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Lore and Consequences: Heartless Hidetsugu vs. Kami of the Crescent Moon

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The war between soldier and spirit has spanned twenty years

As humanity tires, an otherworldly general enters the fray

Under his wrath, legions fall

Final Judgment by Kev Walker

At the start of our quest, the world of Kamigawa smelled of oil and incense, a mixture befitting warrior and kami, alike. But much has changed since then. Twenty years of combat. Sword clashing against spectral hands. The air is no longer so clean. It's now tainted with the aroma of war: Blood, iron, and ash.

And sadly, the bloodshed is far from over. Champions of Kamigawa laid the foundation, detailing the start of the war and its major players. Now knee-deep in conflict, our heroes and villains alike find themselves beset on all sides. Everyone seeks an end to the Great Kami War, but for vastly different reasons. Mankind wants to stop fighting and find peace. Konda, Lord of Eiganjo seeks to cement his people's legacy. His daughter, Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker, seeks the answer to what catalytic conspiracy put the war into motion. Toshiro Umezawa just wants to come out of this mess alive.

But theirs are not the only motives in play. Behind the scenes, forces seek an end to the Great Kami War for the sole purpose of absolute planar control. Total domination of Kamigama.

Patron of the Moon by Scott M. Fischer

Things are about to get freaky.

Well, okay, they were already pretty freaky.

Freakier.

Welcome, once again, to Lore and Consequences, where we explore the stories of Magic's past and recreate such tales. Our format of choice is Commander, the Legend-centric focus of which provides a natural platform for storytelling. Commander sees you literally recruit a historical figure to lead your army. We'll delve into the connective tissue between these legendary cards and their actual legends. It is possible to build decks in such a way that we can see these stories play out in the course of a game? Or, if we prefer to take a more active hand, meddle with the fate of our heroes and villains? With Kamigawa, we're dealing with a war between mankind and the spirit world. Will you decide to rewrite history?

Into the Story

Today, we'll delve into the ancient lore of Magic: The Gathering and fuse it with our deck-building. The resulting Frankenstein's monster will be a pair of fully playable Commander decks, complete with themes and synergies, that also recount a story from Magic's fabled past. All card and deck-building choices will serve to tell the tale, allowing you to regale your playgroup (while you simultaneously crush them).

So, join me, brave brewer, on this quest to recreate the past. And win while doing so.

Previously, "Outlaw: Champions of Kamigawa" introduced us to our central players: Toshiro Umezawa and Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker. Though these two couldn't be any more diametrically opposed, they nonetheless seek a united end to the Great Kami War. They are our heroes, our best hope to save Kamigawa from ruin. But, you can't have protagonists with antagonists, and Kamigawa has many to stand in our hero's way.

Heartless Hidetsugu by Carl Critchlow

So obsessed with revenge, he'll go to the ends of the Earth.

And possibly put an end to the Earth.

-VS-

Kami of the Crescent Moon by Darrel Riche

Sometimes, the most innocent smile conceals the sharpest teeth.

Villain time! Steady your nerves, and keep an eye on these scoundrels. Never know when a wayward club will find its way to your skull. I'm looking at you, Hidetsugu.

Before we begin, let's cover some guidelines...

1. Function comes first:

Our mission is to design playable Commander decks that not only detail story arcs, but also seek to win the game. Cards can have perfect flavor, but if their power level is more suited to Limited, they'll be left on the cutting-room floor. For example, the Soratami have a strong thematic link to Kami of the Crescent Moon, but many of their actual cards (Soratami Mirror-Mage, Soratami Mirror-Guard, Floodbringer) are too low-impact to warrant consideration.

Uyo, Silent Prophet
Meloku the Clouded Mirror
These, however, will do nicely.

2. Flavor still dictates card selection:

A card's connection to Magic lore may disqualify it from this experiment. The notorious Cyclonic Rift is powerful, but also intrinsically linked to the Izzet Guild, with their logo literally stamped right onto it. Today's Heartless Hidetsugu deck would love access to Dictate of the Twin Gods and Furnace of Rath, but both enchantments refer to other worlds entirely. Cards can only reference planes/characters they're organically linked to. Depending on how much "narrative vs. competitive" matters to you personally, I leave it up to you to tinker with the builds as you see fit. Commander is all about creativity, after all.

