Archetune-Up – A Crown for a (Reaper) King

(Reaper King | Art by Jim Murray)

It’s Harvest Time!

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, an article series devoted to using the Theme pages on EDHREC to help tweak a reader-submitted deck!

Hot off the heels of last month’s Karona God Tribal article we’re diving into another five-color deck! This deck was submitted by an individual who wished to remain anonymous and preferred to be referred to as “Bruce”. Bruce reached out to me in an effort to help him tune up his Reaper King deck. Bruce learned to play Magic in order to play with his stepson who had already been playing for some time now. The majority of Bruce’s games are against his stepson, and he rarely plays with anyone else. This is something I made sure to keep in mind when tuning the deck for his “meta.”

Bruce’s deck is straightforward: it’s a Scarecrow tribal deck with a blink theme and artifact synergies. Quite simple, and quite effective!

Reaper Scarelings

Commander (1)
Creatures (30)
Instants (13)
Sorceries (5)
Artifacts (12)
Enchantments (4)
Planeswalkers (2)
Lands (33)

The main deck that Bruce has to play against is his stepson’s Derevi, Empyrial Tactician deck. One of the points that he had mentioned during our correspondence was the fact that Reaper King deck tends to a bit slow to start, and quickly falls behind all of Derevi’s untapping and mana-ramping shenanigans. Luckily, since we’re in all five colors, and because our commander lends itself to an attrition-based game, we have all the tools we need to tighten the deck up! I started in the most obvious place: the Scarecrow Tribal page!


It’s a Fool’s Race to Run if All is Lost if it be Won

As I mentioned earlier, Bruce had done a lot of leg work when constructing the deck; he had already narrowed down some of the best Scarecrows to use for the deck, and began to hone in on their synergies with other cards. That being said, Bruce hadn’t updated his list since Modern Horizons, and asked me to take a look to see what new cards could be a good fit for his build. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your point of view), we’ve had multiple sets come out in the past three months, giving us quite a few new cards to play with.

The first card that caught my eye was Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge. This version of Tezzeret is incredibly powerful in this build. He gives your creatures and planeswalkers Affinity for artifacts, steals life from your opponents, and allows you to Raise Dead any artifact. Most of our creatures are fairly low-costed, so having the ability to play them for free or at a deep discount thanks to Affinity is exactly what we want. Tezzeret’s life drain and built-in recursion will help the deck stabilize against aggression and help pull ahead of your opponents, as well. He’s basically a one-card engine, if you’re able to protect him.

Modern Horizons added quite a number of strong Changelings that this deck loves. From Unsettled Mariner and Irregular Cohort to Graveshifter and Webweaver Changeling (a small bit of anti-Daretti tech), this deck wants a critical mass of these creatures to balance out its scarce/underpowered Scarecrow population. Some of these Changelings even have useful enter-the-battlefield abilities which will provide useful synergy with our second theme.

In his version, Bruce had multiple Changelings with the Champion ability to provide bit of a combo/loop with other cards in the deck. I cut those from my version, since I wanted to focus my efforts a bit on adding more cards with raw power like Chameleon Colossus or better interactions that will help him against Derevi, in an effort to shift games in his favor.


Beware a Scarecrow Bearing Gifts

The second theme that stood out to me when looking at Bruce’s deck was the inclusions of multiple Blink cards. He had already included cards like Otherworldly Journey and Deadeye Navigator, so it seemed like one of his plans was optimizing Reaper King‘s ability to blow up whatever permanent he wished. While perhaps a bit evil, I respected his dedication and decided to turn up the dial on the blink shenanigans.

Bruce had already included Panharmonicon in his list, so in the spirit of that card, I decided to double it by including Yarok, the Desecrated! Yarok is a new legend from Core 2020 that fits perfectly into what this deck wants to do. Unlike Panharmonicon, Yarok will double the triggers of any of our permanents, not just creatures. On top of all that, Yarok is a heck of a blocker, sporting both lifelink and deathtouch, and it makes a fantastic addition to the deck.

Earlier I mentioned that Bruce included a few cards that helped blink his creatures, like Cloudshift and Conjurer’s Closet. As I went through the deck, I decided to revamp this blink package a bit. Bruce mentioned that he usually is out-valued by Derevi, so I looked at ways to try and get a bit more advantage out of our creatures and spells. Derevi will always win a battle of attrition if you let her. As such, the only blink spells in the deck blink multiple creatures. Ghostway, Ghostly Flicker, Ephemerate, Brago, King Eternal, and Rescue from the Underworld were my swaps here. At a bare minimum, you’re still only blinking a single creature. Conversely, you also have the ability blink any number of Scarecrows and wipe your opponent’s board! Flexibility is the name of the game here, and these spells provide that in spades!


