In my article last week for Star City Games I deck-doctored a The Mimeoplasm self-mill deck. I like self-mill, it’s a fun archetype, but it tends to be very creature-heavy… particularly in BUG colors. BUG’s slice of the pie is only decent at spell recursion, and this got me musing about the colors that can do spell recursion: RUG.


Side note: yes, I am aware that Wizards is trying to push us into new wedge names to complement Alara’s shard names. It’s not gonna happen, at least not for a while. RUG, BUG, Junk, USA, and even Raka are all better names than Mardu and friends.

Rock eyeroll

Let’s make that deck! I’m going to walk you through my process of creating a deck like this, and while I suspect I won’t end up with a perfect finished product (that takes refinement, a boring process that doesn’t really make for great Commander copy), hopefully we should get the broad strokes down.


So, first we need a general. While I was contemplating Maelstrom Wanderer, my favorite RUG commander in a vacuum, I think it’s actually a better idea to use Riku of Two Reflections since our spells are probably going to be, on the aggregate, weaker than our opponents’. In addition, since I don’t plan on running any Baneslayer Angels, the chance to double up on our Mulldrifters might help us stay afloat. I hope!


This is reminder imagery.

Side note: in case it was unclear, I am really walking through this process in the article. I’m not trying to look clever by making a list ahead of time and then backfilling to make the best possible RUG deck. This deck may not even work in the end! What this is is a window into how I think about these things. If you for some reason netdeck Commander decks, caveat emptor.


Anyway, self-mill means recursion. Here are some of the cards I am thinking about using to recur our spells and random permanents: Izzet Chronarch, Scrivener, Anarchist, Mystic Retrieval, Deadwood Treefolk, Life from the Loam, Restock, Nucklavee, Archaeomancer, Call to Mind, Charmbreaker Devils, Creeping Renaissance, Eternal Witness, Haunted Fengraf, Mnemonic Wall, Nature’s Spiral, Praetor’s Counsel, Pull from the Deep, Recollect, Regrowth, Academy Ruins, Tilling Treefolk, and Vengeful Rebirth. That’s 23 cards, two of which take up land slots, leaving us with 36 land slots left to fill (last) and 40 action slots.

Little worried about not having enough blue instants for this little lady.


You’ll notice many of those cards are creatures, or recur creatures, which seems like it might go against my whole “spell recursion” idea. Well, it’s impossible to make a decent pure-spell deck! My most recent attempt was with Melek, Izzet Paragon, and while I kept the non-spell cards down to the 10-15 range, the deck suffered for it. I think this idea will be most successful if instead of focusing on a deck that only recurs spells, instead we make it into a deck in which the environment is very friendly to recurring spells.


Since we’re talking about a self-mill deck, we need to have some enablers. Mirror-Mad Phantasm is a great one, as is Traumatize. After that, though, things get a little tricky. Dreamborn Muse seems potentially strong, and I’m willing to give Dreadwaters a try since I plan to be running some ramp. Hedron Crab and Increasing Confusion also seem like cards with potential. Then, Keening Stone might be worth playing, since it doubles as a victory condition, and the same is true of Psychic Spiral (this card is interesting, since when you turn it on yourself you get to Wheel of Fortune your graveyard). It goes downhill from there. I think I’m going to try out Sands of Delirium, since it works as a mana sink, and then finish out with Ambassador Laquatus. I’d like to run Archive Trap and some of the other traditional mill cards, but the “target opponent” clause makes those cards literally useless for this type of deck.

This card is hilarious to play with. We’re one or two good cards away from Modern mill being a viable archetype.


Hopefully ten enablers will be enough. Let’s devote another ten slots to ramp cards, since mana seems important to what our deck wants to do. Boundless Realms, Cultivate, Deep Reconnaissance, Explosive Vegetation, Far Wandering, Kodama’s Reach, Nissa’s Expedition, Peregrination, Search for Tomorrow, and Tempt with Discovery should keep us running hot, although we’re going to need to run a bunch of basics and hopefully have some way to send them back into our library to get searched out again. Challenging, but not impossible.


