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Rogue Report: The Deck That Almost Was

 

The PTQ

Two days before last Saturday’s PTQ I was convinced I was going to play a homebrew deck I had made that week. I had barely tested it, but I was convinced some combination of the cards I was playing would win me the tournament that weekend.

Unfortunately the deck didn’t feel ready come Saturday, so I audibled to Affinity and went 2-2 drop.  Man, that deck is boring. I probably feel that way because I’m used to the times of Disciple of the Vault and Skullclamp – that was fun.

Anyway, this is the story of the deck that almost was.

It’s Time for Change

After Grand Prix LA I finally had some breathing room. Zaiem and I had been testing nothing but Martyr for about a month leading up to the event, but we both decided that Martyr probably wasn’t the best deck for the format anymore.  Now I would have time to mess around with other crazy ideas I didn’t have time for earlier.

The first deck on my list was the Protean Hulk deck that was being talked about early in the season. I proxied it up and threw it against a few things in the field. Of course I got the turn two win a couple of times: Chrome Mox, Island, Ideas Unbound, turn two Footsteps of the Goryo on the Hulk you discarded.*  My favorite way to win was on turn two off of their Raven’s Crime.  It even looked like we were beating Mind’s Desire a reasonable amount of time.  I’ll post the list I was using, but it isn’t anything revolutionary, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for a PTQ.

Maindeck – Hulk Breach

 

The deck could be really fun to play, but it didn’t feel right.  For every turn two win, or even turn three win, there were a dozen games where you just never saw a Protean Hulk.  Our win percentage also plummeted against Mind’s Desire once we realized that it doesn’t matter if you Through the Breach in response to Desire. In order to play around Remand I was waiting for Mind’s Desire to go off and use up their mana, then I would Through the Breach. I felt pretty dumb when I realized that I didn’t sacrifice the creature until the end of the turn, so they still went off and killed me.

We had to keep asking ourselves, is this better than Mind’s Desire?  On the positive side, it seemed like it had more room for utility cards.  The problem was that you still have to draw Protean Hulk just like they have to draw Mind’s Desire, and any card you put in your deck that isn’t a relative of Serum Visions makes it harder to draw the Hulk.

While its somewhat easy to force the combo through Faeries, due to the fact that Through the Breach is a five casting cost instant, you still lost to the same card: Stifle.  This combo was also susceptible to graveyard removal, like Relic of Progenitus, and you could even have a hard time against a Seal of Fire, depending on what pieces of the combo you may have inadvertently drawn.

So the deck was shelved, much to my disappointment.

“We need a combo that doesn’t rely on the graveyard or storm,” said Zaiem.

I was thinking about this the next day, trying to remember old combo decks in past standard seasons.  That’s when Tooth and Nail hit me.  I didn’t like the idea of trying to resolve a nine casting cost sorcery, but there was one part of the deck I really liked: Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.  Tooth and Nail tended to grab Kiki-Jiki and Sky Hussar, which created infinite attackers and won immediately.  Then I remembered seeing a Kiki-Jiki deck in extended not too long ago, but it was running Pestermite almost as an accidental combo alongside Kird Ape and Ninja of the Deep Hours.  I thought I saw a version for the current extended, but all I could find was Zeilend Powell’s deck from Grand Prix Philly.

Let’s get Friki

Now I was getting really fired up.  I would get more and more excited as I found better cards for the deck.

Early on I wanted the deck to be kind of midrange, playing good creatures and using Kiki-Jiki for extra advantage, incidentally winning off of Pestermite every so often.  I put in Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf for some early pressure, and threw in Kitchen Finks and Eternal Witness because they worked well with Kiki-Jiki.  It was reminding me of a Standard deck I played once or twice with Birds of Paradise, Kiki-Jiki, and Sword of Fire and Ice.

The first big innovation that came pretty early was Reveillark.  The initial idea was that Reveillark could get back the whole combo – Kiki-Jiki and Pestermite.  Later in the game you just pop off a Reveillark and win. Reveillark also had the added bonus of being pretty amazing with Kiki-Jiki.  Heck, it could even get back Wild Nacatl. Reveillark started to warp the deck.

The card that really started to get things done was Gifts Ungiven.  Suddenly the deck had power.  The standard Gifts was for Reveillark, Kiki-Jiki, Pestermite, and Body Double, “guaranteeing” a win at some point in the future.  There was also Eternal Witness, and you could get creative depending on what you may have already drawn. Pestermite

Rounding out the deck was Sakura-tribe Elder and Wall of Roots, great accelerators that helped you Gifts Ungiven as early as possible.  Mogg Fanatic seemed like a decent fit, and could protect your combo from a Mogg Fanatic.  Kitchen Finks always seemed to be in the deck, and the lifegain was pretty good with a Kiki-Jiki against aggro.

The mana base is tricky, but very few of the spells had more than one colored symbol in their casting cost. That is, except for Kiki-Jiki, so as long as most of your dual lands made red you were fine.

I’ve lost my official version of the deck, but here is how I remember it looking once the dust settled.

Maindeck – Kiki-Jiki gets Friki-Diki : Rough

Some versions ran Tarmogoyf, some ran more Mulldrifters, some ran Sower of Temptation, or Glen Elandra Archmage.  There are so many possibilities!  Extended lets you do mean things with your mana base, but if we want to support casting a 2RRR spell I’m not sure we can afford to play a fifth color. With red and blue being the combo, white being Reveillark, and green being the acceleration, black got the cut.

So what’s next?

Mirror Mirror, on the Wall

I’m still convinced that some form of this deck can be competitive, but I’m not sure which way to take it.You could go aggro with the incidental combo, full out combo, or somewhere in between.  The above list doesn’t really know what it wants, so it looks pretty scattered.

