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Against the Odds: Troll Song Naya


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode fifty-four of Against the Odds! Last week on our Against the Odds poll, Mayael's Aria sang its way past the competition, taking home a commanding victory with 37% of the vote. Coming in second, we had perennial also-ran Permeating Mass, followed by Chance Encounter in Legacy. Meanwhile, finishing at the bottom of the pile (and dropping off the next poll) were Enchanted Evening in Modern and the combo of Imprisoned in the Moon / Crumble to Dust in Standard. As such, this week, we are heading to Modern to see if we can sing our way to victory by getting a creature with at least 20 power on the battlefield!

A quick note before we get to the videos. Kaladesh released on Magic Online today, which means that instead of having a poll, we'll have a special episode next week celebrating Kaladesh. Then, when the poll returns next week, it will be filled with Kaladeshi options. But don't worry—we'll return to normal after a couple of weeks, and both Permeating Mass and Chance Encounter will have another chance at glory. 

Anyway, let's get to the videos, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy the Against the Odds series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel.

Against the Odds: Troll Song Naya Deck Tech

Against the Odds: Troll Song Naya Games

The Deck

Mayael's Aria is actually a super-difficult card to build around, because it's almost the very definition of "win more." I mean, how often do you have five-, 10-, or even 20-power creatures and find yourself unable to win the game? More importantly, getting a creature with 20 power on the battlefield is actually really tricky, since we don't have any 20-power creatures floating around in the game of Magic. As a result, it requires multiple cards to get a creature up to 20 (or more power). I considered a few ways of solving this problem, including some sort of life gain deck with Cradle of Vitality, something like Wall of Blood, and trying to use pump spells like Become Immense, but none of these options felt quite right. Eventually, I realized that the perfect creature for winning with Mayael's Aria did exist—it just took digging very, very deep. 

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Mayael's Aria, while slow and very much "win more," is pretty straightforward. If we have a creature with at least five power, we get to anthem our team on our upkeep; if we have one with at least 10 power, we gain a bunch of life; and if we have one with at least 20 power, we win the game. Getting a creature with five power is pretty easy, and we have a ton of them in our deck, but slowly building up counters on a 5/5 is simply going to take too long to get the 20 power needed to actually win the game. What we need is a creature that can get to 20 (or more) power all at once. 

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Mossbridge Troll is one of the only creatures in Magic that can easily get itself to 20 power (25, actually). All we need to do is tap 10 power worth of other creatures, and suddenly, we have a 25/25. Because of the way Mayael's Aria is worded (it triggers on each of our upkeeps, whether or not any of the conditions are met), we can simply wait until our upkeep and, with the Mayael's Aria trigger on the stack, boost Mossbridge Troll up to 25 power by tapping some of our other creatures. Better yet, Mossbridge Troll naturally protects itself from removal by regenerating, so even if our opponent has a Doom Blade or multiple Lightning Bolts, we still get to win the game (although things like Path to Exile and Dismember can be a blowout). The problem with using Mossbridge Troll to win with Mayael's Aria is that Mossbridge Troll costs seven mana, which makes it way too slow to cast naturally, even with cards like Birds of Paradise to help speed things up. As such, we need a way to cheat our Mossbridge Troll onto the battlefield as quickly as possible. 

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To pump up Mossbridge Troll (and win with Mayael's Aria), we need at least 10 power worth of creatures on the battlefield (we'll talk about this more in a minute, but the secret is five-power creatures). We have enough power to pump up Mossbridge Troll, and we also have enough power to cast a card for free from under Mosswort Bridge. Even better, we can do this on our upkeep to get the surprise kill. So, Plan A for cheating a Mossbridge Troll into play is getting a copy exiled under Mosswort Bridge along with at least 10 power worth of creatures on the battlefield; then, we can get our Mossbridge Troll as early as Turn 4 for only a single green mana! 

Plan B is See the Unwritten, which works really well with our plan of having five-power creatures on the battlefield. Assuming we have at least one five-power creature, we will be able to grab two creatures from our top eight cards thanks to ferocious, with the idea being that one of these creatures will be a Mossbridge Troll and the other will be another five-power creature, giving us exactly enough power to pump up our Mossbridge Troll during our upkeep to win the game with Mayael's Aria

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The last pieces of the puzzle are our 14 five-power creatures. Thanks to Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch, we can start playing these creatures on Turn 2, which means that with our best draws, we can cast a Mossbridge Troll from under our Mosswort Bridge on Turn 4 and win on Turn 5. This group of creatures does a whole bunch of important things for our deck:

