Everything there is to know about Kiki-Pod

A few weeks ago, Frank Karsten wrote a great article about modern, going over specific tricks that you can be on the lookout for when playing the format. I want to do something similar here, but I’m going to run down the list of every card in my Kiki Pod list, outlining the things you can do with them that may not be the most obvious. I know the deck very well, as I’ve been playing various versions for the last two years, cashing all four Grands Prix I’ve played with it, including Minneapolis last month where I came in 11th.

My list at that event can be found here:
http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/eventcoverage/gpmin14/day2#1

Since that time, I’ve cut:
A chord from the maindeck for a second deceiver.
The kitchen finks, kataki, and eidelon of rhetoric in the sideboard for a third negate, a second fiery justice, and an aven mindcensor.

Very often, my opponents just have no idea what I’m doing until it’s too late, but that’s something that’s easily fixed by learning the kiki pod lists and knowing what we’re capable of.

I’m going to go over the six main combo chains really quick first just because it’s very important to know them if you want to play with or against the deck. Each of them requires a birthing pod, and each activation requirement means either two mana or one mana and two life.

One drop, Two drop, four activations.
Two drop pods into deceiver, trigger untaps pod.
One drop pods into phantasmal image, copies deceiver, untaps pod.
Phantasmal image (now a three drop) pods into restoration angel, which targets deceiver exarch, which untaps pod.
Restoration angel pods into Kiki-Jiki.

Two drop, two drop, four activations. This one requires that you have two deceiver exarchs in your list.
Two drop pods into deceiver, trigger untaps pod.
Two drop pods into deceiver, trigger untaps pod.
Deceiver exarch pods into restoration angel, which targets deceiver exarch, which untaps pod.
Restoration angel pods into Kiki-Jiki.

Two drop, three drop, three activations.
Two drop pods into deceiver, trigger untaps pod.
Three drop pods into restoration angel, which targets deceiver exarch, which untaps pod.
Restoration angel pods into Kiki-Jiki.

Three drop, four drop, three activations .
Four drop pods into conscripts, trigger untaps pod.
Three drop pods into restoration angel, trigger blinks conscripts. Conscripts trigger untaps pod.
Pod angel into Kiki-Jiki, combo off with kiki and conscripts.

Two drop, four drop, two activations.
Two drop pods into deceiver, trigger untaps pod.
Four drop pods into Kiki-Jiki.

Four drop, four drop (or a persist four drop), two activations.
Four drop pods into zealous conscripts, trigger untaps pod.
Four drop pods into Kiki-Jiki.

Now you know! Let’s get through the specific cards.
The Lands
With every nonblack shockland in the deck, you can get all your colors pretty easily. The only shocks you can’t get with each fetch are Sacred Foundry with Misty Rainforest, and Breeding Pool with Arid Mesa. Arid Mesa is actually the better land for the deck since you only need blue mana in about half your games, but you NEED green mana very early every single time, and you often don’t want to take three damage to get it. This is why I play four Misty and only three Mesa. I usually lead with my misty rainforests, saving my arid mesas until I figure out what kind of mana I’ll need late game.
Gavony Township
If we could play 3 copies of this card like Melira pod does, I’m confident that kiki pod would just be the better deck, but we simply can’t afford it.
• Removes counters from your persist creatures. Township plus Glen Elendra is phenomenal against many decks.
• Gives your wall of roots permanent power. The walls get -0/-1 with each activation, so it’s not uncommon to have a bunch of 4/2 walls at the end of the game.
• You often won’t activate this if you believe that your opponent is holding removal against your field of persisted guys. Often it’s better to just play chicken with them until they’re forced to pull the trigger.
• You can activate this with redcap’s trigger on the stack to get the counter first and deal additional damage.

Grove of the Burnwillows
• Very early in each game, you need to make a decision as to whether or not your life total matters. If not, your deck is able to go into high gear, tossing aside life points for land and pod activations. Against decks where it does matter, it’s usually better to spend your first few turns using your groves to give your opponents 2-3 life instead of taking 6ish points yourself.
• Decks where your life almost never matters:
• Storm, UWR control, Tron, living end, infect
• Decks where your life is extremely important:
• Burn, zoo, scapeshift, faeries, hexproof, delver decks, affinity
• Everything else is extremely variable, but in the dark I prefer to give my opponents life instead of shocking myself.

