with spells and abilities that involve "X" — both in terms of costs and ability text.

Riku's abilities allow us to copy instant or sorcery spells we cast, as well as our creatures as they enter the battlefield. One thing that needs to be noted about the creature copy portion of Riku is that it doesn't trigger on cast, but on the creature entering the battlefield. As a result, if we want to stay on the theme of X based abilities and still be able to effectively copy those creatures, the creatures we want to copy need to have X-based abilities that aren't related to their casting costs. There are some exceptions to this, and we'll get to them later in this deck, but most of our creatures will have flat mana costs.

Creature ReflXions

Let's take a look at some of the creatures that can be used with Riku's second ability to benefit us, but also stay on our deck's theme. Firstly, we have Chasm Skulker, which not only becomes a powerhouse fairly quickly, but gives us a lot of backup when it dies, and in Commander, we see more than a few removal spells in a single game. Playing this on its own is one thing, but being able to create a copy of it is absolutely insane when the time comes for them to die.

Another great example is Pathbreaker Ibex, which helps power up our entire force of creatures. Even in a situation where our strongest creature is Pathbreaker Ibex itself, that's still an additional +3/+3 and trample to each of our creatures. When partnered with the tokens we get from Chasm Skulker, that's a lot of potential power to be able to turn towards our opponents. If we're also able to copy it with Riku, that gives us the ability to gain even more power from the second trigger since it resolves after the strongest creature has already doubled in strength.

We don't just have to look at combat usefulness, however — we can also look at general utility, such as Realm Seekers, which lets us guarantee land drops as long as it's on the battlefield with at least one counter. Since it enters the battlefield with its counters, we can use Riku to copy it and either have a decently large blocker, or additional land guarantees. A similar card is Academy Elite, which lets us draw cards (albeit in exchange for discarding) when we need it, and has the same benefit of entering with its counters, making it a great blocker or attacker as needed.

Seeing as we have a decent creature presence in the deck, as well as copying those creatures, it makes sense to put creatures that can help contribute to both portions of that plan into the deck; creatures like Nacatl War-Pride, which not only helps us be better able to send our larger creatures like Realm Seekers, and Academy Elite, but when copied, it's able to send three times the amount of damage as our opponents have creatures.

In the same vein of value as Nacatl War-Pride, we can look to Prime Speaker Zegana. Not only will it become our biggest creature on the battlefield, but it will refill our hand very efficiently, and since its ability happens when it enters the battlefield, if we use Riku's ability we draw the same number of cards again, plus one. It should be noted that we'll have to sacrifice one of our copies due to the legend rule, but in a situation where we're willing and able to use this strategy, we'll also likely be more than willing to pay that price.

One more creature that gives us a large quantity of value when entering, and doubly so upon copying with Riku, is Craterhoof Behemoth. It allows our collective attack power to put us in a strong position to win, and being able to spend just two more mana adds a second instance of the ability, plus an extra creature count for the resolution.

Instant and Sorcery ReflXions

Playing creatures that we can copy to take advantage of their abilities is only the beginning, however. We also have a plethora of instants and sorceries available to us, and narrowing down which ones we can best use is at best a challenge. However, we didn't choose this route for this deck simply to turn away because it's difficult, so let's dive on in.

We'll begin with the sorceries with some removal. First up, we have Burn from Within, which is a flexible targeted spell that can handily remove two creatures or planeswalkers when we copy it, including indestructible ones, or can deal twice as much damage to an opponent for simply two more mana. In a similar vein, we can use Red Sun's Zenith, which has almost the same abilities as Burn from Within, but instead of being able to remove indestructibility, we have the ability to shuffle it back into our library, which gives us the chance to draw it again later.

As for widespread removal, due to our colors, we have some pretty unique options — like Curse of the Swine. While it may give our opponents creatures, it's usually a fair price to pay in order to remove large threats, or creatures with troublesome abilities. We also have access to more classic removal, such as Disaster Radius, and Chain Reaction, but one of the more unique solutions available to us comes from Mass Manipulation. It doesn't technically remove any creatures or planeswalkers from the battlefield, but it does remove them from our opponents' control, and put them under ours instead.

