How To Beat The Combo Decks

Whether you want to play it or fight against it, Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Patrick Chapin talks about why you must build your deck with combo in mind for Grand Prix Richmond.

GP Richmond

The biggest Modern Grand Prix of all time?

Is that a joke? Grand Prix Richmond is already locked for biggest Constructed tournament of all time.

It’s actually making a run at Vegas.

. . .

Grand Prix Richmond is absolutely demolishing Constructed tournament attendance records and offers pretty compelling evidence that Modern has fully arrived. With over 2,200 players preregistered as of Sunday, only Grand Prix Las Vegas has ever had numbers like this before.

Coming off the heels of a Modern Pro Tour, we have tons of new information to arm ourselves with. There is so much information, so much technology about Modern available, and so much edge to be gained that I’m going to be posting three times this week, breaking down every facet of Modern.

Today’s focus is on combo decks. Modern has more combo decks than Legacy or Vintage and with good reason: Force of Will isn’t legal! Pro Tour Born of the Gods was literally 50% combo, with over 60% combo at the top tables! Combo isn’t just incredibly popular; it’s incredibly strong.

For some perspective, just take a look at some of the match win percentages of popular archetypes:


Combo is completely dominating!

Just look at the major archetypes with winning records:

Of these only Affinity is not a combo deck proper, but in function it actually plays just like one and is best interacted with like one.

If we scroll back a bit and look at the format as a whole, there’s even more to the combo picture we are seeing:

Pro Tour Born of the Gods Metagame


*Winner’s Misc = Amulet, KCI, U/R Delver, W/B, Gifts, Balance

This chart shows every archetype with multiple pilots that achieved a record of 6-4 or better in Modern. In addition to the day 1 metagame and the winning record metagame, it shows the relative success of the archetypes. Each archetype that’s at least 1% up in the winner’s metagame is highlighted in green. Each deck that is down at least 1% is highlighted in red.

Seeing lots of combo decks do well is no surprise, but it is interesting to note that Twin was actually one of the stronger decks on day 2 despite an overall poor performance on day 1. This suggests that Twin was a popular choice for those that were not well versed in it and that those with experience with the archetype actually performed quite well. Alternatively, it may just be that Twin is stronger against the good decks.

It is also interesting to note that U/W/R with a lot of creatures (Geist of Saint Traft and friends) did quite poorly, while U/W/R Control (and straight U/W Control) did quite well, including winning the whole thing.

By now most players realize that Storm was the best performing major archetype, but a lot fewer players realize just how tremendous of a failure Zoo was. Not only were there zero copies of Wild Nacatl in the Top 8, but the archetype was the biggest loser in terms of converting day 1 into winning records. There were almost three times as many Zoo players as Storm and Living End put together, but Storm and Living End added up to more winning records than Zoo!

One of the most hyped decks on the first day of the Pro Tour was Blue Moon, a nearly mono-blue control deck with Blood Moon in the maindeck. Despite a strong day 1, the archetype completely fell apart day 2, ending very upside down. It was hardly the only upside non-combo deck though. Take a look at the negative archetypes:

  • Zoo
  • B/G/x
  • U/W/R Flash
  • Affinity
  • U/R Control

Wow. Zero combo decks, with the partial exception of Affinity. Affinity is a special case anyway. The archetype as a whole had a winning record but a very below average number of conversions.

How do you explain this? Well, to start with, a 50.3% record is not the winningest record, by any means. Additionally, we have another case of good day 1s followed by really rough day 2s. Affinity did a great job bullying the fair decks, but once it hit the top tables full of combo and Stony Silence control decks, it all fell apart.

Without question, combo was king in Valencia. Every indication points to GP Richmond revolving around combo, and you’ve got basically two choices:

  • Beat them.
  • Join them.

Regardless of which path you prefer, it is important to be familiar with all the popular combo decks, what they currently look like, and the keys to play with or against them.

