Brewing R/W Kiki Control

kiki control jiki

R/W Control is a rogue archetype in Modern that probably hasn’t been explored nearly as much as it should. The basic idea behind the deck is to include removal and wrath like Jeskai Control, but eschew counter magic for lock pieces and/or hate cards, which is highly enjoyable for people like me that love the tap-out style of control.

While it is a semi-flexible archetype with many different varieties, the two I believe to be the most successful are the Restoration Angel/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo package version, which includes control spells and digging, and the prison version, which does it best with Ensnaring Bridge and Leyline of Sanctity, among other cards, to prevent the opponent from doing anything while you kill them with win cons like Ajani Vengeant and Assemble the Legion. Both are very effective and fun if built properly.

Today I’ll be exploring the Resto/Kiki combo version; I’ll be sure to explore the prison version in the future.


The Staples, The Hate, The Combo

Off the bat, we know we want three staples of red and white: Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, and Lightning Helix. Bolt is a no-brainer because it’s hyper-efficient, versatile, a much-needed 1-drop, and we have enough burn in the deck to consider it part of a viable backup plan. Path is also hyper-efficient removal that deals with problem cards like Wurmcoil Engine neatly. It is a non-bo with Ghostly Prison, which can be problematic at times, but I believe the upsides outweigh that downside. I do run 3 instead of 4, partly for this reason — it is vaguely possible one of the cards should be replaced entirely, though. Finally, Helix is extremely good in a meta that’s almost 20%, Burn, Affinity, and Merfolk.

Our mainboard hate pieces include Blood Moon, which is brutal in this meta, and Ghostly Prison, which does stupid amounts of work against the aforementioned aggro decks while making it impossible for Twin to combo off and giving Infect and Delver a hard time, too. Both can buy many turns needed to set up your combo or just beat down and throw burn spells to the face — either way, you win.

Wall of Omens serves beautifully as a Bolt-proof anti-aggro card that also digs for your combo and synergizes with both pieces of it (many games I’ve blinked it with Resto or copied it with Kiki and out-valued the opponent); Magma Jet is great as removal or as part of a win con, and helps you work toward your combo.

Wall of Omens

Pyroclasm is one-dimensional, but like Bolt and Path, extremely efficient and relevant (there isn’t really any Zoo going around, so no need for Anger of the Gods).

Then you have the aforementioned combo pieces (Resto is Bolt-proof, if you somehow missed that, by the way, which makes her even greater), and finally, a flex slot or two. It’s important here to include some source of pseudo-card advantage (since red/white don’t have any real card advantage outside of what we’re already using). Typically it’s Batterskull, Gideon Jura, or Isochron Scepter (Scepter is great game 1 but can be awful games 2 and 3). All are good; I personally prefer Gideon main because of its versatility and Batterskull side for more specific situations. Scepter I haven’t really tried yet but will at some point.

The land base should be tuned around Blood Moon, and include Tectonic Edge to deal with manlands and such. Temple of Triumph needs to be in there to help out with red/white’s card advantage issue, and to help us hit our combo.

Lastly, the sideboard should include hate cards (we are in white, after all), more Pyroclasm, and staples like Deflecting Palm and Wear / Tear.

The List

Pretty straightforward, right? With that, below is my tentative list. I’ve tested a previous version similar to this and was mostly pleased with it, but this specific version is technically still in the untuned pre-testing stage, so keep that in mind when evaluating.

[d title=”R/W Kiki Control by Sean Ridgeley”]
2 Pyroclasm

1 Gideon Jura

4 Ghostly Prison
3 Blood Moon

3 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Magma Jet
4 Lightning Helix

4 Wall of Omens
4 Restoration Angel
2 Kiki-Jiki, MIrror Breaker

4 Arid Mesa
1 Marsh Flats
4 Mountain
7 Plains
2 Rugged Prairie
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Tectonic Edge
3 Temple of Triumph

2 Wear / Tear
1 Spellskite
1 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
2 Pyroclasm
2 Deflecting Palm
4 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Batterskull

Why Run Kiki Control?

You’re probably wondering why you shouldn’t run Jeskai Control instead of this. There are several reasons Kiki Control could just be flat out better right now: it’s proactive instead of reactive (the latter is generally bad in Modern, and this does seem to be a key reason behind Jeskai’s lacking numbers), it lets you run Blood Moon (huge), and it takes less damage from the manabase (very relevant versus aggro).

Then there’s the Twin / Blue Moon / Temur Moon problem. Our key advantages over those decks are better aggro matchups (Helix, Ghostly Prison, Wall of Omens, Gideon, Pyroclasm, etc make most of these matches stupid easy), and better hate cards (Stony Silence is often auto-win versus Affinity, Leyline is great versus Burn and Abzan, etc).

