Mining the Crystal Quarry: Betrayers of Combo-Gawa

Looking for cool new card interactions in the new set? Well, John’s read Bennie Smith’s article and come up with a heaping helping of fresh new Betrayer-ready combos! How about a combo that provides an infinitely-large creature, or infinite life, or infinite life loss, or infinite mana, all by swapping a single kill card….

Hey hey, it’s new set time! And with it, the countless corny (and sometimes lame) plays on the name of said new set. But let’s skip all that and cut to the meat and potatoes: What does the set offer to us casual- and multi-players?

In this article, I want to spend some time talking about individual cards and cycles in Betrayers that might make an impact on the multiplayer scene, then bring up some combos that may or may not have been thought of already, to get the juices flowing. Finally, I’ll wrap up with a decklist, which will be my first foray into Betrayers multiplayer. Let’s get to it!

I’m always amazed at just how much each set adds a huge dimension to what’s already there. Granted, many of the cards are unusable chaff — but what is chaff now might be gold in the future, and what’s gold now matches the real metal’s value. That said, let’s get right to it!

The cycle of Patrons vary in their usefulness, depending on their associated tribes. For instance, the Fox and Moonfolk patrons won’t have much outside the set to sacrifice — but fortunately, both offer some interesting hitters to work with. Of particular interest is the Patron of the Nezumi, which can certainly allow for combo kills on weakened opponents. Despite its size, I don’t expect Patron of the Orochi to make too much of an impact, since if players want mana acceleration in green, they’ll play elves — and there are better fatties to be had for that cost. Patron of the Akki, however, is interesting, as there are many relatively-expensive Goblins (Goblin Mutant, anyone?) that can be used for sacrifice fodder, and the power boost is notable for goblin decks, which are usually about swarming anyway.

The biggest casual player’s toy that Betrayers brings is almost certainly Mirror Gallery. The interaction with Krark’s Thumb has already been suggested, among with a host of other interesting possibilities. Keeping in mind that while a Shattered Mirror Gallery will probably cost you many, many cards, having multiple Multani, Maro-Sorcerors could pose severe problems for your opponents.

The shoals are fun as well — particularly Shining Shoal and Nourishing Shoal. Sickening Shoal is powerful as point removal and as a combat trick, and Blazing Shoal is a good finisher… but for once, the life-gaining and prevention spells are the most powerful, since the gaining comes as a real surprise, throwing off a lot of math, and the prevention is actually direct damage in disguise! As been mentioned, Shining Shoal will be ruining a lot of games.

Ninja? Geez, everyone loves ninja. In multiplayer games, they don’t affect politics a whole lot, since getting hit is getting hit no matter how you cut it, but Mistblade Shinobi might be one of the more political ninjas. Got an artifact that came down after another player had already cast their Viridian Shaman? A paltry one damage is small cost to pay to allow that player to replay their Shaman, removing the offending artifact.

I’ve been beaten to many combos in Betrayers by Bennie Smith, including Pariah+Heart of Light, but for amusement’s sake, here are a few more to get your gears starting building this set.

Toshiro Umezawa + Buyback
Toshiro is a great multiplayer card, for the same reason they hyped him before the set came out—he lets you reuse cards, but there is that catch about an opposing creature dying, and having an instant to use, and having the mana to cast said instant. But later on, when everyone’s got mana floating around, Buyback and Toshiro can get pretty ridiculous. Assuming you can pay the buyback costs, you now have another card in your hand, ready to use, free of Toshiro’s remove-from-game clause (assuming you play it on a different turn). That’s scary.

Unnatural Selection + Clash of Realities
It’s mana-hungry, but it could be particularly messy for your opponents. As long as you have some mana open, the symmetry of Clash of Realities can be changed. Playing a spirit-heavy deck, you can turn your creatures into three-quarter-Flametongue Kavus. Should an opponent try to destroy yours using the Clash, Unnatural Selection can change their type, countering the ability.

(Note that you cannot use Unnatural Selection to prevent Clash’s ability from triggering, however.)

