Sunday 5 August 2012

The Best Combo Deck - Salvagers

Auriok SalvagersI had old magic friends to visit recently who I cubed a lot with around Kamigawa block time. We had done some drafts with lots of local players but wanted some reminiscing style cube and so decided to do a double deck heads up rotisserie with all the power included. There are some decks that need the power to work and the Auriok Salvagers with Black Lotus combo is one of those. The other main one is Fastbond, Crucible of Worlds and Zuran Orb, both produce infinite mana and the Fastbond combo is kind enough to also offer infinite life. The reasons these combos are so good is that they use powerful cards which are great when not being used as part of the combo. I was aiming to get one of these decks as I don't often get to play them and they are amongst the most powerful archetypes in cube. Sadly my Crucible was ganked which meant I could only have the one power combo in my deck. Few decks can get away with cramming double combos in them but in cube where you only have single copies of cards this is more viable, especially when there is significant overlap with the support cards and your combo pieces are useful and powerful stand alone spells. What I ended up with was good and got the job done but wasn't perfect, the mana base was a little dodgy and I failed to pick up a few spells that would have been handy like Living Wish or Regrowth.
Black Lotus

25 Spells

Black Lotus
Lions Eye Diamond
Mox Diamond
Mox Emerald

Engineered Explosives

Sensei's Divining Top
Chromatic Star
Pyrite Spellbomb
Vampiric Tutor

Pyrite SpellbombEntomb

Sol Ring

Demonic Tutor
Time Walk
Oath of Druids

Arcane Denial

Frantic Search
Yawgmoth's Will

Demonic TutorAuriok Salvagers


Emrakul, the Eons Torn

15 Lands

Tolarian Academy
Forbidden Orchard
Tropical Island

Underground Sea
Watery Grave
Forbidden OrchardTundra

Verdant Catacombs
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest

Sunken Ruins
City of Brass

Time Walk
I also had Balance, Force of Will, Fastbond, Snapcaster Mage, Pernicious Deed, Swords to Plowshares and a selection of other juicy cards however they didn't do much to help with the decks aim or fit into the deck. I agonised over the last few cards end ended up with one targeted discard, one hard counter and a Ponder which was the least exciting card in the whole deck. It was still quite a solid deck, in part through having one more piece of power than I should have had. The basic premise is pretty simple, use Auriok Salvagers to recur Black Lotus or Lions Eye Diamond to generate infinite mana, then use Chromatic Star to draw your whole deck if you don't have an actual win condition or repeatedly throw Pyrite Spellbombs at their face. I considered additional win conditions such as storm cards or X spells with flashback but it is focusing on the wrong weak spot in the deck as you only have one Salvagers. This is one reason Living Wish is so good in the deck, it is also the reason I drafted white weenie as my other deck - to hoover up all the exile removal spells. The deck is still very easy to disrupt and many of the classic anti combo cards ruin your fun from Rule of Law to Trinisphere to Ivory Mask to Pithing Needle not to mention graveyard removal. The thing is you have so much ramp and such an easy combo to assemble that you are better off just going faster and not worrying too much about hate. The engineered Explosives are a great cover all in the deck despite not being the quickest answer and the other late additions help deal with any hate earlier in the game.

Yawgmoth's Will is pretty awful in the deck as you cannot go off in the turn you use it but it works well enough with Time Walk and offers some security like a Regrowth. Assuming they have no ability to exile your cards then with Will, Spiral, the reanimate effects and the reshuffle from Emrakul make it almost impossible to stop the combo by destroying bits of it. Although Salvagers is only 4 mana and the other part of the combo is effectively minus three mana you also need an activation of the Salvagers to get things rolling taking their cost up to 6. This means it is worthwhile to fill up with other ways to get Salvagers into play. Oath  of Druids is a bit slow and unreliable however it does two very useful things, firstly it lets you play a backup win condition in Emrakul who has uses beyond just killing people and their stuff. The second is that it fills up your graveyard, hopefully with the other bits of the combo. This means you can still win on turn 2 after mulliganning down to 3 cards (Mox, Forbidden Orchard and Oath which then mills either a Lions Eye Diamond or a Black Lotus and a Chromatic Star or a Pyrite Spellbomb before hitting the Salvagers.

So Oath works quite well in the deck but I have also filled up on some reanimator cards which might seem over the top, especially with only really having Frantic Search as a discard spell. Generally you have enough mana to simply cast the Salvagers if you do draw them and so it is not a priority to ditch them. The reanimate certainly helps against discard effects and targetted removal (particularly as you can play things like Spellskite due to the poor interaction with Oath) however the real bonus of the Reanimate engine is the use of Entomb which acts reliably as a 3rd tutor spell in the deck for any part of the combo you need. This makes it one mana over Demonic Tutor to get a Black Lotus and go off when you have a Salvagers in play already, if you are getting the Spellbomb mana concerns are not relevant.

As combo decks go it is the lowest overall mana cost to go off (3 total from 4 to cast Salvagers and 2 more to activate once but then 3 less due to the Black Lotus) and although it is a 3 card combo to win it is really more of a 2 card combo as having infinite mana really helps to win games. Salvagers was the first card we ever banned in the cube however when we finally banned the power it seemed fine to bring back. Going off with just Lions Eye Diamond is much harder and riskier. With both Lotus and Lions Eye the deck wins quickly, seemingly from nowhere, it is hard to counter draft and hard to disrupt and not all that much fun to play against. I would recommend against having Salvagers and Black Lotus available in the same drafts but it is worth having your play group experience the deck a few times first from both sides of the table so as to be highly supportive of any restrictions or bannings then made. Suffice it to say the resurgence and triumph of this deck was not warmly received by my guests. Frankly however you go on about how Charbelcher is the best deck and pick it while power is still up for grabs you deserve what you get.

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