Why did I choose Kiki-Pod for this event when I wasn’t super excited about it a bit before?
It turns out when your deck has the range of mana and tutoring that Pod does, you can find answers to everything.
Why Kiki Pod over Melira?
Melira Pod isn’t as broken as Kiki is. Untapping with Pod in Melira means you have to do work and set up multiple turns of activating it to combo most of
the time. Untapping with Pod in Kiki means something terrible is going to happen to your opponent.
Given that this is a deck that is all about tweaking and tuning your entire 75, let’s talk about how I came to this point.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 Wall of Roots
- 1 Tarmogoyf
- 3 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 1 Glen Elendra Archmage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
- 1 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Spellskite
- 2 Deceiver Exarch
- 1 Phantasmal Image
- 3 Restoration Angel
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 1 Izzet Staticaster
- 2 Voice of Resurgence
The decisions I made from here:
The overall goal was to build the list in such a way that doesn’t compromise any of the raw power the deck has always had while minimizing the number of
blanks to draw against the attrition-based matchups of UWR and Jund.
0 Avacyn’s Pilgrim, 0 Deathrite Shaman:
Drawing too many mana creatures is a liability in any matchup where you have to play fair (UWR and Jund mostly). Beyond just drawing a bunch of cards that
don’t play well in combat, Electrolyze being a three for one is a nightmare. There were ten in the Grand Prix: Toronto build and nine in my lists since
then. I’m not sure only eight is completely correct, but the ninth is definitely a negotiable slot that I sacrificed to fit everything else I wanted.
As for Deathrite Shaman, this deck’s curve is high enough that it would often find itself exhausting the supply of lands in graveyards before it got full
use out of its turn-one mana guy. You also only run 7 fetchlands and adding more stretches your manabase and life total. As the 9th mana guy
that hedges against Electrolyze it might be fine, but I would never play multiples.
1 Wall of Roots, 0 Lotus Cobra:
A common scenario in the past was playing Pod with only one activation up and only one-drops in play. Going down a mana would inhibit your ability to combo
the next turn, so being able to Pod a mana guy into another mana guy was important. This comes up less now that the deck has more two and three drops, but
having the option is still important.
As for Lotus Cobra, it has the same issues as Deathrite in terms of running out of mana and also dies to half an Electrolyze. I tried it once and was
1 Qasali Pridemage, 0 Harmonic Sliver:
Pridemage is very close to being part of the shell of the deck, but it is bad enough against Jund and UWR that I’ve put it on the list of considerable
slots once before. Bear + Exalted isn’t bad, but it doesn’t cut it against Tarmogoyfs and Snapcaster Mage. Still, you need some Disenchant effect in the
main for Birthing Pods, Pyromancer Ascensions, stray Expedition Maps and Oblivion Stones, and random garbage like Sword of War and Peace or maindeck
As for Harmonic Sliver, if a 2/2 Exalted is barely a playable body, a 1/1 certainly isn’t making the cut.
Also not technically part of the shell but close to it. I’ve become less and less of a fan of this card against the fair decks as it doesn’t attack or
block Tarmogoyf or Geist of Saint Traft, but it still does important work. You need interaction against Burn/Auras/Splinter Twin, you want to be able to
protect your Pod from opposing Pod players tutoring up a Disenchant, and it plays an important role when you are the combo deck. With Pod in play, this
deck has some of the same power of the twelve-cantrip Legacy combo decks, where it is easily right to play a longer game as they can’t do anything relevant
but you can set up to win around anything. Without Spellskite you are leaning solely on Glen-Elendra Archmage for that role, and that isn’t enough against
two removal spells (they respond to the Persist trigger with the second).
1 Fauna Shaman:
I ended up just trying this card on a whim a while back and she turned out to be awesome. It’s still a fragile bear against the midrange decks, but they
often are required to immediately kill it. At least unlike Chord of Calling it is still early action. Against the less interactive decks, this is just a
fifth Birthing Pod. It’s especially awesome if you want to Avalanche Riders someone as it allows you to repeatedly find Restoration Angels in response to
the Echo trigger.
