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Krydle of Baldur's Gate

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I'm going to level with you. I haven't played D&D in almost 30 years. I started a new school with new friends in 7th grade, and some of them played, so I dabbled for a minute (I remember liking Psionics and Dark Elves), but I pretty quickly switched to guitar playing, White Wolf RPGs, and, well, Magic: the Gathering.

When Adventures in the Forgotten Realms came to my favorite card game, I didn't get the hit of excitement or nostalgia some D&D fanatics got. And when it came time to look through the new cards, I saw today's commander and thought: I've heard of Balder's Gate before, right? What is it?

Krydle of Baldur's Gate

Truth is, I still have no idea, I just know the name is stuck in my head. I'm sure some of my fellow writers here could fill me in, as could a number of you. In the meantime, though, I thought it would be fun to explore this guy.

Krydle's abilities are synergistic: if we hit, we get a positive effect (our opponent loses life and mills, we gain a life and scry), so we have a second ability which allows us to make sure he can hit (by paying 2 he can't be blocked).

The problem is, mill is kind of terrible in Commander. It's really hard to figure out how to mill 300 cards (assuming three opponents), and it also makes for feel-bad games. Most people hate seeing what they need getting binned, and if there's one graveyard deck at the table they just run away with the game.

There is definitely a reanimator deck in Krydle; Animate Dead effects run rampant in b, and u can help get more cards in 'yards to steal. Topping out on a Rise of the Dark Realms type of effect could be very effective, even if someone at the table isn't running many creatures.

But it's that second ability that got my brain working. It allows us to target a creature - any creature - whenever we attack. We can pay that measly 2 and our creature can't be blocked.

I wonder

Liliana's Reaver

what we could do

Dazzling Sphinx

with that?

Scion of Darkness

I thought there could be a fun and nifty deck jam-packed with creatures that have combat damage effects. In an attempt to stay focused, I limited the cards we could run to:

  • Creatures with combat damage effects (duh)
  • Other spells which give creatures combat damage effects
  • A little bit of mana ramp (there are some expensive spells in here)

This means a few things, but let's walk through the deck to look at them.

40 lands. I'll say it again. 40 lands. Look around on the internet: if your deck is losing more than it should, there's a good chance it's because you're not running enough lands. If you want to hit your fifth land drop on turn five, you have just over a 60% (60%!) chance if you run 42 lands. Mana rocks help, but not at a 1:1 ratio. I normally think 4:1, so I need four mana rocks for each one land I'll consider cutting. (Honestly, most of the time when I'm running lots of rocks it's because I want lots of mana, so I just leave my 40 lands and run the rocks on top, assuming my big spells will keep me in the game.)

We've got some basics, a bunch of duals, and a few effects on lands. Castle Vantress is a great example of why running more lands is a good idea, by the way. If we have extra mana, we can use it to Scry and help us draw more action. Run more lands and more things to do with your mana so you can't get flooded. Emergence Zone and Haunted Fengraf are both great lands if we're running lots of creatures, and Rogue's Passage is a shoo-in for a deck like this. We also have a few mana rocks to help us along, including Strixhaven Stadium, which is a weird sort of rock which could actually cost someone the game if we do it right.

Since we're going to win with lots of creatures doing damage (fortunately, most of them will be hard to block), we're going to want to draw lots of cards. As it happens, though, one of the most common combat-damage effects in u and u/b is drawing a card, so we have a ton of little guys (and, well, big guys) who do just that. Sure-Footed Infiltrator is a great example, as is Ninja of the Deep Hours. Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow will throw some damage around as we draw, and Thassa's Emmisary gives a power/toughness boost as an Aura and sticks around if it dies. Soulknife Spy is kind of the pinnacle, though, with 3 power and a draw for three mana. It won't be unusual for us to play Krydle on turn two, a card-draw creature on three, then attack on four and start drawing.

The rest of the deck is a combination of how to win, how to answer threats, and all the other pieces of the deck. We've got creatures which kill creatures (Cabal Executioner, Throat Slitter), creatures which make other creatures (Mist-Syndicate Naga, Spawning Kraken), creatures that mess with our opponents (Blizzard Specter, Graveblade Marauder), and several ways to take our opponents' stuff (Sphinx Ambassador, Thada Adel, Acquisitor, Thief of Sanity, Zareth San, the Trickster). It's not quit a toolbox deck because we don't run tutors, but it feels like that.

We've also got a slate of Artifacts and Enchantments which help us out. Bloodforged Battle-Axe shares the boost around or really boosts one creature, Bident of Thassa makes sure we draw even more, and Vorpal Sword turns any of our creatures into Phage the Untouchable. Necromantic Thirst makes all our creatures Gravediggers, Rogue Class is another way to steal our friends' stuff, and Sleeper's Robe can make it so we don't have to pay to make something unblockable.

Occasionally we'll kill someone with Strixhaven Stadium or a Vorpal Sword, sometimes we'll just do enough unblockable damage someone will die, sometimes we'll have a weird combination of unblockable damage and Graveblade Mauarder life loss, sometimes we'll beat them up with their own stuff. No matter what, we're going to have a fun, interactive, combat-based game which pushes the other players into action and makes sure everyone is paying attention.

Krydle of Baldur's Gate | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper


A few notes. First, this deck is highly customizable. A solid ton of creatures carry combat damage triggers, and I picked the ones I liked. You may find there's too much draw and not enough meat, so you decide to add in a few more big beaters like Necropois Regent or Mindleech Mass. Maybe you need more draw, and more ways to get creatures through (especially since Krydle limits us to one per attack phase), so you throw in Deepfathom Skulker. Maybe you want more politics, so Bladegriff Prototype makes the cut, or you need more removal, so Demon of Loathing goes in. Or perhaps you're just a terrible person who wants to make people suffer, so you run Raving Dead and Scytheclaw along with Quietus Spike, or, worse, you put in Phage the Untouchable.

Second, all of the swords of X and Y will be good here. They're far from necessary and, frankly, just jamming them all will cut down on creature count, so I wouldn't recommend dropping the few hundred dollars you'd need to add them all. But if you've opened one or two or traded for one somewhere and it's not currently in a deck, they would be good.

More fun would probably be the new Sword of Hours. I moved away from sheer power - there were a few examples of cards or creatures which got +1/+1 counters when they hit - but a little bit of it wouldn't hurt, and Sword of Hours would be a fun and current way to put a clock on someone with your attacks.

Finally, this deck is a great example of one to loan to a friend who's learning to play the game. There isn't an overwhelming amount of card types (zero Instants!), and for the most part you have one goal: play creatures and attack with them. There is also a bit of complication so it won't feel dumbed down (Krydle can only use his ability once, Auras die with their creatures but Equipment sticks around, etc.), and it will keep a lot of cards flowing into the player's hand so they'll see a lot of the deck. It's nice to have a deck like that in your stable; in the last few months I've found myself loaning decks to several people, and having something straightforward but with some game has been useful in making friends and better games.

How would you build Krydle? Is there a combat damage trigger I missed? Let me know in the comments!

In the meantime, get out there and move a game along.

Thanks for reading.

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