Sunday, 17 August 2014

5-2 @ PTQ Manchester

After going 6-3 with Kiki Pod at the Milton Keynes PTQ I noticed a few things which kept bothering me:
- The Metagame (at least in the UK) is full of combo hate, forcing me to sideboard out Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in games 2 and 3 against GRx, Twin, UWR, Melira Pod and Affinity. At the same time these decks take up most of the meta.
- Other than disrupting the combo, most of the decks are rather fast at executing their gameplan and drawing a Kiki Jiki early means it's a dead card most of the time. Ultimately the plan is to assemble 3 red mana quickly anyway, so if it gets drawn later on it can be a topdeck game over.

Because of the above I decided to make some updates to the Kiki Pod list which I think may work in this metagame. A major change to the stock lists has been cutting down to just a single copy of Kiki Jiki in the deck - why play 2 if it's being moved out most of the time anyway? Clearly we don't want 2 in all those match ups.

The deck:
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Arid Mesa
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Gavony Township
2 Forest
1 Plains
1 Island
1 Temple Garden
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Stomping Ground
1 Steam Vents

4 Birds of Paradise
3 Noble Hierarch
2 Wall of Roots
2 Voice of Resurgence
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Spellskite
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Phantasmal Image
2 Deceiver Exarch
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Eternal Witness
3 Restoration Angel
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Zealous Conscripts

4 Birthing Pod
2 Chord of Calling

2 Path to Exile
2 Combust
2 Negate
1 Thragtusk
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Avalanche Riders
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

One thing I have always been missing in all Kiki Pod related articles has been a definitive list of what can you go off from. Of course if you have an Exarch and a 4 drop you get Kiki, or if you have an Exarch and a 1 drop you go off by getting Phantasmal Image, into Angel, into Kiki. But what I'm talking about is a table which identifies exactly what is required and how many steps you need (ie. how much life or mana it will cost you). So in my preparation for the PTQs this is what I made:


We Have (CC)
Chain Sequence
4CC Persist
4 into Conscript
4 into Kiki
1 + 1

1 + 2
2 into Exarch
1 into Image
Image Image into Angel
Angel into Kiki
1 + Exarch
1 into Image
Image into Angel
Angel into Kiki
1 + 3 (non-Exarch)

1 + 4 (non-Persist 4)

2 + 2
2 into Exarch
2 into Exarch
Exarch into Angel
Angel into Kiki
2 + Exarch
2 into Exarch
Exarch into Angel
Angel into Kiki
2 + 3 (non-Exarch)
2 Into Exarch
3 into Angel
Angel into Kiki
2 + 4
2 into Exarch
4 into Kiki
3 + Exarch
3 into Angel
Angel into Kiki
3 + 3 (Non Exarch)

3 + 4
4 into Conscripts
3 into Angel
Angel into Kiki
4 + 4 (Angel)
4 into Kiki
4 + 4 (Non Angel)
4 into Conscripts
4 into Kiki

To explain:
- CMC column means we have for example a 1 drop and a 4 drop, or a 2 drop and a Deceiver Exarch.
- Steps column tells us how many times we have to Pod in the turn to be able to go off
- Chain sequence tells us what we do to go off. Whenever podding into Exarch or Conscripts is mentioned it implies that the Exarch/Conscripts then untaps the Pod. Whenever Podding into Angel appears it means it blinks the Exarch, in turn untapping the Pod again.

You can go off over a number of turns, but this explains what you need with your Pod to go off exactly THIS turn.

It also gives you information which you can memorise and not waste time thinking about it during the game:
3+3 (Non Exarchs) CAN'T GO OFF
Neither can 1+1, 1+3 (Non Exarch) or 1+4.
What that means is that you have an option to go off in every other situation if you have 2 creatures. That's cool to know!

The reason for playing 2 copies of Exarch is so that this chain is still viable after your first Exarch died by making your 2 drop into a 4 drop when you needed it early in the game.


