The Ultimate #SCGRegionals Guide To Kiki Chord

Jeff Hoogland is one of the most frequently featured faces on The SCG Tour®, and he’s the foremost champion of the most creature-crazy deck in the format! This archetype will undoubtedly be in the fold this weekend at #SCGRegionals, and Jeff wants to help you prepare in full!

The StarCityGames.com Regional Championships, February 6!

I have been working on Kiki Chord since June of last year. For those who are unfamiliar with this archetype, the combo in the Kiki Chord deck is these two lovely creatures:

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker creates a copy of Restoration Angel. That copy blinks Kiki-Jiki, which then creates another Restoration Angel, and we repeat this process until we have enough three-power flying creatures to kill our opponent.

Since I started working on the deck I have played hundreds of matches with dozens of different variations of cards the deck could contain. In the last couple of months I feel like I have really stabilized the archetype to be within ten or so cards that I want to be playing for any given weekend. If you are just interested in seeing what my current decklist looks like, skip to the end of the article. If you would care to learn a bit more about developing the right mindset while playing Kiki Chord instead, read on.

Role Assessment

Something I hear over and over again as the Chord of Calling deck has gotten more popular is that it is “hard to play.” While I agree with this assessment to a degree, when I ask people why they think it is hard to play, I almost always hear the same thing:

“Because you have so many different things you can Chord of Calling for!”

While this is true, knowing what is in the deck to Chord of Calling for is the lowest level of learning when it comes to Kiki Chord.

If you were to ask me what makes the Chord deck hardest to play, I would have to say it is role assessment. (For those who are unfamiliar with what I mean by “role assessment,” there is a fairly famous Magic article called “Who’s the Beatdown” that explains this principle at its most basic level.)

I recently had someone ask me to describe the Chord deck to them and I think I have come up with a fairly apt description of the archetype. Kiki Chord is:

A bad combo deck

A bad aggro deck

A bad “hatebears” deck

A bad control / midrange deck

What I mean when I say Kiki Chord is all of these bad things is that, compared to other Modern decks in these categories, Kiki Chord often falls short. Compared to combo decks like Storm and Ad Nauseam, our combo is slow. Compared to aggressive decks like Burn and Zoo, our clock is slow. Compared to dedicated hatebears decks, our disruption is not fantastic. Compared to one-for-one decks like Jund or Abzan, we do not have enough removal.

But there is power in flexibility, which makes role assessment with Kiki Chord deck a complex question. Unlike the more linear decks in the format, you have to know what you respective role is for every matchup you are playing. Within each of these matchups, you have to be able to recognize how to adjust your current game plan for how a particular game is playing out.

In some matchups role assessment is fairly straightforward. For example, when we are playing against Burn, we are a control deck. Our goal is to stay alive until we can stick a threat to turn the corner and close out the game.

Others seem like they should be straightforward, but are not always. Against dedicated combo decks, for instance, you will generally want a fine line between an aggressive deck and a hatebears deck. You will often have to choose between applying more pressure to close a game out quickly and taking a turn off to add some more disruption to the table.

Ultimately, you need to play out matches with the deck to get a feel for how to play particular matchups. There is no replacement for real experience. Even I still find myself making mistakes now and then in more fringe matchups that I have not played more than once or twice.


Mulliganing in general is an interesting topic. Different people always seem to have different opinions on the subject. For this section I would like to share some of my general thoughts on mulliganing with Kiki Chord.

The first and most basic rule for the deck is simple: if the hand does not do anything before turn 3, it is generally a mulligan. Remember that Modern is a fast format and we are playing a deck where nearly half our spells cost three or more mana.

It would not be a good rule, however, if there were no exceptions. Two exceptions to the “turn 3 rule”:

– I have mulliganed to six cards and am on the play.

– I know my opponent is playing a fair deck containing discard spells.

In general I am pretty liberal with what I will keep against a deck packing one-mana discard. Most times, if a hand contains two or more lands, I will just snap it off against a discard deck. If you mulligan a close seven because it does not curve out well, you could get the best six in the world, only to have it turn to utter garbage when they Thoughtseize you on the first turn of the game.

Another consideration is when you are aware of what deck you are playing against. Because we are playing a toolbox deck, we have a higher-than-average density of high-impact cards. This means that in postboard games I am more likely to mulligan close seven-card hands than I would be if I did not know what I am playing against. The reasoning is that my six will have a better chance to draw a high-impact card than if I was just drawing cards with that seven card hand.

