The way things have gone, I haven’t been able to write about my experiences at the Pro Tour in a timely fashion, and now with GP Manchester having come and gone an in-depth discussion of the block deck I played seems mostly irrelevant.
The experience itself was somewhat different this time though. Previously I was either unprepared or prepared in a compromised fashion such that I felt my “team mates” would be gutted if I did well and dying to say “I told you so!” if I didn’t. Nottingham was in stark contrast to this, with people being genuinely keen to help and supportive either way.
It was also interesting playing a Pro Tour in the contemporary setting. The last time I qualified was for Austin to play old extended just as Zendikar had come out, so roughly the point at which the game had started to grow substantially. Where before I played against players who were as experienced as myself or much more so, this time I played against a lot of people on their first Pro Tour, and I felt substantially more comfortable as a result.
I was happy to make day 2, as this was a first for me. Going forward, I am optimistic about my chances of doing well at that level, so long as I can get opportunities to play (which is – of course – the problem).
With Modern season now in full swing I thought it might be useful to people to discuss the Kiki-Pod deck I have played in the first three PTQs. Over the course of these three events a number of my opponents have made comments like “I didn’t realise you could kill me that fast” after allowing me to untap with 5-6 mana sources and 3 creatures.
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
2 Wall of Roots
2 Voice of Resurgence
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Phantom Image
1 Scavenging Ooze
3 Kitchen Finks
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Eternal Witness
1 Deceiver Exarch
3 Restoration Angel
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Linvalla, Keeper of Silence
2 Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Zealous Conscripts
4 Birthing Pod
2 Chord of Calling
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Arid Mesa
1 Stomping Ground
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple Garden
1 Steam Vents
1 Breeding Pool
4 Grove of the Burn Willows
2 Galvany Township
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
The thing is that the deck doesn’t look like much when you read through a list, but it’s actually a very consistent combo deck with a great deal of versatility.
I wrote about the deck last year when I played it in Liverpool, and Ari Lax wrote about it on Starcity including an excellent run-down of the lines of play which can kill you, but it wasn’t until Craig Dobson casually remarked that the deck can “kill you with 4 mana and any 2 creatures, so long as one of them is an even casting cost” that it sunk in with me how powerful it really is.
So to quote Ari Lax on the ways Pod can kill you…
“One-drop + two-drop + four Pod activations: Pod the two into a Deceiver Exarch, untapping Pod. Pod the one into a Phantasmal Image copying Deceiver Exarch, untapping Pod. Pod the Imaged Exarch (which has converted mana cost three) into a Restoration Angel, Blinking the real Exarch to untap Pod. Pod the Restoration Angel into a Kiki-Jiki, win with Kiki-Exarch.
Two-drop + two-drop + four Pod activations: See above, only instead of the step where you Pod the one-drop into an Imaged Exarch you turn the second two-drop into another Deceiver Exarch.
Two-drop + three-drop + three Pod activations: Pod the two-drop to Deceiver Exarch, untapping Pod. Pod the three-drop to Restoration Angel Blinking Exarch, untapping Pod. Pod the Restoration Angel into a Kiki-Jiki.
Two-drop + four-drop + two Pod activations: See two-drop + three-drop, but you can skip the part where the three-drop becomes Restoration Angel.
Four-drop + four-drop + two Pod activations: Pod the first four into a Zealous Conscripts, untapping your own Pod. Pod the second four into a Kiki-Jiki and win with Kiki-Jiki plus Zealous Conscripts.
Four-drop with persist + two Pod activations: Same as the multiple four-drop kill, only with the second four-drop being the persisted copy of the first.
Three-drop + four-drop + three Pod activations: Pod the four-drop into a Zealous Conscripts, untapping Pod. Pod the three-drop into a Restoration Angel on Zealous Conscripts to untap the Pod. Pod the Restoration Angel into a Kiki-Jiki.
Two-drop + Zealous Conscripts + three Pod activations: Pod the two-drop into Deceiver Exarch, untapping Pod. Pod Deceiver Exarch into a Restoration Angel on Zealous Conscripts, untapping Pod. Pod the Restoration Angel into a Kiki-Jiki.
Three-drop + Zealous Conscripts + two Pod activations: See above, but skip the part where you make a Deceiver Exarch.
Two-drop + two Pod activations one turn + two Pod activations the next: Pod your two-drop into a Deceiver Exarch, untapping Pod. Then Pod the Exarch into a persist four-drop. Go off with the persist four-drop chain the next turn.”
(I’m quoting this directly rather than just rewording what he said because it’s a clear expression of facts, and because he ought to get credit for it – I didn’t work this stuff out for myself, I read it from his article.)
