[[PRIMER]] Kaalia of the Vast

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3drinks
Kaalia's Personal Liaison
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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

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Kaalia of the Vast
Welcome to the most definitive Kaalia Primer ever written for Commander games.


Last Deck Update: 01.20.2021
Disclaimer
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  • My decklists are actual paper lists, and do not take budget into consideration. There are a lot of very expensive cards, reserve list or not, because I strive to acquire only the best of the best.
~~Analysis of the Commander~~
Kaalia of the Vast has three immediate points to note which defines how I built the deck:

Her Converted Mana Cost: At a cost of 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, however this is only true in 1v1 games as you can't thoughtseize everybody. And, while this primer was originally written from a 1v1 slant, that will no longer be the case going forward since no one plays the busted 1v1 commander format. As such, this primer will be taking on a multiplayer approach – something a number of players have asked me about for years.

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.

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death - My second queen, indeed another deck I have thoroughly explored. Even similar to Kaalia as it can 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. Alesha typically, while capable of powerful plays that can swing the tempo of a game back in your favor, isn't really known for the crazy big flashy plays the commander format as a whole is known for. Thus, you won't find a lot of interest in her on the internet, it seems. Speaking from experience again, she is powerful of course, just to the average player not conducive to the commander experience they are looking for.

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.

The Partners: Typically starting with Tymna the Weaver these decks look to takew the extra CA from having a starting hand of +1 CA on top of a commander capable of generating +1CA/opponent on any given combat. Vial Smasher the Fierce tends to accompany her as his damage just on casting spells is a welcome advantage, but as is akiri, line-slinger since we rely on artifacts so heavily as well as Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder for the clock he presents. These are all very reasonable avenues to explore, however I am interested in Kaalia here.

Kaalia, Zenith Seeker: Lastly, I intend to touch on her as I've already dabbled in her deck enough, and as I want to make this a haven for "all things Kaalia", that means she deserves a slot here too. Not just on definition, but also because I do see potential in her and believe there is a real deck to be unraveled here.

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, I felt it worth at least mentioning.
Reasons you would enjoy piloting this deck:

1. You want to use a plethora of the most Angelic, Draconic, and Demonic creatures in the history of this game.

2. You like the idea of playing a combo deck that doesn't utilize a traditional combo finish. I don't think I can maintain this 2011 statement as the commander format as a whole moves toward the combo-kill-everyone-at-once spectrum.

3. You like using a lot of tutours to find the perfect tool for the job. Roughly we're playing about 9% of our deck as universal tutours. If you don't like that, then the chances are high you won't enjoy this.

4. You don't want an "S-Tier" commander deck like Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, Edric, Spymaster of Trest, or Golos, Tireless Pilgrim because you still want to have friends. The irony here is that many players are afraid of what Kaalia might do and will hold your choice of deck against you from game-to-game. But hey, at least we're not touching those filthy islands, right?

Reasons you might not enjoy piloting this deck:

1. You prefer the safety net of superior control of the stack that a U deck would provide.

2. You're one of the people who still believes R is the worst colour in the format. (You're wrong, just FYI, but I digress).

3. You're done having friends and just want to lock down entire tables with Derevi Stax. (But ironically, you're gonna experience this same thing as our aim is to remove the lands once our cheat mechanism commander has stuck).

4. You believe the only way to play this format is at the "cDH" level. But realistically Kaalia does contain cDH lines of play such that the commander can put up real numbers at the upper end of competitive power. Many will scoff because she isn't Najeela, nor Kenrith, nor Golos nor Urza, but Kaalia does in fact have a cDH presence, if one was so inclined to go to that point.

~~Personal Bio~~

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 about nine 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" as far out as Reddit (before I was even on that platform!), 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 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 "cDH" 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...

