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Against the Odds: Gallery of Shrines


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode forty-two of Against the Odds! Last week on our poll, Five-Color Hondens crushed the competition to come out in first by nearly 10% of the vote! Coming in second and third, and returning to the next poll for another shot at glory, were Azor's Elocutors in Modern and Donate in Legacy. Meanwhile, Briarbridge Patrol and Hedonist's Trove came in at the bottom and will be banished to the island of lost Against the Odds cards. As a result, this week, we're heading to Modern to see how many Shrines we can get on the battlefield at the same time!

We'll talk more about Gallery of Shrines in a minute, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy the Against the Odds series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel.

Against the Odds: Gallery of Shrines Tech

Against the Odds: Gallery of Shrines Games

The Deck

Building around hondens is an interesting challenge, mostly because the hondens themselves take up so many slots in the deck, meaning there isn't a whole lot of room for anything else. Being legendary also complicates matters. Basically, hondens ask us to play a ton of hondens (because they all trigger off each other) but only have one of each on the battlefield. Thankfully, there is a way around this problem, which we'll talk about in a minute. 

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Honden of Infinite Rage and Honden of Life's Web are the two hondens that can actually win us the game. If we get enough Shrines on the battlefield, Honden of Infinite Rage will deal a ton of damage each turn, and if we are behind on board, we can use it to shoot down a creature instead of going at our opponent's face. Meanwhile, Honden of Life's Web makes an insane number of tokens when we have a bunch of Shrines on the battlefield, but even in the worst-case scenario, it still makes a 1/1 chump blocker every turn, which helps keep us alive while we draw into more Shrines. 

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Honden of Cleansing Fire helps keep us alive against aggressive decks and, in some matchups, can put the game out of reach all by itself by gaining us 10+ life each turn. On the other hand, it doesn't do much against decks that are looking to Infect us to death or Annihilate us into oblivion with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

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Honden of Night's Reach is pretty much a control deck killer. In a lot of matchups, it does nothing, but against decks that are looking to hold counterspells and removal in hand, Honden of Night's Reach is likely the best Shrine of the bunch, repeatedly Mind Twisting the opponent and making sure they can't hold counters to disrupt our future Shrines. 

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Honden of Seeing Winds is the best and worst of all the Shrines. On one hand, it's the Shrine we want most in the early and midgame because it draws us into more Shrines, which in turn power up the Shrines we already have on the battlefield. Drawing extra cards every turn is a pretty good way to win the game, and Honden of Seeing Winds is a great way to generate card advantage. On the other hand, in the late game, Honden of Seeing Winds can actually deck us. Remember: the "draw a card for each Shrine you control" ability is not a "may" ability, and drawing five or ten extra cards every turn chews through a library very quickly. 

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Mirror Gallery is the key to going super deep with Shrines. As I mentioned before, one of the biggest problems with hondens is that they are legendary, so under normal circumstances, we can only have one of each on the battlefield. This causes two problems. First, it caps the amount of advantage we can generate from each Shrine at deal five damage, gain ten life, get five tokens, make an opponent discard five cards and draw five cards. Second, since we are a honden deck, we want to play a lot of hondens to make sure that we actually draw them and get them on the battlefield, but being legendary, once we have a specific Shrine on the battlefield, every additional copy we draw is a dead card. 

Well, with a Mirror Gallery, we can break all the rules and the possibilities become endless. We can gain oodles of life, makes tons of tokens, draw through our deck at lightning speed, and deal a potentially lethal amount of damage all in one shot! With a Mirror Gallery on the battlefield, we want to draw as many Shrines as possible, because each additional copy not only does something itself but powers up all the other Hondens on the battlefield!

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The rest of the deck is full of ramp. The other problem with Shrines is that they are fairly slow. Not only do most cost 4 or 5 mana, but they don't actually do anything until our next upkeep, so to take advantage of their power, we really need to get them on the battlefield as quickly as possible. The combination of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl lets us start casting four-drops on Turn 2 and five-drops on Turn 3, plus they can fix our mana, which is pretty important in a five-color deck.

The Matchups

The good news about Gallery of Shrines is that our enchantments are really hard to disrupt, so if we can get them on the battlefield fast enough, we have a chance against a lot of decks, especially in game one. No one really plays main-deck enchantment removal, and Abrupt Decay can't hit most Shrines because they are too expensive, so assuming we can dodge counterspells, it's pretty easy to get our Shrines to stick. Obviously, there's a lot of variance involved in what Shrines we draw. Against Burn, we really, really need Honden of Cleansing Fire; if we draw it (along with some other Shrines), we are very likely to win. On the other hand, if we have Honden of Night's Reach instead of Honden of Cleansing Fire, the odds that we win drops significantly. This is how it works in most matchups. Against control, we really need the discard Shrine; against midrange decks, we really need Honden of Life's Web to make chump blockers for Tarmogoyf. The point is, we have a mixture of cards that can beat a lot of decks—the question is whether we draw the right hondens in the right matchups. 

On the other hand, there are a few things that really destroy our deck. First off, we have Infect, a matchup where literally zero of our Shrines do anything. Gaining life doesn't help, since they are winning with poison. Drawing cards and making our opponent discard cards is too slow. Honden of Infinite Rage only kills things at sorcery speed, so it can't stop Inkmoth Nexus, and our 1/1 Spirit tokens can't block Blighted Agent or Inkmoth Nexus. Second, we have Remand. Tapping out for a five-mana enchantment only to have it hit by Remand is such a huge tempo swing that it usually loses us the game on the spot. Sure, we get to keep playing for a few more turns, but for all intents and purposes, the game is over. Finally, we have Nahiri, the Harbinger (aka the honden assassin). Basically, Nahiri, the Harbinger is a Remand that our opponent can cast for two, three, or four turns in a row for free. We play an enchantment, Nahiri, the Harbinger exiles it, we play another Shrine, and Nahiri, the Harbinger exiles it. Then, we lose. 

The Odds

All in all, we won 4 of 13 games (30.7% game win percentage) and 1 in 5 matches (good for a 20% game win percentage). While we got blown out in some matchups, we also got a little bit unlucky against Esper Control when our opponent had exactly one turn to top deck a Cryptic Command to win the game and then managed to draw it. If they had drawn any other card on that turn, we not only would have won an additional game but an additional match as well. As such, I think our percentages could have been a little bit better, but that said, the deck isn't very competitive. Hondens are just really slow for Modern, both because they cost a lot of mana for the fast format and because we have to wait an entire turn before they start generating value. When things go well, the deck does some super crazy, super fun things, but when things go poorly, they go really poorly and we might not even resolve a spell all game. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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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