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Against the Odds: Near-Death Karma

Hello everyone and welcome to episode nineteen of Against the Odds. As you know, we didn't have a poll last week because I wanted to do a special edition. Well, things didn't exactly go as planned. My initial idea was to play a deck with 200 Shadowborn Apostle, Rune-Scarred Demon, and Battle of Wits which came up in the comments section of a previous Against the Odds, but I quickly realized this wasn't practical. For one thing, obtaining 200 copies of Shadowborn Apostle ended up being trickier than I thought, plus I tested a smaller (60 card) build of the deck and realized we would never win a game. So I scrapped the idea. Thankfully, there's always another crazy combo to brew, and I'm pretty happy where this week's Near-Death Experience/Karma deck ended up!

We'll talk more about Near-Death Karma in a minute. First let's get to the videos. A quick reminder. If you enjoy Against the Odds and other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Against the Odds: Near-Death Karma Intro

Against the Odds: Near-Death Karma Games

The Deck

Basically we are a convoluted combo deck. While we require several pieces to truly "combo off," the good news is that even with just some of the pieces we can cobble together a way of winning the game. 

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The centerpiece of the deck is Near-Death Experience, which is a strange card. Ninety-nine percent of the time is it quite literally a five-mana do nothing enchantment. The other one percent of the time it does everything (i.e. wins us the game). Obviously, to win the game with Near-Death Experience we need two things to happen. First, we have to be at exactly one life, and second, we need to live until our upkeep, which is challenging at one life since we die to a stiff breeze. Thankfully, we have an old favorite that is really good at keeping us at exactly one life. 

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The way Worship is worded, it is basically a one card (well, two cards, since you need a creature on the battlefield) combo with Near-Death Experience. As long as we have a creature, like Calcite Snapper or Wall of Denial, which are really difficult to kill apart from a Supreme Verdict or Wrath of God, Worship makes sure that no matter how much damage we take, our life total will remain at one. In theory, we can assumable our combo and wait for our opponent to attack our life total down to one. The problem is, a savvy opponent will just stop attacking once they realize what is going on, so we can't really count on our opponent getting our life total all the way down to one. Thankfully, we have a couple solutions to this problem.

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First of all we have Bitterblossom, which works well with both parts of our combo. Not only does it continually make creatures for Worship, but it also drains our life total. Over the course of a few turns we can use it to get our life total to exactly one and win the game with Near-Death Experience. Just be warned, Bitterblossom doesn't deal damage. It causes us to lose life meaning Worship will not protect us from dying to our own Bitterblossom. If we are at one life and have both Bitterblossom and Near-Death Experience on the battlefield, we need to stack our triggers properly. We want Near-Death Experience's "you win the game" trigger to resolves first, or else we'll die to our Bitterblossom before Near-Death Experience wins us the game. 

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Our second combo is Karma and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, which together makes each player takes one damage for each land they control on their upkeep. The key thing here is that Karma deals damage, so with Worship and a creature we'll never go below one life, no matter how much damage Karma deals. Over the course of a couple of turns Karma will get us to exactly one life, at which point we can win the game with Near-Death Experience. Even if we don't have a Near-Death Experience, just Karma and Worship should be enough to win us the game, since our opponent will die from Karma

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While it might seem odd to have a section devoted lands in an Against the Odds article, I wanted to point out that we play eight fetches and seven shocks, and this combination is really helpful in draining our life total. There are definitely times where we will fetch for an untapped shock, not because we need the mana right away, but because we want to lose three life, getting us closer to our goal of triggering Near-Death Experience. If you decide to play the deck, keep the life-draining potential of the manabase in mind.

The Matchups

Considering the main combo of our deck involves two four-mana enchantments and a five-mana enchantment, we want to avoid decks playing things like Dromoka's Command, Destructive Revelry, and Maelstrom Pulse. Cheap counters can be an annoyance, since getting a Near-Death Experience hit by Remand is a huge tempo swing. At first I thought targeted discard would be a problem, but there are more Inquisition of Kozileks than Thoughtseizes at the moment, and we don't mind discarding our low-CMC cards, so it's really not a big deal. 

The good new is Worship plus a high-toughness shroud creature can beat some decks on its own, just like it did when we played Troll Worship on Budget Magic. Assuming we resolve our enchantments, Near-Death Experience and Karma can steal wins against any deck in the format. Winning with Near-Death Karma isn't so much about what our opponent is doing — we can beat anyone — it's about whether or not we can assemble the necessary pieces in time.

The Odds

Amazingly, the odds with the deck weren't that bad. We ended up one game short of winning 50% of our games, and we took two of our matches. While things didn't always go according to plan, we only won once with the Near-Death Experience trigger, we do have several cards that can just win the game on their own. We already talked about Worship, which can randomly lock down creature-based decks, but sometimes just slamming a Bitterblossom on turn two is good enough to win a game. We also had a situation where our Amulet Bloom opponent got so many lands on the battlefield that drawing a Karma would have been a one-shot kill. Basically, the deck is good at playing defense and plays some strange but powerful and hard to interact with threats. While the way we win games varies wildly, the deck wins way more often than it should when I started playing it.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestion in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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