Hey everybody, welcome to another Points of Synergy bonus round! This time around, I came upon Akroma, Angel of Fury. As a not particularly compelling commander to build around, it made me think about the deck archetype of ‘Big Red’. The Big Red deck is interested in generating a butt ton of mana to funnel into splashy red spells and creatures; Land Destruction, Dragons, Fireballs, the lot. Akroma supports this sort of plan, as not only is she a large red beater, her Firebreathing ability is a great outlet for excess mana. Covered commanders today include Akroma, Angel of Fury, Eron the Relentless, Jeska, Warrior Adept, Jiwari, the Earth Aflame, Kamahl, Pit Fighter, Latulla, Keldon Overseer, Maraxus of Keld, Myojin of Infinite Rage, Rorix Bladewing, Ryusei, the Falling Star, Tahngarth, Talruum Hero, and Tarox Bladewing. A full TWELVE commanders! (Eat that, Boros guys!); so lets get on with it!
The progenitor of this train of thought, Akroma is a terrifying creature to have access to (speaking primarily as a UW player, of course). In a meta full of counterspells and Path to Exiles, Akroma thrives on being able to punch through to opponents, quite able to vanquish players in few hits. She finds an interesting use in Braid of Fire – while mana empties between phases, Akroma lets you use up the absurd amount of mana in your upkeep by pumping it into her secondary ability for the rest of the turn!
This snappily dressed fellow represents another guy that I look at and think… huh. As a more or less french vanilla commander, what would you do here? Well, Eron distinguishes himself from other Big Reds on this list by being a fantastic Voltron general. With haste and a Regeneration ability, he’s as aggressive as red would be, synergising well with free-equip equipment like Hero’s Blade, and his regeneration ability allows him to live through things like Wildfire with ease.
Here we have a Big Red commander with a difference. Jeska brings an aggressive commander to support the big red stabilisation, offering a high power first striker early. She has haste so can come out swinging, though her identity as a ‘pinger’ allows her to stay at a safe distance to take out weenies. Notably this ability heavily synergises with Basilisk Collar or Gorgon Flail, allowing her to take out ANY creature that looks at her funny, while also allowing her to go deep in combat with the dread First Strike/Deathtouch combination.
Those who play Jiwari say they’re happy playing half a commander, before they’re taken back to the infirmary. I’m not a huge fan of playing the Channel creatures from the command zone, purely because they are only half as powerful (less so in some cases) than they were supposed to be, and they weren’t all that good in the first place. Nevertheless, Jiwari does an alright impression of a commander, with a repeatable mana outlet to remove nonfliers; though the option of Command Beacon is there to grab a board wipe should you want it.Kamahl, Pit Fighter
Leeroy Jenkins, you look… different! Lacking the first strike of his sister Jeska, Kamahl is the epitome of big red’s speed; 6 mana hasty damage that folds to a light breeze. For all the good his glass jaw does him however, he makes up for it by dealing more damage with his tap ability. He’s a hybrid between Eron and Jeska, in that he likes the equipments that add deathtouch like Basilisk Collar, while also liking the free-equip artifacts like Hero’s Blade. He has a primary voltron focus, but I don’t feel that this discounts him from being classed among the rest of these commanders. Flavour win comes in here for Kamahl’s Desire, making Kamahl nigh-unkillable in combat.
Latulla and Jiwari share from the same umbrella. The same umbrella that was bought at a garage sale over a decade ago, with holes and moth balls in it. What Latulla definitely has over Jiwari, however, is that she is a Legendary discard outlet that can also target fliers. This opens her up to getting value out of Madness cards like Violent Eruption, Reckless Wurm or Fiery Temper, while also getting value from ‘free’ discards like Squee, Goblin Nabob or Shard Phoenix. She also possesses a cool flavour tech in Latulla’s Orders, enabling your stompy guys to also cripple mana rocks and other scary artifacts on hit.
Maraxus offers something unique to the mono-red party; the ability to generate a ridiculously large creature for a flat cost. Sure we have Detritivore, but we can’t run him from the command zone. Maraxus likes to go wide but not attack with them to preserve his power; successfully doing this leaves you with 1) a lot of blockers, and 2) a HUGE commander. This generates an interesting play pattern for red, where you can utilise red’s ability to go wide quickly (even some quirky cards that do that temporarily, like Elemental Mastery), then either swing with your huge commander for a haymaker or just attempt to overwhelm your opponents through sheer critical mass of tokens.
After a quick bout of research for the Myojin, I notice that this commander seems to head a certain vein of Big Red decks; and those are the ones with Land Destruction. Not a bad call for a commander whose activated ability is Armageddon. One issue is the lack of divinity counter from the command zone, but there are ways around it: Enter Command Beacon, and That which was Taken. Otherwise, Land Destruction is the name of the game. Lava Blister, Jokulhaups (or ahem, Rain of Salt) can colour screw opponents long enough for you to smack through with Detritivore or something equally stompy like Greater Gargadon.