Card Selection

One of the reasons a deck like Kiki Chord is so interesting to work with is how easy it is to customize a bit here and there while still keeping the core idea of the deck the same. I like to break the card selection into three parts: maindeck staples, the rotating selection, and the sideboard selection.

Maindeck Staples

The following cards are the ones I play week in and week out that I do not think you should be Chording without:

4 Birds of Paradise

Always play four Birds. Easily our best turn 1 play regardless of the matchup. Fixes our mana and helps us cast our spells ahead of curve.

3 Wall of Omens

I have played up to four Wall of Omens before but would not consider playing fewer than three. It is important for providing an early blocker and powering out our Chords. People are often hesitant to expend removal on something that drew a card, so Wall of Omens tends to stick around.

Any Restoration Angels you cast while Wall of Omens is in play are also much better.

1 Wall of Roots

Wall of Roots is the best way to accelerate Chords out ahead of schedule, since it can make two mana towards a Chord. Being able to make mana on our turn as well as their turn is also useful in a variety of ways (for example, clearing graveyards with Scavenging Ooze).

I have played just a single copy of Wall of Roots in my Chord builds, but I could see as many as three being appropriate. If you expect the format to be more aggressive, more Walls will be good for both playing defense and casting your spells ahead of curve.

2 Eternal Witness

Often referred to as “Green Snapcaster Mage,” Eternal Witness is one of the most powerful cards in our deck. Two has felt like a sweet spot for me, but I could see playing as many as four if I expected to play against mostly midrange and control mirrors. Witness rebuys Chords, Fetch Lands, removal, and threats that have died.

Eternal Witness also lets us Chord multiple times with a single Chord of Calling over a series of turns. Doing so looks like this:

Step 1: Chord of Calling for Eternal Witness and get back Chord of Calling.

Step 2: Chord of Calling for Restoration Angel, blink Eternal Witness, and get back Chord of Calling.

Step 3: Chord of Calling for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and combo off.

2 Restoration Angel

Effective beater, removal blanker, value creature, combo piece … this card really does it all. Two is the bare minimum, but I think three is the sweet spot. You can play up to four, but doing that means you need to play fewer copies of other cards with converted mana costs of four or more.

1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

For a long time I was an advocate of two Kiki-Jikis. Something I have learned over time is that in the matches where he can get exiled, we generally do not need the combo to win. Because drawing this five-mana triple red-creature can be supremely awkward at times, I think playing just a single copy is correct regardless of the rest of your configuration.

4 Chord of Calling

Best card in the deck. Play four.

4 Path to Exile

Removal is important when we are playing against decks like Affinity and Infect that goldfish a faster kill than we can. Remember, we are often a midrange / control deck. I would always recommend playing four Paths in your maindeck.

The Manabase

After playing a lot of matches with the deck, I am fairly certain we want 23 lands. The manabase I have been playing for a while now looks like:

1 Overgrown Tomb

2 Stomping Ground

1 Temple Garden

1 Sacred Foundry

4 Windswept Heath

4 Wooded Foothills

1 Ghost Quarter

1 Horizon Canopy

1 Raging Ravine

1 Fire-Lit Thicket

2 Razorverge Thicket

2 Forest

1 Mountain

1 Plains

Some short stats of the manabase:

Color breakdown: nineteen green, fourteen red, fourteen white, and nine black sources.

Three utility lands.

Five shocklands, eight fetchlands, four basics, two Scars of Mirrodin lands, and a filter-land.

I have played hundreds (thousands maybe?) of games with the deck at this point and I really feel like this mana base is optimal.

The Rotating Selection

The following is a list of cards I have played in various main and sideboard slots that are all reasonable choices depending on what you expect to be popular / play against:

These creatures are there for hosing the “big mana” decks like G/R Tron, Eldrazi, and Scapeshift. Other cards that fill similar roles that I do not think are worth playing are Avalanche Riders and Magus of the Moon. Avalanche Riders is a lot slower than Fulminator Mage and Magus of the Moon just dies to Pyroclasms and Lightning Bolts in the matchups where it seems reasonable.

These creatures are our enchantment removal. Pridemage handles cards like Torpor Orb, while Sage can kill things like Damping Matrix. I favor playing one of each with the Pridemage in our maindeck because he is a more effective beatdown creature.

Good at cleaning up X/1 creatures while being a total blowout against decks with Lingering Souls. I have also occasionally used the +1/+1 mode to close out a game a turn early.

