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Against the Odds: Vesuvan Drifter (Modern)

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Against the Odds! Lost in the hype of Lord of the Rings was one of our goals for the summer: play every card from March of the Machine: Aftermath. Well, we're going to cross another one off our list today in an absolutely hilarious Modern deck: Vesuvan Drifter! Drifter is a super-unique card. It lets us look at the top card of our deck, and at the beginning of combat, if we have a creature on the top of our deck, we can reveal it and have Vesuvan Drifter turn into a copy of it until the end of turn. This means with a bit of luck, our harmless 2/4 flier can suddenly turn into one of the scariest monsters in Modern! What are the odds of winning with Vesuvan Drifter in Modern? Let's find out on today's Against the Odds!

Against the Odds: Driftin'

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The Deck

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Vesuvan Drifter is a super-unique card. While it's technically just a 2/4 flier, it can be any creature in Modern...assuming that creature is the top card of our deck. In practice, this means that with a bit of luck, Vesuvan Drifter can turn into some of the scariest, most game-ending monsters in the format, like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, as early as Turn 3! While we do have a plan for controlling the top of our deck, most of the time, we're playing Vesuvan Drifter fairly, getting in on the battlefield and hoping that we randomly end up with something massive on the top of our library to wreck our opponent in a single attack.

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The biggest problem with Vesuvan Drifter is that it doesn't have haste, so we have to wait a turn before attacking with it. This means getting it on the battlefield as quickly as possible is super important. As such, our deck is overloaded with mana dorks, with the idea being we can play a mana dork on Turn 1, play Vesuvan Drifter on Turn 2, and then, with some luck, turn Drifter into something massive on Turn 3 to smash our opponent to death in a single attack! 

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So, what are we hoping to turn Vesuvan Drifter into? The two most game-ending creatures in our deck are Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Thanks to the annihilator mechanic, a single attack with either (well, with Vesuvan Drifter turning into a copy of either, if you want to be technical about it) should close out the game. Even if we don't have lethal damage, our opponent will have to sacrifice most or even all of their permanents, making it more or less impossible for them to recover. 

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We also have both Etalis in our deck, although both are better with our backup plan than with Vesuvan Drifter itself. Etali, Primal Conqueror doesn't really do anything at all with Drifter since its main power is its enters-the-battlefield trigger (although turning Drifter into a 7/7 trampler is still fine). Meanwhile, the original Etali—Etali, Primal Storm—is funny since it lets us cast the top card of each player's library for free, which means it does work with Vesuvan Drifter. Awkwardly, if we turn Drifter into Etali, we know the top card of our library will be an Etali, and if we cast it for free, we'll end up legend-ruling away one of the copies, which can be worth it, but it isn't as exciting as you might think.

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So, why are the Etalis in our deck? Because they work really well with our backup plan. I mentioned earlier that we have one way to control the top card of our deck: Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Jace can Brainstorm with its zero ability, which is absurd with Vesuvan Drifter since it lets us put a massive finisher on the top of our deck from our hand. While our primary plan is to mulligan into a mana dork and a Vesuvan Drifter, our true nut draw is mana dork, Drifter, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor so we can control the top of our deck and make sure Vesuvan Drifter turns into something huge on Turn 3. We also have Through the Breach to cheat our big finishers into play from our hand, and this is where the Etalis come into play. Both Etalis let us cast the top card of our library for free, so we can use Jace's Brainstorm ability to put an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre on the top of our library, use a Through the Breach to cheat an Etali into play, and then cast the Eldrazi for free to get its cast trigger and a massive annihilating threat to close out the game!

The other upside of the Etalis is we actually just hard-cast them sometimes. Even with 11 mana dorks, the odds of us ever getting to 11 or 15 mana to cast an Eldrazi is tiny, but getting to six or seven for an Etali is doable if our mana dorks live. Basically, while the Etalis aren't as immediately game-ending as the Eldrazi, they are much less likely to get stuck in hand and do have some upside.

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Lastly, we have a single copy of Unexpected Results, which, for four mana, can (maybe?) let us play a card from our library for free. Sadly, we're just as likely to hit a mana dork as a big finisher, which means Unexpected Results is inconsistent. But if we are about to die and don't have a Vesuvan Drifter on the battlefield, having a chance to randomly cast an Eldrazi or Etali for free gives us some shot to jank out a win. The other upside of Unexpected Results is that it gives us a way to change the top card of our library, which helps give us extra shots at finding something massive on the top of our deck to turn Vesuvan Drifter into. Really, though, we're playing the one Unexpected Results because it's funny and I like it, not because it's especially good. 

The Matchups

Because we have such a funny but oddly powerful nut draw, Vesuvan Drifter has a chance to beat just about any deck in the format. A Turn 3 Emrakul attack has a tendency to win games. On the other hand, consistency is an issue. Removal-heavy decks are tricky because they can kill our mana dorks to keep us from getting to our big plays and remove the Vesuvan Drifter before it becomes a massive monster. And Solitude is especially annoying because it can remove the Vesuvan Drifter even after it turns into an Emrakul or Ulamog. Outside of removal-heavy control decks being tough matchups, I really don't know what to make of the matchups for the deck. It felt like we can beat literally anyone with a good draw but lose to just about anyone with a bad one.

The Odds

Record-wise, we went 3-2 in a Modern league with the deck and 1-1 in two random two-player queue matches, giving us a 4-3 record overall, which isn't bad considering our deck's jank level. I played the deck like a full-on combo deck—we mulliganed to four multiple times to find hands with a mana dork plus Vesuvan Drifter—and it worked! We also had some hilarious luck along the way, with things like cracking a fetch land only to have an Emrakul on the top of our deck by surprise to let us win games we had no business winning. As we talked about on the Goldfish podcast, you can do a lot of things in Modern as long as you have a nut draw that can scam out free wins, and it seems that includes mulliganing to four to try to play a Vesuvan Drifter on Turn 2 in the hopes of having an Eldrazi on the top of your library on Turn 3. What a world!


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

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