War of the Spark has ushered in a Standard format with extraordinary possibilities. If you’re an active Arena player, you’ll probably have noticed that the competitive metagame has been changing almost daily, with new creations ranging from the jankiest of infinite Bolas combos to the more or less tier one 4-color Command the Dreadhorde.
Let’s talk about a brew somewhere between those two. Which is to say, the deck exists primarily to be awesome, but it can compete as well.
Most War of the Spark innovation has been planeswalker-driven. But one planeswalker in particular has been notably neglected: Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner. There’s been a lot of talk about 3-mana planeswalkers defining formats, but not much has been said about the only 3-mana planeswalker to also enter the battlefield with a whopping 7 loyalty!
There’s got to be some kind of drawback, right? Well, the thing is, she doesn’t really do that much on her own. She untaps things—possibly lands—so you want things that benefit from being untapped, and perhaps things that benefit from having extra mana. She also draws cards when big creatures enter the battlefield, which reinforces the suggestion to use her to ramp to exciting things. Kiora is a deeply synergistic card, and thus the list I’ve built around her is pretty all-in on synergy, which is both the deck’s biggest strength and weakness. Early disruption can be tough to overcome sometimes, but any opponent who stumbles early will face all kinds of explosive things coming out of this deck.
Brewing with Kiora
8 Forest 7 Island 4 Breeding Pool 4 Hinterland Harbor 1 Memorial to Genius 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Growth-Chamber Guardian 4 Incubation Druid 2 Sphinx of Foresight 3 Zegana, Utopian Speaker 4 Traxos, Scourge of Kroog 2 Roalesk, Apex Hybrid 2 Hydroid Krasis 4 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner 3 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 4 Stony Strength Sideboard 2 Negate 4 Thrashing Brontodon 2 Ripjaw Raptor 3 Carnage Tyrant 2 Entrancing Melody 2 Narset's Reversal
The first awesome thing you should notice about this deck is the full set of Traxos, Scourge of Kroog. Like Kiora, Traxos presents great stats for its cost. Like Kiora, the drawback is it does nothing on its own. But these cards work perfectly together! Kiora draws a card when Traxos enters, and Traxos gets untapped by casting or activating Kiora.
Of course, you need more than four ways to untap Traxos. The answer came in two forms— first, more historic spells, and second, Stony Strength!
And who loves Stony Strength more than Incubation Druid? Remember always to tap the Druid to cast the Stony Strength—on the Druid—so that you get your full synergy value. Incubation Druid ticks several boxes in this deck. It loves to be untapped, it loves to have counters put on it, and it ramps very quickly towards big threats.
I’ve talked about untapping synergies and producing mana, but what is the deck actually ramping to? In truth, there are some games where your 4-mana 7/7 trample will be enough to take the win. When it isn’t, though, there’s some other beefy creatures to back it up.
I’ve presented Zegana alone not because she doesn’t synergize with any other cards, but rather because she synergizes with all the other cards in the deck. Think about all the boxes she ticks. She’s drawing you cards off Kiora and your +1/+1 counters. She untaps Traxos, offers a huge mana sink, and gives your entire team trample—a huge bonus in a metagame with loads of chump blockers.
Roalesk is probably the most awesome card in Standard that has yet to find a real deck. If you’ve played much War of the Spark Limited, you’ll know just how insane it can be. The value it represents is not too different from the much-loved Verdurous Gearhulk. Like Zegana, Roalesk offers many synergies to the deck: an extra source of placing counters, another way to untap Traxos, and another way to draw off Kiora. Often when you play Roalesk you present lethal on board the next turn.
Sphinx of Foresight is less directly synergistic. It has 4 power for Kiora, but you’re also playing it for the first ability, which is extremely relevant and substantially improves your mulligans. Because the deck is so heavily built around synergy, being able to scry 3 at the start of a game is a huge boon, allowing you to choreograph the particular synergies you’ll be playing towards.
Hydroid Krasis is the ultimate place to sink your mana, something you often have lots of. Just today I landed a 13/13 Krasis! It also generally comes down large enough to draw a card off Kiora, though that synergy is often not relevant because at that stage you’re likely in discard-to-hand-size territory already.
Between two Krasis, three Zegana and four Kiora, you actually have a very solid card draw package that allows you to gain card advantage over any opponent who isn’t explicitly trying to draw lots of cards. This is especially beneficial in slower matchups where you rely on drawing more cards and going over the top to make up for the fact that you have less interaction.
At this point Nissa, should need no introduction. She is, I believe, the most powerful planeswalker in War of the Spark, in both Limited and Constructed. She simply ends games. If Nissa hits the board and stays around a turn or two, she has almost certainly won the game. In this deck she serves as both a target to ramp to and a source of ramping. Against low-interaction draws, it’s not uncommon to play on turn 3, which usually ends in the game in a turn or so. Nissa also works with Kiora; untapping lands is a lot stronger when they add twice as much mana. She also synergizes with Zegana by creating creatures with +1/+1 counters, and also untaps Traxos.
In a sense, Llanowar Elves is the least synergistic card in the deck, but in another sense it’s the most. The synergy it produces is just so normalized in the minds of Magic players that they don’t think of it as “synergy” anymore. Essentially, playing this card on turn 1 allows you to get to all your other synergies a turn faster. There are also some niche cases where you’ll want to tap Llanowar Elves to cast Stony Strength on itself, so that you can play Zegana on turn 3 and draw a card.
Growth-Chamber Guardian I left until last because it’s the most recent addition I’ve made to the deck. It is perhaps a less-obvious choice than some of the others, but I believe it is vital. It acts as a bridge between your early ramp and your big beaters, and allows you to more consistently function as the beatdown deck you often end up being.
Although I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about synergies by now, Growth-Chamber Guardian also offers you a few of those. It can both create counters for Zegana and benefit from Stony Strength or Roalesk (it’ll search for another copy even if it has already adapted). It also offers an easy way to convert a mana advantage into card and board advantage. It’s important to remember that these have trample with with Zegana on the board. Remember to plan your attacks with that information. In my experience, many opponents seem to miss it, probably because Zegana doesn’t see much play.
If you’re looking for a deck to reach rank 1 Mythic, you probably shouldn’t play this deck. If you’re looking for a powerful Simic deck, you still probably shouldn’t play this deck. The decks that play Mass Manipulation and Frilled Mystic are better.
But if you’re looking to do really awesome things and feel great without totally compromising your ability to win, this is the deck for you. It’s super fun, and pulling off big-synergy plays never gets old. No deck has ever made me giggle like a small child as much as this one