But that's me. I'm sure you want to know who is Kaalia anyway, and what exactly gives her this power. As it turns out, she's from Alara (the Bant shard specifically, ironically enough) where she was a powerful cleric. Her birth name was Lia, and her past is one tormented by the scars of devastation.
The Stonekiller
By Jenna Helland
Kaalia background
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The pebble was a hazy green, like the eye of a dead fish. Like the eyes of the girl in the village yesterday. "Runt," the green-eye girl had said. At first, Lia had no idea who the girl was talking about. And then she saw those fishy eyes looking straight into her own. "Worthless runt."
Even girls she thought of as friends joined in to mock Lia: "No one wants you here... your fingers are freakish... Are you stupid and lame?"
It was true, her fingers were curled like claws. Try as she might, Lia couldn't straighten them completely. Even her mother, who was the village healer, couldn't fix them. Lia had never cared, at least not until yesterday. She balanced the pebble on her knuckle. She didn't even know who the green-eyed girl was. She'd just asked to join their skipping game. Stupid fingers. Stupid runt.
Lia dug her toes into the sandy riverbank and stared hard at the sparkling river. Today was the first time her parents let her play by herself near the water. Her father and older brother were just over the rise in the field, but she couldn't see them, so she felt alone. Lia stared at the pebble. Make the green-eyed girl disappear. Instead, there was a popping noise, and the pebble crumbled on her knuckle. Despite herself, Lia smiled as the green dust swirled away in the warm summer breeze.
Unfortunately, she didn't have the power to make the girl disappear. She could make rocks crumble, and that was it. Mages were rare in her village, and none of the other children had any casting abilities. Her mother said it was a gift. Lia wasn't sure; it wasn't like the world needed any more dust. But her mother insisted she was special. All great mages started somewhere, and pebbles are as fine a place as any.
The village was about a mile away from Lia's family farm, and her mother was tending people there again today. Usually Lia went along, but not after what happened with the girls yesterday. I'll never go there again. The village was a ragtag collection of houses and shops built among the ruins of a castle. Before the Conflux came and remade the landscape, the castle had been one of the jewels of the Bant.
Lia was too young to remember the hellish years of torment and war that followed the merging of Alara, but she often wished she could have seen the castle in its glory days. All that was left was its high tower and the four corners of its outer wall. The elders said they were blessed because the village was in a region that was much like the old Bant. Only the southern horizon had changed during the upheaval. An unnatural mountain range had clawed its way out of the earth and forever blocked passage to the sea.
Bant had been a vast realm. A beautiful land of floating castles, seas of lush grass, and the bluest skies you can imagine. Lia loved the elders' stories about old Bant, especially about brave knights fighting hordes of undead monsters. Suddenly, she resolved not to waste any more time thinking about the green-eyed girl. Instead, she leaped to her feet and searched for sticks, which could serve as Grixis hordes. With a fistful of twigs, Lia recited the story in her mind: It was a crisp autumn day when Eos Castle was besieged by creatures too horrible to imagine.
Lia mounded up sand for a castle, and then smashed it with her fist. The stick hordes poured into the courtyard! They broke through the wall!Knight Aran fought valiantly atop his horse! She was just about to unleash the ballista when something moved in one of the trees on the other side of the river. The sunlight glinting off the water made her squint, but she glimpsed someone perched on a tree branch, hidden among the leaves. Just then, a gust of wind rattled the branches, and Lia saw her watcher. Its body was covered in spotted fur. Pointed ears stuck up from its head, and its face was more animal than human.
"Mami!" Lia screamed, even though her mother was far away. When Lia looked back, the creature was gone.
Usually, Lia's family ate together and then told stories until bedtime. But two of the village hunters were missing, and her father and brother joined a search party. Lia ate her stew alone on the little stool by the iron stove while her mother comforted the young wife of one of the missing hunters.
Lia knew better than to interrupt, although she desperately wanted to tell someone about the thing she'd seen in the tree.
"...strange signs on the road to the mountains," her mother was saying to Cele, as the young woman nervously twisted the end of her braid.
"They were tracking a herd that way," Cele said, her eyes were brimming with tears. "Maybe they went up into the mid-lands."
Her mother noticed Lia was watching them and motioned her over. As the firelight danced across the rafters, her mother slipped an arm around Lia and pulled her close.
"Did you have fun by the river today?" her mother asked. "It was such a pretty day."
Lia nodded. "Are there cats who walk like people?"
Her mother's brow furrowed. "In other lands, Lia. Why do you ask?"
"I saw a thing that had a cat face but a body like us," Lia said, half-expecting her mother wouldn't believe her. "In the trees along the river."
Cele's eyes grew enormous and suddenly her mother was saying how late it was and bundling Lia off to bed. And maybe they could have sweet bread for breakfast? Lia fell asleep and dreamed of girls with pebbles for eyes and floating sand castles.
The next morning, her father's eyes were sunken with tiredness. He hugged Lia and wanted to hear her story from the day before. People were trying to act normal, but Lia could tell something was very wrong. Everyone's faces seemed pinched too tight and she heard them whispering about the missing hunters.
At mid-day, Lia's mother sent her outside after she promised not to wander beyond the shadow of the cottage. But she grew tired of playing by herself under the eaves and decided to run circles around the house. The eagle flew over Eos Castle...With her arms outstretched like wings, Lia ran around the corner and bashed into something. She stumbled backward and was caught by strong hands. As a dark bag fell across her eyes, she glimpsed a cat-like face. They'd been waiting for her behind the cottage, where there were no windows or doors, and no one to see her disappear.
That night, the demon came to the village.
He came while the hunters' wives were weeping for their husbands. He came while Lia's parents frantically searched for their daughter. Just as the crimson sun disappeared behind the unnatural mountains, the demon seemed to materialize in the starry sky. His presence immediately afflicted the villagers. They became weak and ill and fell to their knees. A ring of black-clad servants encircled the village, and as the noose closed around them, none had the strength to raise their hands in defense.
By morning, a sickly wind blew through the open door of Lia's cottage, which was as empty as the rest of the village.
The Sculptor surveyed his work with a critical eye. To the uninitiated, it must look like chaos. But to him, every clink and jangle of bone was a perfect harmony to the breathing of his master, Nefarox, who slumbered in the tunnels below the arena.
It was early morning, the servants still in their cages. Seventeen minutes until sunrise, and then the supervisors would have them working again. But for a few precious moments, the world was wonderfully peaceful. The hum of locusts in the trees on the ridges that surrounded the worksite was the loudest sound. For once there was no screaming, no wailing, no scraping of bloody meat off bone.
His worksite had once been a massive Matca arena where Nayan humans fought for sport. Everything in Alara had a former life. Even him. He had crafted bodies from etherium in Esper before he realized his work had been a perverted lie. The Sculptor sighed, angry at his misspent youth. Now, he was an old man, but at least the master had given him a purpose, a reason to keep on living.
He took a deep breath and placed one foot on the bottom rung of the ladder. Time to tally the signs. The ritual could only begin when the numbers aligned. If something was one tick off, the project would fail. The Sculptor felt a ripple of panic at the thought of disappointing his master. If he failed, it would be better to cut his own throat than face punishment.
The Sculptor counted the rungs as he climbed. Seventy-six steps, and he was at the top. From this vantage point, he could assess how his great work was progressing from a bird-eye view. Months ago, the Sculptor had removed the stone benches that encircled the arena—five-hundred sixty-six benches. The servants dug deep pits to hold the carcasses before they were skinned. One-hundred forty-two pits. Most were now brimming with discarded meat.
Ninety-two. The number of knife strokes to skin a behemoth.
Feeling very kingly, Sculptor eased himself onto the walkway, which creaked and shifted under his weight. It was constructed from the bones of a hellkite the master had slaughtered in the high peaks. The dragon's beautiful corpse had moved the Sculptor to tears. Indeed, it was the seed of inspiration for the entire project. Etherium had no life inside of it. But bone? Bone was imbued with blood and power—energy he would harness for his master.
The servants had carried the skeleton down precarious mountain paths. Once installed, the ribs branched out and down to form a cage around the arena floor. The spine was the walkway on which he now stood. When he bent down and touched the bones, he could still feel the immense power of the hellkite pulsing through the marrow.
One-hundred twelve. Number of total hands needed to move the hellkite's corpse. Three fingers lost.
The Sculptor enjoyed a gust of wind. It brought a scent of honeysuckle from the golden lowlands. The warm air rattled the bones hanging from ropes beneath his feet. Seven-hundred sixty-nine silk ropes. Seven-hundred sixty-nine bones. Sometimes he wished he were a puppet master and could make those bones dance like marionettes. But that would be the master's pleasure. And all the power derived from the ritual? That was the master's reward.
An abrasive metallic screech tore the Sculptor away from his reverie. The twisted metal gate swung open, and new recruits filed into the arena. Bant humans from the grasslands, probably that miserable little village near the ruined castle. They were bound together with rope, and the Sculptor counted carefully as they passed under the hellkite's spine.
Forty-seven bodies. Plus the two hunters they'd caught spying on them earlier. Forty-nine bodies.
The Sculptor's breathing quickened. Frantically, he tallied the figures in his mind again. Was it possible? Yes, all the numbers aligned.
It was perfect. And after such a long wait, it would be tonight.
The Sculptor dug his fingernails into the hellkite's ribs and prayed that the master liked his gift.
Lia bit the hand that pulled the bag off her head. Something yelped, but didn't strike her. Instead it set her gently on the ground and backed away.
