Too-Specific Top 10 - Bananarama

(Kibo, Uktabi Prince | Art by Zoltan Boros)

Simian Situation

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Kird Ape and Gorilla Shaman are the only non-Changeling one-mana Apes?)

I talked a bit about Bananas last week, but overall I didn't get to go nearly as in-depth as I wanted on Kibo, Uktabi Prince. I at least mentioned that I was totally gonna build him, so why not start there?

Commander (1)
Creatures (36)
Instants (6)
Sorceries (11)
Artifacts (7)
Lands (32)
Enchantments (7)

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Having a commander that cares about two distinct creature types is a bit odd, leading you in a themed direction but not letting you go all-in. As such, I actually predict that we'll see quite a few Gruul Changeling Goodstuff lists helmed by Kibo, so we should probably just get those out of the way:

Top 10 Gruul Changelings

  1. Realmwalker
  2. Maskwood Nexus
  3. Taurean Mauler
  4. Masked Vandal
  5. Universal Automaton
  6. Bloodline Pretender
  7. Chameleon Colossus
  8. Guardian Gladewalker
  9. Birthing Boughs
  10. Woodland Changeling

While Realmwalker only has a 50/50 chance in your Ape/Monkey deck of hitting the right primate, a Changeling build stacks the numbers in your favor quite a bit more. Combine that with Maskwood Nexus making the problem nonexistent, and you'll get quite a bit more streamlined in your build. If you're just looking to go full 'artifact' hate with an emphasis on aggro, then there are also quite a few low-cost Changelings, like Masked Vandal, Universal Automaton, Woodland Changeling, and Blades of Velis Vel, that can make that plan happen, along with the ever-huge Taurean Mauler.

There are, however, only 19 Changelings available in Gruul, so no matter how you build your Kibo brew, you'll probably want some true primates to fill things in, so why don't we see which are the most popular?

Top 10 Gruul Primates

First off, an apology to the Yetis of the Magic universe for their lack of inclusion here. You've always been my boy, Mountain Yeti, and it's not me that's discriminating, it's Kibo!

As for the Humans, you get enough attention even without having a Lord. Let the Apes rule the world for once! What could go wrong?

Criteria: Apes, Monkeys, or cards which can create Ape or Monkey tokens within the Gruul color identity. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Uktabi Orangutan

(1,283 Inclusions, 0% of 864,944 Decks)

The original Reclamation Sage, Uktabi Orangutan has been left out to dry for many a year now. Heck, even in a Kibo deck, it's probably still the second-best 'Ape' when it comes to getting rid of an artifact on ETB. Or is it? Masked Vandal does count as both a Monkey and an Ape, but it's actually kind of a nonbo with Kibo. Exiling an artifact won't put +1/+1 counters on Team Primate.

With that in mind, maybe it's not as surprising that in the week it took me to write this article, Uktabi Orangutan moved up two spots in the primate rankings to slide into the top ten, surpassing both Silverback Shaman and the other old Standard staple, Kird Ape. After all, I'm far from the only person wanting to build around the OG orangutan's offspring!

9. Simian Sling

(1,488 Inclusions, 0% of 584,397 Decks)

Even as an old-school kind of guy, I'm not that impressed with with Simian Sling's ability. "You killed my 1/1, so it's gonna deal one damage to you" is barely anything to be worried about in formats with 20 life anymore, much less ones with 40. With that said, if you're building aggro Monkeys, which is probably the best version of Kibo out there, it's a 1/1 Monkey for one with upside. In other words, you're excited to see this little robot, whether you end up ever equipping it or not.

8. Scrounging Bandar

(2,467 Inclusions, 0% of 860,593 Decks)

Speaking of aggro Monkeys, here's a two-mana 2/2 Cat Monkey that synergizes with +1/+1 counters. In other words, you could not have picked anything more perfect for a Kibo build, especially since you're going to want to keep Kibo himself a little beefier to utilize his attack ability.

7. Gorilla Shaman

(2,626 Inclusions, 0% of 895,334 Decks)

When it comes to cheap creatures with upside, it's hard to do any better than longtime Legacy staples. For those of you who have never played that always-increasingly-difficult-to-get-into format, may I introduce you to Gorilla Shaman? A 1/1 for one that can pay one to destroy zero-mana artifacts. In this day and age of Treasure and increasingly faster metas playing fast mana all over the place, what's not to like?

6. Grunn, the Lonely King

(Helms 512 Decks, Rank #742; 2,754 Inclusions, 0% of 864,944 Decks)

The math on Grunn already gets fun before you even start stacking counters on him from his Kicker, but how about when you're doing more of the same with Kibo's? Five damage becoming ten is all well and good, but if you're like me, you're looking to make 20 into 40!

If only he came with trample!

