From the Brim to the Trim – Build a Budget Legendaries Deck with Kethis, the Hidden Hand

(Heroes' Podium | Art by Willian Murai)

Kethis Kethis Bang Bang

Greetings and salutations from a country who just suffered a major blow against Ireland (crud, I said I wouldn't talk about rugby anymore...). I'm Arnaud, and I'm delighted to take you the treacherous path of uncanny brews, budget solutions and the eventual usage of nifty EDHREC features.

Last time, Elenda and Azor left a decent impression, with several comments on the direction I'd decided to take. With the release of the Cluedo at KarlMarkov Mansion (or something like that), it has been a month since we last had the chance for a nice talk. In the meantime, you wonderful brewers have provided a healthy 357 votes to determine this iteration's victim. Last came Atarka, World Render, with 109 votes, just above the 30% threshold. The two top contenders however were separated by a meagre 2 votes, with Brion Stoutarm standing at a proud 123 and our winner at 125. So, as you're now used to, I have decided to give the good Brion his chance next time around. The scores were so close that I feel he deserves some attention further on.

So, that leaves us with Kethis, the Hidden Hand.

Before Jodah, the Unifier stole the spotlight, this was one of the go-to options for a Legendary matters deck. While the stats are none too impressive – 3/4 for WBG – the abilities are. Cost reduction is always welcome, especially when playing big mana spells, and the built-in recursion allows to repopulate a board, provided we have the mana.

There are a few directions I could see us building this, but let's keep that for the thematic section.

As it stands, when merging the cheap and normal list of cards from Kethis' main page, we reach a massive 440 cards. I've decided to go ahead and use both selections, as several coveted legendary cards can carry a hefty price tag.

On we go then, to the first trim!

First Trim – The Cardboard Chainsaw Massacre

So, no cards above $1, considering the cheapest options available with the data from Archidekt. You know the drill.

This time around, I thought I would tell you a bit about the way I write these articles. You might think I would carefully build the various lists and then proceed to write down the comments for each of them. That would be sensible. Instead, I jot down my thoughts as they come, and trim the lists accordingly. While this probably doesn't help achieving the most optimal results, I think it's a more accurate insight on the deckbuilding process as a whole. The way I choose what to trash and what to keep generally follows this train of thought: first the obvious, then the situational, last what my gut tells me.

In a way, this is as close a trip into my distorted mind as you'll get.

Back to the list. What do we have left after chopping down the bling?

As it turns out, a surprisingly large amount. At the time of writing, there are 34 cards standing between the $1 and $2 mark. As usual, let's take a look at worthy inclusions without shattering your budget.

  • Skull Prophet: If you decide to lean heavily on the reanimation end, this is a nifty inclusion.
  • Relic of Legends: This is hands down one of my favourite cards in the past years. You'd be impressed at the quantity of mana this can snowball into.
  • Saffi Eriksdotter: Recursion within recursion. Love it.
  • Matzalantli, the Great Door: Yes, it does require some setup, but the mana payoff will often be impressive, especially with this commander.
  • Syr Konrad, the Grim: Ping, ping, ping and ping again. And disincentivize people from Bojuka Bogging you.
  • War of the Last Alliance: Much as I dislike UB cards, this would provide amazing value.
  • Shalai, Voice of Plenty: Sure, she dies to a boardwipe. But aside from that, she's a pain to deal with.
  • Elspeth, Sun's Champion: The best Elspeth to date has dropped in price recently thanks to her inclusion in the latest commander precons. Hopefully she will eventually dip below the $1 threshold
  • Damn: My favourite boardwipe at the moment.
  • Garruk, Primal Hunter: A marvelous Swiss Army Knife. The only caveat lies within the triple green pips.

And here we go. Still 224 cards to waddle through.

Second Trim – Cardward Scissorhands

I've rambled way too much in the previous paragraph, time for efficiency.

  • Card Advantage: 30
  • Ramp: 40
  • Removal: 38
  • Wipes: 8

Not bad, not bad at all. Let's lower the count, shall we?

Draw Ramp Removal Wipes

Ajani Unyielding Circuitous Route Binding the Old Gods Cleansing Nova
Arguel's Blood Fast Commander's Sphere Casualties of War Culling Ritual
Carth the Lion Crop Rotation Elspeth Conquers Death Gideon, Champion of Justice
Crown of Gondor Elvish Archdruid Gideon Blackblade Merciless Eviction
Eye of Vecna Farseek Gideon Jura
Frodo Baggins Gatewatch Beacon Golgari Charm
Gonti, Lord of Luxury Golgari Signet Isildur's Fateful Strike
Harald, King of Skemfar Harrow Kaya, Bane of the Dead
Miara, Thorn of the Glade Indatha Crystal Krosan Grip
Moldervine Reclamation Jhoira's Familiar Mortify
Scion of Halaster Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter Mythos of Nethroi
Urza Assembles the Titans Katilda, Dawnhart Prime Oath of Kaya
Vivien's Arkbow Kamahl's Druidic Vow Oath of Liliana
Weatherlight Kolvori, God of Kinship Profane Procession
Llanowar Elves Putrefy
Oath of Ajani Return to Nature
Orzhov Signet Stone of Erech
Phial of Galadriel The Wanderer
Rampant Growth Urza's Sylex
Rishkar, Peema Renegade Utter End
Search for Tomorrow Vindicate
Selesnya Signet Vraska the Unseen
Shigeki, Jukai Visionary You Cannot Pass!
The Irencrag
The Ring Goes South
Thran Temporal Gateway


Well, after this massive cleanup, and a healthy revamp of the mana base, we end up with 140 cards, and a crucial decision to make.

