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. Wilds of Eldraine is out and making waves. With a few legends standing out, it was tough to narrow down which to touch on, so I asked around and survey says: let’s talk about Rowan, Scion of War!

Rowan is very powerful and has had a few whispers around her in cEDH even though not everybody agrees. Some people say “wait, she’s basically a mana dork” and others say “she’s like having multiple Jet and Ruby Medallions on your turn”. I say, “she’s Rakdos and that rules.”

Rowan, Scion of War is a 4/2 Legendary Human Wizard with Menace for 1BR whose textbox is pretty spicy:


T: Spells you cast this turn are black and/or red cost X less to cast, where X is the amount of life you lost this turn. Activate only as a sorcery.”  

Here are a few things to remember:

  1. Rowan, despite being in red, does not have haste. This means that you’ll need to make sure that she survives the first go around before you get anything done.
  2. Speaking of protecting Rowan, she’s got two toughness. The combination of a tap ability and low toughness tells me that you’re likely not going to be attacking with your commander. Unless you can give her vigilance or have a clean attack and nothing to do, you’ll be using Rowan to discount your spells.
  3. Your black and red cards won’t be double discounted. That’s what “and/or” means here.
  4. This won’t reduce the cost of your artifacts, nor does it reduce the coloured mana for your spells.
  5. You can only activate Rowan at sorcery speed, so only on your turn when the stack is clear.

With all that in mind, let’s pick a few cards.

  1. Mana

With a deck like this, you want to turn everything you have into something that will forward your plan. I’m talking even your mana generation. Yes, even your lands. This is the kind of deck where I’d advocate for using all the fetch lands available to you like Polluted Delta or Marsh Flats for example. Tapping for mana can hurt so good when you’re running Sulfurous Springs, City of Brass, Mana Confluence, Mount Doom, and Tarnished Citadel. Not only do they fix your colours, but if you’ve got a few out all at once, you can pay four mana, ping yourself for four damage and tap Rowan, suddenly your red and/or black spells cost four less for the turn. Beautiful. Tarnished Citadel is the real MVP tapping for any colour but dealing three damage to you. Gorgeous.

Treasonous Ogre allows you to trade three life for one red mana over and over while K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth turns all your black pips into Phyrexian mana. While they are lesser versions of this, Defiler of Instinct and Defiler of Flesh do this for a single pip per spell of each of their respective colours.

  1. Draw

Let’s be real: some of black’s best card draw comes at the expense of some life. Ad Nauseam is a real combo game ender in this deck if you’ve got the means to protect your play. Peer into the Abyss loses you half your life and draws half your library meaning you’re probably going to draw into your finisher and end the game soon. Pay two life to Surveil 2 with Doom Whisperer to set up your next draw. Necropotence is the OG and trades you a card per life paid. If you’ve got Vilis, Broker of Blood in play, turn that into two cards. Just don’t play Peer into the Abyss while you control Vilis though. You’ll round up and kill yourself.

Night’s Whisper and Sign in Blood both are lower impact versions of the same concept but a little goes a long way. Playing a Night’s Whisper and tapping Rowan to follow up essentially pays for itself.

  1. Protection (Lightning Greaves / Swiftfoot Boots / Malakir Rebirth / Deflecting Swat)

Rowan is a bit of a lightning rod. Protect her using the classics: Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots. If you just need haste, Thousand-Year Elixir will make sure you get to use Rowan the turn she arrives and let you double dip. Keep your opponents from targeting your commander and give her haste. If she does die, Malakir Rebirth effects are a good thing to have in your back pocket. Deflecting Swat was recently reprinted and cheaper than it’s ever been  – is probably your best tool to defend against targeted removal.

  1. Bolas’s Citadel / Reanimate / Toxic Deluge

There are other ways to lower your life total to make Rowan discount your cards further. Reanimating a fatty like Razaketh, the Foulblooded or Vilis, Broker of Blood will take eight off your life for the low cost of one black mana. This should set you up for some gnarly plays. While Rowan is fragile, if you sequence a Toxic Deluge just right and bring Rowan into play right after then suit her up with haste, you can pop off pretty well. Otherwise, Deluge is just a premier board wipe and that’s the low end of it…which is bonkers!

A well timed Bolas’s Citadel with a string of playable cards from your top deck should net you a massive discount for that finisher. Speaking of which…

  1. Finishers (Crackle with Power, Exsanguinate, Torment of Hailfire)

When it’s time to end a game, look no further than some all-star X spells that will be reduced to their double pips and still slam for X = 20 easily if you need to. A Torment of Hailfire where X is 5 can break a game in half very minimal. Desperation numbers.

Crackle with Power is the hardest to achieve this with but even an X = 5 Crackle with Power can spell the end of the game for your opponents when it’s late enough. Exsanguinate is my favourite of the bunch. You can cast it as a finisher or you can cast it to  restabilize your life total. After losing so much life, you can get it back threefold and try again. Then all you need is Thousand-Year Elixir or Magewright’s Stone to do it again.

Honorable Mention (Gray Merchant of Asphodel + Sheoldred, the Apocolypse + Exquisite Blood)

You’re going to be losing a lot of life, make sure you gain some too so you can keep the fun going.

That does it for the latest A Seat at the Table. I’ll catch you soon with another WOE legend. If  there’s one you’d like covered, let me know!

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