- 1x Ancient Tomb
- 1x Bayou
- 1x Bloodstained Mire
- 1x Boseiju, Who Shelters All
- 1x Breeding Pool
- 1x Cavern of Souls
- 1x Cephalid Coliseum
- 1x Command Tower
- 1x Drowned Catacomb
- 1x Dryad Arbor
- 1x Flooded Strand
- 1x Forbidden Orchard
- 1x Hinterland Harbor
- 1x Marsh Flats
- 1x Misty Rainforest
- 1x Overgrown Tomb
- 1x Polluted Delta
- 1x Reflecting Pool
- 1x Reliquary Tower
- 1x Riptide Laboratory
- 1x Scalding Tarn
- 2x Snow-Covered Forest
- 2x Snow-Covered Island
- 1x Snow-Covered Swamp
- 1x Strip Mine
- 1x Tolaria West
- 1x Tropical Island
- 1x Underground Sea
- 1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
- 1x Verdant Catacombs
- 1x Volrath's Stronghold
- 1x Wasteland
- 1x Watery Grave
- 1x Windswept Heath
- 1x Wooded Foothills
- 1x Blue Sun's Zenith
- 1x Consecrated Sphinx
- 1x Crucible of Worlds
- 1x Deathrite Shaman
- 1x Demonic Tutor
- 1x Eternal Witness
- 1x Green Sun's Zenith
- 1x Imperial Seal
- 1x Intuition
- 1x Jace, the Mind Sculptor
- 1x Leyline of Anticipation
- 1x Lim-Dul's Vault
- 1x Mystic Remora
- 1x Mystical Teachings
- 1x Mystical Tutor
- 1x Necropotence
- 1x Phantasmal Image
- 1x Sensei's Divining Top
- 1x Snapcaster Mage
- 1x Sylvan Library
- 1x Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
- 1x Vampiric Tutor
- 1x Yawgmoth's Will
- 1x Arbor Elf
- 1x Azusa, Lost but Seeking
- 1x Birds of Paradise
- 1x Burgeoning
- 1x Carpet of Flowers
- 1x Dark Ritual
- 1x Deathrite Shaman
- 1x Exploration
- 1x Grim Monolith
- 1x Lotus Cobra
- 1x Mana Crypt
- 1x Mana Vault
- 1x Mox Diamond
- 1x Nature's Lore
- 1x Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1x Skyshroud Claim
- 1x Sol Ring
- 1x Three Visits
- 1x Arcane Denial
- 1x Counterspell
- 1x Cyclonic Rift
- 1x Damnation
- 1x Dispel
- 1x Flusterstorm
- 1x Force of Will
- 1x Mana Drain
- 1x Memory Lapse
- 1x Misdirection
- 1x Nature's Claim
- 1x Pact of Negation
- 1x Remand
- 1x Spell Pierce
- 1x Stifle
- 1x Swan Song
- 1x Venser, Shaper Savant
- 1x Voidslime
This is a tournament-level combo control deck. It is designed to win in high-pressure environments by withstanding incoming disruption, suppressing opponents, and using efficient and powerful combos.
This deck is built around a network of synergies; the combos have interchangeable pieces, and the cards that support them can be used outside of the combo as general utility cards. Because the number of combo-only cards is minimized, the deck's resilience is increased, and the odds of drawing dead cards are decreased.
Reading this decklist
Reading this decklist
This decklist is organized, by default, into my custom categories. Cards intended at the high level to have cross-category functionality will appear in multiple categories.
- Land: Self-explanatory.
- Utility: The tutor, draw, and recursion effects that improve the deck's function and support its fast, efficient style.
- Control: The counterspells and removal spells that allow me to respond to opponents' plays and control the game.
- Ramp: The ramp spells and permanents that allow me to accelerate mana production and outpace my opponents. Ramp is critical to winning before my opponents do, and it fuels the control elements in the deck so tempo isn't lost when responding to threats.
- WinCons: The win conditions used to achieve victory.
The sideboard is a working list of cards that are in the deck, but are being considered for elimination based on performance and developing theory.
The maybeboard is a working list of cards that are not in the deck, but are being considered for inclusion pending testing and developing theory.
I chose BUG because it offers what I believe to be the best mix of the essential elements of a combo-control deck: mana acceleration, draw power, responsive power (removal, counterspells), tutor power, and synergy. While some color combinations may excel more at one or the other, BUG is a solid performer across all of them.
Vorosh, the Hunter doesn't suit the combo goals of this deck because it doesn't offer much utility and it needs to attack to be useful. It was immediately excluded from the decision.
The Mimeoplasm can be used for combos, but its approach is more graveyard-based. It relies on Entomb effects and a reanimator strategy to work. I decided against this kind of strategy because traditional combo-control is more stable; you have more control over your flow of resources, and you risk less overall.
Damia, Sage of Stone is much of a Goldilocks solution: it's good in its own right, but it's the best because the other options are clearly worse. Damia, Sage of Stone brings strong utility to the deck, and it plays a critical role in stabilizing the deck after it spends its Stage I resources ramping ahead of opponents.
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant doesn't offer anything to the deck in terms of utility or viability, so it isn't worth considering here.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang does allow me to return any nonland card to my hand with infinite mana, but it doesn't provide the draw power that's so critical for sustaining the deck in the midgame.
