Every weekend seems to be jam-packed with high-quality, competitive MTG events for players to spectate. This weekend was no different, as the second Arena Championship was hosted. Many participants are somewhat established in the competitive community, with appearances from players like recent Pro Tour ONE top finisher Benton Madsen and Innistrad Championship winner Yuuki Ichikawa. In terms of formats, this championship featured a mix of Phyrexia: All Will Be One Draft and the digital-only Historic format.
While it did not win the Arena Championship, one old popular combo archetype got a major facelift. Kethis Combo doesn’t really have a place in paper formats because it’s banned in Pioneer and isn’t strong enough to keep up in Modern. That said, Historic’s unique ban list allowed for a new iteration of the archetype with the new Jace, Perfected Mind. This card completely changes the Kethis Combo deck, as many players knew it.
The New Kethis Combo
While many players were on the new Kethis Combo deck during the tournament, not everyone was on the same iteration of the deck. This particular list comes from the highest-placing finisher using the archetype of the tournament: a third-place finish by renowned MTG professional Ondrej Strasky.
The goal of this deck is to load your own graveyard full of Legendary cards. The main pieces you’re concerned with seeing appear there are as many copies of Mox Amber as possible and a few copies of Jace, Perfected Mind (but you only need one to start). Past that, you need a Kethis, Hidden Hand in play. Activate Kethis’s ability and exile two Legendary cards from your graveyard. Past that point, you can start looping copies of Mox Amber for near-infinite mana while you cast your Jace and Emry, Lurker of the Loch, to mill all the cards you need from your library to kill your opponent.
Once your graveyard is loaded with goodies, particularly at least a few copies of Mox Amber, activate Kethis again and start looping Mox Amber to cast multiple copies of Jace, Perfected Mind. Use his ultimate to mill your opponent 15 cards each time you cast it. You should have more than enough recursion to mill your opponent out with Kethis triggers. For those worried about not having enough resources, in my testing of the deck, I milled out an opponent with a 130-card library consistently.
Generally, before you start looping through your Ambers, you want to have Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy on the battlefield. This can also be cast from Kethis’s ability, making this a relatively easy undertaking. Kinnan will both allow your Mox Ambers to tap for blue mana, and tap for two mana. This means you can create six blue mana per Kethis activation, which can cast Jace, Perfected Mind for maximum Loyalty twice because of the cost reduction that Kethis offers.
Is This Deck Any Good?
Kethis Combo is not a new archetype, but this iteration may be the most powerful in its history. Jace, Perfected Mind is both a more powerful win condition than the deck has ever had and an absolutely incredible enabler that can mill your deck to combo-ready status for just four mana. That said, this deck has always been known for being particularly difficult to play, especially if you are unfamiliar with the deck’s combo lines. Honestly, from playing this deck for many years (casually, for the most part), in my opinion, this iteration of the Kethis combo deck is easier to pilot than its past iterations, but that still doesn’t mean the deck is super easy to play.
In my opinion, the deck is fine. Strasky even tweeted out, after his seventh-place finish, that he was unsure whether the deck was unplayable or busted. The deck easily gets shut down by graveyard hate, so, if you’re worried about getting Kethis comboed, a few Soul-Guide Lanterns will go a long way. Cards like Thoughtseize are also pretty good against the deck, but a lot of recursion between Takenuma, Abandoned Mire, Lazav, the Multifarious, and a single copy of Unburial Rites make it so forcing losing a Kethis to a Thoughtseize is far from the end of the game. Lavinia, Azorius Renegade is even a card that stops the combo since Kethis players will not be able to cast their Mox Ambers.
Ultimately, if you take the time to learn your lines properly, this is an incredibly fun deck to play. If you have any history playing Kethis combo, or even similar Kinnan-inspired combo decks that generate a lot of mana very quickly, this could be a lot of fun to play. This deck has gotten a lot better with all of the Legendary card support from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and Dominaria United, allowing the old archetype to keep up with the other Arena giants.
Here are a few final points to remember if you try to play this deck for yourself:
- I would have assumed that the combination of Relic of Legends and Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy allows you to create two mana whenever you use either of the card’s abilities. Arena only doubles the mana when you tap the Relic itself and not when you use the ability to tap other Legendary creatures for mana. I am not sure if this is correct or not, but it is what it is.
- In the situations where you have a Mox Amber, a Chromatic Star, and an off-colored land in play, you can still cast Emry for one mana. Instead of sacrificing the Star prematurely, make sure to sacrifice it as a part of Emry’s casting cost. This, basically, means Emry will see two artifacts as its being cast, allowing it to cast for one mana even though you lose an artifact in the process.
- You can play Legendary Lands from your graveyard off of Kethis’s ability if you have not made your Land drop yet that turn.
- This deck has no Basic lands, so watch out for cards like Field of Ruin.
- In a situation where you have multiple Emry, no Jace and a Relic of Legends in play with Kethis, you can probably still combo. Just make sure to tap your Emry for mana to cast your other Emry with the Relic. Hopefully, you can mill a few more copies of Mox Amber this way to go off in earnest.
- If you want to see some high level play of this Kethis combo deck, watch Ondrej Strasky’s Arena Championship run over on Magic’s Twitch channel.
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