Let’s start with the defining deck of the format: Storm. With a win percentage significantly above any other major archetype, Storm is going to draw a spotlight to it; however, historically GP players don’t adopt the recent breeds of Storm to nearly the degree that other flavors of the week get picked up.

There were basically two versions of Storm in Valencia. Up first is Top 8 competitor Chris Fennell with the Magic Online version of Storm:

Despite no Preordain, Ponder, Rite of Flame, or Seething Song, Storm is as deadly as ever. Banning Deathrite Shaman removed a lot of maindeck disruption people had been playing. Additionally, the more anti-Zoo cards people play, the better it is for Storm, among the least interactive of the combo decks.

The other style of U/R Storm is that of Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, Tom Martell, and Gaudenis Vidugiris. With just four pilots, they managed two Top 16s and one Top 25.

Finkel’s build uses Desperate Ravings instead of Faithless Looting and four copies of Thought Scour and the fourth Goblin Electromancer instead of two lands, two copies of Lightning Bolt, and the third Grapeshot. Really this is just a question of tuning, and frankly I think Finkel’s version is just better. Both lists are going to function almost exactly the same; Ravings just provides some edge against counterspells and discard, and Thought Scour makes the deck a tiny bit more explosive.

Lightning Bolt is fine and Team CFBP did test them again, but the reaction to Wild Nacatl isn’t warranted. Losing percentage against U/W/R decks, Twin, and the like wasn’t worth it. That said, it is very close, and if a Bolt or two main is wrong, it is not by much. Depending on which way the format breaks, it could very easily be the better way to go in Richmond, though I would be a lot less likely to adopt Faithless Looting.

Of course, if I played Storm, I would just play Finkel’s list exactly. Of particular importance are the copies of Blood Moon in the sideboard. While many Storm lists omit them, they offer too many free wins to give up. The ability to ritual one down on turn 2 makes them much deadlier here than in most decks that must give the opponent an extra turn to fetch basics. If I were to change anything in this list, I would consider cutting a Shatterstorm for a Torpor Orb. Affinity took a beating last week, and getting a little more edge against Twin and Pod might be worth the slot.

How do you win with Storm?

Practice. Seriously, just goldfish a lot of games. Like a lot.

How do you beat Storm?

While Storm was the most successful major combo deck, it was Twin that had the most total pilots. Given the history of Twin’s popularity in Modern, it is likely to be the most popular combo deck at GP Richmond. If you aren’t playing Twin, you certainly need to be prepared for it, which entails a lot more than just being aware of the frequency that they “go off” on turn 4.

There are two primary schools of Twin decks, though some would argue that Kiki Pod should count. In my experience, Kiki Pod may play a fair bit different than Melira Pod, but it is still very much a Pod deck and nothing like the U/R Donate/Illusions style of two-card combo deck that true Twin is descended from (Swans/Chain of Plasma, High Tide/Time Spiral, etc.).

Twin may have struggled win percentage-wise, but as we saw above, mastering Twin appears to reliably pay off (with an above average number of winning records despite an overall negative win percentage).

The most popular style of Twin is U/R Twin, stacking Deceiver Exarch and Pestermite with Splinter Twin and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Throw in your choice of permission, library manipulation, and interactive cards ranging from Spellskite and Vendilion Clique to Lightning Bolt and Anger of the Gods.

This style of Twin won the first Modern Pro Tour in the hands of Samuele Estratti. In addition to a fast and reliable kill, a passable amount of interaction, and good mana, Twin has some very powerful tools in the sideboard. Blood Moon is one of the best cards in the format, but you also gain access to cards like Batterskull (anti-aggro and “back up” plan against interaction) and Ancient Grudge (not just anti-Affinity but also Spellskite, Pod, and Torpor Orb).

It’s a good thing too since Twin can be interacted with on basically every axis. Everyone always has tons of stuff to try to mess with you, so sidestepping hate in post-sideboard games is key. It’s common for Twin players to sideboard out some copies of Splinter Twin and become less combo oriented, instead adopting a sort of aggro-control game plan.

