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Against the Odds: Splendid Valakut (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode fifty of Against the Odds! Last week on our Against the Odds poll, it was Splendid Reclamation coming in first, taking home a relatively easy win over Rat tribal in Modern and Mind's Dilation in Standard. Meanwhile, Goblin Bomb in Legacy and Providence in Standard came in at the back of the pack and will drop off the poll to be replaced by new options. 

As such, I'm unreasonably excited for this week's Against the Odds. Splendid Reclamation is one of my favorite cards from Eldritch Moon and one of the first cards I built a deck around when the set was spoiled, but until all of you voted for the card, I hadn't really gotten a chance to play with it. Can Splendid Reclamation be the new Scapeshift—a 20+ damage burn spell for only three and a green? That's what we are trying to figure out today!

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: Splendid Valakut Deck Tech

Against the Odds: Splendid Valakut Games

The Deck

This week's deck was fairly easy to build, since I knew right from the start that I wanted to use Splendid Reclamation as a sort of reverse Scapeshift to get the combo kill with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. So, unlike some weeks where we have a lot of different possibilities, this week was about figuring out the right way to make Splendid Reclamation work with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

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The basic idea of our deck is to spend the first handful of turns stocking our graveyard with lands; then, when we resolve a Splendid Reclamation on Turn 4 or 5, we have enough Mountains in the graveyard that we win the game on the spot. Of course, Splendid Reclamation is essential to the plan because without it, we put a lot of resources and time into filling our graveyard with no real payoff. As a result, we play a total of ten copies of Splendid Reclamation, with four literal Splendid Reclamations; four copies of Bring to Light, which we use to search up Splendid Reclamation 90% of the time; and even two copies of Eternal Witness to get back copies of Splendid Reclamation that we happen to mill along the way. 

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Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is our win condition. One of the best aspects of our deck is that, unlike some other Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle decks, we are naturally protected against land destruction like Ghost Quarter, Fulminator Mage, and Tectonic Edge. If our opponent kills our Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, that's fine because it comes back into play once we resolve Splendid Reclamation, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle will trigger as long as we have enough Mountains hanging around, even though it's entering the battlefield at the same time as the Mountains. While the numbers are a little fuzzier than with a traditional Scapeshift deck (where the goal is get to seven lands and cast Scapeshift, sacrificing everything, which deals 18 damage), our main goal is to trigger Valakut, the Molten Pinnacles enough times to kill our opponent, preferably all at once with the help of Splendid Reclamation, but occasionally over the course of a couple of turns. 

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We have a bunch of different options to fill our graveyard, although they all work pretty much the same, revealing some number of cards from the top of our library (either four or five), putting a card back in our hand, and milling the rest into the graveyard. Our ideal draws will contain two, three, or even four of these cards, which will help us set up the Splendid Reclamation kill by Turn 4 or 5. It's also worth noting that sometimes we just mill all the cards we reveal. For example, on Turn 6, we are planning to cast a Grisly Salvage into Splendid Reclamation. In this situation, we don't really want another land in our hand, so we just dump everything into the graveyard for maximum reanimation value. 

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Life from the Loam does two important things for our deck. First, it's our backup plan if something happens to Splendid Reclamation (for example, it gets hit by Surgical Extraction). While it's a lot slower, we can use Life from the Loam to continually get back Mountains from our graveyard, Lightning Bolt our opponent with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle every turn, and close out the game, little by little, over the course of several turns. The second situation where Life from the Loam is amazing is when we already have a Splendid Reclamation or Bring to Light in hand. In this case, we don't really need to draw more cards, so we simply dredge Life from the Loam every turn to mill more lands into our graveyard until we can set up a lethal Splendid Reclamation.

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Lingering Souls is one of the most important cards in our deck. As I mentioned before, our deck typically kills on Turn 4 or 5. The problem is that many aggressive Modern decks kill on Turn 3 or 4, which means we sometimes tend to be a turn too slow. Lingering Souls is a card that can buy us that extra turn. As we are stocking our graveyard with Mulch, Satyr Wayfinder, and Life from the Loam, we'll likely mill some number of Lingering Souls; then, we can flash it back and get a couple of Spirit tokens for chump blocking, which will hopefully buy us the one extra turn we need to win with Splendid Reclamation

The Matchups

One thing we learned during the matches is that decks with lots of counterspells are miserable matchups, so heavy control decks like UW or Jeskai can be a problem. Super-aggressive decks can also provide some problems. While Lingering Souls can theoretically buy us a turn or two against Zoo or Death's Shadow, our Spirit tokens aren't always enough. Basically, apart from counterspells, we are very consistent at winning on Turn 4 or 5, so decks that can win through a couple chump blockers on Turn 3 or 4 (Infect is a good example) can be a problem.

On the other hand, consistently going off on Turn 4 or 5 is actually very good in a lot of matchups. Against midrange decks, we are usually fast enough to win before our opponent can kill us, and Lingering Souls is great against threats like Tarmogoyf. A lot of other combo decks are of a similar speed or even slower than we are, and we are probably more consistent than most, which is our edge in these matchups. 

Finally, it's worth noting that we do pick up on some powerful sideboard hate. While we dodge land destruction, graveyard hate can slow us down significantly. While it's possible to win on the slow Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle plan by making a land drop each turn, things get much harder once a Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void comes down. 

The Odds

All in all, Splendid Valakut is one of the most successful Against the Odds decks we've ever had, taking down four of six matches (66.66% match win percentage) and 8 of 14 games (57% game win percentage). Unfortunately, there was a bit of weirdness, which made calculating our percentages complicated. Against Azusa Amulet, our opponent scooped before game three because they had something come up, and our UR Delver opponent scooped during game two (after losing game one) for no clear reason. With this in mind, the deck felt strong, a lot of our matches weren't especially close, and we even managed to take a game off Death's Shadow Zoo, which is one of our harder matchups. In fact, the only time we felt completely overmatched was against the UW Control deck that literally countered every single one of our spells. Overall, Splendid Reclamation was a huge success, and I think there's a chance that we actually see a tier deck emerge with the mass land reanimation spell as the centerpiece. 

Vote For Next Week's Deck

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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