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Against the Odds: Infinite Adaptation (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 108 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a type-changing Against the Odds poll, and while it was a super-close battle between Arcane Adaptation and Bludgeon Brawl, in the end it was the creature-type changing enchantment from Ixalan that came out on top by just 1% of the vote. As such, we are heading to Modern this week to not just play Arcane Adaptation but see if we can use it to form an infinite combo with Turntimber Ranger! The basic idea of the deck is simple: if we can play a Turntimber Ranger with an Arcane Adaptation on the battlefield set on Ally, every Wolf token that Turntimber Ranger will also be an Ally, which triggers Turntimber Ranger to make another Wolf Ally, and in the end, we have an infinite number of 2/2 Wolf Ally tokens along with an infinitely big Turntimber Ranger. Can we find the right support cards to make the combo work in a format as powerful as Modern? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Infinite Adaptation (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Infinite Adaptation (Games)

The Deck

Building around Arcane Adaptation was interesting. There are a lot of potentially fun things the card can do, from enabling strange double-tribal decks like Human one-drops with Merfolk lords (which, just so it's clear, is usually a bad idea because the deck won't function without Arcane Adaptation) to making all of our creatures free with the help of Rooftop Storm. After working through all of the possibilities, we ended up with the most obvious (but perhaps most powerful) combo of them all: Arcane Adaptation with Turntimber Ranger, which is basically the jankiest imaginable version of the Splinter Twin combo!

The Combo

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Our combo is pretty simple: we play Arcane Adaptation, then we play Turntimber Ranger, and then we win the game by making an infinite number of Wolf tokens (and an infinitely big Turntimber Ranger). The good news is that the combo is powerful when it goes off (it's really hard to make infinite creatures and still lose, although a timely sweeper like Supreme Verdict can beat our infinite tokens), and it's fairly fast, coming down on Turn 4 with a good draw. Of course, the downside is that Turntimber Ranger is only a 2/2, and a removal spell will fizzle the combo, so finding a way to slip the combo through our opponent's defenses is one of the main challenges of the deck. The other challenge is actually assembling the combo. While there are quite a few cards in Modern that are good at finding one half of our combo or the other, to really make the combo consistent, what we really need is a card that can find both halves of the combo, and this is where we had to go a bit deep.

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Chord of Calling is our primary tutor and our best way of putting together the combo. We can simply tap a bunch of our random creatures and tutor a Turntimber Ranger directly into the battlefield, which is super important, not just because it helps us assemble our combo but because it allows us to manipulate the timing of the combo. Since Chord of Calling is an instant, we can simply wait until our opponent taps down and use that window to find our game-winning Turntimber Ranger or find our Turntimber Ranger during our opponent's end step to avoid sweepers. Since we need Chord of Calling to support the combo, we also get to run a bunch of one-of tutor targets for specific situations like Scavenging Ooze for graveyard hate, Knight of the Reliquary for mana fixing, and Spell Queller to protect our combo, but we'll talk more about these cards in a bit. The problem is that Chord of Calling only hits creatures, which means we can't use it to find our Arcane Adaptation, at least not directly...

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Zur the Enchanter is the final piece of our combo-assembling puzzle, giving us a way to use Chord of Calling to tutor up Arcane Adaptation. We simply wait until our opponent's end step, tutor up Zur the Enchanter with Chord of Calling, untap, attack with Zur, and use Zur to find our Arcane Adaptation, which sets us up to make infinite Wolf Allies during our second main phase. The other benefit of going on the Zur the Enchanter plan to set up the combo is that we get to play a handful of other sweet tutor targets as well.

Zur Targets

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Detention Sphere and Ghostly Prison give us a couple of defensive cards we can find with Zur. Detention Sphere is nice because it gets rid of annoying threats and helps us stay alive long enough to find our combo while also being an answer to cards that shut down our combo altogether like Torpor Orb or Ensnaring Bridge. Meanwhile, Ghostly Prison does a good job of keeping creatures at bay while we are digging through our deck for the combo.

