Preorder MTG The Lost Caverns of Ixalan today!
   Sign In
Create Account

Comboing In Commander with Hidetsugu and Kairi


Say what you will about how Wizards of the Coast manages Magic, but they have a tough job. The most popular format in the world is Commander, which is based on the idea of having a Legendary Creature at the helm of each deck. Players, therefore, want more Legendary Creatures, so WoTC listens and makes more. However, each new Legendary Creature has to do something no Creature before it has done. If it doesn't, players will complain it's just a reprint of some previously existing Creature.

On the other hand, the design space for what Creatures can do just gets narrower. Each color only has certain things it can do because of the limitations of the color pie, and each color combination is, in some ways, even more limiting because each color pairing (and each shard/wedge) is even more limited than just the single colors.

One of the side effects of this is many of the Legendary Creatures we get are either an odd jumble of abilities which don't really go together (which doesn't have to be a bad thing - just ignore the part you don't care about and build to the part you do) or they get really, really narrow in scope. This causes its own issues, because when a Legendary Creature is really focused on a specific thing, a lot of players who aren't interested in that thing are going to complain about it. On the other hand, the people who do want that thing are going to be really excited about it. But more than that, it sometimes can allow us to naturally limit our card pool and makes deck-building a bit easier. Today's Commander is a great example of that.

Hidetsugu and Kairi

A 5/4 with Flying for five mana isn't a terrible deal, but we can certainly do better. We're probably not in this pairing for those stats. On the other hand, card advantage in the Command Zone is really strong, and that second ability gives us a way around combat damage to win the game and focuses our deck on Instants and Sorceries. I suppose one could build a ub Dragon deck or something, run a few big Instants and Sorceries for fun, and let randomness fly, but really it feels like we're asking to stack the top of our deck how we want and figure out a way to bring our Ogre Demon Dragon into and out of play both a lot and when we want. We're not in White so we can't Flicker, which means we're going to have to do it in a different way. Let's take a look.

Hidetsugu and Kairi Clone Combo | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

We have two ways of making Hidetsugu and Kairi do what we want: we can Clone it (which causes an entrance and a death, thanks to the Legendary rule) or we can sacrifice it and bring it back. We'll do both, but before we get to all that, let's look at the basics.

As per usual, we have 40 Lands. There's an argument to ramping fairly hard here, in an attempt to get our Commander out as quickly as possible, but this is a casual deck and more action is more fun, so we have a few mana rocks to maybe get a one-turn jump, but we're not going to worry about it too much. Truthfully, if we're up against a deck that can win on turn six, we're not going to be able to hang on anyway, so we may as well have fun. The most important one we have is Thought Vessel, because it's very likely we'll have more than seven cards in our hand, and the most fun one we have is Dragon's Hoard, because our Ogre Demon Dragon is a Dragon and that thing can draw us extra cards. We also have a Reliquary Tower as a backup Thought Vessel, a couple of sacrifice outlets like High Market and Hostile Hostel, and Halimar Depths as a way to stack the top of our Library. Castles Locthwain and Vantress are both great; I basically jam them in any deck which runs those colors now, because card advantage on a Land is so good it's almost unfair. Oh! Port of Karfell is kind of a last-ditch way of getting Hidetsugu and Kairi back without paying the Commander tax; it's costly, but it could be just the thing at some point.

We are running Brainstorm and a couple of spells like Village Rites to draw a few extra cards, but in play-testing, draw was not an issue. H&K go around and around a whole lot, and once they start rolling we're Brainstorming at least once a turn, which means we're seeing plenty of cards. The biggest trick becomes when to crack a Terramorphic Expanse, because it'll shuffle what you just put on top into your Library. We do have a few more, like Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, but really they're here to be expensive Instants, not card draw spells. Not that we mind drawing some extra cards.

