An Introduction To Kinnan In cEDH

Drake Sasser • December 8, 2023

 

"His words are bonds, his oaths are no thassa's oracles;
His love sincere, his mana immaculate;
His creatures pure messengers sent from his deck;
His interaction is as far from fraud as heaven from earth." 

-William Shakespeare

Welcome back, readers! Today we continue on our introductions to the most powerful decks in the format. Next on the list is the undeniably strongest dual-color deck in the format: Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy.

Why Play Kinnan in cEDH?

Despite being one of the most potent decks in cEDH, Kinnan is quite unique from the other top decks. Being dual-colored, it eschews red, which removes Dockside Extortionist and Underworld Breach from your card pool. Also, despite being blue, Kinnan decks also pass on Thassa's Oracle! So what's the draw to playing the deck? The answer is right on the front of the tin:

Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy is a messed up Magic card. 

Being the perfect trifecta of a source of ramped-up mana, a value engine, and a combo outlet all within a two-mana package is a rate that simply can't be matched by any other commander in the game. In order to support the "value engine" aspect of Kinnan's activated ability, you also play a bunch of really large and powerful creatures, giving Kinnan decks the nickname "Big Flips" and supporting a competitive play experience that is closest to what the average casual player probably thinks cEDH is. Notably, the most powerful aspect of cEDH decks is their artifact mana, which is what gives cEDH its Vintage-esque feel. Kinnan synergizes perfectly with these cards making them even more absurd than they already were while giving you a way to spend that mana right there on the card.

Kinnan is the glue that supercharges every card in the deck, and having access to that glue every single game at all times from the command zone makes Kinnan incredibly consistent. You even get a little bit of baked-in resiliency against removal that other commander-centric decks like Tivit, Seller of Secrets or Kenrith, the Returned King do not have because your commander starts out at two mana. Your opponents have to kill Kinnan twice before you're paying the sticker price of a Tivit, making you much better against having your commander countered or removed than even decks with only a slightly higher cost commander.

Kinnan's Gameplan

The gameplan of Kinnan is fairly simple, and largely follows the same script:

1. Play Kinnan.
2. Activate Kinnan.
3. Continue activating Kinnan until the game ends.

Obviously this is really reductionist, but the average hand plays out exactly on this script. Kinnan players use the activated ability to dodge counterspells and to ignore Rhystic Study effects to begin to snowball the game with big hits, like Seedborn Muse, Void Winnower, and Consecrated Sphinx. Once the game is squarely in your favor with your huge creatures, you can slam the door with any number of the infinite mana combos, most commonly done with Basalt Monolith or Hullbreaker Horror. The infinite mana is then spent on the outlets that seal the game such Thrasios, Triton Hero, Walking Ballista, and Finale of Devastation and its another win for the two-color terror.

The biggest downsides of Kinnan comes from the lack of powerful tutors and no Dockside Extortionist, but fortunately for Kinnan there is quite a few artifact tutors in blue that allow you to find your Basalt Monolith to make infinite mana with or find your Phyrexian Metamorph if you need to copy an opposing Dockside to get the party started, so despite lacking some of the objectively best cards in the format, the efficiency of Kinnan and the flexibility of the spells that you do have access to more than make up for the lost power passing on those colors, and you even get an improved mana base to boot!

Kinnan cEDH Staples

Up to this point, many of the Grixis-based, storm-adjacent decks we've introduced have shared large swaths of their staple list. This is not the case with Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy.

Kinnan Big Flips

These are the most common "payoff creatures" for Kinnan's activated ability. There are plenty of other, lower-cost creatures that can be found from the activation, but these are where the deck gets its reputation for "Big Flips"

Kinnan Combo Cards

These are the ways Kinnan makes infinite mana. In addition to just being disruptive creatures, the triggered ability from Tidespout Tyrant or Hullbreaker Horror goes infinite with any two net-positive mana-producing artifacts. You cast the first one, tap it for mana, then cast the second, bouncing the first, allowing you to create an infinite loop to generate infinite storm and mana. In the case of Basalt Monolith, it goes infinite on its own with Kinnan in play but notably only makes colorless mana. It's fairly common for Kinnan to play other ways to launder that colorless mana than just Thrasios, Triton Hero to make sure a payoff is close by when Basalt Monolith resolves.

Interaction

One of the aspects of Kinnan being a fairly compact deck because your commander just pays you out in every way is that the decklist has room for a ton of interaction. Mixed between disruptive permanents and stack-based interaction, Kinnan has interaction for every kind of win and plenty of free interaction to get involved in stopping win attempts after resolving a value engine. Being able to be explosively proactive and still support this cast of strong interaction makes Kinnan the well-rounded force it is in cEDH today.

Value Engines

It seems a little silly to put Kinnan on this list, but that is one of the key roles he plays in his own deck. Being able to hang back and hold up your interaction while still being able to spend your mana and advance your board by cheating on both cards and mana is much of what the game plan of Kinnan is about. The ability to hit powerful value options to pair with Kinnan such as the Consecrated Sphinx and Nezahal allow the deck to snowball the game incredibly quickly with multiple engines once it starts to get ahead.

Broken Mana

Keeping with tradition, I'm only listing the mana sources that are net-positive on mana in this list with the exception of Kinnan, who will ultimately make more mana via his static ability than any of the cards that come after in the average game. Despite the list appearing short, there is an abundance of mana sources, like Springleaf Drum, Birds of Paradise, and even Bloom Tender, that make piles of mana that are not seen as often in other top decks in cEDH. The presence of Kinnan makes even mundane mana sources, like Arcane Signet, mana-neutral and enables explosive turns both setting up and comboing off.

Tutors

The tutor lineup is where Kinnan feels the effects of its Simic restriction the most. Moonsilver Key and Transmute Artifact are steep downgrades to Demonic Tutor in terms of finding Basalt Monolith quickly, but the suite of green creature tutors do a fine job ensuring you still have access to your choice of mana, value engines, or combo pieces in a pinch. Largely, though, Kinnan relies on a critical mass of cards drawn to find the tools it needs to win less so than surgically finding the exact card it needs to win via a tutor effect.

Filling Out The Decklist

The relatively recent rise to power of the "Big Flips" Kinnan configurations means there is still a lot of testing and tuning happening with the deck at the highest level of cEDH play. The staples are almost always auto-includes, but the power level fall-off of the Simic cards after the initial set of staples is steep, and lists can vary by 30 cards or more while maintaining the core Kinnan shell.

Kinnan Big Flip

View on Archidekt

Creatures (27)
Instants (20)
Lands (27)
Artifacts (15)
Enchantments (4)
Sorceries (7)

View this decklist on Archidekt

Kinnan cEDH Decklist

Kinnan is undeniably one of the top decks in cEDH right now, and it's a great choice for anyone that enjoys the splashy nature of casual EDH but wants to dip their toes into cEDH without having to memorize crazy combo lines or do storm math. Being a top dog for months now, Kinnan's consistency and resiliency has kept it at the top despite efforts to hate it out with opposing hateful permanents or removal and Kinnan remains a great option for your next tournament of any size. Thank you for reading!



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.