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Building Around Ardenn and Kediss in Commander

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Marino Casino by William Ashford (1776). Dragonsoul Knight by Justin Sweet.

Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar is the kind of card I fall in love with. I like playing ways to push damage out to all my opponents at once, and I have a history of building around creatures like Purphoros, God of the Forge, Hallar, the Firefletcher and Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. With Kediss we now have a way to funnel another of my favorite things - a commander's combat damage - out to all of your opponents at once. Only the damage dealt in combat will count as commander damage, but it's still the same basic plan: spread the love.

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist
Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist reminds me of Balan, Wandering Knight. I always wanted to build a Balan deck. He has an activated ability that allows you to attach all Equipment you control to him at instant speed. It's a neat trick, and Ardenn has his own take on attaching equipment. Ardenn allows you to attach any number of auras and equipment you control to target permanent or player. You can build Ardenn with auras, you can play with enchantments that attach to players, you can pick and choose what you move around, and you can attach them to any legal target.

My first draft of this list only scratched the surface of what you can do with our intrepid Archaeologist. Adding Kediss to the mix makes me think we need to lean towards prioritizing commander damage, and that's not a strategy I've ever shied away from.

The Path Not Traveled

I'd like to take a moment to touch upon an interesting idea I chose not to pursue. None of my ideas today are particularly competitive, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. I'm a believer in the idea that when you try to do everything, you risk being able to do nothing well.

Captivating Crew
Grafted Exoskeleton
Glaring Spotlight

The plan would be to run cards that allow you to steal a creature from an opponent. Act of Treason effects aren't great because you have to give the creature back, but if you can attach equipment like Grafted Wargear, Stitcher's Graft or the incredibly powerful Grafted Exoskeleton, you can then move the equipment off of the stolen creature and be forced to sacrifice it. Stealing an opponent's commander will allow you to use Kediss to push that damage out to all your opponents. Commanders often get scary big, and they often have hexproof, so ways to get around that are essential in a deck built around this plan. This very much feels like a patented Jason Alt "75%" build and I'd love to see his take on it someday.

I think this plan could have legs. Running a few high-impact auras and equipment, stealing an already big commander, making it bigger, swinging at someone, and then sacrificing it isn't going to make you a lot of friends but there's no reason to think it couldn't work. I personally tend to lean away from playing decks that steal my opponents' stuff so I didn't want to start out with this version of Ardenn and Kediss.

Bludgeon Brawl

I decided to build around an enchantment I've never managed to squeeze a win out of, but I've long admired the odd twist it brings to games.

Bludgeon Brawl

Boros decks tend to lean pretty heavily on mana rocks to get rolling, so this deck is going to go all in on that plan. I'm running every budget mana rock and I'm even running cards like Spectral Searchlight, Ur-Golem's Eye, Thran Dynamo, Dreamstone Hedron and an old Sisay's Ring from Visions that I had lying around. A high CMC for my mana rocks might make this deck less competitive, but it will also play into my plan of turning them all into equipment, attaching them to Ardenn and swinging for a nice chunk of damage.

I'm also running low-CMC equipment cards that have high equip costs, ways to give double-strike and ways to make Ardenn unblockable.

Ogre's Cleaver
Fireshrieker
Hot Soup

Ardenn is a 2/2, and with an Ogre's Cleaver and a 4-CMC Thran Dynamo attached, he'll be an 11/11. He'll be able to swing for lethal with a Fireshrieker in one hand and a bowl of Hot Soup in the other.

Leaning on Lifegain

Another part of this deck's game plan is going to be to try to use Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar to gain enough life to get out of range of most casual decks' strategies. Having a huge life total might be impressive, but we'll still be vulnerable to combo, infect and commander damage. I play at lots of tables that can deal with infinite lifegain so just getting a high life total won't be seen as an overly powerful strategy.

I'm running lots of ways to give a creature lifelink. Loxodon Warhammer, Basilisk Collar, and even the soulbond creature Nearheath Pilgrim will let me give one of my commanders lifelink. With Kediss on the field if I'm able to hit an opponent for 10 damage at a four-player table I'll gain 10 life from the combat damage and then another 20 life from the noncombat damage Kediss allows me to push out to everyone else.

If I'm able to get lifelink and either Spirit Link or Spirit Loop out, I'll get twice the life gain because those two auras don't actually give a creature lifelink. I might even choose to transfer one of them onto an opponent's big beater so that if they deal damage with it, I'll gain a bunch of life. When equipment and auras that give lifelink are attached to an opponent's creature, they will have the creature's controller gain the life, but Spirit Link and Spirit Loop care about who controls those auras. That's why those two auras can supplement a creature's lifegain.

Sunbond
Reyav, Master Smith
Embercleave

Sunbond is an aura I've always loved. In Kenrith, the Returned King it allows you to gain 5 life and then give the creature enchanted with Sunbond five +1/+1 counters. With my lifegain strategy, hitting an opponent with Ardenn would gain me life from the combat damage and then more life from each opponent that Kediss lets me push damage to. All that lifegain will translate into +1/+1 counters on the enchanted creature.

