I already teased on Twitter that I was very excited by a particular card from War of the Spark, for a particularly odd reason:

This tweet is quite cryptic, it almost seems like a troll. How could it be important that some of your cards are foil? And what does Fblthp, the LostFblthp, the Lost have to do with this?
Well, dear readers, this is the article where I will unveil my pet project that has been going on for far too long.

Origin story

This one is very similar to Wolverine’s

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle from Dominaria

Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle from Dominaria

It was during preparation for Pro Tour Dominaria, back when I was still playtesting with team Mintcard, that Christian Calcano exclaimed in our team forum that he had just faced some odd God-Pharaoh’s GiftGod-Pharaoh’s Gift deck with all-stars such as Teshar, Ancestor’s ApostleTeshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator and Rona, Disciple of GixRona, Disciple of Gix that would just go infinite in some convoluted combo with Walking BallistaWalking Ballista.
Both Lee Shi Tian and I love weird combo decks in Standard so we went into the archetype, trying to see if we could mimic what that deck did. In the end, the power level felt short and the deck is almost impossible to test on Magic Online, so we let it sit.
In Core Set 2019 Militia BuglerMilitia Bugler got printed, and breathed new life into our hopes and dreams of this deck. After all, it can find all the combo pieces! We liked the deck somewhat, Zen Takahashi was even close to just locking in the deck for his Nationals, but in the end we were not happy with our sideboard.

Rotation happened, and Gate to the AfterlifeGate to the Afterlife is no longer in Standard. But of course we still took a look at the deck for Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica. Lazav, the MultifariousLazav, the Multifarious was a huge overperformer in the deck, and we could replace Walking BallistaWalking Ballista with Chamber SentryChamber Sentry, so there was hope. But alas, a bad manabase and just missing that one last thing led me to discard the deck yet again.

After the first week of War of the Spark spoilers, my fire got reignited, and I am committed to at least try to make this deck work:

Historic Combo by Simon Nielsen

Creatures (33)
Stitcher’s SupplierStitcher’s Supplier
Chamber SentryChamber Sentry
Fblthp, the LostFblthp, the Lost
Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator
Lazav, the MultifariousLazav, the Multifarious
Rona, Disciple of GixRona, Disciple of Gix
Militia BuglerMilitia Bugler
PlaguecrafterPlaguecrafter
Teshar, Ancestor’s ApostleTeshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

Spells (6)
Mox AmberMox Amber
Traveler’s AmuletTraveler’s Amulet
Lands (21)
Watery GraveWatery Grave
Godless ShrineGodless Shrine
Hallowed FountainHallowed Fountain
Drowned CatacombDrowned Catacomb
Isolated ChapelIsolated Chapel
Glacial FortressGlacial Fortress
IslandIsland
PlainsPlains
SwampSwamp

Sideboard (15)
PlaguecrafterPlaguecrafter
Deputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention
Kitesail FreebooterKitesail Freebooter
Hostage TakerHostage Taker
Teferi, Time RavelerTeferi, Time Raveler
Massacre GirlMassacre Girl
Bolas's CitadelBolas's Citadel

The combo

What do you mean this goes infinite?

Chamber Sentry from Guilds of Ravnica

Chamber Sentry from Guilds of Ravnica

Okay, let me preface this by saying that the combo sounds incredibly convoluted like it’s some magical Christmas land. If I just told you that it’s a 6-7 card combo, you’d just roll your eyes at me, immediately close the article and possibly sue Mage for wasting your time. But if someone were to explain the KCI combo to you by naming all the individual pieces of their infinite combo, you’d also think that was a crazy, stupid deck.

The essence here is that as long as your graveyard is stocked enough, you only need a Teshar, Ancestor’s ApostleTeshar, Ancestor’s Apostle in play and activate the chain with a historic spell – of which you have 8 that cost 0 mana, so you don’t even necessarily need to untap with Teshar.

The way it works is that you play Teshar, Ancestor’s ApostleTeshar, Ancestor’s Apostle and play a Chamber SentryChamber Sentry for 0. That one is great because it costs no mana and dies as soon as it hits play. With Teshar’s trigger you bring back Rona, Disciple of GixRona, Disciple of Gix which then grabs a second Chamber SentryChamber Sentry out of your graveyard. Your initial Chamber SentryChamber Sentry will resolve and go to the graveyard. Then you cast the Sentry that was exiled by Rona, trigger Teshar again and bring back yet another Rona, which recurs the original Chamber SentryChamber Sentry. You sacrifice the other Rona to the triggered ability and now you have created a loop, where Chamber SentryChamber Sentry brings back Rona, Disciple of GixRona, Disciple of Gix which brings back Chamber SentryChamber Sentry. Though you do need two of each to make it work.
At this point we have demonstrated a loop but we aren’t going anywhere. The simplest win condition is to have Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator out and just mill their entire library. I will get back to more elaborate win conditions in a moment.
You don’t always need two Chamber Sentries because we also have Mox AmberMox Amber as a free historic spell. It can go to the graveyard for free as well because it’s legendary, but because of the timing restriction you either need one Chamber SentryChamber Sentry plus two Mox AmberMox Amber or 3 Mox AmberMox Amber.
However, if you go off with Mox AmberMox Amber you’ll also gain infinite mana in the process, which is pretty key to stitch together a win condition even when you don’t have Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator yet.

