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Against the Odds: Quest for Ula's Temple (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode sixty-eight of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a wacky enchantment poll featuring one enchantment for each color, and when it was all said and done, our blue enchantment—Quest for Ula's Temple—had a crushing victory, beating out Curse of Misfortunes by a massive 13%! As a result, this week we are heading to Modern to see if we can cheat some Leviathans, Kraken, Serpents, and Octopi into play for free!

Anyway, let's get to the videos, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy the Against the Odds series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel.

Against the Odds: Quest for Ula's Temple (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Quest for Ula's Temple (Games)

The Deck

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Building around Quest for Ula's Temple is actually pretty challenging because, while it may not be obvious, the namesake enchantment actually puts a lot of restrictions on our deck. First, since it can only put Kraken, Leviathans, Serpents, and Octopi into play, we need to make sure we have enough creatures of these types to have at least one in hand once we trigger Quest for Ula's Temple. Second, we need to play a ton of creatures in general to be able to trigger Quest for Ula's Temple (by revealing a creature on top of our deck during our upkeep). Unfortunately, since Kraken, Leviathans, Serpents, and Octopi are all extremely overcosted, we can't just play all creatures of these types—even if we get counters on our Quest for Ula's Temple at light speed, we'll still be dead before we start putting creatures into play. Finally, since we only have four copies of Quest for Ula's Temple (which means some games we won't draw one), we also need a backup plan for playing our huge sea creatures. With these restrictions in mind, I considered a couple of different builds, including a UG Ramp deck and a deck that used Summoning Trap as a backup plan for putting our sea creatures into play, but it felt weird to be anything but mono-blue, since that is the color of not only Quest for Ula's Temple but also all of our sea creatures. So, in the end, we ended up a deck that's not just mono-blue but about as mono-blue as a deck can possibly be!

Sea Creatures

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We ended up with a total of 11 creatures we can put into play for free with Quest for Ula's Temple, which is enough that we should usually have one in hand once we get our quest active. One thing I learned while building this deck is that Kraken, Leviathans, Serpents, and Octopi are actually really bad. Most are six to nine mana, and their effects aren't that exciting (mostly, they are just big); however, there are a handful of powerful ones. 

In picking creatures for Quest for Ula's Temple, the most important thing is to find creatures that can help us get back in the game when we are behind, and Stormtide Leviathan and Scourge of Fleets are two of the best options. Stormtide Leviathan is essentially a Moat on a stick, which means that, even if our opponent has a lethal board state, if we can dump it into play, it will (hopefully) keep us alive by keeping our opponent from attacking. Meanwhile, Scourge of Fleets helps us catch up by bouncing all of our opponent's creatures back to their hand. Elder Deep-Fiend isn't actually all that exciting with Quest for Ula's Temple. While a free 5/6 is fine, we miss out on the "tap things" ability because it triggers when cast. On the other hand, it is one of the easiest sea creatures to cast because we can emerge it in as early as Turn 4, get a huge body, and Time Walk our opponent by tapping down their lands. 

The Backup Plan

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Our backup plan for casting our huge, expensive sea creatures is to use Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx (along with Borderposts) to generate a bunch of mana. While it might sound funny, one of the reasons this plan works is Quest for Ula's Temple. While our deck has a massive 30 creatures (which means, apart from mana sources and Quest for Ula's Temple itself, we only have one non-creature spell), it can still take a few turns to get enough counters on Quest for Ula's Temple to start putting sea creatures onto the battlefield for free. While we are waiting, Quest for Ula's Temple is a blue mana symbol that sits out on the battlefield to up our devotion, which in turns helps us make more mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and cast our huge sea creatures the old-fashioned way!

Blue-Mana-Symbol Creatures

The rest of the deck is essentially just creatures with blue mana symbols. While they all do things, there are two reasons they are in the deck. First, they up our creature count to make sure we are triggering Quest for Ula's Temple as consistently as possible. Second, they help generate mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to help us cast our huge sea creatures when we don't have a Quest on the battlefield. While I'm not going to talk about all of the creatures, a couple are worth mentioning individually. 

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Dimir Guildmage lets us draw a ton of cards with our Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which helps us find our sea creatures so we have them in hand when our Quest for Ula's Temple is ready to go. 

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Voidmage Prodigy takes advantage of the fact that a lot of the non-sea-creature creatures in our deck are Wizards, so we can let it sit out on the battlefield and counter whatever horrible thing our opponent plays. 

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Harbinger of the Tides and Venser, Shaper Savant give us creatures with blue mana symbols that also provide some amount of protection from our opponent's creatures. If our opponent goes all in on an Inkmoth Nexus or Death's Shadow, we can flash in one of our bounce creatures and return the threat to our opponent's hand, hopefully keeping us alive long enough to take over the game with our huge sea creatures. 

The Matchups

While our sideboard (with counterspells) can help shore up some of our worst matchups, generally speaking, our deck struggles against fast creature-based combo decks (because we don't play many ways to interact, and the ways we do have to interact—in Harbinger of the Tides and Venser, Shaper Savant—are pretty expensive) and spell-based combo decks, because we don't have many real answers in the main deck (although we do have Judge's Familiar, which can help slow the opponent down a little by making them play off curve, and Voidmage Prodigy which is sweet but easy to play around). As a result, we're hoping to dodge decks like Infect, Death's Shadow, Storm, and Ad Nauseum. 

On the other hand, our deck is really good against creature-based decks. In the early game, we can clog up the board and chump block with our endless creatures, and then in the late game, once we have Quest for Ula's Temple online, we can easily go over the top of just about anything our opponent is trying to do. Plus, our sea creatures—Stormtide Leviathan, Scourge of Fleets, and Elder Deep-Fiend— do a great job of catching us back up against decks that are trying to win by beating down with creatures. 

The Odds

I'm not sure I've ever been more shocked by the record of an Against the Odds deck. All in all, we played five matches and won four of them (good for an 80% match win percentage) and played 12 games, winning eight (a 66.67% game win percentage), which makes Quest for Ula's Temple one of the best-performing Against the Odds decks of all time. This said, we got a little bit lucky, especially against Tron, which should be close to an unwinnable matchup, but apparently Commandeer is pretty sweet when it's targeting Karn Liberated (although even here, we were extremely lucky, since Commandeer is a one-of sideboard card and we happened to have it two games in a row). Plus, we played a couple of lower-tier matchups in UW Starfield and Possibility Storm, which certainly helped. However, we did beat both Tron and Sun and Moon, which are tier one decks. 

So, is Quest for Ula's Temple good? I'm not really sure. While the record looks great, I expect that if we played another five matches (let alone another 50 matches), our percentages would drop significantly—back towards the "normal" range for Against the Odds decks. That said, it was a blast to play, and with a bit of luck, it can win a lot of matches!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

For this week's poll, we are focusing on a specific cycle of creatures: the Spirit Avatars from Shadowmoor and Eventide. Which do you want to see made into a deck next week? Let us know by voting in the Against the Odds poll 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 and at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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