The world of Ixalan just keeps getting better! With the increased tribal support and a plethora of Commander cards, Rivals of Ixalan looks great. Today we’re going to do what we always do when a new set drops, and that is to go digging for combo gold!
Typically, I look for combos that can “go infinite” or can win the game on the spot, but this time I’ll expand these requirements to include a couple of neat and powerful card interactions. Keep in mind that technically no combo is “infinite”, you have to pick a number. For the purposes of this article, when I say “infinite” I mean “an arbitrarily large number”. As always, all of the combos in this article will be based on one (or more) new cards from Rivals of Ixalan. Without further ado, let’s kick things off with a fun Mono-Black combo for Standard!
Oathsworn Vampire + Pitiless Plunderer + Yahenni, Undying Partisan + Bontu's Monument
Result: Vampires and Pirates teaming up to suck the life from your opponent(s).
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Setup and Execution: I’ll admit that this takes a bit to set up, but you can win the game from an empty board as long as you have nine mana. Here’s the breakdown: Cast Bontu's Monument, then cast Pitiless Plunderer — remember it only costs three mana because of monument’s cost reduction. When you cast Plunderer you’ll gain a life and your opponent will lose one life. Next, you’ll cast Oathsworn Vampire, and drain your opponent for one life again. Finally, cast Yahenni, Undying Partisan — this is where you “go ham” as they say!
Kick off the loop by sacrificing Oathsworn Vampire to Yahenni. This will trigger Pitiless Plunderer’s ability and create a Treasure artifact. Sacrifice the Treasure artifact to cast Oathsworn Vampire from your graveyard. When you do, it will trigger Bontu's Monument’s drain life ability. Continue this process until you’ve claimed victory! You could also opt for the troll ending and drain your opponent until they’re at two life, then swing with Yahenni for the win.
Form of the Dinosaur + Soul-Scar Mage + Nest of Scarabs
Result: Nuke a creature, make fifteen 1/1s. Seems like a good deal.
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Setup and Execution: This is a fun combo that uses the new enchantment, Form of the Dinosaur. To set this up, all three of the cards above should be on the battlefield and a creature controlled by an opponent. Once the stage is set, you’ll need to make it to your upkeep. On your upkeep, you’ll target your opponent’s creature with Form of the Dinosaur, because you have Soul-Scar Mage on the battlefield, the damage will be dealt in -1/-1 counters. This will trigger Nest of Scarabs’ ability which will create fifteen 1/1 insects! This is another Standard legal combo, but if you want to port it over to your Commander deck, then you’ll get some benefits.
One small benefit is gaining access to Forbidden Orchard. With it you can reliably create a valid target for Form of the Dinosaur. Besides this neat little technology upgrade, we also get the powerhouse, Doubling Season!
With Doubling Season on the battlefield, you would double the counters (to thirty) which means double the Insects! Thirty 1/1s is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you cast a Craterhoof Behemoth on the following turn!
Zacama, Primal Calamity + Temur Sabertooth + Impact Tremors
Result: Infinite mana. Infinite damage. and More!
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Setup and Execution: This combo is ripe with different ways to break it. We’ll begin with a straight-forward approach and then iterate on it from there. It’s important to note that Zacama, Primal Calamity’s ability triggers if you cast it, so something like Deadeye Navigator won’t work. That’s not a problem since we have Temur Sabertooth which is functionally the same thing. Start by casting Zacama with Temur Sabertooth already on the battlefield. Once Zacama enters the battlefield it’s ability will trigger and you’ll untap all your lands, then use Temur Sabertooth’s ability to return Zacama to your hand. Cast Zacama again and you’re off to the races! Keep in mind, you’ll need enough lands to cast Zacama, activate Sabertooth, and at least one more to go infinite. With each cycle you’ll gain 1 mana, and you can alternate which land you tap for the extra mana to get any color that you need. Once you get the engine going, cast Impact Tremors to machine-gun your opponents! You can do the same thing with Purphoros, God of the Forge, but if you really want to go for style points, let me direct your attention to a little artifact from Time Spiral.
