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Against the Odds: Zur-an (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode seventy-seven of Against the Odds. Last week was part two of our all-Modern Masters 2017 poll, and once again we had a blow-out winner: Zur the Enchanter, which nearly doubled up the runner-up in terms of percentage of votes. We also had almost 6,500 votes cast, which is an Against the Odds record, so big thanks to all of you for voting! Anyway, this week we are heading to Modern to see if we can win by tutoring up some enchantments with the Esper legend. Can we find a build of Zur the Enchanter that can compete in the powerful Modern format? We're about to find out!

Let's get to the videos, and then we'll talk a bit more about the deck, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy the Against the Odds series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel.

Against the Odds: Zur-an (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Zur-an (Games)

The Deck

Building around Zur the Enchanter was actually pretty challenging for a couple of reasons. First, while certainly not a tier deck by any means, there is a known Zur the Enchanter deck for Modern, which is sort of a control build. So, heading into deck building, this was something I wanted to avoid. Second, the deck in the videos is actually my third build of Zur. The first take was a Prison Zur deck that looked to tutor up Ghostly Prisons, Spreading Seas, and a bunch of hateful, one-of enchantments but had a really hard time actually closing out the game. The second was the opposite: Aggro Zur, which looked to tutor up Spirit of the Labyrinth, Master of the Feast, and Always Watching to beat the opponent down, but there were some issues with this build as well (mostly our opponent drawing a ton of cards from our Master of the Feast). Finally, on the third try, we got things right by adding Doran, the Siege Tower to the deck!

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Zur the Enchanter and Doran, the Siege Tower work really well together. For one thing, with a Doran, the Siege Tower on the battlefield, Zur the Enchanter is actually a legitimate threat as a 4/4 flier, but more importantly, having Doran, the Siege Tower in the deck allows Zur the Enchanter to tutor our some powerful but normally defense creatures and actually turn them into aggressive beaters. 

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Courser of Kruphix and Nyx-Fleece Ram are generally very good against aggressive decks, having a lot of toughness, so they are good at blocking and gaining a bunch of life to help us stay alive. However, in our deck, they are also attacking for four or five damage thanks to Doran, the Siege Tower. Of course, since they are enchantment creatures, we can also tutor them out with Zur the Enchanter, which means that in the late game, we can simply tutor our 4/4s or 5/5s every turn until we eventually overwhelm our opponent. 

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Not only does Zur the Enchanter work well with Doran, the Siege Tower, but it can actually be a Doran, the Siege Tower as well by tutoring out an Assault Formation! This allows us to attack with Zur the Enchanter and a bunch of other low-power, high-toughness creatures, even when we don't have a Doran, the Siege Tower, and then, when Zur the Enchanter triggers, to search up the Assault Formation and deal a ton of damage—and potentially even a bit more, thanks to the ability to pump our team for only three mana. 

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Athreos, God of Passage is just a one-of, but it takes advantage of the fact that both Zur and Doran have two white and two black mana symbols, which means that counting Athreos, God of Passage itself, we only need one more mana symbol to turn the God into a creature. It also generates some weird value, sometimes getting us back creatures after they die and other times eating away our opponent's life total. Most importantly, since it has a CMC of three or less, we can tutor it out with Zur the Enchanter in situations when it is good but leave it in our deck when we don't need an indestructible blocker. 

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We also have some non-creature tutor targets for Zur the Enchanter. Eland Umbra looks horrible but actually represents +4 damage with Doran, the Siege Tower and protects the enchanted creature thanks to totem armor. It also works really well with Greater Auramancy, which gives enchanted creatures shroud, so we can put it on a Zur the Enchanter and make it extremely hard to kill. Greater Auramancy also gives our Nyx-Fleece Rams and Courser of Kruphixes shroud, protecting them from Path to Exile, Fatal Push, and other targeted removal. Finally, Detention Sphere is just a catch-all removal spell that we can find with Zur the Enchanter

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Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch give us a nut draw that involves playing Doran, the Siege Tower on Turn 2 and Zur the Enchanter on Turn 3 while also working well with Doran, the Siege Tower (turning into 1/1 attackers). Meanwhile, Spellskite gives us another level of protection, eating a removal spell intended for Doran or Zur while also being a reasonable 4/4 for just two mana when we have a Doran, the Siege Tower or Assault Formation on the battlefield. 

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Finally, we have a handful of cards that aren't really important to the theme of our deck but are needed for building a successful Modern deck. Path to Exile and Fatal Push give us ways to deal with our opponent's creatures, while Inquisition of Kozilek helps us protect our Zur and Doran by taking a removal spell from our opponent's hand. 

The Matchups

We are naturally very, very good against any type of aggressive deck, since the combo of Courser of Kruphix, Nyx-Fleece Ram, and Spellskite is devastating against decks like Burn or Zoo. We also have a reasonable shot against more midrange decks like Jund, Abzan, and Eldrazi because Doran, the Siege Tower makes all of our random creatures into threats that can trade with (or even attack through) Tarmogoyf and Thought-Knot Seer, and Zur the Enchanter gives us a repeatable card-advantage engine. 

On the other end of the spectrum, we have combo and control, and while these matchups aren't unwinnable, they are much more difficult than aggro and midrange. Against control, our biggest advantage is that none of our creatures die to Lightning Bolt or Lightning Helix, although they all die to Fatal Push and Path to Exile. As such, depending on the specific build, we can sometimes just get one-for-oned to death. All of our creatures need to stick on the battlefield for a turn or more to generate any value, so when we have games where we spend four mana on Zur the Enchanter only to have it Path to Exiled for one mana, it's pretty easy to lose. 

As for combo, things are extremely rough in the main deck. We are basically hoping to beat down with creatures buffed by Doran, the Siege Tower and win before our opponent combos off, since we only have three Inquisition of Kozileks for interaction. However, our sideboard is overflowing with enchantments that can solve just about any problem, and even though most of these enchantments are one-ofs, since we have Zur the Enchanter to tutor them out, we are likely to find them in matchups where we need them. 

The Odds

The deck actually performed extremely well. All in all, we won four of our six matches (66.67% match win percentage) and nine of our 14 games (64.29% game win percentage). As predicted, we absolutely crushed Burn decks and somehow held our own against Ad Nauseam and Tooth and Nail combo decks as well. On the other hand, our losses came to removal-heavy decks in Grixis Delver and Abzan, although the Grixis Delver match was really odd. In various games, we and our opponent both ran really poorly, and while I felt like our deck may have been the favorite in the matchup (even though we lost), it's really hard to say because everything about that match was just weird. 

Most importantly, the combo of Zur the Enchanter and Doran, the Siege Tower felt really good. While maybe not an obvious celebrity couple, Zur-an felt like it could form the basis of a legitimate Modern deck. Plus, we posted a winning record with main-deck Eland Umbra, which has to be a first in the history of Modern!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

It's second-chance poll week, where cards that came in second or third over the last few Against the Odds get another shot at glory. As such, there really isn't much of a theme to this poll, but there are some interesting options for both Standard and Modern! Which do you want to see next week? Let us know by voting!

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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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