I have this friend, Ted. I’ve mentioned that I’m fond of Ted. One thing Ted likes doing is playing Commander. And one day, Ted, Ted mentions to me that he’d like to make a commander deck about Archivists, because he works as an archivist.
So let’s talk a little bit about Kaho.
Kaho, Minamo Historian is one of the legendary creatures from Saviors of Kamigawa. She’s a creature with almost no offensive capability, she doesn’t protect herself, and she has to untap to do anything.
Kaho kinda sucks, but she sucks interestingly.
The Parlour Trick
First things first there is a Kaho combo deck, but it is a definitively one-trick pony, and it’s not legal in 1v1 Commander, which is probably for the best, because in 1v1 it’s pretty much doomed. You need to be able to fake mana-flood and a defensive posture for this to work. Here’s the list.
1 Kaho, Minamo Historian
Cards That Do Anything At All (5)
1 Laboratory Maniac
1 Mana Severance
1 Cerulean Wisps
1 Mystical Tutor
The thing Kaho does is ‘simple’ in that once you understand the process you’ll see there’s nothing in particular other players get to do that bothers you.
- Cast Kaho
- Kaho’s triggered ability searches your library for Mystical Tutor, Evermind, and Cerulean Wisps.
- Pass the turn, sitting there pretending you have a counter or control methods or whatever, then untap with Kaho.
- Do step 3 again, but on the end step, use Kaho to cast Mystical Tutor.
- Mystical Tutor searches for Mana Severance, which you draw on your next turn.
- Cast Mana Severance, exile everything that remains in your deck
- Tap Kaho to cast Cerulean Wisps, targeting Kaho.
- Kaho untaps, you have a Laboratory Maniac in hand,
- Play Laboratory Maniac
- Cast Evermind using Kaho
- Win the game on the spot
Now this is a pretty cute trick, and the deck is ridiculously cheap – pricing it on MTGGoldfish, the entire deck is less than two dollars on MTGO and on paper it’s seventeen bucks – twelve of which is just the Lab Maniac and the Mystical Tutor.
Now this is obviously pish. This deck falls apart under any pressure, and killing Kaho – which is pretty easy for anyone to do – dooms you. What’s more, unlike other combos you can slot into a commander deck, this one takes up everything in your deck – you can only build the deck to do this, and that means it’s not a cute trick.
Commander and other big deck singleton formats are mostly about toolboxes of tricks. And with that in mind, I want to show you some tricks that I can see when I look at Kaho.
Kaho is that she kinda lets you draw three cards but not quite. She doesn’t copy the cards, so you don’t get extra castings of them, and she doesn’t let you circumvent costs – usually. There is one oddball or two, like Evermind, which she can cast for free, but mostly Kaho separates cards away from cute tricks. Spells like Commandeer have big converted mana costs and Kaho doesn’t care about the alternate cost. She can’t use Overloads, but she can use Replicate and Kicker, and she can’t pay Xes in mana costs.
Since Kaho can only grab three cards, that’s just enough that you’re getting a bunch of options, but not enough that you’re getting options enough for taking care of everything. Modal spells can work out really well with Kaho then, because you can grab one modal spell for general use, one spell for advancing your state if you’re unharrassed and another spell to reload Kaho.
When looking at modal spells, you’d look to charms – spells that say ‘choose one.’ There are surprisingly few charms available to mono blue – or perhaps better phrased, mono-coloured charms in blue seem to suck a fair bit. Still, there are some nice spells in this space: Sapphire Charm, Insidious Will, Cryptic Command, Mystic Confluence, and Supreme Will are all handy spells to grab that can be cast for almost the same amount of mana or less as Kaho herself, and Summary Dismissal is a pretty good all-purpose desperation effect, along with Time Stop as a pretty good oh heck button too.
What I think I’d want, in general, when I’m playing Kaho is for Kaho to come with a way to reload her. There are a few tricks here – like Fated Infatuation and Cackling Counterpart, where you create a copy, then let the original go to the Command zone. Special mention to Supplant Form, which is pretty neat but very expensive, though it does serve as a reload in a pinch.
Still, the easiest way to both protect and reload Kaho, is to flicker her with effects like Displace, Essence Flux, Ghostly Flicker, Illusionist’s Stratagem, and Siren’s Ruse. You play with these in your deck – especially the ones like Displace that let you flicker two creatures at a time – and you’re pulled towards including more creatures that enter the battlefield and do something For Value, like, oh, say, Archaeomancer or Scrivener in your spell-based deck.
Advancing Your Board
And finally, the thing Kaho does if she gets a turn where she doesn’t have to counter a spell or somehow protect herself, how does she help you win? Well, drawing cards is a good thing and so is affecting the board, so here are some things you can cast with kaho that are kind of ‘always good’ effects to have around: Opportunity, Enhanced Awareness, Jace’s Ingenuity, Mysteries of the Deep (bonus with fetchlands and evolving wilds), Turnabout (can be neat with Minamo), Fact or Fiction, Toils of Night and Day, and Careful Consideration.
Another type of neat trick is Kaho can use untap cantrips like Cerulean Wisps, Twitch and Refocus to cast a few spells in a turn and draw some cards. Nothing super exciting, you know, but it’s there as an option too. You could use Kaho to fuel Storm like this – three pocket cards.
The best ways to support Kaho are to give her haste and shroud – it’s basically the obvious ‘this creature needs Lightning Greaves‘ clause. Blue can provide some general support with Elgaud Shieldmate, who can handle the commander bouncing in and out of play – and can even follow her along.
There’s also a healthy core of instant or sorcery spells you can use to protect her – some hexproofers or counterspells like Dive Down, Dispel, Turn Aside, Mages’ Guile, and for protecting her from etb or sacrifice effects of creatures, there’s the spicy trick Crypsis. These spells are obviously better in hand than under Kaho, but she can go get them in a pinch.
You also need some way to kill your opponents. Hopefully all this control and toolboxy playfulness and board advancement gives you ideas of how to approach that.