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Against the Odds: Ashiok Tribal (Pioneer, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 229 of Against the Odds. Over the past couple of years, planeswalker tribal decks have developed into a popular sub-series on Against the Odds. Last week, we had another planeswalker-tribal poll, and in the end, Ashiok took home a fairly dominant victory over the field, which is exciting not just because Ashiok is a unique planeswalker but because they only became eligible for planeswalker-tribal decks when Ashiok, Nightmare Muse was printed in Theros: Beyond Death (a planeswalker needs at least three non-Planeswalker Deck versions to qualify).

As such, we're heading to Pioneer today to play a deck that's overflowing with Ashioks. In fact, we have the full four copies of every (non-Planeswalker Deck) Ashiok ever printed! Since every Ashiok involves exiling cards from our opponent's graveyard, our main plan for winning with a deck full of Ashioks is to generate value from exiling cards from our opponent's deck. In some games, our deck will play like a mill deck, where we literally exile our opponent's entire library (over the course of a few turns) with various Ashioks. In other games, we will steal cards from our opponent's exile zone and use them to beat our opponent! What are the odds of winning with all of the Ashioks in Pioneer? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Ashiok Tribal 

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The Deck

The main challenge of building any planeswalker-tribal deck is figuring our what theme or mechanic ties together all of the versions of the planeswalker we are building around. Thankfully, this isn't too hard for Ashiok since every Ashiok has at least one (and sometimes more) ability that involves exiling cards from our opponent's library. As a result, building around Ashiok mostly requires figuring out a way to benefit from the opponent having cards in their exile zone. While Ashiok, Nightmare Muse does this itself with its ultimate, we have some other sweet exile shenanigans to support our Ashioks' exiling as well!

Ashioks

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Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is not only our newest Ashiok but likely the more important to our deck since its ultimate rewards us for activating our other Ashioks to exile away our opponent's deck. The problem is that we can't really build an entire deck just around ultimating a planeswalker. Ultimating a planeswalker is difficult because it requires us to keep a planeswalker on the battlefield for several turns without dying or losing much loyalty. As such, while ultimating Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is great when it happens—because by the time it does, we'll likely have most of our opponent's deck exiled and be able to play their three best cards for free—we can still win the game without getting enough loyalty to ultimate. Outside of the ultimate, Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is a solid planeswalker in general, making tokens that exile away our opponent's library as they attack and block and potentially dealing with our opponent's best permanent (at least temporarily) with its 3 bounce ability.

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Backing up Ashiok, Nightmare Muse are Ashiok, Dream Render and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, both of which also exile cards from our opponent's library, while Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver can sort of do a watered-down version of Ashiok, Nightmare Muse's ultimate by putting creatures that it exiles into play under our control with its X ability. All of our Ashioks combined give us a bunch of potentially powerful (although weird) mill cards, slowly eating away at the cards left in our opponent's library. As such, one of our main plans for winning the game (outside of ultimating Ashiok, Nightmare Muse) is to simply use our Ashioks to exile our opponent's entire deck, causing our opponent to lose when they draw with an empty library. 

As far as our three-mana Ashioks specifically, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is especially good against control decks, where, if unchecked, it will eventually exile our opponent's hand and graveyard. Meanwhile, Ashiok, Dream Render is great against graveyard-based decks like Sultai Delirium, where exiling cards like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and turning off delirium on Traverse the Ulvenwald are especially helpful.

Exile Payoffs

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Apart from ultimating Ashiok, Nightmare Muse or exiling our opponent's entire deck for the mill kill, how can we benefit from our Ashioks exiling cards from our opponent's deck? The biggest answer here is Oblivion Sower. While the 5/8 body for six mana is fine on its own, the real power of Oblivion Sower in our deck is that it's one of the most absurd ramp cards ever printed. When we cast Oblivion Sower, we not only get to exile four cards from our opponent's deck but we also get to put any number of lands from our opponent's exile zone into play under our control. Considering how many cards Ashiok, Dream Render, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and the Nightmare tokens from Ashiok, Nightmare Muse can exile, this can easily be five, 10, or even more lands, giving us an insane amount of mana, which in turn will allow us to draw a bunch of extra cards each turn with lands like Arch of Orazca and Castle Locthwain, which should find us more Ashioks (which can be immediately cast since we have so much mana) to exile even more cards and hopefully mill our opponent out of the game.

