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Against the Odds: Nissa Tribal (Modern, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 173 of Against the Odds. Last week, we returned to one of the most popular Against the Odds themes with a planeswalker-tribal poll, and in the end, Nissa was an easy winner. As a result, we're heading to Modern today to play a deck that's overflowing with planeswalker Nissas! What's the best way to take advantage of Nissa's power? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Nissa Tribal (Modern)

The Deck

The main challenge of building a planeswalker tribal deck is figuring out what the various versions of a planeswalker have in common. Sometimes it's easy (like with Gideon, which just cares about more Gideons, or Sarkhan, which cares about Dragons), and sometimes it's a bit more challenging. Nissa is on the more challenging side of the planeswalker tribal scale, since there isn't a really solid theme between Nissas. The closest was have is that several Nissas allow us to untap our own lands, and all Nissas can function as fast win conditions (primarily by turning lands into fairly large creatures, either permanently or for one turn), which helps to form the foundation of our Nissa Tribal deck.

The Nissas

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All in all, we have five different Nissas in our deck (every non-planeswalker deck Nissa except for the original Nissa Revane, which needs a full-on Elf tribal deck to do anything at all). Nissa, Vastwood Seer and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar are sort of our filler Nissas. While both are fine cards in our deck, they don't really work as well with our theme as the rest of our Nissas. Nissa, Vastwood Seer helps to make sure we hit our land drops so that we can cast our many five-mana Nissas and occasionally flips around into a card-advantage-generating planeswalker. Meanwhile, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is a good defensive planeswalker, often coming down on Turn 2 with the help of cards like Arbor Elf and Birds of Paradise, making a steady stream of chump-blocking Plants, and working toward an ultimate that draws us a bunch of cards.

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Nissa, Steward of Elements is one of the foundational Nissas of Nissa Tribal. She comes down early with the help of our mana dorks, scries to help us set up our future draws (which is pretty important to the theme of our deck, which you'll see in a minute), and can even ramp us into our five-mana Nissas by putting lands from the top of our deck onto the battlefield. The other huge upside of Nissa, Steward of Elements is that she sometimes just steals games all by herself, if we get up to eight mana and cast cast and ultimate her in the same turn to send 10 damage of flying land creatures at our opponent's face!

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At the top end of our Nissa curve are our two land-untapping Nissas: Nissa, Vital Force and Nissa, Worldwaker. Apart from untapping our lands, both of these Nissas offer some massive upside. Nissa, Vital Force ultimates in just a single turn for an emblem that is pretty much our own personal Howling Mine, which is incredibly powerful in slower, grindier matchups while also turning lands into 5/5 hasty beaters. Meanwhile, Nissa, Worldwaker can generate a ton of mana by untapping four Forests while permanently animating lands into 4/4s. These Nissas work as both combo enablers and also finishers, as our only realistic way to win the game is to beat down with lands that our various Nissas turn into creatures.

The Turns

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So, how do we take advantage of a bunch of scrying, land-untapping planeswalkers? Cheap extra-turn spells, of course! Extra turns are naturally powerful with planeswalkers, since they give us extra planeswalker activations, but Nissas specifically work really well with two extra-turn spells: Savor the Moment and Temporal Mastery. Let's start with Temporal Mastery, since it's the easier of the two turn spells to break down: Nissa, Steward of Elements allows us to scry it to the top of our deck and play it for just two mana, making it an actual Time Walk, while the land untapping of Nissa, Worldwaker and Nissa, Vital Force helps us ramp into the sorcery if we need to cast it naturally from our hand. Speaking of land untapping, Nissa, Worldwaker and Nissa, Vital Force make Savor the Moment great in our deck. Normally, taking an extra turn without untapping isn't all that valuable, but thanks to Nissa, Worldwaker untapping four lands and Nissa, Vital Force untapping one land (potentially one that taps for multiple mana thanks to Utopia Sprawl), Savor the Moment is pretty close to a "real" three-mana extra-turn spell!

The combination of our Nissas and our extra-turn spells allows us to essentially combo off by taking several turns in a row while winning the game by beating down with various animated lands or by using our extra turns to push Nissa, Steward of Elements up to six loyalty, to ultimate for 10 damage in the air!

Ramp

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Our mana dorks are pretty simple: they allow us to play our Nissas faster. Outside of comboing off with extra-turn spells, one of the most powerful things Nissa Tribal can do is play a planeswalker like Nissa, Steward of Elements or Nissa, Voice of Zendikar on Turn 2 followed by one of our more expensive Nissas on Turn 3 or 4. The combination of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl generates a ton of extra mana, while Birds of Paradise gives us a nice one-of backup mana dork to facilitate our Turn 2 Nissa plan.

Other Stuff

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Rounding out our deck are Serum Visions to set thing up in the early game (and also help put Temporal Mastery on the top of our deck) and Assassin's Trophy for removal. While Assassin's Trophy comes with the drawback of giving our opponent a land, which can be painful in some matchups, Nissa Tribal can't afford to waste too many slots on removal, so having one spell that can kill everything from a Jace or Teferi to a Tron land, Tarmogoyf, or Ensnaring Bridge is a huge deal and helps to make up for the games where we incidentally ramp our opponent into one of their finishers a turn early. 

The Matchups

I really have no idea what to make of the matchups for Nissa Tribal. On paper, fast combo and aggro seem like the hardest matchups, although we did manage to take down Burn. On the other hand, Nissa Tribal seems great against slower control and midrange decks, where our planeswalkers have time to sit out on the battlefield for multiple turns and generate value, although we did lose a tough three-game match to Jund. All in all, Nissa Tribal felt like a deck that was surprisingly close to 50 / 50 in a lot of matchups, with a lot of our matches being close, whether we ended up winning or losing in the end.

The Odds

The odds are slightly complicated this week. Technically, we went 4-2 in matches (good for a 66.7% match win percentage) along with winning 10 of 16 games (good for just over a 62% game win percentage), although there was actually another match against Tron where we lost in three games. But my headset was muted, so I couldn't use the video, which drops our total record slightly. Regardless, Nissa Tribal performed really well and was probably the best planeswalker tribal deck for getting a bunch of planeswalkers on the battlefield at one time. It seemed like we constantly had at least three Nissas, and sometimes even four! The plan of using extra-turn spells to get more Nissa activations worked really well. While we did have some games where Savor the Moment was stuck in our hand (it's pretty bad if we don't have any planeswalkers on the battlefield), the risky extra-turn spell more than made up for it by facilitating some sweet combo games where we'd go from having almost nothing to a board full of Nissas while taking a bunch of turns in a row! All in all, Nissa Tribal felt solid, was a ton of fun to play, and managed to be surprisingly competitive as well!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week. Next week, we'll end Ravnica Allegiance Standard with a special episode. Don't worry, the poll will return next week and will be overflowing with sweet new Ravnica Allegiance options!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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