Updated: Jun 17, 2020
Hello everyone and welcome my name is Brennan Johnston and I would like to introduce you to “Unlikely Allies”, an article series where we dive into under appreciated and under supported tribes or themes and try to find them a home. We’ll be looking at some of the hurdles they face and see if we can’t beef them up a bit using some data from around the web, and a whole lot of creativity!
Speaking of beef (pun totally intended), today we’ll be looking at one of my personal favourites MINOTAURS! A quick SCRYFALL search will show us that there is a total of 88 cards with the minotaur creature type. Seventy-two of which are in Rakdos colours, and 9 that simply have flavour text. That leaves us with a grand total of 63 “playable” creatures. The vast majority of which are non-evasive and very low to the ground. Theros Beyond Death brought with it some fresh meat in Slaughter-Priest of Mogis, Skophos Maze-Warden, Rage-Scarred Berserker and Soulreaper of Mogis. Prior to that I legitimately ran cards like Undead Minotaur and Felhide Brawler (yes, a bear with downside). Looking at the tribe as a whole it’s important to address a few things: who in the multiverse is going to lead our deck, how will we protect our creatures, and, possibly the most important topic, how are we going to win games? If we take a look at the Tribes tab, we can see that our horned friends sit in between Fungus and Treefolk with 237 Total decks, and in general we only have two main options.
Our choice of Commander is as important as the cards in the ninety-nine, it becomes all the more important when playing a janky tribe where you’re mostly likely top decking a 2/3 for three. The main problem with these two options is the target they put on our backs. No one wants to be discarding their hard earned cards or sacrificing something from their board every turn. So with that being said, ladies and gentlemen please turn your attention to centre stage for!…
A New God of Slaughter
Rakdos, Lord of Riots! The ultimate cheater of mana costs! With a grand total of zero Minotaur decklists on EDHREC he is definitely an “Unlikely Ally” to our tribe. Would you look at that we’ve come full circle. Now, now I know what you’re all thinking “But Brennan! Now everyone is going to think were playing Demons or Eldrazi”. Yes, I hear you, looking at the High Synergy section for Rakdos we can see a slew of giant colorless beaters that our Lord and Savior will likely be casting for free. But that’s not why we’re here today. We’re here to be unique, to stand out to have our opponents say things like;” Wait, what?” “But why are you playing that?” or in many cases “Wow, that’s awesome”. Let’s take a look at our decklists. As you can see our deck is vastly different than your average Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck. The only colourless creatures we’ll be cheating out are Metallic Mimic, Adaptive Automaton and the criminally underplayed Brass Herald (come on people 772 total decks!).
We will however be stealing a couple of the best ways to get our Commander out in Warstorm Surge and Impact Tremors. Warstorm Surge can double as removal and the latter, which shows up in only eight percent of Rakdos decks, is a card that should be considered as one of our early tutor targets. Our deck itself leans more towards and aggressive to midrange strategy with a few combo finishes. We’re trying to get our cowboys out early and often and chip away at our opponents’ life totals, gradually increasing our damage output with cards like Door of Destinies, Kragma Warcaller, Rageblood Shaman. We’ll be going from the cute Minotaur player to the biggest threat at the table (hopefully before anyone notices what we’re doing).
Wow! Would you look at these subheadings, my puns are already getting better. In this section we’ll be looking at (you may have guessed it) evasion, haste enablers, and how we’ll be protecting our board. First off in the evasion category I’d like to introduce you to three somewhat obscure cards and with, 625, 227, and 88 respectively they are in my opinion, severely underplayed cards.
Making our creatures unblockable is not only a great way to get our commander out but its also a key part of our game winning combos that I’ll be discussing later. Both Cosmotronic Wave and Barrage of Boulders also double as removal for pesky token decks that run rampant in our format. Cards such as Neheb, the Worthy, Felhide Petrifier, Rageblood Shaman give our creatures keywords that make them awkward to block, which almost ensures damage on someone at the table. Discarding a Filth to one of our many outlets, with a Urborg Tomb of Yogmoth in play will grant our whole team swampwalk and table wide unblockabiltiy (pretty sweet huh?).
In the same vein discarding an Anger with a mountain in play will grant us haste. We can get a more flavourful form of haste from Kragma Wallercaller and the ability to flash in most of our creatures granting pseudo haste from Didgeridoo. Like all aggro decks, we of course are susceptible to board wipes and we’ll be combating that with a pair of other legends…
Balthor the Defiled can be played at anytime and exiled at the end of our opponents turn to give us another instance of pseudo haste to any creatures entering from the graveyard, while Garna, The Bloodflame cast anytime post board wipe returning whatever creatures we controlled that died that turn. Or on our turn after we cast our Blasphemous Act (which feels really good).
When You Mess with the Bull, You Get the Horns
Now that we know how we’re getting through, lets take a look at some of the ways we can get a beefy board state and close the out game. The main reason I chose Rakdos as our commander is because of its’ synergy with one of the better minotaurs, Ragemonger. With the two of them in play and any opponent tagged with damage we will be able to play out the vast majority of our creatures for free. Add to that an Experimental Frenzy in play and its easy to see how our board state can cascade out of control. Were we to tutor for or hit a Sensei’s Divining Top well you can see where I’m going with this? It’s important to know when to go all in on the plan, we need either a Garna or Balthor in hand ready to play at a moments notice, or an Aggravated Assault or one of our ETB damaging enchantments in the mix (it does happen). Another great use of the top is when using Bolas’s Citadel, to help get those pesky lands off of the top of our library.
Possibly the single most powerful Minotaur in existence Neheb the Eternal also synergizes incredibly well with Aggravated Assault, paired with one of our three “Creatures can’t block this turn” spells and any other creature or buff is often our simplest win conditions to meet. Without removal we’ll be getting infinite combat steps where no creatures can block. Now hear me out, politics as we all know is a big part of Commander and by playing a janky tribe we probably have most of the table on our side… maybe we’ve got some sympathy points for playing a Minotaur Sureshot or a Cursed Minotaur in our ninety-nine, or maybe we helped another player out with a Scheming Symmetry…and maybe from that, we tutored for… Okay it’s Oracle of Bones and Deathbellow Warcry.
Despite me living in magical Christmas land Deathbellow Warcry can simply end games if your opponents can’t deal with you right away. Generally, you want to be tutoring Neheb the Eternal and Kragma Warcaller, add to that a Fanatic of Mogis and a Neheb Dreadhorde Champion we’re hitting each player for six on ETB, and if there’s someone around who is unfortunate enough to not have blockers, we’ll be swinging in for a minimum of twenty three damage. Neheb the Eternal, being the beefiest boy of all time will then get us back a total of forty-one mana, maybe we play some more cards or maybe we… turn that milk? Into cheese (I swear the puns are ending soon) by adding a couple black mana and casting a giant Torment of Hailfire, ending the game (and likely our chances of ever resolving a Deathbellow Warcry again).
In summary I really like Minotaurs as tribe. Sure, they don’t have the inherent power of Eldrazi or Zombies or any of the other popular tribes, but they have decent synergy with one another. They let you play small creatures that you can buff up, and they allow for you to play those big splashy spells that our format was built on. What they lack in power and toughness can mitigated by doing a little bit of research and scrolling through EDHREC (you were doing it anyways). Committing to playing a theme with a limited card pool feels super rewarding. After all restrictions breed creativity and creativity, to me, is what this Commander is all about. In closing, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed learning a little about an under appreciated tribe and I hope I’ve inspired you to think outside the box and try something different. You can find my personal decklist here, and if you play any interesting or obscure decks please let me know down below. Until next time, play jank!