UWR Mid Range Kiki-Jiki at Grand Prix Antwerp

December 5, 2019

Tiago Chan

From Lisbon, Portugal
Creator and model for Snapcaster Mage
1st Magic Invitational 2007
3rd Pro Tour Honolulu 2006
7th Worlds 2006

More Posts (4)

Last time I showed you how I came up with a sort of original Modern deck by adding Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to a UWR deck with 4 Restoration Angel, creatures with “Enter the Battlefield” triggers and lots of burn and utility spells. I played the deck to a 5-2 finish at a 1,200 Euros Modern tournament, and while it wasn’t enough to Top 8, it was enough to convince me to use the deck in the upcoming Grand Prix Antwerp.

After the article was published I was contacted by some players asking for feedback and updates on the deck. The following weekend three players piloted my list in major Modern tournaments. One of them, in Italy, won a Modern Open and took home the first prize of 1,500 Euros. The other two, in Portugal, played the 500 Euros Modern League #1 tournament and both Top 8′d. For me, these were very satisfying results. But surprisingly, despite their good performances, none of the players was happy with the deck.

So I decided to investigate. I started by borrowing some cards and putting the deck together on Magic Online. I planned to play and stream every Modern Daily Event I could as well as some 8-man queues. The results were pretty bad. I didn’t manage to get 3-1 or better on the Daily Events even once although this may be because I threw away several matches, some due to inexperience with a specific matchup. In my last article, I told you how I lost against Living End because I had no idea Violent Outburst was Instant. This time, when I was playing and streaming I had the chance to play against Infect, GW Hatebears and Faeries for the first time. I lost all the matches because I was not familiar with the decks, the strategies or even some of the cards.

While I knew I was losing because I was unfamiliar with some Modern strategies, and I was aware that this was a learning process, most of my viewers were starting to lose faith in my deck. It was being labeled as not good enough in Portuguese MTG social networks and I was being flooded with messages everyday telling me to give up on the deck.

Some players become too attached to new decks and ideas when testing them. The ideal is to accept all criticism and not see them as personal attacks. My rational side was telling me that the deck had favorable matchups against the creature based decks but was slightly underpowered against decks with powerful engines or decks which could break the normal physics of tempo/mana in Magic. I tried many sideboard cards to help solve the problems and learned a lot by identifying strategies and key cards and coming up with game plans. At the same time, there were many other decks I did not have the chance to play against. Others I played only once when I was still very much in the dark.

I acknowledged the possibility of my work being wrong and one week before the Grand Prix I considered changing the deck. This is my take on the Modern decks:

I divide the decks into two categories:

Class A: Decks that aim to do silly things or have unbeatable starts (Tron, Pod variants, Splinter-Twin, Affinity).

Class B: Decks that consistently do fair things (Jund, BG Rock, UW(r), GW Bears, Merfolks).

I think it’s better to play the Class A decks because they will out-power/out-tempo the Class B ones. However Class A decks have some disadvantages which are:

• They are harder to play correctly compared to most Class B decks.
• Some matchups are really lopsided and there is very little you can do to improve them, while most of the Class B decks bad matchups can be winnable with a good combination of draws/sideboard cards/game plans.

I stayed away from the Class A decks because I believed I wouldn’t have enough time to learn how to play them correctly in less than a week, and also because I didn’t think I would enjoy playing with some of them. I still believe these decks are all Tier 1 and along with Jund they are the best Modern decks.

I tried some Class B decks but I was having the same kind of problems I had with my UWR Kiki against the Class A decks. Most of the time I wished I was playing my deck instead. So, basically, you should just play the deck you like, which in this case happens to be the deck you have the most practice with (although very limited in some matchups).

The moment I made this decision, around three or four days before the Grand Prix, I just stopped playing Modern because I didn’t want to get discouraged again with the UWR deck, and I felt that all the testing and streaming was affecting my play.

