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Against the Odds: Warped Devotion (Modern, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 172 of Against the Odds. Last week, we reset the Against the Odds polls with a bunch of new options as we wait for the release of Ravnica Allegiance. In the end, it was Warped Devotion beating out Beamsplitter Mage by just four votes out of the nearly 5,000 that were cast! As such, we are heading to Modern this week to see if we can win some games by bouncing (and making our opponent discard) their permanents! Warped Devotion is a sort of tricky card to build around. In theory, you can just play it for value with a bunch of bounce effects, but just casting Boomerangs isn't the most Against the Odds thing I've ever heard of. So instead, we're going pretty deep to try to turn Warped Devotion into a hand- and battlefield-clearing (and hopefully even game-winning) combo piece. What are the odds of winning with Warped Devotion in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out!

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Against the Odds: Warped Devotion (Modern)

The Deck

When realized that Warped Devotion had won the poll, my first instinct was to try to bounce all of the opponent's lands with cards like Boomerang and Eye of Nowhere, with Warped Devotion helping to keep the opponent's hand clear of action, but this plan didn't actually work very well. Warped Devotion was hardly ever important, and we usually won by other means. To really make Warped Devotion good, we had to find a way to bounce multiple things at once and also to give our opponent additional permanents, to make sure that they'd have to discard their entire hand when we bounced our opponent's board, basically turning Warped Devotion into a weird, risky build-your-own Restore Balance that doesn't hit lands. 

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On one hand, Warped Devotion is simple: we bounce one of our opponent's permanents whenever they have to discard a card, which helps to solve one of bounce cards' biggest problems, in that they are card disadvantage (since your opponent can recast the card we bounce but we end up down a card in hand). In theory, if we can get our opponent empty handed and then start bouncing permanents, we can turn a lowly bounce spell into hard removal. On the other hand, building a deck around Warped Devotion is tricky. To really break the enchantment, we need to not only have ways to bounce a bunch of our opponent's permanents at one time but also give them extra permanents, to turn Warped Devotion into a hand-clearing Mind Twist

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Step one to comboing off with Warped Devotion is giving our opponent extra creatures. For this, we turn to Forbidden Orchard and Hunted Phantasm. Forbidden Orchard can give our opponent a 1/1 Spirit each turn while also fixing our mana, while Hunted Phantasm gifts our opponent five 1/1 red Goblins while leaving behind a pretty reasonable 4/6 unblockable body. Why is giving our opponent tokens so important to our plan? Here, we are relying on a weird quirk in the Magic rules. Let's say we give our opponent five tokens with Hunted Phantasm and then use something like Echoing Truth to return all of those tokens to hand. While those tokens disappear as soon as they go to our opponent hand, they do technically go there for a split second, which means each one will trigger Warped Devotion. The bad news for our opponent is that they will be forced to discard "real" cards, since the tokens will be gone by the time they try to discard to Warped Devotion, which allows us to build a really weird, janky Mind Twist by combining Warped Devotion, our "you get a token" cards, and mass bounce.

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When it comes to mass bounce, our best card is Displacement Wave. The power of Displacement Wave is that we can cast it for just two mana (x = 0) to make our opponent pick up all of the tokens we give them with Hunted Phantasm and Forbidden Orchard, which forces our opponent to discard a ton of cards. Also important is that we can scale up Displacement Wave to bounce bigger things as well, hopefully returning everything on our opponent's board. The most powerful thing our deck can do is to give our opponent some tokens, cast a massive Displacement Wave to bounce all of the tokens and all of our opponent's non-land permanents, and force our opponent to discard not just everything that was in their hand but everything they had on the battlefield as well, basically building a weird Restore Balance–type effect. 

