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By Aaron, AKA Uncle Landdrops

 

I know it’s been quite a while since my last article–almost a year–and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel like I’ve been in a reverse Hyperbolic Time Chamber, where it feels like yesterday I was moving to Magic’s Mecca with a handful of decks and a heart full of dreams. I know I haven’t been completely off the grid, but this article makes it official: I’m putting words on the CommanderCast page again!

 

Vintage DBZ Reference, because Dear Reader, it’s important you know time has passed, but hasn’t changed, and that I am even stronger than the last time you saw me. #ThisIsntEvenMyFinalForm

 

And I’ve got all new stuff to pile on here in Technology, so you can look forward to a little more writing from your favorite non-relative Uncle from here on out.

Today we’ve got five of my favorite Kamigawa Legends–the Maros–to talk about, and I hope you’re as excited as I am to ponder their individual potential as Commanders.

WHY THE MAROS ARE COOL (TO ME)

Kamigawa Legends are some of my favorite designs in Magic. Not only is their flavor weird & unique, but by now Magic players’ memory banks have also reached the point where newer players are surprised to discover they exist, and older players to have to turn the cards around, read and go, “Oh yeah… these guys,” all while having no real idea what you’re going to do.  


Even though I’m not into hipsterdom, in a world where everyone has a Karador or Narset or The Mimeoplasm deck (which you’ll put a stop to, if they’re really your friend–but hey, no judgment!), like Sprite or Ginger Ale, freshness is freaking refreshing.

I’m always interested in forcing my opponent to think about each and every potential card in my hand, which means I gravitate towards the unknown. Going deeper into the long-forgotten realms of Magic keeps you much more limber when you think about what your opponent is playing, and I love using Magic’s full breadth and depth of cards in order to fully engage my opponent as well as myself.

None of those reasons are functional justifications for playing Kamigawa legends, but they make me happy, which is an important part of playing Magic–and, more specifically, picking your Commanders. I play a lot of Commander, I’ve played a lot of Commander, and I’m only interested in playing decks that will be exciting for me every time I pull it out. In a world where product is made for us, I still like to remember the days without precons, and designers were just making stuff, and making us make it work in made up formats with three-letter acronyms for names.

 

On top of Spirits being my #2 favorite tribe of all-time in Magic (Rogues were just slightly cooler), the Maro cycle from Kamigawa is awesome because it’s the offspring of Maro, as in, the card based on the number of cards in your hand, and a design named after Magic’s most notorious O.G., Mark Rosewater. Having connection and understanding and some appreciation for the design of this card also keeps me inspired and motivated playing this game, and I think that’s what has made me gravitate towards the cards in this particular cycle over the years.

 

Here’s that game Two Truths and a Lie about Maro: 1) Fake Fact: They used Maro’s face as inspiration for this art. 2) Flavor Text Inaccuracy: R&D sees one Maro, every day. 3) Truth: Maro the card is married to the Grandma Tree in Pocahontas.

 

What I love about the functionality of these cards is they provide compelling decision trees (eww. Puns, amirite?), both in the deck design process and in the greater part of the game. Essentially, Maro and the suite of cards we’re going to talk about today represent the time value and economic cost of casting cards, as well as how they affect combat.

The fundamentals of the game are very important to me, and the Maros teach us a mode of precision for casting spells in ways few cards can. If damage is the bottom line, then the Maro ability teaches us how to be keen during our second main phase: holding up lands and spells until the moment we have to give up some ground in order to further our deck’s game plan. This helps us to be better gamers with the tricks and techniques we use with these cards and gives us a  firmer grasp on the game as a whole.

Additionally, a general that has potential to finish the game is something Grandpa Growth and I have been talking about since we were back in college, bashing uniformed decks against each other for hours on end in a very unsolved format. Back then, it was our theory that having a big monster with a 3-turn clock was a good enough plan for any deck at any time. Although re-castable card advantage engines have become a big part of the metagame, I still believe there’s a place for the large and the stompy.

 

Stay thirsty, my Timmy friends. And Obey Your Thirst, because I was talking about Sprite earlier.

 

What I like about these five Commanders is that even though their power and toughness will change throughout the game, their abilities–coupled with the core structure of their place in the color pie–provide some quality directions for design. I hope you’ll take some notes, and challenge yourself to try a few of these game-tested, Landdrops-approved ideas out on your own.

 

KIYOMARO, FIRST TO STAND

 

Moving chronologically through my travels and battles, Kiyomaro is the first one I came across in a game of Commander. That’s because I built it!

While the modern EDH metagame is a lot different, and I’m a much different player and deckbuilder than I was, I don’t think the “unique cards” for this deck really change that much. This is a loose term because two cards – Land Tax and Endless Horizons – have reached a state beyond that horrible word I don’t like to use (staples!) in the current landscape.

Even so, what I like about them in Kiyomaro is the way they anchor design. They’re the “rug that ties the whole room together,” which is more than I can say for other Mono-White decks that aren’t Mageta the Lion. Reinforcing a card’s need, not just want, for being in a deck is a really good way to remove GoodStuff from your deck’s identity without also removing good cards.

