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.
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.
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”]
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
2 Rugged Prairie
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Tectonic Edge
3 Temple of Triumph
2 Wear / Tear
1 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
2 Deflecting Palm
4 Leyline of Sanctity
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.
Sean is a Magic Online grinder that’s been playing Modern since 2012. His background comprises a combined 10 years of journalism study and practice. You can find him on Twitter @regalforce.