Kiki Pod In Legacy

See if Kiki Pod can make the jump from Modern to Legacy before SCG Open Series: Seattle this weekend by watching Drew Levin play a few matches with it on Magic Online.

Round 1: Death and Taxes

Round 2: BUG Delver

Round 3: Esper Stoneblade

Round 4: U/W/R Miracles

It took you all to help me learn this, but I have two conclusions to draw about this deck.

First, it’s very playable. Any deck that can hold its own against Miracles and BUG Delver can be tuned to beat other things.

Second, at its core this is a better Aluren deck. Let’s start by imagining some low-resource parallels — that is, how much can you do with your “worst” card? I would rather have Deceiver Exarch than Cavern Harpy for instance. I would rather have Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker than Parasitic Strix. Both Exarch and Kiki-Jiki can further the deck’s game plan, create advantages on a stable board, and defend against an advantaged board position better than their Aluren counterparts.

Next, let’s imagine what it’s like to draw your cornerstone card in an average context. For instance, I would rather have Birthing Pod and a random creature from my deck than Aluren and a random creature from my deck. Sometimes (but nowhere close to always) you roll Yahtzee and just have Aluren plus Imperial Recruiter, and that’s game. Many other times you don’t. I’d rather have Birthing Pod in play in all of those situations since I can do more with Fire Imp and Birthing Pod than Dream Stalker and Aluren. Again, one deck interacts with the format far better than the other, and that’s by design.

Fire Imp and Orzhov Pontiff aren’t accidents — they’re concessions to the fact that Legacy is often a very attrition-heavy format. When you’re trying to put together an A + B combo (Aluren plus Imperial Recruiter, Show and Tell plus a thing, Entomb plus Reanimate), you’d better have speed. If you don’t have speed, you better have ways to deal with your opponents playing Magic against you. When your pieces cost three and four mana, you need more than just Force of Will to protect you — while you can probably interact with their turn-one or turn-two play, they’re still going to get a third turn. Not planning for that is pretty loose deckbuilding.

Since we’re planning on playing longer games, I decided to cut cards that didn’t account for that. I knew I disliked Kitchen Finks and Phantasmal Image, so cutting both of those to make room for Imperial Recruiters was easy. Phantasmal Image was always the worst card in the deck, serving only as a way to win the game with a one-drop, a two-drop, a Birthing Pod, and four mana. Problematically, that situation rarely arises in Legacy, as there is a wealth of cheap removal and Wasteland running around to deny us those resource thresholds. Kitchen Finks is just a worse three-drop than Imperial Recruiter, so that was another easy cut. Eternal Witness is a slower Imperial Recruiter, as you can only get what you already found with Witness. With Recruiter you can open up any of a number of decision trees early in the game. Although there is a viable argument to be made for playing an Eternal Witness, I found it worse than all of the deck’s existing three-drops.

Imperial Recruiter is exactly what I wanted in the three-drop slot, an anti-attrition card that gives the deck a clear sideboard plan in several matchups. As a baseline it finds both halves of Deceiver Exarch and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. It finds creatures at every point on the curve, which is valuable for Birthing Pod shenanigans. It even provides a body to Pod away! I’m thrilled that you all managed to find a replacement for some of the looser cards in the decklist, as Imperial Recruiter makes the entire deck more consistent, better in the late game, and capable of attacking more Legacy corner cases. Speaking of which, let’s talk about how the sideboard developed after the addition of Imperial Recruiter.

Since Imperial Recruiter can find very specific types of cards, it made sense to put high impact one-of creatures in my sideboard to find with Recruiter. I thought about which cards would be best in what matchups and came up with the following:

Given this deck’s weakness to Terminus and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Gaddock Teeg is exactly what it needs. It does shut out our own (four-mana noncreature) Birthing Pod, but that’s a small price to pay for cutting an opponent off of their best four cards against us (Terminus; Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Force of Will; and Entreat the Angels). Once you add in Spellskite, the only way they can get out is with two copies of Swords to Plowshares or by naturally drawing a copy of Karakas. In the meantime, they aren’t going to play much Magic, so they should die in short order.

Scavenging Ooze goes in the other direction — whereas Gaddock Teeg is about trying to set up a Prison-style board position where the opponent dies with multiple uncastables in hand, Scavenging Ooze accepts that our opponent is going to cast discard, removal, and inexpensive threats. It just plans on being the last creature standing after a flurry of Disfigures, Abrupt Decays, and Liliana of the Veil. A plan involving a late-game Scavenging Ooze lets us play a rope-a-dope strategy, allowing our opponent punch themselves out against our creatures, trade cards over and over, and start drawing off the tops of our decks. At that point we’ll eventually draw a creature and a Birthing Pod, find Scavenging Ooze, and use our pile of Forests to devour the graveyards and beat them up.

As you can see from the BUG Delver and U/W/R Miracles videos, Scavenging Ooze and Gaddock Teeg performed admirably in their respective roles, and I’m confident that the other creatures would have been similarly influential.

I was not at all impressed with Abrupt Decay. I felt like it often could have come in but never felt that it would be a particularly good card to have. It’s possible that what the deck wants is a few copies of Ancient Grudge to cover Batterskull, Umezawa’s Jitte, Painter’s Servant, Pithing Needle, and Grafdigger’s Cage. Abrupt Decay asks for our single Bayou to be in play, whereas Ancient Grudge asks only for one of our three copies of Taiga. Moving forward, I would recommend cutting Decay for some number of Grudge (either one or two) and finding another one-of to replace the last copy of Decay.

I loved the insurance blanket that Swan Song provided against Miracles, and I would happily play all four again. I wish that I could’ve faced off against a combo deck since their presence in the sideboard is pretty heavily contingent on being effective against Show and Tell and Infernal Tutor, but I liked what I saw. I’ll cautiously recommend them, with the caveat that you should play against combo decks and figure out if the various creatures in the sideboard plus Imperial Recruiter to find them all plus Swan Song is good enough to beat combo decks. If not, feel free to cut into the Phyrexian Revoker count to make room for cards that will win you games against combo.

Overall, the deck performed well. Any deck that can beat Delver and Miracles is worth considering, and there is clearly room for card choices to get better. It may be the case that the deck ultimately doesn’t want Orcish Lumberjack and would rather just have four Birds of Paradise and four Deathrite Shaman, but I’m not giving up on the explosive power of the Lumberjack just yet.

Looking forward to next week, I have a pretty good idea of what I want to write about. As a result, I want to use this week’s comments as a sort of request for proposals.

What Legacy card would you like to see developed into a deck?

I can give you folks multiple choice polls all year, but I’m especially interested in what you want to see happen in this format. I can’t promise that all of them (or even most of them) will be tournament competitive decks, but I’m willing to commit to your ideas no matter how wild. So let’s have them.