Now, lest you think this is a sub-optimal strategy in a "go big or go home" format like Commander, I have created this thread to share my love of spellslinging and tokens with one and all and to show you just how powerful this approach to magic can be. Of course, both token and spellslinger strategies are fairly common, but I can't say that I have ever seen them built in a complementary and synergistic way in the same deck. This deck is my attempt to do so, and I think I have largely succeeded. Enjoy!
Kykar's static ability triggers whenever you cast a non-creature spell to create a 1/1 white flying spirit creature token, and since it is a cast trigger, the spell doesn't even need to resolve. Moreover, "non-creature spell" is a pretty big umbrella to be under. The ability is enormously flexible and builds out your board state without a lot of work on your part. This triggered ability is both self-contained and powerful, which lends itself to a great variety of potential themes and deck variants.
Kykar, Wind's Fury is a great magic card and its goodness is largely independent of the supporting cast without needing much help, which makes for a great "build around me" commander with a lot of utility. When the only "restriction" in your deckbuilding is that you should probably jam a lot of noncreature spells, you aren't very restricted at all - atleast not in these colors.
My personal build specifically focuses on instants, sorceries, and token producers, but that's only one approach of many. My way is certainly not "THE" way to build around Kykar, but after taking a closer look I hope you'll understand why I chose the strategy I did.
No green in Kykar's color identity means ramp effects will be less common and less potent. In fact, with this being a spellslinger deck that wants to ramp into a 4 cmc commander, nearly all of the ramp I have included outside of Kykar's activated ability is in the form of 1-2 cmc rocks. These are cheap and effective sources of ramp in the early game, but they are vulnerable to artifact removal and don't help get more lands onto the battlefield.
Token decks are notoriously weak to board wipes of nearly all shapes and sizes, and lo and behold, board wipes are commonly utilized in this format. I have included some ways to mitigate the downside of opposing wraths, but it nevertheless remains a chink in the deck's armor.
Spellslinger decks can be absolutely wrecked by tax effects. There's probably no other strategy out there that ruins Kykar's day more than oppressive stax builds.
I won't bore you with my entire magic history, but this section will give you an overview of why I ended up favoring the Jeskai wedge and relishing the challenge of winning with 1/1's and how Kykar fit into all of that. Otherwise known as: how I learned to stop worrying and love noncreature spells!
While I love me some good Izzet brews, I was always disappointed that Izzet token decks always seemed to be missing something. I ran The Locust God for a while and really enjoyed it, but the gameplan felt too linear. Play my commander, tutor up or draw into Skullclamp and Ashnod's Altar, draw a million cards, then turn haste bugs sideways. Every. Single. Time.
I spiced things up with a Zada, Hedron Grinder and Mirrorwing Dragon package that was fun to combo with. One of the craziest games I ever won ended with a Chaos Warp targeting my Zada and dozen or so Locust tokens, redeploying my The Locust God, an Impact Tremors, and sufficient on-board draw effects to get to the win. While the change was fun, I felt I was sacrificing power to make the token swarm strategy less linear and boring.
I decided that adding another color was the ticket to getting me where I wanted to go with a token deck. I felt that black or green would pull me too heavily out of the izzet flavor of spellslinging that I love so much, and white seemed to provide a natural support for tokens without interfering with my beloved cheap instants and sorceries.
Choosing a Jeskai Commander to lead a token army was the tricky part. Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest and Ruhan of the Fomori have their own aggressive gameplans, and Zedruu the Greathearted is its own unique deck. I debated between Narset, Enlightened Master and Numot, the Devastator knowing that either would likely draw hate from the table. I settled on Narset, and built a solid list that ultimately got pulled apart because everyone always assumes you're playing Narset to combo into infinite turns rather than go off with Docent of Perfection and a bunch of draw spells, so the deck played like archenemy often enough to not be fun.
I set aside my hopes for a solid Jeskai token commander for the time being, but it wasn't long before I was pleasantly surprised with two new Jeskai legendaries in Elsha of the Infinite and Kykar, Wind's Fury. Elsha is really something else, but Kykar is an engine and enabler for a token build by itself and seemed a no-brainer to me. I've now been piloting Kykar for a little over a year and have had a blast with the list. I started off with a (bad) spirit tribal build, then pivoted to a spellslinger/swarm strategy. From there I slowly crept into storm/combo.dec without meaning too and have done a hard pivot back into spellslinger/swarm since that is what works best for my own personal taste, fun, and playgroup.
You may look at the list below and immediately ask yourself "Where's the Sensei's Divining Top? Scroll Rack? Mizzix's Mastery? Mystical Tutor? Insurrection? Where's Counterspell and Swan Song for crying out loud!?!?!?" The fact of the matter is, I just don't think these cards preserve a balance of fun and power in my available meta. I don't think it's "wrong" to run them by any means. It may even be optimal depending on what one is crafting the deck to do and what you regularly play against. I might even include one or more of them eventually. For now, however, I want to to play powerful, but not oppressive, "broken", or cutthroat competitive magic.
This deck will consistently threaten lethal around turns 5-7 if it is not disproportionately targeted by the table, and the Plan A win condition is combat. That's pretty powerful. I'd say it's a 7.5-8/10 in terms of power, although that is a subjective rating and some players will certainly see it as a 5-6/10. Trying to win through combat is pretty "fair" magic, but I've built some options into the deck so there are a few non-combat ways to win because sometimes game just have to end. I'll emphasize here that these are secondary and tertiary win cons, so the deck is not stuffed with tutors and protection for combo pieces. The non-combat win cons are there as a mostly incidental way to close out a game and keep the deck from being too linear and predictable.
To sum it up, I like to say that this deck is absolutely NOT attempting to be a cEDH or even fully optimized list, but it ain't your daddy's pre-con either!
