Combo decks have not been particularly prevalent in Type 2 for quite some time. The format has instead been dominated by aggro (Goblins, R/G), control (Tog, Wake, Slide, MBC), and aggro-control (U/G). Onslaught Block Constructed offered a bleak outlook for the future of combo in Type 2, since it was dominated by three uninteresting decks, Goblins, Slide, and U/W control. Mirrodin has changed all that.
Mirrodin looks to alter the face of Standard more than any other incoming set. The set is chock full of artifacts. It is also chock-full of fun combos. Some of these combos are getting talk as serious Standard contenders (or at least Tier Two decks that you need to watch out for). Other combos should be reserved for casual and Limited environments.
Top 15 Combos in Post-Mirrodin Standard
15) Cloudpost + Mistforms
Turn your Mistforms into Loci (yes, the plural for Locus is Loci, not Locii, at least according to my dictionary) and generate lots of mana.
Just kidding. This doesn’t work. Land subtypes and creature subtypes are completely different things and do not interact. On to the real list…
14) Spellweaver Helix + Revive/Hammer of Bogardan
I’m not a fan of this combo, but I’ve heard some talk about it. Actually, I’m not a fan of the Spellweaver Helix itself. It’s a four-card combo, folks. You have to draw Spellweaver Helix, two sorceries to Imprint it, and another copy of either sorcery to even get going. Revive and Hammer of Bogardan can allow you to keep going and going once you do draw the fourth card, but it’s still a four-card combo. Revive makes the combo even more unlikely as you need to draw three Revives (one to Imprint and two to keep getting each other).
13) Any Slith + Fireshrieker
A Limited combo, pure and simple. An unblocked Slith equipped with Fireshrieker will deal its first strike damage, get a +1/+1 counter, deal its slightly larger regular combat damage and get another +1/+1 counter. After its first attack, it becomes a 3/3 and grows +2/+2 every subsequent time it is unblocked. I’ve seen a few league games decided by this. (I’ve also seem league games decided by Spikeshot Goblin equipped with Bonesplitter – but I already hate Spikeshot Goblin, so he doesn’t get a place on this list.)
12) Atog + Second Sunrise
Second Sunrise is obviously a great defensive measure against mass destruction effects. What some don’t realize is its power in a combo deck. Sacrifice all of your artifacts to Atog, play Second Sunrise to get them back, rinse and repeat. You only need five artifacts in play to pull this combo off. This is much easier done thanks to the Artifact Lands.
It’s even possible to get a turn 2 kill with this, but you don’t have to worry too much because it involves playing unimpressive zero-mana artifacts like Welding Jar and Chalice of the Void. More realistically you can expect kills on turn three or four. It’s too bad Reprocess wasn’t reprinted in 8th because that could have been fun with Second Sunrise.
11) Confusion in the Ranks + Tel-Jilad Stylus
Confusion in the Ranks forces you to exchange non-land permanents when they come into play. Tel-Jilad Stylus lets you put permanents you own on the bottom of your library… And that’s permanents you own, not control.
The best part is that if you play an artifact land, you can still take your opponent’s land. Confusion in the Ranks triggers because an artifact came into play, but only instructs you to trade with a permanent that shares a type. Of course, if they play an artifact, they can take your Tel-Jilad Stylus, which is why this combo is number eleven and should be relegated to casual games. (And no, Leonin Abunas is not a good way to protect your Tel-Jilad Stylus.)
10) Scythe of the Wretched + Triskelion
The combo with Scythe of the Wretched and Triskelion was revealed in a MagictheGathering.com article. It’s funny that they had to make Scythe of the Wretched better in order to break up the combo; now it takes another card to pull it off. Two Triskelions can get an infinite engine going, but just getting one of these monsters into play seems hard enough. Death Match is an odd way to get the Triskelion’s toughness down to size… But the most likely third combo piece will be a sacrifice outlet like Atog or Nantuko Husk. File this away in the”wait and see” for Constructed.
9) Wall of Blood + Grab the Reins
Channel/Fireball, take two. Or is it take three? Pump a bunch of life into Wall of Blood, then throw it at your opponent with Grab the Reins. One problem is that Grab the Reins does not allow you to sacrifice the creature as part of the cost of the spell, so your opponent can disrupt you with bounce in response – and believe me, there is going to be some bounce in the format (see #4 below).
This combo’s best application might be in limited and I have already heard one story of someone being beaten by this on turn four. Don’t laugh when you opponent plays Wall of Blood because they might be setting you up for this combo.
8) Power Conduit + Decree of Silence/Quicksilver Fountain
Power Conduit is just waiting to be broken. Every card with counters must now be re-evaluated. With Decree of Silence, you can remove a depletion counter every turn and force your opponent to break the Decree with one big push of four spells in one turn. With Quicksilver Fountain, you can lock out a non-blue player by constantly keeping a flood counter off of one of your lands.