It’s possible you want two of this card, but it’s not likely this is the case until Jund and UWR fall off the map. Against midrange, running out of things
you want to discard is a real issue, and again it is still just a bear there.
2 Voice of Resurgence, 1 Tarmogoyf:
These are your grindy two-drops against the midrange decks. Voice of Resurgence can be surprisingly mediocre outside of these matchups as you are light on
sacrifice outlets, but it gets cut in sideboarding less often than Kitchen Finks as two drops are more important with Pod than threes.
Tarmogoyf is the card that solved my last major problem with this deck. Against Jund, you often would find yourself unable to profitably interact with
their Raging Ravines or Tarmogoyfs in combat. Getting into a scenario where you are low on life and effectively playing against The Abyss was one of the
easiest ways to lose. I wanted a card that allowed me to immediately kill their Tarmogoyf, but unfortunately those all cost double black (Nekrataal,
Skinrender), five mana and are therefore awkward to tutor for (Shriekmaw), or die to Lightning Bolt (Sower of Temptation, Fiend Hunter, Dungeon Geist).
Notice that only a small number of these can also kill a Deathrite Shaman or Dark Confidant.
Then I remembered something from formats long past.
In Time Spiral Block and the following Standard format, Goyf was one of the defining cards of the format. Many decks struggled to handle a two mana 4/5.
Eventually, the easy answer was found of “Tarmogoyf blocks Tarmogoyf pretty well.”
2007, meet 2013. Tarmogoyf is the perfect card to handle their Goyf and Raging Ravines. If you draw it and they don’t have those, you just beat them down
with it. It plays the important role of “guy that blocks Geist of Saint Traft and doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt”, bringing you to a point post board where
the WUR decks don’t actually have enough removal to answer all of your non-Boltable creatures.
The downside is that you can’t maindeck more than one. Your deck is 31 creatures, 2 planeswalkers, 4 artifacts, and lands. Not all of your opponents will
be stocking their graveyard for you. Elvish Warrior can’t be something you draw on a regular basis game one.
Doesn’t attack, doesn’t trade with Geist of Saint Traft, and you now have a generically good two drop that does both of those things in Voice of
Resurgence. Tutoring up a cantrip is not what you want to be doing, so there isn’t much value to be gained here. It was the best of the worst options for
the slot, but you no longer need it.
I’m OK with sacrificing ground against Living End and Storm in this metagame. Previously, the additional threat of Eggs made it worth having the hate bear
Having the second Exarch opens up kills that involve starting with multiple two drops in play, but more relevantly lets you Pod up from a two drop to a
four drop and still be able to use your two drops to combo off afterwards.
More creatures that are hard to kill for UWR and block Geist well. Previously this was a four-of, but Voice picks up some of the slack here and is better
versus Jund as the token is bigger and doesn’t “die” to Deathrite Shaman.
I hate this card outside the mirror match. It rarely stops anything against Tron and just dies to Izzet Charm or Pyroclasm versus Scapeshift. It is also
another card that dies to half an Electrolyze.
You only really need two, but the card is just good.
Twin hate, mirror match hate, and it’s also shockingly good against Jund. Turning off Deathrite Shaman going late takes away a lot of their ability to
apply a clock or race fliers. Close to a staple, but I can see worlds where I cut it.
I have seen people cutting this card. I board it out against Jund, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. It is your generic combo hate card game one that beats
anything but Twin. It is your generic protection piece game one when you are more set up to combo out the midrange decks and they are lighter on removal.
It does good work and it will take a lot for me to say it is no longer needed.
The last time I played this deck at a Grand Prix, I played four of this card. I now play two and board out one some of the time.
You obviously need this card in your deck and there are times you want to draw it, but drawing multiples is bad. Drawing the first one is usually bad
against the midrange decks as they are full of Bolts for it and attack your mana.
Three could be the right number of this card, but for now I’m OK playing a more conservative mana curve.
