Commander Top 10: Kenrith, The Returned King!

It’s a five-color singleton festival on Star City Games! Bennie Smith builds around Kenrith, the Returned King and makes the most of those activated abilities! Training Grounds, anyone?

Wow—it looks like Throne of Eldraine has had a big impact across multiple formats since its release! I had made plans to do a Commander write-up for the Buy-A-Box promo Kenrith, the Returned King for a while now, but I certainly hadn’t expected the card to break into Standard in some of the Golos, Tireless Pilgrim decks. The card does great work in Commander, but I’m thrilled that Standard is in a place where the card can shine there too.

Let’s take a look at our newly returned King!

Kenrith reminds me of an older five-color commander you could use to helm a “good stuff” style of deck—Cromat!

Cromat doesn’t really demand too much of you to do its thing—just play five colors, and you’ll be able to activate its abilities here and there to boost Cromat. Nothing overly back-breaking or threatening, and because the abilities were all so color-intensive, it was really rare that Cromat could run away with the game.

Kenrith strikes me as a big step up for this style of commander. First off, the colored mana requirements of his casting cost and activated abilities are much more reasonable. You could easily cast Kenrith even if you don’t already have all five colors, and still make use of just a few of his abilities until you get all five colors online.

And the abilities are just way better! For one red mana, all creatures gain trample and haste—that’s just incredible! Whether it’s simply using it to give a freshly cast Kenrith haste and trample, or using it when an opponent is taking on another opponent with a few unreasonably large creatures, it’s a heck of a bargain for just one red mana.

All the other abilities are great too. Putting +1/+1 counters on a creature, gaining life, drawing a card, reanimating a creature from the graveyard—all are just solid ways to engage in a game of Magic, and are even better because you can use it to your own or to another player’s benefit, depending on the situation. I hope that Kenrith doesn’t get too hot in Standard, because I think just about every Commander fan out there is going to want to build a Kenrith deck at some point.

So let’s get into it—the Top 10 cards for a Kenrith, the Returned King Commander deck!

#1: Training Grounds

Four of Kenrith’s activated abilities use colorless mana, so something like Training Grounds saves a whole lot of mana each turn. If you’re drawing a card for two mana, that two-mana savings can be used to cast what you draw! Even if no other creatures in our deck have colorless mana activated costs, Training Grounds does a bunch of heavy lifting in our Kenrith deck.

Also doing heavy lifting with Kenrith:

Biomancer’s Familiar is another Training Grounds that can actually attack too, but being a creature makes it much more vulnerable in a game of Commander than an enchantment which is why Training Grounds gets the #1 spot. In terms of enhancing Kenrith, I also really like Blackblade Reforged. Kenrith already has a fairly substantial body and can give himself trample, so the large boost from this piece of Equipment can take someone down quickly with commander damage.

#2: Mother of Runes

Kenrith may seem rather innocuous compared to other flashy commanders, but savvy opponents will recognize that Kenrith’s activated abilities will run away with the game if left unchecked. That’s why we’ll want to invest cards into protecting Kenrith whenever we can, and one of the best of them is Mother of Runes. Mother of Runes can easily enter the battlefield in the early terms and be ready for action once you cast Kenrith.

I’m including a fair number of other cards that can help protect Kenrith from removal spells:

Nim Deathmantle is an old favorite, but often it’s hard to leave open four mana to recover a creature that died, but then not have that mana get wasted if you don’t need Nim Deathmantle’s triggered ability. Kenrith perfectly solves that problem by having all sorts of activated abilities you can use at the end step right before your turn.

#3: Cauldron of Souls

A King can’t rule an empty battlefield, so we’ll want some ways to keep his subjects from dying if we can. Cauldron of Souls is always a great card, but it’s particularly nice with Kenrith since his green activated ability adds a +1/+1 counter, which cancels out the -1/-1 counter from Cauldron of Souls giving a creature persist.

I’m including a few other ways to save the team:

Selfless Spirit is particularly nice since you can bring it back from the graveyard with Kenrith’s ability.

#4: God-Eternal Oketra

While you can certainly load up on ways to protect Kenrith from meeting untimely demises, ultimately opponents are going to overwhelm your answers to their answers. That’s why it’s important to play plenty of other scary and high-impact creatures that might draw your opponents’ fire away from the King. One of the best is God-Eternal Oketra, who spits out 4/4 Zombie Warrior tokens with vigilance whenever you cast a creature spell, letting you quickly develop a very aggressive battlefield in a hurry. It certainly is going to require some work for your opponents to contain the damage of God-Eternal Oketra, so in the meantime perhaps your King can sit off the side grinding out value.

