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Against the Odds: Hedron Alignment

Hello everyone and welcome to episode twenty-one of Against the Odds. This week hearkens the release of Oath of the Gatewatch on Magic Online. That means one thing for Against the Odds — it's time to align some hedrons! Seriously, as soon as I saw Hedron Alignment on the Oath of the Gatewatch spoiler page I thought two things. My first thought was, "Someone at R&D must like Against the Odds," then my second thought was, "man I wish this was my spoiler" (hint, hint). Alternate win conditions are the lifeblood of the Against the Odds series, but they are fairly rare, so having a new one appear is super exciting! I had to suspend the Against the Odds poll for a week to make sure we had Hedron Alignment videos as soon as possible. Don't worry, there's a new poll at the end of the article.

We'll talk more about Hedron Alignment in a minute. First let's get to the videos. 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: Hedron Alignment Intro

Against the Odds: Hedron Alignment Games

The Deck

My first instinct was to build some sort of control deck that used Hedron Alignment as a finisher. After throwing the list together I realized we had one problem: we needed to find all four copies of Hedron Alignment. Since Magic makes us play with a randomized 60 card deck, this isn't easy. Especially in Standard where we don't have access to good tutors or cards like Intuition. Just hoping to naturally draw into Hedrons over the course of a game means we need to stay alive for 20 or 30 turns, which is really, really, really hard. After realizing this truth, I shifted gears and decided the trick to making Hedron Alignment work in Standard was to build a goldfish combo deck. A deck that, more or less, ignored what the opponent was doing and instead focused on getting the Hedrons to align as quickly as possible. 

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Obviously, the trick to winning with Hedron Alignment is to get a copy in each zone. The battlefield and hand are clearly the easiest. Sooner or later we'll draw into our copies and be able to cast or hold them. The more difficult part is getting one in the graveyard and the other into exile. Being able to fulfill these conditions is the major focus of the deck. With Hedron Alignment we need to be somewhat careful with how we play them. If we exile one too early, our opponent could Transgress the Mind the copy in our hand, and once we have two Hedron Alignments in exile, we have no way of winning the game. Typically, we want to hold off on exiling a copy until we feel safe. We can get Hedron Alignment back from our graveyard, but the exile zone is the place of no return. 

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The trickiest conditions of Hedron Alignment are graveyard and exile, but thankfully these two zones work hand-in-hand. The easiest way to get a card into exile is by delving it from the graveyard. As such, we play a ton of cards which basically amount to self mill. Every once in awhile we get a land or a creature for our troubles, but most of the time these cards simply read: Tome Scour (i.e. put the top five cards of your library into your graveyard). The idea is that these cards allow us to churn through our deck and help us find all four copies of Hedron Alignment as quickly and efficiently as possible. It's the first step to getting the Hedrons aligned.

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One thing I can say about our deck is that it is really good at filling the graveyard. We can often cast Dig Through Time or Treasure Cruise as early as turn three. The beauty of these cards is that they serve two purposes in our deck. First, they provide an easy way to get a Hedron Alignment from our graveyard into exile, and second they help find more copies of Hedron AlignmentMurderous Cut doesn't draw us any cards, but it does give us a way to buy time against powerful creatures like Siege Rhino and Anafenza, the Foremost

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Den Protector and Oath of Jace are answers to very specific problems of the deck. As you've probably realized by now, our goal is to get two copies of Hedron Alignment into our graveyard (so we can leave one and exile the other) and two copies of Hedron Alignment into our hand (so we can leave one and cast the other). The problem is, we don't have total control over where our Hedron Alignments go. For instance, none of our self-mill cards find an enchantment, so if we cast a Gather the Pack and flip over three copies of Hedron Alignment, we have a problem. Den Protector saves the day by allowing us to return a copy to our hand. Oath of Jace actually does something very similar. It's possible that we naturally draw three or four copies of Hedron Alignment, so we need a way to get cards from our hand to our graveyard. 

The Matchups

As I was playing the games, there were three things I was scared of. First is Transgress the Mind. If our opponent uses it to get two copies of Hedron Alignment into exile we literally cannot win the game, discounting the Den Protector beat down plan. Second is Dromoka's Command, which allows our opponent to kill a Hedron Alignment through hexproof. The good news is that getting a Hedron Alignment killed by Dromoka's Command doesn't really lose us the game. We can get it back with Den Protector, but it is still annoying. Finally, our deck doesn't like to see big creatures or planeswalkers across the table. While we have a bit of interaction in Murderous Cut and Languish, we have a really hard time dealing with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Ob Nixlis Reignited, Siege Rhino, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

On the other hand, decks that play tiny creatures and slow, control decks are probably our best matchups. Our deck grinds out a ton of cards advantage, and we can cast Languish to buy us enough time to win the game. A lot also depends on our draw. It is theoretically possible to align the Hedrons on turn four and win on our turn five upkeep. When we manage to align the Hedrons this quickly we don't care what our opponent is doing. 

We can beat anyone because we are far more concerned about pulling off our own combo as quickly as possible than we are about what our opponent is doing. However, we would rather not run into decks with Transgress the Mind, Dromoka's Command, or undercosted, resilient threats. 

The Odds

By the numbers we won 4 out of 11 games, which puts the odds at about 36%. However, we were incredibly close at winning three other games, which would have given us a winning record. For instance, we had at least one game where we were able to cast Dig Through Time on our upkeep (with 20 cards left in our library). If we had hit a Hedron Alignment, we would have won the game on the spot. While the odds weren't really in favor of us finding our last remaining copy, a 1-in-3 shot to win the game isn't that bad. We also had a game where we ran out of fetchable lands (even though we had a Polluted Delta) and ended up one land short of being able to cast Languish to stay alive and cast and flip Den Protector to get back the game-winning Hedron Alignment in our graveyard. I also stacked the bottom of our library incorrectly in one of our first games, thinking I put Hedron Alignment as the bottom card rather than the top card, which cost us a game as well. Basically, with a bit more tight play and a little more luck we could have gone 6-5 over the course of our four matches. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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

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