This deck excels at executing resilient, powerful ramp and control strategies and at maintaining a steady tempo throughout the game. Because it relies on efficient, powerful cards in addition to a fast ramp package, the deck is capable of explosive opening turns that quickly accelerate it beyond the reach of all but the most tenacious control.
The deck's primary weakness is fast control decks. Zur the Enchanter, Arcum Dagsson, and five-color Hermit Druid are examples of decks that have the potential to outrace this list and combo out before I get stabilized. This deck is optimized for multiplayer, so dedicated 1v1 decks tend to have a natural advantage against it in the 1v1 environment.
Anti-control cards like Stranglehold and Aven Mindcensor prove to be problematic if they resolve, but there are answers to such cards in the deck. Getting around these effects is a matter of drawing the answer the traditional way, which makes them harder to deal with. Draw power and countermagic are essential to stopping these cards once they hit (and ideally before).
Card Choices Explained
The land base in this deck combines optimized color fixing with strong utility effects.
- The 3-3-9 split
This is the optimal starting point for any three-color EDH deck. "3-3-9" refers to the set of three shock lands, three ABUR duals, and nine fetch lands playable in a tricolor deck. This setup guarantees (to the extent that anything can be guaranteed in EDH) that the deck will have access to the proper colors at the proper times. Furthermore, it allows the deck to play highly-saturated spells like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Necropotence without losing tempo to go find more sources of another color.
- Drowned Catacomb and Hinterland Harbor
These cards should almost always enter the battlefield untapped (given that the deck plays the 3-3-9 split and has other ways to guarantee basic land types), and they provide /X with no real downside.
- Snow basics
Although the snow basics aren't strictly necessary, they help against monocolor decks that run snow lands and Extraplanar Lens to avoid accelerating their opponents. In a vacuum, the snow lands don't make a functional difference to this deck. You could easily run non-snow basics instead.
- Ancient Tomb
This card is basically the upgraded version of Temple of the False God, another EDH staple. It can tap for mana at any time, and the investment of life is a low price for the extra mana production. The only real downside is that this land won't allow you to combo off if you are forced to rely on it; it will kill you rather quickly.
- Boseiju, Who Shelters All
This card helps guarantee the combo against control decks. An uncounterable Tooth and Nail into Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir (see the section below on combos) shuts your opponents out of your turn and allows you to win the game unhindered.
The downside is that this land comes in tapped, and it can only produce colorless mana and only at the expense of life. It's definitely a late-game play to set up for your combo.
- Cavern of Souls
This card is in the deck for a few reasons. First, it's a powerful way to guarantee that your Wizards resolve. You can protect Damia, Sage of Stone, Snapcaster Mage, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, and Venser, Shaper Savant in this way. Second, you can name Illusion in order to protect Phantasmal Image and Palinchon for the combo.
- Cephalid Coliseum
This card makes the cut because it taps for and comes with a decent utility ability. This deck doesn't have any issues reaching threshold by Stage II or Stage III (see the section below on strategy), and the filtering can allow you to draw something you tutored to the top of your library or just help dig for an answer.
- Command Tower
The EDH classic, Command Tower is a staple in every multicolored EDH deck.
- Dryad Arbor
This card has definite upsides and downsides. It can be a turn-one find with Green Sun's Zenith to help ramp when there aren't many other options. It also serves as another fetchable land for the Forest-specific effects. Additionally, it can chump block a combat-oriented commander or utility creature if necessary.
The downsides include its vulnerability as a creature (losing lands to board wipes is suboptimal) and the fact that it has summoning sickness on its first turn (which means it can't be an immediate asset as a mana source).
- Forbidden Orchard
This card functions as an additional Command Tower with virtually no downside. The tokens it makes won't lose you the game, and they can be used politically to help temporary allies survive.
- Reflecting Pool
This card functions as an additional Command Tower. Because this deck runs the 3-3-9 lineup and the most powerful dual-fetching ramp spells, you're basically guaranteed to have the color fixing to assure that Reflecting Pool is never anything less than a dual land. It'll almost always be a Command Tower by turn two or three.
- Reliquary Tower
This card is extremely useful in conjunction with the deck's draw engines. Although it doesn't directly synergize with Damia, Sage of Stone, it's still very useful in breaking Necropotence and its ilk even further.
- Riptide Laboratory
This card enables a combo with Venser, Shaper Savant (see the section below on combos), and it also allows you to recur Snapcaster Mage. In a pinch, it can be used to keep Damia, Sage of Stone from costing an extra if a board wipe is about to resolve.
- Strip Mine and Wasteland
These cards have the benefit of both producing mana and serving as low-investment solutions to opponents' utility lands. They're very capable of dealing with an opponent's Boseiju, Who Shelters All or Cavern of Souls and clearing the way for the deck's counterspells.
- Tolaria West
This card functions as a tutor for Pact of Negation, Mana Crypt, or Mox Diamond, depending on the situation. It's slow as a regular land play, but sometimes it's needed as an additional land. Exploration effects help mitigate the ETB-tapped downside by allowing you to play other lands for immediate use.
- Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
This card allows me to focus even more heavily on / lands (which are the most important in the deck) and helps make Necropotence more playable. Although it can also help opponents with color fixing, it should usually provide enough utility to mitigate that downside.
- Volrath's Stronghold
This deck capitalizes on efficient ramp effects in order to outpace opponents, accelerate its win, and maintain pressure.
- Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Burgeoning, Exploration, and Oracle of Mul Daya
- Nature's Lore, Skyshroud Claim, and Three Visits
These cards are powerful ramp spells that are capable of finding shocks and ABUR duals. The ramp and color fixing they provide is invaluable.
- Grim Monolith and Mana Vault
These cards are low-cost ramp rocks that allow the deck to produce the extra mana it needs for its two high-cost staples: Damia, Sage of Stone and Tooth and Nail. Don't worry about paying to untap them; they're typically used as single-shot mana sources.
- Mana Crypt and Mox Diamond
These cards enable explosive opening turns because they require no mana investment, and they're still viable plays later in the game. Although each one has a downside, neither downside is ultimately significant in most games.
- Sol Ring
The EDH classic, Sol Ring is an auto-include in all decks.
- Arbor Elf
This card costs only and interacts well with the optimized land base because it untaps duals.
- Birds of Paradise
This card costs only and helps make highly saturated payments easier in the early game.
- Carpet of Flowers
This card excels in competitive EDH metas, where most players play some form of blue deck. It's a very cheap, very powerful ramp card that only increases in power as the game progresses. It provides the kind of acceleration that control decks desperately hate to fight.
- Deathrite Shaman
This card excels in competitive EDH metas, where most players play fetch lands. Even if I am forced to exile my own fetches, the ramp is worthwhile. The fact that Deathrite Shaman can also shut down graveyard strategies and effects is an added benefit.
- Lotus Cobra
This card is extraordinarily powerful in a deck that plays nine fetch lands and plenty of Exploration effects. It's a favored find with Green Sun's Zenith, and it makes even regular land plays more valuable.
This deck uses powerful and efficient control cards to disrupt opponents and protect its combo.
- Counterspell and Mana Drain
These cards are classic counterspells. They hit every kind of target, and they cost only each. Mana Drain comes with the added benefit of also ramping on the following turn.
- Force of Will, Misdirection, and Pact of Negation
These cards are all free counterspells, and they're extremely important for that reason. Although they all have some kind of downside, they're fantastic for protecting plays that consume all of the deck's resources or for protecting the combo when it goes off.
- Dispel, Flusterstorm, Spell Pierce, and Swan Song
These cards are powerful in counter wars because they're cheap, efficient, and hit opponents' counterspells with ease. Although two of them aren't technically hard counters, it's likely that they'll effectively be hard counters in the situations in which they're needed.
- Arcane Denial, Memory Lapse, and Remand
These cards all come with downsides, but their costs make them cheap and efficient control spells. The tempo shift is often worth the consolation advantage it gives to the opponent.
- Cyclonic Rift
This card helps blow opponents out if they get too far ahead in the game. It can sometimes cause opponents to concede if it resolves in the late game, as there's no time to recover before I combo out.
This card is one of the only creature removal spells in the deck, and it's powerful against heavily creature-oriented strategies (for obvious reasons).
- Nature's Claim
This card is a cheap, efficient solution to early-game advantage generators like Sol Ring and Sylvan Library, and it remains just as effective when used against other threats in the late game. The lifegain it permits is irrelevant overall because this deck wins the game in one turn through combos.
This card is a cheap, efficient solution to ability-based combos, and it can often provide advantage at a critical moment in the game. It also has the advantage of being relatively unanticipated; only a few cards can counter abilities, and very few players use them.
- Venser, Shaper Savant
This card is effective at answering both permanents and spells, and it also serves as a combo piece (see the section below on combos) to help secure the win.
- Consecrated Sphinx, Mystic Remora, Necropotence, and Sylvan Library
These cards all provide powerful, persistent card advantage.
- Demonic Tutor, Green Sun's Zenith, Imperial Seal, Intuition, Mystical Teachings, Mystical Tutor, and Vampiric Tutor
These cards are vital to finding combo pieces and other critical cards. Tutors greatly improve the consistency of the deck, and they are indispensible assets.
- Eternal Witness, Yawgmoth's Will, and Snapcaster Mage
These cards allow me to recur or reuse cards from my graveyard as necessary. They're most useful during the combo turn, when they allow for the recasting of Tooth and Nail or a counterspell. However, they can be used as general utility spells as well.
- Lim-Dul's Vault and Sensei's Divining Top
These cards manipulate the topdeck to help set up important plays and filter less relevant cards away from draw range.
- Blue Sun's Zenith
This card is a decent utility spell, especially because it's an instant, but its primary purpose is to serve as a win condition (see the section below on combos).
- Crucible of Worlds
- Deathrite Shaman
This card, apart from being an effective ramp creature, is a strong utility creature because it can disrupt reanimator and other recursion effects for little cost.
- Leyline of Anticipation
This card enables a more aggressive control game if it happens to start on the field. It's not the best card to draw into, but it can still be used to fuel Force of Will or Misdirection later in the game.
- Phantasmal Image
This card serves double duty as a combo piece (see the section below on combos) and as a general utility creature, depending on which is most advantageous. Sometimes, it's best saved for the combo. Other times, it's best used to copy a ramp or utility creature.
- Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
This card helps to secure a win by locking opponents out of the combo turn either as an EOT cast or as a Tooth and Nail drop (see the section below on combos).
The win conditions in this deck were chosen for their synergy and general usefulness outside of combos. See the section below on combos for more information about these cards.
