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Cobra Saheeli in Modern

I have a problem. I am addicted to wg creature decks. Voice of Resurgence is one of my favorite cards in Modern, so I am constantly searching for competitive shells that let me play my favorite Grizzly Bear. While looking over some results from recent Modern events, one decklist from the Top 8 of an SCG Classic caught my eye:


This deck does a lot of the fair Modern stuff that I enjoy doing, while still packing a potential combo finish with Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian. Eldritch Evolution allows a nice toolbox to exist for fighting fast decks and generating value against other fair decks, and Oath of Nissa really adds a nice amount of consistency to the deck. There is, however, one card that really stood out to me while playing this deck:

Lotus Cobra

This card makes an incredible amount of mana. Enough mana, in fact, that it is actually possible to have a turn two combo kill with the right draw. Take a look at the decklist and see if you can figure out how to combo on turn two using Lotus Cobra.

If you did not find the turn two kill on your own, do not feel bad. It is slightly convoluted to say the least. Here is how it goes:

Turn One:

Turn Two:

The same kill sequence is also possible on turn three, even without a Birds of Paradise on turn one.

The only problem is that the decklist we were playing is riddled with 1-ofs. In fact, it is not even playing four copies of Saheeli Rai or Eldritch Evolution to do the things it wants to do as consistently as possible. Like many of the Kiki-Jiki decks I have played in Modern in the past, it is also largely a wg deck trying to splash a triple red card and messing up its mana base greatly to do so.

This got me thinking — what if we streamlined everything? What if we played four of all the cards we wanted to see every game and just left the “fun-ofs” in favor of a few random Evolution targets for when we are not able to combo kill our opponent? This brought me to this list, which I have played a few times on stream in the past month:


This list felt fairly smooth. Much like the Kiki-Chord decks of yore, this deck threatens a combo much more often than it actually combos. Saheeli Rai simply helps us generate value and aggressive turns. Copying Renegade Rallier is quite powerful, and copying a Thragtusk or a Sun Titan often ends the game.

Speaking of copying Sun Titan, the two copies of this card may seem a bit odd at first, but they provide a powerful top end to ramp into with Lotus Cobra. They serve as combo cards when we have two copies of Saheeli Rai. Here is how that goes: Saheeli Rai copies a Sun Titan, which brings back the second Saheeli Rai from our discard pile. We keep the new Saheeli, which can then make another Sun Titan. New Titan gets back the other Saheeli to keep going until we have a lethal number of Titans.

I feel pretty confident in our main deck 4-ofs. We want to draw all of these cards most games, so it makes sense to play as many copies as possible. Only one copy of Felidar Guardian might seem odd, but when we are not combo killing, Guardian is a fairly terrible Magic card. It can blink our other creatures for some value, but most times we would rather have any other value creature instead.

That leaves us with some more open slots to dedicate to different utility creatures that are all useful in different spots. Currently, I am playing the following six utility creatures in my main deck:

Meddling Mage
Eternal Witness
Reflector Mage
Avalanche Riders
Thragtusk
Sigarda, Heron's Grace

Meddling Mage is fairly powerful in Modern right now. Decks like Storm and rg Valakut tend to lean on specific cards to win the game, and cutting them off of these cards gives us a lot more time to execute on our game plan. Eternal Witness is a Green toolbox staple and for good reason — being able to reuse anything in our discard pile often comes in handy. We can also get Eternal Witness back with Sun Titan later on in the game to really generate some value.

Reflector Mage acts as pseudo removal that can generate a good deal of tempo for us, especially in conjunction with Saheeli Rai. It is one of our better cards against other creature-based decks when we are on the beatdown plan.

Avalanche Riders is one of the better land destruction creatures we can find quickly. It allows us to buy a little extra time against big mana decks like Tron and Valakut.

Thragtusk and Sigarda, Heron's Grace are our “go over the top” cards for fair midrange matchups but are also useful in other places. They both serve as powerful hosers against decks like Burn that are hoping to close the game out with reach. Sigarda is fantastic against Storm, as she not only makes us immune to Grapeshot, but she also makes their Gifts Ungiven uncastable since they need to target us.

