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Against the Odds: The Book of Vile Darkness (Standard 2022)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 298 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our first Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Against the Odds poll, and we had a bit of weirdness. Technically, The Deck of Many Things won, although after trying to build around the artifact, I realized that the deck would look a lot like the Dice Twin deck we played last week, with a few more copies of The Deck of Many Things thrown in. Rather than playing the same-ish deck twice in a row, I decided the best thing to do would be to crown the runner-up—The Book of Vile Darkness—as the winner. As such, today, we're heading to Standard 2022 (which was the winner of another poll about which format we should play, crushing normal Standard with nearly 63% of the vote, compared to normal Standard's 22%) to see if we can assemble Vecna! If we can get The Book of Vile Darkness, Eye of Vecna, and Hand of Vecna on the battlefield at the same time, we can exile them all to make an 8/8 indestructible Zombie God named Vecna, which makes Zombies, draws us cards, and gets absolutely huge in combat! For Vecna specifically, Standard 2022 seems like the perfect choice of format because, in normal unrotated Standard, Brazen Borrower is basically a hard counter to spending three cards (and a lot of time and effort) to make Vecna since Brazen Borrower can bounce it away, even though Vecna's indestructible. How good is The Book of Vile Darkness in rotated Standard? How easy is it to assemble Vecna? 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: The Book of Vile Darkness

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The Deck

Building around The Book of Vile Darkness was pretty interesting. While Vecna itself is powerful, we can't guarantee that we'll draw all three pieces (The Book of Vile Darkness, Eye of Vecna, and Hand of Vecna), which means the big challenge is trying to make the individual Vecna pieces as strong as possible so our deck can compete pre-Vecna, while also knowing that the Zombie God should be able to take over the game once we find all three pieces.  

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Of the three Vecna pieces, The Book of Vile Darkness is the worst stand-alone card, especially in Standard, where we don't have things like shock lands and pain lands to make us lose life during our turn to make Zombie tokens. In fact, our other Vecna pieces are the only ways in our deck to lose life during our turn. Thankfully, the other two pieces can be pretty strong on their own. Eye of Vecna is basically a painful Mazemind Tome with a timing restriction, allowing us to spend two life and two mana to draw a card on our upkeep (while also drawing when it enters the battlefield). This helps us dig through our deck to find other pieces and, if we have The Book of Vile Darkness, also allows us to make a 2/2 Zombie each turn, which is a nice bonus. When we get to our creatures, you'll see that we have a bunch of lifelink in the deck, which helps to negate the life loss from Eye. Speaking of lifelink creatures, they work incredibly well with Hand of Vecna since we can pay life to equip it and immediately gain back that life (and more) by attacking with whatever creature is getting pumped by Hand of Vecna

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Not only do Valentin, Dean of the Vein, Nullpriest of Oblivion, and Nighthawk Scavenger all have lifelink, but they also all have some form of evasion, with either menace or flying, making them great targets to equip with Hand of Vecna. Sometimes, we play a Valentin or Nullpriest of Oblivion on Turn 1 or 2, stick a Hand of Vecna on Turn 3 and equip with life, and basically end up winning the game with just two or three evasive attacks! While surprise kills with Hand of Vecna is a big part of our creatures' value, lifelink works well with the rest of Vecna as well, keeping our life total high to buy us time to find The Book of Vile Darkness and negating the life loss we take from Eye of Vecna.

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We also have one Ebondeath, Dracolich for value. It doesn't have any specific purpose in our deck—it's just a good recursive threat that happens to be in our colors.

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Rounding out our creature base is a small learn / lesson package, featuring Eyetwitch (another evasive threat for Hand of Vecna, although lacking lifelink) and Poet's Quill. Poet's Quill specifically is pretty absurd once we get Vecna on the battlefield. A massive indestructible threat is great, but a massive indestructible threat with lifelink usually ends the game against aggro by gaining us 10 or 15 life each turn as it attacks!

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As for our lessons, we have a pretty standard package, with Pest Summoning to add some bodies to the battlefield, Necrotic Fumes for removal, and one Environmental Sciences to help ensure that we don't get mana screwed. In general, we're planning to tutor up either Pest Summoning or Necrotic Fumes, depending on the board state, with Environmental Sciences basically being a desperation tutor target for games when we are missing land drops.

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As far as our utility spells, we have a bit of card draw and some removal. Village Rites might look strange in a deck with just 15 creatures, but it works well with Eyetwitch and with the Zombie tokens we make from The Book of Vile Darkness. Plus, we can always tutor up Pest Summoning from our sideboard and sacrifice a Pest to draw cards. For removal, we have Bloodchief's Thirst, Hagra Mauling, and Blood on the Snow, which is a shout-out to all of the go-wide creature decks that see play in Standard 2022 (and also a weird combo with Vecna's indestructibility, allowing us to sweep away our opponent's board, reanimate something, and keep our massive Zombie God on the battlefield, potentially allowing us to win with just one or two attacks).

The Matchups / Odds

Record-wise, we went 5-2 with The Book of Vile Darkness, which is a pretty solid performance, doubly so considering that one of our losses came to Dice Twin, which started with just a single Pixie Guide (giving the opponent a 14% chance to go infinite) and ended with our opponent winning their Delina, Wild Mage dice rolls and making infinite Pixie Guides to kill us. I try to avoid attributing losses to "luck," but in this case, the opponent quite literally got lucky in a mathematical sense. 

As for Vecna itself, I believe we always won when we managed to assemble all three pieces and get it on the battlefield, which actually happened pretty frequently. While we occasionally had some clunkiness due to drawing multiples of the same legendary Vecna piece, the power of Vecna made it worthwhile. While not as powerful as its counterpart The Book of Exalted Deeds, The Book of Vile Darkness felt surprisingly strong, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were a Vecna deck post-rotation, although it will probably get a little bit harder when opponents can sideboard and can bring in artifact hate to blow up The Book of Vile Darkness and friends. Still, The Book of Vile Darkness was a lot better than I expected, in part because it's really hard for decks to kill Vecna and in part because both Eye of Vecna and Hand of Vecna are solid cards early in the game before we assemble Vecna Tron.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Next week we're switching things up. Don't worry, we'll still play a new Forgotten Realms card, but rather than Standard we're heading to Modern! Which card should we play? Click here to vote!

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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