Activated abilities have a cost and an effect. They are written as “[Cost]: [Effect.]
This deck started out as a silly idea that turned out to be surprisingly resilient and successful deck. Nobody suspects a deck featuring random jank from Mercadian Masquerades.
I like to play decks with a unique angle of attack and this decks angle of attack is repeatable card advantage through activated abilities. Having repeatable advantage is really strong in Commander as games can last longer than 4 turns and being able to a card more than once means we have consistent access to an effect. No need to play Reprisal, Smite the Monstrous and Humble the Brute when you can just Intrepid Hero spear creatures to death.
Why Kynaios and Tiro?
Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis might seem like an odd choice as the commander to lead a deck filled with creatures with activated abilities but when think the usual weaknesses of tribal decks it becomes obvious why we run Kynaios and Tiro.
If you have played any tribal decks before you’ve probably noticed few weaknesses with tribal decks. You need a critical mass of creatures to have the synergies shine. This creates few hurdles mostly in terms of card advantage. Creature board wipes can create massive card parity between players and tribal decks suffer extra hard because they often need to dedicate many slots to sub par cards to enable tribal synergies. Normal tribal decks generally solve this problem by having bunch of “army in a can” -type cards. Cards like Siege-Gang Commander and Utvara Hellkite. Decks like elves generate value using spells like Shamanic Revelation. Activated ability tribal really doesn’t have access to this kind of advantage.
Kyanios and Tiro more or less solve this problem by giving us a Howling Mine that also lets us ramp. The grouphuggy nature of Kyanios and Tiro also means we don’t need to spend additional resources to just protect our commander. They do get sent to the command zone once or twice but that is usually because somebody decided to Wrath of God and not because Doom Blade
+Generates card advantage and ramp.
+Rarely gets targeted by removal.
+More colors give more options
-Generates card advantage for opponents.
-Are jobless social degenerates that leech off the government.
Mairsil, the Pretender
Mairsil, the Pretender is a new legend from Commander 2017 and a really fun and interesting creature to lead an activated ability focused deck. What Mairsil wants to do is little different from what we want to do. We go for a more “traditional” route and actually want to cast our creatures and use them as is while Mairsil goes for more of a Voltron style of approach hoarding all the abilities for himself and winning the game that way. Mairsil also trades Selesnya colors for black. This means Mairsil loses one of the better creatures like Krosan Restorer and Mother of Runes in addition to land ramp which is less vulnerable to removal and gains tutors and efficient removal in form Nevinyrral's Disk and Buried Alive.
+Is less affected by creature wraths.
+Black enables good graveyard interaction.
-Heavily relies on Mairsil.
-More subjectable to artifact hate.
Samut, Voice of Dissent
Samut, Voice of Dissent is basically the best activated ability lord there is. Grants haste to all our creatures, you can untap a creature with her ability, High cmc is offset by Flash and Double Strike means you can close out the game relatively fast. So why not run Samut as the commander? Samut has one crippling weakness and that is she doesn’t have blue. Wraths are a major problem for creature decks and one of the better ways to fight wraths is to draw cards and blue has access to lot of draw effects. Blue also has some some of the best creatures for our deck. Fatestitcher, Nin, the Pain Artist, Ertai, Wizard Adept etc. In Naya colors you need to rely on stuff like Harmonize and Shamanic Revelation. By running Samut as your commander you are trading on kind of consistency for another another one at the cost of losing blue.
+The best lord sits in the command zone.
-She ain’t got the blues.
Experiment Kraj is perhaps the original commander to lead an activated ability deck and the years have not being kind to him. While the support for +1/+1 counters and activated abilities has increased over the years The Kraj himself has been outclassed by far more efficient legends. Six mana is a lot to pay for what is essentially a bad Mairsil. If the board gets wiped Kraj loses all the abilities.
+Can leech abilities off opponents stuff
-Is far too inefficient at what it does.
-Does too little
What we are looking to do is to control the game using cards with powerful abilities like Ertai, Wizard Adept and Intrepid Hero. Naturally this leads to us wanting cards that let us untap creatures multiple times per turn. Cards like Kiora’s Follower do this nicely by being efficient and versatile.
