Against the Odds: Tunnel Vision (Modern)
by SaffronOlive // Apr 20, 2017
Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode eighty-two of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an all-sorcery Against the Odds poll, and it ended up being one of the closest, most competitive polls we've ever had. While Tunnel Vision ended up sneaking out the victory with 1,160 votes, Curse of the Cabal came in just 14 votes behind, and even the third-place option Doubling Chant was only about 100 away from taking home the win. Regardless of how close it was, what this means is that this week, we are heading to Modern to see if we can harness the milling power of Tunnel Vision!
Oh, by the way, there's no Against the Odds poll this week. That's because Amonkhet releases on Magic Online next Monday, which means we're having a special Amonkhet episode next week! Don't worry, the poll will return next episode and will be overflowing with options from Magic's newest set!
Let's get to the videos, and then we'll talk a bit more about the deck, 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: Tunnel Vision (Deck Tech)
Against the Odds: Tunnel Vision (Games)
Initially, when I realized that Tunnel Vision won the poll, my plan was to figure out a way to mill the opponent's entire deck (minus one card) with the sorcery. However, once I started trying to build the deck, I realized that this was going to be a lot harder than it looked at first glance. While there are cards that allow you to put a card on the bottom of your opponent's library, the biggest problem is that most cards in Modern are played in multiples, so even if we managed to get a Tarmogoyf (for example) on the bottom of our opponent's deck, when we cast our Tunnel Vision, we'd hit one of the other Tarmogoyfs higher up in the deck and fizzle. I briefly considered trying to fix this problem with cards like Sadistic Sacrament and Cranial Extraction (exiling three of the four Tarmogoyfs and leaving one for Tunnel Vision), but even this seems like a long shot because we couldn't control when (or if) our opponent would ever draw the remaining copy, and even if they did, we'd still have to find a way to get it to the bottom of their deck. All this is to say that the idea of using Tunnel Vision to mill the opponent out simply wouldn't work.
The breakthrough was realizing that things would be much easier if our goal were to use Tunnel Vision to mill our entire deck instead of our opponent's, because we control the cards in our deck. In theory, all we need to do is play primarily one-ofs and then scry a card or two to the bottom of our deck, and suddenly Tunnel Vision reads, "pay six mana, mill your entire deck minus one card." This seemed pretty powerful. Hermit Druid is banned in Legacy and Vintage for this very reason. So, we had a plan—we just had to figure out all of the pieces and then a way to finish the game.
We have two different options for scrying cards to the bottom. The first is Serum Visions (one of a handful of four-ofs in our deck), which not only gives us something to do on Turn 1 but also allows us to scry two cards to the bottom, which is more important than it might seem. It's actually sort of tricky to win if we have just one card left in our deck after casting a Tunnel Vision, but it's much easier with two cards, and Serum Visions gives us a single card that can put two cards on the bottom of our deck. Second, we have the scry lands (all one-ofs), which are important for two reasons. Not only do they give us a low-opportunity-cost way to scry to fuel Tunnel Vision but they also allow us to play fewer fetch lands, which are actually really bad in our deck. While we do have a handful because they are a necessary evil, the goal was to play as few as possible because once we scry a card to the bottom, we need it to stay there for when we eventually cast Tunnel Vision, and cracking a fetch would force us to shuffle and ruin our entire plan.
As for finishing the game once we mill our entire deck with Tunnel Vision, the plan is pretty simple. We have two copies of Unburial Rites. With the first one, we reanimate an Archetype of Endurance to protect our creatures, and with the second, we get back a Laboratory Maniac, which gives us the win the following turn when we draw on an empty library. If we have enough mana, we can do this all in one turn (which allows us to win even if we Tunnel Vision down to just one card in our deck), but we are often a mana short, which means we actually want to name the second-to-bottom card in our library with Tunnel Vision (which is why scrying two is important), so that we have enough time to cast Unburial Rites two turns in a row before we die to our empty library.
We also have a sweet backup plan in Loaming Shaman. If we can't win by reanimating Archetype of Endurance and Laboratory Maniac for some reason (for example, we used one of our Unburial Rites earlier in the game), we can instead reanimate a Loaming Shaman, which pretty much turns into a Doomsday. When Loaming Shaman enters the battlefield, we get to shuffle any number of cards from our graveyard into our library, and while we could just shuffle everything back in, we normally try to choose four or five cards that will win us the game and leave the rest in our graveyard.