After some days of “Magic rest,” I had to submit a list by Saturday morning, and here it is:


4 Arid Mesa
4 Celestial Colonnade
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Island
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
2 Tectonic Edge


3 Blade Splicer
4 Restoration Angel
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Vendilion Clique
2 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker


2 Electrolyze
3 Izzet Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Lightning Helix
2 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
2 Remand


1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
2 Anger of the Gods
3 Sowing Salt
3 Aven Mindcensor
2 Shatterstorm
3 Negate
1 Vendilion Clique



The Main deck only has one change from my previous article:
In: 1 Izzet Charm
Out: 1 Lightning Helix

There were many matchups where I added many cards to board out, notably the creature control, but I never had enough to bring in. I replaced just one Lightning Helix for Izzet Charm because I still wanted to have the option to be able to burn out my opponent in certain games so I still left a considerable amount of burn. I went with an extra Izzet Charm because it is still good against two of the greatest threats Jund can have Dark Confidant and Liliana of the Veil and it’s almost never a dead draw in any matchup.

I totally remodeled the sideboard. Besides the cards I ended up choosing, I tried the ones in my previous sideboard: Counterflux, Disenchant, Stony Silence, Spellskite, Tempest of Light) plus Shadow of Doubt, Riptide Pilferer, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Relic of Progenitus, Wear // Tear

Eventually I chose these cards:

1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker: Mostly for matchups where you don’t think you’ll be able to win by creature damage because the deck is too slow or because your opponent has a powerful engine. Mostly against combo decks but also Tron.

2 Anger of the Gods: A more expensive Pyroclasm which is far worse against Jund and Affinity but better against Merfolks and Pod. Against Jund, if you don’t side in anything, the initial 60 are all good. Against Affinity Pyroclasm is much better but I wanted to improve the matchup vs Pod so I lost a little in the Affinity matchup.

3 Sowing Salt: Tron is one of the matchups I tested the most. I had slightly more than a 50% win rate but considered this an unfavorable, although winnable, matchup. The best chance is to have a turn 4 Sowing Salt and hope they don’t have anything to prevent it from hitting. I thought Tron was going to be a big deck at this Grand Prix and Sowing Salt an important key card, so I upped the numbers from two to three copies.

3 Aven Mindcensor: It is good against Scapeshift, Pod and good enough to be sided in against Tron, UWR Control and other combo decks. Basically any deck where you can’t tap out on turn 3 on the draw, you have to side out Blade Splicer and bring these in. Being a creature allows it to attack and have a small clock, forcing the opponent to react. So this was chosen over Shadow of Doubt

2 Shatterstorm: The most devastating card against Affinity. I considered running three of these and just two Sowing Salt but I was more scared of the Tron matchup than the Affinity one.

3 Negate: I wanted something against the non-creature decks. After trying many cards this seemed to be the most solid, versatile but cheap card which allows it to perform well with Snapcaster Mage

1 Vendilion Clique: I still had an extra slot in the sideboard for the non-creature decks. This seemed good against Combo and Control and I couldn’t come up with anything better.

If I were to play again I believe the following changes would make the sideboard more balanced:
Out: 1 Negate, 1 Vendilion Clique
In: 2 Counterflux

With 2 Negate and 2 Counterflux you’ll have a mix of a cheap versatile counters which can be brought against many decks, and a mana expensive counter but a better answer to Combo decks. Along with the Snapcaster Mage this mix of counters should provide you with ways to interact and disrupt the opponent’s plans at various stages of the game.

Day 1

Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Bye
Round 3: Loss, 0-2 Kiki Pod
Round 4: Win, 2-1 Affinity
Round 5: Win, 2-1 Melira Pod
Round 6: Win, 2-1 Jund
Round 7: Win, 2-1 RUG Vial
Round 8: Loss, 1-2 Scapeshift
Round 9: Win, 2-1 Jund

Almost all the matches went to three games. This relates to what I wrote earlier about Class A and Class B deck matchups. With this UWR deck the matchups are more balanced, the bad matchups are winnable, while the good matchups are still very tough.

I won the matchups I consider slightly favorable – Jund and Affinity. I won and lost a match against a matchup I consider unfavorable but winnable – the Pod decks. And I also won against RUG Vial. As it was the first time I played against it I had no idea how to play though I did win relatively easily.

The final match of Day 1 paired me against my friend Javier Dominguez. Back in 2006 I had a really awesome day with Javier and Raphael Levy that the three of us will remember for many years to come. After Day 1 of Pro Tour Prague I was chatting with Javier about the tournament and random stuff and he suggested we play the Unified Standard Team PTQ the next day. He believed he could find most of the cards for three decks, so we went searching for a third player who also hadn’t advanced to Day 2 at the Pro Tour. We were lucky enough to find Raphael.

