When I was younger, I was enamored with Pocket Comics. These were small plastic boxes about the size of a Magic deck that folded open to display a plastically-sculpted scene from a comic book, complete with tiny LEGO-sized figures. The draw of these toys was that they had the potential of a fun, superhero experience that I could carry around in my pocket. I could carry a Pocket Comic in my pocket or backpack more easily than I could carry a single action figure, and yet, the Pocket Comic contained multiple characters, scenery, and props.
Polly Pocket for boys? I guess so, but oh well.
Magic has a lot of that same appeal, and I think it’s one of the primary attributes that drew me to the game. You can build a deck, put it in your pocket or some other small carrying space, and have with you a grandiose, immersive experience that can play out differently every time.
Today, I’m premiering a potentially recurring feature I’m calling Pocket Combos. These are combos you can package into your other decks or build entirely new decks around. A few months ago, I wrote about one such combo and how I pulled one Pocket Combo—without calling it out as such—built around Dragonstorm for one with Hornet Sting. Pocket Combos will work especially well in Commander, as the format is built around singletons, and my idea is that these are combos you’ll play if you ever draw them all in the same game, but you’re not building your game plans around them.
Vampire Hexmage is well-known for her counter consumption, most notably with Dark Depths and against planeswalkers. However, she has many other uses, such as easing up the drawbacks of cumulative upkeep, shrinking down Simic creatures and various Hydras, and resetting permanents titled Decree of Silence. She can be a pretty defensible Commander include for those reasons.
With Karador, Ghost Chieftain as a deck’s commander, she becomes even more reasonable of a choice. The deck often wants to quickly put creatures into its graveyard to cheaply cast its Centaur Spirit champion, and this little Vampire can easily do so with her light 2-mana cost and superpower to take down early opposing planeswalkers. And against aggressive decks, her 2 power and first strike are quite useful.
At the other side of our Pocket Combo, we have Tornado. This forgotten Alliances enchantment can destroy the exact type of permanent players often need to destroy in Commander games: any type. The downside is certainly there, as it costs upfront and then for its first target. Oh, and there’s a life payment somewhere in there as well. Both the printed text and Oracle text are a bit convoluted, so let’s break down exactly how to rip the roots of your opponents’ permanents out of the ground.
- Cast Tornado for .
- Pay and destroy target permanent. Tornado will receive a velocity counter (the coolest type of counter?). You can’t destroy another permanent this turn.
- Next turn—or next time you have the mana and a juicy target—pay and 3 life to destroy another permanent, and Tornado will notch up the velocity to 2.
- On some subsequent turn, pay and 6 life to destroy another permanent and gain another counter.
Note that you can’t activate the ability more than once each turn, but you can activate it once on each player’s turn. So, imagining you have 17 mana and three opponents (is this hypothetical asking too much?), you cast Tornado and destroy something, pass the turn, pay 3 life and destroy something else, pay 6 life and destroy something else on the next turn, and then pay 9 life and destroy a fourth target before the turn is finally passed back to you. At that point, you’ll have to pay for Tornado’s cumulative upkeep, but with the looming cost of another 12 life for your next activation (and you’ve already paid 18 life!), you might just let the natural-disaster enchantment head to your graveyard.
Tornado isn’t played in every green deck. But now we make it to the really juicy bit: Cumulative upkeep uses age counters to track. That means over the course of turns, Tornado will be racking up both velocity counters and age counters . . . and Vampire Hexmage can remove them all in one shot. And since we’ve already established Karador, Ghost Chieftain as our commander, we can rebuy our Worldwake uncommon whenever we need a fresh windstorm.
This combo may not be the most efficient way to destroy all our opponents’ pesky permanents, but what other card can boast velocity counters or art with a girl riding a manticore away from an uprooted tree being caught up in a cyclone? Thank you, Susan Van Camp.
Jar of Future a.k.a. Eyeballs Sight
- Step 1: Make infinite mana. Today, this will involve sacrificing infinite creatures. (Okay, fine, judges, we’ll choose a very large, but finite, number.)
- Step 2: We controlled a Jar of Eyeballs, so now we have infinite eyeballs. Activate the Jar’s ability to look through our library and fetch a Future Sight.
- Step 3: Put “the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.” Since we looked through our whole deck, we now get to stack it.
- Step 4: Cast Future Sight, then use the infinite mana to cast as much of our library as we like, one card off the top at a time, having ordered them as we chose.
Now, there are a lot of ways to generate infinite mana, and there are a lot of things to do with it once generated. I’m of the mind that if I’m going to do something so easy to come by—especially in casual formats and Commander in particular—I want to either do it in a really interesting way or do something really interesting with it. I’ll pass on Maga, Traitor to Mortals and Exsanguinate.
Anyway, we have the endgame in mind and a couple cards for our Pocket Combo already settled in. Now we just need an infinite-mana engine that involves repeated creature sacrifice. I think Phyrexian Altar seems to be a great place to start—if for no other reason than we’ll presumably need colored mana for all the spellcasting we’re planning.
This particular Pocket Combo exists in my Hakim, Loreweaver Commander deck. If you’d like to take a look at it, check out this CMDR Decks video from several months ago. It’s been updated since then, but you’ll get the idea.
Phyrexian Altar and cast an Academy Researchers. The Researchers lets us put an Aura from our hand onto the battlefield attached to it, and that Aura will be Fool's Demise. Sacrifice the Researchers to the Altar, generate , return the Fool's Demise to our hand with its trigger, return the Researchers to the battlefield with the Aura’s other trigger, and then put the Aura back onto the battlefield with the Researchers’ trigger. We’re now back where we started (after casting the Wizard), and we can sacrifice for another and repeat the process. Oh, and don’t forget the eyeball counters.
Another option in the deck is to do basically the same process but with Iridescent Drake and Fool's Demise’s older brother: False Demise. False Demise doesn’t return itself to our hand, but since Iridescent Drake grabs its Aura from the graveyard, that works just fine. Note that the Drake also works with Fool's Demise as long as we stack the Aura’s triggers in the reverse of the order we do with Academy Researchers.
I haven’t asked for any feedback for this column up to this point, as I’ve just hoped people have been enjoying taking looks at different combos and taking home ideas they could put into practice in their own decks and playgroups. But I would like to know what you all think. Let me know through e-mail, the comments, or Twitter whether you like Pocket Combos, if you prefer whole silly decklists, and if there are any particular formats you’d like me to take a look at, such as Modern, Pauper, Standard, or Commander.
Until next time, I’m Andrew saying, “Bringing a fatty to a combo fight might not feel right, but bringing a combo to a fatty fight is just not polite.”
fissionessence at hotmail dot com