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Against the Odds: Yarok-amonicon (Standard, Magic Arena)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 197 of Against the Odds. Core Set 2020 is here, which means we're kicking off our exploration of our new Standard format with a special episode. (If you're a fan of the Against the Odds poll, don't worry—it returns at the end of the article with a bunch of new Core Set 2020 options.) What we're playing this week probably isn't much of a surprise: as soon as Yarok, the Desecrated—our new Panharmonicon—was previewed, I knew we'd be playing it as soon as possible. As such, we're playing Yarok(amonicon) today, an Elemental-tinged Sultai enters-the-battlefield-trigger deck that's looking to play Yarok, the Desecrated, draw through most of our deck with the help of enters-the-battlefield triggers, and eventually win by overwhelming our opponent with value or stealing their best stuff with Agent of Treachery. Is Yarok, the Desecrated worthy of bearing the Panharmonicon name? What are the odds of winning with Yarok in Core Set 2020 Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Yarok(amonicon)

The Deck

Pretty much as soon as I saw Yarok, the Desecrated, I knew we would be playing it for our first Against the Odds, but it still took some brewing to figure out the right shell. A good Panharmonicon deck is built around generating card advantage with the Panharmonicon. Thankfully, in Core Set 2020, Wizards gave us the perfect support card for Yarok, the Desecrated in Risen Reef, which isn't just a creature that draws us a card when it enters the battlefield (or two cards with Yarok on the battlefield) but also essentially gives all of our Elementals "draw a card when this enters the battlefield," while also allowing us to put any lands we'd draw directly onto the battlefield. It's by far the best thing you can do with Yarok, the Desecrated and allows for some absolutely absurd things to happen. After decided on the core of Yarok and Risen Reef, the rest of the deck is mostly about filling out the curve with support cards, ramp, and removal. The end result? Yarok(amonicon)!

The Combo

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Yarok, the Desecrated is basically a Panharmonicon with some upsides and downsides. While I'm not going to spend too much time breaking down the specifics since I wrote a preview article about Yarok, the short version is that while being a creature means that Yarok, the Desecrated dies to more removal than Panharmonicon, a 3/5 lifelink, deathtouch body is actually pretty good. Plus, Yarok, the Desecrated triggers more things than Panharmonicon, like lands entering the battlefield, for example, which is one of the backup plans of our deck. Basically, with a Yarok, the Desecrated on the battlefield, we get to double-trigger any of our permanents.

Meanwhile, Risen Reef is Yarok's best friend and a truly absurd Magic card. Not only does it have an enters-the-battlefield trigger that draws us a card (or two with Yarok out), but if we happen to hit lands, they can go directly onto the battlefield, making it a mixture of card draw and ramp. Even better, it essentially gives all of our Elementals this ability, which gives our deck the ability to sort of combo off once we have Yarok, the Desecrated and Risen Reef by playing a bunch of Elementals and drawing most of our deck in one or two big turns. The cards also work really well together. Since Yarok is an Elemental, if we have a Risen Reef on the battlefield when we cast it, we immediately get two Risen Reef triggers, giving us some immediate value even if our opponent can kill our Yarok!

Other Elementals

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While we are not Elemental tribal, we do have a few more Elementals in the deck that work well with Yarok, the Desecrated, doubly so if we have both Yarok and Risen Reef. While somewhat underpowered as a creature, Cloudkin Seer has the magical "when this enters the battlefield, draw a card" text, which is the foundation of any good Panharmonicon deck. Toss in the fact that it also triggers (or double triggers) Risen Reef, and Cloudkin Seer generates a ton of card advantage in our deck. As for Cavalier of Thorns, apart from drawing cards, the next most important aspect of a Panharmonicon deck is ramping so we have enough mana to play as many of those cards as possible each turn. Cavalier of Thorns gets the job done while also offering a body that is really good at shutting down annoying fliers like Rekindling Phoenix and Lyra Dawnbringer and is an Elemental at the same time. The only downside of Cavalier of Thorns is that it empties five cards (or 10 with Yarok) from our library when it enters the battlefield, which can actually be an issue since our deck draws so many cards that we are sometimes at risk of milling ourselves out of the game.

Ramp

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Our Druids help ramp us into Yarok, the Desecrated and then offer a ton of mana once we get our card-draw engine going so that we can play a bunch of spells each turn. Leafkin Druid is also an Elemental, which is a nice bonus, and it usually ends up adding two mana fairly quickly, which is quite powerful. Meanwhile, Paradise Druid dodges early-game removal thanks to hexproof and makes a mana of any color, which is pretty important in a three-color deck that's also running two colorless lands.

