Friday, 1 April 2016

The Definitive Guide to Combo Decks in the Cube

Our group has started to do more rotisseries and is gaining sufficient experience in cube play to be branching out and trying more interesting, creative, unusual and exciting things. Of such things combo decks tend to be the most so. The trouble with combo decks is that there are loads of different combos and loads of ways to approach those combos. There may be loads of ways to build white weenie but they all play very much the same and have huge overlap of cards. With combo decks you can have the same combo housed in such different shells that they play totally differently and have very few overlap cards. You can do a couple of storm decks that literally share no cards! Some combos are just the interaction with a couple of specific cards while others are engine based and the whole deck is the combo. Then there are those combo like interactions you can build into fairly normal decks and have it as a bonus extra that happens to win the games for you. There are also combos that you do build your deck around but that don't actually win the game outright. This attempt to categorize combos made me realize there is no clear cut off point between combos and synergy. If Reanimate is a combo then so too should be things like Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull which is really just a powerful synergy you can include easily in a lot of places. Where I have stopped calling things combo is somewhat arbitrary

I was going to do a top 10 combos in cube list but realized that wouldn't scratch the surface. Instead I am just going to list all the combo decks that have been done in the cube and give a very short synopsis on that deck. Important stuff, variants on the deck, weakness and key cards. I am going to try and group the combo decks according to their theme as it were (2+ card comboa, 1 card + stuff for it or power play combos, and engine combos ). This is mildly useful but a little forced. The decks are so diverse trying to group them is a little futile. I am sure I will miss a couple but will add these in as I remember / am reminded! I am going to give each combo an out of 10 rating for its combined power and viability. I have tried to name the combo archetypes as generically as possible for clarity sake, there are many names they go by and some are not that informative! There are a sad selection of combos that simply don't translate into cube because there isn't enough redundancy in the parts. Amulet of Vigor for example is great when you have 4 copies of the card and can often make one turn one but when your whole deck relies on a single copy of a card and you need it early to do well then the deck is severely gimped by that. All cube combo decks suffer it a little but some far more than others. There are other combos that you could try and replicate in cube such as the Myr Incubator one from Mirrodin block however these are entirely superseeded by better alternatives in the cube. There are also thousands of combos that do exist but involve so many bad cards and different colours that they have never really been a thing in any format. As such this list will never be exhaustive but it should cover everything relevant and a lot that really isn't but I tried a few times anyway!
Crucible of Worlds

The 2+ Card Combos:


Fastbond-Crucible 10/10
Fastbond
This combo also requires at least one more card to actually do anything on top of Fastbond and Crucible of Worlds. It is also the only combo that requires a card I have banned - Fastbond, and as such is the only one not viable in my de-powered cube. The extra card is usually Zuran Orb which gives you on the spot infinite life and mana but it can be Strip Mine which land locks your opponent quickly and hard. You can use a simple sac land to empty your deck of targets and ramp pretty hard. The combo is cheap, all the individual pieces have strong merits and synergies on their own and the whole combo takes up very little decks space. You can basically cram it into any deck with green mana. It is one of the most classic cube combos yet remains one of the very best. As you don't warp your deck much to play it the combo is very robust and safe, as it is so cheap it is very hard to disrupt as well. A big strength to the deck is that the only colour you are tied to is green.











Auriok Salvagers
Auriok Salvagers 10/10*
Lion's Eye Diamond
This is the other top flight cube combo deck that is brutally fast, easy to put into a deck, hard to disrupt and takes up very little deck space. It is also the easiest combo to Tutor up the various pieces for. The Salvagers combo is significantly better in a powered cube although it is still possible in an unpowered cube unlike the Fastbond deck. While all combo decks typically get a chunk better relative to the aggro, control and midrange decks in a powered environment the Salvagers one is the most notable drop off. Despite this is is probably still a solid 7 out of 10 with no Black Lotus. Essentially you use the Salvagers with Black Lotus or Lion's Eye Diamond to generate infinite mana. This in turn makes it very easy to win the game using the ability on Salvagers with something simple like a Pyrite Spellbomb. This aspect is doubly important when you only have the LED as you won't have a hand to play with. Oath of Druids, Entomb and Reanimate effects all go very well with Salvager's decks as they allow you to both find and play your combo parts significantly quicker. Tutoring things into the bin is fine when you can Salvager them back. The deck is vulnerable to graveyard disruption and instant removal, particularly exile effects. Even when you do have Lotus it is nice to have the redundancy of LED as well.












Thopter Foundry-Sword of the Meek 8/10
Sword of the MeekThopter Foundry
This is a two card combo with bolt on improvements like the Crucible Fastbond combo. With just the Foundry and the Sword all you have is an engine to make 1/1 fliers and gain a life for 1 mana a pop, a lot better than a Bitterblossom but not always winning a game. Throw in a Time Sieve and for a mere five mana a turn you can have endless turns which generally means the 1/1s will take down the game. You can also bolt on a Krark Clan Ironworks instead and gain infinite life and 1/1s and mana which usually is enough to be winning that game. It is a very cheap combo with a lot of good artifact synergies while not being that demanding on your deck. You can go all out combo win, you can mash it together with another artifacty combo and have a backup win or you can just ram 2 or 3 of the parts into an affinity deck and get some really good value. The deck is always UB and often W for more tutor effects and due to the ability to recur artifacts red is also sometimes played. I typically find the deck looks like affinity in all ways except the threats and as such is it vulnerable to a lot of the same things, Pernicious Deed, Kataki, War's Wage etc. It is also vulnerable to graveyard hate and artifact hate but creature removal is no concern for it. The deck can be very fast and has a lot of options. While the mana may be all over the place you don't need to compete for top quality dual lands, instead you can settle for the kinds of things affinity fixes with and be fine, often better off.


Painter's Servant










Painter's Servant-Grindstone 9/10
Grindstone
A two part combo needing six mana to do but split in such a way you can do it without ramp of any kind by turn three. The combo is entirely colourless artifacts making building, finding and playing your parts much easier. It is vulnerable to various forms of spot removal but may be played more slowly for increased safety. If you could measure combos neatly with a ratio of the cards they needed and the total mana cost of the combo then this would come off very well, likely the best of the unpowered combo decks. As the strategy mills it is weak to cards like Emrakul and other mill protection tools but this is generally solvable with the time and space this little combo gives your deck.











Panoptic MirrorPanoptic Mirror-Timewalk 5/10

In a powered cube this is a seven mana combo, unpowerd it becomes ten although you can still do it just as quickly (assuming you are not ramping into the Panoptic Mirror with something like a Mana Vault). Once you imprint your Time Walk effect on the Panoptic Mirror you are good to go with infinite turns but your Mirror costs five mana and needs to live a turn. If they have instant removal they can blow up the Mirror and take out your Time Walk. There is no redundancy for it either so once your Mirror is exiled you are in a little trouble. This can be very quick with things like Tinker but it that little bit more vulnerable that the other good two card combos.




Erratic ExplosionDraco-Explosion 4/10
Draco
This is a combo that is quite hard to setup and disrupt and yet it doesn't even kill anyone! Draco hits for the most at 16 but Emrakul does 15 and can be of actual use in your deck. It is a unique combo in that you need two parts but one of them specifically needs to be on top of your deck. This means that a lot of library manipulation effects disrupt you pretty hard. Predict for example is a totally playable card in any blue deck and a hard counter to this combo. Tutoring things to the top of your deck is fairly hard in cube when there is only a handful of cards that put things there and all the cheap ones are really top rate cards. By the time you have built a deck with sufficient library control to play Erratic Explosion you can start to do all sorts of wacky things with miracles and Counterbalance I also tend to find that Show and Tell is a good partner for this deck as it works with all the tutor/manipulation effects and the Emrakul. Hard to build, not a great combo, very hard to play but lots of options and spare deck space. Only tied to red but almost always also using blue and either white or black for Vampiric/Enlightened Tutor. The main weakness for this deck is not that it doesn't kill people (15 often does still in cube) but that you need so many high quality support cards for it to be good. If you don't get most of them you probably can't go this route (Brainstorm, Vampiric Tutor, Diving Top, Scroll Rack, and Jace Mind Sculptor at a push). You can play Long Term Plans as some really weak redundancy but that does no favours for the power of your deck nor the ease of playing it.


