Conditions Allow - Kaho, Minamo Historian
(Kaho, Minamo Historian | Art by Greg Staples)
Do Not Meddle in the Affairs of Wizards
Some commanders come with all the effects that you could want wrapped neatly in a single package with a bow on top. Cards like Korvold, Fae-Cursed King and Chulane, Teller of Tales (among others) have become prime examples of power creep in Commander thanks to the neat combination of setup and payoff in a single card.
Some legendary creatures are much more sneaky, however. They seem very powerful at first glance, but what at first appeared like an all-upside design turns out to instead be a drawback in disguise, keeping that commander from ever reaching the potential you initially thought was possible. For many, that is exactly what Kaho, Minamo Historian is.
Kaho, Minamo Historian might appear to be a stronger version of Elite Arcanist or Isochron Scepter at first glance. Not only does Kaho "Imprint" three different instants, she searches for them directly out of your library so you don't have to worry about having the right spells in hand when you cast her. Unlike Elite Arcanist, Kaho actually casts the spells with her ability, rather than putting copies onto the stack. This means they will go to your graveyard when they resolve, and Kaho loses access to them. Cast the three spells in exile, and Kaho, Minamo Historian becomes a 2/2 creature with no abilities. Also, if Kaho happens to be removed, our spells will be permanently stuck in exile. This can leave us without access to our best spells, and entirely unable to win the game.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Kaho, Minamo Historian's EDHREC page is stuffed full of counterspells. In particular, modal counter spells are very popular with this commander. Cryptic Command and Archmage's Charm don't show up very often at Commander tables (being in only 5% and 2% of possible decks, respectively), but they are great inclusions for Kaho. They give you the ability to respond to threats or to develop your own position as the situation demands. We can even make use of cards like Learn from the Past to put spells back into the deck to reuse, while Ghostly Flicker is an easy avenue to reset Kaho, Minamo Historian and ensure that we always have an answer.
By far the most powerful spell to exile with Kaho, however, is Nexus of Fate. Kaho can search directly for Nexus of Fate when she enters the battlefield, allowing us to take infinite turns as long as we can flicker or bounce her every turn, with Ghostly Flicker, for instance. Kaho, Minamo Historian can even search for both of these cards, needing only an untap effect to start taking infinite turns. This is a potent interaction, but also a risky one. If Kaho, Minamo Historian is destroyed before she can cast Nexus of Fate, our extra turn spell will be permanently lost in exile. It will often be best to use Kaho as a spell toolbox, slowly grinding opponents out of resources before trying to execute our combo to win the game.
Copy These Into Your Spellbook
I've already mentioned why modal spells are great with Kaho, Minamo Historian, but they aren't the only instants that we can grab with her effect.
If we're expecting a quick rush of creatures, there aren't many spells that will serve better than Evacuation. Kaho has a hard time keeping up when multiple spells need to be answered in a turn cycle, but Aetherspouts will handle any number of attacking creatures. Your opponents will know when one of these cards is exiled with Kaho too, so they will often avoid attacking you to protect their creatures. It's also worth noting that Kaho, Minamo Historian doesn't always have to find three spells. We can search for just Evacuation, for instance. Then, when we cast it, no other spells are left in exile, and we're ready to easily recast Kaho on our next turn.
If we aren't casting Evacuation, we'll eventually need a way to reset our commander. Having Kaho, Minamo Historian sit on the battlefield with no spells to cast is never where we want to be. Bounce spells will work for this, and they can be a neat trick to dodge targeted removal in a pinch, but flicker effects are far more useful. Siren's Ruse immediately puts Kaho, Minamo Historian back into play, so we don't have to worry about casting her. She won't have summoning sickness on our turn, so we can keep slinging spells. When we go for the win, Kaho will repeatedly search our library for one of these three spells, along with Nexus of Fate and a way to recycle our spent spells.
We don't have to worry about running out of flicker spells, or any other spells, thanks to these three instants. Periodically shuffling our graveyard back into our library will ensure that Kaho can always search for the perfect answer to any board state. They also form an integral part of our combo with Nexus of Fate. We need to be able to recycle Ghostly Flicker and Essence Flux to keep the combo going, and these spells are the only ones that let Kaho, Minamo Historian do that.
