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Commander Top 10: Kels, Fight Fixer

Bennie Smith jumpstarts his Commander deckbuilding with Kels, Fight Fixer! Check out his latest 100-card Dimir delight.

Kels, Fight Fixer, illustrated by Magali Villeneuve

There are still more Commander goodies to explore from Core Set 2021, but with Jumpstart on the horizon I can’t help but be excited by some of the brand-new legends that will soon be available to build around.  In particular I really like the design on this cycle:

What I think is neat about this design is that it gives you a choice—you can simply play a monocolor (or mostly monocolor) build of each of these decks, or go ahead and make a more balanced two-color build thanks to the hybrid mana in the text box.  Especially for newer players, building a monocolored manabase is infinitely easier – and cheaper – to pull together, so you can build a monocolor version of these decks pretty easily.  Later, as you build out your manabase collection, you can add a second color while still keeping a lot of the same core that you’ve been playing.

That’s not to say that these commanders are for beginners only—far from it!  They each have a lot of cool implications that appeal to deckbuilders of all experience levels, and I plan on writing up decklists for at least a few of these.  Today, I’m building around Kels, Fight Fixer and fully leaning into all the Dimir goodies that play well with Kels’s abilities. 

The first ability triggers from when you sacrifice a creature, and there are so many great ways to sacrifice creatures for profit in the Dimir color combination that some high-quality cards are going to be left on the cutting room floor.  Plus, Kels itself has another ability that sacrifices a creature right there on the card, and it’s a good one—giving your commander indestructible is quite good!  Especially since black gives you plenty of ways to sweep the battlefield of creatures, having Kels be able to naturally withstand that can lead to some great reversals of fortunes.  As someone who’s a “fight fixer,” that sounds perfect!

Let’s get brewing!

1. Chasm Skulker

When the deck is firing on all cylinders, I imagine that Kels will be drawing a fair number of cards, and those sort of circumstances are exactly where Chasm Skulker shines.  Adding two or three +1/+1 counters each turn means that this Squid Horror will become a threatening battlefield presence quickly, and once it dies you’ll have tons of 1/1 Squid tokens with islandwalk you can either bum rush the other blue player with or sacrifice to Kels or whatever other sacrifice engines you have that need to be fired up.

Chasm Skulker had some competition for the #1 slot with Nadir Kraken, but I ended up not picking the Kraken because its draw trigger costs a mana each turn. If you’re spending mana for Kels triggers and drawing cards you want to play, having extra mana for Nadir Kraken might not be on the menu as often as you’d like. 

Still, generating extra Tentacle tokens you can chump block with or use for sacrifice fodder is darn good too.

2. Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder

Speaking of sacrifice fodder, I’m excited to dust off this ol’ classic from Time Spiral for this deck!  Once you cast Endrek, each creature spell you cast comes with a number of 1/1 Thrull token creatures equal to the spell’s converted mana cost.  Even if that creature is countered, you still get the Thrulls.  And since we’re going to have plenty of ways to sacrifice creatures, we can easily cultivate the number of Thrulls we have so that we won’t have to sacrifice Endrek unless we want him to die…for a higher purpose, of course!

Endrek needn’t do all the work, so here’s a motley crew to help out:

There are a bunch of creatures like Bloodsoaked Champion and Reassembling Skeleton that we can bring back from the graveyard quite easily to easily fuel sacrifice shenanigans, and we’re running just about all of them here.  I also like token-makers like Bloodline Keeper and Grave Titan that can both provide fodder and having a sizable body for the battlefield.

3. Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Having a sacrifice engine attached to our commander assures that we’ll be able to make use of Kels’s triggered ability often, but giving it indestructible multiple times in a turn isn’t going to do much more than a single activation.  Luckily, we have a ton of sacrifice engines to add to the deck, and one of my favorites is Dimir-colored: Grimgrin, Corpse-Born!  Grimgrin has a sizable body that grows over time when you sacrifice a creature to untap it, and functions as removal too.  It’s a Zombie so it satisfies Gravecrawler’s desire for tribal solidarity before hopping out of the graveyard. 

While there are some usual suspects here, I was excited to run across a few hidden gems, like Brine Shaman!  This common card from Ice Age has two abilities fueled by sacrificing a creature, and the blue one is very relevant in Commander since most everyone is going to want to cast their commander.  And that ability doesn’t even require tapping so you can use it right away!  Keeping Muldrotha, the Gravetide or Chulane, Teller of Tales off the battlefield for a few crucial turns may be all you need to take control of the game.

I also really like the amusingly named Bushmeat Poacher from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths.  Cashing in a large creature that might otherwise be dying to targeted removal for a big life boost and a card is easily worth the one mana activation, and if you have Kels on the battlefield, that’s potentially two redraws. 

