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Against the Odds: Demon Blade (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 234 of Against the Odds. This week, as we wait for Ikoria to be released and give us some sweet Standard cards to build around, we're heading to Modern to play a deck built around the winner of last week's all-artifact Against the Odds poll: Elbrus, the Binding Blade! Since Elbrus, the Binding Blade costs a massive seven mana, the main goal of our deck is to cheat it into play, stick it on an evasive or unblockable creature, and get in one attack, flipping the equipment into the massive 13/13, flying, trampling Withengar Unbound, at which point it should only take another attack or two from our massive Demon to kill our opponent! What are the odds of winning with a seven-mana equipment that only gives the equipped creature +1/+0? How can we build around Elbrus, the Binding Blade 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: Demon Blade

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The Deck

Building around Elbrus, the Binding Blade is almost exactly the opposite of building around Colossus Hammer (a card we've played several times since it was released in Core Set 2020). Colossus Hammer has a low casting cost but an extremely high equip cost, so while we can cast it naturally, we need to find ways to equip it to a creature for free. Meanwhile, Elbrus, the Binding Blade has an extremely low equip cost at just one mana, so getting it on a creature once it hits the battlefield isn't a problem; the problem is that Elbrus, the Binding Blade costs a massive seven mana (the same as Karn Liberated, which made me briefly consider Demon Tron). As a result, the main goal of our deck is to find ways to get Elbrus, the Binding Blade onto the battlefield for less (hopefully much less) than its actual casting cost.

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Elbrus, the Binding Blade is one of the most unique equipment cards in all of Magic. It's bad as an actual equipment, costing seven mana and giving the creature it equips a relatively meaningless upgrade of +1/+0. On the other hand, if we can hit our opponent with a creature carrying Elbrus, the Binding Blade, our reward is a 13/13, flying, trampling, intimidating creature in Withengar Unbound, which should be able to close out the game in just one or two attacks on most board states. As such, the goal of our deck is twofold: get Elbrus, the Binding Blade on the battlefield without having to cast it for seven mana (which is just way too slow in a format as fast as Modern) and then equip it to an evasive creature so we can get Withengar on the battlefield as quickly and consistently as possible. Once we have Withengar, it should be easy to close out the game.

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When it comes to getting Elbrus, the Binding Blade on the battlefield, apart from hard-casting it for seven mana, we have three options. The first is Stoneforge Mystic, which not only allows us to put Elbrus, the Binding Blade into play from our hand for just two mana but even tutors up a copy of Elbrus when it enters the battlefield. In theory, with Stoneforge Mystic on Turn 2, we can be hitting an opponent with Elbrus, the Binding Blade as early as Turn 4, making Withengar fast enough to close out the game. Alongside Stoneforge Mystic, we have Stonehewer Giant, which can tutor an equipment directly to the battlefield and equip it for just two mana, assuming we get to untap with a five-mana 4/4. Finally, we have Arcum Dagsson, which can sacrifice one of our lesser equipment (more on these in a minute) to find Elbrus, the Binding Blade while also being weird hate for opposing artifact decks by forcing our opponent to sacrifice their artifacts (just be warned that they might be able to tutor up something even scarier). Together, these cards give us a  bunch of ways to not only find Elbrus, the Binding Blade but also to get it into play on the cheap.

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Step two is hitting our opponent with a creature carrying Elbrus, the Binding Blade to unbind our massive Demon. Here, our most guaranteed option is Invisible Stalker, which is almost impossible to stop thanks to hexproof and unblockable, making it an ideal way to get in a sneak Elbrus attack and free Withengar. Otherwise, we have a handful of evasive threats. While flying isn't as good as hexproof and unblockable, Spell Queller offers us a weird counterspell that can also carry Elbrus, while Blinkmoth Nexus, Faerie Conclave, and Celestial Colonnade offer flying creature that comes for free as lands in our mana base. Normally, equipping to creaturelands isn't ideal since the equipment falls off at the end of turn when the creatureland returns to land form, but Elbrus, the Binding Blade is the exception to this rule since we only need to hit our opponent with it a single time to end up with Withengar.

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Along with some random removal, counters, and other interaction, the rest of our deck is filled with additional equipment. If there is a downside to Elbrus, the Binding Blade (apart from costing seven mana), it's that Elbrus and Withengar are both legendary. This means that even though we have a ton of equipment tutors in our deck, we can't just keep tutoring up more copies of Elbrus, the Binding Blade itself since we can only have one on the battlefield at a time. Because of this, having extra targets for Stoneforge Mystic, Stonehewer Giant, and Arcum Dagsson is essential. Swiftfoot Boots can protect our Withengar from removal like Path to Exile while also allowing us to activate Stoneforge Mystic or Stonehewer Giant the turn they come into play, thanks to haste. Batterskull gives us lifegain against aggro and a tutorable creature to pick up Elbrus, the Binding Blade. Meanwhile, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Sword of War and Peace offer protection to our Elbrus, the Binding Blade–bearing creature, helping to ensure we can get in an attack even through blockers to get Withengar Unbound on the battlefield. 

The Matchups

The hardest matchups for Demon Blade are aggro and fast combo deck decks or decks with a lot of removal to kill enablers like Stoneforge Mystic or Stonehewer Giant. Against aggro and fast combo, even if we can Stoneforge Mystic Elbrus, the Binding Blade into play on Turn 3 and flip it into Withengar Unbound on Turn 4, there's a good chance that our opponent will have us dead before we can kill them with our massive Demon. Meanwhile, because Elbrus, the Binding Blade costs seven mana, if our opponent can kill Stoneforge Mystic and Stonehewer Giant, we are often left with uncastable Elbrus, the Binding Blades in hand. On the other hand, Elbrus, the Binding Blade gets a chance to shine against random midrange and control decks since our opponent's decks are usually slow enough that making a 13/13 on Turn 4 is usually good enough to pick up the win. 

The Odds

All in all, we finished 3-2 with Demon Blade, giving us a 60% match win percentage and making Elbrus, the Binding Blade slightly above average for an Against the Odds card. More importantly, most of our wins came from Withengar Unbound itself, rather than random, janky beatdowns or other equipment. While we were punished some games thanks to Elbrus, the Binding Blade's high mana cost, losing on occasion with a copy or two stuck in hand, it is surprisingly powerful once it hits the battlefield, and Withengar Unbound did a great job of closing out games quickly!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Ikoria spoiler season starts tomorrow, and from the little we know about the set, it's filled with massive creatures. In celebrations of our newest sets, next week let's head to Modern to play one of the biggest and baddest (literally) creatures from Magic's past. Which one of these big baddies should we build around next week? Let us know by voting below!

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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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