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I Won by Bringing my Own Life Total to 0 | Brewer's Kitchen


Hello there! Brewer’s Kitchen here with another fresh and spicy brew. Today we are trying to win the game by lowering our own life total down to zero. As usual, this article is the deck tech part to my gameplay video. If you want to see the deck in action first, here you go:

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Gameplan

As mentioned, the goal of the deck is to win by lowering our own life total to zero and below. The first thing to make sure is to prevent this from killing us. Gideon of the Trials not only prevents aggro from attackers, it also literally saves our life. His emblem says “As long as you control a Gideon planeswalker, you can’t lose the game and your opponents can’t win the game.” Exactly what we need for our daring gameplan.

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There are multiple other ways to prevent us from losing the game at zero, but let’s first go over how we lose all that life. In Magic, the goal is usually to preserve your own life total and reduce that of the opponents. Paying or losing life with your own spell is generally a bad thing and will be rewarded with efficiency and value. Cards like Thoughtseize and shock lands like Godless Shrine are popular even in decks that don’t want to reduce their own life. But we’ve got a bunch more in store to make sure our life total is nice and low.

Infernal Grasp, Dire Tactics, and Murderous Rider are premium removal spells that incidentally hurt us. Arguel's Blood Fast and Black Market Connections grant us value in exchange for life. While the Blood Fast “pays” life and doesn’t work after we depleted our life total, the Connections “loses” life and can quickly bring us below zero and further while accumulating immense value along the way.

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Now that our life is gone, we just have to make sure our Gideon of the Trials stays alive at any cost. Doomskar, Wrath of God and Blood on the Snow keep the board clear from attackers. Gideon’s (+1) ability will encourage opponents to overextend on the board to push through damage, making these board wipes very punishing for aggro matchups. Removal spells will easily deal with Gideon, though. Besides our few secondary methods of cheating death, that’s just a fact we have to accept. This deck’s gameplan is very risky. You’re constantly living on the edge once you rely on the Gideon emblem.

Now why go though all this trouble to get to 0 life? Usually, decks that reduce their own life total on purpose play Death's Shadow as a payoff. But while having a 13/13 for one mana is cool, it really wouldn’t win us the game. What does win us the game is Axis of Mortality.

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Now six mana is expensive and you have to wait for the next upkeep to trigger it but switching life totals with the opponent while we have 0 or less is about as game winning as it gets. Keep in mind that the trigger goes on the stack. To leave the window of interaction on your Gideon as small as possible, try to lover your life to 0 in your upkeep. Instants like Dire Tactics or lands like Ifnir Deadlands or Castle Locthwain are easy ways to lose life in response to the life total switch trigger going on the stack

That’s basically the gameplan of the deck. Naturally, a unique deck like this has a lot of tricks up its sleeves. Let’s go over the specific cards:

Thoughtseize

One of the most powerful turn one spells in the format. Make sure to make them discard cards that are specifically good against our gameplan. Things that can deal with permanents like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Void Rend, or Kaya the Inexorable are especially brutal against us. While we do have some planeswalker removal, anything that can deal with our Axis of Mortality or Gideon of the Trials is scary. Since we are basically a combo deck, we can make great use of holding on to a Thoughtseize until the turn we execute (ourselves) our gameplan and play the Axis. The opponent still has a draw step to find an answer, but at least we can make sure they don’t have it in their hand.

Arguel's Blood Fast

This card is super synergistic in this deck but suffers from the fact that best of one historic is full of aggro decks. Paying two mana and life to draw a card can easily grind out control decks but creates heavy life and tempo disadvantage in aggressive matchups. We still play a single copy for the games where it shines. Usually, effects that pay life are worse then you’d expect in this deck, since we quickly don’t have life to pay left. At least the Blood Fast can transform into Temple of Aclazotz once our life total is below 5. We never use its ability but when our win condition costs six mana in these (Black/White) colors, we take any incidental ramp we can get.

