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And I'll Pay a Red | Only 5 Red Spells! *PRIMER*

Commander / EDH Artifact Combo Competitive Infinite Combo Mono-Red Primer


Kurkesh Samaritan

Do you like Artifacts?

Do you enjoy playing combo decks?

Does the thought of entering a gamestate where you hold total control of everything that happens, who wins and loses, and keeping the game going for no reason other than cruel amusement interest you?

Welcome to the Onakke. Masters of artifice and dark arts.

Originally, this deck was designed simply as a collection of cards who got great value from Kurkesh's ability. I wanted a deck where the commander was central, a deck that would need that commander specifically to be effective. Little did I know that Kurkesh facilitates a number of infinite combos, and with so many versatile artifacts, that he can create a state of godmode: wherein I have the means and ability to control nearly every aspect of the game, and can both win the game and continue playing.

Kurkesh allows you to copy the activated, nonmana abilities of your artifacts. Thus, you want as many artifacts with activated abilities, which allow you to profit from having a second activation for a single red mana. Sometimes this can mean simply paying twice for an artifact that taps itself, and thus would normally only be once per turn. Sometimes, it means paying 1/8th the price of activation for a massive lead. With the right combination of artifacts, a complex machine unfolds, putting your whole library at your disposal.

The first few games with Kurkesh, most will not consider you a threat. Indeed, Kurkesh doesn't look too dangerous at first glance, and many games it can appear you are merely durdling around. This is the beauty of Kurkesh: his power is so unknown and focused, that it can be difficult to predict and prepare for before he completely steals a game.

As your playgroup becomes familiar with Kurkesh, they'll start catching on, trying to either kill Kurkesh or halt your combos before they begin. While this can be effective, with practice, you'll find its much harder to stop Kurkesh than that. If you're worried about Kurkesh's safety, avoid casting him. Often, you can wait to put him on the board, either because your early artifacts can all go off together once he's in play, or you've played so many artifacts that are threatening in their own right, but are not necessary to your combos, that your opponents have wasted all their countermagic and killspells. I've even had games where Kurkesh costed 10 mana and I was still able to win.

The primary focus of this deck is to rush towards one of its infinite combos, namely one of them. From there, your choice becomes to either end the game immediately (snore) or claim godmode, allow the game to continue, and watch as your opponents try futilely to tear you down, assuming they refuse to fight each other.

Always try to find your way to Gilded Lotus and Voltaic Key . With Kurkesh on board, you can tap Gilded Lotus for , then tap Volatic Key targeting Gilded Lotus and using one . Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient 's ability triggers, letting you use another to copy Voltaic Key , this time targeting itself. Volatic Key and Gilded Lotus untap, and you have one more than you started with floating. Repeat this process, and you have an arbitrarily large amount of red mana, at instant speed. Now, you can use Volatic Key to untap any of your other artifacts, then copy it with Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient to untap itself as well. Yes, you can also untap artifacts and arbitrarily large number of times.

However, to achieve godmode, you'll also need a search artifact like Planar Portal , Planar Bridge , or Kuldotha Forgemaster . You likely used one of these, or Ring of Three Wishes to search for one or both of the previous two pieces. If you used the latter, you should search for one of the former so you aren't bogged down by wish counters. You should then immediately get Shimmer Myr and Darksteel Forge . These will help protect your combo, and let you search for new answers on your opponents' turns.

Most other artifacts in the deck are based on the intitial function of "value from Kurkesh", but can also be utilized to dig or stall for the combo pieces, or used in godmode to perform various actions to control the game and maintain your divinity. Many of them are powerful in their own right, but not wholly necessary -- or can be recycled -- and so can and should be used as bait if you are concerned about possible countermagic.

These are more niche combos, for circumstances where your main interaction was stunted or totally halted, or is otherwise unavailable or incomplete.

Doubling Cube can stand in for Gilded Lotus in the primary combo, but you'll need to have 11 mana available, and at least 3 of that mana has to be red.

