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Kyler's Band of Brothers


I've spent the majority of this miserable life trying to forget each gloomy season. Each starving winter spent shivering indoors. Paranoia and boredom paradoxically combined within as you stared at the walls, wondering if food stores would hold out. But the memories I've worked hardest to repress are those of tooth and claw. No resident of Kessig lives without the weight of a close-call on their shoulders. I've spent decades trying to quash those frenzied moments spent fleeing for my life. I've never felt so helpless as I did then. Never so much like a cornered woodland critter. Never so much like prey. Would that I could banish such recollections away in one swoop, there'd be no hesitation.

Save, perhaps, for one.

We stood back-to-back. Farmer, potter, blacksmith, baker, but not a warrior among us. No fancy training at the Cathar academy. No silver-inlaid broadswords against the darkness. Only a trembling rabble of town militia, hastily assembled in response to a rotted army materializing outside the village gates. We never learned who sent the foul legion. In those dreadful moments, it'd hardly mattered. Their ranks were many. Hungry. Each rattle of dried-fingernail against our walls sounded a death-knell, the tune to which we'd all meet the Reaper before rising as unhallowed, ourselves. We were well and truly done for.

That is, until Kyler arrived.

I'll never forget his face. The quiet resolve. No hint of doubt. Even amongst the putrid scent of undeath. Our commander raised a heron-headed cane and cried out: "Fear not, citizens of Kessig! By Sigarda's grace, you are commoners no longer. You are knights in service to Humanity!"

My next recollections are hazy. The adrenaline rush, an abatement of fear, and a flurry of slashes from my cooking knife. When the fog lifted, we motley crew of commoners stood knee-deep in a field of eviscerated undead. The moans had ceased, the husks never to stir again.

I'll never know what blessing Kyler bestowed upon us. Only that it elevated baker, builder, and even town drunk into warriors. For one brief, shining moment, our humble roots were gifted heron's wings.

Kyler, Sigardian Emissary by Dmitry Burmak

I get it. Humans are boring.

In a game full of powerful dragons, mystical Elves, and other assorted beasties, our own species can seem downright ho-hum in comparison. But chances are, if you're reading this, it means you're human, yourself. If not, well then let me say "Welcome" to what is clearly first-contact with your alien race. Give our planet a visit, when you've a chance. We've got great beer.

Magic's humans may not be as spectacular as Angels, Demons, or Slivers, but there's one big thing they've got going for them: We can all relate. And that holds especially true for the beleaguered folk of Innistrad, who live in constant fear of vampire, werewolf, zombie, ghost, giant-mutant frog, etc. Take your pick of supernatural slaughter. Chances are, no matter what twisted concoction your brain is able to conceive, the peoples of Innistrad have had to battle it with little more than torch and pitchfork. That, my friends, is true bravery.

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

When it comes to lore, Innistrad's human population had played literal cattle to the various vampire clans - Falkenrath, Stromkirk, Markov, and Voldaren - to the point where Sorin, Lord of Innistrad had to craft the almighty Avacyn, Angel of Hope to prevent extinction. His motives were more "make our food source more sustainable" than they were "save the human race", but it was a step in the right direction. Under Avacyn's protection, humanity began to stand a chance against the monsters that stalked every dark corner of the plane. Sure, Avacyn had to nix a dark angel or two along the way (Or so she thought: Liesa, Forgotten Archangel), but for the most part, the people had found a champion. A badass gothic warrior angel to banish creatures of the night and give us a fighting chance.

Avacyn, Angel of Hope by Howard Lyon

Seeing as the people of Innistrad are often beset by tragedy, it's no surprise that this didn't last long. The storyline of the original Innistrad block sees Avacyn, Angel of Hope trapped within the confines of the Helvault alongside Grislebrand and a host of other demons. Think of the Helvault as the ghost-containment unit from "Ghostbusters". Anything too strong (demons, usually) to outright destroy would be imprisoned within the silver walls of this obelisk. Everything was working great until Sorin and Nahiri started their rivalry, resulting in Avacyn, herself, getting trapped. When this happened, all the ward-like magic her influence granted humanity began to wane. Many had come to worship the angel as a religious figure, so her disappearance triggered a major crisis of faith among Innistrad's population. Clerics like Mikaeus, the Lunarch did their best to cover up the disappearance, but the charade didn't last long.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

How's that cover-up going, Mikaeus?

