Welcome to the most definitive Kaalia of the Vast Primer ever written for one-on-one Commander games.
~~Analysis of the Commander~~
Kaalia of the Vast has three immediate points to note which defines how I built the deck:
Her Converted Mana Cost: At a cost of that put's her at a medium level cost. This means she can be aggressive, but will play out better in a midrange shell with some pinpoint hand disruption to “go off” first and keep her protected.
Her Ability: This is the “meat and potatoes” of our deck, and the primary reason for choosing her. She allows us to function like an Elvish Piper, but only for Angels, Demons, and Dragons – so keep those Praetors, Titans, and Primordials at home.
Mardu “Dega” Wedge: We’re in White, Black, and Red, otherwise known as the “Dega” or Mardu Wedge. This means we have access to the best tutours, respectable draw, and some of the most premiere removal available, able to answer any and every type of permanent. However, we can't interact much with spells that are on the stack trying to resolve, and we don't get to play ramp spells. Artifact mana will be our "bread and butter" acceleration, and will be important for our other tactics (i.e. Armageddon effects), although there's some contention about the use of artifact mana competing with hand disruption at the same slot. Most would say the hand disruption is far more important than the acceleration, although this is not scientifically proven to be statistically superior. YMMV. However, as this primer is suited to 1v1 games, I will be speaking from the viewpoint of hand disruption > artifact mana.
Other Commanders: I remember a time when your only choices to play Mardu was Kaalia, a 7 drop, and a Dragon. I remember playing that Dragon in a rather confused identity crisis about what it actually wanted to do. Nowadays there are a lot more options so let's address some of these choices!
Zurgo Helmsmasher - he's big, he's fast, and he loves to...obliterate you. He's oftentimes a 1 card engine but...what does he really do? Zurgo is typically the poster child for good stuff decks that eschew central themes and instead string together strong card after strong card to overwhelm an opponent. There's nothing wrong with that...but it's not as "interesting" to play. Often you can fit the "partner" commanders (usually Vial Smasher the Fierce/Tymna the Weaver) into this category as well.
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death - My second queen, indeed another deck I have thoroughly explored. Even similar to Kaalia as it can a also make use of Master of Cruelties. But that's where the similarities end. While Alesha uses the graveyard to dig up value creatures for value-over-time, like Imperial Recruiter or Stoneforge Mystic. Alesha is like the poster girl for Reveillark decks. I love both her, and Kaalia, so while I can't really advise you to choose one over the other, your choice depends on if you want a grave deck with small dudes, or a combo deck with all the fiery dragons, angelic guardians, and demonic gatekeepers of Magic history.
Edgar Markov - One of the newest inclusions to our wedge, and far, far different from what we're doing here. (Source: I built this deck too). Edgar's game plan is to gum up the board as much as possible with every cheap vampire you can find because, well, spending 1 mana for two bodies is pretty good. And he doesn't even need to be cast to do this (but when he enters the board, things just got deep)! He's not really related to what we're doing here though, (please, no e-mails or replies about how Vampiric Dragon could just as easily fit either deck based on typeline) and as such, you need to decide if you want to swarm with this, or want to smash with a draconic roar, angelic fury, and demonic scream in the deck building process.
Other commanders - Licia, Sanguine Tribune, Mathas, Fiend Seeker; Oros, the Avenger; Tariel, Reckoner of Souls; these also exist but don't really have an easily identified niche to fall into. But in the interest of inclusion...
Reasons you would enjoy piloting this deck:
- You want to use a plethora of the most Angelic, Draconic, and Demonic creatures in the history of this game.
- You like the idea of playing a combo deck that doesn't utilize a traditional combo finish.
- You like using a lot of tutours to find the perfect tool for the job.
- You don't want an "S-Tier" commander deck like Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, Edric, Spymaster of Trest, and Zur the Enchanter because you still want to have friends.
Reasons you might not enjoy piloting this deck:
- You prefer the safety net of superior control of the stack that a deck would provide.
- You're one of the people who still believes is the worst colour in the format.
- You're done having friends and just want to lock down entire tables with Derevi Stax.