In fact, some players actually play four copies of Pestermite and just two copies of Deceiver Exarch so that they can beat down better after boarding. Deceiver does have the advantage of living through Lightning Bolt or Lightning Helix, but if you expect those cards to dip in popularity a bit, Pestermite is a much better threat on its own.

Winning with Twin is more than just smart use of library manipulation and careful decision making about when to use your interactive elements. One of the most important skills to Twin is not tipping your hand. You need a good poker face. You need to be able to keep your cool when you have the turn 4 kill in hand and not reveal your strength. You need to be able to keep your cool when your hand is absolute garbage because if your opponent is scared of you killing them out of nowhere, they will often give you several more turns of time to draw out of it.

In general, you want your face to reveal nothing about the strength of your hand and what your plan is. Wait to tap your mana after you know what you’re doing (rather than thinking with your hands on your lands). When your opponent does something and you have mana, make sure to consider it for at least a split second even if you have nothing to stop it. This deck more than basically any in the format requires the pilot to not leak information.

This is also a deck that greatly rewards knowing what you’re up against. Cards like Peek and Gitaxian Probe are common (and I would use even more than are listed here). Knowing if you are playing around Path to Exile, Mana Leak, Cryptic Command, Abrupt Decay, or whatever can be invaluable.

The other popular style of Twin deck is U/W/R, which is even less combo oriented. The highest-finishing example of this approach is Tim Rivera’s Valencia build:

Wall of Omens, eleven creature removal spells, and Restoration Angels let this style of Twin play a mean anti-aggro game while still preserving a reasonable number of fast kills. While U/R Twin is more focused on turn 4 kills, U/W/R is more content to aim for turn 5. It’s not just more Kiki-Jikis; it’s also the combination of Restoration Angel with them. Restoration Angel doesn’t go off with Splinter Twin, but it does combo with Kiki-Jiki for the full amount.

This approach is fairly weak against other combo decks, as it is a little slower and features almost no permission. The tradeoff is a rock solid anti-aggro plan and a surprisingly flurry of burn spells when it’s on the backup plan.

I do not recommend this approach for GP Richmond. Aggro is on the downswing, and the format is overrun by combo decks. Playing this much spot removal is suicide against Storm, Scapeshift, Living End, and Auras (though it can be good in the semi-mirror and makes you a big favorite against Infect).

One choice of Rivera’s that I’m a particularly big fan of is Anger of the Gods. Anger of the Gods is an excellent card in Modern, sweeping Zoo creatures (including the notoriously difficult Geist of Saint Traft), being highly disruptive against Pod’s creatures (Voice of Resurgence, Kitchen Finks, Eternal Witness), and generally just comboing well with four-toughness creatures (like Deceiver Exarch, Restoration Angel, and Wall of Omens).

Of course, this is not the full extent of what is possible in a format as deep as Modern. Modern Grand Prix champion Patrick Dickmann went in a more exotic direction with his Twin list:

Like Rivera, Dickmann’s list has the combo for the free wins but decreases the amount of permission to make room for tons of creatures and a surprising amount of spot removal. Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze, and Snapcaster Mage backed by Lightning Bolt, Flame Slash, Remand, and Cryptic Command lets Dickmann play a sort of RUG tempo game, which is made even stronger by sideboard cards like Anger of the Gods, Batterskull, Engineered Explosives, and Sword of Feast and Famine.

Dickmann’s list is on my shortlist for best designed decks of the Pro Tour. My hat is off to him and whoever worked on this list with him. Twin is a very strong core concept but is very well known and prepared for. Dickmann’s list captures this strength while bringing a lot of powerful tools that were strong for the weekend and caught players unaware that did not know the extent of what he had access to.

I can’t even imagine how many free wins he got from playing a Tarmogoyf on turn 2, leading to an opponent tapping on turn 3 only to be surprised by Deceiver Exarch into Splinter Twin.

