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Against the Odds: Wurm Surprise (Modern)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 164 of Against the Odds. Last week, we hard a clear-cut winner during our Against the Odds poll: Panglacial Wurm, one of the most unique cards in Magic's history. While Panglacial Wurm is mostly just a big beater once it's on the battlefield, it's also one of the most complicated cards in Magic, since we can cast it from our library when we are searching our library. This essentially gives Panglacial Wurm flash, assuming we can search our library at instant speed. The end result is a strange green-white flash deck that's looking to jank out the opponent with some surprising instant-speed Wurms! Is Panglacial Wurm playable in Modern?  Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Wurm Surprise (Modern)

The Deck

Panglacial Wurm is a weird card to build around, because apart from wanting a lot of fetch lands (or other ways to search your library) and hopefully some amount of ramp to cast it, it doesn't really lend itself to any particular style of deck. When I realized it had won the poll, I briefly considering Wurm tribal, but the deck was pretty bad, mostly because Wurms tend to be really expensive. So while the deck we played in the video still has some of the best Wurms, the full-on tribal plan was quickly crossed off the list of possibilities. The other unique aspect of Panglacial Wurm is the ability to cast it like it has flash by searching our library at instant speed, which led to the second sub-theme of the deck: having a bunch of flash creatures to keep opponents guessing as to what we might have in hand (or in our library, in the case of Panglacial Wurm). The end result is Wurm Surprise, which is a weird mashup of flash creatures, Wurms, and some fast mana to cast our more expensive cards.

Surprise Wurms

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Panglacial Wurm is our best surprise Wurm, since no one ever expects it. We can be completely empty handed, and as long as we have a fetch land and enough mana to cast it, Panglacial Wurm can appear at any moment. Apart from the surprise factor, Panglacial Wurm is also a fairly reasonable creature. Nine power is enough to close out the game in just a couple of attacks, and five toughness makes sure it dodges things like Lightning Bolt. The main plan of our deck is to get up to seven mana, crack a fetch land, and surprise our opponent with a Panglacial Wurm, either to eat an attacking creature or during their end step, so we can untap and attack in for a bunch of damage.

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Our other surprise Wurm is Advent of the Wurm, which happens to fit perfectly with both the Wurm and flash themes of the deck. While getting blown out by Engineered Explosives is annoying, a 5/5 flash, trample for just four mana is actually a pretty solid deal, even in Modern. While not as surprising as Panglacial Wurm, it's not a card that opponents expect to see in Modern, which makes it a good option for eating random attackers. Plus, since we've got a bunch of mana dorks in the deck, we can often play it as early as Turn 3, making it a surprisingly effective beater.

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Our last main-deck Wurm is a single copy of Wurmcoil Engine, which is in the deck mostly to help against aggro, where the lifegain is extremely relevant. While it doesn't have flash, making it less surprising than Panglacial Wurm or even Advent of the Wurm, most green-white decks in Modern don't randomly have a Wurmcoil Engine, so it's at least unexpected, if not an outright surprise.

Searching Our Library

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For Panglacial Wurm to be effective, we need plenty of ways to search our library. Thankfully, most decks in Modern are searching their library for lands almost by default, since fetch lands are the most heavily played lands in the format. The best part of fetch lands is that opponents never see Panglacial Wurm coming. Leaving a fetch land on the battlefield uncracked is a good way to save life, so we can innocently ramp up to seven mana and then crack a fetch land to get a 9/5 trampling Panglacial Wurm out of nowhere!

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Fauna Shaman and Knight of the Reliquary give us backup ways of searching our library that also happen to be solid cards in our deck. Fauna Shaman allows us to play spicy one-ofs like Wurmcoil Engine and still find them in games where they are good, while also giving us a one-mana way to search our library for Panglacial Wurm. Meanwhile, Knight of the Reliquary is not only a way to search our library but also works as a ramp spell as well, since we can tap the land we sacrifice to Knight of the Reliquary before sacrificing it. Apart from enabling our Panglacial Wurms, Knight of the Reliquary allows us to tutor up lands like Ghost Quarter for Tron and Gavony Township as a backup plan for winning the game by pumping our random creatures. 

