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Against the Odds: Temur Awakening (Standard, Magic Arena)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 192 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an all-Standard Against the Odds poll, and in the end, it was Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi sneaking out a victory over Awaken the Erstwhile by just a single percent! As such, we're heading to Standard today to see if we can get some combo kills by turning a land into a big beater with the help of Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi. Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi is a weird card to build around. Its most competitive home is probably just slotting the instant into a deck like Gruul or Mono-Green Aggro as an additional threat, but slotting the winning card into a pre-existing deck isn't what Against the Odds is about. As such, our plan for today is to try to turn Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi into a combo piece with the help of Ral, Storm Conduit. If we can 2 Ral, Storm Conduit and then copy Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, the end result is two damage from Ral's static ability and then an 18/18 land, which adds up to exactly 20 damage! What are the odds of winning with a combo version of Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi in War of the Spark Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Temur Awakening


The Deck

The main challenge to building around Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi was trying to make sure the deck felt like it was in the spirit of Against the Odds. As a weird 9/9 for five, it's certainly possible to play the instant fairly, as a big beater, in a deck like Mono-Green or Gruul, but Against the Odds is more about testing the limits of cards and trying to do something sweet. While turning Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi into a combo piece isn't easy, it is technically possible to build a deck and board state where just a single Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi can represent immediate lethal damage, which is our main goal in Temur Awakening.

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Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi is basically a risky 9/9 for five that ends up costing us a mana each turn if we want to attack with it since rather than just being a creature, it turns a land into a creature. The downside of Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi is that when things go wrong, we end up two-for-oneing ourselves, losing Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi and the land that we put the counters on. Even something like Teferi, Time Raveler bouncing our woke land is painful, and this doesn't include the ultimate blowout of having the opponent steal our 9/9 land for just two mana with Entrancing Melody

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On the other hand, being an instant rather than a creature can be an upside. For example, Ral, Storm Conduit can copy it with its 2. It's this upside that we are looking to embrace in Temur Awakening. It just so happens that if our opponent doesn't have a blocker, playing Ral, Storm Conduit, −2'ing to copy Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, and turning a land into an 18/18 (we have to put all of the counters on the same land since Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi makes the land legendary) technically adds up to 20 damage when we toss in the two pings from Ral, Storm Conduit's static ability. This is the primary plan of our deck: ramp into Ral, Storm Conduit and Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, use Ral, Storm Conduit to copy Awakening, and then hopefully kill our opponent out of the blue with one big attack from our legendary land.

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If we can't directly win by copying Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi with Ral, we have another way to sort of backdoor into the combo kill in Karn's Temporal Sundering. If our opponent has blockers, we can use Ral, Storm Conduit to copy Karn's Temporal Sundering, which not only allows us to bounce to blockers but also gives us two extra turns. During our first extra turn, we can then copy an Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi and start attacking. Since we'll only need to get in one hit to win the game, there's a decent chance that we'll be able to get in a lethal attack in one of our two extra turns, even if our opponent started off our turns with some blockers.

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While not as essential to our combo as Ral, Storm Conduit, Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and Narset, Parter of Veils help find our combo pieces. Tamiyo does this by digging through our deck and, if need be, getting an Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi back from our graveyard. Meanwhile, Narset, Parter of Veils digs four cards deep to find Ral, Storm Conduit, Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, or Karn's Temporal Sundering, depending on the situation. Basically, both Tamiyo and Narset are support planeswalkers rather than combo pieces, but they do help make our combo consistent by allowing us to dig through our deck for combo pieces.

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The last piece of the puzzle is ramp to help speed up our deck. In War of the Spark Standard, there are two basic types of decks: powerful midrange and controlling decks, often built around a bunch of strong planeswalkers and removal, and very fast decks that are looking to kill the powerful midrange / control decks before they get their big threats online. Being able to speed up our combo kill is important against both of these archetypes. Against aggro, being able to play Ral, Storm Conduit on Turn 3 and Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi on Turn 4 gives us a chance at being fast enough to race our opponent, while against midrange and control, the faster we can combo, the more likely we will be to dodge our opponent's disruption. Here, a combination of Llanowar Elves, Paradise Druid, and Growth Spiral allow us to ramp into our main combo pieces a turn or two early while also giving us some bodies on the battlefield to keep our planeswalker loyalty high while we are setting up our Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi / Karn's Temporal Sundering combo kill.

The Matchups

Temur Awakening doesn't seem to have many good matchups. Against aggressive decks, our combo plan is often too slow (we had one game where we made a 9/9 Vitu-Ghazi on Turn 3 and it still wasn't enough to win the game), and our opponent can attack down our planeswalkers to keep us from comboing off. Meanwhile, we have a somewhat better shot at pulling off the combo against control and midrange, although there are a surprising number of answers to Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi itself, with Teferi's bouncing or tucking the woke land, Tyrant's Scorn killing it, and Entrancing Melody bouncing it. While it's true that this removal would work on another creature, it's especially problematic when it happens with Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi since we're not just losing our creatures but we're down a land as well, making it a two-for-one.

The Odds

Technically, we played six matches with Temur Awakening and won just a single match, although even this is deceiving since our one match win came to an opponent who scooped before we really did anything of note. As such, it's probably fair to say that Temur Awakening went 0-5, tying it for least successful Against the Odds deck of all time. That said, we did manage to pull off an insane combo turn once in our last full match, and it was pretty spectacular. As an added bonus, many of our losses were pretty quick as we just got ran over by aggro, so at least our losses were mostly painless. Mostly, I was just amazed at how many ways there are for Standard decks to blow out Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi for just a couple of mana. 

As I mentioned in the intro, we probably could have posted a better record if we had just played Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi in Mono-Green or Gruul Aggro, but it's Against the Odds, so (at least, in my opinion) it's better to go down swinging for the fences than to post a solid record with a boring deck. At least the one combo we did successfully pull off was pretty epic, which helps to make up for all of the blowouts and brutal losses beforehand!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week. Next week, we're kicking off Modern Horizons season with a special episode. Don't worry, the poll will be back next week and stuffed full of sweet new Modern Horizons cards!


Anyway, that's all for today. 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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