Breaking Gifts Ungiven: All Things KCI

With States coming around, I was wracking my brains to come up with something good and rogue to play, in an attempt to start some sort of wacky tradition. However, all my ideas sucked, so I decided to dust off the old Disciple of the Vault that did so well for me last year. I playtested a new build of Krark-Clan Ironworks and it was fun, so I went with it.

With States coming around, I was wracking my brains to come up with something good and rogue to play, in an attempt to start some sort of wacky tradition. However, all my ideas sucked, so I decided to dust off the old Disciple of the Vault that did so well for me last year. I playtested a new build of KCI and it was fun, so I went with it.

KCI is complicated. Like Affinity, it often just wins, so you can pull out some games you never should have been able to. This leads to overconfidence in your build, even if you haven’t tested it properly. This is what happened to me this year. I’m about to list the build that I played with minor success at States – but bear in mind that it is flawed. I will discuss the problems with it, as well as another recently posted KCI build, after the short tourney report; then I will present you with what you should be playing.

Toy Factory

4 Krark-Clan Ironworks

4 Myr Incubator

4 Talisman of Dominance

4 Pentad Prism

4 Thoughtcast

4 Serum Visions

4 Disciple of the Vault

3 Myr Retriever

3 Gifts Ungiven

3 Chrome Mox

2 Trash for Treasure

2 Fabricate

4 Seat of the Synod

4 Vault of Whispers

4 Great Furnace

3 Ancient Den

3 Tree of Tales

1 Glimmervoid


4 Goblin Charbelcher

4 Annul

3 Mana Leak

2 Fabricate

1 Myr Retriever

1 Tree of Tales

This build is admittedly sub-par, though there are good things about it. The best thing about the deck, which is what drew me towards it in the first place, is how incredible Gifts Ungiven is; if you manage to cast one you will almost never lose. It is like a Fabricate on amphetamines! This deck has a number of different ways to go off and Gifts Ungiven essentially lets you choose, since it is built to remove the drawback from the card. Trash for Treasure and Myr Retriever both allow you to return whatever card you had placed in the graveyard, and Fabricate lets you grab whatever other component you need from your library. Consider the sample groups you can go for, depending on what is in your hand:

KCI, Incubator, Trash for Treasure, Fabricate

Incubator, Charbelcher, Myr Retriever, KCI

KIC, Incubator, Retriever, Disciple of the Vault

Basically, you always get what you want somehow. There are tons of options, a lot of ways to psyche your opponent out, and the best thing is that if they pick incorrectly they lose the next turn. Gifts Ungiven is generally better than Fabricate because it gives you more options; it also fits into the mana curve more easily, since you’re going to be at either two or four mana most of the time. With Trash for Treasure, you can often sneak out your combo with Ironworks still on the board, by playing KCI and using a leftover Red mana to grab Incubator from the graveyard. It takes two less artifacts that way, and Trash is an extra way to turn used up Pentad Prisms into a resource.

Furthermore, KCI as an archetype is a good deck to play at a tournament like States – especially with Gifts Ungiven. This is because there are a lot of casual players out there just coming for fun, and the more mistakes you give them the chance to make the more they will make. KCI can very consistently beat bad players or outlandish decks.

Okay, here’s where this build goes wrong. It relies on the interaction between artifacts and Disciple of the Vault’s ability to win a good percentage of the games, and Disciple is pretty vulnerable. Here are the win conditions:

1. Activating Incubator and attacking for 20-30, hopefully with an Ironworks still on the board in case they try any Echoing Decay or Echoing Truth action.

2. Activating Incubator, then sacrificing the tokens to KCI with a Disciple on the board. This way wins on the turn you combo out.

3. Get two Myr Retrievers, Ironworks, and Disciple in play – then create a Retriever loop for infinite life loss (what is the deal with me and infinite life combos?).

4. Get two Disciples in play and sac ten artifacts.

5. Post board, I was taking out the Disciples and using Charbelcher instead.

The Retriever loop was difficult to get, even when I was running four of them, and is fragile in that it requires four cards as well as relying on easy-to-destroy permanents. Everyone has a plan for Disciple, since he’s in the best deck and I found that out rather quickly in the tournament.

Another thing that was terrible about the deck was the sideboard. I quickly realized how bad the maindeck was and started siding for the more reliable combo after every game one. The original idea was to change the nature of the combo depending on what hate the opponent uses (Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Ghostly Prison, etc.), but thirty damage to the dome was doing the job every time so I just ran with it. This use of the sideboard still leaves a ton of dead cards; I didn’t use half of it and it was a total waste of space.

** States Report 2004 **

Round One
– Bob Bobberson – White Weenie with a splash of Red (the name has been changed to protect the identity of this misguided soul)

I shake my opponent’s hand and win the die roll! Hooray. Things are looking excellent already, here’s to doing well at States two years in a row. I draw my opening hand and whoop for joy because I’ve drawn what I believe is a second-turn kill. I make a couple of comments about the god hand and go Land Mox Pentad Prism. He drops a Plains and I’m confused. I drop a KCI and a Retriever, which I sac to play my second Retriever, with a Disciple still in hand, but missing the one mana I need to play it. Oh well, I’ll get that second-turn kill one day. Anyways, he goes Plains, Samurai of the Pale Curtain, and I can’t topdeck an Incubator.

