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Just for Kicks – Building Chun-Li in MTG Commander

I’m sure anyone that ordered the Street Fighter Secret Lair is just now getting them at their doorsteps – I know I did! Even from its first spoilers, I was hyped to build everyone’s favorite footwork fanatic, Chun-Li, in Commander.

Chun-Li, Countless Kicks

I’m not a big Street Fighter or fighting game enthusiast, but I know enough about the game to appreciate this Secret Lair. The flavor is out of this world, from Chun-Li’s multikicker to Ryu’s untap symbol to use Hadouken (which is just the classic quarter-circle). They even made Guile a “charge” character with charge counters! Even if you don’t love the idea of MTG crossovers, you can still appreciate the thoughtfulness put into this product as well as the sweet Commander brews coming from it.

Chun-Li in particular has a pretty interesting angle of attack. She’s part spellslinger but also has a “protect the queen” style that’s somewhere between Feather, the Redeemed and Mairsil, the Pretender (both decks I own too). So, where do you start?

 

 

Header - Protection

Chun-Li isn’t the best at attacking on her own, but needs to for her ability to trigger. Therefore, you’ll need some spells to make sure she can effectively attack each turn, whether it’s evasion or making her straight-up unkillable.

Blacksmith's SkillLeapShadow Rift

There’s plenty more later on, but these are a good place to start. Blacksmith’s Skill is just one of the most efficient pieces of protection in the game, and helps defend her early on and attack later on. Both Leap and Shadow Rift do similar things, and cantripping with them helps you snowball card advantage.

Sejiri Shelter // Sejiri GlacierSheltering LightAkroma's WillTeferi's Protection

These all fill a similar role, although having access to Akroma’s Will constantly can be pretty broken. I threw in Teferi’s Protection as it does have the fun possibility of stalling out a game by discarding it, then putting it under Chun-Li and casting it when she attacks. You’ll basically only be available to hit on your turn, so killing you will be pretty hard.

Protection’s only half the equation here, and as any good Azorius player, you’ll need a lot of answers.

 

Header - Removal

Swords to PlowsharesPath to ExilePongifyRapid Hybridization

These are, in my opinion, the most efficient pieces of creature removal in Commander, save perhaps Deadly Rollick. They’re all one mana and don’t have stipulations on what creatures they remove, which is premium. Giving your opponents 3/3s that line up well against Chun-Li with Rapid Hybridization and Pongify is a bit awkward, but there’s plenty of pieces to keep her safe and attacking. I’ve also included Suspend, which I’m a bit on the fence on, but it seems like decent, cheap removal that can be recurred.

Heliod's InterventionUnexpectedly AbsentGenerous Gift

White artifact and enchantment removal is honestly a bit lacking, and finding it on an instant is even worse. Plain ol’ Disenchant may be good enough here, but with enough churn and tutors, finding Heliod’s Intervention to deal with some problematic permanents shouldn’t be too hard. 

Unexpectedly Absent has always been okay, albeit expensive removal, but it has some cool tricks in this deck. For starters, you can use it to “bounce” Chun-Li by targeting her, then casting a cantrip to redraw her – just watch out for Ghost Quarter and other shuffle effects. You can also combine it with Thought Scour to put a permanent on top, then mill it. Otherwise, you can always dump mana into it or even just blank opposing draws every turn.

Generous Gift can also deal with anything, but has similar drawbacks to the aforementioned Pongify. Still, blowing up anything every turn is pretty nice.

 

Header - Ramp and Resets

The one thing I noticed most about Chun-Li is that she’s very mana intensive. Azorius isn’t known for its ramp, and I’m not a big fan of slapping battlecruiser rocks like Gilded Lotus in here. Instead, playing a slower game with a lot of interaction and setting up Chun-Li for different bits of value along the way is the plan.

The best advice I can give is to not be afraid to play her early for only one or two cards, then recast her later. There’s two things to note:

  1. The multikicker requires her to be cast, hence why you don’t see Ephemerate and Ghostly Flicker here.
  2. She remembers all cards exiled with her (thanks to the kick counters), so even if she dies, you can recast her and keep all the old instants under her.
Release to the WindSnapYou Come to a RiverFading Hope

All these spells help you recast her and do something more. Release to the Wind is one of the neatest, as you can exile her and then replay her later for free, but still get to pay the multikicker. It feels almost like “foretelling” her for a later time. Snap is of course a premium spell, and works well with some other choices. You Come to a River doubles as evasion, which is nice, while Fading Hope is the best Unsummon variant that’ll net a scry one if you target her. I could also see Geistwave here as a way to draw a card from bouncing her as well.

