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Against the Odds: Sultai Narfi Snow (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 278 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another Kaldheim-in-Modern Against the Odds poll, and in the end, Narfi, Betrayer King sneaked out a tight win over Tergrid, God of Fright! As such, today, winter is coming to Modern, quite literally, thanks to our snow-themed Narfi deck! Thanks to Kaldheim, we actually have enough good snow cards to build a deck that is essentially (minus a couple of removal spells and sideboard cards) all snow cards and snow payoffs, with Narfi, Betrayer King offering a recursive lord to help power up our smaller snow creatures and close out the game. How good is snow in Modern? What about Narfi, Betrayer King himself? 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: Sultai Narfi Snow

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The Deck

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When Narfi, Betrayer King won the poll, I wasn't exactly sure what direction to head with the deck. Technically, Narfi is a lord for both snow creatures and Zombies, and in some ways, Zombies are better suited to power up the legend because they have cards like Stitcher's Supplier to get Narfi, Betrayer King into our graveyard, and Narfi is at its best when it's coming into play for three mana from our graveyard, rather than being hard-cast for five from our hand. I built and played some games with the Zombie Narfi deck, and while it was fine, Narfi often felt like one of the worst cards in the deck, and many of our wins came from more traditional Zombies like Gravecrawler and Geralf's Messenger. Basically, while Zombie Narfi was fine, it was also mostly just a Zombie deck, which is something we'd played a bunch of times before, making it an awkward fit for Against the Odds. Thankfully, the snow version of Narfi turned out to be much more interesting than the Zombie version, and it might actually be more powerful too!

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So, what makes Sultai Narfi Snow so sweet? The big answer is that now, thanks to getting more snow cards in Kaldheim, we actually have more than enough good ones to build an entire deck. Backing up Narfi, Betrayer King as a finisher is Marit Lage's Slumber, which is surprisingly strong in our deck. Because every one of our creatures is a snow creature and every "real" (i.e. non-fetch) land in our deck is a snow land, it's actually pretty easy to get 10 snow permanents onto the battlefield and be rewarded with a 20/20 Marit Lage fairly early in the game. Even if Marit Lage stays asleep, being able to scry every time we play a creature or land is actually surprisingly powerful, especially combined with some of our snowy card-advantage engines.

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While our deck has a couple of ways of generating card advantage, Frost Augur and its land counterpart Scrying Sheets might be the best. Because our deck has 40 snow cards and just 20 non-snow cards, every activation is 66.7% to draw us a card, which is pretty reasonable, especially considering the low mana investment and opportunity cost of both cards. If we add Marit Lage's Slumber to the mix, which allows us to scry non-snow cards out of the way, the odds of drawing with a Frost Augur or Scrying Sheets activation will increase even more, turning both into absurdly powerful card-draw engines for our deck.

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The one downside of playing Narfi, Betrayer King in a snow deck is that snow isn't all that good at getting Narfi into the graveyard, which means a lot of times, we're hard-casting Narfi and then using its reanimation ability to keep returning it to play if it dies (which is still powerful, especially against slower decks). That said, we do have one card that can get Narfi, Betrayer King into the graveyard in The Three Seasons. The two-mana saga is basically a slow Divination in our deck, almost always drawing us two snow cards from our graveyard, with the added upside that the first lore counter could mill Narfi on Turn 2. The backside of Jorn, God of Winter offers another way to play snow cards from our graveyard, making our deck really good at grinding through midrange and control. And if we don't have a full graveyard, we can always play Jorn as a creature. While we don't have any specific combos for untapping all of our snow cards when Jorn attacks, even just casting some cards in our first main phase, untapping our lands, and casting some more in our second main phase is quite powerful.

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Ice-Fang Coatl is just a solid all-around card. While it isn't the most exciting attacker, it tries hard, and it does get better once Narfi, Betrayer King hits the battlefield to pump it. More importantly, Ice-Fang Coatl offers a cheap way to up our snow-permanent count that doesn't cost us a card, and it's great on defense, where it basically should always have deathtouch in our deck, allowing it to keep big attackers at bay.

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Our last two big snow finishers are Ascendant Spirit and Abominable Treefolk. Ascendant Spirit has the drawback of dying to basically all of the most popular removal spells in the format, but it also comes with the upside of being a one-drop that can win the game all by itself if it goes unchecked. It also works well with Jorn, God of Winter's ability to untap our lands, which allows us to ascend quickly thanks to the mana doubling. Meanwhile, Abominable Treefolk is actually a great threat. If it comes down on Turn 4, it will—at worst—be a 5/5 trampler that taps something down for a turn. But thanks to the plethora of snow cards in our deck, it's pretty common for Abominable Treefolk to end up as an 8/8 or 10/10 trampler that can kill our opponent in just a couple of attacks!

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Finally, we have our removal. While Fatal Push is a fine way to kill things in the early game, Dead of Winter is the real standout. Because all of our creatures are snow creatures, it is typically a three-mana Plague Wind, killing our opponent's entire board while leaving our threats untouched to swing in and close the game. While Narfi is great and our snow deck has a bunch of cool tricks and synergies, Dead of Winter might be the most rawly powerful card in our entire deck against any opponent trying to win with creatures. The only drawback of Dead of Winter is that it isn't great against combo or control decks that are looking to win with spells or planeswalkers rather than creatures, although thankfully, in those matchups, we can sideboard it out for Thoughtseize and Force of Negation

The Matchups

The way Sultai Narfi Snow is constructed, we mostly want to play against creature-based aggro and midrange decks, where our removal is good and snow creatures like Abominable Treefolk can dominate the board. Control is fine, mostly because we have a lot of card advantage and Narfi, Betrayer King can be hard for some control decks to answer permanently, thanks to its ability to return from the graveyard to the battlefield. Plus, the control matchup gets even better after sideboarding, when we can take out our dead removal spells for counters and discard. This leaves spell-based combo as our biggest weakness. While Narfi Snow is great at playing the long game, it's not usually fast enough to race combo. While our sideboard helps, it isn't always enough. All in all, we love to play against creature-based aggro and midrange and are okay with playing against control but would like to dodge combo, if possible.

The Odds

All in all, we went 4-1 with Sultai Narfi Snow, giving us a solid 80% match win percentage. Our one loss came to Whirza, which exploited our weakness against combo decks that win without creatures (we might need something like Assassin's Trophy in the sideboard as a catch-all answer). On the other hand, we beat up on Elves twice (Dead of Winter is hilariously unbeatable for a deck like Elves) and took down a Temur Life from the Loam deck and a unique Boros protection control build. 

As for Narfi, Betrayer King, it was solid in our deck, although in reality, the synergy of having a bunch of snow lands and snow cards together is what makes Sultai Narfi Snow powerful. The card-draw engines were great, we got a free Ascendant Spirit win by leveling it up, and we came super close to winning with Marit Lage (although once the opponent saw the 20/20 coming, they gave up). I actually think that Sultai Snow could be a pretty powerful deck in Modern. I was surprised by just how synergistic and powerful the deck played. Most importantly, it was super fun!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week. Next week we'll have a special episode! Don't worry, the poll will return next week with a bunch of sweet options!

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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