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Against the Odds: Bearer of Gifts (Pioneer, Magic Online)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 218 of Against the Odds. Last week, in honor of our impending return to Theros with Theros: Beyond Death, we had a Theros-in-Pioneer Against the Odds poll. In the end, it was Bearer of the Heavens coming out on top. As such, we're heading to Pioneer today to see if we can blow up the world (hopefully in a beneficial way). What are the odds of winning with Bearer of the Heavens in Pioneer? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Bearer of Gifts (Pioneer)

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The Deck

Bearer of the Heavens is a really tricky card to build around. It basically asks us to do three things. First, we need to get an eight-mana creature onto the battlefield, and while Pioneer isn't as fast as Modern, it's still fast enough that playing random eight-drops can be challenging without support. Second, we need a way to kill our own Bearer of the Heavens to blow up the world. Just hoping that our opponent kills it isn't a good plan, not just because it's inconsistent but because our opponent could potentially kill it at an inopportune time when the Bearer of the Heavens trigger would hurt us just as much as it hurts our opponent. Third, we need a way to break the symmetry of the Bearer of the Heavens trigger. While destroying all permanents can be a good safety valve if we are about to lose the game, ideally, we can manipulate the game in a way where Bearer of the Heavens blows up our opponent's board while leaving our permanents untouched. 

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With these three steps in mind, I tried a bunch of ways of building around Bearer of the Heavens. A ramp deck seems possible, but in reality, ramping into Bearer of the Heavens isn't that exciting since we need multiple additional pieces to make it good. And if we get up to eight mana, we could just cast something like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon that doesn't require additional support to win the game. After shelving ramp, the focus turned to reanimating strategies, and while there are a bunch of options (Blood for Bones, Rescue from the Underworld, Whip of Erebos), in the end, God-Pharaoh's Gift seemed like the best of the bunch, which leads to the deck we're playing today.

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Our main plan for getting Bearer of the Heavens onto the battlefield is to get it into our graveyard and then return it to play (in 4/4 token form) with the help of God-Pharaoh's Gift. The upside of God-Pharaoh's Gift is that once we are ready to reanimate Bearer of the Heavens, it gets Bearer of the Heavens back for free, so we can use our mana for secondary combo pieces to make Bearer of the Heavens a one-sided Decree of Annihilation, which should almost always win the game on the spot by putting our opponent to zero permanents! Gate to the Afterlife helps us find our God-Pharaoh's Gift and cheaply cheat it onto the battlefield to speed up the deck while also allowing us to loot through our deck as our creatures die.

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For our plan to work, we need to not only get Bearer of the Heavens in our graveyard but six other creatures, so that we can use Gate to the Afterlife to find God-Pharaoh's Gift and eventually reanimate Bearer of the Heavens. For this, we have a bunch of cheap creatures that stock our graveyard while also giving us additional bodies in the graveyard for Gate to the Afterlife.

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While Merfolk Secretkeeper, Stitcher's Supplier, and Satyr Wayfinder are good at filling our graveyard, they don't do much other than dump cards into the bin. Thankfully, we have a couple of other creatures that fill our graveyard while offering additional upside. Emry, Lurker of the Loch puts four cards into our graveyard and then allows us to cast a Gate to the Afterlife or God-Pharaoh's Gift from our graveyard if we happen to mill one over. Meanwhile, Champion of Wits gives us a way to put copies of Bearer of the Heavens or other graveyard-based combo pieces from our hand to our yard by double-looting when it comes into play. Then, once we have God-Pharaoh's Gift, it is a solid reanimation target, digging four cards deep for combo pieces when it comes back in 4/4 token form.

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So let's assume we manage to get a Bearer of the Heavens into our graveyard and a God-Pharaoh's Gift on the battlefield. How do we use Bearer of the Heavens to actually win the game? First, after making a Bearer of the Heavens token with God-Pharaoh's Gift, Sidisi's Faithful and Plaguecrafter give us ways to sacrifice our Bearer of the Heavens, putting a "destroy all permanents at the end of turn" trigger onto the stack. Sidisi's Faithful is the best enabler since it is just a single mana (and also a fine blocker in the early game against aggro), but Plaguecrafter can work in a pinch.

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The last piece of the puzzle is Soul of New Phyrexia. The plan here is that as we are casting all of our graveyard-filling creatures, we'll mill a copy or two of the Avatar into our graveyard. Then, after we sacrifice our Bearer of the Heavens (but before the "destroy everything" trigger resolves on our end step), we can simply exile Soul of New Phyrexia from our graveyard to make all of our permanents indestructible. Then, when the Bearer of the Heavens trigger finally resolves, our opponent loses everything—lands, planeswalkers, creatures, artifacts, and enchantments—while we lose nothing, thanks to Soul of New Phyrexia. Normally, this is when our opponent scoops, giving us a flawless victory, but if they continue to play it out, we can finish the game with another turn or two of God-Pharaoh's Gift reanimation.

The Matchups

In general, Bearer of Gifts isn't as much about the matchups as it is about whether our opponent is playing graveyard hate. Cards like Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace are devastating for our deck, completing shutting down our plan. While Blast Zone, Assassin's Trophy, and Reclamation Sage give us answers to our opponents' hate cards, they are still really difficult to beat. This played out in our matches, where we won game one in four out of the five that we played, only to have things fall apart after sideboarding much of the time after our opponent could bring in a bunch of graveyard hate.

The Odds

Overall, our record wasn't great. We played five matches and only won one, giving us a 20% match win percentage and making Bearer of Gifts very below average for an Against the Odds deck. On the other hand, as I mentioned above, we were actually very good at winning the first game of our matches before our opponent could bring in graveyard hate, giving us four out of five pre-board games, even though we only managed a single win after sideboarding.

While our record wasn't very exciting, our wins were very exciting. Almost every one came from Bearer of the Heavens blowing up all of our opponent's permanents. Thanks to all of our graveyard fillers the combo is fairly consistent, assuming our opponent doesn't have any graveyard hate. As such, even though our overall record was poor, Bearer of the Heavens might be one of the best Against the Odds decks of all time at picking up flawless victories! Basically, we got wrecked by graveyard hate a lot, but when we didn't, our wins were pretty spectacular.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Lately we've had some really sweet Pioneer cards win our weekly Against the Odds poll, but we've also had a lot of unique and potentially fun cards just miss out on a chance for glory by coming in second place. Today, it's time for all of those runners up to get another chance to shine! Which of these second chance cards should we build around in Pioneer next week? Let us know by voting below!

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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


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