From_the_Lab

Looking in the Mirror, Part 2

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The letter W!elcome back, minions! Today is Part 2 of my column on Commander. If you missed Part 1, you can take a look here. This week, I'll be looking at a more casual kind of Commander deck. This deck seeks out interaction with your opponents and operates under the assumption that no one is going to combo out on turn five and kill everyone. Casual Commander games are long and filled with both big plays and relentless incremental gains. My deck for today has a little bit of both.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker | Art by Steven Belledin


Who Needs Luck?

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is an interesting card. Some of the most powerful things you can do with him are also some of the least fun. Although casting this little Goblin in a competitive setting usually elicits either groans or removal spells, he can really do some cool things when broken free of the infinite combo mold.


Unlike most newer cards, Kiki-Jiki makes you sacrifice the temporary creature rather than exiling it. This opens up a whole new world of fun synergies, allowing you to use creatures with death triggers in addition to those with "enters the battlefield" abilities. You can also take advantage of artifacts and enchantments with abilities that trigger whenever a creature dies.

In fact, there are only two real downsides to playing Kiki-Jiki that come to mind. The first is that if you want to make your deck awesome, it's going to be pretty dependent on having Kiki-Jiki on the battlefield. This can become a problem if he gets shuffled into your library. Although you'll still have some decent threats in the deck, you'll also have a lot of odd little cards that don't really do much without your commander.

The second is that playing Kiki-Jiki means playing mono-red. Although I like red more than most, it does limit your options severely when it comes to things like drawing cards, producing extra mana, and killing creatures and enchantments. This means that a controlling strategy is much harder to pull off. When you can't answer every threat, it's often better to just play an even bigger one. By playing more aggressively, you force the other players to be the ones with the answers. You get to dish out the questions.

Betcha Can't Have Just One

The key to a Kiki-Jiki deck, obviously, is to have creatures that do cool things when you copy them. There are a huge number of options in this area, but eventually I narrowed it down to just twenty-two cards. First up is perhaps the most obvious choice: Creatures that make more creatures.

Tokens

Chancellor of the Forge
Siege-Gang Commander
Rukh Egg
Wurmcoil Engine

I'm not particularly fond of creating armies of small creatures, so I included only cards that add a little something extra. Siege-Gang Commander only creates 1/1 Goblin tokens, like many other cards, but it also allows you to sacrifice those tokens to deal 2 damage to a creature or player. This endless supply of Shocks is what puts the card over the edge in my mind, making it easier to kill creatures, and even players, at a moment's notice.

Chancellor of the Forge also makes 1/1 Goblin tokens, but it makes them in insane numbers. Let's imagine you have on the board Kiki-Jiki, Thousand-Year Elixir (or any other untap effect), and one other creature when you cast Chancellor of the Forge. Put its enters-the battlefield ability on the stack, then make a copy of it with Kiki-Jiki. With both abilities now on the stack, untap Kiki-Jiki and make another copy. You now have three Chancellors, two with haste, your commander, and one other creature. The first ability resolves and gives you five Goblin tokens. Then the second gives you another ten, and the last gives you twenty more. Additionally, they all have haste. That's a total of 45 power ready to attack immediately. Certainly enough to put at least one player out of the game. As if that wasn't enough, those thirty-five Goblin tokens don't go away at end of turn, so if your opponents can't stop you, you can copy the Chancellor twice more on your next turn to make an additional 120 tokens.


Wurmcoil Engine is an amazing creature in its own right, but it becomes truly silly with Kiki-Jiki around. Copying the Engine gives you a 6/6 attacker with lifelink for the turn, and when it dies at the beginning of your end step, you're left with two 3/3s, each with a relevant ability. Each time you activate Kiki-Jiki, you're getting another 6 power permanently.

Rukh Egg is my favorite card in this deck. It's not the most powerful thing to copy, but the reactions you get when you cast it are priceless. Despite being reprinted in Eighth Edition, it's still relatively obscure, and at first glance it doesn't seem very good, leading players to wonder why you're playing it. Then you start using untap effects to make two or three 4/4 fliers each turn, and suddenly that little Egg becomes a big deal. This card really exemplifies the casual Johnny mindset. Taking a card that's usually considered bad and making your opponents fear it is one of the most satisfying things you can do in a game of Magic.


