Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #83: Combo Still Ain’t Dead – A Look at Post-Banning Extended

I am sure I will not be the only person to mention that the recent bannings do some serious harm to Tinker decks. The banning of Tinker and Grim Monolith also hurt the Mana Severance/Goblin Charbelcher decks and even the Mind’s Desire/Twiddle deck. Cutting Oath of Druids gets rid of Scepter-Oath, and even some classics like TurboLand. The elimination of Goblin Recruiter eliminates the combo-Goblins decks. Finally, no Hermit means he won’t be Angry any more.

So the bannings may have gotten rid of several Combo decks, but don’t think that combo has left the building. There are a score of other combo or combo-ish decks that have potential. I’ll start by listing some of the more obscure possibilities, and then move on to the mainstream decks.

The Bannings are out. For those of you living under a rock (that’s”rock” with a little”r”), Ancient Tomb, Tinker, Goblin Recruiter, Grim Monolith, Hermit Druid, and Oath of Druids are all banned in Extended, effective January first.

I am sure I will not be the only person to mention that these bannings do some serious harm to Tinker decks. The banning of Tinker and Grim Monolith also hurt the Mana Severance / Goblin Charbelcher decks and even the Mind’s Desire / Twiddle deck (which will now have to hard-cast the Gilded Lotus). Cutting Oath of Druids gets rid of Scepter-Oath, and even some classics like TurboLand. The elimination of Goblin Recruiter eliminates the combo-goblins decks. Finally, no Hermit means he won’t be Angry any more.

I am also not going to be unique in noting that the bannings leave Psychatog, The Rock and Red Deck Wins Again pretty much untouched. White Weenie, Suicide Black and WW/u remain, and U/G Madness is still as good as it ever was. I’ll let others talk about those decks.

The bannings may have gotten rid of several Combo decks, but don’t think that combo has left the building. There are a score of other combo or combo-ish decks that have potential, now that the format is a bit slower. I’ll start by listing some of the more obscure possibilities, and then move on to the mainstream decks.

I read through my decklists and article archive from past Extended seasons, and found this work/concept decklist from Jay Schneider. Fluctuator decks have always hovered just outside the range of playable decks, and I would have left it there, except for Jay’s comments. He mentioned that the deck had great matchups against The Rock, Red Deck Wins and Oath. It was 50/50 against Aluren and its bad matchups were Reanimator (with Entomb), Angry Hermit, and TurboLand. Now Oath is gone, but all of its bad matchups are also banned. The deck hasn’t gained many cards from Mirrodin, but it might be worth testing again.

Jay Schneider’s Slideshow

4 Slippery Karst

4 Tranquil Thicket

4 Drifting Meadow

4 Nantuko Monastery

3 Forest

2 Plains

2 Sungrass Prairie

4 Fluctuator

3 Krosan Tusker

4 Wall of Blossoms

4 Wall of Mulch

4 Disciple of Law (metagame against Goblins – maybe something else, now?)

4 Living Wish

4 Clear

4 Astral Slide

4 Radiant’s Judgment (metagame against Reanimator, but it cycles)

2 Repopulate

Sideboard (15):

1 Deranged Hermit

1 Wasteland

1 Dust Bowl

1 Genesis

1 Cartographer

1 Teroh’s Faithful

1 Auramancer

1 Krosan Tusker

1 Monk Realist

1 Uktabi Orangutan

1 Terravore

2 Light of Day

2 Worship

Since I mentioned it a paragraph or two above, remember Aluren? It had a big presence at a prior PT and some early season PTQs, and Eric Taylor played it at New Orleans and elsewhere, but it was never quite dominant. However, people are no longer playing the Aluren hosers that so many decks packed right after that PT, so it may be good again. (One exception: most builds of The Rock still keep Engineered Plagues in the sideboard, and that can be a problem.) It is still a solid combo deck, and there are a fair number of old Aluren players who know and like the deck. An Aluren deck, a skilled pilot, and a bit of luck in the pairings should combine for at least a T8.

Expect to see a smattering of Aluren decks at early January PTQs.

