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Against the Odds: Exalted Isshin Conscription (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 338 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a second-chance Against the Odds poll, and Isshin, Two Heavens as One for Modern took home an easy win. We played Isshin in Pioneer a while ago, and it was pretty sweet. But Modern opens up some even more explosive possibilities for doubling up attack triggers, like stacking up as many exalted triggers as possible to turn any random attacker into one of the biggest imaginable threats! Oh yeah, and sometimes we randomly turn Isshin into an Eldrazi, but more on that in a minute... What are the odds of winning with Isshin, Two Heavens as One in Modern? 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: Exalted Isshin Conscription

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Discussion

Building around Isshin is always super fun. When the Samurai won the poll, I built a few different versions of the deck, with my main goal—apart from ending up with a few brews that could do something spectacular—being to avoid being just a random attack-trigger value deck like the Pioneer Painharmonicon deck we played a while ago. Eventually, I landed on a deck that's essentially exalted tribal, with some really spicy finishers that take advantage of Isshin, Two Heavens as One's power!

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Our namesake card—Isshin, Two Heavens as One—is essentially a Panharmonicon on a body, except it works with attack triggers rather than enters-the-battlefield triggers. Coming on a body is both an upside and a drawback. Being a 3/4 for three is solid enough stats, even in Modern, which is nice, although being a creature means that Isshin, Two Heavens as One dies to a lot of popular removal that Panharmonicon itself would survive. Of course, we need a bunch of attack triggers for Isshin to do anything, which is where our exalted cards come in...

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Our deck is overflowing with creatures with exalted. Two of the best of the bunch are Ignoble Hierarch and Noble Hierarch because if we play them on Turn 1, we can get down Isshin, Two Heavens as One on Turn 2. But in reality, we just want as many exalted creatures on the battlefield as possible.

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Most often, exalted is played as a value mechanic: you play something like Noble Hierarch because you want a mana dork and sometimes get a bit of extra value by pumping a creature a little when it attacks alone. But our deck is different; we're fully embracing the power of exalted. If you aren't familiar with the mechanic, the idea is that when you attack with a single creature, exalted will trigger to give that creature +1/+1. This might not sound that exciting, but it's important to point out that exalted stacks, so if we get two exalted creatures on the battlefield and attack alone, we'll get two triggers, giving the creature +2/+2. If we have five instances of exalted, the attacker will get +5/+5. More importantly, the mechanic also works with Isshin's doubling power. If we get five instances of exalted on the battlefield and have Isshin, Two Heavens as One, we can attack with a single creature and give it +10/+10, enough that even a lowly Noble Hierarch can potentially kill our opponent in just a couple of attacks!

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We've also got a couple of one-of exalted finishers that we can tutor up with Eladamri's Call (which is mostly in the deck to make sure we find Isshin, but it can find anything we need). Rafiq of the Many, along with offering another exalted trigger, also gives a creature that attacks alone double strike, which often allows us to kill our opponent in just one attack if we can get Isshin and a bunch of exalted triggers on the battlefield. Speaking of a bunch of exalted triggers, Sublime Archangel is our best way to get exalted a ton of times, not only having exalted itself but also giving all of our other creatures exalted. This might sound unnecessary because most of our creatures already have exalted, but a creature can have exalted more than once. For example, if we have Rafiq and Sublime Archangel, Rafiq will have exalted two times, and each will trigger when we attack with just one creature. If we can build a big board of exalted creatures, play an Isshin, and then follow up with either Rafiq or Sublime Archangel, there's a pretty good chance we can kill the opponent on the spot or, at worse, within a couple of turns!

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When we really need to make sure our opponent dies right away, we've got one other exalted finisher in Sovereigns of Lost Alara. Much like Rafiq of the Many, Sovereigns not only has exalted but also offers another ability when we attack with just a single creature, allowing us to tutor an aura from our library and attach it to that creature. Hiding out in our deck are three copes of the biggest, most game-ending aura in Magic: Eldrazi Conscription. This allows us to play our exalted mana dorks; play an Isshin, Two Heavens as One; follow it up with Sovereigns; attack with any one of our random creatures; and, thanks to Isshin doubling up our attack triggers,  tutor our two copies of Eldrazi Conscription! Even if we're attacking with our weakest creature, like a Ignoble Hierarch, this will turn it into a 20+ power trampling attack, and this doesn't even include all of the exalted triggers we should have on the battlefield or perhaps Rafiq of the Many for double strike. Basically, if we can play Sovereigns of Lost Alara and get in a single attack with any creature, we should end up with a massive Voltron threat that kills our opponent on the spot!

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The final important piece of the deck is Scion of Draco, which does a couple of things for the deck. First, since we're five colors anyway to support Isshin and all of our exalted creatures, we can often cast Scion of Draco for just two mana, and a two-mana 4/4 flier is a pretty good threat. Having evasion is helpful with our exalted plan. One of the downsides of trying to build a huge Noble Hierarch or even an Isshin, Two Heavens as One is that our opponent can potentially chump block to stay alive. The flying on Scion of Draco makes this less likely. But the real reason Scion of Draco is in our deck is to improve our other creatures. Giving all of our green creatures trample, for example, makes the plan of killing our opponent with a hilariously huge, exalted Noble Hierarch much easier. As a Mardu creature, Isshin, Two Heavens as One gets lifelink, vigilance, and first strike. Cards like Rafiq of the Many get hexproof, making it harder for our opponent to blow out our exalted Voltron plan with removal. When you add all this together, Scion of Draco is great in the deck. The only downside is that there are sometimes games where we play it on Turn 2 and it ends up winning the game before we can do anything cool with Isshin, Two Heavens as One and our spicy exalted finishers.

The Matchups

When it comes to matchups for Exalted Isshin Conscription, the main question is how many sweepers and how much removal are in our opponent's deck. Removal-heavy midrange and control decks can be rough since our primary game plan involves getting as many exalted creatures on the battlefield as possible and we need a critical mass to really do anything sweet. On the other hand, thanks to the combo-ish kill of Isshin and Sovereigns of Lost Alara, we do have the ability to beat just about any deck in the format since we really only need one turn of our opponent tapping down and not having an answer to annihilate them with a surprise Eldrazi Conscription or two!

The Odds

All in all, we finished 3-3 with Exalted Isshin Conscription, giving us a solid 50% win rate. More importantly, the deck did some hilariously absurd things. Our last game against Blue Tron showed just how explosive the deck could be, with our opponent dying to a 29/30 Isshin on Turn 4! Even without Eldrazi Conscription doubling up exalted triggers proved to be pretty powerful, allowing us to pour on a ton of damage early in the game. While we did sometimes have trouble with control decks (the one match that didn't show up on video was against a Bant Control deck that mostly just waited until we played our hand and then cast Supreme Verdict, mostly taking us out of the game), overall, the deck was super sweet and good enough to pick up a lot of wins. While Exalted Isshin Conscription might not be a top-tier Modern deck, every time we play Isshin, Two Heavens as One, it performs well. It doesn't seem that crazy that it might actually be good enough to see play in a format like Modern!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week. Next week we're having a special episode, but don't worry, the poll will be back next time and better than ever!

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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