Deck Analysis – Radha, Heir to Keld

23 Nov

Hi again folks,

Well the votes are in and as you can see from the lovely lady with the extra head above me, the deck you want me most to talk about (thanks to the people out there that voted!) is Radha, Heir to Keld. I have this deck built at the moment, but it’s unique amongst my decks in that I already have a stack of cards I want to put in, and I’m not really sure what direction I want to push her in.

Radha is somewhat unique in another way; I’ve only read one Magic novel in my entire life, and that is the Time Spiral novel in which Radha plays a reasonably large part. In the novel Radha is all fire and action, and is obsessed with proving her worth through battle. It’s also revealed that she has the beginnings of planeswalker spark, although that obviously doesn’t go anywhere (Hey WotC! Let’s see a R/G Radha, Planeswalker of Keld!).

My original thoughts were to make a pretty basic Red/Green aggro deck, using Radha’s ability to make mana in the combat phase to power Tricks™. Unfortunately the “new” rules changes (this is an old idea 😛 ) mean that the mana she provides is generated and must be used during the Declare Attackers step, which reduces the surprise value somewhat. Actually it reduces the surprise value to nil, which is a real downer….

What I’ve ended up with is a Red/Green kinda aggro semi-tribal Elf/Warrior/Beserker mess, including such all stars as Lovisa Coldeyes and Raging Goblin. (OK so the Raging Goblin is in there because I love me some Raging Goblin…) I’ve played it a few times and as soon as it runs out of steam – and it does that fairly quickly – it’s full of 2/2’s and 2/1’s and 3/3’s that everyone can pretty much ignore. (My Damia deck has a similar problem, but for a different reason – it’s full of mana dorks to help me get to Damia ASAP – but once they’re in play, they tend to be somewhat irrelevant.)

The other idea I had is a super ramp deck (Radha is a mana source, after all) and build up to massive X spell after massive X spell, preferably assisted by Radha’s mid-combat mana-adding ability. Most of the spells in the “sideboard” are these X-spells; but there are some in the deck already as well, along with such cards as Rosheen Meanderer. (Who, you may note, is not an Elf, a Warrior, or a Beserker. I is good at the theme decks!). The other, similar but different, option is to build an EDH version of “Elfball” – a deck which utilises a ton of mana producing elves, and ways to untap them, to build up to arbitrarily large amounts of mana and use a Fireball (or Comet Storm, or similar) to take out the entire table at once. I have some of those cards in here as well.

The list as it currently stands is missing a lot of good Warriors – most notably Imperious Perfect, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and Bramblewood Paragon. Apparently I’m also good at the giving away playables… I swear I have them in the Black Hole that is my hobby room… somewhere… but I’m still looking for the last kid I sent in there to get something for me.

I’ve done a bit of searching (on mtgsalvation and mtgcommander) for other Radha lists, and there are a few popular archetypes for Radha decks. For some reason the most common one I can find is a combination mana ramp/land destruction build; since Green and Red have the best LD spells, I guess. This is a type of build that interests me about as much as pulling my own fingernails out with a pair of pliers; if I had to sum up my personal EDH philosophy in one phrase it would be:

Let people play their deck

(For the record, yes I run decks with counterspells and creature destruction and board control. I run Faerie Trickery, but not Forbid. If you can’t see the philosophical difference between those two spells, this blog ain’t for you 😉 )

Other types of Radha decks floating around are:

  • A quite cool and tricksy Life from the Loam/Crucible of Worlds/Seismic Assault/Storm Cauldron deck (but really, this could be any R/G general)
  • Goodstuff Aggro/Ramp… accelerating into Avenger of Zendikar and friends. How exciting!!!
    • Having said that I did find one deck which had quite a cute idea with Birthing Pod, Weatherseed Treefolk and/or Shivan Phoenix; basically you can pull every 6 or 7 drop out of your deck (one per turn) since the Treefolk and the Phoenix just keep coming back
  • Elfball (as described above, and in more detail below)
  • Elf-without-the-ball – all the big mana but only used to power out more and more Elves, usually killing with Ezuri or Kamahl, Fist of Krosa (not that he’s an elf)

ElfBall (from someone who clearly doesn’t know how it works)

