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Against the Odds: Davriel's Hearth-storic Combo (Historic)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 303 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an Against the Odds poll full of the new digital-only cards from Jumpstart: Historic Horizons. In the end, one of our new planeswalkers—Davriel, Soul Broker—took home the easy win. As a result, we're heading to Hearthstoric...err...Historic today to see if we can turn Davriel, Soul Broker into a perpetually broken combo piece with the help of Vesperlark and some Blood Artist effects. How good is Davriel, Soul Broker in Historic? What does the new planeswalker even do? 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: Davriel's Hearth-storic Combo 

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The Deck

When Davriel, Soul Broker won the poll, I wasn't exactly sure what to do with the planeswalker. It mostly looks like a weird, random value card thanks to the combination of removal and a mostly incomprehensible but value-generating –2. However, thanks to Davriel, Soul Broker's perpetual –3 ability, the card actually has some weird combo potential with Vesperlark, much like its signature spell Davriel's Withering. The idea is that if we can kill our own Vesperlark with Davriel, Soul Broker (or Davriel's Withering), Vesperlark will be a creature with one or less power, so it can reanimate itself with its "leave the battlefield" trigger. Since Vesperlark will also have zero toughness, it will die immediately when it comes into play and then reanimate itself again and again and again. By itself, this combo draws the game (which is especially beneficial if we are in a losing position—a draw is better than a loss, so we can draw the game and try again next time). The combo should win us the game if we add one more piece to the puzzle, like Blood Artist or Cruel Celebrant for infinite drain or Prosperous Innkeeper (with a sac outlet) for infinite lifegain.

The Combo

Part 1: Davriel

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While our main plan for Davriel is to win the game with the combo, it does much more than that. The +1 punishes our opponent for attacking, and the –2 does...something. By something, I really do mean something. There's a list of eight offers (all of which are beneficial) and eight conditions (all of which are painful), and when we activate the –2, we'll get a list of three of each to choose from. This means there are over 900 possible combinations, which makes Davriel, Soul Broker one of the most random cards in the history of Magic. Thankfully, because of how our deck is built, we often can get value from the –2. For example, some of Davriel's conditions include "When you draw a card, exile the top two cards of your library" (which doesn't hurt much since we don't draw many extra cards), "Creatures you control get –1/-0 (which doesn't really do anything since our creatures are already small and bad at attacking), and "Lose six life" (which isn't too bad since we have Prosperous Innkeeper for lifegain). On the other hand, offers like "Draw three cards," reanimating your highest-mana-value creature, and giving Davriel +2 "Draw a card" are all very beneficial. While there are certainly times when Davriel, Soul Broker's –2 backfires horribly, more often than not, we can choose options that give us at least some value, and occasionally, it's all upside. Meanwhile, Davriel's Withering gives us some removal, is on flavor, and also helps to give us some redundancy for the Vesperlark combo.

Part 2: Vesperlark

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Next up, we have Vesperlark, which is in our deck for exactly one reason: to combo with our Davriels. I explained the combo a minute ago, so I won't rehash it all here. Meanwhile, Fauna Shaman is in the deck to find Vesperlark and add consistency to the combo. We have eight Davriels, between Davriel, Soul Broker and Davriel's Withering, and we have a bunch of Blood Artist / Prosperous Innkeeper–style finishers, which means Vesperlark is the only part of our combo that is lacking a redundant backup. Having Fauna Shaman to find Vesperlark means that even though we're technically a three-piece combo, we usually can find all three pieces.

Part 3: The Payoffs

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The last pieces of our combo are a payoff to turn our "draw the game" infinite loop of Davriel with Vesperlark into a "win the game" combo with something that triggers off of a creature entering the battlefield or dying. Prosperous Innkeeper is our worst finisher, mostly because we're playing on Arena. In paper, it would gain us infinite life, but since we need to click through each iteration of the combo on Arena, Prosperous Innkeeper usually gains us something like 50 life with the combo before we get bored or run out of time. It's also worth mentioning that since Prosperous Innkeeper doesn't directly win us the game with the combo, we could still end up drawing the game with the loop, even after gaining an absurd amount of life. The good news is that the incidental lifegain is helpful against aggro, and the Treasure that Prosperous Innkeeper makes when it enters the battlefield can ramp us into Davriel, Soul Broker on Turn 3 (or help to speed up our combo), which is nice.