Oh, yea... not too well, I see.

When Avacyn was finally freed of the Helvault, as depicted in the events of Avacyn Restored, a semblance of balance returned to the peoples of Innistrad. How long do you suppose this lasted for? Nahiri, the Harbinger had vengeful aspirations against Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, blaming him both for his own neglect of Zendikar during an Eldrazi attack and for having stuck Narihi in the Helvault, herself. Her plan was direct and brutal: with the release of Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger and Kozilek, the Great Distortion on her home world of Zendikar, Nahiri would draw the most powerful Eldrazi titan of all, Emrakul, the Promised End to the plane of Innistrad. If Sorin was complacent with the annihilation of Nahiri's world, so too would she have no issue with the utter Lovecraftian destruction of Sorin's home.

Emrakul, the Promised End

Things are about to get all kinds of 'David Croenenberg' up in this plane.

What followed was nothing short of grotesque, with Archangel Avacyn // Avacyn, the Purifier first being brainwashed into attacking the humans she was created to protect, forcing Sorin to perform an Anguished Unmaking on his great protector. With Avacyn's destruction, the protective vale covering Innistrad was lifted, allowing the great titan Emrakul to directly enter the plane and begin warping its inhabitants in vile ways. Emrakul's power affected biological beings, twisting them into nightmarish slaves to her will. Cards like Evangel of Emrakul and Extricator of Sin // Extricator of Flesh portray these nasty mutations on the citizenry, but the most horrific atrocity was the melding of protectors Bruna, Light of Alabaster and Gisaela, Blade of Goldnight into the unholy Brisela, Voice of Nightmares.

Brisela, Voice of Nightmares by Clint Clearly

The term 'nightmare' has seldom had a more apt depiction. *Shudders*

Between their own Avacyn, Angel of Hope turning on them, followed thereafter by their former angelic protectors devolving into horrors, the people of Innistrad found the very foundations of their faith shaken alongside their own warping anatomy. I can hardly picture a more terrifying scenario. And yet, through it all, the mortals of Innistrad persevered. Through the combined efforts of the Gatewatch, Sigarda, Host of Herons, Liliana, the Last Hope's zombie army, and a geist-possessed human legion led by Thalia, Heretic Cathar / Geist of Saint Traft, the Eldritch forces were repelled. Disturbingly, it's later revealed that Emrakul, herself, was the sole reason for the victory, with the cosmic being willingly allowing herself to be Imprisoned in the Moon. But peace was restored, albeit with as yet unknown disclaimers, for the time.

Sigarda, Champion of Light

The last candle in the darkness

With most of Innistrad's angels destroyed by Emrakul's influence, only Sigarda, Champion of Light and her flight of angels were left to restore humanity's faith in the divine. The Church of Avacyn became the Church of Sigarda, with surviving Avacynian Priests transitioning to Sigardian Priests. And it's here that we meet Kyler, Sigardian Emissary, one of the first clergy to turn to the Selesnya-aligned Angel after Avacyn started seeking out the blood of her own followers.

Leinore, Autumn Sovereign
Katilda, Dawnhart Prime
Heronblade Elite

Which brings us to present-day Innistrad, where Kyler, Sigardian Emissary and the rest of the church find themselves facing an ever-increasing darkness. Days are getting shorter. Nights longer. And as such, attacks by werewolves more frequent, especially under the leadership of the murderous Tovolar, Dire Overlord // Tovolar, the Midnight Scourge. The death of Avacyn still warps the nature of the plane, and its humans once again find themselves the underdogs against increasing odds. Teaming up with Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset, Arlinn, the Pack's Hope // Arlinn, the Moon's Fury, and a coven of nature-attuned warlocks, the peoples of Innistrad now try to reclaim the dawn. And with it, their chances for survival.

In this battle for survival, Kyler, Sigardian Emissary stands as a general. A champion to the common peoples, which is fitting, given his legendary take on the iconic Champion of the Parish.

