Part 4: The Combo Edition
One of the big draws of modern is just how many decks are viable and capable of winning, and this has led players to come up with some incredible combo decks. In this article we are going to look at just a few of these decks but rest assured there are plenty more out there to discover. Certain players are immediately drawn to combo decks because they are so different to what they are used too, however combo is not usually very represented in standard or limited (the most played formats). I’ve got five decks to have a look at this time but this is not even close to covering all the incredible combo decks out there.
Our first combo deck looks to use Scapeshift to generate a huge amount of damage with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. The deck is focused on getting as many lands into play as possible so that when you cast Scapeshift you can sacrifice all your lands and get enough lands for a lethal amount of damage from Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. It uses cards such as Sakura-Tribe Elder and Search for Tomorrow for early mana acceleration and then has Primeval Titan to fetch out multiple lands and also as an alternate win condition. The main strength of this deck is that it uses lands to kill people so it dodges a lot of the main deck removal and answers in the format. The weakness of the deck is that it is very weak to counterspells and specific hate cards such as Blood Moon or Surgical Extraction. This is a very powerful deck and I would recommend it if you enjoy ramping out as many lands as possible.
UR storm is a deck all about casting as many spells as possible in a single turn and then using Grapeshot to deal a lethal amount of damage. The deck uses it’s creatures to reduce the mana costs of the spells it plays, and these spells usually create more mana or draw cards. The key cards of the deck are Past in Flames, Gifts Ungiven and Grapeshot. Past in Flames is used to recast all the cards in the graveyard, Gifts Ungiven is able to tutor for important cards that the deck needs to combo off and in conjunction with Past in Flames it doesn’t matter that you put two cards in the graveyard. Grapeshot is the win condition of the deck, and in the sideboard is Empty the Warrens which is a back up plan. The main strength of this deck is that it is mainly focused on casting spells which are usually hard for decks in modern to interact with. The weakness of the deck is that at times it can be inconsistent and it struggles to deal with interactive opponents using discard and counterspells. This is a very difficult deck to play and it is getting close to being a very good choice for the meta.
While not a “traditional” combo deck in any sense I decided to put dredge in the combo category because it is reliant on a certain combination of cards (Stinkweed Imp, Golgari Thug) to really churn through it’s deck as quickly as possible. This deck uses the dredge mechanic to put many cards into the graveyard. It then uses Narcomoeba or Bloodghast to return Prized Amalgam and create a large board state. The deck also uses Life from the Loam to fuel a huge flashbacked Conflagrate as a back up plan if the creatures don’t do enough damage. The main strength of dredge is that it is incredibly quick and powerful; it can get a large amount of power onto the board in the first few turns and even if the opponent stabilizes the board they can still die to burn spells being flashbacked. The weakness of Dredge is that it is hit very hard by graveyard removal, cards such as Rest in Peace and Grafdigger’s Cage do a tonne of work and make the deck quite bad. This deck isn’t quite as dominant as it used to be before the banning of Golgari Grave-Troll but it can still be a very powerful deck. It rewards players who know the deck inside and out as there are many lines possible.
This is one of the perfect definitions of a combo deck. This deck uses Angel’s Grace/ Phyrexian Unlife to stop from losing the game for a turn, then casts Ad Nauseam to put the entire deck in the players hand. It then uses Simian Spirit Guide to cast Lightning Storm and discards all the lands from the deck to make it lethal. Now that’s how the deck wins, how does it set up? Well it uses explosive artifacts such as Lotus Bloom and Pentad Prism which let the deck consistently go off around turn four. The deck is also able to use Pact of Negation to protect it’s combo and it always has the back up plan of winning with Laboratory Maniac when it draws it’s whole deck. The strength of this deck is that it attacks the format from a different angle and doesn’t need to interact with it’s opponent. It is also able to use Angel’s Grace and Phyrexian Unlife to buy some time for the combo to be achieved. The main weakness of the deck is that it is not very resilient to disruption ( Thoughtseize etc) and sometimes it can be too slow against the hyper aggro decks in the format. This is a deck I have considered playing multiple times and if you are interested in odd combo decks then I highly recommend this one, it’s in a great spot in the meta at the moment and I expect it to take down a big tournament soon.
The final deck we are looking at in this article is Living End. This deck abuses the Cascade mechanic on Violent Outburst to cast Living End. It also puts large creatures into it’s graveyard by using the cycling mechanic (Monstrous Carabid). The deck does not have any card below three mana so that every time they cast Violent Outburst it is guaranteed to cascade into Living End. The deck also plays cards like Fulminator Mage, Avalanche Riders and Blood Moon to destroy and disrupt opponent’s mana. The deck also uses Simian Spirit Guide to cast spells on turns before they would usually be cast which is a very powerful effect. The main strength of this deck is that it is very hard to interact with and it can use it’s combo at instant speed. The weakness of the deck is that it is weak to graveyard hate much like dredge is, also it is very weak to counterspells such as Countersquall and Cryptic Command. This used to be an incredible budget deck but Living End hasn’t been reprinted in a while and the deck is now focused on destroying mana which has raised the price. If you can find it cheap then I would recommend this deck very highly.
Part 5: The Brews are Coming!!!!
I am taking a short break from writing while I get a hold of a decent computer so Part 5 is gonna be delayed for a few weeks possibly, BUT this gives me tonnes of time to find some brews that don’t receive a lot of mainstream attention. I’ve already got a few ideas but I could always use a few more suggestions, what do you want to see in Part 5? As we near the end of this series I just want to remind you that this isn’t a definitive guide; modern has dozens of decks and I am just covering a few to give you an idea of the format. Modern is a format that rewards players for having a knowledge of the format. I encourage you to read about every deck you possibly can, learn all the weird and bizarre card interactions and you won’t be surprised the next time someone sits down across from you with a brew. Even on this very site we have a bunch of fantastic modern deck techs that you can read. Check out Harrison’s GB Tron deck here and also Connor’s Mono White taxes deck here. I want to help you be a better player, I want to meet you some day in a tournament and I want you to beat me (not physically please). So join me next time as we look at the brews of modern.