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Around the Wheel: Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis

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For a long time now, I've been an advocate of alternate goals in Commander. This actually comes from something I try to do in life: always examine the why of what you (or someone else) is doing. Let me give an example.

Growing up, I drove 45 minutes through traffic to get home from high school. Part of that was the merging of two interstates (for those of you in the San Diego area, where the 805 and the 5 merge northbound). 10 lanes had to go to 4 in not very much space, and during rush hour it would get packed. The 5, which my school was on, crossed over the top of the 805, then had to squeeze left into a single freeway.

A friend had to go home the same way. We were talking about it one day, and I commented the best way to go through it was to be in the far left lane. That way you only had to move over one lane and you were on the merged freeway, reducing the number of times you had to get someone to let you in. His immediate response was "no! The best way is to stay as far right as possible, get up as far ahead as you can, and push your way left through the lanes."

We sat with that, and realized we had different priorities.

Mine was safety. I was a new driver. By staying far left, it meant it took me longer because more cars were merging in front of me even before I got to the merge point. It took me longer to get through the merge, but I had far fewer lane changes and less opportunity to get in an accident.

His was speed. By pushing forward in the right lane and jamming his way over, he spent less time in traffic and more time at home. He also had to make many more risky lane changes and run the risk of an accident.

In Commander, we normally assume the priority is to win. After all, this format grew out of competitive Magic formats, where the point is to beat the person sitting across the table from you. But Commander is supposed to be casual, right? And we're supposed to allow for more self-expression: rather than simply playing the "best" deck (i.e. the one that wins the most); we can play our pet cards or styles and expect to be able to play. So why must winning be our priority? What if we decide to try to do something else?

If you've read a bit of my stuff before, you know Black is my favorite color in Magic. So, when I approached this commander with no Black mana, I thought it'd be fun to explore an alternate goal. What if we could figure out how to do something that normally requires Black but do it without Black? After all, last time we managed to win with Laboratory Maniac with no Blue. What does Black do better than all the other colors? What does Black do that other colors can't do? Reanimate stuff from the Graveyard, that's what. And this deck plays against stereotypes twice, because no one should expect that from a Group Hug Commander.

Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis

The goal is to create a functioning reanimator deck. It's going to attempt to put large threats in the 'yard, then move them from the 'yard to the battlefield. Truth? It can't stand up to a Reanimator deck with Black in it. But that's not the point. We might be able to win, but our real objective is to prove it can be done. Frankly, if this deck manages to get a few big threats out on the table by binning them and reanimating them, that's victory, life totals be darned.

Let's take a look at the pieces.

The first thing we need to do is have spells that reanimate our targets. Without those, we're kind of sunk. White, it turns out, has a bunch of them. They're often not as straight forward as the Black ones; some require some hoops, and a lot of them reanimate smaller creatures. We're going to ignore all the ones that return creatures of a certain CMC. Going back a fair distance, we've got Resurrection, a four-mana "return a dude from the 'yard to the 'field" card. They nicely reprinted this card with different names a couple times, so we've got a few of those. Defy Death is a little more but if we're raising an Angel, we get a bonus. Miraculous Recovery does the same, except everything gets the bonus and at Instant speed! Reincarnation is a weird one, being Green, but it's pretty cool. Someone kills something of ours and we get to grab something else, again at Instant speed. Elspeth Conquers Death is a Saga, but will grab whatever for us.

Then we get to the weirder ones. Dreams of the Dead will only get White creatures for us, so most of our targets are White. It also will get costly, but hey, you dance with the one that brung ya. Saffi Eriksdotter is less a reanimator and more of a re-reanimator, but we'll take it; we worked hard for that big dude, so let's keep it around. Triassic Egg is a bit slow, but it doesn't care what hatches, and it can be a way to get a target we drew. Pulsemage Advocate is nicely re-usable, which is great if we manage to get a couple of targets in our 'yard. We're running a lot of lands that say "Plains" on them so we can (hopefully) activate Emeria, the Sky Ruin. Artisan of Kozilek and Reya Dawnbringer are both not cheap, but they make reasonable threats on their own so they're kind of two-for-ones. Then there's my favorite: Loyal Retainers. We sac it to put a Legendary Creature on the 'field from our 'yard. All our targets are Legendary for this reason, and the real dream is to land this guy on a Mimic Vat.

Next up we need ways to get cards in the graveyard. We really don't want to be indiscriminate about this, just dumping big sections of our library into the graveyard. The nice thing is, Blue gives us access to cards like Sift; we draw a few, then discard one. This is perfect, so we don't have to get rid of things we'll need too often. We even have a land, Desolate Lighthouse, though that draws just one. Most of the time we'll be drawing two, three, or more and discarding a single card.

Finally, we need targets. We want them to be Legendary, have an impact, and we want a lot of them to be White for Dreams of the Dead. It doesn't hurt to have Angels for Bruna, the Fading Light or Defy Death. Here's the list:

Don't be afraid to resurrect Bruna or Reya, though. That can be a cheap way to get some extra stuff out. The other thing is, this list is entirely up to you. Feel free to run whatever targets you want!

We've got some ramp kicking around, a bit of removal, and a bit of "stay away" with cards like Propaganda, mostly just in an attempt to stick around long enough to land a relevant threat.

No-Black Reanimator | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper


Don't be afraid to play Kynaios and Tiro. The extra land and extra cards won't hurt, and we can always just hard cast our reanimation targets - or hatch them - if we draw them. They shouldn't take too much heat because they're benefitting everyone. Then watch what happens when we dump Ghalta and the next turn resurrect it for four mana. Should be some pretty surprised faces.

It's not quite on theme, but Sakashima, the Impostor might be an interesting addition and certainly works with the stable of Legendary creatures we have assembled.

One more of these 4 color guys, with no Red next time. Should be fun. I wonder if we can make a burn deck with it?

In the meantime, don't be afraid to build a deck where the point is something other than winning. Assemble the Bogbrew Witch combo and don't activate it, just sit there and cackle. Make a bunch of Ape tokens and use a Barrel of Monkeys to represent them. Tie the game. Make a zoo by running a ton of different creature types and never attacking, but run a Ghostly Prison so you can "charge admission". Come up with wacky, fun stuff sometimes. Make a game funny or clever or interesting. We can all use more of that in our lives right now.

What's the strangest objective you've had for a deck? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

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