Riku is my main homie. He has been the commander of my all-time favorite EDH deck since its inception in January 2013. I've been considering writing a primer for a while now, but have always dismissed the idea, as I know I wouldn't produce something nearly as good as this wonderful Riku primer by Sonik on MTGS*, the contents of which are the basis for the strategy and card choices in my deck. But, since I like both Riku and the community of DTR so much, I have finally decided to give you the gift of an EDH primer for my favorite deck.
*this primer is really, really good. I recommend that you read it after you read mine. I'll be using some of the formatting and strategy in it as a basis for my primer, so here is where I give Sonik my thanks, along with credit for some of the content of my primer. I'm not planning on copying any sections verbatim, but most of what I know I learned from his primer, so they'll definitely look similar. I hope this is enough to avoid claims of plagiarism.
Let's take a look at what Riku actually does, and more importantly, what he does for the deck.
Riku has a CMC of 5, no protection, and has almost no impact on the board when we play him. Seems bad, right? Well, it is, if we don't get the timing right. However, as Sonik points out, "[Riku is] an investment in your spells." We invest 5 mana and the better part of what we get to do for an entire turn in hopes of pulling off some crazy shit later. If we time him right and he lives until our next turn, the investment usually pays off. If he dies to removal, then we essentially wasted a turn and our next investment costs more.
Riku is in my 3 favorite colors, two of which are arguably the best colors in multi-player EDH, while the third is generally considered the worst in the format.
With blue, we get disruption, card draw, non-creature tutors, combo pieces, big spells and big creatures.
With red, we get removal (mass and targeted) and creatures. It can do more than that, but don't have many red cards in this deck, so that's all I get from it.
With green, we get ramp, value creatures, graveyard recursion, creature tutors, land/artifact/enchantment removal and huge, game-ending creatures. Notice how I put ramp in bold. It is very important to the deck, as Riku is extremely mana-hungry.
Ability 1: “Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell, you may pay . If you do, copy that spell. You may choose new targets for the copy.”
Riku functions as a repeatable Fork/Reverberate, with the limitation that he can only copy our own spells. Some people see this and try to build a deck full of huge spells like Blatant Thievery. I'm going to tell you right now that this is a very stupid idea. The best use for this ability is usually to copy a ramp spell (4 CMC spells like Skyshroud Claim are great, since they fit our curve perfectly when copied), so that we have enough mana to copy something really big next turn. This ability is also great with extra turn spells (I only have Time Warp in there now, but I'll probably check out Time Stretch sometime in the future), for obvious reasons. It doesn't really have any sort of synergy with counterspells, though, and this, combined with the fact that this is very much a tapout-style deck, I only run 2 (Pact of Negation and Glen Elendra Archmage.)
Ability 2: “Whenever another nontoken creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may pay . If you do, put a token that's a copy of that creature onto the battlefield.”
For our deck, this is the better of the two abilities. As is true with instants and sorceries, you shouldn't just jam the most expensive things you can find into the deck and call it a day (although we do love our fatties). Instead, Riku functions at his best when the deck is built with a well-defined curve, peaking at around 3-4 and dropping off significantly after 5. Additionally, we have very few creatures that are just beaters. Aside from our fatties, our only reason for playing most of them is because they have a strong ETB ability and can be found via creature tutors. Personally, I'd prefer that most of them were 1/1s, because then they'd cost less. This deck doesn't win by attacking every turn, but rather through landing one huge fatty that wins the game on its own (like Craterhoof Behemoth or Avenger of Zendikar), copying it, and taking down the entire table in 1 combat step, or by pulling off an infinite combo.
The Creature Toolbox
Many people will call my deck a "goodstuff" deck. I'm not saying that they're wrong (it's not a "badstuff" deck ), but there's much more to it than that. It is a toolbox deck--more specifically, a creature toolbox deck. It has many cards that can tutor for creatures (Birthing Pod, Worldly Tutor, Fauna Shaman, [card]Green Sun's Zenith[/card], Fierce Empath and Survival of the Fittest) (still haven't acquired a copy of this yet, but I'm actively looking for one), along with tutors for our creature tutors (Fabricate, for Birthing Pod, along with Mystical Tutor, for Worldly Tutor or GSZ, and all of our instant and sorcery answers), that allow us to find the card that's perfect for the situation.
