Kytheon, Hero Of Commander

The five Magic Origins flip-Planeswalkers are all pretty exciting for Commander, and today Bennie explores a color he’d normally shy away from — mono-white — to build around Kytheon, Hero of Akros.

The Magic Origins Planeswalkers make intriguing choices to build Commander decks around. One of the ways the cards have been balanced for Constructed play is to make the transformation from creature into Planeswalker conditional, so if you want to ignite their spark you’ve got to first draw the baby Planeswalker, and then you’ve got to fulfil the conditions to transform it. This can sometimes be tough to pull off in a duel where your opponent is actively trying to stop your plans or just flat-out trying to kill you quick.

In a game of Commander you can fulfil one half of the equation by putting the baby Planeswalker right there in your Command Zone, ready and willing to come out to play whenever you have the mana available. You can also fill up some percentage of 60 or so card slots with ways to ignite the spark drawn from every Magic set since the beginning of the game.

I’m sure it was no surprise that the two Planeswalkers I was most interested in building around were Liliana, Heretical Healer and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. From there, my interest waned a little bit. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy seemed obvious good in a deck chock-full of blue instants and sorceries, and that sort of deck wasn’t something I’m generally interested in. In a similar vein, Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh suggests a burn-heavy red deck that I’m not intrigued by either outside of as a mostly-intellectual exercise — how exactly do you build a viable burn deck in Commander where you have multiple opponents that all start at 40 life?

That left Kytheon, Hero of Akros. At first blush it seemed pretty straightforward that you’d want to build a very aggressive shell for Kytheon given that he’s a one-mana two-power creature and you ignite his spark by sending him into the Red Zone with a battalion of other creatures. But then I started looking at what you get with Gideon, Battle-Forged. First off, there’s no “ultimate” ability that you want to rack up loyalty counters in order to build up towards, his loyalty is there simply as a measure of damage he can withstand from attackers. That means we really need to evaluate the usefulness of each of those three abilities. The first would be used to lay a trap, forcing a creature to attack Gideon, presumably to its doom by your defenses. The next two are similar — the first makes one of your creatures indestructible (and untaps it) and the other makes Gideon indestructible.

Hmmm… there’s actually more to explore here than pure aggression!


Windbrisk Heights, Abu Ja’far, Basilisk Collar, Reconnaissance, Niblis of the Urn, Precinct Captain, Cavalry Pegasus, Sword of the Animist, Frontline Medic, Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant, Stonecloaker, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Soltari Champion, Crescendo of War, Odric, Master Tactician, Galepowder Mage, Hero of Bladehold, Sun Titan

Before we get to play with Gideon we need to get Kytheon into battle with some friends, so I’ve front-loaded the deck with a bunch of cards that can support that theme. Frontline Medic is the perfect companion since its Battalion ability makes your attackers indestructible, allowing you to swing into just about any defenses worry-free in order to ignite Kytheon’s spark. Playing Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant with at least 30 life can serve a similar role since it will flip right away and make your creatures immune to damage. Reconnaissance is another option since removing attackers from combat doesn’t erase the fact that they attacked. Abu Ja’far or a creature equipped with Basilisk Collar can make an opponent loathe to block so you can send them in to trigger Kytheon. Niblis of the Urn and Cavalry Pegasus can also help clear the path for attackers to get in there, and an instant-speed Stonecloaker can save an attacker from getting blocked and dying in combat.

Unfortunately, the creatures created by Brimaz, King of Oreskos or Hero of Bladehold won’t count towards igniting Kytheon’s spark – but they work great with everything else the deck is trying to accomplish, and they still set us up for a transformative attack the next turn without any more cards needed.

Since we want to send creatures into the Red Zone anyway, we might as well sprinkle in some cards that appreciate attacking. Windbrisk Heights can give us a free spell for our troubles, and Sword of the Animist can fetch out some Plains. Galepowder Mage can blink out a creature, and Sun Titan can bring back permanents from the graveyard. Odric, Master Tactician and cause all kinds of mischief!


Gideon’s Lawkeeper, Goldmeadow Harrier, Oracle en-Vec, Gideon’s Avenger, Court Street Denizen, Blinding Souleater, Kytheon’s Irregulars, Sunblast Angel

When researching cards for a Kytheon/Gideon deck I ran across Gideon’s Avenger, which can benefit from Gideon, Battle-Forged’s ability to force a creature to attack and thus, consequently, tap (provided it doesn’t have vigilance). Tapping creatures also removes them from being able to block, which is good when you want to attack, so I started looking for ways to tap down creatures. In a flavor slam-dunk, Gideon’s Lawkeeper was first on the list… but there are a fair number of creatures that can tap down creatures and then potentially participate in an attack (which is why I chose them over non-creatures like Icy Manipulator). We even have Kytheon’s Irregulars that fit right into the themes of tapping and attacking!

With all these creatures that can tap other creatures, it makes one of my sneaky favorites even better — Oracle en-Vec! You can potentially freeze out an opponent’s entire attack step by activating Oracle en-Vec with the threat of being able to tap down whatever creature(s) they may have wanted to attack with. Oracle en-Vec’s not a bad target for Gideon, Battle-Forged’s middle ability to untap and make something indestructible until your next turn either.


