Kaalia Stax & Aggro

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benjameenbear
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Titles & Recognition

Post by benjameenbear » 7 months ago




"Image"

Armageddon: The aftermath of Kaalia's conquest for revenge and what your opponents will feel like after they lose.



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Kaalia of the Vast: Oppressive Stax & Aggro Beatdown






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Introduction

The purpose of this deck is to assemble the most cutthroat and competitive Kaalia list possible. Stax and Mass Land Destruction cards are actively played in this list and cast, so if you're looking at this list for inspiration for your own, please remember this fact. This isn't for the weak of heart or people looking to play a "fair" Kaalia strategy (not that Kaalia, as a card, is inherently fair…).

Before discussing the Philosophy of this decklist, it's important I define a few things that are central to Magic: The Gathering as a game and some terms that I'll be using throughout this Primer.
  • Competitive EDH (abbreviated to cEDH throughout this Primer) or Competitive Commander is a type of game where the goal is to win as quickly and as efficiently as possible without any card choice restrictions. It means that your deck is streamlined to maximize value from every single card in the deck, regardless of the actual $$$ cost of the card, and card choices are selected with the criteria of mana-efficiency and card advantage in mind. This decklist was built and tuned in a competitive playgroup and is a reflection of what I've observed to be the most effective way to efficiently win the game. There's a document at the top of the cEDH forums that I highly encourage you to read so that you understand more fully the approach I've taken to this decklist.
  • The second item that I think is important to understand is that this decklist is geared towards other cEDH lists, where they are trying to win the game as efficiently as possible as well. I outline a few decks that are considered cEDH in the general meta, later in this Primer, so that an understanding of what this decklist is tuned for is clear. Basically, if you take this decklist to your Local Game Store (LGS for the uninitiated) it might be akin to taking a nuclear bomb to a knife fight. Your opponents will die, and die HORRIBLY, and there will be some bad fallout that you'll need to deal with outside of the game...
  • Finally, I use the term Stax fairly liberally to apply to any card that restricts my opponent's resources. The term Stax originated a long time ago with the advent of mana-restricting artifacts (think Sphere of Resistance, Trinisphere, and other similar cards) to drastically hinder their opponents from being able to develop any type of board state. A brief history lesson: these artifacts were also played alongside other VERY expensive cards and lands that would cost you "$tack$ of cash". Stax became short-hand reference for the old Vintage style deck that cost $4K back in the early 2000's that would stifle any board and mana development for your opponents. Stax cards are also notorious for forcing your opponents to sacrifice their permanents, a la Smokestack. For a full history of Stax as an archetype, check out the MTGSalvation article. It is important, therefore, to understand that I use the term Stax very liberally within this Primer to mean ANY type of resource or strategy denial card.




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Kaalia's Origin: A Short Story

I think that everyone who's ever read Kaalia's flavor text has been intrigued at her fearsome oath of revenge. What prompted her to make such an oath? Where did she get her wings? Why are her eyes white instead of possessing pupils? How was she able to find the forces from above and below? I wrote a fictional short story that attempts to answer some of these questions in a hopefully enjoyable read.
Kaalia's Origin...
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Kaalia sat in the shattered ruins of what had once been her pride and joy, fingering her holy staff, hair covering her face like a bloodstained veil.

Her mountain cathedral, the carved and majestic architecture that had been hand-carved and quarried by herself and her congregation, was now scarred and cracked. The tall and angled doorway had been shattered from the outside, chunks of colored quartz scattered across the entryway. Scorched stone was now the dominant feature, and the beautiful friezes depicting The Holy Administration of Angels were now haunting reminders of panicked, terrified prayers that had gone unanswered.

Kaalia pushed her dark red hair out of her face, her blue eyes tightening with bitter anger.

Where were the Angels when they were most needed? Why did they not answer?

A bitter anguish, stinging and sour, rose at the back of her throat. It was her fault. She should have been more diligent in making offerings to the Angels, more devout in her supplications to them. Now, the people she had been devoted to, who she had cared about most, had been slaughtered, butchered in such a way as to desolate her dreams for the rest of her life.

Kaalia could see it all in her mind. She hadn't been able to stop thinking about anything else since she had finished the burial rites. She had been preaching a sermon on faith and the Path of Illumination when the sudden shockwave and concussion at the entrance to the chapel knocked her from the pulpit, slamming her against the granite bench behind her. The dark and shadowy demons that had swarmed in after the shockwave were the last things she remembered seeing before she lost consciousness, the agonized screams of her congregation being slaughtered a tormenting echo in her mind as she descended into black. Taut grey skin, hateful and greedy looking eyes, and wicked grins over sharpened teeth dominated her nightmares ever since that day.

Why hadn't the Angels answered?

Waking up to the bloodstained and blackened remains of her cathedral had been even worse. She should have been there, should have been able to use her holy magic to protect her people. It was her duty to protect her people.

But instead, she had been useless, buried under a pile of rubble so that the shadowy forces who massacred her congregation passed over her. The remains of her people, some half-eaten, she had burned as per the burial rituals handed down from the Angels. Each corpse she had put in the fire had felt like a stone on her soul, weighing her down with an cold and paralyzing despair. She had then retreated to her mountain cathedral and sat in the darkness, brooding.

Why hadn't the Angels answered?

Twisting her staff with one hand, Kaalia felt hot tears falling down her face yet again. Since The Holy Administration of Angels had happened after the Battle of Banishment, there hadn't been a single demonic attack. No more nightly barricading and exhausting protection spells. There had finally been peace and safety in the land, and Kaalia could finally rest and do what her soul felt called to do.

It was her fault. She had obviously not done enough to earn the protection of the Angels.

But that wasn't right. Luminaia herself had promised that anyone who wore her Medallion would receive aid and protection from the Angels.

Gripping the Medallion of Luminaia hanging on her neck, across her bloodied once-white clerical robes, she looked out into the fading twilight, shining in through the broken remains of her sanctuary. The weight on her soul cracked, the deaths of all of her congregation breaking through her faith and peacefulness, and something new flooded in. A hot, bitter burning sensation that needed -no!- demanded violence in order to be satisfied. The death of her congregation would be avenged. She hadn't picked up a sword in so long, the memories of death and pain too strong for her to tolerate normally, but everything had changed.

She would take it up now.

Kaalia stood, tearing off the Medallion of Luminaia that hung around her neck and casting it into the mausoleum that her cathedral had become. She gazed at the remains of what had once been her whole life, ingraining the memory of the carnage and bloodstained rock in her mind forever. She stood and raised her staff to the ceiling, intoning her Oath of Vengeance in the holy place she had once called home.

"By the lives and death of my people, I will render justice to the Angels who failed to come!" She raised her voice and began to cast a spell, one she had learned long ago, forbidden by the Angels for its righteous power and hellish hate.

Discovered on accident when she had tried to emulate the might of the Angels and Demons in the Battle of Banishment twenty years ago, she had tried to desperately to forget the power and destruction she had wielded and offer penance for the death she had brought herself so long ago. She didn't think that she would remember the chants, the intricate combination of words and tones that would help her access her magic.

She could remember them just fine.

Kaalia's voice rose in a melodic dirge, the ancient words seeming to twist in the air with energy. Dark grains of energy began to appear, seemingly condensing out of nothingness around her body. Her shimmering spell coalesced, skeins of red, black, and white swirling around her. Her magic bloomed, streaming over her body and igniting the old tattoos that directed the magic. Scaly wings began to form behind her, attaching to her lower back, and Kaalia gasped at the sharp, searing pain as the magical demon wings fused into her. Her blood was pounding through her body, her head throbbing from the need to taste the blood of the murderers of her people.

As the scaly wings fused into her lower back, her spell lightened and formed bright feather white wings. They shimmered into existence above her, resting above her upper back until they too were joined to her body. As they fused into her upper back, the cooling sensation counteracted the hot searing of the scaly wings. The throbbing of her head faded, and the fierce energy of her blood faded to a tolerable glow. The determination of justice and rationality that had flooded into her soul gave her purpose, tempering her bubbling need for revenge into a cold, steely resolve.

Lifting into the air, her wings gently flapping, she intoned the last of her Oath. "I'll have my revenge if I have to call on every force from above and below!" With the last of her spell completed, her eyes whitened, becoming an avatar of hatred fueled justice that would burn her enemies and scourge the land.

Kaalia drifted through the doors of her broken cathedral, pausing to grasp her old sword that had hung above the cathedral doors as a reminder of the life she had left behind.

It would begin tonight.
Thanks for reading the story! I truly hope it was enjoyable and well-written. Let me know otherwise in the comments, please!




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Commander Analysis

"Well, benjameenbear, there's several other wbr generals out there and other Stax variants in different colors. What makes Kaalia better than any other choice?"

In my opinion, I would say that the reason to choose Kaalia over other Stax generals is the creature quality and color combination.

Because Kaalia does her best impersonation of Elvish Piper, we are able to put super powerful Angels, Demons, and Dragons into play ahead of schedule irrespective of their CMC. When we have an ideal Stax board state, getting Kaalia into play and safely attacking shouldn't be too difficult to accomplish. Once that board state has been achieved, we want to be able to close out the game as quickly as possible so that we can eliminate our opponents, and Kaalia has the best suite of creatures to be able to do so while also keeping Stax and/or board control pressure.

  • wbrg Tymna & Tana - The premier Stax deck of competitive Commander is most likely Tana & Tymna Stax. The inclusion of green mana dorks and Tymna the Weaver as a source of card advantage in the Command Zone is invaluable in executing a Stax game plan. It also has a combo finish with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and blink creatures. I'll get into a more thorough analysis of this particular Commander in the Matchup section of the Primer, but suffice to say that this is a great choice. The reason we choose Kaalia over the Princess Partners of Stax is so that we can have a cleaner mana base and superior creature quality. I'm happy to match up Balefire Dragon or Scourge of Kher Ridges against their mana dorks and tokens any and every day.
  • wbr Alesha, Who Smiles at Death - Alesha provides a lower CMC general that's a little easier on the mana base and also provides and invaluable ability to recur a majority of the Stax and Hate-Bear cards that are commonly played in competitive Commander games. She's usually combined with a Reanimator strategy so that you can use a Kiki-Jiki combo to close out the game, similar to Tymna & Tana, and she has a lot of resilience. However, Kaalia's creature quality is again higher than Alesha's. Alesha's creature count doesn't usually facilitate a short end-game, which can allow your opponents to break out of the Stax board you've ideally created. Alesha is a fine choice, but we like Kaalia for her evasion and creature quality.
  • wbr Zurgo Helmsmasher - Zurgo is a strong general for a Stax/Aggro strategy. The reason for that is because he is indestructible during your turn, which allows you to play cards like Wildfire and Destructive Force to their maximum potential; it's really easy to win the game when you're the only player to have a creature on the board, and a 7/2 creature at that. Kaalia has a smaller CMC, which definitely matters between a T3 and a T4 casting of one's Commander. We like Kaalia more than Zurgo because her CMC is lower and her supporting Angels, Demons, and Dragons provide a quicker clock and additional board control that Zurgo is hard-pressed to replicate.
  • UR Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain - the newly printed Jhoira is a very strong candidate for a hybrid Stax/Combo deck. Her ability to cantrip for every historic card (read: artifact card) in your deck makes her a VERY powerful enables for everyone's favorite combo card: Paradox Engine. Because her card advantage is in the Command zone, this frees up a lot of slots for great Stax cards like Back to Basics and Blood Moon effects to slow down your opponents. I believe Kaalia is a better choice because Kaalia can play a more diverse suite of Stax effects, the most important of which are static graveyard exiling effects such as Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace. We can also play Stony Silence in the main and not be as affected as Jhoira would be. Overall, Kaalia has a better suite of Stax options and can play more proactive removal options.
  • UW Brago, King Eternal - another Stax variant that breaks parity on Stax effects with Brago's triggered ability to untap your mana rocks, Stasis, and other important cards. Brago is actually very similar to Kaalia in that he needs a combat step in order to generate his value, so Brago's strategy is somewhat similar to our own: create a Stax hostile board state, cast Brago, and maintain the Stax board state via Brago's ability. We simply prefer to get big fat creatures into play in order to maintain the same kind of pressure. Kaalia is a little better than Brago simply because we can play B tutors and Stax effects alongside some very powerful R Stax effects. Our creature quality is also a little higher as well, and we don't need a combo in order to close out the game. Brago is also weak to artifact neutering effects as well, so Kaalia has a little bit of an advantage here as well.




