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Against the Odds: Persistent Petitioners (Standard, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 175 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our first all-Ravnica Allegiance Against the Odds poll, and while it was a tight battle, in the end, it was Persistent Petitioners sneaking out a victory over Captive Audience. As such, we're heading to Ravnica Allegiance Standard this week to play a deck overflowing with 20 copies of Persistent Petitioners, with a couple of sneaky ways to add even more copies of the two-drop to our deck. Is playing a ton of Persistent Petitioners to mill the opponent out of the game a legitimate plan in Ravnica Allegiance Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Persistent Petitioners (Standard)

The Deck

Against the Odds is weird. Sometimes, when a card wins the voting, I know almost immediately what direction the deck is headed. Other times, it takes endless builds to get something even halfway functional. Persistent Petitioners is in a class all its own, in terms of how much work it took to build the deck. Before finally recording the videos, I played around 15 different Persistent Petitioners decks—some with many Petitioners, some with only a few, some with High Alert to beat down, some with Arcane Adaptation to turn our other creatures into Advisors, some controlling with a ton of counterspells, some more combo-ishly aggressive with untap effects. And I'm not sure I won a single game along the way. Persistent Petitioners is a super-hard card to build around, and even after 15 tries, I'm nowhere near sure that we got it right. 

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One thing that's certain is that Persistent Petitioners is a mill deck. Traditionally, one of the biggest problems with mill decks is that they don't really do anything (as you mill your opponent) until they do everything (when you win the game by milling all of your opponent's cards). If your opponent has 50 cards in their deck, milling 49 isn't really any different from milling zero. It's the 50th that counts. 

In some ways, Persistent Petitioners doubles down on this problem. If we have four Persistent Petitioners on the battlefield, they are great, milling our opponent completely out of the game in just a few turns, but if we're short just a single Petitioner, we're left with a bunch of 1/3s that aren't great at attacking or blocking and mill the opponent at the absurdly slow rate of one card for one mana. As such, the main challenge of winning with Persistent Petitioners is getting four copies of the card on the battlefield at the same time and hopefully keeping them there for two or three turns, which should allow us to mill our opponent out of the game.

So, how do we get four Persistent Petitioners on the battlefield together? The first way is by playing a ton of Persistent Petitioners—20 in total—which means we're pretty likely to draw four or more copies by Turn 4. We've also got a trick to add even more copies of Persistent Petitioners to the battlefield:

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Quasiduplicate works really well with Persistent Petitioners since it's essentially two Persistent Petitioners in one card. With 20 Petitioners in our deck, we should always have at least one on the battlefield, and then we can copy it with Quasiduplicate and then jump-start Quasiduplicate to copy our Persistent Petitioners a second time. One of the challenges of building a Persistent Petitioners deck is finding a way to include as many copies of Persistent Petitioners as possible while still having room for other cards. In some sense, Quasiduplicate gives us 28 copies of Persistent Petitioners in our deck, but these 28 copies only use 24 card slots, giving us four "extra" slots to use for utility spells and other mill.

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Drowned Secrets and Wall of Lost Thoughts give us some backup mill. Drowned Secrets works especially well with Persistent Petitioners, since every time we cast a copy, we're getting a "mill two cards" kicker, which helps to decrease the numbers of Petitioner activations we need to empty our opponent's entire library. Meanwhile, Wall of Lost Thoughts mills four cards right away, which makes it a good way to get the last few cards out of our opponent's deck while also giving us a way to mill up to 12 cards, with the help of Quasiduplicate copying it. 

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While we don't have a ton of room for defense in our deck, we do manage to sneak in a couple of options. Deputy of Detention is important for two reasons. First, it works with Quasiduplicate to give us extra removal. Second, and more importantly, it can answer any permanent and gives us a main-deck answer to Ixalan's Binding, which is basically unbeatable if it manages to exile a Persistent Petitioners. Meanwhile, Thought Collapse gives us a counterspell that also supports our mill plan. Its main purpose is to protect our Persistent Petitioners, although it can also help to slow our opponent down and keep powerful answers like Kaya's Wrath, Deafening Clarion, and Ixalan's Binding from wrecking our plans. 

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And this is basically our deck: our main goal is to get four Persistent Petitioners on the battlefield as quickly as possible and hopefully mill our opponent out before they manage to draw a sweeper or just kill us outright. The one other thing worth mentioning is the mana. You probably noticed that we're playing a bunch of black mana, even though we don't have any black spells in our main deck. This is because Unmoored Ego is super important to making Persistent Petitioners work against Nexus of Fate decks. Since Nexus of Fate is shuffled back into our opponent's library when it gets milled, it pretty much ruins our plan all by itself, without our opponent ever casting it. Unmoored Ego allows us to exile all copies, giving us at least some chance of being decks like Turbo Fog in games two and three.

The Matchups

Persistent Petitioners is uniquely situated to be bad against just about everything. Against aggressive decks like Mono-Red, our plan is typically just too slow to kill our opponent before they burn us out with a bunch of Skewer the Critics and Lightning Strikes. We have a chance against midrange, but once our opponent starts playing big creatures, it's hard for our deck to keep up, since blocking with our Persistent Petitioners makes it hard to keep four on the battlefield to mill out our opponent. Finally, control tends to play a bunch of removal and sweepers, so while we live for a long time, it's unlikely we will get to keep four copies of Petitioners on the battlefield, which makes our milling plan really slow. All this is to say, Persistent Petitioners is one of those Against the Odds decks that doesn't really have good matchups. Instead, it's hoping for a good draw (and that the opponent has a below-average draw)—when that happens, we can steal a game (and if we're lucky, even a match) against just about anyone.

The Odds

Discounting the match where our Esper Control opponent scooped the match early (which I still insist should count!), we played five matches with Persistent Petitioners and won just one, giving us a 20% match win percentage, while winning four of 12 games, good for a slightly better 33.3% game win percentage, which makes Persistent Petitioners significantly below average for an Against the Odds deck. The good news is we came tantalizingly close in a bunch of other games, getting our opponent down to around 10 cards left in their deck before we died, although close isn't good enough for a mill deck. As for Persistent Petitioners themselves, the main problem is getting four on the battlefield at once. Savvy opponents would let us resolve two or three copies but then fight hard to make sure that we didn't get a fourth to stick on the battlefield, which made our milling plan really slow. On the other hand, we did get to see the power of persistence in our last match, where we were able to turbo-mill out the Gate deck that couldn't find their Gates Ablaze. All in all, Persistent Petitioners weren't especially good or competitive, but they were on flavor: it takes a lot of persistence to win with the deck, but if you keep trying sooner or later, that persistence will pay off!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Ravnica Allegiance is still fresh, so let's play another sweet new card in Standard next week. Which of these cards should we build around? Let us know by voting below!

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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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