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Building Around Ao, the Dawn Sky in Commander


The year was 2004. We were just coming off one of the wildest times in Magic's history with the Mirrodin block. I was going into high school up in Buffalo, New York and getting to know a lot of people who I'd started playing Magic with at my lunch table. We all played a bunch of different decks where anything could go on. It wasn't really FNM or Pro Tour caliber or anything, just a bunch of casual fans playing what we could.

Then we started to get stuff for a new set called Champions of Kamigawa. At the time, I hung out with a lot of anime and Japanophile nerds, and we were super excited for it. The previews trickled in and, while they weren't the most powerful cards, we weren't the biggest and best players either, and we ate it up. Everything was a legend, the influence of the source material was notable if flawed, and it just seemed pretty exciting to us all. One of the coolest aspects of this set, however, was undoubtedly the five legendary spirit dragons.

Yosei, the Morning Star
Keiga, the Tide Star

Jugan, the Rising Star
Ryusei, the Falling Star
Kokusho, the Evening Star

These cards were just everything and felt like one of the absolute crowning achievements of the set. As a casual player, they looked like a dream. Giant creatures that were monstrously heavy hitters and got you a big effect should they die. They were all awesome and still remain favorites to this day. Heck, I still throw at least a few of them - if not all five - in my Cubes from time to time.

With our first proper return to Kamigawa for the first time in almost 20 years with Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, we got a set of all new dragons. While I'd argue these dragons don't have quite the same awe-inspiring vibe the originals did once upon a time, there's no denying that they're still cool as hell. Each one does something neat and interesting and can completely change a game of Magic in the right setting.

Ao, the Dawn Sky

The one that really caught my attention, though, was Ao, the Dawn Sky. In a way, it's fitting, as the one I always remember best from the original block was Yosei, the Morning Star. The similarities, however, basically end at the card's color. While Yosei could basically lock opponents out of their untap steps, Ao struck me for the sheer amount of value it produces. It allows you to either spit out a ton of potent cards from your deck or pump up your board if you have the mass of creatures to do so. This got me thinking of how it could make a great weenies deck given the low mana cost Ao looks for and I set out to make a list. Let's check it out!

Ao, the Dawn Sky| Commander | Paige Smith

With this list I sought to take a bit of a White Weenies and/or White Aggro strategy and fit it into a list. I narrowed a search to White and Colorless cards with four or less mana value and went to town, searching out several of the best aggressive creatures and value permanents I could find. Because Ao looks for all nonland permanents - not just creatures - it opens the deck up to being able to find some really nice artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers as well.

A lot of the staples are pretty well represented here. Can you think of a decent White creature - likely a hatebear - that's four mana or less? There's probably decent odds it's in here. Cards like Thalia (both kinds), Grand Abolisher, Aven Mindcensor, Fiend Hunter, and Odric, Master Tactician all show up. It's also possible to hit cards like Banishing Light and Oblivion Ring to take out problem cards your opponents might have on the battlefield. You can even luck into a Walking Ballista and Heliod, Sun-Crowned combo for the win if you're lucky enough and/or set things up properly!

Grand Abolisher
Fanatical Devotion
Gift of Immortality

Getting Ao off the battlefield isn't always the easiest, but you can make it work easily with the likes of Fanatical Devotion and Phyrexian Altar. Using cards like Gift of Immortality and Adarkar Valkyrie, however, you can make it so that Ao keeps coming back, allowing you to accrue more and more value the more time passes. In fact, speaking of the Valkyrie, it's one of the only spells in the deck with a mana value greater than four. The only other two are Austere Command and Sun Titan, both of which play really nicely with a deck filled to the brim with small casting cost critters. I did consider Yosei, but figured the deck really needed to just focus on the little guys and didn't really quite fit with this list here.

That said, Ao seems like an extremely cool Commander and provides some stellar play. If he sticks around, you get to beat your opponents to a pulp with him. If he dies, then you get showered in value...and then you beat up your opponents with the value that you gained. If you're looking for an aggressive deck, I highly recommend giving this deck a try at your next Commander night. There's lots of great ways to customize it with what you have available to you and is super easy to build thanks to its extremely low mana value average. Try him out and have a great time spitting out your deck and taking down opponents hard and fast.

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

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Commander HQ: Decklists and Strategy for Kamigawa Neon Dynasty's Legendary Creatures!

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