Note that you don’t have to put charge counters on something that uses them; you can just pile up useless charge counters on the Power Conduit itself and wait for a better target to come along… Like putting +1/+1 counters on your finisher of choice. Blinding Angel becomes a much faster clock, while keeping any creatures that your opponent slipped into play before the lock from attacking. You could also move charge counters onto Serum Tank for an undercosted Jayemdae Tome. Sun Droplet is another sleeper from Mirrodin; it can stop the early bleeding, then later you can move counters onto it to gain life that you didn’t lose.
7) Dispersal Shield + Frogmite/Myr Enforcer
Now this should have some serious Constructed applications. It’s more of a lucky interaction rather than a pure-bred combo; it doesn’t win the game on its own, but it saves you from losing it. Frogmite and Myr Enforcer are already becoming staples in so-called”Affinity decks,” which use the new mechanic to power out under-costed threats. Between Artifact Lands, Chrome Mox, and Spellbombs, Frogmite is often free and Myr Enforcer is as close to a turn 3 Arrogant Wurm as you can get nowadays.
What do you do with your cheap threats? Use them to power the cheapest”hard counter” on the market. With a Frogmite out, you can counter many key spells (Wrath of God, Thirst for Knowledge, Clickslither, Barter in Blood, and Oblivion Stone, to name a few). With a Myr Enforcer out, you can shut out everything save Broodstar. Oh, that’s why you also play Broodstars of your own in this deck.
The other possible counters for this deck all have serious flaws. Override has the same problem as many counterspells these days: it costs three mana. And while Assert Authority might often cost two in this deck, the double blue can be a problem if you are running a full boat of Artifact Lands to fuel your engine. Mana Leak doesn’t cut it in the mirror when opposing Myr Enforcers are free and Broodstars cost UU. That’s a little more deck discussion than I wanted to get into, but I am really geeked up about the possibilities of this combo and would like to get some other people to jump on my bandwagon.
6) Leveler + Shared Fate
Leveler is just a big, dumb, face-smashing machine. Shared Fate allows you to not draw from your empty library and also ensures that your opponent won’t be drawing any answers for anything.
The biggest drawback to this combo is the absolute fragility of each piece without the other. On its own, Leveler will lose you the game on the your next draw step, so you need to build some redundancy into the deck to keep yourself from decking. This could come in the form of Tel-Jilad Stylus, Parallel Thoughts, or one of the Words of enchantments from Onslaught.
Shared Fate also has its share of problems when it is in play by itself. You no longer have the ability to draw your other combo piece. Worse yet, your opponent might draw your Leveler and shut you out of the game. Nothing spells boring like two Levelers facing off against each other with empty libraries. Call the judge, accept your draw, and move on to game two.
Oh, and playing Shared Fate in a deck with no threats is just asking for a 2-2-2 record.
5) Pentavus + Mana Echoes
We have the first infinite mana combo sighting. With Mana Echoes in play, the first Pentavite token you make will pay for itself and every one after that will start to generate colorless mana for you. Once you’ve made your fourth Pentavite, you have six extra mana. Then you can use two of that mana to put a counter back on Pentavus, remake your fourth Pentavite and generate another four mana. It’s unfortunate that Pentavus doesn’t have a creature type; if it did, you could start the fun the turn you play it, even if you tapped out to do so. Oh, well.
There are a lot of fun things you can do with this interaction. Dross Scorpion allows you to untap an artifact every time you sacrifice a Pentavite. (Oh my – did I just suggest Dross Scorpion as a playable card? I apologize.) You can use it to untap a Gilded Lotus and make some colored mana. Serum Tank can draw you your entire deck. And Isochron Scepter can bounce all of your opponent’s permanents (again, see #4) or just burn them out with a Shock. Of course, if you’re old-fashioned you can just use the mana for Blaze.
4) Isochron Scepter + Boomerang
The combo so obvious that everyone must have thought of it as soon as they saw Isochron Scepter. With Chrome Mox you can get your Boomerang stick out on turn 1 and start returning their land on turn two. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I’m so tired of hearing about this and having to worry about it that I want them to ban Chrome Mox or Isochron Scepter in Type 2.
Another card you may want to Imprint is Metamorphose. Go ahead and take a moment to read it; this is one of the undiscovered gems of Scourge. I thought I had it broken in conjunction with Chromeshell Crab until I read that it still only allows”that opponent” to put a permanent in play, not the creature’s owner. It certainly should not replace Boomerang in this deck, but it can be Boomerang #5-8 with the added bonus of being able to get a harder lock by shutting out their draw.