While the creatures we've included above all have their uses, not to mention some other useful creatures further on in the article, there are times where we'll need to have sheer numbers on our side; that's where cards like Fungal Sprouting, and Notorious Throng have their uses. On their own, they can make a large amount of creatures, but when coupled with Riku's ability, they turn us into a serious threat at a fairly quick pace.

ReflXive Instants

The last piece of the duplicate pie is in how we get instant gratification (get it?). This is where we have what is both the lowest number, and the most stereotypical usage of our color combination in concert with our plans to use Riku's ability. One of those is our ability to remove annoying artifacts, and also increasing our own resources, using something along the lines of Artifact Mutation which lets us destroy something frustrating like Akroma's Memorial, Altar of the Brood, or Mycosynth Lattice, and also gives us tokens equal to that card's mana cost. As always, using Riku's ability will double the value we get here, allowing us to destroy two threats or potential threats, as well as a significant power boost to our own side.

Another multi-purpose (as well as multi-sided) card that fits in perfectly is Expansion//Explosion, and not just on the side with the X. Split cards like this are functionally two cards in the slot of just one, so when building a deck with a precise card count, we basically get a free card. With the Expansion side, we can basically get a second (or third in some cases) copy of most cards in our deck, and with the Explosion side, we get another potential dual source of removal, as well as heavy card draw built in.

Speaking of card draw, one of the best cards we can slide into this deck and still stay on theme with is Blue Sun's Zenith. It's very simply an ever-increasing card draw spell, and can get us closer than nearly any other card in the library to one of the potential win conditions we have that we'll get to later.

Filling Out the Deck

So far we've found good synergies for Riku, as well as cards that can function independently when needed, but we still have some space left to fill in the deck. This is the portion of the deck where we can use that space to create additional value, as well as include some extra support synergies and responses, especially some thematic creatures, enchantments, and one-shot spells that don't quite work with Riku, but still work well with the deck as a whole.

We should probably take a look at some potential ramp sources, such as Veteran Explorer, Kodama's reach, and Cultivate. Each of these are very good at what we want them to do, but they don't have an X in their abilities or resolutions; enter Collective Voyage, and Harvest Season. Both of these cards have a unique condition, depending on our own strategies as well as our willingness to help our opponents gain extra mana, but it still helps us stay on theme while making sure we have enough mana to use our strategy to the fullest.

We also have the option of extra card draw in this space, using cards like Invoke the Firemind (which is another dual purpose spell), and Minds Aglow, which also depends heavily on our opponents to be as impactful as we want, but since we're likely playing this deck in a more casual than competitive environment, the odds are in our favor for getting a high amount of use from it.

As for our responses, since we're using blue in conjunction with the other two colors, we have access to very good counterspells, both in instant and creature form, that can functionally use our opponents' resources for ourselves. Spells like Plasm Capture, and Spell Swindle give us mana equal to the spell that we've countered, and Mystic Genesis, and Draining Whelk increase our attack strength by either granting us a creature, or making one stronger through the mana cost of the countered spell.

Some of our strongest available value sources can come from artifacts, enchantments, and creatures. They can help increase our mana availability, get additional benefit from our spells, or function on their own and literally win the game. We'll start off with some additional mana advantage, taking an especially close look at cards like Nyxbloom Ancient, which gets us triple the amount of mana we'd usually have, Wilderness Reclamation, enabling us to both use all of our mana, and still hold answers, and Unbound Flourishing, which literally gains us double value on any spell we cast with an X in it's cost, and powers up some of our abilities along with it.

There are also creatures with powerful independent abilities that are on the theme of X, but don't work well with Riku's ability. Some can draw us cards, like Hydroid Krasis, or they can be recurrable artifact/enchantment removal like Steelbane Hydra, and some are just good at being large attackers and blockers, like Nimbus Swimmer, Primordial Hydra, and Ghalta, Primal Hunger. Others can give us card selection, such as Descendant of Soramaro, and some are just powerhouses that turn our other creatures into powerhouses, like Bloodspore Thrinax.

In the same vein as these last few creatures, there are some enchantments that are great X based spells that stand alone with their own abilities. For card selection, Cream of the Crop helps as our creatures are either large or in multiples when entering. For damage to opponents or their creatures and Planeswalkers, we have Citadel of Pain, Heart of Bogardan, and Warstorm Surge, all of which serve the same purpose but in their own unique ways. We also have some options for creature generation and power increase through Metallurgic Summonings, and Death's Presence, which in particular works with our token theme.

