Omens, Goblin Shamans, and Hammers

GerryT has spent a ton of time on Modern recently! He has a few choice words for Kiki Control builds as well as some exciting insight and tech into Standard, both present and future!

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Last week I played twenty-eight matches on Magic Online with Prismatic Omen / Scapeshift, 1-2 dropped a PTQ with U/W/R Kiki Control, then “won” a Standard tournament with G/R Devotion. This is what I learned.

Earlier this week, I posted a video of a Daily Event I recorded with the aforementioned Scapeshift deck and it went pretty well. Overall, my record on Magic Online was 21-7, which all things considered, is pretty good. The video was a lot of fun and I definitely recommend watching it if you haven’t, especially if you want to learn a little bit more about the deck.

I like the list I have a lot, and I wouldn’t change anything right now except try to find room for a pair of Wurmcoil Engines in the sideboard as I think those will help the G/B/x matchups.

This article detailed why I would consider playing Scapeshift and specifically, Scapeshift with Prismatic Omen. The short answer is velocity and the fact that having two angles of attack is incredibly powerful.

So far, I’ve lost to Storm, Blue Moon, twice to Jund, once to Pod, Burn, and Naya Zoo. Some of those decks were a little too fast (Storm, Burn, and Zoo), one of those decks had Blood Moon plus a lot of counterspells to protect it, and the other decks (Jund and Pod) were very disruptive and came out on top in some close games.

For the most part, I feel like those problems are fixable if you want them to be, but it’s a question of how much you’re willing to dedicate in order to beat fringe matchups. For example, against Zoo I cast a turn 3 Obstinate Baloth off a Sakura-Tribe Elder and just died to Ghor-Clan Rampager plus Boros Charm. Even with my sideboard card and a good draw, it didn’t help.

Now that I have Relic of Progenitus, Storm is certainly an easier matchup, as is Jund. It doesn’t solve those matchups on its own, but it helps dramatically. Blue Moon is kind of an anomaly, and I’ve since added a third Swan Song, but it isn’t going to get much better unless I invest in some slots for Seal of Primordium. I have no plans of doing that, at least not in large numbers. I could totally see a singleton being reasonable.

The addition of Serum Visions was a big deal–I seemed to forget how much one mana cantrips that look at three cards can do for you. The Extended version got to play Ponder and Preordain, and I wanted to build my deck with zero. I am a fool.

Being able to turn mediocre hands into good ones, find key pieces (like a turn 2 accelerator), and ensure that your good hands stay good even though a Thoughtseize, are all reasons why Serum Visions is great. Additionally, cards like Explore and Serum Visions are fantastic with Oracle of Mul Daya.

I’ve finally gotten the deck to a place I like so now it’s time to move on.

Last Saturday there was a PTQ in Bellevue, WA hosted by Uncle’s Games, which I played in for three rounds. My record was 1-2, and I decided to spend my time brewing more Modern decklists and watching Pokémon Nationals coverage.

I regret nothing.

My weapon of choice was Kiki Control and boy does that deck stink.

Admittedly, I had played very few games going into the event, but I pride myself on both being able to theorize quickly and correctly and/or figure things out after just a handful of games. Most of the things I’ve tuned well have been on little to no testing with a lot of theorizing, such as Dark Depths, Caw-Blade, Delver, Flash, and so on. Obviously playing a ton of games can help, but I feel like there are significant diminishing returns and talking to people does more good in the long run.

In this instance, I wanted the deck to be good (and I think I did a good job at fixing some of the flaws), but it didn’t end up that way. The way the games played out, I could tell the deck was conflicted. It was nearly impossible to gain complete control of a game, and the combo finish didn’t actually bury anyone who was prepared, unlike something like Scapeshift which is actually difficult to disrupt.

So what do I mean by conflicted? Well, for starters we’re a combo-control deck whose combo finish is easily disrupt-able. There are points where you know they have it, they know you have it, and you can basically never cast Kiki-Jiki without opening yourself up to them doing bad things to you. I like using the combo when convenient, but jamming it on turn 5 is basically not a good plan.

To that end, the deck should probably be a little more controlling and use Kiki-Jiki as a Howling Mine via Wall of Omens or as a way to deal the last ten damage via the combo. If that’s the case, then the whole Remand/Mana Leak plus Path to Exile stuff is not very efficient.