5. Silverback Elder

(7,014 Inclusions, 3% of 227,207 Decks)

If you are looking to be greedy with your large Apes, then might I suggest Silverback Elder? Not only does it double on Kibo's attack ability, but it can also easily ramp you or catch you up on life if you're not currently the aggro-est of the aggro decks!

Best of all, though, if you're just looking to Overwhelm your opponents, then you can just play down three cheap Monkeys, eliminate three mana rocks/blockers/problems, and permanently give your entire team +3/+3. That seems pretty good!

4. Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

(Helms 203 Decks, Rank #1,115; 9,178 Inclusions, 1% of 890,469 Decks)

Two mana for a 1/3 first striker with menace is already fairly decent for an aggro build, but what if I told you that Kari Zev wasn't even the Monkey in this scenario? Tack on another two power to her attack that's more easily blockable, and you've got a Ragavan token. Just make sure to stack Kibo's attack trigger correctly so the legendary Monkey gets a +1/+1 counter, too!

3. Kogla, the Titan Ape

(Helms 390 Decks, Rank # 841; 35,968 Inclusions, 4% of 864,944 Decks)

Another day, another huge Ape that hates on artifacts and enchantments during your attack step. When it comes to top end, it's hard to be mad at King Kong, although you do have to wonder when his Godzilla alter is coming?

2. Simian Spirit Guide

(38,486 Inclusions, 4% of 895,334 Decks)

Let's be honest, you've never actually seen this card cast, only activated. If there was a deck that would be incentivized to do so in the late game, however, it would be Kibo. Even if all you do is discard it on turn two to get Kibo into play a bit earlier, though, are you really mad?

1. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

(Helms 1,679 Decks, Rank #317; 47,267 Inclusions, 6% of 810,060 Decks)

Monkey enthusiasts of the world, I hope you brought your pocket books or your sharpies with you, because unfortunately you're probably going to want a copy of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. Currently sitting above even Dockside Extortionist in price, Ragavan is the epitome of a Modern mythic: broken beyond all reason, pushed beyond any measure that can be explained without bringing up Hasbro's record profits, and cute to boot. Your nice budget brew of Kibo might do alright for itself, but you'll always know, somewhere in the back of your mind, that you could be playing down a turn-one Ragavan for an epic start that would rival Sol Ring in your little Monkey deck.

Honorable Mentions

Most of the primates that didn't make our top ten are off of our list for a solid reason this week. I actually breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that I was going to be writing a paragraph on Uktabi Orangutan instead of Silverback Shaman. There are, however, a few inclusions that are worth talking about through the lens of Kibo.

The Aggro Apes

From the OG 2/3 for one to the new school 4/4 trampler for one, there's a ton of cheap primates that can easily slide into your aggro build. While that list of ultra-efficient examples ends at those two (and arguably Hidden Gibbons), there're still quite a few more on-rate Monkeys that you can lay down early with Kibo, some of which even come with evasion. Peruse this alternate top ten if you're looking to get into the red zone early and often:

Top 10 Cheap Primates

  1. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
  2. Gorilla Shaman
  3. Scrounging Bandar
  4. Simian Sling
  5. Kird Ape
  6. Yavimaya Steelcrusher
  7. Wily Bandar
  8. Zodiac Monkey
  9. Tree Monkey
  10. Barbary Apes

If you're not just looking for a Grizzly Bear, however, then might I suggest monkeying around with some more utilitarian primates?

The Smart Simians

I would not be surprised at all to see the play numbers of Yavimaya Steelcrusher rocket up with the printing of Kibo, because it honestly should be seeing a lot more play anyway and it fits the deck perfectly. No matter the build you're trying to make, it's an easy inclusion.

With that said, if you're looking to lean further into Bananas and artifacts, and less into just laying down a bunch of efficient Apes and turning them sideways, then there 's something to be said for Monkey Cage. It's not just for any deck, but if you've got more of the expensive creatures and ramp everywhere, then it's fairly easy to sacrifice a few Bananas, tap a bunch of lands, and cast Monkey Cage and Kogla back-to-back for an easy 19 power on the board.

I think the smartest inclusion we haven't mentioned yet is the newly printed Simian Simulacrum. Three mana for four power is as efficient as it gets, but even if you're not in the aggro deck, you're happy to have an artifact that puts out +1/+1 counters and can be cast twice.

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

I have little doubt that the 'better' build of Kibo is the aggro deck, but I have to admit that the more interesting brew might be Banana-centric. I looked that way myself, to start with, and just didn't find much in the way of cards that could do interesting things with Bananas or giving your opponents free "Treasures". Still, it does open the way for an archetype Gruul has never really seen before: Group Hug. I've always been a big fan of Group Hug, but was hesitant to lean that way instead of the obvious primate direction that the card incentivizes. What I want to know is...

Finally, what's your favorite primate? Are you building Kibo, and how are you doing it?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the overturned banana crate table up in the treehouse.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.

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