Dear Azami: Release The Kittens

Need some inspiration for your Grand Prix Atlanta Commander Celebration? Dear Azami is here to help! Check out the latest cat-infested brew tweaked and optimized by Levi Byrne!

Hello again, Azamians (I don’t know if there’s a nickname for you readers, but there should be). I’m going to be writing the column regularly from now on, so Dear Azami is back on a somewhat normal schedule with Jess and I switching off every week. I’m excited to work with all of you, and hopefully I can do as well as Sean and Cassidy did before me. For those of you that didn’t read my test article two weeks ago, I’ve been playing Magic and Commander since around the time of Worldwake. My roster of decks changes pretty frequently, but it currently includes everything from a Heliod, God of the Sun deck that I play against people new to the format to a Bosh, the Iron Golem deck that’s well known for counter-killing players in response to infinite combos or Time Stretches.

With the Battle for Zendikar Prerelease fast approaching, (by the time you’re reading this, BFZ cards will be legal for Commander play), I was half-expecting to see some submissions asking me to build around one of the new legends. Instead, I found an old favorite from the back when I joined my current playgroup.

Dear Azami,

I am fairly new to Commander and have been playing for the past year. I was in a play group at work, but the other two have since quit
their jobs. Now it is just me playtesting decks against myself. I have no one to brew with or bounce ideas off of other than my wife. She doesn’t play
Magic so it’s kind of difficult. I have a couple decks that I have built. I have a mill deck with Mimeoplasm and a blink deck with Roon. I don’t have a
large collection due to my need to sell off all of my cards for financial reasons because my wife and I have been on one income since our daughter was
born. I have all five of the newest Commander decks and the Bant deck from 2013. I decided on Kemba because of her mana cost and her interaction between
the equipment. I also do not have a very large budget, but would be willing to shell out more for a few cards. That is why I have Stoneforge and a few
other expensive cards in the decklist. I tried to find equipment that not only pumped but added different mechanics as well. Card draw, evasion, control,
and other stuff. I have never built a Voltron type deck so I am not sure how to balance it out with the equipment and other spells. Your suggestions
would be much appreciated.

Thank you very much for your consideration,



Kemba, Kha Regent


Quietus Spike


Trailblazer’s Boots

Champion’s Helm

Gorgon’s Head

Witches’ Eye

Sigil of Valor

Prowler’s Helm

Chariot of Victory

Elbrus, The Binding Blade

Rogue’s Gloves

Sword of The Animist

Darksteel Axe

Sai of The Shinobi

Hero’s Blade

Explorer’s Scope

Infiltration Lens


Loxodon Warhammer

Konda’s Banner

Pennon Blade

Golem-Skin Gauntlets

Ogre’s Cleaver



Ajani, Caller of The Pride

Nahiri, The Lithomancer


Stoneforge Mystic

Brimaz, King of Oreskos

Stonehewer Giant

Ajani’s Chosen

Leonin Shikari

Auriok Steelshaper

Kor Outfitter

Raksha Golden Cub

Puresteel Paladin

Brass Squire

Auriok Windwalker

Steelshaper Apprentice

Taj-Nar Swordsmith

Vanguard of Brimaz

Sunspear Shikari

Whitemane Lion

Seht’s Tiger

Oreskos Swiftclaw

Leonin Abunas

Savannah Lions

Spirit of The Hearth

Leonin Elder


Quest for The Holy Relic

Steelshaper’s Gift

Heliod, God of The Sun


Banishing Light

Devouring Light

Leyline of Sanctity




Unified Strike

Purify The Grave

Iona’s Judgment

Path To Exile

Gaze of Justice


36 Plains

Back around the time of Innistrad, I’d just started college and had stumbled into a vibrant Commander scene on campus. For one reason or another,
there was an explosion of Kemba, Kha Regent decks in our playgroup not long after I got there, with four people building her within the space of a month or
so. Over time she fell out of favor, both because of how completely any kind of tuck shut the deck down and because there’s only so many three-way Kemba
mirrors you can play before the novelty wears off.

Since the tuck rule has been changed, going all-in on Kemba is actually a viable strategy now, as she provides built-in resiliency to many of the tools
that traditionally hobble Voltron decks. Diabolic Edict and other forced sacrifice effects won’t do much other than thin the ranks of your Cat tokens, and
even the best spot removal still leaves you with an army to attack with.

Now, let’s start changing things.

The Equipment


Elbrus, the Binding Blade Worldslayer Deathrender

Equipment are the heart and soul of a Kemba deck, but these aren’t pulling their weight. Elbrus, the Binding blade is illegal in your deck because the back
side has a black color identity. The other two come out because they don’t fit what the deck wants to do.