Zeilend’s deck is a good place to start if you want to get aggressive, and I found an updated list of the deck from Zeilend here.  I’m tempted to try Wild Nacatl in that deck, but it does make the mana a lot worse.

I tried a version for a while that was full combo, but it wasn’t very resilient.  You couldn’t beat a Mogg Fanatic on the table unless you had a Saffi, and Saffi was always awkward to cast, and the 2/2 body rarely did anything.

The more I kept working with the deck the more it became a Reveillark deck.  I’m hoping my brain isn’t just stuck in standard because of the Pro Tour Kyoto coverage I was watching over the weekend, but Reveillark has to be powerful enough to be abused in extended.

This is my most recent list, complete with an entirely theoretical sideboard.

Maindeck – Kiki Jiki gets Friki Diki – RW&U

Once I ripped off the black and green band-aid the deck got a lot better.  No longer was I messing around with Tidehollow Scullers I couldn’t cast, or Sakura-tribe Elders that hurt my mana base more than they helped. Now that my mana actually works, I’m wondering if it could be doing more for me.  I’m scared to put in manlands because of Kiki-Jiki’s RRR requirement, but I’m always looking for ways to get more from my lands than just mana.

The big innovation that helped this deck was running Umezawa’s Jitte.  One of the best combos in extended is an equipped Jitte and combat damage. Being able to throw down a Pestermite, Vendilion Clique, or a Venser at the end of the turn, disrupt them a little, then plop down a Jitte and hit them in the face is incredible.

Another thing I borrowed from Zeilend’s deck was Mana Leak. Now that I am running a good chunk of instants its easy to leave mana open on my opponent’s turn.  Mana leak, alongside Glen Elendra Archmage, also lets me protect the combo. Spell Snare is another option that could find its way in the deck someday.

Gifts Ungiven is still amazing.  I recently added one Resurrection so that I can Gifts Ungiven for Resurrection, Body Double, Reveillark, and whatever piece of the combo I don’t have yet, and get Reveillark into play no matter what they give me. Getting the Reveillark into play at that point is so key, and it’s really hard to stop.  I’m close to putting a Duergar Hedge-mage into the maindeck, but I’m not sure if it’s necessary yet.

I’m a little worried that this isn’t abusing Reveillark as much as it could. I’m not entirely familiar with the two-power options in extended, so I could be missing something. Fulminator Mage has always been on my mind, but I can’t find room for it. He could go in over Kitchen Finks, but its impossible to beat aggro without some lifegain. Aven Riftwatcher is much better with Reveillark, but overall Kitchen Finks is the better card.  I’m also a little worried about running too many legends that Kiki-Jiki can’t target, but that hasn’t been much of a problem so far.

Wrath of God might not be the right card for the deck.  It feels kind of out of place, but its been good so far.  Stopping the initial rush of Zoo is very important, and its not so bad when you are left with a Kitchen Finks. Even being able to kill your own Reveillark is relevant. Still, maybe Path to Exile or Lightning Helix is better for the removal role.

Kiki-Jiki is mighty tricksy, so you should know some of the tricks you can do.  The major one is using his ability during the end of turn step. Much like Astral Slide, if you copy a creature during the end of the turn, it doesn’t die until the end of the next turn.  That means you can “go off” during the end of your opponent’s turn and you don’t have to sacrifice the Pestermite copies until the end of your next turn. The most common use of this trick is making copies of Kitchen Finks on the end of their turn so that it can attack on your turn. This trick is very useful on a Sower of Temptation, which lets you attack with the creature you steal, something I think is pretty neat.

I wonder if Greater Gargadon deserves a slot in the deck.  The Body Double, Reveillark, Greater Gargadon combo is here, but I can’t do much with it. Gargadon is also good with Sower of Temptation, and is a good thing to do with Kiki-Jiki copies that are about to die. Overall I think he’s too slow, but I’ll probably test him out sometime in the future. Maybe Kiki-Jiki letting you attack with two 9/7s is enough.

Momentary Blink and Riftwing Cloudskate are other cards that I’ve been thinking about, but they are both so slow.  One Momentary Blink to Gifts Ungiven for is interesting, but I’m not sure it has enough applications to make it worthwhile.

Now that I’m running this many faeries, maybe Spellstutter Sprite and Mutavault are in order? Mistbind Clique sure is pretty amazing with Kiki-Jiki, but its so easy to get blown out by removal without Bitterblossom.

Reflection

I like where this UWR version is going. Now its got proper disruption, some good threats, and isn’t nearly as slow and awkward.  I could see myself playing something like this at a PTQ. If you’ve got any ideas for the deck please let me know, I would really like to see this deck work.  I’m sure there are two-power creatures out there I’m forgetting about.

This format still has some life left.  This is the deck that could be.

Thanks for reading,

Jonathon Loucks
Loucksj at gmail

*If you’re not familiar with the combo, the idea is to get a Protean Hulk to die.  Then you go grab Body Double and Carrion Feeder.  Body Double becomes a Protean Hulk, which you then sacrifice to Carrion Feeder. Now you get to search for more creatures, so you grab a Reveillark and a Mogg Fanatic. Sacrifice the Reveillark to the Carrion feeder, getting back Body Double.  Body Double now becomes Reveillark. Now you Mogg Fanatic your opponent. Then sacrifice the Body Double that is a Reveillark to the Carrion Feeder.  The Reveillark trigger brings back Body Double and Mogg Fanatic. Body Double becomes Reveillark, and you can do it all again.

 

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