Today I’d like to talk about another Historic deck that is poised to become playable once Amonkhet Remastered comes out. The deck I will be discussing is a prison control deck, which is something that hasn’t previously been viable in competitive Historic.
By now I’m sure you’ve figured out that I’m talking about Solemnity and Nine Lives:
Two cards with fantastic art and flavor come together to lock the opponent out of the game. Here’s how it works:
On a normal battlefield, whenever an opponent tries to deal damage to you, Nine Lives will prevent that damage and put a counter on itself. Nine Lives will do this 9 times. The catch? If you fail to win the game before the 9th counter is placed on Nine Lives, you lose the game. Not a great deal if you are trying to control the board, but when we add Solemnity into the mix, Nine Lives cannot have counters placed on it. This effectively prevents all damage that would be dealt to you for as long as the 2 enchantments remain in play.
So the focus of the strategies we will be seeing today will be assembling the 2 card combo and eventually closing the game out. When I say eventually, I mean EVENTUALLY, so be prepared for the long game.
Before we get into the other cards in the deck, let’s analyze the individual pieces of the combo.
Nine Lives is capable of stalling for a couple of turns against aggressive strategies that don’t swarm the board, and it has hexproof, so it is a low commitment option. Solemnity has less utility on its own, but there are many cards that see play right now that it shuts off, making it not completely textless before assembling the combo.
The other card that I believe will have the most impact on this type of deck besides Solemnity is Gideon of the Trials. Gideon is my favorite planeswalker of all time (mostly because it was included in my favorite iteration of modern UW Control), and it also puts in work for this deck. Now you may be thinking “Why do I need Gideon when the Nine Lives combo stops me from dying?”. The answer is that Gideon is a great card all around and can buy time, insulate the combo, and finish out the game! Against decks like auras and burn, Gideon represents a must kill threat that is capable of shutting down entire creatures. Gideon also plays decently around hexproof because you still keep the planeswalker even if your opponent causes the +1 ability to be countered. The emblem ability prevents you from dying in other ways. The main strategy that comes to mind here is BR Sacrifice. Loss of life is not prevented by Nine Lives, so your opponent can still attempt to kill you. Gideon of the Trials does do pretty questionably against an active Cat/Oven with Mayhem Devil, but we’ll have answers to that. In games that go very long, it is possible that Solemnity will be removed from the board. Gideon can buy you enough time with his emblem to allow you to reestablish the lock. Also, I guess Gideon could deal 20 points of damage if that was necessary. Gideon is a very strong card and I would expect to see it in more than just this strategy in the near future.
We’ve already shown the stars of the show, so let’s move onto the supporting cast:
Idyllic Tutor – being able to grab either piece of the combo is exactly what we are looking for when building this deck. We can also use Idyllic Tutor as a way to have a silver bullet package of useful enchantments in our deck to answer any threats that may arise.
Baffling End – A fantastic answer to a lot of big players in the format, being exile based and an enchantment make this card worth maindeck slots. If we shut down the early aggression from decks, it will be easier to assemble the combo
The Birth of Meletis – makes sure you hit your land drops in a mana hungry deck, fills out the 2 drops slot nicely, and gums up the board.
Cast Out – versatile, but expensive removal, Cast Out can also cycle in the early game if we don’t need it.
Alseid of Life’s Bounty – Nine Lives is pretty well insulated against enchantment removal, but Solemnity is not as fortunate. I’m not sure if Alseid deserves a maindeck slot, but protecting the combo should be our number 1 priority when it is possible to be broken up. Alseid can protect enchantments even if its most frequent job is protecting kor.
It’s possible that you will want some copies of the new Wrath of God or Settle the Wreckage in the deck as well, but it’s possible that they might not be necessary given the amount of 1 for 1 removal already present in the deck.
Onto the Silver Bullets!
Rest in Peace – This card is a big gain for the format and in this deck, it serves as our answer to BR Sacrifice. Cards like Grafdigger’s Cage can be destroyed and then the cat/oven combo is back online, but with Rest in Peace, once a creature hits the bin, it’s gone.
Gideon’s Intervention – a good all-around preemptive answer to problem permanents that would otherwise ruin our day. Cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Ulamog the Ceaseless Hunger represent threats that can either end the game immediately (with Ugin’s -X) or break up the combo/win the game without damage. Stomp//Bonecrusher Giant and Insult//Injury both have the ability to shut down Nine Lives for a turn even with Solemnity out, so its important to prevent the opponent from casting them. If you know what to expect from your opponent, Gideon’s Intervention is an extremely potent tutor target.
Runed Halo – in a similar vein to Gideon’s Intervention, Runed Halo protects you from a single card. The difference here is that Runed Halo is cheaper to cast.
Ixalan’s Binding – Another card similar to intervention, Binding can answer an on board threat and prevent the opponent from recomitting other copies of the same threat to the board.
Elspeth Conquers Death – A powerful card in standard, and a reasonable tutor target in Historic.
Fall of the Thran – Tech against ramp and Field of the Dead decks, Fall of the Thran decimates everyone’s lands and leaves each player with 4 when the saga finishes. The most important spells in the deck cost 3 mana, so we are fine with sacrificing a few lands.
Other silver bullets could include Overwhelming Splendor, Protection of the Hekma, Deafening Silence, Sigil of the Empty Throne, Sky Tether, Dawn of Hope, and Eidolon of Obstruction depending on what threats you are trying to answer.
Since we are Mono White, there are limited options for the nonbasic lands we can run:
Castle Ardenvale – I know a win condition when I see it, and Castle Ardenvale looks like a winner to me.
Field of Ruin – A good piece of disruption against Field of the Dead decks, and a way to answer Blast Zone, which is well positioned against a deck with so many enchantments. Solemnity does shut off Blast Zone, but against decks where you suspect it, you shouldn’t commit Nine Lives before Solemnity.
Secluded Steppe – In a mono-colored control deck we can probably afford a couple cycling lands.
The other enchantment that comes to mind is Leyline of Sanctity. With the rumour of thoughtseize being introduced into the format, it might become much more relevant to prevent yourself from being targeted. Leyline does a great job of this, but decks probably need to be running more than just 4 discard spells in order for it to be worth sideboarding.
The other sideboard card that I think will be effective is Archon of Sun’s Grace. Many decks will take out their removal against the deck, so having a way to quickly take over the game by casting your enchantments could be a massive boon for the deck post board.
Here is a sample list of Mono White Nine Lives:
As always, the sideboard will need to be tuned based on the developing meta.
This deck has many individual cards that are very good against aggressive strategies, which are all the rage on the Historic ladder. If you are looking to crush some Kor Spiritdancers, I would recommend taking Nine Lives for a spin. If Field of the Dead strategies become prominent this deck might not be the best choice because they will be better suited to pack answers to this deck.
Have fun stealing all the fun by locking your opponent out of the game with Nine Lives/Solemnity!