Conditions Allow - Kiyomaro, First to Stand
(Kiyomaro, First to Stand | Art by Kev Walker)
Out Standing In His Field
Hello everyone, welcome back to Conditions Allow. In this article series, I take a look at legendary creatures with a drawback and build a deck to turn it into a strength. This week's commander doesn't have a mechanical drawback, but it does struggle directly against the mechanics of its color and the flow of the game itself. You have to play spells in order to win, which is why in most games you will settle at three to five cards in hand by the end of the game. There is a constant need to draw cards in order to cast spells, to draw cards and so on. For Kiyomaro, First to Stand, however, having cards in hand is literally a matter of life and death.
Like all cards that bear the name Maro, Kiyomaro, First to Stand has power and toughness equal to the number of cards in your hand. It is also part of a cycle of mono-colored legendary creatures from Kamigawa, each of which has this same basic effect. Each also has additional effects dependent on their color. Kiyomaro, First to Stand gains vigilance as long as we have four or more cards in hand and causes us to gain seven life when it deals combat damage if we are holding seven or more cards in hand. Vigilance is a powerful ability in multiplayer games, and I think Kiyomaro has potential as a Voltron style commander. As long as we can keep a decent number of cards in our hand, that is. Unfortunately, that isn't something white generally excels at. So let's dive into Kiyomaro's EDHREC page and make a couple of Scryfall searches to see if we can overcome white's greatest weakness in EDH.
Standing Up for the Underdog
Kiyomaro, First to Stand only has nine decks on the site and doesn't have any associated themes. Taking a look at the Top and Signature cards, however, there are a huge variety of effects that help us get and keep cards in our hand. The most consistent way to get cards into your hand in white is through Land Tax effects. The biggest complaint I see about Land Tax and Gift of Estates is that they don't get you spells to cast, but Kiyomaro doesn't care about what cards we have in hand, just how many. We can also make use of Equipment like Mask of Memory and Rogue's Gloves since Kiyomaro, First to Stand wants to attack, anyway. For pure explosiveness, nothing matches up to Well of Lost Dreams, while Dawn of Hope has greater utility in the late game. Finally, weird effects like Forecast on Spirit en-Dal let us keep cards in hand while still getting their effects.
From this quick look it seems like the most popular way to build Kiyomaro, First to Stand is to lean hard into any kind of effect that puts cards in your hand to keep Kiyomaro as buff as possible. Back this up with a couple of Equipment, and Kiyomaro should be a very real threat in combat while still able to play effective defense thanks to vigilance. As good as that sounds, it is reliant on our ability to keep cards in our hand, something which isn't easy while trying to keep up with three other players. Let's take a closer look at all the best ways we can push Kiyomaro, First to Stand as far as possible.
Can't Stand All These Cards
The most efficient way to get extra cards in mono-white is probably Land Tax. No other card will let you "draw" three cards during your upkeep for a single white mana. Of course, being stuck with nothing but six lands in hand can feel bad, but Kiyomaro goes a long way towards alleviating that. Oreskos Explorer is a one-time version of this effect, but has extra value through being a creature. In the early turns it can carry Equipment like Rogue's Gloves to fuel extra draws and then be returned to our hand later by Sword of Light and Shadow. This forms a great cycle of putting cards into our hand that also allows us to ensure we hit land drops while developing an aggressive gameplan.
We also have access to all of the colorless symmetrical draw effects. These are much more steady sources of card draw, but also come with the risk of providing our opponents with answers for Kiyomaro, First to Stand. In order to offset this risk, we'll play Alms Collector. Because of the way the cards are worded, Alms Collector won't affect the extra draw opponents get from Howling Mine, but it ensures that we get the better deal from Font of Mythos and Otherworld Atlas. Group Hug style draw also plays very nicely with Sword of War and Peace. The more cards our opponents have in hand, the faster this Equipment will burn our opponents down while simultaneously gaining us a solid cushion of life.
