Technically not infinite combos

Commander (EDH) forum

Posted on Jan. 5, 2022, 11:31 p.m. by enpc

Many times I have seen people make statements along the lines of "I don't like infinite combos" or "We don't play infinite combos in our playgroup". But then I see these same people running cards like Avenger of Zendikar + Craterhoof Behemoth.

Similarly, I'll see poeple who are against infinite combos pack decks full of extra turn spells.

I'm not saying that any of this is bad (as a combo player myself), however in my mind a game ending Avenger + Craterhoof is the same as a game ending infinite combo, or casting Thassa's Oracle + Tainted Pact (which again isn't an infinite combo).

So where do you draw the line? How do you feel about game ending combos that are technically not infinite? Are they the same or different, and why?

TriusMalarky says... #2

it's all just a win con, and calling it anything else is kinda dumb. card A plus card B = win is how commander works. I mean, three opponents makes a lot of cards a lot . . . worse. You can't feasibly beat down, and so combos -- be it infinite, convoluted, or just super high synergy -- are what is necessary to close out the game.

January 6, 2022 12:20 a.m.

SpammyV says... #3

It depends. Usually when I talk about two-card combos in decks I mean both infinites and things that decide the game then and there. Technically the game can continue after you resolve Mycosynth Lattice and Vandalblast but there's not really a point in sticking around. Same with Pact and Oracle.

But I'm a little looser when it comes to good battlecruiser cards ending the game. If you have enough lands that Avenger+Craterhoof is oppressively game ending I'd like to see the list, but otherwise the tokens need a turn to stick around. It's why I'm pretty high on Insurrection, if Insurrection wins a game because there's enough power on the board to kill everyone but it's all stalled, then the game is probably dragging and Insurrection just ends a game everyone is emotionally finished playing. The game does have to end but if it ends and people don't think they had enough impact that shuffling up was worth it, that's a problem.

It's probably fuzzy but for me it's about speed, consistency, and interaction points. The more things that have to stick around for a turn, are expensive, and/or can only be stopped with a counterspell the more I like them. I enjoy Commander games that are more battlecruiser Magic when people can all have a chance to feel like they had an impact.

January 6, 2022 1:01 a.m.

Grubbernaut says... #4

Timmies need a boogeyman to blame, essentially. Thoracle is much more efficient than "big creature buff team give trample," too, which is one of the reasons for casual players disliking the idea of it. At the end of the day, it's more about overall power level discrepancy than the strategy itself. There are a lot of "bad" combos I can't imagine most mid-level players would take issue with.

January 6, 2022 1:13 a.m.

griffstick says... #5

For a long time, I was calling Vicious Shadows + Blasphemous Act a combo. I don't know if it is because it doesn't always end the game. It is similar to Insurrection, you need lots of creatures but also lots of cards in your opponents hands with Vicious Shadows. It was my unique way of ending the game. I was expecting a different reaction from my friends when I did it but, "it is what it is". There are way to many cards in the game of magic that when any 2 or 3 cards get paired together creates a non Infinite winning position. To say "hey no Infinite combos", is in a way, "not fun". POWER LEVELS AND PREGAME DISCUSSIONS WILL DETERMINE A HEALTHY GAME. ESTABLISH A HEALTHY PLAYGROUP AND JUST PLAY THE GAME. I also incurage post game discussion. Talk to the players about the game. Things you liked. Things you didn't. Cards you liked. Cards you didn't. Make suggestions for improvements. Do these things and you'll be fine. Also have your own non Infinite combo/s, because after all is said and done. THE GAME IS ABOUT SELF EXPRESSION AND CREATIVITY THROUGH CARDS.

January 6, 2022 8:42 a.m. Edited.

plakjekaas says... #6

Thassa's Oracle + forbidden tutor is annoying to casual play because there's no common answer to it except for counterspells. I know Torpor Orb-like effects can stop it, and the incidental "shuffle back your graveyard with the trigger on the stack", but those are not effects you're playing in your deck if you're not built to take advantage of them. If your casual deck has to account for that and play enough answers, for both that combo, and for people who try to win with their boardstate of creatures, it takes up such an amount of deck slots that you have no room for your casual gameplan. That will leave you to run efficient combos as well, just to fit a wincon in your deck, and at that point, you're aspiring cEDH and leaving casual behind.

