(Modern) Kiki-Chord Primer

Kiki’s Back, Tell Your Friends

In a world of shadowy avatars, monstrous Eldrazi, and rituals turning into grapeshots, why would you put your trust in a five mana goblin? Modern is a format where you should put your trust in what you know best, and what I know best is making infinite 3/4 flyers as fast as possible. While the modern format keeps redefining itself, I am going to walk through some updated primers for shells to the ever-changing toolbox that is Kiki-Chord.

During the rise and dominance of Death’s Shadow, many versions of this deck aimed to lock down the opponent’s mana base. For a while, Kiki-Chord attempted to run upwards of eight copies of Blood Moon (Magus of the Moon, Chord of Calling, Eldritch Evolution, you get the picture…) but ran into the problem of loading your deck full of meta-specific “hate” cards. Decks like this fumble and fault when they draw unnecessary copies of these hate cards or just end up paired against a deck that flat out doesn’t care about them. Having two Blood Moons on the field won’t help you when your opponent continues to hard cast Reality Smasher or Thought-Knot Seer, for example, and many Grixis Shadow players have learned to fetch basic swamp early enough to Fatal Push your mana creatures and land an early Death’s Shadow despite your enchantments.

So how do you fight the metagame with Kiki-Chord? Go back to the basics.

This list made Top 8 of a recent German Modern MKM Series.

Nicklas Krull’s Kiki-Chord

Creatures

(28)
Birds of Paradise
Wall of Roots
Voice of Resurgence
Scavenging Ooze
Spellskite
Selfless Spirit
Eternal Witness
Kitchen Finks
Renegade Rallier
Orzhov Pontiff
Reclamation Sage
Aven Mindcensor
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Restoration Angel
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Spells

(10)
Lightning Bolt
Chord of Calling
Eldritch Evolution

Lands

(23)
Gavony Township
Horizon Canopy
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Stomping Ground
Overgrown Tomb
Sacred Foundry
Temple Garden
Breeding Pool
Blood Crypt
Fire-Lit Thicket
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Plains

Sideboard:

(15)
Sin Collector
Izzet Staticaster
Magus of the Moon
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Glen Elendra Archmage
Archangel of Tithes
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Engineered Explosives
Stony Silence
Lightning Helix
Slaughter Games

To Finks or not to Finks? 

Kitchen Finks is an often disputed card in a deck like this. I believe that Finks has its place in the deck when the metagame is full of Jund (or other similarly grindy match-ups) or if there are an excessive amount of aggro decks that aren’t affinity. With the 5 Color Humans deck on the rise, it’s not unreasonable to include a copy, but for now, I would remove the three copies from the list above. The card can be clunky and slow when facing down large threats because it doesn’t trade or mitigate damage. It also is a very mediocre draw against Gifts Storm as it does close to nothing in this match-up.

 

How Many Voices?

Voice of Resurgence was in its prime while Chord decks fought Twin and Jund. While those days are long gone, white/blue-based control decks are coming around the corner and Voice provides early pressure to keep them on the back foot. Voice also allows you to bide your time against Death’s Shadow because of its multiple bodies. I suggest replacing the previously mentioned Kitchen Finks for a full playset of Voice of Resurgence.


Mana Creatures

Four Birds of Paradise?  No question.
I have been moving towards including another one-mana dork recently and Noble Hierarch fills that role perfectly. Lists with two Nobles are also popping up, but those are often focused on the Blood Moon plan. Additionally, Wall of Roots can allow for an explosive start and is a wonder when convoking Chord of Calling. Three is a solid number for lists focused on playing the combo and midrange. When including five one drops, it is possible to shave one Wall of Roots, but when also including Eldritch Evolution, the deck needs a large number of two-mana creatures in order to find the crucial four-mana creatures.


Silver Bullets

This is where knowing the metagame and knowing your deck inside in out will reward you consistently. Right now, the pillars of the format are split between Gifts Storm, Eldrazi Tron, and Death’s Shadow. There is also a large amount of Titan Shift cropping up.  What can we do to fight all these decks while trying to execute our own plan?

Singleton copies. Singleton copies everywhere.


Eidolon of Rhetoric is necessary for the main with the amount of storm that exists now. The card can be played on turn two, avoids lightning bolt, and slows them down a ton. You can maneuver around Eidolon by playing Chord of Calling on your opponent’s turn while playing a creature on your own turn to advance your board. I would also include a copy in the sideboard.