- You believe the only way to play this format is at the "cEDH" level.
Who am I? I am 3drinks, THEmtg3drinks, that Mardu Guy, lover of all things draconic, and mana denial-y. "Answer me or lose" is my motto and my decks being smash-mouth and in-your-face is testament to that. Some of my favourite decks are , and I pioneered
I chose Kaalia because I love my demons and dragons, and I wanted something I could tune to be competitive (circumventing mana costs with big, powerful creatures is a pretty competitive strategy) but not something that would make other players feel hopeless because, let's be honest, the average Commander player is not playing an S-Tier "cEDH" deck and pubstomping precon/modified precon level decks with a scumbaggery Zur deck is only fun once (Source: I used to play a Zur deck, it truly is an awful, awful experience for everyone involved). Kaalia allows me to play hard, and be strong but without crushing the average player's spirit with a wall of countermagic and combos that can only be interacted with on the stack. But also, because I have a very large collection of Angels, Demons, and Dragons in my collection (aka my "Shrine to Mardu") and that just-so-happens to be what Kaalia enjoys the most. What a lucky coincidence...
~~The Deck List~~
Now, as would normally be expected of a list one has worked on for seven plus years, I have run a lot of different cards, in and out, always trying new things, and have settled on the current list that I have. I do feel a lot of the cards I am running, like Vindicate or
Rakdos the Defiler- Ahh yes, the OG BFF to our Queen. Normally Rakdos looks like a very “high-risk, high-reward” card, and in most scenarios you would be correct. However as our Queen brings him in after the declare attackers step, we get to skip this “Flameblast Syndrome” effect (this term will be explained later in the Primer) and then they still need to sacrifice half their board when he connects. So they lose half their board, and take at least seven to nine damage. This, of course, most likely results in a win for us and a loss for them. Think of it like a one-shot “Annihilate X, where X is half the non-demon permanents that opponent controls...rounded up”.
Master of Cruelties- At first glance this looks like he's merely okay-ish, a five mana 1/4 with first strike and deathtouch seems decent. But he doesn't even fly! Oh wait, he can only attack alone! Why 3drinks, just why would you ever consider this guy in an aggressive deck?
Well it goes like this; Kaalia has the ability to cheat this guy in with her ability and if he isn't blocked, he will set their life total to one on the declare blockers step...which means when combat damage happens, Kaalia's two damage will be enough to finish off said player. So with Master, we have an honest to god one-shot kill "combo". And since Kaalia can come down on t3 with haste with some regularity...yeah, you do the math. This guy is probably not quite so hot in multiplayer though, so I would cut him for Avacyn, Angel of Hope in such a scenario; she's a bit too defensive, but in an a-typical multiplayer game, the mass indestructibility will probably come in handy. Or, at least prove much more useful than Master would be in such an environment.
Baneslayer Angel/Thundermaw Hellkite/Bloodgift Demon- The benefits of these are twofold. Their primary purpose is, at five cmc, they are very castable on their own which is useful if, for whatever reason despite our best efforts, Kaalia isn’t able to get going. However that’s not all as they each have secondary uses. Since this deck will eat up a large chunk of its life total, Baneslayer’s lifelink will help to not outright kill us from doing what we need to do. Bloodgift is a Phyrexian Arena with a relevant typeline (and probably one of our best Kaalia target at this CMC range), while Thundermaw’s purpose is to clear the skies to and allow us to alpha strike unopposed. You can make similar arguments for the other 4-5 drop range of creatures a la; Stormbreath Dragon, Lyra Dawnbringer, Doom Whisperer, Butcher of the Horde and etc. These are important because if you play a deck where your curve starts at seven, you're overly reliant on Kaalia which breeds inefficiency and bad times when people do answer your commander.
Steel Hellkite- What’s not to love about this guy? He doesn’t need a specific colour of mana to play, nor does his Firebreathing care what colour is pumped into it. But his real strength is being a one-sided Engineered Explosives on damage dealt. Yes, you read that right. That’s strong – very strong. This is one of the guys I would consider a “Core” piece, right next to Rakdos the Defiler and Master of Cruelties. As a bonus, he’s even searchable via Enlightened Tutor.
