Grand Prix Kansas City was an interesting tournament in many respects. It almost felt like deja vu, and nearly ended up the same way as the last time this scenario came up. Kansas City was Modern, which is a format I consider to be not only fun but also very interesting. Modern is the format Wizards of the Coast designed to replace Extended while I was off during my long break from Magic. Within a month of coming back, I was already intrigued with Modern as well as Legacy. In Modern, you are allowed to play with all the sets from the first Mirrodin block up through the latest set. This adds many interesting aspects to deck building for players. On one side, old habits die hard. Decks that have existed in Modern will always exist in Modern unless something gets banned, or a card is printed that nukes that particular deck. What this allows you to do is invest a large amount of time into a relatively safe deck if you don’t think it’s going to feel the horror of the banhammer.
This deck for me is Kiki-Pod, a deck that is inherently fair, but really as broken as the worst of them in Modern. The deck plays 29-33 creatures, with the rest just few spells to help the deck out, along with its namesake, Birthing Pod. Unlike its sister deck Melira Pod, which has never run under the radar. Kiki-Pod is the red-headed stepchild that never gets any love. The deck has an extremely high skill cap, and the decision trees can become very complex very quickly. Kiki-Pod is not for the faint of heart. Almost every round I played with the deck in Grand Prix events have gone almost to time. The lines to victory are not always those that seem most obvious, and switching gears from a control deck to a combo deck and then to an aggro deck is not something that most people are familiar with. These tough to discern lines inevitably lead to mistakes, and Modern is not a format in which mistakes are taken lightly, but Kiki-Pod is the torchbearer of this ideology. From the opening hand to the last point of damage you are sculpting a plan, pushing your opponent into a corner from which he will never return. Every deck has hate cards for you. Every deck has removal for you. Then on top of that, some of the decks are even faster than you. If all this sounds bad for you, why play the deck? Well, this deck has something not many other decks can boast. It has game against every deck in the field and in many cases only loses to itself. You have cards to deal with anything an opponent can throw at you. In the light of my nickname, you have the ‘one ring’ to rule them all if you so choose.
The last time I had success with Kiki-Pod was GP Chicago in 2012. Back then, Melira Pod was the Birthing Pod deck of choice. Your natural enemy, the UWx control decks were at an all time low. I piloted my favorite deck to a top eight finish. Prior to Kansas City, almost the same format existed. UWx control was at another low point. Melira Pod was the Birthing Pod deck of choice, and the format was wide open besides that. It was the perfect opportunity for Kiki-Pod to do well again. Just like before Chicago, I thought about what decks would be there, what I should be prepared for, and what cards needed to be maindeck over sideboard, or even cut. Here’s the list I ran in Kansas City:
The ride to KC had some amusing talk of Pirate Ship Houses, Pirate Names, and many jokes on top of those. As Josh Glantzman was sleeping, a website named him “Sword Juggling Hank,” which stuck all weekend long. Also on the way I introduced my carmates to the GameBoy Color Emulator with Pokemon Silver/Gold, which ran their lives the whole weekend while I was on the Pokemon TCG plan. During our byes we even stopped by the local Chipotle for some delicious food and ran some practice games at the site with some of the guys.
There are a few interesting choices I made the night before the tournament after talking to fellow players about what they thought the field would be. The two Domri Rade’s I had maindeck went to the sideboard for the trusty old Chord of Calling. By making this change I had to remove the Wall of Omens for a second Wall of Roots. Also, I decided that Aven Mindcensor’s stock increases drastically when you can Chord of Calling for him, so he made it in over the third Kitchen Finks. Most of the sideboard was set. I wanted 2 Domri Rades in the sideboard, but a last minute decision to play an Ethersworn Canonist over the second planeswalker seemed like a solid choice, and turned out to be a decision I would not regret.
Three byes passed quickly, and it was time for my round one.
