Stronghold: Call of the Kor (Part 1 of 2)
Fully through Zendikar block now there are few reading this who do not know what the Kor are.
What might be less commonly known is that the Kor are not a new race, but rather one that has been featured in the stories of the Magic multiverse beginning in 1998 with the release of the first expansion of the Rath Cycle, Stronghold. We would find out much later that they were natives of Zendikar, but at the time they were a race that had been pulled into Rath at the whim of Volrath, the plane’s evincar (overlord).
The look of the Kor then should look familiar to eyes accustomed to Zendikar block:
As you’ll note, the common ability of the Kor was designed to be a “fixed” version of banding, where damage to a creature could be redirected onto another creature. Stronghold was as good as it got for the intrepid Kor peoples, for they were present neither in Tempest nor Exodus, the other two sets of the block (though Kor Chant did see print in Exodus, no White Kor did. A Black one, however, did sneak through…). They presented a heroic background of rebellion against the evincar, and were revisited two years later in Nemesis:
Then they disappeared into the mists of Dominaria’s history.
For a time…
Eight years after they were first introduced, we’d catch just the fleetingest glimpse of them, in this card printed in 2006’s Time Spiral:
The expansion set Future Sight would have two il-Kor cards as Blue creatures, but theirs is a tale for another time, perhaps.
One might presume, then, that this damage redirection ability was a trait learned by the Kor after their abduction to Rath, for the developers of Zendikar chose not to bring it back for the “native” Kor, instead focusing on characteristics such as skill at flying and a love for equipment (particularly grappling hooks).
Little surprise, then, that the Kor were enshrined in a preconstructed deck for the Stronghold block, Call of the Kor. Let’s take a look at this twelve-year-old gem and see how it holds up today.
In a nod to pragmatism, Call of the Kor splashed Black for extra utility and removal, but remained at heart a White-weenie deck design. It was robust on the battlefield, sporting 21 creatures (23 if you count the two token-generating sorceries, Lab Rats.) It was mapped fairly well to an aggressive mana curve as well, with:
In addition to more sturdy beaters, the upper end of the curve also made sure to pack in utility creatures like Gravedigger and Cloudchaser Eagle to give the deck reasonably well-rounded play. But it also had a very nifty gimmick: redirection. With over half of the creatures being Kor, the pilot of this deck had more options than usual for keeping their creatures alive.
Indeed, the deck made sure to pack in a few “damage soaks,” so you weren’t losing anything of significance to all this fungible damage: prot-creatures like Knight of Dawn; regenerators like Skeleton Scavengers (a rather gimmicky rare), Darkling Stalker and Screeching Harpy; and expendables (think Lab Rat tokens on a recurring buyback cycle).
Without exception, the deck’s non-creature spells are arrayed in support of this engine. There’s very little fanciness here, with a solid removal suite (Smite, Enfeeblement, Death Stroke, Dark Banishing), some utility (Disenchant), and just a smattering of creature augments (Flickering Ward, Endless Scream, Temper).
The gem of the lot is the buyback spell Evincar’s Justice, which pings each creature and player for 2 damage. If you’ve set up your Kor damage-redirection engine properly, the bulk of your creatures will laugh this off, making it more or less a one-sided Pyroclasm on an opponent.
The deck suffers from the usual problems associated with White weenie (the largest creatures, for one, are a pair of 3/3 Lancers en-Kor), but how does it hold up in the field?
Join me next time when I put the Kor to the test.