0 Eternal Witness, 0 Reveillark:
There are times I want the ability to recur a creature, but Eternal Witness is a bad body that does so in a clunky way and Reveillark is a five-drop. A
Gatherer search failed, but if there is a three or four drop that either brawls on its own or brings the creature back into play someone should bring this
up. Specifically, it needs to be able to re-buy Avalanche Riders, Izzet Staticaster, and Qasali Pridemage.
I never really considered playing this card, but Podding it up seems super cool. Just saying.
0 Vendillion Clique:
Dies to Electrolyze, worse than a specific hate card against any given combo deck. No thanks.
2 Domri Rade:
Oddly enough, it wasn’t Commander columnist Sean McKeown list from last season that brought me to this card. It was Glenn Jones convincing me to try
Brian Kibler Grand Prix: San Diego Naya deck. I played that deck and 4-0’ed a Magic Online Daily Event. It was miserable but Domri Rade beat the crap out
of multiple opponents who showed up with Hallowed Fountains or Jund. Considering I was building to hedge against those matchups with this list and the fact
that Domri is quite reasonable elsewhere, I opted to maindeck two. They aren’t essential, but I wanted them in the 75, they were the best candidate to
“preboard”, and they are another engine to get you going in your non-Pod games.
Andrew Shrout brought it to my attention that I accidentally made a misleading comment prior to the Grand Prix. After 4-0ing the Daily with Naya, I
commented in my last article that it was “The most miserable time I can remember having while winning.” I then played Domri Pod in a Daily the next day and
4-0’ed that as well. The list for Pod went up, the list for Naya didn’t. I apologize if this led people to believe I was saying Pod was a bad deck. My
intent was to rant about Glenn’s deck suggestions, not trick people into ignoring Pod.
You want all six on-color duals. I tried cutting Breeding Pool once and regretted it.
You want two Gavony Townships. You really want more, but you can’t afford to play them. You haven’t truly experienced this deck until you beat someone to
death with Bird of Paradise and Izzet Staticaster.
You want four Grove of the Burnwillows AKA Taiga.
You want two basic lands to fetch. Your life total is very relevant, and you can’t afford to pay three life a turn for your land drop. Forest is the
obvious one, but Plains versus Mountain is more of a debate. Blood Moon is a thing and Plains is better against it, but the reason I went with Plains has
more to do with casting Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks. When the deck had four copies of Kiki-Jiki, fetching a fifth land that made red and didn’t
deal you an extra two was more important, but now casting multiple green and/or white spells in a turn is what matters.
I’m on seven fetchlands, but anywhere from six to eight is reasonable. Arid Mesa is worse than Misty Rainforest as it doesn’t painlessly cast Bird of
Paradise on turn one.
The last two slots are still Rugged Prairies, but this is no longer the slam dunk it once was. Casting Voice of Resurgence off of Rugged Prairie is not a
fun thing to do, especially in the common case of curving mana guy into Voice plus mana guy. With only two copies of Kiki-Jiki, filtering Noble Hierarch
mana to red is also much less relevant. Clifftop Retreat was considered, but I didn’t have time to test how much of an issue the drawback was. Whatever the
land is, it has to make white and red mana, come into play untapped most of the time, and not deal damage to you.
There are around 18 cards I wanted to play competing for these 15 slots.
1 Ethersworn Canonist, 1 Chalice of the Void, 2 Negate:
Your non-Twin combo hate. Negate catches everything from Storm to Tron to Scapeshift, and with the banning of Second Sunrise it is now absolutely better
As for the one Chalice of the Void, I had cut down from the three I played in Toronto to two as I was finding room for the midrange cards in the board,
then finally cut them all together after Second Sunrise and Seething Song were banned. After playing against Storm and Living End a few more times I
decided cutting the hate was not an option. I originally went back to two, but the last addition to the sideboard required I cut back down to one.
For what it is worth, Rule of Law may be better than Chalice. Against Living End, costing zero is less relevant than dodging Ingot Chewer (but Canonist
being tutorable is obviously way more important), and I’m no longer sure I want to board Chalice against Burn as often I’m trying to strand their potential
Smash to Smithereens. Infect is virtually non-existent, and Soul Sisters is already a joke matchup. Rule of Law is also better against Ad Nauseam/Angel’s
Grace, which has been picking up a bit online. The one matchup I would regret losing the Chalice against is Bogles.