Mana Rocks (10)
Token Engines (12)
Spells to Sling (32)
Head of Recycling Department (1)
Young Pyromancer - Cheap, fragile, non-threatening from most opponents' point of view, but can go off just as easily as some of the beefier token engines. Spits out what are easily the weakest tokens the deck makes, but that doesn't matter much when you've got a Jeskai Ascendancy, Cathars' Crusade, or In the Web of War in play. The floor for this card is that it gets removed, and can you really be that upset if your opponent spent their card and mana to fry your 2/1 for 2?
Monastery Mentor - Cheap, fragile, and likely seen as more of a threat than Pyromancer, but if it doesn't get zapped on sight and manages to leave even a few tokens behind when your opponents do wise up and kill it, those prowess monks can really do some work. This guy plus a source of haste for the team is lights out.
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer - Slightly more expensive than Young Pyromancer, but she triggers on all non-creature spells while being a non-creature spell herself. Her -2 is pure gravy and can do some sick things, like copy a Monastery Mentor right before casting a bunch of cheap spells for the turn.
Anointed Procession - Double the fun. Not only can this set up for some big combat steps with a huge army, it is effectively a ramp spell with Kykar and spirit mana. Part of an infinite storm/pump combo along with Kykar, Sakashima the Impostor, and Haze of Rage which is detailed in the deck strategy section here.
Murmuring Mystic - Flying is a great keyword in EDH, and some people forget that until they lose to a swarm of 1/1 Spirits and bird illusions.
Talrand, Sky Summoner - Murmuring Mystic's older brother. The OG makes even bigger fliers.
Sakashima the Impostor - Kykar #2. Obviously Sakashima has more utility than that, but it really is the best thing you can be doing with it in most cases. Double token production or double spirit mana production depending on the situation is incredibly powerful. Part of an infinite storm/pump combo along with Kykar, Anointed Procession, and Haze of Rage which is detailed in the deck strategy section here.
The Locust God - Pricey, but hard for your opponents to get rid of. Hasty tokens are some of the best in the deck, which does feature some pretty good ways to trigger that wonderful "whenever you draw a card" trigger too. He's an outright win condition alongside Faithless Looting/Frantic Search + Underworld Breach, made quicker and even more potent with Anointed Procession, Impact Tremors, or Goblin Bombardment.
Jeskai Ascendancy - Not a token engine in the sense that it doesn't generate tokens, but oh boy do tokens love having this thing in play. Not to mention it plays really nicely with all the cantrips and card filtering spells the deck can chain together, and is one of the best hand and graveyard sculpting spells in the deck. One pretty sweet bit of synergy is to convoke Hour of Reckoning to wipe your opponents' boards and laugh maniacally as you untap all those tokens that just got pumped. Combos with Kykar, Faithless Looting/Frantic Search and Underworld Breach as detailed here to let you draw your entire deck and pump the team beyond recognition. On the short list of most busted cards in the deck.
Anger - With the manabase in this decklist you should rarely if ever have trouble getting a mountain into play, and there are several ways to pitch this guy including: Faithless Looting, Frantic Search, Jeskai Ascendancy, Fact or Fiction, Chemister's Insight, Gamble, or even just jamming him and sending him to his doom with a board wipe, burn spell, or Goblin Bombardment. Haste for all of your creatures is a very big deal in a token deck since it allows you to get value from your critters the turn they ETB instead of risking a trip around the table.
Cathars' Crusade - As long as Kykar and/or another token generating engine is in play, this lovely enchantment makes all the deck's noncreature spells also become permanent pump effects. This gets out of hand really fast and has been responsible for some very quick wins. It can be obnoxious to pilot though. You'll start to get awfully nimble adjusting numbers on multiple d20.
In the Web of War - Expensive, to be sure, but a two power pump and haste for the entire team on one card (which is a noncreature to boot) is quite strong.
Skullclamp - Not much explanation needed here. Drawing cards is powerful. Kykar spits out 1/1's. Chocolate, meet Peanut Butter. It is worth noting that Kykar gives an added advantage of being able to sac spirit tokens after clamping them even if they've been buffed above 1 toughness, which is one issue other token decks sometimes have with Skullclamp.
Land Tax - If you are not player one this little ditty can net you five cards in the current list that runs six basics. You can fetch all six of them in two upkeep triggers to force some discards on end steps that you can use to your advantage with something like Anger or Mystic Retrieval. Alternatively you can go fetch two of them at a time across three upkeep triggers to keep your land drops flowing. This card is great for setting up Mystic Sanctuary by getting those basic islands in hand, and just fixing your mana in general
Brainstorm - A fantastic T1 play if your opening hand needs help, and even better if played on T2-5 alongside a fetchland. Instant speed means tokens with pseudo haste, and The Locust God loves this spell no matter when it gets cast.
Ponder - Probably the best T1 play if you don't start the game with enough lands or a mana rock in hand. You get to dig for what you need and get to mulligan the top of your library if you don't like what you see. Great for the same reasons later in the game when all you want to draw is more cheap spells or need an engine piece.
Preordain - Slightly weaker than Brainstorm and Ponder IMO, but seeing up to three cards and taking the best is great value for .
Faithless Looting - It's cheap and can be paid for by sacrificing a spirit. We can flash it back later if we get stuck with a grip full of lands or spells that don't help our current situation. You have some relevant cards to put in the graveyard and ways to get spells back from the yard, so the discard isn't particularly bad here. Combine it with Kykar, Underworld Breach, and Jeskai Ascendancy to draw your whole deck and pump the team in a big way, as detailed here.
Gift of Estates - Land Tax lite. In the early game it gets dual lands that say "Plains" on them and can thus help set up Mystic Sanctuary by getting the ones that say "Plains Island" or "Island Mountain Plains" on them, two of which also cycle and can keep the cards flowing if need be. Great for color fixing early, cheap spell slinging later, and keeping your hand full to fuel discard/loot effects.
Mandate of Peace - This can be a protection spell if an opponent attempts to blow Kykar and company out with tricks/removal during combat, or a Fog, or just a quasi-Silence. It is a prime Sunforger target in the mid/late game when an opponent attempts a lethal attack. On top of all of this, it is cheap and triggers token engines. What's not to love?
