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Against the Odds: Urza-monicon (Explorer)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 361 of Against the Odds. Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines got me thinking about Panharmonicon decks again, and thanks to The Brothers' War and Explorer Anthology II, we've got some absurd new options to explore in an enters-the-battlefield-trigger-focused deck! Elesh Norn herself doesn't come out until February, but I couldn't wait to give them a try. So today, we're heading to Explorer to play a deck I'm calling Urza-monicon. Why Urza-monicon, you ask? Well, because, along with generating an obscene amount of value with enters-the-battlefield triggers, we can also meld Urza, Lord Protector with The Mightstone and Weakstone into the nigh-unbeatable Urza, Planeswalker! What other sweet new tricks does a UW Panharmonicon deck get in Explorer? What are the odds of winning with Panharmonicon in 2023? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Urza-monicon

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The Deck

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As you might know, Panharmonicon has been one of my favorite cards ever since it was printed back in Kaladesh. But you might be wondering why we are revisiting the enters-the-battlefield-trigger-doubling artifact now. Well, first and foremost, Wizards spoiling Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines got me thinking about the card again. But even more importantly, we've recently gotten a bunch of sweet new additions to UW Panharmonicon in Explorer.

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If you've been following competitive Magic for a while, you might remember a brief, glorious moment when UW Panharmonicon was a real tier deck in Standard, in large part thanks to the power of doubling up Reflector Mage's enters-the-battlefield trigger for removal. Unfortunately, Wizards decided that Reflector Mage was too strong for Standard (not because of Panharmonicon but because of other decks like UW Flash) and banned it, which basically killed Panharmonicon as a competitive deck. Well now, we have Reflector Mage on Arena thanks to Explorer Anthology II, which means we can try to recreate the UW Panharmonicon deck from Standard but with some huge, huge upgrades!

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The Anthology also gave us two Eldrazi that work incredibly well with Panharmonicon (and also together), in Eldrazi Displacer and Thought-Knot Seer. Individually, both cards are super strong in a deck built around enters-the-battlefield triggers. Eldrazi Displacer can blink things like Reflector Mage, Cloudblazer, Charming Prince, and Yorion, Sky Nomad, allowing us to reuse their enters-the-battlefield triggers. (We can also use Eldrazi Displacer to get opposing blockers or attackers out of the way, which is a nice bonus.) Meanwhile, Thought-Knot Seer gives us a Thoughtseize-like enters-the-battlefield trigger combined with a solid 4/4 body. While both cards are good enough to be in our deck on their own, together, they also give us a late-game hand-lock combo with the help of Panharmonicon

The idea of the lock is that in the late game, when our opponent is empty-handed, we wait until our opponent's draw step and use Eldrazi Displacer to blink Thought-Knot Seer. Our opponent will draw an extra card from Thought-Knot Seer leaving the battlefield, which will leave our opponent with two cards in hand (one from their draw step and one from Thought-Knot Seer). But with the help of Panharmonicon to double it, Thought-Knot Seer's enters-the-battlefield trigger will let us Thoughtseize our opponent twice, taking any non-land cards from our opponent's hand. We can do this every turn for just three mana, which essentially means we lock our opponent out of drawing non-land cards for the rest of the game. (However, the lock can be broken if our opponent draws an instant-speed removal spell they can cast with Thought-Knot Seer's trigger on the stack, so in some matchups, it's more of a temporary soft lock than a true hard lock.)

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But Explorer Anthology II wasn't the only recent set to offer some new Panharmonicon all-stars. The Brothers War also gave us some huge additions. The biggest is the namesake meld pair of Urza, Lord Protector and The Mightstone and Weakstone. In all honesty, Urza itself isn't that synergistic in our deck. While it does help us ramp into Panharmonicon and some other artifacts, it's mostly in our deck so we can meld into Urza, Planeswalker. On the other hand, The Mightstone and Weakstone might be the best Panharmonicon card that Wizards has printed in years. 

