An Introduction To Kenrith in cEDH

Drake Sasser • March 31, 2024

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." - William Shakespeare

Every time I talk about the cEDH metagame, Kenrith is a deck that is always included as a primary player, but he's never really the top dog. You can point to a host of reasons why that may be the case, but given how slow the cEDH metagame is becoming, it would not surprise me to see Kenrith make a comeback in a big way in upcoming events, so what better time to write up a formal introduction to Kenrith, the Returned King in cEDH?

Why Play Kenrith in cEDH?

The "at a glance" pitch for Kenrith is that you are the best Dockside Extortionist deck in the format. While most decks use the controversially strong Goblin Pirate to great effect, Kenrith looks to tutor for Dockside Extortionist at all costs in order to assemble various infinite mana combos with him. In fact, because infinite mana is all you need to win the game thanks to the ability for Kenrith to draw cards or make the battlefield of creatures infinitely large, you have the option to be extremely win-condition-light and reach for more combos and more interaction to better set your deck up for a long game where you will likely come out on top.

Any time you discuss the reasons to play Kenrith, the natural comparison point is Najeela, the Blade-Blossom, which is fairly apt, after all: both decks have access to all five colors and win with combos that utilize the activated abilities of the commanders. In practice, though, the higher cost, higher power level of Kenrith, the Returned King actually makes the gameplay more similar to Tivit, Seller of Secrets than Najeela, which is a less intuitive comparison.

Ultimately, the reality of the deck is that you get the best of both decks, leveraging a large, impactful commander that can rule the battlefield in longer, grindy games while still offering the best cards in the format thanks to the five-color identity of Kenrith himself.

The Gameplan

The game plan for Kenrith can vary slightly whether you are playing a more control-slanted archetype over the more midrange-slanted versions. The primary differences in the midrange builds are the inclusion of the Underworld Breach combo, whereas the more control-slanted versions are heavier on creatures and interaction to be even better set up for the long game. While it's always possible to win on turn 1 with Kenrith like it is on most cEDH decks worth their salt, it is not really the mindset when resolving mulligans.

Much of the focus is on tutoring and resolving Dockside Extortionist for big amounts of mana, and while that happens quickly in cEDH the mana generation you're looking for usually doesn't occur until turn 2-3 at the earliest. As the format becomes more creature-focused, thanks to the rise of Kinnan, and Clone effects become more prevalent, it's become increasingly a liability to play Dockside Extortionist and not immediately win the game, which pushes Kenrith players to be even more conservative about their win attempts, and it's not uncommon for the game to go five or six turns before Dockside is put on the stack at all.

This push to play a long game leads to slower starts, higher creature counts, sometimes as high as more than a quarter of your deck, and more interactive keeps. Staple cards for grindy decks for the format, like The One Ring, Training Grounds, Seedborn Muse, and Ranger Captain, are important role-players for getting ahead on cards and mana on top of the usual suspects.

Tricks with Kenrith himself play well here as well, as his black-costed activated ability can bring Ranger Captain of Eos back at instant speed if you're forced to activate it as a reactive play, and his life gain ability can prevent any chance of life loss from The One Ring becoming a factor. As you might suspect, it's not uncommon for Kenrith to be cast and activated with sub-infinite mana as a grindy value engine, but overall you're looking to assemble an overwhelming amount of resources via card and mana advantage, then win the game with either infinite mana combos with Kenrith or with the classic Thassa's Oracle forbidden tutor pairing.

Variant 1: Kenrith Midrange

Before we dive into the staples of Kenrith, which will be discussed as a combination of the midrange and control builds, I want to highlight some differences in the builds of the deck that represent ends of a spectrum of how the deck can be built and customized to the pilot's playstyle. The midrange configuration for Kenrith appears on paper as containing more "turbo" cards.

Despite Ad Nauseam being absent from basically all configurations, the midrange build looks to be able to pivot and close the game out a bit faster than its control counterpart and in doing so uses some of its flex slots to incorporate Underworld Breach, Lion's Eye Diamond, Brain Freeze, Sevinne's Reclamation, Intuition, and Imperial Seal. The list isn't comprehensive, and the more dedicated win condition cards and black, noncreature-inclusive-tutors are added the more midrange-slanted the Kenrith deck is.

Variant 2: Kenrith Control

The control builds are looking to have a much more overwhelming and total dominance of the game prior to making their win attempt. Some lists go as far as to exclude Grand Abolisher from their list, planning to have the table so low on resources that Silence effects that cannot be used as interaction are not included. Some lists load up on disruptive permanents and end up looking more like a stax deck, but generally the more interaction and higher creature count builds of Kenrith represent the control configurations.

The most notable inclusions I've seen to signpost the plan is Fierce Guardianship and Deflecting Swat. Normally considered auto-includes in cEDH thanks to the low mana value of the strongest commanders in the format, Kenrith himself costing five mana makes these two cards much more ambitious to include in your deck. If, however, you plan to grind your opponents out over the course of many turns, that will inevitably involve casting Kenrith prior to assembling any infinite mana combos, and Fierce Guardianship and Deflecting Swat have the potential to be major players in the game and round out your interaction suite.