It's a mindset of wanting to win over wanting to play. When I play infinite combos in casual decks, they need 4-5 pieces to go off, all susceptible to different kinds of removal, very interruptible, and worth the effort when they come to fruition. I haven't seen people getting mad about my Arcbond/Pariah/Blazing Sunsteel/indestructible creature combo, only gotten compliments because it's a fun way to win the game and I did the work and earn the win. I have been yelled at, though, for including Thassa's Oracle/Demonic Consultation in a 5c deck that already had a singleton mana base just in case the game goes long.

I think the line is defined by opportunity to interact, and effort spent to win.

January 6, 2022 12:21 p.m.

I think the main source of bad feelings is people getting locked out (to one extent or another) AND the game not ending right then. If you go infinite with turns and hit everyone for one each turn, that’s fine with me as long as you let me shuffle and play again. Craterhoof? Fine... just let us try again (and generally that’s even faster). The trouble is when it gets played slower than people perceive it should. On the other side of the coin: I love monkeywrenching those with a Copper Tablet or something, where the infinite isn’t as infinite as they thought ;p

January 6, 2022 2:17 p.m.

RNR_Gaming says... #8

This is why I prefer cedh - play whatever you want with the expectation that everything is going to be broken. Casuals are a finicky bunch and it'll be hard to find a group on the same wave length.

January 6, 2022 7:28 p.m.

plakjekaas says... #9

Well I do play cEDH, but I don't prefer it, because cEDH severely limits the cards you can play. As someone else stated above, I think the format of EDH is about creativity and expressing yourself through cards, and 99,97% of cards printed are not good enough for cEDH. A lot less is creatively possible when you need to play only the best and most efficient cards, and if I'd want to play a solved format, I actually prefer the consistency of 4-ofs, in a format like Standard or Modern. EDH is for having fun, and cEDH is on the rise pretty much since competitive paper tournaments are impossible. I still think it's the competitive constructed crowd invading the format with their "I'm gonna win before turn 4"-mindset, who have no clue how to express themselves other then "I'm better than you because I'm winning" and that is not why I play EDH. I want to play the big spells, the convoluted synergies, the politics, everything that you can't do in 1v1 60-card constructed.

When someone succesfully goes Infinite on turn 2, or ends the game with a non-infinite, but game-ending combo, I didn't get to play magic. When someone does it on turn 13, nobody will care, the game would have been dragging on anyway, glad that it's ending. Somewhere in between is the sweet spot where I did get to execute my gameplan, and even though it did get foiled by whatever boardwipe or interaction, I had the opportunity to play magic, to do some cool stuff, maybe take out a player. That's all my casual decks ask for. Not focusing on stopping everyone else from doing what they want to do, not rushing to the conclusion of the game, just showing off the card I took a long time to select to work together on the battlefield. If you're going to prevent me from doing that, by either playing just answers to stop what I'm doing, or by ending the game before I got a chance to look at my hand, I'll express my disappointment at that.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but this is how I experience my games.

January 6, 2022 8:29 p.m.

TypicalTimmy says... #10

The sentiment comes from infinite combos taking, generally speaking, forever to play out. Most tables will merely concede when faced with a potentially infinite loop, but some players feel cheated by that because there is always a chance a combo can fail. It can sputter out or not find the wincon or be interrupted.

I'm not going to dig through the archives, but on Game Knights Jimmy had what amounted to an infinite combo with Jeska's Will and the table literally could have folded right there on the spot. In an LGS, it may have. But for the sake of the show, they didn't and Jimmy actually failed to win that turn due to lack of cards in the graveyard.

Just because you can go infinite does not mean you can win. If a player wants to see if the win is legitimate, they have every right to ask to see it play out. This can drag the game out to insane times (Looking at you, Cheerios). And nobody wants to sit at a table for 45 minutes waiting for someone to win, or infinitely much worse, find out they can't.

