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Against the Odds: PAINHarmonicon (Pioneer)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 324 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty in Pioneer poll, and Painharmonicon—Isshin, Two Heavens as One—took home a pretty easy win. As such, we're heading to Pioneer today to see what crazy shenanigans an attack-trigger version of Panharmonicon can enable in the format! How good is Isshin, Two Heavens as One in Pioneer? Which attack trigger works best with the Mardu legend? 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: PAINHarmonicon

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The Deck

Isshin, Two Heavens as One is a really interesting card to build around. While we obviously want a bunch of attack triggers to maximize its power, the deck actually has a bunch of different directions it can go. I tried a Cavalcade of Calamity build with a bunch of one-drops that drain when they attack, but it was pretty boring. I considered Slivers, but there just weren't enough with attack triggers to really make Isshin work. Eventually, I landed on a very Panharmonicon-esque build of Isshin, looking to draw cards and generate value with various attack triggers until closing out the game with one big turn full of extra combat steps, with the help of Aurelia, the Warleader and Response // Resurgence.


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Our namesake Isshin, Two Heavens as One is literally a Panharmonicon on a stick but for attack triggers rather than enters-the-battlefield triggers. While there aren't as many attack triggers in Magic as there are enters-the-battlefield triggers, there are still more than enough to make a really sweet deck, covering everything from removal to card draw to creature production to finish the game. Isshin being a creature is both a blessing and a curse. A 3/4 for three isn't bad in Pioneer, dodging some removal and being a decent body against aggro, although dying to creature removal does mean that it can be tough to get Isshin, Two Heavens as One to stick on the battlefield in some matchups. Thankfully, we usually don't need Isshin to be on the battlefield very long to win the game because, unlike traditional Panharmonicon decks that tend to durdle around forever, we need to be attacking as often as possible for Isshin, Two Heavens as One to work. Combined with some of our powerful attack triggers, this means that once Isshin comes down, our opponent either kills Isshin or dies themselves in short order.

Card Draw

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Any self-respecting Panharmonicon deck needs plenty of card draw, and PAINHarmonicon is no different. For this, we turn to Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Robber of the Rich, and Tectonic Giant, all of which draw cards in one way or another with the help of their attack trigger. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner normally makes enough mana for us to draw an extra card on our upkeep every other turn, but with Isshin doubling up its energy-producing attack trigger, we can draw with it every turn. Plus, having menace means we can usually get in an attack with it even through a blocker. Robber of the Rich draws cards from our opponent's deck in the early game, assuming we have fewer cards in hand than our opponent does. Meanwhile, Tectonic Giant is one of the best Isshin threats in our deck. When it attacks, we either get to draw one of the top two cards of our library (well, technically exile it and play it before the end of our next turn, but close enough) or deal three damage to our opponent. With an Isshin, Two Heavens as One on the battlefield, it's a four-drop that can hit for a massive nine-damage each attack (six of it hitting our opponent directly even through blockers) or generate an absurd amount of card advantage. Plus it triggers when our opponent targets it as well, so it even has a bit of removal protection built in!


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When it comes to closing out the game, we've got two big finishers. Aurelia, the Warleader is the best of the bunch, coming down with haste to give us an extra combat or, if we have Isshin, two extra combats, which usually just means our opponent dies to a huge pile of attack triggers. Meanwhile, Brutal Hordechief drains our opponent for one whenever we attack with a creature, which adds up to a pretty absurd amount of direct damage if we can build a board and stick a PAINHarmonicon. Its second ability—making the opponent block and choosing how they block—is sneakily good, although, at five mana, it doesn't come up often. Most commonly, we activate it and use it like a Lure to make all of our opponent's creatures block our worst attacker, allowing us to alpha strike with a combination of combat damage and attack triggers even through a board full of blockers.

Other Attack Triggers

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One of the hallmarks of Pioneer is 1/1 mana dorks like Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves. Volatile Arsonist is a great way to snipe them down, and once we flip it and add Isshin, Two Heavens as One to the mix, it can snipe down bigger blockers while also throwing a bunch of damage at the opponent's face. I'm not 100% sure if it's better than a boring option like Goldspan Dragon, but it's certainly more interesting. 

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Finally, Captain Lannery Storm offers a bit of ramp to help get us to finishers like Aurelia, the Warleader in a timely manner, and Brimaz, King of Oreskos gives us an above-the-curve body that can flood the board with tokens if it goes unchecked. While both are just one-ofs because we have a full playset of Isshin, Two Heavens as One in the three-drop slot, both are powerful in the right situation.


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Finally, we've got a handful of spells to support our plan. Fatal Push gets blockers out of the way so we can keep attacking and doubling triggers with Isshin. Thoughtseize protects Isshin by grabbing a removal spell from our opponent's hand. Meanwhile, Response // Resurgence is designed to do double duty in our deck, giving us another removal spell that can also give us an additional combat, although, as we learned during our league, the extra-combat side of the card seems to be bugged in Magic Online, which makes it much less useful than expected. 

The Matchups

Honestly, I'm still not 100% sure about the good and bad matchups of PAINHarmonicon. In general, the deck felt like a fairly solid midrange deck that has a chance to win in most matchups but isn't super heavily favored in any of them.

The Odds

Record-wise, we finished 3-2 in a Pioneer league with PAINHarmonicon, losing to Light-Paws Auras (a deck that we never seem to beat, no matter what we're playing) and Lotus Field (although we played against the deck twice and beat it the first time, so we know that our deck has the power to keep up with it). I actually think that Isshin, Two Heavens as One might end up fairly competitive in Pioneer! More importantly, the deck did some really sweet things! While needing to attack is an interesting twist, Isshin, Two Heavens as One definitely feels like a worthy successor to Panharmonicon. We got to see Aurelia, the Warleader steal wins, Brutal Hordechief drain opponents, tons of card draw, and more. Basically, PAINHarmonicon is really sweet in Pioneer, and it might even be good too!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Next week we're heading to Modern to play a Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty combo, but which one? Click here to vote!


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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