This entry is part 8 of 23 in the series (Social) Contract form Below

By: Nole Clauson AKA- @MtGNole

90x90 noleHello everyone and welcome back to (Social) Contract from Below. This week will be a little light on social contract material and a little heavy on stuff for the project this season. Bear with me and next week look for a better balance.

For those of you just tuning in, this season this series will (while delivering your normal weekly dosage of commentary on the social contract and overuse of parenthesis), be building a “my first Commander” deck. Last week I lined out what makes a good first commander deck. This week we will be choosing our commander from a potential list of five, four of which were chosen by me and one chosen by you guys. Now without further ado, here are the five choices in no particular order.

#1. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite (The Lady Gaga look alike)-

enI really like the way that Ms. Norm works in Commander. The Vorthos in me sees her sitting atop a throne made of the bones of her former enemies, inspiring her troop with her very presence while causing her enemies to cower in fear. While it would be rare to have her enter the fray herself (with a 7 butt it makes me want to have her as a blocker), her presence on the field is felt regardless. The Melvin in me likes that she shuts off tokens from Avenger of Zendikar before they even begin as well as make life hell for utility commanders such as Azusa and Azami.

This deck would feel a little like a weenie deck and a little like control. We would probably look at running a few “armies in a can,” such as White Sun’s Zenith and Cloudgoat Ranger as well as sweepers as we can probably rebuild faster than most decks. It’s also worth noting that this deck is both simple to run and demonstrates that even a mono colored deck can be powerful.




#2. Maelstrom Wanderer (The card likely to be confused with a Commander Precon)-

mwOf the five options that we have, I feel that this one is the most commander-y commander in that this is the biggest, flashiest commander that we have to run. We can fill the deck with a little ramp, some good utility creatures, and enough fat to get there. I also like that MW encourages players to cast their commander as well as not punish players for getting it killed.

It’s worth noting that there are a few cards we will NOT be putting into this deck. All too often MW decks turn into decks that cast Wanderer, cascade into obliterate and win while the rest of the table threatens to do unspeakable things to you. While there is little doubt that our MW deck will be powerful, we will have to work to make sure that we do not break the social contract.





#3. Vela, the Night-Clad (The Lady who loves Elementals)-

vncSpecifically, the elementals she is in love with is Shriekmaw, Aethersnipe, and Mulldrifter. Vela lets us do something unique, and that is play u/b (a traditionally controlling color) as a more aggressive one. With Vela giving all of our dudes pseudo-evasion, even utility dudes (like the aforementioned Shriekmaw) start adding in the damage. Vela’s second ability it also plays to have our creatures die, making blocking incredibly unfavorable.

I see this deck being full of utility dudes and cards with ETB triggers. We will probably add a slight reanimation suite as well as some sweepers and control cards (We may add a couple of high value counterspells like Overwhelming Intellect and/or Spelljack. While I won’t turn this into counters.dec, counters are a part of the game and giving our deck a few wouldn’t be terrible.) This may finally be a deck that can run Living Death without me feeling like I’m losing by casting it.





#4. Ruric Thar, The Unbowed (aka The maze runner who listens to C.W. McCall)-

rtDuring the genesis of this series, I was contemplating trying to complete the 27 deck challenge (where you simultaneously have 27 commander decks, 1 for each color combination). One of my biggest hold ups was finding a Gruul general that I actually wanted to play. All that changed when Ruric was spoiled. Ruric also lets us, as deck designers, explore some neat space. Instead of using spells and enchantments to advance our state, we will instead focus on creatures and how we can parley the most out of them. (Note: Regardless of how we build this, we will be putting some non-creature cards in the deck for a couple reasons. The personal one is that I already have an all creatures commander deck, and that I feel like teaching players about risk/payoff is an important part of learning to play commander. Besides, I have an extra Domri Rade that is just itching to get into a deck.)

My idea for this deck is to run what I’ve been calling “Survival of the Biggest.”  I love that commander is filled with big creatures. In a way I think it appeals to the little kid in us who are just learning to play magic (You know, before someone introduced us to counterspells and stole our innocence). This deck would bring the biggest creatures in R/G to bear against our opponents. This deck would also use the sheer size of our creatures to our advantage. I’ve wanted to build a deck with Gruul Ragebeast and Ulvenwald Tracker and this seems like the deck.

#5. Rafiq of the Many (The community pick, with credits to Uncle Kaka in the Comments)-

rmThere were a lot of great suggestions and I could have chosen many of them (In fact, I may be making a few of the decks that were recommended). I have chosen Rafiq mostly because of the interesting dichotomy that Rafiq can give us. I envision us building a deck that has a good number of creatures that can benefit from Rafiq’s pump effect as well as well as come equipment and auras to pump them (hello Ogre’s Cleaver!) the question that our player will have to decide is whether to put all his proverbial eggs in the Rafiq basket or to pump something else and try to not draw to much attention to him/herself.








