Deck tech – Kiki-Evolution with Jarvis Yu

Posted in Event Coverage on August 27, 2016

By Frank Karsten

"Eldritch Evolution is a broken card in this format," Jarvis Yu claimed. "It lets you tutor for silver bullets and lets you jump to mana cost way ahead of schedule. Inferno Titan, for example, is pretty busted on turn 4. There's a reason it costs 6 mana!"

The player

Jarvis Yu, a 29-year old statistician from Rockville, Maryland, has been a Pro Tour regular years for several years, but he broke out last season by winning Grand Prix Seattle Tacoma with 35 Lands in Legacy. As a member of Team East-West Bowl, he clinched enough pro points to successfully complete his quest for Gold level in the pro players club.

This meant that he earned an invitation to all Pro Tours in the current season as well as 3 byes at any Grand Prix. As evidenced by his Legacy Grand Prix win, Jarvis enjoys deep card pools, and today he is playing a Modern deck featuring several cards from the depths of the format as well as the eponymous new card from Eldritch Moon.

The deck and key cards

Jarvis Yu's Kiki-Evolution – Grand Prix Indianapolis 2016

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"It's a midrange deck first and a combo deck second," Yu said. "You need the combo element to beat decks like Tron where you need to kill them in one turn, but usually I just grind them down with value creatures."

The combo element that Yu is talking about is Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Restoration Angel, which results in a million Angels with haste. But as he explained, rushing to the combo is dangerous if opponents have any kind of removal, so you shouldn't try to combo kill unless opponents tap out and give a window. "Force them to waste their removal on value creatures first."


"The natural curve is Voice of Resurgence or Wall of Omens on turn 2 and an Eldritch Evolution on turn 3. The most common target is Pia and Kiran Nalaar," Yu said. The 1/1 fliers can buy a lot of time against decks with Inkmoth Nexus, and they are particularly great alongside a Voice of Resurgence token. On turn 3, you could have a 4/4 token—"that's Tarmogoyf level!"—and eight power on the battlefield in total.

Evolutionizing Voice of Resurgence into Pia and Kiran Nalaar is a very strong, game-winning start indeed. "But the other thing about Eldritch Evolution is that it lets you play many silver bullets," Yu said. Between 4 Eldritch Evolution and 3 Chord of Calling, this deck effectively has access to 8 copies of any creature. Other decks sometimes draw their hate card and sometimes don't. This deck almost always finds it if needed.

The sideboard contains specific hate-creatures such as Eidolon of Rhetoric (against a variety of combo decks), Melira, Sylvok Outcast (against Infect), and Kataki, War's Wage (against Affinity), but certain silver bullets are powerful enough against the format as a whole to make it into the main deck.

"Archangel of Tithes is really an anti-dredge card," Yu continued. "They don't have enough mana sources to swarm around her. Anafenza, the Foremost wasn't always good enough against dredge because you'd sometimes be staring down 5 creatures by the time you get Anafenza in play."

"Selfless Spirit is really good against Anger of the Gods, which would be a big problem otherwise because it exiles Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks. The evasion comes up to poke planeswalkers."

Whereas Archangel of Tithes and Selfless Spirit will be familiar to any competitive Standard players, some of the cards in Yu's deck may force even Modern veterans to scratch their heads.

Murmuring Bosk is in the mana base as a land that helps cast Orzhov Pontiff and Sin Collector while also tapping for green and white. There may not be any Treefolks in the deck, but four-color decks need all the fixing they can get.

Vulshok Sorcerer (last seen in Fifth Dawn drafts) is included in the sideboard to be brought in against decks like Infect, where it gets the nod over Izzet Staticaster or Cunning Sparkmage due to Twisted Image. Going deep. Love it.

How did Yu arrive at this deck?

"Right after Pro Tour [Eldritch Moon] I looked at the tournament schedule and saw multiple Modern events coming up: the StarcityGames Invitational and Grand Prix Indianapolis. Ari Lax and I had a conversation where we found Eldritch Evolution a busted card in Modern, so I tested various builds."

"I started with Melira Company but found that Eldritch Evolution clashes with Collected Company. Eldritch Evolution incentivizes you to put 4, 5, and 6 drops in your deck, which means that the number of Collected Company hits decrease, and the math gods are not pleased with that. So then I looked at this this Kiki-Chord deck, and it looked sweet. Jeff Hoogland first built it, has been iterating on it every week, and I trust his expertise. "

What are the good and bad matchups?

"I like my matchup against most of the midrange decks. Jund or Abzan is pretty favorable."

"Dredge is a coin flip, and lot of the decks that you might be soft to in Game 1 become much better after board. A prime example is Infect: It's slightly unfavorable before board, but it becomes really good after you board in several hate creatures and more removal spells."

"Tron, Scapeshift, and R/G Through the Breach are unfavorable. There's not much to be done to fix those matchups."

Will this deck be a major force going forward?

"It depends on how prevalent Grafdigger's Cage and other hate cards will be," Yu said. "In fact, in most post-board games, I shave down a number of Chord of Calling and Eldritch Evolution. I found that you can lose too easily if you draw too many cards that get hit by Grafdigger's Cage."

Yu does have access to Engineered Explosives in his sideboard, which not only is "one of the best cards against Death's Shadow Zoo" but also a card that you can board in the dark against pretty much every deck and not be a dead draw if they don't have Grafdigger's Cage. Still, it's clear that the artifact is one of the cards that he fears the most. "But if people keep playing midrange decks, then I would be really happy to keep playing this deck going forward."

To conclude, Eldritch Evolution doesn't need Allosaurus Rider to be powerful—it fits perfectly in a Kiki-Chord shell. If you've been working on an Eldritch Evolution deck yourself, then Yu's build is a great place to look for ideas!

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