Commander Showdown - Kykar vs Alela
Kykar, Wind's Fury by G-host Lee | Alela, Artful Provocateur by Grzegorz Rutkowski
The Brawl precons for Throne of Eldraine featured four different commanders, but three of the four decided to use the formula 'whenever you do X, draw a card' as their payoff. Chulane, Teller of Tales, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, and Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale all followed suit behind commanders like Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain and Tatyova, Benthic Druid by using card draw as their reward. Only one of the Brawl precon commanders had the bravery it took to try something different. Her name is Alela, Artful Provocateur, and whenever you cast artifacts and enchantments, she makes a flying Faerie, which she also happens to pump.
However, Alela isn't the only blue-white-inclusive commander that came out this year who rewards us with flying tokens: Kykar, Wind's Fury also supplies us with Spirit tokens whenever we cast a noncreature spell. Not only that, but Kykar can burn up these Spirits for mana.
If you're looking to make some flying tokens, do you lean red, or do you lean black? What cards do they have in common, and where do their token strategies diverge? Let's find out on this week's Commander Showdown!
The Name of the Wind
Let's start off with Kykar, Wind's Fury. Released just before Commander 2019's Jeskai deck, Kykar has blown his new Jeskai contemporaries out of the water, with over 1,400 decks to his name. It's no secret why Kykar is so appealing: he's one diverse birdman.
Kykar might use those Spirits as tokens... or he might just use them as mana to cast even more spells. Or both! Brewers are able to pick a multitude of directions for Kykar, taking him down the classic Spellslinger route, or going more full-on Storm, or honing in on those tokens for a flying tribal deck. While a commander like Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer is relegated to a limited number of Morph creatures, no two Kykar decks will look alike, giving him an edge of unpredictability.
So what would I personally do with Kykar? I must confess myself to be a fan of the classics. I like putting those tokens to good use.
The thing I find so fascinating about Kykar is his understanding that one resource begets another. A Spirit might be a 1/1 token, but it also might be an attacker, or a blocker, or it might be a vessel for mana, or perhaps a vessel that deals two damage to each opponent with Purphoros, God of the Forge, or maybe it's actually a 4/4 Angel with Divine Visitation.
Kykar is a conversion engine, weighing numbers and figures and forcing us to look at spells in a totally new way. No, not even just a conversion engine; a Rube Goldberg machine. Opt doesn't just draw you a card, it creates a Spirit, which then triggers a Purphoros, and it can be deleted with a Skullclamp, which draws you cards, which finds you another spell to cast, which creates another Spirit, which also triggers Jeskai Ascendancy, which untaps Kykar, which allows you to block profitably, and which can also be cashed in for even more mana....
None of the cards in this deck have Cascade, but they don't need it. They have Kykar.
The Breeze is Angry
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I think my favorite aspect of Kykar, beyond his flow charts and figures, is his flexibility within the game itself. You don't have to pick a single lane during the deckbuilding process. You certainly can choose to, if it suits you; if you like Storm, throw all the Aetherflux Reservoirs and Thousand-Year Storms and Sentinel Towers into the deck as you like, and commit whole hog to that path. Or you can run the Favorable Winds and Intangible Virtues and lean completely into Jeskai: the Tokening.
But you can also leave Kykar's door open just enough to allow all of these to coexist. Kykar can be built in such a way that you allow yourself room to switch tracks. Unable to attack with your tokens? Mizzix's Mastery a ton of spells for a huge blowout. Rule of Law preventing you from unleashing the Storm on your foes? The tokens are happy to help you punch your damage through.
Kykar ain't an easy commander to pilot. He requires forethought, careful planning, a keen sense of which win conditions your opponents are and are not able to respond to, and most importantly, a pretty strong grasp of arithmetic. If you like spells and tokens, that's fine and dandy, but Kykar isn't just about spells and tokens. Kykar is about transforming your resources into a flexible, unpredictable fireball that will wreck your opponents in ways they can't even comprehend.
Let's now turn our attention to the other token-maker in the room, and see what happens when we exchange red for black.
Alela, Artful Provocateur has a few more restrictions than Kykar, Wind's Fury. Kykar triggers off of any noncreature spell, but Alela only cares for artifacts and enchantments. This makes her job much more straightforward! We're going all-in on the flying tribal, folks!