Mana Severance






Severance-Belcher 5/10
Goblin Charbelcher
Hard to disrupt and fairly reliable but like Erratic Explosion this combo is prone to not killing people outright. With 40 card decks, by the time you get shot of all the land with Mana Severance you are usually left with under twenty in your deck and need to shoot them twice with the Belcher. While it is a nine mana total combo it is easily doable on turn five without ramp and significantly earlier with artifact ramp and Tinker. Often the deck splashes red, it allows you to leave a single mountain in the deck post Severance and increase your odds on a single shot kill with a less than 20 sized deck. Red also has good artifact utility cards to help you have a Belcher in play and quick. Blue is obviously the main colour for the deck and black always has things to offer the specific card combos. White has a little to help out as well if needed.


No-land Belcher 4.5/10

An alternative to playing with Mana Severance, an utterly awful card on its own, is to simply play very very few lands in your deck and lots of ways to pull them out. This turns the deck into more of an engine deck but themed around a single card and typically moves it away from the artifact heavy theme. Some are still used like Talismans and often Lotus Petal but mostly so the deck can cast green land search cards and take one and no land hands. It is a slower version of the deck  but does kill more reliably with the Belcher. I think it is a lot harder to get the balance right with this version but it is nice in that you can still do this version when the Tinker style cards are heavily contested which is a ball ache for the Severance Version. The no-land version is able to go entirely non-blue which is rare for any of the more pure combo lists. Land Grant is very strong in this list.




Swans of Bryn Argoll
Siezemic Swans 6/10


Seismic AssaultWhile the combo is theoretically a two card combo the odds on that going the distance are pretty minute and so you want to add a lot of support. In theory you lay a Siesmic Assualt and Swans of Brynn Argoll and start to throw land at your Swans, each one draws two new cards which you can turn into new cards until you have enough to throw 10 lands at the opponents face for lethal. The issue is that, even in a deck containing only land cards, if you start with a single land in hand you need to go nearly 20 cards into your deck to find that fatal damage. As soon as you throw some non land cards into the mix you massively increase the number of cards you need in your deck to find fatal, far beyond what you want to play in cube. You don't have to have that high a % of non-land cards before you run the risk of fizzling and not being able to draw more stuff. As such you need ways to put the lands you have in play back in your hand for extra ammo and be able to finish the game. Trade Routes and Sunder are great tools for this job but there are a few others. I have come across some very interesting versions of this with land counts in excess of 30 (in 40 card decks). These would use Cascade spells to tutor up some of the parts, they would use Treasure Hunt to draw immense numbers of cards and Manabond to occasionaly ramp better than you can with Fastbond. With loads of man and utility lands on top of a dangerous inevitable combo kill the deck was surprisingly good and resiliant. Certianly one of the slowest combos out there on average but lots of good interactions as the game goes on, very robust despite using a creature (you can go off at instant speed) and flexible in build. Its main weakness is the mana base, the best cards are all over the place, you can end up 4 colours with tripple red 3 drops and usually at least two other colours. It is also weak in that there is little redundancy, none for Swans and none quite so good for the Assualt. Get them exiled or fail to find them and you are going to have to win with lands. Comically that happens more than you might think.
Enduring Renewal


Pebbles 1/10

Goblin BombardmentThis combo is at least three cards and relies on the Enduring Renewal too hard. It is a 4 drop with no redundancy you need to find and resolve with all the other parts to get the win. There is quite a lot of redundacy in things you can use with it, there are many many 0 cost creatures and lots of ways to sac them to good effect. Goblin Bombardment remains the best kill card but you should run at least one more. The combo itself it quite good, it kills well and isn't that easy to disrupt. The deck has problems beyond relying on the Enduring Renewal. One is colours, it is already in two and those are two of the weaker combo support colours for this style of deck. The second weakness is that all the pieces of the combo are awful useless cards in their own right so when you don't have the combo you have naff all to be getting on with.
Illusions of Grandeur
















Illusions-Donate 2/10


DonateGreat in theory but not something I have ever managed to get working well in practice. In theory you cast Illusions of Granuer, gain 20 life as a buffer and then Donate it to your opponent so that they die when they can no longer support it. There are a lot of issues I have had in trying to do this deck. The combo is either seven mana in one go or four then five with none to spare. This isn't the worst by any means on this list but it taps you fully out over two important turns and doesn't end the game, it gives you a 20 life buffer and starts to Port your opponent down fairly hard. I have found that I quite often just get killed right through my 20 life shield before my opponent can't afford the upkeep on the Illusions. It is not the easiest combo to assemble and with no spare mana it is pretty hard to protect. It has been a while since I have tried it so perhaps cards like Baleful Strix will really help it but from my experiences it is one of the least effective translations of a constructed combo deck to cube.
Isochron Scepter


Scepter-Chant 7/10

Orim's ChantThis is an odd combo. It is technically good in that it is two cards, of which both are independently strong, and only five mana which can be split into a very convenient 2 then 3. The issue is that it doesn't win the game at all, it just does a lot to stop you losing the game. An awful lot of decks will instantly fold to it however it is fairly easy to include outs for it. As it doesn't end the game it gives lots of time to your opponent to find and play outs. This is one of very few combos that typically gets housed in a control shell rather than the conventional combo quickly shell or the occasional aggro plus combo deck. It is weak to most instant spells and any permanents that do damage without needing to attack. It is a little bit too easy to make a deck secure against Chant locks and so the real big weakness of this deck is when people know it is coming. If you do a format like Rotisserie you have to pick it as your last couple of cards or it will be very ineffective.


Channel











Channel-Fireball (Emrakul) 5.5/10

The original MtG combo deck is quite a long way from the best combo. Trying to rely on Fireball is a complete no no. It is a 2 card, 4+X mana combo where X is how much more life your opponent has than you. On the rare occasion they have less life you can pull it off for three mana. Mostly though you just can afford to do it and sit there getting further away from the mark as you die. There are many issues however, the main one being you put yourself within range of dying to a stiff breeze. Should they disrupt you in any way or have any instant damage you are going to be the one dying to your combo. Another issue is that red and green are two of the worst colours for finding spells meaning you need to play blue or black or both which causes your mana to be much rougher and your life total to take more of a beating. What is quite decent is Channel Emrakul where you don't have to pay all your life meaning you can use a sac land and still go off or not worry to much about the Bolt they could be holding. Emrakul is also able to be relevant regardless of your opponents life total. Emrakul is easier to find than Fireball in green and allows you the option on playing with other cards that can cheat in dorks. Channel is quite narrow and loses value quickly as the game goes on. It is wise to have some alternative things you can play off the back of a Channel other than your win condition. These could be powerful stopgaps like Wurmcoil, Karn and Ugin or more utility such as Memory Jar and Gilded Lotus. These are not nearly so likely to win the game as Emrakul but do keep you in games and make you more consistent. This is a strong combo, it is only tied to green, only costs two mana and is only two cards. It is not easy to disrupt nor is it that devastating when it is compared to a lot of combo decks. While neither piece is strictly playable in a vacuum they are both incredibly powerful cards that have lots of other synergies you can work with and should if you want to make the most out of your cards and deck.



