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Queen Kayla: Rebuilding from Rubble


When you think famous Magic the Gathering couples, who are the first folks that come to mind?

Tale of heroes Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero and Hannah, Ship's Navigator?

Yawgmoth's Vile Offering

Right up there with Romeo and Juliet on the tragedy-charts.

Perhaps the story of how Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis founded their namesake city?

Heck, even sticking to Theros, we could continue onto the Spartan-esque Anax and Cymede, ever-ready to pump the team to Heroic victory.

Many a Legendary relationship has been forged (and broken) within the vast lore of the game. Some pairings go down in history. Others meet a darker fate. Such is the case of Queen Kayla bin-Kroog and her husband Urza, Prince of Kroog. You may have heard of the later, seeing as his Planeswalker ascension gave rise to literal decades of Magic: the Gathering storyline. Even those new to the game know the name 'Urza', and while his deeds vary in their heroic-to-villainous intent, his marriage to Queen Kayla bin-Kroog is noteworthy for igniting the first spark of the Brother's War.

Queen Kayla bin-Kroog
Urza, Prince of Kroog
Were marriage counselors available in old Yotia?

We begin our tale years after the tragic discover of Mightstone and Weakstone led to the demise of Tocasia, Dig Site Mentor, and the even more catastrophic effect it would have on her pupils. Mishra, Excavation Prodigdy would claim the Weakstone and flee into the desert, his fate only his to know until years, and armies, later. Urza, Powerstone Prodigy would find himself an apprentice clocksmith in Kroog, capitol city of Yotia. At the time, the reigning Warlord promised marriage of his daughter - Queen Kayla bin-Kroog - to anyone who could move an incredible heavy statue in the city courtyard. Many a barbarian and brute tried their damndest, but their muscle proved no match for raw stone. A young soon-to-be Urza, Prince of Kroog greedily hungered after the ancient Thran knowledge the high-Yotian royalty held in their libraries, and so entered the contest to win the at-the-time Princess Kayla's betrothal. Rather than muscle, Urza crafted a mechanical solider to lift and carry the statue, winning the hand of Kayla and, more importantly to him, a foothold into Yotian royalty.

Machine Over Matter

As you might have guessed, Urza's intentions weren't exactly driven by romantic intrigue. His marriage to Queen Kayla bin-Kroog was sadly more transactional in nature. While the couple would grow fond of each other with time, a ruinous attempt at a peace-treaty with the reemerged Mishra, Tamer of Mak Fawa would see only calamity ensue. In the years since their separation, Mishra had been climbing the ranks of the desert Fallaji tribes after using his Weakstone to gain dominance over a Phyrexian Dragon Engine. When the nation of Yotia and Mishra's forces met, the consequences would spell disaster for the entire plane of Dominaria. With negotiations swiftly breaking down, Kayla found herself in a desperate love-triangle with both Mishra and Urza. The result would be a son of unsure patronage (Harbin, Vanguard Aviator) and the official kick-off of the Brother's War.

Despite Queen Kayla bin-Kroog's impossible dilemma at shielding her country over a loveless marriage, calamity would still befall Kroog via Mishra's dragon engines

Traxos, Scourge of Kroog

You might as well call this guy Godzilla

Dark as these event seem, not all hope was lost. When the bloody climax of the Brother's War saw Urza unleash the full power of Urza's Sylex via Urza's Ruinous Blast, Queen Kayla bin-Kroog counted herself among the survivors of the nigh-apocalypse. While her beloved city of Kroog was laid waste, and much of Yotia reduced to ash, Kayla sought only restoration in the face of darkness. Kayla's Reconstruction depicts an older, war-torn Queen Kayla bin-Kroog rebuilding so much of what had once been demolished at the brothers' hands. Despite seeing her entire world torn asunder, Kayla always held onto hope. Always gave of herself to defend her people, even if it meant sacrificing her own happiness or wellbeing. That heroic spirit is reflected in today's Commander deck, which sees the most humble forces elevated to the front lines of battle.

