Hello folks! If you’re like me, then you have a few combo pieces out there you just love to lean on when you’re making a new deck. It’s a lot of fun for everyone when you unfurl the latest cool technology. And remember not every combo is an infinite win condition that kills on the spot. My deck that runs no Nightstalkers or Swamps, and then drops Ashes of the Fallen, calling Nightstalker, before playing Return of the Nightstalkers, is a fun combo, even if it’s not your traditional deck.
So when I am looking for high qualities of combo, what do I tend to look at the most? What are the pillars of my various combo decks? And what do you see that you might like? Let’s take a look!
Honorable Mention #1: Doubling Season
There are some serious old school cards that Doubling Season broke, like Rasputin Dreamweaver and #10 below. I love running these cards together. DS breaks almost any card with counters. Virtually every Planeswalker can immediately ultimate for their nasty ability strait away. Triskelion? Spike Weaver? Boom! It’ll halve the time it takes for a Helix Pinnacle or Darksteel Reactor. Win. So why is this down so low? Because it’s so, overplayed, and I don’t play it because of how onerous it can be to my foes, who are, if you’ll recall, supposed to be my friends. Friends don’t let friends Doubling Season. Not without a good cause at least.
Honorable Mention #2 – Cloudstone Curio
Ah yes, bouncing my own stuff, and then replaying it. From breaking and abusing zero cost creatures like Crimson Kobolds to junk like enters-the-battlefield abilities and such, there is so much you can do when you have a reliable self-bounce engine like this. From Priest of Gix to Great Whale and Cloud of Faeries. Abuse something like Soul Warden for life. You’ve got this.
I always find I wind up leaning on the Workhorse more than I’d expect It’s my . . . er . . . Workhorse. (Sorry about that.) (Not really.) It doesn’t look fancy. But when you start to unpack it, you find a lot of hidden depth. For example, it was the only combo engine I used twice in my 100 Combo Decks in 20 Weeks Project here for Gathering Magic where I built 100 real life combo decks from the chaff I had sitting around not being used. See how nasty it is with Doubling Season? Proliferate? The #2 card below? Recurring Nightmare. Man, it’s hot.
9. Bazaar of Baghdad
So, I have a secret. I use Bazaars in a lot of my real life projects. See, a long time ago, I picked up four for around $30 or $35 each. And I use them in great decks, like Vintage, or worse ones like my Commander deck built around Nether Shadow and Ashen Ghoul, where the Bazaar is worth more than the rest of the deck combined. J’adore le Bazar!
8. Survival of the Fittest
There are a bunch of things I like my combos to do when I’m playing. I want them to get the right card from my deck for the right moment. I like them to either kill something in play or return something to my hand. And I like them to sculpt my graveyard. Two out of three ain’t bad, and that’s why this is one of my favorite combo engines out there. It’s doesn’t necessarily need it’s Junior Partner in crime, Recurring Nightmare, to work. Living Death? Volrath's Shapeshifter? Get the perfect answer? Or perfect beater? Get a combo piece? Enable madness? Drop an Incarnation like Genesis or Anger or Wonder? Drop a giant fatty to Reanimate? Cycle Krosan Tusker for a card and land? There is so much here to appreciate. So much that the Survival does. It’s awesome in a ton of different shells.
7. Enduring Renewal
As I mentioned above with Survival of the Fittest, getting two of the three things I want from one combo piece is great. Recursion back to my hand whenever it dies? That’s so much better than other options, like Mortuary. The bizarre other effects like showing my hand and not drawing a creature for the game are fine, given that I play the Renewal when it’s time for me to actually win the game. Note that when you do reveal a creature, it goes to your graveyard, not exiled or anything, so I have abused that as well to get the right creatures into my graveyard or to put a Narcomoeba onto the battlefield for free. You can figure it out from there. Enduring Renewal on!
6. Pestilence / Pyrohemia / Earthquake / Hurricane
I have always loved combos with mass damage dealers that clear out much of the table, but which my stuff is immune to. There are a bunch of ways we can make it work — protection from that color, cards like Mark of Asylum, super-high defenses like Indomitable Ancients, and a lot more. And when your team is immune to your sweepers, then whatever your foes are running that randomly survives too is easy to take out. It’s like running a Mono-White deck and using Mass Calcify as mass removal. Sure, some folks may have creatures that survived because they were White or had indestructible. But all of your stuff was fine, so it’s a great board position from which to win. And I run these cards so frequently that I’m sure my friends get tired sometimes. So what is it I’m going to try and break this time? And here is my Dawn Elemental out there holding the fort down!
5. Tooth and Nail and Other Free Fatty Creatures (Such as Defense of the Heart, Green Sun’s Zenith, and Pattern of Rebirth).
