In my last article I took a broad look at a variety of Amonkhet cards that could have varying impacts on the Modern format. Today I would like to focus on one specific card from this set and take a look at a few different ways it could end up fitting into the format. The card we are looking at is this beauty:
Alongside Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Combat Celebrant can generate an unlimited number of 4/1 creatures and combat steps. This means unless our opponent has a creature that has protection from red or first strike we will eventually beat them down. While creatures that create infinite combos with Kiki-Jiki are nothing new in Modern, this is the first time we have had a three cost creature that is red which combos with Kiki-Jiki.
The existing Kiki Combo shells in Modern require both Chord of Calling to assemble their combo and Restoration Angel to go infinite with Kiki-Jiki. This means we end up in a three color deck in the Naya colors. While Restoration Angel is a reasonable Magic card, the problem with playing Naya in Modern is that it plays the three colors that lack the cards to interact profitably with spell-based combo decks: discard and counterspells. This means that we either have to resign ourselves to having a fairly poor spell based combo matchup or we have to splash a fourth color.
With the introduction of Combat Celebrant, we can start reasonably exploring Kiki Combo shells that do not contain white, while still containing Chord of Calling and a reasonable three cost combo card.
First on the menu today is a Kiki variant that I have worked on several times prior to the printing of Combat Celebrant that always felt like it was missing something:
In addition to comboing with our new Combat Celebrant, Kiki-Jiki can also combo with Zealous Conscripts in this shell. While Conscripts is considerably more expensive than Combat Celebrant, it offers some utility in non-combo situations such as when facing down opposing planeswalkers that are threatening to ultimate. Past our combo finishes, we are a Jund midrange deck that features some fun-ofs that offer utility in different situations. In addition to the usual Kiki Chord suspects we will find two other utility creatures that never found their way into my Naya shells:
Grim Lavamancer is a card I always wanted to be good in Naya Chord, but we simply never had enough cards to consistently put into our graveyard for it to be good enough. In a deck with nearly double digit pieces of removal and cheap discard, this is far less of an issue.
Entomber Exarch is a card that used to be played in Birthing Pod variants that I always wanted to play, but the double black casting cost kept me from trying. With this variation playing plenty of black lands instead of just splashing, this is no longer an issue. Entomber Exarch is a fairly flexible card that is good not only against spell-based combo decks, but also against grindy decks thanks to its ability to return a creature from the graveyard to our hand. It is worth noting that the discard effect can also take lands from our opponent. That means if we have Exarch turn three on the play we can take away our Tron opponent’s third Tron piece.
Past the added utility cards we have in this Jund shell, I would like to introduce a match made in heaven:
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of Snapcasting a Kolaghan’s Command knows what a disgusting amount of value it generates. Rebuying Command with Witness is similar, except for the fact that we get to do it over, and over, and over again because Eternal Witness never exiles the card she is returning to our hand.
Finally we get to round out the deck with some quality cards that help ensure we are just not dead to decks that are trying to win faster than we are in Modern:
Blood Moon Toolbox
Modern is a format that is filled to the brim to polarizing strategies. This means it is often difficult to play fair and have a good chance of winning against a diverse field. That is why this next Kiki shell looks to leverage not only having an infinite combo at its disposal, but also the ability to lock its opponents out of being able to play a game of Magic.
I present Kiki Moon:
We start with an effective ten copies of Blood Moon:
This deck is a bit more all-in than our normal variations of Kiki combo. We are playing a full playset of Combat Celebrant and a pair of Kiki-Jiki so we can draw them consistently when our tutor effects are nowhere to be found. After we lock our opponent of the game we want to combo as fast as possible to give them fewer turns to draw out of our land lock.
Past our Blood Moons and combo we have a “plan c” of attacking with the creatures we are playing as filler to sacrifice to our Eldritch Evolutions:
Kitchen Finks is nothing new to Modern. It is most aggressive decks’ worst nightmare. Finks blocks twice, gains so much life, and applies pressure after a board has been stabilized. It also provides multiple bodies for Eldritch Evolution if we ever find ourselves with more Evolutions than creatures to sacrifice.
Tuktuk the Explorer is a card that has not seen a ton of play in Modern, but it is one that has always been on my radar for if the right Eldritch Evolution shell ever came along. When we are playing against a deck that has a lot of removal in it we will rarely want to try to combo into open mana, so having access to a strong “fair” curve is something we want. If we curve mana creature into Tuktuk, into Eldritch Evolution for Wolfir Silverheart we can have 18 power in play on the third turn of the game.
Eternal Witness may look a touch out of place in this less grindy variation of Kiki Combo, but a singleton copy allows us to combo with a single Chord of Calling so I feel it is worth the slot. For those unfamiliar, with a single Chord of Calling and unlimited mana we can sequence:
Chord for Eternal Witness, trigger, return Chord of Calling to our hand.
Chord for Kiki-Jiki, copy Eternal Witness, return Chord of Calling to our hand.
Chord for Zealous Conscripts, trigger, untap Kiki-Jiki and make unlimited 3/3 hasty creatures.
Traditional Kiki Evolution
As far as the more traditional Naya Kiki variants go, I think the best shell for Combat Celebrant is likely an Evolution variant since their aggressive nature makes Celebrant a reasonable creature even when we are not comboing our opponent. I think my starting point for something along these lines would look something like:
As we can see, this is mostly the Kiki Shell I have been playing for some time now with a pair of Combat Celebrant slotted into it. This version is the least exciting of the ones I have listed here and I would not be surprised if it is the least powerful as well. I am not sure the Naya Shell was looking for another combo piece–even an aggressive one like Combat Celebrant–but I definitely want to get some games in with it before I just write it off.
As with most things in Modern, the format is deep and really getting a feel for whether or not something is good requires a lot of games under your belt. While the first two decklists are new takes on the Kiki Combo archetype, their core of supporting cards are mostly proven and follow the common Modern mantra of “play good cards and you will be fine.”
What do you think of my Combat Kiki shells I have shared here today? Which do you think has the most potential? Is there another shell that you think this combo might fit into that I missed? Let me know in a comment below!
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