Akiri, Fearless Voyager is a Boros card that says “draw a card.” More than that, she’s a Boros commander that says draw a card. How good is she? What kind of decks does she slot into? What’s the best way to utilize her?
If you’ve kept up with my articles over at Hipsters of the Coast, you might be familiar with my “Bolstering Boros” series. Most recently, we covered Winota, Joiner of Forces, before following up with “Advanced Winota.” Today, I’ll be following the same journey with Akiri and figuring out what makes her tick.
Akiri, Fearless Voyager
As far as commanders go, Akiri is pretty decently-costed. For your three mana, you have a 3/3 body with a strong activated ability that can apply to any creature you control. You also have a card draw ability, and that’s where the action is. Getting to draw a card when you attack a player with one or more equipped creatures means up to three cards per combat, as this will trigger for each opponent you attack in Commander. Turns out Akiri is pretty good.
What Akiri is not, though, is a Voltron commander. I want to get that out of the way right away. Without any built-in evasion, Akiri struggles to play a Voltron game. Without menace or flying, she can be chump-blocked easily, negating the number of turns you can apply commander damage to an opponent.
What made Akiri, Line-Slinger a good Voltron Commander was the fact that she could be buffed into one-shot territory with ease. Therefore, you could spend slots on evasive equipment because she naturally grew in size whenever you played an artifact. Having Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder as a Partner helped considerably, too, as granting double strike often pushed her to lethal. Check out my previous build here.
Ultimately, the thing that damages her chances at Voltron the most is the need to fill out the deck with more evasive equipment than usual. This dilutes the deck, and takes away the number of slots you can spend on haymakers like Blackblade Reforged, Sword of Feast and Famine or Embercleave.
Instead, Akiri would be most useful in the 99 of other great Voltron decks as a way to get some much needed card draw. In Aurelia, for example, she’ll trigger twice a turn at least, thanks to the extra combat. In many ways, she’s basically a Boros Tymna the Weaver. You have to jump through a few more hoops, but it’s the same kind of effect.
That’s not to say that you can’t make her work as a commander, though; it’s just that the strategy is a little different than you might expect. If she’s not Voltron, what are we doing?
Well, we’re using the card advantage and hard-to-remove board presence as a way to dig for more combo-oriented wins and survive until the mid-to-late game to pull them off.
Boros has never been at the forefront when it comes to combos due to the colors’ lack of card draw and tutor effects. When you’re playing a combo deck, you are normally at a table that can win in similar ways — unless you’re intentionally pubstomping — and so when going up against black and blue decks, you’re often going to be a lot clunkier and find it far slower to get things in motion.
The first combo I see working in Akiri is Zirda, the Dawnwaker and Basalt Monolith. Zirda is already great at reducing equip costs, so slotting in a Basalt Monolith as one of your mana rocks is an easy way to make infinite colorless mana. You can use Goblin Engineer to dig out the Monolith, and spells like Aurelia’s Fury and Comet Storm to burn face.
Damage-based wraths are great when you can make your whole board indestructible, and cheaper ones — like Blasphemous Act and Chain Reaction — will leave us with spare mana to use Akiri’s ability. Combined with our X spells, these make Brash Taunter and Stuffy Doll a lot more viable. If you do want to go down the wrath-control route, Iroas, God of Victory, Starstorm, Tajic, Legion’s Edge, and Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero as ways to be even more resilient, along with the myriad other damage redirection creatures that are available.
If you want to go really deep, you can look at the Arcbond combo with Gideon’s Sacrifice. But, if you go that route, you really have to commit to it, as it requires casting at least two instants to work (which we can’t tutor for without Sunforger). It is an option, though, thanks to a commander that grants indestructibility.
The other more janky (and arguably funnier) combo you have access to involves Mycosynth Lattice. You can remove all your opponents’ permanents in conjunction with Vandalblast, lock their lands with Karn, or use Bludgeon Brawl to great effect.
Even if your lands end up as equipment that grant +0/+0, they’ll still cost 0 to equip and allow you to draw the maximum cards with Akiri’s ability. More than that, they open you up to using Valduk, Keeper of the Flame and Kemba, Kha Regent to generate a huge quantity of tokens for a swarm-based win condition. In considering this angle, I think we’re stumbling upon what makes the deck really tick (outside of combo): cheap equipment, and going wide.
Above all, playing lots of cheap equipment can help you really get the card draw going with Sram, Senior Edificer and Puresteel Paladin. While the deck will always enjoy the likes of Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Fire and Ice, Blackblade Reforged, Hammer of Nazahn, Embercleave and Sunforger, it’s worth going over some lesser-known, cheaper options.