  • With any one of these creatures, we trigger the first ability on Mayael's Aria and get a +1/+1 counter on all of our creatures. While making a 5/5 into a 6/6 isn't all that important, it does start building us towards having a ten-power creature to trigger the life gain mode on Mayael's Aria, which can put a lot of games out of reach.
  • With any one of these creatures on the battlefield, we trigger ferocious on See the Unwritten, which gives us the ability to search up a Mossbridge Troll and another one of these creatures, and we immediately have enough power to turn Mossbridge Troll into a 25/25 to win with Mayael's Aria
  • Likewise, with any two of these creatures on the battlefield, we have enough total power to cast the card we have hiding under Mosswort Bridge, and assuming that card is a Mossbridge Troll (or a See the Unwritten that finds a Mossbridge Troll), we can immediately make Mossbridge Troll a 25/25. 
  • Finally, these creatures at just big and give us a backup plan for winning the game. Sometimes, just playing Turn 2 Woolly Thoctar, Turn 3 Mayael's Aria (to start pumping our Birds of Paradise / Noble Hierarchs), Turn 4 Thragtusk can be enough to win a game on its own. Plus, playing a 5/4 on Turn 2 shuts down our opponent's early offense and helps us stay alive long enough to set up the Mayael's Aria kill. 

Of course, before you start thinking we broke the format, it's important to remember that many of these creatures have downsides. Sheltering Ancient is a 5/5 for two, but we can't play it if our opponent's side of the battlefield is empty (it will just die on our upkeep), and pumping our opponent's creatures is a huge downside in some matchups (although now I want to build Against the Odds: Sheltering Ancient plus Pacifism). Qal Sisma Behemoth is massive, but it costs a lot of mana if we actually want to attack or block. Thankfully, Woolly Thoctar doesn't have a downside (apart from its three-color mana cost), and Thragtusk—while a bit expensive—actually has a lot of upside in gaining us life and helping us stay alive while we are setting up our combo. 

The Matchups

As much as I hate to admit it, it seems like the matchups are more about how good Thragtusk happens to be rather than Mayael's Aria or Mossbridge Troll. As I mentioned before, Mayael's Aria is a very slow card, which makes winning in the very aggressive Modern format tricky. Against aggressive decks like Burn, Infect, or Affinity, we are leaning hard on a limited number of sideboard cards while hoping that the life gain from Thragtusk will be enough to keep us in the game until we can combo off and win. Combo decks are also tricky, since they are typically faster than we are, although there is some chance we just win by beating down with Qal Sisma Behemoth and Woolly Thoctar. Midrange and control decks, on the other hand, tend to have a lot of removal, which makes our backup plan of playing big creatures and winning with Mayael's Aria pumping our team difficult. Plus, these decks are much more likely to have counterspells for our See the Unwritten and Ghost Quarter / Tectonic Edge for Mosswort Bridge, making it hard to cheat Mossbridge Troll into play. 

All this is to say that I'm not sure we have any good matchups. Instead, we occasionally have good draws that can work against most decks. If we happen to draw multiple Thragtusks against Burn, we're probably going to win. Likewise, if we manage to go Turn 3 Mayael's Aria, Turn 4 Mossbridge Troll from under Mosswort Bridge, we have a chance to race combo decks and possibly even sneak past control if they don't have the right answers. 

The Odds

All in all, we managed to win two of our seven matches (28% match win percentage) and five of our 16 games (31% game win percentage). Most dissapointing, we only managed to win a single game with Mayael's Aria's "you win the game" trigger (although pumping our creatures was helpful in some of our other wins). As such, our percentage for winning directly with Mayael's Aria is a miniscule 6.25%. 

While this might look bad (and by the numbers, it is pretty bad), I'm not sure there is much we can do to fix it because the biggest problem was the "win more" aspect of Mayael's Aria. Of the four games we won without Mayael's Aria, they all could have been Mayael's Aria wins eventually, but we had enough big creatures on the battlefield that our Qal Sisma Behemoths and Woolly Thoctars would kill our opponent before we got a chance to trigger the "you win the game" mode (or our opponent would scoop because our board looked so threatening). Having five- or ten-power creatures but not winning the game is harder than it looks, even when we're playing creatures like Qal Sisma Behemoth and Sheltering Ancient that aren't very good at attacking or blocking. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week. Next week, we'll have a special Kaladesh episode! Don't worry—the poll will return the following week, and it will be overflowing with new Kaladesh cards to choose from!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! While the deck wasn't that great at winning, it was pretty fun to play, and (finally) getting a win with the help of Mossbridge Troll, Mosswort Bridge, and Mayael's Aria made all the losing worthwhile! 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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