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Against the Odds: Snowlemnity (Modern)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 117 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a holiday-flavored Against the Odds poll, and in the end, snow-matters took home a pretty easy victory. After spending a while trying to make literal snow creatures work and realizing there simply wasn't enough support to make it happen (maybe someday we'll get Coldsnap II: The Resnowening), I decided to stretch the theme a little bit for the sake of having a more entertaining deck. Instead of being literal snow-matters, our deck is built around the snowiest set in Modern: Coldsnap. The basic idea of our deck is simple: we're playing a ton of undercosted and extremely powerful creatures with negative cumulative upkeep costs and then using Solemnity to avoid paying the upkeep costs. Can an aggressive Solemnity deck work in Modern? Let's get to the videos and figure it out, and then we'll talk more about the deck.

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Against the Odds: Snowlemnity (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Snowlemnity (Games)

The Deck

When I realized that snow-matters won the poll, my initial plan was to play creatures with "snow" in their type line or that needed snow mana to activate abilities. The problem is that Coldsnap is the only set with snow-creatures, and not only was Coldsnap a really small set, but only a small number of the creatures in the set are snow creatures or care about snow mana. Diamond Faerie is sort of a snow-lord, but it is five mana, doesn't stack, and isn't even a real lord, and most of the other rare snow-creatures are at least six mana and not especially powerful or even fun. So, after several different attempts to make actual snow-tribal work, I finally decided to stretch the theme a bit for the sake of having a more fun and interesting deck.

I spent a while longer trying to figure out what would count as "snow matters" but without being literal snow-tribal and eventually realized this was the perfect opportunity to try out a deck that people have been asking for and suggesting for a while: Solemnity with cumulative upkeep creatures. All of the cumulative upkeep cards in Modern are from Coldsnap, and most are snowy even if they don't have "snow" on their type line, so it wasn't that much of a stretch. The end result is a deck I'm calling Snowlemnity!

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We've played Solemnity decks before, so we won't spend too long talking about it. Basically, the enchantment prevents anything except planeswalkers from getting counters. While Solemnity can be used as a hate card to keep opponents from getting energy or poison counters, or from comboing off with Devoted Druid (for example), our deck is looking to use Solemnity aggressively as an enabler to pay a bunch of really powerful, undercosted cumulative upkeep creatures without having to pay their upkeep costs.

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Take, for example, Jotun Grunt and Sheltering Ancient. Both are extremely powerful two-drops, with Jotun Grunt being a 4/4 and Sheltering Ancient being a massive 5/5 with trample, but both come with the downside of having really painful cumulative upkeeps. Jotun Grunt needs a lot of cards in the graveyard to stay alive, and while this is great in some matchups (when it's a hate card against Dredge, for example), in other matchups it's hard to keep on the battlefield for more than a turn or two. Meanwhile, Sheltering Ancient has great stats but quickly builds our opponent's creatures into massive threats. While putting one counter on a creature to pay for the first upkeep isn't too bad, by the second or third turn, it ends up being a big problem even if we are dumping the counters onto something like a Birds of Paradise. Thankfully, with a Solemnity on the battlefield, we get all the upside of massive creatures but without any of the downside, since Solemnity prevents age counters from going on Jotun Grunt or Sheltering Ancient, which means we never have to worry about paying the cumulative upkeep.

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Things get even bigger in the three-drop slot, with Phyrexian Soulgorger being a massive 8/8 for just three mana (while also being an actual snow creature for bonus flavor points), which means it's bigger than pretty much any creature in Modern, allowing us to get in huge chunks of damage or block pretty much anything our opponent can present. Meanwhile, Vexing Sphinx is only a 4/4, but a 4/4 flier for three is still a great deal, providing a quick clock in the air. Of course, just like our two-drops, if we actually have to pay the cumulative upkeep for Phyrexian Soulgorger and Vexing Sphinx, they won't stay on the battlefield for long, since we'll run out of creatures to sacrifice or cards to discard, but with a Solemnity out, both are huge threats that close out the game quickly.

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Survivor of the Unseen is a bit different than our other cumulative upkeep creatures since it isn't much of an attacker as a 2/1 for three, but it provides a ton of card advantage, tapping to give us a See Beyond for free every single turn. If we don't have a Solemnity, we can play Survivor of the Unseen and keep it alive for a turn or two by paying the upkeep cost to help us dig and find our namesake enchantment, and once we have a Solemnity, Survivor of the Unseen makes sure we have an endless stream of Phyrexian Soulgorgers, Vexing Sphinxs, and Sheltering Ancients to close out the game before our opponent can recover or draw into their combo.