1 Ancient Grudge, 0 Creeping Corrosion, 0 Fracturing Gust:
I skimped on Affinity and Bogle hate for this event. I know I can beat those decks without the extra hate, but it’s definitely harder to do so.
Fracturing Gust was my last card out in the deck, and I think it is better than Creeping Corrosion both as an answer to Bogles and because the instant
speed and lifegain are rather large benefits. Grudge got the nod over it as I want exactly one of that card against the mirror, against Tron to snag stray
Oblivion Stones and Expedition Maps, and as a hedge against random Torpor Orbs and Vedalken Shackles.
1 Avalanche Riders, 1 Aven Mindcensor:
These are the ramp combo hate cards.
Avalanche Riders is awesome. I often find myself forgetting to think about whether I can kill them because all I want to do is send people back to the
Stone Age. I almost want a second as it allows you to get the first one at four mana (ie. Curving Birds – Finks – Pod), not pay echo, then still do it
again. Riders is also randomly good against other combo decks (mana screw is a legitimate strategy) and UWR control. I previously had Sowing Salt here, but
you can’t tutor for it and Tron is just as cold to the second Avalanche Riders trigger [Editor’s Note: You leave Karn out of this, Ari].
Aven Mindcensor is terrible outside the mirror (see the above section on it), but the mirror is relevant enough that I want access to the effect. It is
better than another Linvala as it makes Podding into any hate card more reliable.
Burn is a thing. I played it approximately one million times at Grand Prix: San Diego (also known as four). In a deck with Restoration Angel and Clones,
the bigger life swing and bigger body make an already powerful hate card even more insane. It also plays well against the fair decks as lifegain is
relevant against both Jund and UWR, but it is worth considering if the anti-Supreme Verdict clause on Loxodon Hierarch is more important than the
anti-Liliana clause on Obstinate Baloth.
Generic good removal. Great versus Jund for handling their many must answer guys (see: everything but the Kitchen Finks), great in the mirror for handling
Linvala and their attempts to combo, great as another answer against Splinter Twin, and great for just laughing at the hate bears decks and beating the
crap out of them with better creatures. Also great against aggro of any kind, especially Burn.
1 Thrun, the Last Troll, 1 Sigarda, Host of Herons, 2 Tarmogoyf:
Against the other midrange decks, you morph into a midrange deck with all good creatures with just enough left in the tank to play a broken Pod game if
they let you. The additional Goyfs are in the board for when you want them.
Thrun and Sigarda are your top end trumps for this plan. Often times Podding up one of them is as lethal as comboing but safer. UWR rarely beats a Thrun,
and Jund rarely beats Sigarda. I considered Baneslayer Angel and Thundermaw Hellkite for the five drop flier slot, but hexproof is a big deal and
Thundermaw killing Lingering Souls is less relevant when you have Izzet Staticaster.
Combo Kill Chains
For those who didn’t read my last article on this deck or would like a refresher, I believe this covers all the Pod chains leading to infinite tokens via
Kiki-Jiki. I might be missing one, but hopefully it should be derivable from a gamestate generated by one of the others.
Every kill requires a two drop, a four drop, or a Deceiver Exarch in play.
The infinite combo is Kiki-Jiki plus either Deceiver Exarch, Restoration Angel, or Zealous Conscripts. In every case, the trigger of the creature you copy
untaps the Kiki-Jiki, letting you make another copy, which untaps the Kiki, and so on.
One-drop + two-drop + four Pod activations: Pod the two-drop into a Deceiver Exarch, untapping Pod. Pod the one-drop into a Phantasmal Image, copying
Deceiver Exarch, untapping Pod. Pod the Image copying Exarch (which has converted mana cost 3) into a Restoration Angel, blinking the real Exarch to untap
Pod. Pod the Restoration Angel into a Kiki-Jiki, win with Kiki-Exarch.
Two-drop + two-drop + four Pod activations: See above, only instead of the step where you Pod the one-drop into an Image copying Exarch you just turn the
second two-drop into another Deceiver Exarch.