"I'm Nira," it said softly. "And I'm sorry we had to meet this way."
Lia stared up at a cat-like person and decided it was a girl. Three more of cat-people stood warily by, as if they felt threatened by the tiny girl glowering at them. Boys, she decided. They had manes.
"I want to go home!" Lia shouted, startling all of them.
"Have you ever seen the ruins on the mountainside?" Nira asked. Her golden fur was decorated with black spots. Blue-stone jewelry dangled from her pointed ears. And the whiskers around her pink nose quivered even when she wasn't talking.
"What are you?" Lia demanded, looking around. They appeared to be inside a cave. Torches hung on the wall, and blankets had been laid out over the red-dirt floor.
"Haven't you seen a nacatl before?" Nira seemed surprised. "We're Sunstrikers. Our pride is loyal to the great teacher, Ajani. It's our sworn duty to keep his lands safe."
"These aren't his lands," Lia said petulantly.
"The demon that lives in the ruins is a threat to us all, no matter where we call home," Nira replied.
"Please?" Lia said. "I want to go home."
The Sunstriker looked over her shoulder, as if hoping her companions could make this easier. They said nothing. "The demon is harvesting the bones of creatures for a ritual. . ."
"Ritual?" Lia asked in confusion.
"He's killing countless creatures just to give himself more power," Nira explained. "We've been hunting him for a long time. Many of our pride have died, including most of our mages. He's taken your village, which I didn't expect to happen so quickly."
"Taken them where?" Lia wondered if the demon had the green-eyed girl, and then felt guilty for thinking it.
"To the ruins here in the mountains," Nira told her. "If you don't help us, they will die. I wish you didn't have to hear that, but it's the truth."
Lia thought of her father and how tall he was. She couldn't imagine anything that could hurt him. "Let's go see my father. And my mother is a mage. She helps people all the time."
The Sunstriker looked sad. "You must help her. Your family is at the ruins, too."
Lia hugged her knees and wondered why she didn't feel anything. This all seemed like part of a bedtime story. A cat that could talk. A demon in the mountains. Surely Nira was wrong. Her family was safe in the cottage, waiting for her.
"We must attack before the demon completes the ritual," Nira said. "For my plan to work, we need a stonekiller, and ours have all been killed."
"What's a stonekiller?" Lia asked.
"You are," she replied. "I watched you by the river. You'll be a powerful mage one day."
"Breaking pebbles isn't very useful," Lia said doubtfully.
"Today, you break pebbles. Tomorrow, you will smash walls. Someday, castles might crumble in your passing."
Lia stared at her with awe. Lia galloped by on her white horse, and Eos Castle tumbled to the ground.
Nira unsheathed her sword. With the tip of the blade, she hurriedly drew in the red dirt. Lia watched her curiously.
"Like you, a dragon has a spine," Nira told her. "But unlike you, some dragons have a large plate that connects to every rib. It's also where the wings attach. We call it the keystone."
"Keystone?" Lia asked.
"Keystone means something important," Nira said. "If you destroy this plate, the skeleton will fall. And then the ritual can't be finished."
"You want me to kill a dragon?" Lia whispered. She didn't want Nira to think she was weak, but she didn't want to disappoint her either.
Instead of answering, Nira sheathed her sword and took Lia's tiny hands in her own. "Can you climb?" she asked gently, inspecting Lia's curled fingers.
"Better than the other children," she promised.
"What is your name?" Nira asked.
"Lia," she said.
"Among my people, a warrior receives a new name before her first battle," Nira said. "May I give you yours?"
Lia nodded. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Her, a warrior?
"In my language, kaa means 'power,' Nira said. "You are now the warrior, Kaa-lia. You will kill the keystone. And you will bring your family home."
Just before sunset, Kaalia lay beneath a dead tree on the ridge overlooking the arena. Except for Nira, the ragged band of Sunstrikers had already disappeared into the trees. They would circle around and launch their assault from a different direction. Kaalia stared down at the frenzied scene in the valley. She tried to rehearse Nira's instructions, but her thoughts felt like they were moving too fast.
The pointless slaughter of innocents must stop.
The hellkite's skeleton was like a horrible house.
Kill the keystone, destroy the skeleton.
The dangling bones swayed in the breeze and made hollow, rattling music.
Destroy the skeleton, stop the demon.
Kaalia whimpered, but Nira didn't move. She was watching the scene below intently.
Stop the demon, bring your family home.
As the sun disappeared behind the dark mountaintops, a line of black-clad people shuffled silently into the arena. Strips of black cloth crisscrossed around their throats. Kaalia didn't see her family, or anyone from the village either.
"Those are his servants," Nira whispered.
"They want to be here?" Kaalia was horrified. She could smell a horrible stench coming from the ruins. How could anyone want to be there?
"They might be controlled somehow," Nira said, as a flash of red light blinked from the ridge across the valley.
"That's our signal," Nira whispered. She grasped Kaalia's hand, and the two scurried down the overgrown slope, through a gap in the crumbling wall, and crouched behind one of the massive ribs. They were only a few feet from the main floor, and Kaalia realized her teeth were chattering with fear. She clenched her jaw as the servants formed a circle around the hanging bones. Kneeling, they held out their hands with palms open to the night sky. An emaciated bald man wrapped in tattered furs strode to a platform on the northern end. He was grinning, but it was a toothless, wicked smile that made Kaalia shudder.
During an earlier reconnaissance mission, Nira had discovered pockmarks along the outside curve of the rib that would allow them to climb it and stay out of view of the floor. But just as Kaalia put her foot on the first notch, the ground bucked violently. The servants shrieked with glee, and the sound of their laughter made Kaalia feel sick with fear.
"Let's go," Nira urged. "We have to hurry."
As Kaalia climbed, the rough surface scratched her hands. The servant's chants grew louder and more demanding. A thunderous boom shook the earth, and the servants shrieked in pain. Their palms had simultaneously split open. Droplets of blood began to cascade upward into the sky. Kaalia looked down at Nira in horror. Skin couldn't rip open on its own. Blood didn't rain up.
"If you destroy the keystone, the bones will fall," Nira encouraged her. "All this madness will end."
At top of the rib, Nira leaped onto the spine first and helped Kaalia up. A strong wind seemed to rush in from all sides, and the bones swayed precariously under their feet. At Nira's direction, they flattened themselves on the walkway as sickly fumes began to rise from below.
The bones were sharp against Kaalia'a belly as she inched toward the keystone. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the other Sunstrikers fighting through a mob of armed men to attack the bald man on the platform. In his haste to escape the Sunstrikers, the bald man scampered up a ladder up to the walkway. At the top, he caught sight of them and howled with rage. Nira leapt to her feet.
Nira drew her sword. "Do it now!"" she ordered Kaalia.
Kaalia crouched in front of the keystone. Her feet kept slipping between the gaps in the spine. I'm going to fall. Just inches below her, the hanging bones undulated with magic she couldn't comprehend, fusing together and then falling apart. It was hypnotizing. Kaalia didn't want to look away. If I look away, I'll fall.
"Kaalia!" Nira shouted. She pounced at the bald man, but he dodged her strike and countered. Nira raised her sword to block, but the force of his blow almost knocked her off the walkway. For a leathery scrap of a man, he was unnaturally strong.
Kaalia tore her eyes away from the mass of bones below her. But she felt jittery, terrified. How could she make her mind calm, like it needed to be when she broke pebbles?
"Shut out the world!" Nira screamed. "Pretend you're somewhere else!"
Kaalia pressed her hand against the smooth keystone, closed her eyes, and wished she were by the river again. Bant had been a vast realm. A beautiful land of floating castles, seas of grass, and the bluest skies you can imagine. Under her fingers, the keystone grew warm. It was a crisp autumn day when Eos Castle was besieged by horrible creatures. Kaalia imagined the sparkling river rushing by her bare toes. They broke through the wall! There was rippling sound, and then her fingers felt only emptiness. Lia galloped by on her white horse, and Eos Castle tumbled to the ground. When Kaalia opened her eyes, the keystone was gone and a gaping hole nearly bisected the spine.
Triumphantly, she called out to Nira, but rough hands yanked her off the walkway. The bald man was shaking her and screaming in her face. Behind him, Nira was struggling to her feet. Blood matted the fur on the Sunstriker's head.
"You rat!" the man screamed. "You're the final number! Your blood will light the fuse!"
And he threw her off the side.
With cat-like grace, Nira leapt after her. In mid-air, she encircled Kaalia in her arms and they fell together. Just before they landed, Nira twisted her body so she cushioned Kaalia's fall. Above, there was a loud crack as the spine snapped. The bald man hung on for a moment before the hellkite's ribcage split in half and crashed down. His body slammed against the floor with a sickening thud. Bones clattered to the ground, raining down on Kaalia as she desperately tried to tend to Nira. Kaalia's vision spun dangerously.
"Nira!" Kaalia sobbed. "We stopped it! The skeleton fell to pieces."
"Well done, little warrior," Nira whispered. "Now flee from here. The rest of us are lost."
A blast of energy radiated out of the ground, which split open and left a jagged scar across the arena. Bones and bodies flew like feathers in the wind. Kaalia slammed against the arena wall, frantically shielding her face from the debris that tumbled around her. He arose from the rift that now cut across the floor. His wings cracked and snapped as he ascended slowly into the night sky.
It was as if the entire world has narrowed to a single point—him. He whipped his blade through the air, and the screams of the dying echoed through the valley. Fighting for consciousness, Kaalia glimpsed an image of the Sunstriker's face swirling in the smoke above her, and then the world went black.
When Kaalia awoke, a weak sun was rising in the east, casting a white pall over the devastation around her. Nothing moved amid the wreckage. There were no sounds except the distant hum of locusts. The bodies scattered among the wreckage were charred beyond recognition. Across the valley, half of the ridge was gone, with just a smoking crater in its place. The demon had escaped.
She knelt beside the last place Nira had laid. Kaalia felt empty. Like her insides had been ripped out, and there was just shadows left instead. I'll kill the demon. I don't know how yet, but I'll find a way to make him suffer. Out in the vast wilderness, that is where she would find her revenge.
~~The Deck List~~