Confounding Conundrum - I don't know if you have noticed, but green gets ALL the goodies these days. I think green mages have something like eight million ways to power out lands at this point, so props to WotC for printing a silver bullet against all the ramp/draw/value decks out there (I'm looking at you Chulane, Teller of Tales and Tatyova, Benthic Druid!) It's no exaggeration to say that this thing can win a game if it hits the table on T2-3 since you will be ramping almost entirely with rocks and spirit mana and can thus slingshot miles ahead of opponents sitting there with Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Cultivates, and Growth Spirals in hand. Oh, and it cantrips. Fun!
Impulse - A card like this is one that a lot of commander players look at and wonder why in the world you would run it, but oh man is it perfect in a deck like this one. It triggers your token engines, goes and finds gas and puts it in your hand, or finds a much needed land or rock missing from your opening seven. Impulse is never a bad topdeck. Top notch.
Impact Tremors, Goblin Bombardment - These give added utility for tokens in the form of an ETB effect and a death trigger. Tremors is downright deadly in the deck and attracts a lot of attention, so it's often best cast right before going off. Bombardment provides a way to make the best of bad situations and get value from a token army, and it can be used to control the board and not just go to the dome. However, its primary purpose in the deck is for the reach it gives to finish off opponents post combat.
Haze of Rage - A pump spell for the whole team with only color requirements that says both "Buyback" and "Storm" on it. What could possibly go wrong? Combos with Kykar, Sakashima the Impostor, and Anointed Procession for infinite storm, creature ETBs, and creature pump (detailed here), but great even without the infinite.
Underworld Breach - One of the leading candidates for the distinction of most broken card in the deck. It absolutely explodes when combined with Faithless Looting or Frantic Search which mill/loot fodder to keep paying escape costs and use spirit mana or untapped lands to keep paying mana costs. Throw Jeskai Ascendancy into the mix and you have a combo (detailed here) that draws your whole deck and pumps the team to absurd P/T. Breach is great to get some big-time value out of in the early/mid game by either looping a cantrip/loot/draw spell a few times to sculpt your hand or by recurring some removal spells or token engines. Then in the mid/late game you can get Breach back with Hall of Heliod's Generosity or Sevinne's Reclamation to go off with Kykar + your full graveyard while you've got mentors and other engine cards on board.
Sunforger - Mmmmmm... Yum. The swiss army knife of any deck running Boros colors. This card is a real treat to play with. It fetches so many different red/white instants out of the deck, most of which deal with a problem, protect your board, or keep your opponents from stealing the win before it comes back to your turn. While it's only occasionally relevant, it's worth noting that equipping it on Kykar gives it the magic power of 7 for a three turn clock of commander damage on a single opponent. With Boros Charm you can make it a 2 turn clock as mentioned above. Did I mention that Sunforger can search up Boros Charm?
Flawless Maneuver - Sometimes you just have to resolve sorcery speed goodies and don't have a source of haste for the team. That's not a great place to be for a token swarm deck since it leaves your army exposed to wraths, but lucky for you WotC thought printing free spells would be fun and not broken at all... ok, so it's not "free" since you have to have Kykar in play, but that tends to not be a massive hurdle. It's also a fine card to have in your opening hand since you can safely tap out to cast Kykar on T3-4 with this in hand to protect it from removal.
Idyllic Tutor - One of only two tutor spells in the deck whose primary function is to fetch Underworld Breach, Jeskai Ascendancy, Whirlwind of Thought, Anointed Procession, or Impact Tremors/Goblin Bombardment depending on the situation. However, it is also fine as a moderately costed cast trigger that effectively cantrips for another cantrip in Confounding Conundrum if you just need to keep cards flowing.
Sevinne's Reclamation - Another card that was included primarily because of what it does for Underworld Breach, but is great in its own right. It functions as ramp with a fetchland or Ash Barrens, recursive value for many of your token engines and goodstuff, and it can deal with several problematic lands in conjunction with Strip Mine. It's a great card to loot away guilt free as it can be flashed back later, and it is one of only two ways to get back Underworld Breach. It can even do so when both it and breach have been looted or milled away. Fancy.
Frantic Search - One of my favorite things to do in magic. Fantastic in this deck since it digs deeper, does relevant things with the yard, and keeps the spellslingin' army-in-a-can train rolling by being functionally free, all at instant speed! The only downside is the need to be careful to avoid having this be the last card played out of hand, although even then it may send something useful to the yard that can be worked with aided by freshly untapped lands. Absolutely busted when combined with Underworld Breach and Jeskai Ascendancy as detailed here.
Mystic Retrieval - An incredibly versatile toolboxy spell for the deck. You know what's better than targetting the biggest creature on your opponents' boards with Swords to Plowshares? Doing it again two more times. You know what's better than tapping eight lands for mana, then spending half of it to cast Turnabout and untap those lands? Doing it again two more times. You know what's better. . . ok you get the point. It might secretly be one of the best draw spells in the deck since it effectively recycles your Impulse or whatever and netting you four additional cast triggers. Retrieval is also a fine card to pitch to an early Faithless Looting or end step discard courtesy of Land Tax.
Silundi Vision // Silundi Isle - Here's a cantrip that is roughly on par with Impulse, though more restricted, but is way better than it looks because it means the list gets to cheat a bit and trim a land in order to have a higher spell density. The margin is tiny to be sure, but every spell counts when you're slinging away and every land counts when you need to play one every turn (ie: always).
Chemister's Insight, Fact or Fiction - You'll learn to love your cheap cantrips, but sometimes you just need some raw card advantage and haven't found your Skullclamp, Underworld Breach, Whirlwind of Thought, or Kindred Discovery yet. These two both fit the bill. FoF digs a bit deeper while Insight lets you spin the wheel a second time. Both give you an opportunity to get that Anger into the graveyard.
