Last updated on November 2, 2022

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer - Illustration by Simon Dominic

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer | Illustration by Simon Dominic

Mono-colored commanders’ popularity in the format is rising. Braids, Arisen Nightmare specializes in sacrificing permanents to turn them into card advantage. Today it’s our beloved monkey, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer’s, turn to have a deck built around it and make some monkey business.

Curious to see what this pirate is capable of? Let’s find out!

The Deck

Mutavault - Illustration by John Avon

Mutavault | Illustration by John Avon

This is a deck with multiple subsets of cards that have their role inside it, like dragons or Treasure makers, but with the same goal in common: winning the game by attacking and killing your opponents.

It may sound very straightforward, but red is known for being deadly simple.

The Commander

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is one of the few commanders with the dash ability. This ability is affected by the commander tax, meaning it costs an extra for each previous time the player cast it from the command zone.

Ragavan is a very aggressive commander that wants to connect to your opponents to make Treasures. The dream is to steal an opponent’s Sol Ring, but you mainly rely on the ramping effect.

Mana Rocks

Experimental Frenzy

This deck runs a few ways to ramp since most of it is somewhat cheap, but having access to a turn 2 Experimental Frenzy is no joke thanks to a timely Sol Ring.

Your other mana rocks are Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, and Chrome Mox.

Removal

This deck runs multiple ways to remove your opponent’s creatures.

It goes from cheap removal like Lightning Bolt to more dedicated ones like By Force against artifacts, or Pyroblast against blue decks.

SlagstormMizzium Mortars

It also runs very few board wipes when it’s required, like Slagstorm and Mizzium Mortars for when you need to remove a lot of threats from the field.

Card Advantage

Experimental Frenzy

This deck runs the likes of Experimental Frenzy to help you from running out of gas.

Some other cards that play a similar role are Vance’s Blasting Cannons, Birgi, God of Storytelling, and Outpost Siege.

Planeswalkers

Believe it or not there are very powerful planeswalkers in red that fit perfectly on the deck.

Chandra, Pyromaster

Chandra, Pyromaster makes your attacks easier.

Chandra, Dressed to KillChandra, Torch of Defiance

Chandra, Dressed to Kill and Chandra, Torch of Defiance both provide you raw card advantage.

Koth of the HammerSarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

Koth of the Hammer and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker are also worth running since they’re very aggressive planeswalkers with just one plan in mind: attack your opponents.

Dragons

This deck runs a lot of dragons that also perform exceptionally well in the deck on top of being bulky beaters.

The likes of Goldspan Dragon and Ancient Copper Dragon can both create Treasure tokens for you.

Thundermaw HellkiteGlorybringer

Thundermaw Hellkite and Glorybringer just care about hitting your opponents.

Hellkite Tyrant

Hellkite Tyrant is a win condition on its own if you have the necessary Treasure tokens to win.

Treasure Makers

There are other creatures that can create Treasures outside of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.

This is the case with Dockside Extortionist, Professional Face-Breaker, and Captain Lannery Storm.

Rain of Riches

There are other cards like Rain of Riches that reward you for using those Treasures.

Sticky Fingers

While it may seem cute, giving Sticky Fingers to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer at the beginning of each game is very powerful if you happen to get it in your first draw.

Other Cards

There are other cards in the deck that have a different role from the ones I’ve already mentioned. They’re somewhat a staple of every mono-red commander deck.

Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, and Ruination aim to slow your opponents down while minimally affecting your plans.

Lightning Greaves

Lightning Greaves gives your creatures haste and makes sure your creatures live longer.

Xorn

Some creatures have some specific role in the deck, like Xorn doubling the number of Treasure tokens you generate.

Mindsparker

Or if you just want to punish your opponents you have Mindsparker.

Mycosynth Lattice

Mycosynth Lattice is a potent card when paired with artifact removal.

Sensei’s Divining Top

Sensei’s Divining Top helps you smooth your draws.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated Assault gives you extra attack phases when needed.

The Mana Base

Wooded Foothills

Being a mono-colored deck means you have a lot of options in terms of utility lands to smooth your draws, like with Wooded Foothills.