Let’s devote 15 of the last 20 slots to powerful spells, before rounding out our list with some of our own victory conditions. Acquire, Blatant Thievery, Blasphemous Act, Bribery, Cackling Counterpart, Call the Skybreaker, Chaos Warp, Clan Defiance, Cyclonic Rift, Decimate, Devil’s Play, Fact or Fiction, From the Ashes, Guided Passage, Insurrection, Mass Mutiny, Mizzium Mortars, Mystic Genesis, Plasm Capture, Primal Command, Prophetic Bolt, Red Sun’s Zenith, Rite of Replication, Spelltwine, Steam Augury, Unexpected Results, Wheel of Fortune, and Wurmcalling all seem like options, but we have to cut down from there.


Making those final cuts is literally my least favorite part of deckbuilding.

Making those final cuts is literally my least favorite part of deckbuilding.

Let’s definitely keep the ones that work with our theme: Cackling Counterpart, Call the Skybreaker, Devil’s Play, Fact or Fiction, Primal Command, Spelltwine, Steam Augury, and Wheel of Fortune. That leaves seven slots for utility players.


We can bump that up to ten slots if we consider some of these cards as potential finishers. I want to leave two slots for Loaming Shaman and Sphinx-Bone Wand, the first because it keeps our ramp spells live for longer, and the latter because the sphinx’s kidney stone makes for a fun finisher I don’t get to use all that often. When I left room for finishers I meant these cards, and we don’t really need to keep those three extra slots open if we’re finishing the game by constantly recurring super-powerful spells.

If you have to cast this card more than twice in a single game, that game must be epic.


So towards that end, let’s make sure to play Acquire, Bribery, Insurrection, Mass Mutiny, and Rite of Replication. These are the type of jujitsu cards I like to play, since there’s nothing nearly as much fun as making your opponent choke on their own one-shot robot (Blightsteel Colossus) or Myr Battlesphere. For the final five, let’s choose some fun cards. Clan Defiance is a powerful X spell, and it’s versatile, so let’s play it. Decimate is another great spell that does everything you’d ever need. Guided Passage is a politics card and can only be played in five-color or RUG decks, so it’s worthy of a slot. Wurmcalling is a way to churn out both spell triggers and tokens, either one of which can end the game. And as for the final spot…


This card showed up in some Legacy deck a while back, where they managed to restrict the choice matrix by only running a playset of one of the choices. I think. In EDH, you just pick a person who is likely to be friendly, and watch as they hand you the solution to a “third player problem.”

Fuck it. Let’s throw in Guttersnipe. Which makes me realize some of the cards I am missing. Optimally, I’ll go back and cut a few spells to make room for Eyes of the Watcher, Prescient Chimera, Talrand, Sky Summoner, Young Pyromancer, and Gelectrode. Each one of those adds something whenever I cast a spell. But cutting spells for them seems like a mistake. Maybe the Fact or Fiction, Wheel of Fortune, and Steam Augury can all be moved up into the enabler category, and I can cut those mana sinks (Keening Stone, Sands of Delirium, and Ambassador Laquatus, plus the now less-than-useful Academy Ruins) in favor of the first three; Young Pyromancer and Gelectrode are probably a little too weak to merit inclusion, in the grand scheme of things.


As for the manabase… Alchemist’s Refuge. It’s a snap inclusion, and makes the deck better. Boseiju, Who Shelters All might be worth playing, since two life isn’t a bad tradeoff to make sure your spells land. Desolate Lighthouse, aka the Loothouse, is another strong inclusion. It draws cards and puts things into our graveyards! That’s perfect. Kessig Wolf Run is a way to get our Mulldrifters fighting above their weight class, so it seems worth a slot, plus I like completed cycles in my decks, and the other two are definitely in. Oh, and Kessig Wolf Run is amazingly fun in EDH, since you can use it politically or to get two creatures controlled by your opponents to trade. I like that flexibility. Thawing Glaciers helps us with our color requirements, but otherwise that might be it for our manabase.


