Kiki-Pod at Grand Prix Richmond (1st)
Deciding to travel to a magic event 12 hours away is not a decision that I take very often. GP Richmond, though, looked to be one of the greatest magic tournaments of the year. It was being put together by a very good organizer, StarCity Games, was shaping out to have a huge turnout, and most importantly to me, it was going to be my favourite format: Modern. Modern, fresh off revisions to the banlist and Pro Tour Born of the Gods, was very much in flux, with the metagame constantly shifting and uncertain. This, along with the diversity of approaches and competitive decks in the format, allowed everybody to competitively play a deck of their liking, which makes for a very fun and complex format.
In the lead-up to the GP, I was grinding every local event to get the 400 Planeswalker Points I needed for one bye in the main event. Playing a 15-round GP without any byes is miserable, and I wanted to maximize my chances of doing well. So upon arriving in Richmond, I went straight to sign up for a last chance GPT and, thankfully, after battling through three Affinity decks, a UR Delver deck, and a Zoo opponent, I won a much needed second bye and sleep-in special.
The Friday was also crucial in helping me to get some warm up games before the main event, to make sure my deck was tuned the way I wanted, and to scope out the big archetypes in the room. I was already pretty set on my main deck but the sideboard was still undecided the night before. One of the last-minute sideboard changes is the infamous Shatterstorm I cast against Vipin in the finals, which was added because of the amount of Affinity I saw in the room.
Day one of the tournament, I faced a gauntlet of different Modern decks (as is typical with this format), beating out Hatebears, Soul Sisters, UWR Control, and Merfolk, while losing to BG Obliterator and drawing against Jund for a 7-1-1 record going into day two.
BGx decks, even without Deathrite Shaman, were still showing up to tournaments and giving me headaches. Reid Duke’s innovation of Phyrexian Obliterator in the BG deck is very hard for a creature-based deck like Kiki-Pod to handle; however, most other matchups on day one were straightforward and easy to handle. The raw power of Restoration Angel and the consistency in which I could assemble the combo pulled me through all my matches.
At the end of day two, I was already quite content with having made it this far. The dream was to get a record good enough to qualify for the Pro Tour, and for that to happen, I had to win every single one of my day-two matches.
And I did exactly that. On day two, I soundly beat GW Hatebears, UWR Control, UWR Twin, Scapeshift, Affinity and Kiki-Pod, to make it into sixth place of the top eight with a 13-1-1 record. Already ecstatic that I had made it this far, I was even happier to hear that the top eight was filled with Melira Pod and Affinity, which are fairly good matchups for Kiki-Pod. I realized that I could maybe even take home the trophy.
Playing against Melira Pod in the quarter- and semi-finals was, again, fairly straightforward and even relaxing as, even though the matchup is complicated, they have no spells to really disrupt my combo or enough creatures to mount an offensive against me.
On the other hand, the finals match against Vipin was nerve-wracking as I was under the gun from turn one, without any room for error. To those who were watching on the stream, the pressure and fatigue did get to me on game one as I had an on board kill with a Pod chain and missed my opportunity. Thankfully, I maneuvered my way to victory in games two and three.
Winning the largest constructed Grand Prix of 4300 people was an unbelievable task to me going into the event, and even after doing so, I still pinch myself every now and then to makes sure I’m not dreaming.
Modern is a format that greatly rewards experience playing with your deck and knowledge of the rest of the field. Knowing what your game plan is against every other deck and recognizing what you are up against is the key to success in Modern.
For an experienced pilot, Kiki-Pod is one of the strongest decks in the format. Leading up to GP Richmond, I had been playing and tuning Kiki-Pod for more than two years, starting with Birthing Pod when it was legal in Standard and transitioning to its Modern version for GP Toronto. Playing it for so long, I had encountered all the interactions possible between the cards in my deck and knew how all my matchups against every other deck would play out, no matter how niche the deck. My experience playing with the deck was the determining factor in getting me through 18 rounds against the various decks of modern.
Moving forward, I think Kiki-Pod is going to become a major contender in Modern but remain less played because of the difficulty in piloting the deck and people asking, “Why not just play the more popular Melira Pod?” Kiki-Pod is powerful but only in the hands of someone who knows how to properly play it.
In this article, I hope to convince some of you to join me in playing this deck and to give those of you who do a head start in learning it. So why choose to play Kiki-Pod in Modern?
1. It has many angles of attack.
A major advantage of playing a Birthing Pod deck is that it has two paths to victory: either assemble the combo (Kiki-Jiki plus Restoration Angel, Deceiver Exarch, or Zealous Conscripts) or just turn creatures sideways while being supported by a Gavony Township. Kiki-Pod plays both roles very well. It has a very strong creature beatdown plan thanks to the raw power of Restoration Angel, and it has a consistent turn-four combo kill with the help of Chord of Calling and Birthing Pod.
Being able to play simultaneously on two game plans allows you to choose the best path to victory against the vast variety of decks in Modern and overwhelm your opponent. It forces them to always respect the threat of a combo kill while you are beating them down with Restoration Angels. I have had many opponents tell me during and after matches that thinking and playing around what a Kiki-Pod player can do is just a total headache. With Chord of Calling, our opponents have to play around every single creature in our deck at any time!