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Why Should You Play Kaalia?

DISCLAIMER: Playing Kaalia is not for the weak of heart. She commands a well-deserved fear whenever she's revealed as your commander, and your opponents will probably preferentially kill you first. Don't take it personally; Kaalia is just that good.

You should play Kaalia if any of these reasons apply to you:
  • You took a blood oath to never tap an Island EVER in your life, because it's ruined all of your hopes and dreams, and you want to obliterate your Blue-wielding opponents because, as my wife hilariously stated, "Blue doesn't win with honor!"
  • You despise infinite combos and want to have each opponent play a fair game of EDH. Fair, of course, is up for interpretation based on the cards that you'll be playing. This deck plays a dedicated suite of Stax and Hate-Bear cards that are purposefully designed to make your opponents struggle to do any type of relevant MTG action. If you want to slow the game down significantly and impose your will on your playgroup, this decklist is a great way to do so.
  • You want to challenge your playgroup to improve and are okay with depriving your opponents of resources and opportunities to execute their game plan. Seriously, if your opponents can win through dedicated Stax lists, their play skill will vastly improve.
  • You've been conscripted by Kaalia to aid her in her quest to find revenge, and so you have no choice but to let her lead your army and bring hateful justice to the world.
  • Kaalia is in the best colors for removal. Every unconditional removal spell is in her colors and she has access to hate removal (i.e. Pyroblast, Perish, etc.) so that you can tweak your removal package to what you play against most consistently.
  • You want to kill all the things. Yup, there's a metric ton of removal in this deck and killing things in a timely manner is important to winning the game.
  • Balefire Dragon. Razaketh, the Foulblooded. Vilis, Broker of Blood. Avacyn, Angel of Hope. These are some of the most premier Timmy cards in all of Magic and you are able to play them consistently and to great effect.




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Current Decklist

Ok, so the real reason you're here is to see the decklist. I personally find it easier to see each card sorted according to function, so I've listed the decklist accordingly.

An important thought before the decklist is presented. I do not claim that the one presented below is the absolute end-all-be-all of Kaalia decklists for two reasons:
  • The list below is a selection of the cards that have been most effective in the games that I have played. There might be cards that work for your playstyle better than others, and the list below is a reflection of what has been most optimal given my game experience.
  • I believe that competitive Commander is an exercise in metagaming; no list you read online will be perfect for your own hometown meta, and too many primers online insist haughtily that their list is the best possible list, with no exceptions. That's an unhealthy mindset that stifles creativity and flexibility in deckbuilding, and I won't allow that in my thread.
Kaalia Stax

Commander


4 Kaalia of the Vast
Approximate Total Cost:





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Alternative Decklists

The Current Decklist in its current iteration is quite expensive with the Fetch-lands, dual lands, expensive Angels/Demons/Dragons, and some of the Stax pieces.

And that may not be very feasible for everyone to be able to afford.

This section is for you, budget minded player! I recognize that you may not be able to acquire the pieces of the deck that are more expensive. So I've brainstormed a more Aggro-based, casual decklist for you to take inspiration from. There are plenty of good Angels/Demons/Dragons and Stax pieces that are under $10. I've tried to pick out the best budget cards possible while still holding true to the core strategy of the Current Decklist.
Semi-Budget Kaalia Decklist
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Semi-Budget Kaalia

Commander


4 Kaalia of the Vast
Approximate Total Cost:





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Card Choice Discussion

I'm going to try to form a comprehensive list of cards that are playable in Kaalia, including budget options; if there's something I'm missing that you'd like me to discuss, let me know and I'll add it to this list and share my thoughts on it. This section is going to be pretty lengthy, so I'm going to hide it under a series of spoiler tags broken up roughly by function.

Cards in bold are those that I'm running in my current list.

Non-Kaalia Creatures
Non-Kaalia Creatures
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  • Grand Abolisher - this utility creature guarantees that you WILL be able to resolve things on your turn. Whether that's casting Kaalia or resolving Ravages of War after casting Kaalia, the Abolisher is important in protecting our key spells.
  • Thalia, Guardian of Thraben - a spectacular hate-bear that sees Legacy play, it slows down all of the fast mana in EDH and also complicates the number of spells that can be cast in a turn. And if you're playing against a Storm deck, then Thalia shuts them down almost single-handedly. Her CMC is low, she can be recurred with Sun Titan, and she's even a decent blocker with First Strike to clog up the ground. All around, a great card and worth her inclusion.
  • Spirit of the Labryinth – another Hate-Bear that severely limits our opponents' ability to utilize their card advantage spells or permanents. Being able to come down as early as it does helps to maximize its effectiveness. It's easy enough to kill that it is likely that one of our opponents will have handled it; this means one less removal spell pointed at Kaalia. It's currently in the side-board because there are other Stax cards that are more effective for the playgroup that this decklist is geared towards.
  • Generator Servant - a card that I mostly forgot about, this little servant enables a T3 hasty Kaalia so that you can start applying pressure quickly. It also helps casting some of the bigger and higher CMC Angels/Demons/Dragons that are in the deck as well. A fairly innocuous card that does a great job at enabling a quick Kaalia like Lightning Greaves or Dragon Tempest.
  • Eidolon of Rhetoric - all the best decks are able to maximize the number of spells they cast per turn in order to get the most advantage of their fast mana and card advantage. Eidolon puts a hard stop to all of that. And since Kaalia's ability puts creatures into play, we are only really interested in casting one spell per turn. Which will be either a removal spell or another hate-bear, so we don't mind having this restriction.
  • Tymna the Weaver - I've seen in her some very excellent Tymna + Tana stax lists, and I love the card advantage that she accrues. Tymna's ability synergizes very well with what this deck does, and it gives an incentive to you to keep turning creatures sideways. Drawing 3 cards for 3 life is a great rate, and she even has lifelink to help offset the cost.
  • Aven Mindcensor - Bird-man (props if you understand the reference) does a great job of making our opponent's fetch-lands and tutors look next to useless. Being able to flash in is even better, since you can do it in response to an opponent fetching or tutoring and shut them down. It also pretty much forces your opponent to go into top-deck mode, since most cEDCH decks run a very specific number of actual card-draw spells and tutor for them consistently. Removing their ability to tutor effectively reduces their effectiveness substantially.
  • Magus of the Moon – a Hate-Bear that can make your opponents' mana bases irrelevant for as long as he is in play. I had my concerns about the card, since this decklist is also a tri-color deck with a ton of non-basics, but its ability to shut off your opponent's lands is invaluable in slowing down the game and ensuring that Kaalia can safely attack. There are enough mana rocks in the deck to enable playing around the Magus' ability. He's best cast as a follow up to Kaalia. He's not played because this decklist faces off against primarily mono-Colored decks at the moment, but it is important to at least mention for completeness' sake.
  • Sun Titan - one of the few non-Kaalia targets that isn't a Hate-Bear, its ability to recur any of the artifacts, fetch-lands, or Hate-Bears in the deck is what makes him invaluable. We don't mind destroying lands in this deck, but being able to recur ours each turn while dealing damage is great. Nearly every Hate-Bear or Stax piece in the deck can be recurred with the Titan's ability, so it provides a measure of inevitability and recursion for the valuable pieces in the deck.