Useful spirits outside Kamigawa block include Cloud Spirit, the Legions Muse cycle (particularly Seedborn Muse, Graveborn Muse, and Windborn Muse), Nether Spirit, the Judgment Phantoms, and Eternal Dragon. Help people take out annoying utility creatures or dangerous threats by helping them out, and changing said problem’s type before anything happens in a turn.

Ronin Cliffmaster + Neko Te
I saw this wreck people several times at the prerelease. Assuming there isn’t a damage preventer or some pro-red/pro-creatures out, this will almost certainly keep your opponent’s creatures permanently tapped. Adding Godo, Bandit Warlord is almost unfair, locking down two opponents at once. Things like Aggravated Assault may be just totally unfair, drawing as much ire from the table as you wish. If you have the mana for it, Aggravated Assault can turn an unopposed Cliffmaster into a Plague Wind on a stick, since creatures will eventually receive lethal damage — and those that don’t probably won’t untap on their own for a looooong time.

Chisei, Heart of Oceans + Cumulative Upkeep
The way CU works by adding age counters works well with Chisei, who provides a way to easily remove those age counters. Adding Eon Hub to a deck rich in CU spells will only serve to increase the redundancy and reliability of being able to reduce the costs of cumulative upkeep.

Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo + Kitsune Healer
Save yourself the hassle of paying 1W to prevent each damage, and prevent as much damage from one source for one instance without any problems. For more fun, consider the damage redirecting en-Kor (and similar creatures), since Kitsune Healer prevents all damage done in the turn it was used. Actually, for that use, any legendary permanent will suffice.

Isao, Enlightened Bushi + Unnatural Selection
Speaking of simple, here’s a nice but useful combination: Being able to regenerate any creature for three mana can win you a lot of friends.

Fumiko the Lowblood + Tide of War
Tide of War almost certainly assures that Fumiko the Lowblood will take out any creature she blocks. This will make you a target almost certainly, but of course, Fumiko as a blocking deterrent will probably send most of that creature combat elsewhere. If you’ve been playing with the same group for a while, then you’ll be able to better predict how they’ll react to Fumiko — the angry-bloods will attack with pleasure, the turtling players will swing reluctantly, and the control players will send ’em in with annoyance, forcing their hands and taking what might be unpleasant action.

Heartless Hidetsugu + Final Punishment
Hope to the Magic Gods that your opponent won’t have a redirection effect, because this will either put them at one or kill them outright. Other similar effects include Hidetsugu with Gratuitous Violence or Furnace of Rath (though those are pretty painful for you, too). If you want to make sure that a player would die to Hidetsugu’s ability, you can throw in Akki Lavarunners, assuming they’ve flipped, or just play multiples of the previous cards. Overblaze also works with Hidetsugu — but let’s take a look at that later…

Heartless Hidetsugu + Awe Strike
Possibly the next Congregate, this can get ridiculously disgusting, particularly when used all together. A few iterations of this (Awe Strike + Heartless Hidetsugu) (by way of say, Isochron Scepter) will easily have your life total in the hundreds. This combo obviously scales in power with more opponents around.

Higure, The Still Wind + Conspiracy
Conspiracy turns Higure into a reusable Eladamri’s Call. Need I say how powerful this is?

Mark of the Oni + Conspiracy
Mark of the Oni, much like the Black Ogres (and Demons) in this block, benefits from a Conspiracy set to “Demon” by removing the drawback. Whatever creature you take control of will gain the Demon subtype, satisfying Mark’s requirement. Alternatively, Conspiracy set to “Ogre” takes the sting out of all the Demons (except for Shimatsu) in Kamigawa block.

Mirror Gallery + Krark’s Thumb, etc etc.
Need I say more? Never lose a flip again. But as I also stated, losing Mirror Gallery might also cause you to lose the precious legends you’ve managed to get into play.

Mirror Gallery + Brothers Yamazaki
Note that each additional Brothers Yamazaki adds additional instances of gaining +2/+2. They can get scary very quickly. Set yourself up for a huge attack at a huge risk by imprinting one of the Brothers Yamazaki cards on a Soul Foundry with the Gallery out.

