"We must cultivate our garden."

-Voltaire, Candide

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This is my "personal expression" deck, reflecting my philosophy and outlook on life while also doing everything that I like doing in a game of Magic. The key ethos of this deck is education, growth, and personal strength. This is perhaps most strongly reflected in my choice of commander, Kestia, the Cultivator . Kestia is a cultivator who strives to work for and support the future and the good of all, who most often acts by supporting and encourages others, but who also can jump into the fray herself and get work done. The deck's card draw and mana ramp represent education and growth. The attack/combat triggers that help us grow represent the fact that effort and hard work need to be put in in order to grow, whether that be as a student, as a teacher, or, simply, as a person. As an aspiring educator, this deck really means a lot to me. I identify with it and it inspires me.

This deck wins by pressuring with evasive threats, backed up by a powerful card advantage engine that revolves around getting value from the combat phase and that helps us eventually draw into an infinite turn combo. We’re aiming for the sweet spot of the 75% optimized tier of EDH: powerful and well-tuned, but interactive and fair.

"The best prize life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."

-Theodore Roosevelt

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Put most simply, this is a Bant Skies creature beatdown deck. Our main threats--the angels--are evasive, disruptive, and powerful. We can generate card and mana advantage on board through attack triggers like Kestia, the Cultivator , Bear Umbra , and Sword of the Animist ; damage triggers like Bident of Thassa , Dragonlord Ojutai , and Sword of Feast and Famine ; static card advantage effects like Ephara, God of the Polis , Mystic Remora , Sylvan Library , and Rhystic Study ; and extra turn spells like Temporal Manipulation and Time Warp .

While we do depend on our board state to keep generating value and advantage, the continued card draw helps us find counterspells to protect our board from removal; recursion to bring back our protection or our key pieces; creatures like Avacyn, Angel of Hope , Dragonlord Dromoka , Sephara, Sky's Blade , and Shalai, Voice of Plenty to protect our board state; and support cards like Bear Umbra and Sword of Feast and Famine to help add some resilience to boot.

While our opponents are struggling with our aerial assault and scrambling to find answers to our threats, we set up a card advantage engine, out-grind and out-value our opponents, and work our way towards an infinite turn combo as a finisher once we develop a win condition on board.

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-the large amount of powerful and evasive creatures means we are excellent at pressuring opponents and taking down dangerous Planeswalkers

-often excellent amount of mana ramp and card draw lends the deck consistency, power, and speed

-the high amount of interaction means we are heavily involved in the game, and happily capable of interacting with whatever we need to in the game in order to play politics and/or stop our opponents from gaining huge advantages

-our combo pieces are excellent cards by themselves, so we're always happy to draw them


-the deck depends on attacking with creatures, so pillowfort and fog effects can hurt us a lot

-we're pretty dependent on maintaining our boardstate, so if a boardwipe gets through that we can't counter or prevent in some way, there's a lot of rebuilding to do

-our aggressive creatures have high mana costs, so the deck can feel clunky and slow if we don't hit our mana ramp and card draw to keep everything moving along

-we don't have any singular explosive "bomb" ways to finish the game without our infinite combos or a series of extra turns with a powerful boardstate

In general, play this deck if you like attacking with creatures, drawing cards, playing fair and interactive games, taking extra turns, and going infinite with combos whose pieces synergize with the rest of the deck's gameplan.

Avoid this deck if you're not a fan of the combat phase, if you prefer spellslinging to permanents, if you prefer keeping your cards close to your chest rather than playing them out onto the board, or if you would rather win games through huge, out-of-nowhere explosions rather than a slow grind.

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Early Game:

Ideally, we want to keep hands with an acceptable amount of lands, along with at least two of these three categories of cards: mana ramp, card draw engines, and flying creatures. This is because, with the help of our commander who is a card draw engine herself, any two of these three can get our deck started quickly.

Early mana ramp is obviously vital in the early game, but early ramp doesn't do anything without generating card advantage, which we can generate through our card draw engines or through our flying creatures (upon which we bestow Kestia, the Cultivator and begin drawing extra cards to get our deck going).

Every deck wants to ramp early, but we can keep unfortunately ramp-less hands if we have evasive creatures and card draw engines ready, as we can reliably draw our way into our mana ramp.

We want to begin bestowing our commander at some point in the midgame onto evasive creatures (or Danitha Capashen, Paragon , who is an all-star Bestow target in the early game). This is in order to get double-value from each time we cast our commander from the command zone thanks to the Bestow mechanic having them "fall off" and become creatures again if their targets are removed. If we must, however, we can always just cast Kestia as a creature in the early game to get the ramp/card draw engine started earlier. Kestia can be an early game draw engine, but she's better suited to the middle and late game in order to avoid aggression and to avoid making her commander tax too high.