High Tide (Anson Maddocks)Frantic Search

This deck is built for High Tide, running five Island duals, 10 basic Islands, a Mystic Sanctuary and a decent chunk of fetches. You could ditch the High Tide plan if you want a cheaper variant, but you can get some pretty crazy turns by putting High Tide under her and getting essentially a Caged Sun every turn.

Frantic Search is a great piece of card selection that fills up your graveyard while also working with High Tide. It’s worth noting that sequencing with Chun-Li’s trigger is a little odd, as you have to put all your spells on the stack at once. This means you can’t cast High Tide, let it resolve, then cast Frantic Search for a bunch of mana, or just use Frantic Search as a free spell every turn alongside her other options.

Speaking of free spells, one of the best ways to use Chun-Li’s trigger is just to cast stuff for free every turn!

 

Header - Free Spells

Flawless ManeuverSubmergeSivvi's Ruse

Flawless Maneuver is a pretty easy staple, and makes both defending Chun-Li and attacking with her incredibly easy. Remember that you can pay alternate costs with Chun-Li, so this (and all the other “free spells”) work.

Submerge is a sweet piece of tech that’s seen Legacy play, and it’s really not hard to meet the conditions with the high amount of Islands in this deck and the popularity of green elsewhere. Being able to lock down an opponent’s draws with a free Submerge every turn will surely lose you some friends, but gain you some wins!

Sivvi’s Ruse is definitely the most obscure piece of tech here. It lets you attack in for free with impunity every turn as long as an opponent has a Mountain, which isn’t as common, but red’s getting more popular every day. Also, this stops all damage, not just combat damage, so you can save your creatures from a Blasphemous Act if necessary as well as fight spells and the like.

 

Header - Supporting Creatures

This list is very light on creatures – there’s 11 in total, including Chun-Li, but they all provide some nice utility.

Archmage EmeritusMonastery MentorLeonin Lightscribe

All these care about casting spells, and offer huge rewards for the constant stream of cheap instants you’ll cast every turn. Drawing cards off Archmage Emeritus gets out of hand quickly, and Monastery Mentor and Leonin Lightscribe work together to make some huge boards. Even on their own, both can lead to some wins if unanswered.

Illuminator VirtuosoSage of Hours

Both of these offer some interesting win conditions. Illuminator Virtuoso can grow rather quickly as long as you have extra spells to point at it, and it can fill your graveyard nicely to add to Chun-Li’s kicking repertoire. Sage of Hours isn’t often used in a traditional, “fair” way, but you can take infinite turns if you can consistently cast five spells targeting it. It can be tricky, but even if you can just pull off an extra turn once or twice, you’ll surely be pulling ahead.

Ghostly PrisonPropaganda

These aren’t creatures, but with a deck so light on fodder to clog up the board and a commander that’s constantly attacking, some defense is needed. These both tax the opponents a little bit, and while they may not stop everything, using a constant spread of removal and disruption can help thin out the hordes long enough to take a win.

Sakashima the Impostor

Copies of Chun-Li still see the same kick counters, so Sakashima lets you double up on value. I only included this one “non-legendary clause” Clone effect since it can copy opponents’ creatures in a pinch and the others (Irenicus’s Vile Duplication, Sakashima of a Thousand Faces and Spark Double) don’t jive well with your small creature suite.

Some of these creatures offer win conditions, but they’re a bit situational. Let’s look at some more straightforward ways to win.

 

Header - Winning the Game

Show of ConfidenceKaya's Onslaught

Both of these spells drastically increase Chun-Li’s damage output, and with all the evasion and protection, lead to some “out of nowhere” commander damage kills.

Show of Confidence is great here, offering a significant power boost to Chun-Li’s somewhat measly 3/3 body. Also, it can go infinite with Sage of Hours easily, as long as you’re casting three other instants (four spells for four counters on the Sage, plus one for targeting it with the first cast). 

Kaya’s Onslaught is your Temur Battle Rage substitute, and is oddly the only white instant that offers double strike. Still, turning Chun-Li from three damage to eight with one card is pretty powerful, and makes even incidental pumps strong.