Another issue we have is that creatures suffer from summoning sickness so we need to solve it. Luckily we are in red thanks to our four color commander we can include stuff like Anger and Bloodlust Inciter. Downside with haste is that multiple instances of haste are redundant and to avoid drawing dead cards our haste enabler have some random utility. Samut and Thousand-Year Elixir can untap creatures, Inciter and Anger can serve as Nin fodder etc.
We also want to include more card advantage as relying on just Kynaios and Tiro will lead to bad things happening. Cards like Selvala, Explorer Returned, Mercurial Chemister and Quicksilver Dagger take advantage of our untap shenanigans. We also want to diversify our card advantage options as getting hit by a wrath or Cursed Totem leaves us in a bad position. Fevered Visions gives nice steady stream of cards but we also have a big flashback spell package. Ancient Grudge gives us an answer to Totem, Dawn] can generate massive value post wrath and Memory gives us a new hand if there are no outs to a problematic situation.
Magus of the Candelabra* - Candelabra of Tawnos is a major player in High Tide and while Magus doesn't have the same explosiveness it's not the worst card ever. 1 cmc means we have something to play on turn 1 and later something to tutor with Yisan. Mana fixing and using powerful land abilities multiple times i single turn is useful. Magus really start to get powerful when we get a karoo or two in play. Equip Magus with Illusionit's Bracers and we can produce up to 15 with a single activation.
Bloodlust Inciter* - Turn 1 haste means we get to accelerate our game plan every following turn which really powerful.
Mother of Runes* - Protection, evasion and card advantage in one cmc package whats not to love?
Budoka Gardener* - Cheap ramp that enables turn 3 commander but he can also be used as a combat trick by “flashing in” Kessig Wolf Run or as part of a game ending combo with Intruder Alarm. Sometimes it’s little annoying that it flips at an inopportune time but there aren’t that many cards that perform the same function.
Diplomatic Escort* - Mother of Runes’ blue sister with its’ own upsides and downsides. Paying mana and discarding a card is a downside but being able to target any creature not just our own allows some funny disrupting plays.
Hammer Mage* - MC Hammer Mage is the reason why this deck doesn’t play artifacts (aside from Bracers and Elixir). Many decks run artifacts and being able just mini wrath is really good. Artifact decks also are harder to deal because they tend to have many noncreature permanents.
Kiora's Follower - When we got a commander like Kynaios and Tiro we are bound to get seamen sooner or later.
Nin, the Pain Artist - Nin draws cards, acts as a win con and in a pinch removes creatures. Nin is one of the better mana sinks in this deck and should be protected over other creatures. Pro tip Kynaios and Tiro are good at taking it up in the ass.
Voyaging Satyr - Mostly played as filler but we can go turn 2 Satyr into turn 3 commander. Having creatures at different mana costs also helps us to find a specific effect more easily with Yisan.
Devout Witness* - What Witness lacks in card advantage when compared to MC Hammer she makes it up with the ability to target enchantments.
Ertai, Wizard Adept* - People just love to hate Ertai. Every time he hits the battlefield he is regarded as the most dangerous permanent regardless of boardstate so plan accordingly.
Goblin Sharpshooter - I need a creature that can remove small-ish creatures and Sharpshooter seems like the most efficient one of all the Tim variants.
Hua Tuo, Honored Physician* - Hua Tuo is one of the few ways we can recur creatures. If we really need a specific creature back we can activate the ability during upkeep. Has some neat synergy with
Krosan Restorer* - Restorer is well known for her combo potential with Maze of Ith but even she is just played for value she is really good. This deck really likes to untap its' lands, creatures with tap abilities and can fairly easily fill it's graveyard. Restorer has it all.
Stronghold Biologist and Machinist* - There aren’t that many creatures with tap abilities that allow us to counter a spell and Biologist and Machinist are one of the few that are also hard counters. I value Machinist more because interacting with noncreature spells is harder. Being able make sure our opponents can’t just wrath our board is really valuable. Reason why we want to run both is that they look cool while they are on the battlefield at the same time.
Vizier of Tumbling Sands* - New card from Amonkhet also gets to shine here. Being able to untap any other permanent makes this card versatile and having an uncounterable trick that replaces itself can lead to some powerful plays. Before combat if we control Hua Tuo, Honored Physician we can activate Huo Tuo to recur a creature and then cycle Vizier to draw that creature and untap Huo Tuo. we can then recur Vizier and draw her with commander at the end step.