Let's start by breaking down our Commander:

1. On his face, Kyler, Sigardian Emissary is a humble 2/2 for 5 mana. Not winning any awards for raw stats, so let's see what he offers ability-wise. Kyler acts as an exponential lord for Human tribal, growing in power/toughness with each human we play while simultaneously buffing the team. From the get-go, we know exactly the archetype Kyler, Sigardian Emissary is designed for: Human Tribal, 100%.

Join the Dance
Harmonious Archon

2. When it comes to win-cons, Kyler rewards a damage-based swarm application. Playing a critical mass of human creatures benefits both general and troops, making Kyler, Sigardian Emissary essentially a super-Thalia's Lieutenant. When it comes to maximum damage output, we'll want as many humans as possible to both pump our commander and allow his influence to turn our team of quaint villagers into real contenders. Enter cards like Join the Dance, Thraben Doomsayer, and Harmonious Archon.

Increasing Savagery
Ruinous Intrusion

3. Human creatures aside, White and Green have plenty of spells and abilities that directly place +1/+1 counters onto creatures, giving our deck another explosive element. Even with only a few fellow humans in play, tossing a bunch of counters onto Kyler can turn things lethal for our opponents in a literal instant. This is where tools likes Increasing Savagery, Ruinous Intrusion, and Cathars' Crusade shine bright in the darkness.

Flawless Maneuver
Guardian of Faith

4. In a 4-player format, amassing an army is a tricky proposition. We want an imposing force to deal maximum damage, but the bigger and badder it gets, the more tempting mass-removal becomes for our opponents. As such, we'll want a variety of defensive measures aboard to negate any attempts to 'wrath our board. It'd be a shame to let all those +1/+1 counters go to waste, after all. Team-wide protective effects like Heroic Intervention, Flawless Maneuver, and Guardian of Faith are included as insurance for our inherent investments.

Hour of Revelation

5. Finally, as we're already looking to shield the team from mass removal, we'll bring aboard cost-effective wrath-effects of our own to potentially combine with the protective elements. Think of it this way: If we're ahead, we protect our team from opposing mass removal. If we're behind, we drop a wrath to level the playing field. If we're lucky enough to have both in hand simultaneously, we'll effectively Plague Wind our opponents, leaving our own army unscathed. Fortunately, White offers plenty of 'discounted' mass removal like Doomskar, Hour of Revelation, and the new Vanquish the Horde to make the mana requirements for such plays incredibly manageable.

With the basics covered, let's dive into the deck tech!

Kyler, Sigardian Emissary

Kyler's Band of Brothers | Commander | Matthew Lotti

The plan is direct: Make an army, and while doing so, pump it to dangerous degrees. We'll seek out resources that make multiple humans in one or repeated bursts, apply a bunch of +1/+1 counters directly onto Kyler, or that synergize with large numbers of creatures. Throughout it all, we'll be hanging onto protective elements to keep our board state together as it grows both vertically and horizontally. Our first few attacking humans may not look like much, but they're bound to get bigger very fast.

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
Ranger-Captain of Eos
Reverent Hoplite

Brothers in Arms: Recruitment of ample Humans takes center stage when it comes to our creature count. Troops like Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, Hanweir Militia Captain // Westvale Cult Leader, Maja, Bretagard Protector, Harmonious Archon, Sigarda, Heron's Grace, Thraben Doomsayer, Reverent Hoplite, Ranger-Captain of Eos, and Recruiter of the Guard are all able to add multiple humans to the table. With Kyler, Sigardian Emissary acting like a mass-Champion of the Parish, we'll want to bring every village cook, clerk, and carpenter to the battlefield. Kyler will do the rest, turning all of them into mighty warriors.

Heronblade Elite
Sigarda, Champion of Light
Devout Chaplain

Speaking of Champion of the Parish, our next set of creatures all benefit from and/or enhance a critical mass of creatures. Our ability to produce humans in bursts allows Champion of the Parish, Thalia's Lieutenant, and Heronblade Elite to grow into gigantic threats. Mikaeus, the Lunarch and Sigarda, Champion of Light provide additional pump effects, Mentor of the Meek and Leinore, Autumn Sovereign keep card advantage flowing, Devout Chaplain will eagerly eat away enemy artifacts and enchantments, and Angel of Glory's Rise or Guardian of Faith can turn disaster into a stunning comeback.