More than just making a bunch of tokens with the aforementioned payoffs, cheap equipment lets you maximize your card draw. Cards like Paradise Mantle, Sai of the Shinobi, Shuko, Golem-Skin Gauntlets, Infiltration Lens, Shadowspear and Skullclamp will be your bread and butter, and Masterwork of Ingenuity is a second copy of the best thing in play. I don’t really rate Explorer’s Scope, and would instead go for the tried and true Sword of the Animist / Mask of Memory combo.
Bloodforged Battle-Axe and Prying Blade help to generate equipment, ramp, and turn on metalcraft (and old Akiri, Line-Slinger!). If you care about treasure, then Treasure Map can help you scry before you draw cards, while Smothering Tithe and Brass’s Bounty can help you stock up for big mana turns — and big mana spells.
Smothering Tithe can power up wheel-based draw spells like Reforge the Soul, but collecting treasure can have other benefits. Hellkite Igniter can come down with haste and assassinate a player, and Hellkite Tyrant gives you another alternate win condition. The Tyrant is particularly good with Mycosynth Lattice, too.
Cheap, Evasive Creatures
To go along with our cheap equipment, you’ll want some nice, cheap creatures. To get equipment triggers, I’ll always advocate for evasive low-drops like Remorseful Cleric and Selfless Spirit. Depending on how the rest of the deck looks, Hushbringer can be good here, too.
Early in the game, Loyal Apprentice, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin and Captain Lannery Storm all do what you want to be doing: providing tokens to equip and treasure to generate. Add in Captain’s Claws and Oketra’s Monument, and you’ll have a full board in no time, perfect for Skullclamp shenanigans.
Alongside these, I like the idea of running Hope of Ghirapur as another evasive creature that can also protect you in advance of the turn you want to try and combo off. Ranger-Captain of Eos can do a similar thing, and it also digs out Fervent Champion for some free-equip Sunforger action.
Mainstays of equipment decks like Stoneforge Mystic, Steelshaper’s Gift and Stonehewer Giant are all super playable, too, but I’m also interested in porting in the Lieutenants from my Syr Gwyn build. Bastion Protector can enjoy Akiri’s ability while keeping her safe, while Bloodsworn Steward has evasion and buffs Akiri with +2/+2 and haste. It also gives you even more bonuses from running Blade of the Bloodchief, which is a cute interaction.
There are a few more things worth noting when building the deck. Firstly, living weapons are great here, as they fulfill the requirements to draw cards all by themselves.
Secondly, if you’re running a bunch of cheap equipment, then Armory Automaton and Heavenly Blademaster both serve well as ways to finish a game. The angel in particular can buff your token army while she scoops up all of the cheap equipment you’ve put into play.
Of the planeswalkers available in red and white, I think the Elspeths are closest to what you want. Jumping your equipped creatures gives them evasion, wiping the board of bigger creatures helps you get through, and making tokens to equip is right where you want to be.
Finally, the more traditional Boros equipment win conditions are also available, and when you’re playing combo control with as much as card draw as you can fit, they’re also good options (though a little less exciting).
Going infinite with Helm of the Host is easy, and easier still with Sigarda’s Aid or Hammer of Nazahn. If you’re playing Enlightened Tutor, being able to cast it off of Sunforger to go get Aggravated Assault before you draw a card is a neat play, too.
Akiri, Fearless Voyager is a really fresh Boros card, and one I’m itching to brew around. While I think she’s primarily going to end up as a card in the 99 of many builds, she can still put in some work as a commander, and there’s plenty of avenues down which you can take her.
Though she isn’t well-suited to true Voltron, there’s no reason she can’t benefit from the usual Voltron package of tried and tested creatures and best-in-class equipment, and you’ll occasionally steal a win or two with these classic strategies.
Where she shines, however, is in drawing cards, and I think experimenting with the cheaper equipment and some of the payoffs for going wide will really net you an interesting build. As far as for what combo to try to win with, I can see Zirda / Basalt Monolith lending the most to the deck in general, but the prospect of doing silly things with Bludgeon Brawl has me unreasonably excited.
I’ve tried to cover untrodden ground as much as possible today, so it’s likely I’ve missed many things that are great for the deck that are a little obvious; wasting words on suggesting Danitha Capashen, Paragon or Vulshok Battlemaster seemed redundant. If I did miss anything particularly spicy, though, be sure to let me know on Twitter. I’m interested to hear your take on whether you think Akiri’s worth running as a commander, and how, too!