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Against the Odds: Confoundamonicon (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 258 of Against the Odds. Thanks to Monday's surprise B&R announcement changing Standard last week, we had an Against the Odds poll for Zendikar Rising in older formats, and in the end, Confounding Conundrum sneaked out a victory. While Confounding Conundrum can offer some value naturally by annoying ramp decks and fetch-land players, figuring out exactly how to build around the enchantment is tough since it requires forcing our opponent to have lands enter the battlefield under their control. While ramp spells make it pretty easy to put lands into play under your control, forcing the opponent to have lands come into play is actually pretty difficult. That said, we have a pretty sweet (although very jank) plan to make it happen, which might involve the return of our old friend Panharmonicon! What are the odds of winning with a deck built around Confounding Conundrum 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: Confoundamonicon

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The Deck

Building around Confounding Conundrum was way, way harder than I expected. The build we ended up playing today was actually my fifth attempt to build around the enchantment. The challenge of Confounding Conundrum is that we need to figure out a way to have multiple lands come into play under our opponent's control in the same turn. While we might get some help from our opponent playing fetch lands or ramp spells, we can't really count on our opponent doing the work for us. There are only a handful of spells in all of Modern that can guarantee a land coming into play under our opponent's control, which means our plan for making multiple lands enter the battlefield in the same turn goes pretty deep and is definitely pretty janky.

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Let's start with the good news about Confounding Conundrum: it draws a card when it enters the battlefield, so even when it's bad, it at least replaces itself, which greatly raises its floor. Other than being a bad cantrip, the main value of Confounding Conundrum is that if our opponent has more than one land come into play in a turn, they will have to return a land to their hand. This means that (for example) if our opponent makes a land drop, plays Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, and puts a land into play, they won't really benefit from Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath's ramp ability because they'll have to pick up one of their lands. The same is true of fetch lands. If our opponent plays and cracks a fetch land in the same turn, they'll have to bounce a land (although opponents can play around this by playing the fetch land during their turn and cracking it during our turn, which makes Confounding Conundrum more of an annoyance than a hard hate card against fetch lands.

Of course, our deck is built around Confounding Conundrum, so we're not just trusting that our opponent will be playing a ramp deck or unwisely playing and cracking fetch lands during the same turn to get value out of the enchantment. Instead, our deck is designed to force our opponent to have multiple lands come into play under their control in a turn, which—with the right support cards and enough copies of Confounding Conundrum—can actually turn into a one-sided Armageddon by forcing our opponent to bounce all of their lands!

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So, how do we force our opponent to have lands come into play under their control? Here, we have two plans. First, we have Crucible of Worlds to play lands from our graveyard, along with Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin. The idea is that we can wait until our opponent's turn, let them play a land, and then use Ghost Quarter or Field of Ruin as a Strip Mine. While Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin technically allow our opponent to search up a basic land, if they choose to do so, they'll have to bounce a land thanks to Confounding Conundrum. If they choose to not search up a land, then we have turned our Ghost Quarter or Field of Ruin into a Strip Mine! In theory, we can do this every turn thanks to Crucible of Worlds allowing us to replay our Strip Mines...err...Ghost Quarters and Field of Ruins from our graveyard. With two copies of Confounding Conundrum on the battlefield, we basically get a guaranteed Strip Mine because if our opponent searches up a land, they'll be forced to bounce two lands since Confounding Conundrum's ability stacks.

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While the "turn Ghost Quarter / Field of Ruin into Strip Mine" plan is nice, it's also slow and still depends somewhat on our opponent (the plan becomes much less effective if our opponent chooses not to play a land on their turn, which often happens in the late game once our opponent runs out of lands in hand). Thankfully, we have another way to make our opponent have lands come into play under their control: flickering our opponent's lands with Flickerwisp and Glimmerpoint Stag! When Flickerwisp or Glimmerpoint Stag comes into play, it can exile any permanent and return it to play on the next end step, which means we can use our flicker creatures to target our opponent's lands, essentially forcing our opponent to make land drops, whether they want to or not.

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The challenge with this plan is for Confounding Conundrum to trigger, we need not just one but at least two lands to come into play under our opponent's control during the same turn. This is where we turn to our old friend Panharmonicon. With a Panharmonicon on the battlefield, a single Flickerwisp or Glimmerpoint Stag can exile two lands, thanks to Panharmonicon doubling up their enters-the-battlefield triggers, which allows us to force our opponent to bounce a land with Confounding Conundrum. Things get even more exciting if we can get multiple copies of Confounding Conundrum or Panharmonicon onto the battlefield. With two Confounding Conundrums and one Panharmonicon, each Flickerwisp or Glimmerpoint Stag can make our opponent bounce two lands. With enough copies of Panharmonicon, Confounding Conundrum, or Ghostly Flicker to blink Flickerwisps and Glimmerpoint Stags to reuse their enters-the-battlefield triggers, we can potentially build a one-sided Armageddon where we flicker a bunch of our opponent's lands and then, as they return to the battlefield during our end step, force our opponent to pick up their entire mana base!