(I would like to point out that this spot would have gone to Mayael of the Anima as I really feel that she is a great first commander. However, I already have a Mayael deck so she was out of the running before the race began.)

So there you have our five choices. Feel free to discuss them in the comments. When you are ready, go ahead and vote either here in the comments (Just leave a comment that says “I’m voting for XXXXX”), talk about your vote on twitter (I am there on @MtGNole) (I’d love to see #TeamElesh, #TeamWanderer, #TeamVela, #TeamRuric, and #TeamRafiq be an MtG twitter trend for the next week), or e-mail me at You have until Sunday at noon to vote (gotta give me some time to write the article haha). I look forward to the discussion and I’ll see you next week when we start flashing out this deck. See you next week.

Series Navigation<< (Social) Contract from Below 7- Welcome Wagons(Social) Contract from Below 9- More than just a color >>

159 Responses to “(Social) Contract from Below 8- There Can Be Only One! (Did you expect any other joke here?)”

  1. CommanderCastEric said

    I vote for Ruric Thar, as he is not only a fun deck to both play and design but also least likely to get a new player hated out of a table. Also, you can run Orcish Lumberjack. If you don’t know what that card is, look it up now and thank me later.

    • I actually knew what that one was before I looked it up. One of the best part of this round of comments will be me getting ideas for when I personally build the decks of the commanders that don’t get picked.

      • Also, add the obligatory Monty Python reference here. (I would say this card is…OK)

        • CommanderCastEric said

          My friend turned me on to lumberjacks for my Borborygmos Enraged deck by explaing to me that he has had it “countered, Bribery-ied, and gilded draked. He had someone cast wrath of god when it was the only creature on his board. It is that good.” It is the least known Black Lotus effect.

    • Argentum said

      And here I was trying to think of a reason of adding Life from the Loam and Crucible of Worlds into my Darigaaz deck….

  2. Aaron Kloppel said

    Ruric seems the most interesting and the least busted. Though personally I’d rather use him as support in animar. Also Ruric is the least known so finding unfair things to do with it is that much harder.

  3. Voting for Ruric Thar due to being the least likely to make someone go off and win with a 20 minute turn. Also, gruul colors have access to quite a few uncounterables that will aid against oppressive blue decks, Vexing Shusher and Spellbreaker Behemoth. Use those fellas to resolve your Ruric and watch the blue players cry. 8D

    So yeah, go Ruric! Potentially less game breaking while still being able to make a nasty mark towards the more nasty stuff out there.

  4. Adam Coldiron said

    Definitely Ruric

  5. Devin said

    Ruric Thar for sure, since he is the only one I’m not already very familiar with. I’d love to see your take on Rafiq, but Ruric seems has like it has a lot of interesting potential.

  6. GUDoug said

    I vote for Vela because I like my Vela Deck and playing U/B big scary monsters is fun while still allowing for some tricks and other elements. Plus she farts galaxies.

  7. Uncl Kaka said

    I’d like to start out by thanking Noel for listening to what i had to say with last article. It’s Contract from below 7, so if you need that reasoning, I would ask you to pop back there and have a read.

    What I would like to do from here is make the case against the other 4 potential generals as selected here. This will be based on my experiences with my wednesday weekly EDH group along with the other groups I have met travelling around Australia. Combined with my evolving tastes and understanding in EDH. I will point out am a hard line vintage cardboard slinging spike and my entry into EDH was 5 CC good stuff lists with combo kills and has now lessened down to much more fun lists with no combos or extra turns. Decks that allow you AND your opponents to play meaningful interactions.

    Ruric Thar: This deck has seen play in my group over the last few weeks. The experience has been terrible. This thing either ramps into unstoppability or ends up hated out hard enough to need cauterization on the wounds. The problem with this general is that it is inherantly a prison deck. It is a deck that says “play your spells and die”. This thing literally in my group gets hated out first. While a big beefcake deck is great I would like to remind everyone that this is a “My First EDH” deck. Not your new pet theme deck. You NEED to consider what that means. You are giving that deck to showcase what a good game of EDH is about to a new player to EDH. These are players who have likely come out from the tournament scene. Standard players who may only know how to sling critters or vintage players like myself who only really know how to punch face with non-creature spells. It’s going to be a bad move to 1) paint your newbie as a hate target and 2) Give them a prison deck.