So, while our combo is slower and less consistent than Twin, and we don’t have catch-all answers in counterspells that these decks do, we make up for it by being proactive, laughing at aggro, and hating on more decks, and hating on them harder. This isn’t to say any R/W Control deck is better than any of these decks necessarily, just that the archetype gives them a run for their money. However, I would say that in an aggro heavy meta, this deck is definitely better.

Credits, Final Thoughts

To give credit where it’s due, the origin of this deck is Viomonk on the MTGSalvation forums, who created it in March of 2014. Sadly, it’s gotten little attention since then. I wanted to highlight it for the diamond in the rough it is and provide my own, current take on it, so here it is. Note that I don’t run Ajani unlike him — I tested it and found it unreliable and weak most of the time. I believe it’s best suited to the prison version, where it can do all kinds of work, often unscathed, and synergizes better with the resource denial options.

For those who might be making the comparison to Shaun McLaren’s old Jeskai Kiki-Control list, there are certainly similarities, although this version came first (about a month or two before, in fact).

As ever, give the list a spin yourself and let us know what you think. And for those of you hungry for video footage, I’ll have that at a later date.

26 thoughts on “Brewing R/W Kiki Control

  1. I look forward to trying this list. I have been forever looking for a deck that can effectively maindeck ghostly prisons. Prison can just be so bad in combo/control mathcups, and it nonbos with path to exile and the walkers RW usually wants to use (elspeth gideon ajani v).

    That’s been my general RW control issue – win conditions. Angel+kiki seems like a good one, but its harder to draw into than splinter twin (less draw and fewer copies of the pieces) and if we don’t hit it there’s no backup plan of flying beats and bolt-snap-bolt. The 4x angel 1x gideon are your only ways to actually win… that sounds like a recipe for “time is called” in games you establish control to me.

    1. U/W Tron is another good shell for it.

      Prison isn’t a non-bo with Gideon or Elspeth – it only affects the opponents creatures. It’s synergistic with Ajani so I’m not sure what you mean there. I agree it’s bad vs Control, but not useless either.

      There is a backup plan of flying beats + Bolt-Bolt, though. I’ve won that way many times. It’s really not a problem, nor is time. That said, I’m open to ideas.

      Edit: I see what you mean about planeswalkers now (they can attack them without paying). I forgot about that, so I’ll swap that for Scepter or Batterskull or maybe something else.

      I don’t like Elspeth because she prevents me from running Pyroclasm, or at least makes it much worse. I think she’s meant for midrange decks.

      1. Yeah that’s what I meant about prison/walkers. Prison gets awkward because when you want to kill them you end up needing to mow down their blockers, which turns the prison into a speedbump instead of pseudo-removal. (its a lot better if it makes their creatures completely useless instead of just giving them defender).

        I understand you can still attack and burn – but we’re talking about a list with literally 4 creatures that can attack (sorry kiki – if you’re swinging we’re doing it wrong). UR twin can beat with exarch, pester, clique, and snap which is just way more options to eek out 2 dmg here and there before burning them out (which is also easier when your snapcasters count as burn spells most of the time by that point).

        I don’t have the answer. Planeswalkers seem logical but they dont work with prison so they’re basically out. Assemble the legion, batterskull and restoration angel were the best things I could come up with myself. I have no idea if assemble is good enough or not but it was esp good because it could go under an ensnaring bridge for you, and if you had to pyroclasm its not big deal as the tokens build up so quickly.

        Like I guess there’s always more dragons – thundermaw/stormbreath, or inferno titan, or sun titan, or wurmcoil engine. There’s probably some other 5/6 cmc gems out there that could find a home as a 2-of finisher in this deck,

        1. You’re comparing a tempo deck to a control deck. We don’t need as many creatures as they do to win. Perhaps we need more than we have right now, but we certainly don’t need or want as many as Twin. Batterskull is nice. Jotun Grunt can be nice.

          Assemble is definitely meant for the prison version. Not sure I’d run Pyroclasm in that version.

          I would never go above 5cmc. Even that sometimes feels like it’s stretching it.

          1. I mean you can’t avoid the comparisons to twin when your primary win con is kiki+resto. Both decks need a backup plan for when the inifnite dudes don’t happen.

            While twin will happily electrolyze the face then snap the electrolyze, do we really want to point 2 magma jets to the dome? It is a long slog to 20 if you have to go that way and you’ll regret it when they resolve something meaningful that you could have killed if you’d held that burn spell.

