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Against the Odds: Nine Lives Lock (Historic)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 253 of Against the Odds. Last week, we didn't have an Against the Odds poll, which means we have a special episode today! Ever since Nine Lives was spoiled, I've been wanting to find a way to lock people out of the game with it in conjunction with Solemnity. We tried the combo in Pioneer on stream but didn't have much success. But now, thanks to Amonkhet Remastered, we have Solemnity in Historic! What are the odds of winning (by never dying) thanks to the combo of Solemnity and Nine Lives in Historic? 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: Nine Lives Lock

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The Deck

While the main focus of Nine Lives Lock was pretty obvious—getting Nine Lives and Solemnity on the battlefield at the same time to lock damage out of the game—figuring out exactly how to build around the lock is tricky. In theory, the lock could show up in just about any style of deck, assuming we have white mana to cast our key cards. However, our deck today leans into the card type of both Nine Lives and Solemnity—enchantments—with the rest of our deck being an Enchantress-style shell with enchantment-based ramp, removal, and card draw!

The Lock

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The heart of our deck is the combo of Nine Lives and Solemnity. The main idea is that Nine Lives makes it so that if we are dealt damage, instead of actually taking the damage, it is prevented, and an incarnation counter is added to Nine Lives. The problem is that once Nine Lives gets nine counters, it exiles itself, and we lose the game when Nine Lives leaves the battlefield. This is where Solemnity and its power to prevent counters come into play. With a Solemnity on the battlefield alongside Nine Lives, we still get the damage-prevention benefit of Nine Lives, but it never gets incarnation counters, which means as long as we can keep both enchantments on the battlefield, we can't lose the game to damage. This often leads to our opponent scooping up their cards, knowing that they can never win, but we do have a plan if we need to actually get our opponent's life total down to zero...

The Finisher

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If we have to kill our opponent, our main plan is to make a bunch of 4/4 Angels by casting enchantments like Nine Lives and Solemnity with a Sigil of the Empty Throne on the battlefield. Thanks to our deck having a bunch of cheap enchantments, if we can untap with a Sigil of the Empty Throne on the battlefield, we can usually make at least two (and sometimes many more) Angels each turn, which will quickly end the game.

Card Draw

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To be able to lock our opponent out of the game with Nine Lives and Solemnity, we need to draw Nine Lives and Solemnity. For this, we turn to two enchantress effects in Setessan Champion and Enchantress's Presence, both of which draw us an extra card whenever we play an enchantment. This not only helps us to find our lock pieces but also makes sure that we have a hand full of removal to keep our opponent at bay and eventually draw into our Sigil of the Empty Throne if our opponent isn't nice enough to concede to our lock. While it is awkward that Setessan Champion doesn't get counters with Solemnity on the battlefield, its primary purpose is to draw us extra cards, not to grow into a huge threat.

Ramp

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Starfield Mystic and Wolfwillow Haven allow us to have big, explosive turns where we cast a bunch of enchantments, draw a bunch of cards with Enchantress's Presence and Setessan Champion, find our Nine Lives and Solemnity, and lock up the game. Starfield Mystic also gives us an early-game blocker for aggro, while Wolfwillow Haven has the upside of being an enchantment to make an Angel with Sigil of the Empty Throne and draw cards with Setessan Champion and Enchantress's Presence

Removal

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Finally, we have a bunch of enchantment-based removal to help stabilize the battlefield while we are getting our hard-lock set up, while also drawing us cards with our enchantresses and later making Angels with Sigil of the Empty Throne. Gideon's Intervention is the most unique of our removal spells and is in our deck for one reason: to keep our opponent from casting cards that could kill Nine Lives. While hexproof helps to keep Nine Lives safe, we lose the game if it ever leaves the battlefield for any reason. Gideon's Intervention can name things like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Planar Cleansing that would not only wreck our board full of enchantments but also potentially cause us to lose on the spot if we have Nine Lives.

The Matchups

The two big concerns for Nine Lives Lock, matchup-wise, are whether our opponent is trying to win with damage and what ways they have of answering Nine Lives and our other enchantments. Thankfully, most decks in Historic are looking to win by beating down with creatures in one way or another, and the Nine Lives lock is great in those matchups. That said, things get worse against control decks that can win by tucking Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or decks that can drain away our life total with cards like Bolas's Citadel. Secondarily, some decks can answer Nine Lives itself with cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Ratchet Bomb, or Blast Zone. While Gideon's Intervention and Sorcerous Spyglass help to answer these potential answers, we'd still rather play against decks that don't have a way to deal with a hexproof enchantment. Basically, creature-based aggro and midrange decks are great matchups. Control decks are worse but still winnable thanks to Setessan Champion and Enchantress's Presence allowing us to outdraw our opponent, while decks that are playing Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or other weird answers to Nine Lives itself aren't great matchups for Nine Lives Lock.

The Odds

We ended up going 5-0 with Nine Lives Lock, with a small asterisk: I originally recorded the episode before Monday's surprise banned-and-restricted announcement, which included a match against the now-banned Field of the Dead deck, which we lost. I ended up recording a replacement match since Field of the Dead isn't a part of the format anymore. So technically, we went 5-1 with the deck, although I'm not sure the one loss really counts at this point.

While our deck felt good in general, the Nine Lives / Solemnity lock was responsible for most of our wins. While there are some bad matchups, in general, the lock is pretty absurd in the Historic format and caused a lot of opponents to scoop the game once they realized they could never deal with it or kill us. The enchantress shell is a good way to support it, but the lock itself is strong enough that it should probably be explored in other shells. Historic players aren't used to dealing with jank-'em-out prison-style decks, and Nine Lives / Solemnity seems like a really good way to catch people by surprise and pick up free wins!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Next week we return to a classic Against the Odds sub-series: planeswalker tribal! What planeswalker should we build around in Modern? Click here to vote.

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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