Modern is a brewer’s paradise, and fresh ideas spring up all the time. Consider the miser’s Akroma out of GW.
GW Hate Bears, by opradvo
If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, the Akroma doesn’t make sense at first, but then you see the Restoration Angels and Flickerwisps and you go “ahhh right so that works.” At least, that’s what I did, and it was a sweet moment.
In this list, Akroma is basically a freeroll, just like the miser’s Gaddock Teeg. You have plenty of disruptive and beastly creatures to win the average game, so the remaining slots can be filled with sweet one-ofs to blow out certain matchups and situations. Teeg randomly shuts down Past in Flames or Birthing Pod. Meanwhile, Akroma’s there for those niche, corner cases where you want a 6/6 trampling flying pro white pro blue firebreather.
Perhaps you see where I’m going with this.
Whenever I see a new idea, my instinct is to try and maximize its potential, to make it as powerful, consistent, and fast as possible. In the case of Akroma, that means running four. At that point, the Aether Vial engine doesn’t make much sense, but we can compensate by adding more mana dorks to power out the combo.
One reaction to this line of reasoning is “surely that’s obvious and other people have tried it before,” but that type of thought limits us as designers—especially with new, underexplored technology. Even if someone else has tried it, that doesn’t mean they tested the right matchups, picked the right shell, or even played the card correctly.
The curve of turn one mana dork, turn two morphed Akroma, turn three blink it is powerful enough to brew around. It’s not fast enough to race combo, but it’s a game-ender against fair decks. Most of the removal of the format, including Path to Exile, Abrupt Decay, and Lightning Bolt, can’t handle a flipped Akroma.
My initial versions tried mimicing the GW hate bears shell and were filled with fragile, situational cards like Gaddock Teeg and Aven Mindcensor. Domri Rade seemed sweet in a deck filled with creatures, but it was best in the matchups that Akroma was winning anyway. I won’t waste time sharing these early lists, but they were important. They showed me I was on to something.
Akroma has a way of getting there through disruption.
Emboldened by my testing, I made a video with the deck, which you can see here. Here’s the list I used:
The deck started with four Flickerwisp, which underperformed without Vial. Meanwhile, Cloudshift started as a one-of but overperformed. Often, you can pass the turn with a morphed Akroma and one mana up and they’ll go for the end-of-turn Electrolyze, losing the game on the spot. Other times, you won’t have the combo at all but you’ll get to save an important card like Thalia or Restoration Angel. A neat trick is running Thalia into a double-block, eating a creature, and blinking it after first strike damage resolves. Cards like Blade Splicer, Wall of Omens, and Cunning Sparkmage give Cloudshift a ton of versatility, and the only time it’s dead is when you don’t have any relevant creatures.
Blood Moon was in the first version of the deck, and it wins a lot of games on its own. Sometimes it’s uncastable because it hurts us more than the opponent, but usually we can plan around it with our fetchlands and mana dorks. Once in a while, it even fixes for red so that we can manually unmorph Akroma and firebreathe for relevant amounts.
The Cunning Sparkmage + Basilisk Collar combo hasn’t seen play in a while, but that’s because Deathrite Shaman has been the go-to mana dork of choice. Now that it’s banned, people are running Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch again, and a single point of damage matters. Similarly, Gut Shot is also playable again, and I’ve seen it in the board of a few Affinity lists.
Here, the Sparkmage combo gives us another “I win” engine that attacks from a different angle. An Affinity or Pod opponent might not care about an Akroma where they’d lose to a Cunning Sparkmage.
Spellskite doesn’t help you when you’re flooding out, but it turns off a lot of cards that would otherwise ruin your day and has some synergy with blink effects. On top of that, it’s an all-around great card in Modern.
Quick and Dirty Sideboard Guide
The goal of this sideboard plan is to cut the dead cards while reducing the effectiveness of Supreme Verdict and Electrolyze.
This and Jund-type decks are the better matchups. Usually I win a game through flipping Akroma and another game with Blood Moon or Thrun.
While Stony Silence can win the game by itself, it can also lose to manlands or Etched Champion. Sparkmage and Restoration Angel give us some maindeck answers to their manlands while Blade Splicer and Creeping Corrosion serve as outs to Etched Champion.
Akroma crushes the fair marchups, and the deck has a lot of neat little synergies. It’s more than the sum of its parts. On top of that, there are a few different “I win” draws that shine in different matchups, and you’re rarely drawing dead.
The deck is competitive. I had an even record against the tier decks on MTGO, which makes it a profitable option for Daily Events but not the two-mans. With some luck, it could go deep in a larger tournament, and with some tuning it might do so consistently.
Oh, and did I mention that blowing someone out with Cloudshift into a giant flying monster is one of the most satisfying feelings in Magic?
Sometimes you draw too much air, or your hand doesn’t do anything and you end up mulling, and the deck doesn’t have a one-card engine to make up for it like Birthing Pod. Also, the plan A is too slow to race the unfair matchups, and the deck’s reliant on drawing the right hoser.
Also, without Basilisk Collar the deck has trouble dealing with opposing creatures, meaning you have to resort to racing or blocking + blinking tricks to handle opposing threats, which doesn’t help if the opponent is comboing off with Twin or Pod.
Blinky Naya 2.0
While Sword of Feast and Famine works well with Birds of Paradise and looks hot on an Akroma, the deck doesn’t run the disruption to grind people down and make the discard relevant. Thrun shines in the same matchups and does so through counters and removal. In testing, Thrun won a slew of games by itself while Sword was usually win-more.
With the addition of Thrun in the main deck, Choke isn’t necessary in the sideboard, making room for a third Blood Moon and more specific combo hate.
While these changes make the overall strategy more consistent and raise the deck’s power level, they don’t address the problem with running out of gas.
Ideally, Kiki-Jiki helps the deck attack from a new angle while also mitigating flood. Instead of mowing down the opponent’s board with the Sparkmage combo, we can simply win. The downside is that there’s even more stress on Restoration Angel, and Kiki-Jiki has no synergy with Akroma.
Playing Thalia in a combo deck feels dirty.
Here, Cloudshift is more than an enabler for Akroma, it also does a fine Vines of the Vastwood impression by protecting the Kiki combo.
On the plus side, the disruption goes a long way toward making the unfair matchups reasonable, and I like being able to strip the opponent’s hand before tapping out for a morph on turn three.
Perhaps the combo could be integrated into more successful Modern control archetypes. As a flashback spell, Momentary Blink has some synergy with Liliana and Gifts Ungiven. The problem is fitting in enough value creatures to make blinking worth it.
This isn’t better than regular Kiki Pod, but it is funnier. It might even have some merit, assuming Cloudshift isn’t a dead draw without Akroma and that Akroma wins some games through typical Pod hate.
I could see incorporating it as a quasi-transitional sideboard plan for UWR and Jundy-type decks.
Hopefully you enjoyed these variations on Blinky Naya. Could I have picked a sillier name? How would you build the deck? Feel free to share builds and ask questions in the comments.