Turnabout - Another swiss army knife of a card. It is functionally a Fog, Twiddle, High Tide, and Sleep all on one card while simultaneously triggering token engines and increasing storm count. Exquisite. Copy it with Expansion // Explosion, replay it with Underworld Breach, recur it with Mystic Retrieval.
Heroic Reinforcements - What a gem. A cast trigger, it's own token creation, haste for the team, and a P/T boost for the team, all on a single magical card. The only way it could be better (ie: too powerful) would be if it was either cheaper or an instant, but you'll find it serves your needs just fine as is.
Whirlwind of Thought - One of the premiere card advantage spells in the deck. Being an enchantment makes it a slightly more difficult to remove threat for your opponents, and make no mistake it is a threat. It's often worth being pretty aggressive with this and running it out the turn after Kykar when you have five lands. The spirit it creates with its cast trigger plus the untapped land that remains will usually net you at least 1-2 more spell casts and help you recoup cards and make more spirits. If you get to untap with it on the following turn you quickly become a force to be reckoned with. Careful though, it is not a "may" trigger, so you can deck yourself with it. Hurray for Generous Gift and Forsake the Worldly saving you from yourself!
Mirrorweave - A silly, powerful, and Sunforger fetchable card that I learned about through this thread. On offense, it can turn all your tokens into Monastery Mentor, Giant Adephage, Utvara Hellkite, Pathbreaker Ibex, or similar nonsense. Defensively, it can turn everything into a 1/1 spirit allowing you to chump block everything that is going to revert back into something threatening the following turn. If you activate Celestial Colonnade then target it with Mirrorweave you can turn all creatures into unactivated creature lands for a number of applications: stopping an opponent's attack, getting blockers out of the way before animating and pumping a couple of your own lands to attack with, or making a bunch of mana if the situation calls for it. Truth be told, every new set probably contains a few cards that stretch the boundaries of what absurdities Mirrorweave can inspire: Nyxbloom Ancient, Elder Gargaroth, Scute Swarm, and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove come to mind from recent sets (why does green get EVERYTHING?!?!?)
Kindred Discovery - Slap this on the table and name whatever you have the most tokens of (usually "spirit") right before a big attack and you'll have instantly gotten your value. Even better news, if your token engine is still around post combat you get to cast the cards you drew and have more of those tokens ETB, thus drawing you cards which you can cast, making more tokens ETB, thus drawing you cards. . . and so on. Part of a particularly sweet/nasty "draw your deck and make a lot of haste bugs" combo (detailed here) with The Locust God and Swords to Plowshares/Path to Exile or any other instant speed spell that you can afford which gets The Locust God or Kindred Discovery off the battlefield.
Electrodominance - A big burn or removal spell that can be cast entirely with spirit mana to close out a game or in response to a board wipe to make use of the spirits if need be. The free spell cast from hand also makes sure that the mana invested is being used very efficiently. It has some great play with Underworld Breach and a full graveyard as well, especially if you've loaded up on a pile of spirits. You basically get to cast it plus one other card for "free" from the yard as long as you have the escape fodder to do so and you can repeat until you run out. It can even be played and replayed with Breach for = to rack up storm count if you have a way to create two spirits with each cast trigger, such as Sakashima the Impostor or Anointed Procession.
Expansion // Explosion - A copy effect, burn/removal, and card draw all stapled on one card. Seems great. The Expansion half is stellar for piggybacking on an opponent's early ramp spell a la Cultivate or copying your own Turnabout to send your mana production to the stratosphere. Like Electrodominance, the Explosion half is a good way to use up spirits for value in response to a board wipe.
Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares - It doesn't get cheaper or more unconditional for creature removal. The hardest part of playing these cards is proper threat assessment. It's best to hold on to them until they either pave the way to victory immediately or are the only thing preventing certain death. Fetchable with Sunforger, repeatable with Underworld Breach, Expansion // Explosion, Mystic Sanctuary, or Mystic Retrieval.
Dovin's Veto - The "Um, I'd rather you didn't play that infinite combo/board wipe" card in the deck. Shut em down, no questions asked. The veto obviously doesn't shut down creature combos and it can be outmaneuvered with a well placed copy spell for some combos and wipes, but that is very rare. Ok, so there are some corner case questions asked. Uncle Veto is Sunforger fetchable though, and that's always nice.
Forsake the Worldly - Unconditional artifact and/or enchantment removal at instant speed. Cycle it away if you don't need it, fetch it with Sunforger if you do.
Generous Gift - Nearly unconditional removal for any permanent and another great use for Sunforger. The 3/3 is almost never an issue, but the fact that this can't hit indestructible permanents is annoying, but in a real sticky situation you can get around that with Mirrorweave if the issue is an indestructible creature.
Fierce Guardianship - Free spells WotC? Free COUNTERspells WotC? Alright fine. Play em if you got em. Anti-boardwipe and spot removal tech if ever there was any. Tap out like a boss.
Chaos Warp - Unconditional removal for any permanent. . . sort of. Careful pointing this in the direction of dedicated creature decks. Getting rid of a control or fellow spellslinger deck's nasty permanent with this is pretty safe since there are decent odds that they flip an instant or sorcery. No matter what it targets, there is a solid chance that permanent just gets replaced with a land. Of course, there are times when you target a massive Omnath, Locus of Mana and they flip a Zendikar Resurgent, laugh, and recast Omnath While mileage may vary with warps, it's always Sunforger fetchable, and that's reassuring.
Render Silent - What did the Azorius Mage say to the player in the lead? "NO!" You haven't lived until you've shut down someone's entire turn when they think they are comfortably winning. It's a 3 cmc instant with a white pip, so you know what that means.
Counterflux - Like Dovin's Veto this shuts down a combo, board wipe, or nasty spell no questions asked, but unlike Uncle Veto it costs an extra mana and can counter a creature. There is also some serious meme potential with the overload cost and a stack with multiple spells, but the stars really have to align for that. Sunforger gets it.
