Marriage Return

Posted in Feature on August 14, 2008

By Chris Millar

It's mid-August, the last third of summer here in Canada, and that can mean only two things: I have suddenly become a year older than usual, and the Magic players I know are banding with others (i.e. getting married). Last weekend, my friend tied the knot (Congrats, Todd and Trista!). A planned pre-wedding triple-Invasion draft was thwarted by a power outage, so the only magic that happened that night (besides the obvious) took place on the dance floor after dinner. There I was joined by the bridesmaids, my buddy Will, and Mr. "Jolly" Rogers, whose goals in life include getting namedropped in an article on this site and eventually settling down with a nice girl who loves playing Vintage (Well, at least one of those things is going to happen).

Normally, no amount of arm-twisting can get me out on to a dance floor, but after a brief, yet hilarious, pep talk from Will (which I won't repeat here), I took off my jacket, loosened my tie, rolled up my sleeves, and proceeded to shake what is, nominally, my groove thang. If you've ever seen So You Think You Can Dance, you will have a good idea of what I didn't look like. Rugs were cut, moves were busted, and, as far as I can tell, my reputation survived an embarrassing display that can be fairly accurately described as C-3PO crossed with a boxing kangaroo. Thankfully, my friend Alexander K. ensured that there would be no reliable witnesses.

While we're on the subject of well-matched people, I thought I would revisit an earlier wedding-themed column and talk about some other creatures that were meant to be together.

Where's the BFF?

The last time I devoted an article to all-creature combos, I limited myself to creatures that could be found in Tenth Edition, the most recent set at the time. Well, Eventide claims that title nowadays, so I'll be using creatures from that set, but to mix things up, I'll pick a second creature from whatever set I want. I'm whimsical like that.

Cloud of Faeries + Dream Thief

Cloud of Faeries
Dream Thief

Here's a real humdinger. Picture this: It's turn three and you've just played your third Island. You then play Cloud of Faeries and untap two of those lands. Follow that up with Dream Thief and all of a sudden *bam* you've put your opponent on a seven-turn clock and you're up a card to boot! Now all you have to do is add some Sprite Nobles to the mix and you've got the basis for that rarest of things: the Faerie tribal deck.

Marshdrinker Giant + Streambed Aquitects

Marshdrinker Giant
Streambed Aquitects

Another powerhouse. I don't know about you, but I find it rather annoying when I play a Marshdrinker Giant and nothing happens. With Streambed Aquitects' ability to make Islands out of everyday household materials (like Forests), you'll never have this problem again! There are many, many other creatures that perform this useful function, including Tideshaper Mystic, Reef Shaman, Dream Thrush, Moonbow Illusionist, Sea Snidd, Dreamwinder, Floodchaser, and Kukemssa Serpent. If you've got more of a hate-on for Swamps (and only Swamps), you can use Kavu Recluse, Orcish Farmer, or Zombie Trailblazer. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Mystic Compass offer nice, repeatable, non-creature ways to ensure that Marshdrinker Giant always hits. If you'd like to be able to drink the marshes turn after turn, go ahead and add something like Vedalken Mastermind, Stampeding Wildebeests, or Cache Raiders.

Cache Raiders + Avalanche Riders

Cache Raiders
Avalanche Riders

Or you could do it the easy way.

Indigo Faerie + Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

Indigo Faerie
Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

Since we're talking about repeatable land destruction, here's a "fun" little combo that allows you to turn and a card into a makeshift Vindicate. Of course, you could have done this one set earlier with Jaya and Painter's Servant (or in a more limited way with Scuttlemutt), but that combo has actually been making (admittedly small) waves in Vintage, alongside Red Elemental Blast and Grindstone.

Hatchet Bully + Grim Poppet

Hatchet Bully
Grim Poppet

These two are the Mickey and Mallory of Shadowmoor block creatures. Hatchet Bully provides repeatable Shocks as long as you can find somewhere to put a -1/-1 counter each time. Grim Poppet supplies you with just such a place. Leech Bonder, Quillspike, Deity of Scars, Chainbreaker, Morselhoarder, and Heartmender either allow you to use the -1/-1 counters profitably or simply remove them at little cost. In perhaps the most unlikely alliance, Hatchet Bully and Woeleecher combine to make mini Lightning Helixes for a mere !

Woodlurker Mimic + Shambling Shell

Woodlurker Mimic
Shambling Shell

Eventide's cycle of Mimics are all very long as you can play a steady stream of gold or hybrid cards of the relevant colours. That isn't easy to do without a little assistance, which is just what Shambling Shell, and its dredge ability, provide. Once you've drawn both cards, you will be able to turn on your Mimic each turn by sacrificing the Shambling Shell and dredging it back. This has the added benefit of making your Mimic larger each time (Thanks, layer 6c!). Grave-Shell Scarab provides some redundancy, and both Golgari creatures work well with Savra, Queen of the Golgari (natch) to clear a path for your Mimic. Shambling Shell gives you an easy way to clear the counters off of Noxious Hatchling as well.