Lord of the Void- Like to steal other's threats? Want to eat into someone's deck? Exile certain key cards maybe sometimes? This guy has literally no downside, and all upside, I can't believe he's a demon tbh. But he is. And Kaalia hasn't ever been happier. This is like the gold standard "good stuff" creature for us.
Thunder Dragon- I have a sweet, sweet Starter 99 copy of this guy with BB perfect fit sleeves to hide the one eye sore to an otherwise great art, but his effect is also pretty good anyway. Fry some tree hugging elves, get some face damage in the skies. You could run Hellkite Tyrant instead, either or would be a meta choice. I find where Hellkite Tyrant would be good, typically those artifact decks have ways to make sure he doesn't connect.
Cataclysm & Fire Covenant - These are my go-to sweepers. For three mana and INSTANT speed, I can conjure up a sweeper killing only what I need and nothing that I don't, making it the ultimate scalpel of efficient killing. For one more mana though, I get the sheer destructive power of one of the best sweepers in the format, capable of leveling entire battlefields - except for ours, of course, since keeping Kaalia is often more than enough to break the alleged symmetry of the card. Sometimes you need a little more than Fire Covenant but not as much oomph as Cataclysm, and that's why I also play Toxic Deluge. As an added benefit,
67% of our sweepers get underneath Gaddock Teeg. I don't get what the big deal is about Teeg, he never seems to inhibit my own deck...
Rune-Scarred Demon- It’s a body that gives us an extra Demonic Tutor. While I wouldn’t quite classify him as a “Core” piece, he’s still really, really good, and the closest single card to “Core” without actually being “Core”. And I don’t know about you, but I love to have an extra universal tutor that puts the card directly into my hand, while also not revealing the card.
Defense Grid- As I mentioned previously, Kaalia’s arch-nemesis is . This keeps them off your back for a bit as they don’t really want to spend on that Mana Leak. It also helps this is tutourable on turn one via your Enlightened Tutor. Grand Abolisher has joined the Grid in keeping people's spells to themselves as well, at least during my turn. Sometimes you just want people to leave your turn alone, and this is a great tool for the job...
Dark Confidant- YOU’RE PLAYING WHAT?! Why would anyone play this card in a Kaalia deck?! While on the surface Confidant looks rather painful, in actuality it’s as the old saying goes; The better your deck, the better Confidant becomes.” Indeed this is why we don’t play thirty some-odd Angels, Demons, & Dragons. Because of the speed at which he comes down, we are drawing an extra card as early as turn three.
If Confidant is removed before then (and by all rights, we should never be allowed to untap with him) then great, that’s one less removal that can be aimed at Kaalia. If Confidant isn’t removed, then we just win by virtue of seeing way more cards at a faster rate than our opponent will. He’s also a Human which means we can play him off our Cavern of Souls for added benefit. The other reasoning to playing this card is sort of sneakier, however. It’s well known that a lot of players will misevaluate this card’s power level. Indeed, they will see this and expect us to flip Ionas and Rune-Scarreds all day long, but they’re only fooling themselves. That’s fine – I will gladly accept a win because of my opponent’s misguided threat assessment.
Sire of Insanity- This guy is like a Mind Twist who bashes for six on his own; and also a respectable early-game Kaalia target. While it looks very symmetrical, take a look at his rules text again "At the beginning of each end step, each player discards his or her hand.". This actually works exceedingly well in our favour. Who cares if we don't have a hand when no one else does and we have eight plus power on the board (and a commander who is quite capable of applying more power quickly and easily). Additionally, cheat this out on t3 on the play, for example. Now, your opponent needs to top deck each removal spell, land drop, threat, and ramp spell, each turn. But they only draw one card a turn at this point. the other important bit about this guy, and this is my personal favourite reason; nobody can sandbag answers anymore. Everyone draws, plays everything they can, and then discards the rest. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.
