Greetings people! Cowboy Kyle was ever so gracious in giving me a spot to write about one of my most successful decks to date. Therefore, I hope that you are here to read my unique take on Kagemaro, the First the Suffer.
First, let me take you back to where it all started. One of my favorite opponents in the Commander format happens to live under the same roof as I do and we share the same bed. My wife is an awesome opponent. She often playtests my decks to help me figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Every so often, I construct a deck just for her. She enjoyed my construction of Athreos, God of Passage and enjoyed playing it even more. Athreos, God of Passage offers passive loss of life mechanics along with various removal pieces for imposing threats. One of those removal pieces was Kagemaro, the First to Suffer.
So, what were my goals of building this deck?
Examining how my wife used Kagemaro made me realize two things: 1) Kagemaro could be a strong commander and 2) it satisfied my urge to construct a mono black deck. While I wanted a commander that was strong, I did not want it to be extremely overpowered. Sure Kage can clear many of my annoying creature problems but only at the cost of sacrificing itself.
How does my Kagemaro deck work?
While Kagemaro may be the first to suffer, it is also often the first back on the board. At first glance, Kagemaro is a five CMC board wipe on a stick that becomes more expensive the more it does your dirty deeds. Come on, why put Kagemaro in the command zone after it dies? I am playing mono black! After hitting the grave, I bring it back using spells like Zombify, Victimize, or the Rise from the Grave. Nim Deathmantle makes this card even crazier. Additionally, I play creatures utilizing similar resurrection effects such as Doomed Necromancer or Apprentice Necromancer. Further, when I want to raise some eyebrows, I use Dawn of the Dead, an enchantment that could use more love by commander players. Suppose I don’t want Kagemaro back on the field so quickly, then I use cheap or repeatable methods for sending it back to my hand from the grave such as Soul of Innistrad, Raise Dead or multiple hits with Death Denied filling up my hand in the process.
Card draw is the real secret to a successful Kagemaro deck. The longer the game goes on, the more trouble your opponents may have. Promise of Power, Necropotence, and Seizan, Perverter of Truth are cool cards to have in the mix, and so is a hidden gem called Fatal Lore. While playing a casual game at Gen Con 2016 I pulled off an interesting play. I sacrificed Kagemaro to Disciple of Bolas, allowing me to draw nearly 20 cards and gain nearly 20 life, having nearly 40 cards in my hand. I was able to finish off my last opponent after this play.
Ced, this deck played really well in group play and even won you some games. Why did you dismantle it?
Great question. Although Kagemaro is an underused, powerful commander, I feel that it can get a little too oppressive with the constant board wipe ability. If things are not going in my favor, I may be tempted to simply wipe the board. As much as I like Kagemaro, I personally despise constant board wipes coming from the same player. I want to have fun and I want my opponents to have fun, to an extent of course.
Do I plan to construct it again?
Of course! The deck is hella fun and plays at whatever tempo I want and/or need. The deck will definitely be part of my collection when I attend Gen Con 2017. So beware!
I like to put my degree in Psychology to use. Thus, I tend to examine this game from a psychological standpoint. My approach is to play against the player, not play against my opponent’s deck. There is a psychology that comes along with playing Kagemaro. Its presence alone makes your opponents think twice about playing the creatures they value most. The threat of a board wipe can be just as effective of actually doing it. Don’t be so quick to use Kagemaro’s sac ability. Wait a bit and see what creatures your opponents play and when they play them. Whenever Kagemaro is on the board, in most cases, you have the advantage. So use it.
– Ced Dortch
Father. Educator. Writer. Filmmaker. Editor. MTG Commander only.