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Against the Odds: Four-Color "Horses" (Modern, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 179 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a bad lord poll featuring some of the worst, least-played tribal lords in the Modern format. In the end, Crested Sunmare]] sneaked out a victory over Hand of the Praetors, so we're heading to Modern today to see if we can win a deck overflowing with "horses." "Why the quotes around 'horses?'" I heard you asking. Well, it turns out the actual Horses of Magic are really, really bad—things are sketchy when Armored Warhorse is among your top three tribe members in the Modern format. As such, rather than playing actual Horses, we're looking to turn our motley crew of creatures into "horses" with the help of Arcane Adaptation, which we can tutor up with Zur the Enchanter (which then becomes a indestructible "horse"), and then potentially lock our opponent out of the game with the help of Pariah on one of our indestructible "horses," making it so we can't lose the game to damage. What are the odds of winning with Crested Sunmare and a bunch of "horses" in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Four-Color "Horses" (Modern)

The Deck

When I realized that Crested Sunmare had won the poll, I tried really, really hard to make a straightforward Horse tribal deck work. The problem is that literally every Horse printed in the history of Magic is underpowered by Modern standards. While it seemed possible to win a game once in a while, this was only because sometimes we'd draw an "I win" sideboard card like Stony Silence or Rest in Peace in the right matchup, giving our Horses enough time to win on the janky beatdown plan. While results aren't all that important to Against the Odds decks, the bigger problem is that the straightforward Horse tribal deck wasn't just bad but also pretty boring—we pretty much just played underpowered semi-vanilla creatures and hoped to draw the right sideboard card in the right matchup. As such, we ended up with a "horse" deck. Apart from Crested Sunmare itself, we don't have any actual Horses, but our deck does have the ability to turn all of our creatures into Horses thanks to Arcane Adaptation.

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Crested Sunmare is the centerpiece of our deck. Its main purpose is to, with the help of Arcane Adaptation, make all of our other creatures indestructible, creating an invincible wall of offense and defense both to stay alive and eventually kill our opponent. We also have some sweet lifegain tricks to turn on Crested Sunmare's second ability to make even more 5/5 Horses. In theory, with something like Scavenging Ooze or Courser of Kruphix on the battlefield, we can play Crested Sunmare, gain a life during our turn, gain another life during our opponent's turn, and end up with 15 power and toughness across three Horse bodies by the time we untap for our next turn!

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Arcane Adaptation is the second most important card in our deck since it gives us a way to turn all of our creatures into "horses" to benefit from our Crested Sunmare. This being said, Arcane Adaptation comes with a huge drawback: additional copies are dead cards. As a result, we only have a single copy of Arcane Adaptation in our deck. Thankfully, we have plenty of ways to find it consistently...

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Zur the Enchanter is our most important "horse" since it allows us to find our Arcane Adaptation consistently, even though we only have one copy in our deck. After we tutor our Arcane Adaptation to turn everything into "horses," we have a couple of other powerful tutor targets that work especially well with Crested Sunmare...

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In general, Arcane Adaptation is our first tutor target for Zur the Enchanter, making our entire team indestructible if we have a Crested Sunmare. After we get Arcane Adaptation on the battlefield, we have a couple of other sweet options. Pariah takes advantage of the fact that all of our creatures are indestructible to lock our opponent out of ever dealing us damage. With a Pariah on an indestructible creature, all the damage our opponent deals to us is instead redirected to the enchanted creature, but that creature never dies thanks to the indestructibility of Crested Sunmare. While some cards can ruin the lock like Cryptic Command or Path to Exile, in some matchups, Pariah on an indestructible "horse" pretty much ends the game on the spot. Our third tutor target is Unflinching Courage, which gives us a tutorable way to start gaining life to make additional 5/5 Horses with our Crested Sunmare while also keeping our life total out of the danger zone against aggressive decks.

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Chord of Calling is the card that holds Four-Color "Horses" together. If we don't have a Crested Sunmare, it gives us a way to tutor up our namesake card and put it directly on the battlefield. If we do have a Crested Sunmare, it finds Zur the Enchanter (which then finds Arcane Adaptation to turn all of our creatures into "horses"). In a pinch, we can also tutor up something like Courser of Kruphix or Scavenging Ooze to start gaining life and making Horse tokens with Crested Sunmare, or Knight of Autumn to destroy an artifact or enchantment.

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While any form of lifegain works well with Crested Sunmare, since the Horse triggers on every end step, the most powerful lifegain cards for a Crested Sunmare deck are ones that we can use on both our turn and our opponent's turn to double up the number of Horse tokens we make. Courser of Kruphix (which has some additional upside as an enchantment creature we can tutor up with Zur the Enchanter) allows us to do this with the help of a fetch land. We can play the land on our turn, gain a life, and make a Horse, and then during our opponent's turn, we can crack the fetch land, tutor out a land, gain another life, and make another Horse, giving us a massive 10 power for free every turn cycle. Scavenging Ooze does something similar, assuming there are a handful of creatures in the graveyard we can exile to gain life. Meanwhile, Knight of Autumn is just a one-of, but it makes up for the fact it only gains us life once by having some additional flexibility as a way to blow up artifacts or enchantments. Plus, assuming we get our combo, having all of these creatures end up as indestructible "horses" makes it pretty difficult for our opponent to deal with our board.

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The rest of our "horses" are mana dorks, helping us ramp into our Crested Sunmare and Zur the Enchanter a turn or two earlier while also giving us a bunch of cheap bodies on the battlefield to power up the convoke on Chord of Calling

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Finally, we have a bit of removal. Runed Halo, Detention Sphere, and Ghostly Prison might look weird, but they are just one-ofs and give us some extra tutor targets for our Zur the Enchanter once we have already found our primary combo pieces. Meanwhile, Path to Exile is just the most efficient removal spell in the format, taking down anything for just a single mana.

The Matchups

It's really difficult to figure out the matchups for Four-Color "Horses." In theory, combo decks should be our worst matchups since our deck is pretty fair and doesn't have many ways to interact with spell-based combos, although the Pariah lock and sideboard cards give us some chance. On the other hand, we have a lot of random, sometimes indestructible creatures to fight through midrange and control. Apparently, Tron is a good matchup too, based on the fact that we took down our nemesis twice during our matchups, although it might be that we just got lucky. On paper, Tron seems like a hard matchup for our deck since we don't have that many ways to shut down Tron itself, and cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Karn Liberated get around Crested Sunmare's indestructibility.

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches with Four-Color Horses and won three, giving us a 60% match win percentage, while winning seven of our 14 games, giving us a 50% game win percentage, making Four-Color Horses somewhere around average for an Against the Odds deck. More importantly, we did some really sweet things with Crested Sunmare, locking Burn out of the game with Pariah and making a huge board of tokens to take down Tron. While the deck is probably a bit too janky to be truly competitive, the combo of Crested Sunmare, [[Zur the Enchanter],] and a bunch of synergistic enchantments was a lot better than I would have imagined heading into our games.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

We've had a lot of sweet options on our Against the Odds polls recently that fell just short of winning. This week, it's time to give them a second chance! Which of these options that came in second or third over the past few polls deserves a chance to be made into videos next week? Let us know by voting below!

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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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