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Since all of our cumulative upkeep creatures cost three mana or less, Snowlemnity is the perfect home for Collected Company. If we can get lucky and hit two copies of Phyrexian Soulgorger, we end up with 16 power and toughness for just four mana at instant speed, and even our bad Collected Company hits (like a Jotun Grunt and a Sheltering Ancient) still offer a ton of power and toughness.

Meanwhile, Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch just help speed up our deck while also giving us more creatures to make sure we always hit two with Collected Company. One of the quirks of Snowlemnity is that we really want Solemnity on the battlefield before we start playing our cumulative upkeep creatures because Solemnity only prevents future counters and doesn't remove the counters already on our creatures. This means if we play our creatures before Solemnity, we are stuck paying for whatever age counters they accumulate, even after we get a Solemnity (or we lose the creature). If we can play a Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch on Turn 1, we can follow up with Solemnity on Turn 2, which lets us start playing our powerful cumulative upkeep creatures on Turn 3!

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Zur the Enchanter is in our deck because we really, really, really need to have a copy of Solemnity every game. Without Solemnity, our deck does pretty much nothing, which is one of the biggest risks of playing the deck. With four copies of Solemnity and three copies of Zur the Enchanter, the odds of us getting a Solemnity on the battlefield over the first few turns of the game are actually pretty good.

Since we have Zur the Enchanter to tutor our cheap enchantments, we have a couple of other tutor targets as well. Phyrexian Unlife offers too much value to pass up in a deck built around Solemnity, since if we can get it on the battlefield with our namesake enchantment, we can't die to any type of damage until our opponent kills one of the enchantments. While the lock is the backup plan in Snowlemnity rather than the focal point of the deck, having the ability to randomly play Phyrexian Unlife on Turn 2 into Solemnity on Turn 3 gives us a shot against decks like Storm that would otherwise be horrible matchups. Plus, we don't really need the lock to hold up forever, just long enough to keep us alive while we beat down with our massive cumulative upkeep creatures.

Meanwhile, Cover of Winter is tricky, since it doesn't actually work if we have a Solemnity on the battlefield. The basic idea is that if we can get it on the battlefield before Solemnity, add a counter or two, and then play Solemnity to prevent future counters, we can pay a couple of mana each turn to prevent all the damage from small creatures like Lingering Souls tokens or Goblin Guides. 

The Matchups

The matchups for Snowlemnity are actually a bit tricky to break down because a lot of decks struggle to beat the Solemnity / Phyrexian Unlife lock, which means we have a chance in just about any matchup if we just happen to draw both of our enchantments early in the game. Fast combo is probably our worst matchup because it gives us less time to draw our combo pieces and less time to kill our opponent with our huge cumulative upkeep creatures, although we can still win if our opponent stumbles a bit or we get a great draw. On the other side of the spectrum is random creature decks, which not only struggle with Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife but with our creatures as well. Tarmogoyf and Siege Rhinos just aren't that scary when we have Phyrexian Soulgorgers and Sheltering Ancients. 

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches and won four, good for a 66.67% match win percentage, along with winning 10 of 15 games, which also happens to be 66.67%. Of course, these numbers come with a bit of an asterisk, since we ended up running into a few bugs along the way, but more on this in a minute. The deck itself works surprisingly well. We won a handful of games with the lock, but we also picked up a lot of wins by playing huge, snowy creatures with a Solemnity on the battlefield (and even the games that involved the lock usually ended with a huge cumulative upkeep creature beating down our opponent)!

The Bugs

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While I'm not sure how much the bugs impacted the outcome of our games, since we didn't even run into them at all until our fifth and sixth matches, it's worth mentioning that you probably shouldn't play this deck in any Magic Online tournaments at the moment because it has quite a few issues. First, Sheltering Ancient only works properly for one cumulative upkeep, after which it stops adding counters to opponent's creatures (even though it still asks us to pay the upkeep costs and to target an opposing creature). Second, Vexing Sphinx simply doesn't make you discard a card to pay for its upkeep, although it keeps adding age counters so you draw cards when it dies. Again, I think our record would have been the same even without these issues, since they only came up in two matches and both of those matches got out of hand pretty quickly for other reasons (with us losing to Burn and beating GR Ponza), but hopefully Magic Online gets the bugs fixed soon because the deck was surprisingly fun to play; it's just hard to play in good conscience knowing the game may be compromised by bugs.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Next week will kick off the New Year, which means it's time to look ahead to the future and all the exciting things coming in 2018. As such, let's celebrate with a Future Sight poll, featuring a bunch of cards from the set! Which of these cards should we play in Modern next week? 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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