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Against the Odds: Harmless Offering (Historic)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 280 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an Against the Odds poll featuring new Historic Anthology IV cards. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Harmless Offering took home the victory, which means we're heading to Historic today to give our opponent some "harmless" gifts. While we do have the tried and true Harmless Offering combo piece Demonic Pact as one of our offerings, we also have some extra spice to give away that potentially can be even more devastating for our opponents! What's best to offer to the opponent in Historic? What are the odds of winning with Harmless Offering? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Harmless Offering

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The Deck

Harmless Offering basically is a midrange combo deck. Our combo is giving our opponent something that (hopefully) will kill them with Harmless Offering, like Demonic Pact or Nine Lives. To back up our combo pieces, we have a bunch of tutors to find them consistently and also a handful of cards to make sure we don't accidentally die to our own combo pieces if we can't find Harmless Offering

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Harmless Offering is a weird card. It doesn't do anything by itself, and 99.99% of the time, giving an opponent one of your permanents is a bad thing. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, which can turn Harmless Offering into a unique, game-ending combo piece. In our deck, we actually have two plans to turn Harmless Offering from harmless to extremely harmful for our opponents...

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Our first Harmless Offering combo involves an old favorite: Demonic Pact. The idea is that we can play Demonic Pact, use the three good modes to draw cards, make our opponent discard, and drain. But on the turn before we are forced to choose "lose the game," we use Harmless Offering to give it to our opponent, forcing them to choose the last option and lose on their upkeep. While the plan is extremely strong when things go right, there is also risk: if we play Demonic Pact and don't find Harmless Offering, we risk having to choose "lose the game" ourselves, which obviously isn't ideal. Thankfully, we have a couple of other cards to (hopefully) keep us from losing to our own combo pieces in Gideon of the Trials (which can keep us from losing the game with its emblem) and Final Payment (which we can use to sacrifice Demonic Pact, and since sacrificing the enchantment is part of the cost, it allows us to get rid of our Demonic Pact even if our opponent has a counterspell, which is super helpful against control decks and some sideboard cards).

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Plan B for winning with Harmless Offering is Nine Lives, which has one big drawback and one big upside compared to Demonic Pact. As far as the drawback, winning with Nine Lives and Harmless Offering requires a third card (a way to kill Nine Lives after we give it to our opponent), turning a two-card combo into a three-card combo. Thankfully, our ways to kill Nine Lives are cards that we don't mind having in our deck anyway. Because Nine Lives has hexproof, we need to focus on enchantment destruction that doesn't target. For this, we turn to Pharika's Libation (which only works if our opponent doesn't have another enchantment—this usually is not a big deal, especially since it also offers some creature removal) and Cleansing Nova, which actually is really strong in our deck, giving us a sweeper against creature decks, a way to kill Nine Lives after we Harmless Offering it to our opponent, and also another way to blow up our own Demonic Pact if things go wrong (although we do need to make sure we don't blow up a Nine Lives we control, or else we lose the game).

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Rounding out our deck is a handful of support pieces, alongside Thoughtseize and Bloodchief's Thirst for interaction. Solemnity gives us an additional combo, essentially locking our opponent out of killing us with damage if we can get it on the battlefield alongside Nine Lives. Meanwhile, Idyllic Tutor and Wishclaw Talisman allow us to tutor up our combo pieces, with Idyllic Tutor grabbing Nine Lives, Solemnity, and Demonic Pact, while Wishclaw Talisman can snag a Harmless Offering. While Wishclaw Talisman might look a bit strange, it actually works really well in the deck because we can wait until we are ready to win the game, tutor up Harmless Offering, and immediately give our opponent Demonic Pact. Even though our opponent will end up with the Wishclaw Talisman, it doesn't really matter because they'll lose on their upkeep.

The Matchups

Harmless Offering has some really good matchups. Random midrange and aggro creature decks tend to struggle against it because Nine Lives can buy us a lot of time, and it's unlikely our opponent will be able to interact with Harmless Offering itself once we are ready to give our opponent a Demonic Pact or Nine Lives to win the game. Plus, we have some good removal and wraths, which creature decks struggle to beat. On the other hand, it also has some really tough matchups, especially counterspell-heavy control decks, which can often leave up a counterspell for Harmless Offering and potentially make us lose to our own Demonic Pact or Nine Lives. Against control, we have to be really careful with our discard spells and try to hold onto things like Thoughtseize and Duress so we can force through our Harmless Offering when the time comes.

The Odds

All in all, we went 4-3 with Harmless Offering, which is a solid record for a pretty wild brew. While control is tough to beat, the deck felt surprisingly strong in other matchups. The combination of the Nine Lives / Solemnity lock and the weird, hard-to-interact-with finish of Nine Lives / Demonic Pact and Harmless Offering is not easy for most random creature decks to beat. While I don't think Harmless Mardu is a top-tier Historic deck, it is super fun, unique, and surprisingly competitive. While it's a scary deck to play because we're often in a position where we might lose to our cards if we get unlucky and don't find/resolve Harmless Offering, it's also a blast! If you're looking for something different and at least semi-competitive to mess around with on the ladder, give it a try!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Next week's Against the Odds episode will go up just as Strixhaven spoilers are about to start. If you aren't familiar with Strixhaven, it's built around five colleges, each represented by a two-color pairing. So next week let's have a Strixhaven college battle! Which of these two-color cards should we build around in Modern next week? Click here to vote!

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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