Teferi's Protection- It's the ultimate in protection, covering you, your board, uhh...everything, really. Can combo with Ravages of War for the low, low cost of . I mean, okay, I wouldn't play it just to phase out my lands in response to a 'Geddon. But like...it could happen. And it's a good protective spell in and of itself.
Earnest Fellowship- The key Enchantment. It’s like, a Mother of Runes that doesn’t need to target and is protecting multiple creatures at the same time. Indeed having a Kaalia with protection from 60% of the color pie is scary. But it’s not without its own quirks. In order to minimize the symmetrical nature of this card, you need to switch out all of your multicolored removal because such spells have twice as much of a chance to get blocked by this Enchantment. For this list, the only multicolored creature removal is the sorcery-speed Vindicate, because hitting any kind of card is pretty good.
Necropotence- Ah. The iconic bread-and-butter card. I don’t feel this needs justification, but I will add a disclaimer. If you don’t have the best of the best mana, then do yourself a favor and don’t stress your manabase for this; Stick with Phyrexian Arena instead.
Moat- A very, very pricey card that is very, very hard to acquire. But if you can, you will see how this absolutely shuts down a myriad of decks. If you don’t have one of these and/or can’t afford to spring for this, then consider Stranglehold in its place.
Balefire Dragon- Wraths are good. Dragons are good. Wraths on Dragon bodies are even better, right? Right. You're playing this. No, no arguments. It's here.
Cavern of Souls- Since we want to make sure our Kaalia resolves, every game, this Land is of the utmost importance. In 98% of games, you will name Human (which also helps to make our Confidant and Abolisher uncounterable too), but occasionally you might have the game where you draw this late and you use it to force through some big scary Dragon. This Land is absolutely what I would consider a “Core” piece.
Hall of the Bandit Lord- This our second most-important Land, right behind Cavern of Souls. This makes sure, when we play Kaalia (or any other threat), that threat will get to attack. Summoning Sickness is Kaalia’s second Achilles Heel (the first being ), so having access to Haste, on a Land, is well worth the three life it costs us to use. Just like Cavern, this Land is also what I would consider a “Core” piece.
I’m not going to touch on every piece of removal, as I feel they are self-explanatory. But I will touch on some whose value is not immediately visible.
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale- Turns out when you have a commander that puts large creatures on the board, you don't need a large board presence to be a threat. This means we can use Tabernacle to keep pesky heavy creature decks moving at the speed of slow while we're barely inhibited by an upkeep of - . This card does require a mild degree of deckbuilding alteration though, such as fewer dorks on board such as Grand Abolisher or Mother of Runes, you can replace them with say...Glory or Defense Grid. See how that works? Or, assuming you're like most [sane] players that can't/refuse to afford the $1.5k Tabernacle, you can just as easily invert these changes to the pre-Tabernacle state.
Shadowborn Demon- Relevant body. Relevant type. Easy to cast. And an almost uninhibited removal. Pretty handy to have, I think.
Council’s Judgment- This card. Like holy crap, what was R&D smoking to print this?! You pay three mana and get to exile something an opponent controls, and it bypasses Shroud and Hexproof because it doesn’t target. You will either name one thing, and your opponent will name the same thing, or your opponent will name something else and thus loose two cards. Is worth “Exile target nonland permanent.” Or “Exile two target nonland permanents.”? I'd only play this in single player though as you can't fully control will of the council in multiplayer.
Unexpectedly Absent- It’s like, someone made an Oblation that doesn’t give the recipient of it a Divination. You can spend in response to a fetchland or any sort of shuffle effect to get rid of any nonland permanent. Or you can just buy time by shipping a problematic nonland permanent some number of cards from the top. Alternatively, you can even use it defensively by returning a card of yours you want to keep (such as protecting Kaalia herself from impending doom) to the top of your library, ready to draw again next turn.
Liliana of the Veil- This performs a number of roles for me here. The first, is it allows me to grind out your hand, and the second is an edict effect every other turn. All in the package of a three mana planeswalker. Sometimes, she just goes on to win the game on her own. Her best friend is Ajani Vengeant, and together, they like to take over a game. I only play planeswalkers in single player as they need to be protected, that's hard to do in multiplayer, and even harder to do in a deck like Kaalia that doesn't protect herself well anyway.