Anger - Have you noticed how the -symbol and the word “discard” appears on many of the cards used in this deck?
Diaochan, Artful Booty* - More of a pet card but if you can into politics you can turn the card text into “ : destroy two target creatures. Activate this ability only during your turn, before attackers are declared.” With Mother of Runes and Glory we can also protect our stuff even if opponents don’t want to cooperate.
Fatestitcher - Higher mana cost when compared to Vizier or Kiora’s Follower but we get more versatility when we can also tap ]permanents and once we go infinite with Illusionist's Bracers we can also softlock the table by tapping all the things for all time if we don’t have a literal wincon like Nin. Unearth also comes handy if we have a window to win but are missing an untap creature.
Stone-Seeder Hierophant* - I saw this card being mentioned in RCotD and how it combos with Thawing Glaciers so I put it in the deck. If we can double up either of the abilities (with Bracers or Retreat to Coralhelm) and have a karoo we can do a mini combo where we start generating mana. Combo is limited based on how many basic we have left in library.
Tradewind Rider - Bouncing a permanent is really versatile. We can use offensively and defensively. The cost of activating is pretty high but we can always tap Kynaios and Tiro.
Glory -Glory is like a mana intensive Mother of Runes that works from the graveyard.
Mercurial Chemister* - Even more removal on a stick that can also draw cards. Pro tip: Aftermath cards have really high cmc if we need to kill big things.
Willbreaker* - There are a ton cards that can target creatures. Nin especially benefits from Willbreaker as we can ping creatures for lethal and also draw the cards.
Runehorn Hellkite - Hellkite is another wheel we can “cast” from the grave. We are not really looking to cast Hellkite.
*Have “human” -subtype
Ancient Grudge -Cursed Totem is the bane of this deck and when it hits the battlefield MC Hammer won’t save us.
Benefactor's Draught - An instant speed untap effect for diversity that also draws one or more cards.
Heroic Intervention -Surprisingly versatile instant. Doesn’t synergize with the deck very well but this effect is really good. Indestructibility protects from wraths and hexproof can fizzle a removal spell. Being able to protect any permanent is good because there aren’t many ways we can recur key noncreature permanents like Illusionist’s Bracers
Memory's Journey - Mostly played as grave hate but we can mess up top deck tutors and shuffle up key cards back to our library.
Prismatic Strands - Secretly this deck is a fog tribal. Most of the time decks we want to fog opponents only have single colored creatures or creatures share a color so Strands fogs pretty well. Strands also lets us fog against storm because storm usually wins through casting burn spells.
Controvert - Our creatures are bound to die at some point so we can get some value back by recovering Controvert. Being able to hold up 4 mana shouldn't be a problem as the deck plays kinda like a “draw land go” -deck.
Deep Analysis - The mana efficient flashback cost means that Deep Analysis isn’t just a flavor win card. Neat thing we can do is to discard it for Dreamscape Artist and then use the new lands to flashback Analysis.
Dusk // Dawn - This card is amazing. Most of the time it’s an one sided wrath and that also recurs all the relevant creatures. Only downside it synergises really poorly with Samut and Anger.
Illusionist's Bracers - In a deck where there are a ton of activated abilities cards like Bracers become really strong. Bracers also enable an infinite combo by equipping a creature like Fatestitcher with it and then untapping a land and a permanent that can untap Fatestitcher. We can even use Thousand-Year Elixir or Samut as the other permanent but we also need a karoo to truly go infinite. Fatestitcher is the best creature for this combo as even if we can’t win right away we soft lock the table by tapping opponent’s permanents during their upkeep.
Arcane Laboratory andRule of Law - More competitive metas are somewhat a problem for this deck as it isn’t particularly fast or have a ton of cheap interaction so playing an early Rule of Law -effect usually buys us enough time to survive. Kynaios and Tiro (and some other cards) also have the downside of generating value for opponents and Rule of Law -effects make that advantage matter less because if you can only one spell it really doesn’t matter if you have three cards or thirty cards. Activated abilities also nicely break the symmetry of Rule of Law. With enough untapping we can also lock the table fairly well with Stronghold creatures and Ertai.
Fevered Visions - Additional source of card advantage. We can stack the trigger so we first draw a card from Visions and then from Kynaios and Tiro to have additional options what land to put onto the battlefield. The damage is relevant over a long game which usually happens if we are not dead by turn 5.
