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Against the Odds: Swarmyard

Hello everyone and welcome to episode four of Against the Odds. First off, I would like to thank all of you for voting in last week's Against the Odds poll. We cruised past 2,000 votes for the episode three voting (2,116 as of this writing), so next stop 2,500! This week the voting wasn't especially close. Swarmyard ran away with the first place slot taking in 30 percent of the vote. Darksteel Reactor came in second at 25 percent, upsetting perennial runner up Tainted Remedy which dropped to third at 22 percent. Coming in fourth and fifth (and dropping from the ballot) were Chance Encounter at 12 percent and Clone Legion at 10 percent. As such, Darksteel Reactor and (as always) Tainted Remedy will be back on the ballot for another run at glory while, by popular demand, this week's videos will feature Swarmyard in Modern!

Let's get to the videos and then we'll talk more about the deck in a few minutes, but first a quick reminder — if you enjoy the Against the Odds and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Against the Odds: Swarmyard Intro

Against the Odds: Swarmyard Games

The Deck

So I should probably explain how we ended up playing five-color Swarmyard, Changeling, Descendant's Path combo for Against the Odds this week. When I was trying to come up for options for last week's ballot, I stumbled across Swarmyard and impulsively included it on the poll. A couple days later when it became clear that Swarmyard would run away with the voting, I decided I should do a Gatherer search to figure out what my options were for building a Swarmyard deck. Here's what I learned:

  • Squirrels. There are literally zero Squirrels in Modern. No Squirrel creatures, no cards that make Squirrel Tokens, nothing that refers to "Squirrels" in the card name. Nothing at all. In fact, if you type "Squirrel" into Gatherer and set the filter to Modern, the only card that will show up is Swarmyard. Since a 60 Swarmyard deck isn't legal, Squirrels were quickly crossed off the list of possibilities. 
  • Spiders and Insects. There are Spiders and Insects in Modern, but the chances of making a Modern playable deck with either of these tribes is minimal — not the good, Against the Odds, kind of minimal, but the suicidally insane, blow though all the tix in your Magic Online account kind of minimal. Seriously, I bet it would take me 100 matches to win a single game with tribal Insects (which are either 1/1's for 1 or 7/7's for 8) or Spiders (which typically have two power, regardless of their mana cost).
  • Rats. Now, I think there is a pretty sweet Rat deck in Modern, but last week I took some criticsm for making an "Against the Odds" deck that didn't really feel against the odds; Rats would have been the same way. If I had built a Rat deck it would have involved setting an Aether Vial on two and endlessly Vialing in Rotting Rats / Ravenous Rats on my opponent's draw step until I eventually beat down their empty hand with my 1/1's. Yes, it probably would have won games, but it really wouldn't have been in the spirit of the AGO series. 

This left us with Changelings, which are technically Rats, Spiders, Insects and Squirrels all at once. So while it might be cheating a little bit (since in theory you could play Chaneglings for any tribal deck), if I was going to play a Swarmyard deck and play less than 100 matches, Changelings felt like the only option.

My first Changeling build featured somewhere in the neighborhood of 22 Changelings, 10 lords from four different colors (Lord of the Unreal, Mad Auntie, Knight Exemplar, Myr Galvanizer, Goblin Chieftain, etc) and Collected Company plus Chord of Calling to hold it all together. Then, while searching for "creature types matter" cards, I remembered Descendants' Path.

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Descendants' Path seems like the perfect Against the Odds type of card. With a Changeling on the battlefield, we could immediately cast for free any creature we happened to reveal on our upkeep. I figured this would be way more interesting than searching up from lords from Chord of Calling

So at this point, the plan was to resolve a Changeling, use Swarmyard's regeneration ability to keep it alive, and flip various lords off the top of our deck with Descendants' Path. Then it struck me: why am I going though all this trouble to flip a random 3-cmc lord when, with a Changeling on the battlefield, Descendants' Path allows us to cast any creature for free. 

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So the plan changed once again. Out with the lords and in with Bringer of the Black Dawn (which allows us to stack our library with our other fatties), Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Progenitus. Now let's bring this all back around to Swarmyard:

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I know you're asking, "how is this a Swarmyard deck?" While it may not be obvious at first glance, Swarmyard is actually a critical piece of our combo. Every single Changeling in our deck is a 1/1, which means they die to pretty much everything. Since we can't combo off without a Changeling on the battlefield, Swarmyard is our way of making sure our Changelings stick long enough for us to resolve a Descendants' Path and start spinning the wheel of luck in hopes of winning an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

The Matchups

This is usually the section where I write about what matchups are bad and what matchups are good, but this week we have a problem — we literally have no good matchups. While I think it is possible we can randomly pull off our combo against anyone, we are pretty much hoping to get lucky regardless of what deck our opponent is playing. 

The Odds

As you can see in the videos, we technically comboed off twice in twelve games, however both of our combo kills came in an extremely favorable matchups (to say the least). We came close a couple other times to the point where we were able to get multiple flips with Descendants' Path, but we typically hit more Rats/Squirrels/Spiders/Insects instead of the big prizes of Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn or Progenitus. I'm sure it would have happened eventually, but I wouldn't be surprised if we had to play a bunch more matches (assuming they were against tier one decks) before getting lucky.

As such, I'd put the odds of pulling off the Swarmyard / Changeling / Descendants' Path / Emrakul, the Aeons Torn combo at somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 percent (once every 20 games), and even this might be being generous. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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That's all for today. What other builds are there for Swarmyard in Modern? Am I missing something that could make Spiders or Insects playable? What is the optimal Rats deck? As always, leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments, and you can reach me on MTGO (or Twitter) @SaffronOlive. 

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