PalinchronPalinchron 4/10

Typically a sub combo found in the kinds of combo deck that employ mana doubling effects. You can go all out on the Palinchron route but there is generally no call to do that. Essentially once your lands tap for two and you have six of them the Palinchron becomes infinite mana and storm count. For a non-green deck to get to six lands takes too long to be a good combo deck and so you almost always find the Palinchron in UG decks. Heartbeat of Spring is used a lot with Palinchron. Being enchantment  based and having an instant way to protect your creature makes it quite a robust combo but not without its drawbacks. Sometimes you have to give your opponents a turn on double mana which can often be game over for you. Getting to six land isn't a quick thing even in green so you trade quite a lot of potential speed for some robustness in your combo. You also still need a way to win with your many manas and storm, in the decks you find this that should be very easy to pull off but it is something that needs taking into account. I have certainly won games by turning my Palinchron sideways five times despite having infinite mana to use.



Dark Depths
Darkdepths-Hexmage 3.5/10

Vampire HexmageVery quick, cheap and easy to pull of and not very damaging to your deck. Sadly it is incredibly easy to disrupt making it a fairly unreliable kill. For two mana and a dodgy land lay you can instantly create a 20/20 flying indestructible. This one shots a lot of people however it is denied with Path, Plow, Unsummon, Diabolic Edict etc rather easily. Red and green struggle a little more but do have a selection of answers, Tinker for a Sphinx of the Steel Wind is far scarier for the red and green mages. This is not the kind of combo I would build a deck around as it is too unreliable, even a Lingering Souls prevents the combo doing much of anything for 4 turns. As it is so undemanding on cards, support and mana however it is exactly the kind of combo I would throw into an appropriate shell as a backup win condition. Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth is a key card for this deck as it allows you to go off turn two by letting the Dark Depths tap for B mana and generally not be a terrible land to have to make. Spellskite is also huge as it gives your Marit Lage a much higher chance of staying in play.

Splinter Twin
















Deceiver Exarch


Splinter Twin 6.5/10

Reasonable redundancy on the parts and not too demanding on your deck or full of awful cards. It is a seven mana two card combo but highly conveniently you can play part of it for 3 mana at instant speed meaning you can go off turn four without any disruptable setup, you can in fact just hold off and go off whenever they might tap out. This is a combo that winds up with more control style cards in the list. Partly this is because the combo relies on creatures which are almost always disruptable. Having counter magic and the luxury of some time to ensure your combo goes off seems to be the right direction to take it. While the deck is always UR I expect it will start to be white more often in cube soon with even more redundancy for effects and some effective tutors for the harder to find parts.



Protean Hulk



Flash-Hulk 4/10

FlashFlashing in a Protean Hulk in the cube is OK but very rarely leads to a win. While there are loads of combos of cards you get get that will instantly end the game they are all pretty awful cards and if you draw any of them your combo doesn't work. You can put in several different combos of dorks to find but then you just draw bits from both and neither work. Technically Flash-Hulk is a 2 mana 2 card combo but in singleton 40 card lists the inclusion of the kill cards and then having sufficient tools to keep them all in the deck just ruins the combo utterly. Flash-Hulk is weak as a kill tool at present however it is one to keep an eye on, if a couple of stand alone good dorks that combo to kill and can be tutored arrive then the Hulk will be strong in cube. This does not make the Flash combo unusable in cube as there are better things you can Flash into play. Worldspine Wurm is my personal favourite, it is not a certain kill nor even threatening one the next turn but for 2 mana three 5/5 tramplers is better than most things you can Reanimate. I consider Flash to one of those cheat-something-in style cards with Show and Tell, Tinker, Reanimate and co, Oath of Druids, Sneak attack and so on and so forth. Flash has the most synergy with Sneak Attack from that group and is very much the sort of card you want to build into a deck with more than one option for cheating good stuff in fast.




Metalworker


Staff of Domination-Metalworker 7/10

Staff of DominationThe Staff has a lot of combo's that work with it although Metalworker is the easiest to setup. Wirewood Channeller, Preist of Titania and the like all work with enough elves in play but you generally have enough mana for things without going infinite in elves. Pemin's Aura is a cheaper way to abuse elves than the Staff is you really want. The great thing about Staff is that once you have infinite mana you also have all the cards and all the life making winning very easy. Metal Worker is a great card in its own right in the appropriate decks and Staff is OK, it has a lot of utility but is rather mana intensive. It reminds me a little of Bow of Nylea in that respect. This is a very easy combo to put into a deck, it is cheap, tutorable, quick and powerful. The one drawback it has is that it uses small creatures that are easy to kill and have summoning sickness. Giving your dorks haste is quite a boost to this combo but that is quite a bit tougher to include.


Melira, Sylvok Outcast













Melira-Pod 8/10

This is a combo that has a lot of redundancy options, most of which are decent cards. It is also possible to house it in a very solid Abzan rock style deck and just win the good old fashioned way. The combo is Melira, Sylvok Outcast, a persist dork with a comes into play effect and a free recursive sac outlet. The combo can also be Archangel of Thune and Kitchen Finks with the same type of sac outlet. Viscera Seer is popular sac outlet as it lets you find a finisher, Murderous Redcap being the best. There are other good interactions you can throw in should you wish. Devoted Druid is a way of gaining infinite mana alongside the Archangle infinite life and +1/+1 counters combo. Devoted Druid has some combos of his own in fact which hopefully we will get to. There are lots and lots of good tutors for this deck what with it being green based and using all creatures. It gains it name from Birthing Pod which is a great tool to get the parts together. There are lots of ways to go about assembling the combo and lots of ways to build the deck. You can go for as quick and safe a combo as possible or you can make a deck with the best cards and slot the combo into it or anywhere in between those extremes. The combo is a little slow and as a creature based one it is disruptable but as the deck that houses it is pretty solid and there is redundancy on the combo you don't much care about that.



Pili-Pala
Pili-Pala-Architect 3/10

This is a cute little combo that you can somewhat toss into a relatively wide selection of decks. It is a cheap two card combo that makes infinite mana. The issue with it is that both are dorks, one is very easy to kill and needs to not have summoning sickness to go off. While blue is good at finding artifacts it is not so well equipped to find creatures. As such the combo is more one that you should let happen rather than over focus. It doesn't seamlessly slot into any other deck perfectly and one part will always be a bit of a do nothing for you. That is kind of fine for a cheap little combo but it isn't reliable, safe or redundant enough to go all out on.


Miren, the Moaning Well



Grand Architect















Daru Spiritualist




Life! 1/10

Shaman en-KorThis is a pretty bad combo in cube, like Scepter Chant it doesn't win the game, it just stops you losing, but specifically to damage. Mill, infect, lose the game, win the game and any other infinite damage combo all still beat it. Unlike the Chant combo life doesn't even disrupt your opponent,they can get on with whatever naughtiness they like. There is a lot of redundancy for the life combo, it is a 3 card combo that uses creatures which makes it a little weak to some things but the cheapness and redundancy of the cards makes up for that a lot. You use one of many cards that can repeatedly target something for no cost such as Shuko to do just that to either Daru Spiritualist or Task Force to gain infinite toughness which you can use with Miran, the Moaning Well etc. to turn the toughness into life. The base of the deck is green and white and it doesn't need other colours to get it to work although it isn't the worst to play with them either. There are some ways you can proactively use infinite life to win the game but this obviously makes the combo even more cards. Doran, the Siege Tower has some synergy with how the deck works and isn't awful prior to you going off. I consider this to be just about viable and only really then in the right kind of meta. Not a deck I would advise on going for.











ReveillarkBody Double Reveillark 4/10
Body Double
Arguably one of the best things to do with a Protean Hulk (get either the Body Double or the Reveillark plus a Carrion Feeder with your Flashed out Hulk while having the other piece in the bin so as to go off. This is the same sort of thing as Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter in that is is the interaction of two expensive creatures making a combo. The advantage of the Body Double combo is that it isn't terrible. None of the cards are that useless on their own and you can setup the combo far more safely for far less mana. You do need something like a Mirror Entity or the Carrion Feeder to go off but even as a 3 card combo it is still wildly better. It isn't the quickest ever combo but it is relatively light on cards and those it does use can be effective on their own in a selection of different builds. Usually I would aim to have this as a backup combo that worked well with another rather than the main one as its strengths don't lend themselves to that so much.