Of the five, Kiyomaro is probably the most difficult to design. Vigilance is easy to obtain, but the life gain is generally irrelevant, and Commander damage will (as it was in my experience) be a bad plan. Despite having Stonecloaker, Dust Elemental, and Whitemane Lion to protect Kiyomaro from being re-cast into the uncastable range, the lack of card draw makes Buyback cards and my suite of weird white cantrip tech like Niveous Wisps and Equal Treatment almost too cheeky, and not quite as good as just playing the removal spells and other cards you might hoard in an attempt to power up the first creature in Kamigawa to not be sitting down.

But heck, if you like Charge Across the Araba, this is the deck to play it in. Believe me when I say that every person, no matter how many times you cast that card, will be surprised every time it is played.

 

MASUMARO, FIRST TO LIVE

 

One of my friends back in Florida plays Masumaro Creatureless, and I talk about it constantly, because it’s the bee’s freaking knees. He made it in an attempt to reinvent Mono-Green, and the ambition really pays off in the design.


With card draw, ramp spells like Seek the Horizons that put the land into your hand instead of on the battlefield, and access to decent, repeatable Trample via Rancor and Dragon Scales, it doesn’t take long for Masumaro to get out of hand quickly. Also, Constant Mists is a Buyback card, and coupled with big tokens like Crush of Wurms or Howl of the Night Pack, well… you can see quickly how this deck can cover up what you’d perceive as glaring weaknesses.

Specifically, Masumaro is the probably the most shining example of time and tempo. Casting a card with him in play means going down two points in power and toughness, along with facing some serious resistance if Commander damage is your plan, which makes choosing moments to go for the win all the more important.

In my friend’s design, he packs a ton of removal, as well as the best “counterspells” Green can offer. Vines of Vastwood, Withstand Death,and even Mortal’s Resolve are all cards you might expect to find hidden amongst the mound of cards in his hand, particularly if he gets to resolve Soul’s Majesty, which instantly triples Masumaro’s power.

Having so many cards in his hand also gives you an adequate “disguise,” forcing your opponent to guess what you have and how you’ll play it. As a result, his version is a lot like having Yeva out with a handful of creatures–except, he doesn’t have any. And he only has to protect one!

 

KAGEMARO, FIRST TO SUFFER

 

Now I’m a little more traditional. I do the card draw thing, and play the removal with Kagemaro in 2DH, Seattle’s budget Commander format. Here’s the deck!

What I like most about my list is how the card draw offsets the insane amount of tutors most players feel they need in Black to get the job done. I still run my favorites, but they usually don’t get cast unless I need to find a card I don’t draw into, which is the way I think tutors should be played, versus tutoring for the sake of planning too far ahead or too little.

The overwhelming card draw support almost always draws itself into another card draw spell, which is really neat. Having a strong grip of cards throughout the game makes the deck really consistent at the cost of damage, which is mitigated from everything else by casting Kagemaro, and in most circumstances, keeping even the biggest creatures off my back.

Kagemaro may never get as big naturally as Masumaro, but cards like Lashwrithe and Empyrial Plate help me to get close. And if Kagemaro has to die, I can suit up another creature and do the same thing.

One of the fun things about Kagemaro is that there are significantly less “feel-bads” about recasting it for 7, even if it only comes out as a 4/4 or 5/5. Part of that is the scaling effect of ever-changing power and toughness, but it’s also the potential support from your Fightin’ 99 (Welcome back buzz words!). Extra card draw spells will always keep your opponent on edge, and with Wretched Confluence and Eldritch Moon’s new card, Succumb to Temptation, the Lady Fingers suite has never been stronger.

 

SORAMARO, FIRST TO DREAM

 

The Soramaro deck is probably the one that will most closely resemble another deck–Patron of the Moon–if any of your friends have ever been so hipster and so bold with their Amulet of Vigor to try and win in any of the following ways:

-With Storm Cauldron out, you tap and return your Islands to hand.
-With free spells, like Gush and Thwart have mitigated costs because it’s easy to get the lands back in play.
-With High Tide or a couple mana doublers, you cast Stroke of Genius for a bunch
-By pulling off the Patron of the Moon combo with Storm Cauldron, Amulet of Vigor, Adventuring Gear, Patron of the Moon, and a few Islands.

In this way, I think it’s probably the most “linear,” in that the deck will win the same way every time with a handful of obvious cards, but that’s the way Control decks work.

Honestly, I won’t know until someone tries it out, but I think it’s actually pretty good. You get to play Walking Atlas alongside other more powerful, serious cards in the game, while making cards you were already going to play, like Blue Sun’s Zenith or Stroke of Genius, into lethal combat tricks. Discovering new ways traditional cards can affect the game always jacks me up.

ADAMARO, FIRST TO DESIRE

 

This deck is my official challenge and regular thought exercise when I think about this cycle. I’m of the opinion that if you can successfully create a deck that wins with Adamaro, you can probably build any of the Maros.

 

The official challenge is 1) to make it as consistent as the others and 2) to translate its reliable card counting into a potent, table-killing machine.


For you website long-timers, Carlos did build this deck years ago, but I don’t think it has withstood the test of time in the same way Child of Alara Lands did, though it has been given a few new tools in the last year that can help it along. Magus of the Wheel, for example, is helpful for game states where your opponents will try to dump their hands in the hopes of weakening or killing him. Although it can’t be forced, Humble Defector also provides some support in multiplayer political battles.

Perhaps Adamaro’s best chance is to force a 2- or 3-turn clock with the help of Temur Battle Rage, but I don’t see how it stays a regular force this way. I guess that’s why I hope you can prove me wrong!

 

Whaddya think? What Maro would you like to build the most?