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Ruthless Regiment (Mardu Human Aristocrats) C20 Precon Upgrade | $20, $200 | Budget Commander

Commander 2020 preconstructed decks have arrived, and that means it's time for another round of my $20 precon upgrade series! This time I'm taking it a step further by not only offering the usual $20 upgrade but also a $200 upgrade list as well! I'll first go over how each preconstructed deck plays, why you should buy it, and the various directions that you can upgrade the deck and make it your own.

We've cycled through Timeless Wisdom, forked all the spells in Arcane Maelstrom, and now it's time to rally the Humans with Ruthless Regiment, a Mardu deck with two major themes, Go Wide Combat and Aristocrats, combining them into a cohesive deck with an overarching Human Tribal theme. The deck is jam-packed with powerful Humans and Human support cards, growing them into threats (Thalia's Lieutenant), sacrificing them for value (Disciple of Bolas), and reanimating them (Alesha, Who Smiles At Death). Eventually the deck wins by attacking with a buffed up army (Adriana, Captain of the Guard), a beefed up solitary threat (Silvar, Devourer of the Free), or by pinging our opponents to death (Bastion of Remembrance).

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You might like the deck if ...

  • You want a Human Tribal deck
  • You want a deck with a Go Wide Combat strategy
  • You want a deck with an Aristocrats theme

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You don't want a Creature-heavy deck
  • You don't care for Human Tribal
  • You'd rather focus on Combat or Sacrifice themes, but not both

If you like where this deck is going, then great! Let's check out the preconstructed list:

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Out of the box, Ruthless Regiment does a good job supporting its Go Wide Combat, Sacrifice, and Human Tribal themes. I count 21 cards that promote a Go Wide strategy, 14 cards that promote a Sacrifice strategy, and 19 cards that either create Human tokens or support Human Tribal, with a good amount of overlap between all three themes. It's a lot of themes to juggle, but the precon pulls it off pretty well.

Like all the precons, Ruthless Regiment comes with multiple potential commanders, each focusing on a different archetype to build around. For this article, however, I'll be tuning the deck around the partners Trynn, Champion of Freedom & Silvar, Devourer of the Free. I'll show you how to tune Ruthless Regiment into a more focused Human Tribal Sacrifice deck, removing cards that don't fit our theme and adding more cards that do. If you're interested in seeing me build around the other new commanders in the precon -- Jirina Kudro or Kelsien, the Plague -- please let me know in the comments section and I may cover them in the future.


Trynn & Silvar Aristocrats

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While I often tune the precons around the face commander, this time I opted to elevate the partner commanders up to the command zone of this deck. Trynn, Champion of Freedom & Silvar, Devourer of the Free have a lot going on and I think this pairing are actually the best representation of what Ruthless Regiment wants to be doing, which is being a Human Tribal deck that attacks and sacrifices Humans for value.

The partnership here isn't an equal one: Trynn, Champion of Freedom isn't the strongest commander. This is a 4 mana 3/3 that generates a 1/1 Human Soldier if you attacked on your turn. Frankly, this is a mediocre token generator at best, but any card that creates extra Humans in our deck is valuable since we run so many powerful Human support cards, so it's better than nothing.

Trynn being subpar is perfectly fine, however, because the star of this partnership, Silvar, Devourer of the Free, brings all the power you'll need in the command zone. Silvar is a scary kitty that grows into a more lethal threat as it snacks on your Humans. The most important thing Silvar brings to your deck is a top quality sacrifice outlet. A lot of our best cards work off our Humans dying, so it's important that we can kill our creatures on demand. The best sacrifice outlets cost nothing to activate and can be used at instant speed, which is exactly what Silvar provides. With Silvar, we can sacrifice Humans equipped with Skullclamp to draw cards, or nomnom all our Humans at once to drain out the entire table with Zulaport Cutthroat. Of course, Silvar benefits from the act of sacrifice as well, permanently growing bigger with +1/+1 counters and temporarily becoming indestructible, making it very difficult for opponents to kill the kitty.

So the way this partnership works is that Silvar, Devourer of the Free is our main commander, functioning primarily as a reliable sacrifice outlet for our deck while also growing into a lethal threat that can take out opponents through commander damage. Trynn, Champion of Freedom is more like a happy bonus here, generating extra sacrifice fodder for our deck.

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Analyzing the Precon

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
  • 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 graveyard recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 surprise "I Win" card; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Let's see what the rough ratios are for Ruthless Regiment and how it compares:

Ruthless Regiment raises some red flags with its thin manabase, but otherwise the other aspects look to be about right at a glance.

Now that we've checked out the general ratios, let's take a closer look at the cards we're working with:


36 Lands. Out of all the precons this year, Ruthless Regiment certainly has the best lands of the bunch. We've got some excellent fast mana-fixing that comes untapped with Command Tower, Exotic Orchard, and Unclaimed Territory, which are crucial cards that we need to curve out with our aggressive Human Tribal deck. Path of Ancestry is one of the best utility lands we could hope for, letting our deck passively scry a bunch throughout the game. The hideaway lands, Windbrisk Heights and Spinerock Knoll, provide super-efficient card advantage in our deck and are very easy to activate. The only real stinker here is Temple of the False God, a card I've actually come around to liking in some decks, but a tricolor deck with only 36 lands and only a single source of land ramp is certainly not the correct home for it.

