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Against the Odds: Smothering Tentacles (Standard, Magic Arena)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 227 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another Theros: Beyond Death Against the Odds poll, and Nadir Kraken came out on top. As such, we're heading to Theros: Beyond Death Standard today to make some Tentacles. Lots and lots of Tentacles. While Nadir Kraken is the centerpiece of our deck, our plan for building around Nadir Kraken is pretty spicy, involving making tons of mana with the help of Smothering Tithe, Emergency Powers, and Nyxbloom Ancient, which will allow us to make tons of Tentacles and some huge Nadir Krakens as we draw through our deck. Eventually, we will find our copies of Kenrith, the Returned King to give our Tentacles haste and smash our opponent with a horde of sea monsters! What crazy things can we do with Nadir Kraken in Standard, and what are the odds that we will actually win some games with our Tentacles? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Smothering Tentacles (Pioneer)

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The Deck

When Nadir Kraken won the pool, I was pretty sure we were going one of two directions. The first deck I tried was a Hydra's Growth / Nadir Kraken build looking to make a single Nadir Kraken as big as possible by adding counters to it and doubling them each turn with the aura. While the idea was sort of fun and funny when it worked, the deck itself was pretty boring, playing like a Bogles deck looking to protect Nadir Kraken with Karametra's Blessing and Alseid of Life's Bounty and drawing cards with Setessan Champion. The second plan for Nadir Kraken was more or less what we ended up with: make a bunch of mana, draw a bunch of cards, and try to make a ton of Tentacles to win the game. However, while building the deck, I had no idea how over-the-top explosive and fun the deck would end up being in practice!

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Nadir Kraken wants us to do two things: draw a bunch of cards to trigger its "+1/+1 counter and create a Tentacle token" ability and have a bunch of mana to repeatedly pay for the ability. As such, our deck is a weird mashup of ramp and card draw that actually plays more like a combo deck than traditional ramp or control.

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Growth Spiral and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath are the perfect ramp spells for a Nadir Kraken deck because along with ramping us, they also draw us a card, which triggers Nadir Kraken. With a Nadir Kraken on the battlefield, we can cast something like Growth Spiral, draw a card and put a land into play, and then use the land to pay for Nadir Kraken's ability to grow the Kraken and make a Tentacle. As such, both Growth Spiral and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath are great with Nadir Kraken on their own, while also helping to support our meta-gameplan of ramping into some powerful seven-mana cards...

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Wolfwillow Haven and Nissa, Who Shakes the World are our backup ramp spells. While they don't work directly with Nadir Kraken, they do help us get up to seven mana, which is where our huge Tentacle combo turn can happen. Normally, I try to avoid playing Nissa, Who Shakes the World because it sees so much play in tier decks and players (including myself) are tired of its power, but in this case, the awesomeness of our combo turns makes it worth playing Nissa to make them work.

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Smothering Tithe does double duty in our deck. On one hand, it's another ramp spell, making us Treasure tokens as our opponent draws cards (unless they pay mana, which they rarely do). On the other hand, it's also an essential piece to our combo along with Emergency Powers. Emergency Powers allows our deck to do absurd things. If we can cast Emergency Powers on our turn with a Smothering Tithe on the battlefield and our opponent mostly tapped out, we'll get to draw seven cards, make seven Treasures (which we can either use to pay for seven Nadir Kraken triggers to make a bunch of Tentacles or, if we happen to draw into another copy of Emergency Powers, cast another copy to repeat the process), and also put a permanent from our hand onto the battlefield...

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Ideally, the permanent we put onto the battlefield will be Nyxbloom Ancient, at which point things get really crazy. Even though we have to sacrifice them, Treasure tokens technically tap for mana, which means once Nyxbloom Ancient hits the battlefield, all of our Treasure tokens will suddenly turn from Lotus Petals to copies of Black Lotus. With a single Nyxbloom Ancient on the battlefield alongside a single Smothering Tithe, a resolved copy of Emergency Powers will make 21 mana in Treasures (with multiple Smothering Tithes or Nyxbloom Ancients, we will basically have infinite mana). This allows us to pay for Nadir Kraken's triggered ability as many times as we can trigger it, while also drawing through our deck by chaining Emergency Powers (which makes more mana each time) and other card-draw spells...

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If we are lacking a copy of Emergency Powers or a way to win the game, Hydroid Krasis gives us a backup card-draw spell that we can sink all of our (hopefully tripled by Nyxbloom Ancient) mana into, hopefully drawing us into another Emergency Powers or our finisher...

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Eventually, as we cast a bunch of Emergency Powers and Hydroid Krasises, we'll find our one copy of Kenrith, the Returned King. By this point, we should have at least 40 or 50 Tentacle tokens along with a few 10- or 20-power Nadir Krakens, so we can just cast Kenrith, the Returned King, use it to give all of our creatures trample and haste, and smash in at our opponent for a hundred damage or more out of nowhere! If something goes wrong, Kenrith, the Returned King also enables a weird backup combo that can force our opponent to deck themselves by making them draw their entire deck. If we can get Kenrith, Nyxbloom Ancient, and two copies of Smothering Tithe on the battlefield, we can activate Kenrith, the Returned King's card-draw ability targeting our opponent for four mana, which then makes two Treasure tokens worth a total of six mana thanks to Smothering Tithe. Doing this over and over again technically makes infinite mana but also just directly kills our opponent since eventually they will draw every card in their deck and lose to drawing a card with an empty library!


Probably the most challenging matchup for Smothering Tentacles is dedicated aggro like Mono-Red. As we saw in the videos, our deck can go over the top of anything in Standard, even decks built to go over the rest of the format, like Simic Ramp. On the other hand, we can have some slow hands, and we don't have much instant-speed interaction, which means a pile of aggressive red creatures backed by Embercleave can be a problem, especially if our draw is slow.

The Odds

All in all, we only got in four matches with Smothering Tentacles because just those four matches took more than three hours before editing. While Smothering Tentacles certainly isn't a fast deck, it was effective, considering we went 4-0, making Smothering Tentacles about as good as it gets for an Against the Odds deck. More importantly, Smothering Tentacles is perhaps the most fun deck we've played in Theros: Beyond Death Standard. The combo turns are some of the craziest, most over-the-top things you can do in the format, where we basically have infinite cards and mana and are only limited by the amount of time we have on our clock. Add in some funny backup infinite combos that happen almost by accident (like forcing our opponent to draw their deck with Kenrith, the Returned King), and Smothering Tentacles was just not oddly competitive but also amazingly fun to play!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Next week we'll get back to normal with polls that feature a variety of sets, but for this week we're giving some Theros: Beyond Death cards that have fallen just short on recent polls once more chance at glory. Which of these cards that have come in second or third in recent Against the Odds polls should we build around next week (most likely in Standard)? Let us know by voting below!

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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

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