Kaalia Targets
Kaalia Targets
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  • Linvala, Keeper of Silence - mana dorks are the most prominent sources of fast mana in cEDH. Also, most generals are chosen because they have an activated ability that is used in order to execute their combo (i.e. Yisan, the Wanderer Bard, Arcum Dagsson, etc.). Linvala is very effective at slowing down our opponents and is also an Angel, so Kaalia can cheat her into play. But, in the case that Kaalia has been killed, she is also cheap in CMC to be castable.
  • Bloodgift Demon - a body with Phyrexian Arena that is also reasonably cast-able, it hits for a decent amount of damage and also provides card advantage. In the occasion that you actually kill a player with the Demon's ability, please let me know so I can record it.
  • Doom Whisperer - much better than Bloodgift Demon, the Whisperer allows you to ensure Card Quality, which is actually much more important to this deck than you might realize. The Whisperer helps us to keep a Vice Grip on the table after we've established a firm Stax board state while also helping to dig deep to find the card we need in order to effectively get back into the game. This card has overperformed generally in this 40 life format and it's solidly worth its current price tag . It also has a great casting cost that makes it reasonable to cast outside of Kaalia's trigger.
  • Master of Cruelties - being able to set a person down to a single life point is great. It's one of the weakest Demons on the list, though, so if a better one gets printed or is suggested it will most likely get considered. Being able to one-two punch an unprotected player though is always a good threat to have in your back pocket. The Demon is also a great defender, and the art is pretty awesome.
  • Lyra Dawnbringer - this Angel Lord seems like it would be good for padding our life total in the slog of combat damage that we want to have occur. One of the weaker cards in the list, it's a strict upgrade for Baneslayer Angel.
  • Sunscorch Regent - while not included in the main decklist, it grows enormous very fast and helps to recover some of the life that we use so liberally. In a 4 player game, it is often the biggest creature on the table. The current record for its largest size was a 17/16.
  • Archangel Avacyn - she's MUCH better than I gave her credit for in this deck. While her transformation does kill Kaalia, the one-time indestructibility trigger is useful from that ever happening in the first place. A solid card that has been really good in play-testing, it just isn't quite good enough to make the cut over some other cards in the deck.
  • Karmic Guide - a Reanimation effect that is an Angel for Kaalia to put into play. Inevitably, your creatures will die and being able to Reanimate them for no life is very useful. It's essentially a spell-body that can be put into play for free.
  • Ob Nixilis, Unshackled - a really cool demon that makes fetch-lands and other tutors very painful for your opponents. With the amount of damage that you're doing to them consistently, this will hopefully kill them more quickly or make their tutor effects useless.
  • Hellkite Tyrant - it's ability to blanket steal all of your opponent's mana rocks is incredible for this deck. It is one of the most valuable Dragons in the list because it proactively steals the only effective ways (mana rocks) to get around the resource constriction that this deck is trying to impose. There are some corner cases where you assemble enough artifacts to randomly win a game, but it's the theft of ALL of the damaged opponent's mana rocks that makes this Dragon an auto-include.
  • Sire of Insanity - this Demon is great because it puts everyone into top-deck mode at the end of YOUR turn. This means that if they don't have an answer to the Demon before your turn ends, whatever cards they had in hand are now going to be discarded. Because we run a list full of heavy hitting Angels, Demons, and Dragons, our top-decks will be better at consistently killing our opponents than the combo player's. For example, if a combo player draws a Brainstorm on their turn, they have to use it before the end of their turn in order to get any value out of it. Compare that to drawing a removal spell that we can cast in the same turn as drawing it. Sire of Insanity kills hands and strategies alike, and he will usually be the biggest creature on the board after discarding everyone's hand.
  • Yosei, the Morning Star - a Dragon that is a great rattlesnake card. You want to kill my things? Skip your turn. Kaalia puts the Dragon into play, but it's also reasonable to cast as well so that you have a good blocker that can skip an opponent's turn.
  • Demonlord Belzenlok - this Elder Demon almost always draws at least 3 cards for us because of the high CMC distribution of the deck. The record for his draw trigger has been 9 cards! He is a source of card advantage and helps filter away lands in the mid-late game when we need gas to close the door. Flipping into a card with CMC less than 4 sucks, but the payoff is usually greater than the lack thereof. A great card for the deck, I highly recommend it.
  • Admonition Angel - combine her with fetch-lands and Sun Titan and she can be a removal machine. Combine that with the fact that removal is at a premium in cEDH decks, and the cards that are exiled will probably stay exiled for quite a while. She also hits pretty hard but it's her ability to remove multiple things off of a relatively simple action is what makes her inclusion worthwhile.
  • Aurelia, the Warleader - she's honestly not very good with Kaalia's trigger, but she is much better when cast from the hand. Aurelia and Gisela are the two best creatures for ending the game as quickly as possible so that your opponents don't draw any more resources or pieces of their strategy that you've hopefully restricted/eliminated. Aurelia is also good for getting a second trigger out of Kaalia so that you can get more creatures into play and finish the game.
  • Steel Hellkite – a great Dragon that can wipe multiple permanents with its second activated ability, it helps to limit your opponent's resources. Most mana resources that aren't lands usually fall into the 1 or 2 CMC range, and this Hellkite can take care of all of them at once. The fire-breathing ability is a welcome addition as well in helping to kill your opponents faster.
  • Kothophed, Soul Hoarder - a Demon who draws cards every time a permanent an opponent's card dies. And this deck is very, very good at killing things. He draws a substantial number of cards, especially in conjunction with Balefire Dragon and Scourge of Kher Ridges. He also draws cards every time one of your opponents incidentally sacrifice their permanents i.e. fetch-lands or tokens. It hits hard and usually draws a large number of cards for life, a resource this deck uses pretty liberally.
  • Rakdos the Defiler - this Demon is one of the hardest hitters in the deck because of his damage clause. Thankfully, Kaalia's triggered ability skirts the attack clause that would require you to sacrifice half of your permanents, but don't be afraid to attack and sacrifice your permanents when you're ahead and need to ravage an opponent. Who needs lands anyways when you can just put things into play tapped and attacking? One of the better targets in the deck for Kaalia's ability.
  • Harvester of Souls - another Demon that draws cards whenever another creature dies, it's a decent card advantage engine so that we can keep on drawing removal, Hate-bears, or Kaalia targets. It's deathtouch makes it a decent attacker and blocker, but with all the removal in this deck its card draw ability is why it's in the deck.
  • Rune-Scarred Demon - a tutor on a Demon, it's great at what it does. More often than not, he finds either another Kaalia target or one of the MLD cards in the decks. It has good stats and swings hard, so it warrants its spot.
  • Chancellor of the Annex - it increases the tax effects on your opponents and if you ever have it in your opening hand, it slows any T1 play substantially. The resource taxing that it offers is important in slowing down the game and 5 power is a good rate of damage. A valuable piece that sees play in Legacy Reanimator lists now, this Angel has warranted its spot for sure.
  • Gisela, Blade of Goldnight - one of the best Angels in the deck because it doubles the damage that would be dealt to any opponent or their permanents. This is probably one of the best cards for closing out the game because of sheer amount of damage that she, in conjunction with Kaalia's ability and all the other Kaalia targets, can do in the deck. With her, Kaalia, and another Kaalia target in play, you are more often than not dealing upwards of 20 damage per turn. Ideally, this should kind of damage output will be behind enough Stax/Hate-Bear pieces that your opponents are helpless to stop the combat damage from killing them.
  • Balefire Dragon - one of the most absurd Dragons ever printed, being able to board-wipe any opponent turn after turn makes any type of creature based strategy incredibly hard to execute as long as he is in play. This card single-handedly destroys Animar, Yisan, and Azami decks that this deck plays against most frequently. A fantastic target for Kaalia, it does an incredible job at keeping the board clear. And the art is really well done as well.
  • Angel of Despair - a Vindicate on an Angel that Kaalia can put into play for free, it's a decent removal spell that can target whatever is the most problematic permanent on the board.
  • Lord of the Void - being able to swarm the battlefield with more creatures to attack your opponents is great, and the primary reason this Demon is in the list. But, the exiling of cards from your opponent's deck can also be very important because you can incidentally remove key combo pieces and stifle a deck's strategy entirely. It also hits very hard and has awesome art. A great Demon to include in this deck.
  • Angel of Serenity - so, there's a metric ton of removal in this deck, did I mention that? This Angel clears out three different creatures from the battlefield and exiles them until she leaves play. And even when she does leave play, they go back to their owner's hand, costing our opponent's more resources. Granted, they do go back to your opponent's hands so that they can be reused, but they have to remove the Angel first. And there should be enough Hate-Bears/Stax pieces in play that they can't so it's usually hard removal attached to a body.
  • Platinum Angel – this card can be a hidden gem, depending on how prevalent removal is in your playgroup. By having the clause that it does, it adds another way to disrupt your opponents, since she explicitly states that they cannot win. Pairing this Angel with Lightning Greaves or Avacyn, Angel of Hope is a strong synergy that is easier to assemble than you think. She's not the hardest hitting Angel, but it adds another step for your opponents to get through in order to win and execute their strategy.
  • Dragon Mage - a Dragon that helps us draw into more Stax, disruption, and Kaalia targets, you will usually be able to take advantage of the wheel effect before anyone else and tie up more of your opponent's resources. It's not the heaviest hitting of creatures, but the ability to refill your hand on connecting with combat damage is what makes it great.
  • Scourge of Kher Ridges - do your opponents have creatures that they care about? Laugh. Maniacally if possible, but a quiet chuckle is good too. This Dragon is a board wipe on command and kills most relevant creatures that you will ever see since most creatures in the cEDH scene are ground-based creatures. Being able to activate a Pyroclasm at instant speed with the Dragon's ability is fantastic and smothers any creature based strategy. It also hits for 6 damage a turn, and in the weird case that you don't have air superiority it clears the air for you with its second activated ability.
  • Archfiend of Despair - finally, a Angel/Demon/Dragon that complements Gisela! This new demon from Battlebond acts as a damage doubler while also providing a very useful hate effect: no life-gain. Take that, Aetherflux Reservoir! It's a hard hitter and makes any incremental damage that your opponents take (i.e. fetch-lands, shock-lands, opponents' attacking creates, etc.) much more painful than normal. Another great addition to the stable of creatures that Kaalia runs in her quest for revenge!
  • Avacyn, Angel of Hope - she hits really, really hard very, very consistently. Protecting your board state from wrath effects or spot removal is very helpful in making sure that you can close the game out definitively. She pairs very nicely with Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Aurelia, the Warleader, or Iona, Shield of Emeria. Ultimate protection, smashing faces with her holy spear, she is definitely my wife's favorite creature to put into play tapped and attacking. She even has an Avacyn playmat that brings her good luck!
  • Utvara Hellkite – a really, really cool dragon that can single-handedly spawn its own Dragon Horde. Its power and toughness stats are great, but being able to summon a 6/6 dragon token with flaying every time a Dragon attacks is terrifying. It only takes a turn or two for you to dominate the board with this Dragon in play, and it synergizes well with the high density of Dragons that are already in the list.
  • Razaketh, the Foulblooded - a new addition to the deck, it turns spent creatures (i.e. Angel of Despair, Master of Cruelties, etc.) into tutors to find better Kaalia targets or whatever you need in order to close out the game. The life cost is negligible and he hits really, really hard. A valuable inclusion in the deck, it deserves its spot here. Do note that you can respond to Kaalia's trigger with Razaketh by sac'ing Kaalia to find an Angel/Demon/Dragon to wreck face with.
  • Bogardan Hellkite - while it's not included in the main decklist, it's worth mentioning because it can spread damage across several creatures, planeswalkers, or players. One of the weaker Dragons, it is still very good at killing multiple things and eating up our opponent's life total.
  • Iona, Shield of Emeria - well, she's one of the best hate-cards that's ever been printed. She's my wife's second favorite creature to put into play with Kaalia, and she often tutors for it. Being able to shut off a color from being cast (usually U) is fantastic, and she also hits hard. Being an Angel, she is most often put into play tapped and attacking as her mana cost is very prohibitive. But Kaalia likes to wave goodbye at CMC costs as she attacks.


Instants
Instants
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  • Swords to Plowshares - exile a creature for W. The most mana efficient removal spell in the deck, it removes creatures like a boss. Simple, compact, it's great at what it does.
  • Vampiric Tutor - another tutor effect in the deck, its instant speed and can find anything in the deck. It's a staple in cEDH decks for a reason.
  • Tithe - a great way to pseudo ramp our hands as long as we aren't going first in the turn order. This card is fantastic because it allows us to easily smooth our land drops and also thins our deck of lands (a marginal advantage at best, but still worthwhile). The fact that it's instant speed is very important, so that we can maintain tempo and pressure our opponents' life totals consistently each turn without spending a mana to get those lands.
  • Path to Exile - another cheap removal spell, the drawing out a land from an opponent's deck is sometimes good and bad. Depends on whether you have a MLD effect in hand. But, it still kills most generals on T1/T2, so it keeps its inclusion.
  • Lightning Bolt – 3 damage is surprisingly relevant in being able to kill problem creatures. It can kill Animar, Yisan, Arcum, Azami, and other very infamous cEDH commanders. It's one of the OG red spells too, and this card is the one that slides in and out of the deck most frequently. You can also use it to kill Teferi, Temporal Archmage in response to one of his activations and stop the infinite combo from going off.
  • Enlightened Tutor - some of the best Stax cards in the deck are enchantments/artifacts. This card finds them and puts them on the top. It can also sometimes find a Kaalia target i.e. Platinum Angel or Steel Hellkite, so that additional utility is nice. Finding mana rocks when you need them is also important at times, so this card is great.
  • Pyroblast - this card and its cousin, Red-Blast kill blue things. And since U is the best color in the cEDH scene, we like to ruthlessly Vindicate blue things and counter blue spells. It has a cheap CMC and uses a mana type that we can easily leave open for interaction.
  • Anguished Unmaking - another unconditional removal spell, similar to Vindicate, it's instant speed and exiles things forever. The loss of 3 life isn't as critical in EDH as other formats, so it gets the nod to be included. The art and story behind the card are really cool as well.
  • Crackling Doom - the fact that it hits every opponent with an instant speed edict effect is what makes this card good. Sometimes, though, the creature you want to have sacrificed is not the strongest one on the board, so the card has some corner cases where it's not very effective. Most of the time, it does exactly what it needs to do in getting rid of each opponent's best creature at instant speed. The damage is incidental most of the time, though my wife has put in lethal damage range with the Doom. It's also a great time to burst into Invader Zim's Doom Song. Look it up.
  • Wear // Tear - this is a really nice 2-1 card that solves the problems that are on the board. There's usually two targets that need to be dealt with that match the types listed on this card, so it's a really great card. It replaces Vandalblast for its added utility and since Overloading the Vandalblast didn't really occur frequently enough for its inclusion.
  • Fire Covenant - a sleeper mass removal card in Rakdos colors, it's incredible at clearing the board at End of Turn or killing things in response to a Craterhoof Behemoth trigger. It's cheap in CMC and instant speed and acts as an almost better Toxic Deluge. It's in the sideboard currently, simply because spot removal is a little more effective in my playgroup than mass removal is, but it's a card that is criminally underrated.
  • Boil – yup, this card is for the instances where Kaalia is the only non-U deck at the table, a not uncommon situation. Slotting this in and being able to perform a one-sided Geddon is too good to pass up. However, it's very narrow, hence it being relegated to the optional Sideboard. Those smug U mages…


