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Against the Odds: Living Conundrum Lock (Standard)

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Against the Odds! As you probably already know, I love prison decks and locking opponents out of the game, but normally, Wizards doesn't allow this play style in Standard because a lot of players find it frustrating to play against. As such, our goal today is to see if we can bring a prison-style hard lock to the format! While the plan is incredibly janky, the primary goal is to keep a Living Conundrum on the battlefield alongside an Angel of Suffering. Angel converts all the damage we take into mill, and Living Conundrum makes it so we can never die to milling out while eventually turning into a massive hexproof flier to close out the game. Of course, the challenge here is keeping both Angel of Suffering and Living Conundrum on the battlefield. While Living Conundrum is fairly resilient thanks to hexproof, Angel of Suffering dies to pretty much everything. But we have a super-wacky plan to protect it, which we'll talk more about in a minute. Can we actually lock our opponent out of ever killing us with damage in Standard? How good is Living Conundrum? Let's find out on today's Against the Odds!

Against the Odds: Living Conundrum Lock

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The Deck

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The goal of today's deck is super simple: stay alive long enough to get both Angel of Suffering and Living Conundrum on the battlefield to make it so we can't die to damage, keep both cards on the battlefield until our library is empty, and then win by attacking with a massive Living Conundrum (or milling our opponent out naturally as they slowly run out of cards in their deck as they are unable to kill us). While the lock itself is hilariously effective, the plan does have one big problem: it's not easy to keep Angel of Suffering on the battlefield. As a 5/3, it dies to pretty much all of the popular removal spells in Standard. Living Conundrum is pretty easy to keep around thanks to hexproof. Sure, a wrath will kill it (but we have Negates for wraths), but targeted removal does nothing against the five-drop. If only Angel of Suffering had hexproof too...

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To keep Angel of Suffering around, we have an incredibly janky but occasionally effective plan. It starts with Lost in the Maze, an enchantment that we can flash in to tap down our opponent's creatures and, more importantly, give our tapped creatures hexproof. Since the enchantment has flash, we can wait until our opponent tries to kill Angel of Suffering, flash in Lost in the Maze to tap it, and fizzle the removal spell. The problem is that Lost in the Maze is a temporary solution since Angel of Suffering will untap during our next turn, which means it will lose hexproof and our opponent will again be able to kill it. But what if Angel of Suffering never untapped?

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The final piece of our hard-lock puzzle is Weakstone's Subjugation or Bitter Chill, enchantments that tap a creature and make it so that the creature doesn't untap during its controller's untap step. In general, these cards are used as removal—you cast them on an opposing creature to keep it harmlessly tapped down. And while we do sometimes use Weakstone's Subjugation or Bitter Chill to tap our opponent's stuff, what we really want to do with these cards is to keep Angel of Suffering tapped forever so it will always have hexproof thanks to Lost in the Maze! If we can do this, then both of our key combo pieces—the cards that make it so we can never die to damage—will have hexproof, which means that unless our opponent has a wrath or sweeper of some kind, we can never die! 

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If our opponent does have a wrath, we have Negate to counter it and keep our lock active (although we're more or less screwed if our opponent is playing a control deck with a bunch of wraths). We also have a couple of mana rocks to let us get our combo pieces down a turn early. Initially, I built the deck without The Irencrag and The Celestus, and it was simply too slow. Having both of our key combo pieces cost five mana is rough, but these mana rocks let us get our combo pieces down a turn early, which is huge. They also potentially let us get enough mana that we can play an Angel of Suffering and leave up Lost in the Maze to protect it, which is quite helpful.

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The rest of the deck is basically just removal spells to help us stay alive long enough to get the lock set up, but Demonic Bargain deserves a shout-out. The three-mana tutor has what is supposed to be a drawback—exiling the top 13 cards of our deck—but it's mostly an upside in our deck since emptying our library is actually super beneficial if we have Living Conundrum on the battlefield! We occasionally have these weird games where we play a Living Conundrum or two and chain together copies of Demonic Bargain to empty our library, to turn the Conundrums into 10/10 fliers so we can one-shot kill our opponent with one massive, hilarious attack! Combo shenanigans aside, the sorcery is also a great way to find whatever combo piece we're missing or, in a pinch, grab something like Path of Peril to deal with the opponent's board!

Matchups and Odds

The matchups for Living Conundrum Lock are weird. Control is a horrible matchup due to all of the sweepers and counters. Midrange is better than control but can still be challenging thanks to all of the removal and counters that decks like Dimir or Esper play. Aggro, on the other hand, is where Living Conundrum Lock shines...usually. If we can assemble the lock against aggro, we are more or less guaranteed to win, and Angel of Suffering can be pretty effective against decks like Boros or Mono-Red even if we don't have the entire lock set up, if it can stick on the battlefield. While these aggro decks do have some ways to kill Angel of Suffering,m they usually don't play that much removal, increasing the odds that we can play Angel with no protection and have it (and also us) live for a couple of turns while we get the hexproof lock set up.

As far as the odds, Living Conundrum Lock worked almost exactly one in every three games, good for a 33% win percentage. Overall, the plan isn't super competitive (which makes sense considering we're built around Living Conundrum and trying to win by tapping our own Angel of Suffering with a Bitter Chill with a Lost in the Maze on the battlefield), but the wins with the deck are hilarious! A shocking number of opponents kept attacking us even once we had the full lock on the battlefield, which empties our library, grows Living Conundrum, and typically lets us kill our opponent with a single attack! While you aren't going to use this deck to rank up on Arena or win an FNM, it is a good way to mildly annoy some opponents, and it's one of the funniest ways to win in all of Standard when it works. So, if you are looking to have a good time while losing, this deck just might be for you!


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

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