Do they have a troublesome noncreature permanent? Acidic Slime will take care of that. If it's late in the game, seek out Terastodon.
Having problems with creatures? Look for Venser, Shaper Savant, Ixidron or Inferno Titan, or just play something bigger and wall it.
Need more mana in order to do something huge? That's why we have Oracle of Mul Daya, Wood Elves, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Yavimaya Elder and Prophet of Kruphix.
Is the answer already in the graveyard? Get it back with Eternal Witness, Body Double or Archaeomancer.
Deadeye Navigator (coupled with another fatty), Craterhoof Behemoth, Avenger of Zendikar, Tooth and Nail and Rite of Replication win us the game, and Spike Weaver and Glen Elendra Archmage protect us while we set up.
So, why do we build our toolbox out of creatures? After all, answers are typically much cheaper and more versatile when they aren't permanents (look at Vindicate versus Acidic Slime, or Mystic Retrieval versus Archaeomancer), and we're not playing our creatures for their P/T. The answer is that green's creature tutors are stronger and more numerous than blue's instant and sorcery tutors. And while I do play Mystical Tutor and many instants and sorceries that can be viewed collectively as a toolbox, I have only explored a very small part of the potential to build a spell toolbox given my options. Why don't I explore it further? Well, I find that, with this deck (and toolbox decks in general), it is best when every one of our tutors is capable of finding the answer we need. Even if I could run Vindicate, I wouldn't replace Acidic Slime with it even though it is a better card, because the inclusion of Acidic Slime makes all of my creature tutors more powerful. Even if I was able to add 3 more Mystical Tutors to the deck, I would not add them, because although they find the most versatile answer in my deck, they cannot access my creature toolbox.
Creatures also have a few other things going for them, even if they are small:
-They can block. Why is Sakura-Tribe Elder better than Rampant Growth? It does pretty much the same thing, and will usually prevent 1-6 damage as well.
-They are easier to recur from the graveyard. I'd like to note that this is definitely a double-edged sword in EDH, and our deck has just as many ways of recurring used spells as dead creatures.
-They can feed Skullclamp.
-They can be exchanged for better creatures via Fauna Shaman, Survival of the Fittest or Birthing Pod.
This brings me to my next point: Birthing Pod is one of the best cards in the deck. It is 80% of the reason why Fabricate is in the deck. You don't even have to play the deck to see how powerful and important a repeatable tutor is for a toolbox deck. It becomes even more powerful when we fill our deck with creatures with powerful ETBs at every point in the curve. Since a large part of our rationale behind including each creature in the deck is its ETB trigger, we usually don't mind throwing our creatures into the Pod. I would also like to note that Riku can copy the creatures that Birthing Pod brings into play from our libraries. If only Riku could copy Birthing Pod...
On Mana, Ramp, and Lands
Riku is mana-hungry. Incredibly so. And that's just the way we want him to be. According to the mana sum theory, the winner of a game of MTG is usually the player who has spent the most mana. Keeping this in mind, we construct our deck so that we will have something to do with all of our mana until we win the game. We do this by being conscious of our mana curve when choosing cards for the deck, by including a number of spells that draw more cards, and, of course, by copying our spells and creatures with Riku.
Because of this, ramp is so damn important to the deck. In order to do big things, we need big mana. And to do these things a turn or two before the decks that don't find their early ramp (or don't even play much ramp at all ) is huge for us. This is the reason why green is one of the two best colors in the format, and why I run 9 1/2 ramp spells in this deck, along with tutors for those spells (yes, I will tutor for a ramp spell).
Ramp also serves as color fixing. If you're on a budget, you can get away with a mostly-basic land base if you run enough ramp spells and skew your manabase towards green so that you can hit those ramp spells early and have them find the rest of your colors for you. Land ramp is the best type of ramp, as land destruction is less common and more expensive than most other types of permanent destruction, and since we're in green, it's the only type of ramp we should be running. Mayyyybe run mana doublers, but I don't since Riku can't copy them and I have enough mana acceleration in the deck already. But avoid any type of artifact ramp, and please, please, please stay away from the Ravnica block karoos/bouncelands. These are ways that decks can attempt to compensate for not being in green, and are just not worth the liability when we have access to real ramp.