Queen Kayla bin-Kroog attempts to literally reconstruct a hand of Magic cards into functional spells, bypassing annoying barriers like mana value. Her talents only extend to creatures and artifacts of mana value three or less, but with a vast library to choose from, I'm sure we can find ways to dance around her restrictions. After all, the Boros color-combo is renowned for cheap, aggressive options. Such cards are often quickly-outmatched in a Commander game, but Kayla offers the chance to bring an entire trio to the table in one shot, with nary a worry for casting cost. That combination of mass-discard, mass-draw, and potentially-free spells leaves a lot of room to work with. Let's see what shenanigans Queen Kayla bin-Kroog and her mighty recycling powers bring to the table.

Let's start by breaking down our Commander:

Rings of Brighthearth
Illusionist's Bracers
Battlemage's Bracers

1. Queen Kayla bin-Kroog is all-about the activated ability. It's her main power source, a wellspring of card advantage and recycling, so we'll want to maximize it to the fullest. Before even delving into its nuances, ability-doublers like Rings of Brighthearth, Illusionists's Bracers, and Battlemage's Bracers immediately jump to mind tool to draw the most firepower out of Kayla's ability. This Commander allows us to essentially play Magic cards for free, and even if said cards are bound to mana values of 3 or less, their explosive potential cannot be ignored.

2. Though requiring a hefty 4-mana investment, Queen Kayla bin-Kroog provides a repeatable one-sided Wheel of Fortune effect. Before we even broach the free-spells aspects, let's consider the degree of card-recycling this effect carries with it. Kayla allows us to dump our hand and redraw into a fresh set of ammunition. Excess lands and unneeded spells are cast away like dust on the wind, to be replaced by actual gas. The fact that her effect is repeatable essentially allows us to continually trade in hands to ensure a.) Constant land drops, b.) Conversely, preventing flooding in the later game, c.) Ensuring we only hang onto cards that are relevant for a given board state. Find yourself with a handful of creature-removal against an empty field? Simply 'wheel it away via Kayla into a new hand, with some free spells along the way!

Glint-Horn Buccaneer
Osgir, the Reconstructor
Ascend from Avernus

3. While said free spells jump to the forefront of one's mind, don't forget the utility in mass-discard along the way. Repeatedly sifting through hands sees cards like Faithless Looting[/card, [card]Glint-Horn Buccaneer, and Surly Badgersaur shoot up in value. Not to mention that a packed graveyard allows cards like Osgir, the Reconstructor, Wake the Past, and Ascend from Avernus to shine in the late game.

Esper Sentinel
Dockside Extortionist
Losheel, Clockwork Scholar

4. Onto the main course. Repeatable Wheel of Fortune-effects are nice and all, but let's be honest: We're all here for the free spells. That Queen Kayla bin-Kroog allows you to play up to three spells per activation without any additional mana investment is absurd. Yes, those spells are under a strict mana value limit. But we can simply build around that to take full advantage, can't we? Ample powerful 1-drops (Esper Sentinel, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer) and 2-drops (Dockside Extortionist, Ethersworn Canonist) are available, but to really get the top-notch bang for our buck, we'll want to ensure the 3-drop spot in most often hit. Thusly, our assortment of 3-drop creatures and artifacts (Imperial Recruiter, Sculpting Steel, Skyclave Apparition) is nearly double that of our 1- and 2- drops. Ideally, we're hoping to hit as many cards as possible per Kayla activation, but realistically, if our options are limited to what the top of our library provides, the 3-drops hold the most value, on average.

