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Against the Odds: Traxos Combo (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 143 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another Dominaria poll but with a twist this time: rather than playing the winning card in Standard, we're playing it in Modern! In the end, the legendary construct Traxos, Scourge of Kroog came out on top, so we're heading to Modern today to see if we can win some games with a Traxos combo deck! The idea of the deck is pretty simple: our goal is to abuse the untap ability on Traxos, Scourge of Kroog with the help of Banishing Knack (or Retraction Helix) along with a zero-mana artifact, which allows us to generate an infinite number of enters-the-battlefield triggers. Then, we throw Altar of the Brood into the mix for infinite mill and hopefully win the game! Can the combo actually work in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Against the Odds: Traxos Combo (Modern)

The Deck

When it came time to build around Traxos, Scourge of Kroog, there were pretty much two options. Option A is some sort of Traxos beatdown deck, and while it's probably possible to win some games with a deck that's essentially Affinity with Traxos, Scourge of Kroog thrown into the mix, or some sort of Grand Architect stompy deck, this option doesn't really show off the full potential of Traxos. Modern is a format where people are playing one-mana Gurmag Anglers and huge Death's Shadows, so as weird as it sounds, a four-mana 7/7 just isn't that big. Option B, which is the option we ended up choosing, is a Traxos, Scourge of Kroog combo deck. While comboing off with Traxos is likely a less competitive plan than simply sticking it in Affinity, it's much more fun and in line with the spirit of Against the Odds!

The Combo

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Step one to our combo is Traxos, Scourge of Kroog, or Battered Golem, which is essentially a backup Traxos in our deck. While Traxos, Scourge of Kroog being a 7/7 is a nice bonus, and beating down with the Construct is one of our backup plans, our primary plan is to abuse Traxos's ability to untap itself whenever we cast a historic spell. Battered Golem does essentially the same thing but only with artifacts, which makes it a fine—although much more fragile (since it does to Lightning Bolt—Traxos substitute. Together, Traxos, Scourge of Kroog and Battered Golem give us a total of six "untap" combo pieces.

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Step two of our combo is Banishing Knack or Retraction Helix, which are the same exact card, just with different names. The idea here is that we can use either one of our instants to target our Traxos, Scourge of Kroog (or Battered Golem) and then use Traxos, Scourge of Kroog to bounce a zero-mana artifact, cast the artifact again to untap Traxos, and rinse and repeat. While we normally want to save Banishing Knack or Retraction Helix for when we are ready to combo off, we can also use them as Unsummons in a pinch if we are about to die or if we end up with extras in hand.

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Step three of our combo is finding a zero-mana artifact. For this, we have two options in Mox Opal and Mishra's Bauble. As far as the combo is concerned, the main purpose of these cards is to be bounced back and fourth from the battlefield with the help of Traxos and Retraction Helix. The end result is that we have infinite enters- (and also leaves-) the-battlefield triggers. 

Thankfully, both of our zero-mana artifacts have upside outside of the combo as well. Mox Opal helps us ramp into our Traxos, Scourge of Kroog, which is nice because if we are playing Traxos naturally, the earliest we can combo off is Turn 5, since we need Traxos to not be summoning sick. Meanwhile, Mishra's Bauble can help draw us into combo pieces if we are missing our Traxos or Banishing Knack. Plus, if we are comboing with Traxos, Scourge of Kroog, we need an artifact in hand to untap Traxos for the first time, so having a bunch of options helps to make sure the combo is as consistent as possible.