The win condition

Oh you thought I was done with the explanations?

Diligent Excavator from Dominaria

Diligent Excavator from Dominaria

In true Matt Nass-style, I only want to play win conditions that actually fit into my game plan. Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator is perfect for this, because when you run it out on turn 2 you can just start milling yourself for every historic spell you cast. Of which you have a lot.
This also means that if you have Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator in play when you cast Teshar, Ancestor’s ApostleTeshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, you can actually start to go off even though you don’t have all the pieces yet, just hoping to mill the last ones as you go.

But in a game where you don’t have access to Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator, you can still go off. If you instead have the infinite mana combo with Mox AmberMox Amber you can, once you have thousands of mana in your pool, replace the Mox Ambers with Lazav, the MultifariousLazav, the Multifarious. Since it’s legendary, Rona, Disciple of GixRona, Disciple of Gix can pick it up just as well.

Once you played Lazav and surveilled, you can easily get it into your graveyard again by copying a Chamber SentryChamber Sentry which makes Lazav die immediately so that he is ready for another go. This way you get to look through your own entire deck, and once you have surveilled into a Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator you can just copy that and mill out the opponent.
If you have two Fblthp, the LostFblthp, the Lost you can also do a similar loop where your Rona keeps picking up the poor homunculus and you’ll be able to just draw your entire deck (which is pretty good with infinite mana).

Nexus issues

Sometimes milling everything is not what you need

However, sometimes milling the opponent for all their cards is not good enough. Nexus of FateNexus of Fate will just shuffle back in, and you can die when you pass the turn. Unlike Walking BallistaWalking Ballista, Chamber SentryChamber Sentry needs a turn in play before it gets to deal damage, so that is useless for this purpose.

I knew I wanted to include a single card in my maindeck that would let me win against a Nexus deck. And in line with the best combo deck philosophy, it had to be one that fit my game plan. Since we have access to our entire deck when we go off, a single copy is fine. Even when we don’t have access to infinite mana yet, but have the rest of the combo in place, you can just mill yourself until you hit the necessary Mox AmberMox Amber.

Plaguecrafter from Guilds of Ravnica

Plaguecrafter from Guilds of Ravnica

I settled for a single maindeck PlaguecrafterPlaguecrafter. I already wanted it in my sideboard, and it lets you play an effective grinding game with Teshar, Ancestor’s ApostleTeshar, Ancestor’s Apostle. But once you have access to all the mana and your entire deck, you can use Lazav, the MultifariousLazav, the Multifarious to copy a Teshar in your graveyard. Because of the way Lazav is worded, this lets you have two Teshars in play, so every time you go through the loop you also get to bring back a PlaguecrafterPlaguecrafter to clear all creatures and planeswalkers they may have in play as well as all the cards in their hand. You can mill their library down until it only contains Nexus of FateNexus of Fate and without any other resources, even though they can technically take all the turns, they can’t advance the board state, so they will have to pass the turn and die to the lethal board you will have amassed in the process.
This strategy is also a good way to avoid dying to a Lightning StrikeLightning Strike on your opponent’s upkeep before they have to draw from an empty library.

Alternatives to PlaguecrafterPlaguecrafter that I considered are:

  • Cruel CelebrantCruel Celebrant. It cleanly drains your opponent’s life total as you go off and can be found with Militia BuglerMilitia Bugler. It can also pad your life total as you chump-block against an aggro deck, but overall it’s quite useless to draw.
  • Explosive ApparatusExplosive Apparatus. Quite a weak card, but it’s at least a cheap historic card to use with Teshar. I wouldn’t recommend it unless there’s something with two toughness you also really need to get rid of.
  • Bolas’s CitadelBolas’s Citadel. This is another sideboard card which makes it a very compelling choice. It can get picked up by Rona as part of the loop, and it should be trivial to get 9 other useless permanents in play, so since Citadel can sacrifice itself you just get to use it over and over again. Also, since our spells are quite cheap and you can see if you have a land or spell on top when you choose targets for Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator, you could just go off with the card. If it overperforms, I could see moving it to the maindeck.

The supporting cast

The rag-tag team that keeps it all together

Lazav, the Multifarious from Guilds of Ravnica

Lazav, the Multifarious from Guilds of Ravnica

I already mentioned how Diligent ExcavatorDiligent Excavator is good even outside the combo, because it lets you fill up your graveyard super quickly which is important as this is mainly how you find your combo. I’m not sure you need all 4 though, I could see 3 or maybe even 2 be the correct number. But since it makes the combo so much less demanding if you have it in play, I think it’s good to just start all four.
Stitcher’s SupplierStitcher’s Supplier does a similar job as a cheap way to fill up the graveyard. You can’t really make it die outside of chump-blocking, but you can also do that quite liberally. This is also something PlaguecrafterPlaguecrafter can help with, or you can ping it with Chamber SentryChamber Sentry. I’m also not sure that this is a 4-of, but again, a full graveyard makes things so much easier.
Lazav, the MultifariousLazav, the Multifarious is indeed multifarious in this deck as it’s both a way to help dig through your deck, an early enabler of Mox AmberMox Amber and can be part of your combo. But most importantly it copies Teshar, Ancestor’s ApostleTeshar, Ancestor’s Apostle so that you have access to the combo even if you only milled your legendary bird cleric but never drew it. Rona, Disciple of GixRona, Disciple of Gix can do something similar as it can recur Teshar from the graveyard itself.