Tragic Arrogance - A great and underplayed board wipe. It won't completely wipe the board, but the fact that this hits multiple permanent types and you get to keep your best permanent of each type while choosing the worst of your opponents' permanents to stick around is sweet! The sacrifice clause is handy as it gets around indestructible, hexproof, shroud, and regeneration shenanigans. The only downside is that tokens are going bye bye, but you can sac Spirits for mana or make machine gun noises with your mouth while you activate Goblin Bombardment in response.
Hour of Reckoning - One of the absolute best cards in the deck, don't @ me. Convoke plus the fact that Kykar specifically makes white spirit tokens means that this is usually just free to cast and is almost entirely one sided. The downside is that Kykar and any other token engine creatures in play are biting the dust... unless you read the primer closely and remembered that you have Boros Charm and Flawless Maneuver in the deck. One truly fun play is to tap up to 7 creatures to convoke Hour of Reckoning with Jeskai Ascendancy in play, which then untaps and pumps the token army before it attacks now defenseless opponents. Got an Underworld Breach, Jeskai Ascendancy, a full graveyard, and seven white tokens in play? Convoke your Hour over and over to load up on cast triggers.
To make up for this the deck runs some good old fashioned rocks. They are more vulnerable than lands generally speaking, but there's good news too!
First, many of the deck's spells are cheap, cheap, cheap, so it's not as crucial that you be able to produce a jillion mana before you go for the win like a lot of EDH decks. Second, Kykar can usually pull mana from out of nowhere for generic costs and red pips if needed. Third, unlike rocks in many decks, these aren't necessarily dead draws later in the game. Casting a signet on T10+ still triggers Kykar and some other engine cards, which could in turn make for that one additional Cathars' Crusade trigger necessary for lethal, or some similar scenario. Finally, since the deck runs so many filter/draw/cantrip type spells, it can often allow a keep for an otherwise good hand without a rock in it and still find one on T1, but the hand needs to be good enough that it's not too sad if it whiffs and has to settle for T4 Kykar.
The real trick with rocks in this deck is that they need to help reliably cast Kykar by turn 3, so they need to be run out on turn 1-2, and/or they need to produce colored mana to satisfy the deck's heavy demands. This really narrows down options!
Sol Ring - It's great for obvious reasons and all, but it doesn't help out in this deck as much as most decks given the glut of cheap spells and their colored mana symbols. Still, it helps get Kykar out on T3 (potentially T2 with a signet/talisman in the opening 7 to go with it), but only if our lands fix our colors. It also eases the pain of commander tax, and it does go a long way over the course of a game with generic mana costs. Also stellar in the mid/late game when you're going off and you just want more cards, mana, and cast triggers since it is better than a free spell.
Arcane Signet - Enters untapped, fixes without needing to filter, 2 CMC. Beautiful.
Fellwar Stone - It's tough to find a table where at least one other player isn't playing at least one of the three colors needed, making this a perfectly serviceable 2 cmc rock which taps for mana right away without needing to filter.
Azorius Signet, Boros Signet, Izzet Signet - These do a brilliant job of fixing, allow for T3 Kykar, and enter untapped making them functionally cost only 1 mana for later in the game when all the deck wants is to chain together spells and drive up storm count. The filtering requirement can get you sometimes, so mind your sequencing with these.
Talisman of Conviction, Talisman of Creativity, Talisman of Progress - Pretty much on par with the signets, but probably slightly better because this deck would rather take the point of damage when necessary than find itself losing colored mana because it had to filter through a signet.
Since the deck needs the jeskai color sources so much it also can't run a whole lot of utility lands, but I've included some. This may change as I test and tweak the deck, or if I find that the colorless sources are too much of a liability at a lower than usual land count. I am only running 34 lands + Silundi Vision // Silundi Isle since the curve is so low, and I've found it to be highly functional given the 9 mana rocks, Land Tax, Gift of Estates, and abundance of draw/cantrip effects.
Command Tower - Seems good.
Reflecting Pool, Exotic Orchard - Conditional tri-lands that enter untapped and are usually just Command Tower #2 and 3. The Pool can be a liability in the first few turns, but once Jeskai is assembled it's great. The Orchard can technically fix all three colors as soon as each other player plays their first land, and it's likely to do so in the early turns in a format where people run Mana Confluence, City of Brass, and Chromatic Lantern. Although sometimes you sit down at a table with Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, and Slimefoot, the Stowaway and the Orchard is a total bummer. It's awful hard to find a pod of 3 other players without someone running at least blue though.
Raugrin Triome - Slower Command Tower, fetchable, cycles when you are flooding. Solid.
Mystic Monastery - Just slower Command Tower.
Fabled Passage - Solid fixing that can also help set up for a Mystic Sanctuary.
Flooded Strand, Polluted Delta - The only two proper fetchlands I run since I'd rather feed my family than buy $60 lands. Literal heaps of articles have been written about fetchlands and their utility and drawbacks, so I won't add to that here other than to say it helps you fix by grabbing any of the shocklands, Raugrin Triome, Irrigated Farmland, Prairie Stream, and most importantly sets you up for Mystic Sanctuary or fetches the Sanctuary itself. They also work well with Sevinne's Reclamation to ramp and fix simultaneously in a pinch. If you're looking to improve on the manabase, I'd recommend starting here by adding the other blue fetchlands followed by the other off-color fetches not named Verdant Catacombs.
Flood Plain - Slow fetches still get lands that say "Island" in the type line. Needs to be upgraded once I've struck it rich.
Hallowed Fountain, Sacred Foundry, Steam Vents - I'm sure no one is shocked to see these in the deck! *BaDoom Tshhh!* The best duals that don't require taking out a second mortgage to acquire.
Rugged Prairie, Cascade Bluffs, Mystic Gate - The filters are great in a deck with heavy colored mana requirements. Two of them allow a spirit to become two colored sources for casting a Cathars' Crusade or Talrand, Sky Summoner that couldn't otherwise be cast.
