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By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Feb 13 2020 1:00pm
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One of the versions of Kadena I played with

Some time ago, which feels like an eternity already, there was a 1v1 release of Commander 2019 at our local game store. I decided to go there and see how the event would go. When we were in the store the week before people were clear about what deck they would play - Anje Falkenrath. Nothing surprising from a bunch of players that go to tournaments to win them. I was considering the same, I knew I wouldn't want to play the spells deck since that deck seemed not good enough for play out of the box. The Naya Populate actually seemed playable but it was nothing I'd want to play a whole event with. And then there was Faceless Menace. In colors that I like but I doubted that the deck could perform well. I was certain Merciless Rage was the best choice in order to win but I wanted to have fun primarily and not mercifully beat my opponents.

When I came to the store for the release event I saw many players I've never seem before and the aforementioned group of people that picked Merciless Rage led by Anje. I picked Faceless Menace and I hoped I wouldn't play against Anje all day. During the event I fell in love with Kadena and I wanted to upgrade the deck and bring it with me to an EDH session. That didn't happen until lately when a new player was asking for someone to try EDH out. I volunteered and that's when Kadena made her debut.

Faceless Menace

During Onslaught/Legions I liked to play with Morphs since it added another layer to the magic that was happening on board (and which made it easier to accept that there weren't many noncreature spells around). During Khans block I rediscovered my love for Morph creatures. That was it though, there was never truly a deck that worked with Manifest or Morph mechanic in a fun way. When Faceless Menace was announced I was curious about how well it would work.

Faceless Menace is a deck that is build around face-down cards which translates into Morphs, Megamorphs and Manifests. The general, Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer, reduces the cost of the first face-down creature you play by 3 (which means it's for free) each turn and lets you draw a card whenever a face-down creature comes into play under your control. This in theory means that the deck has a way how to draw many cards. The Morph creatures have various effects on them when they are turned face up. This way they can generate more value. By the shear value generated, the deck should win. In practice it's a bit tricky and you need to help it a bit. That can be done by being able to bounce your creatures or by being able to spend mana to cast face-down creatures on opponent's turn or use mana to turn creatures face up.

For whom is this deck

A deck built around Kadena is for someone who looks for fun, variance and the many ways effects can be used and reused. The deck requires quite a lot of brain processing power at first but after you discover what it can do it will become easier to play with. The deck itself doesn't play powerful cards and unless a new set featuring cards with Morph or Manifest will be printed the deck won't become more powerful (unless you won't stick to the theme that much and add creatures with good comes into play effects). The deck is built around synergy that you even need to help with more cards. It is a deck for fun games that may not necessarily end up in wins and is more suited for multiplayer.

How to play the deck

This deck needs to be able to cast its general on turn 3 if possible. So a good hand should include 3 lands and a ramp spell or mana rock and at least one Morph creature. On turn 3 or 4 you should cast the general and your first face-down creature to draw a card. You should draw cards and get to Equilibrium, Words of Wind or Cloudstone Curio as soon as possible as this will allow you to generate even more value. You should try to keep your creatures in play, bounce them and reuse them. When things go south you can wipe the board with Toxic Deluge, Bane of the Living or Damnation. You can have access to cards that give Flash to your creatures (Vivien, Champion of the Wild, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Leyline of Anticipation) and effects that untap your lands on your opponent's turn (Wilderness Reclamation, Seedborn Muse). This will also speed you up and give you an edge against your opponents. While the deck can win with card value or large number of 2/2s you should also look for a big spell that can decide the game in one turn (in my case that's Ghastly Conscription).

 

Creatures

When I was thinking about upgrading the deck I realized that there would be a very limited pool of cards to choose from since as I mentioned Morph cards come from 2 different blocks - Onslaught and Khans of Tarkir. There is about 120 cards with the Morph mechanic and since some were unplayable in limited (badly costed vanilla Morphs) and some are too narrow (Infernal Caretaker) the number is even lower. I went through the list and tried to find creatures that have a good ability. I was looking for bounce effects, removal, card draw and countering spells or abilities. I even discovered effects I wasn't aware of.

The best removal creature is Skinthinner, one of the cards I used to play often in the past. The card can deal with any nonblack creature (and thankfully destroys artifacts). The second creature that can deal only with some creatures, it gives a creature -3/-3, is Aphetto Exterminator. Lastly we have Silumgar Assassin which destroys a creature with power 3 or less. And there it ends with removal. In EDH many players run abundant number of artifacts and there are Morph creatures that can deal with an artifact or enchantment - Nantuko Vigilante or Ainok Survivalist. All of these creatures are the ones you really want to stay alive so you can reuse them. There's not enough removal in the deck in the form of creatures.

