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Against the Odds: Elemental Breach (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 101 of Against the Odds. Last week, in celebration of the return of tribal in Ixalan, we had an Against the Odds poll focused on the tribes from Magic's last great tribal plane: Lorwyn! In the end, it was Elemental tribal sneaking out a super-close victory over Rogues, which means this week, we are heading to Modern to see if we can harness the power of the elements to pick up some wins! When it comes to building tribal decks, the first step is to figure out the tribe's competitive advantage, and when it comes to the Elemental tribe, the one thing they do best is make fast mana. As such, the main plan of our deck is to cheat a hasty Liege of the Tangle onto the battlefield as quickly as possible and hope that awakening our lands into 8/8s will be enough to take down the game. Can this plan work in Modern? Let's get to the videos and figure it out; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Against the Odds: Elemental Breach (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Elemental Breach (Games)

The Deck

As we talked about in the intro, my main theory for building tribal decks is to figure out what the tribe does better than anyone else and then go all-in on supporting this competitive advantage. In Modern, there are a few different ways to build around Elementals. It's possible to go aggro, but the deck is lacking high-power one- and two-drops and doesn't have many competitive lords, which makes the traditional tribal beatdown plan lacking compared to for other tribes like Merfolk or Humans. We could also embrace the lands-matter theme found on cards like Avenger of Zendikar and Omnath, Locus of Rage, but this plan feels a bit slow for Modern. However, there is one thing that Elementals do better than any tribe in Modern: make fast mana. Not only do they have two two-drops that can produce two mana, but Incandescent Soulstoke gives the tribe a lord that can Through the Breach an Elemental into play for just two mana. It's this fast-mana plan that forms the foundation for our Elemental Breach deck.

Fast Mana

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Generator Servant and Smokebraider are the cards that make Elemental tribal good, giving us a total of eight two-drops that make two mana. Smokebraider has the upside of ramping us every single turn, assuming it lives, while Generator Servant is more of a ritual effect, although the fact that it gives haste to the creature we cast with its mana is very important. Actually, the most powerful thing our deck can do is cheat a huge Elemental into play on Turn 3 with haste, and this nut draw always involves a Generator Servant

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We also have eight copies of Through the Breach thanks to Incandescent Soulstoke and literal Through the Breach. While it might not be obvious, these are both fast-mana cards as well, allowing us to drop our big eight-drop Liege of the Tangle into play for five mana—essentially making three extra mana. Incandescent Soulstoke is super important to our primary Elemental Breach plan, while also giving us a really jank Elemental beatdown backup plan (although this doesn't come up often, since even with Incandescent Soulstoke giving our team +1/+1, our Elementals aren't especially good attackers). 

The Finisher

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Liege of the Tangle is basically Elemental Emrakul—the most game-ending threat in the Elemental tribe that we can cheat into play early in the game. Our hope is to cheat it into play as early as Turn 3 with Through the Breach or Incandescent Soulstoke (sometimes with the help of Generator Servant mana to give Incandescent Soulstoke haste), attack, and win the game. Being an 8/8, it's pretty unlikely that our opponent will be able to block the Liege of the Tangle if we can get it down fast enough, and once it gets in combat damage, all of our lands awaken into 8/8 Elementals. On Turn 3, this means that Liege of the Tangle hit for eight itself and then leaves behind 24 power and toughness across three bodies, which is almost always enough to close out the game in the next turn or two. 

While it feels really strange to Through the Breach anything besides Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand, one thing we learned over the course of the games is that Liege of the Tangle is almost always enough to win. We played 13 games, and there was only a single time where we could cheat a Liege of the Tangle into play and it wouldn't be game ending, which feels roughly the same as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in terms of how consistently it wins the game. Plus, the big upside of Liege of the Tangle is we can actually hard cast it with our Smokebraider and Generator Servant mana, which is key for draws where we don't have a Breach effect.

Card Draw

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One of the downsides of our deck is that we only have four copies of Liege of the Tangle as finishers, which isn't very many for a deck built around cheating big things into play. Thankfully, Flamekin Harbinger helps solve this problem by being Liege of the Tangle copies five through eight, since we can play it on Turn 1 and tutor up our finisher. We can also use it to find anything else we need, like Generator Servant for mana or Incandescent Soulstoke if we are going on the janky beatdown plan. Meanwhile, Mulldrifter is just too much value to pass up in a deck with Smokebraider, which can let us hard cast Mulldrifter on Turn 3. It draws us a ton of cards, helps us find our important pieces, and gives us a flying attacker to chip in for incidental damage. 

Other Stuff

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It felt weird to play Elemental tribal without Horde of Notions, so we have a single copy as our Plan C. In theory, we can cast it on Turn 3 off Smokebraider mana, and it's actually a pretty reasonable attacker as a 5/5 with trample and haste. It's also an important part of our sideboard plan for some matchups that involves bringing in four copies of Fulminator Mage along with another Horde of Notions and trying to landlock our opponent through blowing up a land each turn by sacrificing Fulminator Mage and returning it to the battlefield with Horde of Notions to blow up yet another land. 

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Finally, Remand and Lightning Bolt give us a few ways to interact with our opponent. Lightning Bolt can kill early-game creatures to help us stay alive while we are setting up our Elemental Breach plan, while Remand can help force our key pieces through our opponent's disruption, and in the worst case, it slows our opponent a bit while also cycling to help us find out combo pieces. 

The Matchups

The upside of Elemental Breach is that our good draws are very good and can beat just about anyone. A hasty Liege of the Tangle on Turn 3 is hard for just about any deck to recover from. This being said, as far as specific matchups, removal-heavy control decks can be challenging, since it becomes a lot harder to cheat Liege of the Tangle into play if our opponent can keep killing our Smokebraiders, Generator Servants, and Incandescent Soulstokes. Path to Exile decks can also be tough, since Path to Exile is the one commonly played removal spell that can stop our "cheat a Liege of the Tangle into play" plan before our 8/8 deals combat damage and gives us a board full of threatening creature lands. Finally, the nightmare scenario is sweepers. If we do manage to cheat a Liege of the Tangle into play and awaken our lands into 8/8s, a Damnation is not just a Damnation but also an Armageddon, which means we pretty much just lose the game on the spot if a wrath resolves. The combination of these three things means that control is likely our hardest matchup, although I could see us losing to fast aggro as well if we get a bad draw. 

The Odds

Altogether, we played five matches and won four, good for an 80% match win percentage, along with winning nine of 13 games for a solid 69% game win percentage, which means Elemental Breach is one of the more competitive Against the Odds decks we've had in a while. We even played the Breach mirror and managed to win, even through our opponent Through the Breaching an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play. While it's unlikely that Elemental Breach could continue to win 80% of the time over a larger sample, the deck did feel surprisingly powerful, and the fast-mana plan might actually be good enough to keep up with a lot of the best decks in the format! Plus, it was a blast to play. No one expects to die to Liege of the Tangle!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

It's been a while since we've had a second-chance poll, so let's do one this week! Which of these options that came in second or third in Against the Odds polls from the recent past deserve another shot a glory 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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