Heart of Kiran
Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho
Spear of Heliod
These are all directly linked to the worlds they hail from.

3. That said, if a card could exist on another plane, it's totally up for grabs:

Today's tale may not involve Amonkhet, but I see no reason something like Scavenger Grounds is out of bounds. Such an environment could feasibly appear in many worlds, and the graveyard hate it provides is an important tool for a Commander deck to have in its pocket. We're allowing wiggle-room when picking cards that could feasibly slide into any narrative. Laboratory Maniac and Triskaidekaphile might call Innistrad home, but the concept of a mad scientist is universal.

Laboratory Maniac
Triskaidekaphile
Insanity + Genius = Profit?

Rules and regulations covered, let's get back to the battlefront. The Great Kami War presses on.

"Heretic - Betrays of Kamigawa" by Scott McGough

To start, a brief word on spoilers: It's my intent with "Lore and Consequences" to provide an overview of Magic lore, then tie it into deck-building. Outlining entire novels is (mostly) beyond our scope. I prefer to give you a taste of story and setting, characters and conflicts, and leave the remaining mysteries for you to discover yourself. I bring this point up here because a central plot point in "Heretic - Betrayers of Kamigawa" revolves around the death of a character from the first novel, "Outlaw - Champions of Kamigawa". I won't name said character, but their identity isn't difficult to figure out, so be forewarned before pressing onward if you intend on reading the first novel.

Heartless Hidetsugu

Let's just say that someone's gonna be mighty pissed.

On that note, here's Part 1 of our series to review: "Lore and Consequences - Toshiro Umezawa vs Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker"

Our story begins several months after the events of "Outlaw", the conclusion of which saw Toshiro Umezawa and Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker on a quest to end the Great Kami War. Their adventures led them through a sea of vicious Orochi (Ex. Orochi Eggwatcher), near sacrifice to the Honden of Life's Web, and the revelation of a murderous traitor in their midst. Toshi, never one to let a good slight go unnoticed, swiftly dealt with the traitor in what will ultimately become an incredibly brutal revenge. More on that later.

Hidetsugu's Second Rite by Jeff Miracola

It involves BBQ.

During their encounter with the Orochi, Toshi made the acquaintance of Mochi, otherwise known as the Kami of the Crescent Moon, and the mighty Myojin of Night's Reach. Both offer to guide Toshi, claiming to have his best interest in mind. Ever the survivor, Toshiro elects to trust neither. As a show of good will, the Myojin of Night's Reach bestows some of her power onto Toshiro Umezawa, allowing him to rescue everyone from becoming snake food. Our heroes manage to escape, but you can be sure these kami aren't finished with them yet.

Kami of the Crescent Moon
Myojin of Night's Reach
I'm sure these two have only the best of intentions in mind.

"Heretic" begins much where "Outlaw" did, with Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker at Eiganjo Castle and Toshrio Umezawa on the run. Only now, both have newfound powers to play with. Michiko practices kanji magic in an attempt to contact Toshiro, as her father, Konda, Lord of Eiganjo has locked down the castle after an attack from the all-powerful O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami, the Kami of the Barrier. This massive dragon spirit has begun to manifest more and more into the mortal world, with each appearance causing massive casualties. O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami appears hellbent on destroying Konda's kingdom, almost as if it contains something he wants. In response, Konda has pulled much of his army back and summoned a dragon of his own, Yosei, the Morning Star, in an attempt to keep safe.

Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker
O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami
Konda, Lord of Eiganjo

Toshiro Umezawa's new powers stem from his encounter with the Myojin of Night's Reach. These abilities allow Toshiro to capture a Yuki-Onna, an ice spirit, and learn some frost magic along the way. His newly-found freeze-ray skills allow Toshiro to effectively strongarm Kiku, Night's Flower and Marrow-Gnawer (both of whom were trying to kill him at the time) into the Hyozan Reckoners, a cutthroat guild of warriors. Forcing their membership effectively protects Toshiro from the assassin and rat-crimelord, as members of the Hyozan are sworn to do no harm to each other. And to avenge any fallen member of the guild. Which brings us back to the one and only Heartless Hidetsugu.

Toshiro Umezawa
Kiku, Night's Flower
Marrow-Gnawer
Do I get a member referral bonus?

Arriving at the ogre's headquarters, Toshiro is met with an unpleasant sight. The traitor from "Outlaw", despite being in a merciless Heartless Hidetsugu's clutches, is still very much alive. Tortured daily, but alive. With the traitor being a former student of Minamo, School at Water's Edge, Hidetsugu has sworn fiery revenge on the academy. And more. The ogre wishes death upon everyone and everything even remotely responsible, planning to raze not just Minamo, but the entire Soratami City above. Toshiro is able to deflect Hidetsugu in the direction of the Jukia forest, claiming the ogre should start his revenge with the Orochi first.

While the ogre sets out to burn the forest down, Toshiro sneaks into the lair of a Myojin of Night's Reach-worshipping crime lord. One who's Honden of Night's Reach allows them to make contact with the spirit world. In this way, Toshiro Umezawa is able to meet the Myojin of Night's Reach once again, promising her a favor in return for more power. Though now in debt to the dark spirit, Toshiro gains the ability to teleport himself across Kamigawa.

Teleportation Circle by Chris Cold

Using this newfound power, Toshiro rescues Michiko from Eiganjo Castle and transports her to Pearl-Ear, now living with her fellow Kitsune. After learning from Minamo student Riko that the school might be connected to the Kami War, a delegation is arranged to speak with Hisoka, Minamo Sensei and get to the bottom of this twenty-year mess. It's at this very school that they will run afoul of an old friend. One who's been scheming behind the scenes with the Soratami this whole time.

Kami of the Crescent Moon

Twist villain!

As it turns out, Mochi (the Kami of the Crescent Moon) has been plotting with the Moonfolk over who'll get to rule Kamigawa once Eiganjo falls. At the academy, the mischievous kami unleashes an army of Moonfolk and reveals to Michiko how That Which was Taken, the item stolen by Konda, Lord of Eiganjo two decades prior, is essentially the daughter of the great O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami. And wouldn't you know, O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami has just rematerialized for Round 2, this time with his sights set on Eiganjo Castle.

If that weren't bad enough, Heartless Hidetsugu has just arrived at to destroy Minamo with his own army. And he's got bloodshed on the brain. Granted, that's all he's ever got on his brain, but this time, it truly is personal.

Spirit-Dragon vs Eiganjo and a legion of samurai

Demon-worshipping ogre versus magical school

And behind it all, a scheming little spirit versus the world

Can Kamigawa, and humanity as a whole, survive?

That's for a game of Commander to determine! Let's get to deck-building.

It's sadistic ogre warlord versus malevolent manipulator.

Get ready for battle - Choose your character!

Heartless Hidetsugu

Heartless Hidetsugu | Commander | Matthew Lotti


Not one for subtly, Heartless Hidetsugu is about causing as much damage as humanly possible. Despite his aggressive appearance, his most effective application is in a combo designed to amplify his ability. Any source doubles this damage, and Red has many, effectively makes Hidetsugu one-shot all players. Granted, that includes us (ogres don't discriminate with their victims), so we'll need to find a way to survive the blast. If Plan A doesn't come together, we also pack plenty of burn-to-the-face to finish the job. Let's explore further!

Burning Legion: Our army falls into three camps: Direct damage synergy/payoffs, life-total protectors to shield us, and general support.