    Elesh: Mono colour decks from my experience are hardest to build and hardest to just pick up and play for a newbie player to the format. Sure there are those of us (myself included) who can pick up almost any deck and with a brief skim through play mano-a-mano at a competitive level. The curve on handing someone a mono build is a quite phenominal compared to a 2C or 3C build with the additional tools.

    Vela: This could work. There is gas there and strong effects. The deck would have to be carefully built sans tutor effects, which is losing a big part of black and being black blue is going to paint a big target. But Vela could work if constructed correctly. The deck will simply need to ensure that all possible hard combos are careful not in there.

    Wanderer: In theory this would be the ideal general. RUG, strong, encourages you to cast it. It’s crazy value. The problem simply is the stigma attached to it. This gets layed out and I am expecting the deck to combo into something. Remember we WANT our newbie to have a good experience with EDH. Not to have themself painted like a great big target to be splattered at first opportunity. Or to be dealing with too high a level of complexity. As nice as wanderer is. It’s going to make the entire table wary as hell.

    So to sum up. Ruric is prison and will soak hate. Elesh is mono colour and will tbe too hard to pick up and play. Maelstrom wanderer will soak hate and calls for being a stupid combo deck and Vela is risking the combo deck call. But is the ONLY other possibility here aside from Rafiq. Hence I vote Rafiq.

    In order:
    1) Rafiq
    2) Vela
    3) Maelstrom
    4) Elesh
    5) Ruric.

    As for Mistah Leong’s concern for the 20 minute turn. That is solved by the contents of the deck.

    • Uncle Kaka said

      Addendum: Also white will have a horrible time with gas, unless a broken engine is loaded in AND it would need to be tutored up.

    • Jiisuri said

      Mistah leong here, merging my accounts.

      I personally disagree with calling ruric a prison deck since you’re taking 6 damage rather than not being able to cast anything. All someone needs is to take that damage like a man and cast some removal. Or you know cast a shriekmaw. ixidron works too.

      I also would point out that simply by implying the voltron strategy, rafiq would also be hated out one way or another. The only one of them that probably would sneak under the radar is vela, who actually has a strong case for her if you are extremely careful not to make tutors.dec.

      Anyway, I’ll also be making a ruric deck and testing it out real soon so I’ll keep you guys informed.

    • CommanderCastEric said

      In actuality, I believe that Nole made a bit of a error when picking generals because every one of those generals will cause hate for one reason or another. Ruric obviously punishes spells, Elesh Norn wraths weenies in addition to being a win condition, Vela screams combo at the people playing against her, and I don’t even need to say why Maelstrom Wanderer will be hated out.

      But to imply that Ruric will somehow generate more hate than a Rafiq deck is one of the most absurd things I have ever heard. Many people put Rafiq in the top ten EDH generals ever printed, and easily number one for a voltron strategy. His reputation is well known and well founded, and no one at a table I have been to has suffered a Rafiq to live. He simply kills to easily and quickly for the other players to allow it.

      Ruric on the other hand is a new general who has not yet cemented a reputation. Perhaps in your group he is known as a deck to be feared, but I don’t believe that this deck is being designed for your group. Many people have yet to encounter a Ruric deck at all, and would allow it to stick around out of simple curiosity. You may not like Ruric, but there are far more people who don’t like Rafiq, and therefore Rafiq would get hated out more quickly.

      Additionally, the hate for Ruric is only coming from spell heavy decks. Other creature heavy decks likely won’t care that Ruric is around, and may even aid the Ruric player if they feel that the deck is stopping their opponents from tutoring, initiating a combo, or taking extra turns. Once again, Rafiq does nothing to aid any deck but himself, and therefore does not have even the chance of a lucky alliance.

      I’m also confused by your implication that Ruric prevents opponents from casting spells when he merely punishes them for it, while Rafiq is the deck with access to counter spells. My understanding is that in Ruric the only card that could be deemed “prison” is the general himself, and all he requires is a additional cost. The only time your prevented by him is when your at 6 life, whereas Rafiq could have a counter mana open as early as turn 0 with a force of will. You are underestimating how much people hate blue decks.

      Rafiq is the second most hated general on that list, and likely to encourage a gang up from your opponents. I feel that your logic and deduction is flawed, as you failed to present any cross examination of Rafiq in comparison to the other generals at all, Simply stating reasons you didn’t like them and then saying “So, Rafiq it is!”. In comparison to all the decks on that list, the only one I could possibly recommend less would be Wanderer.

