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Ultimate Masters: MMI Review
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    posted a message on [[Primer]] [Traditional Commander] Kaalia of the Vast

    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 1WBR 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 U deck would provide.
    • You're one of the people who still believes R 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 XBR, and I pioneered Zurgo Bellstriker Kari Zev, Skyship Raider AiR and Drana, Liberator of Malakir Sui Black decks to the Duel-Commander metagame. I wrote this original Primer seven years ago, and in that time, this has become one of my greater joys, I've even heard this Primer referred to as "the bible of Kaalia players", which is a distinction I take a great deal of pride in.

    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... Smile

    Kaalia20181v1Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
    Commander (1)
    1x Kaalia of the Vast

    Land (36)
    1x Ancient Tomb
    1x Arid Mesa
    1x Badlands
    1x Blood Crypt
    1x Bloodstained Mire
    1x Cavern of Souls
    1x City of Brass
    1x Command Tower
    1x Fetid Heath
    1x Flooded Strand
    1x Godless Shrine
    1x Graven Cairns
    1x Hall of the Bandit Lord
    1x Mana Confluence
    1x Marsh Flats
    1x Mountain
    1x Plains
    1x Plateau
    1x Polluted Delta
    1x Reflecting Pool
    1x Rugged Prairie
    1x Sacred Foundry
    1x Scalding Tarn
    1x Scrubland
    1x Smoldering Marsh
    1x Snow-Covered Mountain
    1x Snow-Covered Plains
    1x Snow-Covered Swamp
    1x Strip Mine
    1x Swamp
    1x The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
    1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
    1x Verdant Catacombs
    1x Wasteland
    1x Windswept Heath
    1x Wooded Foothills

    Creature (18)
    1x Angel of Despair
    1x Balefire Dragon
    1x Baneslayer Angel
    1x Bloodgift Demon
    1x Dark Confidant
    1x Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
    1x Glory
    1x Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
    1x Linvala, Keeper of Silence
    1x Lord of the Void
    1x Master of Cruelties
    1x Rakdos the Defiler
    1x Rune-Scarred Demon
    1x Shadowborn Demon
    1x Sire Of Insanity
    1x Steel Hellkite
    1x Thunder Dragon
    1x Thundermaw Hellkite

    Instant (13)
    1x Abrade
    1x Chaos Warp
    1x Dismember
    1x Enlightened Tutor
    1x Fire Covenant
    1x Lightning Bolt
    1x Pyroblast
    1x Rakdos Charm
    1x Red Elemental Blast
    1x Swords to Plowshares
    1x Teferi's Protection
    1x Unexpectedly Absent
    1x Vampiric Tutor

    Enchantment (4)
    1x Dragon Tempest
    1x Earnest Fellowship
    1x Moat
    1x Necropotence

    Sorcery (19)
    1x Armageddon
    1x Castigate
    1x Cataclysm
    1x Council's Judgment
    1x Demonic Tutor
    1x Duress
    1x Gerrard's Verdict
    1x Grim Tutor
    1x Hymn to Tourach
    1x Imperial Seal
    1x Inquisition of Kozilek
    1x Mind Twist
    1x Night's Whisper
    1x Ravages of War
    1x Thoughtseize
    1x Toxic Deluge
    1x Unmask
    1x Vindicate
    1x Wildfire

    Artifact (7)
    1x Chrome Mox
    1x Crucible of Worlds
    1x Defense Grid
    1x Lightning Greaves
    1x Mana Crypt
    1x Mox Diamond
    1x Sol Ring

    Planeswalker (2)
    1x Ajani Vengeant
    1x Liliana of the Veil

    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 Iona, Shield of Emeria are fairly self-explanatory in their reasoning for inclusion, however, I would like to touch on some cards that I haven’t seen in other Kaalia of the Vast lists, or that other people may not agree upon. So without further ado, some of those cards which I feel may merit more discussion include;

    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 U. This keeps them off your back for a bit as they don’t really want to spend 4U 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 5WW. I mean, okay, I wouldn't play it just to phase out my lands in response to a 'Geddon. But 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 B 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 XU), 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 1 - 2. 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. Wink

    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 1WW 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 WW 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'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 U 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 7WBR 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-G 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 RRRRRRRRRR - “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 RRRRR 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 G. 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! I’ve found the easiest method for this is to activate Lion’s Eye Diamond with Dragonstorm on the stack, followed by a Feldon’s Cane activation to ensure you get all of the targets to go off. Nothing worse than actually pulling this off and then fizzling out!

