Spy Kits 3-D

Why are all inspired Commander decks based on legends? Why can’t we build decks around cards that aren’t legendary but are seriously cool? Bennie Smith gets his espionage on this week!

Conspiracy: Take the Crown is upon us! I cannot wait to draft the set for Friday Night Magic, but I also cannot wait to get my hands on a handful of new cards that are going to play great in Commander. Last time I talked about Queen Marchesa and the monarch mechanic. Whenever a new set comes out, I typically see cards for Commander play in two ways:

1. This new legendary creature is going to be nifty to build a Commander deck around!

2. This new card is going to play great in a deck built around (insert legendary creature here) and/or be great in any deck playing (insert color here).

Basically, each Commander card I see is usually very commander-focused. I refer to this as top-down deckbuilding. But there are cards that prove to be exceptions. Sometimes you see a non-legendary card that is so cool, so weird, so funky and odd that you have to build a deck around it. I refer to this as bottom-up deckbuilding. This style of deckbuilding is rather difficult for several reasons. For one, you have a singular copy of the card that’s caught your fancy buried in a 99-card deck, and if it’s not your commander, it’s not going to be regularly available to you. As any combo player can tell you, it’s pretty tough to combo when you don’t draw the critical card.

Of course, Commander includes pretty much every tutor card ever printed, so there are ways to make your deck better able to consistently find the card you want to build around. I usually try to minimize these sorts of cards in my Commander decks because I feel one of the strengths of the format is having each of your games play out differently, but when you’ve got a really cool/weird/funky/odd card you want to build your deck around, I make an exception on including tutors.

The downside to playing a bunch of tutors is that your opponents quickly get the idea that you’re trying to assemble some sort of combination of cards, and likely will find it in their best interest to stop you from doing it. Because of this, bottom-up-designed Commander decks tend to be a bit fragile and can sometimes just spend games not doing much of anything, so you need to weigh to downsides against the upside of pulling off something that will talked about for years to come.

From Conspiracy: Take the Crown, one card leaped out to me as something I wanted to build a bottom-up deck around, and that card is Spy Kit!

When you first read the text, it certainly comes across as a weird card, and something that really hasn’t been done before, which is cool. Then you realize how nicely it plays with some of the “hidden agenda” conspiracy cards (Hired Heist, Assemble the Rank and Vile) in the set, where you name a card and the conspiracy does something neat with it. With Spy Kit, any creature can take advantage of the conspiracy, which is really neat—I’d certainly recommend snagging a Spy Kit whenever you see one in a draft!

If you’re like me, you started pondering uses for Spy Kit outside of Conspiracy: Take the Crown Draft, which leads to a subset of cards that have not really had much play out in the wild. I’ll call them “same name” cards, since putting those words into card databases is the easiest way to find them. It quickly becomes obvious why a lot of these cards have been gathering dust in the recesses of deck boxes and trade binders: none of them are particularly powerful compared to other cards you can play in Constructed formats, and the most popular casual format – Commander – is a singleton format, in which these cards are actively bad without some severe weirdness going on.

But if you’ve got Spy Kit equipped to a creature on the battlefield… some really crazy things can happen! It probably helps to read the release notes Wizards published about Spy Kit:

· The set of names the equipped creature has includes the names of all nonlegendary creature cards in the Oracle card reference, including the back faces of double-faced cards. Notably, the equipped creature won’t gain the names of tokens, such as Zombie, Goblin, and similar. It also won’t gain the names of noncreature cards that have become creatures, such as a Wandering Fumarole that has become a creature.

· If you named any nonlegendary creature card for hidden agenda or draft abilities that refer to a creature on the battlefield, the equipped creature will have that name and will qualify for any relevant bonuses. For example, equipping Spy Kit to Noble Banneret will enable Noble Banneret’s last ability (as long as you noted a nonlegendary card name for it).

· Some creature cards have abilities that function during the draft and additional abilities that refer to cards you exiled or information you noted with “cards named [this card’s name].” These abilities are linked, so equipping Spy Kit to such a creature won’t affect the set of cards it exiled or the information you noted.

Let’s take a look at some of the cards we might want to include in our Spy Kit deck:

Same Name Shenanigans

One thing that might bring some confusion—some of the old cards are printed with words like “copy of target creature card.” The Oracle text on them now says “permanent card with the same name as target nontoken creature.” If you’re pulling these shenanigans for the first time at your Commander table, you may want to have some snaps of the Oracle text handy.