We were still missing some cards, my Magnivore deck only had one copy of Tidings (two were missing), and my sideboard had some blanks, like Basic Islands. Just before turning in our decklists I searched some draft leftovers for Blue or Red commons and took out a Runeboggle. When Round 1 was up we were still counting cards, sleeving and making sure we had legal decklists. My friend Frederico Bastos said to the three of us: “If you guys win this PTQ, I’ll stop believing in tournament preparation.”

Raphael mentioned this in an article he wrote:

PTQ Charleston, teaming with Tiago Chan and Javier Dominguez, semifinals, Day 2 of PT: Prague

Failing to make Day 2 of the Pro Tour, Tiago asked me to play a team PTQ, along with Javier Dominguez (who happened to have all the cards to play, except for a couple). Tiago was running Magnivore, and was missing a few Tidings to complete the deck. We searched the whole room for Tidings, but the dealers were sold out, and no one in the room had any. It felt absolutely terrible to play with suboptimal versions of Standard decks because we didn’t actually own the cards. Tiago replaced three Tidings with three Boomerangs. In the semifinals, a match that decided whether or not we would fly to Charleston for free, Tiago is paired in a mirror match.

I’m sure you can see it coming…

Tidings are the nut low in the mirror, and Boomerang, along with the rest of the land destruction arsenal, are key spells. Tiago won, and we triumphed.

The fact that no one in the room had spare Tidings meant we won the PTQ.

But replacing them with Boomerangs may not have been that random.

They turned the deciding match from a 50/50 mirror into a 65/35 favorable match. Tiago found the card he thought / knew would give him an advantage in a matchup, one that maybe made up for the lack of Tidings in the deck. The fact that the match that was worth the most – the fact that it won us the tournament -just makes the story more “spectacular.” Raphael Levy

Back to Antwerp…

I had to play against Javier Dominguez and his Jund deck.
G1: He kept one of the worst possible hands against my deck – lots of answers but few threats. I Vendilion Clique him and see 3 Lightning Bolt and Maelstrom Pulse. He had to use the Bolts on some of my creatures but couldn’t save two of them for my Celestial Colonnade in play, which won me the game many turns later.

G2: He opened with a Scars of Mirrodin land and Deathrite Shaman. I had the Lightning Bolt to kill it but then I was left vulnerable to Dark Confidant, so I just hoped his next play wasn’t fetch land into Liliana of The Veil. Unfortunately it was. I managed to survive the Ultimatum with just two lands but he had a second Liliana that turn.

G3: I don’t know how but I began to lose control and at some point was sure I was going to lose. I managed to topdeck answers several turns in a row. I was still in a losing situation. The life totals were highly in his favor as well as the board presence. I did have Restoration Angel in play, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in hand and four lands in play. His hand was empty. I needed to draw a Basic Land or a Fetch Land into a Basic Land to automatically win and advance to Day 2 and I did topdeck a Plains.

I was pretty sure the game was lost several turns before so when I drew the Basic Land I couldn’t contain my excitement and fist pumped the air in celebration. This left me with a bittersweet feeling. I was happy to advance to Day 2 but was unhappy with my reaction. I considered this type of behavior contemptible – rubbing your victory in your opponent’s face – and usually try to avoid it.

Day 2

Round 10: Win, 2-0 Jund
Round 11: Win, 2-0 Splinter-Twin
Round 12: Loss, 1-2 Jund
Round 13: Loss, 1-2 Ad Nauseum Combo
Round 14: Win, 1-1 after extra turns, Concession, Affinity
Round 15: Win, 2-1 Affinity

I started Day 2 with two somewhat tranquil wins. I think I misplayed in Game 1 against Splinter-Twin. He played Vendilion Clique targeting me and my hand consisted of Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix. I responded by playing all three cards. I had a more than lethal attack on the board (I think he was on 3 life after I played my spells) and had a Restoration Angel, a Golem token and a Snapcaster Mage. I attacked with everything and won but when reviewing the game in my head I realized I would’ve lost if his last two cards where exactly Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin, since he could play the Exarch to tap the Angel and block the Golem token and survive at 1 life.

