Why play Rafiq?
Rafiq of the Many is a fairly simple commander at first glance, but like all things in Magic is subtly challenging both to play with and against. Rafiq’s primary strength is the enormous power boost he provides to a single attacking creature. You can use this power boost on Rafiq himself and go for one or two hit Voltron kills or play him before combat to make an already existing attacker potentially lethal. An oft overlooked aspect of commanders is their game duration utility, ie how good they are at different points of the game. A general like Animar is really only good when you can cast him for less than 7 mana, and drastically declines in quality late game. Karador on the other hand gets progressively better the longer the game progresses, his cost actually going down with more interactions. Rafiq is incredibly consistent throughout the game; you almost always want to cast him when you can. Bant is one of the best colour combinations in EDH, with access to a huge variety of utility spells and control magic as well as some of the best Auras and Equipment-related cards in the game. This is crucial as Rafiq’s greatest weakness is his lack of natural protection and evasion, meaning without support it becomes basically impossible to keep him on the board and win. Rafiq also has no natural combos or tricks, he’s just an honest beater. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of being Bant is a lack of red mana and thus a lack of haste. Missing black also means we lose out on the best tutors, and some of the best board wipes and utility spells.
Extremely hard hitting, both when attacking himself and when supporting another attacking creature
Primary ability doesn’t just affect himself
Affordable at just 4 mana
Swings for 7+ commander damage on an empty board, meaning he can kill in just three hits unsupported
Is Bant, one of the best colour combinations in EDH
No natural protection
No evasive abilities
No tricks or combo abilities
Loves haste, but isn’t red
No black means no super tutors
Why to play Rafiq:
You like to turn dudes sideways and beat face
You like playing combat tricks which kill opponents
You like playing probably the most combat damage per mana of any commander ever
You like being the guy who needs answering
You like playing fair with your threats
Why to not play Rafiq:
You don’t like attacking and would rather win by cunning and guile
You like to control your opponents’ every moves
You like the colours black and red
You like the combos and the concept of infinity
You like to interact with the graveyard a lot (aka cheating)
Similar Commanders you might want to try if you don’t like Rafiq but like the strategy:
I started playing EDH around the same time I started playing competitive Magic, during Shards of Alara block (Conflux specifically). My first draft I opened two legendary creatures which I thought were amazing at the time, and I still find awesome today: Progenitus and Rafiq of the Many. Pretty much since then I have been building, tweaking, adjusting, playing, and loving Rafiq as a commander. I centred the deck around a two-fork strategy, with lots of overlap and flexibility between the two. This theme of duality plays out throughout the deck, both in threats and support. A quick glance at the creature list will show a large number of threats that don’t use the command zone, indeed some that need never share the battlefield with Rafiq to win. Neither Auras or Equipment is favoured in the deck, simply what wins the game faster. There are several notable omissions from the list, most of which were in the deck at one point or another. Currently this deck is one of the most competitive in my meta, capable of going toe to toe with my Animar or Thraximundar decks (see sig) solo and more than capable of taking on a board of 3 Magic players.
Rafiq (Standard Breakdown):
I follow a strict hierarchal system when organizing my decks which takes into account card type, converted mana cost, colour, and relative strength, in that order. All of my decks follow this organization pattern and I find it a highly effective tool for gauging the relative mana curve of my deck while also being easy to read. It also makes finding a particular card in the list easy, while at the same time showing similar cards to either side.
Card Type: I use the traditional split between Creatures, Spells, and Lands. Typically this comes out to about a third each way. If my deck were in a stack, sorted, I would have all the creatures organized on top of all the lands, on top of all the spells. I find this is a very easy way to show the deck and gauge relative creature/land/spell count.
Converted Mana Cost: Next to card type, cost is probably the most important part of a card. While organizing by actual cost would be a lesson in anal retentiveness, cmc is perfectly fine.
Colour: Colour is the third obvious sorting method and combined with cmc and true cost can tell us a lot about how the deck will play and how to structure the mana base. I strictly respect Wizards’ organization of the colour pie (including the Khans realignment of wedges), placing multi-coloured first (M, in no particular internal colour order) and colourless (artifacts and such, A) last.
Actual Card Type: This is more of a substep of Colour, but I do organize Spells by their actual type. Planeswalkers, Artifacts, Enchantments, Instants, Sorceries is my general set up, with Creatures falling in between Planeswalkers and Artifacts and Lands behind Sorceries if I skip step 1). Cards with two or more types use their highest priority type, so an Enchantment Creature would be classed with Creatures.
Relative Strength: This is a fairly subjective area, requiring an understanding of the way the deck plays and what cards will be more useful when. This area is most definitely subject to change as my thinking and understanding of the deck change. Note that this area is relative strength within the deck, not in a complete vacuum. For example the Theros Temples probably aren’t better than the Shadowmoor filter lands in Standard or Eternal, but in EDH I’d put them up there with Shocks and Fetches.
I'm considering switching to Derevi as the actual commander so as to make use of her second ability. That however would require significant restructuring of the deck to a more control shell and less of the current aggro build.