Middle Game:

This is where we play the midrange game: we pressure and threaten with our creatures, while generating value and card advantage and interacting with dangerous threats from our opponents.

Setting up and maintaining our onboard engine is key during this phase of the game. Cards like Bear Umbra , Bident of Thassa , Dragonlord Ojutai , Ephara, God of the Polis , Kestia, the Cultivator , Mystic Remora , Rhystic Study , Sword of Feast and Famine , Sword of the Animist , Sun Titan , and Sylvan Library can all be absolutely massive game-dominating value generators, especially when paired together on the board and kept up for multiple turns. It's not uncommon to begin our first main phase with 7+ cards in hand, play out a few cards, move into combat, untap all of our mana, draw a few more cards, play a few more cards in the second main phase, and pass the turn with mana kept open and a full stock of cards. It's an absolute blast.

Our deck is set up to gain advantages from the combat phase (drawing cards, ramping our mana, untapping our lands), so we do need to be aggressive and attacking. This is not the kind of deck where you just sit back and wait until you start casting big spells in the late game. This deck gets going. It is important to balance our aggressiveness so we don't draw undue aggression, however, and that's a learning curve with this deck. Play politics to justify your attacks and make temporary deals in order to avoid strikebacks or leaving ourselves open.

This is where vigilance (provided by Angelic Skirmisher , Heliod, God of the Sun , and Serra's Guardian can be huge, by giving us much safer attacks. Using Archaeomancer , Eternal Witness , Mystical Tutor , and Spellseeker to openly recur/tutor cards like Path to Exile or Swords to Plowshares can be very helpful political tools to ward off aggression or to make temporary deals.

Since our infinite combos involve recursion and tutoring, feel free to use our combo pieces as part of the midrange grind. Mystical Tutor has a fantastic variety of functions in this deck, Conjurer's Closet can be absolutely insane with ETB creatures on board, Seasons Past is an incredible recursion engine that can be re-used all game, Archaeomancer and Eternal Witness are excellent recursion creatures, and Time Warp and Temporal Manipulation generate incredible value with evasive creatures and our combat phase engine on board.

We can often attack aggressively enough to take out at least one opponent, or at least bring them down close enough for someone else to finish them off, before we enter the late game proper. Sometimes our hand will be forced and we'll have to take out an aggressive opponent--like a Slivers deck or an Edgar Markov deck, for example--but ideally we can target the late-game oriented decks. Since we lack singular "game-winning" threats, we definitely want to try to take out or heavily pressure "big mana" type of decks or decks built around various engines, such as graveyard decks or sacrifice decks.

End Game:

This is Elder Dragon Highlander proper, the hardest phase of the game, where every move and every decision can have game-deciding consequences.

Hopefully, we were able to dominate the midgame with powerful creatures and card advantage, and the endgame becomes a matter of closing the game out and making sure to keep up interaction for our opponents' big spells and win conditions. Ideally, we have enough mana on board to combo off with our Seasons Past combos, or the right board state to combo off with our Conjurer's Closet combos. Be aware of the possibilities of hitting these combos, and try to sculpt our hand through our tutors in order to be ready to combo off to finish the game. Oftentimes we can also just win by taking multiple turns in a row, by hitting turn spells and recursion spells, so be aware that sometimes you just have to try to "go off" with turn spells even if the infinite pieces aren't necessarily in hand yet. If our engine is online, oftentimes we can find the pieces we need to go infinite in the middle of our stretch of extra turns and finish the game there.

If we entered the end game relatively even with our opponents, however, we have to be ready to continue the grind. In most cases, as long as we keep the board clear of the "broken" possibilities our opponents might try to finish the game with, thus keeping the game relatively "fair" and clean, we can continue to lead the boardstate with our creatures and win through them. Our priority, then, is to keep mana up for interaction and counterspells, and to try to keep disruptive creatures like Angel of Jubilation and Linvala, Keeper of Silence on board. Unless we hit our infinite combos or the table is an aggressive creature-heavy table, we have to accept the fact that we are not a fast deck, and thus we can't be greedy and make risks to try to end the game quicker. We lack the bigger, swingy plays to explosively win games that other decks might have, so we have to play with a bit more of a control mindset in the late game.

