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How to Build a Kaalia of the Vast Magic: The Gathering Commander Deck

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

What Is the Commander Format in MTG?

In trading card game Magic: The Gathering, commander format (sometimes called EDH) tasks players to create a 100-card deck with no cards repeated other than basic lands. This diversifies matches by ensuring both players constantly draw a steady stream of new cards and makes deckbuilding even more challenging.

Additionally, players pick a legendary creature to serve as their commander; the creature's colors dictate which mana colors can go into your deck, and the commander is available in the command zone throughout the match. Commander mode is so popular that there are variants of this variant (like duel commander, operating with different restricted lists and life totals).

Kaalia of the Vast as a Commander

Having your commander guaranteed to be available lessens the elements of chance, and savvy players know to build their deck around their general's strengths. One of the best commanders is the famous Kaalia of the Vast, a red, white, and black human with a few tricks up her sleeve.

How can her formidable powers best be used? Let's review how to build a Kaalia of the Vast deck (including an example of one)!

1. Make the Most of Kaalia's Abilities

With a converted mana cost of four, Kaalia demands one red, one white, one black, and one mana of any color to play, yet she arrives with only 2 power and 2 toughness. However, she wields flying, and even better, when she attacks you're allowed to place any dragon, angel, or demon-typed creature from your hand into play also attacking. This works wonders for getting high-cost creatures onto the field quickly, and since Kaalia consists of three colors, you have a wide array of powerful titans to choose from.

Speaking of Kaalia's colors, to ensure you can cast her by having access to all of Kaalia's required mana, employ appropriate multi-colored lands that give access to one of two mana types. This way, you won't need to rely on drawing all three of the basic Mountain, Plains, and Swamp lands.

Recommended Multi-Mana Lands:

  • Command Tower
  • Temple of Triumph
  • Plateau

No matter which lands you employ, check the mulligan rules with your play group to see how many chances you'll have to redraw your initial hand.

2. Use Mana to Cast Low-Cost Spells Early On

One mistake many players make when assembling a Kaalia build is forgetting the turns leading up to her signature ability. Since Kaalia requires four mana to cast (and that's assuming you have the three necessary colors), try not to "waste" your mana on the turns leading up to her arrival.

Too many Kaalia decks load their library with nothing but big arrivals only to lose after failing to incorporate some low-level cards in and gain early-game advantages. Look for anything that gives Kaalia haste, lets her attack the turn she arrives, protects her, or speeds up your mana production. Draft a few creature/enchantment removals to slow your opponent down, and especially watch out for the best mill decks, who will probably try to stall your creatures' assault.

Recommended Low-Cost Spells:

  • Lightning Bolt (great creature removal)
  • Land Tax (helps search for land)
  • Sol Ring (duh, not sure why this mana-ramping card isn't banned yet)

3. Find the Best Dragons, Angels, and Demons

As much as you want to make sure you don't squander early mana, Kaalia's main ability is gimmicking strong creatures onto the field for free, so make sure to stock your library with plenty. Of course, remember they can't have colors outside of red, white, black, and colorless.

Recommended High-Cost Dragons, Angels, and Demons:

  • Master of Cruelties (reduces opponent's health to 1 upon attacking—you win if Kaalia also hits!)
  • Hellkite Tyrant (gains control of opposing artifacts whenever it deals damage to opponent)
  • Utvara Hellkite (creates a dragon token whenever one of your dragons attacks—including the produced tokens!)

4. Protect Kaalia

Remember that Kaalia's flying ability lets her soar over would-be ground blockers, but you might need to protect her in case your opponent also controls flying monsters. After all, if they do, all it takes is a power of 2 to destroy Kaalia's toughness of 2.

Sure, Kaalia can be recast from the commander zone, but each time you do this, her cost increases by 2 mana (like any commander) and you have to wait a turn to overcome her summoning sickness. In other words, if Kaalia falls before free-casting a few of your game-changers, your match might be over. Here are some great ways to guard against her demise:

Recommended Kaalia Protection Cards:

  • Avacyn, Angel of Hope (grants all your permanents indestructible)
  • Mother of Runes (taps to grant protection from any color to a creature)
  • Darksteel Plate (equipped monster cannot be destroyed)

Kaalia of the Vast Rating and Price

Able to hold her own in any competitive match, Kaalia's fierce ability is an absolute game-changer that uses powerful creatures to wipe out opponents far before they're prepared to tackle them. Additionally, her three colors offer a nice balance between versatility (more cards to choose from) and focus (more predictable mana types).

