Weird Harvest — Target Acquired

It’s that time again! Welcome back for another installment of Weird Harvest, where we supply only the freshest of free range jank for EDH. We have another reader request this week and this one comes courtesy of Brian Meracle. Brian asked if we could do a mercenary build based on Tsabo Tavoc. This is certainly an odd one, because I can’t say I’ve ever seen a mercenary build and it’s been ages since I’ve come across someone playing Tsabo. I love unique ideas, and this falls into that category. Let’s take a moment to analyze our commander.

I’ll openly admit that this commander has always held a special place in my heart. Even before Planeswalkers were amended to be legendary I thought this was an extremely cool and flavorful card. There are some serious pros and cons to weigh with this monster, so let’s take a moment for consideration.


  • Abusable Activated Ability: Any activated ability that destroys something has the potential to be really broken in our format. This is a focused variant of the tap to destroy abilities, but an extremely useful one since our format is centered around running legendary creatures as our commander.
  • Attack Ready Stats: Even if our game plan to abuse the activated ability is disrupted, we still have a commander with a base attack power of seven. This is a three-turn clock without modification. That is nothing to scoff at and should be taken seriously by anyone running against it.
  • Aggressive Control Colors: It’s no secret that the Rakdos (Red/Black) guild is well suited for destruction and targeted removal. We have access to some of the most aggressive kill spells in the format, several which operate at instant speed.


  • Extremely High CMC: Seven mana for a commander is way above the average CMC threshold. It is completely ludicrous to be quite honest. For this to be playable we will have to devote many slots to mana ramp to mitigate this drawback.
  • Low Defense Stat: Offset power and toughness is somewhat common for Rakdos creatures, but a 7/4 is severe. There are several cards that are much quicker with the ability to comfortably kill our commander in open combat. This can provide us some sticky situations if we must shift into the commander damage strategy.
  • Weak to Control/Combo: We do very little to combo decks and decks with excessive amounts of interaction. If we sit at a table with a Storm deck or something that slings a lot of control cards we are in for a very miserable game. They typically run low creature counts, which devalues our ability and our spell quality greatly.

Merc(s) with a Mouth

Mercenaries. Take a moment to think of how many mercenaries you know in Magic: the Gathering. Not many, if any, right? There’s a reason for that. A quick Scryfall query shows that there are only 38 total mercenaries for black and red. To compound that issue is the fact that most of them are just outright unplayable. Our tribe doesn’t even play well with the typical buff strategy by running things like Door of Destinies and Coat of Arms. Even our commander is a Horror, which isn’t even a match for our tribe. This unfortunately means that we’ll have to run as many playable mercenaries as possible while supplementing the tribe with some other on-theme tribes. Luckily, Rogues and Assassins add another 162 options. Rogues and Assassins make sense to me alongside mercs, so we’re going to run them. Here’s the list of the on-theme creatures that I chose to run.

We had to make sure our bases were covered for things like graveyard control (Nezumi Graverobber), but unfortunately there’s nothing on theme that provides mana acceleration. This makes us must go out of theme for things like Burnished Hart and Palladium Myr. This is unfortunate, but entirely necessary to have a playable build.

Obligatory slots? More like fun-crushers.

Emergency Broadcast

I’ve said it a thousand times, and this will only add to that count. Broadcast threats are among some of the most powerful control cards in EDH. Sometimes referred to as rattlesnakes, these cards sit on the table and have powerful control abilities such as targeted removal. This forces all our enemies to take note and tread lightly around us, often influencing their decisions without us having to waste oxygen on political banter. We went heavy on our number of broadcast threats to compliment our commander, which is a broadcast threat as well. This is all to send one clear and succinct message, check thine self lest ye wreck thine self. Let’s look at the 99.

Dirty Deeds

Commander (1)
Lands (38)
Creatures (23)
Artifacts (17)
Sorceries (8)
Enchantments (8)
Instants (5)

Murder by Numbers

The 99 probably looks like a mess, but I assure you that there’s a method to our madness. Our mana distribution is split between 32% red and 68% black. This works out fine considering that our mana source distribution is split between 46% red and 54% black. Normally this kind of disparity can cause problems in the early game, but our early game is almost entirely dependent upon ramping with colorless sources. This gives us a little more wiggle room than normal. Lands account for 38% of our deck composition, which isn’t optimal quite honestly but dipping below 40 is usually fine if you have 8 or more non-land mana sources. We hit an average mana curve of 3.52 CMC, which is right around perfect for a deck that is trying to ramp as hard as we are. One thing to consider is that normally over several turns our percentage of drawing any given card naturally improves, which is why searching, and fetching is advisable in most decks. We decided to run mercenaries in this deck, which can fetch out the merc of the next lowest CMC from our deck. This brings up our fetch sources, and by extension, our per turn percentages of drawing the card that we want. This is a unique advantage for our deck. We could run more fetch lands and tutors to increase this advantage, but then our total deck cost would dramatically increase.

To do list: Gaze with smoldering intensity, strike an epic pose, pick up milk and eggs…

The Payout

Our primary game plan is to run the table and direct play using broadcast threats to setup our endgame strategy. The primary closing strategy is our three-turn clock provided by our commander, but we can always switch to a traditional combat strategy once we finish sniping all the blockers on the board. This was a cool request as it not only used an obscure commander but also an off the beaten path set of tribes. I absolutely love reader requests so keep them coming. We even have another one lined up next time, so be sure to tune in for that one as it’s unique as well. As always, feel free to offer critiques and suggestions in the comments below. Until next time, keep on jankin’ on.



Chris is a mild mannered IT administrator by day, and a janky Magic player by night. He ran a private M:tG blog in a former life until he woke up one day and thought it was a good idea to post his articles where someone might actually read them.