Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #124: Three Extended Combos that Almost Work

Since I’m never content to play someone else’s deck, I spent a lot of time trying to break Extended. Since I’m not divinely inspired and am sorely lacking in “copious free time,” I didn’t. I will present three combo decks that each fail, each for different reasons. Golden Retriever is not better than the alternatives. Snap-Witness works, but not in this metagame. Finally, Food Chain Myojin is… well it’s just plain cool.

Since I’m never content to play someone else’s deck, I spent a lot of time trying to break Extended. Since I’m not divinely inspired and am sorely lacking in “copious free time,” I didn’t. I will present three combo decks that each fail, each for different reasons. Golden Retriever is not better than the alternatives. Snap-Witness works, but not in this metagame. Finally, Food Chain Myojin is not consistent enough, but it is just plain cool.

Bonus feature – some metagame info (which may or may not be current, depending on how swamped Ted is) at the end. Synopsis: Aether Vial Goblins comes on strong, Betrayers does not smash the format, but Genju of the Realm(!) makes T8 in a Sneak Attack (!?!) deck. And the format continues to be incredibly wide open – congrats Wizards. This is one good season!

Now back to ending all that and smashing the format.

Any attempt at breaking a format relies on looking at cards and combos that break the rules. Anything that lets you go infinite is an automatic consideration. Anything that lets you cheat on mana costs is worth a look. Lands and artifacts that produce more than the normal amount of mana may also become engines. After that you look at synergy and more subtle card interactions, but that eventually becomes deck tweaking and metagaming, not format breaking.

The format actually includes a lot of infinite combos. Many are too slow or too expensive. Half the multiplayer combos I have written about in the past are Extended legal, but almost none are really playable. Enchantress probably falls in that category – while combos like Voltaic Construct / Gilded Lotus / Karn unquestionably do. Finding a combo is not particularly hard – the trick is building a deck that can find and execute the combo quickly enough.

Excellent combo decks run on tutors and card drawing. Aluren, and, to a lesser extent Enchantress, win because they can draw their entire deck. Mind’s Desire decks, and the Slurpee variant, win because they also draw enough cards to find the kill quickly. Life worked because the deck had over a dozen tutors to reliably find the combo. A combo by itself is nothing. A combo and ways to reliably fetch it is a deck.

I began building combo decks around the card drawing and tutors. The best tutors in the environment are Vampiric Tutor, Intuition and Cunning Wish, so I started thinking blue/black. That also allows Brainstorm, which is good on it’s own and better with Polluted Delta. Merchant Scroll is also available to fetch Intuition or Cunning Wish. Other, lesser tutors are also available, but that was enough to start with.

Extended looked to be a fairly varied format even before PT: Columbus. It certainly has developed that way. That means that you cannot tweak combos the way you could in a narrower metagame. Your methods of protecting your combo have to be universally applicable – you can’t risk dead cards. Think Force of Will (which stops everything) versus Moat (which just stops beatdown.) In this format, given its speed, the broadest protections are Cabal Therapy and, to a lesser extent, Duress. They fit the colors. So do some basic counterspells, like Mana Leak and Memory Lapse. Even Counterspell is legal, but I hoped to have the combo firing long before you could reliably get two blue mana available.

Now Mind’s Desire and Scepter Tog decks already exist in these colors, so I looked around for another combo to serve as the kill. I pulled out an old multiplayer build that used Myr Retriever and Ashnod’s Altar. Having one Retriever in play and another in the graveyard allows you to sacrifice and recast a Retriever repeatedly. That alone did not produce a kill, but could if you coupled it with Helm of Awakening for infinite mana, Disciple of the Vault for infinite damage, or Brain Freeze for infinite storm counts. Helm of Awakening isn’t legal, and isn’t that useful in this format, but the other two options are, and neither costs much mana.

The deck had a number of synergies. Intuition for Myr Retrievers set up the combo quite nicely. Disciple of the Vault looked even better right after Affinity won the PT. Nightscape Familiar made all the Blue search and counters cheaper, and could be sacrificed to the Altar to cast the first Myr Retriever when you were ready to go off. You could even run Accumulated Knowledge to complement the Intuitions.

This isn’t a final decklist, but this is what I found I had in an electronic format:

Golden Retriever

4 Brainstorm

4 Intuition

4 Vampiric Tutor

4 Cabal Therapy

2 Cunning Wish

3 Merchant Scroll

3 Mana Leak

2 Chrome Mox

1 Brain Freeze

4 Ashnod’s Altar

3 Disciple of the Vault

3 Nightscape Familiar

3 Myr Retriever

4 Polluted Delta

4 Underground River

2 City of Brass

6 Island

4 Swamp

It works, it is reasonably consistent, and it is almost good enough. The problem is that it is not really any better than U/B Mind’s Desire or Scepter Tog. This combo has three parts – two of which are not redundant. Mind’s Desire has fewer components – mana cheapeners and free spells – most of which are redundant. Tog has two components – Tog and a graveyard – one of which is automatically present at all times. In the end, the only plus to Golden Retriever was that I hadn’t seen the idea used anywhere else. That wasn’t enough to make it worth pursuing, so I dumped it.

