Riveteers Rampage Precon Upgrade Guide

Tom AndersonCommander

Tom takes a look at the Riveteers Rampage Commander Precon deck, and has some suggestions for how to give it a bit of an upgrade!

It’s been an intense, colorful release week for Streets of New Capenna, but don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten the final Commander Precon guide. It’s green, it’s black, and it’s ready (red-y) to throw down: it’s the Riveteers Rampage deck!

Putting on the Blitz

As I mentioned in last week’s Maestro Massacre precon guide, the characterization of each New Capenna crime family has been right up there with the best of Magic worldbuilding. The identity of the Riveteers might be the murkiest, as they got a little sidelined in the set’s fiction, but we still know what they’re about: blue collar workers who literally built the city of New Capenna, and are ready to tear it down again to get what they want!

There’s a sense of physicality and raucous camaraderie about the Riveteers that’s a little bit Gruul, along with a certain fatalism which brings in their black mana component. All of this is summed up nicely in their signature mechanic, blitz, which is also the central theme of this precon deck. Blitz gives you a new mode for casting your creatures (sometimes for a different cost): they gain haste to attack immediately, but you’re forced to sacrifice them at the end of turn. These guys are here for a good time, not a long time! 

On the plus side, blitz also means that you get to draw a card when the creature dies – whether that’s at end of turn, in the course of combat, or when sacrificed to some other effect. In Streets of New Capenna proper, most creatures with blitz are also granted some effect which triggers when they attack, when they deal combat damage, or when they die. This all helps offset the downside of paying for a temporary creature. 

The Devil’s Toolbox

But the default commander for Riveteer’s Rampage changes this equation on us again. Henzie “Toolbox” Torre gives any (large) creature in Magic the ability to blitz, meaning your opponents must now live in fear of hasty Eldrazi, Dragons, Baloths and the like. 

Henzie also discounts the cost of all blitz abilities each time your commander is cast, which along with the automatic “card draw on death” value helps explain why you’d choose to give your biggest creatures a one-night-only appearance. But there’s still an art to choosing which creatures to blitz and when, and figuring this out is going to be a lot of the fun of playing and upgrading the Riveteers Rampage precon!

Recruiting for a Riot

As I mentioned, both the creatures printed with blitz in New Capenna and the ones chosen for this precon help illustrate Henzie’s playstyle and natural synergies. Ideally, all our cards should be chosen to either leverage one of the upsides of blitz or to negate a downside. If not, we might as well be playing a different commander! 

Sizable Sneak Attackers

Most large creatures which are hard to block or represent a high-value combat damage trigger do not naturally have haste, in order to give opponents a fair chance at counterplay. But, as an organization of violent criminals, the Riveteers do not believe in “fairness”, so we get to blitz these things directly into anybody who looks vulnerable for a nearly-guaranteed payoff. Giant Adephage is an excellent example of a card from the precon that fits this description: by guaranteeing that first hit connects, you’re well on your way to a massive bug army! Treeshaker Chimera is also in this category, although in this case you’re looking to blitz at an opponent who can block you; it’s a great way to ambush utility commanders and mana dorks, which also draws you four cards in the end step!

Morbid Monstrosities

The “rules” say we must sacrifice our blitz-ees at the end step, but good Riveteers understand that rules were made to be broken (actually, everything is made to be broken!). We can blitz in stuff with massive on-death triggers, we can sacrifice our blitz creatures early to something else for bonus value, or we can get around the dying part altogether! 

Temur Sabertooth, for instance, can return our creature to hand before it would be sacrificed at a small cost – and because we control the order in which our triggers resolve in the end step, so can the excellent new card First Responder!

And uh… Walls?

Look, cards like Overgrown Battlement might seem like they’re a little out of place in a deck with such an aggressive, reckless strategy. But clocking in five days a week and doing a boring, thankless, essential job is as much a part of the Riveteer identity as going around on weekends extorting cash from rich people, and “boring, thankless, essential” is a good summary of what Walls do for this deck. 

After all, if you’re tapping out to buy your biggest creatures a one-way ticket to the red zone, you do need to have some kind of defense in place to guard against the inevitable retaliation! Besides, Henzie costs three mana and can only start blitzing in things that cost four or more (though he will discount them for you), so we can use the first couple of turns to throw up some walls and have things all ready for when the party really gets loud.