Lazav could maybe be trimmed to 3 copies, it’s not actually super essential.

Militia BuglerMilitia Bugler is the glue that holds it all together. With a 96 % hitrate, it lets you access any part of the convoluted combo that you miss. It can also just let you play a grindy game and it’s perfect to bring back with a Teshar in such a scenario. Interactions like these are why you don’t need to go fully off when you try to combo. Since Bugler can also find Chamber SentryChamber Sentry, that’s an easy way to just complete the combo or keep the value-chain going.

Traveler’s AmuletTraveler’s Amulet is basically a way to turn some of our lands – which we don’t need very many of – into a cheap historic spell to trigger Teshar. The correct ratio of lands and amulets isn’t clear to me yet.

Flbthp’s role

The little homunculus that could

Fblthp, the Lost from War of the Spark

Fblthp, the Lost from War of the Spark

Let me just say that I love how Wizards actually went ahead and created a card for this fan favorite flavor-text legend from the original Totally LostTotally Lost. And I love even more, that the final design is basically just a blue, legendary Elvish VisionaryElvish Visionary. Which is exactly what this deck needs!
It sifts through our deck as an early play, enables Mox AmberMox Amber, triggers Teshar and can be brought back for value, gets found off of Militia BuglerMilitia Bugler and enables you to draw your deck once you have the pieces. That is just wonderful, and I didn’t even mention how you can enable it to draw two with Bolas’s CitadelBolas’s Citadel!

The sideboard

Playing for a grindy game

Massacre Girl from War of the Spark

Massacre Girl from War of the Spark

What I really love about creature-based combo decks is that you just get to win games by accumulating value and attacking with innocuous creatures. This deck is no different, and the sideboard is designed to play well with the Militia BuglerMilitia Bugler and Teshar, Ancestor’s ApostleTeshar, Ancestor’s Apostle side of the deck.
We can find removal spells with our buglers, use Rona, Disciple of GixRona, Disciple of Gix to get us a Massacre GirlMassacre Girl that we milled over or just make them sacrifice their creatures over and over again with PlaguecrafterPlaguecrafter.

Teferi, Time RavelerTeferi, Time Raveler can be a pain for control decks, and there’s a chance that Bolas’s CitadelBolas’s Citadel is so good that we often just win when we cast it.

Right now, nobody really plays any sort of graveyard-hate, but one issue that I have thought about for postboard games is how Tocatli Honor GuardTocatli Honor Guard completely shuts down this deck. Even all of our many removal options from the sideboard are triggered abilities! Possibly I need to run Cast DownCast Down or Kaya’s WrathKaya’s Wrath to deal with this issue, but I am very hesistant to add cards to the deck that can’t be found with Militia BuglerMilitia Bugler or brought back from the graveyard in some way.

Online play

Mission impossible

Rona, Disciple of Gix from Dominaria

Rona, Disciple of Gix from Dominaria

I don’t know yet how this deck would behave on Magic Arena. Maybe you just time out before you can go through the full loop. Maybe it just takes an impossible amount of time to click through everything.
I do know how it works on Magic Online. And aside from just the sheer time and amount of clicks it takes to go off, there’s an additional hurdle. When you go off, you have to choose which copy of Rona, Disciple of GixRona, Disciple of Gix to keep due to the legendary rule. And you always want to keep the one that just came into play, because that is the one the trigger belongs to. So if you sacrifice the wrong Rona, the card you pulled out of your graveyard will just stay in exile, unable to be cast.
And on Magic Online you have no way of knowing which Rona is which. Nice.

However! There is a fix. If you acquire two foil copies of Rona and two nonfoil ones, you can try to combo off with one of each, always alternating between sacrificing foil and nonfoil. As if you already thought playing infinite combo decks online was a drag, this one takes it one step further. Good luck finding those foil Ronas!

I think that the obscurity of playing this deck online has hampered its evolution a lot, as it is so hard to actually test it online. I’m certainly looking forward to sleeving up this deck for some live Standard tournament, whether it’s FNM, a GP side event or maybe something bigger if the deck proves to be a real contender in an unsuspecting metagame.
As a value-creature based combo deck with a slick curve, it reminds me of 4-color Rally, a deck that was certainly very successful in the months after Battle for Zendikar. I don’t think this deck is nearly as strong with a lower individual power level than Jace, Vryn’s ProdigyJace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Collected CompanyCollected Company. Historic Combo is also less resilient against interaction, so I don’t think this deck can ever succeed if it is popular. But maybe, just maybe, it can break a single tournament.

 

This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com

Simon Nielsen

Author Simon Nielsen

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