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Against the Odds: Demonic Pact (Pioneer, Magic Online)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 215 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another Pioneer Against the Odds poll, and in the end, Demonic Pact came out on top. As such, we're heading to Pioneer today to make a deal with the devil but hopefully force our opponent to deal with the consequences. The deck's main goal is to play Demonic Pact, take advantage of the non–"you lose the game" options, and then, just before we die to our own pack, give it to our opponent in the form of a not-so–Harmless Offering. If that doesn't work, we have a couple of other ways to dodge death in Gideon of the Trials and Nahiri, the Harbinger. What are the odds of winning (or making our opponent lose) with Demonic Pact in Pioneer? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Demonic Pact (Pioneer)

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The Deck

Demonic Pact is a pretty easy card to build around. By far the most exciting thing to do with the card is to give it to the opponent with Harmless Offering and make them lose the game. While I considered other options (like an Esper Control build that looked to bounce Demonic Pact with Teferi, Time Raveler), in the end, I decided that there would probably be a riot in the comments if we didn't play Harmless Offering, especially if we played something as hated as Teferi instead. So I decided to stick with the tried-and-true Cat Pact plan. Initially, the deck had four copies of Harmless Offering and four Demonic Pact, but having a full playset of Harmless Offering is pretty clunky since the card does literally nothing until we are ready to give our opponent Demonic Pact. Eventually, I decided to cut down to two actual copies but play a full playset of Dark Petition to make sure we could find Harmless Offering when we needed it, and the deck functioned much better as a result.

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Demonic Pact is a powerful but slow card. Over the course of three turns, it kills something (while gaining us life), allows us to draw two, and forces our opponent to discard two, which is a ton of value for just four mana (often making it something like a 5-for-1). The problem is that after we've chosen all of the beneficial modes on Demonic Pact, we have no choice but to choose the lose-the-game mode. As such, apart from building our deck in a way that allows us to stay alive long enough to take advantage of the good modes of Demonic Pact, the main challenge of building around the enchantment is to have a plan for avoiding the "you lose the game" mode.

The best way to avoid losing the game to Demonic Pact is to give it to our opponent after we've used up the three other modes. For this, we turn to Harmless Offering. The upside of Harmless Offering is that it's a two-card "I win" combo with Demonic Pact, assuming we can get the timing right. The downside is that apart from Demonic Pact, we don't really have any other cards we want to Donate to our opponent. This often leaves us with Harmless Offering as a dead card in our hand for most of the game.

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As I mentioned in the intro, initially, we were playing four Harmless Offerings, but the deck ran really poorly since we'd often end up with a couple of copies in hand with no good targets to give to our opponent. Eventually, I decided that rather than run four actual [[Harmless Offering]s], running two Harmless Offerings and four Dark Petition was a much better plan. By the time Demonic Pact has reached the "you lose the game" mode, we should have spell mastery and enough mana to cast Dark Petition, tutor up Harmless Offering, and give our opponent Demonic Pact all in the same turn. The other benefit of Dark Petition is that it allows us to find other cards as well. Sometimes, we have Harmless Offering but are lacking Demonic Pact. Dark Petition can find a copy, along with anything else in our deck.

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One of the biggest risks of playing Demonic Pact is that if things go wrong (like our opponent can counter Harmless Offering), we risk having to choose the "you lose the game" mode ourselves, which isn't ideal. As such, along with Harmless Offering, we have a couple of backup plans to make sure we don't accidentally kill ourselves with our namesake enchantment. Nahiri, the Harbinger gives us a way to loot through our deck, and in a pinch, it can exile a Demonic Pact with its 2. Meanwhile, if we can keep Gideon of the Trials on the battlefield along with its emblem, we're free to choose the "you lose the game" mode of Demonic Pact since the Gideon emblem will keep us alive.

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Other than our main combo pieces, our next most important cards are Sign in Blood and Painful Truths, which give us early-game card draw to find Demonic Pact, Harmless Offering, and whatever else we need. While spending two or three life can be a drawback, thanks to Demonic Pact's drain-for-four mode, we have plenty of life to work with, so it's usually safe to spend some in the early game for cards, with the plan being to recoup it later with Demonic Pact.

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Otherwise, our deck is overloaded with removal and disruption, ranging from Fatal Push and Fiery Impulse for the early game to Thoughtseize for control and combo and Kaya's Wrath to sweep away the board. As I mentioned before, one of the challenges of building around Demonic Pact is that it's slow. It doesn't come down until Turn 4 and doesn't do anything until Turn 5, and we don't really want to Donate it to our opponent until Turn 7 (assuming we cast it on Turn 4). As a result, having a pile of removal is essential for staying alive long enough to resolve Demonic Pact and, even after we have Demonic Pact on the battlefield, survive long enough to Harmless Offering it to the opponent when "you lose the game" is the only remaining choice. Oh yeah, Thoughtseize is also a really good way to make sure the coast is clear for Harmless Offering on Demonic Pact, to the point where we sometimes will tutor it up with Dark Petition just to make sure nothing goes horribly wrong, which could leave us in the unenviable position of dying to our own Demonic Pact.

The Matchups

In game one, our deck is mostly tuned to beat creature decks, with plenty of cheap removal and sweepers. On the other hand, control can be difficult in game one since we have a bunch of dead copies of Fatal Push, Fiery Impulse, and Kaya's Wrath. Thankfully, the control matchup gets much better after sideboarding, when we have Duress, Pithing Needle, Anguished Unmaking, Ob Nixilis Reignited, and possibly even Leyline of the Void to bring in over the lackluster removal spells. These cards help to such a great extent that I think we might actually be favored against control overall, even though game one is rough. Meanwhile, ramp decks are by far our worst matchup. We can't really keep up with Field of the Dead or big Eldrazi, and Demonic Pact is slow enough that our ramp opponents can usually take over the game before we get to combo off with Harmless Offering.

The Odds

We played five matches with Demonic Pact and ended up winning four, giving us an 80% match win percentage, which makes Demonic Pact significantly above average for an Against the Odds deck. Our one loss was to Izzet Emerge, and we probably punted by keeping a reasonable hand in game two instead of aggressively mulliganing for a Leyline of the Void, which probably would have beaten our opponent by itself. More importantly, Demonic Pact was great. We had one weird Gideon of the Trials beatdown win, but otherwise, all of our wins came thanks to Demonic Pact and Harmless Offering. The deck felt surprisingly solid, and it might even be a competitive option in the Pioneer format!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Thanks to this week's bannings, we officially have Throne of Eldraine Standard 3.0. While we'll play more janky fun Pioneer decks in the near future, this week we're going to see what post-ban Standard is all about. Which of these janky Standard cards should be 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! 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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