So, at one point the flagship decklist here was left as a 1v1 deck. In this rewrite I'm removing that because the ideas of competitive 1v1 is an inherently broken format that no one is playing. Having a multiplayer brand of Kaalia is also the number one thing that players have asked me over the years, so in this rewrite it seems appropriate that I featured such a decklist. Don't worry, I'll be moving the 1v1 record to the vault for reference as needed. Now, since the conclusion of a multiplayer game is contiguous at-best – meaning, it's twenty-twenty, no one is trying to combat kill the table; that's one-hundred twenty damage you'd have to deal, somewhat mitigated by self-inflicted life loss and other's tertiary attacks but you get what I'm saying. So, that's why I believe it's in the best interest of the deck, that rather than a full hundred card list, we use this as the focal point of a base corre deck – i.e. the non-negotiable cards that you're playing regardless of how you decide to win. At first, I was going to use my "contract" brew of Kaalia to act as the example, but as that focuses on just demons I do not feel it's adequately positioned for the three tribes Kaalia supports.

• The Lands

So, this is a good place to start, since without lands, we can't do anything. There's a lot of lands to choose from, and even more than when I wrote this primer in twenty-eleven. However, based on my play preferences, the choices are straight-forward;

Alright, so obviously this is a very purposefully and meticulously crafted manabase. The first reason is, we have one tap land in the deck, because it is snow and provides two colours. There's not any other options for this, and it is important latre on in the deckbuilding process, so we're going to make-do with it. Notable exclusions from the past list in twenty-eleven are Hall of the Bandit Lord, and a smattering of rainbow pain lands and colourless utility lands. While at one point, yes, I did admit bandit lord was non-negotiable, I do not however believe it has retained that status. The format and the game as a whole have changed, entire philosophies have changed. Yes, providing haste in the land slot is good, but as a tap land it's not exactly a surprise play. For example leading with this on t3 and casting hasty Kaalia on t4. A reasonable play given a lot of us have done it. But what if you lead with a t2 Dragon Tempest, interact on t3, and then play hasty Kaalia on t4, for the same net effect but you traded a colourless tap land for the chance to interact. Of course this is an overly simplified interaction, but it is a non-trivial decision all the same. Now, does this make my manabase appear "plain"? Probably. But it's very safe, and functional.

• The Artifacts

Long time followers will know that I've always packed the deck full of cheap mana accelerants that make two or more colours, and to which I clamoured for the enemy-coloured talismans to see the light of day. The good news is, we have those enemy-coloured talismans, but...have you seen the state of the format recently? Urza, Lord High Artificer is a thing that exists. Smothering Tithe was a card they created to pacify W players. Then you have the Bolas's Citadels of the world, the sword decks, the Breya, Etherium Shaper decks and I think we have an opportunity here. So, I've made it no secret that I dislike Smothering Tithe; not that I hate the design, but that I don't value it as a "good" card. But I know other people play it, and they will continue to play it. For much the same reason that cards such as Dockside Extortionist turn up everywhere. And for those reason, I will capitalize on that;
Kaalia Artifacts
Approximate Total Cost:

So that's why if you noticed in the lands list above, there is no Savai Triome or Canyon Slough – because Tsabo's Web shuts them off (cycling is an activated ability). Just to address that point that I'm sure a non-zero percent of readers were scratching their head about in the last section, given my prevalence to use a fetch-dual manabase in everything. And, that card is also why I'm not playing Silent Clearing and Sunbaked Canyon. They are fantastic lands, and I adore them, but I firmly believe we can get more mileage off Tsabo's and it's cantrip plus locking out a certain relevant percentage of opposing mana bases. When opponents get offended at you for disabling their smothering tithe they relied on, or their birds of paradise, just smile and remind them perfect mana is a privilege, not a right.

So I know this looks like a STAX approach, and you're likely not entirely off-base with that assessment. It's no secret I enjoy busting lands and taking away the sacred cow that many players take for granted, because there are no sacred cows in Magic. I'm positive that statement offends people – but the ramp epidemic in open-ended commanders like Golos and Kenrith has to be addressed, or else why bother playing anything else? You're here because you wanted Kaalia, so let's make Kaalia be all she can be.