Phyrexian Arena on Steroids - Seem a little weird to play a random aura but Kynaios and Tiro just leech off the government so it’s good work their ass off for their degenerate lifestyle.
Intruder Alarm - Alarm is similar to Quest for Renewal that it lets us to untap during opponents’ turns but it also act as a combo finisher. We want to be careful when we play this. If our opponents play bunch of mana elves we want to remove them first or bad things will happen. With Forbidden Orchard we get to trigger Alarm at will and if we also have a creature that lets us untap lands we can go infinite with mana and untap triggers (Magus of the Tabernacle only gives untap triggers).
Retreat to Coralhelm - Card is mostly played for its' untap effect but scry helps to dig for more action when needed. Various bounce lands also let us trigger Retreat consistently each of our turns.
Kiora, Master of the Depths - Kiora is more of a filler card than anything else. The +1 is relevant and we can take advantage of the -2’s milling with flashback spells. The ultimate is mostly worthless because most creatures in the deck have poor stats so the ultimate is only really gives us 3 8/8s. Ultimate gets better if we have Kessig Wolf Run.
Ravnica Karoos - Normally you wouldn’t want to run Ravnica Karoos let alone full monty of them but our deck can take advantage of lands that produce more than one mana and from the land being returned to hand. Additional mana comes very useful when we can untap a karoo multiple times a turn. It’s really satisfying to untap with three karoos on the battlefield with an active Krosan Restorer. Returning lands into hand isn’t a problem either when we can put it back to the battlefield with Kynaios and Tiros’ ability. We can use this play as a janky way to untap a basic or something. Bouncing a land also gives discard fuel all the spellshapers.
Flamekin Village - Slow and costly is not something we would normally want to play but haste is really important and Village doesn’t take a spell slot makes running it worth the cost.
Forbidden Orchard - Excellent mana fixing when giving 1/1s to an opponent doesn’t matter. Has synergy with Intruder Alarm and if our opponent doesn’t have creatures so we can deck them out with Nin Orchard solves the problem.
Path of Ancestry - Strictly better than shard lands and the has plenty of creatures with relevant subtype. Deckstats shows easily which creatures matter here. We can also take advantage of the scry multiple times if we have means to untap the the land.
Kessig Wolf Run - Acts as a win con for the deck. The can generate a ton of mana without any combos. Generating 10-15+ mana lets us pretty quickly end the game with Kynaios and Tiro. Big butt ensures that Kynaios and Tiro won’t die very easily while we trample over any creatures. Wolf Run also has random synergy with cards like Willbreaker and Intrepid Hero.
Thawing Glaciers - The other part of Stone-Seeder Hierophant combo. Retreat to Coralhelm can also replace Hierophant and if we manage get both we can just tutor up all the basic lands in one go. Add a karoo, Illusionist’s Bracers and/or Krosan Restorer us actually start generating mana. Glaciers can also in a pinch act as a really bad Evolving Wilds.
While I’ve mentioning how this deck is a tribal deck the tribal nature is mostly prevalent in card choices. We got tribal creatures, lords and finishers but in practise the deck plays out more like a weird hybrid of a draw go control deck and stax. We want leave up our mana to counter a threat with Ertai like a control deck but because tap abilities are visible on board tricks they sort of function like stax pieces. Opponents are put into situation where they know their play won’t work out so they don’t play anything is kinda like playing against stax where you are prevented from doing anything.
We should always mulligan away hands that contain only bouncelands as those hands are literally unplayable and this deck afford to mulligan fairly aggressively. Those hands are rare but they do happen. Ideally we want a hand that can cast Kyanios and Tiro as soon as possible.
Early game (turns 1-5)
Early game is just trying to cast because the longer Kyanios and Tiro sits on the battlefield the more value we get and people are very unlikely to kill them. Ideally we want curve out with Bloodlust Inciter into mana dorks. Inciter won’t help us to cast Kyanios and Tiro any faster but having a cheap haste enabler helps a ton for follow up plays. We can potentially also win the game on turn 3 if we have Intruder Alarm, Forbidden Orcharda way to untap it and some way to end the game (eg. Samut + Nin).
Mid to Late game (turns 5-???)