Shaman of Forgotten Ways
Katilda, Dawnhart Prime
Citanul Hierophants

Wanting to capitalize on human creatures stretches into our mana, too. Bringing in the likes of Avacyn's Pilgrim, Noble Hierarch, the aforementioned Heronblade Elite, and Shaman of Forgotten Ways (a potential win-con in its own right!) ups the human count while also ramping us. Each of these creatures is an effective "mana rock on legs", but once Katilda, Dawnhart Prime or Citanul Hierophants join the party, everyone gets in on the mana-making.

Kogla, the Titan Ape

Finally, our spunky band of underdogs do have one monstrous ally in the form of King Kong. Kogla, the Titan Ape provides removal for both creatures and artifacts/enchantments, but especially useful is his ability to protect himself via bouncing our own humans. This allows us to reset potent ETB effects on cards like Reverent Hoplite, Thalia's Lieutenant, and Recruiter of the Guard. It can also help Kyler, Sigardian Emissary dodge removal, and with it, the Commander tax.

Visions of Glory
Beastmaster Ascension
Coat of Arms

Shields Up!: Creatures aren't the only way to build an army. We'll further bolster our forces Increasing Devotion, Visions of Glory, Call the Coppercoats, Join the Dance, Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis, and Kindred Summons. Each can provide an immediate and permanent Overrun effect to the team with Kyler, Sigardian Emissary on the table. Multitudes of creatures make Rite of Harmony, Vanquisher's Banner, and Skullclamp into card-draw machines. Additional team-building powerhouses like Coat of Arms, Beastmaster Ascension, Cathars' Crusade, and Door of Destinies further caffeinate this plan, powering up even the most humble human token. And we're looking to make many at all once! With Kyler, Sigardian Emissary granting stat boosts based on +1/+1 counters, cards like Increasing Savagery and Ruinous Intrusion are also brought it for surprise damage blitzes. Having a team of 1/1's suddenly all receive +5/+5 (or higher!) is often enough to kill an opponent outright.

Akroma's Will
Heroic Intervention
Vanquish the Horde

We've talked about making an army. Then making it lethal. Now we'll focus more on ways to protect it over the course of the game. Going-wide often falls prey to mass removal, so we'll want defensive tools to negate any blast waves sent in our direction. Akroma's Will, Emeria's Call // Emeria, Shattered Skyclave, Flawless Maneuver, Teferi's Protection, Heroic Intervention, Marshal's Anthem and Repel the Abominable provide army-wide insurance plans. The majority of these protective spells can also turn offensive on a dime when paired with our own mass removal. Doomskar, Vanquish the Horde, and Hour of Revelation were all selected for their frequently-discounted mana values, easily allowing us to cast them right alongside our protective spells and wipe out all opposing forces whilst our troops kick back and relax.

Heliod's Intervention
Eladamri's Call

Supporting Humanity: Additional utility spells are brought aboard to answer key threats, find important enablers for our deck, and generally keep us alive. Heliod's Intervention provides life in an emergency, but will most often be used to eliminate multiple problem artifacts/enchantments. Especially useful considering how annoying a Ghostly Prison or Crawlspace can be against go-wide decks like ours. Eladamri's Call is the perfect tutor for whatever the situation calls for, grabbing us card advantage via Esper Sentinel or the aforementioned Mentor of the Meek, ramp via Katilda, Dawnhart Prime or Citanul Hierophants, removal via Bounty Agent, or even a surprise kill from Shaman of Forgotten Ways in the wake of a board wipe.

Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary

Emeria's Call // Emeria, Shattered Skyclave
Turntimber Symbiosis // Turntimber, Serpentine Wood

Finally, you'll note our preference for the Zendikar Rising dual-faced cards. Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau, Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary, Emeria's Call // Emeria, Shattered Skyclave, and Turntimber Symbiosis // Turntimber, Serpentine Wood all offer our deck synergistic effects that can be added into the land slot. This is a huge advantage at a very low opportunity cost.