- Blue Sun's Zenith
This card is the primary win condition because it instantly forces opponents to lose by causing them to draw more cards than are in their libraries. It also functions as a utility spell, which is vital because it means the card isn't necessarily a dead draw before the combo.
- Deadeye Navigator
This card is a powerful combo enabler because it provides ETB abuse without the risk associated with recasting spells (it's harder to counter an ability than it is to counter a spell).
- Phantasmal Image
This card provides a backup infinite mana combo if Deadeye Navigator is unavailable due to resource constraints or disruption.
- Rune-Scarred Demon
This card is used to tutor for other win conditions, and it can be abused with Deadeye Navigator to tutor the entire deck.
- Tooth and Nail
This card is the primary combo enabler because it assembles two-card combos at once, and the creatures it puts onto the battlefield cannot be countered.
- Venser, Shaper Savant
This card can be repeatedly bounced to remove each opponent's permanents from the board, and it doubles as a general utility creature.
The following cards are commonly used in BUG decks, but they have been excluded from this list for one reason or another.
- Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Triskelion
These cards are often played in combo decks because they form a two-card combo that needs no additional support in order to win the game. However, both of these cards are completely useless outside of their one combo, so including them means creating dead draws and reducing the number of viable utility cards in Stage I and Stage II. That's too big a risk.
- Acidic Slime
This card appears in most goodstuff decks and even in some semicompetitive combo lists, but it's just inefficient and unnecessary in the deck. And while it's possible to use it with Deadeye Navigator to blow up the board, I wouldn't play Deadeye Navigator as a utility creature outside of the combo, and I wouldn't need to nuke the board once I have my combo online. This card is just extraneous; there are myriad other more efficient and relevant answers to artifacts, enchantments, and even lands.
- Defense of the Heart
This card is sort of like a mini Tooth and Nail, but it's more vulnerable, more obvious, and less reliable. The timing is awkward because getting it to go off and win means having an opponent that controls three or more creatures and having the cards in hand to protect whatever the ability finds (and then win from it). That's a lot of effort and chance, and it's not worthwhile when there are much more effective ways of accomplishing the same task.
This card may be a decent finisher, but that's all it really is. It can't be relied upon to be a useful utility spell if it's drawn before it's needed. In order to reduce the number of dead, single-use cards in the deck, this card has been excluded.
- Insidious Dreams
This card doesn't really offer desirable advantage to the deck. It's only economical when multiple cards are discarded, and only then if Damia is in play. But it creates a window for an opponent to counter the spell and force me to lose those cards for nothing (the discard is an additional cost) or remove Damia to keep me at a disadvantage. Besides that, the mana cost is high, which makes it somewhat difficult to incorporate into the deck's strategy.
- Lion's Eye Diamond
This card doesn't offer anything worthwhile to Damia decks. On paper, the disadvantage you would encounter when casting Damia is "justifiable" in the context of the hand refill you'll get on your next turn, but the risk is far too extreme. If Damia is countered or removed prior to that turn, you're left with an empty hand and one fewer mana source. That's game over for you.
- Plasm Capture
This card promises to be a more expensive and more productive Mana Drain, but it's too expensive to be practical in a competitive environment. The high and completely saturated mana cost makes it very difficult to budget into turns when you're trying to use as many of your resources as you can to establish a position for yourself.
- Progenitor Mimic
This card is strong in semi-competitive metas, but it doesn't serve a purpose at the competitive level. It's slow, expensive, and awkward to cast and protect. Additionally, it would only be useful for copying utility creatures or opponents' creatures. That's not a strong enough warrant for its inclusion.
- Seedborn Muse and Prophet of Kruphix
These cards are often played because they help generate a good deal of advantage, especially in control decks. However, they are expensive to cast. They've been omitted from this decklist because they aren't practical and often require quite some effort to play and protect.
- Tainted Pact
This card is too much of a gamble. Exiling cards isn't, on its own, an issue for this deck. But Tainted Pact is inefficient. If I hit one of my combo pieces before I want it, then I have to either take it when I don't need it or exile it and switch to a backup strategy. Neither of those is optimal, and I don't really have a way to guarantee that this situation won't happen. I'd rather not waste tutors to exile potentially useful cards and find a card that I don't need at the moment.
- Tasigur, the Golden Fang
This card has two main issues. As a utility card in the 99, it doesn't offer much in terms of efficiency. The ability is expensive to use, and it would be simpler to just play Eternal Witness or Snapcaster Mage and choose the one card that would help me most rather than allow an opponent to choose the one card that's least relevant at the moment. As a commander, it doesn't offer remotely the same kind of tempo recovery that Damia does. Damia can refill your hand after you invest heavily in ramp and control in the early game. Tasigur is more of a slow advantage commander, and running it would require a restructuring of the deck with more emphasis on draw effects (to help mitigate the loss of tempo from resource investment) and would be generally less explosive in nature. Lastly, as a tool for recovering cards after the combo, Tasigur, the Golden Fang is extraneous. I can already bounce Eternal Witness to get my graveyard back.
- Villainous Wealth
This card suffers from the same awkwardness and general irrelevance that plagues Exsanguinate. It's not relevant outside of the combo, and it's just a win-more card once the combo is initiated. There are other finishers (e.g., Blue Sun's Zenith) that serve practical purposes as utility cards outside of the combo. Further, it's generally inadvisable to rely on an opponent's resources to win the game. A good combo deck should be able to rely on only itself to guarantee victory.
