Commander Showdown – Kangee vs Inniaz

(Kangee, Sky Warden by Dan Scott | Inniaz, the Gale Force by Livia Prima)

This One’s For You, Mom!

Hello, and welcome to Commander Showdown, where we compare and contrast similar commanders to discover the subtle differences between their strategies and deck construction.

This edition is a special one for me. My entire family plays Magic. My brothers rocks Bruvac, the Grandiloquent, Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer, and Ayula, Queen Among Bears. My stepdad gains crazy tons of life with Karlov of the Ghost Council and plays fetch with Rin and Seri, Inseparable. My mom has played Dragonlord Ojutai Voltron since it came out in Fate Reforged, and enjoys blue-white flying decks so much that when 2020 brought us two new “flying tribal” commanders, she had to try them both.

Both Inniaz, the Gale Force and Kangee, Sky Warden reward a go-wide strategy with many flying creatures, swooping in and pumping them up for tons of damage. Kangee provides this bonus quite readily, while Inniaz has to spend mana to provide a bonus, but also touts a very curious ability to shift cards around when her attack is large enough.

If you’re looking to build some flying tribal, how do these commanders differ? What small changes affect the cards they should play? This is the exact journey my mom just went through when figuring out which commander she enjoys most, so here I’d like to provide some firsthand experience to help you not just fly, but soar!


The Gale Force

Inniaz, the Gale Force was released this year in the fantastic JumpStart product that sadly nobody got to play enough of. Inniaz in particular introduces a dynamic that can be difficult to pull off via webcam EDH: shifting control of permanents between players. This ability is awesome, but bizarrely restrained; it requires three flying attackers, but it isn’t optional, and must be done whenever three or more flying creatures attack. It allows Inniaz to choose which permanents are moved, but it doesn’t allow her to choose the direction they go. This is a powerful destabilizing ability, but one that must be considered with the utmost care.

Lots of pontificating has been drafted online about Inniaz’s ability and how best to time it, how to receive enough flying creatures to trigger the ability in the first place, and which cards, such as Nine Lives, can be given away to enemy players to force them into a less favorable position.

However, I hope you’ll allow me to deliver to you my mother’s infinite wisdom regarding this shifty ability: “Don’t try to be clever with it. It’s kinda just there to mess them up a little, but it’s hard to give things away, and if I can’t give them away then I just have bad cards in my deck. And I don’t like bad cards in my deck.”

The unfortunate reality is that there are a limited number of ways to create enough flying creatures to trigger Inniaz’s ability reliably. Playing three normal flying creatures like Warden of Evos Isle and Thunderclap Wyvern is just too slow to get Inniaz switching things up at a good enough pace to keep up with other players. Token-makers are thus a necessity. Migratory Route is nice, Whirler Rogue is interesting, but after that, other token-making cards, like Stolen by the Fae or Skycat Sovereign, have timing or mana restrictions.

Tokens also serve the additional benefit of being donatable in a pinch. We’re not keen to give away our Empyrean Eagles, after all.

There is, however, a good suite of cards that Inniaz is quite happy to give away if the opportunity arises, and it requires clever deckbuilding on her part before the game even starts.

Instead of Nine Lives and Illusions of Grandeur and other such horrible gifts, which are hard to give away and can only be handed off in one direction anyhow, Inniaz can reward herself by donating permanents that don’t care who controls them, and which fall neatly into what her deck was already going to do anyway: removal. Doesn’t matter who controls Darksteel Mutation, the enchanted creature is still just a bug. Imprisoned in the Moon can belong to anyone, but the creature’s still trapped. Even Gravitational Shift doesn’t need to be controlled by Inniaz to work in her favor.

This allows Inniaz to play cards that are good on their own and which won’t drag her down if she’s unable to jump through the hoops required to give something away.

I include for you now the Inniaz list my mom and I created together.

Inniaz, Innit?

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Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Lots of ways to make tokens, lots of permanent-based removal, and lots of cards like Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate to keep the army protected. Not only that, but to keep up on card economy, the deck could use all the card advantage spells it can get to make sure it always has a steady supply of flying creatures to find in case the board gets wiped.

Additionally, my mother provided even more sage advice: “The ability I really like is the pump-up one.” Inniaz should not be afraid of running lots of mana, even going a little overboard on it. This isn’t just because it helps her play more flyers, but also because she has a mana-sink ability that’s eager to make her flying army even more dangerous.

Crucially, though, Inniaz isn’t so much about giving permanents away as she is just getting commanders away from their owners. This sets them back and buys her time to assemble an even more impressive army. Think of it like Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire: the goal isn’t always to set up the top of the deck to get impressive permanents, but often is just to ruin each opponent’s day by psuedo-Chaos Warping their best stuff.

The list above is one we’ve updated as previews unfolded, so it contains new cards like Kangee’s Lieutenant from Commander Legends. At the time we initially built Inniaz, though, we had no idea another flying tribal commander was coming. We were as surprised as anyone to discover a new challenger had entered the ring. Let’s get to him now!


Warden of the Sky

Kangee, Sky Warden is a straight-up pump spell with no additional trickery. No shifting of permanents, just a good ol’ aerial beatdown, almost like a legendary Steel-Plume Marshal.

