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A Traitor in Our Midst

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You would think that after enough times of being wrong about something, we, as humans, would accept that and not make the mistake again. Well, in my case this week, I can—and am fully willing to—admit I was wrong about Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

Of course, this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last of this type of creature—I’ll be ready for it in the future. Huntmaster of the Fells was probably not the first incarnation of this value midrange creature, but it was the first I remember not liking as much on release and then realizing just how wrong I was. Kalitas, to me, just felt to slow in a format in which it is outclassed by most creatures of the same cost and has no immediate impact on the board. What I failed to realize is twofold: First, Rally the Ancestors despises this card, and considering that deck’s popularity, it deserves a look for that alone. The second is how powerful this card becomes next to Murderous Cut.

Kalitas, Traitof of Ghet
This deck has been around for a while now, and though I do enjoy the place in the metagame, I am more focused on the one card in the ’board: the one at the top all by his lonesome. When I saw this at first, when decklists started rolling in this weekend, I thought it must be a mistake. There were a lot of singular copies of this card and none main anywhere in the Top 8, but there are two in Boris Pan’s ninth-place list.

Every time Kalitas showed up this weekend, it seemed that he was suddenly the only permanent in play, and while I am not as sold on Bring to Light to find him, I do believe he needs some love in the main, and that is just what I am here to bring this week. Being legendary, we probably won't be smashing a whole set in, but I want to start with a three-of and see what the shell looks like. Ideally, in order to maximize his potency, we need to have some cheap removal, possibly something that can be used as soon as he enters play. I was considering Liliana, Heretical Healer to pair with Fleshbag Marauder, but that may just be too much setup in the end.

The first goal of theory-crafting is to figure out what colors we are looking at pairing black with and see what options that opens up in terms of archetype and strategy. My go-to answers would be Abzan or Sultai, but I want to give every color a fair chance, and since mana is so great right now, we can easily look at a fourth color splash if needed.

Blue

This is the color I expected to be able to dismiss immediately, and while there are a few cute interactions, every list I came up with ended up just turning into Rally. If blue does make the final list, it will probably be the splash, as very little in the color interests me. Reflector Mage is a great push for blue right now, and even that is difficult to want to put next to Kalitas, so for now, we shelve Magic’s best color.

White

While we have no real shortage of removal available in black, it is appealing to open up options like Siege Rhino and Crackling Doom. Boris Pan’s list highlights most of the white I could find, and even that is mostly just there because the mana symbol happens to be attached to cards like Abzan Charm. I think this is more likely to show up than blue, but I would not expect it to be one of the primary colors.

That leaves us with the core of Jund colors left, and while that shard is not the typical thing we may find on Zendikar, the mana is there to support it. The addition of Hissing Quagmire not only gives us a great creature land and alleviates the need for Shambling Vent, it also fixes the mana for this particular color combination nicely.

Red

Of course, red has removal for days, but what else does it provide to bring us out of the early game and into a commanding board position? I am a huge fan of Radiant Flames next to Kalitas—with the lifelink and early removal and sweepers, it seems we have a strong start against the aggressive builds already, and that’s a place I like to be. Also, given the lack of removal in Rally, that matchup should be good for us in the main—Reflector Mage can present a problem, but if we have Radiant Flames already, we should be able to find a window to pull ahead, at least in Game 1.

Radiant Flames
Reflector Mage
Kolaghan's Command

Given that Kolaghan's Command is also available by adding red, I believe we are seeing the core of the deck shape up already. Now we either need some way to pull ahead early and keep the pressure on or compete with the late-game grindy decks. Kalitas certainly can help with the deck’s focus on a high creature count, but something like Esper Dragons may be an issue that needs to be addressed.

Green

Of course, the color of all things coming together—we may not have a Birds of Paradise or a Rampant Growth, but we do have the ability to play cards like Rakshasa Deathdealer that can be good against a variety of decks. I was expecting green to provide all of the answers to tie us together, but like white, it really is not doing much to impress me without other colors in the casting cost. Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor are fine cards, but they really do not operate well in the current metagame, and we already have a way to produce a creature advantage, so we don't need Deathmist Raptor for that.

Back-to-Back to Black

Since Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet comes with a double-black casting cost, we probably want to start looking heavier into black for cards that may build the pillar of the deck; this can give us a great idea of what we want from our splash color.

Ob Nixilis Reignited

This card seems premade to be played next to Kalitas; not only do we gain the ability to activate Kalitas the turn he comes down, we also have a draw engine from which we can put that life we will be gaining to work.

Ob Nixilis Reignited
Murderous Cut

Murderous Cut

This is just the most efficient way to activate Kalitas, and I am going to try to bring this number as close to four as possible. With cheap removal from red, we can hope to turn this on with a few fetches right on time for turn five.

This is the build I finally settled on. I was looking at Spatial Contortion as well and realized perhaps the best third color would instead be colorless. I will be continuing to work with Standard’s turncoat over the course of the season and will probably have a few different variations, as it seems this card has a great deal of unexplored potential with cards like Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim as well.

Colorless provided the creature base that I was looking for. Thought-Knot Seer is clearly very powerful, and backing that up with Kalitas ensures that, if you can pull out of the early game ahead, you should be able to close out the game in short order. Since we needed a third color for Radiant Flames, I settled on playing blue so we could access just a little more draw. I was forced to drop the Murderous Cuts to three, but I think it will prove worth the extra reload. This also offers a great deal of board options that may prove to shore up some of the heavier control matches.

I am curious to see what else the ex-Bloodlord can do, so if you have any other brews you have been working with, feel free to share below. As always, I am excited about the Pro Tour this weekend, so I am sure I will have a few words on Modern next week—and then we'll jump right back into Standard with a few other unexplored deck ideas and finally becoming caught up with what the metagame is breaking down into.


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