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Welcome Back Urza, Kinnan for Casuals


I like powerful cards, but sometimes Wizards "jumps the shark" when it comes to power levels. When they do this, I have an intensely negative reaction and lose interest in the card. The last time this happened was when this guy showed up.

Urza, Lord High Artificer

Generates extra mana, check.

Has a self-contained win condition, check.

Comes in the spikiest of spike colors, check!

You'd think a menacing Lord High Artificer would be my cup of tea, but it's not. The reason I enjoy deck-building so much is the joy of solving a puzzle. I don't like being spoon-fed "the answer". It's like buying a puzzle and finding it's already put together and glued to a sheet. Urza does this for deck-building. Anyone could see it's busted, and it was obvious that you wanted to pair him up with Paradox Engine (rest in peace). We've seen a lot of cards like this lately, and Ikoria is no different. One of the biggest menaces of the set is a human who bears a striking resemblance to Urza; Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy.

Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy

Of all the most powerful things you can do in Magic, cheat on mana-cost is pretty high up there. This is exactly what Kinnan allows you to do. If that were not enough, and it is, by the way, Kinnan also has an ability that lets you use that extra mana. The funny thing is that most people will skip right past the second ability a go straight to DEFCON 1.

Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy
Basalt Monolith

Wheeeee infinite mana, we win the game on turn three! I could break down the setup and win conditions, but that's not what this article is about. Instead, I want to talk about a tweet made by my friend Bennie Smith.

This tweet got me thinking and I made my own tweet. Is it possible to build a Kinnan deck that's suitable for a "casual" table? Remember how I said I like puzzles? Here's the new puzzle, let's unbreak Kinnan and build a deck suitable to play with our casual friends!

Setting the Ground Rules

What does a casual version of Kinnan look like? Right out of the gate we need to toss out the ability for infinite mana, or infinite combos in general. This also means no untap-mill-your-deck shenanigans with Mesmeric Orb. Instead, we're going to have some fun. Let's focus on Kinnan's second ability and make the deck about "spinning-the-wheel" to drop giant creatures on the board! To add some spice, I'm going to invoke the Landes Maneuver.

What the heck is that? I'm glad you asked.

The Landes Maneuver

Eric Landes has a Mayael the Anima deck which changes every time he plays it. This is because he randomly selects the creatures from a pool of possible options. Doing this adds an element of randomness and fun to the game. Most importantly, it signals to the other players that this is a casual Kinnan deck. Imagine trying to convince the table that your deck is not "competitive".

"There's no Basalt Monolith."

"Or infinite combos."

The table looks on with skepticism. Secretly, resolving to kill you first.

Now imagine that you take a stack of fifty creature cards. While shuffling them you say, "Twenty of these monsters are going into my deck at random!" That sets the tone for what kind of deck you're running and what kind of game the table can expect. Let's look at our creature pool!

The Monsters of Kinnan

I'm going to call the big creatures in this fifty-card pool, "monsters". This will help differentiate them from the other creatures in the deck. Our monsters have a specific criterion that we need to be mindful of while building the pool. First, Kinnan has a limitation for the type of creatures that can be put on to the battlefield with their ability; non-Human. Second, I wanted my monsters to be at least as big as the cost of the ability, so that means 7 mana and up. With these things in mind, I made a Scryfall search and went shopping. I looked for creatures with big splashy enters-the-battlefield abilities, and giant Timmy-approved creatures. There were a few creatures that I avoided, due to the casual direction of the deck. Here are the ones I skipped in all their villainy.

Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur

Let's pass on the jerk-cards-for-jerks, and check out this list of fifty amazing, villainy-free monsters.

Mana Makes the World Go Round'

Now that we've got our monsters, it's time to build the rest of the deck. Any deck with over twenty high-mana cost monsters in going to need a way to ramp those creatures out. In Commander you have a choice of which type of ramp you want to use. There's instant and sorcery ramp (Harrow, Cultivate), rocks (Sol Ring, Signets) and creature-based ramp (Llanowar Elves, Elvish Mystic). I typically rate these options in the order that listed them. I'd rather have an actual land than a Signet, because lands stay on the battlefield longer that artifacts. The same is true for artifacts over creatures, since creatures stick around even less than artifacts. Sometimes a deck calls for a specific type of ramp. In a Kinnan deck, you want creature-based ramp because both of Kinnan's abilities interact well with creatures. That's why you'll find a host of mana dorks in my list. I particularly like creatures that do double duty, like the ones below.