Round 4 – Steve Locke playing Zoo
Game one was a quick affair. I had double Chord of Calling in my opener with some solid acceleration and creatures. He tapped out on turn five and I ran consecuitive Chords at the end of his turn and during my own to combo him.
Game two I went for the combo on turn four facing lethal next turn if he drew a burn spell. He has the Path to Exile, and he Ghor-Clan Rampaged me to death the next turn.
Game three wasn’t looking good, as he had 2 Path to Exile. I drew a few of my own out of the board though, stabilizing at four life. An Obstinate Baloth into one of the two Kiki-jiki, Mirror Breakers that sat in my hand brought me back to a cool 20 life while he had a Tarmogoyf stopping my token from attacking. I drew a Voice of Resurgence, but it’s far too late to get me enough tokens to abyss him to death. Time is called, giving me turn one. This whole time I am only a Birthing Pod, Chord of Calling, or one combo piece away from outright killing him. None of those show up, we draw in both of our first matches.
Matches 3-0-1, Games 7-1-1
Round 5 – Stefan Miller playing KiblerNaya
Game two I led with a mana accelerant, which gets killed, but I also had a Wall of Roots into another accelerant. He casts Thundermaw Hellkite on turn three using a Lotus Cobra, then taps out on turn four, allowing me to combo kill him with Pod while at 1 life.
Game three my turn one accelerant doesn’t get killed, turning into a turn two Domri Rade for me that sealed the game after drawing three extra cards. He left one open for a Path to Exile on the sixth turn, but I tapped it with Deceiver Exarch. He Paths it, and I Birthing Pod’d into the combo kill on the next turn.
Round 6 – Ryan Detlefsen playing Storm
This match ended quickly. Ryan was on the play on game one, and killed me on turn three. Game two I was on the play and mulliganed to 5 but it didn’t matter as he kills me on turn three again (Editor’s Note: So much for Wizards’ plan of stifling the turn three combo decks). Turn three kills are pretty rare for a storm player. On turn four I can deal with the deck a multitude of ways, so I was a little down after this round after not being able to even defend myself.
I got paired against someone, then the judge told us to wait because pairings were messed up. The judge then told me to get up and come with him. To my surprise, the scorekeeper awarded me a Round seven bye due to the X-2 opponent I was supposed to be paired against dropping. I was not one to argue, and considered it karma for getting turn three’d twice in one match last round, which was unlikely even back in the Chicago days when they had Seething Song.
Round 8 – Cory Wyckoff playing BUG Control
This match was pretty epic. Game one takes almost 25 minutes to complete. He only has one for one removal, and his card draw is Dark Confidant with Deathrite Shaman to mitigate the life loss. This engine gets going late against my already established board. The game is essentially over on turn six, but he drags it out to turn 13 or 14 by barely staying alive by sacrificing all his resources. Never drew Pod or Chord or it would’ve been much shorter.
I mulliganed in game two and had to keep a hand with only mana accelerants. He beat me down quickly as I didn’t draw anything of relevance.
We only had six minutes to finish game three. We agreed that one of us will concede to a better board state because a second draw would knock us both out. I came flying out of the gates and he never really had a chance to rein me back in. I combo’d him on turn one of extra turns.
Round 9 – Nick Lore playing Scapeshift
Game one he played Stomping Ground into Sakura Tribe-Elder, which spells bad news for my deck. Next turn he played Pyroclasm into Prismatic Omen, which lifted my spirits since these versions of Scapeshift generally don’t run Cryptic Command. I easily assembled the combo before he could play his with no fear of Cryptic Command stopping me.
For game two I jammed the land destruction spells from the sideboard plus the Domri Rade. I removed a few one drops and rode Restoration Angel and Aven Mindcensor to victory behind a wall of answers to his combo, including a Spellskite. Even a Primeval Titan from Nick wasn’t enough.