At that point I was running good, at least better than my opponents, and was paired for the next round against Jund, which is a matchup I like. I took a quick lead in Game 1 after a double mulligan from my opponent. He evened the match in Game 2 with Tarmogoyf and Kitchen Finks beatdown, protected from Path to Exile by Spellskite. In Game 3, like with many games against Jund, we traded resources in the early game and then we went into topdecking mode. Usually UWR wins the topdeck mode in the late game because it doesn’t have dead draws, while Jund can draw into discard spells or even a Dark Confidant can be a bad draw at that stage. I had a Restoration Angel in play, 5 lands including Celestial Colonnade, while he had Tarmogoyf. We were in topdeck mode but my Angel would have killed him before his Goyf could kill me, in the event that we both drew blanks for the rest of the game. I drew Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker which would be a game winning topdeck, only I didn’t have 3 Red so it was effectively a blank. Then I drew Celestial Colonnade, which also doesn’t produce Red or allow me to activate the previous Colonnade for extra damage. On the last turn before I died, I needed to draw a burn spell or Snapcaster Mage to win, but I didn’t. I just felt this match was not meant to be.

I played the next round against Ad Nauseum combo, and it was a disaster. I should’ve won 3-0 but I lost the match, lost the opportunity of doing well in the tournament, and worst of all – I lost my confidence and will to play. I seriously considered dropping out. My opponent patted me on the back after the match and consoled me with a, “It’s OK. Is this your first GP? Don’t worry, you’ll play better in your next one.”

To start with, I had no idea what he was playing. He was just doing stuff like Serum Visions and playing a weird combination of Esper color lands and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Only when I tapped for Restoration Angel and he responded with Mystical Teachings for Ad Nauseum did I begin to understand what he was playing. The Angel with a turn 3 Blade Splicer, backed up by some burn and counters, managed to win Game 1 before he did anything to try to combo.

In Game 2 I had a Vendilion Clique in play applying some pressure, although he already had a Phyrexian Unlife in play. I knew his hand from the Clique and end of turn I play Restoration Angel to increase the clock. He responded with Ad Nauseum and killed me with Lightning Storm. I had no idea the deck could kill at Instant speed, just as I had no idea Violent Outburst was Instant the first time I played against Living End

In Game 3 I already had a creature in play attacking and at the End of his turn I play Vendilion Clique. This leaves me enough attack power to kill in two turns, so he would only have 1 more turn. His board was just 5 lands, including Boseiju, Who Shelters All but no White mana. He revealed:

Ad Nauseum
Ad Nauseum
Angel’s Grace
Phyrexian Unlife

While I’m looking at his hand he starts whining, “Oh man, I’m so unlucky I don’t have White mana this game.” This is highly suspicious and put me in alert mode (although apparently not enough). Let’s double check all the facts. He had one mana tapped because he played Serum Visions that turn and left one card on top. Did he actually think I couldn’t figure out that it was a Gemstone Mine for sure?

Like I said before, I like having perfect information with Vendilion Clique, and here I had it. I knew his hand and I knew his top card. Could I beat it? I looked at my hand and thought I could. He could only go for the combo once in his turn before he died and I could stop it.

When I announced that I wasn’t taking a card my opponent went from “No White mana whining” to “Really? Thank you!” I’m sure he thought that his bluff had worked and when I passed the turn he just flipped his top card and announced that I’m dead.

Turns out Angel’s Grace has Split Second.

At this point I was questioning if I should just drop but before I could decide, pairings went up and I had to play one more round.

Round 14 was the second to last, and I got paired against fellow MTG Madness member Mitchell Manders, winner of the other Modern GP I attended earlier this year in Bilbao. This time Mitchell was playing Affinity.

Of all the Affinitys I played this weekend, Mitchell had the weakest/slowest draws of them all. But somehow, his creatures seemed bigger and more threatening than the others, even though they were just 1/1′s.

I kept making mistakes at every turn, or at least every time I had a chance to. His unspectacular draw was more than enough to easily take Game 1. I only won Game 2 because of Shatterstorm

In Game 3, my hand was three lands, no color problems, Electrolyze, another removal spell, Restoration Angel and something else I can’t remember. Seemed like a decent keep, maybe too slow because of no Lightning Bolt

As I’ve said before, many players sometimes lose because they are afraid. More accurately, they are lacking confidence and don’t think they can win. Well in this case it was I who was lacking in confidence. I looked at my hand and was not confidant that I could win without Shatterstorm to carry me. This, of course, is ridiculous because the matchup favors UWR.