One the flip side, it is pretty good in multiplayer, since the win conditions can all target multiple players. Just replace the Chrome Moxen and the Familiars with Dark Ritual and Wall of Souls, and you are good to go.

The second combo deck, Snap-Witness, is actually good enough to be competitive – in another metagame. It is as fast and consistent as Aluren and Desire. It is quite resilient and resistant to discard and disruption since it relies on Eternal Witness.

The basic combo is Snap, Eternal Witness and other creatures and Gaea’s Cradle. If you have three creatures and one is a Sunscape Familiar, you gain infinite mana. Even if you only have the Witness and the Familiar, you can generate an arbitrarily large storm count and win with Brain Freeze. Once again, you have access to lots of tutors, including Cunning Wish, Intuition, Living Wish and even Eladamri’s Call. Crop Rotation is also a solid option, since it can both fetch a Gaea’s Cradle to help go off, or fetch an additional Island to allow you to cast both a blue tutor and a kill spell when you go off on turn 3, without two Islands in play.

I began playing around with this combo in Enchantress, then in a Squirrel Opposition deck, and eventually removed the Squirrels and Opposition to speed the combo. It really is fast – surprisingly fast. That said, however, it is vulnerable to the metagame. More on that later – decklist first. Once again, this is not completely tuned: I think it could run on 20 lands to squeeze a Brain Freeze into the maindeck. It also needs to trim some elements for protection. However, once I started playtesting it , especially with sideboards, I decided to abandon it. It is just too vulnerable.

Snappy Witness

4 Brainstorm

3 Snap

4 Intuition

3 Cunning Wish

4 Merchant Scroll

3 Crop Rotation

4 Living Wish

4 Wall of Blossoms

4 Birds of Paradise

3 Eternal Witness

3 Sunscape Familiar

2 Gaea’s Cradle

3 Windswept Heath

3 Flooded Strand

4 Forest

4 Island

2 Plains

2 Yavimaya Coast

1 Treva’s Ruins

Working Sideboard

1 Gaea’s Cradle

1 Eternal Witness

1 Uktabi Orangutan

1 Sunscape Familiar

1 Ambassador Laquatus

1 Snap

1 Stroke of Genius

1 Stifle

1 Genesis (I never, ever wished for this)

1 Monk Realist

1 Brain Freeze

1 Masticore

1 Treva’s Ruins

1 Echoing Truth

1 Disenchant

The deck can reliably find the combo, and the combo does go off quickly. However, the deck relies on keeping a 2/1 creature alive. Without being able to target the Witness with Snap, the deck does nothing. That is pretty bad – if people play cards that can shut down the Witness. So, do they?

The last PTQ I played in (as I write this) was at Madison on February 19th. The Top 8 included three Red Deck Wins, U/W Desire, Life, Reanimator, Scepter Chant and the Rock. Let’s see how they do:

Looking at the Top 8 Red Deck Wins lists, I see Mogg Fanatics, Seal of Cleansing, Magma Jet and even maindeck Lava Darts. I also see that every version had Pyrostatic Pillars in the sideboard. That is a lot of hate – RDW is a problem matchup.

U/W Desire ran Snaps of his own (Snap in response to my Snap and my Snap fizzles), plus Stifle, Echoing Truth, Coffin Purge and Mana Leak in the sideboard. He also ran Brain Freezes of his own, although that really doesn’t help him, since if we both mill each other on my turn, he is decked first.

The Life deck (not Cephalid Life) did not have much hate, but it did have full sets of Duress and Cabal Therapy, and Unspeakable Symbol. That is a fair amount of disruption – and that in the deck least able to fight Snap-Witness.

Scepter Chant had counterspells, Fire / Ice, Orim’s Chant (not only on Scepters, but casting it when I have a lot of mana in the pool, with the untap Blue sources on the stack, is quite deadly), as well as Stifle and Echoing Truth in the sideboard. Not to mention Meddling Mages, which are a pain when set to Snap.

The final Top 8 deck was Sam Black Rock variant. He had Cranial Extraction. He had Diabolic Edict. He had Pernicious Deed. He had Dustbowl. He had Duress and Cabal Therapy. He had Engineered Plague. He even had Coffin Purge, Chalice of the Void and Rend Flesh. Even if I somehow managed to deal with each and every one of those threats, he had Eternal Witnesses to bring them all back again. BT4B, indeed.