This one requires three pieces, but for two of them, we have multiple cards that can fit the role. The combo is between Time Warp, Eternal Witness/Archaeomancer and Deadeye Navigator/[card]Conjurer's Closet[/card]/Erratic Portal(or Crystal Shard.) This one shouldn't need any explanation.
If we're using Portal/Shard, the combo requires 4-5 more mana to function (8-9 mana total). There's nothing wrong with that, but we can't just say "look guys, I win" as soon as we see Portal and Archaeomancer on the field and Time Warp in the graveyard. Most people will quit when they see you have infinite turns, but for the stubborn ones who insist you play it out, just make sure that the first thing you do after you draw a card is cast Time Warp (unless you Forked the Time Warp with Riku last turn). You'll find enough mana and a win condition in time, and you have plenty of that.
Probably the simplest and most famous infinite combo in the game, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker/Splinter Twin + Pestermite/Deceiver Exarch serves as the main win condition for two competitive Modern decks. My deck doesn't play Splinter Twin (although it makes up for this through the use of creature tutors) and uses Zealous Conscripts in lieu of Pestermite, as it is a much more powerful card in this format (in fact, Conscripts made its way into the deck before Kiki-Jiki). The combo is very simple, but I'll go through it anyway. Beginning with Kiki and Pestermite/Conscripts/Exarch in play (I'll use Pestermite in the example) :
-Tap Kiki targeting the faerie.
-Second Pestermite ETB. Trigger.
-Target Kiki with ETB trigger.
-Repeat as many times as you like to make as many Pestermites as you like (Avogadro's number is my go-to substitute for infinity).
Two points about the combo:
1) After you have as many copies as you desire, sometimes you'll want to use your last copy's ETB trigger to untap Kiki (allowing you to pull off the combo on an opponent's turn, if they somehow survive), and sometimes you'll want to steal/tap down an opposing permanent.
2) If you tap Kiki during somebody's end step, you get to keep the copies until the player to the left of them finishes their turn. This is often only useful when you have Kiki out but can't make infinite creatures, but it's worth mentioning, and, if you're using a Kiki-Jiki from Champions of Kamigawa, it isn't immediately apparent that this is possible.
Infinite Mana and Infinite Creatures (Removed)
I took this one out because it usually only results in groans and I don't like tutoring for Palinchron, and needed to give up Palinchron in order to arrange a trade for a Snappy. I'm still going to leave the combo up, though.
If you couldn't tell from the picture, Palinchron creates the most easily-assembled infinite combo in the deck. With Riku on the battlefield, Palinchron in hand, 9 mana in your mana pool and 7 tapped lands, you can create infinite red, blue and green mana (assuming you have at least 1 red-producing, 1 green-producing and 3 blue-producing lands) and infinite Palinchrons, finishing with the real Palinchron in your hand so that you can do it again if something happens that destroys your board and prevents you from winning. It's fairly straightforward, but I'll run through it anyway:
-You cast Palinchron for . You have in your mana pool.
-Palinchron enters. Both Palinchron and Riku trigger (you can order these triggers however you want, but I'm going to write this up as if you order your triggers so that Palinchron's resolves first)
You untap the 7 lands you used to cast Palinchron.
-You pay for Riku's triggered ability.
-You tap 7 lands for mana.
-The Palinchron token enters the battlefield. You untap 7 lands.
-You tap those lands for mana, giving you 14 mana in your pool.
-You pay to return Palinchron to your hand. You have 10 mana in your mana pool.
-Play Palinchron, copy him, yadda yadda. Just realize that the cycle uses 13 mana and allows you to untap 7 lands twice. It uses 5 blue mana, so if you don't have 3 blue lands, you won't be able to make infinite with this (although you can still make infinite and and infinite Palinchrons).
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