Johnny Claus is Coming to Shadowmoor!
By: Jeff Phillips
By: Jeff Phillips
Shadowmoor is upon us. The sun has set for the first time in centuries, and dark tidings have fallen upon the formerly bright and sunny world of Lorwyn. The landscape is scarred, torn, and in some cases, awakened. What previously had been static and taken for granted, now is altered and novel. The very world itself has changed. What new monstrosities might rear their ugly head(s)? What dangers would you need to take a care for as you wander the wilderness? Join me, as I guide you through one small section of this treacherous terrain: Combos.
Not only has the world of Shadowmoor been mutated, but now, along with it, the playing field of Magic has been altered as well. Wither has brought us -1/-1 counters to the battle, and no one is quite sure how they will affect the life of a dueling mage. Untap has been revealed as the “Q” symbol, and now creatures are looking for ways to tap themselves, so they can use those abilities. Does this mean more forays into the Red Zone? Will the landscape change from tapping down your opponents creatures, to now tapping down your own creatures, to access new and amazing abilities? Shadowmoor offers a multitude of new options for your game. Here’s a few options I’m looking forward to.
We all know a combo deck. We’ve played against the Deathrender/Enduring Renewal deck. We’ve watched Intruder Alarm decks go crazy with creatures, and sometimes life. We’ve sat by as our opponent used his Mindslaver over and over again, taking our very turn away. So belly up to the table, all you Johnnies (and maybe a few of you Spikes) and let’s look at a few of the new options placed before us now that Shadowmoor has been unleashed on the tournament scene.
Note: I’ll use the word infinite a few times in here. Of course, you cannot truly go “infinite” in Magic. You either have to choose a number to end your combo at, or if it cannot be ended once it begins, the game will automatically end in a draw. So, when I say infinite, I really mean arbitrarily large. I just didn’t want to have to write “arbitrarily Large” a bunch of times.
This first combo is near and dear to me, as it’s a great combo, and all of the pieces are in Shadowmoor. You could play this very combo in limited, whether draft or sealed, if the chips fall well for you. When Block Constructed rolls around, you can again turn to this combo, if you so choose, and see if you can ride it through the Shadowmoor season to victory. I personally was able to draft it in a casual tournament in my own hometown, and when it goes, it GOES!
Morselhoarder + Sinking Feeling + Power of Fire/Presence of Gond.
Morselhoarder starts things off by costing a massive 6 mana, and as a Red/Green hybrid, he gives you some options for colors. Most importantly, he let’s you remove -1/-1 counters for mana. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons, this Elemental makes Mana out of Wither! I like his style. Next to enter the picture is Sinking Feeling. Once enchanted, for the low low price of 1 mana and a -1/-1 counter, you get to untap the enchanted creature. So, we have a way to create -1/-1 counters, and a way to spend the mana Morselhoarder creates. But we have an extra untap ability sitting around still. So, we just need to add a tap ability to really make this engine rumble. Enter either Power of Fire (if you’re in red) or Presence of Gond (if you’re in green) or, even both (if you feel daring enough for three colors) These let you tap to either do 1 damage to target creature or player (in the case of Power of Fire) or make a 1/1 Elf Warrior Tokens (if you're playing Presence of Gond). You now have an infinite damage or infinite creature combo in your limited deck. Even better, all of these pieces are at common rarity, meaning you have a decent chance to put it together. If you really want to get crazy, you can throw in a few other pieces to make your combo even bigger. Flourishing Defenses, while uncommon, gives you even more elves, as it triggers every time you put a counter on Morselhoarder. Venturing outside of Lorwyn, Essence Warden could also give you life as each of those elves comes into play, while still staying Standard legal for the next few months.
