First Look: Chun-Li Kicks

Wizards of the Coast recently had a Street Fighter Secret Lair on sale. One of the cards to receive a lot of early buzz is Chun-Li of Countless Kicks. The card should not be released until July but there are already 166 decks on EDHREC. Chun-Li brings a spell slinger mentality to Azorius commanders that can create value, but she is not broken. Chun-Li is a balanced card that asks you to work around several obstacles. You need to know what these obstacles are to successfully navigate them and build a strong deck behind her leadership.

Chun-Li 

Chun-Li is a 3/3 Human Soldier for three mana that has a hybrid Azorius multikicker cost. Every time you kick her she will exile an instant from your graveyard and you will place a kick counter on it. Then every time she attacks you copy the spells with kick counters and can cast the copies. This is valuable because the cards in exile with kick counters on them do not go away. Chun-Li is an instant matters commander. You can cast instants combat after combat. It’s a strong ability, but it’s limited.

Limiting Chun-Li 

First her ability is limited to instants. If sorceries were included, then the ability is much stronger. If they were, then the build solves itself. Play as many extra turn spells as you possibly can and exile them from your graveyard. Then every combat cast an extra turn spell and it is game over. So while there are lots of fun and interesting sorceries that could be exciting to copy, Wizards did right to limit this ability to instants.  

The second limitation is that casting the copies of the spells is tied to her attack. This means casting these spells is tied to an attack trigger. They can only be cast after the trigger and when the triggered ability resolves. This shuts down some of the instants you will want to cast due to timing and the stack.

For instance any counterspell is useless to be copied as the only spells they could target, if cast would be your own spells. In this way, although all the spells exiled are instants, they act more like sorceries. There’s a specific time you must cast them once they are exiled with kick counters on them. I think this ability could have been written “until end of turn you may cast the copy.”  and not be excessively broken. It’s allow the use of some counterspells while not creating an excessive control deck by countering everything on your opponent’s turn. As it stands now, counterspells do not belong in this deck.   

Another hurdle is that in order to exile the card the instant must be in your graveyard. If you want to cast your commander fast it would not be wise. You need to have instants in your graveyard to capitalize on Chun-Li This will slow down the deck as you will either need to mill yourself, set up a discard outlet or just cast the instants first to get them into your graveyard. Chun-Li is not going to be a turn two or three commander no matter how much you ramp. She will have too few options to sling around. When thinking about your graveyard consider just casting the instants as it will cut down the card slots needed to make the deck work. 

Keep in Mind

Finally while not a hurdle it is good to point out that magecraft only half works with Chun-Li While Chun-Li first copies a spell and then you can cast it. The act of copying the card from exile does not trigger magecraft. Any free magecraft triggers without casting a spell is null and void. Magecraft can be good as a value piece but it is not nearly as good as one would initially think. Sorry, no double triggers. 

Breaking Chun-Li?

So with these limitations how do we break Chun-Li? I don’t think Chun-Li can be broken per se, but I do think that its owner can get significant value out of her as a commander. With such a deck we need to be careful that we are not just spinning our wheels but slinging spells for a purpose. We need more than value to win the game.

We will take a page from Feather, the Redeemed. The deck will spin our wheels a little bit by casting cantrips. We cast the cantrip to get it in the graveyard and we will replace the card. Then we will copy some of the cantrips and cast them again and net cards off of our cantrips. If we can choose cantrips that are beneficial to us then we gain an additional advantage then just burning through our deck. 

Tokens

Cards like Monistery Mentor can be brutal on our opponents.

Next, because we are an instants matters deck, we will use instants to create tokens that we can cast again and again. We can also use permanents like Monastery Mentor that have when you cast an instant trigger to build this army. Depending what you have exiled and what you have out, tokens can build up somewhat slowly or explode on the scene. 

