Archetune-Up - Kalamax of Two Reflections

(Kalamax, the Stormsire | Art by Nicholas Gregory)

Two Reflections, Two Options

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, a weekly article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme pages!

This week we're doing something a bit different. Though this article is being published after preview season and our own EDHREC Set Reviews are completed, at the current time of writing, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths's preview season is in full swing. You readers in the future will have grown accustomed to the new set already, but I'm still in the midst of being enamored by all of the big, fantastic kaiju showing up every day.

Here on Archetune-Up, though, we often can't indulge in brand new commanders, no matter how cool they are. Due to the nature of the series, we need to wait for an average deck to build up over time before I'm able to write about it. It may seem obvious, but I can't write an article without having data!

This lead me to wracking my brain to try and find a workaround, and I believe I did! This lead me to ask the following question on my Twitter:

With 80 votes, Kalamax, the Stormsire beats out Jirina Kudro and Kathril, Aspect Warper. This raises the question though: how can I write about Kalamax, the Stormsire, a commander who doesn't (currently) have any data to its name, let alone an average deck?

My idea is that if we find a close enough analogue, we can use their deck as a base, strip it down, and build it back up how we need it! By doing this, we can still use the site's data as a base while also delving into a brand new commander! This line of thinking poses yet another question, though: who do I think is Kalamax's closest comparison?

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Riku of Two Reflections is the legend that I decided to base this deck off of, and I was quite pleased with the outcome. 75% of the deck stayed intact, and I was able to change the other quarter to help suit our new Dinosaur's needs!

There's still a bit of a caveat to building a deck in this manner, though: no new cards can be included in the list. There are two reason for this. The first is due to lack of new cards in the system, and the other is... well, there simply aren't enough cards spoiled for me to rightfully include in the deck! Please keep this in mind as we go through the tuned-up list, since I'm sure that there are plenty of interesting cards from Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths and Commander 2020 that Kalamax would love to include!

Slinging Spells, Siring Storms

The first place I looked was the Spellslinger Theme. Our deck is basically "instant tribal", so we need to make sure we have enough of them to build around. The average Riku list above has 20 instants and 26 sorceries, which is a little too lopsided for this deck. In the final list, we tweaked these numbers quite a bit, giving us a total of 30 instants and 12 sorceries, which gives us enough slots in our deck to further our goal of centering the deck around Kalamax.

Cards added from this theme are made up of three categories: instants that are valuable to copy, win conditions, and synergy with our deck.

The first round of cards are the instants that are valuable to copy. These range from small spells that provide just a touch of value like Opt, Thrill of Possibility, and Noxious Revival, all the way up to spells that can refill your hand like Firemind's Foresight and Dig Through Time. Another valuable spell for us is Supreme Will. Counterspells aren't often super valuable in our deck since copying them doesn't do much, but this one is an exception. Most often your opponents won't be able to pay an additional six mana for their spells to resolve, and when you don't need to use it to counter things, it gives you a double Impulse effect, which is wonderful. Finally, Reiterate and other instant-copying spells are great for us. We can copy our copy spells to copy our spells! Whoever said less is more never played a Temur deck; if a spell is great to copy once, copying it two, three, or four times is even better!

Next we move on to win conditions. There are only two from this section, but they are both incredibly strong once they get going.

The first is Docent of Perfection. With every instant or sorcery we cast, Docent produces a simple 1/1 Wizard, which doesn't sound that exciting. It's when we create three Wizards that things get out of hand. Docent then flips into Final Iteration and takes our Wizards to the sky, giving them a +2/+1 bonus as well as flying, turning them all into a flipped Delver of Secrets! With the number of spells that we are casting in this deck, it shouldn't be hard to create an army of Insect Wizards and overwhelm our opponents with them!

If you're looking for something a bit less combat-oriented, I made sure to have an option for that, as well. Nexus of Fate has terrorized many people before, and we can terrorize them once again in this deck! To do this, we can utilize of my favorite things to do in Commander: Seasons Past loops. By utilizing a tapped Kalamax, Nexus of Fate, Mystical Tutor, and Seasons Past, we can loop infinite turns, using our copied Tutor to keep fetching up Nexus of Fate and Seasons Past. Nexus will give us extra turns, and Seasons Past will recur Tutor and other goodies to our hand as well. It's a bit of a balancing act, but even just looping Seasons Past late game to out-value the table will be good enough to pull ahead. This interaction gets turned up to 11 when you can throw in Nexus, too, and lock out games with them. This interaction isn't everyone's cup of tea, so use it at your own discretion. It can easily be omitted from the deck and replaced with a more "fun" card, though I would suggest keeping the Seasons Past loop in for all the extra value it provides.