This deck was built for heavy control and high consistency. It is played most efficiently using a three-stage approach:
- Early game - Ramp, control, set up draw engines
- Mid game - Control, set up utility engines
- Late game - Control, execute combo
These stages are discussed at length in the sections below.
Stage I - Early Game
Stage I - Early Game
- Establish early draw engines
The main point of Stage I is to set up enough advantage to guarantee a steady lead for the coming turns. The extra resources you gather now will be what fuel your countermagic and on-turn plays in Stage II; you will need to maintain tempo and still have the ability to shut down threats.
The first two to three turns should be spent casting ramp spells and mana rocks like Nature's Lore and Mana Crypt to accelerate your mana production. When you can afford to, cast draw engines like Mystic Remora. Setting these up early means you have longer to reap their rewards and aren't spending your mana on them in the midgame when you need to have countermagic up. Green Sun's Zenith can provide additional ramp in this portion of the game.
Stage II - Mid Game
Stage II - Mid Game
- Control the flow of the game
- Cast Damia, Sage of Stone or capitalize on other draw engines
- Tutor for combo pieces
The main point of Stage II is to suppress opponents and dig for your win conditions in preparation for your final turn.
This deck transitions to the mid game when its ramp begins to wind down. Although ramp and control are important elements of both Stage I and Stage II, the emphasis in Stage II is on control and tutoring (or digging with Damia, Sage of Stone) for a win condition. Stage II typically lasts from turn three to turn four or five, depending on the board state and on draws.
Stage III - Late Game
Stage III - Late Game
- Maintain control of boardstate
- Combo off
The main point of Stage III is to win the game. It's that simple.
Stage III begins when you have a win condition in your hand and are at or rapidly approaching the turn during which you will be able to combo off.
Don't begin casting into your combo until you have sufficient resources (mana, counterspells) to play and protect it in one turn. Spreading out combo pieces and putting them into play over several turns leaves the strategy vulnerable to removal and lets your opponent know you're gearing up for the endgame. The combo should be assembled and executed in one turn. At the same time, don't wait too long to go off. Every turn you take means more opportunities for your opponents to break through your control setup and take the game; this deck's resources are vast but they are not unlimited. Use your discretion. The perfect opportunity will not always arise and you will occasionally need to take a calculated risk to win. Just make sure to keep countermagic up and think everything through at least twice and preferably three times before executing the combo.
This deck is typically played in games that use a Partial Paris mulligan with a free first mulligan.
The first and foremost rule when taking mulligans with this deck is that you must not be afraid to take aggressive mulligans. If a card is dead in the first two turns of the game, you probably don't want it in your opening hand. If you see a spell with CMC 3 and no way to play it on turn two, consider pitching it.
Generally speaking, you want to see three or four lands in your opening hand. This gives you security for the first few turns. Ideally, you'll start with fetches or duals of some kind. If you have two or more colorless-only lands, consider pitching some (try to keep at least one) to try for color-producing lands.
Additionally, you want to see at least one ramp artifact or Exploration effect playable on turn one (turn two is acceptable, but not as good). A counterspell or tutor is also a welcome sight.
Always mulligan win conditions and high-CMC utility cards. Remember, you start in Stage I, and your main goal out of the gate is to ramp into a stable lead. Don't let late-game cards tempt you into bad openers.
Introduction to the combos
Introduction to the combos
This section will detail the combos and how to use and support them.
- Blue Sun's Zenith using infinite mana
- Venser, Shaper Savant + Deadeye Navigator + Palinchron to bounce all permanents I don't control
- Venser, Shaper Savant + Phantasmal Image + Palinchron + Riptide Laboratory to bounce all permanents I don't control
- Crucible of Worlds + Azusa, Lost but Seeking + Strip Mine to wear opponents down through attrition
See the following sections for more detail about the nuances of using these combos.
Preparing to combo
Preparing to Combo
Not counting the setup in Stage II (see the section above on strategy), there are three basic steps to comboing with this deck:
- Step 1: Assess your options. This deck has many subtle nuances that allow you to micromanage your combo to minimize the risk of disruption. Consider the following:
- Opponents' colors and untapped lands, which could indicate possible responses like counterspells or removal spells.
- What permanents you already have on the battlefield (in particular, do you control Snapcaster Mage or Eternal Witness?).
- What cards you have in your hand (in particular, do you have a way to recur Tooth and Nail, a way to tutor a win condition into your hand, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Rune-Scarred Demon, Venser, Shaper Savant, Phantasmal Image, Deadeye Navigator, or Palinchron?).
- What cards are in your graveyard (in particular, do you have any tutors or win conditions in your graveyard?)
- Step 2: Plan your combo. How exactly will you play around possible threats (such as countermagic) and execute your win? It's often not as simple as Tooth and Nailing into Deadeye Navigator and Palinchron; you need to actually win the game with your infinite mana. Consider the following:
- What do you need to do to minimize the risk of incoming disruption?
- What will you find with Tooth and Nail?
- How will you find a win condition?
- Step 3: Execute the combo. Hopefully, you properly planned your moves during Step 1 and Step 2. If you find at some point during the combo that you overlooked something and might need to take a different approach, pause whatever move you're currently making and think through your options again. Don't panic.
Using the combo cards
Using the combo cards
The infinite mana combos use the following cards in the specified manners.