The general idea with the old-school Elfball lists that were floating around in casual land since forever is that you use an Elf that taps for a lot of mana (typically Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary or Wirewood Channeler) and some way to continually untap him that costs less mana than he produces, making an arbitrarily large amount of mana and Fireball everyone for the win (hence ElfBall). Most of the decks I’ve seen in action splash blue for one or both of Pemmin’s Aura or Freed from the Real, as they only require a single mana to untap. In red and green, your options are limited somewhat:

  • Umbral Mantle (requires the creature to tap for at least four mana)
  • Sword of the Paruns (ditto)
  • Aggravated Assault

There are other ways the ElfBall works as well; the most common that I’ve found is to make an infinite storm count by using Cloudstone Curio and Heritage Druid, along with two other one-drop elves. It works a little like this:

  • Have Cloudstone Curio in play, and Heritage Druid either in play with one other one-drop Elf, or in your hand with two other one drop Elves.
  • Play the Elf in your hand (Storm 1)
  • With the Cloudstone Curio trigger on the stack, tap three Elves to make GGG
  • Return a tapped Elf to your hand
  • Play that Elf (Storm 2, GG in mana pool)
  • Return a tapped Elf to your hand
  • Play it (Storm 3, G in mana pool)
  • Return the last tapped Elf to your hand
  • You’re now back at stage one – You have two untapped Elves + Curio in play, and a third in your hand

Things get even wackier if one of your Elves is Nettle Sentinel – because it untaps itself when you play another Elf, you don’t need to return it to your hand. This means you make green mana out of the deal, which leads to infinite storm, and infinite green mana (essentially it’s another way to ElfBall). Finish off with your choice of Ignite Memories or Grapeshot (or Haze of Rage or Hunting Pack if you’re feeling weird, or Volcanic Awakening if you’re feeling like a dick…)

ElfBall Pros

  • It’s about the only way to make Elves relevant in EDH
  • It comes out of left field (at least the first few times)
  • It’s reasonably resilient
  • It doesn’t require the combat phase to win
  • I don’t play a lot of combo – this will only be my second combo deck (the first being Animar, which is more a U/G creature deck with some combos in it. It has a grand total of 3 red cards, as I write this, and two of them are only there to give haste to my team.)

Elfball Cons

  • It’s not particularly interactive. This of course applies to most combo decks
  • It needs all it’s pieces (and it needs lots of pieces) at once which means either a) tutors, or b) lots and lots of waiting
  • Being R/G, it won’t have a lot of ways to protect itself
  • It’s much harder to get the right bits assembled when only one of them is in the deck.
  • It will pretty much play out the same way every game

Another option is…

Warrior Tribal!

There are some great Warriors in Magic. The vast majority of them are in Green and Red. This seems relevant, since Radha is herself a Warrior. (As an aside there are 5 legendary G/R warriors. A 4/4 First Striking, Legendary Landwalking lass for 6, a 4/6 Rampage: 1 for 6 (wow…), Radha, A 3/4 guy who comes with his twin for 6, and a 4/4 Trampler for 5, with a mid-combat pump. Radha seems best to me, although a couple of these guys could sneak in.)

Lorwyn block really is the star here; it gave the Warrior tribe a lot more late-game punch with the addition of Giant and Treefolk Warriors (as well as Goblins, Elves, and Elementals). There are 68 Green and/or Red Warriors in Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block alone! They did need the help though – there are only 183 Warriors in the rest of Magic history, and most of them are…. sub-par (Akki Raider, looking at you here…)

After going through the list, these are the ones I thought may actually be worth playing:

Elf Warriors

Allosaurus Rider
Bramblewood Paragon
Elvish Skysweeper
Elvish Vanguard
Imperious Perfect
Joraga Warcaller
Lys Alana Huntmaster
Nath’s Elite
Nettle Sentinel
Talara’s Battalion
Winnower Patrol
Wren’s Run Packmaster
Wren’s Run Vanquisher

Goblin Warriors

Bloodmark Mentor
Boggart Ram-Gang
Goblin Bangchuckers
Goblin Wardriver
Zo-Zu the Punisher

Elemental Warriors

Brighthearth Banneret
Inner-Flame Ignitor
Nova Chaser (if enough Elementals)
Vengeful Firebrand

Giant Warriors

Boldwyr Heavyweights (requires Stranglehold?)
Boldwyr Intimidator
Countryside Crusher (requires mana acceleration, or some way of getting lands from graveyard to hand or play)
Furystoke Giant
Hamletback Goliath
Hotheaded Giant

Treefolk, Human, Troll, Vampire, Cat, Wolfir and Snake Warriors Oh My!