Eric Taylor: Aluren

4 Crystal Vein

1 City of Traitors

1 Havenwood Battleground

4 City of Brass

4 Llanowar Wastes

4 Hickory Woodlot

2 Yavimaya Coast

4 Underground River

1 Maggot Carrier

1 Soul Warden

4 Raven Familiar

4 Wirewood Savage

4 Cavern Harpy

4 Vampiric Tutor

4 Tainted Pact

4 Duress

4 Brainstorm

1 Frantic Search (change this)

1 Snap

4 Aluren


1 Chill

1 Frantic Search

1 Perish

1 Nausea

3 Defense Grid

3 Naturalize

4 Wall of Blossoms

1 Teferi’s Response

On the topic of cute combo decks, one Draco-Explosion deck did make day 2 at Pro Tour: New Orleans. The deck’s combo – putting a Draco on top of the library and casting Erratic Explosion – sounds cheesy, but the deck has a lot of card drawing, counters and answer cards like Fire / Ice. I’m not going to waste space with a decklist – it’s in the Sideboard’s PT coverage, look for day 2 decklists, and then search for Draco. Once again, this is a deck that might be played by a few fans at the January PTQs. It is U/R, so it could maindeck Rack and Ruins or Shattering Pulse and make a December appearance, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Next, I want to talk about an old favorite deck of mine, Enchantress. I played Enchantress in extended PTQs as far back as 2000 and as recently as Grand Prix: New Orleans. The combo version of Enchantress, which tries to win with lots of mana and Stroke of Genius, took a huge hit when Frantic Search left the environment. Snap and Cloud of Fairies, without Frantic Search, may not be enough. (The deck generates mana by untapping lands producing lots of mana, like Serra’s Sanctum and lands with Wild Growth, Fertile ground and so forth.) I haven’t seen a Frantic Search-free decklist for Stroke Enchantress, and haven’t worked up my own, so you’ll have to do that yourself.

The other forms of Enchantress are the beatdown version, or the three-color beatdown/bounce version. The pure beatdown version uses the other AtogAuratog – and Enchantresses to gain massive card advantage, and Rancor to make the Auratog a trampling monster. I have written about G/W Enchantress in the past (Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #18, YW# 58, etc.) The first article spells out the deck’s strategy and interaction, and is still relevant, although several of the cards in that decklist are no longer Extended legal.

JJ Storrs has also written a lot about Enchantress on another website.

The other option for Enchantress is to build a more controlling version, with Words of Wind. Words of Wind and some Enchantresses allow you to drop an enchantment, then bounce it and one of your opponent’s permanents. It is quite possible to end turn 5 with a full hand, a bunch of permanents in play, and an opponent with nothing but a full grip of cards and a shattered look on his face.

My W/U/G Enchantress – GP: New Orleans last January

4 Argothian Enchantress

2 Verduran Enchantress

4 Birds of Paradise

3 Auratog

2 Bind (Pernicious Deed wrecks you!)

4 Exploration

3 Wild Growth

2 Enchantress’ Presence

2 Sterling Grove

2 Ancestral Mask

4 Rancor

1 Worship

1 Seal of Cleansing

2 Seal of Removal

2 Words of Wind

2 Yavimaya Coast

1 Treva’s Ruins

3 Adarkar Wastes

3 Windswept Heath

1 Plains

6 Forest

2 Brushland

2 Gaea’s Cradle

2 Serra’s Sanctum

The sideboard I had is out of date. A new sideboard could include Light of Day (Suicide Black), Absolute Law (RDW), Seal of Cleansing / Energy Flux (artifact decks), Words of Wind, Multani’s Presence, Karmic Justice / Sacred Ground (LD, Pernicious Deed), Honor the Fallen and/or Ground Seal (Reanimator), Solitary Confinement, Treachery, Chill, Propaganda, and on and on. You can also build a version more tightly tied to bounce/control by adding Limited Resources. You have Exploration and can bounce their land, so it is relatively easy to lock them out of lands altogether.

Another overlooked combo deck that hasn’t lost any pieces is Life. I have played against U/W versions and built a mono-White version, but the classic build is R/W. The trick is to get an en-Kor into play, use it’s ability to set up a million damage redirection shields on a Task Force or Angelic Protector (making it 1/1M+2), then use Worthy Cause to gain a million plus life. Alternatively, you can attack, then use About Face to do lethal damage with the Protector. Here’s the classic decklist, from the creator. Obviously, the mana needs changing and the Swords to Plowshares is long gone, but the heart of the deck is still legal.

Ped Bun:”Life Viva Las Vegas”

4 Caves of Koilos

3 Remote Farm

1 Ancient Tomb

4 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]

4 Plateau

4 Plains

4 Angelic Protector

4 Task Force

4 Warrior En-Kor

4 Nomad En-Kor

1 Serra Avatar

4 Vampiric Tutor

4 Duress

4 Tithe

4 Worthy Cause

2 Seal of Cleansing

2 Swords to Plowshares

2 Gerrard’s Verdict

1 About Face

Time for something for the beatdown fans: Diego Ostrovich played a mono-Green machine at GP: New Orleans last January and made T8. The deck doesn’t gain a lot outside of Viridian Shaman, which it could maindeck to be fetched with the Skyshroud Poachers. The deck is still plenty explosive enough to be playable post bannings.