Birds of Paradise / Noble Hierarch
Which do you lead with if you have both in your opening hand? Here are some scenarios:
• If you’re going to play a two drop on turn two, you can also attack with noble, and thus should lead with that.
• If you’re going to play a three drop on turn two and don’t know what your turns will look like after that, you should also be leading with noble. This will make it so that any random attacks will have additional power if you don’t get a chance to cast another one drop for a while.
• If you play a one-drop on turn one, and are planning on playing the other on turn two (say, you’re going to make a wall of roots on turn two and then follow that up with a one-drop), you can lead with a birds, and then play noble and attack in the air. It’s usually guaranteed damage instead of potentially getting blocked on the ground.
• Of course, the big benefit of birds is that they can make red mana. If you have a kiki in your opening hand, and aren’t playing against a deck where you’re afraid of losing an early creature, it’s often best to start with birds so that you can combo as quickly as possible.

Wall of Roots
• Often, you’ll want to use wall to cast spells on your own turn, even if you can get mana elsewhere. Why? Because it lets you also use the mana on your opponent’s turn. If you only have six mana and are holding both a finks and an angel, you can use the wall mana to make your finks, then on your opponent’s turn it will make mana for your angel. This also helps you power out huge chords of calling, since you can make some one-drops with your walls and use all your bodies for the chord.
• If you have multiple walls it’s usually better to focus on exhausting one rather than ticking them down evenly. In the late game, it’s often better to have an 0/5 and an 0/1 than a pair of 0/3s, especially when you’re staring down big tarmogoyfs, oozes, and wild nacatls. Also, it makes it so that an angel blink gives you the most value.
• Don’t forget that you can use your walls right away. If you lead with a one drop, your turn two will often consist of making a wall, then using its mana to make another two drop. Note that the deck’s turn three kill requires this lead off. You make a one drop, then on turn two you make a wall and either another wall and a one drop, or two one drops. Then you play your third land, take 10 damage playing and activating pod four times, and they should be dead.

Deceiver Exarch
• The man that makes all your pod chains possible also can help you hold of some of the scariest threats. Here are my favorite tapdown targets:
• Tron opponent’s lands on their upkeep, especially the turn they’re going to hit full tron
• Opposing birthing pods in the upkeep
• Emrakuls, the turn they’re going to attack
• Creatures with cranial plating on them
• Creatures that have splinter twin being cast on them
• Phantasmal images
• Oblivion stones that you want to get off the board NOW. They almost always have to blow them on the spot
• You can also untap your own lands. The most useful time to do this is when you have seven lands and a Kiki, letting you play and activate both, or when you need a second mana of a color that your lands can only make one of.
• Your exarch trigger can’t be spellskited if you’re untapping one of your own permanents.
• You can always untap your pod even when it’s not part of a long chain. This is especially useful if someone tapped down your pod during your upkeep with their own deceiver / pestermite.
• Sometimes you can keep your opponent off mana multiple turns in a row with deceiver and angel. Starting with a mana creature, and playing deceiver, angel, and kiki on turns two, three, and four is especially brutal, and they’ll likely be far behind even if they’re able to stop your combo.
• Have a path but don’t want to telegraph it? Tap your white land during your turn and then use your deceiver to untap it later.
• Have the ability to make a kiki on your turn, and just drew your deceiver? You have the option to stay in your draw step and cast the exarch, allowing you to tap down your opponent’s land and avoid ever exposing your Kiki to the open mana.
• If you’re trying to combo off with kiki and your opponent tries to kill it, you can flash in exarch and restart the combo with their spell on the stack.

Eternal Witness
• This card is way better in the chord version than it was in the Domri version. If you have six lands and a chord of calling, you can win with just those tools. On your opponent’s end step, chord for witness and get back chord. On the next turn, chord for angel, blink witness, and get back chord. Finally, tap all your creatures to chord for kiki jiki and combo off with it and your angel.
• With so many silver bullet creatures in your deck, it’s not uncommon to exhaust a lot of resources getting one in play only to lose it a few turns later. Witness gives you a second shot with important cards like Archmage or Linvala.

Glen Elendra Archmage
• Chording for archmage to negate something is often a huge blowout.
• Archmage combos especially well with angel or kiki. The ability to get an additional activation at instant speed is invaluable.
• Against the decks where archmage shines, make sure to focus on having multiple blue mana early so that you can play and activate archmage on the same turn, if possible.
• Archmage and pod allow you to pod into conscripts and then kiki jiki.