Meanwhile, either Blood Artist or Cruel Celebrant wins us the game directly if we manage to combo off, draining our opponent out of the game as Vesperlark dies an infinite number of times. While either works, Cruel Celebrant is the better option, especially on Arena, mostly because it doesn't target a player, which means fewer clicks (and time wasted) during the combo itself, although it does have the slight drawback of not triggering when the opponent's creatures die.

Looking at the combo as a whole, it's actually scarily fast for Historic. With our best draws, we can go infinite as early as Turn 3 (Turn 2 Cruel Celebrant / Blood Artist, Turn 3 evoke Vesperlark and, with its sacrifice trigger on the stack, perpetually give it –1/–2 with Davriel's Withering) or on Turn 4, with Davriel, Soul Broker replacing Davriel's Withering

Other Stuff

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Rounding out the non-land cards in our main deck are a few support pieces. Woe Strider gives us a way to dig for our combo pieces with its scry ability as well as a backup sacrifice outlet for our Blood Artists and is good at gumming up the ground, thanks to the Goat it makes when it enters the battlefield. Llanowar Elves just speed things up by giving us some extra mana on Turn 2, while Fatal Push and Mythos of Nethroi join Davriel, Soul Broker and Davriel's Withering in our removal suite, with Mythos of Nethroi being especially important because it can kill graveyard hate like Soul-Guide Lantern and Rest in Peace, which shut down our combo finish.

The Matchups

I'm honestly still not sure what matchups are good and bad for the deck. Being able to draw the game easily or even win the game with the combo means we have a chance to beat any deck in the format, especially if our opponent doesn't play around the combo. That said, I'm pretty confident that control is our worst matchup since counterspells and instant-speed removal can be very effective at stopping our combo—not that we can't beat control, but given the option, we'd rather play against something else.

Wrap-Up

We finished 3-2 in our video matches with Davriel's Hearth-storic Combo and 4-3 overall, which is a pretty solid record, especially considering one of our losses was to a Jeskai Control opponent who was amazingly good at topdecking Memory Lapse (sometimes three turns in a row!) when they needed to. 

As for the combo, it felt like a pretty effective way to win games. While there are plenty of hate cards (especially graveyard hate), and the matchup against control showed how effective a bunch of counterspells could be against the deck, it also won us a lot of games and caught a bunch of opponents by surprise. The "draw the game" mode was also oddly helpful, getting us out of a game we were almost certainly going to lose to Jeskai Control and doing the same thing against a fast start from Mono-Red Phoenix. While the three-card "win the game" combo seems like a fine addition to Historic, I'm not sure a two-card "draw the game" combo is something Wizards will want in Historic. It seems somewhat possible that Wizards will errata Vesperlark to say reanimate "another creature with mana value one or less" or even change Davriel's Withering / Davriel, Soul Broker to only target opposing creatures. We'll have to wait and see.

As for Davriel, Soul Broker and the perpetual mechanic, even discounting the combo, they were a lot better than I had expected. While Davriel, Soul Broker's –2 is very random, it was usually powerful when we used it (even if we did have a couple of times where it was pretty bad). Meanwhile, perpetual was better as removal than I thought it would be. Against Mono-Red Phoenix, being able to lock things like Arclight Phoenix out of the game altogether was great. We also saw it shine against a Rakdos Lurrus deck, where we were able to perpetually give Dreadhorde Arcanist –3/–3 to keep our opponent from recasting it with Lurrus of the Dream-Den. It seems possible that Davriel, Soul Broker might actually be strong enough to play as a value card, as strange as it sounds, considering how random it looks at first glance.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, or you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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