Wildfire- So we get to sweep mana sources and creatures smaller than Kaalia's threats? Because that's fair...and oh, hey, Kaalia is even protected from it by our own Earnest Fellowship. Low-key this is my favorite sweeper ever and I'll always try to find some justification to play it anyway but...it's just extra good here.
Rakdos Charm- The ultimate in silver bullet cards. It’s common use is as a Shatter, however I picked it up as I felt I wanted another piece of graveyard hate. But it even has a third (sometimes relevant) function where it can stop the Kiki-Mite or other similar setups involving the creation of an arbitrarily large number of creatures. But here’s the best part about it, you don’t even need an arbitrarily large number of creatures to make it work either – what if an opponent just resolved an Avenger of Zendikar, or an Ezuri, Renegade Leader just vomited it’s hand on the table? You can even use it as burn for the last few points of life. Rakdos Charm is a true hidden gem in every sense of the word.
Pyroblast- I play this with REB too because saturation is just something to expect in ny given game of commander. And y'know, can I get a show of hands of people that enjoy an overloaded Cyclonic Rift? That's what I thought...
“Flameblast Syndrome” is a term I coined in the creation of this list after the notable Flameblast Dragon. It refers to creatures that have abilities in the format of “Whenever ~ attacks, do [insert really cool action here]”. These creatures should be relegated to low-level picks if at all for Kaalia decks as their ability won’t trigger when our commander puts them onto the board that turn. So they don’t add anything except their combat damage to our gameplan unless we get to untap with them. However, if their effect is powerful enough, they may be worth considering…but that power level must be extremely high. Currently there is only one creature with such a distinction in this list, and it is the only creature we have that has a beneficial form of “Flameblast Syndrome”. He is Rakdos the Defiler, one of the signature combos of the deck.
Kaalia is a combo deck disguised as an aggro deck, which is a common misconception about the deck that many people make. Our goal is to create a gamestate where we can attack safely and unopposed, repeatedly, with our 2/2 flyer. If we can do that, we will win (or rather, we're one tutour away from a win). As such, anything that doesn't help us to create such a gamestate is unnecessary to our gameplan. Often once we get to four mana, we don't need lands because...well, this is a commander who does her best impersonation of an Elvish Piper, this puts the deck in the best position to benefit from
Armageddon effects, and other similar Mass Land Destruction effects. This will not net you many friends, but you weren’t gonna get any friends from bringing Kaalia anyway most likely, so you might as well rub some salt in their wounds while you’re at it. Kaalia in her nature, is not a reactive general, but a proactive one (what draws me to this). If you’re playing this deck, you are the aggressor, not your opponent. You need to get yourself in the driver’s seat and maintain the pace of the game. Don’t let an opponent dictate your pace, you dictate the pace your opponent can respond at!
Sometimes despite your best efforts, the intended plan just isn't working. Kaalia keeps getting removed, and paying for her just doesn't make a lot of sense, and you don't want to add Command Beacon to your deck because too many colourless lands of dubious value are not good for any three colour, non- deck. Are you really just gonna hardcast one large threat at a time and pray not to get one-for-one'd into oblivion? I guess you could...but what if I could enlighten you onto the merits of a semi-complicated scheme that could solve your problems?! (There's an American Dad joke here about Christianity, but I'm not going to make it :P). Interested? Well then read on;
Goal: To give Kaalia a more controlled game plan than the a-typical “usual” strategy players employ with the deck. We will be using Dragonstorm to achieve a win outside of the combat step. This means we’re playing the Storm archetype, which plays a lot of small spells (often “rituals” to gain net mana and build spell count) to have played enough spells before our big nine mana sorcery namesake can be lethal. Our secondary plan is to act as a typical Kaalia deck, just with more dragons than anything else. I mean, we’re still rocking an Elvish Piper in the command zone, right? Handy to keep in mind!