Third Trim – Cutting Off the Rough Edges

When I added Kethis to the potential choices for this article, I knew I would probably run in what I like to call the "Atraxa effect". Namely, a commander that has the potential for many wildly different brews. I've seen cards leaning towards an Elves-heavy deck, other focused on planeswalkers and other still eyeing the reanimation route.

For here on, I'll focus on the latter. You may have noticed many Elves have already been cut from the list, and we're sorely lacking many big players to play in the Superfriends realm. As such, I'll try to stick to the recursion plan, hoping to find enough value to at least put up a good fight. Granted, we're lacking some heavy hitters (Kokusho, where art thou?), but there might be value to be found yet.

First, let's get rid of any of the remaining fluff from the two aforementioned themes:

Down to 125 cards, that's better. Now to look at the remaining cards.

Some may frown at the lack of major beaters in the deck, but that's not really an issue in my book. There are currently 13 recursion spells in addition to our commander, so that should ensure a steady flow or reflow of creatures.

At the moment, I'm more concerned with the mana curve.

3.54 is higher than I'm comfortable with, even with the various cost reductions scattered around. I'd like to slightly lower range.

Hence, some of the more expensive cards will have to go.

  • God-Pharaoh's Statue: Guaranteed to have the whole table ganging up on you, and we don't have the oomph to keep up.
  • Kaya, Intangible Slayer: The card advantage looks really nice on paper, but I fear the mana value is simply too steep.
  • Vivien on the Hunt: the combination of mill and tutoring sounds great. But she also looks a bit like doing a bunch of nothing at the most critical moment.
  • Izoni, Thousand-Eyed: I'm not sure she'll make that many tokens, and the mana value is really color-heavy.
  • The Eldest Reborn: Cute, but will almost always hit the wrong target, and the reanimation cycle is really slow.
  • Liliana, Death's Majesty: I'm torn here, but the token is not really relevant, and she'll likely be dead before you can activate her reanimation ability twice.

And finally, a few outsiders that fell a bit too fringy for my taste.

At this point, I'm switching between the Categories and Mana Value tabs to find two more cards to cut. Those will be removals, as I've kept a bit too much than strictly necessary.

Off with Nature's Claim and Vindicate.

And with that, we're painfully down to 110 cards. On to the final stretch.

Final Trim - Heart-wrenching choices

So, it's now more a matter of balance rather than anything else. We have a healthy amount of legendary creatures and artifacts, which I'll leave mostly untouched. That leaves us with the side dishes.

  • Throne of the Grim Captain: Self-mill is nice, but a tad limited without the possibility to use that juicy second ability.
  • Perpetual Timepiece: Pretty much the same reasons, and I'm not impressed by the second ability. I'm probably wrong here.
  • Old Rutstein: A bit slow and not really rewarding enough for my taste.
  • Thalia's Lancers: Hey, a direct tutor that escaped my vigilance! Off with you.
  • Grapple with the Past: Nice on paper, but there are better things to do with that mana.
  • Invasion of Fiora: I've pondered a lot with this one. I like asymmetrical board wipes, but I've run into many games where I really wanted a specific commander off the table.
  • Gerrard's Hourglass Pendant: I like the Flash, but 5 mana is a lot to save a board you'll probably rebuild with the help of your commander.
  • Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle: At this point, there are 8 creatures worth 3 mana or less. Not the best odds.
  • Bartolomé del Presidio: I'm reluctant to cut yet another legendary, but I don't really see his ability being relevant in our case.
  • Path to Exile: Because I don't want to cut anything else. Feel free to lambast me.

And here we are.

Kethis, Legend among Legends

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Ramp (13)
Draw (13)
Recursion (11)
Boost (3)
Protection (2)
Removal (6)
Wipe (3)
Tutor (1)
Mill (6)
Counters (1)
Tokens (3)
Creature (2)
Land (35)

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View this decklist on Archidekt


This was a hard one to pull off. All in all, I believe this is more of a dormant deck. Lay low, let your opponents commit to the board, then jump in when they run out of gas. Slow and steady wins the race, eh?

Have I butchered this commander? Anything I left aside I should not have? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments, and I'll see you in two weeks with our friend Brion!

Read more:

Wombo Combo - Best Orzhov Combo Cards in EDH

From The Brim To The Trim - Living The Budget And Snuffing Out Opponents

Arnaud Gompertz has been playing Magic since 4th Edition, back in 1995. He's been an assiduous EDH enthusiast since 2012, with a soft spot for unusual and casual Commanders. He'll always favour spectacular plays against a boring path to victory. Aside from mistreating cardboard, he's a dedicated board games player, loves a challenging video game and occasionally tries to sing with his choir.

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