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8 ramp. While a bit low in quantity, the ramp that is included is high quality: Knight of the White Orchid is a fantastic ramp card that is even better in Human Tribal, and we've got other staples like Sol Ring and all the Signets (Rakdos Signet) as well. Bonder's Ornament still sucks though. Overall this is a good start, but I'd add a few more ramp cards to fill it out.

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10 card draw. There's a lot of variety in our card draw: our most potent options come from sacrificing creatures, with the highlights being Species Specialist, Disciple of Bolas, and the almighty Skullclamp. Magus of the Wheel and Painful Truths are two other excellent burst draw, and while I'm not as high on it as others are, Verge Rangers is pretty good too in a deck with almost zero land ramp. Overall the deck's card draw is very good.

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8 targeted removal. The removal package is okay, but considering that Mardu excels at removal, I was hoping for a bit more. Devout Chaplain and Dire Tactics are excellent thematic inclusions here, Terminate is solid, but we have some weaker stuff too like Nahiri, the Harbinger, which doesn't synergize in our deck. We can easily improve this part of the deck.

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4 board wipes. The board wipes here are pretty good. Magus of the Disk is a thematic wipe that has some neat recursion potential, Cleansing Nova is always great due to its flexibility, and Citywide Bust is solid here because most of our creatures are small enough not to be hit by it. This is solid stuff, but we can do even better on a budget.

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2 graveyard recursion. For a creature-heavy deck in Mardu I would hope for some better graveyard recursion. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is solid incremental recursion, and Garna, the Bloodflame is a great response to a board wipe or after mass-sacrificing your board, but we can greatly improve the deck by adding one or two mass reanimation cards.

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0 flexible tutors. None of the precons come with any nonland tutors, which makes sense since this is an introductory product and new players who are unfamiliar with the deck wouldn't know what cards they should be searching for with tutors. That said, adding tutors helps make the deck more consistent and flexible, so we should add some if able.

2 graveyard hate. Most precons don't have any graveyard hate whatsoever, but this deck has not one but two excellent options with Bojuka Bog and General's Enforcer. Good job, Wizards!

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0 surprise "I Win" cards. While the precon can pump out huge lethal swings or drain away opposing life totals, everything requires you to have a sizeable army of creatures to work. There's nothing here that wins you the game with minimal setup or can immediately turn a game around for you. That's definitely something we should add.


Trynn & Silvar Upgrade Options

Here are my favorite card options to tune Ruthless Regiment into a more focused, more powerful Human Artistocrats deck.

The biggest upgrade for the deck is adding a powerful surprise "I Win" card to it. The best thematic option that I found is an infinite combo that involves Angel of Glory's Rise + Fiend Hunter + a sac outlet like Silvar, Devourer of the Free. With your sac outlet on the battlefield and Fiend Hunter either in your hand or in your graveyard, cast Angel of Glory's Rise, returning all Humans you control from the graveyard to the battlefield. Fiend Hunter enters the battlefield, exiling the Angel. Then sacrifice the Hunter, returning the Angel to the battlefield, which reanimates the Hunter again. This is an infinite loop. Add a fourth card like Zulaport Cutthroat to make this combo lethal. Or your sac outlet can double as a finisher, like using Goblin Bombardment to ping opponents infinite times. All these combo pieces are great in the deck on their own but become infinite when put together.

There are also other easy combos to add to the deck, like Zealous Conscripts and Splinter Twin, or Godo, Bandit Warlord and Helm of the Host. They fit the Human Tribal theme while also giving the deck a consistent way to win the game.

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$20 Ruthless Regiment Upgrade

To tune Ruthless Regiment into a more powerful, focused Human Aristocrats deck we're going to make the following swaps:

  • Better win conditions
  • More Aristocrats support cards
  • More Human Tribal support cards
  • Better ramp
  • Better targeted removal
  • Lower average cmc

That's what we want to add to the deck. We can safely cut cards that don't match any of the above criteria.

Here are the first cards I'd add on a $20 budget.

The most important additions to the deck are Angel of Glory's Rise and Fiend Hunter. These cards give the deck an infinite combo loop as described earlier when paired with a sac outlet like Silvar, Devourer of the Free, and then we win with any of our death trigger pingers like Zulaport Cutthroat or new addition Judith, the Scourge Diva. The next most important inclusion is Goblin Bombardment, which acts a superior backup to Silvar in the combo since we don't need a fourth card to win the game.

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Here are the first cards I'd cut for our upgrades. Either these cards are too weak (Bonder's Ornament), don't fit our Human Aristocrats theme (Parasitic Impetus), or we're just making more room for our Aristocrats cards (Frontier Warmonger).

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And finally here is Ruthless Regiment with the $20 upgrade installed:

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$200 Ruthless Regiment Upgrade

With a larger budget we can start trimming away the Combat theme of the precon for a more focused Aristocrats theme. 

For the additions, we're adding more dedicated Aristocrats cards, the Godo, Bandit Warlord + Helm of the Host combo, more tutors, and significantly improving our manabase.

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Then we're taking out most of our combat-focused cards, like Thalia's Lieutenant and Adriana, Captain of the Guard. Our main win condition is infinite combos now, with attacking for combat kills being secondary goals, so we can take most of those out.

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Finally, here's how Ruthless Regiment looks like with the $200 swaps installed:

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3 Down, 2 To Go!

Ruthless Regiment is fairly open-ended in what direction you take it, and I hope you enjoyed this version that focuses on the Aristocrats theme. As always, feedback and criticism is greatly appreciated! Let me know what you think of the upgrade and if there's any sweet cards that I missed! 

We've got two more precons to cover so I'm off to work on the next one! Until then, friends ... see ya!

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