Concerns: But how? Dragonstorm is not Tendrils of Agony, Grapeshot, or even Ignite Memories. We can’t soft-lock opponents out with Temporal Fissure. So how does summoning a bunch of angry red flyers that typically don’t have haste, end the game without the combat step? Moreover, how do you cast a nine mana sorcery after casting a bunch of spells prior to it?
Resolutions: Of course there has to be a plan, right? Otherwise I’d be pretty not smart to delve into a deck built around this spell. Modern Dragonstorm has been at least a fringe playable deck (prior to the Seething Song ban), although that deck utilized multiples of Bogardan Hellkite for it’s grand finale which obviously we can’t do in this format. Not to fear though, as it turns out there’s a specific chain sequence that can also end the game Outta Nowhere™ for us as well, and that sequence can also be enhanced by a number of cards.
First copy to resolve nets you Lathliss, Dragon Queen every time. Next gets Scourge of Valkas which creates two triggers simultaneously (one from Scourge, one from Lathlis). Since you control both triggers, you put them on the stack as you choose. In this case we put Scourge on the stack first (the bottom), and Lathlis over it so it resolves first. This makes a 5/5 dragon and triggers Scourge (3 damage), then we let the other resolve for 3 damage. We've now dealt six damage off the second Dragonstorm copy. Throughout the chain you can even add protection such as Thunderbreak Regent and Scalelord Reckoner and even have a recourse if someone tries to take out a key piece mid chain (Bladewing the Risen). On the final copy of Dragonstorm to resolve, you'd get Dragonlord Kolaghan for the mass haste to combat kill everyone (and get more triggers mid-combat because you obviously grabbed Utvara Hellkite...right?)
If you had multiple opponents or this somehow wasn't enough, you can even amplify the clock with Dragon Tempest (replicating the Scourge effect) and Panharmonicon, which doubles the count on each of The Scourge Effect pieces, plus Lathliss' triggers herself.
Additionally, this next combat will buy you a lot more triggers of the “Scourge Effect” from Utvara Hellkite, making it especially hard at this point for the combo to not win.
Mechanics: So we have a goal, we have an end game, how do we get from point A to point B? That’s a great question, one that as it turns out, has four different paths of resolution.
1) As it turns out, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. There’s actually a combo built into the deck that can generate an arbitrarily high storm count and end with - “coincidentally” 1 more than we need for our signature sorcery. Start with Helm of Awakening, and Pyromancer’s Goggles. Cast Seething Song with the eyewear, then let the copy resolve and hold priority. Cast Reiterate with buyback using the first a number of times until you have the storm count you desire. Then let the original Song resolve, and let the big sorcery rip.
2) Mindmoil; This card is a “one-card combo” as long as you have a hand as you can keep casting a cheap spell (or a 0 drop like a Mox) to keep hand cycling through your deck building both storm count and digging for the combo. This shores up one of Storm’s few weaknesses of “bricking out” before it has achieved the critical mass of spells cast/mana accrued, however this does not help you find the mana needed to get your grand finale onto the stack. Mindmoil is great because without U, we don’t have the critical mass of Frantic Search esque spells to help us get through our deck.
3) Paradox Engine (with mana rocks); We know how efficient the Engine is at generating extra mana between spells, and this is likely one of the easiest ways to build mana for a nine mana sorcery, but it’s not without a few glaring flaws. At 5, it can be hard play this and a spell to “go off” with it in the same turn. This can be alleviated by using Kuldotha Forgemaster (Forgemaster also finds your Panharmonicon, so it’s worth having in the deck) to cheat it on the battlefield, but the other key sticking point against it is, this does not guarantee having spells to chain into it to build the storm count that the first two methods can build. Still it’s worth noting as it is by far the easiest way to generate surplus mana, which is always going to be in-demand when your entire game plan revolves around casting a nine mana spell that isn’t . Note that with this method if you wind up drawing dragons mid-chain you will need a way to get them back in the deck somehow as Dragonstorm does not search your hand for the draconic menaces of the sky!
