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Much Abrew: Orzhov Persist Combo (Modern)


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. One of my favorite things in Magic is when we play a deck or combo on Budget Magic and then, at some point in the future—often months or even years later—the deck or combo ends up developing into a real, competitive deck. Over a year ago, right after the release of Modern Horizons, we played a Mono-White Persist Combo deck for Budget Magic, fueled by Solemnity and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit to make persist creatures like Kitchen Finks and Safehold Elite infinite and then sacrifice outlets like Altar of Dementia and Blasting Station to actually close out the game. While the deck was sweet and felt fairly competitive, it sort of faded away into the land of cool budget decks. But more recently, Persist Combo is back, 5-0ing leagues on Magic Online and upgraded into Orzhov for discard and some sideboard cards. How good is the new version of Persist Combo? Is it worth upgrading your Budget Magic build? Let's jump into a league and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Much Abrew: Orzhov Persist Combo

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Discussion

  • Orzhov Persist Combo felt great! While we did have a lucky topdeck or two along the way, we ended up going 4-1 in our league, with our only loss coming to Rakdos Prowess / Burn, which should be one of our better matchups. 
  • The plan is simple: we basically have one primary three-card combo (with a bunch of redundancy) at the core of our deck and one backup combo.

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  • Our main combo is to go infinite with a persist creature, a way to get rid of the −1/−1 counter on the persist creature when it dies, and a sacrifice outlet. While this technically means we're built around a three-card combo (and three-card combos aren't traditionally all that competitive), what sets Persist Combo apart is the amount of redundancy we have for each combo piece. We have a total of 10 persist creatures, with four Kitchen Finks, four Safehold Elite, and two Putrid Goblins; we have eight ways to remove the −1/−1 counters from our persist creature, with four Solemnity and four Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit; and we have nine sacrifice outlets, between four Altar of Dementia, two Blasting Station, and three Carrion Feeders (although Carrion Feeder isn't a guaranteed win like our other two sacrifice outlets are). Because of this redundancy, the odds of us finding our combo early in the game is high, even though we need three different pieces. 

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  • Our backup combo is Solemnity with Phyrexian Unlife to lock damage out of the game. We've played this combo in various decks a few times in the past, and it always performs well. This time, it was no different, picking up free wins against decks like Boros Burn. I have no idea why more people haven't woken up to the combo's power in the Modern format. It's really, really strong in a lot of matchups and doubly so in this deck because we already need four copies of Solemnity to support our primary persist combo, so adding Phyrexian Unlife doesn't take up that much room in the deck. 

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  • So, what's the upside of going into black rather than staying mono-white like the Budget Magic build of Persist Combo? Primarily Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, although we also get some sideboard upgrades like Leyline of the Void and Collective Brutality. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are perfects fits for the deck because all of our combo pieces cost two or three mana, leaving Turn 1 open for other plays. Starting the game with a discard spell is a great way to clear the way for our combo pieces by getting rid of removal or counters that could otherwise disrupt our plans.
  • Otherwise, there really isn't much to say about the deck. Literally every card in our main deck is either a combo piece, a discard spell, or Path to Exile for removal. However, there are a few quirks briefly worth mentioning.

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  • Carrion Feeder is awkward, to the point where I'm not sure it's better than Viscera Seer if we need another sacrifice outlet (or more copies of Blasting Station). The upside of Carrion Feeder is that if we are comboing with Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, it can grow into an infinitely big attacker and potentially one-shot our opponent. The downside is that this doesn't work if we are comboing with Solemnity because the +1/+1 counters are prevented by Solemnity. Furthermore, Carrion Feeder is the one sacrifice outlet that doesn't guarantee us the win if we assemble our combo. If our persist creature is Kitchen Finks, we can gain infinite life, which is a pseudo-win in many matchups. But if we have Safehold Elite or Putrid Goblin instead, we can technically assemble all three pieces of our combo and still not win. 

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  • It's also somewhat awkward that Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Solemnity don't work together, although in reality, this isn't a huge deal since we only need one or the other to combo with. It is worth mentioning that if we somehow find ourselves on the creature beatdown plan, Solemnity will keep Anafenza from adding counters to our creatures and growing our threats.
  • So, should you play Persist Combo in Modern? I think the answer is yes. While graveyard hate is very good against the deck, between the persist combo and the Phyrexian Unlife / Solemnity lock combo, we have game in most matchups. We also have a pretty legitimate nut draw where we can play a discard spell on Turn 1, Altar of Dementia on Turn 2, Solemnity or Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit on Turn 3, and then a persist creature on Turn 4 to win the game. The deck is fast, consistent, and—outside of graveyard hate—hard for most decks to deal with.

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  • What about upgrading your Mono-White Persist deck to Orzhov? Here, the answer is more mixed. I do think that the Orzhov build is more competitive—the discard spells are really, really good in the deck and in Modern in general. But is it worth spending another $400 on the deck? My suggestions would be to upgrade to Orzhov but in a budget-conscious way. You should already have all of the expensive non-lands main-deck cards if you have the budget build, so all you really need to buy is Thoughtseize, which is currently cheap-ish thanks to Double Masters. Meanwhile, the upgrade is pretty cheap if you already have a tier Modern mana base since most of the cost is in the lands. If you don't have fetch lands and shock lands, you don't really need to play the two Marsh Flats in the mana base. Replacing them with something like Isolated Chapel will save $80 in upgrade costs. The other expensive card is Greater Auramancy. While it is nice for protecting Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife, I'd consider this a luxury, especially since Greater Auramancy seems like a card that is likely to be reprinted in the not-super-distant future, and it will drop a ton in price once that happens. I'd save Greater Auramancy for last in the upgrade process, and playing without it isn't the end of the world. With some careful substitution, you should be able to upgrade the deck for around $200 (and if you already have the lands, almost nothing), which seems worthwhile, although I'm not sure I'd spend the full $484 to get the fully optimal build, even though the deck feels strong.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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