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Against the Odds: Apex of Power Combo (Standard)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 149 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our final all-Core Set 2019 Against the Odds poll, and in the end, the 10-mana sorcery Apex of Power came out on top with a fairly easy victory! As such, we are heading to Standard this week to see if we can turn Apex of Power into a game-winning combo piece. The challenge of building around Apex of Power is twofold. First, we need to figure out a way to actually cast the super-expensive spell. Second, we need to figure out a way to ensure that Apex of Power is as game winning as possible if we actually manage to cast it. How do we go about winning with Apex of Power in Standard, and what are the odds of us actually pulling off the Apex of Power combo kill? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Apex of Power Combo (Standard)

The Deck

When I realized that Apex of Power had won the poll, I figured that the deck would end up going one of two directions: we'd either be ramping into Apex of Power or using Wildfire Eternal to cheat it into play. I tried to figure out a way to make Wildfire Eternal work but found a bunch of issues with the plan, with the two big ones being that since Wildfire Eternal itself is a creature, it often just died to our opponent's removal before getting a chance to attack. Even if we manage to cast Apex of Power with Wildfire Eternal, we would need a bunch of instants we could cast during combat to take advantage of the ten mana that Apex of Power makes. While it might be possible to make a Wildfire Eternal build work, it seems like a long shot. As a result, instead of cheating Apex of Power into play, our deck features the tried-and-true plan of ramping into Apex of Power and casting it the old-fashioned way.

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Our ramp package is pretty straightforward, with Spring // Mind and Grow from the Ashes getting the fun started on Turn 3, and then Hour of Promise coming down (hopefully) on Turn 4. While Gift of Paradise is another good option for ramping, as you'll see in a minute, our deck really wants as many lands on the battlefield as possible, which makes ramp spells that actually tutor up a land better in our deck. As far as our ramp options, apart from getting extra lands on the battlefield, each comes with some upside: Spring // Mind doubles up as a card-draw spell, Grow from the Ashes can get us two lands if we wait until we have five mana to cast it, and Hour of Promise makes some chump-blocking Zombies to keep us alive while we are waiting to get enough mana to cast our Apex of Power. Still, the main purpose of all of these cards is to make sure we can cast Apex of Power as quickly and consistently as possible.

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Assuming we actually get to 10 mana, the next question is how to we turn Apex of Power into a game-ending combo piece. Simply casting the 10-mana card for value to cast a couple of ramp or card-draw spells isn't really worth the investment. Instead, we need to try make it so that we win the game on the spot if we resolve Apex of Power. Thankfully, Apex of Power's combination of drawing us seven cards and adding 10 mana to help us cast those cards makes it fairly easy to use as a combo enabler. It's also worth mentioning that if we have two copies of Apex of Power in our hand, we can cast both for the price of one. We simply cast the first one, exile seven cards and make 10 mana, then use the 10 mana to cast the second copy, and end up with even more cards in exile to cast (while still having 10 mana to cast them). So, what are we trying to exile with Apex of Power?


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Step one of our combo is Brass's Bounty, which is the reason our deck is so concerned about getting actual lands onto the battlefield. While we can use Brass's Bounty to help us ramp into Apex of Power (for example, Spring//Mind on Turn 3, Hour of Promise on Turn 4, and Brass's Bounty (to make seven or eight Treasures) on Turn 5 lets us cast an Apex of Power on Turn 6 with some Treasures left over), mostly we're hoping to hit a copy of Brass's Bounty with Apex of Power. We can then use it like a sort of super ritual with the mana from Apex of Power, not only adding extra mana but also fixing our mana (since Apex of Power only adds mana of a single color). If we are casting Apex of Power, we likely have at least 10 lands on the battlefield, which means in the worst case, Brass's Bounty is adding three mana with the Treasures it produces, while it occasionally adds much more, either because we have more lands or because we hit two copies of Brass's Bounty. One of the strange aspects of Apex of Power is that—especially in our deck, with a lot of expensive cards—adding 10 mana isn't usually enough for us to cast every card we exile, but we can maximize our Apex of Power value with the help of Brass's Bounty adding even more mana. Plus, the Treasure tokens from Brass's Bounty are essentially to our main combo kill.

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The second card we're hoping to hit with Apex of Power is Marionette Master. After making a bunch of mana with Brass's Bounty, we can spend the rest of our mana (and probably some Treasures) to cast Marionette Master, put the fabricate counters on it, and immediately sacrifice the rest of our Treasures to drain our opponent out of the game, four life at a time. This means that all we need is five Treasures on the battlefield when we finish resolving Marionette Master to win the game. If we cast Apex of Power with 10 lands on the battlefield, hit a Brass's Bounty, and cast it using seven of the 10 mana that Apex of Power makes (to make 10 Treasures), we can then spend the three leftover mana from Apex of Power along with three Treasure tokens to cast Marionette Master, leaving us more than enough Treasures left over on the battlefield to kill our opponent before they untap.

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If we don't happen to hit Brass's Bounty and Marionette Master with our Apex of Power, we have a backup plan in Fight with Fire. While it doesn't quite end the game most of the time, we can use the 10 mana from Apex of Power to cast it with kicker and either throw 10 damage at our opponent's face or kill a bunch of our opponent's creatures to stay alive and spin the wheel again with a future Apex of Power

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If we cast an Apex of Power and completely whiff on combo pieces, things are still usually okay. Ideally, we'll hit some ramp spells and card draws like Glimmer of Genius and Search for Azcanta, allowing us to pull some more lands out of our deck, draw some cards, and hopefully Apex of Power again the next turn, with even greater odds of finding the combo. Search for Azcanta is especially powerful in the deck, since in the late game, we often have enough mana that we can activate it to find an Apex of Power and cast the Apex of Power in the same turn. Meanwhile, Glimmer of Genius is just a solid card-draw spell, digging us four cards deep to find our Apex of Power

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Otherwise, we have a handful of removal spells to help us stay alive long enough to cast our Apex of Power. Abrade and Harnessed Lightning help in the early game, taking down creatures and annoying artifacts. Meanwhile, Hour of Devastation and Sweltering Suns give us a couple of sweepers, with Hour of Devastation being especially important, since it deals with planeswalkers and indestructible creatures like Hazoret the Fervent along with all of our opponent's small threats.

The Matchups

The matchups with Apex of Power combo are pretty simple: we're pretty good at overpowering midrange decks and have a shot against control (especially after sideboarding, when we can bring in our own counterspells and Carnage Tyrant to trump our opponent's counters) but tend to get run over by aggro. While we can beat aggro if we happen to draw a lot of removal and sweepers, we often end up dead if we don't draw the right mixture at the right time, as we spend our turn casting ramp spells that don't really impact the board. 

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches, winning four, good for a 66.67% match win percentage, along with winning eight of our 14 games, putting our game win percentage at about 57%, which makes Apex of Power Combo above average for an Against the Odds deck. As for Apex of Power itself, while we occasionally die before we get to cast it (which is to be expected with a 10-mana card), I'm pretty sure that we won the game every time we cast it, whether right away with the combo, in the next couple of turns thanks to the huge burst of card advantage it generated, or by chaining copies together. While losing to aggro is an issue as far as the deck being truly competitive (and if we cut ramp to add more early-game removal, we might just never cast Apex of Power), the upside of Apex of Power is that its name is on point—it might be the most powerful and fun card to cast in all of Standard!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week, which means we'll be having a special episode next week! Don't worry, the poll will return next week with a mixture of old and new options!

Conclusion

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 SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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