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Against the Odds: Braids, Cabal Minion (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 296 of Against the Odds. Last week, after several near misses, Braids, Cabal Minion finally came in first on our Against the Odds poll. As such, we're heading to Modern today to see if we can get some wins (preferably of the flawless variety) by making our opponent sacrifice all of their permanents to Braids! Of course, Braids, Cabal Minion is symmetrical, so we have to sacrifice something each turn too, but we have some interesting ways to break this symmetry. Oh yeah, if our opponent doesn't scoop in frustration with no lands to our Braids lock, we have another Modern Horizons 2 card I've been wanting to play with as our finisher in Titania, Protector of Argoth, which is sneakily synergistic with Braids, Cabal Minion, giving us 5/3 Elemental tokens if we sacrifice a land to our namesake Minion. What are the odds of winning with Braids, Cabal Minion in Modern? 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: Braids, Cabal Minion

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The Deck

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When Braids, Cabal Minion won the poll, I considered a few ways of building around the legend. I almost played a mono-black aggro Braids deck, but it turned out that if we won, it was mostly by beating down with Bloodghasts, Gravecrawlers, and Bitterblossom tokens because Braids coming down on Turn 4 is a bit too slow. Eventually, I decided that the most broken thing we could do with Braids, Cabal Minion is to try to get it onto the battlefield as quickly as possible. A Turn 2 Braids can be almost unbeatable for some decks. On Turn 2, our opponent will only have one or two lands and hopefully not much else, which means Braids, Cabal Minion should be eating away a land each turn and keeping our opponent without enough mana to do much of anything, which is where Braids is at its best. 

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Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl are the fastest way to ramp to four mana in Modern. A Turn 1 Arbor Elf into Turn 2 land plus Utopia Sprawl allows us to play Braids, Cabal Minion on Turn 2, which is the most explosive thing our deck can do. Our opponent will (hopefully) have to sacrifice a land on their upkeep, and as long as we can find permanents to feed to Braids to keep it on the battlefield, we should be able to lock our opponent out of the game, at least until they find a way to remove Braids.

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So, how do we keep Braids, Cabal Minion on the battlefield without losing all of our permanents and eventually being forced to sacrifice Braids itself? Here, we have a few plans. Bitterblossom gives us a 1/1 token each turn that we can sacrifice to Braids, as long as we stack our triggers correctly. Ramunap Excavator lets us play lands from our graveyard, which allows us to sacrifice a land each turn without losing resources. (If we can also find Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, we can keep developing our mana even while sacrificing a land each turn by playing two lands, rather than one.) Finally, Dakmor Salvage can keep Braids, Cabal Minion fed for a while all by itself since we can sacrifice it to Braids, dredge it back to our hand, and replay it as our land for the turn, although this plan is painful because dredge replaces drawing a card for our turn, which makes it hard to develop our board. Ideally, we'll use Dakmor Salvage for just a few turns until our opponent runs out of permanents and then go back to drawing cards and finding a way to win the game.

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Speaking of winning the game, our other big Modern Horizons 2 card is Titania, Protector of Argoth, which is both our primary finisher and a synergy piece to support Braids, Cabal Minion. While Braids can sort of win the game by itself by eating away our opponent's entire board, potentially getting them to scoop in frustration, if we need to get our opponent's life total to zero, Braids, Cabal Minion isn't an especially fast clock as a 2/2. Titania, Protector of Argoth gives us a way to close out the game quickly. Thanks to Ramunap Excavator and Dakmor Salvage, we often choose to sacrifice lands to Braids since we can replay them from our graveyard. Add Titania to this loop, and we get a 5/3 Elemental every time we sacrifice a land to feed Braids, Cabal Minion. While our main goal is to use the Elementals to close out the game in just a couple of turns, they also offer another permanent to feed to Braids. (If we don't have a Ramunap Excavator to play lands from our graveyard, we can sacrifice a land to Braids, Cabal Minion one turn and an Elemental the next to help keep our mana on the battlefield.) We also have a combo for Titania...

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The last important piece of the Braids puzzle is Urza's Saga, which we can use to tutor up Zuran Orb (along with Expedition Map to get another Urza's Saga or a Nihil Spellbomb for graveyard hate and card draw, with a few more options in the sideboard). Zuran Orb allows us to sacrifice our lands for free to gain two life, which allows us to make a ton of Elementals with Titania, Protector of Argoth. If we can get both Titania and Zuran Orb on the battlefield, we can wait until our opponent's end step, sacrifice all of our lands to Titania to make a bunch of 5/3 Elementals, untap, attack, and (hopefully) win the game! While not as obvious as the synergy with Titania, Protector of Argoth, Urza's Saga also supports Braids, Cabal Minion surprisingly well. We can play a Urza's Saga, make a Construct on the following turn (which we can sacrifice to Braids), make another Construct on the turn after that, and then, since Braids, Cabal Minion forces us to sacrifice something on our upkeep, sacrifice the Urza's Saga to Braids since it was going to sacrifice itself anyway. (If we do this, we don't get to tutor with Urza's Saga, which isn't a big deal unless we already have Titania, Protector of Argoth and really need Zuran Orb to close out the game.)

The Matchups

Braids, Cabal Minion is one of the most matchup-dependent cards I've ever played. Against slow control decks, slower combo decks like Ad Nauseam, or decks like Tron, a quick Braids, Cabal Minion basically wins the game by itself since these decks don't have many non-land permanents or need a bunch of lands on the battlefield to function, which makes sacrificing one to Braids each turn super painful. On the other hand, aggro and go-wide creature decks are tough for Braids since they often have random tokens or dorky creatures to sacrifice and can function with very little mana. There are also some specific cards that really wreck Braids, Cabal Minion (assuming our opponent can get and keep them on the battlefield), with the biggest being Lurrus of the Dream-Den but also including Emry, Lurker of the Loch. Cards like Lurrus and Emry allow our opponent to keep recasting things like Mishra's Bauble from their graveyard, which they can then use to sacrifice to Braids to avoid losing a "real" permanent. While we can still win against these cards, we either need to get Braids, Cabal Minion on the battlefield quickly enough that our opponent doesn't have time to get things like Lurrus on the battlefield or kill them on the turn they come into play.

The Odds

All in all, we finished 3-3 with Braids, Cabal Minion, giving us a 50% win percentage, which is reasonable for an Against the Odds deck. While the deck was pretty high variance with good and bad matchups, we did get to see our Modern Horizons 2 cards do some really sweet things! We somehow managed to flawless victory Elves (which seems like a horrible Braids matchup) and had a few other solid Braids, Cabal Minion wins. We also got to see the Titania, Protector of Argoth / Zuran Orb combo go off in the nick of time to steal a game where we were at one life! 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week! Next week we'll be kicking off Adventures in the Forgotten Realms season with a special episode! Don't worry, the poll will return next episode!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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