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Against the Odds: Battle of Wits


Hello everyone and welcome to episode twenty-seven of Against the Odds. This week is actually pretty special. For only the second time in the history of Against the Odds, our Legacy option came out on top of our poll. As a result, we are going to be playing Battle of Wits in Legacy. One thing I realized as I was working on the episode is that, while Battle of Wits itself is fairly straightforward (you just have to play four decks mashed into one), making content about Battle of Wits is quite challenging. I mean, how do you make a deck tech for a 240 card deck?

The other good news this week is we have some bonus content. Last week when I went to record Rough Drafts, I happened to open a Battle of Wits in 9th Edition draft. Against my better judgment, I decided to go all in on building a draft version of the Battle of Wits deck. In the end it didn't fit the flavor of Rough Drafts (apart from being rough), so I recorded another draft for the series. Well, as I was editing Against the Odds, I remember I still had the Battle of Wits draft footage, so I decided to edit it and include it as a bonus for this episode. If you need a reminder as to why drafting around Battle of Wits is a bad idea, make sure to look for the video at the end of the article. 

We'll talk more about Battle of Wits in a minute. First let's get to the videos. A quick reminder. If you enjoy Against the Odds and other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Against the Odds: Battle of Wits Intro

Against the Odds: Battle of Wits Games

The Deck

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I'm not even going to try to go over the entire list. It's simply too big and contains too many cards, so instead I'll focus on a few of the highlights. First off we have Battle of Wits, which let's us win the game on our upkeep, which is good, but requires us to play a deck of 240 cards, which leads to a ton of variance. Two hundred and forty cards is exactly the size of four constructed decks, so cards that we play as four-ofs will show up about as frequently as a one-of in a normal deck. As a result, playing a Battle of Wits deck feels a lot like playing a Commander deck. 

First, we want to play cards that help us find Battle of Wits because just hoping we draw one isn't realistic. Actually, odds are against us seeing a Battle of Wits in any given game without the help of tutors. Second, we need to have some backup plans for winning the game, since even with tutors we are by no means guaranteed to find a copy of Battle of Wits in our massive deck. 

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Enlightened Tutor, Intuition, and Academy Rector are our best ways of finding a copy of Battle of Wits, and since we get to play four of each, this brings the total number of Battle of Wits in our deck to 16. It's still not enough that the odds favor us drawing a copy, but much better than if we were just playing the four Battle of Wits. Enlightened Tutor is the most efficient tutor in our deck, but it comes with the downside that we need to plan two turns ahead (one to put the Battle of Wits on top of our library and one to cast it). Intuition is essentially the blue Demonic Tutor, except it can only search for four-ofs (or three-ofs). Academy Rector might be the most powerful tutor in the bunch because it puts the Battle of Wits directly on the battlefield, however for it to work we need to find a way to kill the Academy Rector, which can sometimes be challenging, especially since we are in Bant, a color combination without many good non-exile removal options. 

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Gifts Ungiven and Bring to Light can't find us Battle of Wits. With Gifts Ungiven our opponent will just choose to have Battle of Wits go to the graveyard. Bring to Light can't search for enchantments. However, these cards are very good at finding our other tutors which, in turn, can find Battle of Wits. As such, I count each copy of Gifts Ungiven and Bring to Light as half a copy of Battle of Wits, which brings the total number in our deck to 20. 

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Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling also count as half-copies of Battle of Wits, since we can use them to find Academy Rector to find a Battle of Wits or Eternal Witness to get a Battle of Wits back from the graveyard. Chord of Calling is really powerful, since it can find a Academy Rector after our opponent has declared attacks. Afterwards, we can use the Academy Rector to block, search up a Battle of Wits, and win in our next upkeep. 

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Apart from using Birthing Pod to value our opponent out of the game, we have a couple other Plan B's, the first of which is a Stoneforge Mystic / equipment package of Batterskull, Umezawa's Jitte, and one of each Sword. 

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Another way we can win the game is to use Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling to assemble the Spike Feeder and Archangel of Thune combo. When we have both creatures on the battlefield, we can remove a counter from Spike Feeder to gain two life, which triggers Archangel of Thune's "Whenever you gain life, put a +1/+1 counter on each creature on control" ability, which puts a counter back on Spike Feeder. The end result of this loop is that we not only gain infinite life, but our creatures have infinite power and toughness, which is almost always enough to win the game. 

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Finally, our deck benefits from playing a lot of cards that are unexpected in Legacy. One of the hallmarks of Legacy is efficient, cheap creatures and efficient, cheap answers, which means that some decks are ill prepared to deal with things like Wurmcoil Engine, Thragtusk, and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Our deck is so big that I can barely remember everything in it, which means it is exceedingly unlikely our opponent will have any idea what's going on, so we definitely benefit from the element of surprise. Legacy players don't expect opponents to be blinking Thragtusks with Restoration Angels. 

The Matchups

Trying to break down matchups with a Battle of Wits deck is really strange. How good or bad any matchup ends up being depends on what cards we happen to draw. If we happen to have an opening hand of Noble Hierarch into Kitchen Finks into Obstinate Baloth into Thragtusk I don't think Burn could ever beat us, but we are just as likely to have an opener that is Force of Will, Academy Rector, Lotus Cobra, and Qasali Pridemage, in which case it's almost impossible for us to win. 

The one thing I know for sure is that Force of Will is really hard for our deck to beat and pretty much everyone in Legacy is playing it. Typically, combo decks can get around Force of Will by playing their own counterspells, and while we have some in our deck, the odds that we have a Spell Pierce, Force of Will, or literal Counterspell in our hand when we need one isn't all that great. There were several games where we were able to put our opponent to the test: if they had a Force of Will we lose; if they don't, we'd win. Our opponent had it every time, which isn't surprising because Legacy decks are prepared to answer things like Show and Tell or Goblin Charbelcher, and Battle of Wits is essentially the same game winning threat, just slower and with a huge deck building restriction. 

The Odds

Overall we manage to win one out of five matches (20% match win percentage) and three out of our 12 games (25% game win percentage). I think these numbers are pretty representative. Sometimes we'd get draws that match up well against our opponent (or managed to take advantage of the element of surprise) and win. Other times we'd draw the wrong half of our deck and lose. 

The problem with Battle of Wits is there really isn't a way to fix its inconsistency. There simply isn't a way to play a 240 card deck and have it function like a 60 card deck, and that's the challenge of Battle of Wits. While the deck leads to some fun, random, Commander-esque games, I wouldn't want to play it in a competitive environment. The inconsistency is too great. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Bonus: The Battle of Wits Draft

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. You can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at my new email SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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