Shiny New Toys!

With every new Commander precon deck, one of the biggest selling points is the array of powerful new effects printed specifically for the format. Before we look at possible upgrades, let’s run through everything you’ll be cracking open here:

The Beamtown Bullies

If the whole blitz idea still isn’t winning you over, this is a fun and worthy alternative commander for the deck. You still want to build a wall quickly and then provoke combat chaos, but now it’s your opponents who will be briefly slamming your creatures into each other!

Weathered Sentinels

A neat little idea for a card which, like most of this deck, thrives in a cutthroat multiplayer environment by steering combat traffic away from you without discouraging it altogether.

Caldaia Guardian

Very much in the format of blitz creatures from the main New Capenna set, the death trigger here makes it solid regardless of which mode you cast it in. Although if you keep her around, letting the tokens stack up for every dying creature can help wall up your defenses for free.

Jolene, the Plunder Queen

Now we know why Dolly Parton sounded so afraid, although I can’t imagine that this Jolene’s voice is “soft like summer rain!” Definitely a really cool commander option, but cutting all the black from this deck for treasure cards is a serious project beyond the scope of our review.

Mezzio Mugger

Another blitz card where the incentive is the attack trigger – in this case you blitz not so much to get extra value, but because the 3/3 body is probably destined to die in its first combat regardless – so why not cast it at a heavy discount (potentially just R with Henzie out!)

Wave of Rats

This one is from the “make dying not matter” column of our blitz synergies. I love this design even without the blitz option, but it’s hard to argue with the bonus card draw on first death.

Grime Gorger

Cute, but this one lacks the kind of definitive lasting value we’d really like from a blitz creature. You can get better graveyard hate very easily.

Bellowing Mauler

A postdoctoral student from the Fleshbag Marauder school of black multiplayer creatures. Sometimes you will want to cast this normally and sacrifice tokens to it while taxing opponents, sometimes you will blitz it in and then sacrifice it to its own effect since it’s dying anyway.

Protection Racket

Multiplying this draw effect by the number of opponents we have is excellent value – particularly since our deck wants bigger creatures in the first place. This is also 10/10 flavor: “Nice life total you got there – would be a shame for this here Inferno Titan to crash into it.”

Industrial Advancement

This is one of those Commander cards which has a 50-50 chance of accidentally becoming good in Legacy six months from now. Take note – the size of creature you can put into play IS NOT LIMITED by the size of the creature you sacrifice, so Worldly Tutor-type effects are completely busted here.

Rain of Riches

Our second potentially-really-broken enchantment for the deck, cascade is excellent whether you’re using it for value or you built your whole deck to abuse it. New Capenna also added a ton of treasure cards if you’re looking to build around this and Jolene.

Turf War

I’m always a fan of forcing players to care about the combat phase, and pinching their Cabal Coffers or Gaea’s Cradle is guaranteed to make them sit up and notice! Also if you’re really evil you can blow this up or sacrifice it once you steal the lands to keep them permanently. And if you recur it you can steal more lands – Ghen players, take note.

Riveteers Confluence

Unfortunately this seems a little more niche than some of the other Confluences. It’s good for clearing the board of small things, and maybe drawing a card on the side, but ramping at mana value five seems very situational. Recurring specific lands from graveyard maybe?

First Responder

As hinted above, end step triggers like this and Industrial Advancement should be read as ways to get extra juice out of your blitz creatures, since you can choose to resolve them before the enforced sacrifice trigger. Getting to reuse the blitz creature is often better than drawing a card on its death.

Next of Kin

Another way to up the value of our blitz creatures, but this time it’s alright to let them die. Not quite as high a ceiling as Industrial Advancement, but you can combine the two – or sacrifice the creature for some better effect earlier in the turn, and still cash this in.