Once Kynaios and Tiro is set up we start building up our board with untappers, stax pieces and start controlling the game. There is no special trick to this. We just play our stuff and try to keep the opponents under control. Generally we want to focus on players that are most likely to win first. Blowing up bunch of fast mana with Goblin Sharpshooter and Hammer Mage or slowing down spellslinging with Rule of Law effects generally work well. If all opponents are more or at the same power level we should try to disrupt plays that directly hurt our board. Most of the cards we play generate more value the longer they stay on the battlefield. This usually means board wipes and commanders that particularly problematic (eg. Marath, Will of the Wild or Breya, Etherium Shaper)
When building up our board we shouldn’t needlessly over extend. Many cards need mana to operate (namely spell shapers) so just puking out our hand then proceed to get wiped because we didn’t leave mana up for Conrovert sucks. Some cards like Ertai, Wizard Adept are also removal magnets and playing them without protection means they get blown up immediately.
Aggro, Midrange and Voltron
The most common deck people play in EDH is creature focused beatdown decks and this deck well equipped to deal with these more aggressive decks. There are a ton of creature removal to deal with specific threats and silver bullet answers to power plays like Tooth and Nail into Avenger of Zendikar and Craterhoof Behemoth. Kyanios and Tiro alone just block really well with their big butt thwarting potential attackers.
Combo decks that intend to win as fast as possible are problematic to deal with as we really don’t have cheap early game interaction in form of counter spells. Generally the best I found to deal with combo decks is to just not even bother. Aggressive combo usually is only seen in a meta where there are other tier 1-2 decks and those decks do run cheap disruption. So best thing for us is to exploit those early turns empty our hands as soon as possible because it’s very unlikely that any of our stuff gets targeted with removal or counters. If the combo decks rely on mana dorks or mana rocks things get little easier because we actually have efficient answers for those. If you feel like you need better answers for combo try swapping Fervent Denial and Controvert for cheaper counters like Swan Song and Negate.
Control deck is a bit more problematic because it’s harder to interact with the stack. Good thing is control decks don’t really care what we are doing and we don’t really care what the control deck is doing. In the end if you have managed to protect your board you are well positioned to disrupt the control player at a critical point when they are trying to win. It’s is very challenging for control to beat cards like Ertai, Wizard Adept due to the free card advantage he provides.
Stax and lesser extent Pillow Fort is an archetype that's entire strategy revolves around preventing other players doing anything. Our deck quite naturally hoses cards like Winter Orb and Rule of Law so Stax strategies in particular don’t hurt us that much. The real threat that comes from Stax is whether we can answer Cursed Totem when it hits the field.
I hope you liked my deck. If you have any suggestions, comments and/or questions feel free to let me know.
Paradox engine is pretty interesting only problem I see with it is that it's a more or less worse version of jeskai ascendancy. I haven't actually played with ascendancy yet so if I feel it's not as good as I thought Paradox engine could be a potential replacement.
I think Heartstone suffers from the same problem as Training Grounds, it just doesn't do much. There are only 10 creatures that benefit from heartstone and only 3 creatures that use both heartstone and training grounds at the same time.
The main reason why I run Kyanios and Tiro of Meletis as the commander is to combat the discard part of these various spellshapers. Flashback spells and bounce lands can also mitigate the damage of discarding so I feel Squee, Goblin Nabob is a little redundant.
I feel like these cards are better suited for a more combo oriented version of this deck. To Arms! is also better than Dramatic Reversal. I think intellectual offering could have potential. Maybe I do try it out as I have a copy lying somewhere.
Bloodlust Inciter is actually pretty good for this deck. Haste enabler's are really important for the deck and Inciter is basically a one mana enabler. Being a 1 drop also makes him pretty easy to tutor up with Yisan. Fires of Yavimaya was the worst one due to its' upside being rather irrelevant while costing bucket loads of mana.
After some games I realized that I had not put in any kind of grave hate in the deck so I put in Memory's Journey.
I like Echo mage so I want try out how he works out. I was running too many lands (41 instead of 40) so I had a free-ish slot.
I included Budoka Gardener because cutting Spitting Image meant that keeping lands in hand was no longer useful and the card can double as a wincon. There are also cute tricks like playing Kessig Wolf Run instant speed. It's less abusable than Walking Atlas but I think the versatility is worth it.
