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MTG Deck: Rowan, Scion of War

We have another Magic the Gathering Commander Deck Tech for you this week. Deck Techs are walkthroughs of a deck's function, playstyle, and specific cards to keep in mind when playing the deck for overall effectiveness. We are looking at an Elder Dragon Highlander, or Commander, deck focused on our life total and doing big damage. Wilds of Eldraine released in 3rd quarter 2023, but we are still coming up with new ideas from the plethora of new Legendary Creatures the set brought us. This week we are looking at King Kenrith's daughter: Rowan, Scion of War!

The name of this deck is based on a philosophical design. The Pythagorean Cup, also known as the Tantalus cup or the Cup of Greed, is a drinking chalice that punishes the person who pours more than their fair share into their glass. In the case of this Rowan, Scion of War Deck, we'll be keeping our life on the proverbial knife's edge to get the most benefit from the deck. With a Vampire subtheme, Rowan will use self-drain effects from our spells and enchantments to make everything cheaper, while slowly or explosively draining the life from our opponents to sustain our path to victory.

Rowan, Scion of War MTG Card

In terms of win cons, we have combat damage, life drain, and finally huge X spells to deal board wide lethal damage in one swoop. With the recent reprinting from Ixalan's Commander Precons, Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond are one life gain away from draining your opponents infinitely.

Crackle with Power and Exsanguinate, on the other hand, are using Rowan's tap ability to crank X into the 10s or 20s to drain our opponents into combat range or instantly put the board more in our favor.

No Pain, No Gain

Rowan's tap ability does require us to have lost life during the turn we are playing these spells, and we handle that issue in a number of ways. First off, cards like Deepwood Ghoul, Mischievous Poltergeist, Wall of Blood, and Soul Channeling provide straightforward life pay effects that we can use to pump our mana reducing.

Second, we have cards that recur a small life impact for their effects, such as Bitterblossom, Dark Tutelage, and Phyrexian Arena cost life each turn to give us token blockers and additional card draw.

Finally, big life pay spells like Necropotence and Bolas's Citadel (or in some cases the creature Marshland Bloodcaster) help us quickly move through our deck to find our win cons and cast spells for life instead of mana.

Covering our (Mana) Bases

Speaking of mana, Rakdos (Red/Black) doesn't have a lot of mana ramp compared to other color combinations, so we'll add in cards that double our mana or give alternate mana gain. Treasonous Ogre and Myr Convert are easy includes as they both give colored mana while also synergizing with Rowan's discount ability for our bigger spells. K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth also falls neatly into place here as paying 2 life for a black mana pip is really 3 mana total when using Rowan's ability.

Next up, Red is really good at providing temporary mana via spells such as Jeska's Will, Mana Geyser, and Seething Song. We've also included Mana Flare here to give some more consistently ramp that might also keep the table off your back during the early game.

Neheb, the Eternal

Finally, mainly because I'm always looking for an excuse to use him, I included Neheb, the Eternal because the amount of mana you are set to gain from pinging opponents or causing damage via life drain effects will easily ramp up as the game progresses. Bringing all these cards together we have plenty of colored mana to pair with Rowan's generic cost reduction, allowing for explosive turns so long as you can keep your life total in the survivable range via vampires or other life gain effects.

Interaction, or Secret Solitaire?

This deck is packaged with a good amount of interaction pieces, with classics like Lightning Bolt or newer additions such as Flick a Coin. These cards can easily get rid of small creatures or bring your opponents down a peg, but the real spice comes from using these to fuel Rowan's tap ability for our win con spells mentioned earlier.

Decision Paralysis

There's a healthy amount of options in the deck list's maybe board. There were two other directions I was looking at taking the deck, from including more X mana spells to including a untap/tap engine to keep generating discounts from Rowan. Ultimately the balance of the vampire life gain was more fun for me, but I left these here for you to choose from!


I really love the design choices you can make with Rowan, Scion of War and I'm excited to see her evolve as cEDH and low budget deck designers get their hands on her. Playtesting this deck you may need to adjust the deck list to account for more Rowan protection or double down on life gaining effects to stay afloat in a damage heavy game. For now hope you enjoyed this deck tech and be sure to check out the full deck list below!

Deck Lists

Want more? Check out my previous deck tech post on Eriette of the Charmed Apple!

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