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Against the Odds: Modern Illusions

Hello everyone and welcome to episode three of Against the Odds. First off, I would like to thank all of you for voting in last week's Against the Odds poll. The response was insane with just under 2,000 votes cast — nearly 300 more than for episode 1! When all the ballots were cast and all the votes were counted, Modern Illusions came out the winner with 26 percent of the vote, and this time it wasn't particularly close. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Tainted Remedy came in second place for the second week in a row at 21 percent, followed closely by Chance Encounter at 20 percent and Day's Undoing at 19. Bringing up the rear was Dramatic Entrance with only 14 percent of the vote. As such, both Tainted Remedy and Chance Encounter will appear on this week's ballot along with three new options while Modern Illusions, by popular demand, will be featured in our videos this week!

Anyway, let's get to the videos and then we'll talk more about the deck in a few minutes, but first a quick reminder — if you enjoy the Against the Odds and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Against the Odds: Modern Illusions Intro

Against the Odds: Modern Illusions Games

The Deck

This week we don't really have a combo deck. Our Illusions deck plays out a lot like Merfolk, except better in some ways. We are looking to resolve an Aether Vial on turn one and curve out with a bunch of undercosted blue creatures backed up by lords like Lord of the Unreal and Grand Architect and tempo plays like Vapor Snag and Dismember. More specifically, we are looking to copy a Lord of the Unreal with a Phantasmal Image which makes Phantasmal Image a 3/3 hexproof (because it is still an Illusion) that gives the rest of our creatures +1/+1 and hexproof. 

The advantage of Illusions over Merfolk comes down to three things. First, our creatures are just bigger. Merfolk literally plays 1/1s for one and 2/2s for two and three. We get 2/2s for one and 4/4s for two and three. As a result, our deck has a lot more game when we don't have a lord on the battlefield, which is important because we have access to fewer lords. Second, many of our big creatures have evasion (flying), so we don't need to waste main deck slots playing Spreading Seas and Sea's Claim. Finally, while we might not get as many lords as Merfolk, Lord of the Unreal is better than any Merfolk lord available. Hexproof is a nigh unbeatable ability in many instances. When we get a Phantasmal Image copying Lord of the Unreal, it is really difficult to lose.

One quick note on the downside of Illusions. Yes, it is true that many of our creature sacrifice themselves when targeted by a spell or ability. In practice, this really doesn't matter all that much in Modern. All of the most heavily played removal spells in the format would kill them anyway (Dismember, Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Abrupt Decay and Terminate]]), so the sacrifice trigger really isn't a significant downside (other than the fact that we don't get a free Island from Path to Exile). 

The Matchups

Maybe the most surprising thing I learned over the course of these six matches is that Illusions is actually pretty strong against midrange, removal-heavy decks like Jund and Abzan because Lord of the Unreal can blank all of their removal. In fact, we won all three of our matches against these decks. Against control, it really depends on Aether Vial. If we can stick one on turn one, we blank all their counterspells and use Lord of the Unreal as protection against removal and usually cruise to victory. We also get access to four copies of Mutavault which are helpful when the game goes long and minimizes the risk of flooding (we don't really have much card selection outside of Monastery Siege on "loot" mode). On the other hand, without an Aether Vial in our opening seven, things are more questionable as it becomes much easier for our opponent to keep the board clear with a combination of removal and counters. The biggest problem is fast aggro decks; as a mono-blue deck we are severely lacking in tools to defeat Affinity or Burn, so in most cases we lose game one and hope to draw into enough counterspells or our Hurkyl's Recall in games two and three, where we still feel like a significant underdog. 

The Odds

Unlike some other Against the Odds decks, I really didn't feel like we were swimming upstream in this one. Over the course of six matches we went 4 and 2, good for a 66.67 match win percentage and 8 and 5 in games - a 61.53 game win percentage. By the end of the matches, I was actually expecting to win, which is an odd feeling for Against the Odds, where typically I'm trying to maintain my moral after a string of painful losses. 

Whether or not Illusions can be a real deck in Modern, I'm not really sure. The real question is whether there is a compelling reason to play them over Merfolk, and while there are certainly some advantages, I'm can't honestly say that Illusions is the better deck. I will say it is a good deck, and if you are looking to score some cool points I would definitely recommend sleeving up Illusions over Merfolk at your next Modern event. 

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Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for what we should play next! So what do you think about the deck? What are some other ways we can build Illusions in Modern? Is there any chance they could become a tier deck in the format? What are the reasons to play this over Merfolk (and to play Merfolk over Illusions)? As always, leave your thoughts, ideas and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.

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