Kangee, just like Inniaz, is heavily dedicated to finding as many flying tokens as possible, because every additional flying body increases the potency of his anthem ability. From Thunderclap Wyvern to Favorable Winds, there are enough power-ups to heavily reward a wide aerial formation.

However, Kangee can also get away with just a few flying creatures at a time, as even two of these pumped-up creatures can deliver some consistent damage. Anthems don’t compound exponentially, but they do still compound. True Conviction was an especially frightening card to add, bumping even a simple 1/1 into a six-damage swing with Kangee’s ability.

What we did notice during playtesting was not necessarily a shift in the deck’s construction, but rather a shift in the way the deck was perceived compared to Inniaz. Inniaz was regarded warily by opponents, but not as an outright threat unto itself. She could really mess up plans if she managed to shift stuff around, but she was a nuisance, and rarely the highest-priority target at the table. In fact, she’d sometimes even help by taking the archenemy off their pedestal when she dislocated their key creature, artifact, or enchantment.

Kangee’s reception was altogether more gasp-inducing. Kangee was not and is not a kill-on-sight commander, but Kangee does seem to draw attention in a way Inniaz did not, pumping out damage that people don’t seem to realize right away is quite as powerful as it looked. It looked like an innocent board of just two 1/1 Spirits and a couple of silly Birds, but it’s actually an attack for over 20 damage once the math is done.

Let’s illustrate this point by looking over the decklist my mother eventually landed on for the new flying legend:

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Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

In truth, the Venn Diagram of these two commanders’ decks is nearly a circle. “Flying tribal” is not an over-abundant pool of cards to draw from, so most decks will rely upon many of the same pieces. The primary deck differences we noticed were simply that Kangee would run more instant-speed removal, like Generous Gift, instead of the Grasp of Fates that Inniaz enjoyed moving around, and also that we felt more comfortable playing cards like Warden of Evos Isle and Watcher of the Spheres, which turned out to be a little lacking in Inniaz, since she focused so heavily on token-makers that her numbers of actual castable flying creatures dwindled slightly.

Thus, though few of the cards shifted place, Kangee’s priorities for them are in a much different place than Inniaz. Inniaz is more flighty in nature (pun not intended) and feels less attached to the board, secure in the fact that she’s flying under the radar and will destabilize her opposition as soon as the opportunity arises. The tokens she makes are important, but are also an expendable means to an end. Kangee, by contrast, creates a much more threatening-looking army, and therefore must protect it more fiercely as it begins to draw more and more attention to itself.

In the end, my mom decided to move to Kangee, since the go-wide strategy complements her Dragonlord Ojutai deck’s go-tall strategy. However, she would like you to know that whichever flying commander you pick, there’s a lot of fun to uncover with them, and that flying tribal is the most fun thing ever.

This is the woman who once held up four counterspells to stop my would-be-lethal Skull Storm, so… I’d listen to her, if I were you. Mother knows best!


Cards to Consider

Before we go, let’s take a moment to appreciate some potentially under-appreciated cards for both these flying baddies.


Inniaz

  • Thopter Assembly: A card I’m shocked not to see on Inniaz’s page already. There’s a delay, but it makes five flying tokens. Five!
  • Foundry of the Consuls: A late-game burst of flying tokens is sometimes exactly what you need to get the ball rolling again.
  • Belfry Spirit: In the search for even more flying tokens to let this deck do what it needs to do, don’t be afraid to reach into the stranger places.
  • Azorius Keyrune: I’d never seen a Keyrune activated before playing against this deck, but this is also a nice use of late-game mana for a deck that always needs more flying creatures on board.
  • Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker: Inniaz can go wide with tokens, but she doesn’t have to. Sometimes you just want to go to Sesame Street (a.k.a. smash in with a Big Bird).

Kangee

  • Angel of Jubilation: Harder to cast that most, but a happy addition to the pump-tastic flying anthem army. Also, it really sucks to see across the board when you play as many black decks as I tend to.
  • Heraldic BannerWhy not let the mana rocks help with some of the work? This only pumps one color, but that can still make all the difference.
  • Faerie Conclave: Lands that become flying creatures that Kangee with pump to extravagant heights? Yes, please!
  • Inkmoth Nexus: See Faerie Conclave.
  • Kira, Great Glass-Spinner: This, and/or Siren Stormtamer, and/or Spiketail Drakeling… basically, pay attention to how and when your flying creatures can help keep each other not just buffed up, but also keep each other alive.

Learning to Fly

So, which of these commanders fits your preferred flight of fancy? Are you about the natural pump-up for an awesome aerial attack, or do you prefer those huge gusts of wind to knock your opponents’ stuff around? Let me know in the comments below!

Oh, and don’t forget to vote on the pair you’d like to see in the next Commander Showdown!

Til next time!

Joseph Schultz works in a library by day and shuffles libraries by night. He hosts the EDHRECast with Matt Morgan and Dana Roach over at http://edhrecast.libsyn.com/ and has recently taken over as Editor for the articles here on EDHREC! He was also born exactly one year before Magic: the Gathering, which he thinks is probably some kind of sign. Follow @JosephMSchultz on Twitter!