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Against the Odds: Deathbellow War Cry (Pioneer, Magic Online)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 226 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a Pioneer Theros: Beyond Death Against the Odds poll, and our new quadruple-Minotaur tutor Deathbellow War Cry came out on top. As such, we're heading to Pioneer today to see if being able to tutor four tribe members directly onto the battlefield for eight mana will finally make the Minotaur tribe playable. The main idea is to ramp into Deathbellow War Cry and then tutor out a specific combination of Minotaurs that will allow us to (hopefully) immediately win the game with a combination of some direct damage and a huge, hasty, trampling Minotaur attack! What are the odds of winning with Deathbellow War Cry in Pioneer? 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: Deathbellow War Cry (Pioneer)

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The Deck

Building around Deathbellow War Cry is interesting. On one hand, many of the slots in the deck are more or less automatic. Since there are only a handful of Minotaurs in Pioneer, and even less if you narrow the Minotaur search to cards that are at least somewhat playable and not just random limited fodder, finding the right package of Minotaurs to win the game with our namesake sorcery is pretty straightforward. Likewise, to actually cast Deathbellow War Cry, we need eight mana, so the need for some type of ramp is also fairly obvious—the odds of just making land drops up to eight mana and then casting Deathbellow War Cry are pretty low. On the other hand, finding the right shell for the Minotaurs and the ramp necessary to make Deathbellow War Cry work can be a challenge, in part because Minotaurs are a pretty underpowered tribe in general, so casting them naturally isn't likely to lead to that much success. The end result is a deck that is very much all-in on Deathbellow War Cry. In theory, we can win without our namesake card, but with most of our deck being dedicated to ramp, tutor-target Minotaurs, and filtering to find Deathbellow War Cry, winning fairly is pretty unlikely. 

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Even though Deathbellow War Cry is limited to tutoring up members of an underpowered tribe, it is a powerful card. When we resolve it, we usually end up putting somewhere around 20 mana worth of Minotaurs onto the battlefield, and since Deathbellow War Cry allows us to tutor the Minotaurs from our deck, we also essentially draw four cards. The trick to making Deathbellow War Cry work is finding a package of four Minotaurs that will win us the game on the turn they come into play. Thankfully, such a package exists in the Pioneer format.

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Generally speaking, a resolved Deathbellow War Cry represents somewhere around 40 damage. We have six different Minotaurs in our deck (mostly as two-ofs, so if we happen to naturally draw a copy, we still have another left in our deck for our namesake sorcery). When we resolve Deathbellow War Cry, we have three Minotaurs that we are grabbing basically 100% of the time, with the fourth Minotaur varying based on the situation. Minotaur number one is Kragma Warcaller, which not only pumps our team +2/+0 when we attack with our Minotaurs but also gives all of our tribe members haste, allowing us to get in a big (and likely lethal) attack on the turn we resolve Deathbellow War Cry without letting our opponent untap and potentially wrath our board or otherwise interact with our Minotaurs. Minotaur number two is Rageblood Shaman, which is a Minotaur lord that also gives all of our Minotaur trample, allowing our big attack to be lethal even though some number of blockers on our opponent's side of the battlefield. Finally, we have Fanatic of Mogis, which is a high-powered Minotaur (with the help of Warcaller and Rageblood, it attacks for seven) that also domes our opponent for somewhere between seven and 10 damage when it comes into play, offering another way to force damage through blockers. 

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Outside of our three core Minotaurs, we have three other options that we can tutor out as our fourth Minotaur with Deathbellow War Cry. Boros Reckoner is the only four-of Minotaur in our deck since it's actually a fine creature to cast on Turn 3 and even helps with our "ramp into Deathbellow War Cry" plan by adding three red mana symbols to the battlefield for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion is our best fourth tutor target if we are worried about whether we can win the game on the turn we resolve Deathbellow War Cry since it allows us to rummage away dead cards in our hand to search for another Deathbellow War Cry to try against the next turn. Finally, Minotaur Aggressor is just the highest-power Minotaur in Pioneer, potentially attacking for nine with the help of our various lords. 

Together, our three core Minotaurs along with one of our other Minotaurs represent around 40 damage (depending on what blockers our opponent has and how much damage Fanatic of Mogis hits for when it enters the battlefield), which should be enough to make a single Deathbellow War Cry lethal in almost any game state.

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When it comes to ramping into Deathbellow War Cry, we have a few plans. One is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which, with help from cards like Wily Goblin and Boros Reckoner (along with whatever Minotaurs we happen to draw and cast), can easily end up tapping for eight mana all by itself fairly early in the game.

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While Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is our most consistent ramp plan, our most explosive ramp plan involves Irencrag Feat. With the help of extra mana from cards like Vessel of Volatility and Generator Servant, we can theoretically cast a Deathbellow War Cry as early as Turn 3 with the help of the seven mana that Irencrag Feat produces!

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The final puzzle piece is some card filtering to add consistency. As we talked about earlier, our deck is unlikely to win the game without Deathbellow War Cry—our Minotaurs simply aren't strong enough if we are casting them fairly one at a time. Cathartic Reunion and Chandra, Torch of Defiance give us ways to draw through our deck in search of our game-ending sorcery, while Chandra, Torch of Defiance also offers another way to ramp into our Deathbellow War Cry if we already have it in hand.

The Matchups

The matchups for Deathbellow War Cry are actually pretty straightforward: our deck is powerful and it can be extremely fast, but it also tends to fold to disruption. Since our main goal is to cast an eight-mana sorcery and we often spend multiple cards to make it happen, counterspells can easily ruin our deck. Thoughtseize can also be a concern, although thanks to Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Cathartic Reunion, we can often beat a single hand disruption spell. The good news is that if we are playing against a deck that doesn't have counters or a ton of discard spells, we have a bunch of cheap blockers to stay alive in the early game and a janky-but-fast nut draw that can allow us to race most decks in the format, with Deathbellow War Cry often coming down by Turn 4 or 5, or as early as Turn 3 with our best possible draw! Basically, we want to play against anything that isn't interactive, be it aggro, midrange, or combo, but decks with a lot of interaction are difficult to beat since it becomes much, much harder to actually resolve a Deathbellow War Cry

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches with Deathbellow War Cry and won two, giving us a 40% match win percentage and making Deathbellow War Cry somewhat below average for an Against the Odds deck. In reality, we were extremely close to winning two more matches, ending up one mana or life short from beating Mono-Black Aggro and getting top-decked by WB Auras after our Deathbellow War Cry came up just short of being lethal thanks to some pump spells and lifelinking creatures. All this is to say that even though our record wasn't great, the deck felt surprisingly close to being competitive. 

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As for Deathbellow War Cry itself, outside of the one weird game against WB Auras, it was lethal every time we managed to cast it. The card is extremely powerful but does come with a huge downside, in that we have to play a lot of bad Minotaurs and questionable ramp spells to make it work. The reward is that we can win the game very quickly and explosively when things go right, although when things go wrong, we are often left topdecking janky Minotaurs and rituals, which is rough. Maybe the easiest way to think of Deathbellow War Cry is as the Pioneer version of Goblin Charbelcher, except rather than the deckbuilding restriction being that you can only run a small number of lands that you must get our of your deck, you have to play a bunch of bad Minotaurs instead!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

After our one week break for Pioneer, we're heading back to play some more Theros: Beyond Death in Standard! Which of these cards should we build around next week? Let us know by voting below!

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Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck by liking, commenting on, and subscribing to Instant Deck Tech videos! 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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