Hordes of Comboson November 22nd, 2010
Article by Loran Kaufmann
Hordes of Combos
Magic players favor different strategies and decks. Some enjoy control decks with big finishers backed with counters and removal. Others like aggressive creature filled decks featuring quick, low cost creatures to battle a fast victory. Even the spikiest of players will have personal play preferences when it comes to similar decks. No two players are exactly alike.
Personally, I like a deck that is flexible. Something that can meet and address threats while responding with threats of my own. I like to use cards that have multiple functions and synergies. I know there is no such thing as a perfect magic deck. However there are decks which cater to our individual style better than others. And even then I won’t pick up a deck as is with out tweaking it.
I very rarely see a deck online and sleeve it up as is with out putting in a couple of preference cards. Several of the pro players do this as well. RG Valakut got hijacked by Jace and became RUG. Several players added Abyssal Persecutor to Jund decks to give it a better game in mirror and it became known as Abyssal Jund.
I love taking a deck that has seen some success and adding a little bit more to it. Some times you see a deck that has resounding success but you don’t really like it. It lacks something, a certain je ne sais quoi. Molding established decks to fit what you like can often helps you in the long run because you are more comfortable running it. You are more familiar with certain card interactions than others and you know the nuances that they offer. It’s easier than forcing yourself to run a deck that doesn’t quite fit your play.
Back in September one of my favorite Magic strategy writers, Jacob van Lunen, published an article which described building a budget 5 color elemental deck. His list features a variety of interactions which can give opposing spell slingers headaches. It featured strategies like flashing in Reveillark at instant speed, recovering bomb elementals from the graveyard, evoking and then recurring Mulldrifter. It looked like a lot of fun.
There were a ton of tasty combos, interesting interactions and powerful strategies at work here but the deck was missing something. It wasn’t just that it was a budget deck. The only non budget card to add to it would be lands like Reflecting Pool to make the 5 color creatures work. I wanted to take it apart figure out what made it tick and what could be cut and then bring add in elements that fit my style of play. I liked the aggressive combo nature of the deck but it lacked a little on the control side. So I put my brewing pants on and got to work.
My goal here was to explore the possibility of a competitive deck that utilized several different strategies. I wanted an aggressive strong creature deck that utilized an assortment of removal and control strategies while allowing for potential abusive combos. Jacob laid an excellent foundation, now I wanted to add my signature to it.
I opened up a card database and set to work. In the first few hours I overwhelmed myself with dozens of cards and strategies that I wanted in the deck. It took a while to get the deck cut to 60 but I’m pretty happy with what I left in. In the end my current list didn’t change too much from his list. Here is what I kept.
First; the creatures. These are what made the final cut.
- Flamekin Harbinger: Easy addition. One drop, fetches up combo pieces, needed elementals, and even removal spells.
- Smokebraider: Two drop mana accelerator and helps cover our bases for casting 5 colors worth of elementals.
- Incandescent soulstoke: The +1/+1 bonus he provides all elementals is secondary really to the ability to flash elementals from your hand.
- Mulldrifter: A 2/2 flyer that combos well with Reveillark.
- Shriekmaw: An evasive creature that can double as a sorcery speed doom blade
- Horde of Notions: Good finisher that gives us a way to recur graveyard elementals and even some of our removal in a pinch.
- Reveillark: Gives us another finisher but the real purpose here is the recursion effect.
- Fullminator mage: Keeps opponents off lands and works well with reveillark and mimic vat.
- Vigor: This was a card I added. I loved this card but never had an opportunity to play it in a constructed environment.
- Heartmender: Another addition as a one of that combo’s with cauldron of souls.
I left the creatures mostly untouched from jacob’s list. There are a few less of them, though as I cut several copies of Reveillark and Horde of notions.
Second is the other spells.
- Nameless inversion: Additional removal that can be fetched up with harbinger
- Maelstrom pulse: Covers any number of problems.
- Mimic vat: Provides for excellent synergy with evoke creatures, harbinger, Fullminator mage. Too good not to include in this deck.
- Cauldron of Souls: Giving evoking creatures persist I feel is a ridiculous strategy.
The reduced creature slots freed up space for extra control/removal (maelstrom pulse) and combo elements (cauldron of souls/mimic vat).
Last is the mana base. The deck we are building requires all five colors which is going to put an enormous strain on existing mana bases. Jacob did a fantastic job with the resources he had to work with. But the addition of artifacts and non creature spells is going to make it difficult to run full sets of ancient ziggurat and tapped lands. Here’s what I ended up with.