Echoing Truth is a good backup bounce spell that is especially effective with Hunted Phantasm and Forbidden Orchard. With a Warped Devotion on the battlefield, just making our opponent pick up the five tokens from Hunted Phantasm turns Echoing Truth into a card that says "target opponent discards five cards" at instant speed for just two mana! Meanwhile, Thing in the Ice is our backup plan. We have a reasonable number of spells in the deck, and if we can flip it, it offers a way to bounce all of our opponent's creatures (tokens and non-tokens) at once while also leaving behind a big finisher. 

One last thing worth mentioning: Warped Devotion will still trigger if we cast it for enough mana that we are forced to bounce our own Warped Devotion. While we will have to discard cards for whatever permanents of ours we bounce, in theory, this will still hurt our opponent more than it hurts us, especially if we save up some extra lands or other dead cards to discard. 

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Cryptic Command and Jace, the Mind Sculptor give us some additional multi-purpose bounce spells. Cryptic Command is important to staying alive while we are looking to find our combo pieces by countering spells and tapping down the tokens we give our opponent, if needed. Jace, the Mind Sculptor helps us dig for our combo pieces with his Brainstorming zero ability while also being one of our best finishers after we make our opponent discard their hand, since we can +2 each turn to make sure our opponent doesn't draw anything relevant and then eventually ultimate Jace for the win. Both cards have some upside with Warped Devotion as well. Once we empty our opponent's hand, Cryptic Command is a great way to start attacking our opponent's mana base, by bouncing lands and forcing our opponent to discard them to Warped Devotion. Meanwhile, Jace, the Mind Sculptor can bounce (and make our opponent discard) creatures three turns in a row with its1. 

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Outside of our combo pieces, we have Snapcaster Mage and some utility spells for the early game. Snapcaster Mage give us a way to reuse our bounce spells, which is especially helpful if our opponent happens to rebuild post-Warped Devotion and also helps us speed up the process of flipping Thing in the Ice by recasting a cheap spell like Opt or Thoughtseize from the graveyard. Speaking of cheap spells, Opt and Serum Visions help us set things up in the early game, digging through our deck for Warped Devotion and our other combo pieces, while Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek help to make sure we stay alive long enough for Warped Devotion to be relevant. While our deck isn't slow, its most powerful things happen on Turn 4 or 5, which is a bit slower than the fastest decks in Modern without cards like Thoughtseize to disrupt our opponent's plan.

The Matchups

While I'm not sure Warped Devotion has a ton of good matchups, our best matchups are ones where our opponent is playing cheap non-land permanents. As we saw in our gameplay, against decks like Affinity and Lantern Control, the combination of Warped Devotion and Displacement Wave is devastating. On the other hand, things get a lot harder in matchups where our opponent is playing more expensive permanents (or not many permanents at all, like control). Hunted Phantasm and Forbidden Orchard help to make sure that Warped Devotion still does something even in matchups where it is bad, but the plan is risky, since if we don't draw our bounce spells quickly enough, we risk losing to the tokens that we give to our opponent. 

The Odds

Technically, we went 1-4 in matches (good for a 20% match win percentage) while winning three of 11 games (good for a 27.3% game win percentage) with Warped Devotion, although we did a bit better in spirit. In our last match against Experimental Affinity (which was probably the best showing for our deck), we pretty much had our opponent hard-locked into what would have been a flawless victory but ran out of time before we could actually kill our opponent. If we're generous and count that as a win, our match win percentage increases to 40%, which still isn't good but is at least a bit more respectable. 

As for Warped Devotion, it can do some really sweet things in the right matchups, but our plan is really slow and risky in other matches. We had some games where it looked like we had things set up perfectly, only to have cards like Thoughtseize ruin our day and leave us with a bunch of combo pieces that didn't do much of anything (and sometimes actively hurt us, like Hunted Phantasm). While the good matchups were really good, the bad games for Warped Devotion were really bad. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

We've got one week to go until we can start exploring Ravnica Allegiance, so for next week, let's return to one of our classic themes: planeswalker tribal! We've only got four options left that have at least three different non-Planeswalker deck printings that are Modern legal. Which of these planeswalkers should we build around next week? Let us know by voting below!

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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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