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Against the Odds: Phyrexian Unlife (Historic)

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Against the Odds! Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Wilds of Eldraine is the Enchanted Tales adding a bunch of powerful new enchantments to Magic Arena. As such, we're heading to Historic today to play a deck built around two new combos brought to us by Enchanted Tales. The first is Phyrexian Unlife lock. You might remember that a while ago, we taught Arena Zoomers about hard locks and Chalices, and one of our main hard locks was Solemnity with Nine Lives. Phyrexian Unlife does basically the same thing as Nine Lives in the lock, except without the downside of losing the game if the opponent manages to get our lock piece off the battlefield. Our second combo is Sanguine Bond with Exquisite Blood, which offers infinite damage and lifegain if we can get both pieces on the battlefield and fits naturally with our deck's enchantment theme! How many free wins can we get with the Unlife lock? What are the odds of finishing the game with infinite damage from Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood? Let's find out on today's Against the Odds!

Against the Odds: Unlife Lock

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The Deck

Overall, our deck is an enchantress deck overflowing with enchantment synergies, but our primary goal is to set up two different combos: one to lock our opponent out of the game and another to actually win the game.

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Combo number one is Phyrexian Unlife with Solemnity, which works much like the Nine Lives Solemnity lock we played in the past except without the risk of randomly losing the game to an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Farewell removing our Nine Lives. The basic idea is that Phyrexian Unlife makes it so we don't lose the game for having zero life. Instead, all of the damage we take turns into poison counters, while Solemnity keeps us from getting any counters, which basically means we can't die to damage for as long as the lock remains on the battlefield. 

Even apart from the lock, one thing I realized while working on this deck is that Solemnity is hilariously effective at the moment. It stops The One Ring by keeping it from getting burden counters, Orcish Bowmasters can't amass an army because it requires +1/+1 counters, and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and other sagas won't work because they can't get lore counters. Oddly, in most matchups, Solemnity does something to annoy our opponent even by itself, and then we get the additional upside of randomly just winning the game on Turn 3 or 4 since some opponents can't beat the lock.

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Combo number two is a Commander classic brought to Arena for the first time with Wilds of Eldraine: Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood. Sanguine Bond makes it so that if our opponent loses life, we gain that much life, while Exquisite Blood says that when we gain life, our opponent loses that much life. We'll start an infinite loop if we can get both on the battlefield together and either gain a life or have our opponent lose a life, with Sanguine Bond triggering Exquisite Blood, which will trigger Bond, which will trigger Blood. This will keep happening until our opponent runs out of life!

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There is one drawback to the Exquisite Blood Sanguine Bond combo: just getting both combo pieces on the battlefield won't win us the game—we need to gain life or have our opponent lose life to start the game-ending loop. Thankfully, we have the perfect way to start the combo in Sythis, Harvest's Hand. While we're playing the two-drop as an enchantress (alongside Enchantress's Presence) to draw us cards and find our combo pieces, Sythis also gains us a life whenever we cast an enchantment, which just so happens to trigger Sanguine Bond and start our infinite life-loss loop to close out the game!

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As far as the rest of the deck, we have some ramp in Utopia Sprawl and Sanctum Weaver and removal in Leyline Binding. But the one card I wanted to mention individually is Leyline of Sanctity. Thanks to the power of Orcish Bowmasters, Sheoldred, and The One Ring, there are a ton of black-based [[Thoughtseize] decks in Historic at the moment, and Leyline of Sanctity is great against them, giving us hexproof so our opponent can't target us with discard. Initially, I had the enchantment in the sideboard, but I was bringing it in so often that I ended up moving it to the main deck, and it has been great!

The Matchups

As far as matchups are concerned, we're mostly hoping to run into decks that are looking to win with damage. Our Phyrexian Unlife lock doesn't really do anything if our opponent is winning with planeswalkers, mill, or other alt-win conditions. Otherwise, we're mostly hoping to avoid decks with mass enchantment destruction, like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Farewell, which can remove all of our combo pieces at once.

The Odds

Record-wise, we finished 4-3 with Unlife Lock, which is a solid enough record at Diamond on Magic Arena. Throughout our matches, we got to see the power of both of our combos. We got some free wins with Phyrexian Unlife and Solemnity, while Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond were a surprisingly effective way to close out the game. By far my favorite part of the deck is how many opponents accidentally started our infinite-drain loop themselves. We had two games where we assembled the combo but didn't have a way to gain life (or to have our opponent lose life) to start the loop, only for the opponent to use a painland or use some other card that costs them life to start our loop and lose the game on the spot! If you like drawing lots of cards, janky win conditions, and enchantress-style decks, Unlife Lock seems like a solid and spicy option for Historic that lines up oddly well with some of the best decks in the format, thanks to Leyline of Sanctity and Solemnity's power to wreck some of the strongest cards in the Historic format!


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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