Welcoming Vampire
Mishra, Excavation Prodigy
Land Tax

5. That said, keeping our hand full and mana sources healthy works best to maximize Kayla's ability. Cards like Welcoming Vampire and Mentor of the Meek can enter play off Kayla's ability, then continue to draw us gas as the game progresses. Discard outlets like Mishra, Excavation Prodigy and Surly Badgersaur squeeze further value of our already-cemented gameplan. Cards like Land Tax actively work to refill our hand, ensuring each Kayla activation churns through the maximum amount of new cards.

Crackle with Power
Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer
Portal to Phyrexia

6. Finally, after spending an entire game building a free army, we bring things to a close by drawing on the full power of our accumulated resources. Queen Kayla bin-Kroog can easily ramp us via copious mana rocks, making Crackle with Power a potent silver bullet. Or our surplus of inexpensive artifacts can turn Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer into a combat-centric hero, allowing even 1/1's to axe opponents. Still another avenue exists in 'welding' our inexpensive artifacts into haymakers, as cards like Goblin Welder and Brilliant Restoration can easily return game-winning tech like Portal to Phyrexia and Cityscape Leveler to the table in short order.

Goblin Welder by Scott M. Fischer

"You sure you want me to turn this Mind Stone into a Portal to Phyrexia?"

In conclusion, Queen Kayla bin-Kroog does far more than allow us to cast cheap spells for free. Her ability to recycle entire hands opens up strategies for mass-discard. She can fill the graveyard with expensive spells for us to recur en-masse later in the game. Numerous inexpensive creatures and artifacts synergize with her abilities to copy or recur cheap artifacts and creatures, building a series of mini-engines on the spot. All this works in conjunction to generate card advantage (For BOROS! Finally!) that can be funneled into a variety of win conditions.

In her lifetime, Queen Kayla bin-Kroog has witnessed everything she held dear reduced to dust, but it never broke her spirit. So too will you approach this strategy, resolute in that whatever sweeper wrecks the board, you will simply rebuild. Hope is never truly lost.

Rebuilding from Rubble | Commander | Matthew Lotti

Card Display

Starting out, it's pivotal we hit the 4-mana mark to start activating our Commander. Once we do that, she can actually provide a steady stream of ramp, as our mana rocks (Archaeomancer's Map, Mind Stone, etc.) all come in at 2 and 3 mana. Our cheaper creatures can also provide additional mana sources, especially when directly ushered into play (Dockside Extortionist, Weathered Wayfarer, Canoptek Wraith, etc.). What's especially nice about Queen Kayla bin-Kroog's ability is how she only returns permanents to play after they've already hit the graveyard, rather than from your hand. As such, the number of cards she draws with each activation never theoretically has to decrease. So long as you're not playing a bunch of other spells (you'll seldom have to when the cheaper stuff can enter play for 'free'), Kayla will keep your hand restocked while she operates the recycling center.

Many Hands Make for Light Work: Most of our troops are small in stature, but collectively, their combined efforts have a huge impact on the game. Especially with the potential for three to show up each turn. Let's start by making our way up the food chain.

Esper Sentinel
Myr Retriever
Grinning Ignus

The 1 mana slot actually contains some insanely powerful tools. Esper Sentinel, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Weathered Wayfarer, and Goblin Welder all provide powerful effects that reach beyond their humble mana values. Goblin Welder in particular fits an important sub-theme of the deck: scrapping out our current inexpensive artifacts for Kayla-discarded beasts like Cityscape Leveler.

At 2 mana, the card advantage and utility continue to flow. Ethersworn Canonist and Lion Sash keep opposing spell chains and graveyards in check. Dockside Extortionist generates a boat-load of treasures, which can then be used by Oswald Fiddlebender to chain up into bigger artifacts. Our scrapper sub-theme is further backed up by the likes of Myr Retriever and Goblin Engineer.