The general idea is that we win in the lategame either by 1) keeping the game clean and fair, thus giving our flying creatures a good shot at the win; or by 2) comboing off and taking infinite turns. Thus, we prioritize interaction, disruptive, and card advantage. Don't rush it and don't get greedy. The majority of my endgame losses have come as a result of rushed threat perception or by trying to finish the game too aggressively and not leaving up interaction and countermagic. Stay relaxed, and remember that slow and steady wins the race.

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Our combos revolve around our extra turn cards: Temporal Manipulation and Time Warp . Given the right combination of cards, we can take infinite extra turns, giving us the eventual win through combat. The way this deck works, we can use these cards naturally throughout the course of the game for the extra firepower of extra turns, but still employ our infinite combos once we hit the right pieces. None of our combo pieces are limited only to the combo, so we’re always happy to draw them.

Temporal Manipulation / Time Warp + Mystical Tutor + Seasons Past : Manipulation/Warp will give us an extra turn, Seasons Past will recur Manipulation/Warp and Mystical Tutor every turn, and the Tutor will make sure we draw our Seasons Past again on our extra turn. Notably, one of the pieces of the combo is a recursion card that can recur both the other pieces, and one of the pieces is a tutor that can find both of the other pieces. In other words, Seasons Past can start the combo by itself if the other two pieces are in the graveyard—meaning we can use Manipulation/Warp and Tutor for value during the course of the game and hit the combo once we have twelve mana and draw Seasons Past. Mystical Tutor by itself can also start the combo: first tutor into Manipulation/Warp, then you just need another piece of recursion to recur the Tutor and tutor Seasons Past, which will then grab the other two pieces of the combo now in the graveyard.

Temporal Manipulation / Time Warp + Archaeomancer / Eternal Witness + Conjurer's Closet : Cast Manipulation/Warp, giving us our first extra turn. Archaeomancer/Witness will recur Manipulation/Warp right back to our hand, and Conjurer's Closet will blink Archaeomancer/Witness for another ETB trigger, allowing the cycle to begin. Note that this combo can start with Manipulation/Warp in the graveyard once you’ve started the loop with the other pieces, meaning you can freely cast Manipulation/Warp freely throughout the game.

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Kestia, the Cultivator : Our commander herself. I adore Kestia both flavorfully and mechanically. As an aspiring educator, I find Kestia's focus on cultivation to be really poignant and inspiring. The way she can switch between heading into combat herself and supporting our other creatures as an aura is both flavorfully appealing and mechanically fun. On top of that, my two favorite things to do in Magic are attacking with creatures and drawing cards. Kestia does both. She's perfect and I love her.

Angel of Jubilation : Her anthem effect is useful, and she also provides three devotion to help activate Heliod, God of the Sun and Ephara, God of the Polis as creatures. Her primary utility is to help shutdown decks that revolve around paying life and sacrificing creatures, the latter of which is an archetype heavy in all the metas I play in.

Angelic Skirmisher : She single-handedly changes the combat math of the table, often to our great advantage. First strike allows us to make sure our creatures can win combats, while vigilance is key to allow us to attack on our turn but still keep up our defenses. Often we need to keep back our best creatures for defense, but we still need to attack with them in order to draw from Kestia, the Cultivator 's ability; Angelic Skirmisher solves this dilemma for us. The lifelink is an added bonus that can certainly be relevant, especially with Archangel of Thune .

Archaeomancer : Provides a wonderful amount of value for us almost every time she's played. On top of being an incredible target for Conjurer's Closet and Emancipation Angel for pure value, she's also a significant combo piece in our deck, in addition to her ability to help us grab our other combo pieces.

Archangel of Thune : In my opinion, one of the most iconic white cards of all time, with all time great flavor text. If she can do her thing, she's an absolute powerhouse that creates dominating boardstates.

Avacyn, Angel of Hope : Our highest drop for a reason. Avacyn has incredible art and excellent flavor, and is a huge threat by herself. When paired with a boardstate worth protecting, she can win games outright. On top of all of that, her evasion and vigilance makes her an incredible target for our auras to help our card draw engine keep going. And after all, hope is always a good thing to have. The night's darkest before the dawn.

Avacyn's Pilgrim : Cheap and early ramp in order to make sure we can hit all three of our colors, play out our card advantage engines, snowball into our other ramp to get off to a quick start, and get our powerful beaters onto the battlefield. It can also hold our auras and equipment in a pinch.

Baneslayer Angel : An excellent beater with often relevant keyword abilities, she's another prime target for our auras and equipment.

