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Against the Odds: Maze's End (Modern, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 185 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an "I win" Against the Odds poll featuring a bunch of alternate win conditions. When all was said and done, we had a clear victor, with Maze's End doubling up the next closest option in votes. As a result, we're heading to Modern today to see if we can win some games by getting 10 different Gates on the battlefield along with a Maze's End! Oddly, this isn't the first time we've played Maze's End on Against the Odds. A long, long time ago, we played it in a Turbo Fog shell. Thankfully, today's deck is very different, essentially being a turbo build of Maze's End that's looking to get the right 11 lands on the battlefield as fast as possible. Plus, we've got a bunch of new Gate payoffs (actually, about 75% of our deck is currently legal in Standard) that weren't around when we first played Maze's End years ago. Can Maze's End, backed by powerful ramp and some sweet new Gate payoffs, compete 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: Maze's End (Modern)

The Deck

When Maze's End won the poll, one major concern was to make sure we weren't just rehashing the Turbo Fog version that we played a few years ago, so my main focus was trying to make a more ramp-centric, faster build of the deck. Thankfully, along with reprinting the Gates themselves, our return to return to Ravnica gave us some really powerful Gate payoffs and a couple of strong ramp spells that are perfect for the deck. In fact, of the 60 cards in our main deck, only 21 aren't currently legal in Standard, which means the deck feels way, way different than the older version we played. The main plan of Maze's End is simple: we ramp as quickly as possible toward 10 different Gates, use a handful of interactive spells to keep our opponent at bay, and hopefully win by activating Maze's End with the proper Gates on the battlefield as early as Turn 5 or 6. While winning on Turn 5 or 6 isn't fast in Modern terms, Maze's End helps to make up for this by being really difficult for most decks to interact with. While we'll occasionally run into a Blood Moon deck or something with a lot of land destruction (both of which are horrible matchups), many Modern decks are so focused on doing their broken thing or on stopping their opponents from doing broken things that they have a hard time beating a deck that can theoretically win without ever resolving a spell, just by making a bunch of land drops!

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Of course, the foundation of our deck is Maze's End itself, which is both a win condition and a way to tutor specific Gates from our library onto the battlefield. Here, it's important to note that to actually win the game with Maze's End, we do need to activate it (just having it on the battlefield with 10 different Gates isn't enough), which means a couple of important things. First, cards like Pithing Needle or land destruction can ruin our plan, so we have to make sure to account for these possibilities during deck building. Second, Maze's End is normally a bit slow since it enters the battlefield tapped, which sometimes means we need to wait for an entire turn before using it to win the game, even after we have the correct Gates on the battlefield, giving our opponent a chance to kill us or draw an answer to Maze's End. Thankfully, we have a plan to speed up the process...

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Amulet of Vigor is combo piece number one for Maze's End, and it does double duty in our deck. First, it helps to minimize the downside of playing a deck overflowing with Gates that enter the battlefield tapped. With an Amulet of Vigor on the battlefield, all of our random Guildgates are essentially the same as the original dual lands, giving us two colors of mana and coming into play untapped. Plus, if we ever have multiple copies of Amulet of Vigor on the battlefield, we can use them as a weird sort of ramp by tapping the land that we just played for mana with the second untap trigger on the stack. Secondly, Amulet of Vigor is insane with Maze's End itself since it allows Maze's End to untap immediately when we play it, which means we don't need to wait a turn before activating it to (potentially) win the game. Amulet of Vigor also allows us to do some explosive things with some of our ramp spells...

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Getting 10 different Gates plus Maze's End on the battlefield requires a lot of ramp, especially in a format like Modern, where a lot of decks can win on Turn 3 or 4 with a good draw. More importantly, we need our ramp spells to be able to find Gates (or nonbasic lands in general), which crosses a lot of good ramp cards (like Search for Tomorrow, Rampant Growth, and Sakura-Tribe Elder) off the list of possibilities. For ramp, we have three options: Growth Spiral, Circuitous Route, and Primeval Titan. The good news is that these ramp spells curve nicely into each other, theoretically giving us a curve of Turn 2 Growth Spiral, Turn 3 Circuitous Route, Turn 4 Primeval Titan, into Turn 5 attack with Primeval Titan and potentially win the game on the spot, if we have an Amulet of Vigor on the battlefield. Circuitous Route and Primeval Titan are pretty simple: each grabs two of whatever Gates we happen to be missing, while Primeval Titan can also find Maze's End if we don't have a copy. Primeval Titan also gives us a backup plan for winning the game if the worst-case scenario happens (something like Field of Ruin on Maze's End into Surgical Extraction on Maze's End) as we can win some games by beating down with the 6/6 trample. Meanwhile, Growth Spiral can do some fun tricks with Amulet of Vigor and Maze's End, allowing us to get multiple Maze's End activations in the same turn by activating it, putting it back into play with Growth Spiral, untapping it with Amulet of Vigor, and repeating the process, which gives us a great way to get from eight-ish Gates up to the 10 we need to win the game. 