Maze of Ith, Order of Whiteclay, Godsend

Speaking of Gideon’s untapping ability, it occurs to me that Order of Whiteclay makes a great target to untap, potentially bringing back a creature who met an untimely demise. You can also untap an attacker equipped with Godsend to make attacking back into you really unappealing.


Kor Haven, Defensive Formation, Shaman en-Kor, Lieutenant Kirtar, Crescendo of War, Hixus, Prison Warden

So if we want to use Gideon to set up an ambush for a creature forced to attack, I thought I’d include some cards to help with that. With six mana you can do some fun stuff with Lieutenant Kirtar and Nim Deathmantle!


Daru Encampment, Forbidding Watchtower, Kjeldoran Outpost, Auriok Steelshaper, Veteran’s Armaments, Captain of the Watch, Darien, King of Kjeldor

Since Kytheon and Gideon (using his zero loyalty ability) are both Soldiers, I thought I’d add some Soldier-themed cards to the mix. Veteran’s Armaments in particular is intriguing since it’s one way you can boost Gideon to larger than a 4/4. Keep in mind that no matter which side of Kytheon/Gideon deals damage to an opponent it’s still considered Commander damage dealt by your Commander, so those early pokes with Kytheon do add up. Even late in the game, if you have to cast Kytheon from the Command Zone you can boost him quite a bit with Veteran’s Armaments and enough attacking creatures.


Quest for the Holy Relic, Leonin Shikari, Puresteel Paladin, Stoneforge Mystic, Hero’s Blade, Lightning Greaves, Sword of Light and Shadow, Dragon Throne of Tarkir, Worldslayer, Stonehewer Giant, Pariah’s Shield

If you’re playing a creature-heavy white deck it’s hard not to take advantage of some great Equipment-supporting cards available in the color. In particular it’s fun to have Leonin Shikari and Puresteel Paladin (with Metalcraft achieved) in play with some scary pieces of equipment you can throw around from creature to creature at instant speed. I can envision having Captain of the Watch in play so your Soldiers have vigilance, and attacking with five soldiers including Kytheon equipped with Veteran’s Armaments. Kytheon gets the bonus from Armaments and then you equip him with Dragon Throne of Tarkir at instant speed for free, spend two mana to tap and give all your other creatures +7/+7 and trample. Then you can move Dragon Throne over to the next Soldier down the line, spend two mana and tap it too in order to give all your other creatures a bonus equal to its power, including that first +7/+7 boost from Kytheon, and so on and so forth for however much mana you have to spend on tapping that Dragon Throne. Commander damage aside, it’s a good chance that’s killing the table barring a timely removal spell or Fog effect.

Pariah’s Shield is a handy combo with Gideon’s middle ability to make a creature indestructible until your next turn. And Worldslayer is a nasty combo with Gideon’s last ability, assuming you can connect with combat damage and blow up the world except for Worldslayer and Gideon.

Plains Matter

Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Quarry Colossus

If you’re running a monowhite deck it’s hard not to run these two “Plains Matter” cards that are quite good, especially with the new Commander all-star equipment Sword of the Animist. Quarry Colossus is a particularly troublesome card to deal with when you’ve got a Nim Deathmantle on board and four mana handy. Even though you can’t tuck a player’s Commander anymore, it can still be quite handy to use Quarry Colossus to force a Commander into the Command Zone.

Sweeper Protection

Nim Deathmantle, Hallowed Spiritkeeper, Karmic Guide, Reveillark

With all these creatures that we want to be attacking with, we can easily fall prey to the board sweepers that are very popular plays in Commander. Heck, I made room for Wrath of God myself because I can protect one of my guys by making it indestructible with Gideon! Nim Deathmantle is a hands-down favorite for that, but white also gives us Karmic Guide, Reveillark and Sun Titan to bring things back from the dead while Hallowed Spiritkeeper can unleash an army of flying Spirit tokens.


Ajani Steadfast, The Chain Veil, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Nahiri, the Lithomancer

Since our Commander will spend a lot of time as a Planeswalker, it only makes sense that we should play The Chain Veil – and since we’re playing The Chain Veil it only makes sense to sprinkle in some other Planeswalkers too. Ajani Steadfast gives us another way to boost all of our Planeswalkers and I like that Nahiri, the Lithomancer also plays into our equipment sub-theme. If we can ramp up to ten loyalty and create an indestructible Stoneforged Blade, that can be something sweet to equip to Gideon or anyone else for that matter.

I wasn’t entirely sure which Elspeth Planeswalker to pick, but I ended up choosing Elspeth, Knight-Errant because I think all three modes work great with many of the things my deck is trying to accomplish. She can make potential attackers to join Kytheon, give a potential attacker evasion, and if you ever get that emblem all sorts of bad things are in store for your opponents.

So here’s the Kytheon, Hero of Akros Commander deck I’ve cooked up:

Magic Card Back

I have to say I haven’t been excited about playing a mono-white Commander deck before making this one, but right now I’m pretty much on board. I’m curious to hear what you think, what changes you think would make it better, what cards do you think I missed? And if you have any questions about my particular choices, please ask. How would you build a Commander deck around Kytheon, Hero of Akros?

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visonary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)