Conditions Allow - Kaima, the Fractured Calm EDH
Kaima, the Fractured Calm | Art by Filip Burburan)
Battle for Baldur's Gate is right around the corner with a ton of sweet new cards. Gate decks are making a comeback with new support, and we've got at least one or two busted new Treasure cards on the horizon as well. More surprisingly, Baldur's Gate is also adding a number of commanders that goad creatures. Looking back at the past few sets, it shouldn't be so surprising. Starting with Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant and Kardur, Doomscourge, Wizards has been printing more and more ways to goad your opponents' creatures. These are powerful ways to control the battlefield, but some creatures require a little more investment than others.
At the beginning of your end step, Kaima, the Fractured Calm goads each creature your opponents control that are enchanted by an Aura you control. I like how this plays into the flavor of goad. Not only are you turning your opponents' creatures to your own advantage, you're empowering them as you do it. Enchanting opposing creatures does present some challenges, however. If you commit your Auras too early, you may not be able to goad more threatening creatures late in the game. More importantly, enchanting opposing creatures is a card advantage black hole. Kaima's effect encourages you to enchant as many opposing creatures as possible. When a board wipe resolves, you'll not only you lose your own creatures, you'll lose your Auras attached to your opponents' creatures as well.
According to EDHREC, most Kaima decks seek to offset this card disadvantage in two ways. The first is by utilizing Auras that return themselves to your hand, like Rancor. This ensures you won't lose those cards when the enchanted creature dies. The second is to play Kaima as an enchantress deck, recycling Rancor and Sluggishness, drawing cards every time they're recast with Enchantress's Presence effects. There are, however, only so many of these enchantments (although probably more than you expect). They also leave you vulnerable to new threats if all your Auras are already in play. Whip Silk helps with this, but there's a whole cycle of cards that are even more useful: Licids.
A Friend You Didn't Ask For
Similar to creatures with Bestow, the Licids are creatures that can become Auras attached to any creature in play. Unlike Bestow, the Licids can revert to creatures at any time, then change which creature they are enchanting. In return, if the creature they enchant dies, they will go to the graveyard as well, rather than automatically becoming creatures. The important part here is that each Licid is an Aura that you can move onto whichever creature is most threatening in the moment. With just one or two Licids in play, you can change the nature of combat every turn cycle in combination with Kaima, the Fractured Calm.
The ability to jump around also makes the Licids useful tools on their own. Giving your creatures haste is obviously useful, but Enraging Licid opens up opportunities to make deals. On the other hand, Convulsing Licid can surprise your opponents by stopping creatures from blocking, letting through lethal attacks that could otherwise be blocked. Tempting Licid does the same, forcing all creatures to block a small token or mana dork so larger creatures can attack unopposed. Finally, Nurturing Licid can save key creatures from most deaths through regeneration. You could save your own commander, or you could use this as a political tool to gain favor with one of your opponents. You can even use Nurturing Licid to save one of your other Licids, keeping two alive for the cost of one.
Finally, it's important to note that ending the Licids' transformation into Auras isn't an activated ability. Similar to mana abilities, ending a Licid's transformation is a special action, meaning you can do so at any time, even in response to Krosan Grip. It also means that your opponents can't cast their enchantment removal in response to you un-transforming a Licid, because doing so doesn't use the stack.
Speaking of Bestow creatures, these don't show up on Kaima, the Fractured Calm's EDHREC page, but I think they're perfect for the deck. Not only do they count as enchantments to goad creatures, once those creatures die they become creatures. This offsets the card disadvantage of enchanting enemy creatures, synergizing with the +1/+1 counter portion of this deck. I've chosen these three because they are useful even without your commander goading the attached creature. Noble Quarry effectively destroys the creature it enchants when it becomes goaded, while Spirespine takes care of creatures when Kaima isn't around to goad them. Purphoros's Emissary, conversely, makes the goaded creature harder to block. Most of the time, I'd want to put this on Kaima, the Fractured Calm.
... which brings us to the main strategy of the deck: +1/+1 counters. As you goad creatures, Kaima, the Fractured Calm will accumulate power until it becomes a game-ending threat. Hardened Scales and Fight Rigging speed this process up, while Invigorating Surge offers a surprise burst of power.
The real reason I want to play Licids and Bestow creatures is The Ozolith. When Kaima, the Fractured Calm dies, The Ozolith will pick up those counters, ready to drop them onto Purphoros's Emissary or Nurturing Licid.
Of course, the enchantments aren't the only creatures that can pick up +1/+1 counters. Bramblewood Paragon, Duskshell Crawler, and Tuskguard Captain all give trample to your creatures with counters. Forgotten Ancient and Ascendant Acolyte will grow very large very quickly, and Kalonian Hydra will make all of your creatures into huge threats.
If Kalonian Hydra isn't growing fast enough for your taste, then Akki Battle Squad is just the thing you need. Meanwhile, Kodama of the West Tree will help ensure you have plenty of mana to activate Nurturing Licid as often as you need, while Kurbis, Harvest Celebrant keeps your creatures alive through combat and Blasphemous Acts. And of course, Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar is an easy inclusion in any red deck trying to win with commander damage.
Bringing it All Together
Kaima, the Fractured Calm won't do anything at all without Auras to put on your opponents' creatures. This deck plays a total of thirteen, including the Licids, but card draw is still vital to ensure everything comes together. Along with damage triggers, like Keeper of Fables and Toski, Bearer of Secrets, I'm adding Warriors' Lesson and Hunter's Insight. Even if Kaima, the Fractured Calm isn't accumulating +1/+1 counters, your other creatures will be. Drawing four or five cards at once is usually enough to bring the rest of the deck online.
As for the removal in the deck, I've included as many ways to destroy artifacts and enchantments as I can. Kaima, the Fractured Calm does a good job of controlling enemy creatures, so we have to make sure we don't die to other pesky permanent types. Keeping our own creatures in play will also be vital, so Heroic Intervention and Tamiyo's Safekeeping also make the cut.
Add in a few ways to ramp and thirty-eight lands, and we have ourselves a deck.
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Kaima, the Fractured Calm is one of the more laid-back goad commanders, which I think plays in its favor. If your playgroup relies on specific creatures to deal combat damage, being consistently goaded takes away a lot of the interesting decisions that come with combat. Additionally, it can make it feel hopeless to actually be able to deal with your deck. Kaima can exert a lot of control over the combat step, but not complete control.
But what do you think of Kaima, the Fractured Calm? How would you approach this commander? Are there any standout cards I've overlooked? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!