The third Magic event I played in was a Vintage event. I spent months making my deck as good as I could possibly make it, jamming every affordable card off the Vintage restricted list into it that I could. My round one opponent won the die roll and played his whole hand, finishing with Tezzeret the Seeker and using his ability to find Time Vault. I was pretty upset, and I decided that maybe I wasn”t cut out for this Magic thing.
I start with this story because I can sympathize with people who hate combo. Not only is it typically not fun, but I have the distinct impression every time I play one of those terrible combo players that they are only playing combo because they are bad players, don’t want to do actual combat math, time spells correctly, or play around Wrath of God effects.
That being said, I play combo decks mostly because I hate control decks. I hate decks that inform you with the first Island that you actually won’t be playing much Magic today. The only solution I have found to beating control decks has been to play combo decks with disruption and tons of redundancy.
Sadly, it seems that with the last banlist announcement Wizards tried to let us know that combo decks will not be apart of the Modern metagame if they have anything to say about it. The banning of Second Sunrise made me mad for a few reasons; the biggest being that the reason given for the ban was as follows:
“In a large tournament, such as a Grand Prix, when time for the round expires, players are given five additional turns to complete their game. Usually, this takes a few minutes to conclude the rest of the games. However, a player playing Eggs might have a fifteen-minute turn during the additional turns, delaying the start of the next round by ten minutes or more (beyond the next-longest match). Over the course of a day, this can mean an extra hour of waiting for everyone else in the tournament.”
The issue I have here is that I have never seen anyone, much less have myself gone to time with Eggs in all the events I have played it in. The reason was bogus at best, and at worst entirely fabricated.
The next day after the announcement, my friend Cho gave me some bad news – the deck he had been working on building had been banned.
“Banned?” I asked. “You were building Eggs?”
“Yes … it’s the only deck I can afford.” He replied.
At once, I realized the issue. Eggs as a deck represented an easy entry to Modern. It needed no fetchlands, no duals, and no Tarmogoyfs. I suspect that new players such as Cho, had decided to take up the deck, and their inexperience is what created the cited tournament delays. The correct response to this was not to ban an easy entry into the format. This was a mistake.
The New Style
A problem I did not expect from the banning of Seething Song was that with so few combo decks now present, people can afford to run four anti-Twin and four anti-graveyard spells and just have hate for every combo. Second Sunrise being banned simply furthers the problem by making every player”s sideboards have hate for every combo deck.
I do however, have a solution:
This list may look very confusing at first. The basic idea is to enchant a land so that it taps for a lot of mana. This turns all your Twiddles into Dark Rituals or casino pa natet Black Lotuses (the latter of which I am told is a good card). From there, you play Gifts Ungiven — which you either had in hand for found with Mystical Teachings or Merchant Scroll — and find Past in Flames, Twiddle, Dream”s Grip, and Hidden Strings. You use them to make a bunch of mana, and win with a combination of Grapeshot and Aurelia”s Fury.
Here”s a quick playthrough from an actual event at my latest FNM:
Turn 3: Draw Remand. Play Breeding Pool untapped. Tap the Breeding Pool with Utopia Sprawl, adding three blue mana and one white mana. Tap Steam Vents for red and play Hidden Strings, untapping both lands and retapping them.
You now have five blue, two white and two red mana available. Cast Gifts Ungiven, choosing Twiddle, Dream Grip, Hidden Strings, and Past in Flames. With this, you have enough mana for Remand to protect the combo (more on that later).
From here, no matter how your opponent chooses, you”re all set.
- If they pick Dream”s Grip and Twiddle, you have five mana after Gifts. You cast Hidden Strings and gain three mana, then play Past in Flames to generte an insane amount of mana. Cast Gifts Ungiven to get three more Twiddle effects and a Gifts Unigiven, flashing back Past in Flames, making more mana and flashing back Gifts Ungiven to get Past in Flames , Aurelia’s Fury, Grapeshot, and another Twiddle. Then, you just win.
- If instead they pick Past in Flames and Twiddle or Dream”s Grip to go to the graveyard, the play is slightly different. You play Hidden Strings, making seven mana; from here, flashback Past in Flames and go off to the races. You will need to get Past in Flames, two Twiddle effects, and Gifts Ungiven with the flashback copy Gifts Ungiven.
