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Against the Odds: Etrata Surprise (Historic)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 329 of Against the Odds. A couple of weeks ago, we had an Against the Odds poll that included Etrata, the Silencer. While the Vampire Assassin ended up finishing second to Revel in Riches, it was close enough that I still wanted to try to build around the card. We played Etrata, the Silencer once in the past, back when it was legal in Standard many years ago, and found that it was a super-difficult alt-win con. But Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty provided some really interesting support cards that fix many of Etrata, the Silencer's problems and should (hopefully) make it a lot easier to win by getting three hit counters on opposing creatures in exile. So today, we put our Etrata theory to the test in Historic. What are the odds of winning with Etrata, the Silencer, backed by some sneaky MTGNEO synergies? 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: Etrata Surprise

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The Deck

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Etrata, the Silencer is a really strange card. On one hand, it's super powerful, as a 3/5 unblockable creature that exiles an opposing creature when it deals damage, and it can win the game all by itself if we can exile three creatures with it. But Etrata has two huge, huge problems. First, when Etrata, the Silencer exiles something, it shuffles itself back into our library, which sort of makes it a weird Murder rather than a real creature. This means that when playing it fairly, we need to draw Etrata three times to be able to win the game by exiling creatures. Even though our deck has a decent amount of card draw, this just isn't very likely. Second, it's hard to get the third hit counter on an opposing creature because if we get two hit counters, our opponent will just stop playing creatures, to avoid losing to Etrata. While this still counts as an Etrata, the Silencer win in my book, it would be sweet to actually see the third hit counter go on a creature for once. The main reason we're playing Etrata, the Silencer today is that Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty offers some really good solutions to both of Etrata's problems....

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To get around the "shuffle Etrata into your library" problem, we have a bunch of ninjutsu Ninjas. The trick here is that even after Etrata, the Silencer deals combat damage, it's technically still an attacking creature, so we can hit our opponent; put Etrata's "exile a creature" trigger onto the stack; and then use the ninjutsu ability from something like Moon-Circuit Hacker, Ingenious Infiltrator, or Thousand-Faced Shadow to return it to our hand before it is shuffled back into our library. This will exile a creature and get a hit counter to work toward the Etrata win but without having to deal with the drawback of losing Etrata. Oddly, Moon-Circuit Hacker is by far our best Ninja, simply because it has the cheapest ninjutsu cost. If we can get to five mana, we can attack with Etrata, the Silencer, exile something, use Moon-Circuit Hacker to pick it up for just one mana, and then use the rest of our mana to redeploy Etrata, the Silencer in our second main phase, which will let us get a hit counter each turn, greatly speeding up the Etrata win. 

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We have Satoru Umezawa to solve the problem of our opponent getting two hit counters on creatures and then refusing to play more creatures. (This isn't a real problem because it usually means we're winning, but it is a problem when it comes to getting the third hit counter for the full Etrata, the Silencer win.) We can use Satoru's ability to give each creature in our hand ninjutsu to sneak Etrata, the Silencer into play tapped and attacking by surprise, which lets us hide the fact we have a lethal Etrata in hand and hopefully get our opponent to play more creatures. Even if we don't manage to use Satoru Umezawa to get the third hit counter with Etrata, the Silencer, it's still great with Etrata (by letting us ninjutsu it into play for four mana, the same as its mana cost) and in our deck in general since it can Anticipate through our deck to find Etrata as we ninjutsu other creatures.

And this is the main plan of our deck: get the Etrata, the Silencer win by using Ninjas to avoid shuffling it back into our deck and Satoru Umezawa to sneak it into play by surprise with ninjutsu. It's also worth mentioning that Etrata is pretty decent with Ninjas in general since it's an unblockable creature, so worst case, we can use it to ninjutsu other Ninjas into play.

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As far as the rest of the deck, Ornithopter, Changeling Outcast, and Thousand-Faced Shadow give us cheap, evasive creatures to pick up so we can ninjutsu things into play. Thousand-Faced Shadow offers some sneaky value in the late game if we manage to ninjutsu it, by copying another attacking creature, which can lead to a ton of card draw by getting multiple Ingenious Infiltrators on the battlefield.

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While the main reason Kaito Shizuki is in our deck is for value—it offers a lot of value in a deck with a bunch of Ninjas, making unblockable tokens to ninjutsu with and drawing us cards—it can also be another [[Etrata, the Silencer] combo piece if we somehow manage to ultimate it. If we manage to emblem Kaito, we can attack with Etrata, the Silencer, hit our opponent, and get two triggers: one to exile a creature and shuffle Etrata back into our deck and one to tutor a blue or black creature from our library onto the battlefield. If we stack them properly, we can resolve Etrata, the Silencer's trigger first, shuffle it into our deck, and then use Kaito Shizuki's trigger to tutor it back onto the battlefield immediately so we can do it again the next turn!

The Matchups

The matchups for Etrata Ninja Surprise are simple: Etrata, the Silencer doesn't want to play against control decks because it needs our opponent to have creatures on the battlefield to work. Decks like UW Control typically have zero creatures, which means Etrata, the Silencer is basically a dead card (at least, as dead as a 3/5 unblockable can be). The same is true of creature-free (or -light) combo decks. It's not that we can't beat these decks—we can potentially win without Etrata by beating down with random Ninjas. But considering our main goal is to win with Etrata, the Silencer's ability, we'd rather play against decks with lots of creatures rather than control or combo.

The Odds

Record-wise, we finished 3-2 with Etrata Ninja Surprise, giving us a 60% win rate, although remember our goal was to win with Etrata and not just win. As far as winning with Etrata, we had two wins that were clearly Etrata wins, although in both cases, once we got two creatures exiled with hit counters, our opponent just stopped playing creatures and / or scooped, so we never really got to see the third hit counter. Hilariously, this is the same thing that happened when we played Etrata, the Silencer in Standard many years ago. I'm starting to think that it's just not possible to get the third counter and that an Etrata win is really just getting two hit counters and Etrata-locking creatures out of the game. 

Etrata, the Silencer was also oddly effective in some other games. Being able to exile recursive threats like Arclight Phoenix is really powerful, even if we end up winning with combat damage rather than with Etrata, the Silencer's ability. The Vampire Assassin is so synergistic with Ninjas that it might actually deserve a spot in the deck, even if you're not playing Against the Odds!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week. Next week we'll kick off Streets of New Capenna with a special episode. Don't worry, the poll will return next  week with a bunch of sweet New Capenna options!

Wrap Up

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

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