Speaking of Standard legal, our second combo is one I’m currently building, and hopefully, we will see a wonderful article about my results. It’s a standard legal combo, so feel free to copy me, and see how it fares at your local Friday Night Magic tournament. Hopefully, it’s good enough to get you a Foil (which, I might add, for the month of May is Pendelhaven. It’s pretty, and it’s awesome in play. You should get one. I know I’m going to try to.) So, with only slightly further ado, I present my newest Combo concept:
Leech Bonder + Utopia Vow + Judge of Currents
This is a repeatable life gain engine and it’s pretty simple actually. Start with a Leech Bonder, using his U, Untap ability to move -1/-1 counters. Add in Utopia Vow, letting you tap Leech Bonder for 1 mana of any color. Finally, a dash of Judge of Currents, to gain life every time Leech Bonder becomes tapped. Voila! Lots of life, and all the pieces cost less than 3 mana. In my build (which is still in the final stages of construction) I’ve added Devoted Druid, to not only give me massive mana on demand, but also to create as many -1/-1 counters as I need to make a repeatable Plague Wind effect. I’m also looking into some good mana sinks, but with all the life I’ll gain, I can afford to take some mana burn as necessary. Not that I want to, but really, once you’re into millions of life, there’s not a big differentiation with 20 or 30 life. It’s still “arbitrarily large” This combo also works well with just about all of Shadowmoor, as it turns -1/-1 counters from a drawback to a benefit. One other nice benefit of this, is that you don’t have to wait for resolution of abilities. What this means is, no one can interrupt your combo without using split second. All of the life gain effects are in the cost (except the Judge’s trigger effect), meaning that you don’t have to wait for the stack to resolve to keep going to an arbitrarily large number. Krosan Grip and Sudden Shock can still be deadly, but other than that, it’s very hard to oppose.
Next, I have a combo of massive protection. Want some time and space to make your combo go off, but everything keeps getting bounced, or are all your creatures being destroyed by that mono-black control deck? How about we stop all that crazy targeting nonsense. Here’s a two-card combo to protect your permanents, and buy you some time to do whatever it is you need time to do:
Enchanted Evening + Greater Auramancy
Simply put, Enchanted Evening makes every permanent in play (including your opponents’) into enchantments, while the Greater Auramancy gives all of your other enchantments shroud. Poof! All of your permanents (this means lands, too) can no longer be targeted. Now, you’ll want to make sure that’s a good thing for you, as you will not be able to target your own permanents too, with a notable exception being the Greater Auramancy. One other benefit here is, now you can use disenchant style effects to destroy anything your opponent has in play, including lands. A few Naturalizes, and your opponent could be in a very bad situation. In fact, the new hotness that is Gleeful Sabotage can destroy two permanents at a time, with conspire. While it is off color, two lands destroyed for only 2 mana and tapping two creatures, could be the game changer. One drawback is, both of the previously mentioned combo cards are rare, and while I personally don’t see either one being the next Tarmogoyf or Garruk Wildspeaker, in terms of price, they also won’t be falling out of trees.
Finally, here’s a combo for all you type 1 and type 1.5 players out there. When I first saw Lorwyn, and specifically, the Merfolk, I got all sorts of excited about milling. Mill is probably my favorite alternate way to win a game. In Ravnica, I played Glimpse the Unthinkable, and in Coldsnap, I added Jester’s Scepter in Standard. So, I really hoped that Merfolk could get it done. So imagine my surprise when I found my Mill deck in Shadowmoor. You’re probably thinking Memory Sluice is the path to mill. But while it certainly is a good miller, and I’m bound to try to make something out of it, it is not the way to true Mill. No, Dorothy, once you leave Kansas, I think you’ll find that a scarecrow will lead you down the path to ultimate Milling.
Painter’s Servant + Grindstone
Step 1: Play Painter’s Servant. Make all cards not in play a given color.
Step 2: Play Grindstone.
Step 3: Activate Grindstone. Win the game.
See, now that every card in their deck is the same color, even the lands, Grindstone will keep activating until it runs out of cards. Then, you pass the turn, and when they can’t draw, you win. With enough Mana, you can do this on turn 1, and the nice part is, none of the pieces require any colored mana. So, scoop up your Dark Rituals, or your Rite of Flames and Seething Songs, go fetch your Moxes and Lotuses, and grab your Lion’s Eye Diamonds out of your trade binder (or snag a few at your Friendly Local Game Shop) and get to cracking. I’ve been hearing murmurings of this becoming the next big Legacy deck, and in fact, Grindstone prices are already on the rise, so get yours while the getting is good (or at least cheap) or have your answer to the new meta already planned out. If you see someone playing either of these cards first turn, you may want to have your Force of Will ready. Of course, they may be playing Blue as well, so perhaps they will have one of their own. Nonetheless, keep an eye peeled.
So, there you have it, a look at a small part of the new landscape Shadowmoor has brought to us. From Limited and block Constructed all the way to Legacy, there’s a piece of the pie for everyone. So keep playing, and have fun. I’m gonna go try out that Leech Bonder deck.