The Good, The Bad, and The Nasty

Posted in Limited Information on January 21, 2015

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

And just like that, another Prerelease has come and gone. I chose Sultai for my clan at the local shop, and wasn't disappointed. As someone with a certain fondness for value, I find that Sultai scratches that itch the best of the available choices.

Not that Sultai is the only wedge I enjoy playing in this block—I actually enjoy all of them. But when it comes time to pick a clan for the Prerelease, I'm all about Sultai. For me, the games were fun and largely interactive as well. I ended up going 3–1 with my sealed deck, losing to a really nice Mardu deck and beating a five-color deck, another Mardu deck, and a weird Temur build.

It's hard to take too much away from a Prerelease as far as strategy goes, though. For me, a Prerelease is a chance to cultivate my local Magic community, visit the local shop that I seemingly never have time for anymore, and get acquainted with some of the cards from the latest set. My main objective, though, is the first item on that list. I firmly believe that using the Prerelease to get more people to play Magic is the number one reason to attend them.

Since I write this column and do the Limited Resources podcast, I get asked quite a few questions while at the shop, and I'm always happy to answer them. At this Prerelease alone, I saw a player with a 43-card deck and with 16 lands in it and another player playing five colors—the fifth of which was black for a single copy of Typhoid Rats.

Helping players out can be a tricky proposition. It's not my personality type to barge in and start throwing around bold recommendations about a deck build, so I'll usually gently offer as kind of a feeler move. If the person seems relieved and wants some help, we start laying out the cards and diving in. If they seem like the kind of person who prefers to learn the tough lessons on their own, I'm happy to let them do that.

Nobody likes the overbearing "expert" at the local card shop. Even if done with good intentions, it can be off-putting for newer players. But making yourself available to assist less experienced players is, nevertheless, a great way to grow and nurture your local scene. Remember: these are the players who will keep coming back until they actually get good at the game. In the meantime, you can help them improve, and also probably beat them a round or two at FNM. It's all part of the gaming circle of life.

New Two-Card Combos

While I was at the shop, I was also asking around and paying attention to something I thought would be fun to write about for this column: Sweet two-card combos from our new Limited environment. I even asked on my Twitter account and got a lot of good responses there.

Here are some of the sicker ones you might not have seen yet.

The Good

These combos seem solid to me. Not a ton of downside, and with a high power ceiling. I'm going to look to try to assemble these in the coming months.

Our old friend Ruth shouldn't be jealous. She's a much better card overall, but this little mini-combo does a nice impression of Ruthless Ripper. Ruthless Ripper was a card that you were often worried about, but rarely played around until you saw one (or knew you passed on in the draft). With the manifest/Typhoid Rats version, they really can't play around it at all. Turning the card face up for such a cheap cost is really the strength of this duo, as trading your manifest creature for a Woolly Loxodon is a pretty darned good feeling.

I've had my eye on this little one-two punch since I first saw them in the Card Image Gallery. I was even lucky enough to have both of these cards in my sealed pool at the Prerelease. Unfortunately, I never drew them in the same game, but I know the power is there if you need a late-game mana sink. The funny part about this combo is that Temur Sabertooth combos with just about any decent value creature in the block. It's that good. It also passes the Vanilla Test and is incredibly difficult to kill.

The card is fantastic, and easily one of the best creatures in the set at uncommon. The list of cards that it combos with is long; I just chose my personal favorite option.

Take both of these cards early and often, and maybe you'll even find yourself with both of them on the battlefield.

One excellent common pairs nicely with one excellent uncommon. Who knew? Honestly though, Goblin Heelcutter did great work at the Prerelease and impressed everyone there. Elite Scaleguard is a "pushed" uncommon (a card that has been intentionally made powerful) and together they wreak havoc on an otherwise stable board state. Your opponent thinks the ground is sufficiently gummed up and decides to take a stab at you with his or her best creature.


Now the two big blockers left behind end up tapped or unable to block and your opponent is taking big chunks of damage in a hurry. These two cards force your opponent to race you, and that's just something some decks aren't well equipped to do.

This is a solid little tempo play that I can see happening pretty often in the new format. The sequence is pretty straightforward: You play your Emissary on turn two, your opponent plays his or her first threat of the game, and you follow it up with Merciless Executioner on turn three. Your opponent sacrifices his or her only creature and you sacrifice your Emissary, leaving you with a total of 5 power on the battlefield (a 2/2 manifest creature and the Executioner) facing down an empty board.

Seems good. The great question is if you attack with your Emissary first. Your opponent may be reluctant to block and give you the manifest creature for free…although it's probably too greedy, even for me.

I think we've found some value here, kids. Turn-two Parapet into turn-three Beastmaster. Now that's dreamy! It's almost impossible to be behind on toughness at this point (Dragon's Eye Savants?) and it puts tremendous pressure on your opponent to get rid of the Beastmaster immediately.