War Elemental
Fiendish Duo
Cemetery Gatekeeper

Heartless Hidetsugu deals tremendous amounts of raw damage when tapped, so creatures like War Elemental and Fiendish Duo become incredibly dangerous, if not outright lethal, after even a single activation. Harsh Mentor, Zo-Zu the Punisher, Akki Lavarunner/Tok-Tok, Volcano Born, Fumiko, the Lowblood, and Cemetery Gatekeeper are included as additional sources of damage-dealing or amplification, as our back up plan is to finish off opponents incrementally. Fumiko, the Lowblood may not deal damage directly, but her forcing all creatures to attack, while serving as an opposing blocker, helps ensure combat damage will be routinely sent at other players and not us.

Platinum Emperion
Stuffy Doll
Godo, Bandit Warlord

Next up, because our general has no qualms about killing us, we need protective elements. This is especially true once a damage-doubling 'combo piece' arrives and turns Hidetsugu into a nuclear weapon. Shields like Platinum Emperion and Platinum Angel are obviously choices, but seeing as we're Mono-Red, maybe we can turn even our defenses into offensive pressure? Stuffy Doll and Brash Taunter deter attacks on their own, but are mainly included to pair up with Pariah's Shield and General's Regalia. These artifacts point Hidetsugu's damage at an aforementioned voodoo doll, which then sends it right back at another player. Godo, Bandit Warlord is included to find the Pariah's Shield, but could also up a Basilisk Collar to add onto Heartless Hidetsugu, who'll then be gaining you massive bursts of life to offset the pain.

Stigma Lasher
Treasure Nabber
Imperial Recruiter

Finishing our ranks with support-players, we first bring in Stigma Lasher to ensure opponents don't overcome our general via lifegain. Treasure Nabber can ramp us explosively with enough mana rocks spread about the table. Fury provides an emergency removal spell if needed, or simply kill something upon arrival and start punching opponents. Adamaro, First to Desire is tricky, jumping from small to potentially gigantic depending on game state. His inclusion is strategic, meant to hone in on the opposing Kami of the Crescent Moon deck and all the card draw it brings to the table. Finally, the ever-useful Imperial Recruiter serves as an excellent tutor for more than half of our troops, including win-cons like Stuffy Doll.

Battlemage's Bracers
Magewright's Stone
Illusionist's Bracers

Sizzling Spellcraft: Moving on to non-creature spells, our toolkit divides up into three more categories: Heartless Hidetsugu synergies, damage-doubling engines, and incremental sources of damage to weaken or finish off players. Starting with synergistic cards, we seek outlets that allow Hidetsugu to activate his ability multiple times per turn: Illusionist's Bracers, Battlemage's Bracers, Thousand-Year Elixir, Magewright's Stone, Puppet Strings, and Umbral Mantle. In conjunction with our general, each of these pieces enable a 75% reduction among all life totals at the table (Enter Hidetsugu's Second Rite!). It's a tremendous amount of damage that makes closing out the game with incremental damage much easier.

Gratuitous Violence
Bitter Feud
Pariah's Shield

Once we're able to protect ourselves from Hidetsugu, we can move on from multiple activations and simply kill everyone else in one shot via damage-doubling cards. Quest for Pure Flame, Fiery Emancipation (triple!), Insult // Injury, Overblaze, and Gratuitous Violence all form a 2-card kill button with Heartless Hidetsugu, but unless you're able to shield yourself from the fallout, you'll vaporize along with everyone else. This makes the aforementioned Basilisk Collar, Pariah's Shield, and General's Regalia such important insurance. Finally, while Bitter Feud won't allow you to kill all opponents with Hidetsugu, it will allow you to head-shot one unfortunately victim without killing you.

Spellshock
Maddening Hex
Gaze of Adamaro

Lastly, because we're firing Death Star-like levels of damage around, we bring in a variety of incremental and one-shot burn to finish anyone who survives the initial frying. Cards like Spellshock, Maddening Hex, and Vicious Shadows continually hammer away at life totals. Genju of the Spires makes for a sneaky source of 6-damage bites, especially after a board wipe clears the field. With our adversary, Kami of the Crescent Moon so fond of card draw, and Heartless Hidetsugu so intent on munching on the little blue guy's skull, it seemed only fitting to punish excess draw via Sudden Impact, Price of Progress (lots of cards = lots of lands), and Gaze of Adamaro. Note that the later is an Arcane card, meaning you can even Splice Overblaze onto it.