The primary purpose of this army is to discourage our opponents from attacking us. It also can be an alternate win condition. We will not be making infinite tokens but we can include cards that power up tokens enough that we can attack with them for the win if left unchecked. When looping our token making instants we can comment we need some blockers for protection. This could be enough to diffuse the table and lull them into a false sense of security before you swing out and take someone out.      

Heroic

While this specific deck tech did not capitalize on it heavily, Heroic is yet another way to capitalize on casting spells over and over again. We want our spells to be cheap to cast as we want to cast several of them in a turn. There are many excellent spells two mana or less that target creatures. With a couple strong heroic triggers we can gain additional value by targeting our own creatures. The deck uses a few heroic cards. More can be found and used in a slightly different deck list. Doing so would create a more aggressive attack heavy deck. For this deck we included two of them in Phalanx Leader and Dawnbringer Charioteers These aren’t must answer cards and your opponent may leave them alone allowing them to all of a sudden get very out of hand. 

The Key Three

If you are looking for a deck list you can find it below. If you want to see the cards sorted out by function check out Chun-Li Kicks on archidekt.com. Now that we have discussed the theory behind the deck let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of it. As with most decks there are key cards that help your deck run optimally. Chun-Li is one of them but here we will highlight three instant matters payoff cards that can help you win the game. 

Aetherflux Reservoir and Sentinel Tower

I grouped these two together because they are doing the same thing. Chun-Li wants us to chuck our instants around as if they are a football. In doing so we can create a life loss payoff by casting these spells and having an explosive turn. Aetherflux Reservoir is a well known win condition that is impossible to stop once your life total exceeds 50. Sentinel Tower does similar but it does not gain you life like the Reservoir does. It just outright deals damage. It’s any target so you can take down a must kill creature if you need to. Otherwise it is best to be a Pitbull and once you deal damage to somebody keep dealing damage to them as you cast spells. Spreading the love around the table will most likely make you dead. 

Blind Obedience

Despite the black color in its rules text box, all extort spells are playable because the black color is a part of the reminder text and not an actual part of the rules text. There are precious few extort cards you can use in azorius. In fact there are four of them and they are all mono white. Extort is not quite as good as the other triggers as you will need to pay an additional white mana for each spell you cast. Because of this, Blind Obedience only made the cut as it slows down your opponents. The other extort cards are creatures and they are not that great so we chose to bypass them for token generating instants that synergize better with the deck. 

While this card probably will not kill anyone it will cause some significant damage while gaining you life. This can create an advantageous dynamic at the table for you. Alpha strikes happens even if the whole table doesn’t die. It also will delay any sort of infinite token mischievousness by causing the tokens to come into play tapped. All around, Blind Obedience will do work for your deck while providing a spellslinger payoff. 

Orvar the All-Form 

If you are playing cantrips and heroic it is not a far stretch to include Orvar, the All-Form. We are already in a token theme and making more tokens fits with what we want to do. There are cards that will make lands ramping us with Orvar. Equipment targets when it equips for more token fun. Helm of the Host is in this deck list to make a non legendary copy of Chun Li to attack with or even additional copies of Baral Chief of Compliance further reducing our spells casting cost. Copying Orvar himself will create multiple triggers causing things to get out of hand. Non Legendary targets stick around when we copy them with Orvar. Multiple copies of Hullbreaker Horror can be… well… broken. Orvar doesn’t win the game, he creates value that will allow you to win the game if left unanswered. 

The Fine Details

Keep in mind his ability states “other permanents.” You won’t get the equip target on Orvar himself if you equip him. But, if you use Helm of the Host and make a nonlegendary token or him, then whenever you target an Orvar, the All-Form you will make a token copy of the target. It is similar to Sterling Grove and Greater Auramancy. Each gives shroud to the other and Orvar give the copy ability to the other. Just make sure you target the token copy so that the additional copy of Orvar stays on the battlefield due to the legendary rule. As a general rule when he gets targeted you will make a number of tokens equal to the number of All-Forms on your battlefield -1.