I don't think mana web needs any explanation. It's one less than war's toll, not colour-intensive, and affects all opponents (check it's oracle text). Why would we not include this in every deck? It's one thing to make design concessions for null rod or tsabo's web, but mana web is all advantage for us and pure disadvantage for opponents. There is zero reason to not play this as the only ways to play around it, are with mana dorks (which we shut off with cursed totem), and mana rocks (which we shut off with null rod).

Trinisphere is a card that reads very symmetrical, and yes it is – on the surface. The affectionately named "3sphere" is actually quite asymmetrical since we're aiming to A) not cast our game-winning spells at all, B) our creature suite is more than three cmc even if we have to hardcast our creatures, or C) even if we're paying three instead of two for our demonic tutors, we're still much more ahead than the damage we're putting on everyone else. In a sense, it kind of functions in a role similar to tangle wire in it's prime in that it's way more damaging to opponents than us in actual play.

Lastly, let's talk about astrolabe and it's non-snow cousin. Surely these go against the null rod plan, right, but not really in actuality. These still replace themselves and are very unattractive targets for removal and in the event we don't have a rod, these fix well enough (probably well enough that I don't need Reflecting Pool, but I have a sweet Japanese print from Tempest that I adore). And even if they did supersede R. Pool, it's just one land and on it's own it replicates mana very well anyway – which is important because we decided to play cards like Necropotence and Grand Abolisher in the same deck. If that was the only reason, we'd have enough justification...but wait there's more! These also allow us to function under a Blood Moon. I think that's worth the trade-off in anti-synergy with Null Rod.

Why Crucible of Worlds? You're playing eleven fetches in a null rod deck, why wouldn't you play this? "Crucifetch" is very good and is a method of hitting our land drops every turn without bumbling around our strategy. And, hey, Strip-Lock is still a thing...

Now, with no equipments, no rocks (to minimize the effect of null rod on our board), we've just cleaned up a chunk of space in the deck. But how do we get the quick one-two hasty punch off, if we're not running lightning greaves? Surely we have to make a concession for Kaalia's fancy footwear right? Well...proceed to the next section, enchantments.

• The Enchantments
Kaalia Enchantments
Approximate Total Cost:

So one of the first things you notice, is there's no longer a Moat. That was one of the most iconic – and pricey – includes that I had picked up for this deck. And, it was a product of a different time. Yeah, Kaalia behaves uninhibited by it, but ultimately it's really good at keeping fair decks from winning. But commander is inherently an unfair format, and many of the top decks win without even attacking, making Moat of dubious value. Idk about you, but I'm not really with my $700 cardboard being "dubious".

The next thing you notice is Blood Moon. Say what! I touched on it above, but yes, I believe with the meticulous manner in which I crafted the mana, that there's no reason we can't support Moon with proper fetching. And, since we're supporting Blood Moon, it's really not a big deal to include (in fact, I'd say it's incorrect to not do so) Magus of the Moon alongside it.

Earnest Fellowship needs no introduction, I've been jamming this card for years as it grants Kaalia protection from 60% of the colour pie. Likewise Dragon Tempest is no stranger to the deck, and it will continue here as the primary haste outlet. It also functions as a win condition in certain combo loops, if you were so inclined.

I've been previously against Land Tax before because it didn't specifically ramp me and I always was heavy on nonbasics. With the shift to a Moon strategy, and a null rod approach, I've come back to the Tax as a way to find my basics and operate unhindered. This is the primary reason I've amped up my basics count.

• Tutours and Draw
Kaalia CA
Approximate Total Cost:

When you put these together, you have a corre deck that looks like;

That's sixty-four cards. That leaves thirty-six slots for any interaction, threats, reanimation. Now, you might change these from time to time, but by keeping the corre together, you help insure you always have a strong chassis to make people struggle to interact with your game plan. So, what's next? First we need to determine how we want to win. Well, no, first we need to pack some instant speed answers and a couple of board wipes for good measure. I find that everyone's tastes for removal carry some degree of variance, but my own choices are reasonably sound;
Kaalia Removal Suite
Approximate Total Cost:

So, I catch a lot of flack for my flagrant avoidance of Path to Exile. The vast majority will play this card, and I absolutely cannot stand it. Because, if I'm going to fix your mana with my spells, I had better be taking out any permanent I want and not just a creature. People far, far too many times view PtE as a negligible drawback, but it isn't, giving people a land is huge. Why would I give up a card to help you when I have access to the best removal in the format within my wedge?! I have hundreds of playable options.

A note about these choices. Since we're playing Earnest Fellowship, we have to avoid multi-coloured removal since fellowship is symmetrical and removal of two plus colours has a higher chance to get blocked by the enchantment. That's why you don't see Terminate in the list. Exceptions are made for Vindicate however, as it hits any permanent and is worth maybe conflicting with the enchantment.

I know you see that On Thin Ice, and you're probably thinking "what about Skred?" Well, Skred needs a certain critical mass of permanents to be reliable enough while this card only needs a Plains. There'll be one or two other snow cases in this primer as well, each one able to function without a large mass of snow sources.

And for a couple of sweepers, I'll stick with;
Kaalia Sweepers
Approximate Total Cost:

That makes thirteen slots for interaction, which should be a good place to stop. We now have twenty-five slots for threats and reanimation, which can be more interaction in their own right. Before we continue, this is where you need to decide how your deck aims to win. One of the most straight-forward win-cons, is with Worldgorger Dragon and it's loop with Animate Dead and similar effects; this creates infinite mana so you can Fireball the table. But this line of play is risky since one piece of removal mid-chain will end up exiling your entire board. Either time your combo accordingly, or stock up on Silence effects to protect your critical turn. Worth noting the Worldgorger line also wins with a Dragon Tempest on board, so there's that too. There's a decent amount of redundancy in the combo, which I suppose is why it's a common method of victory. While we're deciding on a win condition, let's fill out some protective slots, since Kaalia is a four mana 2/2 with a known reputation, it can be handy to keep people off your turn. Remember, safety first!
Kaalia Safety First
Approximate Total Cost:

So that brings us to just twenty-two slots. I really don't want to go below this number because I want to ensure when I'm ready to make a Kaalia swing, I can make it as iMPACTful as possible.

Kaalia Kill Condition
Approximate Total Cost:

So when we put it all together, we end up with something like;
Kaalia Corre

Commander (1)


OHKO (1)


Approximate Total Cost:

Of note, when I say kill condition, in the scope of a Worldgorger line of play, we just need an X spell that hits all opponents. I picked Fireball|parl because I've been playing for a very long time and have a sweet obscure Arena promo of it, but it also runs Cut // Ribbons as a backup which functions as a flame slash first, then table kills latre in exactly the same way. Other decks might use Comet Storm or Aurelia's Fury + Necromancy to kill at instant speed. Some would create infinite mana in this way and then use Searing Touch an arbitrarily large number of times (this is the cDH method of Kaalia victory). Ultimately, you see what's happening here and can season your method of victory to taste.