2. It has a very strong sideboard and hate cards.
Being in four colors, we have available to us the best sideboard options in Modern in every color except black. The effectiveness of sideboard hate cards in Modern, paired with our ability to search up creatures with Birthing Pod or Chord of Calling, allows Kiki-Pod to have strong games two and three against many decks in the format. Having eight copies of Linvala, Keeper of Silence (the creature itself, three Chord of Calling, and four Birthing Pods) against Twin and Pod opponents, eight copies of Kataki, War’s Wage against Affinity, or eight copies of Ethersworn Canonist against Storm is just devastating to those opponents.
3. It is a very fun and rewarding deck to play.
There is no doubt in my mind that Kiki-Pod is one of the hardest decks to play in Modern. When you first pick up the deck, you will lose time and time again to misplaying your lands, taking too much damage from Birthing Pod, or dying from your opponents’ tricks. Once you get familiar with the deck, however, I can guarantee that you will start having a blast and feel like you have the advantage against most decks in Modern. Thinking about and executing Birthing Pod activations and knowing that you have the answers to every situation that can be thrown at you makes for very rewarding games. There are just so many lines and so much play to the deck that you will never get tired of it.
So here is the list I played at GP Richmond:
Kiki-Pod - Brian Liu
Explaining the card choices in my deck:
These 10 cards are the starter motor that gets your engine going. Your mana curve is relatively high for a deck in Modern, and these mana accelerants allow you to keep pace with ever other deck. Very often, if you don’t have one of these cards in your opening seven, it is a mulligan (rule of thumb). These cards also serve as fodder to Birthing Pod, attackers for Gavony Township, and creatures to convoke with for Chord of Calling.
These are your main-deck silver bullets. They allow you to interact with the major archetypes in the format, usually to devastating effect. The one copy of each, along with ways to tutor them, allows you to be able to put them on the battlefield consistently to disrupt your opponent. Linvala, Keeper of Silence, is often game-ending game one against Splinter Twin and Pod, and Spellskite turns off many of the decks in the format. Glen Elendra Archmage and Murderous Redcap are your catch-alls, and either one will be effective against the decks in Modern.
These cards are the meat and potatoes of the deck and serve to beat down your opponent, give you time to set up your combo, and disrupt your opponent’s game plan. They may not be the most exciting cards but they get the job the done.
These are the combo cards. Assembling a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and any of Restoration Angel, Deceiver Exarch, or Zealous Conscripts wins you the game. Having access to a two-card combo gives you opportunities to race non-interactive decks or force opposing interactive decks to always respect it.
I am almost tempted to put Restoration Angel in a category of its own because of much it provides to the deck. It is a combo piece, a strong attacker, a trick, and a value creature all in one package. It does everything.
The engines of the deck. Birthing Pod allows you to quickly assemble the combo, continuously get value off of your creatures, and search up your silver bullets to cripple your opponent. Many Kiki-Pod lists have opted to stop playing Chord of Calling, instead choosing to play Domri Rade. I believe Chord of Calling is still the way to go, however. It creates consistency in the deck, allows you to play at instant speed alongside Restoration Angel, and greatly helps against the unfair, non-interactive decks in the format.
Tips and Tricks:
I will not go over all the Pod chains that allow you to assemble the combo but rather go over some tips and tricks on how the deck should be played. Note that the following are only guidelines in how I play the deck and are by no means to be followed to the word. Play the deck how you want to play it and as the situation dictates.
- If you are not using Chord of Calling to assemble the combo or get a hatebear against a particular deck, it is often correct to tutor eternal witness, getting back the Chord of Calling. This allows you to advance your board without “using” a card. You can then use Chord of Calling for a Restoration Angel to repeat this process. Then get a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, for the win
- Don’t play your Birthing Pod until you need to use it. This allows you to take less damage when playing and using it and won’t give your opponent a chance to deal with it. This does not apply if your opponent is playing Thoughtseize or if you need to sneak it under counter magic.
- It is usually correct to play safe and not blindly go for the combo. Aggressively activating Birthing Pod to assemble the combo is a quick way to lose the game. Playing the value game until it is safe to assemble is usually the correct way to use Pod. If you have no other choice, though, by all means try to win.
- As previously mentioned, most opening hands without a mana accelerant are too slow. You might be able to get away with it if you have a curve, but if you have no plays on turn one or two, mulligan.
- When activating Birthing Pod to go from 2 -> 3, Kitchen Finks is your go to target. However if you feel your opponent has a Path to Exile or Pillar of Flame, get Eternal Witness and recover your two-drop to ensure you have creatures to feed Birthing Pod.
-Against unfair, non-interactive decks, play the lock-out game. Assemble Spellskite and Linvala, Keeper of Silence, against Splinter Twin. Recur Avalanche Riders multiple times and get Glen Elendra Archmage against Tron and Scapeshift. Get Ethersworn Canonist and Glen Elendra against Living End. Your hate cards are extremely powerful, and having one in play usually wins you the game or at least buys you enough time to do so.
- The deck deals a whole lot of damage to itself from fetchlands and shocklands, as well as casting and using Birthing pod. Saving every bit of life counts, and when playing this deck, you should make sure you take the lines that most preserve your life total.
- Remember Wall of Root’s ability can be used when it comes into play and once on both your turn and your opponent’s turn. Use this to your advantage to sneak in spells where you can. You could cast a spell on your turn using Wall of Roots and then use it again to cast Restoration Angel on your opponent’s turn. Also remember that Wall of Roots counts for two when casting Chord of Calling as you can use its ability and tap it for convoke.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my article and want to at least try Kiki-Pod in the future. Feel free to leave comments or questions here and I will definitely get back to you! I will answer any specific questions about the deck more in-depth if they are asked.