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Against the Odds: 8 Flayer (Pioneer)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 379 of Against the Odds. Soulflayer is a classic Against the Odds card thanks to its ability to delve itself into one of the biggest, scariest piles of keywords possible as early as Turn 2, but it's always had one big problem: there's only one Soulflayer. Well, things are different now thanks to March of the Machines: Aftermath, and we can play eight Soulflayers thanks to Urborg Scavengers! What happens if we go all-in on building around our eight Soulflayers by filling our graveyard with keyword-heavy creatures like Zetalpa, Primal Dawn and Chromanticore? Let's hop into a Pioneer league and find out on this week's Against the Odds!

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Against the Odds: 8 Flayer

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The Deck

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Soulflayer and now Urborg Scavengers are really unique and fun cards. Thanks to their ability to steal the keywords of creatures they exile from the graveyard, they can quickly turn into almost unbeatable threats. With our best draws, we can have a 4/4 flying, double-strike, indestructible, hexproof creature on the battlefield as early as Turn 2 or 3, which is enough to beat pretty much any deck in Pioneer! In general, Soulflayer is our best payoff just because we can play it for two mana, but Urborg Scavengers has some huge upsides as well. For one, Soulflayer only steals the keywords of creatures in the graveyard when we cast it, but Scavengers can steal the abilities of creatures that enter the graveyard later. Just as importantly, Urborg Scavengers works as graveyard hate as well by exiling cards from our opponent's graveyard, which is relevant against decks like Greasefang. Really, though, we don't care which of these cards we draw—the power of our deck is that we have eight of them, so we'll hopefully have at least one in hand every game and draw two or three of them pretty frequently.

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Of course, for our plan to work, we need to be able to fill our graveyard with creatures with a bunch of keywords. Thankfully, we have a bunch of cards that let us do this over the first couple of turns of the game, like Otherworldly Gaze, Grapple with the Past, Grisly Salvage, Tainted Indulgence, and Lotleth Troll. Otherworldly Gaze is especially important to our deck because it can put four cards in our graveyard on Turn 1, which is exactly enough to cast a Soulflayer on Turn 2!

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The final piece of the Soulflayer puzzle is creatures with a bunch of keywords. For this, we have Zetalpa, Primal Dawn for flying, double strike, and indestructible (among other less important mechanics); Chromanticore for flying, first strike, trample, and lifelink; and Striped Riverwinder and Nightveil Predator for hexproof. In our perfect world, when we get a Urborg Scavengers or Soulflayer on the battlefield, we'll exile at least one of the hexproof creatures alongside Zetalpa or Chromanticore (or both, if we get really lucky). A 4/4 flying, double-strike, hexproof, indestructible lifelinker on Turn 2 or 4 is more or less unbeatable for most decks in Pioneer, and our deck is built to have this creature as consistently as possible!

The Matchups

The one thing our deck is really scared of is graveyard hate, which more or less shuts down our plan completely. While we can still win through a Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void, it gets much harder because our Soulflayers and Urborg Scavengers aren't especially good, so we'll need to try to piece together the win by hard-casting things like Nightveil Predator and Chromanticore. While this isn't impossible, it's also not very likely. Otherwise, counterspell-heavy control decks can also be tricky because they can stop Soulflayer and Urborg Scavengers on the stack before the creatures gain a pile of keywords. Otherwise, 8 Flayer isn't scared of much. It turns out that an early 4/4 indestructible, hexproof, double-striking creature is pretty difficult for most decks to beat!

The Odds

All in all, we finished 4-1 in our Pioneer league, giving us an 80% match-win percentage, which is great! More importantly, we really got to see the power of Urborg Scavengers. We knew from the past that Soulflayer can be strong when it worked, but the redundancy that Urborg Scavengers adds to the deck is huge. We had multiple games where we ended up with two or three Soulflayers or Scavengers on the battlefield at once, and the old "we can't find a Soulflayer" games almost never happen now that we get to play eight Flayers. While we probably got a bit lucky to dodge graveyard hate, 8 Flayer felt surprisingly strong in general, to the point where it might be a real Pioneer deck rather than a janky Against the Odds brew!


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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