- Deadeye Navigator
Use this card to blink Palinchron to produce infinite mana. If you're relying on a creature-based win instead of on Blue Sun's Zenith, blink Deadeye Navigator after the infinite mana combo and repair it with the other creature you need to blink.
Use this card's ETB ability to untap lands, then blink it repeatedly with Deadeye Navigator or use Phantasmal Image to produce infinite mana. You can also use Palinchron to set up for the combo by providing the land untaps to hardcast the second combo piece.
- Phantasmal Image
Use this card to copy Palinchron, then use its copied activated ability to return it to your hand. Continue to recopy Palinchron to produce infinite mana. You can then recast it to copy Eternal Witness, Snapcaster Mage, or Rune-Scared Demon to enable your win.
The following cards all support the infinite mana combos in one way or another.
- Blue Sun's Zenith
Use this card with infinite mana first to draw your deck. Then cast Rune-Scarred Demon or use another means to draw it again. Cast it on an opponent for X=101. Redraw it and repeat for each opponent until you win.
- Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Use this card at the end of the pre-combo turn, or put it onto the battlefield with Tooth and Nail in order to make the rest of your turn unanswerable.
- Rune-Scarred Demon
Use this card with Deadeye Navigator and infinite mana to put your entire deck into your hand, then win from there. You can also cast this card prior to the combo in order to find Tooth and Nail (if you're in a situation that demands that you do so).
- Snapcaster Mage
Use this card to recast Tooth and Nail or a tutor spell in order to find a win condition. You can also use it preemptively to guarantee a counterspell in order to better protect your combo. Just don't forget about flashback's replacement effect.
- Yawgmoth's Will
Use this card to recast Tooth and Nail or a tutor spell in order to find a win condition. You can also use it early in the turn to guarantee access to countermagic from your graveyard. Just don't forget about its replacement effect.
- Eternal Witness
Use this card to recast Tooth and Nail or a tutor spell in order to find a win condition. You can also use it to return a counterspell to your hand in order to better protect your combo.
Using Tooth and Nail
Using Tooth and Nail
These are the most common Tooth and Nail picks and when to use them. These pairs are what you'll be putting onto the battlefield with Tooth and Nail (most of the time). Make the necessary fetches depending on what you have in your hand.
- Deadeye Navigator + Palinchron
This is the most basic pair. Find these two when you have a tutor or win condition in your hand already. It's safer to use the Deadeye Navigator combo instead of the Phantasmal Image combo because it's based only on activated abilities rather than on recasting a creature ad nauseam.
- Palinchron + Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
This is a more advanced pair. Find Palinchron and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir when you already hold either Deadeye Navigator or Phantasmal Image in your hand and need to guarantee that opponents can't interfere with the rest of your combo. Once Tooth and Nail begins resolving, your opponents are locked out of the rest of your turn because there's no point at which they can respond to the Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Put Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Palinchron onto the battlefield using Tooth and Nail, then hardcast your other combo creature.
- Palinchron + Rune-Scarred Demon
This is a more advanced pair. Find Palinchron and Rune-Scarred Demon when you have no tutor options available and no way to recast Tooth and Nail. Put both Palinchron and Rune-Scarred Demon onto the battlefield using Tooth and Nail, then use Rune-Scarred Demon's ability to find Deadeye Navigator or Phantasmal Image to combo off.
Want to Build This Deck?
Understanding the deck
Understanding the deck
Aside from monetary investment (and perhaps the difficulty of finding some of these cards), the largest challenge you'll face when building this deck is understanding all of its subtleties. There are hidden synergies and interactions everywhere, and some of them can only really be learned through experience with the decklist (since I'm not exhaustively listing all of them in this primer). Combo-control tends to be among the hardest archetypes to learn because it's a mix of correct plays and raw deck and format knowledge. I highly suggest playtesting the deck many times before committing to building it. Feel free to ask for clarification on any aspect you don't understand.
Also, keep in mind that this deck has been optimized for a competitive multiplayer environment. If you're playing in a different environment, the deck may need to change. For example, I don't include some of the slower staples like Seedborn Muse because they don't really add much to the deck at the tournament level. A player taking this list into a semicompetitive meta might find such cards useful, though.
Lastly, make sure that you play this deck in a sporting way. Don't take a combo-control deck to a casual pod where players are still learning the format or looking for a different kind of experience. You'll win, but it won't be enjoyable for anyone else.
On a budget?
On a budget?
As you may have guessed, this deck isn't the easiest to build on a budget. You'll run into issues preserving the consistency and power of the list if you have to make too many changes. In general, try to make replacements that maintain the deck's functionality (for example, swap an expensive tutor for a less expensive tutor, or swap a dual land for a less expensive land that taps for the same colors of mana).
A large part of the deck's cost comes from the mana base. I run an optimized land base, and the three ABUR duals and nine fetch lands cost quite a bit. You could cut them to make the deck easier on the wallet, but doing so will reduce the deck's ability to color fix. You'll also reduce the effectiveness of some cards (such as Lotus Cobra) if you lose the fetch lands. Mana Crypt can also go. Try to at least keep the other ramp rocks and the Exploration effects.
For replacements, consider reliable staples like the check lands, pain lands, and filter lands. They aren't as powerful as the ABUR duals and fetches, but they at least provide fast color fixing. You should also include cards like Coalition Relic and Chromatic Lantern to help with fixing and acceleration.