- Ancient Ziggurat: He ran a full four copies but we are running more spells and effects that can’t use it. This is defiantly going to be in the deck, but we aren’t using a full set of these.
- Primal Beyond: Provides all five colors of mana needed specifically for elementals
- Reflecting Pool: Absolutely necessary in a five color deck
- Vivid Lands: I wish these weren’t necessary. I don’t like lands that enter play tapped. But this really fills in a lot of gaps mana wise and they work superbly with reflecting pool.
Here is the deck list in its current iteration. The deck as a whole did not change much from Jacob’s initial list but the changes are not insignificant.
From Jacob’s list I paired down the reveillark and horde of notions from 4 to 2 and 3 to make room for cauldron and mimic vat. I might change these numbers up depending on how both artifacts play out. Both are there to take advantage of all the enter the battlefield effects on evoking creatures as well as flashing in creatures with soulstoke. I moved crib swap to the board but the extra pulses give me ability to deal with most threats. I cut down Ancient ziggurat to 2 because I’m running several non creature spells. Reflecting pool should help out with the mana issues.
Making sideboards is never an easy thing to do for any deck. The truth is that a sideboard can address two maybe three decks effectively so you won’t have a sideboard plan for everything. However playing five colors gives you the flexibility to address your local meta game much easier. Here’s my first shot at a sideboard.
I believe that this board can cover a wide variety of issues but I focused on addressing problems in matchups against faeries and control. The two fulminator mages go in for shriekmaw in Jund matchups as well as crib swap. Eyes of the Wisent is the best anti fairies card I could find. The fact you can fetch for it with your turn one harbinger makes it that much better.
I have not had many opportunities to explore this deck against other extended decks but I have played a few causal games and learned a few things.
- Use Mimic Vat at every opportunity. Mimic Vat provides enormous pressure and fantastic card advantage. Try to avoid keeping it just in defense as it wastes a lot of potential.
- Also more than just evoke creatures can go under the Mimic Vat. Don’t forget that when you flash in reviellark or vigor you can stick it under the vat.
- Shriekmaw kills Emrakul. Remember that dear reader.
- Remember to give your evoke creatures persist. Do this for creatures you flash in with soulstoke as well.
- Map out your turn. It may take a while to get used to the different combinations you can utilize. Remember that incandescent soulstoke can turn any elemental in your hand into a flash two drop until the end of the turn.
- Horde of notions can play any elemental or changeling card from your graveyard at instant speed. Both crib swap and nameless inversion can be cast repeatedly from the graveyard for an endless (albeit expensive) source of removal. Also remember that Horde of notions can cast nameless inversion on himself which could get in those few extra points for victory.
- Have fun with the deck. Make it your own. The deck is not a precarious combo deck that can’t afford to cut any of its spells. This is a very flexable deck that you can easily mold to your play style. Feel free to cut packages you don’t like and tailor it your style of play.
I don’t have any play testing reports but there was a great story that of how this deck combed out to victory. It was late in the game and we had both utilized several removal spells to clear the boards. My board was a cauldron of souls, incandescent soulstoke (with -1/-1 counter) and a flamekin harbinger against his sprouting thrinax and putrid leach. Mulldrifters had kept my hand pretty full and I had a reveillark, heartmender, mulldrifter and two lands in hand. I was at 9 and he was still at 20 or close to it. I hadn’t managed to do much to him at that point.
He cast bloodbraid elf into blightning (of course). I discarded heartmender and mulldrifter going to 8. He attacked with everything. I flashed in my reveillark with my soulstoke and blocked the leech with reveillark and bloodbraid elf with harbinger. He decided against pumping his leech but reveillark was sacked at the end of the turn because it was summoned with soulstoke. My harbinger died coming back with a -1/-1 counter. And I searched up a horde of notions. Thrinax connected knocking me to 5. My reveillark went to the graveyard bringing back heartmender and mulldrifter then coming back herself with a -1/-1 counter.
Heartmender removed all -1/-1 counters on my upkeep. I cast horde of notions and swung for 21 to end the game.
From dead in the water to overwhelming board control and victory in ½ a turn. Awesome!
If you have any comments or suggestions for this deck please let me know. I’m still fine tuning and tweaking it for future extended tournaments. Also if you have ideas for your own version of this kind of deck post that as well.
Next week I’ll be looking at the different flavors of control. Keep brewing Readers.