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Budget Commander: Kykar, Wind's Fury | $30, $60, $90


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Core Set 2020 has just been released and there's a ton of sweet new commanders that I want to brew around. I took to Twitter asking my followers which commander they want to see covered in an upcoming Budget Commander, and this was the result:

Unsurprisingly, Yarok, the Desecrated, aka the Super Panharmonicon, won the poll, but (also unsurprisingly) Kykar, Wind's Fury was a close second. You'll get your Yarok soon enough, but since I had to build a Kykar deck for a Commander Clash recording anyway, I took the opportunity to build a $50 version for testing purposes. The result was, well, good. Very very good. So with work on budget Kykar already started, I might as well flesh it out and give you the article right away!

 

Why You Should Build Kykar

Kykar, Wind's Fury is a very powerful commander. Generating a spirit token each time you cast a noncreature spell is amazing value, allowing you to passively generate an army that can block potential attackers and eventually kill people once you reach a critical mass. But being able to sacrificing your spirits to generate mana is what makes Kykar truly absurd, enabling crazy turns casting tons of spells and even enabling a couple easy combos (if you choose to include them). This is great value at 4cmc!

To get value out of our Kykar, all we need to do is cast noncreature spells. Therefore the only thing Kykar discourages is Creature-heavy deck lists: you'll be fine running creatures, even a bunch of them, but you should probably cap your creature spells at around ~25 to consistently have noncreature spells in hand to cast when Kykar is on the battlefield. But other than that one deckbuilding goal, Kykar is very open-ended! Here are just some of the directions that we will be discussing in this article:

  • Tokens. Kykar isn't the only efficient token generator in Jeskai colors keyed off noncreature spells: Monastery Mentor and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer are two similar generators, and we have even more options if we focus specifically on instants/sorceries like Young Pyromancer. We can use these to flood the board with tokens, protecting ourselves and eventually reach a critical mass to win the game.
  • Spellslinger. By focusing our noncreature spells specifically on instants/sorceries, not only do we get to run other powerful token producers like Talrand, Sky Summoner, but we also open ourselves to the Spellslinger archetype, allowing us to take full advantage of cards like Niv-Mizzet, Parun and Thousand-Year Storm. While there's a lot of Spellslinger commander options already, Kykar allows us to add white to a traditionally red/blue archetype.
  • Storm. Kykar's tokens can be sacrificed for mana, which grants us the mana we need to chain a bunch of spells in a single turn (Expedite). We can turn this into a win condition with storm spells like Ignite Memories or the honorary storm card Aetherflux Reservoir.
  • Combo. The two most notable combos with Kykar are Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal to produce infinite spirits / infinite mana, and Future Sight + Sensei's Divining Top to draw your entire deck. Or if you're obsessed with Jeskai Ascendancy like me then you can combo with that too. I'll explain the combos in more detail and show how to build the deck around them.
  • Spirit Tribal. Kykar's tokens are spirits, making her one of the best spirit generators in the format and therefore one of the best Spirit Tribal leaders. Pump your spirit tokens with Supreme Phantom and sacrifice Yosei, the Morning Star whenever you want!

Whichever direction you end up taking Kykar, Wind's Fury, your commander will be adding a lot of power to the deck! Kykar can enable very explosive turns, letting you go from a weak-looking board state to winning the game on the same turn. If that interests you, then you might like Kykar!

Archenemy Warning! Because Kykar has such a high power ceiling and enables such explosive turns, there's a high probability that you'll find yourself the archenemy at the table if the other commanders aren't similarly high-powered. Sometimes you'll be hated out even if you're far away from a winning board position simply because your opponents fear what Kykar can do if given an inch. You need to accept this as a possibility and embrace it, or else you won't have a fun time and neither will your playgroup. If you are not okay with being an archenemy due to your choice of commander then think twice about building a Kykar deck!

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Tokens

Tokens are a great way to add a board presence in creature-light decks. One or two of them per turn can be useful chump blockers to absorb or deter attackers, saving you lots of life in the long run. They are also great protection against Sacrifice decks, being meatshields against popular sacrifice removal like Grave Pact. Once you've got a decent number you can both protect yourself and start pressuring your opponents, like attacking opposing planeswalkers. If left unchecked, eventually you'll reach a critical mass of tokens and just swing for lethal to win the game.