Scrying Sheets

Scrying Sheets makes your draws better, which is one of the main reasons you run Snow-Covered Mountains as your mana base.

Cavern of Souls

Cavern of Souls makes your commander and other creatures immune to counterspells.

Tectonic EdgeDust Bowl

Tectonic Edge and Dust Bowl take care of other lands that may be disrupting your plans.

Throne of the High City

Throne of the High City puts a target on your head and provides you the much-needed card advantage red decks want to avoid running out of resources.

You also have the manlands in the form of Mutavault, Ghitu Encampment, and Mishra’s Factory which all help keep the momentum and not let your opponents breath, or just close the game.

The Strategy

This is an aggressive deck, meaning that your main goal is playing creatures with evasion that enjoy engaging in combat. But this kind of strategy tends not to work very well at a four-person table since everyone can disrupt you, and targeting one player in particular probably isn’t the best idea.

This is why you need to hit whoever you can and try to win with the go-wide plan in the long game. This is usually with your dragons, planeswalkers, or pseudo-Treasure token theme.

Combos and Interactions

This deck doesn’t run as many combos as other commander decks. Its plan is a straightforward beatdown. But it still has some cute synergies when things align.

Aggravated Assault and Ancient Copper Dragon won’t guarantee you infinite attack steps, but you’re pretty close to it since any die rolls above five let you attack again if the dragon hits.

Mycosynth LatticeVandalblast

Mycosynth Lattice and Vandalblast might not be very nice for your opponents. You basically destroy each of their permanents, so make sure your playgroup knows you run this combo.

Mycosynth LatticeHellkite Tyrant

Mycosynth Lattice and Hellkite Tyrant require a few combat steps, but you steal your opponents’ artifacts instead of destroying them.

Sword of Hearth and HomeDockside Extortionist

Sword of Hearth and Home and Dockside Extortionist is a cute combo where you “blink” your Dockside Extortionist to get more Treasure tokens per hit. In theory you can also replace Ancient Copper Dragon from the first combo with these two cards to get the same effect if you can create at least five Treasure tokens per “blink.”

Budget Options

If what you’re looking for is a cheap way to make your monkey unstoppable, Goblin Tunneler makes sure it happens.

March of Reckless Joy is an interesting card if what you’re looking for is card advantage. The only downside is that you only get to cast two of the spells revealed with it, but it can be used as a pseudo-tutor if you use a lot of mana.

Chain Reaction is one of the cheapest red board wipes the color has. The more creatures on the battlefield, the more effective it gets.

Swiftfoot Boots is another option aside from Lightning Greaves to protect your commander, and other creatures in general. The benefit here is that you can attach other things to it without needing to move the equipment.

I haven’t tested Jaya, Fiery Negotiator much because it’s still a somewhat new card to me, but it looks promising to the point that I’d highly encourage everyone else to try it.

Arcane Signet and Fellwar Stone are cheaper options compared to the other ones the deck already runs. They’re significantly less powerful but the effects are about the same, and you’ll barely note the difference if your table is slow.

Other Builds

Red has some nasty combos that can be implemented in this deck thanks to how fast Ragavan starts acting, and it’s solely used as more ramp to cast spells earlier. One of these involves Imperial Recruiter, Goblin Recruiter, and Conspicuous Snoop winning the game based on which cards you can stack.

Another route is to be more artifact-centered and run cards like Blightsteel Colossus, Daretti, Scrap Savant, and Scrap Mastery to cheat powerful artifacts in play and send the ones from your opponents to the graveyard.

Commanding Conclusion

Blood Moon - Illustration by Tom Wänerstrand

Blood Moon | Illustration by Tom Wänerstrand

Mono-red decks are known for being very straightforward and this deck isn’t the exception. I tried to make a pseudo-competitive version by adding half of the combo pieces that make it broken. This version is potent and terrifying on its own when it manages to keep momentum, leading to very oppressing play patterns.

What do you think? Do you feel Ragavan is broken, or is it a fine commander? Did you like the decklist or a card? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.

That’s all for now. As always, take care, and let’s keep brewing!

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