Building Rowan, Scion of War in Commander

Building Rowan, Scion of War in Commander

Jacob LacknerCommander

Wilds of Eldraine is here, and the set includes many great, potential Commanders. One of the most exciting legendary creatures in the set is Rowan, Scion of War, who brings a ton of power to the Commander table as a combo enabler because she can often draw you your entire deck and win the game all in a single turn.

Rowan can tap to reduce the cost of all of your black and red cards based on how much life you’ve lost that turn. Notably, she can only reduce the colorless cost of those spells, so she will virtually never make spells entirely free. 

However, if you find a way to lose enough life in a single turn, Rowan can allow you to draw your entire deck — and it’s pretty difficult for you to lose the game any time you do so. The fact she can come down on turn three with regularity also makes pulling off this feat even more likely.


No matter how you decide to brew with Rowan, Scion of War, there are some key components your deck needs in order to fire on all cylinders. Most obviously, this means you’re going to want to include cards that let you lower your own life total. 

While any card that lets you lose or pay life becomes far more powerful in this deck, cards that let you “Pay X Life” are particularly attractive. That type of effect lets you decide exactly how much cheaper you want to make spells in your hand.

Three cards that should be in every Rowan deck are Fire Covenant, Toxic Deluge and Killing Wave. All three of them allow you to have a massive impact on the board while letting you give up as much life as you want to. 

Getting rid of a bunch of creatures and then tapping Rowan to reduce the cost of everything that’s still in your hand is going to make for a very powerful turn. Deluge, in particular, is awesome here because you pay life for casting it. That means you can hold priority and tap Rowan for the discount before it ever resolves.

Any card that lets you pay life without paying mana is also very good in a Rowan deck. Like “Pay X Life” effects, these tend to let you pay as much life as you want. 

Treasonous Ogre is Rowan’s best friend because it lets you pay life to produce mana. That means the Ogre can insure you have plenty of Red mana lying around while reducing the cost of all of your spells by as much as possible. 

Doom Whisperer can stack and mill a bunch of your deck while letting you pay life. That’s a great way to find your combo pieces while lowering your life at the same time. And while Wall of Blood is less exciting than the Ogre or the Whisperer, it does give you a way to drastically lower the cost of your spells.

Because this deck is going to pay so much life, it’s a good idea to include some life gain, too. That way you can keep yourself out of the danger zone. But you certainly don’t want to go too deep on life gain because doing so will dilute the deck. 

Still, there are some powerful cards that have life gain stapled to them, and these are the kinds of cards that will work the best in a Rowan deck.

For example, Noxious Gearhulk is a great removal spell that can gain you way more life and allow you to pay even more. Professor Onyx’s Magecraft ability is really powerful if you go with a spell-based version of the deck. And though Glacial Chasm doesn’t gain you life, it is a card that lets you pay a ton of life while fogging your opponents every single turn.

Once you have enough ways to reduce the cost of your spells and a few ways to gain some life, there are a couple of different routes you can take with Rowan. You can make her feel like a Black/Red ramp commander and use the cost reduction to slam huge creatures onto the battlefield in the extreme early game.

Some of the best options for going that route include Sheoldred, Whispering One; Archon of Cruelty and Bogardan Hellkite. All three give you some sort of immediate effect that makes sure you don’t fall behind, even if your opponent has removal. Then, if they are left completely unchecked, all three can take over the game.

While ramping into huge creatures is a unique feeling for a Rakdos Commander, there’s an even more unique and powerful way to build around Rowan.


Rowan is an ideal Commander for a Black/Red storm deck. In other words, her cost reduction effect can draw you your entire library and let you cast a ton of spells in a single turn. Then, you win the game by casting a storm card like Tendrils of Agony

Since you’re going to play so many instants and sorceries in a single turn, Professor Onyx is also a great win condition in this version of the deck. That said, let’s start by taking a look at the three main components you’re going to need to allow this deck to combo off.

First Component: Card Draw

The first thing you’re going to need is a ton of card draw. For this deck, it is particularly important that your card draw makes you lose life. When you do that, you’re going to find yourself able to reduce the cost of all the sweet cards you just drew. 

