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Against the Odds: Harmless Pact (Standard)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode forty-six of Against the Odds! Last week on our all Eldritch Moon Against the Odds poll, Harmless Offering came in with an easy win over Lupine Prototype, with the rest of the options all jumbled together at the bottom. Honestly, this wasn't really a surprise; while there are a ton of great options in Eldritch Moon for the series, the two that got the most hype during spoiler season were Tree of Perdition (which we played last week) and Harmless Offering. This week's poll, again featuring all Eldritch Moon cards, will be interesting because the two most obvious choices are gone, so I'm really excited to see what wins. Anyway, for this week, we are heading to Standard to try to force our opponent into a deal with the devil, with the help of a cute kitten!

We'll talk more about Harmless Pact 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: Harmless Pact Deck Tech

Against the Odds: Harmless Pact Games

The Deck

In all honesty, there's really only one way to build around Harmless Offering in Standard, and that's with the help of Demonic Pact. Of course, I considered all of the possibilities, including trying to donate our opponent a Goldnight Castigator and win with burn spells, or some weird concoction of things like Pitiless Horde, Mindwrack Demon, and Pacifism to drain our opponent out turn by turn. However, there were a couple of major issues with these plans, mostly in that we were giving our opponent powerful creatures to attack us with, which meant most of the time our Harmless Offerings would hurt us more than they hurt our opponent. I also considered trying to give away all our creatures with the help of Mirrorwing Dragon or Zada, Hedron Grinder, and while giving away all of our creatures could be funny, it didn't seem like a plan that could ever be good enough to win a game. As a result, we ended up with the most obvious Harmless Offering deck—Harmless Pact. 

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As I mentioned a moment ago, the main combo of the deck is to use Harmless Offering to give our opponent a copy of Demonic Pact. The tricky part is that we don't really want our opponent to gain control of Demonic Pact until we've already chosen the three beneficial options, which means we need to resolve a Demonic Pact, untap, get through two more turns, and then give our opponent the Demonic Pact on the third turn. So, our combo is fairly time consuming. One way to deal with this problem is to build a very controlling deck to help stay alive and then use the Harmless Offering / Demonic Pact combo as a finisher; however, there is another option for fixing the slowness of the combo:

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Although we do have some control elements, our build of Harmless Pact is closer to a combo deck. Instead of using endless sweepers and removal to stay alive until we can finally give our opponent the Demonic Pact, we look to speed up the process with the help of Part the Waterveil. Demonic Pact triggers on our upkeep, so we can use Part the Waterveil as sort of a glorified, one-shot Paradox Haze to make another choice with Demonic Pact. Basically, the idea is that we can play a Demonic Pact on Turn 4; survive our Turn 5 somehow (likely with the gain life / removal choice on Demonic Pact); and then use Part the Waterveil on Turn 6 to take another turn, choose the last non-"you lose the game" option on Demonic Pact, and then use Harmless Offering to give the Demonic Pact to our opponent, forcing them to choose "you lose the game" on their upkeep. 

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Dark Petition is another key card in our deck, since it allows us to search up any of our combo pieces at a fairly reasonable cost. Once we get to six mana, assuming we have spell mastery, we can tutor up a Demonic Pact and put it directly on the battlefield. If we already have the Demonic Pact, we can search up a Harmless Offering or even a Part the Waterveil to speed up the process. 

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While not as efficient as Dark Petition, all of these cards help us cycle through our deck to find our combo pieces. Oath of Jace is especially important because one of the only main deck ways that our opponent can disrupt our combo is Dromoka's Command, so along with letting us filter through our deck, Oath of Jace provides a buffer for our Demonic Pact in case our opponent forces us to sacrifice an enchantment to Dromoka's Command

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Finally, the last important part of our deck is our backup plans to make sure we don't die to our own Demonic Pact if we don't find a Harmless Offering in time. Summary Dismissal is probably the most interesting, since it can permanently stop any number of Demonic Pacts from killing us. We simply choose the "lose the game" option on our upkeep, and with the "lose the game" trigger on the stack, we can cast a Summary Dismissal to counter the ability. Then, as the game goes on, we can eventually use a Silumgar's Command or Disperse to bounce the Demonic Pact back to our hand and start the process all over again. 

The Matchups

Three things really, really scare me about playing Harmless Pact. The most devastating are decks that can play Emrakul, the Promised End quickly (i.e., before we can combo off). The reason Emrakul, the Promised End is so good against us is because when our opponent controls our turn, they get to choose an option with our Demonic Pact (assuming we have one on the battlefield), and I would bet that most of the time, they will choose "you lose the game." Second, Dromoka's Command is pretty annoying, simply because it's the only main deck card that kills Demonic Pact, so it's possible we'll spend a lot of time and effort setting up our combo, only to see our opponent ruin the entire thing with a two-mana instant (they can even wait until after we give them the Demonic Pact with Harmless Offering, so that they get to choose which enchantment is sacrificed, and I would bet that most of the time they choose Demonic Pact). Finally, while they aren't a huge part of the current metagame, decks with a lot of counters can be problematic because our plan of waiting until the very last turn to Harmless Offering the Demonic Pact means that with one well-timed Negate, our opponent can turn the tables and potentially force us to choose the "you lose the game" option on our own Demonic Pact.

As far as good matchups, I think we have the best shot against midrange decks that aren't playing a lot of counter spells or Dromoka's Commands. In these matchups, we shouldn't be under a ton of pressure early in the game, so we'll have time to set up our combo. Plus, one of the best parts of Harmless Offering and Demonic Pact is that our combo is very guaranteed to win the game once we get it set up, so no matter what powerful threats our opponent may be playing, we'll always have the potential to win the game out of nowhere.  

The Odds

All in all, we won six of 15 games (good for a 40% game win percentage) and two of six matches (33.33% match win percentage). While this isn't amazing, it's slightly above the average of Against the Odds decks. Maybe more impressive are the facts that we didn't die to our own Demonic Pact a single time (good for a 0.00% Pact loss percentage) and that the Part the Waterveil combo was actually very effective. Over the course of our games, several opponents seemed to think they had an additional turn to deal with Demonic Pact, only to be caught by surprise (and often tapped out) by Part the Waterveil into Harmless Offering donating our deadly Demonic Pact

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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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