I’m including some other high-quality creatures that demand attention:

I love having Rafiq as one of the 99 where I can, and he’s particularly valuable here since Kenrith can give your attacker haste and trample to go along with Rafiq’s exalted trigger.

#5: Scroll of Fate

Going along with threatening creatures is Scroll of Fate, an excellent way to get around counterspells and making attacking you a very risky proposition. Plus, sometimes you can just use an extra land in your hand as an instant-speed chump blocker if needed.

#6: Bloodthirsty Blade

Playing five colors gives you access to all sorts of creature control options, and I’ll put a lot of the best ones here, but one of the best of the bunch is a colorless Equipment—Bloodthirsty Blade! This little gem turns the best creature your opponents have into a loose cannon that has to attack but can’t attack you. Remember we talked about overloading our opponents’ removal spells? Here’s another way to do it!

I’m including some other cards that can help keep your opponent’s creatures in check:

While Fumble is more of a tempo play than a permanent answer, sometimes it can be a huge boon to also permanently steal any Auras or Equipment that may be attached to the creature you bounce and attach it to one of your own creatures. Our King surely appreciates fine gifts!

#7: Sylvan Reclamation

There are plenty of other permanents other than creatures we’ll want to interact with, and Sylvan Reclamation is the gold standard here. Instant speed, two-for-one card advantage, and getting to exile the targets would be awesome enough, but for some reason Wizards even gave it the ability to fix our mana if we needed to.

I’m including plenty of other ways to control other problem permanents:

Despark, Anguished Unmaking, and Utter End are great because they exile as well, and can even take down creatures if needed.

#8: Angel of Finality

Kenrith’s abilities means that if games go long enough, we have a really good shot at winning by grinding out value. One way that opponents can go over the top of our plan is with graveyard shenanigans, and in Commander there are tons and tons of them. Since we’re playing five colors, we have all the options here, and I think the best of the bunch is Angel of Finality. It’s surgical, targeting the most threatening graveyard player, and is attached to a reasonable body with evasion. If it dies it can be brought back from the graveyard with Kenrith.

I’ve got a fair number of other ways to control graveyards too:

#9: The Great Henge

Even though Kenrith provides a ton of value stapled right to our commander, I couldn’t resist finding room for the brand-new green powerhouse The Great Henge. I just love how it provides a steady stream of new cards whenever a nontoken creature enters the battlefield – say, when Kenrith brings back a creature from the graveyard. It’s also just insane with Cauldron of Souls since the extra +1/+1 counters cancel out with the -1/-1 counters from persist. With Kenrith on the battlefield this costs just four mana and provides you with two green back immediately, which you can use to add a +1/+1 counter to something that needs it.

I’ve got some other cards that help draw cards or provide some selection:

In particular I looked for more good creatures that could draw removal spells from our opponents away from Kenrith, like Tireless Tracker, Tatyova, and Muldrotha.

#10: Golos, Tireless Pilgrim

Last but not least, we want some ramp spells since Kenrith does cost five mana and gives us plenty of mana sink options, and the best of the bunch because we’re a five-color deck is Golos, Tireless Pilgrim. Golos can search out any land to help us fix our colors, and also counts as a big threatening creature if you’ve got the right seven mana available.

I’m also including these for mana ramp:

Since we’ve access to green I’d normally run Cultivate alongside Kodama’s Reach, but I do think Chromatic Lantern warrants a slot here, since it removes all color constraint from your mana and lets your Kenrith activations go wild.

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Kenrith, the Returned King
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 10-14-2019

And here are two handy charts courtesy of Archidekt, including that sweet, sweet mana curve broken out by color.

Kenrith Deck Stats

What do you think? Are there any cards I’ve overlooked? If you see any new cards from Throne of Eldraine that should find a home here, let me know!

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter! I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!

Also, come play Commander with me! Coming up November 8th is MagicFest Richmond right here in my hometown, and I’m planning on hitting the Command Zone there at least one of the days. The following weekend, November 14-17, is the always spectacular SCG CON! Their Commander Celebration has set the standard for incredible Commander experiences and I’ll be returning as a special guest so I’ll be in the Command Zone all weekend playing Commander!

But that’s not all—Star City Games will be putting on #CommandFestDC December 13-15th and I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be one of the special guests there. Stay tuned for more details as they become available!

Deck Database

I’ve been writing about the Commander format and Magic: The Gathering in general for nearly two decades. Visit the Star City Games article archives for tons of content dating back to January 2000!

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