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Against the Odds: Near-Death Experience (Modern)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 250 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another Modern "you win the game" Against the Odds poll, and this time, it was Near-Death Experience coming out on top. As such, we are heading to Modern today to see if we can have a Near-Death Experience and win the game by getting our life total to exactly one! Of course, we can't rely on our opponent getting us to one life (at least without also killing us), so our deck is designed to speed up the process, with some cards that can get us from 20 life down to one life in just one turn, backed up by some tricks to stay alive long enough for Near-Death Experience to trigger once we do get to one life. What are the odds of winning with Near-Death Experience in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Near-Death Experience

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The Deck

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Near-Death Experience is fairly straightforward—if we can get ourselves to one life and survive until our upkeep, we win the game. Of course, winning with Near-Death Experience requires getting a five-mana enchantment on the battlefield, getting to exactly one life, and surviving until our next upkeep, which isn't exactly easy in a format like Modern. So the rest of our deck is filled with ways to (hopefully) make the Near-Death Experience kill a bit easier, both by helping us lose life and by protecting us when we have a low life total for long enough to let Near-Death Experience pick up the win.

Losing Life

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When it comes to getting ourselves to exactly one life, we have three plans. Our best option is Plunge into Darkness, which basically lets us set our life total to one for just two mana at instant speed (while also helping us dig through our deck to find our combo pieces). This means that if we get Near-Death Experience on the battlefield, we can wait until our opponent's end step (preferably while they are tapped out), Plunge into Darkness and pay all of our life but one, untap, and win the game immediately on our upkeep!

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Much like Plunge into Darkness, Spellskite gives us another card that has some utility in our deck (in this case, protecting Near-Death Experience from removal) that also allows us to lose a massive amount of life all at once. Spellskite's Phyrexian mana ability, which allows us to pay two life to redirect a spell or ability to Spellskite, is the key. The trick is that Spellskite can technically target anything (even spells and abilities that can't be redirected to Spellskite), which means as long as anything is on the stack, we can use Spellskite to pay as much life as we want in increments of two. If we happen to start off on an odd life total, Spellskite can set our life total to one, while if we are on an even life total, Spellskite needs a bit of extra help because it will get us down to two life and not exactly one, as Near-Death Experience requires. Thankfully, we have the perfect solution to this problem...

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Our final plan for losing life is our mana base. Along with fetch lands and shock lands, which can also help us lose life, we have eight Horizon lands, with four Horizon Canopy and four Silent Clearing. Normally, having to pay a life to make mana is a drawback, but in our deck, it's actually a pretty big upside, giving us another way to manipulate our life total down to one to pick up the Near-Death Experience win at instant speed. 

Surviving at One Life

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The nightmare scenario for Near-Death Experience is getting our namesake enchantment on the battlefield, getting ourselves all the way down to one life, and then losing to a Lava Dart or Lightning Bolt before we make it to our upkeep and win the game. As a result, finding a way to stay alive at a low life total that doesn't involve gaining life is essential to picking up the Near-Death Experience win. For this, we have two plans. The first is one of my favorite cards—Worship—backed by some hard-to-kill hexproof creatures to keep Worship active. As long as we have Worship (and a creature) on the battlefield, any amount of damage only reduces our life total to one, which is exactly where we want to be to win with Near-Death Experience. As for our hexproof creatures, Sylvan Caryatid helps us ramp into Near-Death Experience, while Thrun, the Last Troll and Sigarda, Host of Herons are extremely hard for most decks to kill, Thrun thanks to regeneration and uncounterability and Sigarda by preventing sacrifice effects. Thrun and Sigarda also give us a backup plan for winning the game without Near-Death Experience. While it isn't especially likely, it is possible that we can just curve Thrun into Sigarda and pick up the win with combat damage.

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Second, we have Leyline of Sanctity, which does double duty in our deck. Its main purpose is to make sure that we can't die to a burn spell once we get down to one life by giving us hexproof. But it also makes sure that our opponent can't take our Near-Death Experience or Worship with cards like Thoughtseize early in the game.

Other Stuff

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Last but not least, we have some interaction. Path to Exile gives us a way to deal with opposing creatures and helps us stay alive long enough to win with Near-Death Experience. Meanwhile, Mana Tithe is one of the best "gotcha" cards in Modern since no one expects a counterspell from a non-blue deck, which means even though Mana Tithe is a very soft counter, with our opponent being able to resolve their spell by paying a single mana, nobody ever plays around the first Mana Tithe, which leads to some incredible blowouts!

The Matchups

The matchups for Near-Death Experience are mostly about how good our opponent is at dealing with enchantments. Decks with a bunch of counterspells or ways to bounce or kill Near-Death Experience, Worship, and Leyline of Sanctity are tough. On the other hand, both Worship and Leyline of Sanctity are really good against some decks, buying us a ton of time to set up the Near-Death Experience kill against decks that are looking to win with burn spells or creatures that can't easily answer an enchantment.

The Odds

All in all, we went 2-3 with Near-Death Experience, giving us a 40% match win percentage, which is actually a lot better than I imagined heading into our matches. More importantly, we actually managed to win several games with Near-Death Experience (and also got some amazing Mana Tithe blowouts]]. While Near-Death Experience is certainly a janky win condition and isn't likely to show up in top-tier competitive decks any time soon, the deck was surprisingly fun to play and actually good enough to win some games every now and then!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Which "win the game" card should we build around next? Let us know by voting in next week's poll here!


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

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