Which Combos Are We Excited to Brew With Ahead of the Release of Kaladesh?
With a new plane comes the new potential for unique, intricate and often spectacular combinations, some making a splash across multiple formats. Splinter Twin–Deceiver Exarch in Zendikar–New Phyrexia Standard, Prosperity–Cadaverous Bloom at Pro Tour Paris back in 1997, even Illusions of Grandeur–Donate from some of the early days of Standard.
When the full spoilers for Kaladesh were first released, the Manaleak.com writing team began a collaboration to anticipate the set’s official release. Below are contributions from four Manaleak writers, showcasing cards in Kaladesh we’re most excited about playing in both Modern and Standard.
So without further ado, which Kaladesh combos are the Manaleak.com writing team excited about in the coming months?
The Combos of Kaladesh: 5 Great Combos Using Kaladesh Cards, by The Manaleak.com MTG Writing Team
1. George Mostyn: Going Infinite with Saheeli Rai in Modern
Trials and tribulations… Format defining designs… And perhaps the defining reason why turn one mana dorks are no longer printed… For years, three-mana Planeswalkers have been some of the most impactful cards on the Standard format. Liliana of the Veil is an example of a three-mana Planeswalker becoming a mainstay of both Modern and Legacy since her inception.
R&D have been tasked with monitoring the power level of any Planeswalker they design with 3-CMC (converted mana cost): The printings of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, although extremely powerful ‘Walkers in their own right, did not reach the extent of taking over Standard and have proven well-balanced and highly interactive. However, with the release of the new member of the “3-CMC Club”, Saheeli Rai, the possibilities of infinite combos centered around a cheap, efficient Planeswalker have come to the forefront of Modern…
The abilities of Saheeli Rai, on the face of it, seem extremely well-balanced for a three-mana Planeswalker, allowing a player to manipulate the top of their library whilst providing a slow but inevitable clock with her +1 ability, and an ultimate which, with the likes of Blightsteel Colossus in the format, could end the game very quickly. However, it is the extremely unique -2 ability which has caught the eye of every Jonny, Combo Player on the Modern scene: “-2: Create a token that’s a copy of target artifact or creature you control, except it’s an artifact in addition to its other types. That token gains haste. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step.”
In combination with the ever-so unassuming Liquimetal Coating, you are able to create an infinite number of Saheeli Rai copies: Using Liquimetal Coating, turn Saheeli Rai into an artifact and target herself with own -2 ability to create a copy of the Planeswalker. Because the token just so happens to be an artifact, the loop can now be continued by ticking down the new, copied Planeswalker, rinse, and repeat.
But what’s that I hear you cry? How can I win with this? It just creates a loop with no win condition, right? The most effective of the options available to us is Altar of the Brood, which sits beautifully on curve, as does former scourge of Standard formats past, Disciple of the Vault: Turn one Altar or Disciple, turn two Coating, turn three Saheeli, Winning! Three of the following happen to be some of Saheeli Rai’s compatriots from Kaladesh, each providing a unique infinite loop:
- Altar of the Brood – Infinitely Mill Your Opponent.
- Disciple of the Vault – Infinite Life Loss.
- Leonin Elder – Infinite Life Gain.
- Reckless Fireweaver – Infinite Damage.
- Contraband Kingpin – Infinite Scrys.
- Quicksmith Genius – Infinite ‘Rummages’.
- Sun Titan – Infinite Sun Titans with haste with two Saheeli Rai in the Graveyard when Sun Titan enters the battlefield.
The next question we’re faced with is how could this be implemented into a Modern strategy? Many writers have speculated that the combo could be integrated into the likes of Affinity, Lantern Control or Thopter-Sword-Gifts strategies, as well as a streamlined deck designed purely around the combo itself.
Personally, I believe a Grixis strategy, alongside Tezzeret the Seeker and Contraband Kingpin to help dig for the win-conditions, seems like the natural home for the combo, able to go infinite on turn three or grind out the long game with a toolbox package making the most of Tezzeret. However, access to the powerful cantrip Ancient Stirrings, which has been a feature of a variety of strategies in Modern over the past few years, is an extremely attractive option being able to dig for both Altar of the Brood and Liquimetal Coating from turn one.
Whatever the future holds for Saheeli Rai in both Standard and Modern is yet unknown, but with the innovation and implementation of powerful cards from Shadows Over Innistrad block already making a huge impact on Modern, I am excited to see just how much the inventors of Kaladesh can make their mark on a thriving Modern metagame.