Smash and Burn

One thing red is quite good at is dealing damage. Creatures, players, anything that can be burned will be set ablaze. Although it's much harder to kill creatures with direct damage in Commander than in most other formats, there are still a number of cards that can get the job done, especially with Kiki-Jiki allowing multiple uses in one turn.

Burn

Bogardan Hellkite
Electropotence
Fanatic of Mogis
Inferno Titan
Outrage Shaman
Repercussion
Stalking Vengeance
Vicious Shadows
Warstorm Surge

Let's start with the new guy, shall we? Fanatic of Mogis comes to us from Theros and seems perfect for a Kiki-Jiki deck like this one. This guy has already proven to be of value in Constructed, and although the doubled life totals in Commander often make direct damage less relevant, the fact that he deals that damage to all of your opponents at once goes a long way toward making up for that. Getting a high devotion is especially easy in this deck, since Kiki-Jiki himself already has three red mana symbols in his cost. In addition, when you copy a creature with him, that creature has the same red mana symbols as the original, even if you can't see them. Casting Fanatic of Mogis and copying it once before the ability resolves will net you a total of 10 damage to each opponent, and that's with no other red mana symbols on the board.

Stalking Vengeance also deals quite a bit of damage, but on the way out rather than on the way in. Although it doesn't trigger itself, it will trigger any other copies on the board, so your Kiki-Jiki clone will trigger the original to deal 5 damage to a player. Additionally, Stalking Vengeance can serve as a great removal deterrent, especially with an untapped Kiki-Jiki on the battlefield. If you can make two copies in response to your opponent casting a board wipe, you can hit that player for 30 damage as punishment when your creatures die.

Outrage Shaman is another creature that takes advantage of Kiki-Jiki's red mana symbols. With just your commander, Outrage Shaman, and its token copy on the battlefield, each Shaman's ability will deal 7 damage to a creature—enough to kill all but the very largest threats.


Bogardan Hellkite and Inferno Titan allow you to divvy up damage however you choose, between as many creature and/or players as you want to hit. Although it may seem like Inferno Titan's 3 damage isn't enough to kill much of anything, the tokens you make will have haste, and since damage doesn't wear off until the end of the turn, you can stack on another 3 damage from its attack trigger to kill a larger creature.

Warstorm Surge and Electropotence allow you to deal absurd amounts of damage in this deck. Bogardan Hellkite effectively doubles up on its ability, and copying a Wurmcoil Engine will deal a total of 12 damage by the time the turn is over. Although Electropotence does require you to put mana into it, you often won't be casting much anyway once you get a Kiki-combo going.

Vicious Shadows is almost like an enchantment version of Stalking Vengeance, but rather than using the power of your creatures to determine how much damage it deals, it uses the number of cards in your opponent's hand. This is great for punishing those blue players who like to draw way too many cards. In addition, it triggers upon the death of any creatures, not just your own. That makes copying something like Outrage Shaman even more devastating.


Speaking of Outrage Shaman, Repercussion is another card that will turn it into a real powerhouse. Suddenly, Outrage Shaman gets to do an impression of Fanatic of Mogis while it kills all your opponents' creatures. In addition to giving you tons of extra damage from abilities like the Shaman's, Repercussion makes blocking almost useless, as your opponents will take the same amount of damage either way. As long as you're on the offensive, this is an amazing card to have at your side.

Unfortunately, sometimes there are threats in Commander that you just can't kill with 6 or 7 damage. Whether they're enormous creatures, or not creatures at all, it's good to have a few cards that can take care of things the basic options can't. Artifacts are a great place to go for this, but there are some red cards that can help out as well.

Removal

Aftershock
Brittle Effigy
Chaos Warp
Cinder Cloud
Duplicant
Fissure
Goblin Assassin
Karn Liberated
Shattering Pulse
Spine of Ish Sah
Stingscourger
Tyrant of Discord
Wild Celebrants

Duplicant can get rid of almost any creature permanently, and it will take on that creature's power and toughness as well. If you're opponent is threatening you with a Worldspine Wurm, you can exile it with a Duplicant copy and attack for 15 as well.