Kykar, Winds' Fury is an excellent token producer as already mentioned, but she's not the only excellent option in Jeskai colors. Monastery Mentor and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer produce tokens the exact same way, making them no-brainer inclusions in any Kykar deck looking to devlop a token army. If we narrow our noncreature spells to just instants and sorceries then we can pick up even more options: Young Pyromancer, Talrand, Sky Summoner, Metallurgic Summonings, and Murmuring Mystic.

You can easily make Tokens the main theme of a Kykar deck. Start adding cards like Increasing Devotion, Storm Herd, and Conqueror's Pledge to flood the board with counters. Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Martial Coup both give you board wipes with your tokens. Double up on your tokens with Anointed Procession. Turn your token army into something more lethal with Cathars' Crusade and Divine Visitation. All good!

Here are some of my favorite Token cards for a Kykar deck, both token generators and cards that work specifically well with tokens. This is far from an exhaustive list so if you have any suggestions I'm happy to add them:

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Spellslinger

Kykar, Wind's Fury benefits from all noncreature spells. However, if you narrow your focus of noncreature spells to just instants and sorceries, you open yourself up to even more payoff cards. For Tokens, we get excellent generators like Young Pyromancer, Murmuring Mystic, and Talrand, Sky Summoner. But we can focus entirely on instants and sorceries, diving into the deep Spellslinger archetype. This enables us to run excellent recursion (Mizzix's Mastery), card draw (Niv-Mizzet, Parun), removal (Gelectrode), burn (Guttersnipe), you name it, Spellslinger has options for you!

Spellslinger is a very popular archetype with a huge pool of cards to work with. We have no shortage of excellent Spellslinger commanders -- Kess, Dissident Mage, Mizzix of the Izmagnus, Talrand, Sky Summoner, just to name a few -- but aside from Narset, Enlightened Master, there wasn't any Spellslinger commander options in Jeskai colors. While Narset cares about Spellslinger just as much as Kykar, the decks end up being very different: Kykar wants to go Tokens/Combo, while Narset decks inevitably drift into Extra Turns.dec territory. Therefore, even in a pretty crowded archetype, Kykar can bring a unique direction to it.

Here are some of my favorite Spellslinger cards for a Kykar deck. Again, the list isn't exhaustive, so feel free to suggest more:

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Storm

We covered Tokens. We covered Spellslinger. But honestly, this right here is why I wanted to write this article in the first place: STORM! 

The goal of a Storm deck is to cast a critical mass of spells on a single turn and finish with a storm spell: in our case it'll be Empty the Warrens, Ignite Memories, Temporal Fissue, or (if you have the money) Aetherflux Reservoir. Casting 10+ spells in the same turn before finishing with a storm spell usually secures us a win, or at least puts us in a winning position.

Generally there are two ways to achieve a lethal storm count:

  • Infinite cast combo. There're a bunch of ways to cast infinite spells on a turn. One combo would be to Ghostly Flicker an Archaeomancer (or any other ETB instant recursion) and a Gilded Lotus (or any other permanent that taps for 2U mana), returning the Flicker to your hand and generating the 2U mana needed to recast it. Or you can imprint Dramatic Reversal on an Isochron Scepter, and as long as you have nonland permanents that tap to produce 2 mana (Sol Ring) you can use Scepter to cast Reversal, untapping the Scepter and your mana producer to cast it again.
  • Cantrips. Kykar, Wind's Fury essentially generates us one red mana each time we cast a noncreature spell. If we fill our deck with noncreature spells that cost only one red mana and draw a card, like Expedite, we can easily chain together a bunch of spells for "free" while digging for more spells to cast. This is an easy way to up our storm count! This strategy is reminiscent of decks like Zada, Hedron Grinder and Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest.