So, all of the Top 8 decks had multiple cards to smash Snap-Witness. Snap-Witness, on the other hand, is extremely light on disruption. That is not a good combination.

The last deck worth mentioning is not my own idea, but something Ben Dempsey mentioned one night at draft, and several people built and played it in Madison. It really is Food Chain Myojins. Is it viable? A God draw not only plays a Food Chain on turn 2 – it kills on turn 2.

Turn 1: Forest, Birds of Paradise.

Turn 2: land, Food Chain, Skyshroud Cutter, Deranged Hermit, Skyshroud Cutter, Myojin of Seeing Winds, (draw nine cards), Hermit, Myojin of Night’s Reach, (Mind Twist opponent), Priest of Gix, Vampiric Tutor, Myojin of Seeing Winds, draw 14 cards, creature, creature, creature, creature, creature, Priest of Gix, Tendrils of Agony with a storm count of 16.


Turn 2. Sure it’s a God draw, but it just cast three Myojin and made a kill on turn 2.

The deck plays early creatures to accelerate out a Food Chain. It then Chains up through various creatures to Deranged Hermits (for permanents) and plays out a Myojin of the Seeing Winds. Since it was played from the hand it has a counter, so it draws a lot of cards. Then the Myojin is sacrificed to pay for more cards, and more card drawing.

Two tech cards I won’t divulge, since I wouldn’t have thought of them on my own. I did, however, think of Skyshroud Cutters (the 2/2 with an alternate casting cost of an opponent gains five life.) Cutters really accelerate the deck.

The kill is Tendrils of Agony. You play creatures to up the storm count, then casts Priests of Gix to generate mana you can use for something other than creatures, then casts Tendrils.

The cool factor on this deck is extremely high. The consistency, however, is not. Several good players tried this deck at the Madison PTQ. None did all that well.

Once again, the deck is reliant on certain cards. Food Chain, obviously, is critical. A timely Disenchant or Cabal Therapy is very painful. Meddling Mage naming Food Chain is also tough to deal with. So are other problems – once again, it is a cool combo that is not quite good enough to run with the big dogs.

That said, if I play at a PTQ later this season, I may play this deck.

Bonus Feature:

Here’s the deck breakdown from before the weekend of February 26th, and the additional decks that made T8 during that week after the “+.” Eindhoven is not included.

Red Deck Wins 52 + 8

U/W Desire 30 + 7

The Rock 30 + 7

Goblins 24 + 11

Blue/Green Madness 21 + 6

Aluren 17 + 3

Life 17 + 3

Reanimator 17 + 4

Scepter Chant 17 + 3

Affinity 15 + 3

Psychatog 11 + 7

Reanimation Machine 10 + 3

Gro-a-Tog 7

Temporary Solution 6 + 3

White Weenie 5 + 1

Cephalid Life 3 + 1

Kiki-Opposition 3

Squirrel Opposition 3

Trinity 3 + 1

UB Desire 2 + 1

UW Control 2 +1 (UW Opposition this time!)

Enchantress 2

Pattern Rector 3

Confinement 2

Sneak Attack 2 + 2 (!!!)

The big surge came in the mono-Red Goblins deck with Aether Vial. My database does not break down R/B and mono-Red Goblins, but most of the T8 decks this week were mono-Red Vial versions. Check out the Eindhoven decklists in the StarCity database for a good version, and consider adding it to your gauntlet.

I looked hard for new and innovative decks, since Betrayers is now legal. Not much so far. I saw a Umezawa’s Jitte or two in sideboards. James King’s mono-Black Braids deck (see below) used Toshiro Umezawa. The only other Betrayers cards I spotted being played maindeck (in a somewhat cursory overlook) were Shuko and… Genju of the Realm. Seriously. It was in, of all things, a Sneak Attack deck. Sneak in Rector, EOT fetch Realm. Sneaky.

Psychatog made a decent showing. The most interesting variation was in the creature mix. Most decks run 3 Togs, a Wonder and one other creature. I saw Meluko, Masticore and Morphling in that slot.

Scepter Chant decks seem to be merging into Solitary Confinement versions.

I did see one nice piece of tech in Sam Black sideboard. Blinkmoth Well. Look it up – it’s a land. It’s that “really bad” uncommon from Mirrodin – the one that lets you tap a non-creature artifact. Let’s put that another way: the uncounterable way of tapping the Isochron Scepter during your opponent’s end step.

That Blinkmoth Well.

Two different players took Intruder Alarm combo decks into the Top 8. The first was played – and probably designed – by one of the great names in Magic deckbuilding. (no pun intended.) Dr. Ped Bun designed the Oath deck that Bob Maher used to win both the Pro Tour and a Grand Prix in back to back events. He also designed a Life combo deck and played it to a successful record in GP: Vegas, in the years before Eternal Witness and Living Wish. Forbidden Orchard, Animate Land and Intruder Alarm may seem like a strange combo, but it is working for some people.

