It's always fun to celebrate. The Kiki-Jiki article was a really fun article to write for that very reason. Building a deck that is both potent and enjoyable is a real challenge. My article celebrated the deck and was unique in this column in that I got to write it "backwards", beginning with a deck and ending up with discussion of the card itself.
I got a lot of email about the deck from people that played it in tournaments and in their homes. Everyone that's played it seems to just have a real blast, and getting to hear about it is really gratifying. Enjoy the article, and have a great holiday season!This article originally appeared on October 27th, 2004.
Your deck from States looks great! Care to do an article on it for this week's column? :)
Now, tell me, who could resist that smile?
So, this week is going to be a bit different from our usual Single Card Strategies. Rather than bring up a card and then show how to go about using it, I’m going to show you the deck that I brought to this weekend’s State Championships. This week, the column will be, in a sense, presented in a backwards fashion. Still, though, it fits: the deck is its very own Single Card Strategy. And that card is Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
Now, of course, I’m not the only person out there that thought of what could be done with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Mike Flores thought a wee little bit about it. Tons and tons of people talked about Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in various forums in fact. And, of course, my little coven and I over at my mailing list Cabal Rogue thought about it. Cabalist Ben Dempsey was the first one to send a preliminary list, and it was close enough to what I’d been musing on that I thought maybe we might have something. In the end, this was the “official” list:
The primary design comes from Ben Dempsey, Brian Kowal, and yours truly, but there was a lot of chipping in from other people. I spent countless playtest hours with my good friend Adam Kugler, and in the end, I’m really pleased with the final list. I can’t say how many people out there tried to build Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker decks, but I think we did a great job. We had five people play the deck (I would say 6, but Eric Taylor won’t tell me all of the changes he made, he just called them “horrible” changes), and received a 1st (WI), 4th (MN), 6th (WI), and 12th (GA). Andy Wolf took in the 12th place in Atlanta, but he said that he owed it all to a fantastic mess up, and if he hadn’t erred he would have been in the Top 8 as well.
That’s a showing I can be happy with.
So, we have a decklist. We know it gets out a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, but what then? What exactly does this deck do?
Somehow, when I think of the copies that Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker goes around making, I keep thinking of Evil Dead 3. Ash is looking into the mirror and it mimics him like a mirror should, but when he isn’t looking, it does its own thing. All the little tokens that Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker makes are only reflections, they won’t stick around long, and sure they can attack right away, but they better do something more. And they’d best do something good.
When these cards come into play, something happens. You either get to regrow your best spell, destroy an artifact, or remove the opponent’s best creature from the game and have your own temporary copy. The Shaman and the Duplicant can really wreak havoc on the right opponent. Artifact heavy decks lose all of their relevant artifacts incredibly quickly, and creature decks will need cards like Pristine Angel to keep a guy on the table.
Eternal Witness is a little different. Regrowth is such a powerful spell that it has been Restricted in Type 1 pretty much forever. As a little experiment, the new “1.5” (new name pending) is allowing unrestricted access to Regrowth (we’ll see how long that lasts), but as nice as a Regrowth on legs is, getting a Regrowth each turn is truly ridiculous. When you play Magic, things happen – people kill your best cards or you use a card to good affect. Recouping these losses at the simple cost of tapping a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is pretty amazing. Beyond that, giving yourself insurance in case you lose a good card (you can’t copy what isn’t on the table) is pretty good too.
Rootrunner, though, is where things can get outright mean. Copy a Rootrunner and sacrifice it to put a land on top of your opponent’s deck. On their turn, they draw it. Copy a Rootrunner and sacrifice it to put a land on top of your opponent’s deck. On their turn, they draw it. Repeat. In the meantime, if you happened to have any Hearth Kamis in your graveyard, the good ol’ Soulshift mechanic will fetch them back for you. This deck doesn’t have the fast and furious comborificness of Intruder Alarm plus Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to make one million and one attacking creatures, but it can just lock your opponent out of it all.
If they don’t have a way out the turn you play it, they never will find one.
The left-overs: mana, not just heaven sent
Of course, your last few creatures are goodies too. They only make mana, but this is a pretty big deal. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker costs . In a two-color deck, having access to a triple color can be a hard bargain. I know that Ben’s first version of the deck ran with Black instead of Green (I hadn’t even considered that direction, though Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Chittering Rats seems nice), but Green is really where it’s at. Green means that you can have Birds of Paradise and Sakura-Tribe Elder to help you get the rest of the color going.