There's another combo here involving Vilis, Broker of Blood and Curse of Fool's Wisdom where you enchant yourself and draw your library. You must point a removal at Vilis or else you lose to the loop, keep in mind. But at this point you've got your deck in your hand and you're free to assemble whatever you wish from there, with the only restriction being your available mana. I find this a bit convoluted when I can just tutour for the piece I need, but nevertheless it is a functioning combo to draw all the cards.

Alright, now that we've assembled a list, and discussed our kill conditions and why we chose the kill conditions we did, let's talk about some of the cards whom's role may not be entirely obvious. I think in twenty-twenty it's fair to presume that we all know the interaction between Kaalia and Master of Cruelties/Rakdos the Defiler, so we're going to touch on the less obvious inclusions.

~~Why Am I Playing What I Am Playing~~

Lyra Dawnbringer/Thundermaw Hellkite/Doom Whisperer - The aforementioned "five drop cycle" (a mythic five drop of each creature type and colour showing what the deck does). 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, Lyra'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, Butcher of the Horde, Demon of Wailing Agonies, 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. As a bonus, he's even searchable via Enlightened Tutor. Although he has anti-synergy alongside our null rod effects, the upside is extraordinary – so much so that, if he were sometimes a 5/5 for 6, I'd be happy just because of what he represents.

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 (other than being seven cmc), 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.

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…

Flawless Maneuver & Deflecting Swat - For years, I played Defense Grid in this slot and nowadays in these changing times of the format, I've found D-Grid to be more of a liability than an asset. Combo is a more visibly attractive line of victory nowadays and often when you play the Grid, you offer protection for the first player to your right to assemble theirs combo in peace. It's also (rightfully so) a fairly high profile target that is a common choice for removal while these "free" spells (since we're only casting them specifically to save Kaalia, remain "hidden" from others' knowledge until we're ready to use them. I do not miss the Grid at all.

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. Yes, he's that good, and you can't justify any reason why you shouldn't be playing him. Nope.

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. Note that I removed Mother of Runes from this deck for Fellowship as one blocks the other, and typically Fellowship is more survivable. In my experiences, of course. I started jamming this enchantment in 2012, and I've never looked back, never will look back.

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 "Corre" piece.

Red Elemental Blast/Pyroblast - Times change, deck's change, but our ideals never change. And that ideal, like any other Kaalia deck ever, is "ruin the U player's day before the U player ruins yours." Have you ever tried these two in games? You'd be shocked at how often they're live and just how many "oops" moments you can stop with these cards. And the stories they create, the table will have quite the shock when the counterspell comes from the Kaalia deck.

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.

~~"Flameblast Syndrome", What It Is, and Why You should Avoid It~~

"Flameblast Syndrome" is a term I coined in the creation of this list (and is something referenced countless times throughout the discussion in this entire thread as well as latre on in this primer itself) 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.

~~Effective Strategies for Kaalia of the Vast~~

Kaalia is a combo deck disguised as an aggro deck, which is a common misconception about the deck that many people make (many people assume this is an aggro deck, and then write it off because you can't aggro one-hundred twenty life). 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|ulg, 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!

Or at least, this was the deck's stated mission in twenty-eleven. In twenty-twenty I've removed the hard land destruction since 1) I don't believe I'm fast enough to take advantage of it with multiple opponents and 2) I need my lands since I'm no longer relying on mana rocks – in fact I'm actively shutting off others' rocks. So we're still utilizing mana denial to protect what is still an elvish piper|ulg with flying, it's just in a different way – and we still have an option in Cataclysm|exo's sheer destructive power. I just wanted to make that note.

~~The Baseline Kaalia~~

This is a non-changing list of cards for the starter player to begin their journey with and determine if this deck is for them or not (white border are compartively cheaper than their black border cousins) but the main point is that once you have this, you're done. And if you even like the cards, you can buy a pack of black border perfect fits from a retailer like SCGames to hide the atrocious white borders and mix them well with the rest of your collection. This list replaces the former "baseline" deck that was just commons and uncommons as it 1) could still be edited even today, and was ~$460 for a visibly lower power level deck. The white border deck, sans grim tutor, could be had for just over $200, but most of that is in your "evergreen" cards - the tutours, abu duals, and basic essentials you would play in other decks even if you decided Kaalia wasn't for you.

FWIW, this is not the first white border challenge I've completed, so full disclaimer, I have some experience with what I'm looking for. See here: (3drinks co-builds White Border Chromium!). Now, of course Kaalia herself isn't white border (or is it?!). So we're either making an exception since she isn't in the 99 card stack anyway, or commissioning an alter. Take your pick.

So, if you know me, you know white border cards trigger me to no end. So WHY would I ever subject myself to this? The answer, is challenge. Back in the day when corre sets had white borders, creatures sucked and instants ruled the world. We're not really reinventing the wheel here, but this is a different style of Kaalia with the basic threats from 3ED - 9ED and a stronger noncreature mix. Note when I say "basic" in regards to our creature suite, that doesn't mean "bad" (although, yes, some of these cards are far below par especially by today's standards) but rather it means they are more straight forward in their application. There is less reliance on etb effects (lawd, if only Torpor Orb was a WB print...but I digress) and more emphasis on the punch and the ability to maintain your CA while your mediocre beatsticks do their job. Plus, you can put people on tilt as they watch themselves get their butts kicked by a stack of what they believe to be "white border trash". You'll smile as they remark "whoa, that was printed in corre?!" and they'll look on in fear as they realize the consistency you have since all your tutours are still available (less tainted pact/consultation and gamble, which is perfectly serviceable). People got a faster start than you? Never fear, you still have six sweepers main deck including three ways to wipe lands (with mana rock support, of course).

In the end, this challenging project has taught me that this could serve as a stronger "baseline" deck as it will never change (white border production has been discontinued) while offering a showcase of the general effects you want in the deck should you want to improve it. Or, at the very least, this stands as the go to list should you just want to "troll" your opponents with a white border stack.

One last thing, do yourself a favour and make sure you get the sweet 7ED art for Fallen Angel|7ED. It's easily superior to all the rest of her arts. There's a few points you can consider here that features white border copies of cards that normally don't have a white border print. Of note, we'd care most about lightning greaves|psal, terramorphic expanse|psal, and then there's a couple more angels and a wipe spell plus a mana rock. And, of course you probably know of the Portuguese Mana Crypt that's in white border, if you were so inclined. Good luck finding them, though – you'll wind up needing to buy internationally. This list however, is not taking these exclusive foreign white border cards into account, since that is the easiest way to get into this starter version of the deck.