Goblin Assassin and Tyrant of Discord are a bit random, but they can certainly help out in some situations. The Assassin is risky, as you might have to sacrifice a creature of your own, but if some of your opponents have just one large creature on the battlefield, the Assassin can help you get rid of it. Note that it triggers off itself or any other Goblin, so if you make a copy with Kiki-Jiki, both Assassins will trigger, and everyone will have to flip two coins. The Tyrant is even more random, and although it will usually just hit a land and be done, the suspense involved will often have your entire table standing up and leaning in to see what number the die lands on. It's mostly a big 7/7 that comes with some good fun, but it can be helpful if someone is going out of control with tokens, chaining a few sacrifices together to cull the herd.

Stingscourger is only temporary removal, but it doesn't care how large the creature is. In addition, Commander is a land filled with +1/+1 counters, Auras, and Equipment, so even temporary removal can often be a heavy blow.


Wild Celebrants is another addition from Theros, giving you a bit of extra power on your Viridian Shaman variant. You'll want a few cards to kill artifacts anyway. Why not attack for 5 while you're at it?

Shattering Pulse doesn't attack for 5, but it's also difficult to disrupt, and will often allow you to keep killing artifacts throughout the game, albeit at five mana apiece.

Cinder Cloud, Fissure, and Brittle Effigy all allow you to kill creatures of any size at instant speed, each with their own little benefit tacked on. Aftershock can only be cast on your turn, but it can kill artifacts, creatures, and lands, giving you enough versatility to more than make up for the 3 damage it will deal to you when you cast it.


Chaos Warp, Spine of Ish Sah, and Karn can get rid of permanents of any type, even enchantments, which red traditionally cannot affect. Chaos Warp can even get rid of commanders for good by shuffling them into the library, although you never know what your opponent might get instead.

For the times when spot removal just isn't enough, I've also included a few board wipes to choose from.

Sweepers

All is Dust
Blasphemous Act
Oblivion Stone

In general, you're going to be the reason for other players wiping the board, not the other way around, but there will sometimes be occasions where the tables are turned, and having a few answers for those situations seems prudent. All is Dust is especially good here, as it lets you keep your many important artifacts, while still getting rid of pesky enchantments that would be otherwise difficult to kill.

Not Really a Red Thing

Card draw and card selection are important factors in Commander, making sure you have enough options to last throughout the course of a long game. Red is notoriously bad at this, but there are a few ways around it, especially with Kiki-Jiki as your commander.

Cards

Citanul Flute
Crystal Ball
Hoarding Dragon
Jar of Eyeballs
Mindless Automaton
Mind's Eye
Planar Portal
Scarecrone
Scroll Rack
Sensei's Divining Top
Skullclamp
Solemn Simulacrum
Staff of Nin

Solemn Simulacrum, Scarecrone, and Mindless Automaton all allow Kiki-Jiki to do a decent Archivist impression, giving you an extra card each turn. Solemn Simulacrum also accelerates your mana, doing double duty to get you ready for the late game. Mindless Automaton can recycle old cards, and Scarecrone can be used later in the game to reanimate powerful artifact creatures like Wurmcoil Engine and Duplicant.

Hoarding Dragon lets you search your library for an artifact, of which there are many. It's usually best to get something less than ideal with the original, since it's more likely to get exiled, and search up what you really want with the token copies, since they'll die and give you the artifact as soon as your turn is over.

Skullclamp, Staff of Nin, and Mind's Eye all let you draw extra cards each turn. Skullclamp is particularly effective. For only a one-mana investment and an additional one mana each turn, you can draw two extra cards per turn as your copy tokens die at the beginning of your end step.


Sensei's Divining Top, Crystal Ball, and Scroll Rack all give you limited card selection capabilities for a low mana investment. I've also included Madblind Mountain among the lands as an easy way to shuffle in unwanted cards.

Citanul Flute and Planar Portal, while expensive, do allow you to instantly search up the card you need most. Jar of Eyeballs on the other hand, splits the difference between the card selection tools and pure tutoring, depending on how frequently you activate it. With a minimum of two eyeball counters per turn once Kiki-Jiki gets going, it can easily reach the point where you're looking through half your library at once.