Sorceries
Sorceries
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  • By Force - a very interesting card that has been recently printed, it's great at killing a mass number of artifacts, similar to Vandalblast. If your meta is overrun by U-based combo/control decks that need mana rocks to compete effectively, wipe 'em out with this and make Chandra happy. And set them back in their mana production too.
  • Vandalblast - mana rocks are what make numerous cEDH strategies and decklists function, in my opinion. Being able to destroy a T1 mana rock is great, but being able to Overload Vandalblast and destroy all enemy mana rocks makes it even better. A great card that increases in value as the game progresses is always welcome, so the V-Blast earns its spot.
  • Imperial Seal – I would be remiss in not mentioning this wildly expensive card as part of being a complete cEDH Primer. It's a tutor effect that helps increase the consistency of the decklist. I don't currently run this because I don't have access to one.
  • Demonic Tutor - simple yet highly efficient at what it does. It acts as a second copy of the best card that you need in any given situation. We're playing B, so naturally we run this card. That is all.
  • Mizzium Mortars - while I agree that it is an interesting card to run, I argue that this is secretly a card that doesn't see enough play. It kills any threatening T2 general I can think of, and has the late-game value of clearing the board of mana dorks, generals, and other assorted creatures. 4 damage is the sweet spot in killing most relevant cEDH creatures, and I am a firm advocate of this card.
  • Night's Whisper - drawing 2 for 2 mana, it's a solid inclusion for the decklist. It's very mana efficient at what it does and helps to restock your hand with more Stax, disruption, or Kaalia targets. The life cost is negligible in view of the importance of the card advantage it provides.
  • Council's Judgment - this card is great because it has the upside of being a 2-for-1 if there are enough permanents in play that are threatening (other players would probably vote for those permanents). The fact that it doesn't target the permanent explicitly, can't target any of your own permanents, and exiles the card(s) when it resolves makes this an easy inclusion. Run it, and see if you can manipulate your opponents into exiling more cards than the one you want!
  • Toxic Deluge - the most efficient Wrath effect for the format, it can clear the field of anything on T3 onwards with enough life. A great card, and frequently a very important card to see in some match-ups (Yisan, Animar, Edric, Tymna + Tana, etc.).
  • Morbid Curiosity - sacrificing just one of the Angels/Demons/Dragons in the deck will basically refill your hand to the tip top. A card I discovered while testing out additional card draw, this card has over-performed my expectations. It's easy to sacrifice a spent Kaalia target in order to refresh our hands and play out some more Stax pieces. A really, really good card that was unexpected in its potency.
  • Perish – a unique piece of hate that utterly obliterates any G based deck. Because G is so common as being one of the best cEDH colors, this card is important in stopping their faster tempo through mana-dorks (i.e. Llanowar Elves, Deathrite Shaman, Priest of Titania, etc.). It's a very clean wrath effect for specific decks, and this card is currently in the optional 10 card sideboard so that you'll always be prepared.
  • Vindicate - destroy whatever is the most problematic permanent on the board for 3 mana. Very efficient, and a premier spot removal spell. While it is sorcery speed, the fact that it can hit anything is what makes it great. It's also a great flavor win with Kaalia and her back-story.
  • Painful Truths - draw 3 cards for 3 mana. Just like Night's Whisper, it helps to replenish your hand with cards. Efficient and cost-effective, I think this card deserves strong consideration in any B based deck with 3 colors or more.
  • Grim Tutor – another tutor effect, it's at least important to mention since it will help make the deck more consistent. The decklist doesn't currently utilize this card as there appear to be enough tutor effects to make any additional ones superfluous. This opinion is open for debate, but that's been my experience thus far.
  • Armageddon - as the Deck Description indicates, Kaalia's ability is one of the most broken mana-producing abilities ever printed on a card. So, in order to be the fastest deck on the table, we destroy the rest of the table's ability to generate mana with their lands and capitalize on Kaalia's strength. MLD is what makes Kaalia so infamous in EDH circles, but MLD seems to becoming more and more accepted in playgroups now. If your playgroup doesn't want to play against it, then adding more card draw or removal is acceptable. Regardless, this card is a frequent tutor target since it helps close the door against your opponent's in conjunction with Kaalia's ability.
  • Ravages of War - see Armageddon's description above, since it's a functional reprint.
  • Cataclysm - this is one of the more effective cards in the deck since you can keep Kaalia and destroy most of your opponent's resources in one swoop. It's great against decks that spit out a ton of artifact mana or mana dorks, since it kills multiple card types all at once. While it still leaves your opponents with their best cards in each of their respective card type categories, killing all of them simultaneously is what will put the nail in the coffin. Remember to play it during your first main phase so you can take full advantage of the spell.
  • Damnation - wrath effect for when we need to clear the board of creatures right away. Wrath of God is equally as effective, and the deck is balanced in color generation, so either card works in case you can't afford Damnation. It's effective at what it does, and it's great in conjunction with Harvester of Souls and Kothophed, Soul Hoarder. Keep the board clear of creatures and Kaalia will dominate the board with her minions.
  • Dark Petition - this card is actually surprisingly good despite its higher CMC. We often have enough spells in the 'yard that its Spell Mastery gets turned on, and finding Necropotence or Nether Void AND being able to cast it one turn can turn the game around. It's not quite mana efficient enough to warrant maindeck inclusion, but I believe it's worth at least mentioning.


Enchantments
Enchantments
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  • Dragon Tempest - this card gives Kaalia haste, like Lightning Greaves, and it has potential upside in having any dragon ping an opponent or utility dork when it enters the battlefield. I've been extremely pleased with it and it's great at giving your creatures the haste you need to close out the game faster.
  • Supression Field - a unique piece of Hate that taxes non-mana activated abilities, this card is great at slowing down or preventing entirely the combo turns for many of the top decks in the current meta game. What's very powerful about this particular card, and why it's in the deck, is that it hits planeswalkers in addition to the other card types. Teferi, Temporal Archmage will have a lot more difficulty in comboing off with this card in play. Include the fact that it hits Hermit Druid, Hapless Researcher, Arcum Dagsson, Yisan, the Wanderer Bard, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Captain Sisay, and you begin to see how relevant activated abilities are in a competitive game.
  • Rest in Peace – the most efficient graveyard hoser, it stops any type of 'yard interactions cold. It is very effective against Storm decks, the new Arcum Paradox decks, Reanimator strategies, and High Tide decks since it unconditionally exiles all cards that hit the graveyard. There aren't any decks in my playgroup that currently run graveyard based strategies, so it's slotted in as a sideboard card.
  • Stony Silence - artifact decks giving you problems? cEDH decks run them, like we do, but once we get Kaalia on the field or a Kaalia target that can close out the game, we are okay in shutting off our own mana production in order to damage our opponent's even more. Remember, this deck is all about resource denial and shutting off 2-3 opponent's mana sources is a great trade for cutting off 2 or 3 of our own cards. It has a spot in the sideboard currently, but it can easily make its way into the maindeck.
  • Necropotence - one of the best card-drawing spells in the format, we have the mana base to support casting it pretty regularly. Keeping a full hand is very important for this deck, and paying life is simply a cost of doing business. Be careful of the timing of it, however, since it can put us into a Necro-lock if there's another Aggro deck at the table or if you have Havoc Festival in play.
  • Phyrexian Arena - with the deck's primary game plan of grinding the game to a slow halt, this card has proven effective at beating out our opponents in the card advantage war that happens in stalled out games. It's functional, but I could see this card coming back out in favor of something else.
  • Blood Moon – similar to Magus of the Moon, this enchantment can massively disrupt your opponents' strategies. Invalidating non-Basic lands, of which there are a preponderance of in cEDH decks, this enchantment ruthlessly stymies the development of our opponent's board states. It should be used as a follow up once Kaalia is safely resolved and is most effective against 3+ colored decks.
  • Aura of Silence – This enchantment is a little specific in the kind of permanents that it deals with, but it is very good at dealing with them. Taxing the cost of all enchantments and artifacts, it also has an instant speed ability to destroy whatever is the scariest card at the table. It's also Sun Titan-able, so use it with effectively to control what resources your opponents have in play.
  • Rule of Law – it stops so many different infinite combos it's not funny. It restricts the tempo of our opponents and ensures that our slower-paced strategy is able to effectively compete against the faster decks out there. The fact that it isn't a creature gives additional longevity for impacting the game in a negative way for our opponents. Great at stopping Prossh, Arcum, Teferi, Storm-based decks, Edric, Freyalise and other Elf-Ball decks, and most infinite-mana combos, this card is very good at putting brakes on the game for our opponents.
  • Stranglehold - fetch-lands and tutors look real dumb for your opponents when this card is in play. And if you're fighting against Edric, then this card stops his primary strategy of creature swarm into extra turns. Otherwise, forcing your opponent to rely on raw card draw or top of deck draws is great at suffocating any strategy that your opponents may be trying to execute.
  • Nether Void - this is in here as an additional Armageddon effect. Since the additional tax this card imposes on general spell casting is so high, this card essentially restricts your opponents in casting ANY relevant spells for the rest of the short game. Kaalia simply smiles at the resource constriction you impose. Remember also that Cavern of Souls allows you to play through the huge taxing effect that Nether Void does.
  • Leyline of the Void - with the rise of Breakfast Hulk decks, being able to have T0 grave=hate is really important. Leyline starts the game in play if you have it in your opening hand and is still cast-able at 2bb on T3 or T4 if necessary. Being able to keep your opponents' 'yards empty is important, since Storm decks and Hulk decks rely so heavily on them.
  • Havoc Festival - this card deals a ridiculous amount of damage and shortens the clock for the game substantially and prevents any type of recovery for your opponent's life totals. It will eventually kill your opponents if they don't deal with it, since 0.5 of a life point rounds up to 1 damage. It also has the important ability to stop all lifegain that decks could utilize, making Aetherflux Reservoir a useless card and win condition if your opponents are using it.