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Life from the Loam is just a one-of, and ideally, we won't have to use it, but it serves an important purpose in our deck by allowing us some chance of beating land destruction. Since we have some Gates in our deck that are just one-ofs, if our opponent can guess right with Field of Ruin or Ghost Quarter, they can theoretically cut us off of ever getting the 10 Gates we need to win with Maze's End. Life from the Loam solves this problem by allowing us to return Gates from our graveyard to our hand. Plus, it's repeatable thanks to dredge, so even if our opponent finds another land-destruction spell later, as long as we have Life from the Loam in our graveyard, we'll always have a way to reassemble our 10 Gates for the Maze's End kill. 

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In a deck overflowing with Gates, both Gates Ablaze and Guild Summit are extremely powerful, even in a format like Modern. Gates Ablaze is mostly helpful in creature matchups, where it can be an Anger of the Gods in the early game that turns into a Wrath of God in the late game, allowing us to keep our opponent's creatures in check and buy some time to get 10 Gates on the battlefield. As for Guild Summit, it draws us a lot of cards, especially in conjunction with Circuitous Route and Primeval Titan tutoring multiple Gates directly onto the battlefield. This card draw allows us to keep up with the slower, more controlling decks in the format while keeping our hand full of ramp and interaction. 

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Rounding out the deck is a handful of utility cards. Snapcaster Mage gives us a way to reuse all of our spells and is especially powerful with Circuitous Route to find us two more Gates. Lightning Bolt helps us stay alive in the early game and answers annoying threats like Leonin Arbiter or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which are really good against our plan of casting spells that tutor for lands. Meanwhile, Cryptic Command is sort of a catch-all answer. Sometimes, we use it to buy a turn or two by tapping down our opponent's team Fog-style; other times, it counters a spell. It also gives us an out to random cards that occasionally show up in main decks and ruin our Maze's End plan, like Pithing Needle or Sorcerous Spyglass, and it becomes even more important after sideboarding, when more decks have access to powerful hosers. While Cryptic Command is only a temporary answer that bounces a Pithing Needle (or whatever hoser our opponent has) back to our opponent's hand, if we time it correctly, we only need one Maze's End activation to win the game, so even a temporary answer is usually enough.

The Matchups

Let's start with an easy one: we're never going to beat Blood Moon. Technically, it's possible thanks to Destructive Revelry in our sideboard, and we can potentially counter it on the way down with Cryptic Command, but in reality, we're rarely going to beat it. The same is mostly true of decks like Ponza that are just overloaded with land destruction. Apart from decks that directly counter our Maze's End plan, we'd generally rather play slower, more controlling decks than aggro. While Gates Ablaze (and Anger of the Gods in the sideboard) gives us a chance to compete with aggressive creature decks, most Modern aggro decks are fast enough that we'll be dead if we don't have Gates Ablaze (with several Gates) by Turn 3 or 4, at the latest. Meanwhile, control decks have a surprisingly hard time dealing with our plan since if they leave mana up, we can just choose to not cast any spells, potentially stranding our opponent with a handful of removal and counters, and activate our Maze's Ends instead. 

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches with Maze's End and, against all odds, actually won four of them, giving us a stunning 80% match win percentage. Our one loss to 8 Whack was one of the quickest Against the Odds matches of all time, where we didn't hit our sweepers and our opponent drew a ton of Goblin Bushwhackers to kill us on Turn 3. On the other hand, we managed to beat UB Mill, Whir Prison, Jeskai Control, and Mono-Blue Architect, and some of the matches didn't even feel very close. A surprising number of Modern decks don't have a good way to interact with the Maze's End kill. Of course, it's unlikely that Maze's End would win 80% of matches moving forward. We managed to dodge our worst matchups in the format, although we did beat some decks that felt like miserable matchups (like UB Mill, overloaded with Ghost Quarters and Surgical Extractions). Basically, I'm shocked at how well Maze's End worked in Modern. The new Gate payoffs are a huge deal, and the combination of solid ramp and a hard-to-interact-with win condition is actually oddly effective at beating some popular Modern decks. While it seems exceedingly unlikely that Maze's End will ever be a tier deck in Modern, it does seem like something that you could bring to FNM and win some matches with, especially if you hit the right matchups.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

It's almost time for War of the Spark, but we have one more week of waiting for the new cards to hit Magic Arena. In the meantime let's build around a janky aura in Modern deck week. Which one of these enchantments should be the centerpiece of our deck? Let us know by voting below!

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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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