First Draft Friday: Insidious Kess!

Hello and welcome to First Draft Friday! This article series is the spiritual successor to Fresh Spice Friday, a short column I used to write for our Facebook page. This time, things are a bit different. Instead of showcasing new decks from the community, I will let you, dear reader, vote on which cards you want me to build a deck around. To facilitate this, I set up a poll at the end of this article. Each poll will feature four cards. The most popular option will be chosen for a future article, and the least popular option will be dropped from the poll. If there’s a card you would like to see on the poll, please let me know on Twitter or Discord!

The decks in this series are meant to be exactly what the title says: first drafts. If you find any of these ideas interesting, I highly encourage you to pick them up and tinker with them. The aim here is not to create the most competitive decks on an absolute scale, but rather to explore interesting cards and ideas and provide outlines for decks that can be cEDH viable with further refinements.

First off, let’s take a quick look at the poll I put up in my last article. The choices were:

  • Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
  • Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
  • Archangel of Thune + Spike Feeder
  • Ral, Storm Conduit

Unfortunately, Archangel of Thune + Spike Feeder ended up with the least amount of votes, so they will be dropped from the poll. Our winner, however, ended up with almost as many votes as the second and third place combined. With 45 votes at the time of writing, the winner is… Ilharg, the Raze-Boar! We’ll be taking a look at a deck that features him in the next First Draft Friday article.

Before we move on to the decklist, let’s take a quick look at today’s featured card: Bolas’s Citadel.

Now, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for, this week’s deck: Insidious Kess!


This is a riff on Wedge’s Grixis Flux Kess Storm deck. Instead of running Lab Maniac as a secondary win outlet, we’re all-in on Aetherflux Reservoir. However, there are multiple ways of assembling that win. On top of the standard Ad Nauseam-fueled Storm turns, we can use Insidious Dreams as a 1-card way to set up an infinite combo of sorts. Here’s how it’s done:

Requirements: Insidious Dreams + at least 3 random cards in hand, to cast Bolas’s Citadel, 6 or more Life

  1. On the last end step before your turn, cast Insidious Dreams for X=3, discarding three cards from your hand to find Bolas’s Citadel, Sensei’s Divining Top, and Aetherflux Reservoir. Put them on top of your deck in that order. (Cost: and 3 cards)
  2. Go to your turn, draw and cast Bolas’s Citadel. (Cost: )
  3. Use Bolas’s Citadel to cast Sensei’s Divining Top and Aetherflux Reservoir by paying Life instead of Mana.

With this assembled, we can pay life to cast spells off the top of our deck, gain life back when we cast them, and we can use Sensei’s Divining Top to put anything we wouldn’t be able to play (e.g. redundant lands or counterspells) into our hand. We can now cast the rest of our deck without paying any additional mana while gaining enough life to hit all of our opponents with Aetherflux Reservoir activations.

Let’s look at some of the issues this combo has. Having to discard three cards to Insidious Dreams can be quite rough, especially when you also have to protect it with a counterspell or two. Another side effect of doing it at the end of someone else’s turn is that leaving up and maybe some extra mana for protection as a Kess deck is going to signal Ad Nauseam to the rest of the table, so our opponents are often going to be ready to interact. Things can also get a bit awkward if we draw our Aetherflux Reservoir since doing so would add another 4 mana to the cost of our combo. However, we have two built-in solutions for that in Brainstorm and Scroll Rack. If Reservoir is in our hand, we pile Brainstorm or Scroll Rack in its place and use those to put Reservoir back on top of our deck.

With most of the negative aspects out of the way, let’s take a look at some cool things. Firstly, Kess can help mitigate some of the card disadvantage from discarding stuff to Insidious Dreams. Furthermore, Bolas’s Citadel is a pretty powerful effect – cards like Future Sight have seen some play here and there, and the value engine application of Bolas’s Citadel might even be stronger than that of Future Sight. Having another 1-card win condition in addition to Ad Nauseam has proven to be quite strong in some of my other decks, so having one that mostly consists of cards that are already playable in a Storm shell could end up being quite good.

Since Insidious Kess is heavily based on an existing, established deck, I think it looks quite playable for a first draft. I don’t think that committing any more slots to Citadel synergies would be the correct move for this build. Just having an additional engine and a 1-card win with it should be enough. If any of you decide to pick this up, let me know how it goes!

Finally, please don’t forget to vote for the card you’d like to see featured in a future article! I’ve got some sweet ideas for these four, so stay tuned. The next First Draft Friday article will release on the 10th of May.

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