Daily Digest: Pili-Pala Fans, Unite!

While Abzan Company may be the most famous creature combo deck in Modern, it’s far from the only option! Today Ross Merriam highlights a spicy brew featuring Grand Architect and Pili-Pala!

Creature combo has a long, storied history in Modern. From Splinter Twin to Birthing Pod to Abzan Company, the most successful combo decks in Magic’s history have involved creatures. Doing so allows you to pivot into an aggro plan if your opponent overprepares for the combo side at the cost of having a combo that your opponents will naturally be able to interact with via creature removal.

These decks have been powerful enough that two of the three in that list have been banned out of existence. Today’s deck continues this long Modern tradition, with some elements that will be quite familiar and others that will be…less so.

With Grand Architect and Pili-Pala on the battlefield, you can use the Architect to turn the Pili-Pala blue, at which point you tap Pili-Pala for two colorless mana, use that mana to activate Pili-Pala’s ability, and finish the loop in the same state but with a mana of any color in your mana pool. With infinite mana there are plenty of ways you can win the game, but this list employs a particularly elegant option in Chord of Calling.

Once you have established the combo, Chord of Calling can find Spawnsire of Ulamog, at which point you can cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger from your sideboard. That is going to be enough to win 99.99% of games, and Chord more than makes up for the remaining 0.01% by functioning as a tutor for either combo piece when necessary.

Wall of Roots plays well with Chord while also giving you some early defense. Aether Vial completes the mana acceleration component, also insulating you from counterspells. Spellskite and Eternal Witness give you resilience against removal and discard.

There’s plenty to like here, but Aether Vial and Chord of Calling don’t work well together, so I’d prefer to play more mana creatures and then have the versatility to expand the curve away from the cluster on three that is no doubt there to increase the power of Vial. I’d also prefer Blue Sun’s Zenith and Cryptic Command be shaved or cut completely for cheaper forms of interaction. Zenith gives you another way to leverage infinite mana, but outside of that function it is too expensive and poor in multiples.

The name of the game in Modern is speed. You can’t fall behind that often against Affinity, Zoo, and opposing combo decks, so some amount of cheap card filtering like Serum Visions could fit the bill while also letting you dig for a Chord of Calling post-combo. With more creatures in the list, you could also splash white easily and play Gavony Township, which has been the key piece for Abzan Company to support its aggressive backup plan.

This list may be a little rough around the edges, but it’s following a mold with a proven track record in Modern and could reward whoever decides to put the work into refining it.