27, Apr, 23

Budget MTG March of the Machine Commander Can Win on Turn 3!

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Article at a Glance

March of the Machine’s newest offerings have proven to threaten the balance of existing MTG ecosystems in just its first week of release. One MTG card, which was pointed out by many as a potential powerhouse, has already begun changing the overall metagames for two of MTG’s most competitive formats. Now, another card is showing up in Commander in a massive way. If you see this Commander appear at your table, be very careful about killing Hidetsugu and Kairi, as one death could end the entire game.

Hidetsugu and Kairi

Hidetsugu and Kairi offer a decent body for its mana value, especially considering the Flying keyword available. While this is indeed promising in a Limited environment, Commander players will be much more concerned about Hidetsugu and Kairi’s other abilities, which are incredibly powerful.

Hidetsugu and Kairi’s first ability emulates a card that runs rampant across MTG’s most powerful formats: Brainstorm. This effect allows you to draw three cards, but you must choose two cards in your hand to put back on top of your library. You can get stuck drawing unwanted cards over again, but this is easily avoided with any shuffling or Scry effects that you can make available in accordance with other cards included in your deck. Fetch Lands are, traditionally, the most effective ways to do this, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse are cheaper lands that can do the same thing.

That said, you may not want to be shuffling your cards away. Hidetsugu and Kairi’s death trigger is what’s making this Commander a renowned threat only a few weeks after release. When Hidetsugu and Kairi dies, you exile the top card of your library. One target opponent loses life equal to the card’s mana value and, if it’s an instant or sorcery, you get to cast it for free. Since this effect cares about the top of your library, being able to manipulate what that card is with a Brainstorm effect makes starting combo sequences with this card a lot easier.

The Standard Combo

Free spells, especially with minimal limitations like this ability, are, obviously, quite powerful. While this two-card combo has not picked up steam competitively, many content creators, including us, mentioned its potential viability. Long story short, revealing an Explosive Singularity off of Hidetsugu and Kairi offers a one-two punch that deals 20 damage to an opponent, ending a game of constructed Magic. This combo is much worse in the Commander format since, firstly, players have 40 life, meaning 20 damage isn’t enough to one-shot anyone. Secondly, players will generally have four opponents in the Commander format, and this damage can only hit one of them. So, why are Commander players so terrified of Hidetsugu and Kairi?

Beginning the Chain

Hidetsugu and Kairi’s potential dominance has already made its way to Reddit, even more so when on a budget. The core strategy that is bringing Hidetsugu and Kairi to power in budget circles is utilizing free instant and sorceries that starts a chain reaction and kills the table… well, as soon as your Commander dies. If that’s on turn one, then you won the game on turn one. There are a variety of effects that can continue the chain, and we’ll go over each type of instant or sorcery cards that you can include to keep replicating death triggers on Hidetsugu and Kairi.

Creating Copies


Quasiduplicate came up in a recent article discussing the return of the Jump-start mechanic in March of the Machine: The Aftermath (spoiler warning). Typically, this card can be awkward to deploy in a Commander setting since making copies of your Commander, traditionally, is not a great idea if you cannot avoid the Legend Rule. This rule indicates that you cannot have two Legendary Creatures under your control with the same name, so when this does occur, you must immediately send one of those creatures to the graveyard. Ironically, this is exactly what we want to do in this deck.

Quasiduplicate, or copy effects, are incredibly important since they can both start and continue the chain of spells and death triggers with ease. Quasiduplicate, when it successfully resolves, will cause both a Brainstorm and death trigger for Hidetsugu and Kairi to trigger at the same time. You can organize this to manipulate the top of your deck and continue the chain. Casting another copy effect will simply continue the chain further.

Notably, depending on your build of the deck, when the Legend Rule first applies, you may actually want to keep your token that you create instead of the original Commander. This will allow Hidetsugu and Kairi to go to your graveyard, enabling the second spell type that will continue your chain of events. Just be aware that if your combo fizzles, Hidetsugu and Kairi will be stuck in your graveyard until it either gets reanimated or moved to a different zone.

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dread return

There are a ton of budget reanimation effects available to Commander players. Sure, you can try the most efficient reanimator spells the game has to offer, like… well, Reanimate itself. For this deck, however, Hidetsugu and Kairi does care about mana value. Bigger spells tend to have bigger effects, as well as cause more damage when revealed by your Commander. As such, budget reanimation spells commonly found in Limited environments like Edgar’s Awakening that can easily keep your Hidetsugu chain going. Here are several ‘draft chaff’ cards in recent sets that accomplish this:

  • Edgar’s Awakening
  • Graveyard Shift
  • No One Left Behind
  • Okiba Salvage
  • Return Upon the Tide
  • Rise Again
  • Ever After
  • Unbreakable Bond
  • Bond of Retrieval
  • And many, many more

If possible, it’s still better to start your chain reaction with a copy effect, creating and keeping a token copy in play. That way, as soon as you resurrect your Hidetsugu and Kairi, the Legend Rule will trigger, allowing you to dump the Commander back into the graveyard, triggering both of its abilities. This will allow to keep reanimating the card over and over. Otherwise, a sacrifice outlet will also work.

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Spells that can Cast More Free Spells

aminatou's augury

The last type of instant and sorcery you can play on a budget are gigantic ones that find other spells that can keep the chain going. These don’t tend to be too expensive because they don’t see play outside of Commander. Casting an eight-mana spell just isn’t realistic in constructed formats a lot of the time.

Aminatou’s Augury, Mnemic Deluge, and other gigantic spells that let you keep casting free spells can be the glue that gets you from one card in your chain to the rest of it.

Winning Turn 3 on a Budget

dark ritual

First, let’s get this straight: you will probably not be able to win consistently on turn three if your Commander deck is built on a budget. However, if you are looking to pull this miraculous feat off, you’re going to need some cheap ways to speed up your Commander’s entrance onto the battlefield.

The most obvious way to do this is to get lucky enough to open the Commander super staple Sol Ring. This, inherently, leads to a turn three Hidetsugu and Kairi as long as you make your three land drops. One sacrifice outlet played in a previous turn is all you need past this point to chain death triggers and win the game. Dark Ritual, Arcane Signet, Dimir Signet, and other cards of a similar nature can help speed up your Commander’s cast. If you’re not on a budget, cards like Mana Crypt and Jeweled Lotus are also obvious conclusions.

Additionally, winning the turn you kill Hidetsugu and Kairi consistently means that a majority of the cards in your 99 must continue the chain. This can make your plan a bit easier to thwart (having no agency if your Commander gets countered/exiled before you can combo), but budget decks all tend to have some flaws.

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Is This Commander for You?

As many MTG players are aware, Commander is, first and foremost, a format where the play experience matters the most. Commander is a social format, meaning that, generally, if your pod is having a good time, so will you. This type of Commander deck can be a great tool for new players, or players on a budget, to compete at tables with stronger Commander decks, but it is not a strategy that many players may find fun. If your play group is playing with more powerful and more expensive cards, this can be a great way to catch up to them without breaking the bank. If you’re playing amongst friends who are all on a budget, you may only want to break this out when everyone is trying their hardest to win. Otherwise, Hidetsugu and Kairi’s play experience may encourage some players to play elsewhere.

Alternatively, Hidetsugu and Kairi are bonkers if money, and power level, are not concerns for your pod. If optimized, this could be great fun to bring to a cEDH table and can probably put up a good fight. I could easily see a world where Hidetsugu and Kairi gets a turn zero kill in the format with the right opening hand.

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