I was interested in going down a different path, which would be a more aggressive version with four Snapcaster Mages and four Gitaxian Probes, allowing me to get on the board sooner and to know if I had any free wins with Kiki-Jiki. After loving Serum Visions in Scapeshift, I wanted to try it here as well, potentially instead of the Gitaxian Probes I almost played. However, I didn’t want to alter the deck at the last second. That said, I think that those would help a little going forward.

The main issue I had with the deck despite its overall flimsiness making it feel like a bad everything, was that games were often decided before I had a chance to use all the cards in my hand. Either I won big or (more likely) I lost big, and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Lowering the curve might help, but I think a bigger retooling is in order.

Another issue was that it had a difficult time dealing 20 damage without the combo before my opponent could draw into something to stop me. Vendilion Clique can only do so much and was often horrendous if my opponent had Steam Vents (and therefore Electrolyze) in their deck.

The mana base was also not perfect, although Cavern of Souls was a nice addition. Cantrips would certainly help in that regard, but trying to have WR on turn 1, UUU on turn 4, and RRR on turn 5 was a bit too much. Add in the fact that lands like Celestial Colonnade felt much too slow for Modern, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Jace’s Ingenuity may have compounded some of the problems, but it was a concession to G/B. I am continually shocked by how under-represented that deck is though. Splinter Twin is not nearly as good of a deck as it should be if it’s going to be as heavily represented, but I guess people just like trying to kill other people. That’s certainly a valid option, but I don’t think that’s the best way to do it in Modern.

I would recommend staying away from Kiki Control, but if you find a way to fix the issues I mentioned, feel free to let me know. There’s a reasonable deck that has U/W/R cards, but maybe it just involves Geist of Saint Traft instead of Kiki-Jiki.

As for Standard, I’m pretty happy with green devotion leading into M15. Cards like Chord of Calling and Nissa, Worldwaker are exciting possibilities for the archetype, but I’m going to leave figuring that out to you guys.

On Sunday, there was a Standard charity tournament for Mariah Pagliocco, which I happily attended. I split the Top 4 (and by that I mean we donated the prize money back to Mariah) with G/R Devotion. Switching splashes was something I wanted to try since the Season Two Invitational, and Kent Ketter was kind enough to send me a list.

I changed his deck some, and then changed it again after having some tournament experience under my belt. This is what I think is best:

I moved away from Eidolon of Blossoms. While sweet, it’s another four-drop. I wanted to add Xenagos, the Reveler, and I wanted to lower the curve a bit. Xenagos does the work that Pharika was doing against black devotion, but is a huge threat against control decks. The control plan of “make your land drops, cast some planeswalkers, blow up their Detention Sphere” works wonderfully.

Setessan Tactics is still a bomb. People play creatures in Standard, and you want to kill some of those creatures. Additionally, Mono-Blue Devotion is a difficult matchup without it and it helps against black devotion. I will pretty much always play two maindeck but could see going up to three if you don’t think there will be a lot of control decks.

Gyre Sage was omitted from this list because I wanted to cast four-drops on turn 3 consistently, and Gyre Sage didn’t do that often enough for my tastes. There was also the issue of Gyre Sage not fixing your mana, so I stayed with the tried and true Sylvan Caryatid.

Hammer of Purphoros was Kent’s card and he had two copies. Following a Garruk, Caller of Beasts activation, Hammer can lead to a truly explosive turn. Then again, you’ve just activated a Garruk, so how much trouble are you in? That said, it’s another way to win races and doubles as an effective answer to control decks, so I don’t mind playing one. If you want to keep it “safe,” you can cut the Hammer and a Mana Confluence for an Eidolon of Blossoms and a Forest.

The sideboard is good, but I bet you could find something more relevant than the fourth Nylea’s Disciple or the Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, although Ruric Thar is pretty sweet. I would not remove anything beyond that though.

This deck is still pretty sweet and I wouldn’t mind playing it again. Then again, I might not get a chance to. M15 has the potential to shake things up quite a bit, so I’m expecting Pro Tour Magic 2015 to be rather entertaining.

As for me, I’m back on hiatus as far as real life Magic is concerned, but I’ll definitely be around. I would likely regret missing the Pro Tour in Portland when I’m so close, but the Grand Prix in Portland the next weekend is also an attractive option. Standard is far more interesting to me than team limited, but Josh Cho tells me he’s going to the GP and he’s pretty entertaining. Overall, I’ve got some tough choices to make.

Of course, I could always do both…