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Against the Odds: Liliana's Contract (Modern, Magic Online)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 202 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an "I win" Against the Odds poll, featuring a bunch of cards that can win us the game in a unique way if we meet a certain condition. In the end, Liliana's Contract came out on top, so we're heading to Modern today to see if we can win the game by getting our namesake enchantment on the battlefield along with four "Demons." What are the odds of winning with Liliana's Contract's "you win the game" trigger 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: Liliana's Contract

The Deck

When Liliana's Contract won last week's poll, my main goal was to see if it was possible to win the game with the enchantment using literal Demons, rather than by using another card to turn non-Demon creatures into "Demons." My first attempt was Rakdos Demons to take advantage of cards like Rakdos, the Showstopper along with a bunch of black Demons. Unfortunately, the build had a big problem: we mostly got run over by faster decks since Demons are so expensive, and if we actually managed to get a couple of Demons on the battlefield, we'd simply kill our opponent by attacking with massive fliers before Liliana's Contract got a chance to trigger. Take two was Golgari Demons, with the idea being that we could use cards like Stitcher's Supplier and Satyr Wayfinder to power up delve Demons like Necropolis Fiend, Tombstalker, and Soulflayer. While having some cheaper Demons (thanks to delve) was helpful, the end result wasn't actually much better since if we stuck a Tombstalker or two, we'd win before Liliana's Contract did anything, and we'd randomly get wrecked by cards like Leyline of the Void that everyone is playing to fight Hogaak. 

Eventually, I gave up on literal Demons and decided that if we were ever going to win with Liliana's Contract, we'd need to go the "Demon" route. I tried a build that was basically all Shapeshifters, and while this gave us a much more aggressive curve (it's possible to curve out with Shapeshifters from Turn 1 to Turn 4, play Liliana's Contract on Turn 5, and win the next turn), the downside is that most Shapeshifters are really lacking in power, being 1/1s for two and 2/2s for three—not exactly Modern playable cards. Finally, I turned to the combo of Liliana's Contract and Conspiracy to turn all of our creatures into "demons," which is the build we have today.

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Liliana's Contract is an interesting card. While getting four Demons on the battlefield can be a challenge, it a fine source of card advantage in the meantime, drawing us four cards for five mana (and four life), which helps us find our Demons and our other combo pieces. Speaking of other combo pieces, our main plan for winning the game with Liliana's Contract's triggered ability is Conspiracy, which turns all of our creatures into Demons, meaning that all we need to win the game with Liliana's Contract (once we have Conspiracy on the battlefield) is any four creatures with different names. The other upside of both Liliana's Contract and Conspiracy is that they are black enchantments that sit on the battlefield for multiple turns, making them good support cards for our mana engine.

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Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is key to actually winning with Liliana's Contract and Conspiracy. With our enchantments upping our devotion to black and a bunch of random creatures with two, three, or even four black mana symbols, with the help of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, we can go from close to an empty board to having four "Demons" on the battlefield in just a single turn, giving us enough "Demons" to trigger Liliana's Contract and win the game. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx also helps power out Liliana's Contract and Conspiracy, and gives us enough mana to immediately play the cards that we draw from Liliana's Contract's enters-the-battlefield ability.

The Demons

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The second piece of the Liliana's Contract puzzle is to play as many creatures with different names as possible. As such, rather than playing four copies of our best creatures, we're mostly playing one copy of everything (with a couple two- and three-ofs thrown in). For example, in our "two-mana black removal creature slot, rather than playing four copies of the deathtouching Gifted Aetherborn, we have two Gifted Aetherborns, one Gatekeeper of Malakir, and one Kiku, Night's Flower to maximize the number of differently named creatures we have on the battlefield.

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By varying our creatures and playing mostly one-ofs, we can make it so once we have Liliana's Contract and Conspiracy on the battlefield, pretty much any four creatures in our deck should trigger Liliana's Contract and win us the game. Rounding out our two-drops (all of which have two black mana symbols to support Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx) are Nantuko Shade (which can get massive in the late game thanks to the oodles of mana Nykthos can produce), Withered Wretch to fight graveyard decks, and Relentless Dead as a resilient "Demon." 

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Our three-mana creatures are more of the same, with two copies of Geralf's Messenger, which is likely to stick on the battlefield for a few turns thanks to undying; a Dread Shade, as a backup win condition that we can make huge with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx mana; and a Nightveil Specter to steal our opponent's cards (and maybe even turn them into Demons with Conspiracy). Here, the main condition for making our deck is having three black mana symbols to up our devotion for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

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Another way to maximize our odds of getting four "Demons" for Liliana's Contract is to use creatures as removal rather than spells. While we do have a playset of Fatal Push for the early game and a couple of Collective Brutality, cards like Kuon, Ogre Ascendant and Garza's Assassin can work as removal in a pinch, while also being "Demons" that sit on the battlefield to support Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Liliana's Contract

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In the four-drop slot are three "Demons." Phyrexian Obliterator is probably the best of the bunch, being great on both defense and offense while also adding four black mana symbols to the battlefield for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx purposes. Creakwood Liege is especially strong with Liliana's Contract thanks to the Wurm token that it makes (which will turn into a Demon with the help of Conspiracy), which means that as long as Creakwood Liege sits on the battlefield long enough to make a token, it gets us halfway to the four Demons we need for Liliana's Contract all by itself. Finally, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician offers card advantage and removal for small creatures. While we aren't particularly built around sacrificing our own creatures for value, cards like Relentless Dead and the Wurm token from Creakwood Liege offer good, repeatable sacrifice fodder for the Human Cleric "Demon."

