Kytheon’s Origins In Standard

Nothing ignites the spark of imagination quite like the possibility of a turn-one planeswalker. Kytheon beats down like The Boss, and Tom has several decks to try him out in.

Magic Origins is just around the corner and it’s already got my wheels turning on how to incorporate new cards into Standard. There will be a lot of options, which means plenty of tools to brew with. Deckbuilders like myself will be going deep very soon.

I’ve been keeping up with the spoilers like everyone else, and the cards that have stood out to me so far have been two small white creatures. As cool as flashy expensive spells are, I favor the cheap spells that I’m guaranteed to play if they’re in my opening hand. The stars of the show today are Relic Seeker and Kytheon, Hero of Akros because there’s nothing better than attacking for two.

The next coming of Stoneforge Mystic? Doubtful, but I still consider Relic Seeker to be a good card. When Stoneforge Mystic was first printed, the only Equipment in Standard worth getting were Behemoth Sledge and Basilisk Collar, and the Basilisk Collar was typically fodder to pitch to Blightning. Still, a two-for-one was a two-for-one and Constructed tends to often be heavy on the attrition which means even a small touch of card advantage can go a long way.

There aren’t many good options as far as Equipment in Standard today goes. Currently the top contenders are Hero’s Blade and Godsend, neither of which are particularly efficient. Other options include Fleetfeather Sandals, Haunted Plate Mail, and Avarice Amulet.

Perhaps Magic Origins will have some good Equipment in it that has yet to be spoiled, or there will be enough Legendary creatures to push Hero’s Blade from “cute” territory into “baaaarely playable” territory. Right now there’s Anafenza, Kin Tree Spirit, Kytheon, Hero of Akros, and Brimaz, King of Oreskos, but that still feels a little light on good ways to utilize Hero’s Blade.

The other way for Relic Seeker to make its way into Standard is if those +1/+1 counters from Renown can be put to enough good use. The first thoughts I had were Gleam of Authority and Abzan Falconer, but a few others like Chronicler of Heroes are buried deep in Theros Block. So deep, in fact, that they make people say “That card is still in Standard?”

A one-mana planeswalker? There must be some kind of catch…

A 2/1 for W is nothing new to Standard, as we already have Mardu Woe-Reaper, Soldier of the Pantheon, and Dragon Hunter available to us but seeing little to no play. The indestructible activated ability on Kytheon is arguably less effective than the static abilities of the other existing 2/1’s. As far as traditional planeswalkers go, the flipped side is weaker than anything that’s seen print thus far.

But it’s a one-mana planeswalker. We can’t really expect the rate of a card that costs four mana.

The only definite liability of Kytheon, Hero of Akros is that he’s legendary and thus bad in multiples. However, once Kytheon is flipped into Gideon, you’re free to cast your second copy and the two will no longer interact now. Just be careful not to accidentally flip the second Kytheon since once the spark is fired, the change is mandatory.

If you want to flip Kytheon as early as possible, I can see a deck with like sixteen one-drops. Some could even be Monastery Swiftspear.


Turn one Mana Confluence, Kytheon.

Turn two Mountain, double Monastery Swiftspear.

Dream scenarios aside, I think the best place to start deckbuilding with Kytheon is in a basic mono-white shell. You want several creatures early and definitely white mana on turn one. Let’s look at some sample decklists with some focus on the Heroic mechanic since that’s what I’m most familiar with in regards to white Standard decks lately.

This is basically Jon Sutton’s 59th-place deck from Grand Prix Providence, replacing Soldier of the Pantheon for Kytheon, Hero of Akros. I did a Versus Video with this deck already which will be coming out soon, so check back early next month to watch this deck in action.

The deck had more punch to it than one would think at first glance. I’ve always wanted to find a home for Gleam of Authority as it is a very powerful card, albeit very fragile. The Bolster ability is a great combat trick that makes both attacking and blocking difficult for the opponent. Most of the creatures in the deck start with two toughness so you often have options available for whom to pump.

Abzan Falconer was very good and feels great against any deck that intends on winning by blocking on the ground. Being a 2/3 just so happens to dodge both Abzan Charm and Valorous Stance, two cards that are generally great at killing the best creature out of Heroic.

So where does Kytheon fit into the mix?

