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Against the Odds: Braid of Fire


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode fifty-three of Against the Odds! Last week on our Against the Odds poll, Braid of Fire blew the competition out of the water. In fact, Braid of Fire brought in 37% of the vote—one of the highest totals ever on our Against the Odds polls! Meanwhile, our two Standard options, Permeating Mass and the combo of Imprisoned in the Moon and Crumble to Dust, came in second and third, while Ixidron in Modern and Legacy Slivers came in at the back of the pack and will fall off this week's poll for new options. As a result, this week, we are heading to Modern to play a deck built around Braid of Fire, one of the strangest enchantments in the format. As a bonus, we'll try to answer the question: just how much mana will Magic Online let us make? 

Anyway, let's get to the videos, 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: Braid of Fire Deck Tech

Against the Odds: Braid of Fire Games

The Deck

Braid of Fire is a really challenging card to build around for two reasons. First, it's really slow. To really get a major benefit from its mana-producing cumulitive upkeep cost, we need it to be on the battlefield for several, and preferably many, turns. As such, one major challenge of the deck is staying alive long enough to make Braid of Fire actually matter. The second challenge has to do with the timing of Braid of Fire's mana production. Since the mana it makes is added to our mana pool on our upkeep, we can't use it to cast anything except instants and cards with flash. My first idea was to just work around this problem by playing instants like Searing Wind and trying to kill our opponent on our upkeep, but this seemed pretty bland, like a bad burn deck. The good news is there is another option: instead of playing cards to take advantage of mana produced on our upkeep, what if we played cards that allowed us to use Braid of Fire's mana whenever we wanted? This is the direction we ended up going with the deck, and I'm super happy with how it turned out. 

The Combo

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The basic idea of our deck is to get a Braid of Fire, which can product a ton of mana each upkeep, on the battlefield at the same time as an Upwelling, which keeps mana from emptying from mana pools at the ends of turns and phases. With this combo assembled, we have the ability to use our Braid of Fire mana whenever we want, so instead of having to play janky instants like Searing Wind on our upkeep, we can use Braid of Fire to cast janky sorceries, artifacts, and anything else we want, whenever we want. Better yet, we can even store up the mana for multiple turns, thanks to Upwelling

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While the combo of Braid of Fire and Upwelling has the potential to make a lot of mana, especially when we save up our mana for multiple turns, you can never really have too much mana, so we are playing the full four copies of Doubling Cube as well. When we have all of our pieces on the battlefield, our deck can make an absolutely obscene amount of mana. Doubling Cube specifically has the potential to take our deck from 20 to 40 to 100 mana over the course of just a couple of turns, and if we have longer than that, it's completly possible that we will end up with thousands of mana in our mana pool. Unfortunately, on Magic Online, you can't have more than 5,000 mana floating, which was pretty disappointing because I did the math: in one game, we could have had 5,700,000,000,000,000,000,000 mana floating. Technically, we don't have the ability to make infinite mana, but we make enough that we're unlikely to run our in our lifetimes. 

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Once we have more mana that we could ever use, we can spend some of it activating Staff of Domination a whole bunch of times. The main reason we have Staff of Domination in the deck is so we can draw through our deck (it's basically "pay six mana, draw a card") to find our finishers, but we can also use it to gain hundreds (or thousands) of life or keep our opponent's creatures tapped down for infinity. 

Winning the Game

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As far as winning the game, we have three different plans. Plan A is to make enough mana that we can cast Genesis Wave with X equal to the number of cards in our deck, which allows us to dump our entire library onto the battlefield. Included in these cards will be a bunch of lands, the rest of our Doubling Cubes, and a single copy of Helix Pinnacle. At this point, we simply activate each of our Doubling Cubes, which should give us over 100 mana, and then we spend all of that mana to put counters on Helix Pinnacle, allowing us to win the game on our next upkeep. 

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Plan B is our all-land kill. We get a bunch of mana floating with the help of Braid of Fire and Upwelling; then, at the end of our opponent's turn, we fetch out a Dryad Arbor. During our turn, we simply attack with Dryad Arbor and use Kessig Wolf Run to give it +X/+0 (with X being several hundred or even several thousand) and win with the biggest, scariest Dryad Arbor of all time. 

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Finally, Plan C is to use Comet Storm to kill our opponent with a massive blast of damage to the face. While this kill isn't nearly as exciting as a 1,000/1, trampling Dryad Arbor or casting Genesis Wave for our entire deck, it does do something very important. There will be games where we simply don't have a Upwelling, which means that all the mana our Braid of Fire is producing just goes to waste (assuming we don't happen to have our one Helix Pinnacle on the battlefield). In these situations, we can use our Braid of Fire mana to cast a Comet Storm on our upkeep and burn our opponent out of the game. 

Slowing Down the Game

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As I mentioned in the intro, the second challenge of building around Braid of Fire is staying alive long enough to make its very slow mana production matter. While our deck can spiral out of control, we really need several turns after we play a Braid of Fire and Upwelling to make anything exciting happen. As such, Blood Moon and Ensnaring Bridge are designed to keep us alive for long enough to make thousands of mana and eventually kill our opponent. Meanwhile, Boom // Bust is our sweet sideboard tech. Assuming we can get a Braid of Fire on the battlefield, we can break the symmetry of destroying all lands because we are generating a bunch of mana every turn with Braid of Fire, while our opponent is not. 

The Matchups

The matchups with Braid of Fire are almost completely about how good Blood Moon and Ensnaring Bridge are at keeping us alive. If we can buy ourselves five, ten, or twenty turns, our life is great and our odds of winning are pretty good. On the other hand, if our opponent can kill us quickly or doesn't care about Ensnaring Bridge or Blood Moon, we are in trouble. 

Our matches illuminate this problem. Against U-Turns, we didn't have a chance. Our opponent didn't care about Blood Moon or Ensnaring Bridge, so they just could just combo off and kill us with impunity. Meanwhile, Infect can struggle against our hate, but they can also kill us so fast that our Turn 3 Blood Moon or Ensnaring Bridge simply doesn't matter. On the other hand, against Titanshift, we bought ourselves an infinite amount of time to win, and the same thing was true against Eldrazi and Taxes. 

Basically, we are looking to play against midrange creature decks like Jund and Abzan, and decks that are greedy with their mana (pretty much anything that is three or more colors). At the same time, we are hoping to dodge fast aggro / combo decks (Zoo, Death's Shadow, Burn), mono-colored decks (Merfolk, Mono-Blue Control, Burn), and decks that aren't looking to win with creatures (Storm, Ad Nauseam, etc.). 

The Odds

All in all, our match win percentage wasn't great. We only managed to get in four matches (because some of our games went 35 turns) and only managed to win one (25% match win percentage). That said, we probably should have won the match against Eldrazi and Taxes, where in game one, we managed to draw through 44 cards in our deck with 5,000 mana floating only to find that all of our Genesis Waves and our Helix Pinnacle were in the bottom 16 cards, which would have brough out match win percentage up to 50%. As far as games, we managed to win 4 of 10, putting our game win percentage at 40%, which is just about average for an Against the Odds deck. The good news is we got to do some really cool stuff, so for me, our Braid of Fire deck was a huge success, even though our record wasn't that great. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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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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