This can be done to the greatest effect with cards that make you pay an especially high price for drawing cards. For example, casting Necrologia is often going to lead to you winning the game, as it draws you a massive pile of cards while allowing you to pay as much life as you want to. 

While Infernal Contract doesn’t net you as many cards, it often has a similar effect of allowing you to combo off immediately. Finally, Bolas’s Citadel doesn’t technically draw you cards, but casting things off the top of your library can allow you to really combo off. 

Second Component: Rituals and Other Fast Mana

While drawing a ton of cars with Necrologia is great, the fact that Rowan still makes you pay your colored costs of mana does mean you’re going to need cheap mana sources that can give you either Red or Black mana. 

Luckily for Rowan, she happens to be in the color combination that has access to the most rituals. These are cards that provide you with a burst of mana that only lasts a single turn. 

Dark Ritual is the most famous of these and there are several others in black, but red has a pretty impressive compliment of them, too. These not only make sure you have the mana available to keep ripping through your deck, but they also add to your storm count!

Dark Petition is especially good here because not only does it give you back some mana, it can tutor up your win conditions or find you a way to pay a bunch of life. If you’ve already tapped Rowan to decrease costs for a turn, it might even net you one mana.

Final Component: Win Conditions

Rowan’s Rakdos identity also gives you access to the best Storm win conditions: Grapeshot, Tendrils of Agony and Empty the Warrens. Once you’ve drawn enough of your deck and gotten your storm count high enough, you can fire one of these off and win the game. 

Grapeshot and Tendrils can potentially finish off all of your opponents. Tendrils is especially appealing because it allows you to replenish your life, which will be important if you’re only able to take out one of your opponents with it. 

Empty the Warrens is a little more fragile than the other options since a board sweeper ends the threat, but an army of Goblins is quite effective at pressuring everyone at the table.

The deck also has a few other win conditions that don’t technically have Storm — but they do have a similar feel because they hurt your opponent when you cast Instants and Sorceries. This includes the aforementioned Professor Onyx, who will make it feel like you’re casting Tendrils of Agony even when you don’t find it. 

Meanwhile, Electrostatic Field and Urabrask will make you feel like you’re casting Grapeshot. Urabrask also makes sure you have plenty of Red mana, something very important for the deck. And finally, Aria of Flame will gain a ton of counters on the turn you go off, allowing you to easily kill all of your opponents. 

You can find a sample list for a Rowan Storm deck here.


There are some additional cards you can add to this deck that will allow you to make it even better! Unfortunately, those cards are rather expensive. But if you’re looking to make the best version of this deck possible, there are some cards you’re going to want to get your hands on.

As we have seen, cheap, fast mana is important in allowing this deck to continue to combo off. Any fast mana that can produce Red or Black mana is fairly attractive to the deck, as that will often be what you most need to find to continue to rip through your deck. 

Moxen are great in this role, as Mox Diamond, Chrome Mox and Mox Amber are all very likely to produce mana for you while you’re trying to combo off. Diamond and Chrome even let you take advantage of all the cards in your hand. 

Meanwhile, Lake of the Dead gives you a land that will make sure you have a steady source of Black mana.

This deck can also really benefit from two of the hottest cards in Magic right now: The One Ring and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. The Ring gives you another way to lose life and draw cards and Sheoldred can allow you to gain back all the life you pay as you rip through your library to combo off.

Like most combo decks, this deck can also benefit from more tutors, which will make your plan even more consistent. Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor are the best around, as getting your hands on any card is a really big deal. 

Whether you need a card that lets you pay life, a win condition or a ritual, they can make it happen.

There are also a couple of staples that work great in this deck. Dockside Extortionist can give you a mountain of mana, making your combo more attainable, and Deflecting Swat is a great way to protect Rowan, even when you’re tapped out. 

If you want a budget version of that effect, the deck also has access to Bolt Bend and Imp’s Mischief. While Mischief isn’t free, the fact it lets you pay life often fits really well here.


Rowan is definitely an exciting new Commander. While she can certainly be disrupted, if she is left unchecked, she can consistently allow you to win the game in a single turn. So if you’re looking for a new combo Commander, she’s probably your best bet from Wilds of Eldraine.