First off we have cards like Mask of the Mimic, Retraced Image, and Bifurcate, which you can basically use to cheat something huge onto the battlefield if that’s the game we want to play. And isn’t that exactly the sort of payoff we want to have if we’re going to all this trouble with Spy Kit? The card that immediately came to my mind was Blightsteel Colossus, because what’s a bigger haymaker than Blightsteel Colossus? There are a couple other bigguns I’ve got in this list that I could see serving some utility functions while still being big and bad.

Then we’ve got cards like Pack Hunt and Remembrance that won’t cheat bigguns onto the battlefield but can help stock your hand with other useful creatures. I was also thinking of transmute creatures, since you could turn them into actual spells if you wanted to.

Then we’ve got cards like Echoing Truth, Izzet Staticaster, Maelstrom Pulse, Evil Twin, and Severe the Bloodline, which let your sacrificial spy turbocharge your removal spell.

Last up are cards that create a lock with Spy Kit: Bazaar of Wonders and Cornered Market. Once you’ve got a creature equipped with Spy Kit and one of these enchantments on the battlefield, no one can play any more creature spells. That includes you, so make sure you have a battlefield advantage before you put together this combo. Something like Kedrekt Leviathan or Luminate Primordial can come in handy. I’m probably also going to run Aetherize, Profaner of the Dead, and Evacuation as additional ways to set up a favorable battlefield for the soft lock.

Another card I think I want to try is Wort, the Raidmother, since I may often be able to conspire some of these funky spells to get double the fun.

Okay, so I think I’ve found enough to make the Spy Kit worthwhile, so let’s make sure we can find Spy Kit.

Find the Spy Kit!

Since Spy Kit is an Equipment card, we have no shortage of ways to find it in white. Assuming we’ll be shuffling our library on occasion, we can also make sure of Brainstorm, Scroll Rack, and Sylvan Library. These cards also have the upside of letting us trade in our shenanigans cards for other cards if we have not yet been able to get Spy Kit onto the battlefield.

Equipment Matters

Since our focus card is a piece of Equipment, it also makes sense to include some “Equipment/artifact matters” cards. Ways of shaving the cost to equip are quite handy, such as Sigarda’s Aid, Puresteel Paladin and Kazuul’s Toll Collector, and being able to equip at instant speed with Sigarda’s Aid and Leonin Shikari is quite nice too.

Many years ago I traded for a severely worn Guardian Beast, and while I don’t play with it much, I think it certainly deserves a spot here protecting your glass cannon (it now reads that it gives your artifacts indestructible). Leonin Abunas does a pretty good job protecting your artifacts too and is a much cheaper card.

Espionage Recruits

While any creature can pick up a Spy Kit and turn on your shenanigans, wily opponents will likely try to kill your creatures when you attempt to equip them with Spy Kit, so I think it makes sense to sprinkle in some truly stealthy hexproof creatures to join your espionage department.

Okay, so I think I’ve built our glass cannon as robustly as I could, but sometimes your opponents – or your deck draws – are just not going to cooperate, and so I think it wise to include some other options in the deck.

Plan B

In addition to Scroll Rack, I’ve included Desolate Lighthouse and Geier Reach Sanitarium as ways to trade shenanigans cards for action in case Spy Kit is just not going to happen. I’ve also included some other prime pieces of Equipment to play nicely with your “Equipment matters” cards.

So I’ve got most of the deck put together, and I just now realize I haven’t picked a Commander yet. I pretty much need green, blue and white, and black is very handy as well. I’ve got a few good red cards but certainly don’t need to go that route, but unfortunately we don’t – yet – have a four-color commander available to us, so we’ll need to go five-color. Cromat is my go-to five-color commander if I’m not really focused on commander shenanigans, but I think this time I’m going to go with Child of Alara, since the wee babe can help clear the battlefield and get you on the path towards establishing a favorable battlefield to execute your shenanigans.

Here’s where I think I’ll start:

Child of Alara
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 08-26-2016
Magic Card Back

Can I share a vision I have looking over this decklist? Imagine this: the battlefield is a wasteland devoid of life. Enchantments and pieces of Equipment lay strewn about unused, with graveyards chock-full of dead creatures. At the end of an opponent’s turn, there’s a bleat of life as an 0/1 Goat springs deftly out of Springjack Pasture and trots casually over to nibble on a blade of grass that just happens to be growing next to the discarded Spy Kit. The Goat looks slyly around, and then puts on the Spy Kit – aha, a spy in sheep’s (goat’s?) clothing!

So tell me, how would you go about building a Spy Kit deck? Do you think it fits in any other Commander decks that don’t necessarily focus so hard on having Spy Kit on the battlefield?

Don’t forget, if you’re coming to the SCG Tour® in my hometown of Richmond on Labor Day weekend, be sure to hunt me down and say hi! I really enjoy meeting my readers and hearing about your Commander adventures!

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, Visionary 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)