4) Mizzix’s Mastery; Lastly, we can just cheat it onto the stack somehow. As Storm goes, we only need to be able to “cast” the spell to trigger the storm ability. This means while we can’t “Fork” it to get there and count storm, we could still cast it via alternative means. There aren’t really a lot of ways to cast it that cost less than 8R though, and even fewer that aren’t U, but there’s something tricky yet satisfying about being the Kaalia player and cheaty-facing our signature spell with Entomb then Mizzix’s Mastery to call ALL the dragons to your aid, for the low, low cost, of just !
Streamlined, no reliance on mana myr, added a little more support for Kuldotha Forgemaster, overall making this a little more consistent to it's own strats (and I no longer am using LED), I think. Just like before, this deck plays very light on removal opting either for removal that works in the chain/combo (i.e. Mordant Dragon/Bogardan Hellkite), protection for our combo/key pieces, or my favorite, flat out player removal. This means that in a longer game, you are not favoured in the least. So it's to your advantage to win quicker than later. This is my resolution since the late game isn't really Kaalia's forte anyway so making a bad phase of the game a little worse in order to raise consistency sooner was an acceptable trade-off to me.
So, Liliana's Contract was introduced some time ago. it looks intriguing, no? Most alt-win cards are blanks until you're ready to win, but this at it's absolute floor is still a Tidings (sorcery speed draw four, at five mana). Realistically, we could play this in any deck as just a deep dig and be fine. But hey what's this? This card cares about demons? Hey, that's one of our key creature types! Now...how do we go about setting this up?
1) We can just play it to dig deep and keep Kaalia performing her gameplan. This would be the more obvious route, very straightforward.
2) Alternatively, we can bring it to the board immediately via Academy Rector. You could also find it via our trusty Enlightened Tutor as well as an Idyllic Tutor.
3) We need to protect it since it has that pesky upkeep trigger. There's a few ways to do this, chiefly Boros Charm comes to mind but Teferi's Protection works too. This isn't really enough to make me feel confident, however luckily enchantment removal that isn't named Aura Shards is pretty uncommon. We can add one more counter measure though in Obzedat's Aid, and this pretty well fills up our slots dedicated to protecting the combo.
4) "Okay, but 3drinks," you ask me with some hesitation, "what if our opponent wises up to this ploy?" To that end, you have two options; the first is to assemble the demon count you need and then swear a Warrior's Oath to cut them off and get to your trigger. The other is to resolve a Patriarch's Bidding (demon) to bring them all back. Note if you're running Abyssal Persecutor, make sure you have a sac outlet (Razaketh or Butcher of the Horde work, or so do upkeep sacrifices a la Demonic Taskmaster provided you stack your triggers properly (Contract's trigger on the stack first, then the sacrifice one over it so that you sacrifice the Persecutor, then Contract checks to see if you meet the condition).
Luckily, unlike the Dragonstorm list, the Contract list looks closer to a standard Kaalia list, just with demons replacing the other creatures. I had ~22 - 23 demons to complement the supporting cast of spells you're most acclimated with seeing.
FWIW, this is not the first white border challenge I've completed, so full disclaimer, I have some experience with what I'm looking for. See here: (3drinks co-builds White Border Chromium!). Now, of course Kaalia herself isn't white border. So we're either making an exception since she isn't in the 99 card stack anyway, or commissioning an alter. Take your pick.
So, if you know me (and if you're reading this, then you do...because Kaalia is what I do), you know white border cards trigger me to no end. So WHY would I ever subject myself to this? The answer, is challenge. Back in the day when corre sets had white borders, creatures sucked and instants ruled the world. We're not really reinventing the wheel here, but this is a different style of Kaalia with the basic threats from 3ED - 9ED and a stronger noncreature mix. Note when I say "basic" in regards to our creature suite, that doesn't mean "bad" (although, yes, some of these cards are far below par especially by today's standards) but rather it means they are more straight forward in their application. There is less reliance on etb effects (lawd, if only Torpor Orb was a WB print...but I digress) and more emphasis on the punch and the ability to maintain your CA while your mediocre beatsticks do their job. Plus, you can put people on tilt as they watch themselves get their butts kicked by a stack of what they believe to be "white border trash". You'll smile as they remark "whoa, that was printed in corre?!" and they'll look on in fear as they realize the consistency you have since all your tutours are still available (less tainted pact/consultation and gamble, which is perfectly serviceable). People got a faster start than you? Never fear, you still have six sweepers main deck including three ways to wipe lands (with mana rock support, of course).
