This entry is part 05 of 15 in the series Journey to Nowhere

by Judson AKA GUDoug

GUDougDo you ever get that urge to build a theme deck?  But not just a gimmicky theme deck but like a THEME DECK?  Like if you were old like me, and still get all your slang from late 80’s to early 90’s Beastie Boys albums, you would say to yourself, “Self!  Let’s build the illest theme deck there ever was!”  Yeah me too, I knew you would sympathize.  So I guess now all there is left to do is just figure out how to build the illest theme deck there ever was and then throw it together.  Simple right?  First thing that you got to do is come up with a unifying idea of what you want to build your deck around and then it pretty much just builds itself and you are done.  It is pretty easy.  Like child’s play even.  I got a thousand ideas up in the old noggin  like…um…uh…ummmm…well let us just collectively brainstorm for a few seconds, maybe better give yourself a couple minutes, and then we shall regroup with our ideas to build the illest theme deck there ever was.

OK did you come up with anything?  “Horses or something like that?”  Really you want to build a deck around “horses or something like that?”  That is quite possibly the single dumbest idea I have ever…..aaaaaaaaaahhhhh got you!  Me too.  I totally picked exactly “horses or something like that.”   That is so fantastic! It is pretty amazing how collectively we are all on the same page.  Wow!  Really?  You were thinking that Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders from the Spanish-American War was a good build around theme too?  There are all sorts of things we can do to build a deck with this theme.  Plus then we don’t have to use another Richard Dreyfuss movie (1989’s horse track gambling epic “Let It Ride”) and throw in a bunch of quotes like last article’s Jaws madness.

(to preserve my readership and not drive them away Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders > Let It Ride)

Sorry I can’t help myself.  Got to tip my hat to this genius Dreyfuss movie that I believe as a youngster I had recorded on a VHS tape off of an HBO free preview weekend or something like that.  This is almost too real.   I think if someone had to make a fake trailer for a late 80’s comedy it would pretty much look like this.  Maybe it is fake, although that doesn’t matter.  So with out further ado here is a taste of pure comedic gold.  Enjoy.

Back to making the illest theme deck there ever was.  So for this theme I think it is best to go with a strictly art based criteria for narrowing down our card pool.  Not to dilute the pool Let’s only select cards with art depicting things riding other things, preferably some sort of mounted beast but riding another entity is fine I suppose.  We will also exclude things riding in carts or chariots pulled by things, as well as just horses or saddled beasts by themselves, or even things standing next to horses or saddled beasts.  That should get rid of any grey area and most judgement calls.  So I guess all we have left to do is get out out our magnified reading glasses from the drugstore, 2x preferably with or without the beaded hang around your neck librarian chain,  and get onto so we can go through all the cards ever printed in Magic, regular, promo, and other to get our card pool. I will give you a few minutes to do this.

Alright so I assume that you all came up with similar lists as I did (Click Here For Card Pool).  There are a few cards that we probably want to have in our selection that have fallen into a grey area as to whether or not they fit the theme.  Do we let in Vigor?  It has a bird riding on a turtle-ox.  If we let in Vigor do we have to let in other cards that have birds on people or animals or animals on animals? What about things just sitting on things?  What about things Landing on things?  What about things holding on to flying things?  They are technically things riding things?  What about Uktabi Orangutan?  It technically has a thing “riding” another thing.

These cards all fall into a grey area as to whether they fit our theme of things riding things.  They all seem very playable or could fill a role in a deck but I think I will just leave them out of contention as to not let things snowball out of control, like letting Uktabi Orangutan into the deck.

Then we run into things like umbras.  The umbras don’t really have things riding on things but riding in spirit animals.  I want to think that this fits the theme close enough and these types of cards can come in handy to make some of our creatures harder to kill as well as granting them pumps and abilities which can be a problem with decks like this sometimes.  So I am going to allow it.  If you don’t like it try and stop me, it is my article and I am fairly certain that by the time you have read this I have done what I am going to do with them.  I think they fit the theme though so if you decide you want to build the deck and disagree then don’t use them.  Making a deck like this is a fairly subjective venture.

Our next problem area are cards where the picture isn’t clear if something is being ridden or not.  For instance 10th edition Nekrataal.  Let me blow up the lower left hand corner.
Is that dude riding that Camel?  Maybe? Maybe not?  To be honest this guy kills things and sometimes you run a little low on specific role players like removal in these types of strict theme decks so he is getting his ticket punched and admitted into the pool.  Plus we may not even use him.