Artifacts
Artifacts
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  • Mana Crypt - fast mana into a quick Kaalia or a Signet. Pretty standard, as are most of the mana rocks in the deck. The life cost does eventually add up (I have terrible luck with the coin flips), but this card single-handedly allows some of the strongest starts this deck is capable of. A T2 Kaalia is very reasonable with this card in your opening hand.
  • Mox Diamond - fast mana at the cost of a land, this card is important in advancing our game plan as quickly as possible. The land discard clause can be steep at times, being totally honest, but the boost in tempo it provides can be very relevant. Many of our hate-bears, removal, and Stax pieces are CMC 2, and being able to play any of them T1 is a great play.
  • Sol Ring - EDH standard, pretty self-explanatory.
  • Grim Monolith - this card is not an auto-inclusion, because it only adds 3 once (as it's rare that we ever untap it), but it sometimes helps power out a fast Kaalia target without Kaalia's ability.
  • Talisman of Indulgence, Talisman of Conviction, Talisman of Hierarchy - it helps to power out a T3 Kaalia, like the Signets. The damage is negligible in comparison to the ability to add B or R when needed.
  • Boros Signet, Rakdos Signet, Orzhov Signet – the Signets from the Ravnica block are highly important in ensuring that we have the correct colors of mana in order to cast our spells. They filter colorless mana into usable colors for our spells and help advance our tempo at the same time. Great cards that are invaluable to the deck strategy, as they also stick around after an MLD effect.
  • Coldsteel Heart - another mana rock, it ideally adds the color you need in order to cast a T3 Kaalia. The CMC is very important for this deck, as every mana rock is evaluated for its ability to cast a T3 Kaalia, and this one passes the test.
  • Fellwar Stone - it adds another mana, but it should add you a color you need most of the time to enable a T3 Kaalia. If not, it still enters the battlefield untapped so that you can immediately utilize it for mana.
  • Charcoal Diamond, Marble Diamond, Fire Diamond – these all are CMC 2 mana rocks that can generate a necessary color of mana. There isn't currently enough space in the deck to justify these ETB tapped ones, but they are very important to mention since they allow a T3 Kaalia just as the rest of the mana rocks in the decklist do.
  • Lightning Greaves - its equip cost of 0 and giving Kaalia shroud and haste is fantastic. It bounces around from creature to creature as occasion warrants it, so that a particular Hate-Bear or Kaalia target is protected during your opponent's turns.
  • Swiftfoot Boots – a second copy of Lightning Greaves in functionality, it is sadly too slow for what it needs to do. What does it need to do? Grant haste to Kaalia immediately so that we can swing and utilize Kaalia's ability. Its activation cost of 1 makes the card highly unattractive, since it is rare that we have mana untapped after casting Kaalia.
  • Defense Grid - ensures that Kaalia and any spells you cast on your turn aren't interacted with. Since this deck strategy is more of a tap-out Tempo based deck, we don't really play any instants on other players' turns. While we do run instants in the deck, casting instant speed spells is not a primary focus of the deck. There is some splash damage in that it helps to ensure that your opponents also have relatively safe turns, so be careful in timing this particular artifact.
  • Cursed Totem - activated abilities are key in cEDH games, since mana dorks are so prevalent amongst the top-tier decks and most commanders are chosen for their activated ability potential. Its CMC is cheap and its effect is very crippling to opponents, I am delighted every time I see this card.
  • Torpor Orb – we do have a number of creatures that have ETB abilities, but this artifact consistently stifles our opponents more impactfully than it neutralizes our creatures. An excellent card to be running, the decklist doesn't currently run it as the removal suite is robust enough that creatures are usually made irrelevant, but it's definitely a strong card to keep in mind.
  • Winter Orb - restricting our opponent's mana sources is that this deck is all about. Putting this card into play should slow your opponents enough that Kaalia should be able to windmill slam Kaalia targets into play and close the game out while they're still untapping lands.
  • Crucible of Worlds – because we play MLD effects and fetch-lands, this card has some utility that is very attractive. It helps us to recover after a MLD effect and ensures that we have a consistent stream of land-drops throughout the course of the game. However, it doesn't have quite enough impact in this regard as it needs to in order to be included within the deck.


Lands
Lands
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  • Badlands, Scrubland, Plateau – the ABU duals for Mardu colors, they generate more than one color of mana needed in order to cast our spells. They are also great fetch-land targets as well, allowing the fetch-lands to help fix your manabase.
  • Blood Crypt, Sacred Foundry, Godless Shrine – the shockland trifecta in order to be able to generate the colors we need in order to cast our spells. DO note that these shocklands are also fetch-able, helping to smooth out the manabase.
  • Dragonskull Summit, Clifftop Retreat, Isolated Chapel – the check-land cycle, they also ensure that you have can generate the colors you need in order to cast spells. Any one of the dual lands (ABU duals or Shocklands) will ensure that any of these check-lands enter the battlefield untapped, so the tap clause is rarely relevant, if ever.
  • Graven Cairns, Fetid Heath, Rugged Prairie – the filter land cycle, each of these lands convert one type of colored mana into different combinations of colored mana. These lands are important for the double and triple colored mana requirement spells.
  • Sulfurous Springs, Battlefield Forge, Caves of Koilos – the pain-land cycle, they ensure that there is a dual-land capability that smooths over the manabase.
  • Command Tower – an EDH staple for dual colored decks, it generates mana of any type and ETB untapped, a very important feature.
  • Nomad Outpost – since it produces one of each color in Kaalia's color identity, it's like a Command Tower that ETB tapped.
  • Forbidden Orchard – being able to create one mana of any color is way important than the 1/1, non-flying Spirit token that this land produces. Since it can't block Kaalia or any of our flying creatures, the token is utterly irrelevant to our game strategy. Be wary of any benefits that the token may have for other decks though, since tokens are dangerous in decks like Prossh or Ghave.
  • Mana Confluence – we are pretty liberal with our life in this deck, but it's simply a cost of doing business. Getting to cast our spells on curve is very important and this land helps to ensure that we have the colors we need when we need them.
  • Reflecting Pool – another land that usually taps for any color we need, this land requires that we have another color producing land in order to be relevant. What is important, though, is that it generates one type of colored mana that a land we control could produce. This is important in the case that we have Cavern of Souls on the battlefield. Because the Cavern could produce any color of mana, albeit with the restriction to the creature type you chose when it ETB, Reflecting Pool does not have that restriction and produces any color of mana. A little convoluted, the Pool helps to smooth out our mana base.
  • Bloodstained Mire, Arid Mesa, Marsh Flats, Wooded Foothills, Verdant Catacombs – the fetch-land cycle, these cards pretty much act as copies of the ABU duals and Shocklands to help smooth out our manabase. They are Sun Titan-able and can help pull lands from our deck. Being able to pull lands out of our deck does make our top-decks statistically more powerful, but I don't think that it's significant enough to make a difference. There are 5 in this list because 5 has been sufficient so far in ensuring that I always have a trifecta of ABU duals and/or Shocklands in play.
  • Volrath's Stronghold – being able to recur our creatures without spending precious deck slots is very important. The Stronghold is very good at what it does, and helps to ensure that the best dead Angel, Demon, or Dragon in our 'yard is never really dead.
  • Cavern of Souls – this should mostly name Human when it ETB. Being able to resolve Kaalia is an important part of our strategy, and this land makes sure that those counterspells those pesky U players were holding look dumb. Remember that it makes one mana of any color for the creature type that you selected and only for the creature type you selected. There are some instances where naming a creature type other than Human is useful, usually dependent on the board state and what's in your hand, but more often than not this is named to Human.
  • Hall of the Bandit Lord – the 3 life is very steep and can add up quickly with all the other life costs the decklist features. But being able to give Kaalia that all-important keyword of Haste is absolutely worth it. Pay the life, swing with Kaalia, and profit from whatever Angel, Demon, or Dragon you put into play tapped and smashing.
  • Tomb of Yawgmoth – this is an interesting card. It allows for our lands to tap for B instead of their normal type and amounts which can be very relevant at times. For example, you can tap your Mana Confluence for B without having to pay the life cost on activating it. This land helps to ensure that the selection of colorless producing lands in the decklist can actually generate colored mana, indirectly smoothing our mana base.
  • Vault of the Archangel – this is such a cool land to pair with our creatures and helps restore our life total. But its best utility is when its activated ability is used in conjunction with Balefire Dragon or Scourge of Kher Ridges. It makes each of them deathtouch dealing creatures that will guarantee a board wipe of all your opponents' creatures.
  • Homeward Path – one of the effects that is most damaging to this deck is for Kaalia to be stolen. This land counteracts those effects, and is the most cost-effective way to do so. It gets around Memnarch's ability, Gilded Drake, and Vedalken Shackles, all cards that are very hard to deal with normally.





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Deck Philosophy
Competitive Commander games and strategies are dictated by decks that can break the two in-born balances of the game: cards drawn per turn (card advantage) and mana production. Since the game pace is defined by these limitations, any deck that can affect either of these in their favor will have an inherent advantage over any other deck that they play against.

To delve a little further into the philosophy of Magic: The Gathering, this game is ultimately a game of math, statistics being the most predominant. I won't go into the technicalities of probabilities and statistics (because I find it boring and because I don't have a great grasp on the math) but the two things that restrict this game, generally, are mana availability and number of cards drawn per turn. Every deck, that is top-tier and competitive, finds some ways to overcome these restrictions. I won't go into the structured play of Standard, Modern, or Legacy, and simply focus on EDH. EDH is a wonderful format where these restrictions are prohibitive since we are running singletons of every card except basic lands. This means that we need to fill in redundancy of card effects without being able to use multiple copies of a particular card. This necessitates a vast breadth of knowledge of the available card pool in MTG and what is good, which is a side benefit of playing EDH. As an aggro-control deck, however, these restrictions are especially prohibitive because we are trying to maintain card advantage and card parity with not just one opponent, but most likely three or four opponents at the same time. The more mana that we have, consequently, the greater our opportunity to interact with each of our opponents OR more quickly execute our own game strategy.

The more infamous cEDH decks that are played are usually Ad Nauseam Storm variants (i.e. Jeleva Grixis Storm or Zur the Enchanter Storm) because they play all the fast mana rocks and rituals available (to maximize the amount and colors of mana available to them in the early stages of the game) and also the most advantageous card draw spells that are legal in the format, the most recognizable of which are Ad Nauseam, Necropotence, or Timetwister. Because they play all the best cards in the best colors for combos, ramp, and card advantage, they overcome both of these balances and sit atop the Competitive Commander scene.

UPDATE: With the unbanning of Protean Hulk, there has been a sharp increase in the number of decks that utilize the fat Combo-Pig in order to find an infinite combo of some sort. Breakfast Hulk decks are now a little more populous as the competitive Commander deck of choice because the win condition is so compact; you typically only need to activate Hermit Druid once or cast Flash with Hulk in hand. Since this can theoretically be done on T2-T3 with some consistency, Hulk variants are very effective at winning the game because you can shortcut the typical mana constraints of executing an infinite combo for just 1G or 1U.

The next tier of decks that dominate the cEDH scene are Stax variants because they oppressively restrict your opponent's card-draw and resource development simultaneously. This deck unapologetically subscribes to this Stax strategy as its primary focus.

