Deck of the Week: Chord Toolbox

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We're trying something new here at Modern Nexus for the Monday slot. I'd like to use this day's publication for a Deck of the Week feature, where I'll scour the internet for an interesting or innovative build that recently put up results. My aim is to spotlight the unfamiliar and less dominant archetypes here, so don't expect Jund, Affinity or Tron to make regular appearances. Instead, I'll be on the lookout for decks that are the clear result of brewing and tweaking---after all, if the core Tier 1 and Tier 2 cannon in Modern is well established, one of the format's key elements is the fertile ground it provides brewers---probably more so than any other tournament format.

Fauna Shaman-banner-cropped

Today's deck is a modified version of Kiki Chord that made Top 8 at the Bazaar of Moxen in Strasbourg last week in the hands of Hervé Stanus. The deck is listed as "Chord Toolbox" on mtgtop8, and while it's basically a Kiki Chord deck, there are definitely some odd things going on. Take a look:


Chord Toolbox, by Hervé Stanus (6th, Bazaar of Moxen, 7/3/16)

The first thing you'll notice are those Arbor Elfs sitting there in the spot usually reserved for Birds of Paradise. They are complemented (and explained) by the three-of Utopia Sprawl to form the acceleration package so crucial to goodstuff combo decks like this. utopia sprawlAssuming you've fetched up both a Temple Garden and a Stomping Ground, the Arbor Elf is more than capable of doing a Birds impression, which is made more reliable by the adherence to just three colors. Once you add in a Utopia Sprawl, Arbor Elf gets to turbo-charge your mana production, allowing for a four-drop on turn two (!) and producing six mana on turn three. That can lead to some pretty busted starts, including the nut draw of a full-on combo kill on turn three.

The combo, of course, is the tried-and-true Restoration Angel/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker pairing. Alone, these cards work along the same lines as in other versions of Kiki Chord, rebuying the various enter-the-battlefield effects to bury the opponent in value. Eternal Witness rounds out the package to get back a dead Kiki-Jiki for the combo kill (assuming it didn't traverse a Path to Exile), a used up or countered Chord of Calling to find a silver bullet, or just another body to apply more pressure.

Stanus pushed the tutor dimension of his build even further with the addition of Fauna Shaman and Evolutionary Leap. Restoration AngelThe former was a constructed staple during its time in Standard, where it kept the threats flowing in the midgame and doubled as a deceptively relevant body for beating down. Here it serves as a reasonable replacement for old stand-by Birthing Pod (albeit at a much lower power level), finding bullets against specific archetypes or simply the missing piece of the combo kill. Evolutionary Leap works in a similar fashion, allowing Stanus to churn through his deck for a steady stream of value creatures, all while blanking removal from the opponent (and protecting the one-of Kiki-Jiki from hitting the exile zone). There's a second one in the board, which I imagine comes in in the grindier matchups that aim to kill all your creatures.

Beyond that, it's pretty much more of the same-old Kiki Chord, doing its best Pod impression and letting the value-combo players relive their glory days of yore. I'm unsure if this build is superior to the more traditional Kiki Chord lists, but it's certainly interesting to see Fauna Shaman make an appearance. Eldritch EvolutionWhile Fauna Shaman is not new to the format, it's one of the more powerful and format-defining cards from past Standard formats that has yet to really break out in Modern. There is a solid chance that the card is underplayed in other archetypes too---Abzan Company comes to mind as a deck that could be able to benefit from its inclusion.

This deck is also another candidate for [tippy title="Eldritch Evolution" width="330" height="330"]
Eldritch Evolution[/tippy], the new Natural Order variant that may revolutionize goodstuff toolbox strategies. Between Chord, Fauna Shaman, Evolutionary Leap, and Collected Company, there are a plethora of options for finding bullet and combo pieces in a green-based creature deck. I fully expect people to continue to rock the typical Abzan Company and Kiki Chord lists, but this build points to the potential of underexplored options.

