Kiki Klothys in Modern
Companion. Wizard’s new take on Commander in non-Commander formats has taken the Modern scene by storm. Just saying that word leaves a bad taste in the mouths of some, while others have flashbacks to the same copy of Mishra’s Bauble being cast and cracked every single turn. Love em or hate em, Companions are the current hotness in Modern as well as in many other formats. Most decks are dipping their toes into the companion stew, and those that don't have had to heavily adjust to the fact that they’re a card behind starting on turn 0.
Some players claim this Modern metagame is the worst they’ve ever seen. I however, see a lot of potential if we simply embrace our new Companion overlords. Today we’re going to be looking at a relatively new spin on a classic archetype that aims to take advantage of one of the lesser played Companions, Obosh the Preypiercer. Let’s look at Gruul Kiki.
So first off, what is Gruul Kiki? At first glance this deck looks a lot like the old Ponza lists from the pre-Ikoria era. Those dirty, filthy, Blood Moon decks that could jam the enchantment turn 2 with the help of their ramp package, then beat you down with some bad Pioneer-level threat like Stormbreath Dragon. Gruul Kiki looks to slot in the newly-enabled instant win combo of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Hyrax Tower Scout. Scout acts exactly like Deceiver Exarch did in the Twin shell, by providing us with a relatively inexpensive threat, combo piece, and synergy provider.
By now I bet you’re wondering, “Where are all the cool 4 drops? Chandra? Bloodbraid? Questing Beast?!” To that I say that: we’re playing Obosh. Please try and keep up. Obosh is one of the stranger Companions, restricting us to only playing odd converted mana costs. If we take a look at the kinds of decks that traditionally want to skip 2s and 4s throughout Magic’s history, we’re led straight to ramp decks that have access to 1 mana acceleration. One of the tricks to building a good Companion deck is to turn the deck building restriction off by playing a strategy that would meet the requirements in something close to the optimal deck build naturally. This style of ramp deck wants to play a 1 drop on turn 1, a 3 drop on turn 2, and either a 5 drop or a 3 drop and a 1 drop on turn 3. But is this restriction worth the trade off? Well, that’s still up in the air at the moment. Having access to a Furnace of Rath effect at all times, as well as starting the game with 8 cards as opposed to 7 has produced some mixed results as compared to running the traditional powerhouses that the deck has access to at the even mana slots, but while all the modern brewers are messing around with new toys, we might as well stick to it.
As far as the other 74 cards are concerned, we are, at the heart, a Gruul Ramp deck. We’re looking to take advantage of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl to put us ahead on mana, then jam some difficult to deal with threats or surprise the opponent with a combo out of nowhere.
Klothys, God of Destiny has been an unexpected all star thus far, giving Lurrus decks fits while providing a substantial attrition-based clock on anyone else. If you’re the type to financially speculate, I might pick up a few of these while they’re still cheap, because this card definitely has the power to go places in multiple formats. Hyrax Tower Scout has also proven to be a legitimate card in a deck full of mana dorks; in the typical case, it’s a 2 mana 3/3 threat that has even more explosive potential. Stacking up Utopia Sprawl s on one land with an Arbor Elf out can basically make Scout a free spell, and it can give us access to certain lines that can result in a true out-of-nowhere combo surprise. Of course, I wouldn’t do the deck justice if I didn’t mention the true pillar of this strategy, Blood Moon and the land destruction package. Arcum's Astrolabe may still be a modern player, but the majority of decks in the format aren’t too keen on getting their lands blown up.
This deck can also pivot extremely well. There have been many times where I've gone for the combo plan, only to have my Scout meet a removal spell, but then I’m able to jam a Glorybringer and copy it with Kiki. This deck utilizes Kiki’s ability more than any other deck I’ve seen in my many years playing Modern. If you like having a better Plan B, C, and D than most opponents you’ll go up against, this deck might be worth a shot.
I’ve spent my time thus far talking up the core of the deck, so now let’s cover all of the flex slots. Having access to Eldritch Evolution to find our combo means we can also add different silver bullets to the deck, and the main core of the deck is strong enough to let us get away with whatever fun pieces we feel like adding too. Some lists choose to run Seasoned Pyromancer, while others forego the combo pieces entirely to run a tighter midrange game with Bonecrusher Giant, Lovestruck Beast, and more Firebolts. The list is really customizable, and you can slot in whatever you feel most comfortable with.
Many of the top decks in the Modern meta aren’t prepared to deal with Gruul Kiki. Its main threats demand quick answers or the opponent will practically lose on resolution, and a lot of them require different answers, which means the opponent’s mana will be stretched very thin. From Klothys to Blood Moon to Glorybringer and the Kiki Combo, this deck has no shortage of ways to close out a game and give the opponent headaches.
Sideboarding against this deck is difficult because you never know what’s coming next. If you’re looking for a new brew to tear up the virtual FNM, or just want a way to remind people that staying home won’t save them from the Blood Moon, I highly recommend taking a peek at what Gruul can do for you.
Tips and Tricks:
- Hyrax Tower Scout and Kitchen Finks are the prime targets for Eldritch Evolution, but it can also be used to turn a mana dork into a Klothys, which is especially useful against control decks.
- Playing Obosh isn’t a huge priority for this deck, and is normally only done when we’re otherwise out of gas. It’s not unreasonable to get to 8 mana and use it to fish for a counterspell either to help push an evolution or Scout through.
- Choke doesn’t do anything against Ad Nauseam decks, but Blood Moon basically wins the game. They might have a bunch of blue mana, but none of them are Islands.
- Kiki can copy things even if it isn’t being used as a combo piece. Kitchen Finks to help stabilize, Reclamation Sage against decks where that’s relevant, Seasoned Pyromancer to help filter your hand, and Glorybringer to double your clock or keep an opponent’s board in check.
- Klothys can become a creature pretty easily, so if you’re playing in paper, don’t forget to keep track of devotion at all times!
- Obosh makes Glorybringer deal a total of 16 damage if exerted, 8 to the creature and 8 to the player. It also doubles the power of a creature you’re having fight with Domri, as well as the damage from your burn spells.
- It’s generally a good idea to fetch up one or two basic forests in the early stages of the game. Very seldom will you need red mana turn one, and not locking yourself under your Blood Moon s is usually the best plan of action.
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