Even when opponents figure out what he is up to, his card quality is much higher on average than other Twin decks. While most try to a backup plan with 1/4s and 2/1s for three, Dickmann has 5/5s and 5/6s for two.

Despite such an unusual game plan and the extra color requirements, Dickmann manages to preserve most of Twin’s rock solid mana base. I am doing commentary in Richmond, but if I were playing, this would be one of the decks I’d consider. If you want to play “fair” Magic, I strongly suggest this approach. The combo makes it unfair of course, but that is par for the course in Modern.

This list assumes everyone will prepare for the combo, so is built completely around the backup plan, a move I think is brilliant. I would not play Dickmann’s list straight up however. There is too much edge to be gained from opponents not knowing your list (a component that hurt Dickmann in the Top 8). You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but having access to a couple tricks he didn’t have can sneak some free wins.

If Storm was the clear most successful major archetype, Living End was the clear runner-up, with more than twice as much edge over the format as the third most successful.

Modern PT champ Samuele Estratti was one of many to show up with Living End. Early cycling means consistent draws and consistent mana. The combo is not the fastest in the format, but the ability to incidentally kill every creature on the board turn 3 or 4 gives it a big advantage against aggro.

Faerie Macabre was a key component of Living End this time around. On the front end, it is a zero-cost creature that you can get into your graveyard at will. Additionally, it takes out your opponent’s two best creatures, ensuring that Living End is devastating and not just “okay.”

Perhaps more important than this however is its function as an interactive card. Cascade combo decks are notoriously bad at interacting with combo decks because of their inability to play spells that cost two or less. Faerie Macabre cheats this, providing a zero-cost uncounterable way to fight Past in Flames, Melira Pod, Unburial Gifts, and Snapcaster Mage.

Additionally, Beast Within gives Living End answers at instant speed to whatever nonland permanents may be threatening, such as Splinter Twin, Pyromancer’s Ascension, Prismatic Omen, Birthing Pod, or Rest in Peace. Fulminator Mage covers the other side, attacking Tron lands; Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle; and combo decks trying to get to four mana and providing more disruption while fueling a possible turn 4 Living End.

The key to winning with Living End? Experience with the pacing of opponents. How much time do you have? How likely is a given Living End to win versus if you spend one more turn fueling it? How can you interact with your opponent? For instance, Living End in response to Splinter Twin is generally game winning, but how do you fight a Viscera Seer with Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Kitchen Finks? What about Goblin Electromancer? When do you Living End against Auras?

The key to defeating Living End? Obviously graveyard hate is amazing, but combos that don’t need creatures to stay in play are also generally quite strong against them. Storm and Scapeshift can generally outrace Living End, and what disruption Living End has is often not enough.

Overall, Living End is a rock solid deck choice for GP Richmond. It has a weakness to the best deck, but unlike most best decks, that is likely to be less than 8% of the field. If anything hurts Living End for Richmond, it will be the massive increase in graveyard hate that the format adopts to fight Living End, Storm, and Snapcaster Mage.

While Estratti did not use Blood Moon, be aware, many Living End players will have access to it. They have a lot of cycling and land cycling, making it relatively easy for them to find their basics. You do not want to lose to Blood Moon this weekend (and despite knowing this, many people will, as it is very easy to underestimate how fast Blood Moon can negate almost every card in a deck).

The third most successful major archetype of Pro Tour Born of the Gods was Reid Duke’s pride and joy:

Auras is like a better Infect deck if you ask me. Its niche is that of combo that doesn’t use the graveyard and can’t be stopped by spot removal (a niche it competes with Scapeshift for). While Scapeshift is a very one-card combo, controlling sort of deck, Auras has more of a beatdown feel to it, with linear synergies that remind one of Affinity.

One of the peculiarities of Auras is how reliant it is on Slippery Bogle and Gladecover Scout. Depending on the matchup, you sometimes have to keep Kor Spiritdancer, but in general you are likely to mulligan hands without one of your eight good cards.