So let’s go over our card pool.  Wow a lot of crappy white cards, a lot of Portal 3 Kingdoms, and a lot of junk.  This looks like a real stinker.  Straight up “Duster” material.  Probably even enough to warrant a labeling of  Bush League Duster status.  Hardly any removal, four “rampish” cards heavy on the “-ish” (Caravan Vigil, Into the North, Knight of the White Orchid, and Tithe), and limited card draw.  As bleak and unwelcoming as this looks I really think we can salvage this and build something good with what we got.  Let’s polish these turds.

What do we have for Generals?  I am going to leave off all the mono colored generals (there are so many unplayable super expensive mono colored P3K legends in this pool) and only look at the multi-colored legends.  So we got Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, Adun Oakenshield, Tolsimir Wolfblood, Krond the Dawn-Clad, Rafiq of the Many (FTV version), Sivitri Scarzam, Jerrard of the Closed Fist, and the already cut from the list Wort, the Raidmother.  That is a pretty good mix of color selection as we have G/B. G/B/R, 2 G/W, G/W/U, G/R, and U/B.  I will go on record and say Sivitri Scarzam and Jerrard of the Closed Fist are out, not because they have no abilities, but because their pools are very limited.  Trust me I put a list together for both and neither of them required much cutting to get the deck to the right amount of cards and they were horrible.  I actually made a list for each color combination to figure out which list was the best, and put the losers’ deck lists at the end of the article.

So who will be our Teddy Roosevelt leading the charge of his brave and reckless Rough Riders into battle?  After culling over the cards and making the lists, the best deck to me was Rafiq of the Many.  Not only did the deck look best suited for actually playing but it hit “epic illest theme deck there ever was” proportions, currently only held by Geriatric Zur, when low and behold it turned into a DOUBLE THEME DECK.  Not only did I build a deck only using cards that have pictures of things riding things (thus officially dubbing it “Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders”) but it has a creature base almost made up entirely of tribal knights (24 out of 38).  Let me give you the royal run down in visual spoiler form, which really is the best way to present a deck with a theme such as this.

First we have our General Rafiq of the Many.  This magnificent bastard mounted on a armored lion has it all going for him.  The ladies love him, and the men want to be him.  Well want to be him without the tiny head.  I bet given the chance most ladies and a good portion of the gents in Magic the Gathering card art would jump at the chance to be with him he is so sexy, and I am pretty sure Polish Tamales could make that happen.   Seriously Rafiq probably has them lined up around the corner, what with him having all those sigils and all.  Surely he is only trying to compensate for his head head size with that giant sword and not something else.  Plus he has a great personality…I mean ability that can help win games and the bant color combination had a lot of great cards to offer with respect to the small pool of cards we had to work with.

Rafiq of the Many

37 Creatures:
We have a great many creatures in this deck.  I auto-cut all the legendary P3K guys as they were fairly cost restrictive.  I tried not to pick to many real expensive cards to go into the deck and keep it kind of budget friendly.  Then I tried to go with as many disruptive creatures as I could to hopefully allow the deck to get in and deal damage.  There are lots of Seasoned Marshal type cards that tap down your opponent’s creatures when they attack. The last creature cards that I cut from the deck to get it down to the reasonable amount of cards were the hardest to let go.  I still am not sure if it was the right move or not.  Trample creatures like Jhovall Rider, Lancers en-Kor, Moorish Cavalry, and Noble Elephant,  Pump knights like Knight of the Skyward Eye and Rune-Cervin Rider, and unblockable guys like Blockade Runner, Shu Cavalry, Shu Elite Companions, Shu General, Soltari Lancer, Wu Elite Cavalry, and Wu Light Cavalry were all tough cuts.  Chances are many of these should be in the deck although many of them are not knights.  The unblockables just might be better to play…but this is an epic illest theme deck there ever was so we stay with the knight tribal goodness.  Lightwielder Paladin and Vengeful Archon were tough cuts as well.  On a whole I think I got a good team here ready to battle as well as some nice tribal knight synergies, creature pumps, and a few other tricks.  I also tried to keep the total converted mana cost of the deck fairly low but there was an influx of playable creatures at four CMC.