Admittedly, getting rid of the Beastmaster isn't too difficult, but your opponent needs the answer now. And even if your opponent has it, he or she probably had to trade "real" removal on your 2/1, potentially clearing the way for your more potent threats down the line.

I'm totally doing this sequence the first chance I get.

The Bad

These combos range from sketchy to kind of bad. But I thought they were worth mentioning as they can be powerful or just funny.

This combo is risky but, if done in sequence makes life incredibly difficult for the opponent very early in the game. If you go turn-two Brawler into turn-three Runemark, you'll have a 5/4 vigilance, first strike creature attacking on turn three. That, my friends, is absurd. The creatures and removal in this block just aren't equipped to handle that much heat that early in the game.

Bounce spells, tokens, and expensive removal can either stall long enough or simply take care of this threat outright, but that assumes you have those things and the correct answers waiting in your deck at all. The likely scenario is that you take a bunch of damage from this two-card combo before finally finding some answer down the line.

While I'm not in love with the risk level here, I do like the idea of attacking with a must-deal-with threat on turn three of the game.

The jury is still out on Humble Defector, but Collateral Damage is a less-than-ideal card. Sure, 3 damage at instant speed is powerful, but sacrificing a creature is too great a cost to make it worth playing. Now, if we could somehow draw cards to replace the ones we lost, we may be in business.

Enter Humble Defector. The idea here is that you tap the Defector, putting the ability on the stack. With the ability still on the stack (remember, once it resolves, you'll draw the cards but also ship away the Defector), cast Collateral Damage, sacrificing the Defector. You get to draw the cards, kill a creature, and your opponent never gets the Defector.

This feels a lot like something I try to avoid in Limited: playing two mediocre cards just to make one good one. We'll see.

Okay, this one is more funny than anything else—hence its spot in The Bad section, I suppose. The idea here is to block with your Jeskai Barricade, then flash in the other one to bounce the blocking one back to your hand.

Repeat as needed.

Or don't. Either way, it's funny.

This little uncommon combo is pretty hilarious. The idea is that you get your sweet Mistfire Adept on the battlefield, and then cast Windstorm for a nice amount of mana. The prowess trigger and "target creature gains flying" trigger both go on the stack. Target your opponent's best creature with the flying part, let the prowess trigger resolve, and then the Windstorm will resolve.

Since the enemy creature now has flying, it takes the damage from Windstorm and comes crashing down in a pile of feathers.

Well, that's the idea behind this far-fetched but hilarious combo, anyway.

The Nasty

Only do these combos if you really dislike your opponent.

I know these are both rares and this combo is silly, but that's why it's in The Nasty section of this column.

So. You play Frontier Siege on turn four and name Dragons. This is rarely (if ever) going to be correct in Limited, but here we are. On the next turn, with your perfect Jund mana base, you use the dash ability of Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury to make a mean, hasty dragon…that then fights target creature you don't control.

Look, I never said it was pretty. But holy smokes, spending five mana to outright kill an opposing creature and bash face for at least 5 damage? Sign me up.

Just not for the deck this would actually go in, please.

I said these were nasty!

Bear with me here. Alesha lets you get back small creatures from the graveyard for cheap when she attacks. Daghatar is not a small creature at all. So what gives?

As it turns out, Daghatar is a small creature when he's in the graveyard. Registering at the smallest possible 0/0 while in the yard, he's a fully eligible target for Alesha to bring back.

After you have brought him back, maybe throw his four +1/+1 counters around on Alesha and your other creatures, killing Daghatar and then allowing you to repeat the process.

Or something like that anyway. The fact is that if you get this going even once, your opponent is probably dead anyway.

I'm not sure what the best way to get value is from this combo, but I do love the idea of one little Typhoid Rats infesting the entire battlefield's worth of creatures until their ultimate demise.

The reason this works is because of the way Arcbond is worded and how deathtouch works. Basically, whenever your Typhoid Rats is about to take damage of any type, you fire off Arcbond, targeting your Rats. Once it takes the damage, the Rats themselves deal that much damage to each other creature and player. Since the source of the damage (the Rats) has deathtouch, it will kill any and all other creatures on the battlefield.

Including your own. That's right, you need to invest four mana and two cards into this thing just to get it to go off. I leave finding the rest of the value up to you, but I will warn you that it's difficult to pull off.


I feel like this is just nasty. It's so simple.

Tap your Humble Defector to put the ability on the stack. With the ability still on the stack, cast Refocus on your Defector, untapping it. Now, tap the defector again to put another instance of its special ability on the stack. You can let the two abilities resolve now, as you draw four cards and ship away your defector.

That's right, you just drew five cards! I have no clue if this combo is good, bad, or nasty, but I do know that five is a lot of cards. Maybe this one is just good?

This actually happened to a listener of the show at the Prerelease. He cast Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, worked it up to the big ultimate, gained 7 life, drew seven cards, and proceeded to put another copy of Ugin onto the battlefield.

In Limited.

Now that's nasty.

Until next week!


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