Now for the sake of sanctioned tournament plays, the Judge can enact a time restriction but the opponent still has every right to say they want to see the game end. Otherwise, technically they didn't "lose", so much as they "forfeit" - which when dealing with sponsors and contracts, that could put you in serious hot water.

So, TLDR - It doesn't always end in a win, which makes players feel cheated. They either concede and may have had a chance to win, or they lost a bunch of time waiting on the inevitable. Either way, it's a general "feels bad, man" kind of scenario.

Now, MOST infinite loops are one of three things:

  • Draw your library to find your few wincons
  • Infinite damage
  • Infinite mana to make big plays

But again, all can be avoided.

  • Draw your wincons and be countered or stopped or not have the resources to use them that turn
  • Damage can be avoided
  • Infinite mana means nothing if you can't use it properly. If you have no haste, 10,000 power online means nothing

Again, what it comes down to is two simple things:

  • Can you ACTUALLY win?
  • Alright, how long is this going to take?

When you are someone strapped for time, sitting down thinking you've got an hour and a half so that's good for one game before work or class, and you soon find that someone is going infinite and will take 45 minutes to win the game because they want to showboat and take their time and gloat, it makes the entire endeavor utterly worthless. We didn't sit down to watch you play with yourself. This isn't OnlyFans. We sat down to play a damn game of Magic: The Gathering.

January 7, 2022 2:50 a.m.

aholder7 says... #11

i think i have to disagree with a few points brought up. perhaps the points aren't necessarily wrong but theres certainly some evidence against them.

@Plakjekass, I know a number of people who would be very upset with a combo playing out on even on turn 23. At least from those i've talked to about the subject, the problem isn't about timing. I've tried talking to a number of them about their reasoning. Most find it hard to explain but they usually range from "it just doesn't feel fair" to "A combo doesn't feel the same/right as finishing a game a different way". even some of the sillier combos that get played at the table draw ire. Dungeon Grenzo despite needing like 4 or 5 pieces is effectively soft banned by how much it's hated out by everyone on sight. I agree that combos that require 5 pieces to go off do seem to not be as upsetting to people.

TypicalTimmy Even 2 card auto-win combos (Especially 2 card auto-win combos) draw plenty of hate. If I drop Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood, people can get mad. I mean you are correct that people will probably hate waiting a game out to see if a non-infinite combo goes off or if it fizzles but I don't see that as the reason people hate the combos.

I don't know where the exact line is between "too much like combo" and "not combo" is in people's minds and I only have anecdotal evidence. but from the experience i have had here are the criteria i would start with.

1) it needs to be not truly infinite. game ending sure, but the concept of infinity seems to be an immediate red flag. 2) people seem less upset by things that require combat. the original example of avenger+crater would probably be ok. 3) 4+ cards are less problematic. the 5 card combo that jekass mentioned would also probably be fine. 4) searching out combo pieces is another red flag. if you luck into them in a draw people seem more ok with it. they seem less ok if you force it to happen.

January 7, 2022 10:31 p.m.

TypicalTimmy says... #12

Personally, aholder7, I'd much rather sit across a 2 or 3 card combo that the controller can say "Okay, A does B which results in you're dead." far more than "Okay I tap A and add XXX. Now I can pay XX and activate Z to put N on the stack. Before N resolves, holding priority, I'm going to cast L in response. Now remember L can't be countered because of J. Alright so L resolves which allows me to untap A. I'm going to retap A and float XXX, giving me XXXXX. I can spend XX to activate Z, putting 2N on the stack..."

That's a lot of nonsense to keep track of, and it doesn't always result in a win. Worse than not winning is when the player controlling the combo cheats their way to win.

The guy who goes by Grey featured on the YouTube channel I HATE YOUR DECK did this with Gemstone Caverns, going infinite with Daretti, Scrap Savant. He ended up "winning" by cheating - intentionally or otherwise. Because whilst Gemstone Caverns was in his opening hand, he also went first.

Read the card. He couldn't have produced to win.

And I feel like more experienced players, who play competitively with the sole intention to win, are far more likely to make a convoluted mess of things to try and bully their way to victory, riding on the backs of the hope that their opponents will be too inexperienced to understanding what's going on, to stop them.