Some of the less efficient tutors (e.g. Diabolic Tutor) cost much less than Imperial Seal and Vampiric Tutor. Substitute these lower-power tutors to maintain some of the deck's functionality while reducing the price tag.
Thankfully, the combos themselves involve relatively inexpensive pieces. You can preserve them if you reconfigure the deck to run on cheaper ramp and utility cards.
Some cards can't be replaced. For example, there's no cheaper version of Azusa, Lost but Seeking. If you cut these cards, think about other ways to strengthen the deck that may not directly correlate to the cards you lost.
The following cards are being considered for removal from the deck.
- Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Although JTMS is a powerful card and can generate advantage for its investment, its mana cost places it in an awkward position in this deck. CMC 4 cards are somewhat restrictive in that they consume a large amount of mana and leave me with less to protect myself and my strategy. I might move this card out of the mainboard and side it in as necessary.
The saturated mana cost of this card makes it somewhat difficult to cast. It is an unwelcome sight in the opening hand because it's a dead card for at least two turns (it's unrealistic to leave three mana up until Stage II of the game). It is also difficult to use properly in Stage III of the game because it requires me to leave more mana open outside of my combo. The CMC 1 and 2 counterspells are better suited to protecting combos and other plays.
The following cards are being considered for inclusion in the deck.
- Diabolic Intent
This card is an effective low-cost tutor that allows me to find a combo piece or utility card by sacrificing a utility or ramp creature. This is a small price to pay for the effect.
- Gitaxian Probe
This card allows me to anticipate responses to my combo or to check whether a play is safe. It can be cast for free (the life cost is negligible), and it replaces itself. The downside is that, in a multiplayer game, it may not be powerful enough to justify a slot.
- Muddle the Mixture
This card serves double duty as a counterspell and a tutor, but it is also less efficient in both respects because of this added functionality.
- Pongify/Rapid Hybridization
These cards would help to mitigate the issues posed by the lack of permanent removal spells in the deck. They are cheap, efficient, and without targeting restrictions.
- Toxic Deluge
This card is a cheaper board wipe that hits indestructible creatures and can be used selectively to clear certain ranges of threats.
This deck has been entered into only one official Commander tournament. The other events are single-pod matches.
- May 30, 2012: 1st place - Icon's Comics & Games EDH Tournament (pod record 1st/1st/2nd)
- (Date unknown): 1st place - Commander Pod #2, The Days of Knights
- August 05, 2012: 1st place - Commander Pod #7, SCG Open D.C.
I spent about half an hour creating this game state out of nothing. It's loosely based on some scenarios I've faced before, but I figured I'd give you all a challenge. If you backtrack from the current state, you can actually simulate the previous turns in the game. Don't assume that you can win. I may well have spent this time to construct a devious game state that will force you to think for ten minutes before realizing it can't be won.
It's been a close, but decent game so far. You're in a multiplayer (4-person) pod competing in an SCG side event for some credit. You're up against Arcum Dagsson, Riku of Two Reflections, and Sharuum the Hegemon. The bad news is that all of your opponents are playing blue. The worse news is that you haven't been drawing creatures, and the Riku player likes to punish exposed, fleshy faces because he plays RUG and his creatures have nonzero power. Luckily, you went first and have been getting otherwise decent draws.
Oh, and you're at 4 life.
None of your opponents control any creatures except for the Sharuum player, who Damnationed one turn ago and now controls Sharuum the Hegemon. Arcum has an Island untapped. Riku has Volcanic Island and Breeding Pool untapped. Sharuum has a Plains, Hallowed Fountain, and Underground Sea untapped. All three players have between 2-5 cards in hand.
You suspect that Arcum and Sharuum are approaching combo, and you're at 4 life anyway. It's your first main phase. If you can win, you have to do it this turn.
Explain whether you can win the game this turn (and, if so, give a play-by-play) or not (and, if so, why not).
- Play Cephalid Coliseum and Riptide Laboratory.
- Cast Tooth and Nail entwined using Boseiju, Who Shelters All.
- Resolve Tooth and Nail, fetching and putting onto the battlefield Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Palinchron. This will protect the rest of your turn because your opponents can't respond to Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir before it enters the battlefield. Declare the targets for Palinchron's ability to be the six lands that don't cause you to lose life when you activate their mana abilities.
- Float the two mana from your remaining mana sources, then resolve Palinchron's ability.
- Cast and resolve Mana Vault.
- Cast and resolve Demonic Tutor, fetching Deadeye Navigator.
- Cast and resolve Deadeye Navigator.
- Resolve Deadeye Navigator's soulbond ability, pairing Deadeye Navigator and Palinchron.
- Initiate the Deadeye Navigator + Palinchron combo.
- Flash back and resolve Mystical Teachings, fetching Snapcaster Mage.
- Cast and resolve Snapcaster Mage. Target Tooth and Nail using Snapcaster Mage's ability.
- Flash back Tooth and Nail and entwine it. Resolve Tooth and Nail, fetching and putting onto the battlefield Rune-Scarred Demon and Venser, Shaper Savant.
- Target with Venser, Shaper Savant's ability any permanent an opponent controls. Then put Rune-Scarred Demon's ability onto the stack.
- Resolve Rune-Scarred Demon's ability, fetching Blue Sun's Zenith.
- Blink Deadeye Navigator.
- Resolve Deadeye Navigator's soulbond ability, pairing Deadeye Navigator and Rune-Scarred Demon.