Ever since Natural Order, I’ve had a fondness for Green cards that will drop a fatty quickly. My preference is those that search my library and then drop them right onto the battlefield for me, as opposed to something like Lure of Prey, Dramatic Entrance, or the unpredictability of Animal Magnetism or Summoning Trap. But hey, everything is gravy when you’re a part of a team, and especially when that team gets to fire off an early 3rd turn Pattern of Rebirth off ramp, or turn four otherwise. Consider Sakura-Tribe Elder. Everything is possible with Sakura-Tribe Elder.
4. Umbral Mantle / Dross Scorpion
I have a serious affectation of all things untappery. If it falls under the untapping umbrella, look out. There was an old Standard deck built around Tradewind Rider, a bunch of cheap defense Green creatures like Wall of Blossoms and Spike Feeder, and then the enchantment Awakening, where you’d untap and use your creatures to bounce their stuff multiple times, and wind up with almost nothing left in play and then swing and win with a Spike Weaver or Feeder. It was awesome, and I adored it, and ever since, man has untapping been my thing. Dross Scorpion is in so many of my combos! And Umbral Mantle? Holy crap is that a real card. Both are major players in what I am looking to do in Magic. Untap and abuse!
3. Sneak Attack
Sneak Attack looks like it does one thing. Pay a Red mana, drop a big fat creature from your hand, and swing this turn for one hit, but the creature is done. And sure, it’ll do that all day long. But I abused it in many other respects even back when it was Standard legal, and it was the foundation of my Standard Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy, that eventually grew to my 4000+ card monstrosity I play today. Here are a few pro tips. Sneak Attack out something with a ETB ability to get that ability, and it’s like every creature in your hand as an evoke cost of just . You can even do this as an instant, so you can respond to stuff. I like blocking too. If you were going to chump block with a creature anyway, why pay the full price in the upper right corner of the card? Just pay a . And you can combine these. “Did you just attack me? What an idiot! Here, let me activate Sneak Attack and drop my Manic Vandal. I’ll destroy your Scroll Rack, and then block and trade with your Flametongue Kavu.” I would combine it with cards that can bounce your stuff (Erratic Portal), put it into play permanently (Lifeline) get a trigger and more. So many combos!
Here’s one of my favorites. Run a Portcullis. Sneak out a creature to get the ETB ability, and then it heads away under the Portcullis. Then when the Portcullis eventually bites it, your creature comes back permanently, and you get another trigger to! And the Portcullis is awesome at playing havoc. On multiple occasions my foes would read the card, see they could drop something and it would stay due to the number of creatures out. Then I’d Sneak Attack out something with a trigger, get it out first, and then when their spell resolved, their creature would head on out under the Portcullis. Sorry about that! Anyways, Sneak Attack? It just sings.
But it ain’t higher than #3 for me. So what is?
2. Nim Deathmantle
I missed on the Deathmantle. Sorry Magic. I never realized just how powerful this thing would be until I started playing with it, and I didn’t include it on my own article where I discussed like 50 cards from the set from Scars of Mirrodin for you. It’s a brilliant card, and I totally missed. But then it played better, and better, and better. And now I use it as my key card in a lot of decks out there (like #10 Workhorse, which makes the 4 mana needed to bring it back with the Deathmantle). (Key trick, don’t have it equipped when you pull off the counters, unless you have a sacrifice engine like #1 below to use). Great cards! Lots of fun to have! And man do I owe this thing penance.
Sorry Nim Deathmantle! How about I make you #2 on my countdown today?
1. Goblin Bombardment
There was a time when I wasn’t aware of my connection of Goblin Bombardment. For my various columns, I often do self-assessments of how I’ve done, and once I looked at how often I built 60 card decks around different color combinations. I found that R/W was my favorite go-to two color combinations, and that the card Goblin Bombardment appeared in almost 50% of my decks that used it. Huh. Imagine that! And ever since I realized my own sheer unadulterated love for the Goblin Bombardment. I’ve got it bad for you, babe. But I don’t need no cure. All I need is the next combo deck to pop down the pike, and we’ll be good to go Idaho!
Sacrificing for damage, wins, and profit. So many options! So many things to do!
When I look back at my Magic-ing, it seems like I tend to prefer big smashing creatures and effects that hit the board to big splashy spells. So my combo decks are more like Krark-Clan Ironworks, Show and Tell, Sneak Attack, Recurring Nightmare and Survival of the Fittest rather than High Tide decks or something like storm, where I am trying to rack up a high storm count with Manamorphose and Gitaxian Probe. Abe’s gotta get that face smashing started!
So what did you think? Anything in here you like or want to try out? Anything inspire or spark your creative juices? And what are your favorite go-to combo pieces?