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Against the Odds: Mortal Combat Spirits (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode sixty-seven of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a second-chance poll featuring cards that came in second or third in previous polls, and longtime runner-up Mortal Combat finally came out on top! I'm pretty sure that the black enchantment holds the record for most second-place finishes on the polls, never doing well enough to be made into videos but never bad enough to drop from the poll altogether—until this last poll, that is, where it finally claimed victory (and by the tightest of margins), beating Timesifter by 18 votes out of the 3,500 cast! As a result, this week we are heading to Modern and looking to finish our opponent with a fatality or two!

Anyway, let's get to the videos, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy the Against the Odds series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel.

Against the Odds: Mortal Combat Spirits (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Mortal Combat Spirits (Games)

The Deck

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Building around Mortal Combat was a lot harder than I thought it would be. My first idea was to go on the value plan with cards like Satyr Wayfinder filling the graveyard incrementally, but when I actually looked at the numbers, I realized this plan simply wasn't practical. When you consider that a Magic deck needs somewhere around 25 lands, and then we need four copies of Mortal Combat itself, even if we run all creatures, we'll only have around 30 creatures in our deck. This means that, to get 20 or more in our graveyard and trigger Mortal Combat, we'll need to mill at least two-thirds of our deck, and even more, when you consider we'll have some number of creatures on the battlefield, in our hand, or even in exile. Doing this four cards at a time with Satyr Wayfinder would simply be way too slow to win in Modern, and this isn't even to mention that fact that it would give our opponent a nearly endless amount of time to find graveyard disruption. As a result, I decided we needed a way to get 20 or more creatures in our graveyard all in one shot. After some digging, I came across the perfect card: Iname, Death Aspect!

The Combo

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Iname, Death Aspect might be the only card in Modern that lets us put at least 20 creatures in our graveyard in one shot, which means it forms a two-card combo with Mortal Combat. Assuming our opponent doesn't find a Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus, we can simply play Mortal Combat on Turn 4, play Iname, Death Aspect on Turn 6, dump at least 20 creatures from our graveyard into our library, and win the game on our next upkeep. However, Iname, Death Aspect isn't without some restrictions. Apart from the "run exclusively creatures" restriction from Mortal Combat itself, if we are on the Iname, Death Aspect plan, all of these creatures also need to be Spirits so that we can put them into the graveyard with Iname, Death Aspect's enters-the-battlefield trigger. 

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Mirror-Mad Phantasm is basically our fifth copy of Iname, Death Aspect, allowing us to fill our graveyard at lightning speed once we get it onto the battlefield and activate it a couple of times. It also meets the qualifications for being a card in our deck, as both a creature and a Spirit. I considered using Mirror-Mad Phantasm as our primary way of filling the graveyard, but the more copies we have in our deck, the worse it is at filling our graveyard (because when we do the shuffle in then reveal ability, we will hit the other copies and mill fewer cards). As such, it works much better as a secondary graveyard filler than as the primary plan. 

Slowing the Game with Spirits

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The biggest challenge of the deck is figuring out how to stay alive long enough to make our rather expensive combo work, and this challenge is doubled by the fact that we can't play non-Spirits, which means Modern all-stars like Thoughtseize, Blood Moon, Mana Leak, and Dismember are off the table. Thankfully, there are a lot of Spirits that work like spells and are pretty good at keeping us alive while we are waiting to get our Mortal Combat and Iname, Death Aspect. Windborn Muse is a Ghostly Prison in creature form, Wall of Reverence is hard for opponents to attack through and gains us a bit of life each turn it sits on the battlefield, and Waxmane Baku should be able to tap down our opponent's biggest threat every single turn. All of these cards are fine on their own, but they get even better if we can protect them!

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Drogskol Captain, Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, and Selfless Spirit help make sure our other more important Spirits stay on the battlefield and keep us alive while we are setting up the Mortal Combat fatality. Selfless Spirit has the additional upside of being sac-able, which means if we find ourselves in a position where we are just a creature short of triggering our Mortal Combat and winning the game, we can sacrifice Selfless Spirit at any time to stock our graveyard. 

