Commander can be ruled by the social contract. Because land destruction is frowned upon, players can capitalize on this deficiency. They build decks to exploit the meta that is loath to destroy lands. If you have seen a rise of landfall decks in your meta, then you have seen this dynamic at work. The green deck that out ramps other decks needs to be held in check. But single target land removal does not do enough to slow it down. Mass land destruction cards like Armageddon can bring a lot of ire from the table. It is absolutely no fun to be sitting at the table turn after turn hoping to draw a land. Some will use Armageddon coupled with a Teferi’s Protection to create a mana advantage to win the game. It is time for a kinder and fairer Armageddon for White
I remember playing a game at my local game store when a friend of mine played Mycosynth Lattice and Vandalblast. It wiped away all land except his. We said good game and scooped. Our combo has roots in this one. If you are looking for effectiveness, then play Vandalblast and Mycosynth Lattice. It is two cards and very effective. Don’t forget to ask if the table wants to start another game. But if you are not in red and are in white only consider this variant. It contains more cards and makes the combo a little more palatable to the casual table.
It Starts in Kamigawa
Our fairer land destruction starts with a tax effect from Saviors of Kamigawa. It doesn’t seem like much on its own. When I build decks I find it hard to include this card. On it’s own it just doesn’t seem to do enough and it affects me as well. Kataki War’s Wage asks to be put in a deck where there are few artifacts. Normally you will build your deck with minimal artifacts so that it does not affect you. Then you are relying that your opponents will spend more mana than you do to keep their artifacts around and hinder the speed of development. If an artifact is critical to their strategy it is a foregone conclusion they will pay the one mana to keep it so it is subpar removal at best.
Upping the Power
Kataki only taxes one mana per artifact. In and of itself that is not much. To really take advantage of this ability you want your opponents to have to spend two or more mana to keep each artifact on the board. The more they have to spend per permeant, the fewer permanents are saved. Energy Flux does this by itself if you want to play it. Unfortunately, it’s an enchantment and that is a little more difficult to break parity with.
Instead, we can add a suite of clones that will breed more Kataki’s and grow things out of hand. Helm of the Host is the colorless option. There are a couple other artifacts out there that can clone creatures, but they require you to imprint the card and they are tap abilities. Without untap mischievousness it’s difficult to break parity with these cards.
However if you are in blue there are plenty of clone cards such as Stunt Double, Phantasmal Image, Followed Footsteps, Spark Double and Rite of Replication to name a few. Red has a couple of options like Splinter Twin, KIki-Jiki, and Flameshadow Conjuring. Unfortunately in red ability fashion, you need to exile these tokens at your end step. This makes them difficult to work around.
Another advantage of clones if we are in blue is that they are versatile and often scale in power to the decks at the table. We can use them if we have Kataki. However, if we never draw Kataki we can still clone other creatures on our battlefield or even some of the big haymaking creatures to help keep us in the game. You don’t need many clones. Even one or two clones in your miscellaneous package should be enough to up the power of Kataki. Remember this is a kinder, fairer combo and it will not be easy to pull off or even happen every game.
A Critical Mass of Artifacts
What Kataki really wants is a critical mass of artifacts. When there are six or more artifacts on a player’s side of the board, all of a sudden six mana to keep it all intact is limiting. The best way to weaponize Kataki is to turn all your opponents’ permanents into artifacts. This is where Mycosynth Lattice comes in. It turns all your opponents permanents into artifacts including lands. This creates an intriguing conundrum. What do your opponents keep on the board? Do they spend it to keep creatures value engines or do they keep their lands? If they don’t keep their land, then in future turns they will not be able to play anything.
Kataki War’s Wage is not effective with the Lattice unless you find a way to break parity. Breaking Parity is taking a symmetrical effect and finding a way to make it asymmetrical. The first way it breaks parity is that Kataki is an upkeep trigger. When you play him you are already past your upkeep. This means each opponent will have to go through the Kataki gauntlet before it comes around to you. Still this is not enough as you will have an upkeep too. The solution to this is a sacrifice outlet. There are many to choose from. High Market, Phyrexian Altar, and Ashnod’s Altar are three sacrifice outlets that are colorless and can be included in a deck. With a sac outlet on your battlefield on the end step before your turn you can sacrifice Kataki and never have the tax trigger affect you.