The creatures that work with spells or abilities are in bigger numbers so I could even pick from them. I chose to run Stratus Dancer that deals with instant or sorcery spells, Kadena's Silencer deals with abilities, Willbender that redirects a spell or ability with a single target to another target, Voidmage Apprentice that counters a spell, Kheru Spellsnatcher that steals a spell, and Mischievous Quanar that copies an instant or sorcery spell. I also considered running Voidmage Prodigy but it required too much blue at first when the deck had a hardly good enough mana base.

Icefeather Aven and Echo Tracer can bounce creatures. The bounce effect is there to primarily return your own creatures to hand but it can also be used on opponent's creatures when needed (usually it means the game doesn't go the way it should).

Other effects are mostly the good ones. Den Protector can return a card from the graveyard to your hand. Riptide Survivor can look for a big spell, Chromeshell Crab can steal a creature that you can't deal with, Vesuvan Shapeshifter can become any creature on the board which often used to be the best effect I got out of a Morph card (it's bugged, if the card comes into play in a different way than casting, it will ask you if you want to choose a creature spell to copy. Click 'No' to be able to turn the card face up later), Brine Elemental is practically a Time Walk when used well.

I have other Morphs in my deck but their performance wasn't particularly great and it is up to you if you choose other Morphs you like or put different cards entirely in the deck. One of the biggest let downs was Grim Haruspex. I love this card and I played in all my aristocrat decks, in this one though you don't want creatures to die so it is better to run cards like Beast Whisperer or even Aphetto Runecaster that draw you cards while you play your creatures or turn them face up (there's more cards like these). Thelonite Hermit is not a bad creature. It creatures four 1/1 Saproling tokens and boosts them. If this card hits the game early it can deal a great amount of damage. Hooded Hydra may seem similar, but since it has to die in order to create 1/1s it's way worse than the Hermit. All of my six drops are beaters even though in the world of EDH a 4/4 Flying or even a 5/6 is not good enough to win the game.

The deck can accommodate some non-Morph creatures as well. The effects you should look for should somehow let you reuse your Morphs or create some kind of card advantage. Beast Whisperer for example draws cards and is good in the deck. Vizier of the Menagerie (or Mystic Forge) let you play creatures from the top of your library. Ixidron and Weaver of Lies (a Morph) let you turn your Morphs face down. This is a good thing because you can then turn them face up for more value. Similarly Temur Sabertooth can bounce your creatures so you can replay them. Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir will allow you to cast creatures instantly and Seedborn Muse will untap your lands on opponent's turn so you can either cast your creatures instantly or turn Morphs face up. Whisperwood Elemental produces manifests and if needed the second ability can be used - when facing a board wipe, all nontoken face-up creatures can be replaced by 2/2 manifest tokens.

Noncreature spells

The deck needs to ramp to be able to cast the general on turn 3 and also have enough mana for the rather mana inefficient Morph costs. I play some 2 and 3 mana ramp spells (Nature's Lore, Kodama's Reach) and Talismans and Signets. Cards that help with mana are also Seedborn Muse or Wilderness Reclamation.

The cards that enable the deck to gain more advantage are Equilibrium, Cloudstone Curio, Words of Wind or even Cunning Evasion. These are cards that you should get into play as soon as possible. You will eventually draw one of them thanks to Kadena and face-down creatures.

The Morph creatures don't have good removal attached on them so the deck needs more removal. I added some board wipes in the form of Damnation and Toxic Deluge. These spells should really be played when there is no other possibility to deal with the board since it hurts Kadena deck very much. I added as many spot removal as I could fit in (Sultai Charm, Assassin's Trophy, Beast Within, Putrefy, Oko, Thief of Crowns). The spot removal should be able to deal with any permanent or at least a creature and artifact. I noticed that any kind of planeswalker is a problem for this deck. Decks running on similar power level won't most probably play many of them though.

There are several face-down specific cards. Ugin, the Ineffable makes colorless spells cheaper by two which comes handy, it produces creatures or can be used as removal. Scroll of Fate is a pretty neat card that allows you to manifest. Trail of Mystery looks for basic lands which in practice just thins your deck (from my experience you should have way too many lands in hand even without this card) and also pump a creature that was turned face up until the end of turn. I thought about cutting the card but so far it was performing pretty well. Secret Plans makes your face-down creatures a bit tougher and draws you a card when a creature is turned face up. Primordial Mist was a card I reluctantly bought even though I had the feeling the card would be busted. At the end of turn you may Manifest a card which is good on its own. The second ability though allows you to play spells that you Manifested. I remember many games in which I Manifested a card I needed with Whisperwood Elemental. The card was literally there in front of me on the table but it was a 2/2 creature and I really wished I'd be able to cast it. Primordial Mist solves this problem! It exiles a face-down card and you can play it from there.

