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Against the Odds: Polyraptor (Standard)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 122 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a second all-Standard, all-Rivals of Ixalan poll in celebration of Magic's newest set, and one of the most hyped Against the Odds cards from spoiler season finally came out on top. After narrowly losing out to Azor's Gateway last week, the enraging mythic Polyraptor crushed the competition, taking home an easy victory over Storm the Vault and Golden Guardian. As such, we are heading to Standard this week to see if we can combo off and make a bunch of Polyraptors with the help of Forerunner of the Empire to trigger enrage, perhaps even with haste thanks to Regisaur Alpha! Does Polyraptor have what it takes to compete in 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: Polyraptor (Standard)

The Deck

When Polyraptor won the poll, what we would be trying to do with the card wasn't in question. While in theory you can play Polyraptor fairly, it's pretty overcosted as an eight-mana 5/5, which means if we're playing Polyraptor, the goal is to make as many token copies of it as possible. The big question for Polyraptor is how to achieve that goal. The pieces of the puzzle are pretty simple—Forerunner of the Empire to tutor up and enrage Polyraptor and Regisaur Alpha to give the Polyraptors haste to avoid Fumigates and other sorcery-speed removal—but finding the right shell for these cards was a bit tricky. Initially, I tried an enrage-themed deck but realized that Polyraptor was actually one of the weaker cards. In a deck full of Dinosaurs and without much ramp, we typically either won or lost before we could even cast Polyraptor. Since we're trying to build a Polyraptor deck and not just a Dinosaur deck with a couple of Polyraptors, we changed things up into the shell from the videos: basically a ramp / combo deck looking to make a bunch of extra mana to cast (and hopefully win the game with) Polyraptor as quickly as possible.

The Combo

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We've talked about the combo a few times, so we won't spend too long on it here. The primary goal of our deck is to get a Forerunner of the Empire on the battlefield (potentially using it to tutor up our Polyraptor) and then resolve a Polyraptor. When Polyraptor enters the battlefield, Forerunner of the Empire pings everything, making another Polyraptor. This process repeats itself three times before the Forerunner of the Empire eventually kills itself, and the end result is that we have seven Polyraptors on the battlefield—a total of 35 power and toughness for just eight mana! If we also have Regisaur Alpha, we can immediately attack with all of our Polyraptors thanks to our Dinosaurs having haste, which would be enough to kill the opponent on the spot, especially considering that Forerunner of the Empire just killed all of our opponent's small blockers by dealing three damage to everything.

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Before talking about the rest of the deck, we need to talk about a card that isn't in our deck: Heroic Intervention. In theory, if we can make Forerunner of the Empire indestructible, we can make infinite Polyraptors. While we do have a couple of Heroic Interventions in the sideboard, it's hard to justify in the main deck. While making 100 Polyraptors is sweet, it's actually not that much different from making seven in terms of winning the game, and we'd have to cut ramp to make room for Heroic Intervention, which means our odds of having enough mana to combo at all would be lower, and even lower still after considering we'd need 10 mana (two for Heroic Intervention and eight for Polyraptor, all in the same turn) to combo off. While going indestructible with enrage could work, it's probably best in a shell featuring cheaper enrage Dinosaurs like Raptor Hatchling and Frilled Deathspitter.

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While technically part of our Hour of Promise / Desert package, Endless Sands actually plays like a combo piece much of the time. Since most of our combo pieces are expensive—often too expensive to cast all in one turn—we can tutor our Endless Sands with Hour of Promise and then play our combo pieces over the course of a few turns. If our opponent has removal to disrupt our combo, we can save our creatures with Endless Sands and then eventually dump the entire combo back into play all at once with Endless Sands' second ability to kill our opponent out of nowhere!

Ramp

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The next challenge of our deck is getting enough mana so that we can actually cast a Polyraptor, or preferably a Forerunner of the Empire and Polyraptor in the same turn to combo off. Thunderherd Migration and Gift of Paradise help us do this by giving us one extra mana, while Treasure Map eventually gives us three extra mana along with an extra land, which makes it one of our best ways to get the 12 mana we need to cast both combo pieces at once. Plus, if we don't need the Treasure-token mana, we can always turn the Treasures into cards with Treasure Cove to help find our other combo pieces.

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Hour of Promise lines up really well on our ramp curve. If we can play a Thunderherd Migration or Gift of Paradise on Turn 3, we can Hour of Promise on Turn 4, and assuming we make our land drop the next turn, we have enough mana to cast Polyraptor. We've also got a bunch of Deserts in the deck, which means we are usually getting two Zombie chump blockers as well to help slow down the opponent while we are setting up our Polyraptor kill.

Removal

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Finally, we have a bunch of removal, with Abrade to deal with early-game creatures and annoying artifacts like God-Pharaoh's GiftSweltering Suns to sweep away a board full of Merfolk or tokens, and Hour of Devastation to deal with bigger creatures and even planeswalkers. Together, these cards help us live long enough to resolve our expensive and slow combo pieces and hopefully buy us enough time to get the Polyraptor combo kill.

The Matchups

While we have some good sideboard options to improve our bad matchups, removal and counterspell-heavy control decks are by far the decks we want to play against least with our Polyraptors. Even a simple Essence Scatter can fizzle our combo, and spending all of our mana to cast a Polyraptor only to have it countered for just two mana is a huge tempo swing in our opponent's favor. The other issue in these matchups is that instant-speed removal like Vraska's Contempt or Cast Out can fizzle our combo, either by killing the Polyraptor before it takes damage from Forerunner of the Empire or by killing the Forerunner of the Empire with the Polyraptor on the stack.

On the other hand, we have a pretty reasonable shot against aggro and midrange. Our sweepers and removal give us the opportunity to stall out the game long enough to ramp into Polyraptor, as do the Zombie tokens from Hour of Promise, and these decks are most likely to be using Abrades, Fatal Pushes, and other conditional removal that isn't as good at breaking up our combo. 

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches and won three, good for a 60% match win percentage, along with winning six of 10 games, which also ended up being 60%. This makes Polyraptor slightly above average as far as Against the Odds decks are concerned. More importantly, nearly all of our wins came from the Polyraptor combo (with a couple coming from our sideboard control matchup breaker Nezahal, Primal Tide), which was almost always game-ending when we manage to pull it off. For just eight mana, 35 power and toughness is a lot, especially combined with a one-sided Sweltering Suns, and much of the time our opponents would just untap, draw a card, and then scoop after we comboed off. While the combo is fragile and might best be at its best with Polyraptor being a one-of tutor target in a Dinosaur ramp deck, even going all-in on the Polyraptor combo kill is good enough to win a reasonable number of games in Standard. Plus, most importantly, growing a huge board full of Polyraptors out of nowhere is a ton of fun!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

We've been focused on Standard for the past few weeks thanks to the release of Rivals of Ixalan, so let's shake things up for next week's episode. In celebration of the return of the Modern Pro Tour, which of these Rivals of Ixalan options should we play in Modern next week? 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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Possibility Storm: Rivals of Ixalan #4


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