And this is a deck that mulligans poorly.

If not for Auras’ two great weaknesses, it would like revolutionize the format due to its speed and resilience to disruption. One of the weaknesses is internal inconsistency of course. The other however is far scarier in the current world of Modern.

Auras is soft to fast combo decks.

Auras is that unusual Modern deck with mostly 80/20 matchups. It absolutely thrashes most U/W/R Control decks for instance. Unfortunately, it just can’t compete with decks faster than it, like Storm, Twin, and even Affinity.

Despite losing game 1 to these decks, you have some pretty backbreaking sideboard cards to try to mise a couple post-board wins. There’s Leyline of Sanctity vs. Grapeshot and Scapeshift (and Liliana of the Veil / Thoughtseize decks), Stony Silence vs. Affinity, Rest in Peace vs. graveyard combos, and Dismember / Path to Exile vs. Splinter Twin.

The Twin matchup in particular is just miserable for Auras game 1, leading some Auras players to maindeck Path to Exile. The problem with this is that Auras requires a critical mass of combo pieces to “go off,” so having one fewer Aura will often mean giving the opponent two extra turns to live.

How do you beat Auras? Well, the best way is to play a fast deck and hope they don’t draw their hate cards. You don’t even need to win on turn 4 to beat them. Infinite life beats them, and Living End for any reasonable amount is likely enough.

If you aren’t playing fast combo, having cheap interaction can have a big impact. Every Engineered Explosives you add makes a big difference. Ray of Revelation; Liliana of the Veil; Nature’s Claim; Hallowed Burial; Patrician’s Scorn; and Detention Sphere all help. For the most part, however, you’re in bad shape.

Auras was the winner for best non-graveyard combo deck immune to spot removal, but Scapeshift wasn’t that far behind. Scapeshift is definitely a lot slower, but it is relentless, powering through disruption.

You’ve got access to a little more interaction like Anger of the Gods, Lightning Bolt, and Izzet Charm, but you’re still not beating fast combo game 1. Your sideboard helps of course, but Nature’s Claim and Swan Song are nowhere near as high impact as Auras’ lock cards.

So what is the advantage to Scapeshift? It’s more consistent than Auras and is quite strong at punishing fair decks. If you’re expecting a lot of Zoo, B/G/x, and U/W/R, Scapeshift is a great choice. Of course, this makes Scapeshift a dubious choice for Richmond, as fast combo is on the rise and most fair decks got slaughtered in Valencia. Scapeshift is a great deck for the early rounds of the tournament, but once you get to the top tables, you’re just going to run into too many fast combo decks to actually win the tournament.

How do you win with Scapeshift? Well, preying on fair decks is the main plan, but beyond that is having some tricks that let you capture a bit of the RUG Twin experience of being a combo deck with a great backup plan. Scapeshift has two big advantages:

  • Its one-card combo that kills you with land makes it very difficult to hate out Scapeshift.
  • The field is focused on beating graveyards and using spot removal to kill Deceiver Exarch, neither of which do anything against you.

I don’t recommend Scapeshift, but it’s a fine deck with a reasonably powerful “combo.” If you have a lot of experience with the archetype, there is no reason you need to avoid playing it. It may not be the best positioned, but Modern isn’t as deck dependent as a lot of formats. There are tons of unfair decks and decks full of strong cards. Being able to play your deck well is more important than having the absolute best deck for the weekend. You may give up 4% or 5% edge on deck selection, but playing a deck well is often a 20% to 30% swing in win percentage versus just picking it up.

Going into Valencia, it was clear that there were two big combo decks that everyone needed to be prepared for. Splinter Twin was obviously one, but the other was Birthing Pod, an archetype that has been steadily gaining in popularity over the past couple years. Banning Deathrite Shaman was net positive for it, and the deck is pretty good at fighting through disruption.