Spawning plenty of foils, playmats, and alternate artworks, Kaalia remains a popular figure in Magic's lore. Click here to check out the cheapest Kaalia cards I could find on Amazon (they should range around $20–30 in price) and nab one for yourself, or view a sample decklist below! Devoted gamers can also often snag her at a convention's precon event, or casual players could proxy her—just know some die-hard fans will cry foul at this.

Creatures/Planeswalkers

Other than Kaalia herself, most of these are high-level angels, demons, and dragons, with a smattering of weaker support units. The demons and dragons tend to help offensively while the angels are great for defensive boons. Also, as much as I love planeswalkers, they don't synergize with Kaalia well, so the build only employs a few, like the formidable Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

Note Iona's rare opposing color shutdown and Iroas's attacking creature protection. Cards after Kaalia are in order of converted mana cost, lowest first.

  • Kaalia of the Vast
  • Mother of Runes
  • Akiri, Line-Slinger
  • Grand Abolisher
  • Vial Smasher the Fierce
  • Brimaz, King of Oreskos
  • Athreos God of Passage
  • Iroas, God of Victory
  • Chandra, Torch of Defiance
  • Linvala, Keeper of Silence
  • Archangel of Tithes
  • Liliana Vess
  • Master of Cruelties
  • Angrath, the Flame-Chained
  • Harvester of Souls
  • Scourge of the Throne
  • Hellkite Tyrant
  • Aurelia, the Warleader
  • Rune-Scarred Demon
  • Overseer of the Damned
  • Emeria Shepherd
  • Angelic Arbiter
  • Lord of the Void
  • Angel of Serenity
  • Tariel, Reckoner of Souls
  • Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
  • Utvara Hellkite
  • Razaketh, the Foulblooded
  • Akroma, Angel of Wrath
  • Akroma, Angel of Fury
  • Avacyn, Angel of Hope
  • Reya Dawnbringer
  • Iona, Shield of Emeria

Enchantments/Artifacts

For Kaalia, focus your enchantments and artifacts towards producing mana, making Kaalia unblockable, protecting her from damage, or giving her haste. Pay particular attention to Dragon Tempest, which for only two mana provides all your flying creatures haste and damages your rival when one of your dragons enters the field. Also, the ever-popular Lightning Greaves appears to give haste and shroud while its counterpart Swiftfoot Boots provides haste and hexproof.

  • Land Tax
  • Legion's Landing (Adanto, the First Fort)
  • Sol Ring
  • Dragon Tempest
  • Blind Obedience
  • Lightning Greaves
  • Strionic Resonator
  • Coldsteel Heart
  • Orzhov Signet
  • Boros Signet
  • Rakdos Signet
  • Fellwar Stone
  • Swiftfoot Boots
  • Phyrexian Arena
  • Whispersilk Cloak
  • Commander's Sphere
  • Darksteel Ingot
  • Chromatic Lantern
  • Darksteel Plate
  • Sword of Feast and Famine
  • Sword of Fire and Ice
  • Sword of Light and Shadow
  • Godsend

Instants/Sorceries

Although Kaalia doesn't specialize in instants or sorceries, it's important to include a few removals to eliminate your opponent's aces. Most of these are cheap one-off blasts that eliminate a single opposing unit without completely draining your mana reservoir.

  • Swords to Plowshares
  • Lightning Bolt
  • Path to Exile
  • Demonic Tutor
  • Boros Charm
  • Wear // Tear
  • Crackling Doom
  • Return to Dust
  • Armageddon

Lands

Lands are simple enough; use the multi-colored lands to ensure you always have the necessary three colors. Note that most dual lands come with a minor downside to offset the extra color.

  • Command Tower
  • Dragonskull Summit
  • Blood Crypt
  • Nomad Outpost
  • Godless Shrine
  • Isolated Chapel
  • Temple of Triumph
  • Plateau
  • Sacred Foundry
  • Clifftop Retreat
  • Bloodstained Mire
  • Caves of Koilos
  • Battlefield Forge
  • Temple of Silence
  • Bojuka Bog
  • Temple of Malice
  • Graven Cairns
  • Rugged Prairie
  • Concealed Courtyard
  • Badlands
  • Scrubland
  • Scoured Barrens
  • Akoum Refuge
  • 4x Swamp
  • 4x Plains
  • 4x Mountain

Kaalia and the Ban List

Hopefully you've enjoyed exploring the fast action Kaalia offers in commander MTG battles! Although all today's cards are currently legal, be sure to check that the ban list hasn't excluded any when building your own official deck. Seriously, it should only be a matter of time before Sol Ring becomes forbidden in the same vein as Black Lotus.

Regardless, check out Kaalia's story in Magic's lore to learn about her interesting tale of revenge, and I'll see you at our next MTG card countdown!

© 2018 Jeremy Gill