Elves!: Diego Ostrovich

2 Dust Bowl

18 Forest

3 Gaea’s Cradle

4 Birds of Paradise

3 Deranged Hermit

1 Elvish Lyrist

4 Llanowar Elves

3 Ravenous Baloth

4 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary

3 Skyshroud Poachers

4 Call of the Herd

4 Living Wish

3 Masticore

2 Naturalize

2 Slate of Ancestry


3 Bind

1 Dust Bowl

1 Elvish Lyrist

3 Fecundity

1 Genesis

1 Masticore

1 Naturalize

1 Gaea’s Cradle

1 Slate of Ancestry

1 Spike Feeder

1 Uktabi Orangutan

One final archetype to consider is the Pattern of Rebirth decks. The deck was first designed/described by StarCity writer David Zadok Stroud, who called it Carpe Noctrum. The most recent instance of the deck seeing high level play was by Tomi Walamies at the Yokohama Masters.

Pattern of Rebirth decks have a fast combo kill, accomplished by attacking with an unblocked Phyrexian Ghoul or Nantuko Husk. Here’s how that used to go:

Turn 1: Forest, Birds

Turn 2: land, Phyrexian Ghoul

Turn 3: land, Academy Rector, attack with Phyrexian Ghoul.

If your opponent doesn’t block, he is dead. Here’s how. Before damage goes on the stack, sacrifice the Rector to the Ghoul – the Ghoul is now a 4/4. Remove the Rector to get Pattern of Rebirth, and put it on the Birds of Paradise. Sacrifice the Birds to the make the Ghoul a 6/6. Activate the Pattern to get another Academy Rector. Sacrifice the Rector to make the Ghoul an 8/8. Remove the Rector from the game to get Saproling Burst. Remove 6 counters from the Burst, to make 6 1/1 creatures. Sacrifice them to the Ghoul, making it a 20/20. Put damage on the stack, win, go on to game 2.

Nowadays, the deck fetches Symbiotic Wurm instead of the Saproling Burst, but it is still a fast twenty to the head.

Beyond that, the deck has the ability to get a number of other, useful enchantments via the Rector, and a toolbox of utility creatures that can be fetched with the Pattern of Rebirth. Best of all, it can run four Cabal Therapy and four Duress (Walamies had those sideboard) – and sacrificing a Rector to flash back the Therapy is good times. (That combo even powers a Tier One Type I deck.)

Walamies’ Phyrexian Ghoul

4 Llanowar Wastes

4 Windswept Heath

2 Brushland

2 City of Brass

2 Treetop Village

1 Phyrexian Tower

4 Forest

3 Swamp

1 Plains

4 Birds of Paradise

3 Llanowar Elves

4 Wall of Blossoms

3 Yavimaya Elder

4 Academy Rector

2 Nantuko Husk

2 Phyrexian Ghoul

1 Symbiotic Wurm

1 Visara the Dreadful

4 Pattern of Rebirth

4 Cabal Therapy

1 Pernicious Deed

1 Recurring Nightmare

1 Future Sight

1 Worship

1 Parallax Wave


4 Duress

2 Engineered Plague

2 Pernicious Deed

2 Ray of Revelation (Naturalize?)

1 Yavimaya Elder

1 Choke

1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

1 Confiscate

1 Arcane Laboratory (replace with Rule of Law)

Those decklists should give you food for thought. Many appear borderline playable as they were, given the bannings. With the addition of Mirrodin cards, they may be Tier One. I have had success with some in the limited playtesting I have done, but that may not count for much. My serious playtesting has been with The Rock, U/R Tinker, Cognivore Oath and the Twiddle Deck. The playtesting with the decks in this article has been casual stuff, against people not all that familiar with the decks. The positive results may be because the decks are good, or because I can find tricks that won’t work against a prepared opponent. More testing is necessary.

However, don’t dismiss these decks, just because the only decks that did well in the PT and didn’t get banned were The Rock and RDW Again. RDW has always had bad matchups, and sideboard cards to defeat it will be played if it looks powerful. The Rock draws some of its power from graveyard recursion, so Phyrexian Furnace was always a strong sideboard card. The Furnace is back (okay, Scrabbling Claws isn’t quite Furnace, but close enough) and should see lots of sideboard play soon, since it can also give U/G and Tog headaches. Planar Void may also make a comeback to the detriment of The Rock, Tog and U/G. The last two are very hard pressed to win against a turn one Planar Void.

With all the writers telling you that the bannings mean that the good decks are The Rock, Tog, U/G Madness, and RDW Again, those decks are going to see a lot of hate. That hate may level the playing field, moving some of the combo decks I’ve discussed above into Tier One status.

Besides, at PTQs, expect to see lots of rogue decks. A few years back, a deck called Samurai Jack made day two with a bunch of White shadow dudes, Rancor, and Armadillo Cloak. That deck could be recreated as mono-White, with Bonesplitter and Loxodon Warhammer replacing the Rancor and Armadillo Cloak. It would be slower, but targeted removal does less damage to Equipment. Toss in some Chrome Moxen and Armageddons, and even that may be a deck to consider.

Come January first the metagame looks to be a lot more open than people think.


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