In last week’s article, I talked briefly about the Karn, The Great Creator + Mycosynth Lattice combo that stops your opponent from ever generating mana again. This week, I’ll delve a little deeper into some of the other possible combos from War of the Spark. I don’t think any of these combos are broken or anywhere near the level of, say, Felidar Guardian + Saheeli Rai, but it’s still an interesting thought exercise to try to build decks with them. And hey, it might inspire someone to build something.
Ral, Storm Conduit + Two Expansion // Explosions
We’ve had a lot of “when you cast a spell, deal 1 damage” throughout the years, but Ral, Storm Conduit is the first card that works on copies, which so happens to make it an infinite combo with any any cheap spell (even your opponent’s) plus two copies of Expansion // Explosion. Here’s how the combo works:
Step 1: Play Ral, Storm Conduit.
Step 2: Cast any instant or sorcery that costs 4 or less.
Step 3: Copy it with Expansion.
Step 4: Cast a second copy of Expansion, targeting the first Expansion. Let this copy resolve, which deals 1 damage to the opponent (because of Ral’s static ability) and use the copy to copy the original Expansion, creating an infinite damage loop.
There’s also a version of the combo that requires fewer less steps, which is to use Doublecast as your original spell. If that’s what you have, then you can -2 Ral, cast Doublecast, let the copy resolve, and cast Expansion, which will create a copy of it (because of the Doublecast). Credits to Timothy Simon on Twitter for that one!
So, is this combo any good? I think it has some potential because Expansion // Explosion is already a pretty good card, so all it’s really asking is that you play Ral. I think there are two possible approaches for it: one is that you just slot it into a control shell, and the other is that you try to create some sort of U/R Burn deck. Here’s how I would build Jeskai Ral:
1 Island 4 Steam Vents 4 Sulfur Falls 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Sacred Foundry 4 Clifftop Retreat 3 Ral, Storm Conduit 2 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 2 Negate 4 Expansion/Explosion 4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 4 Deafening Clarion 4 Absorb 3 Chemister's Insight 3 Shivan Fire 2 Cleansing Nova 4 Opt
The other approach is a burn deck. I think this version is unlikely to be good, but it might be worth a try. Here’s how I’d go about it:
2 Island 12 Mountain 4 Steam Vents 4 Sulfur Falls 4 Goblin Chainwhirler 3 Runaway Steam-Kin 4 Electrostatic Field 4 Ral, Storm Conduit 4 Lightning Strike 4 Skewer the Critics 4 Shock 4 Light Up the Stage 1 Tormenting Voice 2 Doublecast 4 Expansion/Explosion
Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge + Karn, The Great Creator
Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge, the buy-a-box promo for War of the Spark, isn’t a super strong card—it’s expensive, and by the time it comes out, the static effect is probably not going to be relevant. The exception is the three-card combo with Karn, The Great Creator and an artifact/creature payoff. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: You play Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge with five artifacts.
Step 2: You play Karn, The Great Creator for free (since it has affinity for artifacts).
Step 3: You -2 Karn and get Guardians of Koilos.
Step 4: You play Guardian of Koilos for free, triggering Sai, Master Thopterist and returning Karn, The Great Creator to your hand.
Step 5: You replay Karn, The Great Creator and -2 it again, getting the second Guardian of Koilos.
Step 6: You play the second Guardian and bounce the first Guardian, triggering Sai. Repeat forever.
Step 7: Use Tezzeret’s +2 to kill your opponent.
If you play more Guardians of Koilos in your sideboard, you can sometimes forgo the Sai part of the combo and just play four Guardians + an artifact of your choosing (though Standard is really lacking powerful artifacts, unfortunately. The best you can do is probably Meteor Golem).
I think this combo has potential because the shell might already be playable. You only have to run Guardians of Koilos in your sideboard, so the key is making sure Karn, Tezzeret and Sai aren’t horrible for you.
It’s unfortunate that Mobilized District doesn’t work with the combo, since Guardians of Koilos is a creature (and a bit of a flavor fail, if you ask me), but I think Saheeli is still worth running because she powers up Mox Amber and generates a ton of Servos so you get the critical mass you need for the combo.