The last section, synergies, has two cards that are perfect for this deck: Wavebreak Hippocamp and Wilderness Reclamation. Due to the high number of instants in the deck, Hippocamp is a great inclusion. Sure, we won't draw cards when our spells aren't copied, but we will draw a card off of one-third of our deck! 30 instants is exactly the number we want for a card like Hippocamp.

The next card is one that plenty of players are familiar with and one that will help us cast all of these instants: Wilderness Reclamation! Reclamation is great since it allows us to tap out on our turn and then have all of our lands back up for our opponents' turns! On average, Seedborn Muse is preferred to Reclamation in green decks since it will untap all of our permanents, but in our deck we want Kalamax tapped. Unless we had a consistent way to tap down Kalamax each turn, like a Vehicle, it would be a huge nonbo in our build. This makes Reclamation the clear choice for our deck and really allows us to have two turns each round at the table!

Can I Bring a +1?

It's important to remember that Kalamax doesn't just interact with instants, but also produces +1/+1 counters! This is another angle of our commander that we can take advantage of thanks to the +1/+1 Counter Theme! We aren't looking to go deep into the +1/+1 counter synergies, but there are some really neat tools that we can use to make our deck function on that axis.

In some decks, there are specific cards that are more highly valued solely due to the commander, even if none of the other cards in the list synergize with it. Anointed Procession in Kykar, Wind's Fury or Thousand-Year Elixir in a Feldon of the Third Path deck are some examples. Using a similar train of thought, Hardened Scales, Simic Ascendancy, and Hadana's Climb work directly with Kalamax and its ability to give itself +1/+1 counters.

Hardened Scales will put an additional counter on our commander whenever we cast an instant or sorcery, quickly pushing it into a terrifying power range, and will have synergy with some picks later in the article. Simic Ascendancy is another way to bake a win condition into the deck that works on two axes. The most obvious one is the +1/+1 counter synergy here. Ascendancy will get a growth counter each time we cast an instant, bringing us closer to ending the game with it. The more subtle interaction here is that we're piloting a deck that wants us to play on our opponents' turns. If we have extra mana available before it comes back to our turn, we can just dump our mana into Ascendancy to push us closer to winning with it. Finally, Hadana's Climb is Simic's version of Kessig Wolf Run. We can play it at any point in the game, flip it with ease, and then send Kalamax into the air and double its power, allowing us to close out games through dropping life totals or commander damage.

The last three cards from this theme don't care about +1/+1 counters, but they do have quite a bit of synergy with creatures that have high power: Shadowspear, Return of the Wildspeaker, and Chandra's Ignition.

Shadowspear gives us four important things: a way to threaten life totals with trample, a way to buff our own life thanks to lifelink, the ability to turn off hexproof and indestructible, and repeatability. Return of the WIldspeaker is an amazing instant that provides two amazing effects that we're more than happy to copy with Kalamax. We can use Return to either draw a huge number of cards thanks to Kalamax's ability to pump itself, or we can use it as an Overrun effect to pump all of the tokens produced by Talrand, Sky Summoner, Metallurgic Summonings, and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer. This gives us a great way to either refill our hand or close out a game all on one card!

Last, Chandra's Ignition is here to help wipe the board, close out games, or both! Thanks to our commander's ever-growing power and all of our ways to capitalize on it, we can easily cast Ignition and blow the game apart. Chandra's Ignition can easily hit Blasphemous Act levels of damage to the board, while also hitting each opponent! Sure, Ignition is a sorcery, so we can't copy it, but that isn't reason enough not to include it. Ignition is really just that good.

Kalamaxed Out

This article was something a little new, but I really enjoyed taking a look at a brand-new commander! It's not something that I'm often able to do due to this series' reliance on EDHREC's average deck lists, but I think it came together well! We weren't able to add any new cards aside from Kalamax, but that still gives us a really good foundation to work off of. I guess we could think of this as EDHREC's very own Kalamax precon!

That being said, not every card came from the site, as often happens with these decks. I like to add a bit of my own touch too!

You can see all of my personal picks in the list below, but the standouts to me are: Price of Progress, since doubling it can deal a hefty amount of damage to your opponents, especially greedy players who need to play more basics; Ghostly Flicker, which can create a value loop with with a tapped Kalamax and Eternal Witness, allowing you to get extra cast triggers for your token-makers and allowing you to untap your lands; and Arcbond, which is a third way to try and blow out your opponents with spell-based damage.

Regardless of what kind of instants you choose to use with Kalamax, it seems like a really fun commander to play around with. Not copying sorceries feels a little bad at first, but in the end I think it gives our dino friend an interesting role as the commander of an "instants tribal" deck, which not many other commanders can boast. The more time I've spent with Kalamax, the more time I've warmed up to and appreciated its design; it's definitely one of my favorite "face commanders" from a Commander product.

As always, if you’d like to reach me I’m quite active on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or anything else of the sort, please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, wash your hands, and I'll see you next week my friends!

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Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.