Combolicious Standard Fun!
As one of the December Beta testers for Magic Online, I have had the opportunity to test nearly every Standard deck that has been covered on the Internet. Eventually, Terminating Terravores, Flametonguing Finkels and Countering Call of the Herds gets boring.
That's when I started coming up with my own deck ideas, which soon deteriorated into,"What are the craziest ways I can win?" Doesn't everyone love a crazy combo? I'm sure many of you out there have heard of the synergy between Traumatize and Haunting Echoes, Balancing Act and Terravore, or Buried Alive and three Laquatus's Champions and Twilight's Call - but those lack enough improbability (or absurdity) for me to enjoy them. I get a kick out of winning either with bad cards or an unorthodox win condition.
With Wizards of the Coast R&D doing their best to kill combo decks, it is becoming harder and harder to find them, but I have two decks that I am particularly proud of.
One Hungry Angel
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Penumbra Bobcat*
4x Ebony Treefolk
4x Fallen Angel*
4x Pernicious Deed
4x Verdant Succession*
2x Diabolic Intent
1x Piper's Melody
1x Twilight's Call
4x Llanowar Wastes
A pet peeve of mine is when writers write about a somewhat obscure card without telling the reader what it actually does. So:
Whenever a green non-token creature is put into a graveyard from play, that creature's controller may search his or her library for a card with the same name as that creature and put it into play. If that player does, he or she then shuffles his or her library.
The original idea for this deck came from the synergy I saw between Mystic Snake, Verdant Succession, and Phyrexian Altar. Just imagine this scenario: your opponent plays a spell, you respond by sacrificing your Mystic Snake triggering Verdant Succession, bringing in another Mystic Snake to counter their spell. With enough Rooting Kavus and Piper's Melodies, I could keep a soft lock on the table for quite some time. The biggest problem with that deck was the lack of an efficient, reliable kill condition (Millstone is not an efficient kill condition). Needless to say, my opponents rarely stuck around for a second game.
One Hungry Angel, on the other hand, has a much faster, flashier and more improbable kill condition. This deck looks to get out an early Birds or Elves to ramp up to three mana for a defensive Pernicious Deed, Penumbra Bobcat or Ebony Treefolk on second turn. Ideally, the Fallen Angel comes out turn 4 with a Penumbra Bobcat on the table - and on fifth turn, the Verdant Succession hits. The next thing your opponent knows, you're attacking with a 21/12 Flying Angel having sacrificed eight Bobcats (+16/+8) and a Llanowar Elf (+18/+9). While not a combo deck in the strictest sense, the best kill condition is your fat flier.
Are there problems with this deck? Of course there are. It is easily disrupted by creature kill, bounce, countermagic and enchantment kill. But who cares if it's easily disrupted? It's not a Tier One deck and it isn't meant to be. It's fun just to play with Verdant Succession, let alone killing with a 21/12 Fallen Angel. If you really want to confuse your opponent, hold back your Spiritmonger on defense until you find a Fallen Angel.
Some other cards I considered for the deck were the aforementioned Rooting Kavu and Mystic Snake, Quirion Trailblazer, Wood Elves, Penumbra Wurm, Kavu Climber, and Jungle Barrier. The Trailblazers and Wood Elves allow you find a lot of mana and thin your library. The Wurms are bigger, badder cousins of the Bobcats. The Kavu Climbers form a card-drawing engine, as do the Jungle Barriers. I felt that broadening the deck so that it does not rely as heavily on the Verdant Succession gives the deck a chance to live long enough to find your combo.
With a new rash of lifegain.dec decks floating about Magic Online and Friday Night Magic, I thought it was about time to show what real life gain is:
Beware of Insolent Elves
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Seeker of Skybreak*
4x Standard Bearer
2x Rith, the Awakener
3x Wild Research
4x Orim's Chant
4x Samite Ministration*
4x Eladamri's Call
4x Battlefield Forge
4x City of Brass
4x Elfhame Palace
4x Karplusan Forest
2x Yavimaya Coast
1x Rith's Grove
Prevent all damage that would be dealt by a source of your choice to you this turn. Whenever damage from a black or red source is prevented this way, you gain life equal to that damage.
And for good measure:
Seeker of Skybreak
7th Edition common
Creature - Elf
T: Untap target creature.
Sit back and ponder those cards for a second. I feel Shriek of Dread is the only card printed in Planeshift that is weaker than Insolence... And has anyone ever played a Samite Ministration? (Well, in Limited play... - The Ferrett) Maybe Seeker of Skybreak was useful at one point, but I doubt it. Here's how this"infinite" life combo stacks up:
1) Enchant your Seeker of Skybreak with an Insolence.
2) Cast a Samite Ministration targeting the Insolence.
3) Activate your Seeker of Skybreak, targeting itself - this effect goes on the stack first.
4) Tapping the Seeker triggers the Insolence causing its effect (two damage to the Seeker's controller) to go on the stack.
5) Insolence"damage" resolves, which is replaced by the residual effect from Samite Ministration, increasing your life total by two.
6) The Seeker's effect resolves, untapping your Seeker.
7) See Step 3.
As there is no such thing as"infinite" life in Magic, you have to choose a stopping point, say... Four trillion? This deck idea came about when one of my friends was looking for ways to abuse Captain's Maneuver (he once won a match in a PTQ by casting a Captain's Maneuver for three and then tapping three painlands for the win). I came up with the Seeker of Skybreak and Insolence combo, while only later discovering Samite Ministration to finish the three-color, three-card combo. The astute reader will notice that despite my reservations, I have resorted to killing with Millstone. For a while, I was trying to kill with Planeswalker's Fury, but I found the Millstones to be a faster, albeit less original, way to win the game. Aside from the combo, the most amusing thing I find about this deck is its mana base. There are only five lands that don't tap for pain. Who cares about pain when you're at 4,000,000,000,000 life? Heck, four of those lands can be replaced with Tarnished Citadels if you really want to embarrass your opponent.
What disrupts Beware of Insolent Elves? Well, almost anything. Then again, I've tuned this deck to be able to"go off" as early as turn three without disruption and consistently by turn five. Wild Research is sick. Orim's Chant is a must-counter for any control deck that sees something fishy going on. Standard Bearer is yet another"scrub" card that plays a vital role in protecting your combo. Since this deck is geared more for the combo than One Hungry Angel, it has a decent chance of pulling off the combo more than once in a match if your opponent just possibly happens to be playing any bounce, creature kill, enchantment kill or countermagic.
If anyone manages to tune these into Tier One powerhouse combos, feel free to give me credit. But somehow, I don't think that will be happening anytime soon.
If you have a crazy Standard or Odyssey Block combo that only takes three cards and you feel the burning need to share it with someone, feel free to drop me an e-mail at DKadonsky@aol.com. Not to be cruel, but I'm not very interested in Extended or Type One crazy combos, since those are a dime a dozen. The limited card pool of Standard makes crazy combos much more difficult and fun to pull off.