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Against the Odds: Devoted to Korlash (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 132 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an all-grandeur Against the Odds poll, featuring the entire cycle of grandeur legends from Future Sight. In the end, we had a very clear victor: Korlash, Heir to Blackblade. As such, we are heading to Modern this week to see if we can use the grandeur ability on Korlash, Heir to Blackblade to do an insane amount of ramping in a mono-black devotion shell, before hopefully finishing the game by tutoring a Torment of Hailfire from our sideboard with Mastermind's Acquisition. While Devoted to Korlash is sweet, it was actually the second Korlash deck I built. The first one was super spicy (although probably bad) and involved using Weird Harvest to tutor all of our copies of Korlash, Heir to Blackblade, Amulet of Vigor to untap our Korlash-tutored lands, and Sire of Insanity to Mind Twist away our opponent's hand. Unfortunately, after playing a couple of matches with the deck, I realized that Weird Harvest is even weirder than it's supposed to be and extremely bugged on Magic Online, which led us to the sweet mono-black shell of Devoted to Korlash. Anyway, enough rambling. Let's get to the videos so you can see Korlash in action, and then we'll talk more about the deck.

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Against the Odds: Devoted to Korlash (Modern)

The Deck

Devoted to Korlash is pretty simple: we have two primary plans for winning the game. First, we can play a bunch of heavy black creatures, beat down with Korlash, Heir to Blackblade and friends, and then finish things off with Gray Merchant of Asphodel drain. Second, we can use Korlash, Heir to Blackblade to ramp, tutor up Torment of Hailfire from our sideboard with Mastermind's Acquisition, and win with one huge spell!

The Combo

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Korlash, Heir to Blackblade itself is fine as a creature, especially in our deck, which plays 100% Swamps or lands that find Swamps, often ending up as an 8/8 or more while also being a very strong ramp spell if we draw multiples thanks to the grandeur ability allowing us to discard extras to double Rampant Growth Swamps out of our deck, which not only helps us cast big spells but grows our Korlash, Heir to Blackblade on the battlefield. While ramping once with Korlash is fine, the real power of the grandeur ability is when we can use it a whole bunch of times, growing a massive Korlash on the battlefield, getting all of the Swamps out of a deck, and giving us a ton of mana to work with.

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Liliana, the Last Hope and Palace Siege are in the deck to allow us to reuse Korlash, Heir to Blackblade's grandeur ability. The idea is pretty simple: if we can find two copies of Korlash and get one of the battlefield, then we can keep discarding the second one to ramp before returning it to our hand with Liliana, the Last Hope or Palace Siege. Palace Siege is especially powerful here, since it allows us to return a creature from our graveyard to our hand each turn if we set it on Khans, which means every single turn, we are pulling two more Swamps from our deck, improving our draws, and making Korlash huge. Liliana, the Last Hope can get back a Korlash once right away but then needs to take some turns off plussing before doing it again. The good news is that the planeswalker is helpful in other situations as well, killing off small creatures and working toward the game-ending, Zombie-fueled ultimate, which gives us another way of closing out the game when things go wrong. 

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Mastermind's Acquisition does two things for our deck. First, it works like extra copies of Korlash, Heir to Blackblade. Since we only have four copies of Korlash in our deck and need to find at least two copies to make use of the grandeur ability, we can't just count on drawing enough copies of Korlash naturally. In this situation, Mastermind's Acquisition works like copies five and six of Korlash, Heir to Blackblade itself (and if we already have two copies of Korlash, we can get a Palace Siege to start our ramp combo). Second, Mastermind's Acquisition allows us to tutor from our sideboard, which means after we get a ton of lands on the battlefield with Korlash, we can tutor up our Torment of Hailfire, which will hopefully win us the game immediately! Of course, tutoring from the sideboard offers some other value as well by, for example, being able to find a graveyard hate spell in game one or a Fulminator Mage to kill a Tron land.