Have you ever sat across from the "Short Change Scam" in retail? I have. Same principal. Inundate and saturate with information until they concede; Then convince them of your position and argue that they are wrong.

I don't like being scammed, and these massive 30+ minute combos feel like a scam.

January 7, 2022 10:40 p.m. Edited.

plakjekaas says... #13

aholder7 it's plakje (= slice in Dutch) kaas (= cheese in Dutch), don't try to make me look like a jackass over here :P

The whole "doesn't feel fair" but unable to actually explain why is an excellent point. Because your point 1) and point 3) contradict each other. Let's see what happens when you cast Gideon's Sacrifice and Arcbond on the same, Indestructible creature (it's usually Brash Taunter in my deck) and then any 1 damage is dealt to a permanent its controller controls:

1] Gideon's Sacrifice redirects the 1 damage to Brash Taunter.

2] The damage triggers Arcbond, which makes Brash Taunter deal 1 damage to each other creature and each player, including yourself. It also deals 1 damage to target opponent from its own ability.

3] The 1 damage at yourself is prevented by Gideon's Sacrifice, and dealt to Brash Taunter instead. Oh look, we're already back at step 1].

And I can't stop it. The loop keeps itself going, and it's truly infinite. I got foiled once, by one of my opponents having Selfless Squire, which meant the game ended in a draw, because when I killed all other creatures and players, there was no way for me to stop, I had no answer for my own creature. The loop wasn't progressing the boardstate anymore, but the stack was never empty, so I couldn't pass my turn.

As said in my previous post, I've never had negative responses at going off with this. It's a great introduction to infinity, because it doesn't feel never-ending, your life total dwindles with every iteration of the loop. Yet it is a feedback loop that feeds into itself, keeps itself going but doesn't spiral out of control, yet it blows up the entire world. It's completely stopped by Swords to Plowshares on the Brash Taunter. But the damage Brash Taunter needs to start the loop, is usually combat damage... which makes it ok due to rule 2)? I do agree with rule 4) though, if I would use Sunforger repeatedly to find Arcbond, Gideon's Sacrifice and a Lightning Bolt to start the loop, that feels a lot less earned.

People usually don't know what they're afraid of, and protest against what they don't want to learn to understand. And when you see someone try for 20 minutes to piece something convoluted together the way TypicalTimmy describes, only to end up botching the win, in an ungodly amount of different steps that you can't be bothered to keep track of, yet you're hogging all of the gametime with your game of solitaire, that's how you alienate less experienced players and bully them into big creatures - combat only battlecruiser magic, making them feel too dumb for the intricacies that actually make the game more interesting and enjoyable if you take your time mastering them. Being able to explain how your cards win the game is vital, if your argument is: "I saw someone else play these cards, they win the game, trust me", showing you yourself don't even care how the game works, then why should your opponents be ok with that? They're not having fun, they're not even seeing you have fun, they just feel robbed of the game they thought was going well until someone threw a wrench in everything.

Yet when you enthusiastically explain how you found the perfect, underplayed cards in the bowels of your binder that synergize very well together, even though the EDHREC page for your commander doesn't mention any of these cards, that end the game in two or three simple steps that keep repeating themselves, you're showing that you actually used creativity and effort, way before you even sat down to play this specific game. That is something people will respect, especially if they can see you're excited to pull it off this time, because it doesn't happen every game.

As I said before, I believe the line is defined by effort spent, playtime hogged, and opportunity to interact. Yet the ultimate goal of EDH is having fun, and when you're seen to have fun playing your combos, that will get you a lot more leeway about how you're actually winning the game. There's no general solution, no hard definition, of what's ok and what isn't, because there's as many ways to have fun as there's magic players, and there's cards to satisfy all of them. Communication and compromise are key, not everyone can have fun all the time every game. I try to optimize for the most amounts of fun had by the most players when building my deck, because I want to keep playing with these people, more than I'm trying to pubstomp and be the very best, like no-one ever was.

Your mileage, of course, may vary.