I sided out Disciples and a Retriever for Fabricates and Belchers, and my Glimmervoid for the artifact land so I can Belch people. Urp!

Game two, I combo out on turn 4 and smash on turn 5.

Game three was kind of tense. He sided in Leonin Elders and gained a ton of life so that a single Belcher activation couldn’t kill him. I was facing near-lethal damage on the board, so when he attacked I killed his Leonin Skyhunter (equipped with a Sword of Fire and Ice) with a Belcher and reordered by library to put two more Belchers on top. Next turn I attacked him for about fifteen, Belched him for another twenty, then Belched again for the win. Whew!

Matches: 1-0 Games: 2-1

Round Two – Joe Schmoe – Affinity (okay, I just didn’t write down their names. Farce = over).

My plan against Affinity is to win during their upkeep. It’s really funny because they never suspect it! Now, sometimes they don’t have a Disciple on the board and you can just kill them during your own turn, but if have one, here is how you do it:

Get a Disciple in play with KCI / Incubator. During their upkeep (or anytime on their turn, but I do it during the upkeep so that they have one less draw), you sac stuff for mana one at a time. Because of the APNAP rule (active player non-active player – check Ask the Judge for more info!), the other player’s Disciple activations go on the stack first (however many of them there are) then yours. That means yours resolve first, so after they take their point of life loss and still have two activations on the stack, sac your next artifact for mana. Repeat this until you have given them twenty points and they die by state-based effects – with the same amount of damage waiting idle on the stack!

Game one, he starts smashing and I build up. I cast Gifts Ungiven and end up with all the pieces I need, playing my Disciple and passing the turn, ready to win on his upkeep. But an Electrostatic Bolt during my end step ruins my plan.

I sideboard out two Retrievers, and a Fabricate for three Belchers.

Game two, I am running out of time, so I raw-dog an Incubator and hope he doesn’t draw Disciple. He doesn’t and I smash for the win.

Game three he sides in Annul! Oh unhappy day. He Oxidizes one of my lands to keep me off of four mana, setting me back a turn. Then he is leaving a Blue open, so I play around it for a while but after a bit I have to try and force it. He’s got Annul, which takes out an Ironworks. I still manage to get the combo, but by the time I assemble it, he topdecks his second Disciple, which beats my zero Disciples pretty handily.

Matches: 1-1 Games: 3-3

Round Three – Mono-Black Rats!

Game one, he Cranial Extractions me three times. I lose. Badly.

Since he has Cranial Extraction, I keep a Disciple in case I have to go for the Retriever loop. I put in some Belchers.

Game two, I combo out on the third turn and smash him fourth turn! Yay.

Game three, he casts Cranial Extraction, and names……………………..

Goblin Charbelcher? I run him over with Myr Tokens two turns later.

Note to KCI opponents: Always name Myr Incubator. Always.

Matches: 2-1 Games: 5-4

Round Four – Mono-Black weirdness (with zero Cranial Extractions!)

Game one, he goes Swamp, Chrome Mox, Night’s Whisper. After that he plays a Jens and a Greater Harvester while I build up. I have two turns to live and have Incubator ready to go (sans KCI) but not enough to play the Disciple I have in my hand, which I really want to play in case he Echoing Decays my guys. So I play an Artifact land and an unimprinted Mox to sacrifice when his Harvester hits me. He does have a bit of removal for the Disciple, but my Myr tokens mow him down.

Side: same as above.

Game two, he hits me with a turn 1 Shattered Dreams (which is both a terrible card, and yet really bad for me). Because of this, I have to raw-dog an Incubator activation, and he has Echoing Decay. Sigh.

Game three, he goes Swamp, Mox, Night’s Whisper, then doesn’t play another card until Greater Harvester three turns later. I gleefully combo out and smash.

Matches: 3-1 Games: 7-5

Whew. Lots of close ones here.

Round Five – Affinity

Game one, he has Disciple and I don’t. Sounds like an Affinity mirror doesn’t it?

Side: same as above.

Game two, I combo out against his slow start and win.

Game three, he goes third turn Cranial Plating, smash for twelve. I scoop.

Matches: 3-2 Games: 8-7

After that I figured I had to win out to have a terrible chance of making Top 8 – my tie-breakers were shot – so I dropped. Despite my crappy finish, I knew and still know that this is a good deck, and I’ve been looking for ways to improve it. I got some unexpected aid by Todd Ewer, who posted an article on the same subject last week. Read it and then come back, because I’m not taking up space with his decklist here!

