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Against the Odds: Five-Color Nexus Control (Modern)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode eighty-nine of Against the Odds. Last week, we had the leak of some Five-Color Dragon cards from Commander 2017, and in celebration of some sweet new five-color cards, we had an Against the Odds poll featuring some famous five-color cards from the past. In the end, we had a clear winner in Maelstrom Nexus, which took home a massive 41% of the vote, nearly doubling up the second-place finisher Chromanticore! As such, today we are heading to Modern to see if we can get some sweet, random cascade value with the enchantment in a five-color control shell! Can we make Maelstrom Nexus work in Modern? We're about to find out!

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Against the Odds: Five-Color Nexus Control (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Five-Color Nexus Control (Games)

The Deck

Building around Maelstrom Nexus was actually pretty challenging, mostly because I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way to make the card support a specific combo or synergy, but in the end, I realized it was mostly impossible—the randomness of Maelstrom Nexus is built into the card, and there isn't really a good way around it. While it is possible to have a slight bit of control over the cascade (mostly by using one-mana spells to cascade into zero-mana spells), for the most part, building around Maelstrom Nexus is about embracing the randomness. 

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After figuring this out, my first attempt was a five-color Maelstrom Nexus Panharmonicon deck, but it didn't really work. While getting a Maelstrom Nexus on the battlefield and then using a Mulldrifter to cascade into Panharmonicon and draw four was sweet when it happened, but more often, we just got run over by more consistent decks, since we had minimal interaction and were playing a lot of expensive cards that made us tap out without generating any immediate value. So we changed things up and went with our Five-Color Nexus Control build instead!

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As I mentioned a minute ago, for the most part it's really difficult to control the randomness of Maelstrom Nexus; however, there is one exception: our one-mana removal. Fatal Push, Lightning Bolt, and Path to Exile are all cards we want in our deck anyway to help deal with opposing creatures in the early game, and then after we get a Maelstrom Nexus on the battlefield, we know that whenever we cast a copy, we'll cascade into our single no-mana card...

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Ancestral Visions is amazing in our deck, especially when we can cascade into one with our cheap removal spells. Drawing three cards is extremely powerful. In fact, a successful Legacy deck (Shardless Sultai) is mostly built around using the cascade mechanic to find Ancestral Visions. Ancestral Visions gives us a way to refill our hand and find more copies of Maelstrom Nexus (they do stack, so if we have two copies on the battlefield, the first spell we cast each turn cascades twice), removal, and eventually our finishers to close out the game. 

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The other main synergy of the deck involves Snapcaster Mage. When we cast a Snapcaster Mage with a Maelstrom Nexus out, we know that we'll hit Ancestral Visions (which is never bad), Thoughtseize, or a one-mana removal spell like Path to Exile or Fatal Push. While these cards are good for general value, they also let us do some fun (although random) tricks. For example, we can cast a Snapcaster Mage on our opponent's draw step and hope to cascade into Thoughtseize to take the card our opponent drew for the turn, since cascade breaks the timing restriction on cards. Likewise, we can cast Snapcaster Mage without a target in the graveyard and hope to cascade into a Path to Exile (or other one-mana removal spell, which is our most common cascade hit from Snapcaster Mage). The Path to Exile resolves first, exiling one of our opponent creatures, and then by the time Snapcaster Mage enters the battlefield, the Path to Exile will be in the graveyard. so we can flash it back and exile another creature! 

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While Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, and Murderous Cut don't really help us control our cascade hits, they do work really well with Maelstrom Nexus because they allow us to cheat on mana costs and cascade into more expensive spells. We can evoke our Mulldrifter for three mana, evoke our Shriekmaw for two mana, and delve Murderous Cut for one mana and hopefully cascade into a powerful four-drop like Damnation to sweep the board or Cryptic Command to counter a spell or bounce a permanent. 

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Speaking of Cryptic Command, it's the only counterspell in our 75, but it does a great job of exemplifying not just one but two important aspects of building around Maelstrom Nexus. First, Cryptic Command is an instant, which is important because Maelstrom Nexus triggers each turn, which means one of the simplest ways of abusing it is by making sure we can cast something on our turn to cascade into a free card, and then something else on our opponent's turn to cascade again. 

Second, and equally important, one of the challenges of building around Maelstrom Nexus is that we want to minimize the bad cascade hits, which means even though we are a controlling deck, we can't really play counterspells because they are horrible when we cascade into them. Cryptic Command is the one exception because it's fine with cascade—in the worst case, we can bounce one of our opponent's lands and draw a card, which isn't exciting but also isn't a whiff with Maelstrom Nexus

Finishing the Game

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Apart from just overwhelming our opponent with card advantage from Maelstrom Nexus, we have a handful of actual finishers. Cruel Ultimatum not only generates a ton of value but also lets us cascade into any card in our deck. The dream is that we cast one, empty our opponent's hand, draw some cards, and cascade into a Grave Titan, which can close out the game in just an attack or two. Of course, this won't happen all that often thanks to the randomness of cascade. We can also cast a Grave Titan and cascade into a Dragonlord Ojutai or Thragtusk, both of which are strong and resilient five-mana threats. 

The rest of the deck is pretty typical control stuff. We have some sweepers in Supreme Verdict, Damnation, and Anger of the Gods, which help us stay alive against creature-based builds. Kolaghan's Command generates a lot of value, allowing us to return a Snapcaster Mage or one of our finishers from our graveyard along with killing a creature / artifact or making our opponent discard. Coalition Relic helps us ramp into our Maelstrom Nexus by providing two mana of two different colors, and Sphinx's Revelation (our one bad hit from Maelstrom Nexus) is a great way to stabilize and draw into our Maelstrom Nexus and finishers.

The Matchups

Heading into our matches, I thought that our deck would be good against random creature decks, since we have a lot of removal and wraths along with stabilizing creatures like Thragtusk and Grave Titan, but would struggle against combo, since we can't really play counters thanks to their anti-synergy with Maelstrom Nexus. However, our matches turned out exactly the opposite, with us losing to creature decks and winning against every combo deck we played. While I still think that combo is a hard matchup and creature decks are good matchups, maybe the gap isn't as wide as I initially thought. 

The other issue with the deck is aggro. While we do have a lot of early-game removal that can keep us alive if we draw it, being built around a five-mana enchantment that doesn't do anything until our next turn means we can easily be run over by Zoo, Burn, or even Death's Shadow. Also, we'll pretty much never beat Blood Moon, and our mana base can be pretty painful because we need to play so many fetches and shocks to actually be able to cast our Maelstrom Nexus

The Odds

All in all, we got in five matches and won two, giving us a 40% match-win percentage, while we played 14 games and won six, putting our game-win percentage at 42%. While this isn't exciting, it's roughly average for an Against the Odds deck. Maelstrom Nexus itself was also super high variance. While it generated a ton of value when the game went long, there were also games where it didn't do anything because we died before we could get one on the battlefield. Thankfully, the deck was pretty fun to play, partly because of the randomness of the cascade effects. We had some situations where our life was quite literally in Maelstrom Nexus's hands, hoping to cascade into a removal spell or wrath, and while it didn't always work out, it does lead to an interesting and tense moment as we are flipping cards from the top of our deck!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

We've played Modern for the last few weeks, which means we are about due to head back to Standard. So, for this week's Against the Odds poll, we have some sweet Standard options that we've never played before. Which of these cards should be play next week? Let's us know by voting!

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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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