Finally, at 3 mana, we focus on even more card advantage. Mentor of the Meek, Welcoming Vampire, Losheel, Clockwork Scholar, Imperial Recruiter, Scrap Trawler, Ratchet, Field Medic, and Digsite Engineer all generate value as our engine chugs away. Grinning Ignus, Canoptek Wraith, and Mishra, Excavation Prodigy further boost mana development. Skyclave Apparition introduces flexible removal to the party. We also meet a potentially game-winner, as Glint-Horn Buccaneer can spell serious trouble for your opponents if not removed, especially if we start using doublers like Battlemage's Bracers to power up Kayla.

Glint-Horn Buccaneer

The damage piles up quickly.

Past 3 mana, we bring in support troops to facilitate Queen Kayla bin-Kroog's ability and/or our scrapper theme. Osgir, the Reconstructor, Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, and Sun Titan all benefit from a steadily-filling graveyard. Surly Badgersaur is bound to yield ample rewards with each Kayla activation, especially considering all the cards in our hand get discarded first, triggering this guy before they return to play. When it comes to win conditions, we've already discussed the prospect of sneaking Cityscape Leveler into play, but with the high-density of other artifacts in the deck, Hellkite Tyrant and Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer also become potent ways to close things out.

A Never-Ending Supply of Scrap Metal: It'd be nice-enough if all Queen Kayla bin-Kroog did was work with creatures, but her ability extends to the purely mechanical, too. A slew of inexpensive artifacts are on hand to ensure there's always something to slide into play. And potentially recycle into a game-breaker!

Currency Converter
Illusionist's Bracers
Urza's Sylex

At 1 mana, the incredibly-synergistic Currency Converter provides a ton of card and creature advantage, getting better and better with each activation of our general. Further card advantage comes in the form of Skullclamp, Sensei's Divining Top, and Mishra's Research Desk. We also bolster our mana development via Expedition Map and the ever-lauded (or scorned, depending on who you ask) Sol Ring.

Two mana sees more rocks enter the fray with Mind Stone, Arcane Signet, Boros Signet, Talisman of Conviction, and Thought Vessel. This spot also sees fantastic utility via Treasure Map, which generates even more artifacts to work with, and Illusionist's Bracers to maximize Kayla's talent.

Ascend to 3 mana, and a few mana sources appear (Archaeomancer's Map, Patriar's Seal), but the real meat of the deck comes in the form of additional ability-doublers like Rings of Brighthearth and Battlemager's Bracers. The untapping-effect of Halo Fountain also works well with Kayla, maybe even offering an admittedly-ambitious win condition on the side. Sculpting Steel and Mirage Mirror are especially flexible, copying utility artifacts early in the game, or a Cityscape Leveler later on. Believe it or not, our deck's wrath effects also appear at this spot, with Urza's Sylex and Karn's Sylex certain to raise eyebrows upon sliding into play from the graveyard.

Lithoform Engine
Portal to Phyrexia

After a few activations of Queen Kayla bin-Kroog and exponential rise in mana development as a result, more intensive options open up. Lithoform Engine serves as both another source of ability-doubling, and a way to further grow your army. Portal to Phyrexia may not win the game outright, but its impact is so tremendous that it certainly has the potential with time. Provided you've the mana, or used our scrapper-theme to slide the Portal into play, and the two pair well together, resulting in even more creature sacrifice and recursion with which to rule the day!

Ascend from Avernus
Wake the Past
Crackle with Power

Supporting Spells: As our graveyard fills, big sorceries like Ascend from Avernus, Brilliant Restoration, and Wake the Past inch closer to game-winners. Or if we've assembled enough mana, we could opt for the direct approach via a gigantic Crackle with Power. Ample mana also feeds into additional sources of card advantage like Saheeli's Directive and the aptly-included Kayla's Reconstruction.

Land Tax
Shatterskull Smashing // Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass

Mana Support and Rocks: Having covered mana rocks earlier, let's talk about other sources of mana development. Land Tax is more valuable here for its ability to introduce three fresh cards in hand than in developing your mana base. You may even consider withholding a land drop or two to keep Land Tax going, as those extra lands will increase the odds of drawing into future mana rocks that can then be added directly to play via Kayla. Modal lands Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge and Shatterskull Smashing //Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass provide excellent alternatives when mana is copious, with the first wheeling us into a new hand and the second providing flexible removal.