January 8, 2022 12:21 a.m.

aholder7 says... #14

plakjekaas apologies on the misspelling. I agree that some of the points can feel contradictory. However they are not my opinions so i sadly do not have much more in the way of explanations. I personally have no problem with combos of any kind. i think people should make sure that everyone at the table knows the power level thats expected. if you know everyone is playing really durdly battle cruisers it'd be pretty rude to bring a T3 cEDH combo deck. but i think combos should be hated out of the game. IMO finding cool and strong interactions between cards throughout magics history is part of what makes it a fun and interesting game.

I also think that the structure of edh actually encourages combos as trying to finish out the game in other ways tends to be significantly more effort. aggro is all but impossible. control magic can be a bit tricky if you are trying to manage multiple board states and trying to build up a board strong enough to clear out the table should theoretically be difficult if anyone is packing a reasonable amount of removal/wipes.

But for some people combos are the bane of the game. I've seen people essentially decide that they are done with magic for the night because someone dropped a combo and they decided that the game was no longer fun. I wish i could explain why people have this intense dislike of it but i really can't. hopefully others who have these opinions themselves might comment here and make it a bit clearer but i think i've offered about as much as i can on the subject.

January 8, 2022 1:17 a.m.

plakjekaas says... #15

Yes, the non-combo ways to win are significantly more effort. By definition, I'd say. I disagree that the structure of EDH encourages it. Or maybe the structure does, but the philosohpy of the format explicitly encourages its players to not rush to the finish like you would in Standard or Modern, and express themselves by elaborate game plans for fun instead. To end the game with Thassa's Oracle and Tainted Pact on turn 4 is trying to enjoy magic more, by playing less of it. Which sounds weird in my ears, but that's the way competitive play works. I can understand, if my deck is full of the coolest 5- and 6-drops I could find, that I'd be severely displeased if that would happen.

But if you're only allowed to win with combat in your playgroup, someone will have the luminous idea of: if I run enough boardwipes, I'm never going to die. And the game just won't end. When you're playing the same game for 2 hours straight and every threat is dealt with adequately, you feel equally powerless, yet it costs everyone way more time. That's why I include some non-combat way to win in almost every deck I build. From Laboratory Maniac to Approach of the Second Sun to multiple card win-the-game combos, I want to play at least one I-win-button to punish someone who drags out the game with 20-minute turns without winning. That's why I play combos, and within that space, there's plenty of room for creativity.

There's almost 10000 combos listed on EDHREC, some of these cards you're going to stumble upon by accident just by building your deck. Forbidding people to play any of them just seems short-sighted and selfish to me. I recognize people can not like it, I just don't empathize with their point of view. Just like they won't empathize with mine. It's why we play different decks to have fun in different ways. Don't limit other people's freedom of fun by your own conviction, that's like saying "You can't eat ice cream, because I am lactose intolerant."

And when someone does end the game prematurely and you don't like it, that is where you should voice your concerns in constructive ways. Like: "I didn't get a chance to see my own deck perform, can you play a less powerful deck next?" Instead of: "F*** you for putting that trash in your deck, you suck as a human being and should burn your collection."

I've been at the receiving end of both, and I was a lot more willing to play another game, maybe hold my strong plays for a bit, and give the other decks time to shine, when approached the first way. When using the second way and still agreeing to play another game, I'm a lot more tempted to play full on winconless stax just to show that longer games aren't better games, and combos serve a function. I do the same thing when people say: "Fun is a zero-sum game and I'm going to have all of it!" I'm making it my personal mission to ensure you have just as much fun as I do.

January 8, 2022 4:59 a.m.

rshistorysmuf says... #16

January 8, 2022 8:24 a.m.

Abaques says... #17

The only addition I'd make to this conversation is that I played a game at a local LGS and one of my opponents went off with a Timetwister after resolving a Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir so when he went off none of us could interact. His win-con was hitting us with hasty drakes from Talrand, Sky Summoner.

This was like five years ago and games were not as competitive or fast as today. The rest of the table was playing totally fair decks for the time.

The guy going off spent over an hour resolving multiple timetwisters... but in the end he did his math wrong and couldn't kill the whole table but he'd already decked himself. He killed the other two players and then lost on his draw step. In the mean time he wasted over an hour of three other people's lives playing solitaire.

Don't be like that guy.

January 10, 2022 3:16 p.m.

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