Stax decks are very effective because their effects are symmetrical across the table; unlike U decks, we don't have to conserve a Counterspell for every play that each of our opponents might do in order to maintain control of the game. For example, we can instead play Winter Orb and constrain all of our opponents' mana production, restricting the basic pillar of mana production that EDH, and MTG generally, requires. This hinders our opponents long enough for us to be able to execute our own game strategy, which is admittedly slower and more vulnerable. Add the classic suite of disruptive creatures, commonly called Hate-bears (due to their restrictive ability and Grizzly Bears-like Power/Toughness stats), and we have a strategy that is inherently resilient and strong, especially when considered against Kaalia's ability.

Kaalia's absurd trigger gets around the mana production restriction of the game, putting an Angel, Demon, or Dragon directly into play tapped and attacking the defending player. It is this ability that makes the Stax effects we play asymmetrical for us, enabling us to execute our strategy of creature beatdown while simultaneously stifling our opponents' to execute their own strategy. Kaalia's unique ability to put creatures directly into play, regardless of their CMC, is what has made her infamous in EDH as a format. As an example, you can consistently put a Balefire Dragon into play tapped and attacking on T4 and destroy that Yisan player's board state in one turn. For any sort of deck that relies on mana-producing creatures or needs any creature to stick around for a turn, Kaalia and her Vast Horde of Angels, Demons, and Dragons can consistently ruin their strategy. This mana short-cut is an ability that I don't think has been properly developed within the competitive Commander scene, and I hope to correct that issue with the decklist and card selections chosen here. The additional Stax pieces are intended to slow down Protean Hulk decks and Storm variants, allowing you to overpower them with your superior creature quality and damage output.

In developing your own decklist, I want to bring to your attention an important deck-building criteria. Originally coined by 3drinks (the personal liaison to Kaalia whom I reference in the Credits section), Flameblast Syndrome is an important criteria when evaluating any Angel, Demon, or Dragon for the deck. This term was created to reference any Angel, Demon, or Dragon that has a trigger that follows the wording of Flameblast Dragon: "When (this creature) attacks, (do X triggered ability)." This is a terrible key word for any Kaalia target because, with Kaalia, we skip the timing of declaring our Angels, Demons, and Dragons as attackers with Kaalia's trigger; indeed, Kaalia puts those creatures into play tapped and attacking. This means that any trigger that is phrased "When (creature) ATTACKS..." is NOT going to occur when you put that awesome Angel, Demon, or Dragon into play with Kaalia's trigger. This is an important distinction because it makes any creature with this kind of wording a vanilla creature during our initial combat step with Kaalia, and that is not good enough for this deck. We need our creatures to have immediate impact so that mass removal effects aren't so devastating against us. So, while Flameblast Dragon has a very powerful ability, especially when considered against Kaalia's mana saving trigger, we need to wait a FULL turn cycle in order to take advantage of that trigger. We have better options available to us that are much more impactful against our opponents.




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Deck Strategy
Kaalia's strategy is really quite simple in the broader sense: slow down your opponents, cast Kaalia, and kill them all. The fine details of how this broader strategy is executed are fairly complex and depends upon who is at the table with you and what cards you'll be seeing. So, let's break down the strategy a little further.

Opening Hands and When to Mulligan

The starting hand for this deck is highly important. Understanding when to mulligan a hand away and get a fresh 7 versus keeping what you initially drew is a skill that comes from experience in playing the deck and knowing what you need in order to effectively get off the ground. An ideal hand should have typically 2-3 lands, 1-2 Stax pieces or Hate-Bears, 1-2 cards of artifact ramp, 1-3 Kaalia targets, and 1-2 pieces of card advantage or Tutor effect. Some sample hands are shown below.
Sample Hand 1
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This is a pretty good starting hand. Although a little slow, you have 2 lands and a mana rock which is usually a great recipe for a T3 Kaalia, as my experience has been that you draw a land within the first 3 turns of the game. What makes this hand great, however, is Balefire Dragon. Having a way to proactively attack your opponents' creatures is very important in slowing them down, and this Dragon does the trick. Protection for Kaalia or having a Stax piece or two would be better, but this hand is definitely keepable.
Sample Hand 2
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This hand is almost good enough to keep, but it's missing a third mana source. Thalia might be able to buy you enough time to get the mana sources you need to get Kaalia into play, but it's doubtful. Mulligan this hand away for sure.
Sample Hand 3
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This is as close to a god-hand as you're going to get. You have a T2 Kaalia with this hand and one of the most powerful Kaalia targets in hand as well. Stranglehold is the final nail in the coffin that will make sure that your opponents don't come back from the severe beating you're about to lay down. Keep this hand for sure.
Early Game (Turns 1-3)

This is usually T1-T3 for this deck. You'll sometimes be the aggressive deck at the table, asking all them questions (mad props if you get this reference!!) and playing out a mana rock on T2 to threaten a T3 Kaalia. Other times you'll be the conservative mid-range style deck at the table, killing things and playing out Stax pieces. Sometimes, the correct play is to kill/hinder the player who bursts out of the gates, so prioritizing removal or a Stax piece is almost always the right play before casting Kaalia. Slowing down your opponents in these early turns is very important, because the tempo loss they suffer here will protect Kaalia in the long run and maximize the number of combat steps that you get in the mid-game.

Tutor for the most effective Kaalia target that you can find in the early game if that's your only line i.e. finding Chancellor of the Annex if you're playing a table of U/x decks, Linvala, Keeper of Silence if you're going against a mana-dork/Protean Hulk/Necrotic Ooze deck, or Balefire Dragon if you're going up against a field of creature based strategies. Essentially, you need to determine your role at the table and play appropriately. This evaluation comes mostly from experience and familiarity with what other generals represent, so get playing! There are decks that are faster than Kaalia and some that are better at control than Kaalia, so determining how you should play is critical.

Mid-Game (Turns 3-5)

The Mid-Game is about turns 3-5 and is where the game can go in any direction. Combo players are looking to try and win at this point, Stax players are looking to constrict all resources, and Mid-Range decks are playing a draw-go kinda style while they wait to see who tries to win first and cast removal as appropriate. Since we are in the Stax role most of the time, we want to continue to play more Stax-y cards that hinder and restrict the basic tenets of our opponent's game plans at this stage of the game. If, however, an opportunity for a fast Kaalia arises, take it. A T2-T3 Kaalia will put a TON of pressure on your opponents. Being able to apply heavy pressure on your opponents during the Mid-Game can cause your opponents to stretch their resources too thin. For example, you just put a Hellkite Tyrant into play and stole the most threatening player's mana rocks out from under them. The other opponents now need to decide if they're willing to lose their own mana rocks to your Hellkite in favor of tutoring for a combo piece or using said tutor to find a removal spell. Either way, we'll win because the Hellkite will distract our opponents from the cards we cast on our next Turn or the next Kaalia target, which may be even more threatening than the Hellkite.

Remember, this deck is aiming to deprive our opponents of resources through various means. A well-timed Cataclysm can leave you in a very favorable board position while ruining everyone else's. Be wise in which cards you deploy here, as this stage of the game is critical in determining who will win and how. More often than not, you will want to build a board state of heavy Stax pieces so that your opponents are spending resources trying to get out of the jail you put them in while you carefully get Kaalia into play to start wrecking face.

Late-Game Strategy (Turns 5+)

Yes, the late game in a cEDH game is about T5 onwards. Ideally, we should have played 1-2 Stax/Hate-Bear cards that have slowed our opponents down enough for Kaalia to get online. Along with timely removal spells, our opponents are most likely in a position where they are trying to rebuild their resources in order to execute their game plan. One of the reasons this deck so heavily emphasizes removal is because overwhelming our opponents with enough removal is a very effective strategy in getting to the late-game. This is a prime opportunity for you to be casting Kaalia and start devouring life totals with your Vast Horde of Angels, Demons, and Dragons.

If you have a remaining tutor effect available, prioritize tutoring for either the hardest hitting Angel, Demon, or Dragon of your choice (I prefer to find Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, or Balefire Dragon) OR a MLD effect. We want to completely strip our opponents of their ability to interact with our game plan, and killing their resources is the best way to do that. The two best cards to find, in my experience, have been Cataclysm and Armageddon, since they remove the largest number of resources from your opponent at once. With the banning of Iona, Shield of Emeria, you could also look to assemble the Brisela combo with the inclusion of Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light. While not necessarily the strongest cards in the deck, together they create Brisela which is pretty much a total lockdown for opposing cEDH decks and an incredibly powerful Angel beatstick that will make short work of your opponent's life totals.

Once you've put your opponents on the back foot, your game plan is simple: kill 'em all. It's better to concentrate on one opponent at a time, starting with who is perceived to be the biggest threat at the time or who has the best ability to recover. Opposing Stax players we like to keep around since their cards will usually help stifle our opponent's resources. Kill the combo decks first, especially any UB based ones since they probably use Necropotence, Windfall, Timetwister, and/or Ad Nauseam to try and claw back into the game. It usually takes only 2-3 turn cycles to eventually kill each opponent, so make sure that your resource denial continues to remain in place so that your opponents can't magically come out of the resource abyss that you threw them into.

If, however, you find yourself stymied at this stage of the game (possibly because you're the archenemy), it is best to be the removal deck of choice. There is quite a bit of mass removal and spot removal so that you can continue to disrupt strategies and keep everyone from developing their game plan efficiently. As you build mana sources and go into the later turns, it becomes very possible to start hard-casting your threats. Finding Lightning Greaves is a very important card if this is the case, since it will allow your creatures to be protected and make sure that you're maintaining a board presence.

The nice thing about this decklist is that it doesn't take long to kill the table once you've developed your board of Stax pieces and your Vast Horde of Angels, Demons, and Dragons. It helps to make the pain of complete resource obliteration more bearable for your opponents since you'll be able to close the door efficiently and quickly.




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Opposing Commander Matchups

While it's really hard to quantify a Tiered Competitive Commander list, our friends the LabManiacs (check out their YouTube channel here for excellent deck commentary and fantastic game matches!) have done some data mining and have created a rough list of the competitive Commander decks that are most frequently played. I will be listing the match-ups for Kaalia accordingly, based on the list that is found and maintained here.


