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Against the Odds: Ajani Tribal (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 150 of Against the Odds. Last week we didn't have an Against the Odds poll, which means that this week we have a super special episode! If you've been following Against the Odds for a while you'll know that we've been working our way through various planeswalker tribal decks and this week we've got the next in the sub-series featuring a planeswalker that got a sweet new version in Core Set 2019: Ajani! Ajani tribal is a bit different than some of the past planeswalker tribal decks we've played, mostly because Ajani is a planeswalker that doesn't do anything on its own. Instead, it needs creatures on the battlefield to be effective. Is it possible to find the right mixture of creatures and Ajanis to make a competitive (and fun) Ajani Tribal deck in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out, then we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Ajani Tribal (Modern)

The Deck

I knew I wanted to build Ajani Tribal for the special episode, but I wasn't exactly sure what the deck would look like. My initial idea was to build a meme heavy, all Ajani deck where literally every card either had "Ajani" in the name, text box, or art. While it is possible to build such a deck, after playing some games I realized that it wasn't really good or fun, and apart from the novelty of "look, everything is Ajani," the video wouldn't be very entertaining. The main problem with the deck is that if we don't have any creatures on the battlefield, all of our Ajanis are essentially blank cards. How could we go about solving this problem? A bunch of annoying, hexproof creatures of course!

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All in all we have seven different Ajanis in our deck, and just about all of them need creatures on the battlefield to have any meaningful impact on the game. Take Ajani, Caller of the Pride, Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes for example. All of these Ajanis are extremely powerful, but their best abilities involve pumping creatures. On an empty board they do almost nothing. However, if we have a creature or two around to put counters on, they can all be meaningful threats. 

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Ajani Steadfast and Ajani Goldmane are similarneeding creatures to really be powerfulbut unlike our first group of Ajanis, instead of putting counters on one (or a small number) of creatures, they put counters on all of our creatures, essentially working like anthems to pump our team. Ajani Steadfast is unique because it also adds loyalty to our other Ajanis, which is a nice bonus, while both Ajani Steadfast and Ajani Goldmane can gain us life with their +1 abilities, which is especially helpful against various aggro decks or burn. If we can put up a wall of creatures to defend our Ajanis and continually +1 with Steadfast or Goldmane, it becomes really difficult for some decks to beat us.

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The two exceptions to our "Ajani need creatures" rule are Ajani Vengeant and Ajani Unyielding, which are basically our Ajani removal spells. Ajani Vengeant can keep a big threat tapped down with his +1 and Lightning Helix away smaller threats with his -2. Meanwhile, Ajani Unyielding can be a double Swords to Plowshares (over the course of two turns) or can generate tons of card advantage. Three copies of Path to Exile are the only non-land, non-permanent cards in our main deck, so if we +2 Ajani Unyielding, we are normally hitting slightly more than 1.5 cards, making the +2 pretty close to a Divination that never draws us lands.

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After dumping Ajani's Pridemate and Ajani's Comrade from the initial all-Ajani build because they died too often, we filled the deck with some of the hardest to deal with creatures in all of Magic: hexproof creatures! Bassara Tower Archer and Silhana Ledgewalker get our hexproof curve started on turn two, and while neither creature is hugely powerful on its own, both are really difficult for opponents to kill thanks to hexproof. Once we get a couple of Ajanis on the battlefield both grow into huge threats. Bassara Tower Archer is especially good on defense with reach, while Silhana Ledgewalker is one of our better attackers (especially once it ends up a 4/4 or 5/5 thanks to Ajani counters) because it has a form of evasion. 

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At the top of our hexproof curve we have Troll Ascetic and Dungrove Elder. While Ajani, Caller of the Pride is three-mana, most of our Ajanis are four- to six-mana. This means we can often spend turns two and three playing hexproof creatures and then spend the rest of the game playing Ajanis to make those creatures into massive threats. Troll Ascestic has reasonable stats to begin with and regeneration is a nice upside, allowing it to block forever or survive most wraths. Meanwhile, Dungrove Elder requires us to skew our manabase towards Forests, but ends up being massive. With a combination of a mostly-Forest manabase and all of the counters our Ajanis can put on creatures, it is not that uncommon for it to end up as an 8/8 or even 10/10 hexproof creature, which quickly turns into The Abyss, forcing our opponent to throw away a creature by chump blocking each turn just to stay alive. Then eventually we draw Ajani, Caller of the Pride, give our Dungrove Elder flying and double strike and kill our opponent in just one attack!

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And this is basically the deck (apart from a few copies of Path to Exile as removal). We play hexproof creature in the early game, endless Ajanis in the mid-to-late game, and hopefully use our Ajanis to make our hexproof creatures into unbeatable threats to steal the victory!

The Matchups

The matchups with Ajani Tribal are pretty simple: we are solid against creature decks and control decks thanks to the combination of endless hexproof creatures and planeswalkers, but we can struggle against comboespecially fast combo. While we have some good sideboard options to shore up our bad matchups, our Ajani clock simply isn't fast enough to race decks like Storm or KCI unless we get lucky and draw the right sideboard card at the right time. On the other hand, against creature decks we naturally fizzle all of their targeted removal leaving them with a bunch of dead draws, and then our creatures typically end up bigger than our opponent's creatures thanks to all of the +1/+1 counters from our Ajanis. Plus, the random Ajani lifegain doesn't hurt when we get in a racing situation. 

The Odds

All in all we played five matches and won four, good for an 80% match win percentage, along with winning 9 of 13 games, giving us a 69% game win percentage, which makes Ajani tribal way above average for an Against the Odds deck. While it is true that some of these wins came from the powerful sideboard options white has to offer (like Stony Silence against Affinity and Hardened Scales), it's also true that some decks really struggle with massive hexproof creatures and endless Ajanis. Of course, we also saw the downside of Ajani as a planeswalker in our matches: we had a couple of games where we simply didn't find a creature and our Ajanis did literally nothing. Overall the deck in general and our Ajanis worked way better than I ever could have imagined!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Today most of the equipment that gets printed is pretty tame, so it's easy to forget that there have been some really unique equipment printed in the past. Let's play one next week! Which of these equipment cards should we build around in Modern next week? Let us know by voting below!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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