Ambassador Oak (brings an Elf Warrior friend!)
Champion of Lambholt
Falkenrath Marauders
Hunted Troll
Jedit Ojanen of Efrava
Kargan Dragonlord
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Markov Blademaster
Matsu Tribe Sniper
Nacatl War-Pride
Petrified Wood-Kin
Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
Splatter Thug
Viridian Zealot
Vulshok Battlemaster
Wolfir Silverheart
Zealous Conscripts

While it’s not a particularly impressive list, there is some potential there. However, I think a lot of the work will be done by only a few of the creatures; notably Bramblewood Paragon and Boldwyr Intimidator. Everything else either makes more creatures, or make themselves or others bigger. There’s a distinct lack of evasion, which I guess for Warriors isn’t a huge surprise.

Aggro decks in EDH just plain don’t work – there is one aggro deck I can think of in our playgroup that is any good, and it’s a G/R Stonebrow deck that ramps up to big trampler after big trampler, usually with Savage Beating (THE most appropriately named card in all of magic) to finish. Having a bunch of 3/3’s and 2/3’s simply doesn’t cut it against the haymakers most EDH decks are throwing around, and that’s before the somewhat inevitable board wipes. So in order to make a tribal deck work, you have to be able to FINISH HIM!!

So, I thought to myself… what if I could combine the two decks? Have an Elfball Tribal Warriors mashup?

Such a deck would have a game plan kinda like this: In the early game throw out some threats in the form of Warrior beatdown, as well as a fair bit of ramp-age (turns out that word needs a hyphen, otherwise it’s just rampage, which is kind of appropriate I guess). In the mid game it’ll prey on targets of opportunity while setting up for the Big Finish, which will be a large X-spell of some variety. Cards like Earthquake in this scenario are fine, since if the early game has gone well I’ll be on more life than anyone else.

For this strategy (and I use that term loosely) I’ll have to cherry pick only the very best Warriors, and the ElfBall cards which are essential to creating large amounts of mana – although it must be noted that I don’t have to have the ability to go Infinite – if I get to X=20 or so, that should be more than enough. First let’s look over the Warrior list above for cards which also work in ElfBall:

Nettle Sentinel.

Hmm. This could be harder than I thought. There are a few good Warriors which can act as mana sinks for Arbitrarily Large Amounts Of Mana (Wren’s Run Packmaster, Joraga Warspeaker, Boldwyr Intimidator, Inner-Flame Igniter (sort of), Vengeful Firebrand, Kargan Dragonlord (although he “only” needs RRRRRRRR)). The trouble is, if I draw all (or worse, only some of) my Elfball stuff too early, I have nothing to do in the early game. If I don’t draw it at all, I’m just going to sit around with a bunch of outclassed creatures. Still it’s not all doom and gloom. I think I can build enough resilience in – without resorting to a bunch of tutor effects – that Fun Times will be had. So, this will be my initial build:

General: Radha, Heir to Keld

Warriors: (sorted by converted mana cost)

  1. Elvish Skysweeper, Joraga Warcaller, Nettle Sentinel
  2. Bramblewood Paragon*, Brighthearth Banneret, Goblin Wardriver*, Kargan Dragonlord*, Matsu-Tribe Sniper, Varchild’s War-Riders*, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Viridian Zealot*
  3. Boggart Ram-Gang, Champion of Lambholt*, Imperious Perfect*, Inner Flame Igniter, Markov Blademaster, Mirri Cat Warrior, Zo-Zu the Punisher
  4. Ambassador Oak, Hunted Troll, Lys Alana Huntmaster, Sosuke Son of Seshiro, Vengeful Firebrand, Wren’s Run Packmaster
  5. Nath’s Elite, Stonebrow Krosan Hero, Vulshok Battlemaster*, Zealous Conscripts*
  6. Nacatl War-Pride
  7. Allosaurus Rider, Boldwyr Intimidator, Hamletback Goliath

*Cards I don’t actually own… Champion of Lambholt incidentally makes all my dudes unblockable if I cast an infinite number of Elves in a turn. Handy!

I considered Nova Chaser here but I only have three other Elementals – not good odds.

