The Knowledge Pool – Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer

(Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer | Art by Caio Monteiro)

A Slinking Feeling

Hi everyone! Welcome back to The Knowledge Pool, where we take a deep dive on deep commanders!

Last time I left you all with a teaser hinting that my next article would be all about Atla Palani, Nest Tender, and that’s because, at the time, I thought I would be writing about her. Those of you who’ve read my articles know that I have a deep appreciation for big creatures, sacrifice themes, and top-deck manipulation, all of which are traits that fit snugly in an Atla deck. But there’s a problem, and it has nothing to do with Atla: I’ve built Atla too many times. As I brewed, I just couldn’t make myself excited about the final product. I had seen all these interactions before. We’re going to want to make lots of Eggs, and we can do that by Populating them and copying them with effects like Parallel Lives. Then we’ll sacrifice our Eggs to pop out giant monsters. The deck felt like I had shuffled my Marath, Will of the Wild tokens deck and my Mayael the Anima decks together. So instead of presenting you all with an uninspired mess, let’s talk about something a bit more off-the-wall.

Years ago I had a Morph EDH deck. Prior to this year’s Commander product, Animar, Soul of Elements was the de facto Morph commander. However, I didn’t go that direction. I had a five-color Progenitus Morph deck. It was terrible and it was hilarious. Progenitus offers nothing to a Morph strategy except for a giant body for us to ramp into, but despite a lack of synergy, a deck filled with Morph creatures was beyond amusing. As Magic’s version of “trap cards”, Morphs keep your opponents off balance. Once there are three or four of them on board, your opponents have to be wary of your untapped mana at all times. The best part is that a lot of Morphs have weird abilities, adding a degree of unpredictability to your gameplan. Is my creature a Willbender, a Kheru Spellsnatcher, or a Vesuvan Shapeshifter? Guess you’ll just have to play your spells and find out!

Progenitus - MtG Art
My Progenitus deck has been defunct for years, and I wasn’t even very excited about a Commander precon focused on the mechanic. Morphs don’t have a ton of synergies, and there is a fairly shallow card pool from which to choose. But Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer offers abilities just open-ended enough to make this deck interesting to me. Make no mistake, Kadena is an engine. Each turn she will let us cast a free Morph, assuming you have flash to cast them on enemy turns, and she will let us draw cards whenever we cast a Morph or Manifest one of our cards, which means she could draw us quite a few cards indeed. The Sultai colors were also a great choice for Morphs in Commander, giving us access to the most potent and disruptive abilities the mechanic has to offer.

Here’s the problem: Morphs lack a game-winning payoff.

Image result for mtg art mnemonic betrayal

Morphs lack inevitability, a fact that gave me a lot of apprehension about building this deck. Sure, we can slap a Craterhoof Behemoth in this deck and call it a day, but Craterhoof is expensive, and if the one-time pump isn’t enough to kill the table, we won’t be in good shape. I want this deck to have a little bit more meat, and I want to be able to win in a more synergistic fashion. And I think I’ve found the perfect (although admittedly janky) win condition for this deck: mill. We’re going to be drawing lots of cards and playing lots of creatures, so why not leverage these facts into a win? It turns out that a handful of cards will mill our opponents when either of these actions happen, and if we can get our engine going, we might even be able to mill our opponents to death. Even if we can’t entirely mill our opponents out, the Sultai colors will afford us with lots of mana, and the ability to play with the creatures and spells we’ve forced our opponents to dump into the yard.

I want to credit Mason from the Underdog’s Corner for helping me with this deck. While we have a lot of the same opinions about deckbuilding, it’s rare that we find a commander that sparks an equal interest for both of us. Kadena has been the only commander in recent memory that we both felt compelled to brew, and we’ve shared many conversations in the past week brainstorming synergies and gameplans to make Morphs happen. Undoubtedly this deck would be worse off without his insight.

You can find an interactive version of this decklist here.

Mighty, Morphing, and Milling


The Breakdown

Our curve today is deceiving. While at first glance we’re looking at an average converted cost of 3.61, it’s important to remember that the magic number for this deck is 3: we need 3 mana to be able to cast our Morphs, and ultimately our gameplan involves creating a field of them for our opponents to navigate. The cost of turning our creatures face-up varies, but in most cases the price of surprise is over-costed in comparison to what we would normally pay. A card like Ainok Survivalist will cost us five mana total to play and then flip to destroy an artifact or enchantment. Five mana is poor for a Naturalize effect, but this is where Kadena shines. With Kadena on board, suddenly our Naturalize play only costs us 2 mana, and we get to draw a card and keep a 3/2 body in the process. This line of play has several implications for how we build our deck. First, we want to make sure we enable Kadena to the fullest extent, and second, we want to built in insurance for when Kadena becomes unavailable.