2. Kerry Meyerhoff: Why has Platinum Emperion Suddenly Sold Out?
So you may be wondering, as a Modern player, what else is in store for me in Kaladesh? Well, there has been speculation about the arrival of a new combo on the scene, much like the Polymorph into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn combo deck of old. It involves an old Commander favourite from Scars of Mirrodin, Platinum Emperion, and a new card which people believe in this context will be pretty busted – Madcap Experiment.
Madcap Experiment allows you, for the measly price of three generic and one red mana, to essentially cascade Living End-style into the next artifact in your library and put it into play. By running no other artifacts in your deck, you can ensure you hit the only viable target – Platinum Emperion – which then enters the battlefield. Then when Madcap Experiment tries to make you pay the price by losing life equal to the number of cards revealed, your life total remains unchanged due to the Emperion’s ability.
Platinum Emperion alone is already a pretty big hoser to a lot of decks in Modern, as any which can’t deal with him generally can’t win, much like the use of Worship against the Eldrazi during the Winter of 2015-16. However, this time around we have this combination in the maindeck so, most of the time, you’ll be stealing game one incidentally, and then only have to win one out of the next two games when they bring in whatever hate they have in order to disrupt you.
To name a few decks that will struggle to beat this combo game one: Merfolk, Affinity, Dredge, Burn, Zoo, Bogles, R/G Breach, and the list goes on. As long as they’re not running hard removal in their main deck, you have a reasonable chance of your Emperion ending the game pretty fast. And if they are running a card such as Path to Exile, well alright, I’ll take the free land and then Madcap Experiment again next turn! Much like the Amulet-Bloom lists from days past, you can keep repeating until you run out of Emperions and force them to have an answer every time.
Currently, there aren’t any existing lists where this combo will fit, due to the nature of the fact that you can only have the one artifact in your deck or risk higher levels of inconsistency. Decks including the likes of Infect and Tron aren’t concerned with the monster 8/8 nor the inability to alter their opponents life total, an issue which would have to be considered during deck construction. Furthermore, sideboarding may be an issue by restricting the deck to non-artifact options so to not disrupt the maindeck combo. However, when it works it really works, and where you will lose points against some decks you will gain against others who have no way of answering it.
Whether it will be enough to break into the upper echelons of Modern remains to be seen, but nevertheless, it has piqued excitement and interest among a large number of the Magic community and it will be interesting to see what other combos with Madcap Experiment can evolve from these initial concepts.
3. Michael Glover: Standard Energy Ramp Can Be Fun
There’s one card that I have had my eye on since the day it was spoiled: Aetherworks Marvel. Let me break down why I’m looking forward to playing with this card! At a cost of four generic mana, Marvel allows you to dig six cards deep and cast any one of them for free. The card’s activation cost of six energy can be achieved easily from first impressions of Kaladesh, making it very possible to cast an Eldrazi Titan as early as turn four.
In order to build up a stockpile of energy to unleash the Marvel, we have a number of options to help us reach the magic number of six: At the bottom of our curve, Attune with Aether lets us grab any basic land as well as generating two energy counters, whilst Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot nets us three life and three more energy upon entering the battlefield, and is able to repeat he input a turn later for the cost of just three mana. Aethertorch Renegade and Servant of the Conduit are both low cost creatures which generate extra energy, providing you with early game blockers in order to you time, as well as stockpiling energy with their enter the battlefield (ETB) effects. We also have the return of a fog effect in the form of Commencement of Festivities, which can also buy us an extra turn.
So, what I am looking for when I use Aetherworks Marvel? Eldrazi Titans of course! The wording of Aetherworks says the card is cast and, as we all know far too well, much fun is had by all when the Eldrazi are cast. Specifically, the cards I’m looking to cast for free include the likes of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger">Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Kozilek, the Great Distortion, Emrakul, the Promised End or World Breaker.
Since I’m still casting these cards via the Marvel’s ability, cards such as Kozilek’s Return and Sanctum of Ugin can still trigger, allowing me to wipe the board and grab the next Titan from my deck. The Eldrazi-Return axis brought many a success in the previous Standard format, and now with the addition of a turn four Emrakul, the combination seems ever more explosive, even if Marvel does require some element of luck.
That being said, Aetherworks Marvel is something I cannot wait to build around in the new Standard, and make of the most of the powerful Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad block cards from my collection!
4. Joseph Dunlap: Eldrazi Displacer is Even Better in Kaladesh Standard
We’ve already seen Eldrazi Displacer make appearances in Standard every so often since its printing, primarily in Bant Company but also in fringe decks like Big White, and white-black Eldrazi. In Shadows over Innistrad Standard, when GW Tokens ruled the format, Displacer gave Bant an edge by blinking tokens and keeping Gideon out of combat. When Spell Queller shot Bant Company to the forefront of the format, Displacer broke the mirror wide open. Prior to Eldritch Moon, Displacer was even seeing play in Bant Humans by blinking Thalia’s Lieutenant for endless ‘anthems’, turn after turn.