Alaborn CavalierArchon of JusticeAysen CrusaderCapashen UnicornCourt HussarCrusading KnightDarien, King of KjeldorFlanking TroopsGalepowder MageGustcloak CavalierKabira VindicatorKinsbaile CavalierKnight ExemplarKnight of New AlaraKnight of the ReliquaryKNight-Captain of EosKnotvine PaladinMaster DecoyOrder of the Sacred TorchPathbreaker WurmPentarch PaladinRiders of GavonySeasoned MarshalShimmering EfreetSidar JabariSilverblade PaladinSkay HussarSkyshroud War BeastSoltari CrusaderSoltari LancerStudent of WarefareSun Quan, Lord of WuSunscape BattlemageThistledown LiegeTolsimir WolfbloodWilt-Leaf Liege

11 Spells:
With the spells I tried to get disruption, pumps, and evasion.  I think I was able to get a lot of these things with what I had available as well a tutor and a reanimate spell.  Those are big time in the strict theme deck game.  Basically like finding the holy grail and then using it to catch money falling from the sky if you will.  There were some cost restrictive spells I did not include like Riding the Dilu Horse as well as a rather weak sauce wrath effect also from P3K called Guan Yu’s 1,000-Li March.  Then there were also a lot of bad mostly sorcery speed pump spells that I did not include that may or may not be useful like Glorious Charge, Righteous Charge, Virtuous Charge, Wielding the Green Dragon, Tower Above, Overwhelm, and Wildsize.  I also left out a kill spell as it was fairly unplayable with its restriction (sorcery targeting a tapped creature) Vengeance.  I left out Into the North, Caravan Vigil, and Tithe since the curve was very low in the deck and I just needed to make space.  This seems like a good mix of different types of cards although a few more draw spells would have been nice.

Broken DamCreeping MoldEladamri's CallFalse DefeatForced RetreatPrismatic BoonRiding Red HareSerene SunsetSkyscribingTidal Surge

12 Enchantments:
With the enchantments I tried to basically use them as equipment and pump effects bolstering my team or just a single creature.  I only went with two of the umbras.  The only other one that I really wanted to play was Bear Umbra but wasn’t sure how useful it would be in this deck.  A deck with more unblockable guys may find use for the other umbras that were not included.  Aside from pumping cards, there are a few disruptive enchantments, two steal effects, and even a nice little synergy with Bower Passage and Levitation should that ever happen.

Armored AscensionBower PassageCathar's CrusadeDrake UmbraEpic ProportionsFrozen AetherGaea's AnthemGigantiformLevitationMind ControlSnake UmbraVolition Reins

1 Artifact:
Lastly there is one artifact.  Once hooked up to Rafiq it pumps all my creatures and then pumps again for almost all of them since they are knights as well.  I know it pumps everyone’s creatures that fit this criteria but it seems solid.

Konda's Banner

These are fairly up in the air as far as you want to use since none of them are really going to fit your theme.  This is where you might be able to abilities and effects that you cards do not provide.  Certain ones like Gavony Township and Moorland Haunt seem really good in the deck.  You could also go with token producing lands like Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree, Springjack Pasture, etc, or even man lands. You will probably want a lot of W/G and W/U lands to ensure you can meet you white heavy card count and still play your other action cards.  Might I add the inclusion of 1 of my favorite lands as well Mistveil Plains.  LD Lands and disruption lands like Mystifying Maze are always good too.  There is a wide array of lands out there that you can add to this to help shore up your game.  Check out it is awesome for finding all the non-basics your deck can play.

So there it is, Rafiq of the Many “Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders” tribal knights theme deck.  The deck is guaranteed good times and lots of laughs…if you play with the right people.  The beauty of building a deck like this is that it gets you out of your comfort zone with deck building, opens you up to new cards and strategies, and challenges you as a deck builder.  Plus playing with cards like Gigantiform and hoping you draw it as your bomb is pretty hilarious.  On top of that each new set that comes out gets you excited to find new cards that will be awesome in the deck that feature things riding things.  What more could you ask for?  I hope you enjoyed this process.  As a bonus I will post the Nath, Adun, and Krond “Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders” deck lists (not visual spoiler style) with brief descriptions.

same as the above but in deck list form.

Lots of Specter type creatures that play into the “discard and make a token” ability of Nath.

Has some added benefits of playing some of the red cards but pretty much is hoping to generate advantage by using Adun to return things from the yard to your hand.

Could have just as easily been Tolsimir but hey I had a ton of Auras and I don’t think anyone is playing this guy.


Email me at: judsonjg(at)yahoo(dot)com
Follow me on Twitter:!/GUDoug

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