Intruder Alarm is the replacement for Jeskai Ascendancy you can also go infinite with Budoka Gardener, Krosan Restorer, 3 karoos (two of them need to produce green mana), threshold and 9 other lands. I managed to win a game with Krosan Restorer, Thawing Glaciers, Retreat to Coralhelm, Nin, the Pain Artist and karoos. I used Restorer to untap Glaciers and 2 karoos and using the mana from karoos to activate Glaciers. Retreat triggers and untaps Restorer. I got 33 mana which I then poured into Nin to draw my deck and win the game with Gardner Alarm combo.
While you might not think Fervent Denial is a real magic card but for this deck it has been pretty good. 5-7 mana is easy to achieve and being able pitch it random spellshaper and then later use it from gy is sweet value. Also countering high tide with a 5 mana counter spell is triggering as hell and then doing the same thing when try to flash it back via Jace, Telepath Unbound means somebody gets scarred for life.
I think you have some really interesting card selection here. I was actually in the thinking process of re-purposing my Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis deck and your list is really inspiring. I particularly like the idea of using Quicksilver Dagger on K&T to give him a little more utility than just sitting there as a big butt waiting for the end step. Using Kessig Wolf Run for surprise commander damage sounds fun too - no one expects K&T to actually attack, let alone deal lethal commander damage, so it sounds fun for a game or two, but then a playgroup might catch on. Otherwise, it's still a great card to spend all the extra mana on for damage. And I'm really digging Budoka Gardener too. He can easily flip in an K&T deck and I can see him putting real pressure on the board with untap effects.
I'm really feeling a Human tribal vibe from your list too - unintentional or not - as something around 17 or more of your creatures are Human.
I find the "Flashback" removal and fog package interesting too. I had totally forgotten about Judgement's Prismatic Strands, but seems great here, nice gem.
Rule of Law and Arcane Laboratory are decent pieces, but do you feel like the symmetrical effect hurts you at times too, especially when you're trying to combo off a win?
Interesting list for sure and interesting strategy for K&T.
Rule of Law effects are really important against more competitive decks. So if you are in a meta that has fast mana, storm, elves etc. you really need Rule of Law. This deck just doesn't have efficient early game answers to all the degeneracy that is your average FLGS (outside of the single negate). I would run Eidolon of Rhetoric but my FLGS doesn't have one in stock.
Angel of Condemnation has really strong abilities but the deck isn't really looking blink its' creatures.
EDIT: Yes there are a bunch of humans which is merely a coincidence but you could try to take advantage of this. I looked at this a while a go and a problem I found was that there aren't that many cards that are interesting. I listed Devout Chaplain in the op and there is Titan of Eternal Fire.
While I think Rubinia is a decent card Willbreaker just seems strictly better. This deck has tons of ways to target opponent's creatures and Willbreaker enables lots of funny stuff. Ping an opponent's creature with Nin, gain control of it and draw also the cards, fog a creature with Maze of Ith, it untaps and you can use it block another etc.
I rarely used Overtaker so I decided swap it out for Kiora. I'm not sure if Kiora is any good but her +1 untaps creatures and lands and -2 digs for creatures and lands while at the same (hopefully) putting flashback spells to gy.
While Creeping Renaissance looks good on paper I never actually cast it even though I've had multiple chances to do so. I had a tough choice between the new art or the old of goblin sharpshooter.
When I played Azorious Guildmage I found it hard to activate multiple times per turn. Maze mostly does the same thing and it creates random combos.
Onto new cards. There aren't really that much to mention as this deck isn't a tribal deck in a traditional sense but Path of Ancestry seems really good.
The deck just randomly has 21 humans in addition to the commander so that means you are almost guaranteed to scry every turn. The color fixing is also great. If you have bunch of untappers in play you can also tap Path multiple for a single spell and get multiple scries.
Izzet Chemister is a creature with relevant abilities but 12 out of 16 instants and sorceries already have flashback making Chemister a bit redundant.
Magus of the Mind has pretty cool synergy with illusionist's bracers. If you want to run Jeskai Ascendancy with a more spellslinger oriented version of this deck you consider running this. Mind's Desire is a strong spell and being able to copy its' storm trigger is really sick.
Now that we got full Ixalan spoiler I wanted to give my thoughts on the new cards.