Counting that up we have 32 Warriors. Pretty good numbers for a semi-tribal deck, and still plenty of room to add the ElfBall pieces. So far, so good! Adding to that, Elfball pieces (remember, I’m not trying to go infinite, but simply Large™

Combo Number 1: Infinite Mana: Rofellos Llanowar Emissary, Elvish Archdruid, Priest of Titania, Wirewood Channeller, Umbra Mantle, Sword of the Paruns. Finish with Comet Storm, Earthquake, Hurricane, or something else that gets everyone at once, preferably at instant speed.

Combo Number 2: Infinite Storm Count: Cloudstone Curio, Heritage Druid, any two other 1-drop elves (currently Elvish Skysweeper, Joraga Warcaller, and Nettle Sentinel). With Nettle Sentinel this also gives me Infinite G mana. I’ll have to put in more here – getting Heritage Druid and 2 out of the other three one-drops in play at once seems pretty unlikely. Candidates are: Arbor Elf, Centaur’s Herald, Copperhorn Scout, Elvish Lookout, Essence Warden, Gladecover Scout, Greenseeker, Joraga Treespeaker, Llanowar Elves (and maybe Fyndhorn Elves), Quirion Ranger (this guy is a shoe-in, given the next category), Skyshroud Ranger, or Taunting Elf (although he probably wouldn’t survive long enough!). That’s 12 more to choose from. After the infinite storm, I will have Grapeshot, Ignite Memories, and Hunting Pack (hopefully with a haste enabler like Fires, see “Other bits” below…). I really want to throw Haze of Rage in here, but without something else to help it out, whatever dudes I have (that will be infinitely large power, but no more toughness than normal) can just be chump blocked.

“Combo” Number 3: Big Enough: Rather than generating an “arbitrarily large” amount of mana, this uses the mana producers from Combo 1 above to generate merely “enough mana to kill you all”; Quirion Ranger, Wirewood Lodge, Magewright’s Stone, Scryb Ranger, Seeker of Skybreak, Seize the Day, Thousand Year Elixir, Wirewood Symbiote.

The idea here is that I have approximately 30 cards to work with after including the 32 Warriors above; after a little jiggering around this is what I’ve decided on:

ElfBall Package, sorted by Converted Mana Cost:

0. Wirewood Lodge
1. Essence Warden, Fireball, Hurricane, Heritage Druid, Joraga Treespeaker, Llanowar Elves, Quirion Ranger, Skyshroud Ranger, Taunting Elf, Wirewood Symbiote
2. Comet Storm, Fault Line, Grapeshot, Magewright’s Stone, Molten Disaster, Priest of Titania, Rofellos Llanowar Emissary, Rolling Thunder, Scryb Ranger, Seeker of Skybreak, Squall Line
3. Cloudstone Curio, Elvish Archduid, Sword of the Paruns, Thousand Year Elixir, Umbral Mantle
4. Wirewood Channeler
5. Aggravated Assault, Ignite Memories
7. Hunting Pack

Altogether that’s 62 cards. That’s what you get for trying to shoehorn two different decks into one – ideally I want to run 35-37 lands (the curve is reasonably low) so I have zero, one, or two cards left… and no real way to deal with anything my opponents are doing (short of killing them dead, of course).

This is what the deck looks like so far (I added Stomping Ground, Rootborn Crag, and Basics).

I’m tempted to call it there and play a few games with the deck as it is; partially because I want to see if it’ll work at all, partially to see if I need to add things like Fires of Yavimaya, and partially because this post is nearly 3,000 words long and has taken me nearly a week to write 😀 (That also explains the somewhat sporadic card tags… If you need to see what a card is click the link in the previous paragraph and just hover over the card name 🙂

What do you think? Does the complete lack of meaningful interactions with the rest of the table kill this off? Does the complete lack of mana ramp sink this deck before it takes off? How can I play a Radha deck without Bang Veggies!? Stay tuned! Comments as always, welcome!


Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Challenge of Doom, EDH/Commander


Tags: , ,

2 responses to “Deck Analysis – Radha, Heir to Keld

  1. Daryl Bockett (@the_casual_guy)

    December 8, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Welcome back! I had no idea you were a Kiwi…where do you play? I figure I’m going to go back home one of these days, and my old playgroup has long since disintegrated.

    • Viperion

      December 8, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      I’m playing down in Dunedin – if you’re in town anytime drop me a line via here and we’ll hook up a game for you 🙂


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