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Against the Odds: Tainted Tree-skaidekaphobia


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode forty-six of Against the Odds! This week is special because it's the very first week of Eldritch Moon here on Against the Odds! I mentioned last week that Eldritch Moon looks to be one of the the best Against the Odds sets in a long time, but there is one card that sticks out among the rest of the best Against the Odds cards in the set: Tree of Perdition! So today, we are heading to Standard to play a deck that contains just about every Tree of Perdition combo possible—a deck I'm calling Tainted Tree-skaidekaphobia! 

We'll talk more about Tainted Tree-skaidekaphobia in a minute, 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: Tainted Tree-skaidekaphobia Deck Tech

Against the Odds: Tainted Tree-skaidekaphobia Games

The Deck

It actually took me quite a while to figure out how I wanted to build around Tree of Perdition. I started out with a Triskaidekaphobia combo deck and then moved to a Tainted Remedy combo deck designed to pump the toughness of Tree of Perdition with some really janky equipment like Stitcher's Graft and Cathar's Shield to maximize our opponent's life gain (which converts to life loss with Tainted Remedy on the battlefield), but I wasn't really happy with either of these builds. No matter how I built the deck, it felt like something was missing. Then, I realized that we were playing Against the Odds, so the right thing to do would be to include every single Tree of Perdition combo possible and hope for the best!

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Triskaidekaphobia makes a player with 13 life lose the game. Tree of Perdition has the ability to exchange an opponent's life total with its toughness (which just so happens to be 13). That's what we in the biz like to call a combo. Seriously though, if it wasn't for pesky painlands giving opponents the ability to drain their own life, this would easily be the best Tree of Perdition combo in Standard, but since painlands are not only in the format but super popular, counting on winning with Tree of Perdition and Triskaidekaphobia alone is risky. 

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Combo number two is Tree of Perdition with Tainted Remedy. While this combo is a little bit slower than the instant-win potential of Triskaidekaphobia, it's also much harder to disrupt. While it might not be obvious at first glance, one of the things that Tree of Perdition can do is force an opponent to gain big chunks of life (technically, when we make the exchange of toughness for life total, if Tree of Perdition's toughness is greater than our opponent's life total, they are gaining life). 

One of the great aspects of this combo is that it directly combats the easiest way our opponent can disrupt the Triskaidekaphobia kill (getting their own life total below 13), because if our opponent's life total is less than 13, our very first activation of Tree of Perdition with a Tainted Remedy on the battlefield will start draining our opponent's life total, and each subsequent activation will drain for an even greater amount. In many cases, it only takes three activations to get our opponent from 20 all the way down to zero.

Strider Harness might look weird, but it does two things. First, it can give our Tree of Perdition haste, which allows for some sweet surprise kills with Tainted Remedy. Second, it boosts Tree of Perdition's toughness to 14. One of the ways the Tainted Remedy plan can fail is if our opponent is at exactly 13 life, because in this scenario, activating Tree of Perdition does nothing. If this happens (for example, because we had activated a Tree of Perdition earlier in the game), we can equip the Strider Harness to allow our Tree of Perdition to start forcing our opponent to lose life with the help of Tainted Remedy, even if our opponent is at exactly 13 life. 

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Combo three involves a Tree of Perdition in the graveyard and a Soul Separator on the battlefield, which allows us to sacrifice the Soul Separator to make a 1/1 flying Tree of Perdition token (along with a 0/13 Zombie token for blocking). Then, we can simply tap the 1/1 Tree of Perdition token to set our opponent's life total to one (and give our token a ton of toughness). The last piece of the puzzle is Collective Brutality, which we can use to drain our opponent for two and win the game!

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Our last Tree of Perdition combo piece is Assault Formation, which turns our Tree of Perdition into a 13/13 for only four mana and lets it attack, even though it has defender. Assuming we get in one Tree of Perdition activation before going on the beatdown plan, we only need to connect with one Tree of Perdition attack to win the game. We also have Permeating Mass (a 3/3 for one mana with Assault Formation on the battlefield) to help out when we go on the creature beatdown plan, while also providing a hilarious roadblock against aggressive decks. 

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The rest of the deck is pretty straightforward. We have a couple of Dark Petitions to tutor up whatever combo piece we need in a given situation. Read the Bones and Ob Nixilis Reignited let us draw some extra cards and eventually find more copies of Tree of Perdition, Triskaidekaphobia, and Tainted Remedy. Meanwhile, having a bunch of removal helps keep us alive while we are looking to set up our various combos. 

A couple of important points about our removal spells. First, cards like Grasp of Darkness and Murder are extremely important against Spell Queller, which can exile every single combo piece in our deck, so we really need the ability to kill it cheaply at instant speed to get back Tree of Perdition and friends from exile. Second, Grasp of Darkness and Languish can also be used to decrease our Tree of Perdition's toughness to maximize the amount of life our opponent loses when we activate the exchange ability. 

The Matchups

There are two things our deck really, really dislikes. First, as I mentioned earlier, painlands take away our easiest and quickest way of winning in Triskaidekaphobia, so three-colored decks and two-color enemy decks are worse matchups than two-color ally decks (or mono-colored decks). The second thing we learned over the course of our matches is that Spell Queller is really good against our deck. Even though we play a lot of removal to try to deal with Spell Queller (and other threats), we got completely wrecked by Bant Company. 

On the other hand, we can randomly steal games against decks without painlands thanks to Triskaidekaphobia, and having a lot of removal and several sweepers gives us a shot against various midrange creature decks. Having a bunch of different combos that attack from different angles allows means that we can theoretically beat any deck, just because our opponents don't always know what's going on or how close they are to dying to something like Assault Formation or Soul Separator

The Odds

All in all, we went 6-6 in games (50% game win percentage) and 2-3 in matches (40 percent match win percentage), which is pretty solid. Other than against Bant Company, we managed to get at least one win in every match, which backs up the idea that the deck can beat just about anything when we draw the right cards in the right order. More importantly, we got to use almost every Tree of Perdition combo over the course of our matches. Most of our wins came from Triskaidekaphobia, but we drained our opponent out with Tainted Remedy a couple of times as well, and even beat down (although we fell one damage short) with Assault Formation against UR Fliers. 

As odd as this sounds, the combo of Triskaidekaphobia and Tree of Perdition actually felt really strong. If it wasn't for the fact that painlands are so prevalent, I could imagine playing it in a competitive deck, so it might be worth revisiting the combo this fall, after the painlands rotate from Standard. 

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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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