Kiki-Jiki
• Combos with deceiver, restoration angel, and zealous conscripts. Of these, only conscripts can be stopped by Spellskite, but conscripts also dodges combust. Consider this when you have options.
• If you activate Kiki on an end step, the copy dies at the end of the next turn. This is very useful if you’re going to be blocking, or want to set up a single large attack. If you play kiki while your opponent is tapped out and you can’t combo off, make your copy on your own end step and block with the copy.
• Copies with persist don’t come back to life since they’re tokens, but voice of resurgence copies leave their tokens behind when they fade away on the end step. If you’re grinding your opponent out with kiki, making a voice token every turn is rarely incorrect.
• Kiki’s ability can’t be stopped with Spellskite.
• Don’t forget that you can tap kiki to copy your mana creatures. This is useful with things like glen elendra archmage that have specific mana requirements.

Kitchen Finks
• The most common combo is to pod away finks, resolve the persists, then blink finks with angel. This basically gives you back your finks, but leaves you up an angel, and you can even be up on life once it’s all finished.
• Against skullcrack decks, you want to set up opportune times to blink your finks. Wait until your opponent has cracked their fetchlands or cast other spells.

Linvala
• If you pod away your three drop and your opponent doesn’t respond to the activation, they no longer have an opportunity to activate their abilities. Once Linvala is revealed, they’re locked out. People often fail to float mana or activate things like scavenging ooze in response and get blown out.
• In addition to stopping kiki and splinter twin combos, Linvala also stops mana creatures, scavenging ooze, Spellskite, arcbound ravager, tapping Inkmoth and Blinkmoth for mana once they’re activated, and many more.
• Linvala does not stop you from tapping your creatures for chord of calling.

Murderous Redcap
• Redcap and pod allow you to pod into conscripts and then kiki jiki.
• You can pump redcap’s power with it’s trigger on the stack to deal more damage.
• The persist resolves before pod’s ability does when you activate it. This allows you to kill one-toughness hate bears like mindcensor before searching.

Phantasmal Image
• This is one of the hardest cards to board out of your deck. You want it against decks where you want to copy your opponent’s strong creatures, and also against decks where you need to combo as fast as possible. There are very few times where it’s right to cut, except against the most aggressive decks where your life total does matter.
• If you copy a persist creature, it does persist when it dies and can copy a new creature.
• Copying a harmonic sliver gives you two triggers, since it has two instances of the triggered ability.
• If your only creature in play is a phantasmal image, you have to target it with a restoration angel, even if you choose not to blink it. This kills the image. The only exception is if the image is already an angel, since resto can’t target those.

Qasali Pridemage
• Having a harmonic sliver in your 75 is optional. Having a pridemage is not. You need to be able to kill torpor orb.

Restoration Angel
• Note that angel doesn’t say that it returns the creature to its owner’s control – it always returns it to your control. In 2+ years I’ve had this come up maybe twice.
• Like deceiver, you can hold this back to protect your combo, blinking either piece in response to removal. Also, if you’re playing around Rakdos charm, this is usually your best combo option since it requires the fewest copies to get in for lethal.
• If you blink a wall of roots, you can activate the wall again after it comes back in.
• Often, the best time to make an angel is during combat, either to ambush a creature or to block with someone you intend to blink before damage.
• You can change the target of a spell to Spellskite, and then after pponent e’s ability resolves, blink it and nothing will die.

Scavenging Ooze
• This is often the last creature you want to play, since you want time to fill up the graveyard before playing it.
• If you play it while your opponent is tapped out, you usually want to get it up to 4+ toughness as soon as possible instead of being very conservative with it.
• When given the opportunity to play this against mono red, always activate it on your opponent’s turn. They’ll often skullcrack you then, freeing you to play finkses on your own turn.
• Don’t forget that you can stop Snapcasters, and also stop persist combos out of Melira pod.

Spellskite
• Karsten’s article (http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/frank-analysis-tips-and-tricks-for-modern/ ) already went over this card.
• You can steal arcbound ravager triggers, but those are a “may” effect, so you won’t actually steal the counters from smart players. You’ll just stop the ability.
• You can also block etched champions, and this is likely the only creature you’ll be able to do so with.
• If you have a lot of time, start by setting up with this card to protect your other bullets.

Voice of Resurgence
• When this is in play, your game changes a lot – you’ll want to be playing most of your flash spells on your own turn for value instead of trying to get tricky on their turns.

Zealous Conscripts
• This card alone gives you outs to dozens of situations:
• Steal your opponent’s Linvala, then pod that Linvala into a kiki for the win
• Make a lot of conscripts, and then instead of untapping kiki with the last trigger, steal whatever hate card is holding you back from the win – Platinum angel, ghostly prison, ensnaring bridge, etc.
• Steal your pponent’t pod and get some value
• Steal sacrifice permanents while your opponent can’t use them – viscera seers, expedition maps while they’re tapped out, fetches they tapped for urborg, tectonic edges etc.

