Hello and welcome to A Seat at the Table, the column where I pick a commander and talk about what I’d include in the 99. With The Lord of the Rings set previews beginning this week, we need to whet our appetite and quench our thirst with a little bit of a brew. So let’s talk about a card that was previewed a little bit ago.
An uncommon (!) 1/3 Legendary Creature – Halfling Rogue for 1UR, Bilbo, Retired Burglar gives us a lot to like. Let’s see that text box.
“When Bilbo, Retired Burglar enters or leaves the battlefield, the Ring tempts you. Whenever Bilbo deals combat damage to a player, create a Treasure token.”
To really appreciate this card, we need to learn more about the Ring and what happens when it tempts you.
“The Ring Tempts You”
As the Ring tempts you, you get an emblem named ‘The Ring’ if you don’t have one. Then your emblem gains its next ability and you choose a creature you control to become or remain your Ring-bearer.
- The Ring can tempt you even if you don’t control a creature.
- The Ring gains its abilities in order from top to bottom.
- Once it gains an ability, it has that ability for the rest of the game.
- Each time the Ring tempts you, you must choose a creature if you control one.
- Each player can have only one emblem named The Ring and only one Ring-bearer at a time.
Rules of The Ring
- Your Ring-bearer is legendary and can’t be blocked by creatures with greater power.
- Whenever your Ring-bearer attacks, draw a card, then discard a card.
- Whenever your Ring-bearer becomes blocked by a creature, that creature’s controller sacrifices it at end of combat.
- Whenever your Ring-bearer deals combat damage to a player, each opponent loses 3 life.
Things to remember:
- When Bilbo, Retired Burglar enters AND leaves the battlefield, the Ring tempts you. This means that you’ll have a powered up Ring emblem pretty early on. This also means that you’ll need to pick creatures to bear the ring frequently.
- The Ring’s first ability makes your Ring-bearer legendary so you don’t want to make it a token creature that you have lots of.
Let’s pick some cards!
Alora, Merry Thief / Backgrounds
My favourite card for the deck gets its own bullet point.
Alora, Merry Thief says you can make a creature unblockable if you bounce it to your hand at your end step. This can mean getting in for massive damage but more likely here in this deck getting Bilbo to max out the Ring and pick new Ring-bearers. It’ll also get you at least a Treasure token, which is already pretty damn great.
With this much bouncing, Candlekeep Sage seems like a solid include so you can get a card with Bilbo coming and going. Actually, Backgrounds are a solid idea for this deck! Sword Coast Sailor allows for further unblockable shenanigans for more Izzet ramp. Combine that with Popular Entertainer and you’ll get to goad the board making for easier attacks again. Feywild Visitor and Guild Artisan also grant token bonuses for when your commander swings. With all the Treasure you’ll make, Street Urchin might be the right card for some targeted ping removal. Maybe sack the artifacts to Clan Crafter to buff up Bilbo, and draw a card. But now that you’re through the blockers…
Give your board double strike! Bilbo has a combat damage trigger! Time to double that by making Bilbo hit with both fists.
Give your whole board double striker with enchantments Berserkers’ Onslaught and Rage Reflection. How about combat step triggering a gift of double strike with Blood Mist and its creature counterpart Chaos Terminator Lord. Even Swashbuckler Extraordinaire triggers at combat, but it’ll cost you a Treasure.
Death-Greeter’s Champion’s Dash ability is an expensive way to give creatures double strike and a buff, but it’s repeatable which is great. The ultimate repeatable way for this is Equipment: Lizard Blades and Fireshrieker deserve a slot.
The absolute best board wide double strike granter is the surprise Dragon Blast-Furnace Hellkite. That’ll end a game early!
Combat Damage Triggers: Professional Face-Breaker / Prosperous Thief / Five-Alarm Fire / Grenzo, Havoc Raiser / Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar / Reaver Cleaver / Storm the Vault
If you’re going to be attacking and rocking some double strike, let’s draw some cards! Enchantments Reconnaissance Mission, Coastal Piracy, and Bident of Thassa all give you a card per combat damage to a player. Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar draws per player you hit but gives your opponent a catch-22 if they’re staring down Bilbo in the combat zone. Equipment like Mask of Memory and Mask of the Schemer also fill your hand via combat damage.
How about drawing your opponents’ cards? Grenzo, Havoc Raiser is one of the most powerful two-drops ever printed. I cannot oversell this card when there are critters getting through your opponents’ defences.
How about some more Lotus Petals – I mean, Treasures. Professional Face-Breaker, Prosperous Thief, Reaver Cleaver, and Storm the Vault – all of these give you Treasures on combat damage. Face-Breaker lets you trade Treasures for cards. Cleaver lets you make more than one Treasure per hit. Storm the Vault very easily flips into an impression of a rightfully banned card Tolarian Academy. Prosperous Thief allows you to create Treasures as long as you hit players with Rogues (which Bilbo is) and Ninjas. It also has Ninjustu which…
Creature Type Support
Ninjustsu is perfect! Do we have an Izzet Ninja commander? Sneak in your ninjas with the ability and appoint the ninja as the Ring-bearer, reap the benefits! Mistblade Shinobi, Moon-Circuit Hacker, Ninja of the Deep Hours, Moonblade Shinobi, Moonsnare Specialist, Sakashima’s Student, Thousand-Faced Shadow, and of course, the aforementioned Prosperous Thief.
All of them are blue of course which is theme that comes with the other creature type eligible for support here: Rogues.
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive is another great way to get your commander through. Ghostly Pilferer is an excellent inclusion especially with all these “cast from exile” cards running around. Thieving Skydiver remains one of the best kicker spells in the game and will likely always have a solid target by turn three. Sakashima cards are always welcome. Whirler Rogue for more unblockable. Treasure Nabber so you can take away mana rocks from your opponents – I mean, borrow! Faerie Mastermind draws you cards when your opponents get greedy. Thada Adel, Acquisitor lets you take artifact cards right from your opponents’ libraries. Cephalid Facetaker is unblockable and can clone at combat. Not to mention Alora and Grenzo are also Rogues.
Just remember to pack your tribal support cards if you decide to build around a creature type in particular. Path of Ancestry, Secluded Courtyard, and Unclaimed Territory for fixing and filtering. Distant Melody, Vanquisher’s Banner, Herald’s Horn, and Kindred Discovery for lots of draw. Kindred Charge for doubling up your board of potential double strikers. Molten Echoes gives you more copies while Door of Destinies and Obelisk of Urd makes the chosen type stronger.
That’ll do it for another edition of A Seat at the Table. Enjoy the previews this week! If a creature jumps out at you, let me know which and I’ll write it up! @mikecarrozza on Twitter and Instagram!