Hive Mind

















Hivemind 3/10

A bit of a comedy combo. You play your Hivemind for six mana followed by one of the Pact cycle. You then pass the turn to your opponent who has to pay the Pact cost or lose the game. It is a two card combo with some redundancy for the second part. It is only six mana but cannot be split. It also isn't the easiest card to find in blue. On top of that a lot of decks can easily produce the mana needed to pay for the upkeep on a Pact and so really you want to be trying to go off pretty quickly. Acceptable but a bit slow and using some poor cards for your deck. Also very awkward when your opponent can simply pay, you might end up killing yourself with your combo!




ScapeshiftScapeshift Valakut 4

This deck can be pretty hard to stop, there is some reasonable inevitability to it. Once you hit seven lands the Scapeshift should always be fatal and can be from six which is obviously doable by turn four if needed. The biggest issue with this deck is finding enough space for all the mountains you need and sufficient useful red stuff to play with it. Black helps you find and resolve a Scapeshift which neither red nor green do that well. For what is essentially a one card combo you do have to quite heavily warp your deck. The way in which you warp the deck does give you some good opportunities to exploit other strong things in magic, you can do some RG rampy things, you can just beat control by laying lands. Vesuva is quite a nice tool so you can double up on Valakut and really apply the pressure. An archetype that allows for a lot of creativity and one that can avoid blue if it wants which are both nice.
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Reckoner-Act (Charms) 3

Boros Reckoner and Blasphemous Act tend to be more of a synergy than a combo in how they are played but given that Erratic Explosion only does 15 most of the time in cube the 13 damage plus Wrath combo seems strong. Boros Reckoner used to be a reasonable cube card, it is already looking a bit limp but remains perfectly playable. If you just need a body and can do a miser's 13 with it now and again it is a reasonable include. I doubt anyone will ever start loading up on tutor effects to set this combo up but that doesn't mean it isn't a thing.

There is also a silly infinite life combo you can do with some targetable damage and a Boros Reckoner, you give it both indestructible and lifelink allowing it to loop damage to itself. Very hard to pull off and not even that big a reward however all effects than can be found on appropriate Jeskai coloured Ravnica Charms. A fine example of a combo far too convoluted to ever be played as such. I have had all the pieces in a deck before, I have never used it that way. It actually seems more of a tempting trap than a combo! Blasphemous Act is a good reason to play Reckoner, 4 card infinite life combos are not.

Boros ReckonerBlasphemous Act



Brine Elemental-Vesuvan Shapeshifter 1

This is one of the weakest going for two card combos in my book. It is like 15 mana to hard play the combo as it were and it involves keeping your guys alive. Then it doesn't even win the game, it just skips untap steps. Plenty of decks can win through that. You can cheat out certain aspects of this combo, I have seen Protean Hulk and flash used to find parts! For my money, play a Statis deck if you want to be like that.

Brine ElementalVesuvan Shapeshifter
 

Pande-Burst 4/10

This is usually a Replenish deck as both parts are pricey enchantments however you can just play your parts the normal way and win like that but it is slow. When you have a Pandomonium in Play Saproling Burst does 21 damage right away which should win the game. Simple! You can also use cards like Phyrexian Dreadnaught with the Pandomonium to get a lot of cheap damage in. A simple combo and despite being in two or three colours the mana is not too onerous. This is for the best as red and green suck at tutoring for enchantments. Slowish but few cards and not awful ones at that. Quite easy to include within an Opalessence combo deck usually resulting in a better overall deck.

PandemoniumSaproling Burst



Devoted Druid-Quillspike 2.5

This is a nice quick way to make an infinitely large dork. It is five mana to get going but you can break it down into two and three mana chunks. Quillspike is not a good card at all on its own but does have a little bit of synergy with stuff elsewhere. Both Spikey and the Druid are easy to kill with most removal and so this is much more of an extra addon combo than a main combo. Awkwardly best in Pod style decks despite having negative synergy with Melira! Also pretty decent in graveyard themed decks where you can use Necrotic Ooze to really good effect with these cards safely in the bin.

Devoted DruidQuillspike



Power Artifact - Basalt/Grim Monolith 5

A nice simple infinite mana combo that isn't overly pricey. Basalt Monolith is quite playable in its own right in the kinds of places you might chose to also play the Power Artifact. Grim Monolith is one of the best cards in the game! Power Artifact is a weak card but with the ability to find and recur artifacts easily and some redundancy in Monoliths you can still play the Power Artifact with no solid way to find it. You do however need some good uses for infinite colourless mana! Harder than it might seem while retaining a good deck.

Power ArtifactBasalt Monolith


Intruder Alarm 2

There are several intruder Alarm combos, all of them progressively weaker than using it with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. It was the original Splinter Twin deck but it has less redundancy, cost more mana and cannot be done half at instant speed. It isn't really even worth running Intruder Alarm as some backup in a Splinter Twin deck. The card has some combo potential but as it presently stands there is nothing it exploits better than another card does and so it isn't seeing any play. One day they will print something like 1R for a 1/1 that has some annoying set theme mechanic like delirium-tap to put a 1/1 elemental with haste into play, sacrifice it at end of turn and suddenly Intruder Alarm will make Splinter Twin look slow and weak.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror BreakerIntruder Alarm




The Power Play Combos and Single card Build Arounds



Kiln Fiend 5.5/10

Named as such because Kiln Fiend is the best card for the deck but there is loads and loads of acceptable creature redundancy for this deck, basically anything with prowess works pretty well. This kind of combo deck is good because it works well in tandem with a generic aggressive strategy. It is a lot like an Izzet tempo deck that is focused on one big quick turn rather than more consistent high power turns. This deck can easily win on turn three, it can win from a clear board from about turn four onwards making it a fairly hard deck to play around despite it being fairly easy to disrupt it. The hardest thing about the deck is getting the balance right. You need lots of spells like Gitaxian Probe and Lava Dart, you also want things like Reckless Charge and Assualt Strobe so as to threaten those big turns. You also need a bunch of dorks like Kiln Fiend to play these spells with. Lastly you need some utility or protection for your stuff so you don't just fold to things. Getting the right balance of these three elements is really hard to do. The deck has some great match ups and people are not often prepared for how dangerous it can be even when you should have a bad matchup.

Assault StrobeKiln Fiend

Infect 3

This deck can be done in two ways, the modern combo style big turn quick kill like the Kiln Fiend deck or more as a general theme, just a normal ish deck using only infect dorks. The latter isn't really combo to my mind but the former is. Sadly it isn't a great deck as there are not enough cheap and good infect dorks. You have to go into too many colours to find enough of what you need and you are still incredibly vulnerable to both removal and other disruption. You can win turn two with a Glistener Elf and you tend to punish people who stutter at all at the start but toe to toe I don't think this combo style holds up that well overall in cube.

Inkmoth NexusGlistener Elf


TinkerTinker 9/10

While Tinker is rarely the whole story in a combo deck it is commonly the most feared thing. It can be cast very early and is incredibly easy to do highly powered things with it. The most common is upgrading your cheap artifact into Blightsteel Colossus although many fat threats get the Tinker treatments from Sphinx of the Steel Wind to Sundering Titan to Myr Battlesphere to Inkwell Leviathan to the comparably small Wurmcoil Engine. Tinker even finds Gilded Lotus and Memory Jar a lot too. It is also a great too for finding some combo pieces even if they cost less than the Tinker itself. Due to the speed of having these high powered things a resolved Tinker is a big step towards winning the game. Even thought Tinker is highly powerful and pretty reliable you generally want some redundancy for it if you are not using it as a tutor which doesn't exist directly. As such you end up running it with Show and Tell, Goblin Welder or any of the other effects like that. Although Tinker is one of the most potent, versatile, useful and commonly seen combo cards in the cube playing it comes at a price. You need to load up on cheap artifacts so that you can reliably have something to sac. You might think you have enough artifacts with a count of 12 or more but unless most of them cost 2 or less you probably don't.