There are both pros and cons to either Storm method. Combo Storm can be far more consistent since once you've assembled your combo pieces you simply win the game unless your opponents have a way to stop you. However, reliably assembling your combo requires lots of tutors, and tutors in Jeskai colors can be very expensive: cards like Mystical Tutor and Imperial Recruiter are going to drastically increase the cost of your deck.

Cantrip Storm is going to be much cheaper to build than Combo Storm since most of the best cards are junk commons, even though a few have spiked up in price recently thanks to the popularity of Feather, the Redeemed. When your best cards are Expedite and Warlord's Fury you're bound to have a cheap deck. However, Cantrip Storm is less reliable than Combo Storm since you might be unlucky in what you draw into while going off, thus being unable to cast a lethal storm spell, aka "fizzle." 

Whichever Storm route you end up taking (or just mash both together), there's one card that is a huge boon to your arsenal: Jeskai Ascendancy. This enchantment does everything a Storm deck wants to do: for a Cantrip Storm build, Ascendancy digs for more cantrips while discarding useless cards when you're trying to go off like extra lands. For Combo Storm, Ascendancy digs for your combo pieces. It also acts as a legit finisher in its own right, able to massively pump your token army and swing for lethal. Jeskai Ascendancy also enables combos of its own, namely with creatures that can generate mana like Fatestitcher and Vizier of Tumbling Sands, allowing you the generate mana that you spend to keep casting spells, eventually making your creatures lethal attackers. Either as a supportive card that you're happy to draw into or as a combo piece you're actively looking for, Jeskai Ascendancy is an excellent inclusion to the deck.

Here are some of my favorite cards for a Kykar Cantrip Storm deck. Keep in mind for that the very best options are spells that are "free" to cast with Kykar out, which means they either cost one red mana (Crash Through) or any mana (Conjurer's Bauble); 1cmc cantrips outside of red, like Defiant Strike, are okay in small amounts, as are a few 2cmc cantrips like Accelerate, but they make you more likely to run out of mana and fizzle. Also keep in mind cards that say "draw a card at the beginning of next turn's upkeep" like Balduvian Rage are not good for Storm because we need the card draw immediately:

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Combos

The highest power potential of Kykar, Wind's Fury is reached when you start building around specific combos. We've already covered two combos in the Storm section:

But there's an even sweeter Kykar combo that most CEDH brews are focusing on: Sensei's Divining Top + Future Sight + Kykar, Wind's Fury. With these three permanents on the battlefield, you can activate Top to draw a card an put the Top on top of your library. You can then cast Top from on top of your library thanks to Sight, creating a spirit with Kykar. You can then do this again, paying for Top by sacrificing a spirit. This lets you draw your entire deck. Once you've drawn your deck, cast either Laboratory Maniac or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, then activate Top once more to win the game. Easy peasy!

Things get even sweeter if you go all-in on the combo! Build your deck with only two creatures in the 99: Trinket Mage and Magus of the Future. If you do this, then you can run Divergent Transformations, the ultimate tutor for this combo. Sacrifice two kykar tokens to fetch Mage and Magus. Mage then tutors for Sensei's Divining Top and your combo is now fully assembled! Win with Jace, Wielder of Mysteries!

This, in my limited research, is the most powerful, most competitive shell to build around Kykar. But it's also the most expensive: Sensei's Divining Top itself is $30 USD at the time of writing this. You will also need plenty of tutors to consistently assemble your combo, like Mystical Tutor to find Divergent Transformations. And while it's not required for the combo, broken mana rocks like Mana Crypt and Mox Opal allow you to easily cast Jace once you draw your entire deck. But if you're looking to take your Kykar list to the next level, consider this combo!

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Spirit Tribal

We covered one of the most competitive ways to build Kykar, now let's talk about a more casual theme to build around: Spirit Tribal! Kykar, Wind's Fury is possibly one of the most efficient spirit token generators, putting her in a uniquely strong position to be a Spirit Tribal leader. Spirits isn't the most powerful tribe around, but it's got decent support thanks to being a theme in Innistrad and Kamigawa blocks.We also have sweet nuggets of Spirit lovin' in other random sets, most notably Spirit Bonds, which is an utterly fantastic way to protect Kykar from most forms of pesky removal!