Other notable inclusions are Talion, the Kindly Lord, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, and Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy as additional card and mana advantage engines that are difficult to interact with and accumulate value over a long game.

The Best Kenrith Cards

While there are more or less two distinct Kenrith archetypes, the reality of most Kenrith builds is a player-preferential blend of the two, so the breakdown of the staple cards for Kenrith is going to highlight the best cards from both builds.

Win Conditions

Emiel the Blessed is the most common combo piece for Dockside Extortionist and is the cheapest of the cards that go infinite with Dockside alone. Cards like Deadeye Navigator are not uncommon, but being loaded on all the possible options, like Barrin, Master Wizard and Temur Sabertooth, is rare.

A big recent pickup for Kenrith decks is the Displacer Kitten + Teferi, Time Raveler combo. Both pieces play well with Dockside functioning as Dockside "doublers" that allow you to blink it or just bounce and replay it to double up on the massive mana burst, but also work in tandem to produce yet another infinite combo to draw your deck with any zero-mana artifact.


The ability for Kenrith to be so win condition light allows for it to have what is almost certainly the most expansive interaction suite of any of the best cEDH decks. While this list includes many commonly seen options, it is far from comprehensive, and there are usually four to five flex interaction slots beyond this list for Kenrith decks to play with and tailor to whatever metagame you may expect.


This list is fairly standard. As mentioned previously some Kenrith decks on the extreme side of the control spectrum pass on Grand Abolisher, but it's more common than not to see in lists splitting the difference between midrange and control.

Value Engines

Kenrith is the biggest highlight on this list, and there are a host of cards, like Seedborn Muse and Training Grounds, that are commonly played as mana value engines to really set Kenrith up to compete with the power of cards like Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study. The biggest recent pick for Kenrith is The One Ring, which also plays very well with Seedborn Muse and Derevi, Empyrial Tactician.

Broken Mana

This list may be the shortest of any cEDH deck. Because Kenrith looks to play a longer game, the broken mana you play is only the most powerful stuff in the format. Dockside Extortionist supplements your mana situation on its own the rest of the time, so you can spend more of your deck slots on interaction and value engines.


The tutor staples are where you see the resemblance to Najeela decks the most. Because, like Najeela, Kenrith seeks to find a single creature from its library to enable its command zone combo, the deck maxes out on the best tutors in the format and even gets to leverage creature tutors like Eldritch Evolution, Neoform, Worldly Tutor, Finale of Devastation, and Eladamri's Call. Survival of the Fittest, however, is really where Kenrith starts to diverge from Najeela; the raw creature density in the deck allows Survival to shine in Kenrith unlike any other deck in cEDH.

Filling Out The Decklist

The staples list above is long, but because of variations in the gameplans for Kenrith it's possible for some decks to pass on cards considered to be staples and not actively harm the core gameplan of the Kenrith deck. Additionally, there are a few staples that exist solely to function as Dockside Extortionist doublers, like Snap, Ephemerate, and various copy effects, like Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph. The clone effects, in particular, allow Kenrith to be able to win via their opponents' Dockside Extortionists without finding their own! Mana advantage engines, like Seedborn Muse, Training Grounds, and Smothering Tithe are also staples of every variant of Kenrith and help to push Kenrith himself over the line as a value engine.

Package this whole deck up with your favorite mana creatures, interaction flex slots, and five-color mana base, and you have a powerful cEDH deck!

Here is an example of a Kenrith Midrange deck list:

kenny colors by mgh192

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Instants (24)
Lands (28)
Creatures (22)
Enchantments (7)
Artifacts (9)
Sorceries (8)
Planeswalkers (1)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
View this decklist on Archidekt

Here is an example of a Kenrith Control deck list:

The Rains of Catstamere by TylerGarfinkel

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Instants (25)
Lands (28)
Artifacts (8)
Creatures (27)
Sorceries (5)
Enchantments (5)
Planeswalkers (1)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
View this decklist on Archidekt

Both of these decks share a similar gameplan but only share two-thirds of the same cards! 

There is a lot of room for customization with Kenrith and the ability to adapt the deck to interact with the various metagame snapshots cEDH can present while adjusting the speed to fit your personal playstyle is the aspect of the deck I personally find to be the most appealing.

While I personally always reach for Najeela over Kenrith when playing cEDH tournaments, I have immense respect for the power and flexibility of Kenrith decks, especially if you are willing to lean harder on politics to keep games going, and consider Kenrith to be a powerful choice for any cEDH event of any size. Provided of course you have done the work to optimize your list and know the combo lines. Thanks for reading!

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Drake Sasser is a member of cEDH group Playing With Power, a commentator for Nerd Rage Gaming, and used to grind Magic tournaments on the SCG Tour.