ReanimateReanimate (+Sutured Ghoul) 7/10

Loads of cards that reanimate dorks exist, you can turn one make something vast in an unpowered cube and do so very easily from turn two. The targets range from high powered things like Griselbrand that won't win the game right away but should put you in a good position to win, to cards like Sutured Ghoul which you can setup to be a one shot kill. Reanimate strategies have some of the highest redundancy and is very cheap as combos go. Removal and graveyard hate are a little bit of an issue for it and it is also a three card combo when you consider having to get things in the yard first. In terms of going off quickly nothing compared to Reanimate in cube however as it rarely ends the game right away I have actually found I have more success with slower more midrange or control style reanimate decks rather than those that just rush out a big dork. This is because too much in the way of outs exist for your game plan and having more control helps you secure the games with your big cheap threats. You can do wacky things like milling your whole deck into the bin with a Hermit Druid or Cephalid Illusionist and win just with chaff dorks in play and the stuff in your bin. Dread Return allows you to reanimate, you can have Dragon's Breath to give the thing haste if you like. All told, I like the more classic Entomb or Faithless Looting into Reanimate or Exhume most in cube. Reanimate is usually black in some way but every colour has something to offer and not just the reanimation targets.


Sutured GhoulEntomb




Show and Tell

Show and Tell 8/10

The common counterpart to Tinker as it works with all the things Tinker does and can do a couple even more powerful. Emrakul is the classic high power Show and Tell target but Progenitus and Worldspine Wurm are both decent. Show and Tell requires no artifact support but can be a risky play against decks with good targets themselves or a good control tool set. Show and Tell is the only card that hits all the creatures you can use in the Reanimate / Tinker / Sneak Attack / Welder decks and so is commonly found supporting those strategies.






Natural OrderNatural Order 6/10

The green Tinker is somewhat less useful than the blue. It costs a mana more and has a far smaller range of targets. Progenitus, Dragonlord Atarka and Worldspine Wurm as well as more standard cards like Craterhoof, Primeval Titan and even Hornet Queen are the kinds of things it finds. All fatties that each have a weakness. You can get yourself two for oned very easily with Natural Order against both removal and countermagic. Being green rather than blue black or red means you find a lot less of Natural Order in the cheaty decks with Tinker and Show and Tell. Typically it is just found thrown into a ramp deck. It needs a lot of little sacrificial dorks to be reliable like Tinker needs artifacts and so you really shouldn't be running both in the same deck, either or both will have no support and will likely be uncastable early when they are most powerful. It is not good with Oath either becuase of the need for many small dorks. This is one of the main reasons you don't really see Natural Order much in pure combo decks. It is too unreliable to have as your sole combo yet doesn't really work well with the other combo cards that also want fat creatures in the list. Because of Craterhoof however it is often a one shot kill right then and there which is most of why it is so good and dangerous.


Tooth and Nail
Tooth and Nail 2/10

I hate Tooth and Nail in the cube. Whenever I play it I always wish I was just playing another fatty instead of this 7+ mana spell. The trouble with Tooth and Nail is not the classic "can't do what I want because I drew the thing" issue as it it lets you find anything and play that or anything else you might have. The trouble with Tooth and Nail is that it is super top end and you can only support so much top end in any sort of deck. Ramp decks are already threat light and if all your threats are top end you have one less total in your deck by playing the tooth and nail. It is like a backwards sac land, rather than thin your deck of things you don't want to draw it thins your deck of the things you do want to draw. Yes, you play it on curve by turn five or something and you should win if it resolves however as the game goes on you get less and less value from it. You can use it to get all sorts of creature combos that do end the game right away but doing that makes your deck horrible as well so you are just better off getting two independently powerful dorks. Not really a combo card because of how bad it is and while better just as a tool in ramp decks I still find it lacking. It has none of the early utility of Green Sun's Zenith and by early I mean any turn before the turn you win or lose on in this instance...



Oath of DruidsOath of Druids 7/10

Oath can be brutal but it can equally do nothing or even just kill you. As combos go it is one of the cheapest and requires just the Oath most of the time. Even when you are playing against creaturless decks you have Forbidden Orchard and Swan Song to trigger it. It is quite easy to wait until they have a dork in play before laying the Oath if you like but most decks have to just play into it anyway so I am generally happy to throw out the turn two Oath regardless. Oath has lots of applications, you can use it to get specific creatures, you can use it to get brutal big creatures or you can just use it as a way to get free dorks and fill up the bin. Oath decks themselves tend to run Emrakul, Darksteel Colossus, Progenitus and Worldspine Wurm. This works fairly well with show and tell and even Sneak Attack but it is awful with the Natural Order - the other green card like this. You need little dorks to sac to the Order and playing them in your list makes Oath awful. I have seen it done using token generating stuff Khalni Garden and other dribble! Oath can be very handy in Salvagers decks as it puts the things you need in the bin for the Salvager to get back right away. The same is true of Eternal Witness and Oath, it becomes a bit like a Demonic Tutor. Most Oath decks are mainly non-green as green doesn't have enough good spells to create a good creature light deck for Oath to shine in.



Sneak AttackSneak Attack 6/10

There are a bunch of creatures that you can use with Sneak Attack to theoretically one shot your opponent however as Sneak Attack is not a persistent combo should they say block 2 points of damage from your Blightsteel Colossus you have basically done nothing. You have made the next time you draw your Colossus a bit harder to block and this is it. As such my preference is to use Sneak with solid creatures that can really devastate a game in a single turn. Emrakul, Griselbrand, Worldspine Wurm and even Wurmcoil and some of the Titan's are typically the best Sneak Creatures. Some of these are quite castsable when your plan is already to have four or five mana for the Sneak Attack. Sneak Attack goes well with Show and Tell as well as Oath. You can make it work with a number of the cheaty big dude strategies at a little cost to your consistency. Sneak Attack is a very scary thing to have in play on the other side of the board, it represents death at anytime.




Goblin WelderGoblin Welder 8.5/10

This little goblin is unreasonably powerful, he can do things that even the mighty Deathrite Shaman can only dream of. Recurring Nightmare is one of blacks best cards, it is used for value in midrange decks and also as a tool for pure combo decks. Goblin Welder has the same effect except it is a third the cost to play and has no mana cost to reuse! You can be winning with Welder just from swapping crap like Terrarion in and out of play or you can just make a turn two Wurmcoil that you instantly get back if they are foolish enough to kill. Welder is great with non-untapping artifact mana producers like Grim Monolith but can still be used to ramp with just artifact lands and Talisman style cards in the bin. Welder benefits hugely from haste, protection effects and discard effects. Part of why he can be so cheap compared to Recurring Nightmare is that a 1/1 is a whole lot easier to kill than an enchantment and the Welder has summoning sickness unlike the speedy enchantment. Welder is great, it goes really well with Tinker and can also go very well with Reanimate style decks. I usually run him in affinity, he offers too much utility and power to turn down whenever you have lots of artifacts and red mana. There are some specific combos you can do with Welder such as Memory Jar and Mind Over Matter. Provided you have a way to reshuffle your library that is an infinite mana, cards, tap and untap effect combo. It also mills them to death! Welder decks do exist with things like Daretti and Scrap Mastery but they usually have an artifact ramp theme too so as to be able to hardcast things and play powerful spells like Wildfire. These are reasonable decks however I think most of the best uses for Welder are as a really top rate support card for more specific combos.


Volrath's Shapeshifter
Full English Breakfast (Volrath's Shapeshifter) 3/10

Basically this is regarded as one of the hardest decks in all of magic. While Volrath's Shapeshifter is still a powerful and cool combo card due to their only being one copy of it you don't really want to rely just on it and so playing silly stuff like Phage the Untouchable with it isn't quite so wise in cube. Volrath's Shapeshifter actually plays a lot like a Sneak Attack. It is a bit quicker but a bit more disruptable. If played with free and instant discard outlets however trying to kill the Shapeshifter can be futile as it turns into something indestructible or hexproofing only to turn into something else that can hit like a train. A little too demanding on support and not quite enough convenient overlap with cards like Sneak Attack in the targets to be commonly seen in cube but an interesting card to keep in mind none the less.



