This is my spin on competitive Kess, Dissident Mage! Inspiration for the deck came from shadowmage's CEDH Kess list. Kess is one of my favorite Commander decks to play, especially in a competitive setting. In this primer we'll break down the deck, its strengths, weaknesses, win conditions, and combos/synergies. Let's get into it!

Cards Cut: Tale's End, Cabal Ritual, Dark Petition
Cards Added: Ashiok, Dream Render, Delay, Underworld Breach

With the recent banning of Flash, Tale's End becomes less good in this deck. Although still an overall solid card, I no longer need a second "Stop Hulk's Death Trigger" spell, with the second being Trickbind, which is staying in the deck. I have also removed Mistcaller and Grafdigger's Cage from the Maybeboard as that was also disruption tech for Flash Hulk that is no longer needed.

Although Cabal Ritual is a strong card with very good ramp potential, too often I was not hitting the threshold needed to make it great. Until I find an alternative solution for this I will be happy sticking to just running Dark Ritual.

Ashiok, Dream Render has been a fantastic addition to this deck as one-sided disruptive piece that your opponents have to find an answer to. While they scramble to deal with Ashiok, you can rest easy in knowing that they aren't digging for combo pieces while they find a way to remove her.

Playing tutors, cantrips, counter spells, and removal spells are all a part of what make competitive commander... competitive! Being able to reuse and recycle those same abilities make them so much more powerful and can create completely new combos and deck synergies. I first learned this from building my first competitive commander deck, which was Mizzix of the Izmagnus (deck list: Mizzix, Master of the Storm). So why not have the versatility of Mizzix but add the tutors, removal, and disruption of black?

Enter Kess, Dissident Mage. During each of our turns we get to cast (essentially) a free Snapcaster Mage to recycle through our cantrips and tutors. Having three colors in our commander gives us a very solid toolbox of cards to pull from to make sure we can consistently combo off.

This version of Kess is referred to in the cEDH community as "Consultation Kess" or "Pact Kess", with both names coming from our two main win conditions, Demonic Consultation and Tainted Pact. Each of these spells exiles our entire library, allowing us to win through either Jace, Wielder of Mysteries or Thassa's Oracle. Because every card in this deck is different, when you cast Tainted Pact you exile your entire library, leaving only what you have in play and in your hand. The same works for Demonic Consultation. Simply name a card not in your deck. Demonic Consultation will attempt to find the card, but to no avail, leaving your library in exile. Alternatively, if Kess is on field you can cast Demonic Consultation and name Thassa's Oracle, finding your win-con, and then flashback Demonic Consultation using Kess' ability and win through Oracle.

This deck previously ran all three of the alternate win-cons (Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, Laboratory Maniac, and Thassa's Oracle), however I ended up cutting Laboratory Maniac because he is the easiest of the three to interact with as he requires a cantrip and can be removed in response.

This deck also runs the typical Dramatic Reversal+Isochron Scepter package for infinite mana and infinite storm plus Blue Sun's Zenith to draw your deck or Aetherflux Reservoir to shoot the table.

Ad Nauseam has won me more games than any other card in the deck. It is without a doubt one of the most powerful cards in the CEDH format, allowing us to put (more often than not) 20+ cards in our hand, as the deck has an average CMC lower than 2. Lim-Dul's Vault is a cheaper Ad Nauseam type effect that let's us dig through our deck for the price of two mana and a little bit of life to find the combo we need to finish off the game.

Echo of Eons is arguably the most underrated card in the deck. Casting a "poor man's Timetwister" can be game-ending for decks that rely heavily on graveyard strategies, in addition to being able to (ideally) draw us into some new tutors and ramp pieces. Dockside Extortionist puts out a crazy amount of ramp for two mana, especially when you're able to re-cast him because of one of our own effects such as Chain of Vapor or Unsubstantiate.

Narset's Reversal and Unsubstantiate get around cards that can't be countered, which is becoming more and more relevant as my current meta is full of "uncounterable" effects like Dovin's Veto, Supreme Verdict, Veil of Summer, and even Boseiju, Who Shelters All. Defensively, Trickbind stops a myriad of important interactions and win-cons, most importantly Thassa's Oracle, which (even post Flash banning) is the number one win-con in cEDH at the moment.

Kess, like all competitive commander decks, has many strengths, but also has her weaknesses. For this deck list in particular, Kess' strengths stem from her solid can trips, bountiful amount of tutors, and strong counter spells. These allow for streamlined gameplay and a consistent combo-based finish. But like I mentioned before, Kess isn't perfect and struggles against certain cEDH decks.

Good match ups for Kess:
Kenrith, the Returned King
Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
The Gitrog Monster
Zur the Enchanter
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Bad match ups for Kess:
The First Sliver
Thrasios, Triton Hero+Vial Smasher the Fierce
Thrasios, Triton Hero+Tymna the Weaver

These match ups each have their pros and cons. One positive, very underrated way of dealing with these match ups is a special set of counter spells and removal. Like I mentioned earlier, Trickbind can stop multiple cEDH win-cons, either temporarily or just put them out of the game. In my current meta they stop Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain's triggered ability, Urza, Lord High Artificer's activated ability, Zur the Enchanter's attack trigger, Prime Speaker Vannifar's activated ability, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker's activated ability, and Thassa's Oracle's ETB effect. Shred Memory is a very versatile card as it removes any problematic graveyard pieces (specifically against The Gitrog Monster), or can be used as a tutor if needed.

A few key cards that I'm currently playtesting in the Maybeboard:

  • Shadow of Doubt is a one time "no tutoring" spell that can be game-ending when cast in response to things like Zur the Enchanter's attack trigger.
  • Narset, Parter of Veils, much like Ashiok, makes playing cEDH very difficult for your opponents in the form of a hard to remove stax piece.
  • Plunge into Darkness is another Ad Nauseam-type effect that allows you to dig for a counter spell or win-con at the payment of life, which is one of the most valuable resources in cEDH.

Thank you for all of your comments and views! Upvotes are always appreciated. Let me know your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions!


Updates Add



98% Competitive

Date added 8 months
Last updated 2 weeks

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

16 - 0 Mythic Rares

47 - 0 Rares

17 - 0 Uncommons

17 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 1.77
Tokens None Treasure, 2/2 Manifest, 1/1 Bird
Folders My Decks, Commander decks, EDH Ideas, Grixis
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