In the end, this challenging project has taught me that this could serve as a stronger "baseline" deck as it will never change (white border production has been discontinued) while offering a showcase of the general effects you want in the deck should you want to improve it. Or, at the very least, this stands as the go to list should you just want to "troll" your opponents with a white border stack.
One last note; this deck features only English printed cards (no Spanish Mana Crypt guys, sorry) and no to the "Salvat" deck series, to maintain the integrity of the concept. I also opted not to include P3K cards since their reprints are black border (see Ravages of War), and their otherwise not reprinted cards (such as False Defeat and Zodiac Dragon are prohibitively expensive for what you'd otherwise get. The idea of WB commander is both a challenge with the more straightforward corre set cards, and an exercise in usability based on budget, and P3K fails all of these prerequisites.
Sideboard is your "overage pool" of cards to swap out be it 1v1 or multiplayer or any other archetype you want to try.
Akroma, Angel of Wrath/Akroma, Angel of Fury- A lot of people tend to see these two creatures as the "end-all, be-all" of critters Kaalia should be playing. But to be honest, no, they really aren't. First of all, they cost eight mana so when Kaalia isn't available, they are largely uncastable. On top of that, they only "bash for six damage". They may have a lot of abilities tacked on, but they lack board presence -- they are still just one body after all, and not even with some kind of enters the battlefield effect to make them worth at least a portion of their mana cost. All this said, Redkroma can be an acceptable inclusion, in metagames that are overly saturated with decks, But for Whitekroma, there isn't any reason why she should ever wind up in a deck, unless she is a "space-filler" until you get...I don't know, anything else really.
Iona, Shield of Emeria - "3drinks you're crazy!" you must be thinking. And if this was 2012, I'd agree with you. But nowadays there are plenty of ways in every single colour to handle this threat, including in colourless which Iona would never stop in the first place. I just find I never ever tutour for this or even have her cross my mind. She doesn't...matter, ultimately, but most people can't wrap their head around this idea because she is seen as so iconic and "must play". Here's the trick - there's no such thing as an auto include card. Once you condition your mind in such a way, it becomes easy to break the habit of seeing cards as must plays.
Avacyn, Angel of Hope - Another one like Iona, Avacyn is just too defensive such that it's at odds with our playstyle philosophy of being the aggressor. Sure, it can make us indestructible but...do we care? Doesn't this just get exiled, solen, bounced? I know what you're thinking, we can stick this and then Ravages of War right? Sure but...if we're in a position to 'Geddon with Kaalia out, we've already won. Avacyn didn't help that. That's win-more. You could make a case for her in multiplayer, I guess, but I've never missed her really.
Angel of Serenity - Of all the targets I could launch out there, why would I throw down the french vanilla 5/5? If I needed removal, I could just Thunder Dragon/Angel of Despair/Shadowborn Demon. Remember we don't have to kill everything, only what 1) Threatens to win the game before we do, or 2) Directly stops us from accomplishing our game plan. Yes, I realize it could be a Morbid Plunder/Bone Harvest for us but it's not like we have a large number of creatures anyway...she's unnecessary.
I understand that a number of players are playing on a budget, or that they don't have an old collection with all the goodies that I have been blessed with, so I have come up with what I would call an "introductory" list using just commons, uncommons, and
Kaalia herself. Obviously there will be some differences in how this plays versus my "fully powered" list (i.e. there will be no continual reanimation of Angel of Despair, or an Armageddon to easily close out a game, or the one-card blowout combo with Kaalia & Rakdos the Defiler). But I leave it at this baseline so those players have something to go with, and then upgrade at their convenience as they have the money or time to do so, but still being afforded the chance to enjoy the fun that Kaalia can bring. Anyway before I ramble on even more, below is the Common/Uncommon list. I hope everyone is able to enjoy it as I do!
And again, happy reading, and may your games always be decisive!