Living DeathLiving Death 7/10

The Tooth and Nail Equivalent of Reanimate. With this you aim to win right off casting the Living Death, you used to have to rely on terrible rubbish like Flamekin Zealot but now there are things like Grey Merchant of Asphodel and Mogis Marauder. Both of which are still in black and both of which can be good cards on their own. Living Death gives you a lot of options on how you plan to build your deck as it gets all dorks back regardless. The bonus Wrath effect is usually good as well but it can make things more awkward to set up. Twilight's Call has never been used as back up as yet in my cube so the Wrath can't be that awkward. You can make decks entirely designed to get off a quick and fatal Living Death however I tend to prefer having good decks in which Living Death is also good. I often play it in Reanimate as a Wrath plus Exhume which is totally fine. Living Death loves cards like Scavening Ooze so that you can ensure your opponents are getting nothing back from it.


Patriarch's Bidding


Bidding 6/10

Patriarch's Bidding is a little narrower than Living Death but this does mean you can have it be incredibly safe and one sided in any sort of tribal deck. Goblin and Zombie bidding are the two classics and both should be able to easily kill off the back of a Bidding. Both are fine creature tribal decks as well, the goblins is the better deck but zombies are black which more direct synergy with the Bidding beyond having to die like the goblins typical route. Elemantal Bidding is possible but serves little benefit over Goblins or Zombies. Any sort of tribal bidding deck is fine but outside of these three tribes I think you would struggle to call it a combo deck.


DragonstormDragonstorm 0/10

You don't need to get much storm at all for this to work and so it isn't quite like other storm decks. What you do need is a deck with 4 or 5 fat dragons in it which makes it terrible. Dragonstorm is liek 9 mana and needs you to have other cards for it to do anything which is obviously horrible compared to cards like Tendrils of Agony and Brain Freeze which will do all the dirty work without ruining your deck. Dragonstorm is certainly fun, you do have the good backup plan of just casting your dragons and sending them at face. When your backup plan is better than your main plan you do have to worry a little.



Living End



Living End 3/10


By using the cascade mechanic you can cast a Living End easily on turn three and without a need of tutor effects. While having a Living Death that you can play for three mana and have effective multiple copies in your deck there are some serious issues with the list in cube. For the cascade trick to work you can't play any cards with CMC two or less, if you want more cascade cards then this can go up to three or less CMC. This gives you basically no early game interaction. The worst thing is that if you draw your Living End you have far fewer tools to put in back in the deck. Being able to only run one of each of the best cycling dorks also means you end up running some real dross in your deck. By far the least powerful, consistent and versatile of the mass creature recursion combos.



Cadaverous BloomCad Bloom 5/10

Cadaverous Bloom is an odd beast, it is not that quick nor that brutal but it is still viable and has one strong thing in its favour over a lot of these kinds of combo and that is that you don't need to be in blue. Prosperity was a card often used with the Bloom to fuel it and you can do that sort of thing if you like but there isn't a great need. I tend to find Yawgmoth's Bargain to be a plenty good day of fueling  my Bloom. You can get a turn three win with the deck if you have double ramp to cast a Bloom on turn three. Being typically Abzan colours you can afford to go slower than most combo decks with ramp dorks to hold off aggression and black discard to punch through control. I like to use Academy Rector in the list for a bit of extra burst and tutoring. I am also fond of Oath of Druids in the deck, it lets you have some interesting overlay with Eternal Witness, the Rector and Replenish. Another interesting card for the deck is Squandered Resources which can give you that bit of extra burst if you need and do some disgusting things with Balance. I tend to win using an X spell like Death Grasp but once you have a Cadaverous Bloom and a Yawgmoth's Bargain in play you should be able to find and play whatever you want from your deck. There are some comparisons to Dream Halls with Bloom. A big expensive card that lets you cast most of what you want. Bloom is good with X spells, is much better in multi coloured decks and can make use of lands too. The biggest issue with Bloom is that you must exile your card meaning you still cannot discard important stuff but you also only get one or two chances at best to go off with the Bloom, after that you have no deck left.


Omniscience

Dream Halls/Omniscience 6.5

Dream HallsDream Halls is a bit like Mind Over Matter, it is one of those cards that just has combo written all over it and there are indeed many things you can do with it. In cube the singleton issue does bite Dream Halls fairly hard in a couple of places it worked well in constructed. Storm decks barely ever want to discard cards, certainly not on mass, they need to play them to generate enough storm. Also, if you can cast a five mana enchantment and still have enough hand left to use it at all as a storm deck you should be winning whatever. Dreamhalls is a good enabler for things, it lets you carry on having more turn. The toughest thing about playing with Dream Halls is that you want to be as few colours as possible and have as few colourless cards as possible so as to maximise you ability to play the things you want as soon as you cast it. What with it being blue and five mana this makes the decks either very painful and slow or rather unreliable. My favourite use I have seen for the card in cube was in a mono blue deck that used some cheap artifact ramp to get to the Dream Halls and then used it to play just one or two brutally powerful cards like Time Stretch, Time Spiral and Omniscience which was in turn used to cast the occasional big Eldrazi and benefit from the when cast effect. Quite a silly deck but performed well above expectation. Show and Tell was obviously in the deck as it can lay out the Dream Halls, the Omniscience or the Emrakul.








Mind Over MatterMind Over Matter 3.5/10

A very big expensive card that can be used like Opposition on steroids to totally control the game however due to the untap effect you can abuse some cards silly and draw your whole deck. A weakness of the card is that most of the good tap effects are on creatures which have summoning sickness and are vulnerable to removal. Gilded Lotus is a great way to turn all your cards in hand into Black Lotus's. This can make daft things like Tower of Fortunes playable! It is kind of all the cards and all the mana but you will run out of library very fast! Arcanis the Omnipotent is a common ally for Mind Over Matter but I find the card a bit slow and weak generally. I much prefer cheaper cards like Goblin Welder and Metal Worker. Mind Over Matter works best with other abusive and powerful cards. Be sure to play it with lots of ways to draw, without things you can afford to toss you have spend six mana and a card to do a whole lot of nothing.


Laboratory Maniac
Lab Maniac 0/10

Put yourself within a millimeter of death, then make a Grey Ogre and hope both it and you survive to your next turn. Than in itself would be awful but the method by which you have to nearly kill yourself is milling which is slow even in 40 card decks. You can play lots of things to protect this but then you are light on ways to mill yourself and ways to not just die in the interim. I have not seen this in a while so perhaps the addition of the good delve cards gives some bonus reasons to do this sort of thing. Even if they make it better they will never make it good. It is a fundamentally weak combo.





EarthcraftEarthcraft     2.5/10

While Earthcraft does have some good ramp options in small critter decks it is unreliable and a bit of an awkward include. The classic combo for it is with Squirrel Nest where you can make infinite 1/1 tokens. An OK combo, all in one colour and fairly cheap. Both cards at least do something on their own as well. It is not the easiest combo to disrupt as lands and enchantments tend to be some of the hardest things to kill in magic however you have to give them quite a lot of notice with this combo. You can also get a bit silly and dump loads of things like Wild Growth on a basic land so that it taps for enough to churn out tokens with something like a Jade Mage as a more convoluted way of getting infinite dorks. A small aside with Earthcraft is that you do get infinite mana with any infinite dork combo even if it is repeatedly the same dork as can be found in Melira Pod or the Pebbles deck. Quite why you need the extra mana at that point... A great card but not one that I have managed to get working that well in cube.


