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Against the Odds: Five-Color "Bears" (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 277 of Against the Odds. Thanks to the recent round of bannings, we had a Kaldheim-in-Modern Against the Odds poll last week. The winner, by a pretty wide margin, was one of our new sagas, The Bears of Littjara. As such, we're heading to Modern today to play a deck so sweet that I could barely wait to play it: Five-Color "Bears." While most of the creatures in our deck are changelings to support The Bears of Littjara, since changelings are technically all creature types, that means that our creatures are also Bears, which allows us to play Ayula, Queen Among Bears as a backup payoff. While Ayula is partly in the deck for flavor purposes (how could we play a The Bears of Littjara without the queen of the Bears?), it's also absurdly powerful, growing all of our little changelings into massive threats (and also stacking with The Bears of Littjara's ability to make all of our changelings into 4/4s) while also fighting down our opponent's blockers as our "Bears" come into play. How good are "Bears" in Modern? Can we maul our way to some wins?  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: Five-Color "Bears"

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The Deck

When The Bears of Littjara won the poll, it was pretty obvious that we'd be playing a deck with a bunch of changelings to maximize the power of our saga. However, The Bears of Littjara isn't enough of a payoff all by itself, especially considering that changelings tend to be a bit small. The question was what else we could play to power up our little changelings. I considered a bunch of different possibilities but eventually realized that Ayula, Queen Among Bears was absolutely perfect for the deck, both in terms of flavor and playability, which is what led to the Five-Color "Bears" deck we're playing today!

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The Bears of Littjara is a weird card. It's obviously powerful, but to truly maximize its power, it needs to be in a deck full of Shapeshifters (which mostly means changelings), and changelings—while interesting thanks to their "all creature type" ability—tend to be just a bit underpowered compared to other creatures with the same mana cost. Making a 2/2 changeling when it enters the battlefield is nice, but the second lore counter—which sets the base power and toughness of all of our Shapeshifters to 4/4—is the real power of the saga. In theory, we can flood the board with cheap Shapeshifters over the first couple turns of the game, use The Bears of Littjara to turn them into 4/4s, and beat our opponent down quickly before they have a chance to recover. Finally, the third lore counter works as a removal spell, which is a nice bonus since our deck is so full of "Bears" that we don't have room for any other removal spells in the main deck.

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While The Bears of Littjara is the best payoff in our shapeshifting deck, we only can play four copies, which means we need some backup payoffs. Metallic Mimic gives us a pseudo-lord for all of our Shapeshifters. If we have a The Bears of Littjara, we can hilariously choose Shapeshifter (which I'm pretty sure has never happened before in the history of Magic) and use The Bears of Littjara to turn it into a 4/4 while Metallic Mimic continues to pump our other creatures. Meanwhile, if we have Ayula, Queen Among Bears, we can make Metallic Mimic into a Bear, triggering Ayula and still allowing it to pump all of our Shapeshifters, which are also Bears. 

While Metallic Mimic is nice, Ayula, Queen Among Bears is absurd in our deck. On its face, it's just barely worse than The Bears of Littjara when it comes to being a payoff for a deck full of changelings. The two-mana Bear lord is incredibly powerful. The problem is that the rest of the actual Bears in Magic just aren't very strong. However, it offers a ton of value in a deck full of changelings, quickly growing our little Shapeshifters into big threats while also fighting down whatever blockers our opponent presents, to allow us to put through more damage. 

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The rest of the creatures in our deck are all "Bears." I like to think of our one-drops as cubs, and they are the most important "bears" in the slot because they work extremely well with both The Bears of Littjara and Ayula, Queen Among Bears. If we can play a cub on Turn 1, play two more on Turn 2, and follow them up with The Bears of Littjara on Turn 3 (to make another changeling), then when we hit the second lore counter on Turn 4, our four little "Bears" suddenly grow up into massive 4/4 grizzlies, which is often enough to close out the game. Meanwhile, if we have Ayula, Queen Among Bears, we can turn all of our one-mana 1/1s into one-mana 3/3s thanks to Ayula's counters. While our one-drops are for the most part interchangeable, Changeling Outcast and Mothdust Changeling are the best of the bunch since they are both evasion, which makes them into legitimate threats, especially if we can pump them with Ayula or The Bears of Littjara

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Meanwhile, we have some more "Bears" in the two-drop slot. Shapesharer theoretically can do some cool things by turning our changelings into more powerful creatures, but in practice, three mana is a lot, and it doesn't come up all that often. Meanwhile, Unsettled Mariner gives us a "bear" that also protects against removal, helping ti slow down our opponent's targeted removal and keep as many of our "Bears" on the battlefield as possible to maximize the The Bears of Littjara's Shapeshifter-pumping second lore counter.

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Finally, in the three-drop slot, we have...more Bears. Glasspool Mimic is sort of a free-roll since it counts as a land (and is technically a Shapeshifter no matter what it copies, so it always works with The Bears of Littjara. The rest of our three-drops are all just one-ofs. Mirror Entity gives us another way to grow our small creatures into bigger threats with its pumping ability (which also turns all of our creatures into changelings, letting The Bears of Littjara pump Ayula, Queen Among Bears with its second lore counter). Realmwalker set on Bears allows us to play any creature in our deck from the top of our library, offering some card advantage against slower decks. Finally, Taurean Mauler can end up as our biggest changeling as our opponent casts spells, but dying to Lightning Bolt means that it usually doesn't survive long enough to take over the game.

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Rounding out our main deck is Collected Company to find two "Bears" at instant speed. Meanwhile, Absorb Identity has a lot of upside. If we can build a big board of Shapeshifters, we theoretically can bounce something like a Primeval Titan, turn all our changelings into copies of it, and win the game with one big attack. But often, it just ends up being a random tempo play, bouncing a creature to slow our opponent down and buy ourselves a bit more time to set up The Bears of Littjara or Ayula, Queen Among Bears

The Matchups

In general, Five-Color "Bears" struggles the most against fast combo and decks overloaded on removal and sweepers. Against combo, our clock is just a bit too slow, although we do have some good sideboard options like Force of Negation to help improve the matchup. As for removal-heavy midrange and control, if our opponent can keep The Bears of Littjara and Ayula, Queen Among Bears off the battlefield, we barely have a chance since our changelings are pretty small without the help of a payoff. On the other hand, we can beat just about anyone if we can stick one of our payoffs. The combination of cheap changelings and cheap pumping payoffs is actually an oddly effective way to win in Modern.

The Odds

Every once in a while, we have an Against the Odds deck that looks pretty janky but ends up massively outperforming. Somehow, we ended up 4-2 with the deck, including going 3-2 in a Modern league. I'm still not exactly sure how or why, but Five-Color "Bears" really worked! While it was probably partly luck, and I'm not sure Five-Color Bears is a deck that can win 66.7% of the time over the long term, it was way more competitive than I expected, with both The Bears of Littjara and Ayula, Queen Among Bears proving to be really strong payoffs.

Vote For Next Week's Deck

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Last week's Modern Kaldheim Against the Odds poll was super close (outside of The Bears of Littjara winning), so let's give those cards another shot next week! Which Kaldheim card should we build around? Click here to vote!

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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