Mmm, French vanilla legendaries are my jam. In all seriousness however, Rorix isn’t great. He’s often used in Monored Dragon tribal builds, and even then there are better choices out of the command zone (Such as Zirilan of the Claw or hell, even Hivis of the Scale). Rorix does have haste and a respectable body on him though, and provides 3 red devotion for the purposes of Disciple of Mogis if that’s what you’re into, as well as being an extra trigger for things such as Dragon Tempest.
Speaking of triggers for Dragon Tempest, Ryusei ticks my boxes more than Rorix. Notably he must go to the graveyard (as opposed to your command zone) to trigger his board wipe effect, but once he’s there you can exile him with something like Relic of Progenitus to send him back, or even abuse him with something like Feldon of the Third Path to generate more Ryusei’s. (Though you’re going to have to improvise to keep Feldon around after the first Token death).
Tahngarth joins Jeska and Kamahl in the Creatures that hit things club. He’s better and worse: Worse, he can be hit back and can only hit creatures. Better, he has vigilance (VERY rare in red!) and does still ping as though he had first strike. This means that cards like deathtouch unfortunately don’t function as they would (they would hit back, but would still be one hit) but it works incredibly well to maim things using Grafted Exoskeleton or Blight Sickle, to hamstring a creature so that it hits you back for less. He can also become completely immune to the backlash by wearing something like Magebane Armor. Bonus flavour wins to Tahngarth’s Glare (No real synergy but is cool as hell), or Tahngarth’s Rage (Makes his ability worse until he attacks, then he gets MUCH better).
And finally, another half-a-commander. Tarox has infinitely more hoops to jump through than Jiwari,for less of a gain. Instead, I’m going to endorse this one as an ‘in the 100’ sort of deal, as you’re using it for a 5 cmc beater (unless you’re in a Bladewing the Risen Bladewing tribal deck, then you are the true winner on flavour grounds) and while it helps fill the curve, it does not a good commander make.
While this is Big Red, and big red does big things well, these all perform a similar role. As such, here are a couple non-bomb choices for making the most:
Blood Moon – Despite the large price tag, Blood moon is a great card for a reason. Blood Moon is a favoured choice of mine because:
A) Big red can be painfully slow. While you are revving your engines ready to drop your dragons and boardwipes, the green-based strategies are streaking ahead ready to drop tramplers to come after you. Taking out their Gaea’s Cradle, Temple of the False God, or Cabal Coffers seems good, turning them into a colour they maybe can’t use is great too. Which brings me to…
B) Red isn’t a popular colour. You know that, I know that. In fact, the most popular commander of ALL TIME (According to EDHrec) is Atraxa, a commander that EMBODIES the lack of red. While red has a liberal showing across the top 20 commanders, a lot of the showings are due to the popularity of 4-colour commanders, and red doesn’t make a non-4-colour showing until Number 5, with Nekusar. To add to this, only 4 of the top 20 commanders are two colour, the others being significantly greedier in terms of colour. What this means is, Blood Moon is an INCREDIBLY disruptive prison piece to upset careful fixing. You’ll often cut somebody out of a splash colour entirely, or give them way too much of a splash colour if red is their splash. This imbalance can completely blank decks until either the moon is dealt with or your opponents find enough basics to survive, very similar to a favourite card of mine: Back to Basics. That’s powerful for a potential turn 1 play.
Price of Progress – From a favourite of mine, to a favourite of Dr Jank. Being a mono-colored deck, your nonbasic count will be incredibly low. For all these greedy three, four and five colour decks however, its rare that a mana base has more than a handful of basics. Between fixing and utility lands there are a lot of draws to heavily nonbasic manabases, and there’s nothing Price of Progress punishes harder. Coupled with a damage doubler like Furnace of Rath, Curse of Bloodletting or Dictate of the Twin Gods, and you can pull a kill from literal nowhere at instant speed. This two mana instant holds a lot of power, and knowledge that you hold an obscene amount of damage potential can bring a LOT of political power to red’s arsenal.
Knollspine Dragon – Ok, so one dragon made it onto the list. This one is special though. When one of your commanders makes contact (usually for a lot of damage) or you use your Price of Progress (often for a LOT more damage), this dragon can descend and give you a hefty refill of more red, stompy goodness. When stapled to a 7/5 flyer, this is no joke. Perhaps one of the best one-card draw options in red, this is certainly a dragon you want in your arsenal.
That’s it for this week guys! Like Big Red? Think it’s too niche? Be sure to let me know via our Facebook Feed! Next time we’ll be trying some Angel Tribal! For now though, Unmistakable out.