Having Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient , Rings of Brighthearth , and Magistrate's Scepter , with at least 7 mana (minimum 1 of which being red) allows you to take infinite turns. Activate Magistrate's Scepter , for , copy it with both Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient for and Rings of Brighthearth for to put 3 charge counters on it. You'll need to then wait a turn, but then you can activate and copy it for a total of three extra turns. Use one of those turns to "recharge" it, and one to add three more extra turns on top of the last one you have waiting. Once you've found the pieces for a combo, of course, you can stop.

When I enter godmode, I like to make an arbitrarily large number of Golems with Titan Forge as early as I can, as well as getting a Krark-Clan Ironworks and Rings of Brighthearth . That way, if someone halts my combo in a way I can't stop (mostly limited to Krosan Grip ), I can sacrifice my Golems, and use that arbitrarily large amount of colorless mana with Rings of Brighthearth to mimic the primary combo and try to to reimplement it. An alternative to this is to search for Prototype Portal and Sculpting Steel , playing the former, and imprinting the latter onto it so you can make copies of the important artifacts preemptively.

MTGO's 1v1-centric banlist, fortunately, has affected this deck in only one card, the same card that every other deck has had affected: Sol Ring . Fortunately, Amonkhet gave us a new card that, while not necessarily worth playing, is a fairly exceptional card to play when an extra slot happens to be available. That card is Pyramid of the Pantheon . It essentially acts as an alternative to Gilded Lotus that you can play early without fear of it being immediately naturalized.

While we are here, however, I would like to mention briefly the efficiency of this deck in 1v1 formats. There is no question that Kurkesh works better in multiplayer environments, as his versatility offered by the various artifacts he plays makes him very political; some opponents may be inclined to lay off you when you're consistently tapping and copying Temple Bell , or decide to tolerate you when you drop a Contagion Engine on the token player who's currently in the best position. As I've said, Kurkesh is effective because of his uncanny ability to steal games. In 1v1, this is not an option. He needs to go fast and hard towards a combo, because there is no way to barter for mercy. Fortunately, lots of draw, search, and ramp artifacts allow Kurkesh to at the very least, consistently find ways to keep himself safe -- to a degree -- until that same consistency grants him a combo. In 1v1, you need to rely on inevitability. Work quickly toward a reasonable defense or strong resource pool, then let eventuality carry you home. Unless of course you literally open everything you need.

It was a four-man commander game. I was one of the slower progressing players at the time, and the undeniable target at the table was the Omnath, Locus of Rage , across from me, with at the time 3 of its elemental tokens, a Pathbreaker Ibex and Thundering Baloth. He attempted to cast an enchantment to, if I recall, give his creatures double strike. I had an untapped Temple Bell and Clock of Omens , with enough mana and artifacts to use and copy the bell up to 3 times, so I look to the Kruphix, God of Horizons player beside Omnath, and ask what the chances are he'll draw countermagic if I give everyone some draws. He responds with pretty well, so I start off with giving us all two cards, and as predicted, Kruphix is able to counter the enchantment, and the Meren of Clan Nel Toth to my right casts a victimize to kill the Ibex and Baloths, also saccing Spore Frog .

Not over yet, though. He passes, though no one really accomplishes anything. Once more it's Omnath's turn, and at this point I have Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient , Temple Bell , Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer , Myr Battlesphere with all 4 tokens, Krark-Clan Ironworks , Clock of Omens , and Planar Portal . He attacks me with everything and casts a spell to give his creatures double strike, and get another combat step after this one. No countermagic this time, I have no choice but to start saccing things off to Slobad, choosing a Myr and the Clock to give a Myr and the Battlesphere indestructible. He kills the battlesphere before it resolves, but I'm able to end up with 19, though losing all but one Myr Token. Next combat, he only sends one at me, which I feel I have to block with Slobad. After his turn, he claims he didn't want to kick a man while he's down, but as I look at my mana, I realize that as long as Kurkesh and Planar Portal stay, with the amount of mana I have, I can win next turn.

