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Five Ways to Play Kairi, the Swirling Sky


I confess I get a little one-track-minded when a new set comes out. I don't spend a ton of time looking at spoilers; most often, I will look at a list a couple of times during spoiler season to try to take in a bunch of information, then look at the full list once it's released. And I focus my attention on Legendary creatures, because I want to know: Who are the new Commanders?

But do you see what just happened? I think a lot of us do this; we see a Legendary Creature and we think "Commander", when in fact, they are also just Creatures which can go in other decks.

This was helpful to remember when I first looked at today's Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Legend.

Kairi, the Swirling Sky

Death triggers are funny in Mono-Blue, because there aren't a ton of ways to trigger them! It's not exactly a color known for its sacrifice outlets. And because we likely don't just want a 6/6 Flier (even with Ward 3), we probably want to figure out how to use those extra abilities. So most likely we want Kairi as part of the 99 of a different deck.

That said, if I were going to run her as a Commander, I think I'd go for the Laboratory Maniac win, leaning on her second death trigger to keep my hand full of interaction as a milled myself to victory. Here's a shell I might start with.

Kairi at the Helm | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

The idea would be to fill the deck out with a ton of interaction - Fog effects, Counterspells, and bounce spells - to keep people off your back, then sell-mill with cards like Traumatize and Dream Twist. The biggest problem is you run into problems if you mill Lab Man and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, and there aren't a whole lot of ways to get them back. Haunted Fengraf can get Lab Man back if it's the only creature in the 'yard, but that means making Lab Man the only creature we have. Polymorph, if we get it early enough (by luck or tutors) can target Kairi and guarantee to hit Lab Man, but you'd better be ready to win pretty soon, because a lot of hate will come that way. The Underworld Cookbook is another way to get Lab Man back; if it doesn't get milled; Trinket Mage could get it but that would mean putting another creature in the deck, which is awfully risky. The sacrifice effects are there to trigger Kairi, who can help move us toward milling out and buy back interaction to save us from dying before we pull off our win.

But I don't want Kairi to lead the pile. My first thought was to drop her into my Talrand, Sky Summoner deck; this lean, mean deck runs a ton of jank Instants and Sorceries, most of which draw cards. I bounce creatures, I draw cards, and I make a ton of Drakes, winning a surprising number of games. My deck runs 100% Instants, Sorceries, and Lands, but Kairi might make for a good single exception. She adds a little beef to my flying team, and buying back some of my spells could be a useful effect should she get killed.

I also think she could be interesting in a list led by Gadwick, the Wizened. Here's a starting point.

We'd want to add a couple of reusable sacrifice effects to make this work, but the gist is this: play creatures which have great ETB abilities, then bounce and replay them for lots of value. You can draw cards, Scry, make tokens, steal tokens, replay stuff; a lot of options are available. Artifacts like Crystal Shard let us bounce our creatures back to our hand, and Deadeye Navigator is a flickering machine, but Kairi falls right in as another way to pick up our own stuff in one fell swoop. Of course, one of the best interactions is with our Commander, who draws us more and more cards the more mana we have.

Fellow CSI writer Jason Alt is a big fan of Sneak Attack.

Sneak Attack

I bet that would be fun with Kairi. One of the fun things about Sneak Attack is it's old-school enough it doesn't force you to sacrifice the creature until end of turn, so you can return it (with, say, Crystal Shard) and do it all over again! That's great if you don't want the creature to wind up in the 'yard.

Kairi in Pramikon | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

I like the idea of using Pramikon to slow down combat, buying us time to do our fun tricks. Moon-Blessed Cleric and other Enchantment Tutors from White can find the Sneak Attack, and we can load up with cheap creatures with great effects so we can buy them back with the myriad ways to do that, like Sun Titan. Remember the Fallen can get us a big guy back to our hand for another go, and Crystal Shard lets us cheat with Sneak Attack. Kairi is a solid role-player here, getting us a key Instant or Sorcery back from the dead or just clearing the way when it dies. The fact it's a 6/6 Flier doesn't hurt!

Any Dragon Tribal deck using Blue should absolutely run Kairi. Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa is a pretty obvious route, using a relatively inexpensive Dragon Commander to put early pressure (sometimes Dragon decks can be a bit... slow) and swinging for the fences with a massive pile of flying lizards. But I'd rather go with O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami as my leader and run a more control-based build with a bunch of the death-trigger Dragons, some reanimator effects, and a ton of removal. I might start with something like this.

Spawning Pit is a stand-in for any number of free sacrifice outlets, just as Phyrexian Reclamation is for get-things-back-from-the-'yard effects. Apprentice Necromancer was worth noting specifically, because it can be used to go round and round with Junji, the Midnight Sky (as long as you can take the life hits). You might be able to figure out something to do with that. Decree of Pain and Crux of Fate are the kinds of blow-up-the-board effects you'll want, where you're left with a million Dragons and no one else has anything, or you completely refill your hand after wrecking everyone's life with a ton of death triggers. Of course, O-Kagachi itself is a reason not to attack us, so filling out the deck with lots of ways to slow the game down (more wraths, plus cards like Propaganda) and work ourselves into a winning position would be the way to go.

At the end of the day, though, I think Kairi belongs in a Dimir power deck. That combination of colors gives us access to nearly everything: what we can't kill with Black, we can bounce or counter with Blue. We can draw cards and reanimate creatures, all while only having to manage a two-color mana base.

One option would be having Kairi be one of the fatties in a drop-all-the-fatties Satoru Umezawa deck. It's a solid choice; we get a 6/6 flier which messes with the board a good bit should it be killed.

On the other hand, another way would be with Araumi of the Dead Tide.

We probably want a bunch of ways to mill our own stuff (cards like Frantic Search), as well as a bunch more effects like Demon's Disciple (there are a ton of these), so we can have a stocked Graveyard. Then we tap Araumi and return stuff with powerful abilities, attacking into our opponents, then sacrificing the Encore tokens and gaining even more value. Kairi is a great addition to this list, along with Floating-Dream Zubera to draw cards (with three opponents, we'll draw nine cards!), Solemn Simulacrum (three lands and three cards), Ravenous Chupacabra (kill three creatures!) and Gray Merchant of Asphodel (we're causing 21 points of life loss minimum with Araumi and three copies of Gary).

I would love to hear how you plan on using Kairi! Is she the leader you've been looking for? The missing piece for your Dragon deck? Please let us know in the comments what your plans are!

Thanks for reading.

Commander HQ: Decklists and Strategy for Kamigawa Neon Dynasty's Legendary Creatures!

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