Now, don't be fooled. 'Flying tribal' doesn't mean we're deviating from Alela's theme. Windreader Sphinx and Empyrean Eagle love flying creatures, but they don't synergize as precisely with Alela's plans. Bident of Thassa, for example, is also a source of card advantage as well as a flying creature, since Alela provides us with one when we cast it. It's much more on-theme - and much easier to actually cast - than the Sphinx. Similarly, any anthem enchantment we play will imitate the Eagle, giving us both a flying creature and pumping it and each one of its winged cohorts up.
Best of all, these allow us to simultaneously dip into synergies with cards like Dance of the Manse or Mirrormade. In fact, if we manage to get something like Anointed Procession into play, these cards can even make more flying creatures than a Sphinx or Eagle.
Does it feel like cheating to call this 'flying tribal' if we're not playing Thunderclap Wyvern? I don't think so at all. Our Estrid's Invocation will be copying Gravitational Shift and making multiple Faeries along the way. In short, just because we're going for the flying theme doesn't mean we lose sight of our commander's favorite effects!
Let's hop right to a list to demonstrate this plan a little better.
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Like an Enchantress deck, Alela can also use cards like Imprisoned in the Moon, Darksteel Mutation, or Detention Sphere as forms of removal because, unlike Generous Gift, these give us the token, not the opponent.
I've come to think of Alela's deck a bit like Aven Mindcensor and Hushwing Gryff. It's not a 'hatebears' deck, but when each Rest in Peace, Blind Obedience, and Aura of Silence also comes with a body, it's just more incentive to use those powerful effects to landlock your enemies and soar right over their heads to victory.
That, I think is the trick to any 'flying tribal' deck; it's not just that your creatures are in the air, it's that you never allow your opponents to take off from the ground.
I like to compare commanders to specific cards in the 99, almost like a signature spell that helps encapsulate that commander's ideal gameplay. Kykar, Wind's Fury is easily comparable to Jeskai Ascendancy. Other simple decks will cast a spell, get its ability, and call it good. Not Kykar. Every spell has a bazillion tiny ripple effects that coalesce with each other, untapping, buffing, resupplying, and ultimately dizzying your opponents to death. Use it as a combo engine or use it for one strong attack, and be ready for a fiddly game with dozens upon dozens of small rewards that build to a fascinating and flexible victory.
Alela, Artful Provocateur's signature card is also easy. Gravitational Shift pumps up your army. What a grand revelation, right? Well, here's the thing - Alela loves anthems more than most, because every pump-up enchantment she plays produces a creature that will immediately become pumped by it. Not only that, but Gravitational Shift reminds you to punish those who aren't up there in the air with you (and with something like Archetype of Imagination, that's going to be... ah, yes, I remember: everyone else). Alela looks down on others, both because she thinks she's so superior and above all of them, and because she's literally flying above all of them.
Cards to Consider
Let's finish up with a few cards that warrant a careful look when you're brewing up one of these commanders.
- Mizzix's Mastery: I'm genuinely confused by this card's meager 9% popularity for Kykar. It says 'cast' on it!
- Fury Storm: This is one of the best copy effects in the format, y'all.
- Expansion//Explosion: Versatile hybrid mana when you need to copy a small spell, and a great mana sink for all those Spirits when you need it.
- Earthquake: Remember how Alela likes to punish folks who don't fly the way she does? Kykar can do that, too.
- Metallurgic Summonings: If nothing else, play this because it buys back all your spells.
- Magus of the Moat: No one else gets to attack. Just us. This is much more of a 'flying tribal' card than Empyrean Eagle, and yet the Eagle appears in 40% of Alela decks while the Magus doesn't show up on her page at all.
- No Mercy: I'd like to see a few more black enchantments (or just black cards in general) in Alela decks. Ghostly Prison ain't the only way to deter attackers. I know from Daxos, the Returned that black has some great enchantments out there too.
- The Immortal Sun: This might genuinely be my favorite deck for this card, and that's saying something.
- Open the Vaults: You sometimes see this card in artifact decks that can't take advantage of the other half of its ability. Luckily, we can do both!
- Winged Words: Y'all. Flying tribal.
So which of these flying token-making Azorius resource-bending landlubber-punishing commanders is right for you? Do you like your tokens to serve multiple other purposes, or do you want to lean into their unique airborne attack forces?
Oh, and which match-up would you like to see on the next Commander Showdown?
Til next time!