This is about the last deck that wants Worldslayer to go off, given that Wraths are one of the few effects you’re weak to. You don’t have a sacrifice theme
to trigger Deathrender on your own, and the most threatening creature you can cheat in with it is Raksha Golden Cub. I’ll pass.

Witches' Eye Ogre's Cleaver Gorgon's Head

Witches’ Eye gives a pretty mediocre effect considering you want Kemba swinging on most turns. Ogre’s Cleaver turns your commander into a three-turn clock,
but five mana is a lot to equip. If the numbers on it were reversed, I’d include it in a heartbeat. Gorgon’s Head is a fine card for the deck, but I think
you can do better.


Shuko Grafted Wargear Lightning Greaves Stormrider Rig

One of the biggest flaws of a Kemba deck is that you’re basically stuck on a two-turn delay before your cards come into full effect. Oftentimes you have to
play Kemba on one turn, then wait a turn to equip things to her, and then wait another turn to get any tokens out of the process at all. When you’re
curving out that’s not a huge problem, but it makes trying to recover from a sweeper devastating. You had the right idea with including Sai of the Shinobi
and Hero’s Blade to skip the middle step, so I’m adding four more equipment that either attach automatically or for zero mana. Lightning Greaves gets bonus
points for being ridiculous with Leonin Shiraki.

Sword of Vengeance Gorgon Flail Fireshrieker Godsend Neko-Te Kusari-Gama Nemesis Mask

You said you wanted to focus on giving Kemba combat keywords, so I added these to continue the theme. Sword of Vengeance comes with its own helping of
keyword stew, while Fireshrieker lets you get double the benefit out of any buffs you’ve given her. Gorgon Flail is slightly better than Gorgon’s Head, so
in it goes.

The next three don’t give normal combat keywords, but they are powerful abilities for Kemba to have nonetheless. Godsend makes in nearly impossible to kill
your Voltron-ed up commander in combat and can even push past Eldrazi or Blightsteel Colossus. Neko-Te and Kusari-Gama are oddball cards from Kamigawa, but
on a basic level they both make it much more likely that your opponents will let blockable attacks through rather than have a good creature locked down or
potentially lose their whole team.

Nemesis Mask is fairly unique for equipment in this deck. I didn’t put it in for Kemba to use, but for you to put it on one of her tokens and get your
commander through the most complicated boardstates unscathed.

Barbed Battlegear O-Naginata Bonehoard Inquisitor's Flail Strata Scythe

Focusing on giving your commander as many combat keywords as possible is a strong strategy, but you still need to up Kemba’s damage output at some point if
you want to go for the commander damage kill. Barbed Battlegear and O-Naginata are both cheap rates for a substantial power buff. Bonehoard, Inquisitor’s
Flail, and Strata Scythe will usually make her big enough that you only need to connect one or two times.

Darksteel Plate General's Kabuto Shield of the Avatar Swiftfoot Boots

Some more defensive options for the deck. Kemba’s biggest weakness is Kemba after all, so anything that makes her harder to kill is appreciated. Darksteel
Plate protects her from Wraths and general destruction spells, while General’s Kabuto stops combat damage and targeted removal. If you get both on her at
the same time, she’s invincible to everything short of Final Judgment. Shield of the Avatar quickly makes her immune to damage for as long as you have your
tokens, and Swiftfoot Boots lets you keep your shields up around Kemba and still stack up more equipments on her.

That’s it for the equipment, and we’re left with fourteen slots that need to come out of other sections.

The Planeswalkers


Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Let’s face it. He’s in here for an ability you can use once every three turns, and you’re running multiple equipment that do that ability better. Out he

The Creatures


Ajani's Chosen Vanguard of Brimaz Leonin Elder Brimaz, King of Oreskos

The cards that simply don’t belong. Your entire deck has four enchantments in it, so I can only presume Ajani’s Chosen is here for no reason other than the
fact that it’s a Cat. Even for an aggro-tribal list I’d question this choice, but you’re solidly in Voltron territory and don’t need to play subpar
creatures. Ditto for Vanguard of Brimaz, although I suspect it was included with the thought that equipments trigger heroic since the only cards you have
that trigger it are removal spells.

Leonin Elder is at least on-theme, but it isn’t any better now than
[card name="Golem's Heart"]Golem’s Heart[/card] was two weeks ago.