The most important thing going on here is that you are not only fixing your colors - you are also speeding up your mana. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker’s ability is so incredibly powerful that you want to be able to get it going as quickly as possible. In your best cast scenario, this deck can have a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on the table by turn 3, with mean copying tricks going by turn 4. This won’t happen very often, but every time it does, you can bet your opponent is going to be in some trouble. Generally speaking, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that we like it when our opponent is in trouble.
Yes, you will on occasion be copying these creatures too. A copied Sakura-Tribe Elder can work a lot like a Thawing Glaciers, and the last time I checked, Thawing Glaciers was a pretty good card. A copied Birds of Paradise is usually a lot less useful. On occasion, though, it can serve as a nifty skeet shot in the air for your opponent’s flying bullets, or make Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker into a de facto Birds of Paradise himself.
What to do when you’re not copying
Commune with Nature is the simplest here. Commune is concerned with two things: finding the best creature for the current situation, such as getting a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker into your hand. Now, Time of Need can find your Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker directly, but a Commune with Nature can find you a Birds of Paradise or Sakura-Tribe Elder if you need mana. It can find you a Hearth Kami or Viridian Shaman if you need to kill an artifact. It can find you an Eternal Witness to bring back a burn spell or a dead Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (or just get back the Commune with Nature if you want to look a little deeper for the right card).
Magma Jet is great. Not only does it kill something, but the Scry mechanic gets the job done in helping massage your library to the right stuff. Unlike the Commune, all it really helps do is bury stuff that you don’t want to draw, but that is good by itself. Sometimes we really don’t want a spell, we need a land, or vice-versa. Sometimes we really just want to find that Duplicant. Jet gets us two cards closer to our goals.
Sensei’s Divining Top is yet another card that just finds what you need. I’ve already written an entire article on this card (inspired, primarily, by my work on this deck), and it really shines here. Both Magma Jet and Commune with Nature can help out the Top by getting rid of cards you don’t want to see from the top, and Sakura-Tribe Elder can serve the same trick by shuffling for a land.
A short note on the land
Trial and error can result in a lot of things. When I first built my copy of the deck, I ran four Shivan Oasis. Ben and Brian quickly showed me that City of Brass was better. Eventually, though, I came to realize that I did get into some serious hurt from those Cities. Down I went to 3. Then to 2. But, I needed a little bit more color. After a lot of trial and error, a single Pinecrest Ridge won out over its varied competitors for the coveted 60th card in the deck. This probably took about three weeks of counting during playtesting, but it worked out fine in the end. The mana combination allowed a third color in the sideboard and a solid two-color base in game 1.
And now, in honor of Top 10 Week:
Top 10 Kiki abuses that I didn’t play with this weekend
#10 – Intruder Alarm – Everyone and their brother has tried this one out. It’s explosive, certainly, and generally means an instant win. Not much good on its own, though.
#9 – Solemn Simulacrum – I mean it when I say that I hate this guy right now. No, I’m not talking about Handsome Jens Thoren
#8 – Nantuko Cultivator – I’ve always had a soft spot for this guy. Get a one-shot big attacker and get rid of any land that you still have in your hand. Then do it again. Not a half bad way to dig deep. Combine with Terravore for yet more fun.
#7 – Flametongue Kavu – This guy single-handedly shut down most creatures from even being able to see play when he was legal in Type 2. Put him on Xerox and watch nearly every critter around cry.
#5 – Ancestor’s Chosen – Can you kill me now? Can you kill me now?
#4 – Triskelion – Pimp-bot. The Pig. Trike. He’s got a few different names, but he’s a machine gun with the Mirrorbreaker. I actually did run him in earlier lists of the deck, and is it really any surprise that Andy Wolf couldn’t resist playing him?
#2 – Rukh Egg – Man, oh man. Sure, it starts out as an overpriced wall, but will anyone want to kill it? When Kiki comes to town, out fly the Rukhs!
#1 – Blistering Firecat – It’s not the best, but I know if I put it lower on this list, someone would say I was just pandering to the readers who claim I have a thing for Red. Really, I don’t!
I hope that you enjoyed my approach to the deck. I know that I think it is not only really fun, but incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, I didn’t win States with it, but at least I came close, and at least someone else playing the deck did win it all.
Congratulations Adam! What a great finish!!