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Against the Odds: Divine Teysa (Standard, Magic Arena)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 177 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another all-Ravnica Allegiance Against the Odds poll, and in the end, Teysa Karlov cruised to an easy victory. As a result, we're heading to Standard today to see if we can win some games by doubling up our death triggers with our new four-drop legend. While we could theoretically just jam a bunch of copies of Teysa Karlov in a pre-existing deck like Mardu Aristocrats, that's not really in the spirit of Against the Odds. Instead, we're playing a straight Orzhov deck that still has some aristocratic self-sacrifice synergies combined with afterlife creatures to double-trigger our Teysa but with a spicy payoff in Divine Visitation. With both Teysa Karlov and Divine Visitation on the battlefield, when something like Ministrant of Obligation dies, we end up with four 4/4 Angel tokens for just three mana! Can the combo of Teysa Karlov and Divine Visitation compete in Standard? What are the odds of winning with a Teysa Karlov deck?  Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Divine Teysa (Standard)

The Deck

Building around Teysa Karlov was trickier than I expected, mostly because my goal was to avoid being just another aristocrats deck. While Teysa Karlov is certainly a fine option in Mardu, Abzan, or Jund Aristocrats, these decks are already known and see play, and some already run a copy of Teysa Karlov. As such, the main challenge of building around Teysa Karlov was finding a way to make her work outside of the already established decks. It took a few builds and some testing (I got stuck on making Awaken the Erstwhile work for a long time, but hopefully we'll get a chance to play the card in the future), but in the end, the combination of Teysa Karlov and Divine Visitation seemed like the perfect way to harness Teysa's power.

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Teysa Karlov is basically a reverse Panharmonicon attached to a body. Instead of double-triggering enters-the-battlefield cards, it doubles up on death triggers. As such, to make Teysa work, we need not only a bunch of "dies" creatures but also some sacrifice outlets, so that we can kill our own creatures for value. While the Panharmonicon aspect of Teysa Karlov is the most exciting, giving our creature tokens lifelink and vigilance is a nice bonus, especially in conjunction with Divine Visitation

Divine Visitation is basically our finisher. While we can win games by making a bunch of 1/1 tokens as we sacrifice our own afterlife creatures (and double up their "dies" triggers with Teysa Karlov), turning all of those 1/1s into 4/4 fliers allows us to finish off the game a lot more quickly. Something like Ministrant of Obligation becomes a game-ending threat with a Divine Visitation and Teysa Karlov on the battlefield to make a bunch of Angel tokens, and the lifelink from Teysa Karlov helps to ensure our opponent can't race us once our deck starts doing its thing.

Dies Creatures

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When it comes to getting value from Teysa Karlov's ability to double up death triggers, we're mostly relying on a bunch of creatures that make 1/1 tokens when they die. Hunted Witness and Tithe Taker both give us a 1/1 (or two 1/1s if we have a Teysa on the battlefield) when they die, while Ministrant of Obligation gives us two 1/1s (or four with Teysa) when it hits the graveyard. If we add Divine Visitation to the mix, things get our of hand quickly. For example, just a Ministrant of Obligation makes 16 flying power worth of Angel tokens when it dies if we have both Teysa Karlov and our namesake enchantment. 

Apart from adding value when they die, all of these creatures are mostly fine on their own, giving us some early-game defense while we are waiting to get our more expensive payoffs onto the battlefield as well as a solid curve to go along with our pseudo-combo finish.

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While Midnight Reaper doesn't really work with Divine Visitation, it is an absurd card-advantage engine with Teysa Karlov doubling up its card-draw trigger. With Teysa and Midnight Reaper on the battlefield, we get a free Night's Whisper every time one of our creatures dies by drawing two cards and losing two life. This keeps us churning through our deck to find more dies creatures and payoffs. In fact, Midnight Reaper is occasionally too good with Teysa Karlov, to the point where if we play too many non-token creatures and our opponent manages to wipe the board, we risk dying to Midnight Reaper damage. Still, if we're careful to manage the triggers, Midnight Reaper is one of the most powerful card-draw engines in the Standard format, in conjunction with Teysa Karlov and sacrifice outlets.

Sac Outlets

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The last part of our combo is our sacrifice outlets. While sometimes our creatures die naturally in combat or to our opponent's removal, since creatures dying is so important to our deck, we can't just trust that things will work out naturally over the course of the game. Pitiless Pontiff and Priest of Forgotten Gods give us the ability to sacrifice our own creatures at will to make a bunch of tokens with Teysa Karlov, trigger our Midnight Reaper, and hopefully grow a massive army in the air with Divine Visitation

As far as sacrifice outlets, Pitiless Pontiff is the best option in our deck, since we can activate it multiple times per turn as long as we have the mana. Plus, being a 2/2 indestructible deathtouch is a good way to take down annoying threats like Carnage Tyrant. Meanwhile, Priest of Forgotten Gods generates a ton of value when we sacrifice our creatures. While the drawback is that we can only use it once per turn (and need to wait for it to not be summoning sick), drawing a card, forcing our opponent to sacrifice a creature, and making some mana are a worthy payoff, especially for a deck like Divine Teysa that wants to kill its own creatures anyway.

Other Stuff

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Rounding out our deck is a touch of removal. Mortify handles creatures and problematic enchantments like Wilderness Reclamation and Search for Azcanta, while The Immortal Sun gives us a weird sort of wrath for planeswalkers that also works as a backup payoff if we don't have a Divine Visitation. Thanks to all of our "dies" creatures, our deck is really good at making 1/1 tokens. Pumping them with The Immortal Sun gives us an additional way to close out the game quickly if we don't happen to draw Divine Visitation to go with our Teysa Karlov.

The Matchups

The matchups for Divine Teysa are actually pretty tough to figure out. In general, it felt like we had the tools to compete with most decks, except for maybe Sultai / Golgari, whose combination of removal for Teysa Karlov, big creatures to close out the game, and planeswalkers to blow up Divine Visitation makes the matchup hard. We really need to hit an early The Immortal Sun to have a chance. Otherwise, I'm not sure we are massively favored against any deck, but we managed to take down Izzet Drakes, Turbo Fog, and Esper Control, which is pretty impressive. Apparently, playing a bunch of afterlife creatures and making a ton of 1/1s (or maybe 4/4s) with Teysa Karlov and Divine Visitation is good enough in a lot of matchups!

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches and won three, giving us a 60% match win percentage, while winning seven  of 14 games, good for a 50% game win percentage, making Divine Teysa ever so slightly above average for an Against the Odds deck. As far as Teysa Karlov itself, if we can get our namesake card to sit around on the battlefield for a few turns, it can do some really crazy things. On the other hand, when opponents see a Teysa Karlov hit the battlefield, they tend to respect it and try to kill it as quickly as possible, so we also have some games where Teysa doesn't really do much of anything. Still, the combo finish of Teysa Karlov and Divine Visitation is really powerful and helps to ensure that if we can get a Teysa Karlov on the battlefield for just a little while, the payoff will be enough that even if our opponent manages to kill it, the value we generate will be enough to (hopefully) win the game. Most important, the deck was pretty fun to play. Self-sacrifice decks are always a blast, and the ability to win out of nowhere with Teysa and Divine Visitation adds another really fun dimension to the deck compared to other Aristocrats decks, which are pretty much all-in on winning with small bits of incidental value and damage.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Next week, we'll get back to normal with a mixture of sets on our poll, but this week, we're having one last all-Ravnica Allegiance poll—this time with a twist. Instead of playing the winning card in Standard, we'll be playing it in Modern! Which one of these spicy new Ravnica Allegiance cards should we play in Modern 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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