For the Fun of the Game 4: Favorite Combos, How to Protect Them, and when to draw the line
(Author’s Note: Don’t fret if you are looking forward to Worldwake spoiler review, I am beginning to type it out but I did not want to rush it. Enjoy this combo-rific article, and if you have some favorites of your own feel free to leave them in the comments!)
Combos, some players hate them and yet some swear by them. This article falls toward the latter (blame the writer’s perspective), simply because of the prevalence of certain combos in this fancy format of ours. As a quick jump into this, let’s touch on some of MTG Radio’s Twitter followers favorite combos:
@Amistod: [c] Crystal Shard [/c] + [c] Teferi, Mage at Zelpher [/c]?@Cavemankellen: [c] Hive Mind [/c] + [c] Pact of Negation [/c] (or the others)?@Strammermax: [c] Hinder [/c] or [c] Spin into Myth [/c] + [c] Tunnel Vision [/c]
Those are just some quick examples, and this article will explain many, many more, but first things must be pointed out. Some EDH combos exist just for fun, some win the game in acceptable (or semi acceptable) ways, and some are so downright mean they draw hate from all sides of the table. Now, to preface, I use the term combo loosely in this article. A combo (in my personal opinion) can be a cool interaction between cards (whether or not someone loses fails to matter to me) or just a cards interaction with the rules of EDH (like [c] Sorin Markov [/c] second ability). But I digress. This article is about the EDH combos and how to make sure they work as planned. This is a multi-step process:
You must examine your deck and see if any combos actually exist, (skip to step 2 if you are building a deck strictly for combos)
Determine how important these combos are toward winning the game. (i.e. in my [c] Sen Triplets [/c] deck the [c] Thopter Foundry [/c], [c] Sword of the Meek [/c], [c] Time Sieve [/c] combo helps me win a lot of my games, but exists among many other win conditions and, more importantly, my deck can win without it)
If for step two you realize your deck runs solely on a combo (generally a bad idea) or series of combos (much better idea) to win all of its games, then the rest of the article is certainly for you. (and if not, the rest of the article can be used to beat those decks that rely on combos!)
Now, as opposed to just speaking theoretically, let’s look at some more EDH combos before I continue.
(The smiley faces represent how much I approve of the preceding combo)
[c] Earthcraft [/c] + [c] Squirrel’s Nest [/c] which makes infinite tiny, cute, adorable, squirrel tokens. ??
[c] Saffi Eirksdotter [/c] + [c] Karmic Guide [/c] + [c] Revillark [/c] + Sacrifice outlet. (Infinite milling, or mana, or something, depending on the outlet used). ?
[c] Mindslaver [/c] + [c] Academy Ruins [/c]. ?
[c] Knowledge Explotation [/c] + [c] Eye of the Storm [/c], ( it’s mean, yes, but I have a fond affection for it.)????
[c] Palichron [/c] + [c] Mana Reflection [/c] or [c] Mirari’s Wake [/c]. (infinite mana.) ??
Kevin (of MTG Radio) uses most of the above in his [c] Rafiq of the Many [/c], and there are things to keep in mind. With this type of deck, certain cards become more advantageous, mainly counter spells, card draw, and tutors. Card draw is good normally and should be found in all EDH decks so I won’t hit on that as much, but the other two I plan to give their due.
First, tutors. Some players, who are in their own right, have a distaste for tutors since they feel it diminishes the highlander nature of the format. While those who use tutors more often tend to feel it just makes their deck more consistent. I think a happy medium must exist between the two (and above all else the format should be fun, so if someone is tutoring their way to victory every game in your play group, I understand and agree with the distaste), but generally a mix can be found that makes decks clever, fun, and combo-licious.
Second, counter spells. Bleh. The word itself leaves a terrible taste in my mouth, but actually, certainly in EDH, counter spells can be so multipurpose that everyone forgets spells are being countered. Cards like [c] Draining Welk [/c] or [c] Overwhelming Intellect [/c] shine in Elder Dragon Highlander because they protect your combo while doing something else, (Alton Brown of Good Eats would be proud since they certainly are multitaskers.) The major thing to keep aware of in EDH, especially if you normally sling counter spells in your non-multiplayer magic events, keep aware of what your countering. As Kevin likes to say, counter spells act largely as political tools. If you just counter things willy nilly then you will become a target and inevitably will lose the game. I only counter things as follows: 1) Someone, upon resolution of the spell on the stack, will inevitably win the game, 2) Someone is directly affecting me/my combos, 3) Someone at the table is breaking the golden rule (ie, their actions fit the description of “douchbaggery”). Now, the aforementioned list doesn’t follow any order or hierarchy of importance – they all just exist as things I keep aware of while playing EDH.
Now, since this article has addressed combos to a sufficient extend, I want to clear up some things, and speak directly to those who stuck around for the whole thing. First off, there are many sites and articles that list “Top 5 (10, 15, etc) EDH combos” or “Must have EDH combos,” or even the exact opposite stating “Combos ruin the EDH experience.” Personally, I think combos have their place in EDH just like other formats, the issue to me stands as fun. [c] Mindslaver [/c] locks, unfun. Many, many squirrels (no matter how cute and adorable), relatively unfun. But on the contrary, if someone sticks [c] Eye of the Storm[/c], and [c] Knowledge Exploitation [/c], it is totally acceptable since I personally have never seen it done, and think the after effects would be awesome. Same goes for [c] Warp World [/c], [c] Hive Mind [/c]. It boils down to the playgroup experience, the fun and excitement all players feel (if they don’t, you’re doing it wrong), and being prepared.
Coming to a table prepared for combos is key, certainly in a well versed playgroup where one player hypothetically sits behind [c] Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary [/c] and wins all his/her games. Adapt to the person playing combos. In no way do I recommend the cliché of fighting fire with fire. If one person makes the game unfun, adapt play style so that player has more difficult getting of their combolicious win-conditions. Of course, this is easier in well versed play groups. From personal experience when I sit down with Kevin, Tom, and Sally – if anyone resolves [c] Mana Reflection [/c], especially Kevin, it will get destroyed. All in all use the multiplayer aspect of EDH to your advantage and most of all keep the game a good time for everyone.
This becomes far more difficult in new groups, when playing at Grand Prixs, or Pro Tours – events in which the decks of everyone around you are a surprise. Especially when prizes, no matter how menial, are on the line – players tend to lean toward aggressive, competitive nature and aim to crush everyone around them. This is not the nature of EDH. Two ways to combat this menace and deal accordingly is to bring a deck to one of these events to either control the game (stripping ridiculous combo locks out of peoples decks with [c] Sadistic Sacrament [/c] or [c] Jester’s Cap [/c]) or playing a Group Hug style deck which aims to please and help all players at the table (generally, without a win condition of its own.) These strategies are discussed much more in the first episode of the Summon Elder Dragon Podcast on MTG Cast. The points brought up and discussed all stand out as ways to keep the douchbaggery to a minimum and make the format more welcoming to new players.
Whether liked or disliked combos exist in the game of magic, and certainly EDH opens the field to plenty of trickery, but above all else there is fun to be had. If a new combo looks good, try it out once, use the tables reactions as a guideline on if it should stay in the deck or not. Don’t use this format and its wide card pool and never before seen interactions to strip the good time from the table. As players of this normally competitive card game usually that’s something we forget. Don’t let EDH fall into the same trap. Play it for the fun of the game!