Birds of Paradise : Cheap and early ramp in order to make sure we can hit all three of our colors, play out our card advantage engines, snowball into our other ramp to get off to a quick start, and get our powerful beaters onto the battlefield. Since it flies, it can also hold auras and equipment well in a pinch.

Danitha Capashen, Paragon : On top of making our auras and equipment cheaper to cast, and useful keyword abilities that help her wear auras well, Danitha has great art and some incredible flavor text. Words to live by.

Dragonlord Dromoka : A big flying beater with often-relevant lifelink, and most notably turns off our opponent's instants during our turn. Huge to help us commit to our big spells and big combats during our turn, and particularly powerful with extra turn spells and our infinite combos. Also helps us tap out during our first main phase on turns where we're planning to untap our lands with Bear Umbra and Sword of Feast and Famine .

Dragonlord Ojutai : Another big flying beater that is a card advantage engine by itself. The vigilance-enablers in the deck help Ojutai maintain its hexproof, which makes it an excellent candidate for auras and equipment.

Emancipation Angel : A bit of a pet card, nevertheless, Emancipation Angel does work. She's a 3/3 flyer for three mana, and often generates a lot of value by letting us re-use ETB abilities on our utility creatures. Even at her worst, forcing us to bounce a land back to our hand isn't the biggest setback to have a moderately sized flyer who can hold auras and equipment. It's a fair trade for how clutch she can come in in the late game by giving us another ETB effect that can find removal or help us combo off. She's won me games and earned her spot in this deck. In addition, her flavor text helps remind my anxious and stressed mind to calm down and relax sometimes, so she's one of my personal favorite cards in the entire game.

Ephara, God of the Polis : An additional card advantage engine that tends to be extremely resilent. All the angels in the deck help provide enough devotion to activate Ephara as a big indestructible creature. Important is the fact that Ephara is an enchantment creature, which means she will also trigger Kestia, the Cultivator 's draw trigger, helping yet another card draw engine.

Eternal Witness : One of the best green cards of all time, Eternal Witness is worth playing in any deck, let alone one that wants to reuse and recur her ETB effect as often as possible. She will generate value all game, save the game by coming in clutch, and can even serve as a combo piece (or by recurring a combo piece) to win us the game outright.

Farhaven Elf : Land ramp which can trigger every turn with Conjurer's Closet , that provides Emancipation Angel with a useful target, and can be brought back with Sun Titan . Can also wear auras or equipment in a pinch.

Heliod, God of the Sun : Really effective in this deck. Because our card draw engine requires us to attack as often as we can, our aggressiveness often leads to getting counter attacked back by our opponents or even just leaving a hole open for a big attack. Heliod's granting of Vigilance helps alleviate this problem, as our angels are often strong enough to deter any attempts at retaliation from our opponents. We can attack largely without worry and get ourselves our attack and combat damage triggers. Heliod himself is also often active as a creature in this deck, since the angels provide so much devotion. Also note that the Cleric tokens that Heliod makes are Enchantment Creature tokens, meaning Heliod and his Clerics all also trigger Kestia's ability. Absolute workhorse in this deck, and easily tutorable since he's both a creature and an enchantment.

Linvala, Keeper of Silence : Really powerful static ability to shut down all the broken things our opponents can try to do, like mana dorks in big mana elfball decks or sacrifice outlets in graveyard decks. Linvala keeps the game clean and fair, and between all of our fliers, our interaction, and our card draw, we like our odds in a clean and fair game of Magic.

Llanowar Elves : Cheap and early ramp in order to make sure we can hit all three of our colors, play out our card advantage engines, snowball into our other ramp to get off to a quick start, and get our powerful beaters onto the battlefield. It can also hold our auras and equipment in a pinch.

Lyra Dawnbringer : Beautiful flavor text, paired with relevant keywords, an excellent body for attacking and wearing our support pieces, and can even serve as a boost to our favorite tribe of angels.

Noble Hierarch : Cheap and early ramp in order to make sure we can hit all three of our colors, play out our card advantage engines, snowball into our other ramp to get off to a quick start, and get our powerful beaters onto the battlefield. It can also hold our auras and equipment in a pinch, and the Exalted trigger can occasionally be relevant to make sure we have an advantageous combat phase.

Sephara, Sky's Blade : Big strong lifelink flyer, with a powerful ability that supports the boardstate. Unfortunately, we don't play enough smaller flyers to make her alternative casting cost relevant the vast majority of times, and it's really unfortunate that her ability doesn't protect herself. Still, in a deck that wants to maintain and protect its boardstate, Sephara adds a lot of resilence even if it's not ideal.

