Combos are an often inescapable part of older formats, even though they have been largely stamped out in the Pioneer format. Inverter of Truth, Underworld Breach and many more cards ended up banned by Wizards of the Coast to help keep the format in line with their vision. However, despite the company’s best effort to keep combo decks down, they have risen again to put the format to the test.
So, let’s take a look at the latest sprouts and do our best to understand them before Wizards comes to tidy up the banned list once again.
The inheritor of Winota’s mantle after her ban, Greasefang, Okaiba Boss came swinging into the format as a possible turn-four-kill deck. Originally Esper in build, it has since shifted to an Abzan shell. This shift brought two great changes to the deck.
First, it allowed players to have a much better plan for beating hate cards. That’s important because when it comes to post board pivots, this deck doesn’t have one.
This deck leans on cards like Abrupt Decay and Assassins Trophy to remove the hate spells your opponents bring in before using cards like Can’t Stay Away to double the number of Greasefangs you have. As a result, your 75 is much more in sync than in past builds that tried to move away from its strengths to dodge hate.
Another big help with beating hate cards is Esika’s Chariot. Not only is it a fine vehicle for Greasefang to bring back on turn three, but it’s also a card you can just cast and play normally. That makes it so a single card like Leyline of the Void doesn’t solo you.
Second, Abzan colors allowed it to more easily set up and execute the combo. Things like Satyr Wayfinder, Grisly Salvage and Witherbloom Command make finding the vehicles much easier while also allowing you to dig for Greasefangs to return with Can’t Stay Away. It is just a much better fang deck that can go long and also turbo out wins than Esper.
Having played this deck a fair bit, it’s impressive just how much you’re able to battle through hate and put the opponent on guard at all times. That’s something we haven’t quite seen since Winota.
It feels like every time we talk about Pioneer, we bring up mono green in one way or another. Now, the recent innovation to add Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset has firmly planted this deck in the combo camp. This runs counter to my previous claims that mono green is a fair deck with a combo built in. And while that’s still partially true, leaning toward Teferi definitely changes the ratio.
For those who haven’t seen the combo, The Chain Veil allows you to activate your walkers an additional time. Now, with Teferi, we can untap The Chain Veil as an artifact, Nykthos as a land and potentially a mana elf as a creature. This makes executing your Chain Veil combos easier.
With five devotion and an elf, you’re able to gain infinite life with your Teferi if you already have the Chain Veil in play and you can activate Nykthos. That’s a whole new angle to this deck, giving you a far greater likelihood of comboing opponents out of the game.
The devotion deck remains one of the most popular and powerful decks in Pioneer. If you’re looking for a solid deck to pick up and play and you have an affinity for combos, this is probably the best deck for you. There are a bunch of ways to get to a win and still have a fair game plan that will force your opponents into unenviable positions.
Jeskai Ascendancy Combo
Of all the decks we have covered today, this is the most “combo” of them all. This deck is all about trying to get Jeskai Ascendancy into play and then cast Sylvan Awakening to turn all your lands into creatures. From there, you can cast some spells which will untap all your lands since they are now creatures and you can start going off until your lands can attack for lethal.
The main hurdle for this deck is buying time to assemble the pieces necessary to execute the combo. However, when the deck does its thing, it often very easily wins.
One trick to remember when playing this deck is to think about how quickly your opponent can actually beat you and how they are going to be able to win the game. That way, you can set up when to go for lethal and start spending your spells.
Very often against non-aggressive decks, it will be easy to set up for a bit before going for the combo, which means you will have more bodies and more spells to start chaining off with your ascendancy.
And while ascendancy is probably the weakest of the three decks we have covered today, sometimes it’s not about winning — it’s about having some fun and doing some exciting things.
One thing we don’t talk about enough in magic is exploring why you’re playing the game. So, if you’re looking to do some fun combo stuff, this is the deck for you!
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.