Rogues have always been a popular tribe in Magic: The Gathering’s Commander format. Their stealthy, ninja-esque design allows us to slip past our opponent’s board to deal damage directly to them. Boasting a few popular commanders, Anowon, the Ruin Thief has swooped in to try and claim the top spot for Rogue Tribal. Available in the new Zendikar Rising Sneak Attack deck, Anowon is all about attacking your opponent and drawing cards. This makes him quite potent, as he simultaneously mills your opponent and draws you cards. There are a few different directions you could take an Anowon deck, but by far the most potent is Rogue Tribal.
When designing this deck, I decided to make it powerful enough to win games, without being overwhelmingly oppressive or fast. It’s still a competitive list, but one that wouldn’t be classified in the cEDH (Competitive EDH) format. Additionally, we aren’t going to be constrained by price, however, I will be avoiding obviously pricey cards like dual lands, Mana Crypt, etc. Finally, this is simply a template for you to get started on your own Anowon deck. It’s always critical to adjust a deck based on your own playstyle and meta.
Anowon, the Ruin Thief Primer
Anowon is a supremely strong commander is properly built around. For just four mana you not only get an anthem effect for the majority of your creatures but a draw engine that fuels your deck. Additionally, Anowon allows all our rogues to mill our opponent’s decks, depleting their resources and opening up new opportunities for our deck. While he is not the linchpin of your deck, Anowon can drastically improve your chances of winning if he can stay on the board. Because of this, you’ll want to protect him at all costs and not risk attacking unless you know it’s safe. Instead, keep Anowon back and let him lead from behind so you can gain extra value from your rogues.
Our ramp package in this deck will be a bit smaller than usual since the average cost of our cards is between two and three. We’re running the usual suspects of Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Dimir Signet, and Talisman of Dominance. Thought Vessel is a great ramp option because it’s both cheap and gives us no maximum hand size. Given the sheer amount of cards this deck can draw, not having to discard them will let us horde our answers. Sword of the Animist is especially good in Anowon since so many of our creatures are unblockable, allowing us to consistently hit our land drops each turn. A later game option is Sword of Feast and Famine, which allows us to untap all our lands once we hit our opponent.
We will draw a comical amount of cards in this deck. Setting aside Anowon’s ability, I have included some additional draw options if our commander continues to get removed. Reconnaissance Mission serve as ways to draw cards from our rogues attacking. Rhystic Study is more or less an auto-include in every Blue deck, while Ghostly Pilferer punishes our foes for using their graveyard or exile zone. Fact or Fiction can give us immediate value for a relatively cheap cost and Windfall can be backbreaking if our hand is loaded with cards. Distant Melody allows us to potentially draw a ton of cards since you can choose Rogue as your creature type.
Scheming Symmetry is one of my favorite cards in the entire deck because it’s just so deliciously evil. With Anowon on the field, this card essentially mills whatever they tutor and gives you that card directly into your hand. Demonic Tutor and Mystical Tutor are only other tutors, which will mainly be used to retrieve key removal or tempo spells. But since we are drawing so many cards, there’s no real reason to run more than three tutors in the deck.
For this archetype, I am going to include a nice mix of single and mass removal spells. While we don’t normally want to wrath given our strategy relies on attacking, Toxic Deluge serves as a cheap panic button that can get around indestructibility. The rest of our board wipes are entirely one-sided to ensure our field’s survival, so make sure to include In Garruk’s Wake and Cyclonic Rift. We’re also running a few counterspells to protect key rogues or spells. This portion is pretty flexible, but I prefer the combination of Counterspell and Fierce Guardianship. Silumgar’s Command and Drown in the Loch are modal counterspells, giving us some nice flexibility.
Deadly Rollick and Feed the Swarm focuses on bringing down key creatures that are either helping our foes or in our path during attacks. Feed the Swarm gets a special mention since it allows us to deal with enemy enchantments which is always useful — especially in black. Our deck also runs some alternative removal options in the form of milling our opponent’s deck. Psychic Corrosion, Trepanation Blade, Consuming Aberration, and Oona, Queen of the Fae all either mill or exile cards from other player’s decks. This can limit our opponent’s ability to deal with our board while giving us targets for spells like Reanimate and Memory Plunder.
The beauty of the Anowon deck is a lot of our creatures and spells offer a ton of utility. Undead Alchemist, Oona, Queen of the Fae, and Bitterblossom gives us a steady stream of tokens to attack or defend with. Thassa, God of the Sea, Cover of Darkness, and Whispersilk Cloak can make our creatures unblockable, allowing us to sneak past our opponent’s creatures. Stolen Identity can get completely out of hand if it’s not dealt with right away and Knowledge Exploitation steals an instant or sorcery out of an opponent’s deck. Rankle, Master of Pranks provides some nice versatility, while Scytheclaw guts our foe’s life total. Ogre Slumlord gives us some stability if there’s a wrath and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind can transform into any creature we force our enemy to mill.
Our deck can win a number of different ways, but the most common method is either by damage or reducing our opponent’s deck to zero. I’ve designed the deck so both options support one another, so if a certain strategy fails we can quickly pivot to a backup. Undead Alchemist can absolutely endgames if we target someone with a ton of creatures in their deck. We also are running Obelisk of Urd and Coat of Arms to pump our team’s strength, making our attacks even more dangerous. If either of those strategies fail, our deck can use the Mindcrank and Duskmantle Guildmage to infinitely mill and wipe out our opponents. There are other combos you can put in this deck, but we decided to just limit it to one. Plus both of these components are useful on their own, so if one fails we aren’t totally dead in the water.