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Against the Odds: Gideon Deification Lock (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 377 of Against the Odds. If you've been following Against the Odds for a while, you probably know that planeswalker tribal decks are a recurring sub-series. But what you might not remember is that the entire concept of planeswalker tribal started with Gideon Tribal thanks to the emblem from Gideon of the Trials, which cares about other Gideons being on the battlefield. As such, I have a soft spot for Gideon Tribal. The deck was sweet, and it also is an important footnote in the history of the Against the Odds series. Well, Gideon Tribal returns today but with a huge new twist: rather than being a beatdown deck, it's now a prison-style lock deck thanks to the Aftermath rare Deification! The idea is that we can use Deification to keep our Gideons on the battlefield and Gideon of the Trials' emblem to keep us from ever losing the game, which lets us kick back and watch our opponent play through their entire deck but be unable to win until they eventually die to milling out (or maybe we can attack them with Gideons to speed up the process). How good is Gideon Tribal as a Deification-based prison deck in Modern? What are the odds of winning the game by making it impossible to lose the game with Gideon of the Trials emblem? Let's get to the video and find out on this week's Against the Odds!

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Against the Odds: Gideon Deification Lock in Modern

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The Deck

So, heading into the video, I knew our goal: lock the opponent out of ever winning the game with Deification and Gideons. But I wasn't sure exactly the best way to support the plan. If you think about what the lock requires, we need a few things: First, we need to find our Gideons and Deification. Second, we need to keep Deification on the battlefield, so we need to find a way to protect it from the ample removal of Modern. Third, we need to have at least one creature on the battlefield for Deification to work. My first attempt at building around the lock was a mono-white deck with good white creatures like Giver of Runes, Esper Sentinel, and Stoneforge Mystic, along with a bunch of Gideons and Deification. But I quickly realized that the deck wasn't very good at finding or protecting Deification. This led me to Sterling Grove, which can find Deification when we don't have it and protect it with shroud when we do. The two-mana enchantment ended up being a key card to making our plan work, which is how we ended up with the deck we're playing today. Here's the plan:

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First, we need to get Deification on the battlefield. The Aftermath enchantment is essentially a Worship for a planeswalker type. In our deck, we always name "Gideon" with Deification, and our reward is that all of our Gideons have hexproof (so they can't be killed by targeted removal) as long as it stays on the battlefield (alongside a creature), and no matter how much damage they take, they'll never go below one loyalty. Our opponent can attack a Gideon with a million power of creatures, and it will still live! While it is good in any planeswalker tribal deck, it's especially devastating with not just one but two Gideons.

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So, why is Deification so strong when it's naming Gideon? There happen to be two different Gideons that form locks with the enchantment! The most obvious (and powerful) is Gideon of the Trials, which can zero to make an emblem saying that as long as we control a Gideon, we can't lose the game and the opponent can't win the game. You can probably see where this is going: we play Deification to make it almost impossible for our opponent to kill Gideon; play Gideon of the Trials to make the emblem, which makes it literally impossible for us to lose the game for as long as we have a Gideon; and make it so our opponent can't ever win the game (which means we will win eventually since our opponent will draw their entire deck sooner or later and lose to milling out). In some ways, this is like the old Worship lock we played years ago but way, way better because Gideon of the Trials prevents us from losing the game. Period. We can't be milled out, stormed out, drawn out, or anything else, whereas Worship only prevented us from losing to damage. 

While the Gideon of the Trials lock is sweet, there's actually another powerful Deification lock with the original Gideon Gideon Jura. Gideon Jura's +2 ability makes all the opponent's creatures attack it during the next turn. With Deification on the battlefield, our opponent can attack Gideon Jura as much as they want, but it will never die. No matter how much damage it takes, it will end up at one loyalty, which means we can +2 it again the next turn. Basically, while the Gideon Jura plus Deification lock won't stop us from losing to burn spells, mill, or other alt-win cons, it does lock creature damage out of the game, which actually just wins the game against some decks (ones that are trying to win fairly by attacking with creatures)!

