Crashing Not Like Hips Or Cars

Three-time SCG Open winner Chris VanMeter tells you about his search to find an awesome Kiora deck for the Standard Open in Somerset, New Jersey this weekend.

Where do we go from here?

The SCG Open Series in Nashville has come and gone, and the winning Mono-Blue Devotion deck had zero cards in it from Born of the Gods.

I’m a little surprised that Mono-Blue Devotion performed as well as it did. I thought that the expected number Bile Blights and Archangel of Thunes would have put people off of it.

G/R Monsters is still good, which is definitely not a surprise, but I’m surprised that Courser of Kruphix was such a hit. I like the card, but after playing with it in G/R Monsters, I decided I didn’t like it in that deck. I had first started with Fanatic of Xenagos, but I was quickly unimpressed since it was never what I wanted it to be. I still believe that Fanatic of Xenagos has the potential to be good, but in a planeswalker-heavy midrange type of deck, I didn’t like him.

Switching to Courser of Kruphix didn’t feel right either. The effect that it gives you is very powerful, but I always just wanted a creature that would be great while attacking and curved a little better, which led me to Kalonian Tusker. I really liked Tusker, and had I not played the Bant Walkers deck with Brian Braun-Duin, I would have been on a stranger build of G/R Monsters. Since BBD did better with Bant than I did, I will defer to him for the article on it, but it was pretty sweet even though it had a couple holes. Kiora, the Crashing Wave was much better than we anticipated, and I really want to try to find the best shell for her.

First off, Kiora’s +1 ability is a great way to protect her while we’re building to her ultimate. A lot of people lamented the fact that she starts out at a measly two loyalty, but taking into account that she only has to hit five to ultimate balances it out. We really only need to protect her for three turns before we get to start releasing the kraken, and removal, counterspells, and blockers are a good way to do just that. Because her +1 prevents combat damage that the target deals and receives, we really don’t want her in an aggro deck, although I could see her being used to shut off something like Archangel of Thune from ever being able to gain life.

Kiora’s -1 ability was seldom used for me last weekend. Since it was so easy to get her to ultimate and the ultimate usually won the game, the only time I was using her -1 was when I had zero chance to protect her or I wanted to ramp into an early Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. If we want to fully take advantage of Kiora’s -1, we need some powerful six-drops or something to channel our mana into.

When we built the Bant Walkers deck, we basically took the U/W Control shell and added Kiora, the Crashing Wave to it, but here I want to start with Kiora and build around her.

One of the faults of the Bant deck was that we had little to no action in the early turns. We want to try to play Kiora onto an empty board as often as we can, and while Azorius offers us Supreme Verdict, I’d rather be playing her on turn 4 instead of after a Verdict cleans everything up.

Even though Kiora is U/G, I think we’re still okay to look into another color to help shore up our early game. Let’s see what options the different color combinations give us.

Black gives us a lot of removal with Doom Blade, Abrupt Decay, Hero’s Downfall, Ultimate Price, Dimir Charm, Bile Blight, and Drown in Sorrow. Some other notable black cards that we would have access to are Thoughtseize, Underworld Connections, Desecration Demon, Reaper of the Wilds, Pack Rat, and Nightveil Specter.

Red gives us some removal options too with Lightning Strike, Magma Jet, Mizzium Mortars, Izzet Charm, and Anger of the Gods. Some other notable red cards that we would have access to are Stormbreath Dragon; Xenagos, the Reveler; Domri Rade; Counterflux; and Izzet Staticaster.

Starting with black, here is a first draft of what we could do.

From playing the Bant Walkers deck, I felt like Kiora was good enough to splash into an already existing deck. Here we’re starting with Kiora and trying to see if she will fit into something akin to the B/G Midrange deck that was around at the end of the last Standard format.

It’s important to note that I omitted Jace, Architect of Thought from this list because he has double blue in his casting cost. If we were to play Jace, we would definitely want more blue sources and wouldn’t be able to play Mutavault.

We still have the control elements of Thoughtseize with removal and Underworld Connections, but we also get to add Kiora to the mix. Nightveil Specter is a great example of a creature that is awesome on offense when we need to be pushing some damage through or trying to generate card advantage and is also good on defense with three toughness that can block all of the two-power creatures. It’s also pretty cute that we can use Kiora’s -1 ability to play an extra land that turn if we happen to have one in hand and hit one with Nightveil Specter’s triggered ability.

Pack Rat can still steal games and is a great threat against Mono-Blue Devotion, which just so happened to win in Nashville. Bile Blight definitely makes it riskier to go all in on Pack Rat than it was before, but as long as you’re cautious, you should be fine.