The theory of building a Panharmonicon deck is that you're going to fall behind because you have to take off Turn 4 to play Panharmonicon, but hopefully, you can catch back up the following turn by playing a five-drop with an enters-the-battlefield trigger that Panharmonicon will double trigger. In the past, the best five-drops in UW Panharmonicon were Cloudblazer (to draw four cards and gain four life) and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship (for removal). The Mightstone and Weakstone is essentially both of those cards in one. If we aren't too far behind on board, we can use it to draw four cards—the same number as Cloudblazer—to set up for a huge next turn. But if we are super-far behind on board, we can kill our opponent's two best creatures with the –5/–5 mode, making it an upgraded Skysovereign, or some combination of the two abilities. Oh yeah, and as a bonus, we can even use the Powerstone mana The Mightstone and Weakstone produces, either by ramping into Portal to Phyrexia (another huge new addition to the deck) or on abilities of things like Yorion, Sky Nomad or Eldrazi Displacer. Eventually, as we draw through our deck with our random enters-the-battlefield dorks like Fblthp, the Lost and Spirited Companion, we'll find Urza, Lord Protector and meld into Urza, Planeswalker to end the game! Outside of Panharmonicon itself, The Mightstone and Weakstone just might be the best card in our entire deck!

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Speaking of Portal to Phyrexia, it's pretty busted in our deck. With Panharmonicon out, it makes our opponent sacrifice six creatures, which often should make it a Plague Wind, and then it reanimates a random enters-the-battlefield trigger each turn to give us even more Panharmonicon value. While it is a lot of mana, which means it's only a two-of in the deck, it's usually unbeatable if we manage to cast it!

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Since it has been a little while since we've played a UW Panharmonicon deck, I also wanted to mention a couple of synergistic removal spells printed in the past year or so. Portable Hole is solid early-game removal, and it's even better in our deck than most because it's an artifact, which means it will double trigger with a Panharmonicon on the battlefield, letting us exile two things. Meanwhile, Touch the Spirit Realm is solid enough as removal, but its true power is that we can channel it to blink a creature or artifact, which lets us save Panharmonicon from removal or reuse our best enters-the-battlefield trigger for just two mana!

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The rest of the deck is pretty typical Panharmonicon shenanigans, with plenty of creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers that draw cards (Fblthp, the Lost, Spirited Companion, Thraben Inspector, and Cloudblazer), work as removal (Skyclave Apparition), or blink (Charming Prince and Yorion, Sky Nomad). Speaking of Yorion, I tend to think people play it way too often, but it is the perfect companion for a Panharmonicon deck full of enters-the-battlefield triggers since we usually have a bunch of stuff worth blinking. Plus, playing 80 cards is sometimes an upside because once we get a Panharmonicon or two on the battlefield, there is some risk we'll draw so many cards that we'll mill ourselves out!

The Matchups

The matchups for Urza-monicon are pretty straightforward. Our hardest matches by far come against super-aggressive decks. We can overwhelm pretty much any deck in the format with our late-game value, but we occasionally can get off to slow starts and get run over by decks like Mono-Red or Mono-White. On the other hand, Urza-monicon felt super powerful against various midrange and even control decks. We can grind forever, and sooner or later, we'll drown our opponent in value from Panharmonicon or meld into an almost-unbeatable Urza, Planeswalker.

The Odds

I've been playing Urza-monicon for fun, and all in all, my match win percentage is hovering right around 50%. Aggro is tough (we can win if we get lucky, but we're definitely not favored), while our deck does some crazy things in other, slower matchups! We got to see pretty much all of the deck's tricks in our matches: the Thought-Knot Seer plus Eldrazi Displacer hand lock, Urza, Planeswalker melds, insane Portal to Phyrexia value, and, of course, oodles and oodles of enters-the-battlefield triggers being doubled up by Panharmonicon. The deck is super fun to play and good enough to win a decent amount of games with right now, and it should get even better in a couple of months when Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines enters the mix! If you like value, give Urza-monicon a shot. It's too much fun to pass up!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Lately I've been enjoying Historic a lot, so let's try a spicy new card there next week! But which one? Click here to vcte!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! 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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