While Innistrad brought some amazing staples to Spirit Tribal like Angel of Flight Alabaster and Drogskol Captain, I can't help but be more fascinated by the Kamigawa stuff for Kykar! First off are the legendary spirit dragons, like Ryusei, the Falling Star. Note that Kykar, Wind's Fury can sacrifice any Spirit, which means we can sacrifice Ryusei whenever we want to wipe the board! Sweet!

Even more interesting to me is that in Kamigawa block, Spirits often overlap with their signature magic, Arcane: cards like Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens triggers whenever we cast a Spirit or Arcane card! And Arcane spells are all instants or sorceries, aka noncreature spells, aka produce a spirit with Kykar! You know what this means: ARCANE SPIRIT TRIBAL! WOO!

Here are some of my favorite Spirit Tribal cards, along with an Arcane subtheme that you can choose to ignore. All I'm saying is that this is the perfect deck to cast Peer Through Depths + Reach Through Mists + Sift Through Sands to cast The Unspeakable! JUST SAYIN'!

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Lands

Alright, we covered the specific themes to build around Kykar. Now it's time to cover our generic necessities. First up are lands. Nothing fancy here, just mana-fixing lands and generic utility. The cheapest land base should be a mix of basic lands and mana-fixing lands that enter tapped, like Azorius Guildgate. The next step would be start adding mana-fixing lands that enter untapped like Exotic Orchard and Command Tower. Finally, you'll want to add dual lands (Sacred Foundry) and fetches to grab them (Flooded Strand), with some utility lands for extra value (Strip Mine).

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Ramp

Generic ramp is generic. Since we're a 3C deck I recommend focusing on mana-fixing ramp whenever possible. Also since Kykar produces red mana, ramp that can change the color like Azorius Signet is especially good here. As a general rule, the lower the cmc the better. There's a reason why all the 0cmc to 2cmc ramp is going up and up in price.

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Removal

Jeskai has all the best removal available to it. Here's some of my favorite noncreature spells to do the job:

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Putting It All Together

Alright, now that we've gone over the card pool we're working with, it's time to talk about how we craft the deck. As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 sources of "card advantage;" I use this term loosely but am mostly looking for card draw or any spell that nets me 2+ non-land cards in hand / directly into play
  • 6 targeted removal, split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 surprise "I Win" card; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

 

$30 Kykar Storm

There's a ton of ways to build Kykar, Wind's Fury, but one of the most powerful ways to do so on an extreme budget has to be Storm, so let's show that off with our sample deck lists!

The deck's goal is simple: ramp, cast Kykar, untap, and chain together a bunch of spells before ending with a storm spell like Ignite Memories. We are running lots of red cantrips (Crash Through) and a couple colorless options (Skycloud Egg) to chain spells together while digging through our deck. We can loot away excess lands while combo'ing off thanks to cards like Cathartic Reunion, and we've got raw card draw with stuff like Deep Analysis and the super spicy tech, Shared Discovery. If we find Jeskai Ascendancy then we're all but guaranteed to go off, especially when paired with our mana dorks like Silver Myr generating mana as we cast spells.

Even if we don't storm off, we can always beat down with tokens. Kykar is our best, but even if she's shut down we've got tons of backup thanks to Young Pyromancer, Murmuring Mystic, Talrand, Sky Summoner, and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer.

 

$60

Adding another $30 to the list snags even more token producers (Docent of Perfection) and more top-tier red cantrips (Overmaster). The deck's strategy is the same, but everything, from the mana to the removal, is stronger, better, faster.

 

$90

More money! More power! BEHOLD, YE MORTALS, AND TREMBLE, FOR I AM THE GOD OF THUNDER, THE STORM CROW INCARNATE, THE TAKER OF LONG TURNS! CAWCAW!

 

That's All, Folks!

There's so many M20 commanders to cover. So, so many. So little time! I yearn for the sweet release of non-spoiler season! Please chill, Wizards, I beg you!

Anyhoo, I'll probably do one or two more M20 commanders, then try and squeeze in some article updates before the commander precons release. That's the plan at least. See you soonish!


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