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Mausoleum Wanderer and Spell Queller help us stay alive against all of the spell-based combo decks in Modern, essentially performing the role of Mana Leak or Remand in our deck. Then, when it comes time to combo off with Mortal Combat, since they are both Spirits, we can simply dump them into the graveyard with Iname, Death Aspect to get above the 20-creature threshold and win the game!

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Kami of False Hope might be the best card in our entire deck, because it does every single thing we are looking for. First and most obviously, it's a Spirit, so we can tutor it into the graveyard with Iname, Death Aspect. Second, it does a great job of slowing down the game, often buying us an entire turn (no matter how many creatures our opponent has) with its Fog ability. Third, it can sacrifice itself at any time to make sure the graveyard is full for Mortal Combat!

Spells

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The final numbers on our deck are 24 lands, four Mortal Combat, 29 Spirit creatures, and three spells, so what cards are filling up the spell slots? First, Dismember is just a one-of and is essentially a hedge against aggressive creature-based decks, offering us a way of killing a Blighted Agent or Tarmogoyf in the early turns of the game. Meanwhile, we also have two copies of Damnation, but not for the reason you think. While we will happily use it to kill our opponent's creatures when the opportunity presents itself, the main reason we need Damnation in our deck is to kill our own Spirits. There's some chance that, if the game goes long, we could get so many Spirits on the battlefield that Iname, Death Aspect wouldn't have 20 creatures to put in the graveyard. In this scenario, using Damnation to sweep away our own board should give us the 20 creatures we need to win with Mortal Combat.

The Matchups

First off, we apparently can't beat land destruction. I'm not sure I've ever been beaten more soundly than in that first match, where our opponent cast approximately a million copies of Boom // Bust, always targeting one of their own fetch lands or a Flagstones of Trokair. Otherwise, the matchups are really difficult to analyze. On one hand, we can occasionally get Spirit nut draws that can beat anyone, but as far as actually pulling off the combo, we really need our opponent to be playing a relatively slow deck. The good news is we don't especially care about removal (since we actively want creatures in the graveyard) and we have counters covered thanks to Cavern of Souls, which means we have a pretty reasonable shot against midrange and control decks that are heavy on removal and counters. 

On the other hand, we can also lose to literally anyone, because our combo is easily disrupted by graveyard hate and most decks in Modern come prepared to fight the graveyard, with Dredge being one of the big decks in the format (not to mention Snapcaster Mage, delve spells, and Tarmogoyf). As such, we pick up on a lot of fringe hate, and while we didn't run into many copies of Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus in our matches, it will happen sooner or later and we'll lose because of it. 

The Odds

All in all we won six of our 14 games, good for a 43% game win percentage, and two of our five matches (for a 40% match win percentage), making Mortal Combat Spirits about average for an Against the Odds deck. On the other hand, we only managed to pull off the combo twice, so about two-thirds of our game wins came from beating down with Spirits rather than Mortal Combat, which is pretty disappointing. Unfortunately, I think this is pretty much unavoidable. I'm not sure there's another way of winning with Mortal Combat beyond Iname, Death Aspect, and once we are forced to play all Spirits, it feels silly to avoid playing the good members of the tribe to make sure we don't occasionally win with creatures. Plus, from a competitive perspective, since our combo is so easy to disrupt with graveyard hate, it's probably a good thing that we have a way of winning when our opponent slams a Leyline of the Void on Turn 0 or a Rest in Peace on Turn 2. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Aether Revolt looks amazing, and it has so many great Against the Odds cards I can't wait to start brewing with. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait, because the set doesn't come out on Magic Online until January 27. So, while we wait, let's have a wacky enchantment battle! This week, we have one weird enchantment for each color. Which do you want to see next week? Vote!

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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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