Wake Thrasher + Aphetto Alchemist

Wake Thrasher
Aphetto Alchemist

This one comes from two-time House of Cards guest columnist Noel deCordova. Sure, it's fun to pump Wake Thrasher to a double-digit power by untapping the lands you tapped last turn and by using the crazy untapping tricks enabled by Merrow Reejerey. But those only allow you to attack with, like, a 10/10 on turn four. Why not "go infinite" with the use of one other card? Seeker of Skybreak can be subbed in for, or used in conjunction with, Aphetto Alchemist, and reader Alex R. noted that you can also make Wake Thrasher arbitrarily large with Puresight Merrow and Paradise Mantle (among other two- and three-card combos).

Spitemare + Volcano Hellion

Volcano Hellion

Perhaps the only "couple" where one partner must utterly destroy the other. I was going to say that it is just like Stuffy Doll and Volcano Hellion but playable in Standard, until I realized that Stuffy Doll is actually still in Standard (P.S. Standard is huge!). As with Stuffy (or Mogg Maniac), as long as you have more life than your opponent you can win on the spot by targeting your Spitemare with Volcano Hellion's comes-into-play ability. The good thing about this combo is that it features many more tentacles.

Impelled Giant + Okk

Impelled Giant

If there's one thing red creatures love more than barreling headlong into the red zone, it's not being able to do so because of some crippling psychological issue. How else can you explain this sad-sack bunch of excuse-makers? Okk, Orgg, Veteran Brawlers, Mijae Djinn, Goblin Goon, Lesser Gargadon....

Suggested by Skander R., this combo allows you to take advantage of the above creatures' high power-to-cost ratio, even if you can't attack with the creatures themselves. Veteran Brawlers might be intimidated by an untapped Island, a situation that apparently hasn't come up in their many years of brawling, but at least you can tap them to pump your Impelled Giant. For the next deck, I'm going to go a step further and use red creatures that have even more difficulty attacking. That's right, I'm going to use Walls. Some, like Wall of Razors and Blistering Barrier, have similarly high power-to-cost ratios, and a card like Aetherflame Wall can give Impelled Giant a sort of Firebreathing-by-proxy.

Other interesting creatures to pair with Impelled Giant include cards like Hateflayer and Duergar Mine-Captain (but especially Hateflayer), and Spitebellows, which, when evoked, can take out a 6-toughness creature and sticks around long enough to give Impelled Giant an additional +6/+0. I cribbed some Wall-deck tech from R&D's Kenneth Nagle and included two copies of Kyren Negotiations in the deck. They give your Walls something to do when they aren't busy blocking and it provides another tap-outlet for your creatures. Grab the Reins and Soulblast provide you with the means to avoid the combat step entirely, while Illuminated Folio keeps your non-threats flowing.

You could easily splash white in this deck for things like Rolling Stones, Wakestone Gargoyle, and Fling-meister Brion Stoutarm.

Impel Inside

Download Arena Decklist

Primalcrux + Nacatl War-Pride

Nacatl War-Pride

This one is only likely if you use Defense of the Heart, Tooth and Nail, or some kind of mass reanimation spell (say, Pyrrhic Revival), if only because the cards cost so much. But, boy, will it make a huge Primalcrux! You see, Nacatl War-Pride makes tokens that are copies of itself. This includes the mana symbols in its mana cost. Every token that is produced will provide Primalcrux with a +3/+3 boost. The best part is that all of those tokens must be blocked by exactly one creature, meaning that, barring a Wall of Glare or similar creature, your opponent will have to let your Primalcrux through unblocked. Smashy-smashy!

Regal Force + Ambush Commander

Regal Force
Ambush Commander

I'm not alone in thinking that paying green mana to draw cards is just about the best thing in Magic. Well, why limit yourself to drawing cards equal to the number of green creatures you control, when you can do that and draw a card for each Forest you control? Once Ambush Commander is in play, all of your Forests become 1/1 green Elf creatures. Follow it up with lands six and seven and a Regal Force, and you'll draw at least eight cards. What to do with those cards I'll leave as an exercise for the reader. That's right, you've got homework.

Spirit of the Hearth + Scandalmonger

Spirit of the Hearth

Reminiscent of the old True Believer + Scandalmonger, this one is a little less fragile and likewise relies on the fact that, although you control Scandalmonger, your opponent controls its ability every time he or she activates it. This leaves you free and clear to empty your opponent's hand while he or she must simply sit there and take it.