Breaking Parity is taking a symmetrical effect and finding a way to make it asymmetrical
If you are in blue, then bounce effects work. Just keep in mind optimally you will need to bounce back two Kataki’s . In many cases this is two cards to accomplish the effect. Mystic Confluence, Baral’s Expertise, and Cryptic Command meet this criteria. Venser, Shaper Savant can break parity by bouncing Mycosynth Lattice to your hand reducing the number of artifacts you control.
Outside of blue Temur Sabertooth is green and also bounces Kataki. It’s an activated ability so you can do it more than once allowing you to bounce the original and the clone. Coudstone Curio bounces an card type you just played so with Mycosynth Lattice out any flash creature you play can bounce the Lattice to hand. These all work. A sacrifice outlet is preferred because it also keeps you from losing your creatures to exile effects and being stolen.
The combo is fairer than an Armageddon or a Lattice Vandalblast combo. Although it affects lands, all of your opponents’ lands are not wiped away. They still have permanants and they still can play magic. Your opponents are at a disadvantage compared to you. It’s also fairer because it is optimally a four card combo. It is a little more difficult to assemble and will not happen too often. If you skip the clone then it is just a convoluted board wipe that taps their lands. Your opponents also get to choose what to clear off the board.
Kataki is also a creature and is quite vulnerable to instant speed removal if any mana is left open. Also while the Kataki trigger is on on the stack a Swords to Plowshares can easily be cast to remove Kataki or even artifact removal for the Lattice. Here you are counting once it hits upkeep that a player will not take one for the team to remove Kataki because everyone after him will not have to play the tax to keep their lands. Remember its an at the start of your upkeep trigger so once Kataki hits the upkeep phase the triggers go on the stack.
An Alternate Use
Unless you can find a way to double Kataki triggers, Kataki itself can feel very underwhelming. It does serve as a second purpose. Often players will use all their mana to preserve what they have on the board if they can not remove Kataki. This creates a shield down moment. With all players tapped out you can either enable a combo to win the game or have an explosive turn that players can not respond to. It is an additional value that you can use and abuse when it occurs.
The Biggest Threat
The biggest threat to you is your opponent targets your sacrifice outlet. If you are not able to Sacrifice Kataki you will have the same triggers as everyone else and that does not break parity. In this scenario while the sac outlet destruction is on the stack you need to sacrifice Kataki. Then only part of the table will be subject to the land clearing triggers.
Teferi’s Protection Doesn’t Work
The temptation is to use Teferi’s Protection to save yourself. With Teferi’s protection you will phase in during your untap step. During your untap step, no actions can be taken. Play proceeds immediately to your upkeep. Then the Kataki trigger will go on the stack. You spend mana just like anyone else. So don’t count on Teferi to save you. You need a sacrifice outlet.
If you are playing with Mycosynth lattice there are other oppressive combos you can build into your deck that you can consider. Vandalblast being one but also Karn the Great Creator. Consolate Crackdown is just plain mean. Kill Switch and Unwinding Clock lock down opponents as well. Just having Unwinding Clock on the battlefield, while not oppressive, creates a Seedborn Muse like effect. Add in a mana sink or a flash enabler and enjoy some extreme value mischievousness. Adding these cards into your deck build is a matter of what your playgroup will tolerate.
Reanimate effects also work wonderfully with this combo. You can sacrifice Kataki to keep your board intact and then reanimate him to cause more mischievousness another time. It doesn’t need a two mana tax the second time. A one tax will suffice to keep the board at its current state. This is excellent against those who decided to pay for their nonland permanents instead. A second Kataki around the table will force them to discard all their permanants they decided to keep. If you are in Black, then Sheoldred, Whispering One can be brutal to bring Kataki back turn after turn.
Summing it Up
Armageddon and land destruction often is frowned upon. That said, keep hammering away that this is a fairer Armageddon or Vandalblast Combo and allows your opponents to continue to play magic if they pay for their lands. It’s not a complete wipe and it is an effect they can come back from. It’s also four cards and quite difficult to assemble. It doesn’t belong in all deck that can run it. If you have some of the pieces or themes already in your deck, then it is worth looking at including it