In this experiment, we use Orzhov taxing magic and the power of remembering heroes to destroy our opponents in one fell swoop.
People have a lot of varying opinions on what constitutes a “combo” and what kind of combo is considered bad manners in casual constructed. In general, I’d guess two-card-infinite or instant-win combos are some of the most disliked among combo dislikers. Incidentally, these combos are also the ones that show up more frequently in top-tier Constructed tournaments.
I normally prefer janky, three-or-more-card combos. The reason is that my opponents tend to be more forgiving of combos when they take a bunch of cards to assemble, requiring me to do a lot of work to earn the win. For the same reason, I have more fun playing with these combos because instantly winning a casual game in the early turns just isn’t fun for me.
Today, I’m going to stray from the realm of “three-or-more-card” but stay well within the realm of “janky.” The semi-recent Gatecrash Vizkopa Guildmage provides an activated ability that simulates a Sanguine Bond. By using that effect while gaining life, we can defeat opponents just using life-gain—and in a 20-life format, there’s a card that will turn our life-gain into an execution.
Heroes Remembered has the relatively unique ability, “You gain 20 life.” And if our opponent loses that much life afterward, well, that’s game. Of course, if we’re playing a 40-life format such as Commander, things are a bit different, but feel free to modify the combo with a Fork effect for Heroes Remembered. The downside of Heroes Remembered, of course, is the time required to cast it—it either costs 9 mana or 1 mana and ten turns.
There are ways to avoid that requirement. We could skip paying any mana for it at all with Galvanoth and a Brainstorm effect. We could Obzedat's Aid an Omniscience and have the whole shebang for free. We could just stall the game to the point when we can either pay the 9 or when all the time counters disappear. Or we could suspend it and then use time-counter-removing effects to force our 20 life sooner.
Well, I started out on the Timecrafting plan and had to decide between a stall/control strategy and going all-in with time counters—using such all-stars as Dust of Moments, Jhoira's Timebug, Fury Charm, and Rift Elemental. The time-counter plan could involve alternate win conditions, such as the synergy between Restore Balance and Greater Gargadon, but I felt that version would have been more inconsistent than even I could handle.
- Spells (24)
- 1 Chastise
- 4 Skeletal Scrying
- 4 Timecrafting
- 1 Sever Soul
- 2 Phthisis
- 3 Chronomantic Escape
- 4 Heroes Remembered
- 1 Sanguine Bond
- 4 Rakdos Keyrune
Heroes Remembered, Vizkopa Guildmage, and the one Sanguine Bond are our primary win conditions. Each has the additional benefit of being pretty reasonable on its own within the rest of the context of the deck. To a degree, I wanted to avoid too many gain-life effects so it wouldn’t detract from the 20-to-0 experience of the combo, but ultimately, I think it’s just better for the deck to synergize well, and that means creating redundant effects and occasionally winning without using a Heroes Remembered at all.
Timecrafting will pull time counters off one of our suspended cards to make it happen right away. And in especially interesting situations, using carefully-calculated tactics, we could even add time counters to our Heroes Remembered while we wait for a Guildmage or a Bond to show up. To synergize with the Timecrafting, ensuring it won’t be a dead card when we have it without a Heroes Remembered, we’ll include a couple other suspend cards. Chronomantic Escape and Phthisis both help us play the control role in different ways: preventing attacks outright and preventing attacks by destroying potential attackers. The Phthisis even helps bleed out or opponent.
With Timecrafting, any of these suspend cards can become an instant-speed surprise. The hidden downside of this is that we lose two cards for one card’s effect. Timecrafting is inherently card disadvantage, so we will have to make sure to use it only at opportune times.
Wall of Omens and Souls of the Faultless are our defensive creatures, with Wall of Omens playing a typical card-advantage role and Souls of the Faultless playing into the category of bleeder effects. With Vizkopa Guildmage, the potential life lost by attackers is doubled, heavily discouraging attackers until our creatures are dealt with. In multiplayer games, this could mean we are able to sit untouched while our opponents attack each other.
A third defensive creature we have at our disposal here is Rakdos Keyrune’s animated form. It acts as an expensive Rakdos Signet or as a Rakdos Cluestone that doesn’t draw a card, but a 3/1 with first strike performs quite well both on defense and offense, and with the potential lifelink given by our Guildmage, it can even be offense and defense at the same time.
Sever Soul and Chastise are both one-of removal spells that simultaneously gain us some life. Skeletal Scrying is the deck’s last card here, added both as a draw spell to keep us in the late game and make up for our Timecraftings and to take advantage of extraneous life we’re gaining.
Some extort wouldn’t be totally out of place here, and I considered Blind Obedience, but it’s actually better suited for aggressive decks, both preventing blockers and providing inevitability. Perhaps Basilica Guards wouldn’t be out of place though. Finally, I really wanted to run a couple copies of Dega Disciple to go along with last week’s Apocalypse theme. Its black activation can play a defensive role as a virtual Master Decoy effect, and its red activation works with our Guildmage’s lifelink ability. However, it is a pretty weak card, and I really wanted the room for removal and Skeletal Scrying.
If you’ve ever wanted to wield Orzhov magic and time manipulation to drain opponents of all the power of the heroes you remember, this is the deck for you. Try it out, mix and match the effects you like, and find some room for Sanguine Bond and Heroes Remembered in your Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter Commander deck—that is if your fellow players don’t mind janky, two-card combos.
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