Collected Company - Kaheera
(Kaheera, the Orphanguard | Art by Ryan Pancoast)
Time to Make a New Friend
Companions are a game-changer. They give us access to a free card from the start of the game in exchange for some deckbuilding restrictions (and, of course, they now have an extra three-mana tax). Here on Collected Company, we’re going to take a look at all of them and see how we can build around their quirks.
For this article we'll be looking into the most popular Companion in the format, with almost 900 decks listed on EDHREC. With such a clear and concise ability kit, it has one of the easier restrictions for Companions, which have led to its high inclusion rate. Yes, today we'll be building around Kaheera, the Orphanguard.
Kaheera, the Orphanguard is pretty lenient with its deckbuilding restriction. While we lose both Elves and Humans, two crucial Selesnya tribes, we can cover most of our losses just by replacing them with noncreature equivalents.
One important thing to note is that Changelings counts as every creature type even outside the game. That means that they are legal to include in our Kaheera-panion deck.
Kaheera's kit it's quite impressive. Having constant access to a "Lord" effect (that is, giving +1/+1 to a specific creature type) in a color combination that has the tendency to go as wide as Selesnya does is quite strong. Kaheera can be an interesting tool for decks that want to smooth out bad draws while remaining on theme.
Tribes that tend to go wider will benefit more from the anthem effect, while bigger ones will enjoy the defensive vigilance. Cats are the biggest winners, with Beasts a close second, then Dinos, then Elemental, and Nightmares as a dead last.
While in competitive formats there are some instances of creatureless Kaheera, the Orphanguard control decks, it loses some of its power when building it for EDH. However, if you're looking for a deck that wants to use Kaheera as Polymorph fodder, that does sound pretty interesting.
Below are some of the most popular green and white cards that we lose when Kaheera is our Companion:
- Birds of paradise
- Knight of Autumn
- Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- Giver of Runes
- All Elves/Humans
Kaheera is a natural fit to most Arahbo, Roar of the World lists out there. Arahbo is a tribal aggro commander that packs as many Cats as it possibly can. We hardly lose any cards from the regular Arahbo list, and we get a on-tribe lord for our troubles. The Eminence keyword helps alleviate some of the tempo loss of the Companion tax, too. The big question is whether Kaheera is better in the 99 or in the 'Companion zone'. I can see the case for both - on the one hand we have a decent fail safe for (almost) no deckbuilding cost, but on the other, we can choose to simply add it to our deck and not lose any sleep over lost opportunities. That said, Kaheera has become the most popular Companion almost single-handedly because of Arahbo.
Unlike Cats, Dinosaurs have a clear loss in their decks if they use Kaheera, considering there's a lot of dino support from Human cards. The added loss of some of the more explosive ramp synergies with Elves also hurts the tribe a bit, since it tends to go very big-mana. However, once we adjust our deck, we do get a decent boost to our dinos. Here the vigilance is truly great since we'll probably good blockers, which even enhances the potency of the Enrage mechanic. Gishath, Sun's Avatar is an expensive commander and probably appreciates having an early play. Plus, adding Kaheera doesn't dilute the deck with another non-Dinosaur in the 99 that Gishath can't flip into play. Still, the fact that it isn't a Dinosaur itself, plus the added tax, makes it slightly harder to justify.
Elementals are more utility-focused than the rest, so I find hard to believe that the usual Elemental list would prefer Kaheera, the Orphanguard over, let's say, Jegantha, the Wellspring. However, we do have a large repertoire to chose from, and some of those are pretty aggressive, so once we adjust for it we get a pretty decent recurring engine with Horde of Notions. Elementals also have the ability to pump out tokens, which is quite good with Kaheera's buff.
It's Raining Cats and... More Cats!
A good starting place to build a Kaheera, the Orphanguard list is to choose a tribe (or tribes) to focus on. Out of all of the Kaheera, the Orphanguard supported types, Cats get the most benefit from the anthem effect, since they tend to go wider than the alternatives.
Rin and Seri, Inseparable are the new cool kid on the block, providing both a way to generate value from just casting creatures and control a game in a pattern somewhat similar to Marath, Will of the Wild. The two-for-one that they give us, together with some of the extra support for go-wide/tokens strategies, makes them a prime candidate for Kaheera, the Orphanguard.
At first, Rin and Seri, Inseparable combined with Kaheera, the Orphanguard might not seem like a good match, since we need to cast Dog spells to get our Cat tokens, and with Kaheera as a Companion, we can't have any Dogs in the deck. However, we can bypass this un-dog-ly restriction with a simple trick: the Changeling keyword. Cards with this ability count as every creature type in all aspects of the game (and outside of it), so whenever we cast a Mirror Entity, for example, we are actually casting both a Dog spell and a Cat spell, netting us two tokens for one spell! With both Kaheera and Rin and Seri out, every Changeling we cast has, at minimum, another 2/2 vigilance Cat token and a 1/1 Dog token attached to it. One big downside to having Kaheera as a Companion is the lack of Purphoros, God of the Forge in our 99, which would be an incredible asset for this type of build, but we already have plenty of other support pieces that can fill those shoes.
We've assembled a pretty good team of Cats, from the obvious tribal lords like King of the Pride, Regal Caracal, and Feline Sovereign, which assist all of our token-swarm needs, to the more utility-based kitties, like Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist, Prowling Serpopard, and Alms Collector. We even have some four-legged removal with Qasali Slingers, and Stalking Leonin.
Our Changeling suite might lack in individual card quality; after all, there are some cards, like Changeling Titan, that are basically french vanilla beaters. However, we do need to consider the three-for-one value these cards generate with our commander in play. Cheap Changelings, like Universal Automaton, Impostor of the Sixth Pride, and Woodland Changeling, are great for exactly this reason, providing an unassuming amount of power for a low mana investment. Chameleon Colossus and Mirror Entity are great win conditions, providing another mana sink for us in the late game. Valiant Changeling and Taurean Mauler are also efficient beaters that can get out of control pretty quickly.
For our support suite, we're moving away from the traditional tribal support, since it wouldn't benefit our Dog tokens. Instead, we'll be running a more standard, run-of-the-mill, go-wide Selesnya tokens strategy. Eldrazi Monument is great in a deck that so easily fills up the board, for instance (yes, we are sacrificing the Dogs). Cathars' Crusade (more like CAThars' Crusade!) is one of those cards that I feel like always end up getting cut from my decks, but in this list, where each Cat provides two triggers and each Changeling provides three, we can see how quickly this enchantment will get out of hand. Return of the Wildspeaker doubles down as both a card draw, and an Overrun effect. Careful, though - Changeling also makes the creatures into Humans!
Kaheera Cats and Dogs
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This is the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
Kaheera, the Orphanguard is an easy inclusion in most relevant tribal decks. The tax takes away the early game potential of having a consistent turn three lord, but we still have it available for the mid to late game. The vigilance is an extra cherry on top, which can be used on bigger tribes like Dinosaurs and Beasts, but having the extra choice even on the smaller ones is always nice.
That’s it for this Collected Company! What do you think about this article? What are your thoughts on Kaheera, the Orphanguard? Which Companion do you want to see covered next? Share your opinions in the comments.