It has been well established that Displacer does some real work in Standard, but with the way in which SOI block Standard progressed, it didn’t dominate the top tables yet everyone saw its potential in the right metagames. The one thing I am but certain about is that all of this is going to change when Kaladesh is released. The rotation of the likes of Collected Company, Dromoka’s Command and the Origins mainlands, the most effective methods of cheating and activating Displacer has been impacted to a great extent.
Fortunately for Displacer, Kaladesh has a prominence of ETB triggers incoming or abilities that trigger when a creature enters the battlefield, with Panharmonicon shining amongst them. Before Kaladesh, things were already hairy with Displacer blinking Reflector Mage and Spell Queller for endless tempo advantages, Archangel Avacyn for endless indestructibility, and Linvala, the Preserver for a steady stream of life gain and Angel tokens.
Kaladesh adds a whole plethora of blink-worthy targets, such as: Fairgrounds Warden, Wispweaver Angel, Glint-Nest Crane, Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Kujar Seedsculptor, the Gearhulk Cycle, Cloudblazer, Energy enablers, and any of the many Fabricate token generators! Kaladesh may just be the playground Displacer has been waiting for!
Notice all the tokens and vehicles in Kaladesh? Displacer can play crowd control in a field of Thopters, Elementals, and ‘hot rods’. In the absence of being able to cheat out creatures with Collected Company, I expect Displacer to pull its weight in the right decks and generate steady, incremental advantage throughout Kaladesh Standard…
5. George Mostyn: The Endless Possibilities of Paradoxical Outcome
One spoiler which had Vintage players and combo-seekers’ noses twitching at its potential is Paradoxical Outcome. Now to the novice eye, Paradoxical Outcome is a bit of a ‘reader’, but the ability is extremely strong with zero-mana artifacts (or ‘Cheerios’) which can then be recast, and the possibilities for this card stretch far beyond Standard.
Hurkyl’s Recall has been a lynchpin in Vintage Storm lists for many years now, being able to recoup and re-cast any Moxen on the board in order to maximise the Storm count for the turn. In combination with a more artifact-centric list including Mox Opal and company, Outcome could be a powerful card draw spell as well as a Storm enabler in the right build, but could the four mana price tag be too step I wonder?
However, the format in which I am excited to implement the powerful Instant is Modern: I have been playing around with a couple of variations of ‘Eggs’, throwing back to the days of long Grand Prix days and Pro Tour Return to Ravnica! Although Faith’s Reward and Reshape are the focal point of the deck, from the testing I have conducted thus far in lists including the infamous Krark-Clan Ironworks, Outcome can be used in combination with Ironworks, Faith’s Reward and various cheap artifacts to generate huge amounts of mana whilst drawing a huge quantity of cards, to be finished off by casting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Grapeshot or creating an infinite loop with Conjurer’s Bauble and Pyrite Spellbomb. Outcome could even slot into the fringe ‘Cheerios’ strategy quite perfectly as an additional card draw spell alongside Puresteel Paladin to dig for the deck’s win conditions.
Last but not least, Standard… What could I say about the hope for Standard with a card like Paradoxical Outcome…. COMBO! Yes that’s right a true combo deck could be on the cusp of a return for Standard! Many a writer has been brewing Outcome alongside the intriguing Aetherflux Reservoir as a brutal win-condition, maximising the zero-mana artifacts available to us in the format or using Herald of Kozilek and Foundry Inspector to reduce the cost of artifacts to the point of being free, perfect in combination with Paradoxical Outcome in order to fill up the Reservoir. Yes, any and all brews are going to be a glass cannon but, with so many avenues to discover much like the coveted Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck of Standards past, the ideal build may have not yet been discovered… But for now, the idea of having your Aetherflux Reservoir’s ‘Pay 50 Life’ ability countered by Summary Dismissal is a nightmare I’m sure many may encounter…
It may not be obvious in its power level, but I believe Paradoxical Outcome to be one of the most understated cards to be released in Kaladesh for multiple formats, and I am excited to see just how much the Magic Community can break this unique spell.
Community Question – What Kaladesh combos are you looking forward to trying out in your favourite formats? Are you planning on brewing up a fresh new archetype, or will a Kaladesh card fit right in with a deck you’re already playing? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks for reading,
Manaleak.com Writing Staff