- Initiate the Deadeye Navigator + Rune-Scarred Demon loop to tutor your entire deck.
- Cast and resolve Blue Sun's Zenith targeting any opponent for =100.
- Blink Rune-Scarred Demon.
- Resolve Rune-Scarred Demon's ability, tutoring Blue Sun's Zenith.
- Repeat steps #18-20 for the remaining two opponents.
Comments, suggestions, criticisms, and ratings are all welcome!
When recommending cards, please remember that this deck is tournament-oriented and must only contain the most efficient and powerful cards available. Please do not suggest casual or otherwise nonviable cards for inclusion. Also, please keep in mind that the deck is based around a network of synergies; combo-related cards should be useful outside of their combos.
I finally got around to updating the barebones description. I say updating, but it was more of a total overhaul.
This deck now has a worthy primer that will walk you through everything from the card choices to the combos, and it even offers advice on recreating and adapting the deck.
Feel free to explore the new material and offer comments for the deck or primer as you see fit.
Just resetting the discussion. The page was becoming annoyingly long.
This deck is performing well, but I still feel that it should be faster and more consistent. Maybe I'm just greedy.
Speaking of greed, I have a list of cards to acquire.
I decided to drop some of the slower and more situational cards to add a major boost to my ramp package. The deck now regularly gets to turn three Damia.
I had the opportunity today to play a couple games with this deck, and I also spent a good deal of time speaking with its codesigner. He has opted to drop many of the expensive counterspells and ramp cards in favor of their faster counterparts. He also runs a few mana dorks - a choice with which I don't necessarily agree. However, I more frequently play in multiplayer pods, so I face a higher risk of playing against sweepers.
I cut the filter lands for basics because, after talking with my friend, I realized they weren't always optimal. Running two of each basic allows me to squeeze a few extra uses out of my fetches. I also upgraded the basics into snow-covered basics in case I run into anyone using snow lands any Extraplanar Lens.
Finally, I dropped Survival of the Fittest for Lotus Cobra. I don't run enough creatures for Survival of the Fittest to really do what I need it to do, and Lotus Cobra is stupid with nine fetches, Nature's Lore, Skyshoud Claim, and three Exploration effects.
I'm considering dropping
- Mana Web - It's limited in application, and completely irrelevant in some games.
- Bribery - It's great when it works, but there have been many games where I didn't even cast it.
- Mystic Snake - It has a good interaction with Deadeye Navigator, but I rarely play Deadeye Navigator outside of my combo, and Mystic Snake itself ends up being little more than an expensive counterspell.
- Cryptic Command - Although I like Cryptic Command as a card, it's prohibitively expensive for a deck that wants to ramp and control as much as possible.
- Fact or Fiction - I like the instant-speed card advantage, but I often find the mana cost inconvenient.
- Leyline of Anticipation - I'm on the fence about this one. It's great to have on the field from turn 0, but it's inconvenient to cast if I ever draw it.
Just cleaning up the discussion a bit. At this point, there are 507 comments on this deck.
No major changes at this point, just sweeping the existing comments under this update. Discussion for this deck seems to be dwindling, but I still want to keep it updated and finely-tuned. I've been busy lately, but when a tourney or event rolls around, I want this deck to be ready to perform.
In the wake of the RC's horrendous decision to ban Primeval Titan, I have made the following changes to the deck:
- Primeval Titan
- Cabal Coffers (it isn't good enough without Primeval Titan to find it)
- Mindbreak Trap (it hasn't impressed me in the time I've been testing it)
Just made a few minor edits and tucked all comments to clean things up.
Discussion reset. Let's see if we can get this to 700!
October 7, 2015 9:40 a.m.
So Epoch, when are you going to flush out your sideboard? Seems pretty lonely in there right now.
Any idea what you would add there?
October 7, 2015 9:42 a.m.
The deck doesn't currently have a real sideboard. I suppose I could build one. Not really sure what I might need, though. It's been so long since I played.
October 7, 2015 9:50 a.m.
Mainboard Living Wish to get Spawnsire of Ulamog getting Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, It That Betrays, Desolation Twin, Void Winnower, Oblivion Sower, Pathrazer of Ulamog and Eldrazi Conscription (to go on Damia). They'll never see it coming.
October 7, 2015 9:58 a.m.
That sounds wonderful, I would do that if I played this deck just to annoy people and/or make them cry (my enemies, that is)
October 7, 2015 12:30 p.m.
October 7, 2015 9:48 p.m.
Sire of Stagnation is certainly a good card, but I don't think it's really a replacement for Consecrated Sphinx. The deck disruption is not very relevant except perhaps for those corner cases where, by chance, it happens to exile a win condition. In terms of draw power, it is worse than Consecrated Sphinx. You aren't guaranteed to get a trigger per turn (players can choose not to play a land, but they can't choose not to draw a card for their draw step), and the likelihood of getting multiple triggers per turn tends to favor Consecrated Sphinx. Consecrated Sphinx's ability is also a may ability, which can be useful in corner cases.
I'm not really concerned about how large the bodies are because this deck does not attack and rarely has to block.
October 7, 2015 9:56 p.m.
There isn't an EDH deck that doesn't have a draw engine as well so chances are you are going to be drawing 4 cards per turn.
I know that Epoch never acknowledges his attack step but evasion is also a thing, sire doesn't have flying so I'm not sure +1/+1 beats flying.
October 7, 2015 9:59 p.m.