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While the lock is sweet, we need three things for it to actually keep us alive forever. First, we need to find our lock pieces; second, we need to keep Deification on the battlefield (so it can keep our Gideons on the battlefield); and third, we need to keep a creature on the battlefield to turn on Deification. As I mentioned in the intro, Sterling Grove really makes our plan work by strengthening our lock and making it more consistent. If we don't have Deification, we can sacrifice Sterling Grove to tutor it up. (We also have Search for Glory to find our Gideons, so both of our lock pieces are tutorable.) If we do have Deification on the battlefield, Sterling Grove makes it really difficult for our opponent to kill by giving it shroud. If we can get two Sterling Groves on the battlefield alongside Deification, most decks will have no way of breaking out of the lock since the Sterling Groves will give each other shroud. While something like Farewell or Back to Nature technically can break the lock even through the shroud, these cards are super rare in Modern as most decks use targeted removal like Boseiju, Who Endures, Haywire Mite, or Foundation Breaker to kill enchantments, and none of them actually work once we give all of our enchantments shroud.

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The final piece of the puzzle is keeping a creature on the battlefield. Sterling Grove helps here too because every creature in our deck is an enchantment creature, so with a Sterling Grove on the battlefield, our opponent won't be able to kill them with targeted removal. Plus, all the enchantment creatures support our combo plan, with Sythis, Harvest's Hand and Spirited Companion drawing us cards to help us find our Gideons and Deification and Sanctum Weaver ramping us into our expensive lock pieces, like Gideon Jura.

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The rest of the deck is some enchantment-based removal and ramp along with Worship as a backup lock piece, although Worship felt horrible. So many decks have a way to win the game without damage that we ended up siding it out in almost every matchup.

The Matchups

The main concern for Gideon Deification Lock is what ways our opponent has of breaking out of the lock once it is assembled. While targeted removal doesn't work once we get things set up, sweepers like Engineered Explosives or Farewell can deal with Deification even when it has shroud, which is annoying. Hardcore control can also be a problem just because counterspells might be able to keep us from resolving our lock pieces, and cards like Supreme Verdict can kill our creatures even through Sterling Grove, which turns off the damage-prevention mode of Deification and potentially lets our opponent kill our Gideons in combat to ruin our plans. On the other hand, "you can't lose the game and your opponent can't win the game" is perhaps the strongest line of text in all of Magic, so we can beat any deck in the Modern format thanks to the lock.

The Odds

All in all, we ended up going 4-2 with Gideon Deification Lock, with one loss coming to Yawg combo, which has a lot of answers to enchantments and which managed to combo off before we could get the lock fully protected, and to a Selesnya Hatebears deck. On the other hand, we crushed Hammer Time twice, beat Infect, and fizzled Heliod Combo. 

More importantly than wins and losses, we did some hilarious things with the deck. We won a game with 10 poison counters, which I don't think I've ever done before, and we literally played through our entire deck against Hammer Time, but our opponent couldn't kill us through the lock! 

While the long, grindy, mill-them-out games are a hallmark of Gideon Deification Lock, it's also worth mentioning that Gideons are actually a really fast lock. Once we get Deification on the battlefield to give our Gideons hexproof, we are free to fire them up and attack our opponent with 4/4, 5/5, and 6/6 Gideon creatures, which sometimes lets us win the game in just a couple of turns.

Basically, I came away from our matches impressed with the power and possibilities of Gideons and Deification. While we might need to add an answer to Engineered Explosives and Blast Zone to the sideboard (maybe Pithing Needle), the deck felt surprisingly powerful, and it's really difficult for a lot of the top decks in Modern to beat. While I don't think it's tier one or anything like that, I do think that Gideon Tribal is back, and thanks to the Deification lock, the archetype actually has the potential to win a lot of games in Modern!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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