Here’s how I’d build the deck:
Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge/Karn, the Great Creator Combo
2 Swamp 4 Island 4 Watery Grave 4 Drowned Catacomb 3 Mobilized District 2 Blast Zone 4 Sai, Master Thopterist 1 Fblthp, the Lost 4 Mox Amber 4 Fountain of Renewal 4 Treasure Map/Treasure Cove 2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer 2 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner 4 Karn, the Great Creator 3 Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge - Foil Buy-a-Box Promo 4 Thought Erasure 1 Cast Down 1 Ritual of Soot 1 Azor's Gateway/Sanctum of the Sun 2 Yawgmoth's Vile Offering Sideboard 1 Meteor Golem 1 Sorcerous Spyglass 1 The Immortal Sun 2 Guardians of Koilos 1 Scrabbling Claws
There are a ton of colorless lands that can work in the deck, so it’s hard to find the right balance. I think Mobilized District has a lot of potential since you have planeswalkers and legendary creatures, and can have somewhat of an aggro draw with Sai, but Thought Lash is also really strong. I’d start with 5, which might be pushing it a bit, and then remove them if I had color problems.
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries + Thought Lash
This is a Legacy combo that probably isn’t good enough, but that I’m definitely going to be trying. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Play Thought Lash.
Step 2: Play Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.
Step 3: Activate Thought Lash a bunch of times to exile your entire library and then use Jace’s +1 and win.
This combo reminds me a lot of Illusions + Donate. With Illusions/Donate, you’d play Illusions of Grandeur, which would gain you 20 life and buy a ton of time, and then you’d untap and Donate it to them, and they’d lose 20 life when they couldn’t pay the upkeep cost. The Jace/Thought Lash combo is very similar because Thought Lash basically guarantees you’ll survive the next turn, which means you can play the next half of the combo then. Of course, Illusions/Donate isn’t a good Legacy combo, so merely being a better Illusions/Donate isn’t enough, but it’s a much better Illusions Donate:
- You gain more than 20 life.
- They can’t kill you by destroying the enchantment with the trigger on the stack.
- They die immediately.
- They can’t survive by gaining life.
- Your Donate is a planeswalker!
Of course, this combo was already legal in Legacy if you wanted to play Laboratory Maniac, but that used a much more vulnerable permanent type, it required an extra draw spell, and if you drew only the Laboratory Maniac part of it then that didn’t do anything, whereas Jace is a perfectly playable card.
The appeal of this combo is that both cards are individually playable. Are they good? Certainly not, but they at least do things (Jace draws an extra card per turn and Thought Lash gains you a ton of life), which is more than can be said for each individual piece of Show and Tell, Sneak Attack, Emrakul, Griselbrand, Grindstone, or Helm of Obedience. Your goldfish is going to be slower (turn 4 at best, whereas something like Show and Tell can win turn 2) but the approach is different—you don’t run the risk of them playing their own big card when you play Show and Tell, and you can stagger your pieces rather than needing both in play at once (so it’s better versus discard).
Here’s how I’d build it:
Jace/Thought Lash Combo
6 Island 3 Ancient Tomb 4 Polluted Delta 4 Scalding Tarn 2 Misty Rainforest 3 Underground Sea 4 Baleful Strix 4 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries 4 Thought Lash 4 Thoughtseize 4 Force of Will 4 Brainstorm 4 Ponder 4 Preordain 3 Lim-Dul's Vault 1 Echoing Truth 2 Toxic Deluge
As you can see, I don’t really know what to do with the last slots. The core is eight combo cards, four Force of Will, and twelve cantrips, but past that you can branch out to basically whatever you want, in any color (though ideally some of your cards can deal with Phyrexian Revoker or Sorcerous Spyglass, for example).
Famished Paladin + Sorcerer’s Wand + Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord
Here the combo doesn’t require Sorin specifically, but rather any way of giving Famished Paladin lifelink. This was already possible in Standard, but I think Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord is a better card for what we’re trying to do, given that it also returns Famished Paladin if it dies. Here’s how the combo works:
Step 1: Play all the permanents above.
Step 2: Equip Famished Paladin with Sorcerer’s Wand.
Step 3: Tap Famished Paladin to deal 1 damage to your opponent. It has lifelink, so it’s going to untap itself. Repeat ad infinitum.
Of the other ways of gaining lifelink we can play in Standard, Squire’s Devotion is likely the best. Once you already have those eight ways to gain life, you can start thinking about cards that work well with them. Ajani’s Pridemate, for example, has potential, but Adanto Vanguard is also pretty good. Here’s how I would attempt the deck:
Famished Paladin Combo
4 Isolated Chapel 4 Godless Shrine 3 Swamp 11 Plains 4 Famished Paladin 4 Adanto Vanguard 4 Ajani's Pridemate 4 Tithe Taker 4 Venerated Loxodon 4 Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord 4 History of Benalia 2 Conclave Tribunal 2 Sorcerer's Wand 2 Squire's Devotion 4 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort
That’s what I have for today! Again, I don’t expect any of these combos to break the format or anything, but I do think they are cool enough to experiment with.