Pattern Recognition #204 - Killian, Ink Brawist

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


22 July 2021


Hello everyone! This is Pattern Recognition, TappedOut.Net's longest running article series as written by myself, berryjon. I am something of an Old Fogey who has been around the block quite a few times where Magic is concerned, as as such, I use this series to talk about the various aspects of this game, be it deck design, card construction, mechanics chat, in-universe characters and history. Or whatever happens to cross my mind this week. Please, feel free to dissent in the comments below the article, add suggestions or just plain correct me! I am a Smart Ass, so I can take it.

Hello everyone! Around this time last year, I talked about needing to retire my previous Brawl deck and went through the process of Designing and playing out a Brawl Deck for the coming Standard rotation. Well, as it turns out, just as Gideon Blackblade before him, so too will the Questing Beast leave Standard in a couple months and its time to turn my eyes toward a replacement.

Over the past year, my Questing Brawler deck has seem some iterations, but it's mostly kept to the same core concept. Accelerate in Questing Beast on turn 3, then start smashing face. It's simple, brutal and without remorse.

I also built and enjoyed a The Royal Scions deck, having an absolute blast with the things you could do when you drew two cards in a turn. It could Mill, Burn, go wide or tall, and in general had so many options to win, it was easy just to let the deck play itself.

But sadly, they must both be retired. It's time to move forward.

At this point in last year's article, I talked about a few of the options for potential Commanders that I had last year, and while there were a variety of choices that I could build, or sometimes go "Yeah, that's neat, but no" to.

But this year, my eyes are a-starred, and my mind is fixated on a single Legendary Creature of such potential, such amazing and utter versatility and in colours that I haven't played in a while, that Killian, Ink Duelist instantly jumped to my only option.

So let's break Killian down and see what makes him so good, shall we?

First is his casting cost. At he brings two colours to the deck, and therefore a much needed variety of options when it comes to spells and the like. I mean, yes, I love the Questing Beast, but being stuck in mono- hurt in terms of what responses I had. Also, his casting cost is just those two color pips, meaning that in an even semi-competently built deck, he'll be hitting the board on turn 2 quite reliably, where his other things come into play.

His creature types are actually pretty irrelevant, but that's OK. He's a Human Warlock.

Killian also brings Menace and Lifelink to the table, something that is surprisingly powerful as he can't be chump-blocked, and he will start to whittle away at your opponents life total while shoring up your own. Early aggro is viable with him. Although he is a 2/2, so one blockers start coming down, he'll need something to keep him in the game, and this is where his other ability, the one that really sold me on him as a Commander is that "Spells you cast that target a creature cost 2 less to cast."

Let me break this down for you. Defiant Strike now costs . Mage Hunters' Onslaught costs . These cards target a creature when they are cast, so the cost reduction is applied to them. But when you cast something like Banishing Light, the reduction doesn't happen because the targeting happens after the card enters the battlefield, same with the new auto-equipping Equipment from Zendikar Rising. You don't get to make them cheaper just because they target a thing after they come into play.

This leads into how I want to build my deck. Get Killian into play. Protected Killian, and then use targeted spells everywhere to boost Killian, remove problems and swing for lethal damage.

Now, I actually have Arena open on my other computer as I'm writing this, so I'll be building the deck there as I go along.

One of the things that this deck is going to have going for it is that I'm going to be casting a lot of spells, so one of the things I will need to have is card draw, and lots of it. Now, right now there are only eight cards in that let you draw a card,six of which are cantrips, while the others are Secret Rendezvous and Flumph. And of those six, only Pressure Point benefits from Killian's cost reduction. On the other hand, has twenty(!) options for card draw, but most of them require something to die in the process.

In the end, I decided to go with these as my card draw spells:

  1. Flumph
  2. Revitalize
  3. Secret Rendezvous
  4. Rune of Mortality
  5. Skull Raid
  6. Silverquill Silencer
  7. Silverquill Command
  8. Crushing Disappointment

Now, some of these cards have repeated uses, and honestly, I've seen Flumph cause my draft opponents on Arena to completely stop attacking because they were afraid of the card draw. Seriously. Why?

Next, let's talk acceleration. Moving out of means I can't reliably have multiple non-land souces of mana, but even then, some things just work out. Let me just add Arcane Signet and .... what. Why is this not an option...?

Oh. Oh god.

Arcane Signet was last printed in Throne of Eldraine and its Brawl decks.


