Commander Showdown - Kyler vs Jirina Kudro
(Dmitry Burmak | by Magali Villeneuve)by
Welcome to Commander Showdown, where we compare and contrast commanders with similar abilities to discover the overlaps, differences, and nuances of their strategies!
It's been a year and a half since the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, a world full of crazy monsters and some humans who are just trying to survive. Now, at the end of 2021, we're revisiting Innistrad, a world full of crazy monsters and some humans who are just trying to survive.
Human tribal has been a strange thing to observe over the years. Althoughwas the face commander of the Ruthless Regiment precon, she's since been overshadowed by & . Although Trynn & Silvar also use a lot of Human tribal elements, their primary strategy is full-on Aristocrats, and their decks will often even sport non-Human creatures like to drain the table. In fact, many Trynn & Silvar players lament the fact that Silvar can only sacrifice Humans. This is a very different attitude to Jirina, who enjoys pumping out tokens and bashing into the red zone the old-fashioned way.
Curiously, this isn't the only time the face commander of a Human precon has been overshadowed. The Coven Counters precon featuresas its face commander, who is far and away the least popular green-white commander of the entire Midnight Hunt set. Meanwhile, her co-commander is steadily climbing the ranks as players discover the full power of his impressive anthemic abilities.
Mardu Humans and Selesnya Humans? Two commanders that both buff up their fellow comrades? How do these commanders' strategies overlap, and how do they differ? Can we uncover any secret tech for Kyler, and some new Midnight Hunt toys for Jirina? Let's find out!
Let's start with the devil we know.is one of the weirder commanders we've ever seen. Her token-making ability is reminiscent of the Commander 2013 product with command-zone-matters cards like , only Jirina's not nearly as bonkers. I've grown to appreciate the restraint, though; we don't want more Prossh-level commanders out there, and to focus too much on the token creation would be to miss the main point of Jirina: she's a pump effect that just happens to get a little more potent over time.
Full confession, before I started this whole thing, I thought I had the full measure of Jirina. I thought I knew all the tricks already:and , maybe another legendary Human or two like to make more potent, and a few classic Human token cards like . Easy peasy.
Turns out, I didn't really know what I was doing. Like, those cards were all there, sure, but they weren't alone. It wasn't just, it was also . I know we all have thoughts about , but there's no denying the effects are pretty dang good here. Also, this is Mardu, and who doesn't love a deck that pull off a ?
Oh, but it gets better. I've been softer onthan a lot of other folks out there, but I won't deny that it's a stunning card in a deck with a commander that pumps up its power. is so good at drawing cards I'm even playing it in my new deck, but its original home was this here Jirina deck, so I have to pay it due respect. from Strixhaven also completely wowed me; it's not every day you get an on-tribe creature that protects your whole board. It's also not every day that you get an on-tribe ! is itself abominable. Any and all combats become instantly one-sided? Gross.
And you know, I thought that might be it, but Jirina's also gotten some fabulous new toys of late!
is a Very Good Card, capital V, G, and C. It's so good that even that legend has more decks than , and that's mono-white! Pumping out that many tokens is incredible, especially when your commander automatically makes them more powerful, and the deck contains half a dozen other anthems, too! is a brilliant draw spell for any black-inclusive tribal deck (and it's sometimes a hilarious finisher against a too-greedy Elf player with 35 creatures on board).
However, I absolutely have to tip my tricorn hat to. You know what pairs will with all these Humans? More Humans!
Let's see howhas kept up with the times:
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Jirina occupies a strange mechanical space. On the one hand, you want to cast her as soon as possible, to get tokens and get attacking right away. On the other hand, her pump-up effect makes her a brilliant final play, the last thing you cast before an all-out swing. This middle space gives her deck a tempo identity crisis.
However, Jirina's reminded me of a pretty important life lesson: expectations are just premeditated resentments. Jirina's beating her own drum, and if I just shut up and actually listen to it, it's a pretty cool tune. I expected explosive Mardu tech, but Jirina can slow-and-steady win the race just with a hilariousto constantly make more tokens. If she dies, she can shrug it off with a and just hit someone all over again next turn.
Eventually I realized that this deck reminded me a lot of my mom'sdeck, which also buffs up specific types of creatures. That deck contains a bunch of other creatures that also help out the whole tribe, like , so even if Kangee's only attacking with three total creatures, it still might hit you for like 15 damage. Turns out Jirina, coupled with s, s and s, is able to do the very same thing.
That's enough time on the plane of Ikoria. Let's now turn our attention to the people of Innistrad.