    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 3BR! Worth noting your Lion’s Eye Diamond works with this path as well (Vampiric Tutor for Mizzix’s Mastery, crack LED to pitch Dragonstorm, draw your Mastery, and then go off! Don’t forget to respond to the signature spell with Feldon’s Cane if you lost any key dragons you might need.

    This list looks a bit different from the standard fare Kaalia deck, though my last record of it on tappedout is not current. Check back later for the most recent Dragonstorm list I played!

    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! 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. Check back later for that list!

    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 U 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. Smile

    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 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!

    Kaalia of the Commons & UncommonsMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
    1 Kaalia of the Vast

    Kaalia Targets
    1 Angel of Renewal
    1 Emancipation Angel
    1 Fallen Angel
    1 Goldnight Redeemer
    1 Indulgent Tormentor (UNC, Iconic Masters)
    1 Rakshasa Gravecaller
    1 Seraph of Dawn
    1 Seraph of the Suns
    1 Serra Angel
    1 Shattered Angel
    1 Shepherd of the Lost
    1 Subjugator Angel
    1 Voice of All
    1 Wardscale Dragon
    1 Wispweaver Angel

    1 Boros Charm
    1 Dragon Tempest (UNC, Iconic Masters)
    1 Lightning Mauler
    1 Mother of Runes

    Card Advantage
    1 Demonic Tutor
    1 Diabolic Tutor
    1 Enlightened Tutor (UNC, Mirage)
    1 Land Tax (UNC, Legends)
    1 Night's Whisper
    1 Razaketh's Rite
    1 Read the Bones
    1 Sign in Blood

    Hand Disruption (Multiplayer Swap)
    1 Duress (Pardic Dragon, UNC from Modern Masters)
    1 Castigate (Reaper of Flight Moonsilver, SOI)
    1 Hymn to Tourach (Starlit Angel, POR)
    1 Inquisition of Kozilek (Hoarding Dragon, UNC from Iconic Masters)
    1 Sin Collector (Bladewing the Risen (UNC, Iconic Masters)

    Mana Acceleration
    1 Boros Signet
    1 Orzhov Signet
    1 Rakdos Signet
    1 Sol Ring
    1 Talisman of Indulgence

    1 Abrade
    1 Ashes to Ashes
    1 Dismember
    1 Evincar's Justice
    1 Fatal Push
    1 Swords to Plowshares
    1 Path to Exile
    1 Lightning Bolt
    1 Orzhov Charm
    1 Rakdos Charm
    1 Scour From Existence
    1 Spatial Contortion
    1 Terminate
    1 Vandalblast
    1 Volcanic Fallout
    1 Warping Wail
    1 Wear // Tear

    1 Lightning Greaves
    1 Loxodon Warhammer

    Graveyard Play
    1 Animate Dead
    1 Dance of the Dead
    1 Grave Upheaval
    1 Reanimate
    1 Rise From the Grave
    1 Necromancy
    1 Necromantic Summons
    1 Unburial Rites

    1 Ancient Tomb
    1 Arcane Lighthouse
    1 Ash Barrens
    1 Bojuka Bog
    1 Boros Garrison
    1 Command Tower
    1 City of Brass (UNC, Arabian Nights)
    1 Mishra's Factory
    1 Molten Slagheap
    1 Orzhov Basilica
    1 Path of Ancestry
    1 Strip Mine (COM, Antiquities)
    1 Tainted Field
    1 Tainted Peak
    1 Tectonic Edge
    1 Wasteland (UNC, Tempest)
    4 Mountain
    6 Plains
    10 Swamp

    And again, happy reading, and may your games always be decisive!
    Posted in: 1 vs 1 Traditional Commander
  • 3

    posted a message on What SCG Con Taught Sheldon About Commander And Its Players
    Quote from illakunsaa »
    Stax is the hero we need but don't deserve.

    Too many people just play dumb stuff and often games devolve into "who does their dumb stuff first". People essentially just goldfishing. Great social format you got here Sheldon.

    Liking, RTing, reblogging, and sharing this until it trends worldwide.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on Need Help Picking A Commander For Angel Tribal
    Quote from JWK »
    Quote from Darkflame »
    Decent example; just the other week we had a person from a few towns over come in with his new dinosaur tribal deck. Everyone was excited to play..... until he opened his deck box and showed that it was ANIMAR temur Dinos. The pod he was in (I was in another pod unfortunately) immediately became an archenemy game until he scooped around turn 5..... and this being a pod that had a Scarab God mill deck AND an infect deck in the mix. So yeah, Kaalia as awesome as she is is definitely out.

    I think Temur dinos might be about the fairest thing one could possibly do with Animar (even more than my Animar hydras deck). I mean, yeah, it's still Animar, and getting loads of big dinos out fast between ramp and Animar is dangerous, but still not sure it rates archenemy status. Ouch.