Flash Hulk - Thrasios & Tymna
Breakfast Hulk Variants
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This is a fast deck that can execute its combo on T2-T3 reliably with counter protection. You want to tutor or mulligan aggressively into some of the Stax pieces. Leyline of the Void is the best of the bunch, since it puts a cold halt to the combo as long as it's in play, but Cursed Totem and Suppression Field are also good options. Suppression Field is some interesting tech that I'm testing out because the taxing ability on activated abilities stifles a TON of strategies. This might be better suited to Rest in Peace, but time will tell. The decklist in its current iteration is geared towards Breakfast Hulk and Storm decks, so you should be ok if you can find and cast one of those Stax pieces early on. Remember that Linvala, Keeper of Silence is another incredible card against Flash Hulk decks because all of the Hulk combo lines depend on activated abilities to fire off a win.
Grixis Storm - Kess/Jeleva
Grixis Storm Variants
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Storm decks are soft to taxing effects, so try and tutor or mulligan hard into Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Rule of Law, Eidolon of Rhetoric, or Chancellor of the Annex. Any one of these cards is going to shut down the Storm deck's strategy of chaining multiple spells in a turn to kill you off. Once you have established a solid board state of Stax pieces that they're trying to deal with, cast Kaalia and close the door as fast as you can. Damage doublers like Gisela, Blade of Goldnight and particularly Archfiend of Despair are really good since it makes Ad Nauseam and other life-costing spells that much more damaging. Don't forget that they're also pretty dependent on their artifacts, so feel free to destroy them, invalidate them via Stony Silence, or steal them via Hellkite Tyrant.
Food Chain Sliver
Food Chain Sliver
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This is a tough matchup because the deck is so fast and our Stax pieces aren't 100% lined up against this deck. Rule of Law effects are the best option as well as the Stax pieces that limit the searching of your opponents' libraries. That will make their infinite mana a little useless until they can search their library with The First Sliver. Chancellor of the Annex also inhibits the combo by adding a tax that shorts out the mana generation that Food Chain creates, so that should be a top Kaalia target for you. Play the Stax pieces you can and apply pressure as fast as possible.
Zur Doomsday/Storm
Zur Variants
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I will refer you to the Grixis Storm entry for this match-up since it's basically the same thing. The difference of them being able to cast Zur is actually a plus for us since it makes our creature removal a little more relevant. The reason to choose Zur over other Grixis or Storm generals is because he can put Necropotence into play with an attack step. This is extremely powerful, so try to keep Zur dead and flood the board with Stax pieces. Then close the door with Kaalia and her Vast Horde.
Teferi Stax
Teferi Stax
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This is a fascinating match-up. My wife and I have played the Teferi and Kaalia matchup, 1v1, close to 50+ times, and it really depends on who goes first and how many mana rocks Teferi can draw into. If Teferi can draw into mana positive mana rocks faster than you can deploy your Stax and removal pieces, you'll lose. Therefore, kill those mana rocks as violently as possible. Hellkite Tyrant is pretty much game over if it can connect even once, and the regular Rule of Law effects will help slow Teferi down.
Dramatic Scepter - Thrasios & Tymna
Thrasios Dramatic Scepter Variants
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The normal suite of Stax pieces we play in the main decklist line up very well against this decklist, so try and flood the board with as many Stax pieces and Hate-Bears as possible so that executing their game strategy becomes nearly impossible. Watch out for Ad Nauseam and kill mana sources as frequently as possible. Once Kaalia can get a Angel/Demon/Dragon into play to start applying pressure the game should wrap up quickly. Remember to keep those Stax pieces coming as often as possible.
Yisan Stax
Yisan Stax
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A creature based Stax deck? Kaalia laughs. Seriously, this matchup is abysmal for Yisan because it's dependent on keeping Yisan in play. Between the heavy removal effects like Balefire Dragon, Cursed Totem, Aven Mindcensor, and Stranglehold, you should have a good time with this matchup. Meaning that you should most likely win A LOT.
Brostorm Selvala
Brostorm Selvala
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Similar to Yisan, this is a creature based deck that relies on chaining spells together in a Storm-like fashion. A basic description of the strategy is that it chains high power creatures (like Phyrexian Dreadnought or Lupine Prototype) to draw cards and net mana off of Selvala's activated ability. Our Stax pieces and heavy removal suite are very well-suited for this matchup. Just keep Selvala off the table as long as possible otherwise you risk the potential of losing to Selvala faster than you can develop your board state. Rule of Law effects are usually pretty good here. Cursed Totem is quite possibly the best card against this deck, but Balefire Dragon would like to request at least an honorable mention.
Blood Pod Stax - Tana & Tymna
Tana & Tymna Stax
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This deck plays a similar strategy as us, in being a Stax heavy strategy, but is reliant on creatures. Try and find [CAARD]Toxic Deluge[/CARD] or Scourge of Kher Ridges and this match-up should be decent. Be aware that they will and do play some additional taxing effects that we don't play that make executing our game strategy more difficult. Fire Covenant is a great card here as well. Tymna the Weaver is a primary source of their card advantage, so kill her as frequently as you can so that they're strained for card advantage. Also be aware that they can win with a Kiki-Jiki combo off of Yisan, the Wanderer Bard and Birthing Pod once they get to the magical 3 CMC.
Stax Jhoira
Jhoira Stax/Storm
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This is a tough matchup because Jhoira can exploit an inherent weakness of the deck: its mana base. Back to Basics and Blood Moon effects are absolutely terrible for this deck. Combined with a similar suite of Stax cards, and the game can become very cat and mouse. If they find an opening to squeeze and protect Jhoira for a full turn cycle, they will be able to bury you in card advantage and probably combo off. Be careful in playing this matchup, and consider boarding in Stony Silence since some of our Stax pieces don't line up so well. Rule of Law effects are also strong here as well.
Tasigur Control/Combo
Tasigur Control/Combo
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Tasigur is actually favored in this matchup because he can just sit back and remove or counter our effects. Many of the Stax pieces do line up well against this deck, but it's tough because they can recur so much of their removal or counterspells. And since you're playing a Stax deck, you can expect that your opponents will all readily agree on having Tasigur recur that Krosan Grip or Abrupt Decay to remove your Stax pieces. Once you get Kaalia on board and protected, however, you can close the door pretty quickly with the suite of Angels, Demons, and Dragons in the deck. Cursed Totem and Suppression Field help to limit the number of cards that Tasigur can recur as well as hinder many of the infinite combos that Tasigur decks can use. Rule of Law effects are also very interesting in this match-up, as they can limit Tasigur's card advantage BUT also open you up into terrible conditions where Tasigur can recur a counterspell and lock you out of spells.
Gitrog Monster Combo
Gitrog Combo
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This is a really weird combo deck that is really, really fast. It utilizes Dakmor Salvage and the Monster's triggered ability to draw a card and then replace that draw trigger with a dredge effect. Then you use a discard outlet to discard the Dakmor Salvage back to the 'yard to trigger it again. You then repeat this, drawing cards from incidentally milled land cards via the trigger, and then shuffling your 'yard back into your library. Then, you traditionally use Skirge Familiar to create infinite mana and kill everyone with some sort of black spell that will do the job. To interrupt this combo, Rule of Law effects are effective as well as 'yard hate. Leyline of the Void is the best thing you can be doing in this matchup, but Cursed Totem and Suppression Field are great cards for stopping them from winning as well as most of their discard outlets are creature-based outlets.
Edric Turns
Edric Turns
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This is a super annoying, super effective deck that draws more cards than any other deck I've ever seen. Yeah, even more than Ad Nauseam. The basic idea of the deck is to play evasive creatures and draw cards with Edric, Spymaster of Trest. The name of this game is to keep Edric off the table. Pretty much at all costs. Edric plays enough disruption that once it gets its draw engine going it's nearly impossible to disrupt. Kill him all the time and tutor for Balefire Dragon or Steel Hellkite to get rid of their things.




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Credits & Thanks
The creation of this Primer would not have been possible without the extensive and well-written Primer created by 3drinks. I seriously invite you to check it out at the following link:


3drinks is the inspiration for my initial creation of this Kaalia list and the list has evolved as I have as a player. All said, the Personal Liaison to Kaalia has been a great resource for me, and other Kaalia players, all across the internet.

You, dear reader, are also worthy of thanks! I love the MTGSalvation forums and the information that is shared in the Commander forums, both casual and competitive. I hope that this Primer is of benefit to you and helps you understand how to play more competitively and how to build around our Vengeful Lady!

I'd also like to thank my playgroup for playing against this deck. Stax and resource denial isn't always fun to play against as an opponent, but I can confidently say that playing against this deck has improved all of our playskill and decklist building criteria.

Finally, I'd like to thank my wife for being willing to play Magic: The Gathering. Your decision to meet me halfway and learn to play this game is one of the greatest gifts you've given me as your husband and I'm the luckiest man I know! This Primer is for you and the deck you play most!




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Changelog

This is a running log of any changes that are made to the Current decklist so that it remains current and up to date and so that you can follow what has changed about the decklist. The reasoning why a card substitution occurred will be found within the body of the thread itself, so reasoning won't be mentioned within this section.
8/6/2019
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Completed the Primer creation and checked for any errors.
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Lollerskittles
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Post by Lollerskittles » 6 months ago

Looking forward to seeing the decklist!

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Post by benjameenbear » 6 months ago

[mention]Lollerskittles[/mention]
Thanks for being patient, my friend! The Primer has been completed and is now ready for action!

I'm excited to see what Eldraine will bring in regards to Kaalia targets. Nothing from the C19 spoilers has caught my interest yet, but anything can change.
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Post by benjameenbear » 6 months ago

Formal set review of Commander 2019!
  • Archfiend of Spite - very cool card but not quite good enough in this deck. It's trigger is VERY reactive, and damage based removal or combat damage is infrequent against Kaalia. Pass.
  • Dockside Extortionist - wow, what an awesome card. If you're playing in an Artifact heavy meta, this Goblin can give you 5+ Treasures on a consistent basis, which is some serious ramp. I'm strongly considering this card for the main decklist.
  • Bone Miser - another Payoff card for the Wheel effects in the deck is always a good thing, I just don't think that there is enough synergy in the decklist to make him work consistently.
  • Backdraft Dragon - I can already tell my wife is going to call this Fart-Back Dragon. She's super clever like that. There aren't enough Instants/Sorceries in the deck to justify this card, so we'll pass.
  • Greven, Predator Captain - another card I'm strongly considering, it turns Kaalia targets into huge amounts of Card Draw, which this deck is always needing. I wish he had a Kaalia creature type, and I think he's not going to make it.
Otherwise, not much. I'm curious as to what Eldraine will be bringing to the table for this deck!
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Post by Lollerskittles » 6 months ago

Awesome!

Great work on the Primer, appreciate all the hard work you have put into it and I cant wait to make a few upgrades to my Kaalia deck.

Thanks a lot :grin:

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Post by benjameenbear » 5 months ago

Thanks! I'm hoping that Eldraine will have some sweet Kaalia targets since it's a dedicated high fantasy themed set. A legendary A/D/D as powerful as Vilis would be awesome!
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Post by GPash » 5 months ago

Love the idea/decklist. I ran Kaalia in my Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck and am actually looking to make the swap and have Kaalia be my Commander. You mention that Mardu has great options for mass LD, but I don't see much of it in your list. Did you decide to steer away from that strategy after writing the primer?

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Post by benjameenbear » 5 months ago

GPash wrote:
5 months ago
Love the idea/decklist. I ran Kaalia in my Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck and am actually looking to make the swap and have Kaalia be my Commander. You mention that Mardu has great options for mass LD, but I don't see much of it in your list. Did you decide to steer away from that strategy after writing the primer?
Splendid!