Urza's Saga
Inventors' Fair
Treasure Vault

The rest of our lands are an unsurprising, but useful lot that either fixes our mana (Battlefield Forge, Sunbaked Canyon, etc.) or allows us to take full advantage of a high artifact count (Urza's Saga, Buried Ruin, Inventor's Fair, and Spire of Industry, Treasure Vault).

Kayla's Reconstruction by Nicholas Elias

Budget Options: Alas, with mana efficiency often comes monetary cost. Queen Kayla bin-Kroog's deck makes full use of powerful cheap creatures and artifacts, but many are so sought-after that our wallet pays the price. Magic: the Gathering can be expensive, so here are some substitutes for players who'd rather not break the bank on cardboard. All cards over $20 will be noted and recommended for swap-outs. If anything seems interesting, regardless of price tag, give them a roll in the main! Creativity is a oft-forgotten cornerstone of Commander. One of the aspects that makes it special. Mix and match card choices to your heart's content!

Robber of the Rich
Conspiracy Theorist
Plargg, Dean of Chaos // Augusta, Dean of Order

Creatures: Our cream-of-the-crop 1-drops are the first to go. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer's impact on Modern has elevated him to Mythic royalty. Esper Sentinel has won Commander acclaim as Rhystic Study's little brother. Scale up to 2 mana, and the incredible Dockside Exortionist joins his high-rolling brethren.

For replacements that come in at the 1-3 mana mark, cards like Conspiracy Theorist, Containment Construct, Plargg, Dean of Chaos // Augusta, Dean of Order, and Venerable Warsinger all work well with our discard/graveyard theme. A classic Burnished Hart helps further mana development, and Robber of the Rich can begin pilfering cards from enemy libraries.

If we'd rather go-big, options expand even more. Cards like Angel of the Ruins, Bronze Guardian, Triplicate Titan, Skitterbeam Battalion, and Pyrexian Triniform hit for massive damage and connect with our scrap-yard subtheme.

Planar Birth
Dragonspark Reactor
Cathars' Crusade

Supporting Spells: Next, we lose Land Tax and Sensei's Diving Top, both excellent sources of card filtering/draw in our deck. Their raw power is tough to replace, but fortunately, the options are copious. If we seek land searching, Gift of Estates acts like a one-shot Land Tax, and Planar Birth can suddenly recur a whole slew of discarded Plains and Mountains directly to play, opening up our massive spells to be cast the old fashioned way. Keeping on-flavor, Kayla's Music Box offers a gradually flow of card advantage. Dragonspark Reactor takes time to get going, but its ability to serve as both creature, and eventually, player-removal warrants a look. Finally, with all the 1-, 2-, and 3-drop creatures entering play at once, Cathars' Crusade can grow an army of smaller creatures into a deadly assault out of nowhere.

Mana Options: When it comes to mana, the usual contenders get the axe: Arid Mesa and Urza's Saga. Sacred Foundry comes in just under budget. For substitutes, look to budget Boros lands like Furycalm Snarl, Needle Spires, and Temple of Triumph. Bringing in further utility lands like Scavenger Grounds or Blast Zone would also provide useful tools.

Osgir, the Reconstructor by Victor Adame Minguez

If you find your army of small soldiers and robots wiped out by enemy removal, take heart in knowing that reconstruction is right around the corner. Queen Kayla bin-Kroog saw her entire world take a Sylex-sized blast to the face, and she kept right on building. So too will you, via your continual supply of mass-recursion and Kayla's ability to dig for more answers. All too often, the forces of destruction get all the attention, but Kayla's here to teach us that there is alway an opportunity to rebuild.

Thanks for reading, and may your engines never run out of steam!



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