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Finally, when it comes time to win the game, we have Altar of the Brood as our primary finisher. If we can get our combo set up, the end result is that we can bounce and recast a zero-mana artifact an infinite number of times, which means with an Altar of the Brood on the battlefield, we simply mill away our opponent's entire deck and win on their next draw step when they draw with an empty library. Of course, this plan has one weakness: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and other cards that shuffle themselves (or the entire graveyard) back into our opponent's deck when they hit the graveyard. Thankfully, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn only shows up in a handful of decks, but we do have one main-deck answer just in case (along with a bunch of graveyard hate and Surgical Extraction in our sideboard): Blue Sun's Zenith. If we manage to combo off with Mox Opal as our zero-mana artifact, not only do we get infinite enters-the-battlefield triggers but we also get infinite mana as well, since we can tap Mox Opal before bouncing and replaying it. Then, we can use Blue Sun's Zenith targeting our opponent, forcing them to draw more than their entire library in one shot, which wins us the game even if Emrakul is in the deck. Plus, if we have all of our combo pieces except for Altar of the Brood, we can use Blue Sun's Zenith on ourselves to find our missing combo piece.

Other Stuff

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Riddlesmith is sort of like Blue Sun's Zenith, in that it helps us find our missing Altar of the Brood once we assemble the rest of the combo, since we get to loot every time we cast our Mox Opal or Mishra's Bauble. Plus, in the early game, we can use Riddlesmith as we cast our random artifacts to dig through our deck for combo pieces. While only a two-of and dying to a lot of removal, Riddlesmith is solid in the deck.

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Serum Visions and Thirst for Knowledge are in the deck to help us find our combo pieces in a timely manner. While we have a lot of redundancy with most of our combo pieces, with Battered Golem doubling for Traxos, Scourge of Kroog, Banishing Knack and Retraction Helix being the same card, and Mox Opal and Mishra's Bauble filling the same role, one of the challenges of Traxos Combo is that we need four different pieces to win the game. Having Serum Visions and Thirst for Knowledge to dig through our deck in the early game helps to make sure that we actually find all the pieces we need to win the game before our opponent kills us. 

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Padeem, Consul of Innovation and Swan Song help us protect our combo. Since all of our combo pieces (outside of Retraction Helix) are artifacts, Padeem, Consul of Innovation essentially gives our entire combo hexproof. Plus, unless our opponent is playing an artifact deck, it also draws us an extra card each turn, which helps us find our combo pieces. As for Swan Song, it pretty much just counters anything that could kill our Traxos, Scourge of Kroog for just a single mana. While giving our opponent a Bird isn't great, it isn't really much of a drawback if we are winning the game right away with the combo!

The Matchups

Traxos Combo is essentially a goldfish deck without very many ways of interacting with the opponent (outside of blocking with Traxos, Scourge of Kroog), which means in a lot of matchups, we are simply racing our opponent for the win. The hardest matchups are decks with a ton of hard removal because even with Padeem, Consul of Innovation and Swan Song, it's pretty easy for a deck like Jund to simply kill our Traxos or Battered Golem and leave us in a spot where we can't win the game. Fast aggro and combo can also be tricky. In theory, we can win as early as Turn 3 with a combination of Battered Golem and Mox Opal, but we are more often looking to win on Turn 4 or 5. Some of the faster decks in Modern can kill us a turn or two before we are able to combo off. Probably our best matchups are slower combo decks like Titan Shift and Through the Breach, where we can often assemble our combo more quickly than our opponent can assemble their combo and pick up the win.

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches and won one, giving us a not-exciting 16.7% match win percentage, along with winning three of our 14 games, putting us at 21.4%. This makes Traxos Combo one of the worst Against the Odds decks we've played in a while, at least in terms of win percentage. This being said, our matchup against UR Breach was amazingly close, and we ran into a lot of very aggressive decks like Burn and Merfolk, which are really difficult matchups when you are trying to assemble four different combo pieces, so the deck might be a little bit better than it looks on paper. The good news is that the combo itself is super fun and one of the more unique ways to win a game in Modern, so the sweet wins help to make up for some of the bad losses!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No episode next week! I'll be out at Grand Prix Las Vegas until next Tuesday, so I won't be able to record and edit. Don't worry, we'll be back the following week with a special episode, and don't be afraid to stop by and say hi if you're out at Grand Prix Vegas!

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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