Welcome back, readers! In my last article, I discussed why I (erroneously) thought that Kiki-Pod would be stronger then Melira Pod at Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Today, I thought it would be a beneficial exercise to analyze why this was a mistake, and take a peek as to why Brian Liu was able to adapt his Kiki-Pod list to be far more consistent and versatile than my own—enough to take down the 4,300 person field at Grand Prix Richmond. Just for reference purposes, I’m going to list my own personal version of Kiki-Pod that I played in Richmond, Jacob Wilson’s Melira Pod that he earned him second place at Valencia, and Brian Liu’s updated Kiki-Pod from Richmond.
Melira Pod (Jacob Wilson)
Kiki Pod (Brian Liu)
Why My Deck was Worse than Wilson’s
One of the interesting statistics about the most recent pro tour is that over 60% of the field was packing some sort of combo that allowed for high rates of degeneracy. Unfortunately, my Kiki list has very few ways of interacting with and disrupting other combo decks. We have Qasali Pridemage, Glen Elendra Archmage, and Linvala, Keeper of Silence in the maindeck, and these are all situational at best. Pridemage and Elendra don’t help in the mirror, and Linvala becomes much worse without being able to shut down Deathrite Shaman. We don’t have any way to interact with our opponents’ hands, and the interaction we do have is all creature-based and can be killed off via removal.
If you didn’t figure it out yet, the answer is this: Thoughtseize. It’s a pretty good Magic card in a field full of combo, and Wilson got to play four copies out of the board to dismantle opposing decks that relied on key cards to function. Sin Collector probably stole a Cryptic Command or two, and Slaughter Pact allowed him to tap out without fear of not having a response to creature-based combos.
In addition to having access to black disruption, the mana in Wilson’s list is far superior to my own. While my list tried to piece together four colors, often dropping to 13 life on turn two to cast Birthing Pod, the Melira Pod deck can run on three colors and utilize Wall of Roots as an efficient blocker against aggressive strategies like Zoo. This lack of pressure on his own mana base allowed the registering of three copies of Gavony Township, which is now rightfully a $4 card. The activations of this land provide Pod the means to win an inevitability war if it needs to, and by running three in a less demanding deck means that you can draw into it more frequently with a lower chance of missing a color or two.
And Why It was Worse than Liu’s
Both Wilson and Liu brought back a combo that I haven’t used since Modern was first created, back when I played Melira Pod: casting Chord of Calling to get one of my favorite Magic cards, Eternal Witness. Witness brings back Chord, so you can Chord again, this time for Restoration Angel, blink Witness, get back Chord…SO MUCH VALUE! Although the Selesnya instant is far too clunky for my build, Wall of Roots provides a large body that can hold the fort and provide two mana towards Chord by itself (tap it for convoke, and add a mana using its ability). In a field of 4,300 people, this level of consistency was undoubtedly a large part of why Brian Liu made it to the endgame. Instead of four copies of “resolving this card pretty much wins you the game,” he gets to play seven. His Pod deck is far more consistent than my own creation, and shows that I still have a lot to learn about deckbuilding.
Another point that I want to touch on is the number of combo pieces in Liu’s maindeck. I played Phantasmal Image due to its utility in allowing us to combo off of a Pod, a 1-drop, a 2-drop, four open mana, and eight life. However, I haven’t used that route to combo for several months, and it was against a new player. Any experienced player will know your combo routes just as well as you, and you can’t expect your opponent to just let you start comboing off a large chain without a response, and the same goes for the second copy of Deceiver Exarch. Neither of these cards efficiently bring the beats on their own, a criticism I made in my last article of Melira and Viscera Seer. Instead, Liu was able to max out on Restoration Angels, and play two copies of Scavenging Ooze in the maindeck, reinforcing the “fair” plan of beating the opponent’s face in when we can’t combo.
Lastly, I want to discuss why Liu’s sideboard choices were better than my own. Although I do not have Liu himself available to provide a sideboarding guide or explanation, I think his choices are very interesting and powerful, even if counterintuitive at first glance. Pod decks are the most creature-heavy main decks in Modern and are known for their utility toolboxes. Pod sideboards often feature several one-ofs, and the deck runs so enough tutors that it can consistently draw them. What’s strange is that there are 10 spells in Liu’s sideboard, and only five are creatures! Although he can’t tutor for these spells at will, they have extremely powerful effects that make it worth diluting the creature count.
Combust is one of the most backbreaking answers to a Splinter Twin combo, and let’s face it: nobody expects an instant-speed response from the 30-creature deck with a Wall of Roots and Grove of the Burnwillows open. Ancient Grudge and Shatterstorm are a bit obvious in how hard they crush Affinity, and Fiery Justice is a Magic card that works absolutely beautifully in this deck when facing opposing creature swarms. Much like how we don’t care about giving the opponent a few life with Grove, it seems fine to completely blow out an opposing board of creatures at the cost of five life to an opponent. After all, you plan on swinging for millions.
And That’s All, Folks
I hope that you guys stuck around for my short break from finance-related articles and found something of use in these two pieces. I know that they’re both a bit late to the party, and for that I apologize. It probably seems counterintuitive to write an article, then have the follow-up piece be “TL;DR: Ignore everything I just said,” but I think that there is always value in analyzing the reasons why we are wrong. That way we can learn for the next time!
My next article will be my personal story from Richmond (don’t worry, you won’t have to read about how I went 1-3). I’ll be discussing some of the finance lessons I learned at the grand prix, as well as my process of selling to the dealers there. Until next time!
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