OK, let's see what else we have available. Losing that is going to hurt, but Environmental Sciences is going to pull it's weight, I know it. And while I'm looking at colourless cards in general, I know I'm going to be swinging a lot, so Goldvein Pick and the ability to generate Treasures will help. Letter of Acceptance is a little expensive, but I can always pop it later for a card draw. I'll skip Skyclave Relic and Replicating Ring for now.

That puts me at twelve cards right now, so let's move on to abusing Killian's ability for fun and (my) profit. We'll need combat tricks and removal out the wazoo, and because of the way Killian is set up, it's going to be Instants and Sorceries for the most part.

Actually, if that's the case, let's go grab Professor Onyx as the top end of the deck.

I also want to keep mana costs down, so with 13 cards in the deck so far, let's set aside... twenty cards for this, and let's do what I can to keep the cost of the spells under 4. I mean, I know a couple of them will hit five, but they will have their costs reduced one way or the other.

Guiding Voice does a lot, as a combat trick, and allowing you to draw a card. It's a shoe-in. Feign Death and Professor's Warning are both cheap, and are good tricks for combat. On the more protective side, moving up to a Mana Value of , Beaming Defiance and Sejiri Shelter  Flip are good ways to protect Killian, while Flunk works for creature removal that bypasses Indestructible. Once we reach a Mana Value of , I need to start watching my casting costs. I want to look for cards that have one coloured pip at most in order to get the most out of Killian's ability. Expel and Kaya's Onslaught are good, the later as a Foretell combat trick, and costs when cast on Killian, no matter what. Vanquish the Weak is another cheap removal spell, and Poison the Cup, I can tell you from experience, does more work when Foretold, meaning the casting cost is less relevant.

Past that point, Closing Statement is impressive, and Rise of Extus is good removal in general at the top end of the deck. After that, Grim Bounty and Mage Hunters' Onslaught are both good as long as I can keep the double- open.

Vanishing Verse is also good, and Exiles as well, making things more viable.

I'm now at 21 Instants and Sorceries, and 52 cards - if you assume 24 Lands, and that makes Sedgemoor Witch pretty useful. Mavinda, Students' Advocate also goes in to re-cast spells each turn.

Filling in gaps, let's look to adding Cleric Class as Killian will be a reliable source of life-gain, Dawnbringer Cleric brings utility. Guardian of Faith will be useful for protection as well. I'm not sold of Angel of Destiny, so I'm not going to hot-link it, or put it in the deck at this point. Bloodchief's Thirst is not something I should have missed before now, so in it goes. Mindcarver and Reaper's Talisman are both good and make use of the fact that I should only be attacking with Killian and no one else. And on that... you know what. Fuck it. Vorpal Sword. And Soul Shatter, as though while I can't reduce the cost by Killian, it does get around protection effects.

That means room for 23 lands. Which is doable. We're losing Temple of Shadow, which hurts, but I'll still toss in Brightclimb Pathway  Flip, Shineshadow Snarl and Silverquill Campus - for the Scry - then backfill the rest of the deck with 10 Plains and 10 Swamps.

Killian, Ink Brawlist

Brawl* berryjon


Alright, so now it's time to give this baby a spin! Let's see; the Weeklies have refreshed, so have the Dailies. My goal today is to... Kill 15 of my Opponents Creatures for 500g.

Yeah, I think that'll work.

My first opponent is laginbehind, whose commander is Volo, Guide to Monsters. Yeah, I'm pretty sure you can see where this is going, but my opening hand is pretty solid, or so I think. I draw into Poison, then cast Killian. I Foretell it on the third turn, and then when Volo is cast, he gets poisoned. I mean, seriously, look at that cup in his hand! Don't you want to add something to it.

He bounces back while I tap him with Killian, and my Skull Raid leaves him with one card in hand when he recasts Volo. I don't have an answer to that, so I respond with a Vorpal Sword which goes on Killian.

He casts and copies Battle Mamoth, and with no good options, I Vanishing Verse the original, not the token.

So he mutates Archipelagore onto the other Mammoth, and taps down Killian. I cast Dawnbringer Cleric for some life, and move the sword over, and he dies to the Archipelagore. But hey, Deathtouch! I recast Killian, move the Sword over to him and hold back. He uses Bala Ged Recovery  Flip on the Archipelagore, casts is, and that's that.

One of the things I have to note is that in designing a Rotation Proof Brawl deck - or a Standard Deck - is that I'm working with one hand tied behind my back. All these mutate cards that Volo is exploiting are going to go away. Later. But for now, they're still in the format, which means that I have to work around them.