Image result for mtg art morph

Let’s talk about our first scenario: enabling Kadena. The important aspect of Kadena’s cost-reduction ability is that we can take advantage of it during enemy turns if we can find a way to give our creatures flash. Luckily, we’ve included a few ways to do so, and the more Morphs we play, the more likely we are to draw into one of these abilities. This brings us to Kadena’s second ability: drawing cards. Any face-down creature that comes into play under our control will draw us cards. This means that each Morph we cast will replace itself, but it also means that we can take advantage of Manifest as another way to sneak our creatures into play. Cards like Ghastly Conscription and Thieving Amalgam have the potential to draw us a ton of cards with Kadena on board, and it’s worth noting that if we happen to Manifest one of our Morphs, we can turn it face up for either its Morph cost or its casting cost. This gives us the extra flexibility to conserve our mana and catch our opponents off guard.

Every Morph we cast should be drawing us cards, but once we’ve flipped them face-up, most of them aren’t threatening. For this reason, we’ll want ways to reset our Morphs so we can reuse their abilities and keep our engine roaring. We’ll want a few ways to bounce our creatures back to hand, and luckily we have cards that will allow us to do so over and over. Another advantage of bouncing our creatures is the mind game it allows us to play. Are we going to be replaying the same Morph our opponents know about, or will we putting something new from our hand into play? This is the sort of scenario that makes the Morph deck so entertaining to play with and against.

For situations when we lose Kadena, we’ll need a lot of extra mana to be able to cast our Morphs. For this reason, we’ll want a hefty ramp package, and the fact that we’re a creature-dense deck means that we’ll be able to make the most of spells like Cryptolith Rite and Zendikar Resurgent.

Image result for mtg art zendikar resurgent

So where does the mill come into play? Once we get our engine going, we’ll be able to play a handful of cards that will mill our opponents each time we cast a Morph or draw card. By making lots of mana, and being able to flash and bounce our Morphs, we’ll have a real shot at putting enemy decks into the yard.


Power Level

If I haven’t made it abundantly clear already, we’re playing this deck for the politics, the neat interactions, and the ability to surprise our opponents with our “trap cards”. Combined with the inconsistencies of mill, we’ll need to be clever to win, but a deck like this one might be able to fly under the radar long enough to steal some games.

With our gameplan in mind, let’s take a dive into some of the more exciting synergies this deck has to offer. It might seem counter-intuitive, but we won’t be focusing much on the Morphs themselves. The reason I’ve elected to focus this article on payoffs is because most of the Morphs I’ve included are intended to fall into the role of disruption, which is certain to become repetitive quickly. Instead of discussing the details of a select few Morphs, think of them as ways to deflect opponents while we assemble our engine.


Bounce, Flash, and Untap

The Sultai colors offer a lot of ways to bounce our creatures, but I want to focus on those that we can repeat over and over. One of my favorite options here Equilibrium, which will give us the chance to bounce our flipped creatures back to hand for the low cost of one mana. What’s even better, though, is that we can also use Equilibrium to deal with problem creatures our opponents control, using each Morph we play to send enemy creatures back into the aether. While not as flexible, Temur Sabertooth is another option for bouncing Morphs back to hand, making itself indestructible in the process.

Image result for mtg art equilibrium

Moving on to our flash cards, Vivien, Champion of the Wilds will grant this ability, with a -2 effect that can draw us into more Morphs. Leyline of Anticipation and Vedalken Orrery are classic flash enablers, and will usually be more resilient than Vivien in exchange for flexibility.

While I mentioned our interest in ramping hard, we haven’t yet talked about a subgroup of ramp spells: untappers. Wilderness Reclamation and Seedborn Muse will help us ensure that we have mana to spend on opposing turns, and will make our bounce and flash enablers all the more powerful. If we can assemble a board with one card from each of these categories, our engine will be in prime shape.

With engine pieces in place, let’s talk about the payoffs we can expect from looping our Morphs.


Mill, Tricks, and Combos

I’ve tried to choose mill options that will allow us to do as much damage as possible under most circumstances. Altar of the Brood, for instance, comes down cheaply, and then will grind away our opponents with each Morph, enchantment, artifact, and land we play. Consuming Aberration takes this to the next level, and was the initial inspiration for including mill in this deck. With a Consuming Aberration on board, each spell we cast has the potential to deal a lot of damage to opposing decks, while making the Aberration a giant body in the process. Both of these spells will reward us for assembling our engines, and with Kadena on board, we can also make the most of Psychic Corrosion, which will turn each Morph cast into two cards off the top of each enemy deck.