If that sounds spicy, it gets better with double strike, which he can get from Fireshrieker, Reyav, Master Smith or Embercleave. At a four-player table, hitting for 6 and pushing 6 out to each of your opponents will put 18 +1/+1 counters on Ardenn. The opponent will take 6 damage in the first strike damage and in the regular combat damage, they'll take 24 damage. They'll die and you'll gain 72 life. That's not half bad when you're looking at a four-mana enchantment and a combat that started with a 6 power Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist.

Odds and Ends

We know we're running heavy with our mana rocks and we've got a lifelink/lifegain strategy that might just put us out of reach of our more casual opponents. The rest of this build is a mishmash of cards I had lying around after taking apart a few other decks. What that means is that I'm running more than a few cards that have better versions that I'm not including, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't run those better versions if you have them available.

Stonehewer Giant is a perfectly serviceable tutor, but if I had my druthers I'd be running Stoneforge Mystic. I even just bought one, but threw it into my shiny new Nethroi Elf Combo deck. That list has hopes of being a high-powered combo deck and this list is looking to be a slightly more casual affair. I'm also running Open the Armory, but not Steelshaper's Gift, only because I couldn't find a spare copy. Taj-Nar Swordsmith will let me pay mana when it comes into play to tutor up a piece of equipment and put it onto the battlefield. Auratouched Mage will let me tutor up and attach an aura to it.

Colossus Hammer
Eldrazi Conscription
Kemba, Kha Regent

Taj-Nar Swordsmith will gladly pay a mana to tutor up my Colossus Hammer, which will give the equipped creature +10/+10. Auratouched Mage can grab Eldrazi Conscription for another +10/+10 and annihilator 2. Either of those play really well with Ardenn, who lets me move equipment and auras around for no cost at the beginning of combat.

If for some reason the main plan of equipping and swinging with either Ardenn or Kediss doesn't seem like it's going to work out, I've got a backup plan in Kemba, Kha Regent. Kemba will be very happy to get suited up with a bunch of equipment or even mana rocks if I've got Bludgeon Brawl on the field. Building up a small army of 2/2 Cat creature tokens might not be as quick a way to end a game, but it'll give me a boardstate and sometimes that's just what's needed to stay in the fight.

The Decklist

There are a lot of interesting cards I could easily have thrown into today's list that found their way to the cutting room floor. I considered running damage doublers to make my path to 21 with Arden (or Kediss) just that much easier. My plan to go after a Bludgeon Brawl strategy would be a lot easier with a Gamble, Enlightened Tutor, Idyllic Tutor or even the six-CMC Plea for Guidance in the mix. I'm building this in paper and simply don't have spares of all those cards available right now.

Ardenn and Kediss EDH | Commander | Stephen Johnson


It feels a little odd to only be running 30 lands, but with the number of mana rocks and a relatively low mana curve, I think this list should be able to squeeze by. Land Tax, Smothering Tithe, Sword of the Animist, Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart will all be available to jump in and help us stay in the game if we're not drawing lands at a decent rate. Fifteen mana rocks and a Blinkmoth Urn should help as well but the temptation to load up on tutors for Bludgeon Brawl and run even more mana rocks is very real.

Final Thoughts

My casual decks often go through a lot of versions and some never really find a "final form," instead serving as an ever-changing playground for new ideas. I suspect if this deck plays well enough in casual games, I may eventually take that step into an all-in Bludgeon Brawl plan. I'm not about to suggest that's a good plan, but I think it would be fun to try. I might even throw Valduk, Keeper of the Flame into the mix along with other cards that play well with large piles of equipment.

It's worth mentioning that I've already built, played and scrapped my Nethroi Elfball experiment. I pivoted to using Kethis, the Hidden Hand as the commander and on a lark I stripped out almost everything that wasn't an Elf. So far, I'm bullish on my all-in Abzan Elves deck and may well share it with you in the coming weeks. That rework means that I've now got a Stoneforge Mystic and a Steelshaper's Gift ready to get dropped into Ardenn and Kediss.

You might wonder why I didn't run all the "swords of blank and blank" in my list. Feast and Famine, Light and Shadow, Peanut Butter and Jelly. They'd all work well in a list like today's, but my hipster tendencies lead me to prefer to run stuff like Ogre's Cleaver, Mask of Avacyn and Hot Soup. I also didn't have a pile of Swords lying around waiting to be slotted into a deck. Sword of Light and Shadow was available, but I don't want to give protection from White, as that would keep Ardenn from targeting the equipped creature to give it even more toys to play with.

I love equipment decks because they have a lot of room for a player to do interesting things. You could run all the swords, but you could also run all the cards with Living Weapon.

Batterskull
Bonehoard
Strandwalker

Those will create a Germ creature token which the equipment automatically attaches to. You could also run the Grafted weapons and use that treason effect strategy to steal creatures, use them, and then force yourself to sacrifice the creature when you remove the Grafted equipment.

I could even run the old Kaldra cycle: Sword of Kaldra, Helm of Kaldra and Shield of Kaldra, so I have that extra fun goal of trying to make that sweet 4/4 colorless legendary Avatar creature token named Kaldra. There's really a lot of things you can do if you're playing in a casual meta and you're not stuck with having to run the best of the best just to keep up with powerful decks in stronger color combinations.

That's all I've got for today. I'm guessing I won't be writing about Kediss again anytime soon, but if there's a new commander or partner pairing you'd like to see me dive into please let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!

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