I finished day one in 36th. We went out to eat at Oklahoma Joes for the second time during the weekend. I ordered the same thing as before and everyone still comments how amazing my smoked salmon salad looks. We got back to the room, played some more Pokemon emulation games, and headed to bed. Josh only won one round on day one, but carmates Andrew Maine and Caleb Estrada also made Day two at 7-2 with Melira Pod and Tron.
Round 10 – Zachariah Dorsett playing Jund
Nothing too exciting happened in this match. Game one he played Blood Moon, virtually ending the game on the spot since I never play around it in game ones, ever. I Guess he got me. Game two I ended up drawing 10 lands and only played three spells the entire game while dying slowly to a Bob and Deathrite Shaman.
Round 11 – Matt Gathman playing UWR Geist
Game one I chose to play and played a turn two Birthing Pod. On turn 3 I tapped down his land on his upkeep. He Vendilion Cliques me in response, sees a three and four drop in my hand, meaning the pod is lethal next turn, and scoops.
During game two both of us do very little since we are both mana flooded. A turn five Geist of Saint Traft ended up getting there after a Vendilion Clique grabbed the only real gas I drew the turn before Geist kills me.
Game three I play a turn two Domri Rade and rode it to victory by exhausting Matt of answers using Domri’s +1. He landed multiple Geista, but I am not worried as I just killed him with my creatures while the combo sat in my hand as backup.
Round 12 Matt Britten playing Affinity
This match was kind of funny because I was talking smack about having a good affinity match-up all weekend to this guy who was always sitting next to me. We sat down, and he tells me that now is my chance to prove my worth.
In game one I turn four’d him while comfortably safe behind severalBirds of Paradise who would not have hesitated to jump in front of the bus if asked to.
Game two he got to play first, already putting me on the back foot. I kept a hand with Path to Exile, a mana dork, and Pod. Kataki joined the party, and got slammed while he was tapped out. He shot it down, but still had to pay the tax once, removing half of his permanents. Path exiled his 5/5 Arcbound Ravager while he is tapped out, with Spellskite on board he was literally screwed. I eventually combo’d him after that.
Round 13 – Andrew Kirner playing BW Tokens
I had yet to play against BW Tokens or Soul Sisters, so I was excited when he played a Godless Shrine into Thoughtseize. He had kept a four fetch land hand, but I ripped the Aven Mindcensor turn two after playing a mana dork on one. He was Censored end of turn, failing to find a land. The mana dork, Mindcensor, and a Glen Elendra Archmage were the only spells I played in game one, but Andrew never hit three mana, so his Auriok Champions couldn’t get the job done alone.
Game two was much the same as many of my day two games, meaning I drew far more lands than spells. I got beat down by 2/2 Lingering Souls tokens. He had not seen Birthing Pod yet so I didn’t bother to play it at three life. I had never lost this match-up in three games, so I felt confident scooping a little early to hide some of my cards was worth it.
This is a good time for a little reminder. Modern is still a relatively new format. I’ve played in three Grand Prix with this deck. Still, people do not know what this deck is doing half the time. If you play certain spells in a game, even pros may think you are on a different deck. Some people do not even know the interactions that Pod can produce. People still seem surprised every time at Kiki-Pod’s ability to assemble a win or crush a particular match-up. With so many decks on the radar, never discount the edge this can give you. Against Andrew I had not played any creatures either game with any relevant activated abilities, no Pod, no Chord, just mana dorks, Mindcensor, Restorations Angel and an odd Glen Elendra Archmage. I am sure he thought I was on Kibler Naya splashing for combo hate.
In game three I played the same Archmage on three off of a mana dork. He taps out on his turn, and I show him Birthing Pod on my turn with two open mana. Game. Blouses.
Round 14 – Jeff Rasmussen playing UWR Twin
Game one he drew one side of the combo but not the other. This might seem like bad luck for him, but that’s the downside of playing this version. It has far less redundancy in it’s combo pieces. Restoration Angel may be awesome, but it only works with Kiki-Jiki, not Splinter Twin. (Editor’s Note: Doesn’t Splinter Twin on a Restoration Angel work if you also have a Exarch/Pestermite in play?) This lack of redundancy is what ended up hurting Jeff, and I ran him over on turn five after he Remanded my angel twice to try to stop me.
