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Against the Odds: Sunbird's Invocation (Standard)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 106 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another all-Ixalan Against the Odds poll, and in the end, the crazy enchantment Sunbird's Invocation took home a commanding victory. In theory, there are a bunch of different ways to build around Sunbird's Invocation (for instance, a very removal-heavy RW build performed well at Nationals over the weekend), but our goal today is to squeeze as much value out of our six-mana investment as possible while also having the possibility of a super-sweet combo kill to end the game out of nowhere! Can the ultra-value build of Sunbird's Invocation work in Standard? Let's get to the video and find out, and then we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Sunbird's Invocation (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Sunbird's Invocation (Games)

The Deck

Before talking about the deck we are playing this week, we should probably start by talking about the builds of Sunbird's Invocation we aren't playing. First, a RW Approach of the Second Sun list with Sunbird's Invocation showed up on the tournament scene this weekend, but playing a tournament list is against the spirit of Against the Odds (plus, it didn't look like that much fun, mostly just overloaded with removal), so I crossed that build off the list immediately. After I started brewing, my first thought was to use Sunbird's Invocation with Paradox Engine (to double up the untap triggers) in a Storm-style deck, and while I think a similar deck could work, it wasn't very entertaining, since most of the game was just playing mana rocks and hoping that we drew into our Sunbird's Invocation, so I crossed that build off as well. Finally, I decided the best thing to do would be to go full-on value mode with Sunbird's Invocation and make sure that something sweet would have the potential to happen every time we cast a spell with the enchantment on the battlefield, and that's where we ended up!

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Sunbird's Invocation itself is extremely powerful—almost like a more random (but less restrictive) version of Panharmonicon that works on the stack rather than from the battlefield. Whenever we cast a spell, we get to look at a bunch of cards (equal to the spell's converted mana cost) and play one of these cards for free, which means all we really need to do to generate value with Sunbird's Invocation is to make sure our curve is reasonable and cast as many spells as possible. While the randomness of Sunbird's Invocation makes it hard to use as a true combo piece, one way to make the enchantment even better is to take advantage of its timing and how the stack works. When we cast a spell, the Sunbird's Invocation triggers resolves first, which means our Sunbird's Invocation card ends up on the battlefield before the card we cast from our hand. How can this timing be useful?

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Tishana, Voice of Thunder is our biggest payoff card and works incredibly well with Sunbird's Invocation. Let's say we get our Sunbird's Invocation out and cast a Tishana, Voice of Thunder. Before Tishana, Voice of Thunder actually hits the battlefield, we get to look at the top seven cards of our deck and cast one for free. Odds are we can hit something to power up Tishana, Voice of Thunder even more, like a Regal Caracal to put three creatures on the battlefield (and draw us three more cards with the Merfolk) or a Panharmonicon to double up the draw trigger and make Tishana, Voice of Thunder even bigger. We can do the same trick with Regal Caracal, getting a free look at five cards to find a Panharmonicon to make four Cat tokens instead of just two!

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As far as finishing the game, apart from just making a huge board full of creatures with the help of Sunbird's Invocation, our main plan is to make Tishana, Voice of Thunder big enough that we can use Heart-Piercer Manticore to Fling it at our opponent's face and kill them without even having to attack. While having 20 cards (to make Tishana, Voice of Thunder a lethal 20/20) might sound like a lot, it actually happens way more often than you'd think thanks to having a bunch of creatures that put multiple creatures on the battlefield, not to mention Panharmonicon and Sunbird's Invocation to double up our value.

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The rest of the deck is pretty simple. Naga Vitalist and Servant of the Conduit come down early and help us ramp into our expensive plays like Sunbird's Invocation while also giving us more cheap creatures to hit when we are looking through the top of our deck with Sunbird's Invocation. Meanwhile, Growing Rites of Itlimoc is an amazing one-of in our deck. It doesn't take that many creatures to flip it into a Gaea's Cradle (just a mana dork and a single Regal Caracal), and once it flips, we often have 15 mana a turn, which lets us play just about anything we could want.

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Rogue Refiner and Champion of Wits help us fill out the curve with creatures that work well with both Panharmonicon and Sunbird's Invocation and help churn through our deck to find our big finishers while also leaving behind bodies (that don't really cost us a card) to pump our Tishana, Voice of Thunder and Growing Rites of Itlimoc.

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Whirler Virtuoso is just a one-of, but it's actually extremely strong in our deck. Sunbird's Invocation means that we often see every single card in our deck as the game goes along, which means we'll eventually find the Whirler Virtuoso. After we find it, we can dump all of our extra energy into making Thopter tokens (and we often end up with a ton of useless energy thanks to Panharmonicon, Rogue Refiner, and Servant of the Conduit), which pump up our Tishana, Voice of Thunder. Meanwhile, Visionary Augmenter is mostly in the deck to fill out the curve, acting almost like a really bad version of Regal Caracal by putting three bodies on the battlefield for Tishana, Voice of Thunder and offering another good go-wide hit with Sunbird's Invocation

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We don't have much room for removal, but we do have a couple of options. Struggle // Survive lets us kill something on the way down and then shuffle our graveyard back into our library later, which is often important because we draw so many cards with Tishana, Voice of Thunder and Sunbird's Invocation that decking ourselves can be an issue. As for Settle the Wreckage, it offers a way to deal with everything, including hard-to-interact-with threats like The Scarab God and Hazoret the Fervent, for a reasonable price.

The Matchups

The biggest challenge for Sunbird's Invocation is aggro decks. We have a late game that can dominate just about any deck in the format thanks to Sunbird's Invocation, but there's always a risk that we get run over by Earthshaker Khenra and Hazoret the Fervent before we manage to get our late game online. On the other hand, control and midrange are our best matchups, since our deck is so stuffed full of value. Apart from losing to Approach of the Second Sun, Sunbird's Invocation allows us to go over the top of anything control or midrange has to offer.

The Odds

Altogether, we played five matches and won two, good for a 40% match win percentage, along with playing 12 games and winning six (for a 50% game win percentage), which makes Sunbird's Invocation about average for an Against the Odds deck. While the deck wasn't ultra-competitive, it was ultra-fun. We managed to Tishana–Fling multiple opponents to death, played through our entire deck thanks to Sunbird's Invocation, and had turns where we'd go from just a card or two in hand and nothing on the battlefield to having 10 or more creatures and 20 cards in hand! 

As for Sunbird's Invocation itself, the card is way more powerful than it's given credit for, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more "real" decks playing it. It just takes so little work to generate value, and it's really hard to lose the game once you untap with the enchantment on the battlefield.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

This week, we have our final all-Ixalan poll but with a twist. We've been playing a lot of Standard lately, so let's give some sweet new Ixalan cards a chance in Modern! Which of these Ixalan 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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