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Against the Odds: Naya Helm of the Host (Standard)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 137 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had the third all-Dominaria Against the Odds poll, and it was a tight one, with Rat Colony and Helm of the Host running neck and neck. In the end, the equipment pulled ahead for the win by just a couple of percentage points! As a result, we're heading to Modern this week to see if we can win some games by copying our creatures with Helm of the Host. Apart from a Twin-esque combo with Combat Celebrant, we've got a ton of sweet legends to copy in a Naya shell. What are the odds of winning with Helm of the Host in Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Naya Helm of the Host

The Deck

After Helm of the Host won the poll, I knew immediately that we'd be playing both Combat Celebrant and Gideon of the Trials, since they were the two most obvious and hyped combo pieces for the equipment. As such, the challenge of building the deck was figuring out the right shell to put around these cards. I quickly realized that, beyond game-ending combos, the best creatures to copy with Helm of the Host were Gods, since they are indestructible (to minimize the chance of getting blow out by removal) and powerful. The end result is a Naya midrange deck with a lot of interesting historic spells and Board the Weatherlight as a sort of tutor to hold everything together. While Plan A is to win with Helm of the Host, one of the upsides of going Naya is that we can win like a strange Naya beatdown deck if something goes wrong with our Helm plan.

Combos

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Helm of the Host is pretty simple: we equip it to a creature and get free hasty copies of the creature at the beginning of combat on each of our turns. Oh yeah, and the copies aren't legendary, which means we can do some really crazy things with cards that aren't supposed to be on the battlefield in multiples. The biggest problem with Helm of the Host is that it's really expensive, not only costing four to cast but also five to equip. As a result, if our opponent simply lets us spend Turn 4 casting the equipment and Turn 5 attempting to equip it and then kills it in response, we basically double Time Walk ourselves and probably lose the game. The good news is we have a ton of creatures that are powerful enough that, if we can get a Helm of the Host on them for just a turn or two, we should win the game!

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Our most game-ending combo with Helm of the Host is Combat Celebrant. Apart from being right on curve (so we can cast it on Turn 3, cast Helm on Turn 4, and equip on Turn 5), the big payoff here is that if we can get a Helm of the Host on Combat Celebrant, we should just win the game Splinter Twin-style by taking infinite attack steps and making infinite attacking Combat Celebrant tokens. The idea is simple: once we get Helm of the Host on Combat Celebrant, we go to combat and make a hasty token copy of Combat Celebrant. We leave the original Combat Celebrant back, attack and exert with the token to get in some damage, and get another combat. At the start of the next combat, we do it again until eventually our opponent dies. Unless our opponent has a first-strike creature like Lyra Dawnbringer (to keep killing the copy of Combat Celebrant without taking damage), this combo will kill the opponent through any number of blockers, since eventually all of our opponent's creatures will take max damage and die, leaving an empty board for us to attack our opponent's life total.

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Gideon of the Trials is more funny than game winning, although it can be pretty powerful. Since the copies that Helm of the Host makes aren't legendary, we make a non-legendary copies of Gideon if we turn the planeswalker into a creature and equip it with Helm. While this plan is expensive (we need to re-equip Helm of the Host every single turn, since it falls off when Gideon returns from creature form), the end result is that we can pay five mana to make another Gideon. Then, we either just beat down our opponent with indestructible 4/4 Gideons or emblem a Gideon and make it really hard for our opponent to win, since they need to kill each of our Gideons before we die.

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Rhonas the Indomitable and Oketra the True are pretty insane with Helm of the Host. Since they are indestructible, it's hard for the opponent to kill them in response to our Helm equip, and then the copies Helm makes get out of control pretty quickly. Take Rhonas, for example. If we get two or three on the battlefield thanks to Helm of the Host, we have a bunch of 5/5 indestructible attackers (or blockers). Plus, they can pump each other and give each other trample, which combined with deathtouch means it's basically impossible for the opponent to stay alive by blocking. Meanwhile, Oketra the True is basically a backup God. While not as good as Rhonas, it's still a fine target for Helm of the Host, making a wall of indestructible double strikers. 

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Finally, we have one Shalai, Voice of Plenty and one Lyra Dawnbringer as additional finishers. While our Angels aren't as game ending as Combat Celebrant or as resilient as our Gods or Gideon, they are still fine targets for Helm of the Host. We basically assemble a hexproof lock if we get two copies of Shalai, Voice of Plenty on the battlefield, since each copy gives the other (along with our other stuff) hexproof, which means our opponent needs a (non-Settle the Wreckage) wrath to deal with our board. Meanwhile, Lyra Dawnbringer with Helm gives us a horde of Baneslayer Angels, and they even pump each other with the oft-forgotten Angel lord ability!

Other Stuff

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For supporting our combo, we have two primary options: Board the Weatherlight and Llanowar Elves. Board the Weatherlight is pretty insane in our deck, since apart from Combat Celebrant, all of our combo pieces are historic, so the sorcery digs us five cards deep to find Helm of the Host if we don't have one. If we already have our namesake equipment, we can dig for a God, Gideon, or Angel to equip up. Meanwhile, Llanowar Elves just helps speed up our deck. As we talked about before, the biggest downside of Helm of the Host is that's it's so expensive, and having a powerful mana dork like Llanowar Elves helps minimize this downside.

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Otherwise, we just have a bunch of removal to help us stay alive long enough to get Helm of the Host on the battlefield. Walking Ballista is nice, since we can find it with Board the Weatherlight and it scales fairly well to the late game (although you shouldn't equip it with Helm, since the copy will be a 0/0 with no counters). Seal Away, Abrade, and Cast Out give us additional answers, and Treasure Map is a solid two-of to help us filter in the early game and eventually make some extra mana to let us cast and equip Helm of the Host on the same turn.

The Matchups

The matchups are mostly about how likely we are to get blown out while trying to equip Helm of the Host, which means decks with lots of Abrades, Cast Outs, and Vraska's Contempts are hard. On the other hand, we can bear just about anyone if our opponent doesn't have the right removal spell at the right time—it only takes one turn of having a Combat Celebrant equipped with Helm of the Host to steal the win, and even with cards like Rhonas, Gideon, or Oketra, it doesn't take that long for Helm to generate an overwhelming advantage. We can also get run over against aggro, but it depends on the specific hand. If we have our Lyra Dawnbringer or a fast start with Llanowar Elves, we can keep pace with our opponent's fast start, and then Helm of the Host gives us late-game inevitability.

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches and won three, good for a 60% match win percentage, while also winning seven of our 12 games, which comes in just under 60% in terms of game win percentage, making Helm of the Host about average for recent Against the Odds decks. More importantly, nearly all of our wins were Helm of the Host wins. One of my worries heading into the matches was that we'd win some games but they would be from our random Naya Midrange plan rather than with Helm. Thankfully, we managed to pull off just about every Helm combo in our deck over our five matches, from infinite Combat Celebrants to multiple Gods to having five Gideon of the Trials on the battlefield! The end result is that Helm of the Host is way more powerful than I thought heading into our matches. While the blowout potential is high, it's very hard to lose if we can equip it for just a turn or two!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

We're getting near the end of Dominaria season, and we'll be returning to a normal poll with a mixture of sets soon, but there are still some more Dominaria cards that deserve a shot at Against the Odds glory. Which of these Dominaria cards should we play in Standard next week? 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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