In the beginning of Magic: the Gathering, there were no Apes or Monkeys. Then along came Arabian Nights and Kird Ape, which immediately became beloved by Taiga-playing beatdown lovers everywhere. Few people remember Barbary Apes from Legends or Gorilla Pack from Ice Age, two rather unremarkable green creatures, but then Alliances came along and brought Gorilla Shaman! Affectionately known as “Mox Monkey,” Gorilla Shaman loved chewing up Mox Sapphire and the others in the cycle, along with the occasional Sol Ring and Mana Vault.
Alliances brought a few more Apes that mostly forgettable, but then Visions changed everything with Uktabi Orangutan, which alongside Gorilla Shaman seemed to cement the hostile relationship between primates and artifacts. Wizards of the Coast (WotC) even played that up with Uktabi Kong in Unhinged.
So, it seems only natural that Jumpstart 2022 brings us a sweet new primate lord that’s tied to your opponents having artifacts that get destroyed. What is this, Planet of the Apes? Welcome to our new Monkey overlord: Kibo, Uktabi Prince!
Whenever an artifact an opponent controls is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, Kibo will put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control that’s an Ape or Monkey. Yes, folks we have a card that can sit in your command zone that punishes all those greedy Treasure lovers out there! And whenever Kibo attacks, defending player sacrifices an artifact.
But what if the opponent you want to attack doesn’t have an artifact? Thankfully, WotC has thought of that by giving Kibo an activated ability that gives each player a new spin on the Food token, a Banana token! The controller of the Banana can tap and sacrifice the token to add a red or green mana to their mana pool, and gain two life. It’s important to note that Kibo describing what the Banana token does in its regular text rather than reminder text means its color identity is Gruul, so a Kibo deck will have access to red as well as green.
Okay, let’s peel that Banana and dig in!
Relatively new to the scene, Kogla, the Titan Ape joins the fun in smashing artifacts when it attacks (assuming there isn’t an enchantment that needs destroying). Silverback Elder can smash too, but it’s got several other modes that also can come in handy. I imagine Silverback Shaman will be surprisingly good; its trample ability will convert those extra +1/+1 counters into damage pushed through chump blockers, and when it dies, you get to draw a card! Ferocious Tigorilla can nab a trample counter to push that damage through too.
If you’re lucky enough to own a copy of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, he makes a good early drop here, potentially drawing you an extra card from an opponent’s deck but more importantly nabbing you a Treasure. I love that Scrounging Bandar levels up in this deck, nabbing +1/+1 counters from Kibo that you can later move around to other creatures if you want to make one extra-large. Zodiac Monkey having forestwalk means you might want to slip a Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth into the 99, but honestly you’re bound to have at least one opponent playing Forests in whatever Commander pod you’re in, and it will only take a few triggers for +1/+1 counters to become a real threat.
Creatures with the changeling ability are Apes and Monkeys, so we can certainly round out our tribal list with them. Game-Trail Changeling’s trample ability is nice to remember when stacking on the +1/+1 counters. Realmwalker is a little awkward since we’ll have both Ape and Monkey cards, but I think most of our creatures will be Apes, so I still think it’s worth playing. I’d also find room for Webweaver Changeling since non-Dragon Gruul decks have some vulnerability to flyers and the reach ability will be a big help.
Many of the usual tribal support cards can find a home here, particularly Metallic Mimic since it supports the +1/+1 counter theme. I also really love Heirloom Blade as a way to help rebuild from a battlefield sweeper, the bane of tribal decks.
We should also consider ways to untap Kibo so that you can activate his ability multiple times in a turn cycle. In particular, I’d throw in Thousand-Year Elixir and the new sleeper card from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, Patriar’s Seal. If you’re not going heavy tribal, then Seedborn Muse, Seeker of Skybreak, and Saryth, the Viper’s Fang are options too. These cards will let you activate Kibo’s tap ability and also attack with Kibo, so you don’t have to choose between the two options.
Unfortunately sacrificing your own Banana doesn’t grow your primate team, but we can still make use of it outside of mana and lifegain. Throne of Geth springs to mind, since you can proliferate all the +1/+1 counters that have been accumulating on your creatures (if all goes well). The ever-amazing Trading Post can cash in the Banana for an extra card, though I’d probably want to be playing a fair number of artifacts before I’d add Trading Post to the deck.
Grinding Station is an interesting thought. Each time you activate Kibo, you’ll get an untap trigger for each player in your Commander pod, since everyone will get a Banana. Is there some sort of weird artifact milling deck you can build around Kibo? I have no idea, but it’s fun to think about!
Give an Opponent an Artifact
I’m already a fan of the Liquimetal gang, but they obviously get even better here if you want to force a sacrifice of an important permanent when you attack with Kibo and the opponent doesn’t have another artifact. Then there’s Mycosynth Lattice; combined with something like Vandalblast overloaded and the +1/+1 counters from Kibo, that should pretty much end the game on the spot.
A smaller but still synergistic effect is Curse of Opulence, which can give opponents Gold tokens that will trigger Kibo too. Beyond tribal themes, there’s the new Thran Spider, which gives one of your opponents a Powerstone token.
From Streets of New Capenna is Structural Assault, which plays perfectly in a primate tribal deck with Kibo, since the +1/+1 counters your creatures get should keep them all out of range from the damage from Structural Assault. Wave of Vitriol is another card that will really shine in this deck; as a two-color deck, we’re probably going to be light on utility lands, so swapping nonbasics for basics should be relatively painless, and blowing away all the enchantments and artifacts is going to be a huge game-changer, especially given how many new artifacts we’re getting from The Brothers’ War.
Viridian Revel’s stock has risen in these days of insane Treasure cards, but there are times when nobody in the Commander pod is really abusing Treasure tokens and Viridian Revel feels like a wasted card. Well, you can easily slam it into the 99 of a Kibo deck and count on it being a big game, since Kibo will be handing out Bananas that you know your opponents must want to use. I mean, there ain’t no Viridian party like a Banana party, you know?
If an opponent is ignoring their Banana gifts because they don’t want to grow your primate army, you can push the issue by playing Curious Herd. Do they sacrifice their Bananas to stop you from getting those Beast tokens, or sacrifice them and grow your army?
Way back in Antiquities was printed a card called Powerleech that’s never quite seemed worth playing in multiplayer games. Maybe Kibo finally gives it a home? I could see it if we’re leaning into some lifegain-matters direction, since Bananas give us life.
Surprise, another commander that does cool things with Doubling Season! What’s fun is that the “strictly worse” version Primal Vigor might actually be better here, since you may want to give extra Bananas to your opponents.
Outside of primate tribal, Jaheira, Friend of the Forest is an excellent option to get mana from your Bananas without sacrificing them.
+1/+1 Counters Matter
Plenty of cards support +1/+1 counter synergies, with The Ozolith and Branching Evolution leading the way. Since creatures with counters on them are considered modified, we can tap into using cards like Silkguard and Kodama of the West Tree. Jiang Yanggu is famous for his love of Dogs, but his static ability will be rather nutty in our Ape and Monkey tribal deck, since they’re all going to be picking up +1/+1 counters. What will you do with all that extra mana? I also like Belt of Giant Strength in decks with +1/+1 counters to boost power and toughness, which can easily boost creatures to quite a large size.
By the way, I’d definitely check with your opponents during Rule 0 conversation and see if it’s okay to play Uktabi Kong in the deck!
What do you think of Kibo, Uktabi Prince? Are there other cards you think would synergize well that I may have overlooked here?
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