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Defending the Commander Social Contract

Category: Janky Generals

Janky Generals #8 – For Kher and Country

Today, I’m going to throw back to an original legendary creature. Way back in the set that started the whole supertype, there were a lot of really bad legendary creatures. Some of them are straight vanilla bodies, and are only legendary because multicoloured was brand new. Now, we have non-legendary creatures in four colours, but back in the early days most things were one colour, and that was it.

Image

But with Legends, Wizards created the supertype that allowed our favourite format to exist. At the time, it was just a type – Summon Legend. These have all been errattad, of course, but the old cards still look awesome with that simple typeline. Some of them are great, some are pretty bad, and most are downright awful. One in particular has been on my radar for a long, long time, so now we’re going to look at Rohgahh of Kher Keep.

kobolds

The obvious includes are so bleedingly obvious that I’m going to get them out of the way. Yes, Kobolds of Kher Keep and Kher Keep are going in this deck. I know I tend to shy away from the obvious cards in this article series, but come on . . . this one is too key to pass up.

The Bad

Let’s look at the negatives first. This is a 6 CMC 5/5 with a steep upkeep cost (Yes, kids, we often had to KEEP PAYING for our cards, even after they were cast. We had to work at it, while you all get to enjoy your Thragtusks and yourSnapcaster Mages) that pumps only a VERY specific card. And even that is not by much.

Luckily, we can accommodate the high cost by simply flooding the board with creatures in our early turns, so that the extra mana investment will already be worth the investment due to the early board state. Ideally, that early board will be Kobolds of Kher Keep from Kher Keep. The pump he provides is going to be a late-game advantage, albeit one that everybody sees coming. There are better colours for a token strategy, but we’re still going to churn out a lot of bodies.

The upkeep cost is steep, I’ll not lie. Tying up three red mana every turn is going to be a pain. Mana rocks like Gilded Lotus will help, of course, and we actually have a plan to use paying the upkeep cost as part of a kill condition. So, there’s that.

The Plan

184The idea here is to churn out tokens and be enough of a rattlesnake that nobody really messes with you. Then, you get enough Kobolds in play to represent lethal, or near-lethal damage from a Rakdos Charm. Then you just don’t pay the upkeep cost on Rohgahh and give somebody all of your Kobolds, and follow up with Charm. That somebody ideally dies from it, and you get all your Kobolds back. Throw in a little spell recursion in the form of Charmbreaker Devils and you may even be able to do it more than once.

So what we want in this list are ways to make 0/1 Kobolds into effective sources of damage. Cards like Goblin Bombardment, Flame Fusillade, and Furystoke Giant (especially when combined with Goblin Bombardment) are very good at this. Of course, we can always pump up the stats for combat as well, with Coat of Arms, but that seems too goodstuff-y. I would recommend you tailor that choice to your playgroup.

Other Tech and Bits

Besides some upkeep tricks and overwhelming token swarms, we need other things to do with our Kobolds. Thankfully, there are multiple options in black and red. Viscera Seer is a fantastic way to smooth your draws, and when combined with Blood Artist or Zulaport Cutthroat is an effective grind on life totals. Ashnod’s Altar provides some decent mana acceleration and a sac outlet as well. Keldon Warlord can get ridiculously big when your token production is left unchecked, though it lacks any form of evasion or trample, so it can be chump blocked easily.

A late-game Chancellor of the Forge can overwhelm a single opponent with hasty goblin tokens, but again you need to have built a critical mass of Kobolds first. Junkyo Bell provides a constant +X/+X (based on number of creatures you control) effect for a single creature, for the low cost of sacrificing it at the end of the turn. Tears of Rage is a decent alpha strike card to end the game in combat as well. On the other side of combat, Shield of the Avatar essentially makes a single creature unkillable in combat.

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Because our deck relies on a few specific cards, we will need some tutors. The standard application of Diabolic Tutor and, if your budget allows, Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor should be sufficient. I like to include Liliana Vess in most black decks for her -2 ability, but that’s mainly because Liliana is my girl. Other than that, we should not really need a lot of searching, or planeswalkers for that matter. Most of the red ‘walkers would not really fit here, but Koth of the Hammer is an obvious exception, what with his ability to recover a Mountain from Rohgahh’s upkeep cost.

We’ll need some ramp and some draw here, too. Ramp in these colours comes mostly from rocks, which I tend to run light on. In this build, however, I would run a little more than my average. Darksteel Ingot, Chromatic Lantern, Rakdos Signet, and Astral Cornucopia would all make it into this list. We want rocks that provide coloured mana over colourless, if at all possible. I usually reserve the Lantern for decks with three or more colours, but here, the heavy requirement of a specific colour warrants a slot. For draw, we need to look at black. No cards do it better in black than Phyrexian Arena and Bloodgift Demon, and honestly those should be all we really need.