As for the rest of the deck, it's mostly a whole bunch of one-ofs to make sure that we actually mill our entire library when we cast a Tunnel Vision. For example, instead of just playing four Birds of Paradise as a one-mana accelerant, we are playing one each of Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, Elvish Mystic, and Avacyn's Pilgrim. While this makes our deck a bit less powerful in a vacuum (because Birds of Paradise is better than Elvish Mystic), in the context of the entire deck, playing a bunch of one-ofs actually makes the deck better.
Satyr Wayfinder and Thought Scour are the other four-ofs in our deck, and they are important because they help us stock our graveyard when we don't happen to draw a Tunnel Vision. While our primary plan is to get the combo kill, we can also win some games by milling various creatures and then reanimating them with Unburial Rites or our other reanimation spells. Satyr Wayfinder also helps fix our mana, which is important, considering we are four colors.
Griselbrand and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite are our best way of winning a game when we aren't comboing off. Griselbrand not only gives us a huge, lifelinking flier to kill our opponent but also works well with Laboratory Maniac, allowing us to win right away if our opponent is tapped out by reanimating it instead of Archetype of Endurance and drawing seven cards with only a single card left in our library. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, on the other hand, gives us a shot at staying alive against go-wide aggro decks by sweeping away their board. Meanwhile, Makeshift Mannequin and Footsteps of the Goryo give us some additional reanimation spells, and while they don't work from the graveyard like Unburial Rites, they cost less mana, which is helpful when we randomly mill something good with Thought Scour or Satyr Wayfinder.
Otherwise, we have a bunch more one-ofs. Thragtusk and Kitchen Finks gain us some life (and block twice) against creature-based aggro and midrange decks. Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Collective Brutality let us get something out of our opponent's hand (hopefully graveyard hate, which is very good against our deck). Qasali Pridemage gives us an answer to main-deck graveyard hate like Relic of Progenitus from Tron, and it can be reanimated to use it a second time. And finally, Eternal Witness just generally provides value, since we usually get a lot of cards in our graveyard, and helps us construct good Doomsday piles from Loaming Shaman.
The biggest problem with the deck (and with Tunnel Vision in general) is that it had a really hard time beating graveyard hate, and nearly all Modern decks are playing something to handle the graveyard thanks to the popularity of Dredge, Snapcaster Mage, and other decks. While we have a few ways of dealing with things like Rest in Peace, Grafdigger's Cage, and Leyline of the Void, especially in our sideboard, these are still not cards we want to see across the table.
Another issue is inconsistency. Since Tunnel Vision requires us to play so many one-ofs, we sometimes run into problems where we just don't draw the right card in the right matchup. A great example of this was against Bushwhacker Zoo. We won fairly easily in games where we drew Kitchen Finks and Thragtusk, but we can't really count on having them often, since those cards are only one-ofs in the main deck, and we're likely to lose the games when we don't find them.
On a more micro-level, probably the hardest matchups are fast aggro and counterspell-heavy control decks. As I mentioned a moment ago, we can beat aggro, but we can't really beat it consistently unless we just happen to run really well. As for control, the nightmare scenario is that we mill our entire deck and when we go to reanimate our Laboratory Maniac and win the game, our opponent counters it and we end up dying to drawing from an empty library.
All in all, we played six matches and won one (16.67% match-win percentage) but fared slightly better in games, winning 4 of 15 (26.67% game win percentage), and this felt about right for the deck. While we did some crazy things when everything went well, more often than not, it felt like we were either a turn too slow against aggro (tapping out for a six-mana sorcery that doesn't impact the board is quite the challenge in Modern) or scumbled to our opponent's graveyard hate. That said, the deck was really fun to play, and the combo of milling our entire deck with Tunnel Vision actually worked really well (only once in all of our games did we cast a Tunnel Vision without knowing the bottom of our deck), so even though the record was middling for an Against the Odds deck, in the end, the crazy mill turns and Loaming Shaman Doomsday piles made it all worthwhile.
Vote for Next Week's Deck
No poll this week because we'll have a special Amonkhet episode next week! Don't worry, the poll will be back next episode, and it will be stuffed full of cards from Magic's newest set!
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.