Removal

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We also have a bunch of enters-the-battlefield removal creatures to support our Yarok, the Desecrated plan. Plaguecrafter can snag planeswalkers as well as creatures, which is a nice upside, although it's pretty bad against decks with lots of cheap, small creatures. Meanwhile, Ravenous Chupacabra and Hostage Taker give us additional creature removal, and Hostage Taker can snag artifacts as well, although that doesn't come up all that often in our current Standard format. Together, these creatures give us a bunch of removal that we can double up with Yarok, the Desecrated to keep our opponent's board in check.

The Finisher

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While we win a lot of games by out-drawing and out-valuing our opponent with Yarok and Risen Reef, we also have a dedicated finisher in Agent of Treachery. With a Yarok, the Desecrated on the battlefield, we're able to steal our opponent's two best permanents, making Agent of Treachery an upgraded (and cheaper) version of Mass Manipulation. Then, thanks to the fact that we have the full four copies of Agent of Treachery and a Hostage Taker, it's usually not that hard to draw some extra cards with Agent's second ability, giving us even more card advantage to grind our opponent out of the game. 

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Our other finisher is Field of the Dead, which shows off Yarok, the Desecrated's flexibility. Unlike Panharmonicon, Yarok doubles up triggers whenever anything enters the battlefield (rather than just artifacts and creatures), which means if we have a Yarok, the Desecrated on the battlefield along with Field of the Dead and a bunch of lands, we will get two 2/2 Zombies whenever a land comes into play. The Zombie plan can get out of control when Risen Reef joins Yarok, the Desecrated since we have turns where we end up putting four or five lands into play for free thanks to Risen Reef's ability, which means we often generate a lethal board for the cost of playing a colorless tapped land in our deck. This is an insane deal, even if Field of the Dead can occasionally make our mana clunky.

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Spark Double is just a one-of, but it can do some pretty sweet tricks. The main reason we have it in our deck is to copy Yarok, the Desecrated, which generates a truly staggering amount of value, but the upside of Spark Double is that it can double up as more removal, copies of Agent of Fate, or even just Risen Reef to draw more cards, depending on the situation.

Other Stuff

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Finally, we have a bit of removal. Since we don't have any planeswalkers in our 75, The Immortal Sun gives us a permanent planeswalker wrath that also draws us extra cards and discounts the cost of our spells. Meanwhile, Assassin's Trophy is the perfect removal spell in our deck. Normally, the drawback of Assassin's Trophy is that we give our opponent a land, but thanks to Yarok, the Desecrated and Risen Reef, we draw so many cards (and put so many lands on the battlefield) that we are almost always ahead of our opponent in resources anyway. The upside is that Assassin's Trophy can kill anything for a cheap price, giving us a way to deal with all of the powerful planeswalkers running around in our Standard format.

The Matchups

Yarok(amonicon) is one of those Against the Odds decks that doesn't end up feeling all that Against the Odds. This isn't to say it's the best deck in Standard or anything like that, but it really did feel like we had the ability to keep up with basically everything we played against. Against control and midrange, we simply outdraw and outramp our opponent, which eventually allows us to win the game just by having so many more resources against our opponent. Against aggro, we have good early-game blockers and some lifegain in the sideboard, although Mono-Red can be hard if we are on the draw. Basically, Yarok(amonicon) felt solid against Standard at large, to the point where I've been playing the deck for fun and have been consistently posting a good enough record to rank up on Magic Arena.

The Odds

We played six matches with Yarok(amonicon) and ended up winning five of them, giving us an 83.3% match win percentage, putting Yarok(amonicon) tied for fifth on the all-time list of Against the Odds decks (shout-out to Colby Davenport for keeping track of the stats). "Tied with what?" I hear you wondering. The original Five-Color Panharmonicon deck, of course! Basically, Yarok(amonicon) was great, and something similar might actually be a competitive deck in Standard. While narrower because of its three-color mana cost, Yarok, the Desecrated is actually better than Panharmonicon in most ways, and Risen Reef is just an absurd Magic card (and literally twice as absurd with Yarok on the battlefield).

Vote for Next Week's Deck

While there are still some sweet Modern Horizons cards left to play (and we'll get to more over the course of the summer), in celebration of the release of Core Set 2020, we've got an all-#MTGM20 poll this week. Which of these cards should we build around in Standard? 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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