Archon of Justice + Archon of Justice + Hell's Caretaker

Archon of Justice
Hell's Caretaker

Okay, these were all supposed to be dynamic duos, but I couldn't resist including some, uh, thermodynamic threesomes like the above. I mean, don't you just hate it when your opponent has permanents? I know I do. Given enough time, you can shrink your opponent's board to nothing by using Hell's Caretaker to swap an Archon of Justice in play for one in your graveyard. It doesn't sound very "just" to me, but there you go.

Antler Skulkin + Necrotic Sliver + Juniper Order Ranger

Antler Skulkin
Juniper Order Ranger

It was only a matter of time before we hit some persist shenanigans. Use Antler Skulkin to give Necrotic Sliver persist, then sacrifice the Sliver to destroy one of your opponent's permanents. Necrotic Sliver will return to play with a -1/-1 counter which will promptly be negated by a +1/+1 courtesy of Juniper Order Ranger. Basically, you end up with repeatable Vindicates at five mana a pop. Reader Gareth A. sent this one in a slightly altered form. He replaced Necrotic Sliver with Archon of Justice and a sacrifice outlet. Your Vindicates are cheaper that way, but you need another card.

Antler Skulkin + Radiant's Dragoons + Cenn's Tactician

Radiant's Dragoons
Cenn's Tactician

This is a great one for those who like cumbersome life-gaining combos that don't go infinite. I'm looking at you, Greg.

Antler Skulkin + Meadowboon + Nantuko Husk

Nantuko Husk

A little trickier to pull off, in that you have to stack two triggered abilities in a certain order, this one allows you to put +1/+1 on each creature you control for each two mana you spend. How? First, give Meadowboon persist, then sacrifice it the Husk. Two things happen. Meadowboon's leaves-play ability triggers, as does its persist ability. Put the leaves-play trigger on the bottom of the stack so the persist ability resolves first. Meadowboon will then return to play with a -1/-1 counter. Then its leaves-play ability will resolve, putting a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control. The -1/-1 counter will be canceled out. End result: temporary +2/+2 for some, +1/+1 counters for everybody else. Give Meadowboon persist once more, and you can run through this whole cycle again.

Necroskitter + Vhati il-Dal + Thornbite Staff

Vhati il-Dal

Hmm. These were all supposed to be dynamic duos (with a few bonus trios), but I really wanted to talk about some cool two-creature combos that involved an inanimate third party. Let's call it a "marital aid." This is one such combo.

One cool thing about wither is that it transforms any damage a creature deals into -1/-1 counters, not just combat damage. So, for example, a Necroskitter wielding a Thornbite Staff can first shrink, then steal, just about any creature your opponent controls. You can steal a one-toughness creature for each two mana you spend (ping it, it dies, Necroskitter untaps, you gain control of it). This can be fun if you also happen to control, say, Godhead of Awe. A solution that is slower, but easier on the mana, involves the oft-forgotten Vhati il-Dal. Use Vhati's ability to make an enemy creature into an X/1, blast it with your Staff-wielding Necroskitter, and watch as it then defects to your side. You can only do this once per turn, but if you add a second Thornbite Staff (one for Vhati), you can steal every creature on the board for the low, low price of two mana per creature!

Scarecrone + Composite Golem + Thornbite Staff

Thornbite Staff

What can I say? Thornbite Staff is pretty combo-licious. This one also came from Skander R. and allows you to create an arbitrarily large amount of mana. Equip the Staff to Scarecrone. Sacrifice Composite Golem for , untapping Scarecrone in the process. Return Composite Golem to play for using Scarecrone's second activated ability, leaving you one mana of the colour of your choice. Repeat this process any number of times, gaining a mana with each iteration. Win condition? Well, if you have another Scarecrow in play, in your hand, or in your graveyard, you can use your infinite mana and Scarecrone's first activated ability to draw your entire deck. With an equipped Thornbite Staff, each time you sacrifice a Scarecrow to draw a card will untap your Scarecrone. Return the Scarecrow to play, and run through the process again and again until you draw Bottle Gnomes (to gain infinite life), Reaper King (to destroy all of your opponent's permanents), or Triskelavus (to, um, win).

Noel shared a similar combo that used non-Standard cards (Scarecrone, Su-Chi, and Intruder Alarm) for "infinite life and death," but that combo would need a fourth card to kill the opponent (say, Disciple of the Vault), gain infinite life (Leonin Elder, among others), or generate infinite mana (Phyrexian Altar, Heartstone, etc.). Here's a sample decklist which can surely be improved:


Download Arena Decklist

Until next time, have fun playing matchmaker!

Chris Millar

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