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Against the Odds: Jeskai Orvar (Standard)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 276 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another Kaldheim Standard Against the Odds poll, and in the end. Orvar, the All-Form took home a pretty easy win. As such, we're heading to Standard today to see if we can win some games by pseudo-comboing off with Orvar, the All-Form's ability to clone our permanents when we target them with instants or sorceries. What's the best way to take advantage of Orvar's power in Standard? What crazy shenanigans does it enable? 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: Jeskai Orvar

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The Deck

I'll admit, I was hoping Orvar, the All-Form would win the poll. It's one of my favorite Kaldheim cards, and I've been working on various Orvar decks since spoiler season. The big problem is that most of them just weren't very good. The combination of needing cheap instants and sorceries and then also good permanents to target and clone with Orvar, the All-Form is a tricky one to get right. Initially, most of my focus was on blue-white decks because blue gives us Orvar, the All-Form and white gives us many of the best cheap instants and sorceries that can target our permanents (like Shepherd of the Flock and Flicker of Fate). However, all of these decks felt like they were missing something. It was finally after branching out into a third color that everything came together, giving us the Jeskai Orvar deck we're playing today.

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While it is technically possible that we'll get some free value from discarding an Orvar, the All-Form, this isn't all that likely to happen in Standard because there isn't a ton of real discard (although we might randomly get a Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger deck). As a result, our deck is built around Orvar's first ability, the one that lets us clone any of our permanents we target with an instant or sorcery. For an Orvar deck to work, we need two things: cheap instants and sorceries that can target our permanents as well as permanents worth copying. Thankfully, our deck is overflowing with both.

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As far as cheap spells that can target our own permanents, we have four options. Flicker of Fate and Shepherd of the Flock are the most important of the bunch because they can target enchantments along with creatures, which is really important for the engine of the deck, which we'll talk about in a minute. Meanwhile, Mystic Reflection and Sejiri Shelter are limited to targeting creatures, but each has extra upside. Sejiri Shelter technically is a land and also offers a way to protect Orvar, the All-Form itself from removal, while Mystic Reflection is not just a cheap way to target and clone a creature with Orvar but also a backup combo piece as well...

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As far as creatures that we can clone with Orvar, the All-Form, Reverent Hoplite is the most exciting of the bunch. While targeting it with random spells with Orvar on the battlefield is great, giving us an ever-increasing board full of 1/1 tokens, in the late game, it gives us a spectacular combo finish with Mystic Reflection. You might remember a Modern deck we played on stream a little while ago, built around copying Master of Waves with Mystic Reflection...

Well, Reverent Hoplite can do something similar in Standard. The idea is that in the late game, we can cast Reverent Hoplite (hopefully with some white mana symbols already on the battlefield) and target it with Mystic Reflection with its token-creating trigger on the stack. This means that rather than making a bunch of 1/1 tokens, Reverent Hoplite instead will make a bunch of copies of Reverent Hoplite, and all of those copies will make a bunch of tokens. It's pretty easy to get to the point of the game where the combo will make something like 200 tokens all at once, which should be enough to close out the game the next turn, assuming our opponent can't find a wrath to stabilize.

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While perhaps not quite as spectacular as making hundreds of tokens with Reverent Hoplite and Mystic Reflection, we do have some other creatures that are good to copy with Orvar, the All-Form. Righteous Valkyrie gains us a ton of life as additional copies come into play, making it great against aggro, and eventually, we'll hit 27 or more life and all of our Valkyries will pump each other (and everything else), giving us a massive and hopefully lethal board of attackers! Dream Trawler is just a one-of, but making a few copies with Orvar, the All-Form is tough for most decks to beat thanks to the combination of lifelink and card draw. Finally, Skyclave Apparition gives us a removal spell that we can copy with Orvar to keep our opponent's board clean and to keep ourselves alive while we are setting up a board state that can win us the game.

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While copying creatures with Orvar, the All-Form can be pretty powerful, the true engine of the deck is using Orvar's ability to copy enchantments. Both Flicker of Fate and Shepherd of the Flock can get the job done, and the results are often spectacular. One of the problems with straight blue-white Orvar is that there is a shocking lack of card advantage. There isn't a Mulldrifter- or Cloudblazer-type creature in Standard to copy with Orvar to draw extra cards. There isn't even an Elite Guardmage. As such, we splash into red primarily to take advantage of Showdown of the Skalds, which is pretty absurd with Orvar. The idea is that we can play a Showdown of the Skalds to draw four cards, which should find us a Shepherd of the Flock or Flicker of Fate. On the next turn, we can trigger Showdown of the Skalds to start adding counters to our creatures and then use Flicker of Fate or Shepherd of the Flock to target the Showdown, which gives us a free copy of Showdown of the Skalds, thanks to Orvar, and then also lets us reuse the original copy (either by recasting it or, if we have Flicker of Fate, immediately when it reenters the battlefield), which will give us four or eight more cards. This should, again, find us a way to target the Showdown of the Skalds the next turn to keep the value train running. Basically, once we get the combo set up, we're not only drawing four or eight extra cards each turn but also growing our creatures into massive threats, thanks to the +1/+1 counters that having multiple Showdown of the Skalds going offers. Eventually, we'll win by either overwhelming our opponent with random creatures or by using the card advantage we generate to find the Reverent Hoplite / Mystic Reflection combo. Meanwhile, Elspeth Conquers Death gives us a bit more removal that we can copy with Orvar, the All-Form and also offers a way to get an Orvar, the All-Form or Reverent Hoplite back from the graveyard in the late game.

The Matchups

The matchups for Jeskai Orvar are pretty straightforward. Aggro is tough because we have a bunch of cards like Flicker of Fate and Mystic Reflection that are mostly good in the mid- to late game after we have an Orvar, the All-Form on the battlefield. While we can win if we have a hand with a bunch of Skyclave Apparitions, in general, we end up getting run over or Embercleaved out of the game before we can get our Orvar engine running. On the other hand, midrange and control matchups feel solid. As we saw in the video, we can generate so much card advantage with Orvar, the All-Form and Showdown of the Skalds that we can go toe to toe with various Yorion piles and often end up winning by outdrawing and out-valuing our opponent, which is pretty impressive considering how good Yorion decks are at grinding.

The Odds

All in all, we went 3-2 with Jeskai Orvar, which is a fine, if unexciting, record. We tended to get crushed by aggro but put up a strong fight against slower, more controlling decks. More importantly, we got to do a ton of sweet things with the deck, winning games with the Reverent Hoplite / Mystic Reflection combo and also generating an absurd amount of Orvar, the All-Form value, at one point nearly decking ourselves with Showdown of the Skalds! While I don't think Jeskai Orvar is a top-tier competitive deck, it is good enough to pick up a reasonable amount of wins, and the good games with the deck are pretty spectacular!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Thanks to a ton of bannings Modern is fresh and new, so let's shift gears and try some sweet Kaldheim jank in Modern next week. Which card should we build around? Click here to vote!

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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