Serra's Guardian : A big flying vigilance enabler. Good to have redundancy with Angelic Skirmisher and Heliod, God of the Sun . Also notable is that Heliod doesn't give himself vigilance, so Serra's Guardian's ability to give the indestructible enchantment creature vigilance is huge to help give us more triggers with Kestia, the Cultivator . Unfortunately, there's no foil printing of her yet, which makes her the only angel in the deck that's not foiled out.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty : Protects our entire boardstate and makes sure our engine keeps chugging along. Even offers a potential mana sink if we happen to have free mana.

Sigarda, Host of Herons : Her static ability can be incredibly vital in the right match-up against edict-focused decks, and her hexproof ability makes her a prime target for auras and equipment.

Spellseeker : Always useful. She can grab combo pieces, removal, counterspells, and tutors to hunt through our deck.

Sun Titan : A blazing sun that never stops generating value. On top of being a big vigilant body that holds auras well, Sun Titan will recur a big chunk of our deck and really help build our boardstate. Just by recurring lands, mana rocks, and card draw enchantments, Sun Titan is worth playing. By recurring our utility creatures (which include combo pieces), Sun Titan is invaluable.

Wood Elves : Land ramp which can trigger every turn with Conjurer's Closet , that provides Emancipation Angel with a useful target, and can be brought back with Sun Titan . Can also wear auras or equipment in a pinch.

Argothian Enchantress , Verduran Enchantress , and other Enchantress pieces: While the Bantchantress build of Kestia, the Cultivator (along with the other Bant commanders printed in C18) is likely the strongest possible build in terms of pure power level, it's not something that interests me personally. It limits creativity and card options, ends up looking like all the other Bantchantress decks, and has no personal flavor or thematic appeal to me like the angels do. This build competes well with the more cutthroat 75% Bantchantress decks, and does so in much more interesting ways, in my personal opinion.

Heliod's Pilgrim and various auras like Aspect of Mongoose and Spectra Ward : Previously a big part of older builds of this deck, they've been cut because the greater focus on auras made the deck far too clunky and far too reliant on Kestia, the Cultivator , who can be very powerful but is very vulnerable if she is the focus of a strategy.

Recruiter of the Guard : Very powerful card and an excellent tutor, but her role was always to be a tutor for other support creatures. While being able to find recursion/combo pieces like Archaeomancer and Eternal Witness and a really powerful tutor like Spellseeker is an excellent effect, I cut it for more consistent proactivity and a greater density of card quality. The deck tends to be able to draw enough cards to make a 3CMC tutor a bit more unnecessary.

Smothering Tithe : Obviously very powerful card and a Commander staple, but not as important to have in a deck that has access to green ramp. Because it costs four mana and doesn't generate any mana immediately, it's much more a mid/late game value generator than it is a ramp spell. Even if it's in our opening hand, it falls in an awkward spot in the curve wherein we'd prefer to set up a card draw engine on board rather than put a target on our backs by playing out a Tithe. I finally decided to cut it for another mana dork to boost the consistency, proactivity, and speed of the deck. In a deck that's built around attacking with angels, early ramp in the opening turns is more important than trying to go "big mana" with the Tithe. Besides, I didn't like the flavor of the card. Brutal Orzhovian taxation doesn't exactly fit in a Bant deck themed around harmony and growth.

Stoneforge Mystic and protective equipment like Swiftfoot Boots : Previously a big part of older builds of this deck, they've been cut in favor of more disruption, more interaction, and more proactivity.

Thassa, God of the Sea : A card that I've always loved to play, it just doesn't do enough in the deck to truly justify it. The deck doesn't play enough blue permanents to consistently provide enough devotion to have Thassa active as a creature, so it can't provide indestructible defense as a blocker or attack as an enchantment to trigger Kestia, the Cultivator . The every-turn scry feels great, but doesn't actually provide enough card advantage to justify a 3CMC cost, even over a prolonged game. Thassa's activated ability is excellent, but isn't as powerful in a deck already built around evasive flying creatures. I needed something more proactive and that offered value immediately, something that didn't just offer a delayed scry trigger and a possibly useful activated ability somewhere down the line.


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Top Ranked
Date added 2 years
Last updated 11 months

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

17 - 0 Mythic Rares

45 - 0 Rares

14 - 0 Uncommons

12 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 3.27
Tokens 2/1 Cleric, 2/2 Bird, 3/3 Elephant, 4/4 Beast
Folders Bantchantments, 75% Optimized EDH Decks, Decks I like
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