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The 3 Historic Combo Decks That Are Bullying the Ranked Ladder

Jumpstart: Historic Horizons has tossed the Historic format into disarray. The massive influx of playable cards has left the meta wide open and players are still trying to figure out what the top decks are after the release. Many players are sticking with the tried and true decks like Jeskai Control or Burn. Some are trying out mid-range decks that are a bit slow but focus more on the best-of-three matches of the ranked ladder.

[Related: Top 5 Cards from Jumpstart: Historic Horizons]

Then of course there are the combo players. Combo players were gifted some incredibly powerful cards with Historic Horizons. In fact, Historic ranked is jam-packed with these instant-win deck lists. Both best-of-one and best-of-three queues are seeing massive upticks in combo decks. The best way to beat these popular decks is to be sufficiently acquainted with them in order to know just how to beat them. Here are the three most popular Historic combo decks on the ranked ladder right now.

Throes of Chaos/Tibalt’s Trickery

Throes of Confusion is the current “big bad” of the format. Tibalt’s Trickery is a card that came into Historic with the release of Kaldheim, and caused a pretty big uproar from the Magic player base. In Historic, players could simply cast a zero-cost spell and counter it with Tibalt’s Trickery. That zero-mana spell would often times transform into a free Ugin or flipped Tibalt. The combination of cards was an annoying threat to deal with and players we worried it would take over Historic.

Luckily for players, that never happened. Tibalt’s Trickery was not nearly consistent enough to ascend into the top of the meta. Thoughtseize, counter spells and other forms of disruption were enough to stop the deck in its tracks. It also tend to lose to itself. Hitting a zero-cost spell off of Tibalt’s Trickery normally meant the game was over for the combo player.

However Throes of Confusion changes the game completely. The Cascade card from Modern Horizons II gave new life into the previously presumed dead deck. Throes of Confusion guarantees that the player will find a Tibalt’s Trickery thanks to the cascade trigger. By countering the actual copy of Throes of Confusion, the deck can power out whatever game-ending threat as early as turn three.

What is the Deck Trying to Do?

In short, the deck wants to win on turn 3 by casting an expensive spell for free. The plan is to cast Throws of Chaos, it then triggers cascade, it then finds Tibalt’s Trickery which then counters Throes of Chaos. Tibalt’s Trickery will resolve, and now that player will find another spell not named “Throes of Chaos” to cast for free.

Typically that free spell is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. 9 times out of 10, the opponent will just concede as those cards are almost impossible to beat that early in the game. They will certainly concede after the second cast of Throes, which then hits another big pay-off card.

How to Play Against It

Throes/Trickery is an obnoxious deck to battle because it was several ways to battle back after disruption. Common sideboard options actually don’t hit this deck as hard as some players would like. Grafdigger’s Cage doesn’t stop the cascade cast (thanks to cascade exiling the cards, rather than casting from the library). Because of the keyword “Retrace”, countering or discarding Throes of Chaos isn’t enough as it can be cast from the graveyard each following turn. It is extremely important to have follow up plays after countering a Throes or a Trickery in order to keep pressure on the combo player.

Right now one of the best cards against this deck is Test of Talents. It completely cripples the deck by exiling each copy of Throes or Tibalt’s Trickery. Equally, things like Aether Gust or Commit/Memory allow players to shuffle away Trickery and bide time for a turn.

Explosive aggro decks can also find success against the combo. Sometimes the aggro deck can threaten to have a turn four kill themselves, leaving the Throes player hoping for a board wipe card. Decks like RG Shamans, Elves and White Weenie can have strong draws that can kill Throes before they win.

Lastly cards like Kitesail Freebooter or Archon of Emeria are great options as well. Disruptive creatures are actually more difficult for the deck to handle, as it doesn’t play any spot removal aside from Ugin. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Elite Spellbinder are equally as proficient at slowly down the deck as well.

Scurry “Toakens”

Collected Company just loves to create infinite combos. In Modern, CoCo helped bring the “Infinite Life” and “Infinite Counters” decks to the forefront of the format years ago. The ability to find two combo pieces at instant speed is dangerously powerful, and often times it can end the game on the spot. However the card never really had that combo potential in Historic. The best Collected Company could do is find some big angels and gain a bunch of life really fast. Luckily Historic Horizons found a way to get Collected  Company back to it’s game-breaking roots.

