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Building Around Kangee, Sky Warden in Commander


A crowded pagoda overlooking a bay. A dragon flies in the sky nearby

The Harem in a Kiosk by Jean-Leon Gerome (1870). Pristine Skywise (Promo) by Adam Paquette.

Kangee... Kangee...

When will those clouds all disappear?

Kangee... Kangee...

Where will it lead us from here?

Apologies to the Rolling Stones, but the first thing that came to mind when sitting down to start this column was their old song "Angie."

Angie might be one of the greatest breakup songs ever, but today I'm hoping to get you to fall in love, not out of love, with this legendary Bird Wizard.

Kangee, Sky Warden

Kangee has both flying and vigilance and has a 3/3 body that gets better in combat. When Kangee attacks, attacking creatures with flying get +2/+0, and when she blocks, blocking creatures get +0/+2. That's not the sort of trigger anyone's likely to burn a Stifle or a Disallow to stop, so you're looking at five power when she attacks and five toughness when she blocks.

I've had some of my best games in recent years with my Lathliss, Dragon Queen deck. While that is a very different kind of deck than today's will be, I can still really get behind flying tribal with a little anthem pump thrown in for good measure. Kangee has a lower ceiling than Lathliss, but I'm optimistic that this can become a very fun casual deck with a singular focus on flooding the skies with your attackers.

I'm going to walk through the process I go through when building one of these decks. Every build will be a little different, but there are certain steps I go through that I think are worth explaining.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Every set of colors has its staples. I don't start with those, but they're in the back of my mind. Every deck gets Sol Ring. Green usually gets my trinity of ramp spells: Rampant Growth, Cultivate and Kodama's Reach. Red gets Chaos Warp. Black gets Toxic Deluge. Staples are essential for keeping up with a relatively competitive meta, but they're also a bit boring.

My starting point isn't to load up on staples. I usually start by looking at my commander and thinking of cards that naturally go with that creature. I also mean going to gatherer.wizards.com and doing some of the first searches that come to mind. In this case that meant searching for cards with "Kangee" in the name. That might seem a bit obvious, but it's a starting point, so it should probably be obvious.

Kangee, Aerie Keeper
Kangee's Lieutenant
Archetype of Imagination

I found four cards in my search results, two of which were worth running. The original Kangee was Kangee, Aerie Keeper, printed in Invasion way back in September 2000. While new Kangee cares about flying creatures, O.G. Kangee will let us pump up our Bird creatures. I'm not building Bird tribal, but there's every reason to assume I'll have plenty of them in this list. Kangee's Lieutenant is a Bird Soldier that will give attacking creatures with flying +1/+1 and has encore, allowing for some mid or lategame heroics if I'm able to recover from a boardwipe or some other setback and can mount another attack. I don't keep those token copies from encore, but it could still provide some much-needed pump for my flyers.

Beyond those easy includes, how nice it would be to keep all of my opponents' blockers on the ground? It's rare that you'll run into even two opponents running creatures with reach, so Archetype of Imagination ought to open up some pretty decent attacks. I'm going to be running mostly flyers anyways, but any Dragons, Angels, Sphinxes or even flying Bird Wizards my opponents control won't be flying as long as Archetype of Imagination is under my control.

Both Archetype of Imagination and Warden of Evos Isle would have come up in some of my later searches, but they popped into my head immediately just from having built way too many decks over the years. Cost savings is a form of ramp, but thinking about ramp got me thinking about what kinds of flying creatures I could run that would help me with my land drops. Pilgrim's Eye will put a basic land into my hand, which isn't ramp but which will help me keep putting a land into play each turn. Skyscanner will replace itself, which is a far cry from actually ramping, but card draw is really important. Some of those cards could be lands and when they aren't, that draw should help me dig down to get to the next land in my library.

I'm running Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Azorius Signet, Dreamscape Artist, Mulldrifter and a few other easy includes, but my next major step was to do a more serious search.

Creatures you Control with Flying...

To be specific, I searched for cards with rules text including "creatures you control with flying" that are not Red, Green or Black. That search let me see artifacts but screened out cards I couldn't run in a Kangee deck. From those results I was able to pick out some pretty good cards for this list.