Blossom Dryad is basically a worse Ley Druid/Juniper Order Druid (no human subtype) both of which are not very good. We already have 21 cards in the 3 cmc slot and untapping just a land isn't something we are looking to do.
Lightning-Rig Crew is decent if you want to go more of a pinger tribal theme but I wouldn't run it over something like Thermo-Alchemist because the crew has higher cmc and it's far easier to trigger Alchemist.
Growing Rites of Itlimoc/Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun. Gaea's Cradle is a powerful card and our deck likes big mana lands but I see few practical problems with Growing Rites of Itlimoc. For one the front side is rather mediocre draw spell. We run 30 creatures which is a lot but not 99% guaranteed to hit with the ETB ability. Flipping it also might be problematic. We don't really run any token producers so we would have to get 3 creatures + commander on to the battlefield which is on average a 13 mana investment. Without reliable token producers the amount of mana Itlimoc gives is also limited. I think it's reasonable to assume we get 3 mana which to me just doesn't seem good enough. Lastly Itlimoc produces green mana. Our deck isn't really interested in producing lots of green mana. Most mana intensive abilities want blue mana so green mana is used mostly as "generic mana".
Conqueror's Galleon flips into an interesting land.We currently don't have any means of recurring noncreature cards other than shuffling them back to the library and redrawing them. Conqueror’s Foothold would give us recursion of any card in a land and we can abuse lands. The problem I see with Conqueror’s Foothold is that front side is godawful. A 4 mana vehicle is something we can't recur because it's not a creature, gets hit by MC Hammer , slots awkwardly on the curve with Kynaios and Tiro and we already have a blocker with a big butt.
I've been looking at Lotus Vale as a potential land and Dowsing Dagger is basically Lotus Vale with a different downside. Being able to tap any color means it's more versatile Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun. We have a couple of evasive creatures and Kessig can used to fireball creatures.
I think Thaumatic Compass is a worse Maze of Ith. Maze is played for its' combo potential in addition to normal use. I'm not sure however how big of a deal is losing the combo potential is.
So I'm currently building this deck, it's really cool!
Thinking about adding the following cards: Eladamri's Call: makes your life easier by finding the counterspell guys. Retribution of the Meek: all of the activators are so small, it's a perfect fit, no? I'm happy that they printed Dusk // Dawn. Arcanis the Omnipotent: seems busted as well but we probably get enough cards from Kynaios? Jolrael, Empress of Beasts: this is great in multiplayer games. If there's a Wrath you could potentially Armageddon' someone. Or just go for the alpha strike. Mageta, the Lion: I kind of like him because he stays around itself. Maybe Alexi, Zephyr Mage is better? Any experience with these? This probably necessitates Squee because of 'Discard 2 cards'. Sigarda, Heron's Grace: nice mana sink and protection for the spellshapers and Ertai. Vigilante Justice would be sweet with this but seems too weak. Gorilla Shaman: also works with Bracers and Rings, seems good to kill off artifact mana early and useful almost any time. Waterfront Bouncer: strong to keep bouncing alongside Rule of Law/Arcane Lab Sunscape Master: in a similar vein as Waterfront Bouncer, but pretty powerful imo. Too costly? Humble Defector: group-hug, harmless, early play. Powerful with untap effects.
I haven't tried the legendary spellshapers or Arcanis mainly because they don't synergize well with Dusk // Dawn. I think you could try a legends matter sub theme by running Captain Sisay and replacing Dusk // Dawn with Retribution of the Meek (which doesn't hit 3 power creatures like Arcanis and Alexi.
IMO creature bounce effects aren't that useful. Generally when I play Hammer Mage people just stop playing artifacts but something like Waterfront Bouncer doesn't really discourage people playing creatures. Opponents are basically trading tempo for our cards while also being able to reuse etb abilities. If you play in a meta that is dominated by big stompy creatures then maybe bounce effects become good but still Kynaios and Tiro have a big butt which blocks most creature pretty effectively and cards like Intrepid Hero and Willbreaker help to deal with big creatures.
In my original draft of the deck I included Humble Defector. My experience with Defector (I have this mono red control deck with Jaya Ballard was that I gave it to somebody and then opponents would just keep trading it among themselves or Defector would just die. Defector never got to playtesting phase. I guess I could give it a whirl and see how it plays out.