Collected Company is now finding a new combo piece in Scurry Oak. Paired with Soul Warden and Heliod, Sun-Crowned, Scurry Oak can make infinite tokens and infinite life. As some high ranked players would say, that seems “pretty good”.

The tricky thing about playing against this deck is figuring out what it’s trying to do before it happens. Green/White is a very popular color combination in Historic. There are a ton of midrange-y GW decks floating around that aren’t looking to abuse the interaction between Scurry Oak and Heliod, giving the combo a added sense of protection.

What is the Deck Trying to Do?

The plan for Scurry Toakens is simple – make about a billion squirrels. Early turns want a Soul Warden or Prosperous Innkeeper to make sure the deck can gain life on each squirrel entering the battlefield. Then on  the following turns the deck aims to have Scurry Oak or Heliod to set up the combo. And on turn four, if the deck hasn’t already compiled the combo by naturally drawing it, Collected Company is there to find the last bit.

If for some reason the opponent hasn’t conceded staring down an insane amount of squirrels and one gigantic treefolk, the combo player will turn them all sideways and attack for more than twenty damage.

How to Play Against It

Spot removal is king against this combo. Removing either Scurry Oak or Soul Warden will prevent the deck from going crazy. There are several triggers during the combo as well that allows players to respond with a timely Vanishing Verse or Fatal Push to stop the infinite life gain or infinite token generation.

Board wipes against the deck are very ‘medium’ as it only stops with one half of the win condition of the combo. Despite killing all of the squirrels, the opponent will have some absurd amount of life that any normal deck will not be able to power through. Only decks with unconventional win conditions can beat the deck after it gains one million life.

Maybe the easiest way to stop the deck is Solemnity. Preventing the combo at its source is a great way to hinder the opponents game plan. Solemnity is also difficult to remove for the combo deck. It needs to find exactly Skyclave Apparition before attempting to go for infinite counters. Or attacking the lifegain nature of the deck can work as well. Cards like Rampaging Ferocidon stop the deck in its tracks.

Perpetual Vesperlark

When Wizards announced “Online Only” cards, players were very much skeptical about how it would affect Magic. The new mechanics seemed tame during the card reveals, but overall players remained hesitant about the move towards digital-only effects. Unfortunately for Historic players, there was one card that found a way to break the new keyword “perpetual”. Like its big brother, Vesperlark has found a way to go infinite.

The combination of Davriel’s Withering and Vesperlark has given Aristocrat style decks an “instant win” button. Previously these decks were just a tad too slow to beat out other creature-based decks. Now with this neat little combo sacrifice/life gain decks have the looming threat of eventually winning on the spot.

Just like Scurry Toakens, this combo loves to see Collected Company on turn four. CoCo hitting both Vesperlark and a card like Blood Artist or Cruel Celebrant can usually signal an imminent win.

What is the Deck Trying to Do?

Of all three of the combo decks listed here, this is the one with the most set up. The goal for the Vesperlark combo is to have a drain effect on the board, for example Blood Artist, and a Vesperlark. Then the deck needs to cast Davriel’s Withering on Vesperlark to perpetually give it -1/-2. This will kill the Vesperlark, trigger it’s “leaves the battlefield” ability where it looks for a creature with 1 or less power. Well thanks to Davriel’s Withering, the Vesperlark that just died also now has perpetually 1 power. Vesperlark will continually die and resurrect like Tom Cruise trying to stop an alien invasion.

Each loop of Vesperlark dying will trigger Blood Artist’s ability. This interaction will kill the opponent after twenty loops or less, depending on the amount of similar effects are on the board at any given time.

How to Play Against It

Rest in Peace and Grafdigger’s Cage are the most common way to stop these graveyard shenanigans. Rest in Peace has the added bonus of stopping all of the death triggers from the various drain creatures. Because RIP is a replacement effect, the creatures don’t actually “die”. They are instead exiled, and do not trigger any life gain or life loss.

The other option is to remove Davriel’s Withering with the good old Test of Talents. The deck can only run four of them, so removing that threat by exiling all of them is a good start. However the rest of the deck can still win the game without the combo, demanding its opponent to find more answers. Here is where Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek put in a whole bunch of work in the matchup. The Vesperlark deck doesn’t have much in terms of card draw, and picking away at its hand early in the game will slow it down just enough.


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1 comment

3 Decks to Try Out on Midnight Hunt Release Day September 15, 2021 at 8:17 am

[…] [Related: The 3 Historic Combo Decks that are Bullying the Ranked Ladder] […]


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