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Against the Odds: Primal Surge (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 145 of Against the Odds. Last week we didn't have an episode of Against the Odds (or a poll) thanks to #GPVegas, but today's we're back with a special episode! If you're a fan of the Against the Odds poll, don't worry, it's at the end of the article, so make sure to vote for next week's deck! Anyway, today we're heading to Modern to play a deck built around a card I've been wanting to play for a long, long time: Primal Surge. While the sorcery costs about a million mana, it also offers instant-win potential, assuming we build our deck around it. How do you go about building a Primal Surge combo deck for Modern and what are the odds of actually winning with Primal Surge in the fast and powerful format? Let's get to the video and find out, then we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Primal Surge (Modern)

The Deck

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Primal Surge is an interesting card to build around. At ten mana it takes a lot of effort just to cast the card, and that's not even considering that the card itself is basically one, massive deck building restriction. If we can build our deck with just a single copy of Primal Surge as the only non-permanent in the entire deck Primal Surge allows us to dump literally our entire library onto the battlefield when it resolves. Then it's pretty easy to insert a couple of combo cards that allow us to win as Primal Surge resolves (but more on this in a minute). On the other hand, the restriction of playing no instants or sorceries makes deck building a bit strange and necessitates some odd choices. To make Primal Surge work, we basically need to meet three criteria. First, we need to find our single copy of Primal Surge, but without the help of spell-based tutors. Second, we need to be able to ramp into a 10 mana spell fast enough that our deck has a chance to compete in Modern. Third, we need to have some sort of combo to make sure that we win the game when we resolve Primal Surge. Otherwise, we can fill in the gaps with some one-ofs that help solve specific fringe problems.

Finding Primal Surge

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When it comes to finding our single copy of Primal Surge, apart from drawing it naturally, we have two tutors, both of which look pretty strange in Modern. Liliana Vess comes down, allows us to tutor Primal Surge to the top of our deck with her -2 and then hopefully win the following turn, while also giving us the ability to pressure our opponent's hand to get rid of counterspells with her +1. Meanwhile, Rune-Scar Demon is basically a Demonic Tutor but on a seven mana 6/6 flying body. While it's great for tutoring up Primal Surge, it also gives us a backup plan for winning the game by beating down. Most Modern decks aren't very well prepared to deal with a random 6/6 flier.

Ramping Into Primal Surge

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Primeval Titan is the best ramp spell in our deck, coming down as early as turn three with the help of some of our other ramp spell and quickly getting us to the ten mana needed to cast Primal Surge by tutoring out two lands each turn. On turn one, Primeval Titan takes us from six mana up to eight mana with its enters the battlefield trigger, then on the next turn it gets us up to ten mana when it attacks, which is exactly enough to cast a Primal Surge. Along with ramping us into Primal Surge, Primeval Titan can tutor up some interesting one-of lands to help support our plan. Boseju, Who Shelters All helps make sure that a Stubborn Denial or Remand doesn't ruin our Primal Surge plan by countering our namesake sorcery, while Kessig Wolf Run gives us a backup plan for winning the game if Surging is impossible for some reason.

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The combo of Arbor Elf and ramp enchantments like Utopia Sprawl and especially Overgrowth is our best way of ramping in the early game. Since we've played this package before we won't spend too much time talking about it, but I will say that Utopia Sprawl is nice since it fixes our colors. Meanwhile,Overgrowth is by far the most explosive ramp spell in our deck. If we have an Arbor Elf on turn one, we can play Overgrowth on turn two and untap on turn three with a massive even mana, enough to cast a Primal Titan or Rune-Scar Demon to set up a kill as early as turn four or five!