Plague Wind
Sorin's Vengeance
Mnemonic Deluge

So, we're going to put H&K into play and Brainstorm, then H&K will die and we'll flip over some big spell, which will wallop someone for its mana value and then get played for free, which will (hopefully) have some decent effect on the game. I'm not going to bother going through all the big spells, and frankly you should feel free to put in whichever ones you have and want to play. I picked the ones I'd want to have. One thing worth keeping will be the Wrath effects; in nearly every case they let us keep our stuff because we don't mind paying nine for a Plague Wind when it's free. Another thing I discovered in play-testing: if you can hit Sorin's Vengeance with Mnemonic Deluge, do it. That's hilarious.

To pull this off, we need to be able to pseudo-flicker H&K, and we do that (mostly) with Clones. We have a bunch. Some of them are Creatures, others are spells, but they all put an extra H&K into play, which puts a new Brainstorm (ETB) on the stack, then the Legendary rule applies and kills one of them (choose the Clone), then the second trigger (Death) goes on the stack, right in a row. Note this means the death trigger will resolve first, so we want to have stacked carefully from our previous Brainstorm opportunity. A number of our big spells will put something from the 'yard back onto the Battlefield, like Ghouls' Night Out or Beacon of Unrest. Choose a Clone whenever possible to get yet another round of H&K activations.

The second way is to sacrifice H&K somehow and either get them back immediately (with something like Feign Death) or just recast them from the Command Zone, which, with a little luck, we'll never have to do. If the other players at the table don't focus all their attention on us, we should be able to get by without having to recast H&K from the Command Zone unless they get killed by someone else's Wrath or whatever.

Speaking of which, the vast majority of our answers are either our Wraths or a small grip of Counterspells; these are great when someone tries to counter one of our big free spells or kill H&K when we don't want them to. I suppose you could use Saw in Half to kill something really terrible, but really that's here to make two additional copies of H&K.

Drivnod, Carnage Dominus
We have a couple of Creatures which do something other than one of the things we've already mentioned. Archmage Emeritus draws us extra cards when we cast Instants and Sorceries. A couple of our Creatures put an Instant or Sorcery from our 'yard on top of our Library, which is great if we know we are about to sacrifice H&K or if we need a specific spell back. Finally, Drivnod, Carnage Dominus is our Strionic Resonator; he gives us two death triggers, which means two free spells and two chances to do damage.

One card needs specific mention: Mimic Vat. We don't really want to put H&K on the Vat without a guaranteed repeatable Sacrifice outlet, because the Vat will Exile the token and we'll miss that great death trigger. However, if we have the Vat out and cast one of our Clones, we can Imprint the Clone on the Vat, which works great. The token the Vat makes will be Legendary itself off the field and actually die, which gives us our death trigger just as if we'd cast the Clone.

Here's the thing: we're a combo deck. We're not an infinite combo deck, but we're looking to put together a specific selection of spells to achieve a certain result. If we do it enough times, we can actually kill a table; almost always, though, we're going to force a table to actually play, rather than sit back, because if they don't act they're going to die to the incidental damage our Commander is causing by jumping on and off the 'field. We also get to run ridiculous spells most people don't run, which is super fun.

I'd say a Sensei's Divining Top would be good here, but I tend to not run really expensive cards, and honestly, in play-testing I never needed it. H&K's Brainstorm is enough to keep the top of my Library how I need it; the biggest problem is making sure I remember when things are happening so I don't draw my big spell or flip my Land or whatever. Rite of Replication kicked would also give us five H&K activations in a single swoop, which might be good.

I ended the last article with a comment about the state of Commander, and I liked that, so I'm going to try a similar thing again, but this time, it's more personal. I've realized if there's one thing I really like to do in Commander, it's to get people to actually play the game. I want people to attack, take risks, and engage. That's why I like this deck in particular. Will it win? Not a ton. I'd bet, in my playgroup, it won't win even one out of every four games it plays. But it will change the way the game is played. People will realize they're going to take massive life hits no matter their defenses, and it's going to make them change how they're playing the game. It's going to go faster and be more exciting. That is my favorite role at a table - making the game exciting and fun. I'll take a great game I lose over a boring one I win any day.

Thanks for reading.

Register for Summer CommandFest 2023 today!

Limited time 30% buy trade in bonus buylist