I’ve been playing Commander since Shards of Alara. It’s the one format I play; not Modern, not Legacy, not Vintage nor Pauper. Standard? Not enough options for me. I want a bit of chaos in my games. I also love multiplayer games. Whenever there’s a new set, I examine all the legendary creatures first. And when I saw this ogre spirit artificer-ish Kurkesh, basically a Rings of Brighthearth for artifacts, I knew I was going to build a deck around him one day.
I have played many mono red commander decks: Kiki-jiki, Heartless Hidetsugu, and Feldon, to name a few. I Regularly play vs Purphoros, Krenko and Urabrask. In all my years of commander, never have I seen a Kurkesh deck. To be fair, I didn’t try to google some, this is just from personal experience – mtgo, friends, customers – no one would approach this Kurkesh. After some research, it appeared to me that Sensei’s Divining Top, Liquimetal Coating (planeswalker -> artifact means double activate with Kurkesh), Keening Stone, Memory Jar, Temple Bell, Tormod’s Crypt, Trading Post, they were all pointing toward the same direction: milling. Or at least some graveyard manipulation of sorts.
So I went all in with milling. A mono red Kurkesh mill deck…
Kurkesh Turbo Mill
For starters, it’s surprisingly consistent. The intense draw it brings to the table, namely Temple Bell, Memory Jar, Howling Mine, Anvil of Bogardan, Font of Mythos, Wheel of Fortune, Wheel of Fate, and Reforge the Soul will make this deck pass as a mono red group hug deck for inattentive players, so you might get a few extra quiet turns out of it as a bonus. But when you start copying the Wheel effects, whether from Kurkesh + Jar or Fork effect + wheel effect, then they might smell that something’s fishy. When/if Mesmeric Orb hits the board, all hell breaks lose. If you are good enough at MTG (i.e. lucky) when you play Mesmeric Orb you’ll have a Mirrorworks in play, making 2 of them. Possibly shenaniganing with Goblin Welder or Daretti to get Mesmeric Orb in the graveyard and back for an extra copy of it, as having 3-4 mesmeric orbs in play is awesome. Having both old Kozilek and Ulamog in the deck ensures that you won’t fall victim to your own nonsense, and Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus ensure that your opponents will.
So you wheel, fork the wheels, mill and try to stay alive.
Then something happened.
I obtained a Past in Flames.
Sure, I was already playing Mizzix’s Mastery and Recoup to wheel from the graveyard. I once made 9 copies of Reforge the Soul – thanks Howl of the Horde + Increasing Vengeance flashbacked – but I felt that Past in Flames opened more doors then that. Suddenly I felt like I could try to actually use the wheels as fuel for a greater scheme… Storm!!
Kurkesh Turbo Storm
I took the wheeling shell of the deck, removed a few artifacts and most of the creatures, as I had to make space for the cantrips, rituals, and kill conditions. Had to take out the eldrazis, since I aim at crafting myself a graveyard.
So here’s how it plays out: Kurkesh in play, Memory Jar activate, copy with Kurkesh’s triggered ability, now there’s two Jar effects on the stack. Resolve. Nice, you play your turn with the seven cards and at the beginning of the end step, two Jar triggers on the stack. As the first resolves, each players gets ALL of the cards exiled by both Jar effects in hand, so both face down hands, and then the second Jar trigger resolves making all players discard all cards in hand. This is because both triggers are from the same Jar, so when the trigger asks for all cards drawn this turn, both hands are taken so when the second resolves there’s nothing to get and all to discard. Remember, all you want is a full graveyard, this works in your favor.
We’re playing storm so there’s going to be rituals that’s for sure. The mvp of all rituals is by far Mana Geyser. Of use also is Inner Fire and Battle Hymn, all three of which can two-card combo with Reiterate for infinite mana, provided that the spells give 7+ mana. In fact, to start a storm I often go Mana Geyser + copy it with all I can, to make a mana base for the rest of turn to finish the job. Possibly something like: 50 cards in library, 30 in graveyard, cast Past in Flames from hand, wheel from graveyard then with seven cards in hand Inner Fire + Increasing Vengeance then copy Increasing Vengeance with Fork and/or Wild Ricochet, Reverberate, all from Graveyard. As mana and spell count pile up you have a good start to storm off. Fun!
Now, how to pilot such a fine vessel? I play it disguised as a lunatic group-hugging mono red eccentric Kurkesh. Let’s be honest, once you put Kurkesh beside your deck before the game no one takes you seriously, and that plays in your favor. Let them think you’re a lunatic, and when you’re about to die or when the graveyard is full enough, unleash the storm!