Unlikely Alliance – Ikra Shidiqi & Kydele

(Unlikely Alliance | Art by Phil Foglio)

Snakes. Why Couldn’t They Have Been Snakes?!

Welcome to the Unlikely Alliance column! This series investigates the Commander format’s least played Partner combinations. While many Partner combinations lead to obvious builds – or are just obviously strong – we’re here to build fun lists that most others haven’t explored.

This time around we will be building with Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper, who is the least-built Partner commander. We’ll be pairing her with Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix.

(Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper | Art by Josu Hernaiz) and (Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix | Art by Bastien L. Deharme)

Inexpensive Builds

A goal of this column is to build deck lists that are inexpensive. That’s not to say they are budget builds, but we won’t be using much that costs more than $10 unless those cards are absolutely on-theme and we can’t find suitable alternatives. For example, Alhammarret’s Archive synergizes with both of our commanders, so goes into the deck despite being a $14+ card.


Soapbox

Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper is an unfortunate card. From a Mel’s perspective it is unfortunate that the Naga creature type was introduced, despite an existing precedent for Snake people in the Orochi from Kamigawa. Naga should have been given the Snake creature type, and while Mark Rosewater agrees, apparently not everyone at WotC does.

Maybe someday we’ll be lucky enough to get a Kaalia of the Vast for Snakes, Gorgons, and Naga. Or maybe an Ur-Ophidian with an Eminence ability that cares about all three creature types, because it seems unlikely that there will ever be another Grand Creature Type Update.

From a Vorthos’s perspective, Ikra Shidiqi, the Usrurper was as much of a flavor-fail as Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist. Ludevic just has a larger fan-base. The Ikra Shidi that we were given is from Tarkir’s new timeline; the timeline when she has helped a Dimir-colored Dragonlord Silumgar overthrow the Sultai, purging the clan’s survivors of their green, shamanistic ways.

So why, as the highest-ranked member of Silumgar’s entourage, is she green? There are no green cards bearing Silumgar’s watermark, nor any green Naga in the new timeline, so what gives? Why is she wielding life-magic when the Naga Wizards from her timeline are mostly necromancers who sacrifice creatures? In the original timeline only one Naga granted life, but even that was required a creature’s death.

Here’s what I think happened. Someone designed a toughness-matters Gorgon; Gorgons often have high-toughness to go along with their Deathtouch / “death gaze” abilities. However, when it came time to put a face on the card, they couldn’t find a Gorgon in the lore to fill that slot. The only living, named Gorgon who is lacking a card is Ludmilla, the sole survivor from among the Sisters of Stone Death. She is likely too important to Ravnican lore to have her solo debut card come from a supplemental product. So we got Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper.


Commander Analysis

Enough with the preaching, let’s see what our Partners bring to the table.

Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper

Ikra is a toughness-matters, lifegain commander who is most commonly paired with Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa. However, when you realize that Ikra is only Kondo’s 3rd-most common pairing, you start to understand just how unpopular Ikra Shidiqi really is.

While lifegain is a popular theme, the toughness theme is much more difficult to build, and in fact Ikra Shidiqi is more likely to end up in the 99 of a Doran, the Siege Tower deck, than at the helm of her own. To build her, maybe we can find a class of creature that lends itself to a toughness-matters theme, without needing to go all-in.

Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix

Kydele is a mana source that scales with our ability to draw cards. More cards means more mana, and people like both. It goes without saying then, that her ability elevates her into the top 5 most popular Partner commanders list, and that her most common pairings are with the other most popular Partner commanders.

Kydele is frequently built as the leader for a Wheels or Card Draw themed-deck, but I think we can do something more interesting than that, or at the very least, more thematically refined.

The Intersection

Initially there seems to be little overlap between these two commanders. While we’ll include some cards that allow exchanging life for card draw, it’s not much of a theme. More importantly, Ikra Shidiqi wants a deck full of attackers and Kydele wants a deck full of card draw. The question becomes, “Are there creatures that we can attack with that also happen to draw us cards?”

And the answer is… Snakes.

As it turns out, what Magic R&D refers to as the Curiosity ability was originally called the Ophidian ability. Even better for us, many of the creatures that possess a variant of these abilities exchange power for toughness. So in honor of the fact that Naga are Ophidian in appearance, let’s make an “Ophidian” tribal deck.

Now the Vorthos players among you may be asking, “How do you justify Kydele in an “Ophidian” theme? She’s no Snake!” The thing is, she has 4 arms and 2 legs, just like all the best Snakes.


Narrative

I normally like to summarize a deck’s narrative before fleshing out the details, but this deck is more of a puzzle than it is a story. All we have today is: attack and burn life to draw cards, then cast big spells and win.


EDHREC Resources

Here are links to the EDHREC resources I used to figure out the contents and workings of our deck:


The Deck

Ikra // Kydele – Ophidian Tribal

Commander (2)
Creatures (32)
Enchantments (9)
Instants (1)
Sorceries (5)
Artifacts (13)
Lands (38)

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Spotlights

Let’s walk through some more of the deck’s most important cards.


“Ophidian” / Curiosity

While we’ll have plenty of creatures that do this on their own, the effect stacks, so let’s make sure all of our creatures are able to draw us cards.


Evasion

Our creatures only draw us cards and grant us life when not blocked, so let’s make sure they get through.


Recursion

We want to attack aggressively when our commanders are in play, but that often mean that our creatures will die. Getting them back is easier than trying to tutor for replacements.


Paying Life

Ikra’s life gain can be channeled into card draw that pumps Kydele’s mana output.


“X” Win-Cons

We want a few explosive plays that can take advantage of having lots of mana and/or life.


Big Beats

Sometimes we just need some big dumb creatures to finish off an opponent.


Commander Synergy

Let’s include some cards that work well with both of our commanders.


Surprise!

The threat of instant-speed bodies with benefits is almost more important than actually playing these cards.


Utility

Let’s not forget some value engines.


The End

Thanks for exploring Ikra Shidiqi // Kydele with me; as always, it’s been awesome!

Until next time, keep having fun!

Mike is a stay-at-home-father of two, and former online games developer. He's been playing Magic off-and-on since Antiquities, when he would organize Grand Melee side events at conventions. Although he plays to win, he does so with decks that are fun to play, preferring social experiences to competitive ones. His first Commander was Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, which is fitting because he was employed by Disney at the time.