While these two creatures do not have similar effects, I feel they belong together because they both generate reasonable amounts of value indirectly. Voice is fantastic against both removal- and counter-heavy decks, while Courser provides both virtual and actual card advantage. It is important to remember that if you have Coursers in your deck, you should generally leave your fetchlands uncracked because they can provide a “scry” effect once the top card of your deck is revealed.

Hoses entire strategies, gains life, and beats down. Card is great and I would recommend playing at least two.

The mayor of Value Town. It can return almost all of our creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield. The most important thing to note is that Reveillark has a “leaves play” trigger. This means that if you Restoration Angel your Reveillark, you get to return two creatures from your graveyard to the battlefield.

Eidolon is very good in our matchups that tend to be difficult, like spell-based combo decks. I have been favoring playing a copy of this card in my maindeck, but if you do not expect much Grishoalbrand / Storm / Ad Nauseam, you can skimp on this card.

A great value creature that doubles as removal. The tokens are artifact creatures, extra good in the Affinity matchup for blocking Etched Champion. I have been hard-pressed to lose any game in which I managed to Restoration Angel Pia and Kiran Nalaar.

Welcome to the burn ward. Forge-Tender allows us to turn Chord of Calling into a fairly cheap counterspell for Boros Charms and Pyroclasms alike.

The other three all provide a way for our Chords to gain a reasonable amount of life. Lone Missionary is the lowest-cost option, but Baloth and Thragtusk provide value in other forms outside of their lifegain.

Spellskite is a card I feel a lot of players newer to Modern do not understand. I have seen a lot of people saying this card is “not needed” with the banning of Twin, but this could not be farther from the truth. Spellskite was only an average hate card against Twin while really shining in a variety of other match ups such as Infect and G/W Hexproof. Not to mention, having a way to protect our own combo is valuable as well.

I still like two Spellskites in my list, one main with a second in the sideboard.

Another card that is good against spell-based combo decks while also having utility against the removal- and counter-heavy decks in the format. People often ask about a decent budget replacement for Voice of Resurgence, and while Sin Collector does not provide the same aggressive upside as Voice, it is powerful in similar matchups.

This is a card I always have mixed feelings about. Occasionally I will add a copy to my deck, my opponent will hit exactly what they wanted to find twice in a row while Mindcensor is in play, and I will immediately cut it again. Essentially it is a hate card that has a moderate amount of variance. Use at your own risk.

This card is less good in the wake of Twin being banned, but it still has applications in the mirror and against decks like Grishoalbrand.

This is a card worth playing if you expect a lot of Affinity or Lantern Control. In general Affinity is already a good matchup if you are playing cards like Pontiff and Pia, so I generally do not think a Kataki is something we need.

Another narrow but powerful hate card. Expect to play against Infect more than once and this card will be worth its slot.

This card is interesting and useful at times. On the surface it is good against G/R Tron, but dying to Pyroclasm is a bit of a downside in that matchup. Still, Chording for one of these in response to an Ugin being cast is our best way to not lose on the spot.

If you expect a lot of midrange and control decks, these are two cards that allow you to “go bigger” than what they are playing. That being said, I think the current Modern format is likely a bit too fast for either of these giant creatures.

Sideboard Staples

Just because we are a Chord of Calling deck does not mean that everything in the sideboard needs to be a creature. The following cards make their way in and out of my sideboard at various events:

This card does double duty. It is a hate card for Burn and additional removal against creature-heavy aggro decks. Gaining three points of life can often be the difference between another draw step or not, which is very valuable when you can peel a combo piece and kill them on the spot.

Hate for Tron and Affinity. I rarely leave home without two or three copies in my Modern sideboard.

These cards are great at buying time against aggressive attacking decks.

Your best tool against spell-based combo decks like Scapeshift and Ad Nauseam.

Additional removal. I like this card a lot when decks like Jund and Abzan are popular.

A flexible removal spell. Easily the best card in your sideboard against decks like Merfolk and G/W Hexproof.

Troooooon! We all know what this is for. If enough of us board enough Crumble to Dust, we can make all G/R Tron players regret their life choices.

General Deckbuilding Notes

While my specific deck list varies event to event, there are a few rules I always apply to reach my specific list:

– Play at least 15 creatures that cost two mana or less

– Always play a Naturalize effect maindeck

– Never play more than seven mana creatures

At the end of this primer, there are a few sample decklists.


