Modern Madness: Simic Pili-Pala

What is Simic Pili-Pala?

It’s a Company creature-combo deck archetype where its goal is to: One, generate an infinite amount of mana; two, cycle through its library until finding a win condition; and three, finish off the opponent using a spell with X in its mana cost. Contrary to Counters Company, however, Pili-Pala has cantrips and counter spells within its repertoire in order to find its combo pieces more efficiently within the first few turns, as well as offer tempo disruption to the opponent’s deck. By having access to these cantrips, Pili-Pala is less reliant on value-creatures in order to persist throughout the game.

    With color combinations in mind, it’s important to recognize that Pili-Pala is a creature-based combo deck. Therefore, it’s highly beneficial to include Green as an additional color. By adding Green to Pili-Pala, the deck gains access to mana acceleration in the form of Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch as well as invaluable creature tutors, such as Eldritch Evolution and Chord of Calling. Furthermore, one could include White for utility and stronger sideboard options, such as Rest in Peace in a format where graveyard-based decks are dominant.

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    Though I mentioned mana dorks prior as our preferred turn one spells, the deck also runs a variety of cantrips such as Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand, and Adventurous Impulse. Using these cantrips allows the deck to find combo pieces faster. Alternative digging options include Collected Company, which has the ability to pull two creatures from the deck for a higher mana cost at instant speed. Collected Company, however, is more likely to miss hitting creatures because the deck has a higher number of instants and sorceries compared to Abzan Counters Company. For this reason, I found Eldritch Evolution to be a better alternative; you can sacrifice your mana dork to the card in order to pay for the additional cost, as well as the mana cost.

    The Pili-Pala combo works like this: Pili-Pala is a two-mana artifact creature with flying and “{2}, Untap: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool” attached to a 1/1 body. Pili-Pala works in tandem with another creature called Grand Architect. It is a 3-drop blue creature with three abilities. The first ability is less relevant to the combo, as it is effectively an anthem effect for blue creatures. The second and third, however, are the most useful to the combo: “U: target creature becomes blue until end of turn” and “Tap a blue creature you control: add {2}, Use this mana cast artifact spells or to pay for the activation costs of artifacts you control.” By using the second ability to target Pili-Pala, you can tap Pili-Pala to create the necessary mana to fuel it’s untap ability, creating loop of infinite mana.

    Now that the deck has established an infinite mana loop, there are a variety of other deck-digging tools and pay-off cards. The commonly used payoff cards are Azure Mage, which functions similarly to Duskwatch Recruiter in Abzan Counters Company in order to find Pyromatics. Pyromatics’ Replicate ability is what makes this card an effective pay off card, as even if the initial spell is countered, the copies will still resolve on the stack and kill the opponent. Alternatively, one could pick Banefire or Torment of Hailfire, as Banefire can’t be countered and Torment of Hailfire does not target the opponent (circumventing Leyline of Sanctity).

    Ideal opening hands vary when playing Simic Pili-Pala. Generally, a hand with 2-3 lands, a mana dork, and digging or tutoring spells work well for the deck. Keeping hands with combo pieces in addition to these other cards is also beneficial. A strong sequence of turns could look like this:

T1: Botanical Sanctum into Noble Hierarch

T2: Island into tapping out for Grand Architect, into tapping Architect for Pili-Pala

T3: Untap with creatures, win the game through Blue Sun’s Zenith and Pyromatics.

While this is the ideal start, you can replace your T2 play with Eldritch Evolution into Grand Architect, into tapping it for Pili-Pala, or cantrip with Serum Visions and hold mana for Remand. The main deck features little interaction for opponents’ threats, so try to keep hands that facilitate quick wins.

    The sideboard plan for this deck is to shutdown its biggest counter: Stony Silence. Stony Silence turns off Pili-Pala as our mana accelerant, as the card does not exclude mana abilities in the card text. Other cards that present a problem to Pili-Pala are targeted removal spells. Spellskite works well with Grand Architect, so rather than adding spells to counter their removal, Pili-Pala can tutor for and cast Spellskite early to redirect the removal instead. Gigadrowse allows Pili-Pala to switch off Control decks for a turn. Moreover, Wipe Away and Krosan Grip can’t be countered, thus making the match-up easier. Lastly, this sideboard also includes two copies of Scavenging Ooze to tackle graveyard-based decks, as it is a tutorable, low-cost creature.

    In conclusion, Simic Pili-Pala functions as an alternative creature-based combo deck to Abzan Counters Company. The addition of blue gives early cantrips and countermagic to both disrupt and protect the combo. Consider the following list as a primer for the deck: Decklist and Sideboard.

2 comments

  1. Thank you for including your Turn order so I can get the flow of the deck in my mind and what I should play when. I find so often I look at deck lists and wonder how to play them since i’m virtually a noob when it comes to Modern.

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