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We also have a few one-of enchantment creatures to find with Zur the Enchanter when the situation calls for it. Brain Maggot lets us pick apart our opponent's hand and make sure they don't have a removal spell to kill our Turntimber Ranger and fizzle our combo. Nyx-Fleece Ram gains us a bit of life against Burn and other aggressive decks, while Courser of Kruphix not only gains us life but also helps us find our combo by allowing us to manipulate the top card of our deck with fetch lands. 

Chord Targets

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Eternal Witness does two things for our deck. Most obviously, we can use it to get one of our combo pieces back from the graveyard if our opponent manages to counter or kill it, giving us another chance to go infinite. The other benefit of Eternal Witness is that it loops with Chord of Calling while also netting us an additional mana by being a creature to tap for convoke. For example, if we only have enough mana to Chord of Calling for three, we can tutor up Eternal Witness and get back Chord of Calling, giving us enough mana to Chord for four the next turn (to get our second Eternal Witness), and then Chord of Calling for five for Turntimber Ranger the following turn.

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Rounding out our Chord of Calling targets, we have a bunch more one-ofs. Qasali Pridemage helps to fill out our curve and gives us some main-deck artifact and enchantment hate so we don't just scoop to Blood Moon or Ensnaring Bridge. Scavenging Ooze lets us gain a bit of life and eats away the graveyard against Snapcaster Mage decks along with hating on decks like Dredge and Reanimator. Spell Queller gives us a counterspell that we can tutor up with Chord of Calling to protect our Arcane Adaptation and Turntimber Ranger, while Knight of the Reliquary helps fix our ambitious mana base to make sure we can cast our spells as well as finding Gavony Township, which is our backup win condition. 

Mana Dorks

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We also have a bunch of mana dorks, which give us something to do on the early turns of the game and help to speed up our combo. In theory, our best possible draw is to make infinite Wolf tokens on Turn 4 by playing a Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch on Turn 1, Arcane Adaptation on Turn 2, and then Turntimber Ranger on Turn 4 to go infinite. Having a bunch of cheap creatures also helps in supporting Chord of Calling to find our combo pieces. It's also worth mentioning that Harabaz Druid is pretty sweet when we have an Arcane Adaptation on the battlefield naming Ally, since it taps to add a mana for each creature we control!

Removal

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Last but not least, we have a couple of Path to Exiles and a couple of Fatal Pushes to help deal with our opponent's early-game creatures. While it's possible that we can win the game on Turn 4, it's more common that we win on Turn 5 or 6, which means we need at least a little bit of interaction or we'll just get run over by our opponent's bigger creatures. While Fatal Push and Path to Exile aren't really exciting cards, they do their job well and help keep us alive while we wait to set up our combo.

The Matchups

Based on our matches, it felt like control was by far our worse matchup. Against control, it's just really hard to actually resolve our combo pieces and even harder to resolve our combo pieces without Turntimber Ranger immediately being killed by a Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, or Terminate. While most Modern decks have some sort of removal, control is especially challenging because they not only have a lot of removal but also tend to always leave up their mana, which means it's really hard to find a window to combo off. Aggro also didn't feel great, although we did manage to pick up games against fast decks like UG Merfolk and Naya Burn, so it is possible that we can beat them if we get a good draw. On the other hand, our deck performed well against midrange creature decks, where we could use our creatures to chump block and stay in the game, and then eventually close things out with our infinite Wolf tokens. 

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches and won two, good for a 33.33% match win percentage, along with winning seven of 16 games, bringing our game win percentage up to 44%, making Infinite Adaptation about average for an Against the Odds deck. The good news is that we actually managed to pull off the combo consistently. Discounting one game where our opponent was mana screwed and scooped early, every single win was thanks to Arcane Adaptation and Turntimber Ranger, and the only matchup where we didn't combo off at least once was against UW Control (which felt like a really difficult matchup for our deck). We also never lost after comboing off, which was a relief, since a couple of opponents mentioned they were drawing live to cards like Damnation or even Rakdos Charm. All around, the combo was really fun, and we managed to make it happen more often than I expected heading into our games, but not quite consistently enough to give us a winning record.

Vote For Next Week's Deck

No Against the Odds poll this week, since we'll be having a special episode next week. Don't worry, the poll will return next episode!

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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