The most explosive draw engine with Kiyomaro, First to Stand is easily Well of Lost Dreams. Even when we have less than seven cards in hand, Shadowspear and Loxodon Warhammer ensure we will get to draw plenty of cards every time we attack or block. Dawn of Hope has a more reserved effect, but has much more utility. The Soldiers Dawn of Hope creates will trigger the draw ability without having to spend additional cards from our hand. Being able to develop our board position as efficiently as possible is massively important for this deck, so permanents with relevant activated abilities are really valuable.
There are also plenty of more sneaky ways to maintain a large hand size. The real reason maintaining a large hand size is a challenge is because we have to use cards in order to stay in the game. Kiyomaro, First to Stand can be a big threat, but EDH is the format of spot removal and board wipes. We'll need the ability to back up Kiyomaro on the battlefield with Equipment and other creatures and ways to protect it so we don't fold to removal. Steelshaper Apprentice lets us find Swiftfoot Boots when we need it and buff Kiyomaro, First to Stand by two points. If you've already got Dauntless Bodyguard or Selfless Spirit in play, Sword of Light and Shadow will give you the constant ability to protect Kiyomaro, First to Stand by recurring these incredibly useful creatures.
Finally, Forecast is an old mechanic that could have been the initial implementation of Adventure we saw in Throne of Eldraine. It essentially serves the same purpose of letting us use creatures as sorceries. Unlike going on an Adventure, however, Spirit en-Dal and Paladin of Prahv will both stay in your hand. This lets us make Kiyomaro, First to Stand unblockable turn after turn without needing to use cards from our hand.
A Shoulder to Lean On
So far I've mentioned quite a few ways to gain life and just a couple payoffs for doing so. Well of Lost Dreams and Dawn of Hope are great, but they only let us draw cards. Angelic Accord, Luminarch Ascension, and Crested Sunmare are all huge payoffs for gaining life that put a lot of power on the field. Sigiled Sword of Valeron makes slightly smaller tokens, but can realistically start doing so several turns earlier.
God-Eternal Oketra is another great way to get extra value out of our creature spells. With Oketra on the field, every creature we cast comes with a 4/4 Zombie buddy to make trouble with. This does require us to cast spells from our hand, but white is actually pretty good at recycling small creatures. Emeria Shepherd is an extremely powerful recursion engine and retains the ability to return creatures to our hand if we'd rather get cast triggers, or just buff Kiyomaro for those final few points of power. In the same vein, Crucible of Worlds gives us the ability to play lands from our graveyard rather than our hand. With plenty of fetchlands, we can reliably have a land in our graveyard to play every turn. This also makes Emeria Shepherd even better, potentially putting two cards into our hand every turn.
To wrap things up, I want to mention a couple of niche cards that I wasn't expecting to find on Kiyomaro, First to Stand's page or that I didn't know existed before looking there. First, Bag of Holding won't increase our hand size, but does serve another valuable purpose. Any cards we discard, from Anvil of Bogardan or to maximum hand size, will be exiled under the Bag. Then we can put them all back in our hand as a combat trick for four mana. This is really powerful as a source of card filtering in the early game, and can help us pump our commander for lethal damage in later turns. Second, we have Inheritance. This enchantment is similar to Harvester of Souls, except that it triggers when tokens die, too. Three mana is probably too expensive for this effect, but it is just interesting enough for me to want to really test out, especially in Boros.
Kiyomaro, First to Stand ended up really surprising me. I think white is better than people expect at maintaining a decent hand size. Land Tax may ensure that most of those cards are lands, but when each one makes your commander more powerful, it doesn't feel as bad. And while white may not be the right color for caring about hand size, Kiyomaro is the perfect kind of payoff for the sort of game white is good at playing. It's an aggressive creature that excels as an attacker and blocker and empowers a token-based life gain strategy. But what do you think? Is there any sweet tech I overlooked, or does Kiyomaro, First to Stand not have any ground to stand on? Let me know, and, as always, thanks for reading!
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