One of Magics biggest tournaments occurred not too long ago – and even though some might disagree with my labeling as the “biggest”, probably no one would disagree that winning this opens up a lot of doors in Magics new organized play structure. I am of course talking about the MCAQ (Mythic Championship Arena Qualifier). This is the tournament you qualify for by being in the top 1000 of either the Constructed or the Limited mythic ladder in the months leading up to the tournament. I had a qualification from early may and having talked to Carlos Romao and Marcio Carvalho about decks, I felt ready. The only problem was that I had a deck that I didn’t understand at all!

The tournament structure in this event was 10 rounds, you play until you have 2 losses, and then the top 128 players move on to day 2, where 5-0 qualifies and then it’s until 2 losses where the top 16 in total gets an invite. That’s a pretty steep structure, but with the potential of 6000 entrants I think the setup worked well. With a structure like this, and my minor preparations in Standard, I thought I had to be lucky and even though I didn’t quite understand the deck, I submitted it, and went to the ladder to get in some games.
This is how my chat with Marcio went on, while I played:

Me: Marcio I need help with a deck, Carlos says you’re the man – can you help?

Marcio: Michael – I might have the Hogaak of Standard 😊

Me: COUNT ME IN!

Kethis Combo by Michael Bonde

Creatures (18)
Dilligent Excavator
Fblthp, the Lost
Lazav, the Multifarious
Kethis, the Hidden Hand
Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle

Spells (18)
Mox Amber
Ashiok, Dream Render
Oath of Kaya
Teferi, Time Raveler
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
Lands (24)
Godless Shrine
Temple of Silence
Glacial Fortress
Drowned Catacomb
Watery Grave
Woodland Cemetery
Temple Garden
Temple of Mystery
Breeding Pool
Temple of Malady
Hallowed Fountain

Sideboard (15)
Urza's Ruinous Blast
Duress
Cerulean Drake
Legion's End
Oath of Kaya
Vona, Butcher of Magan

How hard is it to learn Kethis Combo?

Ashiok, Dream Render from War of the Spark

Ashiok, Dream Render from War of the Spark

He told me that he had crushed the ladder with a sweet 25-1 record, but there was a disclaimer; that the deck really needed some practice, since it was extremely difficult to play and understand. Little did I know what I signed up for with the deck, and started my laddering.

I then asked Marcio after 2 games

Me: Marcio, what is the Ashiok, Dream RenderAshiok, Dream Render doing in the deck?

Marcio: You mill yourself Michael 😀

Me: But it exiles my grave?

Marcio: The opponents, Michael, always the opponents.

Me: Haha, just read it, didn’t get it – probably would have won then!

Our chat then went back and forth while I was learning and Marcio was trolling me, I realized that I had to target myself with the Jace, Wielder of MysteriesJace, Wielder of Mysteries after having targeted my opponent. And Marcio kept trolling me, saying that it was probably better for me to play Vampires, and then promptly sent me a Vampires list!

I went on to play the Kethis deck for 7 matches before I understood all the cards and how they interacted, I have never tried anything particularly close so while it was a bit frustrating, it was also kind of cool, that you can play this great game for years, and then still not decipher what your pile of 60 Standard cards does.

I will try and explain to you how the card in the deck work, after all it’s called the new broken combo deck of Standard. It helped Stanislav Cifka and Ondrej Strasky to the MCV and as far as I know, the invention of the deck is credited to Cifka.

What are the essential cards in the Kethis deck?

The deck is a combo deck, that revolves around the graveyard. You have a bunch of cards with the sole purpose to mill yourself to have enough cards and the right cards, to start comboing off by either milling your opponent, flood the board or kill them with a replay loop of Oath of KayaOath of Kaya. All in all a great strategy that is extremely hard to deal with when it starts rolling, can kill on turn 4, but is extremely hard to play.
If you play Jace, Wielder of MysteriesJace, Wielder of Mysteries as in my list, you can mill yourself to 0 cards in your library, play Jace and draw a card thus winning on Jaces passive ability in the best Laboratory ManiacLaboratory Maniac fashion.

