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Against the Odds: Esper Sen Triplets Thieves (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 245 of Against the Odds. Next week, we'll kick off our exploration of Core Set 2021 with a special episode, but as we wait today, we're heading to Modern to play the runaway winner of last week's Against the Odds poll: Sen Triplets. While Sen Triplets is a popular card in Commander, it normally doesn't see play in Modern. Can a deck built around winning by stealing the opponent's cards with not just Sen Triplets but also other "thieves" like Nightveil Specter, Daxos of Meletis, Gonti, Lord of Luxury, and friends compete in Modern? What are the odds of winning with Sen Triplets in the format? 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: Sen Triplets Thieves

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The Deck

In some ways, Sen Triplets is a weird Against the Odds card. While it is certainly Against the Odds in the sense that it sees zero play in the Modern format, it doesn't actually do anything all that flashy by itself, instead relying on the opponent having some sweet cards in hand that we can cast with Sen Triplets' ability. As such, rather than being a combo deck, Esper Sen Triplets Thieves is mostly a flavor deck built around Sen Triplets' ability to steal and play our opponent's cards. As a result, many of the non–Sen Triplets cards in our deck do one of two things: steal our opponent's stuff or return cards to our opponent's hand so that we can (hopefully) cast them with Sen Triplets

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As for our namesake Sen Triplets, when things go well, it can be extremely powerful, allowing us to play cards from our opponent's hand every turn. On the other hand, there are two big challenges in building around the card. First, it's slow and fragile, not just costing five mana but also requiring us to wait a turn before we can use its ability and start playing our opponent's cards. To solve this problem, we have some discard spells like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek to get removal spells out of our opponent's hand and hopefully keep ourselves alive long enough to untap with a Sen Triplets. The second challenge is harder to solve: since we're playing Modern, by the time we untap with Sen Triplets on Turn 6, there's a pretty good chance that our opponent has emptied their hand (or just straight up killed us), which makes Sen Triplets much less effective. To try to solve this issue, we have a handful of cards that can return permanents to spells to our opponent's hand...

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Remand, Cryptic Command, Brazen Borrower, and Venser, Shaper Savant (and Snapcaster Mage to flash them back) serve two purposes in our deck. First, in the early game, they help to slow down our opponent long enough to get Sen Triplets on the battlefield. Second, these cards give us ways to return spells or permanents to our opponent's hand to help make sure that we'll have something to cost with its ability once we get Sen Triplets on the battlefield. 

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Backing up Sen Triplets and our bounce cards are our thieves—cards that, in one way or another, allow us to steal our opponent's cards and cast them. In the three-drop slot are Nightveil Specter]], Thief of Sanity, and Daxos of Meletis, all of which are pretty similar: when we hit our opponent for combat damage with any of these creatures, we get to steal a card from the top of our opponent's library and use them to our advantage. Thief of Sanity is the best of the group since we get to choose the best of our opponent's top three cards and can use our mana as though it were mana of any color to cast them. Nightveil Specter is similar, with the drawback of only grabbing our opponent's top card and requires the right mana to cast it, but it does allow us to play our opponent's lands. Finally, Daxos of Meletis is just a one-of but is basically like a ground version of Nightveil Specter that can also gain us some life. 

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Rounding out our thieves are Gonti, Lord of Luxury and Hostage Taker, with Hostage Taker stealing creatures and artifacts from our opponent's battlefield and Gonti, Lord of Luxury grabbing whatever card we need most from our opponent's top four. Combined with Sen Triplets and our Nightveil Specter–esque three-drops, this gives us a ton of ways to play with our opponents deck.

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Last but not least, we have some interactive cards to help keep us alive long enough to get Sen Triplets on the battlefield. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are somewhat awkward with Sen Triplets since we actually want our opponent to have some cards in hand when we resolve it, but they do allow us to snag a removal spell or counterspell that would potentially keep Sen Triplets from ever resolving from our opponent's hand. Finally, Drown in the Loch and Fatal Push give us removal to deal with whatever threats of our opponent hit the battlefield, to buy us time to stick our namesake card.

The Matchups

Esper Sen Triplets Thieves is one of those decks that doesn't seem to have good matchups. Aggro decks tend to empty their hand before Sen Triplets hits the battlefield (or just kill us before we can get enough mana for Sen Triplets). Combo decks don't usually have good cards to steal since most of their cards are synergy-based, and most Modern combos win before Turn 5 or 6 anyway. Meanwhile, against control, our opponent will likely have cards in hand on Turn 5 when we can cast Sen Triplets, but some of those cards are likely to be removal or counterspells that will keep us from resolving Sen Triplets

The Odds

All in all, we managed to win one of our five matches with Esper Sen Triplets Thieves, but unfortunately, that game won one where we didn't even draw Sen Triplets. This gives us a 20% match win percentage, making Esper Sen Triplets Thieves feel like a flashback to the earlier years of Against the Odds, when we didn't win very often. Eventually, as the losses piled up, we shifted our goal from winning with Sen Triplets to just casting a spell of our opponent's with Sen Triplets, which we eventually did, but it took all five matches and a lot of work. 

Sadly, Sen Triplets just doesn't seem Modern playable. While it is great in Commander, that's partly because the format is slower and because you'll likely have three opponents in Commander, so you can choose whichever one has cards in hand with Sen Triplets' ability. At least based on our matches, in Modern, odds are we'll just be dead before Sen Triplets hits the battlefield, and even if we're alive, it's unlikely our opponent will have many (or any) cards in hand for us to cast. The fact that we have to wait a turn after casting Sen Triplets to use its ability is particularly challenging since Sen Triplets hitting the battlefield is a huge warning sign to our opponent that they better empty their hand (or kill us) before we untap, or else we'll get to start playing with their cards. 

While Sen Triplets is a super-sweet card, actually making it work in Modern is extremely challenging, and we certainly didn't break the code today.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week! Core Set 2021 will be released on Friday on Magic Arena, which means we'll be having a special Core Set 2021 Standard episode next week! Don't worry, the poll will return with a bunch of sweet new Core Set 2021 options next week.

Conclusion

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 SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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