Pet Cards 

Often there are cards that aren’t always the best of the best and are not included in most decks. They can be just some of your favorite cards or synergize very well with what a specific deck wants to do. These are called Pet Cards. Here are some of the cards and why they are in the deck. 

The Elephant in the Room aka Jeweled Lotus 

How can a $100+ Jewled Lotus be a pet card?

Jeweled Lotus is a desirable card and currently costs over $100. There is no way this card should be on this list. Actually it does. Jeweled Lotus is more of a cEDH card to get your commander out quickly where games can be over quite fast. This limits its downside of the late game. If you draw it late this card does little or nothing. I would contend that this card should be used rarely in casual commander. The actual cost for maybe speeding up your deck by playing your commander is just not worth it. For some commanders it’s even worse. Consider Sythis the Harvest Hand. There is little if not any difference in playing her turn 1 compared to turn two. If Wizards would print this card to oblivion crashing it’s price, then we can have a discussion on whether or not it’s a staple.

In Chun-Li, however; the card shines. Because of multikicker you can cast her on turn four with a jewled lotus and spend all three of its mana into the multikicker cost and exile an additional three cards. Because the instants and sorceries are low to the ground. You should have cast several instants by then creating targets in your graveyard. Finally there are bounce spells in this deck and bouncing Chun-Li to cast her again to exile more spells is a reasonable play line. Even in late game Jeweled Lotus is not a dead card. It will cost you just five mana to bounce your commander and recast her with another kicker of three. It’s not a key card but it is a strong pet card for sure. 

You Come to a River

Early this card is getting the love it deserves. You Come to a River as a modal spell it gives you options on how to use it when you copy and cast it. It’s removal mode protects Chun-Li if you need to. This  allows you to cast her again from your hand instead of the command zone saving two mana. It also has a power buff mode to synergize with heroic cards as well as triggers Orvar. It does a little of everything and should be an early choice for most Chun-Li decks.

Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction gets better with Chun-Li. Normally you are digging five cards deep and maybe getting one or two cards that you want for four mana. Its cost is a little high for card draw but it also makes up for it with a slight card selection advantage. In Chun-Li it is a way to put instants into your graveyard. With Chun-Li’s exile ability an instant in the graveyard is worth about a scry at about .5 of a card for each card. It’s a little technical but check out Magic: A game of Resource Management to understand a little more about these concepts. . 

Sway of Illusion

As one of the cantrips in this deck the card is good enough. But Sway of Illusion also synergizes with Orvar to make another token or with Sword of Feast and Famine to turn all your opponents creatures black or green. It also makes your tokens whatever color you need  to be able to block creatures with intimidate or fear. Sway of Illusion can help your board if your opponents use destroy target non[color] creature as you can turn your creatures into that color. It works better if cast from the hand but still draws you cards if looped with a kick counter. 

Rootborn Defenses 

A deck like Chun-Li is ripe for more cards that are pet cards. It’s because it wants to do things most decks don’t ask to do. In this situation staples are less likely to be used. In place of them pet cards find a home.

While you will want to protect your commander in most decks or save your board from a board wipe when it happens, few of them want to make tokens. This makes Rootborn Defenses a prime candidate for this deck. We can cast it over and over again to protect our commander while attacking all the while making more tokens for defense. With Helm of the Host in this deck we can make more interesting tokens and if we attack with two Chun-Li creatures, it’s like doublemint gum, we get double the pleasure of copying spells and casting them twice. We will need to be careful in this scenario because timing matters. It is a way to get additional value. This puts Rootborn Defenses on our pet card list for this deck. 

Orvar and Rootborn Defenses Doubles your pleasure like this old commercial.

Flux Channeler

For when the deck wants to go wide and attack with a bazillion tokens that have plus one counters on them we can speed up the deck with Flux Channeler. Chun-Li wants to cast lots of cheap instants. That makes This Card an excellent payoff for the deck. You will find you can cast multiple spells in a turn and trigger Flux Channeler multiple times in a turn.