With everything else so far that we've added into the deck, our use for artifacts is fairly limited, mostly in the form of mana ramp through cards such as Sol Ring, Lotus Blossom, and Chromatic Lantern. However, one of the most unique cards that still falls in line with the X theme is Monkey's Cage. This one is a bit tricky, mostly because of its relatively high cost, coupled with the fact that even if an opponent is the one to have a creature enter, its ability triggers. However, it still seems to be worth the risk because either we could follow it up with a large creature of our own, or it could force our opponents to be more cautious with their own creatures.

Xtraordinary Synergies

We're not quite done with the deck yet, but something to take note of is in a few key synergies between some of our cards. For example, it's apparent that Warstorm Surge is highly powerful due to the number of tokens we're likely to create, but that's not the only way we can take advantage of it. Let's look at a hypothetical situation: we have Chasm Skulker on the battlefield, and we've drawn seven cards with it, so there are seven counters, and we were able to copy it with Riku. We also have Warstorm Surge on the battlefield, and in hand we have Bloodspore Thrinax ready to be cast. Assuming we don't get interrupted, when we cast Bloodspore Thrinax, we can devour both copies of our Skulker, which puts two counters on the Thrinax. The fun part comes in with how the Skulker triggers resolve: since Thrinax has to enter the battlefield with the counters, each of the tokens generated by the Skulkers gains an additional two +1/+1 counters. So in this situation, we have fourteen 3/3 tokens enter the battlefield, which is an additional 42 damage from the Warstorm Surge triggers.

One more powerful synergy we can reach with Warstorm Surge is to have Nacatl War-Pride under our control (or two if we've managed to use Riku's ability) and go to a combat. That way, not only will we get the benefits mentioned above, but even if our tokens don't manage to get through for combat damage, they'll still be able to deal a significant amount of damage upon entering the battlefield.

Another memorable synergy we can use is casting Craterhoof Behemoth, copying it with Riku as mentioned above, and then casting Overwhelming Stampede, and also copying it if possible. In another hypothetical example where this plays out, if we have five other creatures before we cast the Behemoth, when it enters that will be +6/+6 to each of our creatures. If we're able to copy it with Riku, that will be an additional +7/+7 for a total of +13/+13. Assuming that the Behemoths are our highest power creatures at that point, when we cast Overwhelming Stampede, if we don't copy it, we get one resolution for an additional +18/+18 on all of our creatures; if we do copy it, the second resolution will be +36/+36, which would be +54/+54 to our creatures. At that point, winning the game seems likely at worst, guaranteed at best.

Xtreme Win Conditions

While we can obviously win the game using creatures, whether a few large, many small, or a mixture of both, why would we limit ourselves to simple strategies, when we can have some that are highly challenging to achieve, but much more satisfying? After all, isn't that why we build decks like this, or our Jodah, Archmage Eternal deck? Looking at it from that perspective, we can see that we have access to two very narrow conditions that are also indisputably on theme: Helix Pinnacle, and Thassa's Oracle. Each of these has their own separate challenges, but we have the ability to overcome those obstacles with the cards we've mentioned so far.

Helix Pinnacle is a challenge because we have to be both willing, and able, to commit one hundred mana to one ability. However, with our Nyxbloom Ancient and Wilderness Reclamation, and even Rosheen Meanderer, it becomes much more realistic and justifiable to do so. It also helps us that Helix Pinnacle has shroud, which makes it significantly harder for our opponents to remove.

Thassa's Oracle, on the other hand, presents us with a very different set of obstacles. Not only do we need to be conscious of our devotion to blue, but we also have to make sure that we have drawn enough cards that we can safely have the X be higher than our deck count. Our best asset for this plan is our bigger draw spells, such as Blue Sun's Zenith, Minds Aglow, and Invoke the Firemind, especially if we can copy them or use our extra mana spells.

That about sums it up for this deck! As always, I hope you enjoyed it and would love to hear your comments below. Also, you'll see the complete decklist below, and hopefully you'll have as much fun with this as I do.

Approximate Total Cost:

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I think Sylvan Offering fits the theme here, and allow your "all your creatures get" effect to be that much more devastating.
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