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The other interesting part of Confoundamonicon is the two MDFC lands: Glasspool Mimic and Umara Wizard. While we do occasionally cast Glasspool Mimic to copy Flickerwisp or Glimmerpoint Stag, in realty, we rarely want to cast either of these cards. Instead, we play them as lands and then use Flickerwisp, Glimmerpoint Stag, or Ghostly Flicker to blink them, which will return them to the battlefield as creatures, allowing us to build a big board of creatures to close out the game. Then, thanks to Crucible of Worlds, if either of our MDFC creatures dies we can replay them as lands and blink them again, giving us a ton of grindy value in the late game.

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Rounding out our deck are a couple of creatures with "draw a card" enters-the-battlefield triggers to keep us churning through our deck (and offering some defense) in the early game; then, later, Thraben Inspector and Wall of Omens can generate a big burst of card advantage with the help of Panharmonicon doubling up their enters-the-battlefield triggers and our blink / flicker effects. Otherwise, we have Path to Exile as our main-deck removal spell. While Path to Exile is already a Modern staple, it's even better in our deck than in most others because if we get the timing right, with a Confounding Conundrum on the battlefield (playing it after a land has already come into play under our opponent's control), our opponent won't get an extra land. If they choose to search for one, Confounding Conundrum will make our opponent bounce it. If they fail to find, we negate Path to Exile's drawback—so either way, its a win!

The Matchups

While I'm not sure Confoundamonicon has many good matchups in an absolute sense, our best matchups are ones where Confounding Conundrum does something naturally, even before we get our weird land-blink synergies set up, including decks with a lot of fetch lands and ramp decks built around putting multiple lands into play during one turn (like Amulet Titan, various Field of the Dead decks, and other Primeval Titan builds). On the other hand, aggro decks and combo decks without fetch lands or other ramp synergies are really tough matchups. Our best plan is to play a couple of Umara Wizards as lands and then use Ghostly Flicker to turn them into creatures and potentially jank our opponent out with an MDFC beatdown, because in these matchups, it's pretty unlikely we'll have time to get multiple Confounding Conundrums and Panharmonicons to pull off our flicker plan before we die.

The Odds

All in all, we finished 1-3 with Confoundamonicon, although we did manage to pick up a couple more game wins along the way. This gives the deck a 25% match win percentage, which sounds about right considering its janky plan. While we did manage to beat Uro pile, in large part thanks to our flicker plan with Confounding Conundrum, in general, it was a pretty rough run of matches. The biggest thing I learned this week is that Confounding Conundrum is a lot worse than I thought it would be. When the enchantment was first previewed, I thought that it might be main-deckable in Modern as a weird hate card, but in reality, it's pretty easy to play fetch lands around it, and a surprising number of Modern decks don't run many (or even any) fetch lands. Even in our best matchups—like Uro Pile—Confounding Conundrum was oddly helping our opponent (before we made them bounce most of their lands with our combo) by allowing them to pick up Mystic Sanctuary to reuse its enters-the-battlefield trigger. As such, Confounding Conundrum in Modern seems like—at best—a sideboard card to fight ramp decks, and considering that the best ramp decks in the format don't always mind bouncing their lands thanks to cards like Mystic Sanctuary and Field of the Dead, I'm not even sure it's worth a sideboard slot in the current meta. While the ability to build your own Armageddon is sweet, it's super difficult to pull off in a format as fast as Modern. Basically, while Confounding Conundrum can do some really sweet things, it takes a ton of cards and quite a bit of mana to make them happen, which is tough in a format like Modern.

On the other hand, the MDFC blink synergy should be explored more. While I'm not sure it's strong enough to build a deck around, it is probably worth adding to your deck if you're playing blink or flicker effects anyway. The dream scenario is to play two Umara Wizards over the first two turns of the game and then flip them up on Turn 3 with Ghostly Flicker, giving us two semi-evasive 4/3s. Is two semi-evasive 4/3s on Turn 3 good enough for Modern? Maybe not as a primary strategy, but it's a solid backup plan and also pretty funny when it works.

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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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