Nice Deck List, Be a Shame if Someone…”Upgraded” It

Compared to the Maestros Massacre deck, this precon has a bit more room for immediate improvement. There’s the usual handful of odd-duck cards which seem designed for other decks, and some honest but subpar clunkers further up the curve. Let’s see what we can hammer out:

CUT: The Beamtown Bullies, Grime Gorger, Deathbringer Regent, Avenger of Zendikar, Artisan of Kozilek

These creatures are either low-impact when blitzed in (Grime Gorger, Avenger), too expensive for what they do (Artisan) or counter-productive to our gameplan (Deathbringer). It’s worth noting that blitz is still casting the creature, so we can’t just choose to get around Deathbringer’s board wipe that way. 

The Beamtown Bullies is the softest suggestion here by far, as the card is still quite good – but in general the creatures which are good for us to blitz in accidentally give our opponents value when attacking or dying under their control, so I would rather just build the Bullies their own slightly different deck list.

ALSO CUT: Riveteers Confluence, Aether Snap, Explore, Glittering Stockpile, Deathreap Ritual

These cards are just straight-up worse versions of commonly available effects and/or wildly out of place in this strategy. Aether Snap in particular is a head-scratcher for me. Ah well, more slots to fill with fun stuff!

$1 OR LESS UPGRADE OPTIONS: Endless Sands, Feasting Troll King, Ooze Garden, Prowling Geistcatcher, Skirsdag High Priest, Riveteers Ascendancy, Moldgraf Monstrosity, Bloodshot Cyclops, Mimic Vat, Golden Guardian, Sarkhan’s Unsealing

This card is criminally underplayed in sacrifice decks, and you’re gonna help me fix that.

$5 OR LESS UPGRADE OPTIONS: Demonlord Belzenlok, Dread Cacodemon, Reaper from the Abyss, Greater Good, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Ghoulcaller Gisa, Myojin of Life’s Web, Homura, Human Ascendant, Port Razer, Phyrexian Reclamation, Savra, Queen of the Golgari

This is the version of Deathbringer Regent we actually want to play.

$5+ UPGRADE OPTIONS: Phage the Untouchable, Whip of Erebos, Ilharg, the Raze Boar, Koskun Falls, Myojin of Night’s Reach, Balthor the Defiled, Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, Birthing Pod, No Mercy, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, Skullclamp

Maybe a bit mean for your table, but great for when those blue players are getting arrogant.

These upgrades do not necessarily represent a holistic approach to deckbuilding – I figure that if you want to know the best possible removal, ramp, lands and other generic effects in these colors, there are many excellent resources elsewhere. 

Instead, I’ve singled out effects which specifically synergize with the unique traits of a Henzie blitz deck:

  • It runs a lot of large, combat focused creatures.
  • It can get those creatures into combat cheaply (while still counting as casting them). 
  • It proactively looks to sacrifice those creatures or gain value from them leaving play.
  • It will often have a graveyard loaded with such creatures. 
  • It needs some way to defend itself from counterattack.

I find that the most satisfying and memorable commander decks are ones which play cards in unique ways, and blitzing in Phage the Untouchable will certainly raise (or raze?) a few eyebrows! Mixing in these selections with more generically powerful cards (such as Beast Within or Heroic Intervention) will result in a deck which is fun both to play, and play against (unless you use Henzie to blitz in Myojin of Infinite Rage and commit Armageddon).

Solidarity Forever

I quite like the flavor of the Riveteers, and blitz is close to an ideal mechanic for me – offering a great many angles to gain value, and giving us an excuse to reevaluate all sorts of old cards. What this (and the other New Capenna precons) lose out in terms of flexible commander choice, they gain in fun synergies and deeper card quality.

Riveteer’s Rampage in particular does have some clear paths to further “renovation”. As I suggested above, both other new legendaries look quite fun to play in the command zone – particularly Jolene if you love all the new treasure cards (or impromptu karaoke).

Furthermore, Henzie only gets more interesting and powerful as part of the 99. I love that the blitz cost reduction still works with other commanders, and in fact, if your chosen commander is mana value four or more, Henzie lets you blitz them in from the command zone! This effectively halves the command tax and draws you a card whenever they die, but don’t worry, there probably isn’t any way to go infinite off this interaction

I hope that regardless of where your passion for the Riveteers takes you and your deck, that you find this article to be a useful toolbox of incendiary ideas – because we all know those are the very best kind.