Two-drop + three-drop + three Pod activations: Pod the two-drop to Deceiver Exarch untapping Pod, Pod the three-drop to Restoration Angel, blinking Exarch
and untapping Pod. Pod the Restoration Angel into a Kiki-Jiki, win with Kiki-Exarch.
Two-drop + four-drop + two Pod activations: See two-drop + three-drop, but you can skip the part where the three-drop becomes Restoration Angel.
Four-drop + four-drop + two Pod activations: Pod the first four-drop into a Zealous Conscripts, untapping your own Pod. Pod the second four-drop into a
Kiki-Jiki, win with Kiki- Conscripts.
Four-drop with Persist + two Pod activations: Same as the multiple four-drop kill, only with the second four-drop being the persisted copy of the first.
Three-drop + four-drop + three Pod activations: Pod the four-drop into a Zealous Conscripts untapping Pod, Pod the three-drop into a Restoration Angel
blinking Zealous Conscripts to untap the Pod, Pod the Restoration Angel into a Kiki-Jiki, win with Kiki-Conscripts.
Two-drop + Zealous Conscripts or Deceiver Exarch + three Pod activations: Pod the two-drop into Deceiver Exarch untapping Pod, Pod Deceiver Exarch into a
Restoration Angel blinking the Zealous Conscripts or original Deceiver Exarch untapping Pod, Pod the Restoration Angel into a Kiki-Jiki.
Three-drop + Zealous Conscripts or Deceiver Exarch + two Pod activations: See above, but skip the part where you make a Deceiver Exarch.
Two-drop + two Pod activations one turn + two Pod activations the next: Pod your two drop into a Deceiver Exarch untapping Pod, then Pod the Exarch into a
Persist four-drop. Go off with the Persist four-drop chain the next turn.
Kitchen Finks + one Pod activation one turn + three Pod activations the next: Pod your Kitchen Finks into a Restoration Angel blinking the Kitchen Finks,
then end the turn. The next turn, Pod your Restoration Angel into Zealous Conscripts untapping Pod, Pod your Kitchen Finks into Restoration Angel blinking
Conscripts untapping Pod, then Pod Restoration Angel into a Kiki-Jiki.
I lost one game on Day 1. My opponent played Karn Liberated on turns three, four, and five when he was on the play. I might have won if I had Deceiver
Exarched his land on his third upkeep, and even after the third Karn, I had a three-turn window to rip Kiki-Jiki and a two-turn window to rip Birthing
Pod to win the game as I had Zealous Conscripts.
Zealous Conscripts allowed me to beat someone down with their own Gideon Jura. It also untapped an Izzet Staticaster to kill a Spectral Procession
through an Honor of the Pure and let me take someone’s Snapcaster Mage and Pod it away. That card has a ton of play to it and is one of my favorites
printed in the last couple of years.
- I copied a Reveillark with a Phantasmal Image. Don’t let this happen to you.
Boarding down a Kiki-Jiki and Deceiver Exarch against fair decks (Jund/WUR) is perfectly normal. Spellskite is also bad.
Kitchen Finks is your most common card to board out against combo, but going to less than four guys at the three-drop slot is a risky proposition when your
four drops are your highlight hate cards. Still, Voice as a cheaper card is just better.
Glen Elendra Archmage is negotiable against most non-blue, non-combo decks.
Domri Rade is cuttable, especially the first copy.
This deck is going to have to change a lot. The loss of Phantasmal Image as an answer to Geist of Saint Traft and Linvala is a problem that I’m not sure
how to solve. I’m wishing for a Bone Shredder, but odds are the best I’ll get is Hammerheim Deadeye. Give me a few months and I’ll get back to you,
assuming I’m still interested in playing this deck.
Regardless, this is the best advice I can give to builders/players of any Pod deck moving forward: the trick with this deck is realizing the vast majority
of what happens to you is within your power. You have access to all of the cards you put in your deck almost every game. You put them there so you can find
them and cast them. Figure out what you want to see when you play games, and odds are you can make it happen.