While Kiki Pod had been popular online, Valencia revealed a dramatic shift toward Melira Pod. Melira is a better approach in my opinion due to better mana, more disruption, and a better backup plan. Kiki Pod’s big advantage is that its Birthing Pods are significantly stronger than Melira Pod’s. If Kiki Pod gets to Pod, they are basically always winning within one turn.

With Birthing Pod one of the three most expected archetypes (along with Twin and Zoo), the more resilient Melira Pod was more successful, led by Top 8 competitor Jacob Wilson:

While Wilson does not have access to Spike Feeder + Archangel of Thune, I would estimate at least half of Melira Pod decks will, so be aware of that possibility.

How do you win with Melira Pod? Practice with the deck. Know all the one-ofs inside and out. Tune the list to have the bullets you expect to have the biggest impact this week. This is one deck where changing just one or two cards in it can have a massive impact on its win percentage in any given matchup.

How do you beat Melira Pod? Well, most Melira Pod matchups are pretty close, but this is yet another spot where fast combo is a good approach. The Melira Pod player has a lot more freedom to adjust their deck to be good against fast combo than most slow combo decks, and frankly, for a slow combo deck. they aren’t that slow.

In testing, the most success I had against Melira Pod was with Gifts Rites. Having ways to stop Birthing Pod and sweepers for the board is a powerful combination. Having access to Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is just backbreaking. In all seriousness, I’m not convinced Elesh Norn as a one-of isn’t the best victory condition for a lot of control decks even if they don’t have Gifts Ungiven.

That is a lot of combo decks already, but there are a few more we need to touch on to get the full picture today. Up next is one of the fringe combo decks that tries to win through speed and avoiding the graveyard:

Infect is fast, and its ability to play a lot of cards for one mana make it well suited to fighting people trying to disrupt it with removal. Its weakness? To be blunt, it’s just not that good a deck. It’s one of the fastest decks, but it’s easily foiled. It also has no interaction at all, has a weak sideboard, and can often be interacted with incidentally through spot removal and chump blockers.

At the end of the day, an Infect deck it is just an Auras deck without hexproof.

Why does anyone play it then? Because it’s more than a full turn faster than Auras due to all of its creatures having virtual double strike. Auras’ greatest weakness is Infect’s greatest strength.

How do you win with Infect? Not take the tournament too seriously. Just play your cards and hope they win. You’re faster than most, and you can beat anybody if you draw a good mix of cards. If you want to have the best chances to win with it, know how fast your opponents are so you can time your attacks optimally.

How do you beat Infect? Being relatively fast with some relevant disruption is the best path. Trying to drag race Infect is playing right into their hands since they’re fast as it gets. However, putting a clock on them and backing it up with tons of Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile is a winning formula. Similarly, Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf backed up by Abrupt Decay and Thoughtseize can be a pretty big game. Fortunately for Infect, neither of these strategies did well in Valencia.

While Infect was a 50/50 deck in Valencia, it may gain slightly in Richmond. It’s one of the few decks fast enough to race Storm and Twin, and its weakness to Zoo may be less of a liability. I wouldn’t want to chance it, though, as Zoo is probably still going to be the biggest deck in the format. People don’t change decks in Modern as rapidly as they do in Standard. If you just want to punish combo decks, however, Infect is definitely a real deck.

Now we’re in fringe deck territory. GP Richmond commentator Matthias Hunt was one of the successful Amulet Combo players, a bizarre land-based combo deck capable of extremely explosive draws:

A turn 1 Amulet of Vigor makes a turn 2 Summer Bloom or Azusa, Lost but Seeking capable of powering out Primeval Titan. Search up a Boros Garrison and a Slayer Stronghold and you can attack immediately. Sometimes you just get two copies of Glimmerpost and have a dominating board position.

If you happened to have an extra Karoo before going off, you can actually keep going, searching up Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion and Vesuva to copy your Boros Garrison and dealing sixteen points of trample damage. The more common line however is to find Tolaria West and another bounce land. The Boros Garrison already bounced one of your lands, so it should be easy to get enough mana to transmute your Tolaria West into a Pact of Negation to ensure that your opponent can’t do anything on the one turn they have to live.