The deck should also include one or more big spells, cards that can win the game on the spot or somehow put you back in the game. One of the cards that could be it is Cyclonic Rift. Many people hate the card so I'd suggest a different one. Ghastly Conscription is a card that was included in the pre-constructed deck and it performed well for me so I decided to keep it in the deck. You could play other big spells like Villainous Wealth or even just Ugin, the Spirit Dragon which would be my card to go to if I wanted another win condition.

Lands

My mana base is more or less 'random lands I had laying around'. Few things to note. I noticed that many of the Morph creatures (and could be even more) are Wizards. Riptide Laboratory is a card that can return a Wizard into your hand and I think that this land could do some work. The Scrying Temples are very good. You most probably won't have problems with not having enough mana and these can Scry unnecessarily lands to the bottom. If your mana base won't be featuring dual lands, shocklands and fetch lands and you'd be considering running lands that come into play tapped, I recommend running Temples. Even offcolor ones. Reliquary Tower and Temple of the False God are remnants of the pre-constructed deck and I wasn't particularly fond of. While this deck often has many cards in hand, the cards are usually lands that you can just discard. Having an additional mana when you have five or more mana is often not necessary so these lands could be swapped for different utility lands. There is a bigger need to cast the general on turn 3 and Temple of the False God won't be generating any mana at that point. If playing face-down creatures on your opponent turn is something you want to take advantage of (a face-down card for free is always good) you can run Winding Canyons and Alchemist's Refuge. A land that I always wanted to play somewhere, Tomb of the Spirit Dragon, could find its home in this deck.

Budget

The deck is very cheap due to running many cards that are not good and have a very narrow use. If you want to minimize the cost of the deck than the most expensive card will easily be Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer (7tix). Oko, Thief of Crowns (15tix) which is the most powerful and most expensive card of the deck and lands can be replaced by other cards. The second most expensive nonland card is Beast Within (3tix). Since Oko and Beast Within are removal spells you can add other more versatile removal spells. Maelstrom Pulse may be on the more expensive side for a budget deck (0.3tix) but still cheap. Casualties of War is likely to hit all targets and is cheap as well (0.1tix).

Have fun if you decide to give this deck a try,
thank you for reading
S'Tsung (you can find me @stsungjp on Twitter)

Decklist

Kadena
by STsung (104tix)

1 Ainok Survivalist
1 Beast Whisperer
1 Brine Elemental
1 Chromeshell Crab
1 Den Protector
1 Echo Tracer
1 Grim Haruspex
1 Hystrodon
1 Icefeather Aven
1 Ixidron
1 Kheru Spellsnatcher
1 Mischievous Quanar
1 Nantuko Vigilante
1 Riptide Survivor
1 Sagu Mauler
1 Salt Road Ambushers
1 Seedborn Muse
1 Silent Specter
1 Silumgar Assassin
1 Skinthinner
1 Stratus Dancer
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Temur Sabertooth
1 Thelonite Hermit
1 Thousand Winds
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
1 Voidmage Apprentice
1 Weaver of Lies
1 Whisperwood Elemental
1 Willbender
1 Assassin's Trophy
1 Beast Within
1 Putrefy
1 Sultai Charm
1 Cultivate
1 Damnation
1 Ghastly Conscription
1 Kodama's Reach
1 Nature's Lore
1 Painful Truths
1 Three Visits
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Equilibrium
1 Primordial Mist
1 Secret Plans
1 Trail of Mystery
1 Wilderness Reclamation
1 Words of Wind
1 Arcane Signet
1 Cloudstone Curio
1 Dimir Signet
1 Golgari Signet
1 Simic Signet
1 Strionic Resonator
1 Talisman of Curiosity
1 Talisman of Dominance
1 Talisman of Resilience
1 Oko, Thief of Crowns
1 Ugin, the Ineffable
1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds
1 Alchemist's Refuge
1 Bayou
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Breeding Pool
1 Command Tower
1 Drowned Catacomb
3 Forest
1 Hinterland Harbor
3 Island
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Nurturing Peatland
1 Opulent Palace
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Polluted Delta
3 Swamp
1 Temple of Deceit
1 Temple of Malady
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Tomb of the Spirit Dragon
1 Tropical Island
1 Underground River
1 Underground Sea
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Waterlogged Grove
1 Watery Grave
1 Winding Canyons
1 Woodland Cemetery
1 Yavimaya Coast
1 Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer
1 Kadena's Silencer
1 Road of Return
1 Scroll of Fate