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Last but not least is Gray Merchant of Asphodel. While it's possible that we can drain our opponent out of the game with Gary if we manage to get enough black mana symbols on the battlefield, the main reason it is in our deck is to buffer our life total enough to play Liliana's Contract. Especially against aggressive decks, it can be really difficult to survive the four life we lose when Liliana's Contract enters the battlefield, and against decks with burn, Liliana's Contract is often more likely to kill us than to kill our opponent. Gaining a chunk of life when Gray Merchant of Asphodel enters the battlefield is key to allowing us to cast our namesake enchantment and to living long enough to (hopefully) get four Demons on the battlefield to win with its trigger. 

Other Stuff

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It's only fitting that a Liliana's Contract deck would have a Liliana, and for our deck, the best Liliana is Liliana, the Last Hope. While picking off small creatures is nice in some matchups and the ultimate is usually game winning over the course of a few turns, the main value of Liliana, the Last Hope in our deck is returning a creature from our graveyard to our hand. This means that in the worst case, Liliana, the Last Hope essentially adds an extra "Demon" to the battlefield, assuming we have at least one creature in our graveyard, which helps us get the four necessary to trigger Liliana's Contract and win the game.

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Fatal Push gives us some early-game removal for our opponent's creatures. Collective Brutality does a bit of everything while also being another way to gain life to make sure that we can survive casting our own Liliana's Contracts. Meanwhile, Phyrexian Arena adds a couple of black mana symbols to the battlefield, and drawing an extra card each turn helps to make sure we find our main combo pieces (Liliana's Contract and Conspiracy), and once we have our combo assembled, it helps us draw into enough "Demons" to win the game on our upkeep.

The Matchups

Liliana's Contract is at its best against fair-ish creature decks, where our removal is strong and our creatures are often as good as or better than whatever creatures our opponent has to offer. On the other hand, combo decks can be difficult since our creature clock isn't very fast and our main plan for winning the game involves putting two five-mana enchantments on the battlefield, making Liliana's Contract significantly slower than most of the unfair decks in the format. While we have some good sideboard options to help fight combo in Damping Sphere, Surgical Extraction, and Leyline of the Void, we're likely to get run over if we don't draw our sideboard silver bullets early and often. Tron is also a pretty miserable matchup. While we can win if we draw Damping Spheres and Fulminator Mages after sideboarding, cards like Oblivion Stone, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Karn Liberated give our Tron opponents a ton of ways to deal with Liliana's Contract and Conspiracy, which makes it really difficult to pull off the Liliana's Contract kill.

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches with Liliana's Contract and won three, giving us a 50% match win percentage, which is roughly average for an Against the Odds deck. Sadly, we never actually got to see Liliana's Contract trigger. While the enchantment was instrumental in several of our wins, one of the challenges of actually winning with Liliana's Contract is that opponents can see the kill coming, and if we have our combo along with a few "demons," they generally concede before Liliana's Contract actually triggers. The good news is that Liliana's Contract is actually pretty strong in our deck. Even when it isn't directly winning us the game, the card draw offers a way to reload our hand, and the threat of Liliana's Contract does sometimes scare our opponent into scooping, even if it means we don't actually get to see the "I win" trigger. Plus, Liliana's Contract is insane in some matchups. While we didn't run into any Ensnaring Bridges in our matches, having a way to win the game with a board full of "Demons" that can't attack thanks to Ensnaring Bridge seems like a great way to take down some Urza, Lord High Artificer builds and things like Whir or Mono-Red Prison. Basically, even though Liliana's Contract didn't technically trigger in any of our games, we had a few games where it would have if our opponent had stuck around for another turn or two. And even when it's not winning us the game, it's still pretty solid as a big card-draw spell that ups our devotion to black while also fixing some matchups that would otherwise be bad.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

On classic Magic argument is what two-drop is best in each color. Typically people list of Snapcaster Mage (blue), Stoneforge Mystic (white), Dark Confidant (black) and Tarmogyf (green) and then argue about the red member of the "cycle," and maybe some of the other choices as well. In honor of this infamous debate, next week we'll be building around a two-drop in Modern. We've got one in of each color on our poll, but there's no Snapcasters or Stoneforges to be found here. Which one of these definitely not best two-drops in their color should we build around 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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