There is some good stuff and some bad stuff going on in his deck, just like in my original build. For example, he’s lacking Gifts Ungiven, which is the best card in the deck. Second, Darksteel Citadel is awful with Pentad Prisms, and they always seem to clump together. I realize that he has Chromatic Spheres to help with this and draw cards to boot, but that takes up a lot of slots and Gifts Ungiven is a tutor rather than just living off the top. Last, Condescend is a wasted slot. The deck is very proactive and tries to go off as fast as possible before the other deck can set up; holding back for Condescend rather than playing a Talisman is the wrong choice. His deck admittedly still loses to Affinity, and Condescend isn’t the answer.

The thing that is great about this deck is his sideboard. Go back and check it out. I had thought of making a transformative sideboard for my own KCI deck, but I couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t seem like a crappy version of Affinity. But using colored critters is the gem that I was missing, transforming it into Sarnia (of a sort, anyway).

This has been mentioned on here before but I’ll stick it in for good measure. If you’re using a crazy sideboard like this, make sure you have it all in sleeves before you start the tourney; that way you can just shuffle your entire board into your deck and remove the cards you want to take out. That way, if you go to a game three, you can do it again and your opponent won’t know if you’ve chosen the combo version or the ridiculous flying beats version.

The reason this sideboard is good is because everyone sides against Affinity, often bringing in upwards of 6-8 cards. Most of the time, a good player won’t hit your lands unless they are trying to keep you off the magic number (that’s four mana); rather they will try to save their artifact destruction for your kill cards. This allows you to play out your threats that their artifact removal can’t deal with, while they hold cards in their hand. They won’t be mounting as much offense in the sideboarded games, since they have to dilute their deck’s threat count to put in so much hate, giving you more time to get out your monsters.

So here is the build I’ve come up with. It has much better game against Affinity than my previous versions, and seems to have more game against basically everything else.

Toy Factory 2

4 Krark-Clan Ironworks

4 Myr Incubator

4 Pentad Prism

4 Talisman of Dominance

4 Serum Visions

4 Thoughtcast

3 Pyroclasm

3 Gifts Ungiven

3 Chrome Mox

2 Trash for Treasure

2 Goblin Charbelcher

2 Fabricate

1 Myr Retriever

1 Fireball

4 Seat of the Synod

4 Vault of Whispers

4 Great Furnace

4 Tree of Tales

3 Ancient Den


2 Electrostatic Bolt

2 Mana Leak

4 Somber Hoverguard

4 Qumulox

3 Broodstar

This build has everything my previous maindeck lacked: a more efficient and reliable combo, and a way to slow down Affinity and take out Disciple. Fireball is a great addition as a one-of since it’s quickly lethal; it helps you get the other cards that you wanted from Gifts Ungiven. This version also has the transformative sideboard to deal with Cranial Extraction and fend through the hate my opponent is sure to side in, and Pyroclasm can sweep your opponent’s board but won’t hurt yours as much. This has gone on a little long so I’m going to keep the matchups section brief.


The most difficult matchup, but it’s better with the addition of Pyroclasm and the E-Bolts. Build up as fast as you can, but make sure that you Pyroclasm *as early as possible.* You can wreck a Frogmite-heavy hand this way, but a Ravager is going to give you problems if you don’t have the bolt. If they have Disciple and you can’t kill it, win with Belcher during their upkeep; you’ll still end up taking some life loss, but not as much as if you try to do it on your turn, and it can allow you to squeeze out a few wins that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

B/G Cloud

This matchup is hard to quantify, since the builds vary so much. If they get the God-hand against you (featuring four-plus artifact destruction spells) you’re probably not going to win game one, but try to keep pushing through the hate. Try to combo out with Ironworks still on the board to protect against Echoing Decay. Cast Pyroclasm ASAP to keep you alive as long as possible; it doesn’t do anything against Kokusho so use it when the using’s good. Use the transformative sideboard and laugh when you smash with a Qumulox four times.

Big Red / Ponza

This matchup is easy, since it’s essentially a race and you have much faster acceleration and win conditions. Your Pyroclasms take care of most of their board, including Hearth Kamis, young Slith Firewalkers and that pumpable dragon guy. Once again, try to combo out during their end step to avoid Flamebreak. You don’t even have to sideboard!

U/G Control

Another difficult matchup. The good news is that they have some dead cards against you in game one (Vedalken Shackles) and that most are running more counterspells over artifact destruction (at least at Virginia States); the bad news is March of the Machines and Echoing Truth. Try to cast Gifts Ungiven during their end step; if they counter it, you get a free turn, and if they don’t you get the cards you need to start forcing them. The transformative sideboard helps a lot here, but try to get out your threats as fast as possible since they’re going to end up targeting your resources.

Tooth and Nail

This is probably your second best matchup. If they are running the Urzatron version, they can T&N on turn four and win with Angel, but this doesn’t happen very often because the Urzatron is inconsistent. If they are running Cloudposts, they are generally too slow to deal with you comboing out.

Anyway, that’s it for this article. Until next time, Belch for 30…

John Matthew Upton

I like back, feed me!

Jmumoo AT yahoo DOT cizzom