Wrap Up

So we’re looking at a narrow deck that relies on a very specific theme – Kobolds of Kher Keep. This centers around three cards, none of which is really good on its own. Even combined, the three of them require a lot of work for very little reward. But they do provide the fuel for some interesting things. You can pull some shenanigans with Rohgahh’s upkeep cost, as mentioned, or you can simply build an army that suddenly gets very dangerous with no warning. Or you can enter a battle of attrition with your 0/1 creatures, and be confident in your ability to come out on top. Overall, this is a deck that will likely fly under the radar, and may even steal a few games or you. But the real point here is the mental image of 20 or more weak little kobolds suddenly flexing their muscles and charging at the enemy.

-James

P.S. [Dave] did you like this? I bet you did. Yeah you did. Now that I’m done scratching your chin, head over to our Facebook Page and Twitter profiles and offer us a friendly like/share/digital high-five. Then you’ll get all this stuff funneled write into your eye-pieces. Plus sometimes we have conversations.

Janky Generals #7 – Stonewall

We’ve looked at a mono-red list that requires heavy recursion and card draw.  Mono-white Legendary tribal.  A green list that needs to be more than 50% Forests.  A black list that really just should not work at all, hand disruption that can only hit one card at a time, and a tokens list that really doesn’t do a lot with the tokens it creates.  

I love this series.

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Janky Generals #6 – A Token of My Affection

We all have certain colors that we lean toward, and this tends to put us into certain regular categories in terms of deck archetypes we like to play.  I tend to stick to red and black as my core colors, and while I may splash another in there on occasion, most of my decks have red, black, or both in them.  As a result, I tend to play aggressive and punishing decks that like to blow up my opponents’ things or disrupt their strategies through destruction.

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Janky Generals #5 – Hanging In The Gardens

For my next installment in this series, I would like to take a look at one of my favorite legendary creatures, which is also one of the first ones I ever owned.  

He is in colors I dislike, and his ability is pretty weak for the cost, but I still love him.

Let’s take a look at Nebuchadnezzar.

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Janky Generals #4 – None More Black: Shauku, Endbringer

I have a confession to make.  Despite the fact that I write for this site (which is a huge proponent of the social contract and ‘not being a jerk’ at tables) and despite the fact that I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment, I am a huge, huge fan of oppressive, mono-black builds.  My favourite deck ever was run under Sheoldred, Whispering One, and it was MEAN.  

Like, Stalinist purges mean.  

The deck was ridiculous, and most games I played with it, if I wasn’t dead by turn seven, I was winning the game.  It was cut-throat, and oppressive, and I absolutely loved it.  But nobody else did, and it eventually became my punishment deck, to be brought out when somebody was getting a little too big for their britches and needed to be reminded how to lose.

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Janky Generals #3 – Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant

There are a lot of great options in mono-green; so much so that it is hard to convince yourself to go without Yisan, the Wanderer Bard or Omnath, Locus of Mana.  Both of these are absolute beaters, and make for some fantastic decks.  But the point of this series is to eschew these generals, and to go for something a little less used.  A little less powerful.  Something a little more difficult to build and play.

Something more fun.

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Janky Generals #2 – Yomiji, Who Bars The Way: The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

When you look at mono-white, you’ve really only got a few top-tier options for a general.  Iona, Shield of Emeria is the best way to make a few color-specific players cry, Avacyn, Angel of Hope is Wrath.dec, and Eight-and-a-Half-Tails is a Voltron player’s moist fantasy.

But, as you know, we’re not looking at top-tier generals in this series.  No, we’re looking for the oddballs – the weak kids, the nerds who get shoved into lockers until their eventual uprising in an overly-complex and ultimately trite takeover of the school.  Fortunately, in mono-white, we have a lot of options that fit this bill…so much so that I had a hard time trimming this to just one.  I looked at the following:

[Deck title=White Weenies]
Kiyomaro, First to Stand
Mageta the Lion
Rashka the Slayer
Soraya the Falconer
[/deck]

I’ve actually built all of these (Mageta was my first ever EDH deck), and Kiyomaro is one of my favourite decks to play.  But I’ve passed on these in favour of another mono-white legendary creature that is very niche, very underplayed, and surprisingly fun to build around.

Yomiji

Objectively, this card is pretty terrible.  It costs seven mana in a colour that does not encourage ramp.  It’s a 4/4, so it’s getting run over by a fair margin of EDH-playable creatures.  It’s ability puts the cards in hand, rather than in play, and it does it for everyone.  There are any number of cards out there with similar effects that do them all better.  But I love this guy anyway, and I hope that by the end of this read you will too.

Let’s break this down.

The problems with Yomiji are obvious.  He’s expensive to cast, likely to die in combat, and is a symmetrical ability that puts cards in hand, meaning you have to cast them again.  This deck will be mana-hungry, and white does not fill that void very well.  We’re going to focus on that, first.

