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Against the Odds: Devoted to Brisela (Pioneer)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 351 of Against the Odds. While we don't have a ton of info on The Brothers' War yet, one thing we do know is that the meld mechanic is returning to Magic for the first time in years! As such, it's probably not a surprise that on last week's Against the Odds poll, the meld combo of Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light took home a super-easy victory. If we can get both Angels on the battlefield and make it to our end step, the reward is a pretty absurd Eldrazi Angel: Brisela, Voice of Nightmares, a 9/9 flying lifelinker that locks our opponent out of playing cheap spells! Of course, to make this happen, we need to get a four-mana and a seven-mana Angel on the battlefield and have them both live for a bit. This can be a challenge, but we've got multiple plans to (hopefully) make the meld happen. What are the odds of winning by melding Bruna and Gisela into Brisela in Pioneer? How good is the meld mechanic in general? 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: Devoted to Brisela

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The Deck

Winning by melding into Brisela presents a couple of challenges. First, we need to find both of our Angels. Second, we need to get them both on the battlefield. While resolving a Gisela, the Broken Blade is pretty easy since it's just four mana, Bruna, the Fading Light is another story. Seven mana is a lot without ramp. Thankfully, our deck has several ways to make the meld happen. Let's break them down!

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First off, as far as Gisela and Bruna themselves, part of the power of the meld pair is that both cards are fine on their own. Gisela, the Broken Blade gives us a mini–Baneslayer Angel as a 4/3 flying, first-strike lifelinker, making it a solid creature, and doubly so against aggro thanks to lifelink. Bruna, the Fading Light is less good, mostly because it costs seven mana. But it isn't bad, as a 5/7 flier that reanimates something when cast. In our dream world, we'll use Bruna's ability to reanimate a Gisela, although our deck has other Humans and Angels, so we should be able to get some reanimation value even if we don't have a Gisela in our graveyard.

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As far as finding our meld Angels, our main plan (apart from just drawing them naturally) is Search for Glory, which can snag either for three mana while gaining us some life along the way. The other upside of Search for Glory is that it can tutor up Sagas, which leads us to our first plan for getting both Gisela and Bruna on the battlefield to meld into Brisela, Voice of Nightmares...

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As I mentioned before, the hardest part of melding into Brisela is the fact that Bruna, the Fading Light costs seven mana. One way we can speed up the meld process is by cheating Bruna into play with the help of reanimation. We can use Raffine's Informant or The Restoration of Eiganjo to discard Bruna and then reanimate it for just five mana with Invoke Justice or Elspeth Conquers Death. Since both The Restoration of Eiganjo and Elspeth Conquers Death are Sagas, we can tutor up either half of our reanimate combo with Search for Glory, which is super helpful. 

It's also worth mentioning that both Raffine's Informant and The Restoration of Eiganjo work really well with Bruna, the Fading Light's reanimator ability as well, giving us a way to get an Angel (like Gisela, the Broken Blade) or Human into the graveyard to reanimate with Bruna's cast trigger.

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The other way we can speed up the meld plan is by ramping up to seven mana for Bruna. For this, we turn to Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which takes advantage of the fact that our deck is overflowing with permanents with white mana symbols, like Knight of the White Orchid for example, which not only gives us two white pips for Nykthos but can also ramp with its enters-the-battlefield trigger if we are behind on lands. Oh yeah, and Nykthos is also legendary, so we can tutor it up with Search for Glory if we happen to have our meld Angels but are lacking the mana to cast them.

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Rounding out the deck is one Lyra Dawnbringer as another tutor target for Search for Glory, to help against aggro decks; Thraben Inspector for card draw and white pips; and a bit of removal (that happens to add white mana symbols to the battlefield) in Portable Hole and Skyclave Apparition.

The Matchups

Apart from losing brutally to Mono-Green Devotion (although that seems to happen no matter what deck I play), the hardest matchups for Devoted to Brisela are removal-heavy control and midrange decks, which are pretty good at keeping us from being able to meld into Brisela. Remember: our goal isn't just to win, it's to win by melding. So while we can sometimes piece together random beatdown wins in these matchups, it's really difficult to win with the meld. Control can usually counter our meld pieces, while decks overloaded with instant-speed removal can kill either Gisela, the Broken Blade or Bruna, the Fading Light before we make it to our end step to keep us from melding. On the other hand, against random creature decks, having a bunch of big, lifelinking Angels is a good way to stay alive long enough to assemble the meld, and our sideboard gives us a good shot against Greasefang decks as well!

The Odds

All in all, I played two Pioneer leagues with the deck and ended up going 2-3 and then 3-2, giving us a 50% match-win percentage. Why two leagues, you ask? Mostly to try to hit more diverse matchups. Somehow, we played Mono-Green Devotion and Abzan Greasefang three times each! The bad news is that even though we managed to win a decent amount of the time, melding into Brisela is hard. I believe we only actually saw Brisela, Voice of Nightmares hit the battlefield twice, although there were two or three other times where we were about to meld and our opponent scooped because Brisela is pretty unbeatable for most decks.

In some ways, I think trying to meld into Brisela is a good PSA for The Brothers' War Standard. Even with a bunch of tutors and ramp, it's not that easy to find two specific creatures and have them stay on the battlefield long enough to meld together. We had multiple games where we cast Bruna with Gisela on the battlefield only for our opponent to kill Gisela before we reached our end step to meld. This is a concern for the new Urza, Lord Protector meld pair since you have to spend seven mana at sorcery speed to try to meld. While melding Mishra, Claimed by Gix might be easier since you don't need to spend any mana, you still need to find both halves of the meld pair and have them live long enough to go attacking, which might be a challenge.

Basically, as we saw today in Pioneer, melding into a massive Modern is incredibly powerful. We won every time we got a Brisela, Voice of Nightmares on the battlefield, usually by our opponent scooping when they realized they could no longer cast most of the spells in their deck. Even if you overload on tutors and ramp, it's not all that easy to make the meld happen. I expect the same will mostly be true in Standard, although the new meld pairs will probably be a bit better, mostly because the most expensive individual piece costs five mana, and most cost just three or four, making the new The Brothers' War melds significantly cheaper (and faster) than the OG combo of Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Next week we're heading to post-Meathook Standard, but what card should we build around? Click here to vote!


Anyway, that's all for today. 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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