I mean, we could go all in on the non-basics, but a deck like this gets degenerate without some restrictions, and I find that playing with more basics than absolutely necessary reminds me to be better about thinking about how I play and tap lands. It’s a constant low-level of skill testing, and while there are decks where that’s not something I want to be thinking about, RUG tends to be a good environment for that type of mental strain. Since you have a bunch of ramp spells, and ways to recur them, there’s plenty of opportunity for you to get the right lands. For example, does the deck need more than three mountains in play? Maybe in the lategame, but in the middle it doesn’t seem like you’re going to need to Riku an Insurrection, while it only takes three red mana to cast a doubled Mass Mutiny.


Plus, I hate always having to run the pricy manabases. It seems like one of those situations where you can pay for an advantage in a casual format, and that’s not super cool in my eyes. I mean, I know Magic in general is pay-to-play, and it’s not like I shied away from expensive cards when building, but I suspect this deck is going to end up okay even without fetchlands and duals. Maybe I should run some evolving wilds and panoramae, plus the cyclelands, to take advantage of Life from the Loam, but that seems to be about it.


This has literally nothing to do with this article, I just really love the term.

So here’s the list:


Riku of Two Reflections


Creatures (17): Izzet Chronarch; Scrivener; Anarchist; Deadwood Treefolk; Nucklavee; Archaeomancer; Charmbreaker Devils; Eternal Witness; Mnemonic Wall; Tilling Treefolk; Mirror-Mad Phantasm; Dreamborn Muse; Hedron Crab; Loaming Shaman; Prescient Chimera; Guttersnipe; Talrand, Sky Summoner

Spells (42): Mystic Retrieval; Life from the Loam; Restock; Call to Mind; Creeping Renaissance; Nature’s Spiral; Praetor’s Counsel; Pull from the Deep; Recollect; Regrowth; Vengeful Rebirth; Traumatize; Dreadwaters; Increasing Confusion; Psychic Spiral; Boundless Realms; Cultivate; Deep Reconnaissance; Explosive Vegetation; Far Wandering; Kodama’s Reach; Nissa’s Expedition; Peregrination; Search for Tomorrow; Tempt with Discovery; Cackling Counterpart; Call the Skybreaker; Devil’s Play; Fact or Fiction; Primal Command; Spelltwine; Steam Augury; Wheel of Fortune; Acquire; Bribery; Insurrection; Mass Mutiny; Rite of Replication; Clan Defiance; Decimate; Guided Passage; Wurmcalling


Permanents (2): Sphinx-Bone Wand; Eyes of the Watcher


Lands (38): Haunted Fengraf; Alchemist’s Refuge; Boseiju, Who Shelters All; Desolate Lighthouse; Kessig Wolf Run; Thawing Glaciers; Bant Panorama; Jund Panorama; Grixis Panorama; Naya Panorama; Terramorphic Expanse; Evolving Wilds; Forgotten Cave; Lonely Sandbar; Remote Island; Slippery Karst; Smoldering Crater; Tranquil Thicket; Basic land x20 (I’m bad at calculating this ratio without the deck in front of me, but it’s probably more forests than anything else).


As you can see, the process is kinda ugly, but the outcome isn’t all that bad. This deck looks like it might be fun to play, even if it’s not going all-in on the self-mill side of the plan. Having a ton of creatures that get you cards back when the come into play has never been bad for a deck, that’s for sure!


That’s it for this week, cats and kittens. Tune in next week, when something will be happening! Something… that I haven’t figured out yet, but shush.


Jess Stirba is kinda silly. Or weird? Probably both.

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