It Takes a Village
My podcast cohost Matt Morgan has recently received and updated his Coven Counters precon, putting at the helm, and I must confess that once again, I thought I knew what to expect, and was completely blown out of the water.
Every Human gives Kyler a counter. Every counter pumps up all the other Humans. I'm not supposed to swear in these articles, but holy $#!% that's good! It's like a mix of, , and ! In my first game against Kyler, I figured there was nothing to fear about a couple of Humans, no big deal. Then a single turn passed, and Kyler oversaw the creation of five or six Human tokens, and was ready to attack for lethal on the very next turn.
I also have to give full credit to Matt for showing off some extremely clever tricks with this commander.doesn't just buff up other Humans for each +1/+1 counter he's accrued - he buffs them up for every counter that's on him, period. That means a card like , which can give Kyler a hexproof counter, will both protect its leader and provide him with a double-buff.
This is also a deck that'll make you realize just how many amazing creatures out there are just innocuously Humans. We're not used toexhibiting tribal synergies, but it's definitely making them happen here. Don't forget , too!
Plus, since Kyler is so busy pumping up the entire team, it turns out you don't need to spend tons of card slots on spells that will make the team lethal. Why spend mana on some "creatures you control get +5/+5" spell when you can just cast aand give the team +5/+5 while also making a ton of new tokens that'll share in that huge buff?
In fact, you can just crack awith in play, and create two new tokens that'll buff the team, too! These tricks can even be done mid-combat, so even if 'math is for blockers', the blockers are never gonna be able to keep up with our math. Heck, we can even slam a surprise on, say, a , and really give an opponent a bad day when Kyler soaks up all those counters.
Since the team is already gonna wind up as like, minimum 5/5s, probably closer to 8/8s, we can focus our attention on Humans that provide completely different abilities. I'm personally a fan ofto make sure no one gets to block our approximate collective of 60-ish power on board. Oh, and is a that helps Kyler's pump effect accumulate twice as quickly. He doesn't even need Toothy, that escalation is enough on its own!
There is a pretty dramatic problem that Kyler decks have to address, though. Let's explore it a little deeper with a proper decklist.
Kiki Wanna Ky-Ky
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(PS: Bless everyone who got the reference for this deck's name. There are dozens of us!)
Kyler is effectively a. We want to rush him out, play a bunch of Humans, get them nice and pumped, and swing for tons upon tons of damage. This is awesome, but it's also an extremely commander-centric strategy. If Kyler goes caput, the whole deck falters.
This places an extremely high value on two different things: protection, and card advantage. The decklist above is packed to the gills withs, s, and s to help it maintain punchiness. Some of those are pretty pricey cards, but even budget versions like will be invaluable to this deck. If the army goes, the whole deck goes too. Hexproof and shroud are also extremely important. If Kyler's removed mid-combat, the whole attack deflates in a flash. If you've got it available, I highly recommend using to help Kyler reclaim his former glory anytime he comes under fire.
In addition to the prevention and protection, card advantage will play a key role in keeping Kyler from sputtering out., , and other such classics will help out for sure, but don't skimp on this category, because running out of Humans to play means we've got nothing but a five-mana 2/2. Taking inspiration from , the new-ish from Kaldheim can help out too. I'd even suggest some of the crazier draw effects like , which can sacrifice our other inconsequential Humans that Kyler happens to have turned into 9/9s, and keep our hands nice and well-stocked. Humans aren't going to survive Innistrad without grouping in numbers, so don't hesitate to use card draw spells to find a bunch more!
To Err is Human
I think this commander-centric strategy is the biggest difference to note between these two Human tribal commanders. Kyler makes the whole deck hum, but Jirina's not too broken up if she happens to go back to the command zone.
Kyler's impact can be meteoric, but it has key pressure points and weak spots that the deck absolutely has to shield, lest it fall apart. If Kyler's the hare, Jirina is the tortoise, and she'll steadily drive more and more tokens into the red zone to inexorably whittle away her foes.
So, which of these strategies do you think is best for surviving a plane full of monsters? I'd love to hear your thoughts and tricks for Human tribal! Shout-out again to my friend and cohost Matt Morgan, whose Kyler deck you can find here. You may even hear him discuss it more on this week's EDHREC podcast, and you can catch even catch some of that sweet Human tribal gameplay over on our EDH gameplay stream every Wednesday at 6pm PST!
Is there a Commander Showdown you're dying to see? Let me know which pairing you'd like to see me tackle next!
Til next time!