Empyrean Eagle
Jubilant Skybonder
Sephara, Sky's Blade

Anthems are great for a deck like this one. I want to run lots of low-cost flyers so having ways to make a bunch of little threats into medium sized threats makes a lot of sense. Empyrean Eagle, Thunderclap Wyvern, Windstorm Drake and the enchantment Favorable Winds will each give my flyers +1/+1, though none of those first three creatures will buff themselves. Steel-Plume Marshal is a flying Bird Soldier that will give other attacking creatures I control with flying +2/+2 when it attacks. Rally of Wings is an instant that will give my flyers +2/+2 until end of turn. They all turned up in my search and they're all worth considering for Kangee.

Pump is important for a deck like this, but other effects are also important. Jubilant Skybonder will tax my opponents two mana to cast a spell targeting any of my flyers. Sephara, Sky's Blade will make my flyers indestructible. If I decided to build this list around Angels I'd also include Avacyn, Angel of Hope, but her high casting cost always feels like too big a risk.

Inniaz, the Gale Force
Mu Yanling, Celestial Wind
Serra the Benevolent

Inniaz, the Gale Force will let me pay mana to pump attacking creature with flying. I like that it's an ability that doesn't require Inniaz to tap, so I can do it more than once, but this creature's best trick happens when three or more creatures I control with flying attack. I'll get to swap some permanents around, which is the kind of thing that can be hugely impactful.

I don't often build around planeswalkers, but any deck this heavy with flyers ought to be able to protect them. Mu Yanling, Celestial Wind has some minor loyalty abilities, but if I'm able to get her up to her ult, I can give my flyers +5/+5 until end of turn. I hate building around effects that don't stick around, but that could be a huge increase in my damage output on the turn I use that ability. Serra the Benevolent gives me a little pump and can give me 4/4 white Angel creature tokens with flying. Serra's ult will go a long way towards keeping me alive if I'm up against decks that are trying to knock me out with damage.

Creatures with Flying...

My first search gave me lots of interesting results, but I wanted to see what I would get if I had just searched for "creatures with flying," keeping my color restrictions in place of course.

The first thing I found was that lots of creatures with reach have oracle text for the reach keyword reading "This creature can block creatures with flying." Lots of creatures with flying have oracle text for flying that reads "This creature can't be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach." I also found that there are plenty of flying creatures that can "block only creatures with flying." Clearly the more open your search is, the more junk you'll end up getting in your results. Still, there were still some interesting cards to be found.

Blinding Angel
Gravitational Shift
Tide Skimmer

Blinding Angel has a delayed combat damage trigger that will force any opponent it hits to skip their next combat phase. There are lots of causal decks for which that would be an incredible challenge to overcome. Gravitational Shift is a much simpler card, giving flyers +2/+0 and creatures without flying -2/-0. It affects everyone's creatures so it could backfire, but it will also shut down lots of go-wide decks so I think it's worth running. Tide Skimmer does nothing more than give me card draw every time I attack with two or more creatures with flying. It's a perfect fit for Kangee and a reminder that I need to make sure I don't forget to run enough card draw in this list.

Whenever a Creature with Flying...

Tide Skimmer reminded me of a Sphinx that didn't pop up in either of my search results. If I had only searched for "whenever a creature with flying" I would have found another three interesting cards.

Waterkin Shaman
Windreader Sphinx

I love and hate Soulcatcher. I love that it gets a +1/+1 counter any time a creature with flying dies. I hate that my creatures will probably be the ones dying. I also hate that I'll have to pay really close attention to the game so I don't miss any triggers. Opponents probably won't remind me of my Soulcatcher trigger, so I'll have to try to keep from missing any flyer death triggers on my opponents' boards. Waterkin Shaman is a bit better, but also a bit worse. I'll only have to pay attention to my own enter-the=battlefield triggers, which might seem a bit easier, but the +1/+1 is only until end of turn.

If those first two seem underwhelming, the next one is amazing. Windreader Sphinx lets me draw a card whenever a creature with flying attacks. I've got creatures with flying. I've got lots of creatures with flying. Windreader Sphinx will also trigger when my opponents attack. Not only that, but it's a "may" ability, meaning that I won't even draw myself out if an opponent attacks with a zillion flyers.