Kruphix seems to be worried about this too, however believes that Kark-Clan Ironworks is the key to getting the mana I need to do so, and destroys it. Meren does nothing overly relevant, so it's my turn.

I activate the Portal and copy it to get Gilded Lotus and Voltaic Key , casting them both, and by tapping the lotus, then activating the key, with one copy targeting itself and the other targeting the lotus, I generate 700,000,000 mana and untap the Portal. Then I search and cast Decimator Web .

As I predicted, I can win this turn. However, earlier Kruphix had been complaining about the last game he played, in which he allowed a player to get infinite mana early in the game, curious what he'd use it for, but was disappointed that it was just a Comet Storm . So I decide I will not win this turn.

Instead, I use the Decimator Web to kill Omnath for because, then search Mycosynth Golem , Shimmer Myr , Darksteel Reactor , and Darksteel Forge , cast them, and pass, declaring I will do nothing offensive for the remainder of the game, but if you try to stop me or the Darksteel Reactor , I will search for and cast an artifact at instant speed to answer it, or, if I don't have one, kill you outright. Thus the puzzle begins.

Several turns pass as the reactor ticks up, neither is able to do much. They try to play permanents to break up my lock, but I search cards such as Lux Cannon , Myr Turbine , and Steel Hellkite to keep them under control. After about five turns, Meren attempts to cast a Living Death . Looking back on it, I could have survived it well enough, but I didn't want to risk anything shady happening that I couldn't forsee, so I Web him to death.

Just me and Kruphix now, perfect. This show was for him anyway.

Once more I simply pass my turn after ticking the reactor up. Kruphix, as evidence by his actions, more or less decides to try to test his limits. At this point, I am more or less a god within the game, as he understands all of the cards and effects I have at my disposal. I need only say "I'll destroy that," or "I'll make this many tokens," and it would be so. I let him draw and cast a number of spells including Vedalken Orrery that don't bother me, even letting him keep a Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur on board for several turns.

Finally, he pulls out his Cyclonic Rift . Alright, that's enough of that, time to die. 10 Decimator Webs on the stack against him now, but it's not over yet. He continues to cast spells and activate abilities to draw cards, looking for more answers. He has very few cards left in his library now, and when he casts a Mystic Confluence set to draw 3, with an Alhammarret's Archive and Thought Reflection in play, I know he's going for a Laboratory Maniac . Again, in hindsight I could have killed the maniac once he played it, but I didn't want him to invest too many resources on a false victory. I Lux Cannon away his Archive and Reflections. He thinks for a moment and almost casts another spell - keep in mind, his death is on the stack, so if he can't win, he needs a Stifle to not lose. However, he concedes.

I'd built an unsolvable puzzle for him, and by attempting to solve it, he only hastened his failure.

While I am foiling my deck out, and thus have all of the cards here marked as foil, this deck is not overly expensive. Unfoiled, it sits between $250-300. So while it isn't budget, it's not ridiculous either. However, some pretty big price cuts can be made without sacrificing functionality.

Ancient Tomb , Dark Depths , and Strip Mine are not necessary, in fact I'm waiting on some good replacements to be printed for Strip Mine as well as Tectonic Edge . Just without these three, you're down to about $200-220.

Several other cards between $5-20 aren't wholly necessary if you can't afford them or just need to total price cut down slightly. Memory Jar and The Immortal Sun come to mind. Just remember that replacement cards should be artifacts that Kurkesh gives extra value, as they will synergize better with the others. Try the maybeboard for a start. I'd also reccomend looking in the comments to see what other people have suggested, and more importantly my responses to why those suggestions should be rarely considered. Kurkesh, in this form, is a volatile force reliant on a delicate selection of machinations.

Theskitz did take this original build and cut it down to a fairly exceptional budget version, dropping some of the more expensive power cards. To compensate, they've added more control-like defenses (And some more red spells) to survive the early game long enough to play the power cards which were included. It's about $100, and I recommend you check it out if you're looking into cheaper alternatives that still play similarly to this one.

control, combo... win with Kurkesh

Commander / EDH* Theskitz



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