3) Proteus Staff + Goblin Charbelcher
Proteus Staff is being heralded as the new Oath of Druids. While that’s a valid comparison, I like its potential to stack your entire deck if you have no creatures. Just use Nuisance Engine or Raise the Alarm to get a token creature into play and Proteus Staff it into your deck. When you reach the bottom of your deck having found no creatures, you get to put the revealed cards (your entire deck) on the bottom of your deck in any order.
(Funny rules aside: Technically, token creatures in a zone other than the in play zone cease to exist as a state-based effect. This doesn’t happen until after the entire Proteus Staff ability has resolved. However the Staff looks for a creature card so you do not put the token back into play. But it’s still there, in your deck, during the stacking procedure. Same goes for Oblation. Ask your local judge how the heck you are supposed to shuffle a token into your deck.)
How do you win with your stacked deck? Goblin Charbelcher. Put it on top of your deck if you haven’t drawn it already and put all of your lands on the bottom. When you activate Goblin Charbelcher, you should have enough non-land cards stacked on top to finish your opponent in one blow. Honestly, this is the best way to use Proteus Staff.
2) Thirst for Knowledge + Trash for Treasure
It’s a combo along the lines of Entomb and Reanimate…. Except you have to have a game-breaking artifact in your hand (or among the top three cards of your deck) in order for this to actually do anything. But the interaction between these two cards can be the backbone of many of the artifact-based combos I’ve laid out. Or you can just pack you deck full of large, hard-to-deal-with artifact creatures like Bosh, Iron Golem, Platinum Angel, or Clockwork Dragon. On second thought, wait for Darksteel to come out with better large, hard to deal with artifact creatures.
1) Mindslaver + Chain of Vapor/Chain of Plasma
Mindslaver has been my pet project ever since the Mirrodin spoiler came out. Many people have put down this card in both limited and constructed formats, but if early pre-release reviews are any indication, this thing is at least a bomb in limited, usually generating card advantage upwards of three to five cards. My first idea to break it in Constructed was to use Lethal Vapors, making my opponent destroy it one million times and giving me one million turns (or more if you don’t think that’s enough). But alas, any good player will see this and pop the Lethal Vapors in response to you activating Mindslaver. So you end up getting another turn, then taking your opponent’s next turn for him. Until there is a way to put Lethal Vapors into play at instant speed, this idea does on the backburner. So onto the two Chains.
Once you take control of your opponent’s turn, Chain of Vapor can return all your opponent’s non-land permanents to his hand and destroy a bunch of lands in the process. Chain of Plasma deals three damage plus another three more for every card they have in their hand. See the interaction yet? The full combo is three cards and you will need seven mana the turn you take control of their turn – but either Chain alone with Mindslaver can be devastating against the right deck. Is a Goblin deck running your over with an empty hand? Mindslaver/Chain of Vapor will bounce their men and most likely Armageddon them. Is MBC holding a full grip of seven against you? Mindslaver/Chain of Plasma them to death. The two Chains also happen to be in the right colors to combine with combo #2 to get your Mindslaver into play on turn 4 (or 3 with a Chrome Mox).
Just for kicks, here is my first draft of the deck I’ve been calling”Why’d you do that?” or”Stop hitting yourself.” Try it out in your casual group, and if you are brave enough, take it to a FNM tournament.
2 Bosh, Iron Golem
Combo’s traditional nemesis has been control. But that was blue, countermagic-based control.”Control” these days means creature control with cards like Wrath of God, Akroma’s Vengeance, Oblivion Stone, Decree of Pain, and Starstorm. Control has been left with fewer and less powerful counterspells at its disposal. And many of these combo decks will be running underpowered counterspells of their own (read: Mana Leak). Another combo-hoser in control’s arsenal has been discard. Duress was the main culprit here, and its nominal replacement, Coercion, has people wondering if it’s even playable. Wrench Mind is pathetic, but here’s hoping people try it out so I can discard an artifact to Trash for Treasure for. Mind Sludge, however, is still a huge problem for any deck.
Aggro has historically bent over to combo, unable to adequately keep the engine from going off. Well, the premier aggro deck in the format, Goblins, does a good job of executing aggro’s best strategy against combo – namely, to win first faster. Combo decks will need to run suitable roadblocks to slow down Goblins; Pyroclasm and Starstorm in red, Wrath of God and Wing Shards in white, and god forbid blue might actually have to run Evacuation or Wrath of Marit Lage. (Just kidding, folks. Do not go out and buy a play set of”the other Wrath.” Or if you do, buy them at StarCityGames!)
Anyway, thanks for reading, and here’s hoping the rest of Mirrodin block has even more fun combo pieces for us to play with.