Round 1: 0-2 vs Jund
Game 1: I was on the draw with a hand containing 1 Fetch, Birds of Paradise, Pod and I believe Finks, Angel and another card. I got Thoughtseized, taking the Birds, top decked another Birds and never found a 2nd land.
Game 2: I got useless 7, went to 6 containing Noble Hierarch, Birds, Pod, Angel, Finks, Hallowed Fountain and Sacred Foundry. I thought about keeping it, but on the play I have no action turns 1 and 2 and I figured with 16 green sources I have about 30% to get a green on T2 and about 50% by T3, meaning that I am not very likely to play Birds or Noble and the rest might be too late... I took a Mulligan to find a hand of 5 with no lands. Went to 4 to get 3 lands and Birds and get flooded out.

Variance happens, moving on.

Round 2: 2-0 vs Affinity
Game 1: I was on the draw again with a decent keep. Opponent opens with Land into Vault Skirge and Mox Opal, so not too scary. I go Fetch Forest, Birds. T2 I get hit by Skirge and Ornithopter gets added to the board with another land. I played T2 Pod. T3 opponent gets a Cranial Plating and starts heavy beating. I get a 2 drop which gets Podded straight into Redcap, killing the Skirge. Plating goes on the Ornithopter, but leaves me on 2 life, so I fetch down to 1 and Pod Redcap into combo.
Game 2: It played out similarly, except this time I wasn't able to go off straight from Redcap because of mana constraints, so I Podded into Kiki who then created a Birds Token to block a flying Cranial Plating. Opponent destroyed my Pod, but I had an Angel in hand from the start.


Round 3: 2-1 vs Kiki Pod
Game 1: I opened with Birds into Wall of Roots against Birds into Fiend Hunter taking Wall of Roots. I then had Kitchen Finks and wanted to gain life with Angel only for him to Angel bounce his Fiend Hunter to take away my Angel instead. My Redcap killed his Birds and he was left with no 1 or 2 drops, just Angel and Fiend Hunter. He then could have gone off with Angel->Conscript, Fiend->Angel->Kiki but it seem he missed it, instead opting to get just Kiki Jiki and copying Fiend Hunter to EoT to take away my Redcap for the next turn (it doesn't make sense, as Redcap will come back end of my Turn and kill Kiki...), but I untapped and played a Zealous Conscripts to steal his Kiki and win the game this way.
Game 2: This was a crazy game where I drew 2 Paths to Exile, got rid of Linvala, then he started a Pod Chain into Kiki which I stopped with my 2nd Path, I drew a Pod, made a chain into combo which he stopped with his Path and then he re-comboed from there without me having any response.
Game 3: I flooded the board with 2 Noble Hierarchs, Birds, Wall of Roots, other little stuff and played a Gavony Township for a turn 4 surrender. 


Round 4: 2-1 vs Jund
Game 1: I again went second (4th time), but managed to get early action with Birds, then tapped his Land with an Exarch to gain tempo and deny T3 Liliana, killed his T2 Dark Confidant with my T3 Redcap and added Thrun to the board for beatdown win.
Game 2: I drew a 7 with 1 land, 2 Birds, Nole Hierarch, Pod and 2 other non-land cards. I missed a land draw, played Birds which got bolted. T2 he got a Dark Confidant, I played a Bird number 2 and on his turn it got bolted again. T3 I missed a land again, played a Noble Hierarch only to get a Slaughter Pact on it. When I finally got a land I played a Voice of Resurgence which was killed by Liliana.
Game 3: Turn 2 Pod, he plays T2 Confidant, my Turn 3 I play Witness, returning a Fetch to hand, fetching for a land and Podding Witness into Redcap to kill Confidant. T3 he plays a Goyf and a tapped land, meaning that I win unless he has a Slaughter Pact... after thinking about what happens if I don't combo and where that leaves me I decide it's best to try the combo.


Round 5: 2-0 vs Kiki Pod
Before this match I heard Joao just lost to a Kiki Pod (he was on 2-1, so the opponent will be on 3-1 too). When describing the match to me he mentioned the "she did xyz". When I saw my opponent was a girl I looked around and I felt fairly certain I'm playing vs Kiki Pod and because of that I decided to keep a hand that would be tough to keep on the play in other match ups:
Game 1: I was on the play with 1 land, Birds and Wall of Roots, Linvala, Thrun, Chord of Calling and Restoration Angel. Given it's probably Kiki Pod that's an easy keep. I was right and quickly made it into combo-safety of Linvala. Later got Spellskite, Resto and when the time was right I Chorded for Kiki Jiki with Spellskite backup (some Kiki lists play removal maindeck...)
Game 2: I started with T2 voice, T4 Linvala, then went into a creature heavy match (6+ on each side) with no Pods, featuring a 6/6 Voice Toke, Linvala, double-exalted Birds of Paradise beatdown and other slow grindy creatures. I managed to overcome it thanks to the Token. Had a Combust in hand all game as a safety measure.


