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Against the Odds: Kaya's Extraction (Modern, Magic Online)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 178 of Against the Odds. Last week, we wrapped up Ravnica Allegiance season with one last all-RNA poll, but this time with a twist: rather than playing the winning card in Standard, we're heading to Modern today! In the end, one of our new planeswalkers—Kaya, Orzhov Usurper—came out on top. As such, we are heading to Modern this week to see if we can pick up some wins with a deck that's basically Surgical Extraction tribal, with Kaya, Orzhov Usurper as our finisher, draining our opponent out of the game after we (hopefully) exile all of the relevant cards from our opponent's deck. What happens if you overload your main deck with targeted exile effects like Extirpate, Surgical Extraction, and Unmoored Ego? What are the odds of winning with Kaya, Orzhov Usurper in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Kaya's Extraction (Modern)

The Deck

When Kaya, Orzhov Usurper won the poll, I pretty quickly realized there are three main ways to play Kaya in Modern. First is the "tier" way, which is basically to play Kaya, Orzhov Usurper as a value / utility sideboard card similar to Scavenging Ooze. Second, Kaya, Orzhov Usurper works really well with the processing Eldrazi like Wasteland Strangler and Blight Herder, but after building the Kaya's Processor deck, it was basically just WB Eldrazi (which is a real deck, although not currently top-tier) with a bunch of Kayas thrown in, making it awkward for Against the Odds. Third, you can go all-in on Kaya, Orzhov Usurper in conjunction with exile effects, playing Kaya, Orzhov Usurper as the primary finisher and racing toward the ultimate, which can potentially drain the opponent for 20 (or more) in the right deck. This is the path we're going down today.

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In our deck, we're primarily playing Kaya, Orzhov Usurper for her ultimate. While the +1 and 1 abilities add a lot of value in certain matchups, the primary goal of our deck is to get Kaya to five counters while also having at least 20 cards in our opponent's exile zone, which should allow us to win the game immediately when we ultimate Kaya. Apart from just winning the game, the +1 ability is surprisingly relevant against aggro while also being solid against graveyard-based decks, whereas the 1 is more hit or miss depending on the matchup, although being able to exile Aether Vial, Goblin Guide, or Noble Hierarch all with the same card does offer some nice flexibility. More importantly, the +1 and 1 abilities feed into the ultimate, giving us a way to get additional cards into our opponent's exile zone. Our deck isn't very good at dealing incidental damage, so we really need to make sure that we kill our opponent when we ultimate our Kaya, Orzhov Usurper because our deck is likely going to struggle to close out the game if we end up even just one damage short. Of course, since our goal is to get 20 cards into exile, we can't rely on Kaya, Orzhov Usurper alone. So how do we quickly and efficiently get 20 of our opponent's cards exiled? That's where our extractions come into play...

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While Kaya, Orzhov Usurper is our finisher, the main theme of our deck is targeted exile, with the full four copies of Surgical Extraction, Extirpate, and Unmoored Ego in our main deck. These cards do double-duty in Kaya's Extraction. First, each of these cards potentially represents +4 cards in our opponent's exile zone, which helps to ensure that when we ultimate Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, we have a lethal amount of drain. Second—especially in the right matchup—playing a bunch of Surgical Extractions and Unmoored Egos can beat an opponent all by itself.

Traditional targeted exile cards don't show up in main decks because they represent card disadvantage—we're spending a card to exile cards that our opponent may or may not ever draw. As a result, these cards are questionable at best against random good-stuff styles of decks with a wide range of creatures or other threats to close out the game. On the other hand, targeted exile is devastating in some matchups. An easy example of this is TitanShift—a deck that has exactly two realistic ways of closing out the game in Scapeshift and Primeval Titan. Against decks that rely on only a couple of specific cards or combo pieces to close out the game, it's very possible that we can simply exile all of our opponent's win conditions with Surgical Extraction, Extirpate, or Unmoored Ego, making it more or less impossible for our opponent to actually win the game. As such, while our targeted exile is medium at best in some matchups, in others, we can pick up from free wins if we can exile the right threat at the right time.

