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Against the Odds: Fraying Sanity (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode ninety-seven of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our third and final all-Hour of Devastation Against the Odds poll, and in the end, we had a pretty clear winner: Fraying Sanity! The blue enchantment received a lot of hype when it was spoiled as one of the best mill cards printed in a long time, so this week, we are going to put Fraying Sanity to the test—in Modern! Is having its very own Furnace of Rath enough to make mill competitive in the format, backed by tons of efficient mill spells and even Traumatize for the insta-mill kill? Let's get to the videos and find out, and then we'll talk more about the deck.

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Against the Odds: Fraying Sanity (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Fraying Sanity (Games)

The Deck

When it came time to build around Fraying Sanity, there really weren't many options. While it's probably possible to curse yourself to fill your graveyard for Dredge or even Laboratory Maniac, the real power of Fraying Sanity is as the mill equivalent of Furnace of Rath—basically doubling the power of all of our mill spells while also generating some weird, random value, since it triggers whenever a card is put into our opponent's graveyard (for example, cracking a fetch land or discarding to Thoughtseize). As such, our plan is actually pretty straightforward: play a Fraying Sanity or two, and see how quickly we can mill our opponent out of the game!

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We've played mill decks in the past (typically with pretty lacking results), and mill has a couple of big problems. For one thing, when you try to kill your opponent with mill, all of your cards do nothing until the opponent has zero cards in their library, which means a mill deck is filled with cards that really don't impact the game. The second problem is that it's really easy to mill 50 cards from the opponent's deck and run our of gas (and die) while the opponent still has a couple of cards left in their library. 

The good news is that Fraying Sanity helps fix both of those problems. Since it double the power of our mill spells, we only need to resolve two—or at the most, three—after we play a Fraying Sanity to finish the game, which means we can play slightly fewer mill cards and more "real" cards like discard and removal. Along the same lines, the mill doubling means we're far less likely to almost kill our opponent, since every mill card we cast eats away a huge chunk of our opponent's library. So, our plan is pretty simple: we play Fraying Sanity, hopefully on Turn 3, and then cast a couple mill spells the next turn to finish off the game as early as Turn 4!

Mill

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Traumatize has the potential to be extremely powerful with Fraying Sanity—a two-card combo that wins the game on the spot. Since Traumatize mills half of the opponent's library and Fraying Sanity mills the other half, our opponent goes from a full library to drawing on an empty library in just one turn! Traumatize was the first card I put in as a four-of when I started building Fraying Sanity, but we ended up going down to just one after playing a couple of test games. While the combo is sweet, the problem is that Fraying Sanity was so powerful when we had a copy on the battlefield that we'd normally just mill our opponent out before we could even cast a Traumatize. Keeping one copy still lets us steal a game out of nowhere, but the Traumatize combo is more of a backup plan than the main plan of the deck, as we rely on more efficient mill spells to close out most games.

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The other challenge with Fraying Sanity is that it makes us play in a counterintuitive way. Generally, mill is like burn, and the best plan is to throw as many mill spells at the opponent as quickly as possible, but with Fraying Sanity, we really want to hold our mill spells until Turn 4 (after we cast a Fraying Sanity) to maximize their power. Mesmeric Orb is great in our deck because it gives us a mill spell that we can play on Turn 2—the turn before Fraying Sanity—but it does most of its milling on future turns after Fraying Sanity is on the battlefield.

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Archive Trap is our nut-draw card, making it possible to (essentially) win the game on Turn 3 thanks to its trap cost. If we can get down a Fraying Sanity and wait for our opponent to crack a fetch land so we can cast our Archive Traps for free, it only takes two copies of Fraying Sanity to mill our opponent's entire library, milling a massive 52 cards!

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Finally, we have Glimpse the Unthinkable and Mind Funeral to round out our mill package. Glimpse the Unthinkable is the most efficient mill spell ever printed, milling 10 cards for just two mana (roughly the equivalent of a four-damage burn spell for two mana). Meanwhile, Mind Funeral is very high variance, sometimes milling only six cards and sometimes milling 15 or even 20 cards, but in a format like Modern where playing 20 lands isn't uncommon, hitting somewhere in the 10-to-12-card range is the norm. Most importantly, both of these cards are amazing with Fraying Sanity. If we can resolve just two of them with a Fraying Sanity on the battlefield, we generally mill our opponent's entire deck thanks to Fraying Sanity's mill-doubling power.

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Thought Scour is technically a mill card, although it only mills two cards (or four with a Fraying Sanity on the battlefield). Thankfully, every little bit counts, so even though Thought Scour isn't very high impact, it's still strong in our deck, replacing itself and getting us a little bit closer to our goal of emptying our opponent's library.

Other Stuff

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Crypt Incursion is important in our deck for two reasons. First, it provides a bit of main-deck graveyard hate to deal with things like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn (which is a nightmare for our deck) as well as decks like Dredge and Living End, which don't really mind us helping put cards in their graveyard. Second, Crypt Incursion is great against aggro and midrange creature decks, where it often gains us 30 or more like for just three mana, which buys us a ton of time to find a mill spell or two to finish the game.

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As I mentioned in the intro, one of the best part of playing Fraying Sanity is that we don't need quite as many mill spells in our deck, so instead of playing more underpowered mill cards like Breaking // Entering, Mind Sculpt, and Tome Scour to make sure we have the critical mass of mill necessary to empty our opponent's library, we can use these slots on good cards like Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Fatal Push, Dismember, and Damnation to help us stay alive long enough to get our Fraying Sanity online.

The Matchups

Mill is weird and cares about different things from just about any other archetype in Magic. Our worst matchups—by far—involve Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or any other card that shuffles the graveyard back into the library when it's milled. While we have answers in the sideboard, it's pretty unlikely that we beat an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on game one. Leyline of Sanctity is also rough. since it keeps us from targeting our opponent with Fraying Sanity or any of our mill spells. Finally, there are some decks like Living End or Dredge where the fact that we are milling our opponent can actually be a positive and help our opponent.

As for good matchups, we have the ability to beat just about anyone by racing. We can kill opponents on Turn 4 or 5, which is generally fast enough to beat most decks, depending on the draw. We also have strangely good matchups against some combo decks. Take a deck like Ad Nauseam or Tron. Every time we mill, we have the potential to mill something really important (like all copies of our opponent's missing Tron land or the Laboratory Maniac / Lightning Storm combo from Ad Nauseam), so we can sometimes beat these decks without actually milling their entire deck if we get lucky and mill the right handful of cards. 

The Odds

All in all, we got in five matches and won four, good for an 80% match win percentage, along with winning 8 of 13 games (about 61% game win percentage), which is a great record for an Against the Odds deck. Fraying Sanity itself was amazing. While it can sometimes be a bad top deck in the late game (see: the game we lost against RW Tokens), it also gives mill an incredible amount of explosiveness that it didn't have before (see: game one against Living End, where we essentially killed our opponent on Turn 3). Heading into our matches, our big question was whether Fraying Sanity has what it takes to make mill a real deck in Modern, and I think the answer is yes. While it may not be tier one, since it does have some very bad matchups, there's no doubt that Fraying Sanity makes mill much better than it was before!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

As we transition away from Hour of Devastation and look toward Commander 2017 and Ixalan, it seems like now is a good a time as any to have the ultim-ate Against the Odds poll! Which of these cards should we play in Modern 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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