Birthing Pod
• We’ve already gone over the chain combos, but the big question is about when to play your pod and when to wait.
• Whether you lead with kitchen finks / other creature instead of pod with every matchup:
• Against control decks you’ll take any opportunity to get down a pod. Try and play around counters as much as possible, but it’s almost always worth the loss in combat damage to play it on turn two over a finks. It also avoids exposing you to sweepers as much as possible.
• Against Thoughtseize decks you can’t usually afford to lose your pod from your hand. It also helps that most of those decks don’t really run many pulses, and they often have to spend their entire turn killing your pod if they can.
• Against most other decks you want to play your finks / other creatures first, waiting to play pod until you can use it.
• The big exception is the pod mirror, because if you lead with yours and they play their own with enough mana to kill yours, you’re in big trouble. The tension comes from the fact that those decks often also run Thoughtseize, so there’s a big risk in holding it back as well. The best option is usually to just hold pod until you can activate it for real value, either killing one of their creatures or making a threat that’s important in the matchup like Linvala.
• Don’t forget that if you play a creature with an ETB effect, you opponent has an opportunity to respond to that before you can activate pod. Keep that in mind when you’re figuring out your sequencing.

Chord of Calling
• Most of the tricks have been covered earlier, but don’t forget that your opponent doesn’t get a chance to respond to things like Linvala once you’ve revealed them.
• Also don’t forget that you get a creature with mana cost X or less. It’s sometimes correct to chord for four or five even if you’re going for something less if you think your opponent is not aware of this. I’ve definitely chorded for five in order to get a Linvala in play, and my opponent has been unable to do anything about it.

Ancient Grudge
• I like bringing this in against pod in addition to the other mana creatures. It’s only a single slot, and it will usually shut down all their pods for the whole game if you draw it.
• I also like this against RG tron. Being able to spike an oblivion stone or take out a torpor orb is a big deal.

Avalanche Riders
• Blink this guy with your angel with its upkeep trigger on the stack
• If you’re dedicating two slots to LD, I think Sowing Salt is better, but with only a single slot for it, the ability to search it up is too important.
• In addition to bringing this in against tron and scapeshift, I also like it against control, since taking out a colonnade can be a huge hit. Bursting it out on turn three is also a huge setback.

Combust
• This can’t be stolen by Spellskite.
• I like bringing it in against kiki pod because it takes out Linvala and 2/3s of the combos. It’s important to have a lot of reactive cards for the mirror because the deck often has to commit a lot to the combo, and spiking them while they’re tapped out makes it easy for you to drive out a win.

Fiery Justice
• I was hesitant to replace my deck’s pinger slot with this card early on, but it over performed in a big way at GP Minneapolis. Against hate bears I was able to take out a Thalia, an Aven Mindcensor, and a Leonin Arbiter in one shot. Against David Ochoa I killed a wall of roots, an eternal witness, an orzhov pontiff, and a token from voice of resurgence. I won those games.
• I think we want one copy of this against jund because it can kill a Liliana in addition to another small threat. We want it against pod, affinity, tokens, hate bears, delver decks, and anything else where you can reliably kill 2-3 guys. It’s a big blowout.

Harmonic Sliver
• Copying a harmonic sliver gives you two triggers, since it has two instances of the triggered ability. This is relevant with both kiki and phantasmal image. If you want a REALLY big blowout, wait until your opponent’s end step to make a copy and kill two things. Then, when you untap, you can make another copy and get THREE more triggers.
• Note that this also applies to your opponent’s slivers. If your pod opponent has a sliver, you get two disenchants. If you have your own pod, you want to target your opponent’s card with both triggers.

Negate
• When you have a negate in your hand, you’re basically keeping it up for the rest of the game. This is much easier to do when you have a wall of roots since it’s available to make mana for both your turn and theirs. When I have negate in my deck, and I’ve got an angel in my hand, I’m more inclined to play my sorcery speed threats early so that when I do have a negate, I’m able to keep up both negate and my threats.

Path to Exile
• I like this against twin, pod, and tarmogoyf decks.

Sigarda
• The main reason I like this card is that the deck is short on 5 drops that are good on their own. Neither conscripts or kiki is going to help you beat grindy, removal-heavy matchups on their own, and this is basically the best possible thing you can get.
• It’s also good against living end, since they can’t kill it and it makes living end half as good.

