Conditions Allow - Radha, Heir to Keld
Radha, Heir to Keld | Art by Jim Murray
Burning Through Mana
Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the series where I take a legendary creature with a drawback and build a deck to turn it into a strength. This week I'm journeying from Ravnica to Dominaria. Much like Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, this week's commander has several cards from different time periods. This week I'll be building around her youngest incarnation, Radha, Heir to Keld.
Radha, Heir to Keld is essentially a mana dork in the command zone. She taps for a single green, or creates two red mana every time she attacks. A free two mana every turn is a significant boost. Radha gaurantees you will have five mana on turn three every game, assuming you can cast her turn two, and attack on turn three. Notice that she doesn't have to deal damage to create the mana, just attack. This does come with some risks and restrictions, however.
Each of the top five most popular commanders of the past two years, according to EDHREC, will kill Radha, Heir to Keld in combat. The only commander among the top ten who can't is Yuriko, The Tiger's Shadow. In just about every game you can expect each of your opponents to have a creature in play that can kill Radha, so we'll need to include cards to protect her in combat.
Radha, Heir to Keld also hasn't learned the trick of keeping mana in your mana pool yet. Mana empties from your mana pool at the end of each phase and step. Radha creates mana in the declare attackers step of the combat phase, meaning that two mana will evaporate before moving to the declare blockers step. Without an instant speed effect, or some way to save the mana, those two red mana may as well not exist.
Sunk Mana Fallacy
One of the best ways to use the mana from Radha, Heir to Keld is with activated abilities. Endless Atlas is a constant source of card advantage that Radha makes essentially free. Bag of Holding is similar, providing card filtering early in the game and a fresh hand later on. Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner helps ensure that Radha actually survives attacking.
Cycling is another valuable activated ability that draws extra cards. Some cards, Migration Path and Wilt, are ramp and removal spells that can also be cycled, but I'm going to focus on lands with cycling. They will synergize nicely with two other powerful advantage engines in green, Tireless Tracker and Life from the Loam. Life from the Loam grabs cycling lands and fetches (like Terramorphic Expanse and Terminal Moraine) from the graveyard, fueling landfall for Tireless Tracker. The Clues and cycle lands then make sure you never run out of cards.
Just Hit 'Em Real Hard
With consistent card draw from cycling and Endless Atlas, Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse is definitely worth including. Not only does she create a token every time you draw your second card, her ability lets us translate the cards in our hand into damage. It can also make Radha, Heir to Keld big enough to survive combat all on its own. Another set of creatures to consider are those with monstrosity. Making Polukranos, World Eater or Stormbreath Dragon monstrous will have an immediate impact on the game. While Stormbreath Dragon simply threatens to deal a chunk of damage to each opponent, Polukranos solves both our problems at once. Not only is it a sink which we can dump as much mana as possible into, it also clears away pesky blockers to ensure Radha survives to attack again.
Radha, Heir to Keld is also capable of casting Embercleave on her own, on turn three. A better use for it, however, is once you have another big creature in play. Putting Embercleave on an Elder Gargaroth or Moraug, Fury of Akoum will make your opponents think twice about whether they should waste a blocker on your 2/2 commander. Alternately, you can remove your opponent's best creature before it even gets the chance to block. Chaos Warp is our most flexible removal, but Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast will almost always have a target or two. Just remember that the mana from Radha only exists during the declare attackers step, so you'll have to remove creatures before blockers are declared.
Even if you can't use the mana Radha creatures during combat, that doesn't mean it has to go to waste. Leyline Tyrant will sit on that mana, letting it accumulate into damage later on. You could include other mana batteries, such as Horizon Stone or Red Mana Battery in the deck as well. Because I've built around cycling and Clues, I'm going to leave them out. Using Radha to accumulate extra mana for a big Fireball to end the game definitely seems viable though.
The primary plan for keeping Radha, Heir to Keld alive in the deck so far is to simply present a bigger threat. An Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion with double strike simply demands to be blocked in a way that Radha herself doesn't. If your opponent chooses to block Radha anyway, you can simply remove that player from the game with Berserk or Savage Beating.
We can have some other tricks up our sleeves, though. Ohran Frostfang and Bow of Nylea grant our attacking creatures deathtouch, making blocking much trickier. In most cases, Radha will at least trade with anything that blocks her, so we at least get some value. Bow of Nylea can also stack +1/+1 counters on Radha if the game gets grindy. Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner takes a more direct approach, making Radha unblockable. I'm going to leave out Access Tunnel and Rogue's Passage however, since they use up the mana Radha, Heir to Keld creates. Instead, I'll add Champion of Lambholt and Dolmen Gate so we don't have to worry about combat damage at all.
Of course, Radha, Heir to Keld doesn't have to attack every turn either. The extra mana she provides is most valuable early in the game, to play an instant ahead of curve, or start the value engine rolling. In the mid-game, however, we can generate mana during combat with other, more evasive creatures. Goldspan Dragon is a current Standard all-star that effectively does the same thing as our commander. Savage Ventmaw and Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion generate much more mana, and all three creatures let you save that mana into your second main phase. This is much more valuable for playing big spells. That also means your opponents will be much more interested in blocking these creatures, so maybe Radha, Heir to Keld can sneak in beside them anyway.
Radha, Heir to Keld EDH
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Radha, Heir to Keld is a really cool commander, and surprisingly flexible. I wasn't expecting to start this deck so focused around cycling lands, but I could have focused around that even more. Throwing lands into the graveyard makes Cavalier of Flame a real threat. Splendid Reclamation is also a potent win condition with Moraug, Fury of Akoum.
I did want to highlight some other synergies with Radha, however. This deck doesn't suffer for it, however. The suite of powerful creatures makes sure you're always pressuring life totals, and Embercleave and Temur Battle Rage can take people by surprise.
But I want to hear what you think. What cards did I leave out? Am I overestimating any cards? Let me know what you would play with Radha, Heir to Keld in the comments.