            Isochron scepter is an exception here, as helixing every turn “for free” will actually get there in a reasonable amount of time with just a bit of support from them fetch/shocking and you drawing a couple bolts/jets.

            But yeah I’m not saying you need a bunch of 2 and 3 mana goblin piker variants – just that the deck needs to reliably close the game once it has control and that’s pretty shakey when all of your opponents removal can still be live and in their hand (dismember, path, cut, bolt-snap-bolt, etc). Kiki is super fragile when you aren’t making them blow their removal on other things or making them discard it 🙁

    2. I was working on this list for a while as well, but ended up abandoning it for a few reasons.

      1. Half my matches went to time and I didn’t want to wear out my welcome at my LGS.
      2. The cause of #1, I had a lot of games where I would lock down the board but then durdle for 10 turns while my opponents dug out.
      3. It was pretty miserable against BGx and Amulet Bloom, anything going big rather than wide in general.

      It is likely that I had a hostile meta at my LGS. You are right that aggro is essentially a bye. The ironic thing is that I turned it into RW Kiki midrange, essentially swapping Prison and Walls for Blade Splicer and Lingering Souls, and too many of my matches still go to time. Boros is sweet at stalling the board apparently. I have been pondering the possibility of creating a transformative version between beatdown and prison since the midrange version has no great matchups, but the beatdown and prison split probably would.

      1. I suspect you had these problems because you didn’t run enough or any Temples, Magma Jet, or Wall. I could be wrong though and perhaps we should find room for more win cons. Ideas? I ran Jotun Grunt when Cruise was a thing – not sure if it’d be good enough now.

        I know of someone that tried the prison version main and midrange version sideboard but it had a huge insurmountable problem that I can’t remember now.

      2. Yep. I played the prison version and had prison+bridge+bloodmoon+suppression field out against an opponent but couldn’t actually win the game as the deck had so few win conditions and I just wasn’t drawing them. He may have even been able to path or mana leak still, I don’t recall – but boy it was painful to play out.

        That was when I shelved the deck.

  2. Perhaps going into the land destruction and land disruption route coupled with the kiki combo is viable? I’m suggesting if you add land destruction combo such as boom//bust + flagstones of torkair or with fetchland, add magus of the moon for more blood moon effects to disrupt your opponent from interacting with your game plan. With mana problems, they struggle to interact to stop your combo as well as facing a ghostly prison to aggro you out. I also suggest adding ajani vengeant for another win con. I don’t think relying on scry effects to dig for win con especially in a red white deck is good enough, perhaps making your opponents frustrate and despair by blowing up their mana base is a better option.

  3. Is Magma Jet truly our most efficient table-setting option in this deck? Is there no cantrip or flashback effect we can use apart from Wall of Omens? I find it to be a tad lackluster by the standards of what Modern 2-drops are capable of. I feel like scraping out some value via Grim Lavamancer may be something to consider, even if it’s a bit of a non-bo with Pyroclasm.

    Another thought is that I know you said you felt confident against aggro, but I still feel that any Boros deck not running Anger of the Gods benefits from Boros Reckoner. It does more than just stonewall aggro – it trades with all sorts of big creatures (which makes it useful against midrange), can block profitably against many others (thanks to first strike), and will generally zap some decks back when they try to kill (not to mention offering a bit of extra value out of your choosing to drop a Pyroclasm on its head). I’d try and make room for that guy.

    1. This just came to mind – wouldn’t Chandra, Pyromaster or Outpost Siege be an all-star in this sort of deck? The main issue I see with it as compared to its blue counterparts (and that is corroborated to some extent by the other commenters) is that you could grind to a halt and don’t necessarily have that much in the way of secondary wincons unless you adopt the “really slow burn” plan. Chandra, Pyromaster remedies that pretty easily (and I’d wager she’s better bang for the buck than Gideon), and Outpost Siege does something similar if you feel that a Planeswalker isn’t safe enough (but with sweepers and Path, you should be fine). Thoughts?

      1. I ran Chandra in Cruise days. Now she’d be a good sideboard card. Siege I think is a lot better in the prison version, and probably one with Elspeth and maybe other token generators, along with Pyroclasm.

      1. You can literally replace the Aven’s and Brimaz’s with the combo (4 Resto and 2 Kiki) and you have the same game plan – control the game with burn, use Blood Moon and Molten Rain to attack the manabase and then win with either the combo finish (or Brimaz and his tokens).

        There’s a lot to be learnt from Jeff’s version of the deck. Jeff just likes to play fair which turns him off the Resto/Kiki combo.

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