Impact Resonance
Visions of Ruin
Vandalblast

Supporting Spells: Firing off any combo requires staying alive long enough to do it. Red prefers a proactive defense, incinerating threats via Blasphemous Act or Impact Resonance, which can easily act as a Plague Wind after a Heartless Hidetsugu activation. Other removal includes the classic Chaos Warp, Visions of Ruin, Vandalblast, and Abrade. The Sensei's Divining Top may appear a bit too scholarly for the likes of a demon-worshipping ogre, but it's ability to dig through your upcoming draws is vital towards finding the pieces needed to fire the combo off.

Extraplanar Lens
Ruby Medallion
Expedition Map

Ramp and Lands: Our mana rocks are the usual contenders for Mono Red. Nothing fancy, but powerful (Sol Ring, Ruby Medallion) and/or reliable (Arcane Signet, Prismatic Lens, Fellwar Stone). Extraplanar Lens is useful to double-up our Red mana, especially seeing as our choice of Snow-Covered Mountains helps prevent other players from getting the bonus. Finally, of key importance, is Expedition Map, as it grabs our most important land.

Witch's Clinic

Witch's Clinic is one of the best cards in our deck, turning Heartless Hidetsugu's mass damage-dealing into a gigantic source of lifegain. It safely allows us to double-up on his ability or trigger it multiple times per turn, as we'll always be up on life when the dust settles. And all on a humble land. Miren, the Moaning Well can also help us stay alive in the later game, cashing in creatures for life. Hall of the Bandit Lord allows Heartless Hidetsugu to immediately light fire to everything the very turn he comes into play.

Lots of scary stuff going on in Hidetsugu's camp. Everything as far as the eye can see is flammable. How might a subtle, scheming little kami wiggle their way out of this frying pan?

It's all in the mind.

Meishin, the Mind Cage by Thomas Gianni

Kami of the Crescent Moon

Kami of the Crescent Moon | Commander | Matthew Lotti


Knowledge is power. It is also a form of currency. He who possesses the most has all the control. Much like Tyrion Lannister, Kami of the Crescent Moon isn't much for fighting. So, what does he do? He draws cards and knows things. True, some of those cards will be for your opponents. A trifle here or there to win some favor. Politics is a central pillar of Commander, after all. But as time goes on, these subtle dealings will reveal their true face: You're drawing the majority of cards. You're holding the power. And you're ready to punish people for having full hands in the first place, despite the fact that you gave them those cards. How underhandedly evil. How fitting for Kami of the Crescent Moon.

Jushi Apprentice
Body of Knowledge
Triskaidekaphile

Mental Minions: Mochi will be drawing plenty on his own, but he won't be alone. Our army of intellectuals works to increase card advantage, benefit from cards being drawn, and/or provides other payoffs for keeping a full hand. For example, Jushi Apprentice and win-con-in-the-making Triskaidekaphile actively provide card advantage, while Sturmgeist, Nadir Kraken, Oneirophage, and Chasm Skulker all grow into bigger and bigger threats. In the case of Body of Knowledge, said ever-growing threat happens to draw us even more cards. You'll also note that Triskaidekaphile and Body of Knowledge possess the no-max-hand-size clause, something that'll be very relevant in this deck.

Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar
Uyo, Silent Prophet
Hisoka, Minamo Sensei

Drawing multiple cards also allows cards like Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar, Hisoka, Minamo Sensei, and Soratami Cloudskater to be at their best, ignoring or recycling unnecessary cards for gas. Speaking of Moonfolk, excess card advantage also enables us to hit our land drops, allowing Uyo, Silent Prophet and Meloku the Clouded Mirror to begin going off in the late game with little hindrance to our mana base.