I started playing Magic in Time Spiral block, so this brings back memories of the Stuffy Doll and Guilty Conscience combos in my casual playgroup! But I digress, once you have an arbitrary amount of Red mana, cast Stuffy Doll and select one of your opponents, then use Zacama’s damage ability to bludgeon the Stuffy Doll until your opponent is no more. You can then use Temur Sabertooth’s ability to return the Stuffy Doll and recast it selecting a new opponent! Repeatedly nuking a Stuffy Doll is probably the funniest thing you can do with Zacama and infinite mana, but there are other options if you’re curio_us.
Cloudstone Curio can fill the role that Temur Sabertooth does and give some added benefits. Instead of activating an ability, you’ll cast a creature to return Zacama. This works best with a low-cost creature with an ETB effect. Elvish Visionary immediately comes to mind, because I love drawing cards — It also costs the same as Temur Sabertooth’s ability. You’ll have to be a little bit careful with this version of the combo, since you’ll draw your whole deck before generating infinite mana, but it’s safe to say once you draw most of your deck, you could easy find a path to victory. If you have enough lands in play, you can simply draw to Inferno Titan and then switch to toggling the Titan and Zacama. Here’s how it works, you’ll need to have Cloudstone Curio on the battlefield, and then cast Zacama. Once it enters the battlefield, it will untap your lands. Cast Inferno Titan and deal 3 damage to an opponent with its enter-the-battlefield trigger. Cloudstone Curio’s ability will trigger from the Inferno Titan entering the battlefield and you’ll return Zacama to your hand and then recast it. Your lands will untap again, and you’ll bounce the Inferno Titan back to your hand-rinse, repeat, and ravage.
Polyraptor + Forerunner of the Empire
Result: Many, many, Polyraptors — I stopped counting at 32.
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Setup and Execution: Wizards of the Coast was not subtle in pointing out this combo, if you look at the art of Forerunner of the Empire you’ll find a Polyraptor lurking in the background. It’s also a happy coincidence that Forerunner can search your deck and find the Polyraptor. These two cards alone make a nice combo that results in a small heard of Polyrators. With Forerunner of the Empire on the battlefield, you can simply cast Polyraptor and the reproduction begins. Once Polyraptor comes into play Foreunner’s ability will trigger, you can choose to deal damage to all creatures, making two Polyraptors. Do this again to create four Polyraptors, and then once again to make eight! At this point Forerunner of the Empire will die since it would have taken three damage. This is where we can explore the difference nuances of this combo.
There are two paths you can go with this interaction; you can make a herd of Polyraptors and attack your opponent(s), or you can leverage the possibility of having an infinite number of creatures entering the battlefield (ETB triggers). Let’s break each of these down!
For attacking with a herd you’ll want to have a way to grant your creatures Haste, like Anger in the graveyard, and a permanent that allows you to get around the damage that you’re dealing to your creatures. These are good options for that:
With the first two you are simply adding a +1/+1 counter for each damage dealt, which allows you to continue copying the Polyraptor and incidentally making everything HUGE. Eldrazi Monument on the other hand grants all your creatures indestructability. All of these options allow you to make the infinite Polyraptors, which is best when attacking since it’s possible that some of your opponents have high life totals or pesky blockers. Most of the time attacking with an infinite herd of raptors will end the game, but not always. For example, if someone has a Ghostly Prison or Moat on the battlefield, you won’t be able to attack them with all of your creatures. There’s also a possibility that one of your opponents is playing Fog — this is a real thing, I’ve witnessed it in a Commander game, the attacker nearly flipped the table. In any event, a non-combat path to victory is always good to have.
Enter-the-battlefield (ETB) triggers are a good way to side-step these combat-thwarting measures. We only need a way to weaponized the ETB triggers. Two of my go-to on color options are Impact Tremors or Purphoros, God of the Forge — see the Zacama combo section above. You also need something to grant your Forerunner indestructability. You can use some of the methods that we used to generate a herd of Polyraptors, or you can go with something like Darksteel Plateor Heroic Intervention. Since you’re not attacking, it’s ok to let the Forerunner eventually kill your heard of Polyraptors because you really only need them to enter the battlefield to do their damage. Because of it’s fun quotient and ability to end the game, I expect to see this combo in every Dino Commander deck.