Windreader Sphinx isn't just amazing, it's also an apt reminder that this deck really ought to be running two other card draw heavyweights: Mulldrifter and Consecrated Sphinx. Both fly, and both are in their own ways great additions. Those staples then reminded me of a pair of "free" flyers that also work nicely for Kangee: Cloud of Faeries and Peregrine Drake. Those two creatures will untap lands as they enter the battlefield, effectively making them free for me to cast. I'm tempted to add in Deadeye Navigator to combo with those last two, but this isn't meant to be a combo deck so I'll be leaving it out.

Card Draw Flyers

My next search is for that all-important thing every Commander deck needs to run and run in spades: card draw. I specifically searched for creatures with flying and "draw a card" in their rules text that were under 4 CMC. I've got lots of higher CMC spells already and I want to keep this deck's mana curve from getting too bloated.

Cloudkin Seer
Loyal Drake
Nimble Obstructionist

Skyscanner is joined by Cloudkin Seer and Tome Raider as three-mana flyers that replace themselves when they enter. There were also flyers that would draw me a card when they die or would have me draw and discard, but I'm going with straight ETB card draw for now. Loyal Drake will have me draw a card at the beginning of combat on my turn if Kangee is on the field. Nimble Obstructionist might only have appeared in my search results because it has cycling, but it's a reminder that I need to leave room for interaction. When I cycle Nimble Obstructionist, I can counter target activated or triggered ability I don't control. I'm in Blue. There's no reason this deck shouldn't be able to interact with permanents AND interact with the stack.

Filling out the Flock

By now I've got a healthy list of creatures for this list. The next step was to add in cards I just can't do without. For this list it will be a smattering of interaction, card draw and ramp. The specific cards will have a lot to do with your budget and meta, but I'm going to load up on cards that are low costed and efficient.

Then I load the list into TappedOut.net and evaluate how much room is left for creatures. If I've got room - and at this point I don't know if I will - I'll evaluate whether to run small, low-cost flyers, big bombs like the Avacyn I mentioned earlier, flying token generators, or a mix of both.

Over the years I've begrudgingly learned the value of interaction, so I added in heaps of pinpoint removal, a few boardwipes, a few lands, and everything else I couldn't imagine doing without - I was pretty much at 100 cards. The list below is what I ended up with.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm sorely tempted to ditch one or both of my planewalkers and throw in that Avacyn, Angel of Hope or a few Thopter, Drake or Faerie token generators. I was even thinking about running Storm Herd, but that bomb of a sorcery is very much a "win more" card. I quite recently got my butt kicked by another card that would be a good addition: Finale of Glory. That sorcery can create X 4/4 white Angel creature tokens with flying and vigilance if X is 10 or more, perfect for Kangee and perfect for knocking me out of that particular game.

Any deck meant to be played in casual EDH games can be tweaked here and there and will still keep its core intact. This Kangee list is no exception. You could shift over to a Drake, Thopter, Angel or Sphinx tribal build with a dozen little changes and still have a fun build to play with.

Your searches would surely be different than mine were, but the basic premise remains. You use gatherer.wizards.com as a tool to find the cards that make the most sense for what you're trying to do with a deck, starting with low hanging fruit and refining your searches until you've got a good core. You focus on low mana and highly synergistic choices and you try to leave room for a second round where you'll add in ramp, interaction and card draw to fill out the list.

Final Thoughts

If you've played lots of casual EDH and you've never built a deck that goes all-in on a single mechanic, I'd definitely urge you to give it a try. Going in on flyers can leave you with a fun, playable deck capable of defending itself and winning its share of games in the red zone. I swear by my Lathliss deck and love the occasional game where all I'm worrying about is playing out my Dragons and swinging them at people. I could definitely see a tuned Kangee list being quite effective and possibly a bit faster than my Lathliss deck, given that Dragons generally cost more to cast.

I noticed that this first draft didn't end up having anywhere near the number of cheap flyers I expected to end up with. I suspect that if I built this in paper, I'd end up with a fairly different list. Stormtide Leviathan might fit in nicely, as it would keep creatures without flying from being able to attack. Blazing Archon might also work out well. It's a flyer, and it will prevent creatures from attacking me, but it does have a daunting casting cost and I've been steering away from that end of the mana curve in recent years.

If you've built Kangee, I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's list. How did you approach the build? Did you lean into one particular tribe, play Azorius goodstuff, or find some new angle (or Angel) to explore?

That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll leave you with another line from the Stones.

"Kangee... you're beautiful, but ain't it time we said goodbye?"

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