      • Uncle Kaka said

        Totally get where you are coming from friend. Totally get it. One of the key problems I think is being forgotten about with this process however is that this is a “My First EDH” deck. This is a deck that you the player have to be aware of and willing to play against EVERY week you play EDH. This is not conceptually a project for designing the latest cute colour pie deck for your 37 deck selection. No, this is a deck that in concept should be sitting in a regulars case or at a store for any old board slinging biddy to come along and join in with. One that is designed to show off ALL the great things about EDH while having the power to go mano-a-mano with the normal schnizzle around the house too.

        My problem with Ruric was you see it once or twice okay…. We’ve had it floating about for a few weeks now and it has become a horrible grind. Our games have really devolved into shutting the Ruric players board space down and never letting the general resolve. Kill it so we can go on with having a game. It’s just not fun. We don’t have many generals on that list. Ruric, Kaervek, Zur, Skithiryx, Teferi and Arcum Daggson to generally sum it up.

        My other problem is…. And I know people don’t agree. It is a prison general. Like Child of Alara it is a prison general. Why? Sure you can play around it with beaters. However it is essentially locking deck types out of the game. It is Armageddon for spell decks. It’s a prison that says “if you play your removal, you are still sucking 6 to the face”. It’s not hard prison, but it is prison.

        In argument for Rafiq. I did open by stating that I had expressed my feelings for RUG or WUG generals in my comments to last article here:

        I am in the Rafiq camp for several reasons. It’s is a wedge general, which I find players playing the kinds of decks I am increasingly finding more fun to be wedge decks. By that I mean things with no combo, minimal extra turns but a solid interactive game plan.

        Rafiq matches one of the 2 wedge combos I indicated I thought would provide a good entry level experience for a rookie EDH board slinger. I also discussed this in those comments.

        And from listing out the possible choices. Given that we are designing a deck for an experienced MTG player, one that you can expect to see on the board most weeks. One that we’re aiming to showcase EDH to a new recruit to the cause witht he kind of game play we like in the social contract….. AND with wanting to be able to match a game with the big boys as Noel stated he wanted as an objective. in WUG, Rafiq IS the best choice.

        It offers blue for gas, control and evasion. White for control and abilities and beats. Green for big beats, ramp and hate. It iffers a general who can be the focus of the deck for a possible voltron scenario or offering the meaningful choice of voltronning another phatty. You get the ability to go sideways into the redzone, play the control game, the ability to sling some spells or windmill slam some creatures. We have the ability to interact more broadly. The ability and the flexibility to build a deck that we CAN showcase these things with those colours and in these colours we can build a flexible, fun and interactive deck that would allow the newbie player to learn about what we value as a good game. The point is ir does not have to pack force and drain to be good. Load in a cryptic or some other jank counter if you want. But it does not have to pack. Cryptic, counter and voidslime wouold be some of the handful I would suggest but little better.

        I’m not suggesting that we are building a deck for my group. I am suggesting we build a deck that would be something that we could all stomach on a weekly basis. A deck that can interact and present itself as an educational tool to show the best fun of EDH and the social contract. I actually agree with you that I don’t like Noel’s list overall. I am simply stating my case for the best of a bad bunch and why not the others. Would you prefer Treva as a WUG option?

        • CommanderCastEric said

          If I was to substitute in a new Bant option I would go with Jenara. She has that 3 mana cmc so you can recast her forever, she has flying, and her ability gives you something to do with your extra mana. Most importantly, no one is ever going to hate out a Jenara deck based solely upon the general.

          • Uncle Kaka said

            And meets all my other construction criteria for being a wedge general. Being WUG or RUG. Jenara was on my initial lists. I could get behind this.

  8. Robert Johnston said

    I like Vela. She’s a popular card but not overwhelmingly powerful or expensive (money wise). She allows you to build around her but doesn’t force you to do so. She plays well with saboteurs and bounce. There’s just a lot of stuff to like.

    My second choice would be Elesh Norn, but it’s not only difficult to build a mono color deck your first time around, but it’s hard to play Elesh Norn without being hated off the table.

  9. Argentum said

    I vote Ruric.

    Elesh can be a neat deck, but I think a new player needs to see the value of color fixing.

    Wander can become a combo deck too easily and building without certain cards will feel like doing it halfway.

    Every Rafiq deck I’ve seen kills 1-2 players in a 4 player game and then sputters out, it’s a cool concept but it’s too easy to shut down. Though stealing rafiq, so that I can kill someone with Zedruu combat damage was interesting…

    Vela would be my second choice (if that mattered), but since the printing of Deadeye Navigator decks built around ETB effects arent unique anymore.

    Leaving me to pick Ruric which can potentially be a unique, fair, and competitive deck while emphasizing some of the important aspects of EDH.

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