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Against the Odds: Triskaidekaphobia

Hey there everyone and welcome to episode thirty-two of Against the Odds. The long wait is finally over and Shadows is finally out on MTGO! This means one and only one thing here on Against the Odds — Triskaidekaphobia! So this week we will be trying to get opponents to exactly thirteen life. If we do we'll be rewarded with an instant win on our upkeep! The biggest problem is the painlands which can easily throw off the math. As a result we'll be working at instant speed and madnessing Avacyn's Judgment!

We will talk more about Triskaidekaphobia in a minute, but first the videos. A quick reminder - if you enjoy Against the Odds subscribe to the Channel.

Against the Odds: Triskaidekaphobia Deck Tech

Against the Odds: Triskaidekaphobia Games

The Deck

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If you didn't notice during the intro paragraph, my plan was to write the entire article in 13 word sentences in honor of Triskaidekaphobia. Unfortunately, the amount of effort involved scared me, and I didn't have 13 hours to spend on Against the Odds this week. Anyway, the basic idea of our deck is to get our opponent to 13 life so they die to Triskaidekaphobia on our upkeep. This situation is easier said than done in Standard, since a lot of people are playing painlands which offer a low opportunity cost way for our opponent to manipulate their own life total at instant speed. All an opponent needs to do is leave up a painland, and it's next to impossible to win with Triskaidekaphobia. As a result, I decided that our best bet was to get tricky and try to get our opponents to 13 out of nowhere, hopefully at instant speed while they are tapped out.

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I spent quite a while trying to figure out how to get opponent to 13 at instant speed, and the best I could come up with was casting Avacyn's Judgment with madness, which obviously requires a bit of set up. As such, we are playing Call the Bloodline and Lightning Axe for a total of eight instant speed discard outlets. We also have Tormenting Voice and Chandra, Flamecaller at sorcery speed. The basic idea of the deck is that we will resolve a Triskaidekaphobia, find a copy of Avacyn's Judgment, then wait until our opponent is tapped out (at least of painlands), and then madness the Avacyn's Judgment at the end of our opponent's turn (or on our upkeep in response to the Triskaidekaphobia trigger) to win the game. 

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The rest of the deck is dedicated to removal to help us stay alive long enough to pull off our "combo." Chandra, Flamecaller and Languish allow us to wrath away our opponent's board, which should buy us a lot of time against decks like Mono-White Humans or even Bant Company, while Fiery Temper and Ruinous Path give us some targeted removal for our opponents early game threats and planeswalkers. Chandra, Flamecaller is especially good because we can use her zero ability to trigger madness in a pinch (or just to get rid of a bunch of bad cards in our hand), and her ability to make hasty 3/1 Elemental tokens gives us a Plan B for closing out the game when we don't have a Triskaidekaphobia or when our opponent's painlands are throwing off the math. 


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I'm not going to break down the entire sideboard, but I did want to take a minute to mention Crumble to Dust and Tainted Remedy because they are especially important in helping solve the painland problem. While land destruction isn't very exciting in our current aggressive Standard metagame, painlands are such a problem for our deck that we are willing to dedicate sideboard slots solely to kill them. If we are in a matchup where our opponent is playing painlands, Crumble to Dust gives us at least some chance to win with Triskaidekaphobia, since we can just wait until we draw a Crumble to Dust to exile the painland (and all other copies in our opponent's deck) before we go for the kill. 

Tainted Remedy is for matchups where the odds of us wining with Triskaidekaphobia's "lose the game" clause are extremely low. In these matchups, we can bring in Tainted Remedy and try to win the game by choosing the "each player gains one life" mode on Triskaidekaphobia every turn, which slowly drains our opponent while also (hopefully) keeping us alive. 

The Matchups

Basically, decks without painlands are good matchups; decks with painlands are bad matchups. Actually, this statement is an oversimplification. I'm not sure I actually felt favored in any match that we played. Maybe Mono-Blue Brain in the Jar? Apart from dedicated aggro decks (which might actually be a good matchup) many of the decks in Standard can either go over the top of our strategy (like Eldrazi Ramp) or can grind out so much value that being the "all removal" deck doesn't work very well. Just when it feels like we've stabilized, a Den Protector, Collected Company, or even a Pulse of Murasa will reload our opponent's board, and we are back to square one. While we can grind with these decks for a while, eventually we run out of removal before they run out of creatures. 

I assume that our best matchups are probably control decks, where there is a realistic chance that we can stick a Triskaidekaphobia and just drain our opponent down to 13 life naturally, one at a time. Meanwhile, dedicated aggro decks like Mono-White Humans or Mono-Red Aggro feel reasonable, just because they are lacking the card advantage found in the midrange decks. Against Mono-White Humans one or two well-timed Languishes can win us the game, but this isn't the case against many of the midrange decks. 

The Odds

Overall we won four of our 13 games (31%) and two of our six matches (33%). We also received a visit from the play point faerie (who gave us a gift of 30 play points), but I didn't count this match towards the record, because we didn't play a single turn of Magic. Unsurprisingly, the two matches we won were against mono-colored decks with no painlands (although slightly more surprisingly one of them was Mono-Red Aggro which had a lot of burn to manipulate life totals). The downside is that most of our other matches didn't feel particularly close. We got crushed by Eldrazi Ramp, and I'm sure if we played that matchup 100 times we might win five of them, and all of the midrange decks just eventually ran us out of removal. 

One the other hand, we also died to our own Triskaidekaphobia twice, which means nearly half of the games we played ended up with someone dying to Triskaidekaphobia (6 of 13). So, if you are crazy enough to try a Triskaidekaphobia deck, make sure to keep a close eye on our own life total because it's pretty easy to end up at 13 life yourself if you're not careful. For right now I'm going to say that Triskaidekaphobia isn't playable in Standard, however I think we might have to revisit some version of the Triskaidekaphobia when the painlands rotate. Against decks that can't change their life total, Triskaidekaphobia is surprisingly powerful, since we only need to deal seven damage to win the game. While I don't expect it will ever be part of a tier deck, I do think that in a non-painland format it could post a better win percentage and steal quite a few games. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck (SOI Tribal Special Edition)

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*Don't worry, we'll get back to "normal" polls before long, but in celebration of the long awaited arrival of Shadows over Innistrad on Magic Online, this week we are going 100% Standard and 100% tribal!


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestion in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at

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