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Against the Odds: Hondens (Historic)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 242 of Against the Odds. Last week was a weird week for recording content. Standard bannings and companion changes were on their way (and happened Monday), so rather than potentially playing an outdated deck or format, we decided to try something different on Against the Odds: our first-ever Historic episode! The winner of our first Historic Against the Odds poll? Hondens, of course! So today, we're heading to Historic to see how many Honden of Infinite Rages, Honden of Seeing Winds, Honden of Life's Webs, Honden of Night's Reaches, and Honden of Cleansing Fires we can get on the battlefield at the same time! What are the odds of winning with Hondens in Historic? Can we get all five on the battlefield at once? 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: Historic Hondens

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The Deck

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Hondens are tough cards to build around for a few reasons, with the two biggest being that they are relatively expensive compared to their effects and that they are slow (in the sense that they don't do anything on the turn you cast them and that you have to wait until your next upkeep for them to start generating value). Oh yeah, and they are split across all five colors, which means getting the right mana to cast them can be tricky. 

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The idea of Hondens is actually pretty straightforward—they are basically like Tron lands but as legendary enchantments. Any individual Honden is overcosted and underpowered, but if we can get several Hondens on the battlefield at once, the repeatable value they generate is immense. Take Honden of Infinite Rage, for example. By itself, it deals a single damage each turn, which isn't very exciting when attached to a three-mana legendary enchantment. But if we can get three, four, or even five Hondens on the battlefield, Honden of Infinite Rage suddenly becomes a very legitimate threat, shooting down bigger creatures or going directly to our opponent's face to close out the game with direct damage in just a few turns. 

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On Against the Odds, we normally have an unwritten rule where we play four copies of the winning card, whether it is right or not, but Hondens are an exception since we're playing the entire cycle, rather than just a single card. (Having 20 Hondens in a deck doesn't leave much room for anything else, and this technique would be doubly problematic with Hondens since they are legendary, so extra copies would basically be dead draws.) As a result, we're playing exactly two copies of every Honden in existence, for a total of 10 Hondens. Because even our good Hondens (like Honden of Seeing Winds and Honden of Life's Web) require several Hondens on the battlefield to do anything powerful, we're playing just as many of the less-good Hondens (like Honden of Cleansing Fire, which is very matchup dependent) as well, not because we want the effect of the bad Honden but because we need the bad Hondens to power up the good ones.

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Things get pretty crazy once we reach a critical mass of three or more Hondens on the battlefield, as we get some combination of free life, card draw, damage, discard, and tokens every turn. This free, repeatable value allows us to take over the game in short order.

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As far as the rankings of the individual Hondens, Honden of Seeing Winds is the best of the bunch since it draws us into more Hondens. Honden of Life's Web is second since it gives us an endless stream of chump blockers to help keep us alive while we wait to draw more Hondens. Honden of Infinite Rage is third because it offers the quickest and cleanest way to actually kill our opponent once we have a few Hondens on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Honden of Night's Reach and Honden of Cleansing Fire come in tied for last, mostly because they are very matchup dependent. Against aggro, Honden of Night's Reach doesn't do much of anything other than up our Honden count, while against midrange and control, it can actually be one of our best Hondens, keeping our opponent hellbent and preventing them from holding onto counterspells. Meanwhile, Honden of Cleansing Fire is the opposite; it's horrible against control, where our life total isn't really relevant, but good (if we can get it onto the battlefield fast enough) against aggro, where gaining two, four, or even 10 life a turn can quickly swing the game in our favor. 

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So, how are we getting our Hondens on the battlefield? Mostly the old-fashioned way—by casting them fairly for mana. Paradise Druid and Ilysian Caryatid help to speed up the process by ramping us while also fixing our mana, which is super important in a five-color deck like Hondens.

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Meanwhile, Calix, Destiny's Hand and Idyllic Tutor help us find our Hondens, Calix with his +1 and Idyllic Tutor directly by tutoring whatever Honden we need into our hand. Calix, Destiny's Hand also turns our Hondens into removal with its 3 and can even return Hondens from our graveyard to the battlefield with its ultimate, if we manage to get up to seven mana. Cards like Calix and Idyllic Tutor are especially important in our deck since we only have two copies of each Honden, which means we aren't all that likely to just draw our best Hondens naturally.

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While our main plan is to tutor up and hard-cast Hondens, we can also cheat them into play from our graveyard with the help of Dance of the Manse. Thirst for Meaning and Search for Azcanta do double duty in our deck, drawing us through our deck to find the Hondens we need while also potentially stocking our graveyard with Hondens that we can later reanimate with Dance of the Manse. Thirst for Meaning is also helpful in getting rid of extra copies of Hondens we already have on the battlefield since the legend rule prevents us from playing more than one copy of any individual Honden.

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Rounding out our deck is some removal, which is super important because Hondens are so slow. Being able to deal with our opponent's board will (hopefully) buy us the time we need to draw and resolve our Hondens (and theoretically take over the game with their free, repeatable value). Shatter the Sky gives us a sweeper to deal with creature-based decks, while Seal Away and Banishing Light give us targeted removal that we can find with Calix, Hand of Destiny and Idyllic Tutor in a pinch.

The Matchups

Hondens is one of those decks that doesn't really have good matchups, although some matchups are harder than others. Decks that can incidentally kill enchantments (with cards like Mortify, Knight of Autumn, or Assassin's Trophy) are especially problematic. Meanwhile, aggro decks can often run us over before our Hondens really do anything, while control can counter our Hondens (or bounce them with various Teferis) to keep them from doing much of anything. With Hondens, it's more about seeing how many we can actually get on the battlefield then actually winning matches—it's just not an especially competitive archetype.

The Odds

All in all, we finished 1-3 with Hondens in Historic, although the record was even worse in reality. After recording the matches, I played a few more games to see if Hondens really was that bad, and I lost them all. The good news is that we did manage to win some games and even a match! More importantly, we actually got four Hondens on the battlefield at once, which is pretty impressive, and we would have gotten five if our opponent hadn't scooped. One thing I realized during our matches is that actually seeing all five Hondens on the battlefield at once is pretty rare because once you get three or four on the battlefield, the value becomes so overwhelming that the game often ends before the fifth Honden hits the battlefield. Basically, while Hondens isn't an especially competitive deck, when everything comes together, it does do really powerful things in a really hilarious way!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

The poll has move to YouTube! Don't forget to vote here!

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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