Patrons + Mistform Ultimus
Mistform Ultimus is always going to have some weird interaction with new sets… and Mistform Ultimus is also eligible for offerings. But note that it will only provide colored mana for offering costs when it is used for Patron of the Moon. That said, it’s still not a bad deal. A Hill Giant may not be the most exciting creature — but hey, it works, doesn’t it?

Patrons + Conspiracy
Until you have Conspiracy out, the combo’s severely underwhelming… but turning all your creatures into potential offering fodder is not a pleasant prospect for your opponent. If not for Conspiracy’s double black mana cost, it would be a decent use for Patron of the Kitsune and Patron of the Moon, whose tribes are currently quite limited.

Patrons + Unnatural Selection
A little more flexible, since Selection is quite splashable, use Unnatural Selection to achieve a similar effect to Conspiracy with quite possibly a lower cost, since chances are good that if you need to make that many offerings to summon Patrons that often, chances are good that you’re not doing so hot anyway.

Sword of the Chosen + Yomiji, Who Bars the Way + Krark-Clan Ironworks
I can’t take credit for this, it came from the magicthegathering.com message boards. In and of itself, it gives you an infinitely large Yomiji. Add in Fling for infinite damage to a player, Bloodfire Infusion for practically infinite damage dealt to creatures, Leonin Elder or Worthy Cause for infinite life, Disciple of the Vault for infinite life loss, and Helm of Awakening for infinite colorless mana. The possibilities are endless.

Eradicate + Animate Land effects
An oldie but goodie returns. Keep in mind that you don’t take out other lands already in play — so the cheaper the animate effect, the better.

By far, my favorite combo is without a doubt, Heartless Hidetsugu + Overblaze + Circle of Protection: Red. Assuming Hidetsugu hasn’t been killed yet, the turn after you cast him, you can get both a casting of both Overblaze and an activation of a COP in the same turn, leaving you nice and unharmed.

The important thing to consider with Hidetsugu is that you can never kill an opponent who’s at an odd life total, since he’ll always round down. The problem could be solved with two Overblazes — but that’s quite cumbersome. Then again, assuming you can get it off, the worst-case scenario is that your opponents are at one, easy pickings for anyone else to finish off.

But here’s the problem — everyone knows what Heartless Hidetsugu does. Simply putting Hidetsugu into play makes him a target, because it doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out what you’re going to do with him.

Overly Heartless
3 Heartless Hidetsugu

3 Overblaze

4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Flametongue Kavu
4 Browbeat
4 Swords to Plowshares
3 Circle of Protection: Red
3 Wall of Razors
3 Rukh Egg
3 Captain’s Maneuver
1 Burning Wish
1 Sol Ring
4 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Plateau
6 Plains
10 Mountain

There are a couple of options available to you here: Captain’s Maneuver is flexible defense, but you’ll note that there’s no way to deal with enchantments or artifacts. That’s easily remedied by the new common Terashi’s Grasp, or the oldie-but-goodie, Orim’s Thunder. Both have their uses, and you should use them as appropriate depending on your playgroups. Burning Wish is, sadly, restricted in Type 1, but it can still turn games around even as a one-of. Keep cards like Wrath of God, Fireball, Terashi’s Grasp, and Wheel of Fortune on the side, ready for action.

The key that I’m leaving out here is a way to protect Hidetsugu. I was hesitant to add Eight-and-a-Half Tails because of the high rare count as is, but if you have no issues about adding a heavy white commitment, take out Sol Ring and two Browbeats for three 8.5 Tails. Change out two Mountains for two Plains. The deck slows down quite a bit, but gives Hidetsugu a better chance for survival. Besides, short of fliers, the deck offers quite a few early blockers in the form of Wall of Razors and Rukh Egg.

Multiplayer is always a game of politics, vying for both survival and alliances. Heartless Hidetsugu will certainly make enemies for you, while something like Clash of Realities + Unnatural Selection may make folks keep you around to assist in removing opposing threats, if you so choose.

Every game of Magic you play with a group should be spent having fun, but you should also be getting to know the people you play with better. If nothing else, you meet new folks, enjoy the game more — and if you’re really that cutthroat, help you predict their actions and reactions in games.

And don’t forget, Higure can always search for Mistform Ultimus!

-John A. Liu