Game two he did what Splinter Twin does best. A turn four combo on the play just nails me. I had plenty of outs post-board, but sometimes the cards aren’t there.
I was back on the play in game three and I played a turn two Birthing Pod. Jeff is a acquaintance of mine, so I knew post-board he was not bringing in any hate for Pod itself, just more answers for my creatures. I ran it out there and the games began. I attempted to resolve Restoration Angel at the end of his turn three different times, and met Remands and snapped Remand[/card]s. He knew he was vulnerable until he drew a removal spell. On turn six he finally let Angel resolve. I figured he had something. I also played a Deceiver Exarch to tap his only white source. No response. I went to my turn, drawing a second Angel. I decide to try to go off by sacrificing the Restoration Angel, getting Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and targeting the Exarch with Kiki’s ability. Jeff responded with Volcanic Fallout, tapping himself out.
I was confused by his timing, because he still faced lethal from Birthing Pod via untapping Pod with the Exarch token’s triggered ability, sacrificing the token to Birthing Pod to get a Restoration Angel, blinking the real Exarch, untapping the Pod again, and Podding the Angel for Kiki. I would have five life after the Fallout resolved, and two mana, which was exactly enough to take that line. I counted over and over to make sure, then let Volcanic Fallout resolve, afterward putting the Deceiver Exarch token into play. Jeff threw a fit, saying he was playing Fallout in response to the tokens ability going on the stack. The judge and I were both confused because he CLEARLY stopped me in response to Kiki-Jiki’s activated ability. He was kind of upset with everything, and how it went down, but the judge tried to explain that it was his fault for stopping at the wrong time. I had even declared what I was doing and not shortcutting because he obviously had disruption of some sort. He only had one card left in his hand(Splinter Twin), so little did he know he was going to die next turn anyway because of the Restoration Angel still in my hand. Justin Geary and I tried to explain this but he was upset and just walked away.
Round 15 – Casey Hudak playing Scapeshift
This round was partially covered by GGsLive here starting at roughly the 21 minute mark. The coverage showcases the different type of game you play against decks with Remand based on whether you are on the play or the draw, and how powerful the Kiki-Pod deck can be without Pod in play, so go check it out.
Before and after my round 15 match Ari Lax and I talked, and we pretty much concluded that I was playing for 9th place at best, but it was fun to listen to the loudspeaker calling out the top eight for a glimmer of hope. Tenth place was where I ended up, which is a pretty solid finish, though not my best with the deck. Jeff Hoogland, a friend of mine, ended up exactly 16th place with his take on UR Faeries after drawing when he was in 13th going into the last round. We like to call that a case of the run goods. Jeff’s deck was also featured in the coverage, under the top 16 decklists.
The deck performed up to expectations given the scenario of events leading up to it in the Modern metagame. Whether or not I will be playing this at GP Detroit is still up in the air. I always enjoy this deck, and it’s my favorite to play in Modern, but I am never one for allowing myself to play a poorly positioned deck just because I enjoy it, especially at a Grand Prix where every game matters. There are, of course, changes to be made now that the meta has shifted somewhat. With the resurgence of Pod-style decks, I expect UWR control to come back to the forefront, which will make Domri Rade a much better maindeck choice. Cutting the Domri’s before the event was a major difference between Ari’s list and my own, but each of our choices ended up working out since Ari played against multiple UWR opponents, while I did not. We each got somewhat lucky to dodge the portion of the meta that would punish our choices, but that’s always a risk in Modern since it has such a diverse metagame.
Well, that wraps things up. Contact me via Facebook if you like Kiki-Pod and want to ask questions or get advice on how to tune your list for your local meta. Many things can change, from the mana base all the way to the top of the curve.
Thanks again for reading guys and gals,