Irrigated Farmland, Prairie Stream - It's unfortunate that these cycles haven't been completed in Jeskai colors, but U/W is by far the most critical dual for the deck. These both say "Island" on them, thus satisfying Mystic Sanctuary, and the cycling on the Farmland is relevant more often than you might think.
Fiery Islet, Sunbaked Canyon - Sometimes you just REALLY need to draw a card. These also fix and enter untapped, so the pain is worth it.
Clifftop Retreat, Sulfur Falls, Glacial Fortress - More duals that will enter untapped often enough (90%+ I'd say) to not be a massive liability.
Ash Barrens - Cycling this is a great T1 play to fix mana ASAP. Once it's cycled away, it can then combine with Sevinne's Reclamation for some ramp. Later in the game when fixing is solid this can just enter untapped and be run through a signet or used for generic costs.
Ghost Quarter - It's not great that it taps for colorless, but when you want to blow up a Cabal Coffers, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, or Dark Depths, you REALLY want to blow them up.
Riptide Laboratory - This is clunky, to be sure, but a really grindy game can make keeping Kykar at a reasonable casting cost extremely important. Fortunately you're running enough instant speed action that you can hold up mana and still find a use for it if you don't have to bail the bird (wizard) out.
Hall of Heliod's Generosity - White does give a lot of recursive effects, but you have limited slots to utilize, so double dipping on recursion with Sevinne's Reclamation and getting value out of a utility land in Hall has to suffice, and you'll find that it's enough more often than not. Hall buys back some important pieces in Goblin Bombardment, Impact Tremors, Jeskai Ascendancy, Underworld Breach, Whirlwind of Thought, Kindred Discovery, In the Web of War, and Cathars' Crusade.
Mystic Sanctuary - I won't go so far as to say that Sanctuary is the BEST land in the deck, because that is a relative and situational evaluation, but I will say it is the spiciest land in the deck. You can do so very much with it: Cast Idyllic Tutor to get your Jeskai Ascendancy, play Sanctuary, draw Idyllic, cast Idyllic, go get your Underworld Breach. Use Sunforger on an opponent's end step to go fetch and cast a Path to Exile, untap, play Sanctuary, draw your Path. Counter the most threatening opponent's first spell on their turn with Render Silent, shut down their turn, untap, play Sanctuary, draw Render, dare them to cast a spell on their next turn. You get the idea. Truth be told, this list isn't even using Sanctuary to it's maximum potential. There was a loop with Sanctuary and Ghostly Flicker that is no longer included, but if you're interested in doing more with this glorious land card you can look into nonsense with rav bouncelands, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, Deprive, Daze, Gush, etc.
2x Plains, 3x Island, 1x Mountain - So basic. You might be tempted to run no basic mountains because. . . well, read Kykar, but don't fall for this. Being able to Ash Barrens or Fabled Passage for that first red source required to cast Kykar is essential sometimes. Islands are important for Mystic Sanctuary, and plains are important for Gift of Estates. 6 is a good number for Land Tax. I don't recommend going lighter on basics having done so myself in times past.
Mana Echoes - Definitely a Kykar card. Insane mana production capability here. My issues with it are 1) $ 2) it only makes generic mana and 2.5) that basically begs for something like Walking Ballista or Buyback combo packages, and that's just not a road I want to go down.
Authority of the Consuls, Blind Obedience - Speedbumps for the bad guys and lifegain for the good guys. I like these cards a lot, and you could lump in stuff like Propaganda, Crawlspace, and Ghostly Prison here too. I don't think I would gravitate towards full on pillow fort, but it's definitely viable in these colors. I think Blind Obedience would be a fine inclusion just for the extort and is on my short list.
Opt, Serum Visions, Careful Consideration, Deliberate, Anticipate, See the Truth, Visions of Beyond, Perilous Research, Thought Scour, Sleight of Hand - Wouldn't you know that blue has lots of cheap cantrips, draw, and loot effects? Many of these have been in and out of the deck before. As of the update where I am writing this these are the ones that don't quite make it. They are all defensible and have their pros/cons.
Keep Watch, Reconnaissance Mission, Glimmer of Genius, Deep Analysis, Compulsive Research, Distant Melody, etc. - The medium costed blue draw spells are all solid, but these are just priced out by Fact or Fiction and Chemister's Insight in the current list.
Blue Sun's Zenith, Stroke of Genius, Pull from Tomorrow, Read the Runes, etc. - The big blue draw spells are incredible, but I want the lowest curve I can get and I already have lots of card draw effects. The biggest selling point aside from the card advantage for these is that they are a good outlet for saccing spirits in response to chump blocks or a board wipe. Ultimately though, I'd rather pay a lower premium for an on-board repeatable draw effect like Whirlwind of Thought, Skullclamp, or Kindred Discovery that will keep fueling my turns.
Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time - Dynamite cards that I go back and forth on a lot. Mostly what keeps them out is wanting to keep a full yard for Underworld Breach action.
Honor the Fallen - A hidden gem of a cheap token trigger that hates on graveyard strategies while giving the deck a source of lifegain. I do miss it every now and again, so I keep it in mind for if my meta ever shifts in the direction of heavy GY strategies.
Favorable Winds, Intangible Virtue, Spear of Heliod, Dictate of Heliod, Eldrazi Monument, Call for Unity etc. - Anthems are sweet in token decks, and these all trigger Kykar, but not some of our other token engines. Also, many of them cost a fair bit of mana, slowing the deck down. Some of the more powerful or efficient ones could certainly earn their keep, but the effect isn't quite what I'm looking for.
Docent of Perfection - It's a bit pricey and the tokens aren't remarkable on their own, but if you flip him and he remains protected or unanswered for a turn cycle, it's often game over. Kykar, Murmuring Mystic, and Talrand, Sky Summoner are all wizards that will flip Docent quicker and benefit from the resulting buff. Unfortunately Docent just ends up being a bit too expensive for my liking.