Game w is against Jfury8285, and his commander Valki, God of Lies  Flip. Allow me to summarize the game:

Killian #1 gets the Stomp side of Bonecrusher Giant. Sedgemore Witch gets Eliminate to the face.

Killian #2 gets a Scorching Dragonfire to the face.

Killian #3 gets hit with a Heartless Act, and I send him to the Graveyard so next turn I can cast Silverquill Command on him. It works!

Killian #4 almost gets killed, but I defend with Sejiri Shelter  Flip, only to get a Blood on the Snow as the followup. Back to the Command Zone with you!

Tibalt then Ultimates, and he casts my Sedgemoor Witch and my Flumph, and that's that.

Hey, at least I've killed six creatures at this point!

Game three is against kaspur210, and Xanathar, Guild Kingpin. Killian 1 gets Poison the Cup, Sedgemore Witch gets Anticognition, but hey, Xanathar the first eats a Bloodchief's Thirst. Kiora Bests the Sea God gets hit with a Vanishing Verse, but I also have Deathtouch in play thanks to the Vorpal Sword, and so he can't swing. Yet. Killian #3 gets countered. Killian 4 is Commanded back into play (this seems common), then is Drowned in the Loch for good measure.

His Midnight Clock cycles, and I can't deal with that value, so I scoop.

I'm at 0/3 for now, and wow is this not working out how I want. So I'm going to take a break and come back another day with a fresh mind.

New day, new round! I want to win, dammit!

Game 4 is against islandking and Kunoros, Hound of Athreos. Who's a good boy? You're a good boy!

He casts Luminarch, and I kill it. He quits on turn 4, having never drawn or played a single source the entire game.

I don't count this as a win. I didn't win. He lost thanks to mana screw. No data. Didn't happen. Nother Day, try again.

Game 5 is against barfight, and Illuna, Apex of Wishes. Killian gets Stomped, Flumph causes him to not attack at all (WHY!?!? Draw Cards, dang it!) Killian #2 get killed in a Fight with the Bonecrusher Giant, and honestly, I just get outvalued. I learn nothing!

Game 6! Please be better. Antheus is running Delina, Wind Mage.

Killian #1 actually survives to swing, and I fortell Poison the Cup and kill his Goldspan Dragon, so he casts Solemn Simulacrum, which I don't have an answer to. He swings with Delina, and I don't block. The copies of the Sad Robot each grab a Mountain, and he lucked out with one Good roll and one Average roll. Sure, I take it, but I can live with that, because I cast Closing Statement on Delina, allowing Killian to swing right back. Mavinda, Students' Advocate allows me to do it again on the next turn, and I slap the Vorpal Sword onto Killian. Killian, now a 6/4 Menace, Deathtouch, Lifelink creature, just swings for the win.

Yay! 1/5/1 Woo!

I need mass removal. I am too focused on single target stuff that if something gets away from me, I can't deal with it. I should have put Doomskar in, but at this point, I may just have to include that in the extra 40 for Commander. I'll also need more protection because HOLY URZA is Killian a lightning rod for removal himself. It's almost like people know what he's capable of and are responding in kind. I'm going to need more protection for him as well, but most of those are going to be in the full Commander styled deck.

I think he'll be good in Brawl. The problem is getting there. What are your guys thoughts? I'd like to hear them as I prepare for next week when I try to bring this deck up to a full 100.

Until then please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

vortical42 says... #1

It won't help much for Brawl since it is about to rotate, but Lurrus seems like a pretty good way to keep the Killians coming in a full command build. Plus you can use it to recursively cast Aura Enchantments for even more value.

July 22, 2021 4:08 p.m.

DrManhattan747 says... #2

As soon as I saw this post I started feverishly putting together the deck as I love brawl and Killian spoke to me. I built the deck and will report back with my findings. Some minor changes I made included elite spellbinder over guardian of faith and cutting flumph for a land, mostly to play around using wild cards.

July 26, 2021 4:14 p.m.

DrManhattan747 says... #3

Here's my crack at some deck edits. After playing some games with version 1.0, beefing up Killian voltron style proved inconsistent and some of the card advantage options were awkward.

Based on that I chose to go a tad wider with Clarion Spirit and Leonin Lightscribe to increase the threat density and added some targeted discard with Humiliate and Pelakka Predation  Flip over traditional card advantage.

Overall I have found this leaner version to run a bit more consistently. I recognize that should the game go long enough the lack of card advantage would be a downside.

July 27, 2021 7:27 p.m.

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