Diligent Excavator from Dominaria

Diligent Excavator from Dominaria

Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator: This card seems underwhelming, but besides Kethis and Mox AmberMox Amber, this is one of the combo pieces of the deck. It is eventually the kill condition with or without Jace, but before all of that, it suits for continuous selfmill during the combo, getting more legendary spells in the graveyard, so we can keep going.

Kethis, the Hidden Hand from Core Set 2020

Kethis, the Hidden Hand from Core Set 2020

Kethis, the Hidden HandKethis, the Hidden Hand: This card has some great stats since it’s a 3/4, but it is primarily his activated ability of exiling two legendary spells in your graveyard, to be able to play every legendary card in your graveyard as though they where in your hand. The reduction cost of legendary spells is also good, but it mostly comes as a benefit and not an essential part.

How does the Kethis Combo work?

When you have Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator and Kethis on the board and play a Mox AmberMox Amber, you get to mill yourself for 3 cards. You can then exile two legendary cards from your graveyard, to give all of your cards in the yard the ability to be played. Then you can replay any other Mox AmberMox Amber in your graveyard, milling yourself for 3 for each copy played and filling up your graveyard once again. You sacrifice the Mox AmberMox Amber on the board, leaving it ready for the next activation of Kethis to continue the loop. With a card like Fblthp, the LostFblthp, the Lost, Kethis’ reduction cost makes it cost just U to draw a card and you get to mill yourself for 3, since it’s a legendary spell, draw a card, and put it into the graveyard again, if you have a copy on the board. We can do this until we run out of gas, but most often, when the combo is assembled, and there are enough cards in the graveyard, we should have enough to just keep on going.

Mox Amber from Dominaria

Mox Amber from Dominaria

The filler cards in the deck, help self-mill a bit faster, Teshar, Ancestor’s ApostleTeshar, Ancestor’s Apostle has the ability to bring almost all of the cards back onto the battlefield either mid-combo or at the very beginning, getting back a Kethis with a Mox AmberMox Amber being deployed after Teshar – making it possible to go off at that point.

I would start off by thoroughly reading all the cards and try and understand what they do and how they work together, using my walkthrough as a guide, or watching someone stream it. Then if you have the deck in paper (or on your account), I would try and goldfish a couple of times before you enter a tournament. The deck is extremely hard to play in my opinion, and even when you go off, I think you need some understanding to be able to do it in time and correctly, since there is a fail rate, and it becomes bigger and bigger if you misstep.

Sideboard Guide

Sideboard against Sultai

Sideboard In (4)
Duress
Sideboard Out (4)
Oath of Kaya
Lazav, the Multifarious
Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle

Sideboard against Vampires

Sideboard In (7)
Legion's End
Urza's Ruinous Blast
Oath of Kaya
Vona, Butcher of Magan
Sideboard Out (7)
Lazav, the Multifarious
Teferi, Time Raveler
Ashiok, Dream Render
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries

Sideboard against Bant Scapeshift

Sideboard In (4)
Duress
Sideboard Out (4)
Oath of Kaya
Lazav, the Multifarious
Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle

Sideboard against Bant Ramp

Sideboard In (2)
Urza's Ruinous Blast
Sideboard Out (2)
Oath of Kaya
Lazav, the Multifarious

Sideboard against Esper Control

Sideboard In (5)
Duress
Vona, Butcher of Magan
Sideboard Out (5)
Ashiok, Dream Render
Lazav, the Multifarious

Sideboard against Nexus

Sideboard In (4)
Duress
Sideboard Out (4)
Oath of Kaya
Lazav, the Multifarious

Sideboard against Mono Red

Sideboard In (9)
Cerulean Drake
Legion's End
Oath of Kaya
Vona, Butcher of Magan
Sideboard Out (9)
Fblthp, the Lost
Ashiok, Dream Render
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
Teferi, Time Raveler

Sideboard against Kethis Combo

Sideboard In (3)
Legion's End
Sideboard Out (3)
Lazav, the Multifarious
Teferi, Time Raveler

 

I hope this clearifies some of the steps to understanding the deck and it will help you all rank on that ladder until Eldraine comes around!

 

Until next time

Michael Bonde

 

This article was written by Michael Bonde in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com