Image result for mtg art consuming aberration

I’ve tried to build redundancy into our engine pieces while ensuring we have enough Morphs to act as fuel. However, when the engine breaks down, we still want a few options to mill our opponents. Fleet Swallower will likely draw a lot of hate if your opponents see it coming, but it’s also one of the most amusing spells we can Manifest. Flipping the Swallower right before combat will ensure that there is little time for our opponents to prevent our fish from attacking, Traumatizeing our target.

Phenax, God of Deception will turn even our meekest colorless 2/2 into a cog in the mill machine. Phenax is here for the times when we can build up the board but lack a critical engine piece to get a loop going. In these cases, we can simply turn our Morphs sideways to begin eating away at our opponents.

Lastly, I wanted a mill option that we could pump a lot of mana into in the late game, and Mind Grind is the perfect option here. We have the potential to make a lot of mana, and Mind Grind will let us punish players that were too overzealous with their ramping or were too greedy with their manabase. In either case, if we’ve managed to start the bleeding with Altar of the Brood or Psychic Corrosion, a late-game Mind Grind could be enough to knock a few players out.


Pieces to the Puzzle

Milling our opponents has a few neat side effects that are worth mentioning. I’ve pointed out that actually milling our opponents out will be a considerable challenge. However, we’ll also be doing a great job of stocking enemy yards for us to take advantage.

Ghastly Conscription has the potential to Manifest a ton of creatures after we’ve bled our opponents’ libraries a little bit. This play can also draw us a ton of cards if we control Kadena, and give us access to the baddest creatures our opponents had planned to use against us.

Image result for mtg manifest art

Similarly, Mnemonic Betrayal will let us play with any of the spells we mill from opposing decks, giving us a lot of options for taking over a game.

Lastly, Scheming Symmetry is the only tutor I’ve included in this deck, and I like it a lot here because of how one-sided it becomes when combined with our milling.


A Pickle in These Trying Times

We can’t have a Morph deck without talking about the most famous Morph combo: the pickles lock. To assemble this combo, we just need Vesuvan Shapeshifter and Brine Elemental. Flipping Brine Elemental will prevent our opponents from untapping on their next turn, and we can then flip Vesuvan Shapeshifter face-up, copying the Brine Elemental, and getting its ability. The next turn, we just need to flip Shapeshifter face-down and repeat.

This combo effectively locks our opponents out of their tapped mana, and while it isn’t too difficult to disrupt, we can potentially catch our opponents tapped out, and win the game without resistance.


The Cut List

There are a couple cards that fit our strategy that didn’t make the cut.

One of the card I’ve omitted that I think will surprise many people is Ixidor, Reality Sculptor. I’m not a fan of Ixidor because of the associated high cost. By the time we’re flipping any of our Morphs, we’ll have invested eight mana into Ixidor, and I think most of the time I would rather spend our mana to flip them naturally.

For this series I tend to build decks with my personal collection in mind, but I try to let you know when I don’t include a card for this reason. One such card is Cloudstone Curio which perfectly fits our bouncing theme, letting us bounce our dudes for free with each Morph we cast. If you have an extra copy in your collection, include this card.

Image result for mtg cloudstone curio art

If we want more options for flashing in our creatures, or if you don’t fancy investing $40 into Vedalken Orrery, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir is a solid option. For this list I chose not to include Teferi because his UUU cost is more challenging than our other options, but with our green fixing I don’t think we should eliminate him from consideration.

Of course, if the mill subtheme is too inconsistent for your taste, a more traditional aggressive route is possible. Cards like End-Raze Forerunners, Craterhoof Behemoth, Triumph of the Hordes, and Garruk Wildspeaker would all be excellent options for buffing our field of battle-ready 2/2s, while a more permanent option like Akroma’s Memorial could help make our dudes lethal.


Wrapping Up

Thank you all for taking the time to read my article! Next time I will be bringing you budget takes on two decks that I’ve been working on for a friend of mine. I’m really excited with how these brews are going, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Until next time, I wish you all the best, and happy brewing!

 

I'm a Timmy that loves Green, Creatures, and Lands. I prefer controlled smashing, and best associate with the Temur colors. I've been playing commander since 2012, and I spend my free time brewing decks and exploring new strategies. I'm also a sports nut, and follow baseball, football, hockey, and soccer in detail.