Timestream Navigator + Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Result: Infinite turns.
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Setup and Execution: I’m a sucker for a good Kiki-Combo. I’ve ended many-a-games with an army of Pestermites, Restoration Angels, Deceiver Exarchs, and even Zealous Conscripts! This combo is a bit more civilized, instead of attacking with a swarm of the usual suspects, you’ll take an arbitrary number of turns with Timestream Navigator. All that you need to set this up is, the City’s Blessing, a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and a freshly played Timestream Navigator. With these on the battlefield, simply activate Kiki-Jiki’s ability targeting Timestream Navigator. This will make a token of Timestream Navigator (with haste),you’ll then tap the token and pay four-mana to active her ability and take an extra turn. That’s it, just do that during each of your extra turns. One of the things I really like about this combo is that it can be played onto an empty board and totally surprise your opponents. You can cast it from your hand at eleven mana, or Tooth and Nail to fetch it at thirteen mana.
Jungleborn Pioneer + Deadeye Navigator + Cryptolith Rite + Intruder Alarm + Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
Result: Infinite mana, draw your deck, attack with HUGE fish!
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Setup and Execution: I always liken my last combo in these articles to an 80’s hair band guitar solo. Let’s shred through this last combo. I crafted this for my newest Merfolk Tribal Commander deck. To start you’ll need Cryptolith Rite on the battlefield and three creatures that you can tap for mana. The next step is to cast Intruder Alarm — It’s best to do this with your creatures, because when you follow it up with Jungleborn Pioneer, you’ll untap the creatures, twice. Cast Jungleborn Pioneer, when it enters the battlefield, two abilities will go on the stack, one to make a token and one to untap your creatures (from Intruder Alarm). Resolve both triggers. Once the token from the Pioneer enters the battlefield another untap trigger will go on the stack. Tap the same three creatures for mana in response to the untap trigger, then untap them and tap them again for mana. This should create six mana, which is conveniently enough for Deadeye Navigator!
Cast Deadeye Navigator, again two triggers will go on the stack one for Deadeye’s Soulbond ability and one for Intruder Alarm’s untap ability. Soulbond with Jungleborn Pioneer, then untap your mana creatures. Tap them again for mana and use the Soulbond ability to exile Jungleborn Pioneer and return it to the battlefield. When Jungleborn Pioneer enters the battlefield, you’ll again make a token and untap your mana creatures (twice). You now have access to infinite mana, and infinite 1/1 Merfolk! This is where Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca really shines!
With Kumena’s second ability, you can use the 1/1 Merfolk tokens to draw cards, before “blinking” Jungleborn Pioneer. Just as we’ve been using the Intruder Alarm untap ability to create mana, we’ll also leverage it to draw cards with Kumena. Repeat this process until you draw this card:
Once you have Concordant Crossroads in hand, you can stop drawing cards, and start using the 1/1s and Kumena’s third ability (I know, three abilities! This guy is like a planeswalker!) to pump all your Merfolk! You now command an army of swole fish with haste — I think you can figure out what to do from here.
When I write these articles, I try to avoid combos that were not already talked about in other articles. Which is why this article was particularly hard to write. There were at least three other great pieces of content that explored the combo landscape of Rivals of Ixalan. It’s my hope that this article offers you some unique card interactions and a fresh perspective where there’s overlap. I’ll wrap this article up by pointing to some more Rivals of Ixalan combo madness! Two of the articles come from our friend Saffron Olive at MTGGoldfish and one comes from our very own Abe Sargent!
- Brewer's Minute: Rivals of Ixalan—Seven Commander Combos
- Brewer's Minute: Rivals of Ixalan—Seven Modern Combos
- Top Ten Combos from Rivals of Ixalan
I love hearing from you, so feel free to tell me about your favorite Rivals of Ixalan combos in the comments. Thanks for reading!