Ikoria introduced a very interesting mechanic for a more permanent way to grant keywords to creatures in the form of keyword counters. Kathril, Aspect Warper is a Commander embodiment of that and its effect is completely based on needing these counters. Without proper set up Kathril could just be a 3/3 for five mana, but with a stacked graveyard your board becomes an incredible threat.
Cavern of Souls
Path of Ancestry
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Glissa, the Traitor
Rhonas the Indomitable
Disciple of Bolas
Odric, Lunarch Marshal
Oketra the True
Thrun, the Last Troll
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Razaketh, the Foulblooded
Odric, Lunarch Marshal: To increase the size of Kathril with +1/+1 counters you want to balance giving counters to other creatures. That is a balance that can be tipped with Odric where he can share all these abilities each combat to all your creatures.
Survival of the Fittest: We need to fill our graveyard with keyword creatures and Survival is the best way to do that while tutoring for more creatures to pitch or answers for whatever situation you may be in.
Kaya, Ghost Assassin: Kathril is an enter the battlefield effect for having a way to blink is helpful for getting more counters on board during your next turn. Kaya is a great planeswalker as well with a draw/discard effect and a bit of gain/drain for life besides her blinking.
The best creatures to run in this deck are ones with multiple keywords but there are certain keywords that we really want to be able to use. Let’s see what our loadout is like.
Hexproof: The most impactful, resilient, and useful creatures that can function even without considering Kathril were Carnage Tyrant, Sygarda, Host of Herons, Thrun, the Last Troll, Sylvan Caryatid. All solid choices for the deck to get some hexproof counters on board.
Indestructible: Oketra the True and Rhonas, the Indomitable were my two choices out of all the options available. Their secondary keywords besides indestructible, double strike and deathtouch, are very helpful combat keywords. If they make it to the battlefield they are both targets to give counters to and Oketra can give more targets to give counters to while Rhonas acts as power boost.
Available Keywords: We’ve been through hexproof and indestructible but rather than pointing out individual creatures and abilities what are the total available keyword counters available in this deck? Well hexproof, indestructible, trample, flying, menace, first strike, double strike, lifelink, deathtouch, and vigilance. That’s everything except reach though flying does what we need it to and that was considered with World Breaker. Kathril is filled with possibilities to create an absurd number of creatures with keywords they wouldn’t normally have.
We’re doing a lot with this deck from filling the graveyard to building a board so what else is in this deck? The previous sections touched on a couple of handy cards but there’s more to the deck than the keyword strategy.
Buried Alive: The quickest spell to tutor multiple creatures into your graveyard. My selection for the three creatures while testing has been Oketra, the True, Carnage Tyrant, and Vampire Nighthawk for a combination of double strike, indestructible, trample, hexproof, flying, lifelink, and deathtouch.
Reanimation: Just because you need them in the graveyard doesn’t mean they need to stay in the graveyard. Once the keyword counters are on your creatures we can bring the creatures to the battlefield. Animate Dead and Necromancy are two of my go to spells but Liliana, Death’s Majesty is great at it as well and her +1 gets you a 2/2 Zombie while helping to fill your graveyard.
Utility Creatures: Eternal Witness and Disciple of Bolas fit this description the best I think. I’m a fan of Sidisi, Undead Vizier and Razaketh, the Foulblooded as tutor creatures though. We have mana ramp with Faeburrow Elder and Leyline Prowler. Our recurring landfall friend Bloodghast comes in for another body to target and Stoneforge Mystic can grab a nice Skullclamp for it. There are sacrifice outlets like Woe Strider and whether they are utility or win conditions Kokusho, the Evening Star, Grave Titan, and Sun Titan are some solid cards to run.
Kathrid has a high focus on keyword creatures to support it, of course it does there would be no reason to run it otherwise. When built around this strategy your board can become incredibly threatening and hard to deal with. Keeping track of all the keywords and making the choices of which creature get what abilities is going to take some learning though and good judgement on the board state.
If you like that kind of stuff though Kathril may be for you. The Abzan colour combination is no stranger to graveyard strategies and heavy amounts of keywords. The Symbiotic Swarm deck is very straightforward in it’s strategy but complicated to build around. We’ll see how well these keyword counters hold up with more testing.
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