Thrun
• HOLD HIM until you can regenerate him and it’s tough to lose against control. He’s also decent against jund, but not spectacular. He’s mostly just great at playing defense against them.

Aven Mindcensor
• If you’re going to play this against pod in response to them podding away a redcap, wait until after the persist trigger resolves! People flash it in too early all the time and it just dies right away.

Some cards I’m not currently playing, either because I’ve recently cut them, or I don’t have room, or because I think they’re bad:
Eidelon of Rhetoric
• I’m not 100% sold that he’s better than canonist. Against storm I think he is, but being able to chord for this effect against other combo decks in the middle of their key turn is huge blowout. Playing it against ad nauseam, living end, or another combo deck means a huge loss of resources for them.
• I also like this against burn and infect because it can slow them down quite a bit.
• I’m currently not playing this card because storm isn’t very popular in paper magic. On MTGO the deck is quite popular, and it’s probably necessary. I have replaced it with a negate to gain some ground against scapeshift.

Kataki
• You usually want to wait so that your opponent is not able to just shock your kataki before they have to pay. A lot of people are playing gut shot these days, which makes it a little tougher, but he’s still a big deal.
• I replaced this card with a second fiery justice after the GP because kataki was both narrow and fragile. It’s really good when you have it very early, but it often just kills one permanent and then dies.

Domri Rade
• I played this card over chord of calling for a long time. Against fair decks like jund, UWR control, or animal decks, he’s wayyyyyy better, but he’s worse in basically every combo matchup. If your metagame is heavy on control, I’d make the switch, but the other fair decks are usually good enough matchups that I’d rather hedge with chord.

Shatterstorm / Creeping Corrosion / Fracturing Gust
• I try to avoid cards that are only good in one matchup unless I can tutor them up. These are huge blowouts, but I’d only consider them if affinity is 15% or more of your metagame.

Sowing Salt
• Incredible against tron, fine against scapeshift. If I wanted to dedicate two slots to this effect, I’d for sure play two sowing salt, but since I’m only playing one I’m sticking with avalanche riders. Being able to find it and blink it with angels or copy it with phantasmal image goes a long way.

Izzet Staticaster
• I have honestly never liked this card. BW tokens decks play more creatures that aren’t tokens these days, Melira pod is aready a good matchup, and you often can’t kill a birds of paradise without losing your own. I make the switch to fiery justice and I haven’t looked back.
Magus of the Moon
• I think this card is garbage. Most of the decks that it seems conceptually decent against can kill it with red mana. The pod decks can redcap it (and they have a ton of mana creatures to get around the effect, AND can play and activate pod through it), tron can pyroclasm it, scapeshift has a ton of ways to kill it, jund can bolt, dismember, or slaughter pact it, most of the control decks play bolt, etc. etc. etc. I think you’ll very occasionally just “get” someone with it, but I’d rather play as few cards as possible that don’t give me any value before they die.
Sideboarding:
Here’s my current sideboard:
1 Ancient Grudge – Affinity, RG Tron, Blue Tron, Mono Green Infect
1 Avalanche Riders – Control, Tron, Scapeshift
1 Combust – Kiki pod, twin, delver, UW aggro, merfolk, hate bears / soul sisters
2 Fiery Justice – Hate bears, soul sisters, merfolk, delver, affinity, infect, Melira pod, kiki pod, zoo, and I like one against jund
1 Harmonic Sliver – Affinity, tron, pod, storm, burn (they always have a hate artifact, but sadly it’s usually torpor orb), twin, boggles
3 Negate – Control, storm, scapeshift, burn, tron, living end, basically every spell-based combo
3 Path to Exile – Pod, infect, twin, jund, zoo, merfolk, affinity, hate bears, soul sisters
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons – Jund, junk, control, living end
1 Thrun, the Last Troll – Jund, control
1 Aven Mindcensor – Pod, tron, scapeshift, gifts
General boarding-out strategy:
Against decks where your life total isn’t super relevant, you can often cut down to one finks. I usually like leaving at least one of those and one voice, just because they’re solid value slots.
Against decks where I’m grinding them out and unlikely to combo, like control or jund, I cut down on chords, usually shave a wall of roots, and reduce the combo guys – usually cutting one deceiver and one kiki, along with Spellskite.
Against combo decks I often leave out redcap, finks, and other value guys.
Be aware of your mana curve. You want to make sure you’re leaving a few guys in at each mana cost so that you can be sure to have something to pod into. When I’m boarding in thrun and Sigarda, I’m more likely to cut a four drop like Linvala, and either redcap in the control matchups and archmage in the grindy creature matchups.

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