It was totally undeserved but the six card hand had three lands – Shatterstorm, Snapcaster Mage and Lightning Bolt. After Shatterstorming twice his board, he is just left with multiple Nexus of both kinds, but all I had was a Celestial Colonnade. I was in absolutely no mood to do any kind of math, never mind play, so I kept attacking with the Colonnade, although that may have exposed me to losing to a topdecked Cranial Plating. After extra turns, the game ended in a draw.

I had not looked into the Standings at all during the weekend so I had no idea of the situation. Mitchell explained that a draw would eliminate us both from any prizes and it became clear that Mitchell and I shared the same view on how to act in such situations. I feel that when there is a draw which is harmful to both players, one player should concede – usually the one in a losing board position. This could lead to an awkward situation, such as in this case, where there is no clear winner. This is my view. It doesn’t mean it’s correct or superior to other points of view. That’s how I’ve been taught and what I’m used to.

Eventually Mitchell took the initiative and conceded. I wasn’t thinking very rationally and I thought 11-4 was guaranteed money no matter what (we were 9-4 coming into the round). I even inquired whether or not 10-4-1 had a shot at the money, which at that point certainly did not. Turns out tie breakers were relevant for the 11-4 scores finish in the money. Mitchell knew his weren’t great. I hadn’t looked at mine but I didn’t think they were very good anyway. In any case both of our tie breakers were awful and we were outsiders for a money finish. We just didn’t knew about it.

However, Mitchell’s concession had a restorative effect and as soon as it hit me, I felt I was back and ready to win the final round. Destiny also offered me redemption, pairing me once again against Affinity, and suddenly those Robots didn’t look so scary anymore.

In the final round against Affinity we had our typical games. In Game 1 he threatened to kill me fast. I did my best to stay alive, stabilized at 7 life and had to play around double Galvanic Blast. Game 2 he unloaded his hand like Affinity sometimes does. I drew my card for turn 3 and scooped my two permanents on the table. Both games are fairly common in the UWR vs Affinity matchup. For the last game of the GP my opponent double mulligans, and by turn 3 or 4 when it was clear that he didn’t explode and that I wouldn’t have mana problems, the outcome became clear.

The final score was 11-4. These days when attending a 1,600 people GP, it’s hard to know what to expect. While 11-4 seems OK, I was clearly not happy with it since there was no prize money. However, the whole week was a rollercoaster of emotions so somehow I managed to recover and end the tournament feeling much better than after Round 13.

Some simple lessons the Grand Prix Antwerp experience taught me:

 Don’t be afraid to test your own ideas. You will always receive lots of criticism, most of it negative, and your idea will usually just not be good enough. Chances are that someone has already thought about it. In this Grand Prix I was very proud that fellow MTG Madness members Emanuel Sutor and Shahar Shenhar were inspired by my idea of adding Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to an Aggro Control deck, and I was happy that both of them finished in the money with a re-modeled version of this deck.

 Don’t be over-attached to your ideas. When everyone kept criticizing me, I conceded that I could be wrong and I tried other decks. Like I said, most of the time our ideas aren’t better than what’s already out there. Even with such decent performances, I don’t consider this a success. It’s unlikely to become a part of the metagame since it didn’t put players in the Top 8. I personally don’t consider it a failure, and that’s already impressive.

 Try to familiarize yourself with all decks in the format, how they work, what cards they usually play or can play and their main strategies, disruptions and winning methods. Most of my losses during the Daily Events and even at the Grand Prix were due to lack of this understanding. It’s difficult if you’re just beginning to learn the format because there are so many decks and cards.

 If you make a mistake, no matter how bad, just put it behind you. Do not lose your confidence and your joy of playing or question your abilities or all the work you have done up until this point. The worst thing that can happen is that you lose a game of Magic.

I may have failed to win prizes at GP Antwerp but I consider it a very enriching experience. From the excitement of playtesting a new strategy to the discouragement felt when it fails in testing, and from the surprise of seeing great players believing in it to the despair of burying myself in mistakes only to regain a second breath, I can honestly say that this is the reason I love playing Magic. I would like to thank all the people who shared the playtesting process with me, watched my streams, gave feedback on the deck, as well as all those I met in Antwerp, friends and opponents, for such an amazing week of Magic.

Tiago Chan

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