Winning with Primal Surge

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When it comes to comboing off and winning the game with Primal Surge, the main goal is two-fold: first, dedicating as few slots to the combo as possible. Minimizing the number of slots taken up by the combo makes sure that we have as many generically good cards as possible to help us stay alive long enough to actually cast our Primal Sure and frees up more slots for ramp, removal and other utility spells. Second, if possible we want to use combo pieces that are at least somewhat playable when we aren't comboing off. The basic idea of the combo is simple: since we have zero non-permanents in our deck, when we resolve Primal Surge we get to put our entire library onto the battlefield, one card at a time. Among the forty-something cards we play for free will be a single copy of Laboratory Maniac and three copies of Rogue Refiner. After Primal Surge empties our library we'll have a massive stack of triggers, including Rogue Refiners "draw a card" trigger. As soon as it resolve we'll win the game with Laboratory Maniac by drawing on an empty library!

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Asceticism and Platinum Angel are supporting combo piece that help in specific situations. One of the problems with trying to win with Laboratory Maniac and Rogue Refiner triggers is that if our opponent can kill the Maniac with the draw trigger on the stack, instead of winning the game we lose the game by drawing on an empty library. Asceticism solves this problem by giving all of our creature hexproof, which makes it almost impossible for our opponent to stop the combo at instant speed. Meanwhile, Platinum Angel gives us a plan for if we can't win with Laboratory Maniac (for example we draw it naturally and it gets hit by Thoughtseize). We can simply Primal Surge out our entire deck of Titans and Demons onto the battlefield, alongside a hexproof (from Asceticism) Platinum Angel to keep us from losing the game by drawing on an empty library and then beat our opponent down over the next turn or two!

Other Stuff

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Rounding out our deck we have a couple of copies of Kitesail Freebooter to be a permanent-based version of Duress, which is extremely helpful against combo and control decks, stealing counterspells from our opponent's hand so we can resolve our Primal Surge or picking off combo pieces to help ensure we live long enough to find and cast Primal Surge. Eternal Witness is primarily in our deck to give us a way to get our Primal Surge back from the graveyard if it gets hit by a discard spell. Finally, Thragtusk blocks twice and helps us stay alive against aggro while we are looking to set up the Primal Surge kill. 

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Last but not least our backup-backup plan is Kessig Wolf Run. If for some reason we can't win with Primal Surge we can simply use Primeval Titan to tutor up our one copy of Kessig Wolf Run along with Stomping Grounds (our one real rest source), use all of our mana to make one of our creatures into a huge, trampling threat and close out the game in just a couple of attacks!

The Matchups

The hardest matchups for Primal Surge are decks that can attack our lands. Since our early game ramp plan is based on putting Utopia Sprawl and Overgrowth on our lands, if our opponent has Ghost Quarter or weird, fringe cards like Flickerwisp (to blink our lands) it's really hard to get enough mana to cast a Primeval Titan, let alone a Primal Surge. Aggro can also be a challenge. While we can stabilize if we draw Thragtusk or ramp fast enough, we're often just a turn or two slow against the most aggressive decks in the format. On the other hand, the fact that we can play massive creatures quickly is good against slower aggro and midrange decks, Boseju, Who Shelters All makes the counterspells control decks offer look pretty silly and we even have a chance against some combo decks thanks to racing our opponent to the kill or staying alive with Platinum Angel or Kitesail Freebooter

The Odds

All in all we played seven matches and won three good for a 42.8% match win percentage, while winning 9 of our massive 19 games (good for 47.3% as far as game win percentage) which makes Primal Surge about average for an Against the Odds deck. The good news is that we did pull off the Primal Surge combo a few times, and it's one of the most spectacular ways you can win in all of Modern! Dumping 40 permanents onto the battlefield with a single card is super fun and the combo kill was extremely effective. While we do have some clunky games where our opponent can stop our ramp or simply run us over with aggro, the good games are so good it more than makes up for the bad losses.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Artifacts are some of my favorite cards to build around because their colorless nature means the possibilities are endless. As such, we're about due for another janky artifact poll! Which of these artifacts should we build around in Modern next week (as we wait for Core Set 2019 to officially release)? 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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