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The other way we benefit from exiling our opponent's cards is a couple of Eldrazi Processors, with Ulamog's Nullifier in the main deck and Wasteland Strangler in the sideboard for aggressive creature-based decks. Ulamog's Nullifier is basically a Mystic Snake with the upside of flying that requires us to put two cards from our opponent's exile zone into their graveyard to counter a spell when it comes into play. Thankfully, due to all of our Ashioks, our opponent should always have plenty of cards in exile for processing. Wasteland Strangler is similar but only needs to process one card to give a creature 3/3 when it comes into play, making it a solid two-for-one against most aggro decks by killing something immediately and something else in combat.

Other Stuff

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The rest of our deck is designed to protect our Ashioks and help make sure we stay alive long enough to exile away our opponent's library with our planeswalkers. Fathom Feeder is just a one-of, but it can get extra cards into exile thanks to ingest and is a good blocker against bigger creatures thanks to deathtouch. Meanwhile, Thoughtseize and Agonizing Remorse attack our opponent's hand, getting rid of cards that could kill our Ashioks, while Agonizing Remorse also puts a card into the exile zone, which we can later process with our Eldrazi or play with Ashiok, Nightmare Muse's ultimate. Finally, Fatal Push, Murderous Rider, and Reality Shift give us some removal for creature-based decks. Reality Shift probably looks strange, but much like Agonizing Remorse, it has the upside of exiling a creature rather than just killing it. So if our opponent plays something that we really want on our side of the battlefield, we can use Reality Shift to get it into exile so that we can eventually play it with the help of Ashiok, Nightmare Muse

The Matchups

The matchups with Ashiok Tribal are weird, mostly because Ashioks are weird planeswalkers. In general, Ashioks aren't very good against aggressive decks since apart from Ashiok, Nightmare Muse (which, at five mana, is already slow against aggro), they don't immediately impact the board or really protect themselves very well. As such, aggressive creature decks are our hardest matchups since our Ashioks themselves just aren't very good against aggro. On the other hand, our Ashioks shine against midrange and control decks, while Ashiok, Dream Render means we are essentially pre-sideboarded against graveyard-based decks like Sultai Delirium or Lotus Breach. Basically, Ashioks don't mind playing against control, midrange, or even combo but are hoping to dodge aggro, if possible.

The Odds

All in all, we went 3-2 with Ashiok Tribal, giving us a 60% match win percentage and making Ashiok Tribal slightly above average for an Against the Odds deck. Unfortunately, we never got a chance to ultimate Ashiok, Nightmare Muse (ultimating a planeswalker in Pioneer is pretty hard!), but we did get some Ashiok mill kills and do some crazy things with Oblivion Sower stealing a ton of lands from our opponent's exile zone. We also managed to assemble Ashiok Tron, which might not be quite as good as traditional Tron but was certainly way spicier!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

War of the Spark was one of the most unique and ambitious sets in Magic's history featuring both the advent of planeswalkers with static abilities and a ton of planeswalkers in an absolute sense. While there has been a ton of conversation about the most broken of the WAR walkers like Nissa, Who Breaks the World, Teferi, Time Raveler, Narset, Parter of Veils and Karn, the Great Creator, there are a bunch of really sweet planeswalkers from War of the Spark that haven't really gotten a chance to shine in Standard, so let's give an under-appreciated WAR walker it's due next week! Which of these decidedly not broken War of the Spark planeswalkers should we build around? 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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