Essentially a 1 card combo, which also has another 2 card combo. As you can see from the list above, a pod + a lot of combinations of creatures is good enough. If you don’t have the right casting costs, you can Pod away what you do have over a couple of turns to set it up.
Another combo deck like Storm or Twin would need to spend time casting card draw spells hoping to draw into its’cards while you just sac a guy, gain some value from that, and probably also cast another guy. You can also randomly just draw Angels/Deceivers/Conscripts and Kikis and win (the whole plan of some decks!).
Alternative pressure. Obviously the combo is vulnerable to a timely removal spell. However, being able to sacrifice a Finks, and get an Angel is pretty decent, and it’s one of the less impressive things the deck can do in a given turn. You can also get cards to protect the combo if you think you’re under pressure from another combo deck.
Main deck hate cards. Being able to get a Linvalla in the mirror, or a Scavenging Ooze against an opponent’s Goyf, or a Pridemage to kill a Plating (to name a few) can make the difference between winning and losing. Generally decks can’t play situational cards like this, but with 4 Pod, 2 Chord it becomes a lot more viable.
Faster than the other Pod deck, and able to beat the lifegain combo plan. The other Pod decks are considerably slower than Kiki-Pod, and you can get an Ooze to disrupt their combo, followed by a larger number of Angel/Deceiver/Conscript tokens to kill them.
Pretty good vs hate cards. I’ve not actually lost to a sideboard card yet, despite having a fair number made against me. The creatures are actually pretty resilient.
Versatile sideboard. Again because of the Pod you can play a lot of singletons, meaning you can play the really hateful sideboard cards, instead of the more compromised ones you would generally need to play in a broad format like Modern. Cards like Kataki, War’s Wage single-handedly win games against the decks where they’re good.
Pretty reliant on the Pod. When the deck doesn’t draw Pod, it’s possible to win by randomly drawing the combo, but with a lack of card selection spells this isn’t that likely, meaning you have to play a midrange game without access to removal or sweepers. This is pretty rough, and it’s made worse by the second problem.
Loads of singletons. Sometimes you draw hands that have loads of singletons, which might be good if you play the right match up, but if not you’re going to want to draw a Pod pretty quick to get things in order. If neither of these things happen, you’re probably going to struggle that game. You probably can’t mulligan too many hands like this either because the mana is fragile.
The mana is pretty fragile. Not horrifically so, but if Birds keep dying or you get Tectonic Edged or whatever, that will be a problem to varying degrees. There are a lot of decks in Modern a bit like this though. This can be mitigated by remembering what spells are in your deck, and getting appropriate land. If you’re right, don’t bother getting a blue source as there are only 3 blue spells and you ideally don’t even want to draw them.
Deck building limitations. Because the deck really need to play various singletons either because they are part of the combo or because the deck would be really weak to certain cards or situations otherwise, and because the Pod requires creatures to function, and because you need to play 8 mana dorks, you’re pretty limited in what you can play.
The deck doesn’t main deck Bolts or paths or Thoughtseizes or counter Magic like every other deck in the format because it’s not really viable to do so, not because it wouldn’t be good to have. The opportunity cost in this is pretty significant.
This deck is one of the group I consider to be good choices in Modern week in, week out at the moment. I think U/W/R Control with or without Kiki-angel, both Twin builds, all the Pod decks and affinity are all really solid. There are other decks like Living End, Infect and Tron which might be good on a given week as well.
There are also loads of other decks which I don’t think are great, but people will definitely play. This makes the Modern format very diverse, and as a result makes it really enjoyable to play in. The downside is that it also makes it pretty difficult to win PTQs in too; the level of diversity in the format just makes building sideboards and so on exceptionally difficult.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the format as it stands because it’s very difficult to actually do anything meaningful; all you can really do is choose a good deck and hope for the best, or play a marginal deck and hope to spike the event.
From my point of view the format would be a lot better if they shook it up a little. Apparently a lot of the pros are in favour of banning the fetch lands, which I could get behind, but would be surprised to see happen firstly because for people just playing the format, the variety is a positive, and secondly because this would be pretty horrific in terms of lost value for people who own a set of fetch lands.
This includes me incidentally – but I wouldn’t sell my cards if they were useful, and they’re not worth much if they’re not, so the value is kind of meaningless. One day I might quit, and then it would matter I suppose, but Magic has been a great investment for me no matter what.
Anyway, hopefully this will improve people’s understanding of the deck – but I also hope my opponents don’t read my article! The deck is so much better when people just randomly let you win…
As always, I look forward to reading your comments below.
All the best,