Plus, hey. Where else do you get the justification to play that shivan dragon|5ed? Bomb as hell art as that is. And, y'know, where else are you gonna rationalize the chance to play that Zodiac Dragon?!
White Border Kaalia
Approximate Total Cost:

Deck stats: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/kaalia- ... challenge/

Sideboard is your "overage pool" of cards to swap out be it 1v1 or multiplayer or any other archetype you want to try. One thing of note, is that you don't have a lot of options for enchantment removal specifically. You have disenchant, and purify, and plenty of artifact removal...but not really enchantment. So you're going to need to make sure what you're really hitting is truly a troublesome target for you. Make your answers count.

Second note: You do not have the mana base to support Necropotence|5ED in any degree of consistency. You might think you do. It's a trap. You don't. Save yourself the $20 and use Jalum Tome|6ED instead.

And again, happy reading, and may your games always be decisive!


~~Kaalia 2.0~~


Coming soon to the world of Kaalia, it's a whole NEW level of play!

We've seen Kaalia, Zenith Seeker by now, in what was the biggest shock by WotC that they actually revisited Kaalia! But in a much different way, such that instead of circumventing converted mana costs, you can instead keep your hand stocked of threats. Many people have begun placing her into existing decks, but I don't believe that's where she's best at (indeed, you would do better on average with some other damnable pact over this). The reason for this is she doesn't really have any outstanding synergies with the way we play Kaalia, other than caring about types. But she needs her types to be equal, since you can't just pick, say, two dragons when you get an angel, two dragons, and no demons. Indeed, look at the average type distribution in Kaalia decks and notice it is very rarely constructed in such a way to benefit the new Kaalia's trigger. Instead, we look and see that she is built for flickering, reanimating, sacrificing, and otherwise doubling triggers. This screams midrange value, of which there are literally dozens, hundreds even, of commander decks out there. But there's another avenue to explore (and it's not cheap); library manipulation. Indeed, a cursory re-reading of Kaalia notices that she skips through the top six cards, gives you up to three, and then ships the unchosen cards to the bottom. That's powerful when you want to dig, but you know what else it's good with? Scroll Rack, Sensei's Divining Top, Fetchlands. Hence I said this is not a cheap deck to explore. It's also a very natural Astral Slide deck, but my favourite of all is that it sets up Approach of the Second Sun perfectly. We have a legitimate alt-win card we can play, that doesn't have the feel bads of taking one player out with Master of Cruelties. Who would have thought a Mardu deck could have the draw power to work through and keep up with some of the strongest card advantage generators in the game, such that the deck could use a seven mana sorcery most at-home in Azorious styled decks?

Now, if you've followed my work over here on @mtgnexus, you'll remember I did launch the cursory version of this commander in an Astral Slide shell, with it's last update being in 2019. It was fun, I got to run a table with the namesake enchantment and archfiend of ifnir, thoroghly annoying both players with my constant responses. But Astral Slide demands a large chunk of deck slots in order to function optimally. And, y'know, that whole big price barrier thing. So for now, I've set out (and thank Kaldheim for this and giving me so many more tools for this to work) an absolute baseline, stripped down (the better to look purely at the deck, without a lot of ancillary plays getting in the way of the deck and clouding our proper judgment) "SilverBlack" (common & uncommon only) version of the deck for analysis purposes only to determine what the deck actually wants versus what the deck theoretically wants, without any extra bells and whistles getting in the way. The idea is making a very minimal dollar investment into the pieces and extrapolating from live game experiences where the deck needs to go from there for stronger competitive purposes. As such, budget constraints are kept in mind as we're solely looking at the raw mechanics here, not utmost cDH level play. Feel free to join in my testing attempts with me if you so please. There is a slight artifact package here, as well mild enchantment play, but otherwise, yes, I'm trying to keep outside packages to a minimum.
Kaalia, Zenith Seeker(Analysis Purposes)

Commander (1)


Approximate Total Cost:

Last edited by 3drinks 4 months ago, edited 39 times in total.
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Post by benjameenbear » 2 years ago

All hail the liaison to Kaalia and his Primer! I'll be transitioning over my Multi-Player Kaalia to the cEDH side of Nexus, but I'm pleased to see that you've made the transition over here. Welcome!

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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

benjameenbear wrote:
2 years ago
All hail the liaison to Kaalia and his Primer! I'll be transitioning over my Multi-Player Kaalia to the cEDH side of Nexus, but I'm pleased to see that you've made the transition over here. Welcome!
Wish I had a regular cEDH group here but no one wants to play at that small a solved pool here. -_-
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Post by benjameenbear » 2 years ago

Indeed. My wife exclusively plays her Kaalia list any time she sits down to play MTG, so by default I play a cEDH style of game nearly every time I play with her and anyone else heh.

Will the new Kaalia find a slot in your regular Primer?

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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

benjameenbear wrote:
2 years ago
Indeed. My wife exclusively plays her Kaalia list any time she sits down to play MTG, so by default I play a cEDH style of game nearly every time I play with her and anyone else heh.

Will the new Kaalia find a slot in your regular Primer?
In this deck? Nah, I can't imagine that since I run only about 16 - 18 slots. But I am currently developing the new one on her own.
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Post by Sanity_Eclipse » 2 years ago

Is 1v1 EDH vs Duel 1v1 EDH still an important difference? I figure that at this point I'm only going to teach friends and/or a future wife to play, so it would be my own decks against each other, and I would want them all to be on the same page, ban-list wise (etc. Different power levels, but same overall page).
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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

Well I am not built to the Duel Commander banlist here. This is built to the traditional commander banlist, and designed for 1v1 games.
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Post by Sanity_Eclipse » 2 years ago

3drinks wrote:
2 years ago
Well I am not built to the Duel Commander banlist here. This is built to the traditional commander banlist, and designed for 1v1 games.
Fair enough, thank you for the response. Feeling a bit rusty from not having played or actively built decks for a while.
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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

Sanity_Eclipse wrote:
2 years ago
3drinks wrote:
2 years ago
Well I am not built to the Duel Commander banlist here. This is built to the traditional commander banlist, and designed for 1v1 games.
Fair enough, thank you for the response. Feeling a bit rusty from not having played or actively built decks for a while.
I was going to say, it's been quite some time since I've seen you around my primer or any other deck in general. Welcome back. To what do we owe the return, and how surprised are you to see the current incarnation of this deck from it's original form in 2011?
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Post by Sanity_Eclipse » 2 years ago

3drinks wrote:
2 years ago
I was going to say, it's been quite some time since I've seen you around my primer or any other deck in general. Welcome back. To what do we owe the return, and how surprised are you to see the current incarnation of this deck from it's original form in 2011?
I'm working a part time job right now, and am kinda just going through new cards and fiddling with my decks as mental exercise, really. Back then I was finishing up college and then I began working like an adult, etc.

Some surprises in terms of the deck, but they immediately register as "oh yeah, that makes sense." Cool to see some creatures I really liked come back in (Balefire, Lord of the Void, Thunder Dragon, etc). :)

...Oh god, reposting my decks is gonna be a pain...
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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

Sanity_Eclipse wrote:
2 years ago
3drinks wrote:
2 years ago
I was going to say, it's been quite some time since I've seen you around my primer or any other deck in general. Welcome back. To what do we owe the return, and how surprised are you to see the current incarnation of this deck from it's original form in 2011?
I'm working a part time job right now, and am kinda just going through new cards and fiddling with my decks as mental exercise, really. Back then I was finishing up college and then I began working like an adult, etc.

