The Kitchen Table #417: Kiora Atua Commander Deck

Check out Abe’s Simic mana ramp deck inspired by Kiora Atua, a U/G planeswalker from Duels of the Planeswalkers that has not yet appeared as a real life card.

Have you ever had an interesting idea for a Commander deck that did not feature building around a certain legendary creature? Sometimes it can be a challenge to find the right general to lead you when that’s not the direction you used when building the deck.

Kiora Atua is a blue/green planeswalker who appeared in Duels of the Planeswalkers a few years ago and has not yet appeared as a real life card. She is a merfolk who has a deck that uses the mana ramping of green to drop big sea creatures of blue. It’s one of my favorite decks from the Duels games, so I thought I would build a Commander version for today.

As an aside, an interesting debate has occurred around the possible appearance of Kiora Atua in the Theros block. Will she appear? There are some compelling reasons why she might:

1) Atlantis is from Greek Mythology.
2) Large sea creatures, like kraken, certainly fit the milieu.
3) She has been a popular character since her introduction.
4) Mark Rosewater teased that she would be printed at the right time a few months ago in his column.

Will we see Kiora Atua? What will she look like if we do?

We can only wait and see! But count this casual player as excited to see what Kiora would look like.

With that stated, let’s build a Kiora Atua deck!

Do you know how few Simic-colored legendary creatures there are? Just five: Experiment Kraj, Momir Vig, Vorel of the Hull Clade, Prime Speaker Zegana and Edric, Spymaster of Trest. Which one best fits this plan? Really, none of them. So I went with Momir Vig because he at least can help the deck with some card drawing and tutoring.

Mana ramp decks are nothing new to the world of Commander. We see them regularly, but they tend to play really broken cards after ramping up, whereas we tend to drop things like Benthic Behemoth and Tidal Kraken. It’s not exactly at the same power level as others may have.

Nevertheless, we have some great cards in here to take advantage of the mana. A few spells should be mentioned. Tooth and Nail is always a strong contender, and here it grabs two fishes for fun. What a player snags when they Tooth and Nail says a lot about them. When all you fetch are Stormtide Leviathan and Benthic Behemoth, you are an awesome Timmy. Nobody minds that. You aren’t comboing out or dropping Akroma parts one and two; nope, you are just making a pair of sea creatures. Good stuff!

We also have the potent Time Stretch to give you more runs of beatingness with your sea army. It’s a classic mana ramp card, but it’s only as good as your creatures. We also feature Braingeyser. I wanted one X spell, and this felt a bit more on theme than Blue Sun’s Zenith.

After that, we have the creatures. Let’s talk about creatures! We begin with ways to make mana. Cards like Birds of Paradise, Sylvan Caryatid, and Utopia Tree will tap for both of the needed colors of mana, providing an early-game bump. Next we have some land fetchers, such as Solemn Simulacrum, Ondu Giant, and Farhaven Elf. These can be played to fetch another land. Don’t forget a dork like Oracle of Mul Daya. Everybody knows how abusive it can be in Commander. Kiora Atua will harness its power as well.

Then we have the creatures this deck is built around. Meet the Whales, Serpents, Fish, Octopus, Kraken, and Leviathans this deck features! Benthic Behemoth is big and Islandwalking fun. We want to walk those Islands, baby! In fact, many of the big nasties have an evasive ability of some sort. Both Tidal Kraken and Deep-Sea Kraken are unblockable. Deep-Sea Kraken is a great early suspend because people will often slow down their plays to avoid the early 6/6 unblockable beats. And if they don’t, then you become really nasty with the early creature.

The Inkwell Leviathan joins the Behemoth as an Islandwalking fool. Then we have the Slipstream Eel that requires an Island to attack (although we just cycle it for a card). We have several ways to make that happen. First is the powerful Stormtide Leviathan. It makes all lands Islands, which gives you plenty to swing into. Now the Island walk and Eel creatures become that much better. We also have the very under the radar Kukemssa Serpent. You can sacrifice an Island to turn a land into an Island for the turn and swing on over, baby! It gives you another shot at the prize. We also have the Quicksilver Fountain, which will scare a lot of people as it hurts their mana base and gives you various Islands to attack.

We have some flying beats too. Don’t underestimate the power of Nimbus Swimmer in a deck with a mana ramp strategy. It could easily be a 10/10 or 14/14 flyer. Then the potent Simic Sky Swallower joins your ranks. It can swing for a lot of damage in the air, and the shroud keeps it from being targeted by any pinpoint removal that would otherwise have gone its way.

The original Kiora Atua deck did run some Eldrazi, so I kept the pair of legendary Eldrazi that are legal in Commander (if you were wondering why they were there, that’s your answer.) 