He’s very good with cheaper protection spells like Gods Willing and Ajani’s Presence instead of needing to use his indestructible ability to ensure he lives through combat. Even with Defiant Strike, he’s capable of brawling fairly hard for a one-mana creature

There are enough creatures to have two others attacking alongside him in most games. Even the threat of him flipping into Gideon may make the opponent play more defensively, using their removal spells early. While flipping him is certainly good, there will be opponents that will overvalue the planeswalker side.

The +1 on Gideon, Battle-Forged plays well with the outlast on Abzan Falconer and the bolster of Gleam of Authority. Also, one creature will tend to be pretty big and perhaps even have flying, which will often be enough of a threat to hold back an entire team of attacking creatures lest the opponent lose one of their creatures.

It’s a shame that +1/+1 counters placed on Kytheon, Hero of Akros don’t remain once he’s flipped into Gideon, Battle-Forged since Kytheon exiles before transforming. It’s not much of a loss, really, since I imagine Gideon will be used mainly for utility instead of as a 4/4 attacker. When a 4/4 is good, I imagine a 5/5 would be nearly the same. The biggest loss is the sometimes flying and the Gleam of Authority count. Oh well.

These are the cards I’m interested in updating the above list with

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit Heliod's Pilgrim Relic Seeker Hero's Blade Brimaz, King of Oreskos Soldier of the Pantheon Dromoka's Command

Let’s start with the card so good that W/U Heroic wanted to splash solely for it: Dromoka’s Command.

If Dromoka’s Command was good enough to jam into W/U Heroic, it must be decent here too right? It does seem really sweet with Abzan Falconer and friends. The manabase takes a hit by adding a second color, but the jump in power level might be worth it.

The fear here is that the deck is being filled with more cards that can possibly become stranded in hand if you don’t have any creatures in play. To make room, the Ajani’s Presences had to be shelved to the sideboard to maintain a high enough creature count. Another land had to be added to offset the slower nature of having to play with tapped lands in Temple of Plenty and the chance that you might not get the appropriate colored mana on time, like with hands with Forest, Plains, and Phalanx Leader.

Alternatively, if we played with more green sources it’d be possible to play some good green creatures like Fleecemane Lion and some bad creatures too like Servant of the Scale. I’ve always been a big fan of Arcbound Worker, and I really like the Servant too. If the mana necessary to support Servant of the Scale and Phalanx Leader together wasn’t so tough, there could be a sweet build there.

Let’s look at some toolbox versions of white that use Kytheon, Hero of Akros to beat down early while having some mid- and late-game versatility:

This version is a touch less explosive, but it has some good longevity and card selection with the Heliod’s Pilgrims. It’s sometimes easy to draw too many copies of a card like Gleam of Authority. The first copy is generally very good while the second’s strength drops off significantly.

Pacifism is a card that I’ve wanted to play in a Heliod’s Pilgrim deck since it was printed in Dragons of Tarkir. However, the format didn’t really have creatures that you only wanted to stop from attacking or blocking. Now that Deathmist Raptor is a big deal that you don’t want to put into the graveyard, it may be time to give Pacifism a chance. Being able to tutor for it with Heliod’s Pilgrim creates up to four virtual copies maindeck.

How about a mono-white Legend deck with Relic Seeker as additional copies of Hero’s Blade? There isn’t enough room for two toolboxes, so the Auras and Heliod’s Pilgrim can’t exist alongside Relic Seeker and Equipment. Once so many Legends are already in the deck, we have to start cutting the Heroic creatures – to the point that it’s not worth playing a Heroic theme anymore.

That Fleetfeather Sandals might be a stretch for playable Equipment cards, but this deck is really in the market for evasion of any kind and those shoes really do fit nicely. Again, hopefully Magic Origins has a reasonable Equipment card in it to go along with that Relic Seeker. There’s a smattering of borderline playable Equipment in the sideboard for whatever borderline situations may arise.

The land count has been bumped up since equip cost can get expensive when you’re trying to move them around post-combat. It could be possible that it wants one more land even, though something just doesn’t feel right about running 24 basic Plains. I need to have some Windbrisk Heights or something to feel right with this high of a land count.

I’ll be continuing to develop decks with Kytheon, Hero of Akros in the upcoming weeks. I think it’s the strongest of the transforming planeswalkers and can go in the most decks, including Modern ones. As for now, we can only make educated guess at what a good Standard home for him will be.

Which version do you like so far?