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Of course, for Surgical Extraction and Extirpate to work, we need to be able to get cards into our opponent's graveyard, which is where our targeted discard comes in. Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Collective Brutality give us efficient ways to get cards from our opponent's hand into their graveyard so we can then exile them with our targeted exile. Beyond simply stocking the graveyard, our discard has an additional upside: it lets us know what cards are in our opponent's hand, which is especially important with Surgical Extraction and Extirpate. One of the ways we can minimize the card-disadvantage aspects of our targeted exile is by exiling a card that our opponent happens to have in their hand, which sort of turns Surgical Extraction and Extirpate into additional copies of Thoughtseize. As a result, the value of information—knowing exactly what our opponent has in their hand at any given time—is higher in this deck than most.

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Snapcaster Mage is pretty simple in Kaya's Extraction: it's extra copies of our discard effects when we need it to be, while also working as extra Surgical Extractions and Unmoored Egos when we really need to exile more cards from our opponent's deck. As our only creature, Snapcaster Mage also works as our backup finisher (although winning by beating down with a 2/1 isn't all that likely) and a way to protect our Kaya, Orzhov Usurper from a big attacker by chump blocking for a turn while we continue to tick up toward the ultimate.

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Rounding out our deck are some removal and a counterspell. While all of these cards are important to staying alive in general, they work really well with the theme of our deck as well by giving us additional ways to get cards into our opponent's graveyard to exile with Kaya, Orzhov Usurper or our Surgical Extraction effects. As such, even though a card like Path to Exile seems perfect for a Kaya deck, Fatal Push is actually far better in our deck since it puts a creature into our graveyard rather than exiling it outright. Together, these cards allow us to deal with the board, which is especially important since our targeted exile is really good against various combo decks but less effective against aggro and midrange creature decks. The combination of targeted removal, wraths, and counters helps to shore up some of our hardest matchups.

The Matchups

The matchups for Kaya's Extraction are pretty straightforward: we crush combo decks and most linear, unfair decks that are trying to win the game with only a couple of payoffs. On the other hand, random good-stuff decks (midrange or aggro) are more difficult, since it's a lot harder to use our targeted exile to cut off all of our opponent's threats. While our removal and sweepers help in our bad matchups, our deck would much rather fight against Arclight Phoenix, Storm, Tron, or any of the other unfair decks in the format than against a random pile of creatures like Jund, Death and Taxes, and the like. Oh yeah, apparently, we also crush Burn thanks to Kaya, Orzhov Usurper being pretty close to unbeatable all by herself in the matchup.

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches and won four, giving us a 66.7% match win percentage along with winning seven of 14 games, good for a 50% game win percentage, making Kaya's Extraction solidly above average for an Against the Odds deck. More impressively, we played mostly what I would consider to be bad matchups. While we did play one unfair deck in Assault Loam (and crushed it, as expected), we played a lot of Burn and fair creature decks, which are the hardest matchups for a deck built around targeted exile, and that made posting a winning record even more surprising. As for Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, she was great. The ultimate was the way that we won most of our games, and the incidental lifegain from the +1 was instrumental in us beating two different versions of Burn. All in all, Kaya's Extraction was a lot better than I expected. Heading into our matches, I figured we'd beat unfair decks but struggle with everything else, but apparently, a pile of Surgical Extractions and Kaya, Orzhov Usurper is pretty decent against fair decks as well.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Lords can be some of the most powerful cards in Magic, pumping all of their tribe members and sometimes even granting them additional abilities. This being said, not all lords or tribes are created equal, so next week, let's give an underappreciated tribal lord a shot. Which one of these bad lords should we play in Modern next week? Let us know by voting below!

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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 suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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