That brings us to Brimaz himself, who is a legitimately very good card. However, he doesn’t scale well to Commander, and he’s on the same place on your
curve as your commander. On top of that, his abilities aren’t relevant unless you’re on a full aggro plan, and you’re too interested in synergy to want

Sunspear Shikari Whitemane Lion Oreskos Swiftclaw Savannah Lions

More Cats without relevant abilities. You aren’t fast enough to go on full beatdown, so these are just dead weight. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting to see
Savannah Lions in a Commander list this week.

Kor Outfitter Taj-Nar Swordsmith Spirit of the Hearth

I know there aren’t a lot of cards that synergize with equipment, but that doesn’t mean you have to run the bad ones. Kor Outfitter won’t save you enough
mana to justify running him over another equipment, and Taj-Nar Swordsmith costs too much to get you a relevant equipment, especially since you’re running
36 lands with only Sword of the Animist for ramp.

Spirit of the Hearth is solid, but you already have Leyline of Sanctity, and I doubt you need multiples of this effect. Commit to your own gameplan.

The Spells



No longer necessary since I’ve added Darksteel Plate.

Devouring Light Excoriate Excise Unified Strike Iona's Judgment

Your list is packing a lot of removal. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I really doubt you need nine ways to exile things in your deck, let alone some
that are as narrow as most of these are. I cut the most expensive and conditional cards. (By my count you have four Soldiers for Unified Strike in the
whole deck, that’s not enough to hit anything relevant.) Some are getting upgraded, while others are moving over to make room for the larger equipment

Quest for the Holy Relic

Remember what I said about running bad equipment enablers? If Quest for the Holy Relic triggered off of Kemba’s tokens, it would be in the top five cards
for this deck, but as is, you’re running twelve creature cards including Kemba. Even working under the assumption that you play it on turn 1, you still
need to play your commander and cast a third of the creatures in your deck before you get any benefit from it. Pass.

Purify the Grave

I get that graveyard hate is good and you want something to help you fight The Mimeoplasm, but this only nabs two cards, and because The Mimeoplasm doesn’t
target, you can’t actually shut the Ooze player down. Sometimes limiting their options will be good enough, but I needed a last card to cut and Purify came
up just a bit short.


Oblivion Ring Swords to Plowshares

Some much better removal options than what you were running before. Oblivion Ring is the original Banishing Light, and being able to hit any nonland
permanent is too good to not run. Swords to Plowshares is essentially a one-mana exile effect without downside since you’re aiming to kill with commander
damage anyway.

Divine Reckoning

Normally speaking, Kemba decks can’t afford to run Wraths because taking out both Kemba and your army of Cats is a big no-no. But Divine Reckoning lets
you keep Kemba around, and assuming you had a halfway reasonable presence, beforehand your tokens will rebuild quickly. Your opponents get to keep a
creature as well, but Voltron decks are premised on the assumption that your best threat is better than their best threat, so that shouldn’t be a problem
most of the time. Flashback is an option if things go south a second time.

True Conviction Concerted Effort Coat of Arms

Up to this point I’ve put all of my effort into making Kemba herself as dangerous as possible, which will usually lead to the token army sitting back on
defense. These three cards give you the option to suddenly reverse a relatively non-threatening board into a lethal attack in one turn. Coat of Arms is
particularly explosive, just remember that it effects all creatures instead of just yours. Concerted Effort takes advantage of all the abilities granted by
equipment and passes them out to your whole team at the start of each turn, which is particularly funny with say, nonbasic landwalk.

The Lands



This is about the simplest manabase I’ve ever seen, but there’s nothing wrong with basics, and 36 is a good number of lands for a deck with a fairly low
curve. There’s just one change that needs to be made.


Emeria, the Sky Ruin

Pretty much the best land for mono-white, Emeria, the Sky Ruin gives you some late-game resiliency at the low price of coming into play tapped. Sometimes
it’ll even make more sense to let Kemba go to the graveyard instead of trying to pay the commander tax for the second or third time.

After all the changes we’re left with this:

For participating in this week’s article, you will get $20 in store credit to StarCityGames.com, enough to cover almost half of the changes we’ve made
here, which totaled $46.55. You said you were on a budget, so I’ve avoided adding the Kaldra pieces, Umezawa’s Jitte, and the Swords of X and Y, but they
are options if you want to splurge. There’s still three to four cards that are worth more than a couple bucks, but the overall makeover is still fairly

Jake, I had a lot of fun working on your list, and I hope you enjoy playing with the changes. Jess will be back next week, so Dear Azami is officially on a normal schedule.

Until then, may you all get a chance to release the Kittens!

Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com!

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