Shaman of Forgotten Ways
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds

Shaman of Forgotten Ways not only gives us a ton of mana, but it also can win the game on its own. Selvala is a great draw engine since we'll likely have the biggest creatures on the table. Selvala can be pricy, so if there's no room in your budget feel free to swap her with another creature that taps for mana. I recommend Priest of Titania. The next section has some cards that are harder to replace, so you might want to leave some room in your budget for them.

Spinning the Wheel, Hard

The cards in this category help us to power out Kinnan's spin-the-wheel ability fast and often. Biomancer's Familiar and Training Grounds reduce the cost of the ability by two. This is huge since we've designed the deck to hit monsters with a mana cost of seven or higher. Each mana-reducer not only gives us a discount on our monsters, they also allow us to activate Kinnan more than once! Let's take a quick jaunt to magical Christmas land. Image you have all three reducers in play, now Kinnan's ability only cost ug to activate, remember it's not a tap ability. Are we still in magical Christmas land? Then let's equip Kinnan with an Illusionist's Bracers and throw in a Rings of Brighthearth for good measure. For 2ug we'll get over twenty-one mana in monsters! WAIT, we hit Great Whale! Let's do it again!

Biomancer's Familiar
Illusionist's Bracers
Rings of Brighthearth

What?! Tutors Are Casual

There will be times when playing this deck where you can't leave things to the random winds of change. That's where these tutors can help you find the best card for the situation. Tutors are typically a signal of a more competitive deck, but we're are not using the tutors to win the game. Also, keep in mind a large portion of our creature pool is random. That means even if I wanted to tutor a Great Whale to the top of my deck for a double activation, it may not be in the deck. I left out Mystical Tutor and stayed with tutors that interact with Kinnan's second ability. These tutors bring a creature to the top of the library so that you can use Kinnan's ability to serve it up!

Worldly Tutor
Sylvan Tutor
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker

I included Mwonvuli Beast Tracker in the pictures above even though it didn't make the final cut. It's a great budget option to replace one of the other tutors. If you decide to do that be careful because the deck is currently sparse on targets. There's only one target in the core deck and sixteen in the monster pool. If you end up using Tracker, I would up the count to three targets in the core deck and twenty in the monster pool.

Chonk at a Low, Low, Price

Before I share the core decklist with you, I want to highlight one more type of card that made it into the deck. I've always wanted to play a deck with these cards, and they're a perfect fit for this style of deck. One of the issues with having so many monsters in your deck, is that sometimes you draw them before you can cast them. We have a lot of ramp to help with this problem, but I like to have additional safety measures. These cards allow you to cheat monsters into play for a fraction of the cost. Image ramping into a Champion of Rhonas on turn-three and sliding some Greaves onto it. Things could get awesome.

Elvish Piper
Quicksilver Amulet
Champion of Rhonas

Decklist Time

All right, as usual I didn't talk about every card in the deck. Most are self-explanatory, but if you have questions, you can always hit me on my Discord, Twitter, or in the comments. You'll notice that this decklist is eighty cards, leaving room for twenty monsters. If you want to dial the "casual" up a bit, you can cut five cards (maybe the tutors) and go up to twenty-five monsters. This is a good exercise to use if there's a few cards on the list that you don't own. The Landes Manuever makes things easy on your wallet because it allows you to swap out expensive cards for budget options without changing the play experience. The same is true about the mana base, you can swap out the expensive fetches for Evolving Wilds ect. Here's the core deck I would start with:

Take that list, add twenty monsters from your monster pool. Now you're ready to shake a Commander table and smash some faces!

Wrap Up

We've come to the end of the article. How did I do? Is this deck fit for a casual table? Did I miss any really good monsters to include in the pool? What changes would you make to the deck? I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Shout-out to Bennie for inspiring this article with his challenge-tweet. Until next time, stay safe out there and thanks for reading.

<3 JM

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