Aluren
Aluren 6/10
Cavern Harpy
Technically this should be in the 2+ card combos section, in a lot of ways it resembles the Pebbles combo that uses Enduring Renewal. Indeed, the many years ago when I made my cube and Aluren was viable in the then extended format, Aluren was as bad in the cube as Pebbles still is for all the same reasons. You rely on a single copy of a 4 mana encahntment and even when you find and resolve it you still need multiple extra pieces to go off. The reason Aluren has gained so much power over the last decade is that you no longer need to play Raven Familiar, Soul Warden, Maggot Carrier and other such awful cards. You can now use a wide variety of really quite powerful <4 drop dorks to do some really cool things with the Aluren. You have things like Quickling to protect your dorks while Cavern Harpy is on the stack and acts as important redundancy there. You have Essence Warden in green allowing you to avoid white if you want, as well as plenty of other lifegain cards if you actually care about that. Geralf's Messengers are a sufficiently better win condition than Maggot Carrier that life isn't nearly so important. Coiling Oracle lets you ramp mana really hard, you can use it with the Harpy and the Aluren as a kind of Fastbond style effect if you need mana to play one of the few non-creature, non-aluren cards the deck runs for some reason. The deck should be Sultai colours and while almost every card in the deck should support the combo I find that the deck is entirely capable of winning most games heads up without needing to ever see the Aluren.









Replenish - Opalessence 5/10

Replenish is used a lot to support combos using Enchantments but it can be used as the main combo card as well. The plan is to fill up your graveyard with lots of enchantments including both Opalessence and Fires of Yavimaya or anything that gives haste to your stuff. Then like a Bidding deck you turn your enchants sideways and win the game! There are lots of great support cards for this with Attunement being the best. This deck is fairly consuming on space as you need most things to be enchantments and those that are not will be tutors and discard outlets. Despite this it is fairly solid as you can play a lot of generically useful cards like Pernicious Deed, Oblivion Ring, Paralax Wave, Mirari's Wake if you like! You can just win by playing these and hardcasting Opalessence and just attacking with big enchants, or you can replenish a load of useful stuff back and win off the back of that very powerful swing.

ReplenishOpalescence






Jeskai AscendancyJeskai Ascendancy 3

This is an awkward deck in a couple of avenues. Firstly, it has to be four colours, secondly, a lot of the good, important combo pieces are some of the generic top quality green cards. You need to get lucky or some kind of green monopoly to get the optimal build of this list which still isn't really doing anything better than other combo decks. There are two semi different takes you can have with the deck but all of them use the Ascendancy in combination with dorks that tap for mana. With a BoP and an Ascendacy in play every 1 mana spell generates 1 mana back, with a BoP and a Sylvan Caryatid in play each 1 mana spell generates 2 mana. You also get a loot with each spell which means in a deck with mostly one mana spells that draw a card you can quickly cycle through your whole deck. Using cards like Cerulean Wisps, Manamorphose and Gitaxian Probe you can generate mana from just having the one mana producer. Using cards like Crimson Wisps you can turn on further mana producers you find while you are going off to have even more mana. You can theoretically go off on turn two but you need things to be pretty perfect. Finding, resolving and keeping your single copy of the Ascendancy alive is a big part of why this deck isn't great. Retraction Helix is another way you can go off in this sort of way without having to have a deck full of cheap cycling cards but it is much harder to go off with exclusively. In cube I recommend having the Helix but not relying on it. As such your deck will be primarily cheap cycling cards which means you have little room for utility cards, outs and protection.



Food ChainFoodchain Goblins 6

Goblins is the deck that keeps giving, the aggro tribal deck that doesn't have just one combo you can do with it but two! Food Chain allows you to win a lot faster, with the right Goblins you can drop it turn two and then just chain off up and cast your whole deck. The interaction with both Goblin Ringleader and Recruiter means you won't fizzle by drawing non creatures nor will you run out of things to sac for more mana. The deck is unreasonably hard to play for what is primarily a beatdown deck. Sequencing and planning 20 cards ahead all in one turn is a mine field. The issues with the deck are those of consistency. Food Chain is pretty weak late,it does nothing on its own and it does nothing early if you don't have the right cards to go with it. You either run one and hope it comes at the right times or you have to go and splash black for tutor effects. Either is fine but neither is optimal.




Glimpse of NatureCombo Elves (Glimpse) 7/10

Elves have a lot of interactions within the best of them that do some pretty insane stuff. Most of the combos that have been used in modern and extended do work in cube but are no way near the same potency. I have never managed to get a Glimpse elf deck to work even with redundancy from Beck / Call. Too often you are disrupted before you setup for it or you just don't see it in time at which point it is a pretty dead card. Elves in cube is somewhere between a storm deck and a ramp deck, it is weaker than storm because mass removal is brutal for it and most things will interact and disrupt it. Left alone however elves is one of the most consistent, quickest and high powered decks in the whole cube. Throw a bit of Fire or a Toxic Deluge about however and the game is usually just over. The combo of Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid as a mechanism to generate ongoing mana as you play out elves and tap and untap them for mana isn't great because you can never get more than one Senitnel down to properly go off, you just kind of tread water overextending into a Wrath. Heritage Druid is still great in the deck but it is things like Gaea's Cradle, Priest of Titania, Rofellos, Wirewood Symbiote and Quirion Ranger that really steal the show in cube. You can draw and cast your whole deck but then you are dead if you are disrupted at all, I find it better to draw and play a bunch of your deck and just kill them with an Overrun effect as soon as possible. Elves is an odd one, you could call in an engine combo deck, it is a unique archtype at least, part combo of unclassifiable nature, part tribal weenie and part ramp. Cards like Concordant Crossroads to give your guys haste are more useful than Glimpse in the cube for going off, especially if you have Skullclamp to cover you on the card draw front. Thousand Year Elixir is a safer option than the Crossroads if you are not so worried about speed.



The Engine Combo Decks


High Tide Storm 8/10

High Tide
Frantic Search
There are three distinct types of storm deck and each of those, with the possible exception of High Tide, can be built in a number of quite different ways. They all cast lots of spells on one turn and then end it with a storm spell sufficient to be game ending. Commonly these are Brain Freeze, Tendrils of Agony and Empty the Warrens although both Grapeshot and Mind's Desire can also end the game, often more effectively than Empty the Warrens or the prepared player against the Brain Freeze. High Tide has to be heavy blue as it relies on islands. You can run green to ramp islands but you are very dependent on your Tropical Island and Breeding Pool. Likewise for black and tutors plus Tendrils or white for Sunscape Familiar. As you are so heavy blue you typically want to rely on the Brain Freeze for the win in High Tide. I have come to like pairing it with Show and Tell plus Emrakul as they both just work quite well in the deck. High Tide lists have often been known to play rubbish like Retraced Image, Solemn Simulacrum and Savour the Moment just as bad ways to ramp out islands quicker. High Tide occasionally plays Mana Vault and Grim monolith to give it a bit of burst but they are not that great in the deck and hurt your consistency. You can go off without High Tide but this is either really too late for most matchups or you have a high count of the mana reduce effects (Sunscape Familiar, Sapphire Medalion and Helm of Awakening, potentially Goblin Electromancer) as well as a very high count of untap effects (Turn About, Frantic Search, Snap, Cloud of Fearies, Teferi etc). Too much of these usually means you deck is lacking in sufficient draw and dig to have the consistency either. High Tide is nice because it is essentially mono coloured deck which makes certain kinds of drafting kinder.







