Combo Corner 3: Standard Once More
Looking at a combo deck for standard and the thought process for combo building
Posted on: 3/2/2013 6:53 PM By cturose
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Hello again MTGDeckbuilder community! Cturose here, with my weekly look at combo decks for tournament formats. This week, I take on a new standard combo that lots of people know of, but never seemed to take off on the tournament scene. But first, I'd like to discuss the combo deck building process I follow.
When I discover a new combo (I use discover loosely; I know others have also probably found the combo before me), the first thing I do is see how fast the combo can come together. If the combo is fast enough, I will try to build a deck that can win fast enough to avoid most hate. Generally, I find the cutoff to be around turn 3 or 4; later than that, you lose to fast aggro or to hate-heavy control. If I can't do that, I try to slot it into a deck type as a wincon. You'll see me do a lot of combo-control; this is because by using a combo to win, control decks can present unbeatable inevitability and survive long enough to get to the combo.
Today, I'd like to look at a 2 card combo in standard. It drew a lot of hype when it showed up, and then nobody actually played it and it dropped off the radar. This week's combo: Vizkopa Guildmage and Exquisite Blood. The deck:
As always, if it doesn't show up, here's the link: http://www.mtgdeckbuilder.net/Decks/ViewDeck/453825
Now, why does this combo appeal to me? For starters, the 2 card combo is virtually the holy grail of combos. It's immensely difficult to actually stop the combo because with 2 cards, your opponent only has 1 or 2 turns to stop you. And it's much easier to find 2 pieces than 3 or 4. I won't go into the math; I don't want to waste the time on the calculations (it's boring).
The next question is why I decided to put it into a grindy control deck with no targeted search and very little chance of winning until very late game with it. The answer is that the combo is not fast enough to go all in on. It is just too high costing, and there are not enough good tutors in standard to consistently get it off quickly. Besides that, aggro decks are just a couple turns faster than the combo can come out. A deck full of sweepers can really mess up an aggro deck's day, especially when 5 of them can deal with indestructibility. And a resolved Sphinx's Revelation for more than a trivial amount is still good, even through a skullcrack.
A lot of the point and mass removal spells are very meta dependent, so I won't go too much into the card choices. If you're facing a lot of RDW and it's ilk, cutting orzhov charms for more conditional but less self damaging removal. If hexproof auras are big, mor devour flesh/tribute to hunger may be appropriate.
The best card for the deck is probably sphix's revelation. Aside from just drawing cards and gaining life, it can also be played again with snapcaster mage and trigger tthe start of the infinite combo.
Some considerations for the deck:
More draw spells: If you want to get the combo faster and more consistently, this is one way to do it. I opted for more removal, counting on 1, 2, or more-for-ones for card advantage, but again, this is meta dependent. More draw spells will get to the combo faster, but likely make the deck slightly more vulnerable to tons of aggro.
More sphinx's revelation: I could definitely see adding the 4th, but in testing, I always seemed to get clogged up on them in my hand early on.
More land: I liked the balance of cards and lands in the build, but at the same time, I ended up land shorted a few times. If you can find extraneous spells to cut, this is probably a good idea; I just couldn't find something I wanted to cut.
Another thing to note is just how "all-in" this deck goes on the combo; it is virtually impossible to win without it game one. However, post-board, this deck has a reasonable matchup agaisnt effects like nevermore or pithing needle thanks to a great finisher in Obzedat, Ghost Council.
This blog was not in my usual style, I am aware. However, I wanted to make sure that I got across one of the key ideas for my personal combo deck building techniques: if the combo isn't fast and powerful enough, it is often better to not focus on the combo and instead build it into a different or already existing deck as a powerful win condition as opposed to the only focus. I love an all in combo deck as much as anyone, but sometimes it's better to be patient and play a deck outside the combo rather than strictly catering to it.
Anyway, as per usual, leave any suggestions, comments, or ideas in the suggestions, and until next week, this is cturose, signing off.