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Against the Odds: Bitter Ordeal (Modern)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode eighty of Against the Odds. Last week, we looked to the future for our Against the Odds poll with a bunch of different Future Sight options. While it was a super-close battle, in the (bitter?) end, it was Bitter Ordeal coming out on top. As such, this week, we are heading to Modern to see if we can gravestorm our way to some victories by sacrificing our own board and exiling away our opponent's library! Can we turn the Lost Legacy-esque effect into a way to kill our opponents? We're about to find out!

Let's get to the videos, and then we'll talk a bit more about the deck, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy the Against the Odds series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel.

Against the Odds: Bitter Ordeal (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Bitter Ordeal (Games)

The Deck

Bitter Ordeal is a hard card to build around for a couple of reasons. First off, we have to figure out a way to trigger gravestorm, which is doable but takes a bit of effort. Second, even once we overcome the gravestorm problem, we need to turn Bitter Ordeal from a random hate card that exiles a few things from our opponent's library to an actual win condition. 

Killing the Opponent

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By itself, Bitter Ordeal doesn't really do much of anything in a lot of matchups. While it can be good against combo if we can exile at least four cards (for example, all the Scapeshifts or all the  Ad Nauseams), against most decks it's more of an annoyance than a good Magic card. Thankfully, there is a way to turn Bitter Ordeal into a double-Grapeshot and use it to actually kill the opponent...

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The hidden power of Bitter Ordeal is the way it resolves; since gravestorm is like normal storm, each copy resolves individually, so even discounting the ability to exile cards from our opponent's library, what we have is a card that forces our opponent to shuffle their library a whole bunch of times (once for each copy). Normally, this part of Bitter Ordeal doesn't matter, but with the help of Psychogenic Probe, it becomes a legitimate way to win the game. If we can get a Psychogenic Probe on the battlefield and cast a Bitter Ordeal with 10 total copies, we can 20 our opponent for only three mana! In some ways, this is exactly like Grapeshot with a Pyromancer Ascension on the battlefield—a combo that also takes a storm count of 10 to win the game. The main difference is that, instead of trying to cast a ton of spells in the same turn, we are trying to get a bunch of permanents onto the battlefield so we can eventually sacrifice them to up our gravestorm count and win with Bitter Ordeal.

Gravestorm Fodder

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Our primary plan for generating gravestorm is flooding the board with tokens. For this, we use Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor, both of which generate a 1/1 token whenever we cast an instant or sorcery, and Lingering Souls, which can not only create four bodies all by itself but also triggers Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor twice thanks to flashback. These cards are helpful in multiple ways. Not only do they allow us to get the gravestorm needed to kill with our Bitter Ordeal / Psychogenic Probe combo but they also clog up the battlefield against creature decks while we are waiting to find our combo pieces. We can even occasionally win just by beating down with tokens when everything goes wrong. 

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While these spells are in our deck because they are good—with Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek disrupting our opponent and protecting our combo, while Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt give us ways to deal with our opponents' creatures—they are also a necessary part of our combo, because every time we cast one of them, we get a 1/1 token from Young Pyromancer and / or Monastery Mentor as a kicker. This helps make sure that when it comes time to go for the Bitter Ordeal kill, we'll have enough things to sacrifice to up our gravestorm count to a lethal level.

Sacrifice Outlets

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Plunge into Darkness seems like the perfect card for our deck, working as not just a sacrifice outlet that allows us to sacrifice any number of creatures but also as a tutor, so as we sacrifice away our board, we can find whatever combo piece we are missing. Unfortunately, as we learned during our first match, Plunge into Darkness is still bugged on Magic Online, so if we cast it using the tutor mode, we end up being forced to concede the game since there is no way to finish resolving the card. 

After a mad scramble to find a replacement, we finally ended up with Dark Petition, which unfortunately isn't actually a sacrifice outlet. While Dark Petition does have some nice synergy with Bitter Ordeal (with spell mastery giving us the three mana we need to cast our finisher) and is reasonable in our deck, it feels like a significant downgrade because it leaves us short on ways to sac our board to generate gravestorm.

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Thankfully, we have Greater Gargadon, which is the perfect sacrifice outlet for what we are trying to do because it lets us sacrifice not just creatures but our lands as well. This means that, assuming we have a Greater Gargadon to suspend and make our land drops, we should be able to kill by Turn 5 by sacrificing our entire board to Greater Gargadon and resolving a Bitter Ordeal with a Psychogenic Probe on the battlefield. 

The Matchups

Our deck has some odd matchups. First, we randomly get some free percentage points against combo because we don't really need to combo off to win; all we need to do is cast Bitter Ordeal with enough gravestorm to exile away all of our opponent's finishers. Second, we can randomly get some wins simply by beating down with our tokens. Turn 1 Thoughtseize into Young Pyromancer into Lingering Souls can beat some decks by itself. As far as the combo, probably the best aspect is the element of surprise. Since most of the cards in our deck don't look like combo pieces, we can sometimes just combo off out of nowhere before our opponent really knows what's happening. 

On the other hand, we not only need three combo pieces (Psychogenic Probe, Bitter Ordeal, and Greater Gargadon) to actually get the combo kill but also a board full of creatures, which means we sometimes have a hard time finding everything we need in a timely manner. This is even harder against decks with disruption, which makes heavy control decks and Thoughtseize-filled midrange decks some of our most challenging matchups. We also sometimes have trouble after sideboarding because a removal spell (like Abrupt Decay or Ancient Grudge) on Psychogenic Probe as we are sacrificing our board is devastating, making it so we can't combo off after having sacrificed all of our creatures and most of our lands.

The Odds

Discounting our first match where we learned that Plunge into Darkness was bugged, we finished with a record of five wins in 12 games (41.67% game win percentage) while taking down two of our five matches (good for a 40% match win percentage), making Bitter Ordeal about average for an Against the Odds deck. This feels fairly representative for the deck, considering that we have several different ways of stealing games. More disappointingly, while we got some random Bitter Ordeal value every now and then, we only got one real combo kill. Part of the problem was that our board looked pretty scary by the time we got enough tokens and assembled our combo pieces, so our opponent would often scoop. That said, there were a couple of matches that we likely wouldn't have won without the combo kill.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

With cycling coming back in Amonkhet, next week is a good time to explore one of Magic's epic cycles: the epic cycle. Which of these big, flashy sorceries from Saviors of Kamigawa should we play next week? Let us know by voting! (Also, be warned: if we end up with Enduring Ideal, we'll likely be playing some sort of enchantment prison deck not dissimilar to the one we played on Much Abrew a while ago). 

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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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