Other Surprises

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Rounding our our flash creatures are a playset of Aven Mindcensor along with two one-ofs in Qasali Ambusher and Archangel Avacyn. Aven Mindcensor can come down as early as Turn 2 thanks to our eight mana dorks and is a good way to slow down the opponent by making it risky for them to crack their fetch lands, while also having additional upside against certain decks built on searching their library (like Scapeshift or even Tron). It also combines well with our Ghost Quarters as a way to build our own Strip Mines. 

Qasali Ambusher is weird. In theory, it can come down for free as early as Turn 1 if we fetch out a Temple Garden, which makes it especially good against aggro decks with hasty threats like Goblin Guide, but otherwise it tends to be underpowered. Thank to Fauna Shaman, we can tutor it up in matches where it is good and hopefully not draw it in matchups where it's bad. Meanwhile, Archangel Avacyn is a pretty efficient threat that also gives us a way to protect our team from wraths and targeted removal, making it another solid tutor target for Fauna Shaman

Mana Dorks

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Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise are in the deck to make sure we actually get enough mana to cast our Panglacial Wurms. Seven mana is a lot in Modern, but with a couple of mana dorks, we can potentially cast our Panglacial Wurms as early as Turn 5. Even discounting Panglacial Wurm, playing Knight of the Reliquary or Aven Mindcensor on Turn 2 or Advent of the Wurm on Turn 3 helps to make sure our deck is fast enough to keep up with the rest of the decks in the Modern format.

Other Stuff

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Finally, we have Scavenging Ooze and Courser of Kruphix as one-of tutor targets for Fauna Shaman. Scavenging Ooze helps against graveyard decks and gains us a bit of life; meanwhile, Courser of Kruphix helps to filter our draws and gives us even more lifegain. As for Path to Exile, it gives us a way to interact with our opponent's creatures, and in a pinch, we can target one of our own creatures to search our library and find a Panglacial Wurm.

The Matchups

In general, Wurm Surprise does really well against midrange, control, and slower aggro decks, where we can simply overwhelm our opponent with huge, flashy creatures. We also have some chance against a dedicated aggro deck as long as we have a reasonably fast draw. On the other hand, fast combo is by far our worst matchup before sideboarding. While we have a lot of sideboard cards to help improve our odds against combo, things are pretty rough in game one, as our deck is just too slow and doesn't really interact with spells on the stack in any meaningful way.

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches and won all six, giving us the perfect 100% match win percentage, along with winning 12 of 14 games, good for an 85.7% game win percentage, making Wurm Surprise one of, if not the, best Against the Odds deck of all time. While we did get some non-Panglacial Wurm wins, we also won some games where Panglacial Wurm was the only card in Magic that would save us from what our opponent had going on, with the last game against Tron being the best example. While we probably got a bit lucky with the matchup, dodging fast combo decks, we did play a lot of top-tier decks along the way! 

As for Panglacial Wurm itself, I actually think the card might have a place in Modern. While I don't expect tier decks to play it as a four-of, as a one-of that sits in your library, it's actually a very strong and unique card. I could see a deck like GW Value Town—which tends to make a lot of mana anyway, with the help of cards like Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Courser of Kruphix, and mana dorks—wanting a copy to act as a surprise finisher and also be protection for things like wraths, since even if you empty your hand, as long as you leave a fetch on the battlefield, you always have access to Panglacial Wurm!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Way back in the beginning of the Against the Odds series, we used to do polls a bit differently. Rather than five new cards each week, we'd hold over the two second-highest vote getters from the previous week along with three new options. Last week's "fun cards" poll reminded me of how nice it was not to have a themed poll each week. While themes are great and we'll still use them from time to time, they can also be restricting. So for now, we're going to go back to the original style of Against the Odds polls! Do Din of the Fireherd or Confusion in the Ranks finally get their chance at glory, or will a new addition to the poll prevail? Let us know by voting below!

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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

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