The following is how I feel Kiki Chord matches up against many of the Tier 1-3 decks in Modern. Remember that there is variance in this game, and even with optimal play you will still lose matches in which I feel Chord is heavily favored, just like you can win matches where I feel we are a large dog. Also keep in mind that it takes a lot of time to know the ins and outs of a given matchup. Practice, practice, practice!

Strong Favorites

Abzan Midrange, Abzan Company, Naya Company

Small Favorites

Affinity, Zoo, Jund, Grixis Control, G/W Hatebears, Soul Sisters


Burn, G/R Tron, Merfolk, Infect, Living End, G/W Hexproof, Lantern Control, Elves, Delver


Mono-Blue Tron, All-In Zoo, Ad Nauseam, Scapeshift, Grishoalbrand, Storm

General Sideboarding Notes

If you came here hoping for a list of cards to take out and put in for particular matchups, you are going to be a bit disappointed. I do not like writing strict guides because it encourages players to turn off their brains while playing. In addition, a guide of that nature becomes useless as soon as your decklist changes by a few cards, so for a deck like Chord, it makes even less sense.

Instead I am going to provide a list of general rules I tend to follow while sideboarding with Kiki Chord.

Never Board Out the Combo / All the Chords

Even if you feel like the combo is too slow or fragile in a given matchup, do not board it out. Unlike many of the combos in Modern, our combo consists of cards that are reasonable outside of killing our opponent instantly. Kiki copying Wall of Omens and Eternal Witness generates serious card advantage and Restoration Angel is a reasonable evasive clock on its own.

Do Not Board Out Too Many Two-Drops

In some matchups, all of our two-drops feel fairly unimpressive. Even with this being the case, it is important that you do not board all of them out. Remember that all of our creatures are effectively ramp spells with Chord of Calling, so if you are not playing creatures out in the early turns, you are not going to be able to cast your Chords in a timely manner.

The card I see people wanting to cut most often is Wall of Omens. I rarely trim more than one copy of this card. While it seems rather unimpressive on its own, it is important to recognize how much better Wall of Omens makes the Restoration Angels you cast later.


Why are you splashing black instead of blue?

There are two reasons I like the black splash more than the blue splash. The first is that the black cards tend to be more proactive rather than reactive. We want to be able to clear the way with cards like Sin Collector, as opposed to waiting for our opponent to react with a card like Glen Elendra Archmage.

The second is that the commit to having black cards in your deck is lower than having blue cards. Cards like Glen Elendra Archmage require you to have blue mana to activate. Sin Collector, on the other hand, you can Chord up and use effectively, and never need a black mana source.

Why no Kitchen Finks?

I had Kitchen Finks in my early builds but I quickly moved away from it. The body it provides is quickly outclassed and its stats are not effective at racing unfair decks. The life it gains is negligible against the burn deck and its three-mana cost means it often gets Skullcracked.

If I want to Chord of Calling for something to gain life, I would much rather find something higher-impact such as Lone Missionary, Obstinate Baloth, or Thragtusk.

The only deck I really like Kitchen Finks against in Modern is the one-drop Zoo deck, but we already have a fairly reasonable matchup against them due to all of our walls that we play.

Why no Gavony Township?

There are a couple of reasons I dislike this card in the Kiki Chord shell. First is that the matches where this effect is good, usually grindy and midrange, we are generally already a favorite to win.

Second is that it is mana-expensive to utilize. The Chord deck is already extremely mana-hungry and we are often able to tap out every turn without having another thing we need to sink mana into.

Why are you not playing card XYZ?

The question you want to ask yourself when looking at new cards to add to a deck is: what problem does this card solve for the deck?

What troublesome matchup does it improve? What card that we are already playing is this better than?

Sample Decklists

This is what I currently consider to be an “optimal” decklist for an unknown / diverse format as we head into #SCGRegionals and #PTOGW this weekend:

I always have folks ask for budget considerations, so while I will not be playing this list myself, we can trim a few of the more expensive cards from the deck and still have something reasonable.

Wrapping Up

What started off as a pet deck of mine has evolved into something that I feel is powerful enough to become a pillar of the Modern format. To date I have played 102 matches with the deck at Competitive REL, and I managed to win a whopping 80 of them.

If you are interested in seeing the deck in action for yourself, you can take a look at my Twitch Page for Magic Online videos. Of course, there’s also The SCG Tour® deck tech I recorded:

If you are looking for a toolbox deck that has reasonable game against most of the popular decks in Modern, then I would highly recommend giving Kiki Chord a try at #SCGRegionals this weekend! Let me know how you do!

The StarCityGames.com Regional Championships, February 6!