One of my favorite things about playing a toolbox deck like this is just how much impact every spot in our sideboard tends to have. Because we have access to four different colors, we get to flesh out our list of “fun-of” creatures with a number of other cards to help us in different situations:

Obstinate Baloth
Glen Elendra Archmage
Acidic Slime

Obstinate Baloth is fantastic against aggressive decks. A curve of Voice of Resurgence on two into Eldritch Evolution for Obstinate Baloth on three not only buffers our life total, but also leaves at least 6 power in play. Glen Elendra Archmage is kind of like a split card and is powerful against both control and spell-based combo decks. She generates card advantage, provides an evasive body, and can protect our other lock pieces.

Acidic Slime, while a bit slower than something like a Fulminator Mage, is easier to cast and a touch more flexible. Big mana decks are fairly popular right now, so I think it is worthwhile to have a second way, past our main deck Riders, to blow up opposing lands.

Izzet Staticaster
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Kataki, War's Wage

Staticaster is great at cleaning up tokens and other small creatures, such as against other fair decks playing Lingering Souls as well as some unfair decks like Storm that occasionally go off with Empty the Warrens. Speaking of Storm, Eidolon of Rhetoric is our go-to Storm hate card. Thanks to Birds of Paradise, we can get Eidolon into play as early as turn two. Kataki, War's Wage is a hoser for Robots as well as other artifact-based decks like Lantern.

Finally, we round out the sideboard with a smattering of 2-ofs. These are either creatures that we want to draw more often or non-creature spells that can have a big impact if and when we find them:

Gaddock Teeg
Reclamation Sage
Stony Silence
Unified Will

If you read my article two weeks ago about Eldrazi Evolution, you know how much I like Gaddock Teeg in Modern right now. In addition to hosing Storm by stopping Gifts Ungiven and Past in Flames, the kithkin advisor is also reasonable against decks like Tron and wu Control. Reclamation Sage is really fantastic in this deck, as it not only answers problem permanents, but also leaves behind a 3-cost body that we can evolve into something else later.

If your deck can produce White mana, then Stony Silence is a card you should never leave home without. In addition to hosing the obvious decks, Robots and Lantern, it is also good against Green Tron, as it shuts down their eggs and Oblivion Stones. Unified Will is the best counterspell a deck like this can ask for. In all of the matchups where we want a counterspell effect, we almost certainly will have more creatures in play than them. Notably, Unified Will can counter any spell unlike things like Negate and Disdainful Stroke, which can miss.

Sideboarding in a deck like this is generally pretty straightforward. We want to cut our main deck bullets when they are not good in a given matchup to make room for different ones from our sideboard that will actually have an impact. Past this, traditional wisdom, like boarding out Birds of Paradise against decks playing sweepers, still applies.

The most important thing to keep in mind when playing this deck is that we are an interactive deck first and a combo deck second. We tend to win far more games by attacking and generating value than we do by going infinite. The threat of the combo kill puts pressure on our opponent to play suboptimally, which we can take advantage of.

If you want to see a video of this deck in action, check out the archive of me playing the deck on my YouTube channel here.

Wrapping Up

The big question everyone always asks when a deck like this is introduced into Modern is “how competitive is it?”. The short answer to that question is, I don’t know yet.

The slightly longer answer is that I would be surprised if some iteration of this deck is not at least somewhat competitive. It ticks all of the boxes you are generally looking for in a Modern deck: it has a very fast linear combo kill, it has a real plan for interacting with opponents who are faster than it, and it has a fallback plan for when comboing is not an option.

This is the best combo toolbox deck I have played in Modern in the last year or so. While it is not quite the same as Kiki-Chord, it scratches a lot of the same itches, and it gets to play four Voice of Resurgence! If you have been searching for a new creature combo deck to love in Modern, I would highly recommend giving this one a try.

Cheers,

—Jeff Hoogland


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