Conditions Allow - Captain Ripley Vance EDH

Ben Doolittle • July 13, 2021

(Captain Ripley Vance | Art by Mathias Kollros)

A Mast on the Horizon

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, where I turn a commander's drawbacks into strengths. Today, I'm taking to the high seas in search of treasure and as many cannons as I can get my hands on. And I can think of no one better to lead that voyage than Captain Ripley Vance.

Mono-red has gotten a surprising number of interesting Spellslinger commanders across the past few sets. Just recently in Kaldheim we got Birgi, God of Storytelling, who helps keep the mana flowing as you chain spells into more spells. Before that, Syr Carah, the Bold was a card draw engine in the command zone for Storm and Burn decks. Both encourage you to play as many spells in a turn as possible, or to cast the same spell over and over, to win the game in a single, massive turn. Captain Ripley Vance definitely wants you to cast multiple spells in a turn, but ultimately is more reserved, despite her explosive personality.

Captain Vance ultimately bears more similarities to Hallar, the Firefletcher or even Jori En, Ruin Diver. With Vance as your commander, you'll want to gradually build power throughout the course of the game until you have the resources to to take down your opponents in a single, furious barrage. Key to this strategy will be two things: card advantage and power. Red has plenty of ways to boost creatures and double damage, so lets start with what its least well known for, consistent card advantage.

Load the Cannons!

The backbone of this deck is cantrips. These cheap spells ensure we can easily cast three spells early in the game. Many of the most popular creatures in EDH sit at four or five toughness, easily within range of Captain Ripley Vance's first salvo. Even more importantly, Crash Through and Balduvian Rage dig through your deck for the more powerful spells that will threaten to end the game. They also synergize with an early Dragon's Rage Channeler or Storm-Kiln Artist to accelerate your game plan even faster.

There are some other, sneakier synergies hiding amidst these cantrips too. On its own, Ignorant Bliss effectively draws a single card. Cast it in response to a wheel spell, however, and you'll discard no cards, draw seven, and then re-draw your first hand from exile. Just don't try that trick with Valakut Awakening, since it requires you to put cards on the bottom of your library, rather than discard them. Some cards, like extra lands, you don't mind discarding through.

Red doesn't get cantrips as powerful as Ponder or Preordain, but it does have the ability to turn any card into a cantrip. Discarding unwanted lands and spells to Cathartic Reunion or Magmatic Insight is a great way to improve the quality of spells you have access to. I've also started adding Chandra's Regulator to all of my mono-red decks as well. Being able to pay one mana and trade my worst card for a draw every turn is really good. It also doesn't count as casting a spell, which can be useful when trying to time when Captain Ripley Vance's ability triggers.

Take Aim!

Timing your spells correctly is vital when trying to get the most out of Captain Ripley Vance. Her ability will resolve before the third spell you cast. If you cast Seething Song into Infuriate followed by Titan's Strength, Captain Ripley Vance will have +3/+2, get one more power from her +1/+1 counter, and then deal seven damage. After that she'll get a further +3/+1, for a total of 10 damage. A great way to get around this is to instead cast a cantrip as your third spell, and respond to Captain Ripley Vance's ability with any further buffs so they resolve before her ability. Overmaster is a great cantrip here, since it stops your follow-up spell from being countered.

That play pattern, responding with Captain Ripley Vance's ability on the stack heavily favors instants. Overblaze is perfect, doubling any damage that Captain Vance deals for the rest of the turn. Unleash Fury does the same by simply doubling her power for the turn. I've also been a fan of Insult // Injury, despite it being a sorcery. Doubling your damage is valuable enough, and stopping damage prevention makes this card a slam dunk all around.

Some sorceries don't care when they're cast, though. Chandra's Ignition is happy to resolve after Captain Ripley Vance has gotten her buffs and let loose with her cannons. It also solves the other problem with Ripley's ability. Normally, Captain Ripley Vance can only deal with one player a turn, leaving you vulnerable to counter attack. Chandra's Ignition and Soul's Fire effectively double or triple your firepower. That should be more than enough to end the game.

And don't forget about attacking. Captain Ripley Vance can easily grow to have massive power, and the simplest way to double her effect is to swing in. If you haven't been able to keep one player's field clear Rogue's Passage ensure Captain Vance can attack unopposed. Stun and Renegade Tactics also stop creatures from blocking, while Rile and Crash Through grant trample.


Captain Ripley Vance may not be a true Storm commander, but I just mentioned a lot of spells that have to be cast in a single turn. Along with a suite of mana rocks, there are a couple extra spells to make sure you have the mana necessary.

Mana Geyser is one of the most powerful rituals in Commander. It often generates fifteen or more mana, and takes advantage of players relying on Rampant Growth and Explosive Vegetation. Seething Song is more reserved, but can be cast at instant speed. Finally, Jeska's Will is both a ritual and draw spell with Captain Ripley Vance in play. And of course, I've already mentioned Storm-Kiln Artist and Birgi, God of Storytelling.

I also want to consider Caged Sun and Extraplanar Lens. These would take the place of equipment like Grafted Exoskeleton and Leering Emblem in this deck. While they are very powerful, they are also highly telegraphed. Any time Grafted Exoskeleton hits the battlefield, it is unlikely to stay in play until your next turn. Caged Sun is much less immediately threatening. Your opponents could destroy it, but they might decide that a different threat is more pressing. Extraplanar Lens is even better, since it costs less and provides some benefit to anyone else playing Mountains. It is even less likely to be targeted by removal.

Meeting the Crew

In addition to every cannon on Ixalan, Captain Ripley Vance needs a crew she can rely on. Toralf, God of Fury is a powerful addition to any team, and makes Captain Vance's effect even more deadly. Toralf can pierce extra damage through creatures to their controllers. If that damage happens to be doubled by Insult // Injury, then the damage Toralf deals is doubled as well. This is a neat trick to deal more damage to players with low toughness creatures. Tectonic Giant and Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion, however, are better used to set up your big turns. Tectonic Giant keeps life totals low, within reach of Captain Ripley Vance's cannons. Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion both provides mana and helps draw through your deck.

Speaking of card draw, I want to end on a couple persistent sources of actual card advantage. Cantrips are important to make this deck function, but casting three spells a turn can quickly leave you empty handed. Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Outpost Siege give you extra spells you cast in a turn, while Endless Atlas actually draws the cards. And, of course, no Captain Ripley Vance deck would be complete without Vance's Blasting Cannons.

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This deck was a ton of fun to put together! I usually play in a slower, more reserved style, so getting to explore Magic's more explosive side is always a treat. Captain Ripley Vance can deal a surprising amount of damage very quickly. Don't underestimate her if you see her across the table.

But let me know what you think. Were there any cards I overlooked? Anything I think is better than it really is? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.