In addition to all of that fun, we have some mana ramp outside of our creatures. Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach are essentials in any deck like this. They are joined by Explosive Vegetation, Farseek, and Seek the Horizon. For this deck, I wanted mana ramp in a variety of casting costs, but I preferred putting the lands into play, only Seek the Horizon does not do so. We have two-mana (Sakura-Tribe Elder, Farseek, Quirion Elves, Utopia Tree, Caryatid), three-mana (Reach, Cultivate, Farhaven Elf) and four-mana (Seek, Vegetation, Simulacrum) accelerants. I hope that will be enough to break out some lands for fun and dancing.

And I didn’t stop there. From Temple of the False God through Mana Reflection and Dreamstone Hedron, I went to other places for mana madness. Sol Ring, Everflowing Chalice, and Thran Dynamo join as powerful mana rocks, so there are a lot of methods for hitting those lands.

I also added several ways to cheat out creatures in case I don’t have the mana (or I want to flash one out as a surprise). Quest for Ula’s Temple is a downright essential card for this deck. With 31 non-commander creatures in the deck, the chance of adding a counter to the Temple is pretty good. Then you can drop many of your big fatties for free at the end of turns. It is downright broken here.

In addition to the Quest, we have Elvish Piper and Quicksilver Amulet. This pair has been sought after for years as a way to drop big dorks cheaply and instantly. You can threaten a nasty defense against someone who is considering attacking you. It improves your board position. The flash of Alchemist’s Refuge will do the same. I also added Summoning Trap to give you another way to cheat out something big and terrible.

Once I had this shell of a deck, I started to look for cards to flesh it out. I wanted some countermagic. In went Mystic Snake and Draining Whelk, as well as Plasm Capture to make mana, Spelljack and Desertion to steal stuff, and Voidslime to counter an ability if pressed. This smattering of countermagic gives the deck the ability to fight annoying things like mass removal and such. I didn’t have space for my traditional suite of removal, like Acidic Slime and Krosan Grip, so these will also serve as a proactive Naturalize or Pongify.

Don’t forget how interesting a certain Theros God is in this deck. Say hello to Thassa, God of the Sea, a very flavorful addition. Devotion to blue probably won’t be much of an issue, and you get a 5/5 indestructible dork if you manage it. Its scry helps the deck find the goods, while making one of the big dorks unblockable strikes me as really unfair.

We needed some card drawing as well. Recurring Insight is usually a house of cards. You often get ten, twelve, or more cards from it, and I’ve always gotten at least five or six. In this deck, Soul’s Majesty and Momentous Fall are reliable ways to draw cards since our creatures are so big. Flow of Ideas works wonderfully with other cards in the deck but even without them can draw many cards post-ramp. Finally, don’t ignore the nasty potential of Greater Good. You can sacrifice a creature to draw (and admittedly discard) a significant portion of your deck. With the big fatties this deck can toss out there, this card has real potential.

After that, a few scraps were added to the deck. In went Primeval Bounty because it works well as life gain, creature-making, or creature-pumping. The final card to make the cut was Temporal Aperture. Yes, it’s quite random because the deck shuffles before you flip over the top card. You cannot set it up with cards like Sensei’s Divining Top or know what you will be getting ahead of time with Future Sight or Oracle of Mul Daya. But you do get the ability to play that card for free with no mana required until the end of the turn. Almost every nonland in the deck wants to be played for free. Just the Braingeyser, Nimbus Swimmer, and counterspells don’t like being played for free on your turn. Everything else will drop down for no mana, including a land or a big nasty creature. Use it and abuse it.

The great part about this deck is that it is quite flexible. You can easily slide in new cards as you have need. Sure, there are a few expensive cards in here (like Tropical Island and Misty Rainforest), but you can easily find other cards. The keys to the deck are very cheap. Check out the prices for Lorthos, Quest for Ula’s Temple, and Stormtide Leviathan, among others. Just play what you have. And if you end up pulling Birds of Paradise and the Eldrazi and a few other cards, that’s fine. There’s planet of depth to mine with the deck and plenty of cards to add. There were some cards I cut, like Gather Specimens and Boseiju, Who Shelters All that could be really nice additions to your deck. Maybe you’ll want to add in clone effects or cards like Duplicant or Acidic Slime. So spice it to taste!

Plus, we can add in any good Kraken, Serpents, or Leviathans that might see print over the next year as Theros and company join the ranks. Perhaps you would like Shipbreaker Kraken or Sealock Monster to join the deck!

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed this look at a mana ramp deck that sticks to dropping fish and squid. Mmmm . . . calamari delight. It’s a mana ramp deck without Avenger of Zendikar, Woodfall Primus, Sylvan Primeval, or any of the other nasty green ramp dudes. So enjoy the delights of the sea!

Until later,
Abe Sargent