Kytheon, Hero of Akros – Magic Origins
May 6, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 3.38
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
With some of the…story events of War of the Spark, I figured it was a good chance to look back at the long lineage of one of the characters central to the climactic battle against the most Evil of dragons. Namely, Gideon Jura, the one who leaps into the fray and has a hard time dying to just about anything.
One of the Origins Five, the planeswalkers repositioned at the center of the story with what was originally intended as the final core set, Gideon got a double-faced card in the set: precocious Kytheon, whose spark ignites when he charges into battle with a big enough army. One-mana legendary creatures aren’t particularly common, though one-mana 2/1 bodies in white are less uncommon that way (hearkening back to Savannah Lions). More often than not, Kytheon won’t flip until turn 3, since you have to attack with three total creatures (him and two others); conveniently, his activated invincibility shield means he can survive combat if under threat, and it’s right on curve to trigger on turn 3.
Gideon, Battle-Forged is an interesting planeswalker in that his skillset isn’t particularly linear. He has no conventional ult (or even minus abilities), but he can force some hard decisions. His +2 goads an enemy’s creature into attacking him if possible, allowing you to set up some advantageous blocking schemes, and his +1 puts his shield around an allied creature for a turn. And, like every other Gideon, he can jump into the fray with his 0 ability, taking the field as a 4/4 creature. Gideon planeswalkers have the upside of being largely resistant to sorcery-speed removal and acting as clocks on their own because of them animating as creatures; a 4/4 is pretty good to swing with on turn 4, but if you need to buy a turn to get a threat tapped and attacking, his +2 is there.
Kytheon, Hero of Akros is probably one of the least-remembered of the Origins flip walkers, but he’s still pretty okay. He’s an aggressive clock on both sides and resistant to removal, and he can still force hard decisions from an opponent all the same. Not a bad place to be, all in all.
We got so used to Gideon being around and being the leader of the Gatewatch, and thus near the center of the story. It’s going to be strange when he’s not in the new “present day” sets. He’s become a true legend of Magic’s lore and history, and this week, we’ll look at how and why.
This is not the first Gideon card printed – in fact, it’s relatively recent as Magic sets go – but it is the earliest in his chronology, starting with Kytheon as an untested youngster from Akros and flipping to show him at the start of his long walk. He clearly had skills beyond his years, as a 2/1 for one mana is a generally strong play even without additional abilities. I’ve seen people playing Kytheon in decks where they didn’t really intend to try hard to flip him, seeing the planeswalker side as a cool bonus.
I think the ability to flip is really more than just a bonus, by the way: some one-mana 2/1 creatures might have abilities along the lines of Soldier of the Pantheon or Dryad Militant, but those quickly start to look small once people start casting dinosaurs and angels. Kytheon’s ability to transform gives you a card that can go toe-to-toe with midrange creatures, and also disrupts your opponent’s ability to use them effectively. While there are turn four-ish creatures that can hit him from five loyalty down to zero in one turn, that would still buy you a little time to regroup; and if your opponent was hoping to block with a dragon or something, his +1 can send that plan straight off the rails.
He’s probably not the most spectacular planeswalker you’ll ever see, one reason being that he lacks a traditional ultimate, but his multifaceted abilities and resiliency should not be underestimated.
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