Another key factor in Commander is mana acceleration. In a format about high-cost, high-impact spells, being able to cast those spells before your opponents can be crucial to your success. Red can't really do much in this area, but there are a lot of artifacts that can help. In addition, playing only one color allows you to abuse some of the most powerful mana-acceleration tools out there.

Mana

Burnished Hart
Caged Sun
Extraplanar Lens
Gauntlet of Power
Journeyer's Kite
Sol Ring
Solemn Simulacrum
Thawing Glaciers
Thran Dynamo
Worn Powerstone

I already discussed Solemn Simulacrum above, but it fits here too, and is one of the best ways to build up mana in this deck. Burnished Hart requires a bit more effort, but it also accelerates your mana incredibly quickly. Getting an Explosive Vegetation every turn for just three mana can put you far ahead of your opponent very quickly.

Sol Ring, Worn Powerstone, and Thran Dynamo are some of the most cost-efficient mana artifacts out there, and producing colorless mana isn't too much of a drawback in a monocolored deck.

One of the other benefits of playing a single color is getting to abuse cards like Extraplanar Lens, Gauntlet of Power, and Caged Sun. Each of these artifacts will nearly double your mana output, launching you miles ahead of your opponents.


Journeyer's Kite and Thawing Glaciers play for the long game, ensuring you have a steady stream of lands even if you aren't drawing them. They don't really accelerate your mana, but they do ensure it keeps flowing throughout the game.

A Little Help From My Friends

Kiki-Jiki is a great card on his own, but he can become even more powerful with some artifact enhancement. Fortunately, there are quite a few cards that can help with that.

Performance Enhancers

Illusionist's Bracers
Lightning Greaves
Magewright's Stone
Rings of Brighthearth
Sundial of the Infinite
Swiftfoot Boots
Thousand-Year Elixir
Umbral Mantle

Rings of Brighthearth and Illusionist's Bracers let you copy Kiki-Jiki's ability, allowing you to make two tokens each time you tap him. They work especially well with the untap effects, easily allowing you to copy a creature four times in one turn.

Thousand-Year Elixir, Magewright's Stone, and Umbral Mantle allow you to untap your commander to use his ability again. This way, you can even split it up, activating him once on your turn and once on an opponent's. Umbral Mantle even lets you untap Kiki-Jiki repeatedly, provided you have the mana for it.

Sundial of the Infinite can be activated with Kiki-Jiki's sacrifice trigger on the stack to exile the trigger, allowing you to keep your token copies forever. Building up an ever-larger army of Inferno Titans will certainly put most opponents on their heels.


Although Kiki-Jiki already has haste, Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots are great for making him a bit less vulnerable to removal. He often becomes a big target once you get things rolling, and with 2 toughness, he's not exactly the sturdiest creature around.

The Grab Bag

Conquering Manticore and Molten Primordial allow you to steal your opponents' creatures for a turn, giving you a lot of extra damage. You can also use Kiki-Jiki to copy them and steal things mid-combat, allowing you to pull tricks like stealing Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and sacrificing it to its own annihilator ability. You can also steal one attacking creature, removing it from combat, and then use it to block another attacker, hopefully killing one or both in the process.

Finally, Dragon Tyrant is a king of finishers. With one of these on the board you can deal truly insane amounts of damage, especially with the extra mana from something like Gauntlet of Power. Kiki-Jiki can be used to copy the Dragon and attack two players at once, or to make a hasty copy the turn you play it.


Broken Glass

I'm afraid that's all the time I have for today, but I encourage you all to take a look at your own Commander decks and decide what kind of game you want to play. Do you want to go all-out like Riku, or leave some room for creative interactions like Kiki-Jiki. If you haven't built a Commander deck yet, the preconstructed decks coming out soon are a great entry point into the format, and it's easy to start customizing from there before delving in and building your own deck from scratch. Until next time, keep doing cool things. See ya!



 
Mike Cannon
Mike Cannon
@MTGCannon
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Mike Cannon signed on to write From the Lab at the end of 2012. An ardent casual player and lover of bizarre synergies, he'll be bringing you a selection of crazy combo decks every Monday.

 
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