The biggest drawback in this first look build is how few counters there are to proliferate This was on purpose because the deck just has this one proliferate card so we do not want to lean too heavily on it as most games we will not see the channeler. We are not in the colors to go fetch creatures so when it happens, it happens and it can be quite fun. There is a Chun-Li build that focuses more on Flux Channeler and it can be some fun design space to explore. It’s not with our first look deck though. For now Flux Channeler is a niche pet card for the deck. . 

It’s not only what is in the deck

It is also what is not in the deck. I love the card Rystic Study. Up until now if I built a deck with blue in it there was a spot for it in the deck list. I have it ranked in the top three blue cards for commander. Every deck wants to draw cards and Rhystic Study does it efficiently or you slow your opponents down. But, it’s not in this deck. 

The deck’s concept is instants matter. As such we want most of our card draw to be instants they may be one use cards but once we get them in our graveyard and cast our commander we can begin to loop them for value. These loops satisfy our card draw needs.. There is room for some non-instant cards in the deck. 

First is The Reality Chip which is a slightly cheaper version if Bolas’ Citadel. Technically both are six mana. The Reality Chip doesn’t need to be paid at once. The ability to play lands and cast spells off the top of your library is strong even if you have to spend mana to do so. The deck has plenty of one and two mana spells (30) so that you can chain them together for additional explosive turns. The deck also contains enough cantrips that you can draw past additional lands to keep casting spells. Fabricate is a sorcery. It also is an artifact tutor that is necessary so that we can tutor up our win conditions and win the game. Both are better choices for this deck.

Sphinx Bone Wand

Speaking of win conditions, Sphinx Bone Wand is not in the deck. It, like Sentinel Tower and Aetherflux Reservoir, can dome your opponents for all the instants you will cast. The card grows and grows all the while damaging target player or creature. This is exactly what Chun-Li wants. So why is it not in the deck? 

This card is a high variance card. In a turn or two you will be able to build it up where you are dealing eight or more damage per instant cast. However it is also a card that opponents must destroy or they will lose the game. Once damage flies around the table, your opponents will recognize it. This card is balanced by its mana value of seven. It’s not an unrealistic line of play to cast the card and then your opponent plays instant speed removal. Odds are when it comes out you won’t have mana to capitalize on the artifact. The play becomes a blowout that sets you back a turn of not generating value. However if you play in a meta where there is little removal this card would be excellent inclusion. 

Darien, King of Kjelder

In a tokens build Darien, King of Kjelder makes tokens and in spades. I have seen this card go off in our playgroup and it will help you defend your board and it synergizes well with anything that will put counters on your creatures. It serves another purpose as it will sometimes deter your opponents from attacking you because you will get a token payoff when you take damage.and it is here where the difficulty lies. 

Our deck doesn’t really gain life so in order to get a token payoff we have to place ourselves closer to death. If we are really needing the tokens we are dependent on our opponents to attack us with little way of generating them. The card is inconsistent and for six mana he will come out later in the game and the value he provides is not worth the cost. It’s better to add another instant token maker instead to keep our instant count high in the deck and have it cost less so that we can do more with that six mana. 

The Price for Playing Chun-Li

Outside of the cost of buying the Street Fighter Secret Lair The deck is somewhat reasonable in cost. It contains many cards that are not staples and this keeps the price of the deck down. At the time of this writing the deck comes in at just under $800 USD. If you own the staples already, then the cost can be significantly less. Just about half of the cost ($383) is tied up in seven cards that are optimal for the deck but not necessary to run the deck. With this first look here are some quick substitutions to lower the cost of the deck and bring it down to just over $400. If you want to read the substitute cards check out the deck on archidekt.com.