Mad Ratter, Nadir Kraken, Improbable Alliance, Gavi, Nest Warden, Chasm Skulker - Token engines that are asking just a bit too much IMO, but future cards may make them better.
Divine Visitation - A powerful effect, but one that interferes with spirit mana. I feel like the list is better of pumping the team with stuff like Cathars' Crusade, In the Web of War, Jeskai Ascendancy, etc.
Supreme Verdict, Cleansing Nova, Austere Command, Winds of Abandon, Settle the Wreckage, Flood of Tears etc. - More decent board wipe options that may or may not be better than what's in the current list depending on meta. I keep the list very light on board wipes just because I really only want the one sided ones and feel like in many situations I can win through a cluttered board. The fact that they are expensive and I want to be resolving multiple spells a turn also keeps me hesitant to run more.
Sephara, Sky's Blade - A great source of lifegain, and a big beater that is often easy to cast in this deck. The protection for flying tokens is the cherry on top of an already tasty sundae. I just struggle to include creatures in the deck unless they make tokens or do something really bananas. Sephara tempts me, but not enough.
Nin, The Pain Artist - Repeatable card draw from nuking some poor token. Lack of haste hurts her chances, and if I wanted to sink a bunch of mana into drawing cards, I'd probably rather run some big X costed instant/sorcery.
Aetherflux Reservoir - A little too spiky for my tastes. A great source of lifegain and a very effective win condition though. I'm trying to balance spellslinging and token production, and this just pulls the deck right into spellslinger only mode.
Fight to the Death - This can really be a blowout, especially if you hit multiple opponents' creatures. Blocking a bunch of big beasties with Spirits, casting this, and then sacrificing Spirits for mana in response seems pretty dang good too though. I've done it before and it feels good, but a lot of times this card is just dead in hand.
Deflecting palm - This strikes me as a very fun card, and sometimes your opponent has some massive trample critter you just can't deal with (it's Gishath, Sun's Avatar in my meta) or something unblockable with a sword equipped. The wording even gets around hexproof! Unfortunately it is highly situational and I hate having dead cards in hand.
Jeskai Charm - Removal, burn, pump, and lifegain all stapled on one card. Flexible as a rubber band in a yoga class. Unfortunately the flexibility comes with a significant reduction in power. It's already easy enough to find better versions of all three effects in these colors.
Rally the Righteous - Seems real good, but I get to be picky because I already have several pump effects that are either strictly better or do something in addition to pumping the team. There's also the downside (or political upside) of this card potentially helping an opponent, although you can mitigate by only casting it after favorable blocks are declared.
Make a Stand, Rootborn Defenses, Unbreakable Formation - A jeskai token deck really needs haste or indestructibility, and I'm leaning more heavily into haste since I get some added benefit from a couple of my haste enablers. These are still great though, but they get priced out by Boros Charm and Flawless Maneuver.
Call the Coppercoats, Goblin Wizardry, Empty the Warrens, Secure the Wastes, White Sun's Zenith, etc. - I prefer my spellslinging take care of other things like draw and removal whilst my mentors take care of the token creation. That said, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to jam one of the better token creating instants/sorceries.
Rhystic Study - Results can vary depending on the playgroup, but this is generally one of the best blue draw spells around. It's not in the deck because on T3 you want to be playing Kykar and after that there is usually something faster or more explosive to be doing.
Smothering Tithe - This would easily be the best source of ramp and fixing in the deck if included, but it's out for the same reasons Rhystic Study is out.
Purphoros, God of the Forge, Vicious Shadows - Mostly not included because they aren't token engines or spells to sling, but also due to personal preference. They are great ways to win a game of commander with a token deck, but I find the victory pretty hollow when it's achieved in such a non-interactive "auto-win" fashion. Especially Purphoros. What a groan fest of a card. Vicious Shadows feels a little more "fair" because it's so expensive, but it turns Kykar's sac ability into a machine gun for an insta-win sometimes. Maybe I'm being a bit too "75%" in my approach, but I just can't help having a bad taste in my mouth from 1-2 card victories.
Midnight Clock, Windfall, Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge, Reforge the Soul - drawing 7 (or more) cards sounds like a good time, but they all seem fairly conditional and slightly akward outside of a deck dedicated to draw/discard and wheels.
Shared Animosity - It's a great card for the deck, but honestly it's a nightmare for combat math if you've got a mix of different token types. I think it lags behind the other pump effects too since it does nothing other than boost power and only on attacks.
Felidar Retreat, Moraug, Fury of Akoum - Even with a handful of fetches and a couple other cute ways to hit landfall triggers, this list doesn't provide a ton of support for these to be good. That said, they don't really need a ton of support to be good. My main issue is that they are expensive do-nothings unless you make a land drop immediately after casting them and they are good enough to draw removal for sure.
Spark Double - I gave the edge to Sakashima the Impostor here since it can target any creature on the battlefield, not just your own, and it can return itself to hand. I find I have a just right density of mentors in the deck and don't feel an urgent need to add another, but if I really wanted an additional mentor in the deck I would stick Spark Double in and tell him to start doing his best bird wizard impression.
Kyren Negotiations, Opposition, Intruder Alarm, Faces of the Past, Rakka Mar - Not token engines or spells to sling, but this is DEFINITELY my kind of nonsense! Negotiations and Opposition go nicely with Jeskai Ascendancy, and Rakka Mar goes infinite with Intruder Alarm and Iron Myr, and is good with Kykar even if it doesn't go infinite.
Savage Beating, Relentless Assault, Hellkite Charger, Fury of the Horde etc. - Extra Combats are also great for a token deck, and some of these are instants/sorceries, but they are higher cmc which makes me hesitate. The effect is powerful enough that it may just be worth running one or two though.
Berserkers' Onslaught - Sweet card and effect for decks trying to win during their combat phase, but it's expensive to cast and is not a token engine or instant/sorcery.