Some surprises in terms of the deck, but they immediately register as "oh yeah, that makes sense." Cool to see some creatures I really liked come back in (Balefire, Lord of the Void, Thunder Dragon, etc). :)

...Oh god, reposting my decks is gonna be a pain...
I coulda sworn I replied here, god how asleep was I that morning. Overnight shifts suck >_<

Yeah, the creature suite is in a good place, I think. We're pretty slow to get new choices for our creatures, understandably slow sure since the current suite has quite the power level. Vilis, Broker of Blood is totally getting a slot though. Finally a payoff for all the lifeloss.

Prismatic Vista is totally in too, though I see I need to add that officially. Wonder if I'm actually at a point where my filter lands are unnecessary. I have the pretty expo filters but my mana is at such a high point and I've got some of my CMCs under control colour wise that I might just be able to do that. Ten fetches, 3 ABUs, 3 shocks, a tango, a bicycle, 7 basics, and the rainbow suite with the four colourless lands or so we care about (strip, waste, tomb, bandit lord) which brings us to 33, 34 with urborg, 36 with the new "canopy" lands.....filters not even accounted for yet. That's some very potent mana fixing, and with crucible coming back to the deck (I can't justify not running crucible in a deck with ten fetches, plus four lands I like to replay, and it's a source of CA plus triggers our new big shiny CA demon). Which all makes a pretty decent justification for Tomik, Distinguished Advokist to join as a hatebear.

I'm rambling. Anyway, point being, this primer is still and will always be an active list until such time as I finally sell out of this game haha. Great to have you back and hope the rest of our community from @mtgsally comes over too.
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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

I'm nixing the WGD combo from the contract list. We don't have enough ways to get it into the yard, and it doesn't really exist for anything than just to combo. This will free up a few slots that we can use to reinforce our current end game (liliana's contract).

I'll also be tinkering with the mana some as well, as I don't believe I need the filter lands any more. We've been quite blessed with mana lately. 🙃
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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

Well, that's an auto play card.

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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

As hard as I am on Flameblast Syndrome, this is just the kind of ridiculousness I need to see to justify breaking my rule against it.

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Post by Sanity_Eclipse » 2 years ago

3drinks wrote:
2 years ago
As hard as I am on Flameblast Syndrome, this is just the kind of ridiculousness I need to see to justify breaking my rule against it.

Image
Same kinda wording as Master of Cruelties, so you need three targets to not hit yourself or your creatures. How often does that happen, honest question? One early flier or value creature, plus the actual player, usually (I would assume). Maybe both an early flier and a value creature, fair enough. Still might leave a third necessary target. Tutor up Fellowship to protect against a lack of enemy targets?

My rusty train of thought on this. Love Drakuseth, first assumption was probably Dragon.dec for me.
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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

[mention]Sanity_Eclipse[/mention] not quite, actually. Note that key wording "up to". There's never any time we will hit ourselves or anything of ours. So we can either dome them for 4 (a free Char is pretty great to me, which is an 11 point swing on it's own), with the added effect of hitting two other targets. Or blowing someone out with the "free" 3 for 0.
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Post by Jeff2302 » 2 years ago

So with full spoilers out, i am looking at Backdraft Dragon

Now this is worth running despite the flameblast syndrome especially in my deck which is now with a reanimation suite and plenty of haste enablers.

Decklist for reference, I will be cutting Angel of Serenity for it
http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/kaalia-o ... iplayer-3/

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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

I like the idea of recasting Thoughtseize and Sinkholes, [mention]Jeff2302[/mention], but I really question whether it's efficient enough with flameblast syndrome, especially given most reanimation that's cheap you want to recast are auras. It's totally better than the Angel though.
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Post by Jeff2302 » 2 years ago

I run the following instant and sorceries which I would love to recast.
Getting to recast one or two spells, even looting spells would make the cost very worth it imo

Instant (6)
1x Enlightened Tutor
1x Entomb
1x Path to Exile
1x Swords to Plowshares
1x Teferi's Protection
1x Vampiric Tutor

Sorcery (12)
1x Armageddon
1x Cathartic Reunion
1x Damnation
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Exhume
1x Faithless Looting
1x Ravages of War
1x Reanimate
1x Tormenting Voice
1x Toxic Deluge
1x Vindicate
1x Wheel of Fortune

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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

[mention]Jeff2302[/mention] yeah there's lots of cards we'd like to rebuy for sure. He's probably fine, and he's castable on his own.
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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

So I misevaluated Backdraft Hellkite. Turns out getting a free four cmc sorcery on attacks is pretty good. So uhhh, yeah, despite the non-synergy with contract, I think that's a bit too strong to resist.
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Post by 3drinks » 2 years ago

I'm replacing Ravages of War. Often I felt like I had too much MLD when realistically you only need one because one should end the game, right? And, I sold my Ravages anyway because it's just a $90 Armageddon.

I'm open to suggestions, right now the tentative replacement is Boom // Bust, since it has early game play (Boom targeting their land and your fetch/wasteland for the tempo shot, in case you didn't know).
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Post by 3drinks » 1 year ago

Some day I'm going to get around to combining this primer with my Zenith Kaaliam primer to make this a total hub for all things Kaalia in general. Idk if this is something that carries any real genuine interest though in this era of social media killing traditional forums.
79366971_10158047838013919_2586063486106730496_n.jpg
Kaalia is where I see this shining most, but I don't think it's good enough at the seven slot. He already has double strike, so on the one trigger he's only buffing Kaalia, which isn't enough...but if you have one other angel, demon, or dragon out, consistently when you drop this, that just might push it over the edge.

Interestingly, I think this thing's value is in a blink shell. Ironically, new Kaalia comes to mind since you have Astral Slide and Heartless Summoning to cheat it faster...
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Post by pokken » 1 year ago

Hey man can I ask you a question as to the why of this 1v1 build of traditional commander? Do you play it multiplayer a lot, or do you have just a crew of people who sometimes like to play 1v1? Or is it just the mindset you apply to the deck, that you want to try to make the game 1v1?

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Post by 3drinks » 1 year ago

pokken wrote:
1 year ago
Hey man can I ask you a question as to the why of this 1v1 build of traditional commander? Do you play it multiplayer a lot, or do you have just a crew of people who sometimes like to play 1v1? Or is it just the mindset you apply to the deck, that you want to try to make the game 1v1?
That's a great question. It's really just the mindset to playing the deck, since Kaalia isn't much of a multiplayer deck (or wasn't, until I embraced liliana's contract as an alt win). She really doesn't shine so much when you have to eliminate three people, y'know?
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