How do you win with Amulet Combo? Draw an Amulet of Vigor. Games with it are just nutty; we’re talking very real degeneracy. Without it, however, this is just kind of a weak Hive Mind deck. Sometimes you do powerful things, but you have tons of mana and tons of bad cards. You are very prone to disruption, and without Amulet you’re actually kind of slow compared to other fast combo decks without much in the way of disruption.

Why does anyone play this deck? No card in the format is as good as Amulet of Vigor is in this deck. You’re basically a favorite against everyone when you draw it. It’s actually pretty obnoxious. Fortunately, even with aggressive mulligans, they’re not going to have it half the time.

How do you beat Amulet Combo? Well, as you have no doubt surmised, the Amulet player not drawing Amulet of Vigor is far and away the best technique. Beyond that having fast interaction like Thoughtseize is very strong. Very few cards in the deck do anything, and if you can take the one card in their hand that exploits their absurd mana advantage, they will often just sit around doing nothing.

Path to Exile and other spot removal that can actually kill a Primeval Titan is extremely potent. They are much more all about Primeval Titan than Scapeshift, and unlike against Scapeshift, where Pathing a Titan is often the play you make the turn before you die, it actually cripples Amulet Combo a lot of the time.

Last but certainly not least, we have a fringe combo deck piloted by just two players, who both did great with it. Ad Nauseam was the best performing archetype if you look at those with a small sample size. Few people actually tested against anything like it, and it doesn’t require the graveyard and isn’t vulnerable to creature kill.

Angel’s Grace or Phyrexian Unlife + Ad Nauseam lets you draw your entire deck. Three Simian Spirit Guides later and your opponent is Lightning Stormed all the way out. The combo is so compact that you can slow things down and try to set everything up, but Lotus Bloom and Pentad Prism turn the deck into a turn 4 kill deck.

Temple of Deceit? Temple of Enlightenment? Scry lands in Modern is interesting indeed.

To win with Ad Nauseam, practice the matchups so that you know how to sculpt your hand with the large supply of library manipulation. This is another spot where you want to tune the sideboard to beat the field you expect. Changing a single card can have a big impact since you have so many ways to find all your one-ofs. Additionally, like Twin, this is an important deck to not leak information about in game. Your opponent can’t be allowed to deduce how long they have until you kill them.

Finally, know all of the procedures that go along with playing Ad Nauseam if you play it. It’s not that they’re all that difficult to remember; however, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it is very easy to throw away a lot of won games.

How do you beat Ad Nauseam? While they’re not vulnerable to graveyard hate or spot removal, they’re vulnerable to the classic permission or permission backed up by a clock approach. Make them discard a key card and they might stall for several turns. If they try to go for the win, they have to lead with Angel’s Grace. If you counter the Ad Nauseam, they have lost both halves of the combo. On top of this, some of the good anti-Storm cards are incredible against Ad Nauseam, such as Rule of Law.

As you can see, Modern is ripe with combo decks. You don’t have to play a combo deck, but your deck absolutely must be built to beat them. This is one of the relatively few high-level formats that has actually been more combo than everything else put together.

Not so sure you want to play combo?

I’ll be back on Wednesday with a bunch of “non-combo” decks built to attack the overpopulation of combo decks. Some of these decks are successful “fair” decks from the Pro Tour, while others are brews informed by everything we’ve learned about Modern over the past two weeks.

Which side are you on? Combo or anti-combo?

If you’re combo, which one?

If you’re anti-combo, how are you beating them?

I’ll be back on Wednesday, but also look for me on Friday. If you can make it to Richmond by 7 PM, I’ll be presenting a special live seminar on deckbuilding and Modern. I’ll also be available to take a look at decks if you want any last minute advice or suggestions. The biggest Constructed tournament of all time, Grand Prix Richmond is going to be absolutely out of control, and frankly I can’t wait.

GP Richmond