Cryptolith Rite
Mirari's Wake
Growing Rites of Itlimoc // Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun

Mana Support and Rocks: Having built much of our ramp into our creature base, we find fewer rocks than usual in this deck. Classics like Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and Talisman of Unity are present, but so too are Cryptolith Rite and Growing Rites of Itlimoc // Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun to squeeze further value out of our army. The anthem and mana-doubling provided by Mirari's Wake was also a combo meal that was too tasty to pass up.

Mosswort Bridge
Castle Ardenvale
Gavony Township

Regarding lands, our dual-aim of not only producing multiple creatures, but also making them huge opens up Mosswort Bridge and Windbrisk Heights. Additional utility lands include Castle Ardenvale and Gavony Township to further this plan along, growing the army on both levels. Other than that, we look to Selesnya staples like Windswept Heath, Temple Garden, Krosan Verge, and Bountiful Promenade to round out our lands.

Cathars' Crusade by Karl Kopinski

"A day may come, where the courage of men fails.

Where we forsake our friends, and release all bonds of fellowship.

But it is not this day!"

Budget Options: Our army is not one of nobles and highborn knights. They're a homespun crew of townsfolk just trying to stay alive. Their armaments are Butcher's Cleaver and Sharpened Pitchfork, tools-turned-weapon out of desperation. If anyone appreciates making the most out of what's you've got, you can damn well bet it's the citizens of Innistrad. As such, let's take a note from their playbook and explore some budget options, with all cards over $20 noted and recommended for swap-outs. If anything seems interesting, regardless of price tag, give it a shot in the main deck. After all, even the mightiest vampire can be slain with a pointy slab of oak.

Creatures: Recruiter of the Guard: $30.00, Esper Sentinel: $20.00

Trynn, Champion of Freedom
Ranger of Eos
Rhys the Redeemed

Starting off, while Recruiter of the Guard and Esper Sentinel are powerful effects for our deck to wield, plenty of cheaper tribal-replacements exist. On one hand, we could seek out additional creatures that make or dig for humans like Trynn, Champion of Freedom, Ranger of Eos, Usher of the Fallen, Militia Bugler, and Courageous Outrider. Rhys the Redeemed may not make Humans, himself, but his second ability is sure to double them up for you.

Riders of Gavony
Heron's Grace Champion
Benalish Marshal

Alternatively, we could lean more heavily on anthem effects, making our team bigger and/or stronger via the likes of Riders of Gavony, Heron's Grace Champion, Benalish Marshal, Soltari Champion, Celestial Crusader, and Hamlet Captain.

Supporting Spells: Growing Rites of Itlimoc // Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun: $25.00, Teferi's Protection: $25.00

Rootborn Defenses
Song of Freyalise

While it's admittedly difficult to match the pure defensive coverage of Teferi's Protection, spells like Rootborn Defenses and Unbreakable Formation are more than serviceable. In regards to mana-production, Song of Freyalise pulls double-duty, both allowing your team to ramp you while ultimately growing and protecting them. Chapter 3 also makes for an excellent turn to drop a mass-removal spell.

Mana Options: Windswept Heath: $32.00

Saltcrusted Steppe

But a single fetchland is all we need worry about swapping out. No worries, as we've ample options like Wooded Bastion, Brushland, and Temple of Plenty to fall back on. If you're looking for something different, I recommend checking out storage land Saltcrusted Steppe as a mana-battery, or if you're comfortable with color fixing, turn to utility lands like Scavenger Grounds, Blast Zone, and Mutavault (a human!).

Unruly Mob by Ryan Pancoast

While the faces of death are many on Innistrad, hope stands tall in unified defiance. Despite all the horrors faced, the citizens persevere. Under the command of Kyler, Sigardian Emissary, here's hoping they can continue to stand strong against whatever the Commander table throws at you. Murderous dragons, demons from hell, or ravenous werewolves? Heck, that's just another Tuesday for these hardened souls.

Thanks for reading, and may you always stand strong against the darkness.



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