We’re going to be leaning pretty heavily on artifacts for acceleration.  Straight mana acceleration is obvious in the form of Sol Ring and Mana Vault, but also Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power.  Journeyer’s Kite allows you to not miss land drops, which is important, and a turn-one Land Tax is amazing here – mulligan for it, if you can, especially if you’re not playing first.  Tithe is a great little instant that a lot of people forget about, and it has a home in most white decks I build.  Burnished Hart is an absolute staple in every deck, and if you’re not running it you’re doing something wrong.  Finally, Ashnod’s Altar should be seriously considered, with how the rest of the deck should come together.

This acceleration solves two of the main problems with Yomiji – his cost, and the fact that you have to cast the things he recurs.  That leads us to the other problem – his size.  This is partially offset by the fact that he helps your opponents as well – their own legendary permanents will also be saved by Yomiji, so he is unlikely to be targeted.  This symmetrical ability is, in true monowhite fashion, not all that symmetrical once we start building around it.

That means, essentially, Legendary Tribal.  When I ran this deck, I had the following creatures in my list:
[Deck title=White Legends]
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Cho-Manno, Revolutionary
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Heliod, God of the Sun
Hokori, Dust Drinker
Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon”
Mageta the Lion
Masako the Humorless
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Myojin of Cleansing Fire
Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Yosei, the Morning Star
[/Deck]

Some of these are decent cards anyway, and would be considered for most white lists (Avacyn, 8.5 Tails, Heliod, and Yosei are all amazing in the 99), and others fill niche roles in other decks.  Here, their abilities are put to use, but they also earn a slot by merit of their typeline.  Being able to Mageta-wrath for two cards and keep all of your creatures to cast again later is huge.  Even recasting them, you’re gaining advantage over the table.  Hokori is part of a lock you can put on everyone by sacrificing it at the end of the turn right before your turn, then returning it to hand and recasting it at the end of your main phase to keep everyone tapped down.

But not just creatures can be legendary.  You can slide in a few other legendary permanent types to really push Yomiji’s ability.  Cards like Akroma’s Memorial are often targets for removal, but now you can just easily recur and re-cast it later.  Mindslaver is mean, but sometimes you need to do it, and this deck allows you to do it a lot; if you do it right, you can take all of the turns.

(I don’t recommend doing that, though.  Keep the Mindslaver as a last resort.)

Predator, Flagship is amazing removal with the right amount of mana.  With all of the acceleration we have to include in the deck, we should be able to reliably take out one or two problems per round with it.

But where this ability really shines, for me, is when you look at legendary lands.

[Deck title=Huge Tracts of Land]
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Flagstones of Trokair
Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Reikai
Kor Haven
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Miren, the Moaning Well
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
[/Deck]

All of these are legendary, and all of these have decent effects that are ripe for abuse.  Some of them even need to die to work, and we need a sac outlet for lands.  Thankfully, we have that – Zuran Orb and Reaping the Rewards.  The Orb lets you sac land for life straight up.  Reaping the Rewards nets you the same result, just with the land sacrifice effectively as the Buyback cost to a 1-CMC spell.  I know lifegain is a trap, and not something you should focus on, but in this deck we’re just looking for the sacrifice effect of these two cards; the life is just gravy on top. Sacrificing Gate to the Reikai every turn is a 1/1 factory, and sacrificing Flagstones is a decent way to ramp up your Plains count.  If you’re so inclined, Copper-Leaf Angel is another outlet to sacrifice your lands to.

This is probably the narrowest general of this series, and the deck sort of builds itself.  White has excellent spot removal and wrath effects, so you can fill in the rest of the slots pretty easily.  While the narrowest, this is also the deck that you probably have to focus on the most to pilot it well.  There are a lot of moving pieces to this, and a lot of interactions to focus on.  You want to time things properly so your opponents get as little out of Yomiji as possible, while maximizing your own benefit.  The deck can ramp out to some incredible mana output, but that generally comes later in the game.  To start, you’re playing slow and conservative, and you’re unlikely to have much of a board presence for the first six to eight trips around the table.  This deck is not ideal in a competitive game, as you’re likely to be outpaced.  But if you want to sit in on a slower, more casual game, I’d recommend sleeving up Yomiji.

-James

Janky Generals #1 – Latulla, Keldon Overseer

Everybody knows about the good generals. The Maelstrom Wanderers and the Narset, Enlightened Masters. Everybody has a basic plan for dealing with these decks, and you kind of come into a game against them knowing what to expect. There are certain cards that you know to hold countermagic back for, at the expense of letting other bad things through.

These decks are easy to build, and usually easy to pilot, mainly because they tend to be well-known – and they’ve been “solved”. You can look up fifteen Narset lists online, and see only a little variation in them.

Basically, these decks are boring.

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