- If they pick Past in Flames and Hidden Strings the play is identical to above, except they gave you one more mana from the Twiddled land.
This deck makes me happy beyond belief. Storm is back!
The nice thing about this deck’s pseudo-Dark Rituals (Twiddle, Toils of Night and Day, Dream”s Grip) is that most of them can also tap blue lands at the end of turn to shut down counterspells, or they cantap creatures to buy a turn.
As mentioned earlier, you need Gifts Ungiven to win. Merchant Scroll and Mystical Teachings can also get Twiddle. Additionally, be sure to get cards to protect the combo or deal with annoying threats.
Because there are 10 variants out of 60, you should average one in every opening hand.
I love Pact of Negation with a passion so it is included, thoough it comes out against aggro decks. Remand is a good counterspell in addition to being used with Grapeshot to win games; if you are not familiar with the storm mechanic, when you cast Grapeshot it creates a storm trigger, because the reminder text on storm says “When you …”. You can respond to the trigger by Remanding your own Grapeshot and letting the storm trigger resolve. Your opponent will then take a lot of damage from Grapeshot storm copies, and you can then recast the spell again, and on top of that, you draw a card.
(I suppose it is possible to win with some combination of Grapeshot and Remand if your opponent takes about eight damage from shocklands without the Gifts Ungiven/Past in Flames engine, but this will be an exceptional case.)
Echoing Truth bounces Deathrite Shaman. Additionally, you can bounce your own Utopia Sprawl mid-combo to change the color. And Gigadrowse is a champion. You can use it to tap your opponent’s creatures to buy a turn, or you can tap all your opponents blue lands to turn off counterspells. Since it has replicate, it is very hard to counter.
The only card to mention here is Aurelia”s Fury. It is hard to call this a “kill” since it serves four different roles in the deck. First, it is a target for Mystical Teaching to destroy your opponents creatures or buy a turn. This may seem like a lot of mana, but keep in mind that you can easily make eight mana on Turn 4. You can also use Aurelia’s Fury as a faux-Gigadrowse to tap all your opponent’s creatures, which also buys a turn. It is a three-mana Silence, which again is great against counterspells. Finally, it can win as a multi-colored Fireball.
As for Past in Flames, the only thing to mention that people are mostly unaware of is that when you cast it, it time-stamps the cards in the graveyard. Only cards in the graveyard at the time you cast Past in Flames have flashback, while those put there later will not.
Leyline is for Jund. Thoughtseize does work against the deck, but the major killer is Rakdos Charm, which beats half the decks in the format. Simic Charm is there to stop land destruction. Ghost Quarter is very hard to beat; on top of that, the absence of combo has created a void into which land destruction decks seem to be appearing in the fringes, because land destruction is much more fun than combo decks are. Fog is more of a test card at this point; I was one turn from beating Infect both games at the last event. Fog seems like Time Walk against hyper-aggro decks like Infect and Affinity, and you can also find it with Mystical Teachings.
Tips On Playing
There are a few conditions you need to meet in order to win with this deck. Very often combo is pegged as “difficult,” but I have found it is mostly recognizing the conditions to winning and simply not messing it up. You will need Gifts Ungiven or a way to find it the turn you win. You need a land which taps for at least three mana, and at least two of it needs to be blue. You will also need to make some red mana; it’s best if you can make white mana, but not needed. Ideally you will want to have at least two lands in play, but it is not spcifically needed.
I hope this deck is as exciting for you as it was for me at the last FNM I attended. There was another player there who boasted quite loudly about how bad the deck was, citing several issues with the deck. Some of his complaints were not worth mentioning, but his third was valid to some extent.
He said, “Doesn’t Deathrite Shaman beat this deck?”
The answer is, “Not if you play Echoing Truth.” This happened every time Deathrite Shaman was played against me. Actually, the most satisfying win of the night was against the guy with 14 counterspells, seven Wrath of God variants and a Platinum Angel and Grimoire of the Dead as his only win conditions. I was able to pay for a Mana Leak with Twiddle and force through Gifts Ungiven, getting Pact of Negation, Past in Flames, Remand and Gigadrowse. I went off a few turns later, bouncing his Platinum Angel with Echoing Truth.
Now that there is another combo deck in Modern, I feel like my job here is done.
Hope to see you Twiddling!
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