Creatures

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For our creatures, the main theme is black mana symbols to power up our Gray Merchant of Asphodel kill. Nantuko Shade probably looks weird in the two-drop slot, but it's another payoff for all the Swamps we can pull out of our deck with Korlash, Heir to Blackblade. Sometimes, it just ends up a 10/9 that kills our opponent all by itself (or with the help of our Korlash, Heir to Blackblade on the battlefield). Geralf's Messenger blocks twice and has a reasonable body, while the incidental drain damage helps to make sure we need as little mana as possible to kill with Torment of Hailfire. Finally, Gray Merchant of Asphodel is our backup plan for winning the game. The mana from Korlash's grandeur allows us to cast our hand and get a ton of black mana symbols on the battlefield; then, we can drain our opponent out with Gray Merchant of Asphodel's enters-the-battlefield trigger.

Other Stuff

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Phyrexian Arena is great in our deck. Drawing two cards each turn helps to make sure we find our Korlashes and other combo pieces, or allows us to simply overwhelm the opponent with card advantage. Having two black mana symbols means it also works well with the Gray Merchant of Asphodel plan, while the lifegain from Gray Merchant helps to make sure we don't accidentally kill ourselves with Phyrexian Arena damage. While taking off Turn 3 can be risky against aggro, Phyrexian Arena is our best card in a lot of matchups—the game goes much more smoothly when you are drawing two cards each turn.

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The rest of the deck is just good black cards. Fatal Push, Hero's Downfall, and Victim of Night give us removal to stay alive long enough for our Korlash, Heir to Blackblades to matter, while Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Collective Brutality allow us to pick apart our opponent's hand. While none of these cards do anything special with Korlash, they are simply too important and good to pass up for most black decks in Modern.

The Matchups

Honestly, in most of the matches that we lost, it felt like we lost to our own deck rather than to our opponent, mostly by having mana issues, which is strange considering we are a 24-land deck with a relatively solid curve. This being said, probably the biggest risk of the deck is simply getting run over by aggro. If we can kill our opponent's early threats, then cards like Gray Merchant of Asphodel can help us stabilize, but our Nantuko Shades and Geralf's Messengers aren't the best blockers against aggressive threats like Goblin Guide. Against combo, it mostly depends on if we draw enough discard. Meanwhile, against midrange and control, Phyrexian Arena is key to going long and eventually winning with Korlash, Heir to Blackblade value. Overall, Devoted to Korlash feels like a reasonable midrange deck that isn't heavily favored in most matchups but isn't really unfavored either—it mostly depends on the draws in any specific game.

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches and won three, good for a 50% match win percentage, along with winning seven of our 14 games, which also puts us at 50%, which is fine (if unexciting) for an Against the Odds deck. Apart from getting crushed by Infect, a lot of our losses went back to not drawing enough lands (or, against Ponza, our opponent top-decking two Stormbreath Dragons in a row once we thought we'd stabilized), so we were pretty close to picking up another win or two along the way. 

As for Korlash, Heir to Blackblade itself, it mostly ended up being a big threat that ramped us every once in a while. While Mastermind's Acquisition was key to taking down Tron, we never managed to get into a situation where we were able to tutor for Torment of Hailfire (although we did tutor up additional copies of Korlash a couple of times). Thankfully, even though Korlash, Heir to Blackblade wasn't as combo-y as we would have liked, it did do a good job of beating down opponents, growing quickly out of control, and allowing us to steal games with creature beats alongside Nantuko Shade!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Normally, the Against the Odds poll has individual cards, but we are going to try something a bit different this week. Rather than voting on what card we'll play next week, we'll be voting on mechanics! Which of these mechanics should we build a deck around for next week's episode? Let us know by voting below!

*Note: The cards are examples of the mechanic; they may or may not be included in the final deck.*

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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. Oh yeah, if you are curious about the Korlash list that we couldn't play because of Weird Harvest being bugged on Magic Online, here's the deck!


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