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Against the Odds: Timesifter Miracles (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 146 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an all-artifact Against the Odds poll, and in the end, it was the crazy, extra-turn generating artifact Timesifter that came out on top. As such, we are heading to Modern this week for a deck that I'm calling Timesifter Miracles, essentially a Miracle deck that is looking to win by comboing off with Timesifter to take all of the turns! The downside of Timesifter is that when things go badly, we can actually give our opponent extra turns. Can we find the right mixture of spells to minimize this downside and make Timesifter into a game-winning combo piece? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Against the Odds: Timesifter Miracles (Modern)

The Deck

Timesifter Miracles is pretty simple: it's a miracles deck that is built to support Timesifter as an infinite-turns combo piece. This being said, the story of how we ended up with Timesifter Miracles as our deck this week is pretty interesting. When it comes to building around Timesifter, there are a few possibilities. First, you can just play a ton of expensive cards and hope you get lucky with Timesifter exiling a more expensive card from your deck than it does from your opponent's deck, but this plan is risky, since sooner or later, the top card of your deck will be a land and the opponent will get the extra turn (although something like Endless Horizons could help by exiling lands). Second, you can try to put low-converted-mana-cost cards on the top of your opponent's deck with cards like Plow Under and Primal Command, which could be fun although still somewhat risky, since the exiling process repeats if both players have a land on top of their deck, and then who wins is anyone's guess. Third, you can try to manipulate the top of your own deck, which seemed like the best way to build around Timesifter, since it gives the highest level of control. Mix in a little bit of number one (by playing expensive cards), and with a bit of luck, it's possible to take all of the turns with Timesifter!

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After realizing that the plan was to control the top of our own deck, Jace, the Mind Sculptor became the perfect combo piece for Timesifter. The plan here is simple: we play Timesifter, we play Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and then we use the Brainstorm ability on Jace, the Mind Sculptor every turn to put an expensive card back on top of our deck. Thankfully, apart from some strange matchups like Tron, Modern is a pretty efficient format, so if we can put anything with converted mana cost of four or greater on top of our deck, our odds of winning the Timesifter battle (which is essentially a game of War, where each player exiles their top card and the highest CMC wins the extra turn) is high. Then, during our extra turn, we Brainstorm again, put another expensive card on top of our deck, and repeat the process. Typically, the end result is we take 10 or 15 turns in a row and, during those turns, piece together the win somehow.

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Search for Azcanta, Telling Time, and Serum Visions give us backup ways of manipulating the top of our deck to increase our chances of winning the Timesifter game of war. Search for Azcanta is the best of the bunch. We simply stack the trigger on our upkeep so Search for Azcanta resolves before Timesifter does to get a chance to look at the top card of our deck and decide if we want to leave it on top (because we think it's expensive enough to win with Timesifter) or mill it and get a second random card with Timesifter. While we do flip the enchantment sometimes, for the most part, we want to leave it in enchantment form to scry one each turn, especially if we are on the Timesifter plan. Meanwhile, Telling Time and Serum Visions give us one-shot ways to set up the top of our deck for Timesifter while also not costing us a card. They are helpful in allowing us to win the game with Jace, the Mind Sculptor during our extra-turns loop, since we can take a turn off of Brainstorming with Jace to tick up if we know something expensive is on the top of our deck thanks to either of these cards.

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Apart from controlling the cards that are on the top of our deck, the next important step to going infinite with Timesifter is having expensive cards in our deck to put on top of our library. Unfortunately, it's hard to play really expensive cards in Modern, since the format is fast and efficient, so here we cheat a bit with Terminus and Temporal Mastery. While these cards are six and seven mana as far as Timesifter is concerned, we can miracle them for just one and two mana, making them extremely undercosted in our deck, which has so many ways to get them on top of our deck. Terminus gives us a wrath to help against creature-based decks, while Temporal Master gives us a random extra turn to develop our board and set up our Timesifter combo. Just be aware: in the late game, once we have Timesifter going, it's often better to not cast these cards and instead leave them in hand to Brainstorm back on top of our deck with Jace, the Mind Sculptor to get an extra turn with Timesifter (I made the mistake of casting Temporal Mastery with Timesifter out a few times, even though it doesn't do much of anything).

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When it comes to actually killing our opponent, apart from ultimating Jace, the Mind Sculptor, we have a couple of options. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is great once we start taking all of the turns with Timesifter. We simply tick it up to ultimate; then, after we ultimate, every time we Brainstorm with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, we can exile three of our opponent's permanents. Combine that with the card we draw each turn, and it won't take long to exile all of our opponent's permanents for the flawless victory. Meanwhile, Celestial Colonnade gives us a way to kill our opponent with damage. Once we have Jace and Timesifter, we don't really need to spend our mana on spells anymore, since we should be able to take all of the turns by Brainstorming with Jace, so we can spend our mana to activate Celestial Colonnade and hit our opponent for four in the air each turn until they are dead.

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Otherwise, we just have some boring counters and removal to help make sure that we can stay alive long enough to get our Jace, the Mind Sculptor / Timesifter combo going. Cryptic Command is great because apart from offering a lot of flexibility when we cast it, it's also expensive enough that it usually earns us an extra turn when it's exiled to Timesifter. Meanwhile, Path to Exile, Logic Knot, and Detention Sphere aren't great with Timesifter, but that's fine because we are planning on casting these cards in the early game to deal with our opponent's creatures and spells, which helps us survive until we get our combo online. 

The Matchups

Based on the matches we played, the biggest problem for Timesifter Miracles is fast decks. Since we are playing Timesifter and expensive miracles over cheaper options, if we don't hit our removal (or miracle Terminus) at the right time, it's pretty easy to get run over by aggro before we get a chance to set up the Timesifter combo. While having a ton of ways to dig through our deck helps, this isn't always enough. On the other hand, Timesifter Miracles is great against slower decks. If we survive until we get Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Timesifter on the battlefield, we are pretty much guaranteed to win the game by taking all of the turns. Also, it's worth mentioning that we have a ton of good options for all of the popular decks in our sideboard, so even if we are a bit weak in game one in some matchups, things usually improve once we go to games two and three. 

The Odds

The odds are a bit weird this week. We played five matches and technically won two (good for a 40% match win percentage), although in a good life lesson about recording Against the Odds while sick and taking tons of cold medication, we thought that we won three, not realizing that we actually killed ourselves in our first match against Bogles. As far as games, we won five of 11, good for a 45% game win percentage, which makes Timesifter Miracles about average for an Against the Odds deck. However, the biggest thing we learned from our matches is that the combo of Timesifter and Jace, the Mind Sculptor is strangely effective. I'm not sure we ever fizzled once we got both of those cards on the battlefield, and as long as we didn't accidentally kill ourselves (see: the Bogles match), we had no problems closing out the game during our infinite turns!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Core Set 2019 is released on Magic Online in just a couple of days, so no poll this week. Instead, we'll kick of our exploration of the new set next week with a special episode. Don't worry, the poll will be back next week and feature a bunch of sweet new Core Set 2019 options!

Conclusion

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 SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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