4. Reef Worm

Since we’re doing a lot of sacrificing, that means a lot of dying, so I want to include a fair number of cards that trigger off dying.  Enter Reef Worm!  This little fellow starts out quite happy to die, but sometimes it’s tough to work your way up the food chain before someone spoils the fun with an exile effect.  Well, this deck should not have any problem cashing in the Worm for a 3/3 Fish, then a 6/6 Whale, and finally a 9/9 Kraken, all while providing three sacrifices along the way.

We’ll also include some of the usual suspects here:

Pawn of Ulamog and Pitiless Plunderer are particularly nice because they provide extra mana when creatures die, which can help chain off multiple sacrifices and triggers in a turn.  Deathrender also does work here by cheating in some of your larger creatures at instant speed when the equipped creature dies of natural causes or is helped to the graveyard by unnatural means.

5. Ghoulcaller Gisa

Ghoulcaller Gisa is a great sacrifice engine in her own right, but she deserves her own call out here at #5 since she can generate a fair number of 2/2 Zombie tokens that can be fed to other sacrifice effects.

I’ve included Blackblade Reforged because equipping it to your indestructible commander, destroying all creatures that might block your attack, can totally end someone with commander damage.  I also really like Eldrazi Monument since you’re sacrificing one creature to give you whole team indestructible rather than just your commander.  And lastly here, Skirge Familiar does nice work cashing in some of your extra cards drawn by Kels for extra mana to fuel further sacrifice activations or Kels triggers.

6. Necrotic Ooze

Ah, does it feel good to have a home for one of my all-time favorite cards: Necrotic Ooze!  So many of our creatures have cool activated abilities, and if any of them die they get a new lease on life with Necrotic Ooze.  Not to mention, any creature abilities that might be in your opponents’ graveyards can be used too.  Plus, if Grimgrin and Bloodline Keeper are in the graveyard, you can tap Necrotic Ooze to make a 2/2 Vampire, sacrifice the Vampire to untap Necrotic Ooze and put a +1/+1 counter on it, and keep doing it however many times you want to make a gigantic Necrotic Ooze.  All the card drawing and sacrificing going on in our Kels deck means this particular combination can come up relatively often without resorting to adding tutors to our deck.

And heck—maybe someone has a Walking Ballista in their graveyard and you win on the spot!

Lazav, the Multifarious is another card that likes to have creatures in your graveyard to copy, and I look forward to the weird combinations you can pull together with it.  Obsessive Stitcher from Core Set 2021 seems like a cool new Dimir card that can do some nice work filtering cards and potentially pitching a large creature into the graveyard and then sacrificing to reanimate it ahead of time. 

7. Spiketail Drakeling

There are a fair number of creatures that sacrifice themselves for profit, but many of them ended up getting cut for space.  I did want to hang onto Spiketail Drakeling since it comes down relatively early and impacts your opponents’ subsequent plays until you cash it in to counter a spell.  If any of them have a big haymaker spell they want to cast, they’ll have to deal with the Drakeling first or ensure they have two extra mana to pay the tax.

I also included Drakeling’s little brother Spiketail Hatchling and Vampire Hexmage, which is awesome at killing planeswalkers.

8. Damnation

There really is no substitute for black’s version of Wrath of God.  It’s cheap enough to cast that you should have enough mana to activate Kels so that she survives the destruction.  Obviously, this is flat-out nuts if you have an Eldrazi Monument on the battlefield.

I’ve included some other removal options too:

9. Burnished Hart

Nearly every nongreen deck finds room for Burnished Hart in their Commander deck for ramping, but it shines a little brighter in a Kels deck because of the sacrifice activation, which can net you an extra card in addition to ramping you two basic lands.

Here are the other mana ramp inclusions:

Solemn Simulacrum is another staple that shines a little brighter in a Kels deck since you can cash in Solemn for that dies trigger quite easily and don’t have to wait around for your opponents to kill it.

10. Swan Song

Since both of Kels’s abilities require mana, I didn’t want to include expensive counterspells in our Dimir deck, but I did want to make room for a few cheap spells for crucial moments.  And none are as cheap and effective as Swan Song!  If someone is throwing around an exile effect to rain on your dying parade, for just one blue mana Swan Song can answer it.  As a bonus, that Bird token they get is too small to kill Kels in combat without some help. 

In addition to the counterspells, I’ve included some graveyard hosers and Shadowspear which can take away problematic abilities from your opponents while also giving your 1,000/999 Necrotic Ooze trample and lifelink.   

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Kels, Fight Fixer
Bennie Smith
0th Place at Test deck on 07-18-2020
Commander

Here’s how the deck looks graphically, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:

I’ve included more blue mana producers than is called for by my mix of cards, but since there aren’t all that many cards that require double black mana and just a couple that require triple black, I’m okay with having a bit more balance for access to blue.  Extra blue mana can always be dumped into Kels’s triggered ability. 

What do you think?  Are there any cards I’ve overlooked?  If you see any new cards from Core Set 2021 or Jumpstart that should find a home here, let me know!

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do a deckbuilding stream every Monday evening, and pepper in some other Commander-related streams when I can.  If you can join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!

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