Fulminator Mage works against both Eldrazi Tron and TitanShift. Stifling early lands against Tron can put you ahead against their fast starts, and shooting Valakut, the Molten Pinnacles always feels good. Magus of the Moon should be in the main regardless of the amount of Eldrazi or Shift because of its ability to slow down other greedy mana-base that exist all of modern. Both of these cards can be played or found on turn two of the game with a mana dork or Eldritch Evolution. Aven Mindcensor is also back on the scene to help you stop your opponents from using Expedition Map, Search for Tomorrow, Sylvan Scrying, and Primeval Titan to their full ability.


How to Blow Stuff Up

The KikiChord removal package has wavered over the years, and I believe it is up to your own metagame to fully determine the cards you use. Path to Exile is extremely important against Death’s Shadow and Eldrazi. Lightning Bolt can shoot down early Goblin Electromancers without helping storm get lands early. It can also help you race when you need to turn the corner against other fast combo decks and you are not drawing your own pieces. Fiery Justice made its debut against Death’s Shadow to work on multiple angles. Deal five damage to any of their delve creatures while also attacking their life total to kill or hinder their one drop avatars. It can also be deadly against small aggro decks with plenty of X/1’s. Fiery Justice should be included in your list to let your gain a fast advantage.  Two copies are sufficient. The choice between Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt is your own as they both have their downfalls. I can’t count how many times I’ve pathed a Primeval Titan to only face down an exploding volcano or more big beefy titans.


Where to Now?

With these changes and suggestions, the following list is where I would want to be in the current modern world.

Creatures

(26)
Birds of Paradise
Wall of Roots
Voice of Resurgence
Scavenging Ooze
Spellskite
Eternal Witness
Renegade Rallier
Magus of the Moon
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Reclamation Sage
Aven Mindcensor
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Restoration Angel
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Spells

(11)
Path to Exile
Fiery Justice
Chord of Calling
Eldritch Evolution

Lands

(23)
Gavony Township
Horizon Canopy
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Stomping Ground
Overgrown Tomb
Sacred Foundry
Temple Garden
Breeding Pool
Blood Crypt
Fire-Lit Thicket
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Plains

Sideboard:

(15)
Sin Collector
Izzet Staticaster
Magus of the Moon
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Glen Elendra Archmage
Reveillark
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Reclamation Sage
Engineered Explosives
Stony Silence
Lightning Helix
Slaughter Games

Sideboard Decision

When working with a toolbox deck, the sideboard options are seemingly unlimited so having just 15 slots can be tough. The previous list included a great basis for a sideboard, but I tweaked some options. I removed Archangel of Tithes to include Reveillark. Archangel could be backbreaking in combat, but Reveillark fights against grindy match ups like Death’s Shadow and white/blue-based control. It also provides more of an option to hard-cast than Archangel (triple white, yikes!) Reclamation Sage replaced Sigarda, Host of Herons to provide more fight against affinity, tron, and all decks running those pesky Ensnaring Bridges.  

The rest of the sideboard puts up a fight against the moving parts of modern. Sin Collector and Slaughter Games fight storm, control decks, and other oddball combo decks. Linvala, Keeper of Silence fights against the other chord decks, specifically the Vizier of the Sands/Devoted Druid combo. Engineered Explosives and Lightning Helix attack aggro like Merfolk, Affinity, Humans, Goblins, Elves, and Burn. Izzet Staticaster is an oddball that hurts opposing mana dorks, elves,  and the occasional Lingering Souls. Glen Elendra Archmage is a headache for control, storm, and green/black based midrange strategies.

The beauty of Chord of Calling is the endless possibilities you can play to prepare yourself against the modern metagame as a whole or your own local tournaments. You can attack your opponent by disrupting their plan and advancing your own field, moving towards an explosive combo in the early turns of the game, or even jamming planeswalkers into your deck to combo even more! I suggest Nahiri, the Harbinger alongside the big momma herself; Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but you can settle for making infinite Felidar Guardians with Saheeli Rai.  Or, if you’re feeling really crazy, try out Djeru, With Open Eyes for even maximum jank!

Regardless of your approach, the deck rewards you for knowing the metagame, knowing your outs, and playing good old fashioned interactive Magic with the ability to swarm your opponent with an endless stream of angels.

John McCracken is a freelance writer based in Madison, WI who has an unhealthy obsession with combo decks. He’s had some luck in the past Top 8’ing an SCG Classic back in the days of the unjustly banned Splinter Twin, but now he resorts to finding other ways to make infinite creatures. John can be found discussing music and poetry on twitter @jmcjmc451 when he’s not crying over his Japanese foil playset of Pestermites.

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