Call the Coppercoats

You could easily play Secure the Wastes or a similar instant token generator, but Call the Coppercoats can be much more efficient. Combine these tokens with Akroma’s Will or Leonin Lightscribe and damage starts multiplying.

 

Header - Tips and Tricks

  • Chun-Li’s attack trigger works as such: she attacks, the trigger goes on the stack, you choose what spells you’re casting and cast them all, paying their costs on resolution of the trigger. They all get cast individually but you have to pay all the costs upfront. This means you can’t use spells midcombat and can’t do plays like cast a Frantic Search, Snap and Opt off of three lands.
    • Her trigger also triggers on attack, so all spells will be cast before blockers. This means you can clear the way with some removal if you need to get in.
  • For a fun trick, don’t be afraid to put Arcane Denial underneath Chun-Li. You won’t counter your opponents’ spells with it, but you can counter your own instants to draw three cards at the next upkeep.
  • Sometimes casting your spells for little to no value early on to get them into the graveyard before Chun-Li is the right play. Don’t be afraid to Leap or Shadow Rift an opposing creature or even just cast a Sivvi’s Ruse to bin it.
  • Brainstorm is a challenging card to play with, so here’s a few heuristics:
    • Leave fetchlands uncracked if you don’t need the mana, as putting a Brainstorm under Chun-Li means you’ll be casting it a lot.
    • You can get rid of cards on top with Mental Note and Thought Scour, shuffle them with Mystical Tutor or scry them with Boon of Safety and similar protection spells.
    • Even without a shuffle effect, Brainstorm is pretty close to a Ponder most of the time, so don’t be afraid to use it consistently when attacking

 

Header - Other Options

These are all the “101st card” in the deck and barely got the ax.

Engulf the ShorePerplexing TestMarch of Swirling MistSailors' Bane

Engulf the Shore and Perplexing Test are nice, reusable board wipes that also help bounce Chun-Li for more kicks. However, they’re both a bit mana-intensive and taking away their “instant” nature by forcing a cast on your turn means you usually get last dibs on redeploying your threats.

March of Swirling Mist can be used for some nice offensive and defensive value. You can phase out an opposing board for a free swing in, phase Chun-Li out for a free attack trigger or even phase your own board and cast a Wrath next main phase. You can also pitch to it, which can make it cheap. However, it felt a bit situational at best and I’d rather just play bounce spells. Slip Out the Back is a pretty good option here, but I just didn’t have one on hand!

Sailors’ Bane is just a big creature, which this deck could use. All of Chun-Li’s instants stay in exile, so getting this down for cheap is pretty easy. However, it’s still just a big creature, and you have plenty of spot removal against opposing large beaters. The real issue is facing down a board of tokens.

Murmuring MysticTalrand, Sky SummonerDocent of Perfection // Final Iteration

I’m usually not big on these types of cards. Four mana is pretty unexciting, especially compared to Monastery Mentor, Sedgemoor Witch and Young Pyromancer. However, they do have some nice synergy with Leonin Lightscribe and provide some block fodder to make sure you don’t get cracked back.

Brain FreezeAstral Steel

You’ll be casting a lot of spells every turn, but you won’t hit ridiculous numbers to win a game with a storm card. Still, Brain Freeze can help dig to your key instants for Chun-Li or just mill any opponent for 10 or more every time you attack. Astral Steel can provide a decent buff, but it’s mostly just a worse Show of Confidence or Leonin Lightscribe.

 

Header - The Final Deck List

Most of the other cards are pretty self explanatory – some cantrips here, some Azorius staples there. I usually do budget deck lists, but felt like giving Chun-Li a bit more of a VIP treatment, so here’s my final (non-budget) deck list.

 

Chun-Li Commander

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Planeswalker (1)
Cards 99

 

Any suggestions or secret tech? Personally, I went a little low on counterspells and could use more creatures to defend with. Feel free to comment below!

 

3 thoughts on “Just for Kicks – Building Chun-Li in MTG Commander”

  1. Alexander Rolfes

    I love this secret lair release, and your decklist is well thought out. I had one suggestion, and wanted your take on it, what about Vega, the Watcher? Could get you more card draw, but blue is already pretty good at that, so maybe not? Anyway, thanks for the great article. I would love to know the popularity of the cards in this release in terms of which cards are getting the most corsage decks built around them.

    1. I had Vega in my first draft but ended up liking Archmage Emeritus a bit over it. I could be wrong though, completely possible.

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