  • Take Out Enlightened Tutor ($50) add Vega the Watcher ($0.25)
  • Remove High Tide ($55) add Network Terminal ($0.25)
  • Take Out Jeweled Lotus ($110) add Jace’s Sanctum ($0.80)
  • Remove  Shark Typhoon ($17) add Deeka Fractal Theorist ($1)
  • Take Out Sword of Feast and Famine ($70) add Turnabout ($7.50)
  • Remove Teferi’s Protection ($48) add Adamant Will (0.25)
  • Take Out Tithe ($33) add Commander’s Sphere ($0.30)

Aetherflux Reservoir ($20), Cyclonic Rift ($43), Mystical Tutor ($25) and Smothering Tithe ($50) are exceptional cards for the cost. They synergizes well with how the deck functions. The same is true for Hullbreaker Horror ($9), Monastery Mentor ($19) and Talisman of Progress ($18). They can be substituted out for additional Savings of about $180, but not advised. If you do substitute consider slowly adding these cards into the deck over time. They are all very useful cards and worth being in your collection for future use. 

Summing it up

This is the first look for the new secret lair commander Chun-Li, Countless Kicks. It will come out sometime in July. This deck was not playtested. More cards will release like Streets of New Copenia before we ever see her in paper. There is plenty of time to tweak and modify the decklist but the framework of casting cheap spells for value with cantrips and payoffs is in place. Were there any cards missed? What pet cards would you consider putting into your deck? Leave a comment below or email us at commanderclinicmtg@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Decklist

Commander

  • Chun-Li, Countless Kicks

Artifacts

  • Aetherflux Reservoir
  • Arcane Signet
  • Azorius Signet
  • Helm of the Host
  • Jeweled Lotus
  • Sentinel Tower
  • Sol Ring
  • Sword of Feast and Famine
  • Talisman of Progress

Creatures  

  • Baral, Chief of Compliance
  • Dawnbringer Charioteers
  • Docent of Perfection
  • Flux Channeler
  • Hullbreaker Horror
  • Monastery Mentor
  • Orvar, the All-Form
  • Phalanx Leader
  • The Reality Chip

Enchantment

  • Blind Obedience
  • Cathars’ Crusade
  • Leyline of Sanctity
  • Monologue Tax
  • Shark Typhoon
  • Smothering Tithe

Instants 

  • Akroma’s Will
  • Aura Blast
  • Benevolent Offering
  • Brainstorm
  • Call the Coppercoats
  • Call to Heel
  • Curate
  • Cyclonic Rift
  • Enlightened Tutor
  • Eyes in the Skies
  • Fact of Fiction
  • Frantic Search
  • Geistwave
  • Ghostly Flicker
  • High Tide
  • Lazotep Plating
  • Leap
  • Midnight Haunting
  • Mystical Tutor
  • Path to Exile
  • Pongify
  • Raise the Alarm
  • Rapid Hybridization
  • Release to Memory
  • Release to the Wind
  • Rootborn Defenses
  • Sapphire Charm
  • Select for Inspection
  • Shimmering Mirage
  • Startle
  • Sway of Illusion
  • Swords to Plowshares
  • Teferi’s Protection
  • Thermal Flux
  • Tithe
  • True Love’s Kiss
  • You Come to a River

Land 

  • Access Tunnel
  • Command Tower
  • Glacial Floodplain
  • Glacial Fortress
  • Hallowed Fountain
  • Irrigated Farmland
  • 15 Island
  • Karn’s Bastion
  • Maze of Ith
  • 8 Plains
  • Prairie Stream
  • Primal Amulet//Primal Wellspring
  • Rogue’s Passage
  • Search for Azcanta//Azcanta the Sunken Ruin
  • Temple of Enlightenment

Planeswalker

  • Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Sorcery

  • Fabricate

Cost Substitutes

  • Adamant Will
  • Commander’s SPhere
  • Deeka, Fractal Theorist
  • Network Terminal
  • Jace’s Sanctum
  • Turnabout
  • Vega the Watcher

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