I found myself moving away from MLD options as my playgroup has leaned more and more on mana dorks and mana rocks, which seem to be rife in cEDH tables. I've often found Cataclysm to be sufficient from the MLD route, but Armageddon and other LD spells are excellent inclusions, depending on your playgroup and what you find you need to tutor for. For example, my wife has reintroduced Armageddon back into her paper list because she finds that she's often tutoring for Stony Silence in order to combat the mana rocks she frequently plays against. This allows her to play more MLD to greater effect.
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Post by h3artbl33d » 5 months ago

Love this deck! Kaalia's my first EDH commander and the primer you've posted has been very helpful in collecting the pieces needed. When I first played Kaalia, she was immediately targeted by the entire table, so adding the Stax component is going to be extremely helpful :D

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Post by benjameenbear » 5 months ago

@[mention]h3artbl33d[/mention]
I'm glad to hear it! Kaalia was one of the first decks I ever acquired as well, and I've spent literally years tuning this deck to where it is now. I too experienced the same kind of targeting so I just decided to lean into it and be as aggressively oppressive as possible. I've already lost any political capital I could have simply by showing Kaalia as my Commander, so I'm not too concerned about being the good guy.

I hope the Stax component works out! I've recently been very impressed with Magus of the Moon. It does a surprisingly good job of screwing up cEDH mana bases and locking people out of playing spells.
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Post by Suichimo » 5 months ago

Any reason to run the Magus cards, and this would extend to stuff like Eidolon of Rhetoric, over the actual spells? I.E. Any reason for me to run Magus of the Moon over Blood Moon or Eidolon of Rhetoric over Rule of Law?

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Post by benjameenbear » 5 months ago

Creatures synergize better with Tymna the Weaver but are definitely more vulnerable to removal. While Tymna isn't in the Command Zone, she often acts as a better Phyrexian Arena when she's drawn, so having the creature density to support her is important. And... that's about it. Occasionally, creature removal is sparse in a cEDH game so creatures can sometimes last a little longer than artifacts/enchantments, just depends.

And in regards to Blood Moon vs. Magus of the Moon, it's definitely a budget thing too for practical reasons. Humans are also better with Cavern of Souls as well, so there's a small suite of reasons that Human Hate-Bears are in the list when possible.
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Post by benjameenbear » 4 months ago

Real life stuff, including being laid off, have conspired to consume my time recently but I will be able to carve out some time to get back to these forums. I'll try and do a set review here, but the card I'm most interested in is Wishclaw Talisman. With an active Kaalia, you can activate the Talisman to go and find Hellkite Tyrant and then steal it back from the opponent you had to give it to. Other than that, there isn't too much that caught my attention for Kaalia.
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Post by SaintForthigan » 3 months ago

Hey there! I just wanted to say thanks for all your hard work writing your primers. I've had a ton of fun playing your decks online, and I like your iteration of Kaalia enough that I've actually just bought it as my first paper Magic deck. Here's hoping you're able to get back on your feet soon, and keep up the awesome brewing!

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Post by TheWinterSoldier » 2 months ago

Thanks for the write up, it has been a great resource that i have come back to frequently.

One question though, in your original primer you included a reanimation version of the deck. Did you ever test this or expand upon it??? A heavy reanimation theme is how i run my current iteration of Kaalia.

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Post by 3drinks » 2 months ago

[mention]benjameenbear[/mention];

Do you find, as I've started to see, that Kaalia has a definite glass ceiling over her playability? A combination of needing enough slots dedicated to the A/D/D suite, tutours, removal such that her maximum power level is inherently capped right about where we're at?

Asking because, since you know I've been working this deck since 2011, it's a trend I've noticed. Ever since I tuned the contract version, there's been so much preparation you can put into it but not a lot of actual chance to "move up" the competitive spectrum, as it were.
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Post by benjameenbear » 2 months ago

SaintForthigan wrote:
3 months ago
Hey there! I just wanted to say thanks for all your hard work writing your primers. I've had a ton of fun playing your decks online, and I like your iteration of Kaalia enough that I've actually just bought it as my first paper Magic deck. Here's hoping you're able to get back on your feet soon, and keep up the awesome brewing!
Thank you very much for the well wishes, comrade. I wish I could say that my situation has improved... but not quite. It will though! I'm flattered that you invested in a copy of your own Kaalia and used my guide as a template! Enjoy the fear and power you will have as you play the best Female Commander! (This is according to my wife...)
TheWinterSoldier wrote:
2 months ago
Thanks for the write up, it has been a great resource that i have come back to frequently.

One question though, in your original primer you included a reanimation version of the deck. Did you ever test this or expand upon it??? A heavy reanimation theme is how i run my current iteration of Kaalia.
There is a Reanimator thread that I've posted and haven't tested extensively. I think that, once I get my life on a normal schedule (I've cobbled together two part-time jobs that meet my family's needs but requires me working 60+ hours...).
3drinks wrote:
2 months ago
benjameenbear;

Do you find, as I've started to see, that Kaalia has a definite glass ceiling over her playability? A combination of needing enough slots dedicated to the A/D/D suite, tutours, removal such that her maximum power level is inherently capped right about where we're at?

Asking because, since you know I've been working this deck since 2011, it's a trend I've noticed. Ever since I tuned the contract version, there's been so much preparation you can put into it but not a lot of actual chance to "move up" the competitive spectrum, as it were.
Without a doubt. That's why it's been important to me that high-quality A/D/D be printed consistently so that Kaalia's targets can fill those necessary slots. It's one of the reasons why, in my opinion, Scourge of Kher Ridges is so valuable to a Kaalia list. Being able to have repeatable mass removal on Command has been invaluable for Board Control without having to steal up a precious deck slot.

I'm interested to see if there's a way we can streamline the deck even more. What do you think? I know you have a different mindset when it comes to Multi-Player and I'm happy to bounce ideas off each other.
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Post by 3drinks » 2 months ago

benjameenbear wrote:
2 months ago
3drinks wrote:
2 months ago
benjameenbear;

Do you find, as I've started to see, that Kaalia has a definite glass ceiling over her playability? A combination of needing enough slots dedicated to the A/D/D suite, tutours, removal such that her maximum power level is inherently capped right about where we're at?

Asking because, since you know I've been working this deck since 2011, it's a trend I've noticed. Ever since I tuned the contract version, there's been so much preparation you can put into it but not a lot of actual chance to "move up" the competitive spectrum, as it were.
Without a doubt. That's why it's been important to me that high-quality A/D/D be printed consistently so that Kaalia's targets can fill those necessary slots. It's one of the reasons why, in my opinion, Scourge of Kher Ridges is so valuable to a Kaalia list. Being able to have repeatable mass removal on Command has been invaluable for Board Control without having to steal up a precious deck slot.

I'm interested to see if there's a way we can streamline the deck even more. What do you think? I know you have a different mindset when it comes to Multi-Player and I'm happy to bounce ideas off each other.
I haven't found a more efficient win setup than liliana's contract, no. Since that can beat everyone at the same time, I don't expect to find anything more efficient than that. And that unfortunately forces you to adapt your A/D/D suite significantly to be just demons. On the plus side, that let's us make use of Patriarch's Bidding.

Well. I guess with Villis' existing, we could take on a Sanguine Bond + Exquisite Blood combo. I don't think that does anything for the rest of the deck though.
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Post by TheWinterSoldier » 2 months ago

I have actually really enjoyed playing a heavy reanimator version of this deck, which focuses on being fast on getting out A/D/D's or our combo with minimal interaction (and relying on our interaction largely coming from our A/D/D's). Through play testing i have found that the 1-2 drop reanimation spells (including Shallow Grave and Goryo's Vengeance) can constantly produce threats that blue counter spells can struggle to keep up with (unless they have good draws that include quite a few of them). Minimal interaction besides the A/D/D's seems like a bad idea, but honestly playing the game of advancing our own plan has worked out quite well against a lot of decks (though as always, this is a meta thing).

Graveyard hate really hurts this strategy, but in such cases we just fall back on the og Kaalia plan of getting her out and attacking per normal/tutoring for a combo win (not as efficient, but you gotta do what you gotta do). Cards like burnt offering or sacrifice offer nice ways to take advantage of early creatures cheated in and both emeria shepherd and sun titan have been great recursion tools to get further use out of our reanimate spells (as well as card advantage and/or ramp). I haven't played against the likes of Tymna/Thrasios decks, but against others considered higher powered than Kaalia, it has proven itself time and again (even with the hate this commander always draws). As an added benefit its the only playstyle of Kaalia i have used that allows such a high number of A/D/D's whilst still retaining its power.

But i would love feedback and/or experiences of other players, particularly if they have used a heavy graveyard theme like mine.

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Post by 3drinks » 1 month ago

I've recently been introduced to an avenue of Kaalia attack that legitimately brings us into cDH territory. It is not a stax brew, nor is it the old school mana denial/prison strat that I typically employ...

It's not my deck to share, however I will say that finding out there's a Kaalia discord has re-enervated my fervor for this. Happy holidays, indeed.
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Post by benjameenbear » 1 month ago

Care to share a link or list, 3drinks?

Also, I got a full-time offer of employment! So I'll be back to being an active participant on these forums again. I've got a lot to catch up on for sure, so give me a bit of time to digest everything and I'll hopefully get back to everyone shortly!
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Post by benjameenbear » 1 month ago

TheWinterSoldier wrote:
2 months ago
I have actually really enjoyed playing a heavy reanimator version of this deck, which focuses on being fast on getting out A/D/D's or our combo with minimal interaction (and relying on our interaction largely coming from our A/D/D's). Through play testing i have found that the 1-2 drop reanimation spells (including Shallow Grave and Goryo's Vengeance) can constantly produce threats that blue counter spells can struggle to keep up with (unless they have good draws that include quite a few of them). Minimal interaction besides the A/D/D's seems like a bad idea, but honestly playing the game of advancing our own plan has worked out quite well against a lot of decks (though as always, this is a meta thing).

Graveyard hate really hurts this strategy, but in such cases we just fall back on the og Kaalia plan of getting her out and attacking per normal/tutoring for a combo win (not as efficient, but you gotta do what you gotta do). Cards like burnt offering or sacrifice offer nice ways to take advantage of early creatures cheated in and both emeria shepherd and sun titan have been great recursion tools to get further use out of our reanimate spells (as well as card advantage and/or ramp). I haven't played against the likes of Tymna/Thrasios decks, but against others considered higher powered than Kaalia, it has proven itself time and again (even with the hate this commander always draws). As an added benefit its the only playstyle of Kaalia i have used that allows such a high number of A/D/D's whilst still retaining its power.

But i would love feedback and/or experiences of other players, particularly if they have used a heavy graveyard theme like mine.
Do you have a list posted somewhere? I think it might be easier to take a look and then develop a baseline critique from there.

Overall, it appears that my playgroup has embraced 'yard hate a little more freely, so a Reanimator strategy has become less viable suddenly. That being said, the #1 target in every Reanimator list should be Vilis, Broker of Blood. That card is basically an EDH safe Griselbrand.
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Post by 3drinks » 1 month ago

benjameenbear wrote:
1 month ago
Care to share a link or list, 3drinks?

Also, I got a full-time offer of employment! So I'll be back to being an active participant on these forums again. I've got a lot to catch up on for sure, so give me a bit of time to digest everything and I'll hopefully get back to everyone shortly!
Now that the cards I needed to arrive, have arrived, I'll be brewing shortly.
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Post by benjameenbear » 1 month ago

Fair enough. Your intrigue has me curious enough to wonder what this list and to scour the internet to see if I can find a cEDH list. The only ones I've found that have been decent are the Worldgorger Combo lists and I think that they're WAY too vulnerable to disruption to be running.
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Post by 3drinks » 1 month ago

WGD is a part, but it's not the only thing which is what adds resiliency to it.
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