    Threat assessment. Some groups don't have it.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on What SCG Con Taught Sheldon About Commander And Its Players
    If he wants a friendly commander format, he really shouldn't discount the value of a Modern one. 8th Ed and onward, MRD and onward, plus Commander sets. Would fix a ton of the "issues", kill a large number of universal tutours and fast mana, and overall slow things down and create a more stable environment. And with a far smaller ban list too (I had five cards ticked, and four commanders, but surely that could be whittled down without my anti-U bias. If I recall, I had;

    Banned as commander
    Baral (you could unban this in favor of Erayo's banning, I guess. I don't think it's very reliable to flip him in Modern though)
    Oloro (because permanent-less wipe & stack-based combo decks are pretty lame)
    the partner mechanic

    Banned in general
    Sol Ring
    Serra Ascendant
    Counterbalance (because I left Zur legal)

    As a result this culls many tutours and most mass LD for you casual players out there, removes a lot of the older problem cards (Cradle, YawgWin, fast mana, Palinchron) and stuff. The end result as I said, was a more organic game experience more in line with Sheldon's ideal he had of the format. But of course you could tweak this too if you were so inclined.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on Random Card of the Day: Jareth, Leonine Titan
    Problem is it's a mild downside compared to what is usually a significant upside to playing nonbasics, in most cases. Also, it's only for mana, so Phyrexian Tower, Maze of Ith, Kor Haven, Inventors' Fair, Academy Ruins, Volrath's Stronghold and others all get away scot free. If it were either 2 damage or tapping for any reason it might be more usable, I guess.

    Whenever a nonbasic land becomes tapped, ~ deals 1 damage to that land's controller.

    The City of Brass clause. I dig that. I'd play it.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on Those Commanders that Miss the Mark
    Quote from darkeshrine »
    Quote from 3drinks »
    Quote from darkeshrine »
    Quote from 3drinks »
    No one has said Tariel, Reckoner of Souls yet?

    Tariel would have been subpar as a 5-drop, let alone 7. The random aspect hurts, a lot, but the 7cmc is what makes it unplayable.

    At least she makes a pretty decent Wildfire commander.

    So does Zurgo Helmsmasher and Licia, Sanguine Tribune.

    Tariel just so happens to combo with any free sac outlet and Thornbite Staff.

    Zurgo and Licia are both just beats though. And one if them literally just attacks. At least Tariel breaks the symmetry by wiping resources and then crushes you with your own cards while you're trying to rebuild. That's what I was getting at.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on [[Primer]] [Traditional Commander] Kaalia of the Vast
    Took a bit longer than I'd have liked, but the baseline Kaalia - as well as a new philosophy on how I view card eligibility - is now live.

    I really need to get to the rewrite of this primer...
    Posted in: 1 vs 1 Traditional Commander
  • 1

    posted a message on [[Primer]] [Traditional Commander] Kaalia of the Vast
    I know activity has been quiet [relatively] this year, what without having a place to play this. In spite of that, I unveiled the mini-primer to the Dragonstorm variant. Well, good news is we have quite the play environment at work. It's nothing super competitive, just some folks having fun on lunch hour, which makes for the perfect environment to bring Kaalia - not cEDH level, but not barebones prebuilt level either. And, since I'll have to expect some players to maybe jump in a game, I can't build for 1v1...Which means you folks will get to watch me grow as a builder to adapt to such a new change. It also means more fun Kaalia stories!

    Since one of my co-workers is...not really new to the game, but rocking a semi-unoptimized dinos deck (the 8 drop that untaps lands on cast), I went ahead and brought back the "Baseline" deck in an attempt to keep things roughly even for her. I'll have that list posted here this morning after my shift. Again, bare in mind it's built to accommodate multiple players, and using just commons and uncommons.

    As an addendum...I thought of one more variant to try if you're not into Dragonstorm. My mind has been racing since I just realized the concept, and I can't wait to unveil the list and the writeup once I iron that out! I think there's a number of people that will enjoy it though! 😏
    Posted in: 1 vs 1 Traditional Commander
  • 1

    posted a message on Random Card of the Day: Jareth, Leonine Titan
    Quote from tstorm823 »
    Tibalt, the Fiend-blooded

    I know you all have opinions on this one, no holding back.

    At least it crews Heart of Kiran.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on [[Primer]] [Traditional Commander] Kaalia of the Vast
    I only just realized my header got broken. That's what I get for using twitter pics. Well, now it's fixed.
    Posted in: 1 vs 1 Traditional Commander
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