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Against the Odds: Hard Lock Helix

Hello everyone and welcome to episode eleven of Against the Odds. First off, thank you all for voting in last week's poll. After nearly four thousand votes cast, Helix Pinnacle ended up the winner by only 20 votes, making it one of the most tightly contested Against the Odds polls we've ever had!

As you can see, Zada, Hedron Grinder dropped down to third this week, which is still good enough for her come back on the next poll. Meanwhile, Blightsteel Colossus and Coinflip (Legacy) drop off the poll altogether. This week's poll (vote at the end of the article) will feature Zada, Hedron Grinder, Retreats (Standard), and three new options!

Before we get to the videos, I have to tell you — you made a great choice this week. The Helix Pinnacle deck is awesome. Yes, it's janky. But some weeks on Against the Odds we strike jank gold. This is one of those weeks.

Anyway, we'll talk more about Hard Lock Helix in a minute. First let's get to the videos. Just a quick reminder. If you enjoy Against the Odds and other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Against the Odds: Hard Lock Helix Intro

Against the Odds: Hard Lock Helix Games

The Deck

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For me the challenge in building a Helix Pinnacle deck was trying to avoid a deck where the enchantment was just a sub-par replacement for a better finisher. I mean, the obvious thing to do with Helix Pinnacle is play some sort of big mana devotion strategy and get 100 counters as fast as possible. However, in a deck like this, the first question is why not just play Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Tooth and Nail? As such, ramping / devotion was out. 

The next logical home for Helix Pinnacle is some sort of infinite mana combo. Again we run into the same question. If you are going to make infinite mana with something like Grand Architect and Pili-Pala, isn't it just strictly better to win with Blue Sun's Zenith or Banefire, rather than spend 100 mana on Helix Pinnacle? Obviously the answer is yes. Plus I can't imagine how many clicks it would take to make 100 mana with Grand Architect and Pili-Pala on Magic Online. A million? 

No, what we need is a deck where Helix Pinnacle is legitimately the best finisher for the deck. This stipulation means no ramp and no infinite combos. What we needed was a deck that allows us to play Helix Pinnacle on turn one, lock our opponent (and sometimes ourselves) out of the game, and then add counters to Helix Pinnacle at our leisure. How does one completely lock an opponent out of a game in Modern?

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There's a lot of text on Knowledge Pool. In fact, if it's just sitting out on the battlefield all by itself I have no clue what will happen. Something crazy no doubt. In our deck, you can reduce the eight lines of text into a single line, "If a player would cast a spell, exile that spell and they cast another spell from exile instead." The important thing to remember is every time a player casts a spell, Knowledge Pool forces them to cast two spells. 

Rule of Law and Curse of Exhaustion make it so our opponent can only cast one spell each turn. With either of these enchantments on the battlefield, Knowledge Pool reads "whenever an opponent casts a spell, exile it and end your opponent's turn." It is the hardest of hard locks. The lock gets around uncounterable spells. It gets around spells with split second. It gets around everything. Well, almost everything. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre can ruin our day, because they trigger when the are cast. In practice very few people play Ulamog in Modern. 

Of course, Rule of Law is symmetrical. It locks us out of the game as well, but that doesn't matter. We get to play Helix Pinnacle on turn one, get the hard lock in place over the next few turns, and then have infinite turns to get 100 counters on Helix Pinnacle

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The other thing I realized while building the deck is, with Rule of Law or Curse of Exhaustion on the battlefield, we can turn one-for-one counterspells and removal into Time Walks. First instance, our opponent plays a Serum Visions. We cast Remand. Even though this play is typically horrible because our opponent would just tap another mana and recast Serum Visions, with Rule of Law this exchange costs our opponent their turn. Curse of Exhaustion and Rule of Law take opportunity costs to the extreme. No matter what spell you cast, the opportunity cost is your entire turn. Plus, having a bunch of counters that work well with Helix Pinnacle is great. We can leave up mana, counter something our opponent plays, and if they don't play anything important we can dump all our mana into Helix Pinnacle at the end of our opponent's turn. 

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The last important piece of the deck is the manabase. While we can lock our opponents out of ever playing spells, they can still play lands. As a result, Ghost Quarter is there to make sure we don't die to opposing creaturelands. We also get our own creaturelands, which provide blockers and serve as an alternate win-condition once our opponent is locked out of the game. 

The Matchups

The great thing about Hard Lock Helix is that it can beat anything. The lock doesn't care what our opponent is doing. I will say aggro is our toughest matchup. We do have the tools to win with Path to Exile, Supreme Verdict, and Timely Reinforcements post board. The problem is we get into situations (see game three against Affinity) where we have the lock, but our opponent is so far ahead on board they can win without casting another spell. Against midrange and control we have the ultimate form of inevitability: our late game is better than their late game, even if their late game is Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

The Odds

Unfortunately we have a small sample size this week because our matches went super long. We ended up going 2-1 in matches and 5-4 in games. Since recording, I've played another three matches with the deck and posted a 1-2 record. I lost a heart breaker to an Amulet Bloom opponent that had five carsd in hand (without tutoring with Tolaria West). Four of the the five cards happened to be Hive Mind, Pact of Negation, Pact of Negation, and Summoner's Pact allowing for the game three win through double counterspells. 

It seems clear to me Hard Lock Helix is a 50/50 deck in Modern, which is a great clip for a super rogue deck. It's built around a four-mana do nothing enchantment and a six-mana do nothing artifact! At this percentage, the deck is definitely worth playing, just for the bewilderment you'll cause your opponents. You get these long pauses as the opponent reads Knowledge Pool for like five times but still doesn't understand what's happening. Finally, once they cast their next spell, the totality of the situation sets in, at which point they usually scoop. 



Vote For Next Week's Deck

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Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next weeks deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and improvements in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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