Dire Tactics

Exiles a creature at instant speed for two mana and makes us lose life? Sounds great! The life loss can be a little brutal when the opponent turns up the aggro with big beaters. But once we can’t lose the game, this is extremely efficient removal.

Infernal Grasp

Plays very similar to Dire Tactics but doesn’t exile. The life loss being set to two makes it a bit of a saver option in early game situations.

Sign in Blood

Draw two cards and lose two life for two mana; the perfect spell for this deck. If it wasn’t amazing enough already, we can also target our opponent with it after switching life totals. If we can’t find a Gideon or other means to stay alive below 0, killing with Sign in Blood is a legit alternative since we can easily lower our life total to one or two before exchanging it.

Gideon of the Trials

One of the key pieces of the deck. Besides saving our life and preventing our opponents board from dealing damage, is can technically become a creature and go on the beat down plan. So far this only happened once in all the matches I played with this deck.

Black Market Connections

I know I know, Baldur’s Gate Alchemy sucks, but this card is an exact port of the paper version. While you will likely never see any digital-only cards in my decks (besides that one time), I will surely play with some of the gems from the set that actually exist in paper. With that out of the way: This card is the reason why this deck works. Earlier versions of this deck played Phyrexian Arena for a similar effect, but the Connections are on another level. Once we leverage the downside of losing six life every turn, the value gets out of hand real quick. Every precombat main phase, we will create a Treasure, draw a card and create a 3/2 Shapeshifter creature token with all creature types. Funnily enough, having all creature types is relevant in this deck. Dire Tactics won’t lose us life if we control a Human, and The Book of Exalted Deeds can only target Angel creatures. We get to the latter one later.

Murderous Rider

Just a one-off since the other removal spells are more cost efficient, but dealing with Planeswalkers and blocking to protect our own is worth it.

Wrath of God

Nothing beats the classic when it comes to board wipes.

Doomskar

Our only way to wipe the board on turn three in matchups like Elves and Goblins.

Lolth, Spider Queen

Lolth is just one of the strongest standalone Planeswalkers in Historic. We could play pretty much anything in this slot that prevents us from attackers and accumulates value.

Axis of Mortality

The win condition of this whole gameplan. It’s slow, it’s expensive, and easily dealt with, but it’s one hell of a way to finish a game when you pull it off.

Blood on the Snow

Another board wipe and a way to deal with Planeswalkers. We do play snow lands and planeswalkers to get back with it so make sure to tap your mana right.

Karn, the Great Creator

Besides randomly hosing artifact decks, Karn gives us access to our sideboard with some silver bullets, combo pieces, and value.

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Let’s go over our Karn board:

Grafdigger's Cage – Hoses reanimator and other ways to cheat in creatures.

Portable Hole – Efficient early removal.

Wishclaw Talisman – Find’s the necessary cards in our deck. Karn’s passive ability prevents the opponent from using the Talisman themselves.

The Book of Exalted Deeds – Plan B to stay alive at 0 life. It combos with Faceless Haven to create a land that prevents us from losing the game.

Cataclysmic GearhulkBalance the board. It’s situational but highly devastating on the right boardstate.

Bolas's Citadel – Pay life to play spells from your deck, seems sweet! Too bad we can’t pay life once we don’t have any left. It’s still amazing against control.

Platinum Angel – Our Plan C to stay alive at 0 life. Some decks don’t run removal that can deal with this. If everything else goes wrong, grab a Platinum Angel, slam it on the board and make them have it.

Wrap Up

And that is it for this one. I hope you enjoyed the video and deck tech as much as I enjoyed playing with the deck. I’ve been brewing with Axis of Mortality for quite some time and Black Market Connections finally made it legit. That being said, the gameplan is obviously unnecessary risky so don’t expect this deck to carry you into Mythic.

If you have questions or ideas for this or any other deck, you can reach me on Twitter @Brewers_Kitchen or at brewerskitchen@mtggoldfish.com.

  



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