Ped Bunsongsikul / Intruder Alarm

8th Place – California – Costa Mesa – 2/26

4 Forbidden Orchard

4 Island

4 Forest

4 Yavimaya Coast

2 City of Traitors

2 Underground River

1 Blinkmoth Nexus

1 Cephalid Coliseum

4 Birds of Paradise

1 Eternal Witness

4 Brainstorm

4 Intruder Alarm

4 Power Sink

3 Animate Land

3 Crop Rotation

3 Cunning Wish

3 Intuition

2 Vampiric Tutor

2 Flash of Insight

1 Mana Leak

1 Counterspell

1 Cabal Therapy

1 Stroke of Genius

1 Engineered Explosives


1 Echoing Truth

1 Energy Flux

3 Engineered Plague

1 Oxidize

1 Stroke of Genius

1 Stifle

1 Capsize

1 Crop Rotation

2 Cranial Extraction

1 Animate Land

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Ray of Revelation

Mike Heck / Intruder Alarm

4th Place – Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh – 2/26

1 Gaea’s Cradle

1 Blinkmoth Nexus

1 Mountain

3 Forest

4 Forbidden Orchard

2 City of Brass

1 Karplusan Forest

1 Yavimaya Coast

4 Tendo Ice Bridge

3 Vulshok Sorcerer

4 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

2 Meddling Mage

3 Avalanche Riders

3 Mystic Snake

4 Wall of Blossoms

4 Birds of Paradise

2 Tradewind Rider

1 Platinum Angel

2 Vampiric Tutor

4 Intruder Alarm

3 Animate Land

1 Crop Rotation

4 Aether Vial

2 Chrome Mox


2 Brain Freeze

1 Gilded Drake

3 Viridian Shaman

2 Kami of Ancient Law

3 Chill

2 Cranial Extraction

2 Withered Wretch

I will also include two decks in the “Things that Make you go Hmmm.” category. I don’t really know whether these decks are inspired metagame masterpieces or piles that got lucky in the swiss. Look at the first one – Metamorphose? Blackmail? Spawning Pool?

First Place?


Jim Roy / Black/Blue/Red Scepter

1st Place – Alberta – Edmonton – 2/26

4 Swamp

1 Spawning Pool

1 Shivan Reef

1 Mountain

1 City of Traitors

4 Island

4 Polluted Delta

2 Underground River

1 Wasteland

2 Bloodstained Mire

1 Darkwater Catacombs

1 Faerie Conclave

4 Metamorphose

2 Predict

1 Future Sight

4 Brainstorm

4 Memory Lapse

1 Energy Field

4 Isochron Scepter

3 Fire/Ice

1 Sensei’s Divining Top

1 Magma Jet

1 Night of Souls’ Betrayal

1 Chrome Mox

2 Diabolic Edict

2 Duress

2 Ghastly Demise

3 Vampiric Tutor

1 Blackmail


1 Agonizing Memories

1 Rotting Giant

1 Crypt Creeper

1 Divert

1 Powder Keg

1 Psychatog

1 Planar Void

1 Perish

1 Interdict

1 Terminate

2 Duress

1 Pyroclasm

1 Shattering Pulse

1 Annul

James A. King / Mono-Black Braids

1st Place – Tennessee – Nashville – 2/26

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

1 Volrath’s Stronghold

19 Swamp

4 Braids, Cabal Minion

4 Rotlung Reanimator

4 Mesmeric Fiend

3 Withered Wretch

2 Mortivore

2 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Night of Souls’ Betrayal

4 Smother

4 Cabal Therapy

3 Chrome Mox

2 Toshiro Umezawa

2 Vampiric Tutor

2 Duress

1 Diabolic Edict

1 Cranial Extraction


3 Faceless Butcher

3 Kill Switch

3 Powder Keg

3 Engineered Plague

2 Sword of Fire and Ice

1 Perish

The PTQ at Sendai, Japan had a number of interesting decks. Check it out. The most interesting included a mono-Blue “Nether-Go” deck with counters and Meluko as the win condition. It looked really old school – Forbids, Foils and card drawing. Also in the Top 8 were two different Sneak Attack builds. One used Draco and other fat, while the second would Sneak in Academy Rectors, then fetch enchantments like Confiscate and Genju of the Realm via the end of turn sacrifice effect.

As the season began, I wrote a series of articles covering metagames past and making predictions about the metagame to come. At that time, everyone was writing about U/B Desire. I wrote that the U/W build might be a better choice for PTQs. The numbers don’t lie – U/W Desire T8’s: 37 and counting. U/B Desire: 3.

Go me.

Of course, I also wrote that I didn’t think Rock would remain a valid part of the metagame. Rock: also 37 and counting.

Go me, indeed.

’til next time.