I feel like the game plan of trying to ultimate Kiora plays right into the plan of kill all of your opponent’s creatures that the base black decks bring to the table.

Being three colors gives us access to some sweet cards out of the sideboard, like Negate for decks with lots of planeswalkers or Sphinx’s Revelation and Unravel the Aether for troublesome enchantments like Thassa, God of the Sea; Xenagos, God of Revels; and Assemble the Legion. We can even play Mistcutter Hydra if we so desire!

I think that Kiora adds a dimension to this style of deck that we haven’t really seen before, and there are even some side effects of her +1 that are all upside (like being able to shut down a Blood Baron of Vizkopa).

I feel like Izzet Charm is extremely underrated right now and that it would fit perfectly into a deck with Kiora as a way to protect her with its two damage mode and a way to push her through with its Spell Pierce mode. Izzet Charm can also counter opposing planeswalkers and Sphinx’s Revelations. Red gives us access to some decent removal too, and I think that a RUG deck would be a perfect fit for Courser of Kruphix. A problem that I foresee with RUG is finding early plays that aren’t completely useless later in the game, not to mention a plethora of awesome four-mana planeswalkers and a lack of a top end outside of Aetherling.

I think that this might be the shell for a "Turbo Aetherling" style of deck.

Here we’re just trying to jam as many threats as possible and eventually stick an Aetherling or ultimate a Kiora. Polukranos, World Eater plays double duty as a huge monster than can end games fairly quickly against control decks and the cleanup crew against the aggro decks.

We’re using Sylvan Caryatid and Kiora’s Follower for acceleration, so rather than trying to lean on Anger of the Gods as a sweeper we’re using Mizzium Mortars and Cyclonic Rift. Being able to use Kiora to accelerate into six mana while Fogging an attack is pretty sweet since we get to overload Mizzium Mortars on the following turn.

Courser of Kruphix is a good way for us to protect Kiora while filtering our draws. Having a 2/4 body is super relevant since the Courser doesn’t die to Bile Blight and can actually attack for some damage when the time comes. In combination with Kiora’s -1, Courser of Kruphix can really help make sure that we’re drawing gas when we’re in danger of flooding out.

I currently have Magma Jet in the list for the scry 2 that we get from it since we aren’t playing any actual card draw, but Lightning Strike could be better since it kills Nightveil Specter. Mizzium Mortars can also kill the troublesome 2/3 flyer, and Kiora can lock a Nightveil Specter down with her +1 if necessary.

We get some pretty spicy options in our sideboard, starting with Izzet Staticaster. Channeling our inn(ovator)er Patrick Chapin, we’re aiming to take advantage of untapping Izzet Staticaster with Kiora’s Follower. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to kill Soldier of the Pantheon with the Staticaster. But we can kill just about everything else from the aggressive white decks, and it’s not that bad against Mono-Blue Devotion. I’m toying with the idea of playing Zhur-Taa Druid over Sylvan Caryatid and just killing our opponents with the damage from it. It would also be a pretty sweet way to pressure planeswalkers, but I’m worried that we need the color fixing from Sylvan Caryatid.

Jace, Memory Adept is very good at killing players who are casting Sphinx’s Revelation and can also provide some card advantage in attrition-heavy matchups. We aren’t hyperaggressive so I don’t like Mistcutter Hydra here, but Counterflux is another great way to stop troublesome spells like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Sphinx’s Revelation.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos is the real deal, and as such I think Domestication’s stock will rise a bit. I expect to see plenty of the Rise of the Eldrazi rarity-shifted reprint over the next few Standard tournaments, especially since it’s also great against Mono-Blue Devotion.

I’m definitely going to be working on trying to find the best Kiora deck this week to play in Somerset, New Jersey at the Standard Open. A lot of Top 8 regulars will be out of town preparing for Pro Tour Born of the Gods, so I’m really hoping for a couple good finishes this weekend to try to gain some ground on the Season One Leaderboard to qualify for the SCG Players’ Championship.

If I can’t find an awesome Kiora deck, I suspect I’ll just be back on G/R Monsters, and I’ll probably have Kalonian Tusker in it to put some pressure on my opponents early.

As for Legacy, I honestly don’t know what to play. I was in love with Reanimator, but this past weekend it just felt like the wrong place to be. There was a lot of Death and Taxes with Spirit of the Labyrinth, which wasn’t very good for Griselbrand and friends. I think maybe it’s time to dust off ol’ faithful Stoneforge Mystic and crash into the red zone with a BBD token.

Kiora is one fly honey, and hopefully we can take her all the way to the top in New Jersey.

"Where Kiora at?"