Future Decks of the Week

I would like to hear from our readers on this new Deck of the Week feature. Is this something you're interested in seeing more of? What kind of decks are you most excited to read about? Alternately, if there's anything else in particular you'd like me to write on---something you feel doesn't receive enough attention in the Modern content sphere these days---let us know. I'm still looking to find the right content for Monday articles, so hopefully your comments and suggestions will help!

Jason Schousboe

Jason was introduced to Magic in 1994, and began playing competitively during Time Spiral block. He has enjoyed a few high finishes on the professional scene, including Top 16 at Grand Prix Denver and Top 25 at Pro Tour Honolulu 2012. He specializes in draft formats of all stripes, from Masters Edition to the modern age.

View More By Jason Schousboe

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14 thoughts on “Deck of the Week: Chord Toolbox

    1. So it sounds like you’d be more interested in a spotlight on the tiered decks? Or perhaps something like Trevor’s Jeskai primer last week?

      1. i’m sorry, but modern isn’t really that diver, sure much more diverse than standard, but the top decks have been the top decks since the bannings, and it doesn’t seem like anything else is cracking the meta.
        true this doesn’t mean we cant talk about tier 2 decks, but i think it could be more productive to talk about them.

  1. I love that you took the time to put a spotlight on some new tech! I can confirm that evolutionary leap is insane in this type of deck (It works well in all of the green creature combo decks). 1x seems to be the right amount, but when it works, it is absolutely insane.

    The arbor elf/utopia sprawl split is pretty genius. Sprawl isnt even boltable!

    Satyr Wayfinder seems suspect, though maybe he is a selection tool with all of the whitnesses?

    I like the new format, and I would love to see new takes on old decks more in the future!

    1. Hi there !

      First of all, thank you to Jason for the article 🙂

      On satyr wayfinder, that’s indeed his role, fill the grave and find tools with witness. It is good in certain MUs but is a liability against tarmogoyf ‘s deck or deck with gravehate. I already replaced him with a gavony township (growing creatures is something I missed at the tournament).

      With eldritch evolution, I do not know how this list will evolve. I am quite reluctant to move from my ramp package but including eldritch on top of it would probably lower the creature count too much…

  2. I think this is a great idea for Monday’s article and very much enjoyed this first installment.

    Some thoughts/suggestions: they run a similar article every day on SCG which often analyses Modern decks. What you guys have here is unrivalled knowledge of the Modern format and metagame. I dunno how much time you have available but would love to hear how the weekly deck fares against established modern decks (alternatively the author could give their opinion), advice on changes to make and what metagames the deck could succede in.

  3. Hervé has been working on his version off Kiki Chord for quite some time and actually created the Kiki Chord primer over on the MTG Salvation forums back after Pod was banned.

    As someone else who’s been jamming Fauna Shaman for over a year now, I’ve always been surprised how little play the card sees. She can often operate as the green Dark Confidant.. If you don’t deal with her, you’re often just losing with the right toolbox.

    Can’t wait to see what Eldritch Evolution does to the archetype.

  4. Hi Jason, i’m french and fan of Modernnexus and Modern format. Could we see more “rogue deck”. I’m currently playing a modern “smallpox” (Orzhov Midrange) and i’m watching for other deck…

    Long life to Modernexus

  5. I like this type of article on the monday slot. Modern is so wide open right now its great to see interesting decks doing well. This deck specifically I’ve known for a while from MTGSalv so not as interesting but I like the concept. Maybe add a section where there could be possible upgrades, questionable includes, an analysis of why this non-tier 1 deck was able to do well/what hole in the meta its taking advantage of. Anyways, keep up the fresh stuff.

  6. I’ve been wondering when a toolbox deck would spring for Fauna Shamans. Seems like a pretty good fit, and while the bear body won’t be setting the world on fire, it’s important to have some actual attackers alongside the likes of pure utility bodies like Wall of Roots and Orzhov Pontiff.

    The other piece of spicy sideboard tech I noticed there is Fiery Justice. Given that the deck is going deep on the combo strategy (so the lifegain clause doesn’t matter much), I’m surprised we don’t see more of it. 5 damage distributed as you choose can easily be a 2-for-1, and sometimes even a 3-for-1.

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