Staying On Your Toes
Of course, if we need to cast Nexus of Fate, Learn from the Past, and Siren's Ruse in one turn, we're going to need to untap Kaho, Minamo Historian a couple of times, and we're going to need a lot of mana.
Some decks online accomplish this with Dramatic Reversal and Isochron Scepter. Using this combo can also generate infinite mana to activate Kaho's ability, but I'm not a fan of relying on Isochron Scepter here. It can be surprisingly difficult to get Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal into your hand at the same time. I'd rather only have to search for Chakram Retriever and rely on ramping with mana rocks to have the mana we need.
Reducing the cost of Kaho, Minamo Historian's activated ability also makes it much easier to cast her spells. Training Grounds brings the cost of Cryptic Command down to two and Nexus of Fate down to five. Any two-mana spells, like Siren's Ruse or Counterspell, are free with Training Grounds and Kaho in play. Heartstone also gives this cost reduction to your opponents, but chances are you'll be able to make better use of it. Casting Nexus of Fate for four mana is very powerful.
We can also include Aphetto Alchemist to help us ramp by untapping lands or mana rocks, or to untap Kaho when we need to cast multiple spells. This allows her to respond to multiple threats and decreases the chances that removal will slip through and interrupt our gameplan. Thousand-Year Elixir also gives Kaho pseudo-haste, making it even harder for our opponents to catch us flat-footed. Any two of these untap effects will let us start our combo, too, although that is the most mana-intensive method.
If we really want to save mana, the best way to combo with Kaho, Minamo Historian and Nexus of Fate is Conjurer's Closet. We can search for it with Fabricate or Whir of Invention, and it is a free and repeatable way to flicker Kaho every turn. That lets her find Nexus of Fate again, ready to cast it on our next turn. Rinse and repeat until you've won the game.
This Could Take a While
But how does Kaho, Minamo Historian actually win? Attacking with a 2/2 creature won't get you there. We could rely on a Laboratory Maniac effect and draw our whole deck, one card at a time. This doesn't help us if our combo is interrupted, though. We're going to need a plan if Nexus of Fate is lost or if it is outside of our budget.
Unlike other Spellslinger decks, this version of Kaho, Minamo Historian doesn't cast a bunch of spells in a single turn, but spreads them out over many. This means that Aetherflux Reservoir and Sentinel Tower aren't as effective at ending the game as they might usually be. Instead, we're going to lean on Sphinx-Bone Wand, which gains a counter every time you cast a spell, then deals that much damage to any target. Those counters stick around between turns, so it can quickly threaten to kill creatures and then start taking chunks out of life totals, even if we aren't taking infinite turns.
This is, however, a deck built to take infinite turns. As instant-speed, single-target removal gets more and more popular, it is essential for us to be able to protect Kaho during each of those infinite turns. A Counterspell might work, but Tidal Barracuda makes it so you'll never have to worry about your opponents playing spells at all. The Barracuda stops your opponents from casting spells during your turn, which works really well if it's always your turn. Conqueror's Flail can do the same thing, but I'm leaving it out of this deck. I haven't included many creatures, so it's likely that we'll go for the combo without any creature other than Kaho to Equip.
Kaho, Minamo Historian
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This deck is really evocative of a wizard casting spells from a large spellbook, each one mastered through long practice. Searching for any three instants is a powerful effect, but it's surprising how much Kaho, Minamo Historian actually suffers from those spells going to the graveyard. This is part of what makes Nexus of Fate so powerful with Kaho, although you do still have to be careful: if Nexus of Fate gets stuck in exile it can be nearly impossible to recover.
I really like Kaho, Minamo Historian, though. I think her card evokes the feeling of being a powerful wizard casting spells. She may also be the only commander that can truly use the library as a second hand.
I'd love to hear your experiences with Kaho! Have you played with her or against her? What spells worked best, and which underperformed? Let me know if I missed any secret tech in the comments, and thanks for reading.