Round 6: 2-1 vs Kiki Pod (How many Kiki Pods can you play in a day?!?!)
Game 1: I got a quick Pod and a lot of mana and opponent conceeded on his T3.
Game 2: I managed to get Linvala out on T3, but my opponent had a perfect hand which let him to Path Linvala end of my T4, then cast a Restoration Angel still EoT and hardcast Kiki Jiki his turn. Nothing I could do.
Game 3: Kiki Pod sometimes suffers to coloured mana issues (there's a reason very few cards have double mana symbols in them...) and I exploited this by playing T3 Avalanche Riders, then T4 Restoration Angel in response to Echo and a couple of turns later top decked Kiki Jiki.


Round 7: 0-2 vs BG Rock
Game 1: Opponent had it all... Dark Confidant into Liliana into... 3 Tarmogoyfs by T6 or something silly like that.
Game 2: I drew a discard-proof hand of 2 pods and 5 lands on the play, kept it. Then I got Keranos. T3 opponent plays Liliana, I discard 1 Pod, play Pod T4 which gets Mealstrom Pulsed, I play Keranos T5 with a third Pod and a Redcap in hand... feeling good about this, as there's no pressure from my opponent. Liliana ticks up and I... discard the Redcap, even though there is Grafdigger's Cage in play... so I completely missed the fact that it was played a few turns earlier and it was just lying there on the side. I should have discarded Pod, then Keranos + Redcap would have killed Liliana. Instead I discard Redcap, play Pod. Opponent with 0 cards top decks a Dark Confidant. I reveal a land and draw a Wall of Roots which I quickly play and Pod into Izzet Staticaster to kill the Dark Confidant, only to be stopped by a Judge standing next to the table (even my opponent missed that Cage) and get a warning. Opponent topdecks a 6/7 Tarmogoyf and a Scavenging Ooze. I reveal a Kiki Jiki, bolting Confidant, play Kiki and... die.

5-2 drop (had to run for a train and without contention for top 8 I didn't want to pay for a hotel for the night).


Future changes to the deck:
BGx is a major played in the metagame and seems to be the 'bad guy' one has to beat to be able to get anywhere, so I think it's fair to say it's time to drop the mana curve down, as with the amount of spot Removal, BGr gets to kill mana dorks and build advantage over time. I think Richmond GP winning list could win because meta was heavy in Melira, Zoo and other non-rock decks, making it easier for mana dorks to stay around and accelerate. Because of that stuff to consider:
- Adding Domri Rade in place of Chords.
Chords come out on the draw in almost every game and are kept on the play and 2 Walls of Roots (unlike 3 in the Richmond GP winning deck) Chords are just not as good. Domri acts as card advantage against everything and as situational removal against annoying stuff like Confidants. Besides, the ultimate just means game over.

I noticed Jacob Wilson played 2 Redcaps in his PT BNG deck and I think this is an option. 2nd Redcap instead of 3rd Angel. Possibly moving the Angel into the Sideboard?

Kitchen Finks are mediocre in this deck and since the mana curve is still a bit high, I think 4th Noble Hierarch should take that place. This is especially given how much Jund likes to use bolts on the mana creatures.

Three sideboard cards that didn't perform well are Thragtusk (too slow and not enough impact), Obstinate Baloth (only advantage is having it in hand at the right time and it just happens too rarely) and Linvala (it's too rare you need a 2nd one, as by that time you can probably assemble the combo yourself). I think switching that to 1x Ancient Grudge, 1x Shatterstorm and 1x Fiery Justice would make sense. I got rid of the above 3 because the Staticaster and Redcap have proven to be great against Affinity, but having more hate there will improve the match a lot.

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