Heartbeat of Spring
Heartbeat Storm 9/10

Mind's DesireHeartbeat versions of storm are actually very similar to the High Tider versions. They don't have to run such weak cards to get things going and can be fairly robust as a result. Rather than sticking to Islands so that High Tide is good they go for the more redundant and continuous replacement of Heartbeat of Spring, Mirari's Wake and even Mana Flare). Then they use many of the same untap effect cards and a few more from green (Garruk Wildspeaker and if you have been very lucky with mana fixing , Early Harvest sometimes too) to generate storm in the same way. With green recursion effects the deck is pretty safe and can survive a lot of disruption. With the more reliable ramp you can also play more expensive cards which doubles up with the ability to not have to play crap like Cloud of Fearies in making your deck just more powerful. Hearbeat Decks are typically the most consistent by a decent amount of the storm decks but they are also the slowest as you need, at best, to play a 3 mana sorcery before you go off and not a one mana instant. You can also just kill yourself if you tap out to play Heartbeat of Spring and pass the turn. Storm itself is quite hard to disrup, it is typically the best combo deck against control decks as counter magic is a weak answer to storm. Being so hard to disrupt with conventional cards you may well find more direct hate cards being played against you as the storm player. Thalia, Guardian of Threben, Eatherswron Canonist, Orim's Chant, Mind Break Trap and cards of this nature are very uncomfortable for storm and see a lot of play in the cube consequently.








Helm of AwakeningRitual Storm 8/10

Seething SongLastly for the storm decks we have the ritual based versions which obviously use rituals like Seething Song to ramp mana and generate storm but they also use a lot of other cards like Grim Monolith, any available Moxes, Lotus Petal etc. They can be be most colours and are typically at least two, heavy or light are both fine. White is the only colour they tend not to be. It is the only form of storm deck that can avoid blue all together which is nice. Red and black have plenty of good ways to draw cards, often more mana efficiently than blue which makes Ritual effects more potent than a lot of the untap effects. Ad-Nauseum, Wheel of Fortune, Yawgmoth's Will and Agenda are all top quality cards for this kind of storm deck. The hardest thing about this kind of storm deck is having the right colours of mana as you go off. If you tap out to cast a Seething song at any point you are locked into red mana unless you have things like Chromatic Sphere to fix which is well worth it even if it is consuming mana rather than generating it (and yes, Sphere is typically better than Star in this deck as it works better with Yawgmoth's Will, not Welder but then that is going to be some kind of combo medley deck!). Some lists will play Pentad Prism in this role. Manamorphose is as ever pretty great, even more so if you run Helm of Awakening. Usually you are too split in colours and artifacts for other Medalions to be worthwhile but you can go very heavy mono red or black and make them work. You get some benefits but of the mono storm decks the blue does seems top dog.


   
Second Sunrise






       


Conjurer's Bauble
Lotus Bloom
Eggs (Second Sunrise) 7/10

The least common of the three engine combo decks in cube. One of the great thing about eggs is that it wants for very few of the cards in most other combo decks. One of the weak things about eggs is that it is hard as hell to build and play. Getting the balance of stuff just wrong makes your life miserable. Also just finding enough of the obscure stuff that works with your theme can be a test on your memory, ability to care, spare time for research and available cards! Being singleton you literally find yourself running some of the Eggs, Sunglass or whatever the UW is called... The premise of the deck is to abuse Second Sunrise (and for redundancy's sake you also play Faith's Reward and often even Open the Vaults). This means loads of artifacts than can sacrifice for mana or at least no mana and that typically cycle in the latter case. You also use sac lands and even Ghost Quarter. Lotus Bloom works a treat in this deck as a way to go off really effectively and Reshape can be an effective tutor for it where in all other decks it is an abysmal laughable attempt at a Tinker. The combo is a little more awkward with only a single Conjurer's Bauble but you can get creative with infinite recursion, mana and cards, even if you do have to really work for them. The deck is surprisingly good despite all is difficulty to play and build. The one issue is your vulnerability to disruption. Certain things wreak your fragile combo and being an engine deck you have very little room for answers and outs. Unlike storm decks and other engine combo decks you can't afford to play things like Cryptic Command or Mystic Confluence and other generic good powerful out cards. A Duress or Counterspell can set you back two or three turns, a Pernicious Deed sat in play can just melt your brain and cause you to lose that way! A simple Scavenging Ooze will prevent you doing what you want and needs sorting out. Even unpowered cube has a lot to offer the eggs deck that modern doesn't offer, there is plenty of room to get creative with the deck and lots of things you can exploit that are a little more uncharted!




Eternal WitnessEndless Timewalk 8/10

Pretty much this is usually what I end up doing when my combo deck doesn't come together. It is not a specific combo but a deck built around a theme that tends towards doing a thing. It is most like storm in that regard and it is often storm that I was trying to go for before I wind up doing this. Obviously you need lots of Time Walk effects for this deck, at least two and ideally three although not ones that exile themselves. With enough dig, filter and recursion you can get away with just the one but as one of the few cube combo decks with lots of redundancy it is nice to actually take advantage of that. Once you have your timewalks the rest of the deck is usually just a bit of green ramp (primarily of lands so as to thin then deck), perhaps a stalling Wall of Blossoms, a bunch of card draw and then recursion and reshuffle effects. Eternal Witness, Elixir of Immortality, Time Spiral, Primeval Command and so on and so forth. You reach a certain critical mass, a balance of having removed lots of poor draws from your deck and having lots of mana, where you just never run out of gas, you keep having extra turns and can eventually find some way of winning. Historically this was so often the Eternal Witness getting in for 20, even a Fearie Conclave. I suspect you may need a more robust and effective win mechanism these days but it likely does a lot to work with the theme of your deck as well. Delve card draw can be nice as a way to thin your deck before a reshuffle making it increasingly likely to eventual certainty that you are just drawing more Time Walks. I like this combo deck a lot, there are lots of ways to play it. You can go the Horn of Greed route and focus on land drops getting your card advantage. You can try and abuse bounce effects with your recursion dorks such as Cryptic Command or even Crystal Shard for the lock on infinite turns or at least Counterspells. You have lots of redundancy making you hard to hate draft. Most importantly however it is one of the few true engine combo decks that you can do in cube, they are the most fun to refine and play with and offer a unique experience. They are also I find the hardest of the combo decks to play. Any "find the cards and play them" combo at least has a pretty clear plan and path.


Time WarpTime Spiral



I have realised after writing this that combo is quite an odd beast in the cube. As combo is inherently weaker in singleton formats it is a very different selection of decks that look good and do well in cube to those in standard/modern/extended/legacy/vintage/block. The cube versions often have to play very differently to their constructed counterparts due to lacking enough of a certain card or tool. The combo decks that shine the most in cube are those which you can fit into otherwise good decks very easily such as Goblin Bidding or Melira Sylvok Outcast, those which involve the whole deck as part of the combo to include all the engine combos, and lastly those which manage to overlay a couple of combos seamlessly and include other good synergies and creative uses for the obscure cards. At first sight a lot of these decks in the latter group look like a total mess, it is not until you really understand why the weird things are in there and how they work with the other cards that you can appreciate the full glory of such creations. One of the golden rules of constructed magic is not trying to do too much, a constructed deck should aim to do one plan as well as it can. This applies fairly well to aggro, midrange and control decks in the cube, and indeed some of the combo decks that do translate over to cube well. Most combo decks in the cube are not good translations and as such trying to do one thing isn't enough, you have the spare space to add alternative combos and can usually find filler cards that work well in both combos. You significantly improve the utility of a Demoinc Tutor in a two card combo deck if you add another two card combo. You have your combo with Tutor plus one of any four cards as opposed to one of any two. This logic applies to lots of the support cards in a similar sort of way if you can find the right combos to go together. While I love to mess around with combo decks and have dug a lot deeper than most to what you can do with them in cube it has become very clear to me that it is by far and away the widest open aspect of cube and the one with the greatest range by such a long way. I feel like I know pretty well the optimal ways to construct all the good aggro, midrange and control decks for cube in any given situation. I don't even know what all the combo decks are for cube, let alone how to build them optimally or vary those builds to suit certain metas! I know some of the stronger and more obvious combo decks fairly well but there is near infinite depth on this topic.


1 comment:

  1. So far I have found two I missed although I am sure many more will follow. I'll do deck tech articles for them shortly. It is as if I had them alphabetically and just cropped too much as the missed decks were:

    Ad Nauseam 5/10
    Zuberas 1/10

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