I Rigged it Together From Wicker and Scrap…

To really make the Scarecrow and Blink themes pop, I had to tone down his Artifact theme. The reason I chose to pursue a blink theme over the artifact theme was because of the amount of Changelings now available. Had I gone for pure Scarecrows instead, there would have been enough artifacts for me to feel comfortable to pursue the artifact theme farther. As it stands, I still kept a light skeleton of that theme in the deck by using artifact-based ramp for the deck, as opposed to green land ramp. This way, the deck can pivot and be flexible however you or Bruce might want to build it.

Bruce already had Grand Architect in the deck, so the next logical inclusion? Urza, Lord High Artificer, of course! While Urza was an awful person, he has a fantastic card that works on multiple axes with this deck. Most obviously, he can turn our Scarecrows into mana rocks to help power our spells, giving added utility to our normally one-note creatures. Secondly, Urza works well with our blink package, producing for us an ever-growing army of powerful, efficient Constructs. Lastly, he is an outlet for our Pili-Pala combo with Grand Architect, providing a place to put our infinite mana!

The last two cards are the artifact versions of Soul of the Harvest and Guardian Project: Vedalken Archmage and Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, respectively. These cards will let us cantrip off of our mana rocks, Scarecrows, and any other artifact goodies we may have. These cards are super important for artifact-based strategies, as it allows them to keep their hands full and their wheels turning. That being said, these would be the first two cards I would cut in order to add more consistent, reliable card draw, should you want to focus less on the artifact theme like I did.


…Yet Somehow I Find it Unalterably Perfect.

This article’s Bonus Round is focused on choices I made to specifically tailor to Bruce’s needs. These are important, since it may show newer players how to tune a deck for a meta, or show readers who wish to build this deck what cards not to add. Some of these are fairly niche and not meant for every playgroup, but they are definitely not one-note cards.

  • Pithing Needle, Darksteel Mutation, Imprisoned in the Moon, and Song of the Dryads are all anti-Darevi tech. On top of stopping the flying menace in her tracks, they are flexible pieces of disruption in their own right. In the original deck, Bruce was running a lot of Stifle-like effects. While these work to stop a single Darevi activation, trying to 1-for-1 the Empyrial Tactician will only cause you to fall behind. More permanent solutions should help slow down or stop Derevi outright. Grim Poppet is also a consideration here, as it can cripple Derevi without killing her, and would be a welcome inclusion to the deck.
  • Palace Siege and Phyrexian Reclamation were added to the deck after Rescue from the Underworld and Graveshifter. Card advantage isn’t always drawing cards from your deck – sometimes it’s recycling cards from your graveyard, and this can be a really good way to make sure you keep up with your opponents in longer, slower games.
  • Helm of the Host is a better (though more mana-intensive) Conjurer’s Closet for this deck. Making tokens of Reaper King that stick around is incredible, since they will trigger each other’s Vindicate effects and pump each other. If you find yourself playing multiplayer more often, I would recommend Blade of Selves over Helm, as it is much more explosive and can lock down games quickly.
  • The last cards I added were win conditions. The deck looked like it had a bit of an issue closing out a game, so to remedy that, I added Purphoros, God of the Forge, Overwhelming Stampede, and two other wincons we already talked about: Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge and the Urza, Lord High Artificer + Pili-Pala combo. These cards should add some teeth to Bruce’s deck and hopefully allow him to overcome Derevi’s tactical prowess.

The Harvest is Never Finished

With that, we’ve come to the end of another article! Usually when looking at deck submissions, I don’t get to tailor it to a specific meta. Being able to tweak cards and modify the deck to perform against a specific deck or decks made the deckbuilding process much more interesting. A big thanks to Bruce for providing me with that opportunity! I’ve never been the biggest fan of Reaper King, but after digging through and seeing what kind of themes and interactions it can pull off, it’s made me rethink my stance on the most royal Scarecrow!

As always, if you would like your deck (yes, your deck!) featured on Archetune-Up, please drop me a line at thejeskaiguy@gmail.com, or get my attention on Twitter @thejesguy!

Thanks for reading, and as always, thanks for arche-tuning in!

Kingmaker in the Making

Commander (1)
Creatures (27)
Instants (11)
Sorceries (3)
Artifacts (12)
Enchantments (7)
Planeswalkers (2)
Lands (37)

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Angelo started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. With at least 20 EDH decks constructed at all times, it's an understatement to say that he loves Commander. Angelo trusts counterspells over creatures, and is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation rotating out of Standard.