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Against the Odds: Ob Nixilis Dream Combo (Standard)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 230 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an Against the Odds poll featuring some of the less broken planeswalkers from War of the Spark, and in the end, Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted came out on top over The Wanderer. As a result, we're heading to Theros: Beyond Death Standard today to do something that goes against everything I believe about Magic. Rather than drawing cards ourselves, we're forcing our opponent to draw cards in the hopes that Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted and Underworld Dreams can kill our opponent. Can the plan work? What are the odds of winning with Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted in Standard? 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: Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted

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The Deck

Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted is a weird card to build around. While it clearly wants us to make our opponent draw cards to maximize the amount of damage it can deal, figuring out the best way to make the opponent draw cards was actually pretty tricky. Before focusing in on Emergency Powers, I tried a mostly black devotion build that played cards like Stormfist Crusader and Foreboding Fruit but ended up scrapping it because if we won, it was usually because we cast Gray Merchant of Asphodel and not Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted (although Underworld Dreams is a nice way to up your devotion to black). I toyed around with a Nessian Boar / Clackbridge Troll deck, but it was really, really bad, mostly because all of our key cards cost five mana (and aren't very good), so we mostly would just die before doing anything. Eventually, I circled back around to Emergency Powers, which is the perfect way to win the game with Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted and Underworld Dreams by forcing our opponent to draw seven cards for just seven mana!

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The core of our deck is Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted and Underworld Dreams (which is basically the enchantment version of Ob Nixilis). Both cards ping our opponent for one damage whenever they draw a card. The big upside of adding Underworld Dreams to our Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted deck is redundancy. With just Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted on the battlefield, even our most powerful combo piece—Emergency Powers—only deals seven damage, but if we can have both Underworld Dreams and Ob Nixilis on the battlefield, then just a single Emergency Powers should be enough to win the game by pinging our opponent for 14! 

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You might remember this package from our Smothering Tentacles Against the Odds a few weeks ago. Emergency Powers is the best combo piece in Standard for winning with Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted. It's actually surprisingly hard to make your opponent draw cards in our current Standard format, but Emergency Powers can force our opponent to draw seven while also refueling our hand and potentially allowing us to put another Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted or Underworld Dreams into play for free, if we cast it at sorcery speed (although being an instant is nice since we can combo at instant speed to get around counterspells). Meanwhile, Smothering Tithe essentially makes our Emergency Powers free since (assuming our opponent is tapped down) we get back seven Treasure tokens when Emergency Powers resolves and our opponent draws seven cards. This allows us to cast another copy of Emergency Powers if we happen to draw into it, and two Emergency Powers with Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted should almost always be enough to close out the game

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Our backup plan for making our opponent draw cards involves Folio of Fancies or Kenrith, the Returned King. Folio of Fancies offers some upside since it is repeatable—once we get Ob Nixilis and Underworld Dreams onto the battlefield, we can spend all of our mana every turn forcing each player to draw a bunch of cards and (hopefully) burning our opponent out of the game in short order with Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted and Underworld Dreams triggers. The only drawback is that paying double X to draw a single card is expensive, so it usually takes a few turns of activations to actually get our opponent to zero life. Meanwhile, Kenrith, the Returned King can force our opponent to draw a card for four mana, which is also a lot of mana, although being able to gain life against aggro to help us stabilize helps make up for the high cost of the card-draw ability.

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The rest of our deck is designed to help find our combo pieces and keep Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted on the battlefield long enough to get to seven mana and resolve Emergency Powers. Thought Erasure picks apart our opponent's hand. Omen of the Sea offers some filtering to find Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted, Underworld Dreams, and eventually Emergency Powers while cards like Banishing Light, Oath of Kaya, and Shatter the Sky help us keep the board clean of threats and make sure Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted's loyalty remains high while we are setting up our combo kill.

The Matchups

Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted is a weird deck to figure out, matchup-wise. In all honesty, I'm not sure we are heavily favored (or maybe favored at all) in any specific matchup, but we have a reasonable chance of beating most decks in the format since our combo kill is quite powerful. Against aggro decks like Mono-Red, it mostly depends on the specific draw—we don't have a ton of instant-speed interaction, so it's possible we might get janked out by Embercleave—but we do have sweepers and removal to keep our opponent's board in check. Against control, the biggest upside of our combo is that we can Emergency Powers at instant speed to play around counterspells, but if our opponent has Teferi, Time Raveler, this advantage goes away. Overall, midrange is probably our best matchup since our opponent's deck likely won't be fast enough to kill us before we get to play our combo pieces or disruptive enough to keep us from ever resolving Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted and Emergency Powers. Overall, I think that we are probably slightly unfavored in most popular matchups, but the deck is good enough that if we get a decent draw, we have a chance of beating basically anything in the format.

The Odds

All in all, we finished 2-3 with Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted, although we were generally competitive even in our losses. While the deck is pretty janky, it is surprisingly good at killing opponents if we can get an Underworld Dreams and an Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted on the battlefield. As for Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted itself, it would be really nice it if weren't legendary. If there is one thing that we learned while playing the deck, it's that one copy of Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted or Underworld Dreams doesn't really do all that much; it's when we can get two or three on the battlefield together that the damage really starts to pile up. Still, we had some spectacular wins with the deck, and Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted's ability to force our opponent to draw two cards by killing one of their creatures was essential to forcing through the last few points of damage in a lot of matchups.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Out of the seven Gods from Theros: Beyond Death only two have really made a mark in non-Standard formats (Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Klothys, God of Destiny). It's about time that the forgotten Gods get a chance to shine in an eternal format. Which of the lesser Gods should we build around in Modern next week? Let us know by voting below!

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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



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