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Brewing Modern Midrange Combo


With the return of Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor to Modern, it has quickly become my favorite format in Constructed Magic again. These two cards really felt like they were that boost fair decks in Modern were desperate to have in order to go toe to toe with the busted things the unfair decks in Modern are capable of bringing to the table.

While there is certainly something satisfying about grinding out a long, purely fair game of Magic. There is also something pleasant about being able to flip an "oops I win" switch to randomly steal games in an otherwise grindy matchup. Today I would like to share a few decklists that are my favorite archetype in Modern -- Midrange combo decks. These are decks that contain combo kills, while also having cards that allow them to grind out long fair games and honest wins.

It should come as a surprise to few that the first combo shell the Kiki Chord guy would like to talk about is a Kiki Chord shell. For those who are newer to the format, the combo in Kiki Chord is these two cards:

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Restoration Angel

These two together created an unlimited number of hasty Restoration Angels to attack with.

Those who are familiar with this archetype will find many of our other traditional cards present such as mana creatures, Voice of Resurgence, and Chord of Calling. That being said, this specific build is pushed heavier in the Blue direction giving us access to some fun creatures I have never played in Kiki Chord in the past:

Coiling Oracle
Mystic Snake
Vendilion Clique

Coiling Oracle is everything Wall of Omens wishes it could be. In addition to replacing itself with a new card, Coiling Oracle also provides supplemental ramp to allow us to play our larger spells sooner. It is also a Green creature which makes it marginally better with Chord of Calling's convoke.

Mystic Snake is a card that I have tried several times in the past, but never quite made the cut because double Blue in the mana cost made it fairly hard to cast when drawn. Since this is no longer the case, we can play it freely. I think Snake is better than something like Spell Queller because of the synergy it offers with Restoration Angel and the ability to counter larger spells like Karn Liberated and Primeval Titan.

Vendilion Clique is a card that is exceptionally powerful in the current Modern format. In addition to applying pressure to planeswalkers like Jace and Liliana of the Veil nicely, it also provides disruption against combo decks. Vendilion Clique can also cycle dead cards out of our own hand in the late game when we need to try and find more action.

Speaking of dead cards in our hand, did you notice anything about the mana base in this deck? That is right -- my favorite ugly goblin is actually just uncastable. Wrapping the mana in these base gw decks to cast a triple Red card has always come at a high price. With the ability to put Kiki-Jiki back into our deck with both Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Vendilion Clique, I think we can finally stop warping our mana.

Up next we have a newish archetype that I have really taken a liking to:

For those who have never seen a polymorph deck before our combo is focused around these cards:

Proteus Staff
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Both Polymorph and Proteus Staff allow us to turn any creature land or token we have in play into an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. You will note in order to accomplish this the only creature card that we have in our main deck are the two copies of Emrakul.

While we do not get to attack right away, on the back of our acceleration cards we can put Emrakul into play as early as turn three:

Search for Tomorrow
Utopia Sprawl

One of the reasons I have really been enjoying this ug deck is because when we are not combo killing our opponent, we have a mediocre "fair deck" backup plan of beating down with token creatures and animated lands. In conjunction with some advantage generated from our planeswalker cards we can often stay afloat in longer games.

In the sideboard we have some alternative fatties to swap our Emrakul for when she is unlikely to close the game fast enough:

Card images of Terastodon and Iona, Shield of Emeria

Iona, Shield of Emeria

Terastodon is fantastic against the more interactive decks in the format that can bounce our Emrakul with Jace, or clear it away with a Liliana edict effect. Terastodon is also excellent against Tron because it is more resistant to cards like Oblivion Stone, while also being able to kill their Tron pieces. Past all of this because our deck has a number of ramp elements to it - in many games we can simply cast Terastodon when we draw it.

Iona in conjunction with Chalice of the Void is my plan for putting up a fight against faster combo decks in the format such as Storm as well as decks like Burn.

While I was busy tooling around with ug Polymorph, Caleb Durward posted an Esper shell that got me thinking. After a few edits I want to try the following deck list when I get time:

This variation of Polymorph has a stronger focus on being a fair deck first and a combo deck second. It gets to play quality interaction like one mana discard and removal, while still having a few copies of Polymorph to "opps" into an Emrakul on occasion. One of the interactions I really like in the wu based Polymorph shell is the fact that if we target an indestructible creature, such as a Gideon, we get to keep the creature we targeted while also getting to put something big and scary into play.

I have yet to log games with this Esper shell, but on the surface it seems very serviceable. Having a bunch of Modern playable cards and mixing in a powerful combo kill is often a fine recipe for success.

Wrapping Up

It is definitely still early into our new 4-drop powered Modern format, but I am excited to see how everything shakes out. So far I have been enjoying both Brainstorming with Jace and spinning the wheel with Bloodbraid's cascade trigger to see what extra value I am getting. Many of the decks that were good in Modern before the unbannings, like Burn and Tron, are still putting up fine results as the format developes.

What decks have you been enjoying in our new Modern format? Are there any midrange combo decks you fancy like the ones I described here or has something else felt powerful and fun to you? Let me know in a comment below!


--Jeff Hoogland

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