Silent Arbiter
Laboratory Maniac
Viseling

Lastly, we include a batch of utility creatures to help us ramp into lands (Burnished Hart, Dreamscape Artist), protect ourselves from threats (Silent Arbiter, the rattle-snake esque Keiga, the Tide Star), and even provide insurance in case we deck ourselves (Laboratory Maniac). Because Kami of the Crescent Moon will also be drawing enemies cards, Viseling provides a consistent source of chip-damage from turn to turn.

Flow of Ideas
Psychic Possession
Wizard Class

Ancestral Recollections: Our spellcraft follows suite, with ample draw off the back of Frantic Search, Graven Lore, Brainstorm, Flow of Ideas, Scroll of Origins, Wizard Class and the mighty Rhystic Study. Psychic Possession does serious work in our deck, working off of opposing Kami of the Crescent Moon triggers in addition to the opponent's draw step. Plenty of our controlling spells also have draw tacked on as a bonus, such as Cryptic Command, Leadership Vacuum, Archmage's Charm, Overwhelming Intellect, Arcane Denial, and Supreme Will.

Echo of Eons
Ominous Seas
Ebony Owl Netsuke

We next pack elements to punish opponents for greedy hands. Echo of Eons and Day's Undoing provide total resets for ourselves and opponents, wiping the slate clean of any answers or combos they may have had. Despite this, refilling enemy hands can make an excellent political play, helping to foster good will and potential favors down the line. Which is good, because we also include cards like Ominous Seas to make instant-speed 8/8's, and Ebony Owl Netsuke and Iron Maiden to turn opposing hands into weapons.

Meishin, the Mind Cage
Ever-Watching Threshold
Embargo

Lastly, Kami of the Crescent Moon's desire to manipulate his surroundings speaks well to defensive elements like Propaganda, Ever-Watching Threshold, and Meishin, the Mind Cage. We can also generate protection via a stax elements Embargo and Orb of Dreams. Hard for an opponent to hurt us if we slow them down enough.

Spectral Deluge
Reduce to Dreams
Part the Veil

Supporting Spells: Being the generous patron spirit that we are, it can be concerning to see opposing armies grow as we dole out cards. As such, we employ multiple bounce-sweepers to clean the field and likely cause large-scale discarding for our opponents at their endstep. Flood of Tears, Evacuation, Aetherize, Spectral Deluge, and Reduce to Dreams clean up the Commander table quite nicely. Or, if our opponents feel like using up their own mass removal, we can save our own team via Part the Veil. Having multiple outlets in our deck to eliminate the maximum hand size rule (Thought Vessel, Wizard Class, Triskaidekaphile, Body of Knowledge, Reliquary Tower) helps ensure we hang onto the team after rescuing them.

Imprisoned in the Moon

Oh, and while we all know which tentacled-baddie Imprisoned in the Moon is meant to refer to, it's lunar connection to Kami of the Crescent Moon and his fellow Moonfolk was too perfect to ignore.

Thought Vessel
Midnight Clock
Reliquary Tower

Ramp and Lands: Like our Heartless Hidetsugu deck, Kami of the Crescent Moon utilizes the combination of Extraplanar Lens plus snow-covered basics to double up on mana while reducing the risk of others benefitting. Aside from the usual assortment of on-color mana rocks (Sol Ring, Sapphire Medallion, Mind Stone, etc.), cards like Thought Vessel and Midnight Clock are at their best in this build, keeping cards firmly in your hand while fixing your mana on the side.

We even extend card drawing into our lands via the likes of War Room, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, and Isolated Watchtower.

Be your preferred tactic mental games or savage force, bear in mind that our story is not yet complete. Two novels in, and the world of Kamigawa is still mired in conflict. With luck, our heroes will end The Great Kami War before it tears the very fabric of reality apart. Or perhaps you'll decide its fate for yourself at the Commander table? Remember, there's still one very, very big obstacle to contend with.

O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami

On our next episode...

And so wraps up another ink-etched adventure. We'll continue to explore new realms and legends in future installments, and if you've any recommendations or requests, feel free to let me know in the comments. What characters and stories would you like to see next?

Thanks for reading, and may your own Commander never burn you to a crisp!

-Matt Lotti-

@Intrepid_Tautog

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