Cyclonic Rift - I don't own one, it's expensive, and it would be immoral to own one anyhow (I kid, I kid!), but it would certainly be the best board wipe in the deck if I ran it. I just... really don't like this magic card.
Cultural Exchange - "Ok, here's the deal. You get these five 1/1 Spirits, and I get your Omnath, Locus of Rage and his 4 5/5 buddies." Expensive to cast and swingy, but loads of fun if you pull it off. The fact that it's conditional and so many decks run some sort of sac outlets to respond with keep me from including it.
Assemble the Legion - I love this card and want it to be good, and when it is good it's reeeeeeally good. Unfortunately, the only time that really happens is when you play it on T4-5 and it gets 5+ counters in a long game, or you're on proliferate.dec. It's a do nothing the turn you play it, and a dead draw in the mid to late game.
Elspeth, Sun's Champion - I keep telling myself I'm going to pick up a copy and try her out, but she is awfully expensive. That said, she's close to a perfect planeswalker for the deck IMO.
The Magic Mirror - I like it. I think it's just a smidge too slow though. If you run a proliferate subtheme maybe...
Earthquake, Magmaquake, Subterranean Tremors - one sided sweepers that ask just a little too much IMO.
By itself, Faithless Looting is a good card and all, but it's not incredible. However, with Kykar and another token producer in play it becomes quite strong. Suppose I played an Azorius Signet on turn 2, Kykar on turn 3, and Talrand, Sky Summoner followed by Swords to Plowshares on an opposing commander on turn 4. I now untap and draw for turn 5 with 5 non-spirit mana sources, Kykar, Talrand, a 1/1 spirit, and a 2/2 drake on board and 5 cards in hand. I cast my Faithless Looting. For a single I have now: replaced the 1-2 least useful cards in my hand, put three cards in my graveyard, created a 1/1 flyer and a 2/2 flyer, and have given myself the opportunity to recoup the spent by sacrificing the spirit Kykar just made. Additionally, between the five cards I had in hand after my draw step and the two I saw by looting, I've almost surely hit my land drop. That's a lot of upside at a low cost! Now we can start to chain the value together with more spells!
Let's suppose I pass the turn with 3 cards in hand and 5 untapped mana sources after casting my sorcery and playing my land. One of my opponents casts Damnation, so I respond with Render Silent. Now I've protected my board, shut down my opponent's turn, and created another 1/1 and 2/2 flyer. Finally, on the last opponent's end step, I resolve Impulse. The cast trigger creates another 1/1 and 2/2 and end my opponents' turns with 2 cards in hand and Kykar, Talrand, 4 2/2 drakes, and 3 1/1 spirits in play (that's 14 power in the air).
To recap, for only 6 mana I have:
-Dug 2 cards deeper into the library, likely hitting my land drop and replacing 1-2 of the least exciting cards in my hand.
-Protected my board.
-Shut down at least part of an opponent's turn.
-Put 5 cards into my graveyard, at least one with flashback, to fuel future turns.
-created 3 2/2 drakes and 3 1/1 Spirits netting me 6 flying bodies!
I personally like that type of play a lot more than untapping, playing a land, casting a Grave Titan or some other fatty and passing!
It is absolutely worth noting here that while this strategy is incredibly mana efficient, it uses a lot of cards. As such, it is important that the list includes plenty of cantrips that replace themselves and at the very least do not create card disadvantage, as well as sufficient sources of raw card advantage. It is a tough balance to strike, and the deck can be slightly modified a huge number of ways to try to mitigate this, but if that is taken overboard it can sacrifice raw power in the name of having more cards in hand.
With a lot of the cantrips and filtering spells in the list, riskier than normal keeps can be potent. 2 lands, a rock, and a cantrip in the opening 7 is often enough. Alternatively, 5-6 lands and a Faithless Looting or Frantic Search is probably better than a mull to 6 since I can pitch excess lands without feeling bad about it.
Some opening hands as concrete examples:
Once you've maybe filtered your hand a bit then ramped into Kykar, and ideally a token engine to go alongside Kykar, the mid-game is where you're looking to really sculpt your hand, deal with opposing threats, and generate a threatening board state of your own. This is the part of the game where you're looking to get some massive value out of spell-slinging multiple cantrips or set yourself up for the late game by sticking ridiculously good repeatable value engines like Cathars' Crusade, Sunforger, or Jeskai Ascendancy. If it's T4-T7, then you'll usually be looking to keep at least some mana open for plays on my opponents' end steps or to counter whatever busted thing they may be trying to do, and you'll know you're doing well if you're untapping with 3-5 freshly made, pseudo-hasty Spirits and the same number of some other token.
This is also the point in the game where you should at least aware of any combo pieces, if not actively playing to them as my main outs. For example, if I have Haze of Rage and Sakashima the Impostor in hand, you might be a bit more reckless with your play patterns and focus on digging as deep as possible in your library looking for Anointed Procession. Or, if you have either Jeskai Ascendancy or Underworld Breach in hand, You might go all in on getting your hands on Faithless Looting or Frantic Search.
- In the Web of War
- The Locust God + Skullclamp
- Jeskai Ascendancy. . . by itself really, but especially with Hour of Reckoning or Underworld Breach. . . or both
- Cathars' Crusade
- Monastery Mentor and his prowess monk tokens.
However, the game can not always be won through combat, so in some games the end-game strategy will have to center around Goblin Bombardment, Impact Tremors, or both.
@Feyd_Ruin, @WizardMN, and @toctheyounger for help with formatting and forum code.
@OCPunisher, @WolfWhoWanders, @nimbaway, and @kirkusjones for being my fellow Kykar pilots and discussing card choices in this thread.
@darrenhabib for the usual high level of analysis and insight.
@pokken and @shermanido37 for great card discussions whether here or in one of the Ephara threads in the forum.
@3drinks for keeping the random card of the day thread going, which has resulted in food for thought for yours truly and more than one change in this list.