Bomberfox, the Dawnwaker in Legacy


Over the last couple of weeks, companions have dramatically changed every Magic format. They even had a big impact on the historically slow-moving Legacy format. First came Gyruda, and now Zirda, the Dawnwaker reshaped Bomberman, creating a new infinite-mana combo in tandem with Grim Monolith.

History Lesson

auriok salvagers

Traditionally, Bomberman is an artifact-centered combo deck utilizing Auriok Salvagers and Lion's Eye Diamond to generate infinite mana. Originally, one would use that mana on some kind of "bomb" like Pyrite Spellbomb to finish the opponent. This strategy had not been successful for a long time.

Then, last year, everything changed. Karn, the Great Creator and Mystic Forge made artifact combo great again. There was no more need for the clunky creatures in the new lists, and the bombs were long replaced by Walking Ballista already. Now Ikoria brought to light a strictly better version of the card, and the deck …

A New Kid on the Block

zirda, the dawnwaker

Auriok Salvagers was still good enough last year, but this is 2020. Zirda, the Dawnwaker does a similar thing, or rather a completely different thing with a similar effect, and it does so in an incredibly better way. Let's compare the two of them.

Sure, Zirda dies to Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay while not being able to block 3/3 Elks, Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and other popular creatures. But those disadvantages are mitigated by the fact that you want to expose your combo piece only when necessary or you're about to combo off anyway. They're also overshadowed by a bunch of major upsides.

auriok salvagers zirda, the dawnwaker

Zirda is a mana cheaper which makes it way easier to execute the combo. More importantly, it's a companion! You don't need to draw it or put it into your deck! You have access to one of your combo pieces all the time from the sideboard and your opponents can't Thoughtseize it or hit it with Hymn to Tourach. Not least, you won't discard it yourself. You can pay for it with Lion's Eye Diamond, which previously used to be of somewhat limited utility unless one already had Salvagers or Mystic Forge.

This is what makes companions with combo potential so problematic and dangerous, the same reason that makes the Turbo Gyruda deck so powerful: The traditional weakness of combo — having to draw multiple pieces before being able to do something meaningful and being easily set back by meaningful interaction and disruption — is completely offset by combo pieces that are available all the time in another game zone. True, Force of Will can still counter Zirda. But being able to build around this additional resource allows companion combo decks to be so much more flexible and redundant. It's a real game changer!

How Does the New Combo Work?

grim monolith basalt monolith

The old Bomberman deck generated infinite mana by sacrificing Lion's Eye Diamond for three mana and recurring it for two with the activated ability of Auriok Salvagers. The new Bomberfox doesn't demand that you discard your entire hand. Grim Monolith and Basalt Monolith are both artifacts that tap for three generic mana while being able to untap themselves for four or three mana at any time. Add Zirda's static ability — which makes said untap abilities two mana cheaper — and you'll be able to generate as much mana as you wish. Cast a big Walking Ballista, possibly obtained from the sideboard by Karn, the Great Creator, and you're good to go … to the next game. You can even add infinite mana to your pool in response to a removal spell targeting Zirda, if you have excess mana available when going for a combo attempt.

Let's take a look at the latest successful decklist to appreciate the deck's elegancy and its backup plans in full.

As Zirda alongside a Monolith is the main combo of the deck, you might ask yourself why there aren't three additional copies of the Fox in the main deck. The reason is very simple: the deck does function very well without it. Even if your lonesome companion gets countered or your first combo attempt met with disruption that leaves you without future options to win via Zirda, the deck is still capable of winning in two potent ways.

First, it is an optimized Mystic Forge combo deck as well. You can easily cast huge swaths of library in one turn when the Forge isn't stopped and win by flooding the board with all your permanents and naturally adding enough mana to your pool for casting a lethal Walking Ballista. Alternatively, Karn, the Great Creator is still very good at grabbing the infamous Mycosynth Lattice from your sideboard and completely locking stumbling opponents out of the game, while Karn, Scion of Urza can quickly create a token army both large in number and size to overrun unprepared opponents. You simply don't care if you lose Zirda. It's just the icing on the cake and a free bonus on an already consistent, fast, and potent combo deck.

mystic forge karn, the great creator karn, scion of urza

Split the cards in the deck into categories and you get: twelve card-advantage generators, a plethora of fast mana, and Walking Ballista as payoff, combo piece, and possible interaction. There isn't much nonsense or cute stuff going on here. It's just a brutally efficient and slick combo shell further enhanced by the printing of Zirda.

The elegance of incorporating several potent combos, while being able to play a normal card advantage game and winning with random creatures, is what fascinates me about decks like this. There is even a more midrange-oriented version floating around: Eternal aficionado and brewer by heart Callum Smith finished in twelfth place at a recent Legacy Super Qualifier with this Zirda build utilizing Stoneforge Mystic. Here, the Mystic either grabs Diviner's Wand as an additional way to go off or simply good old Batterskull to fight the fair fight.

This version shows that the shell of the deck still leaves room for innovation and further exploration. That experiments and ideas like this are possible and even competitive proves how much potential slumbers within artifact decks that use Zirda.

It remains to be seen how much of a factor this revived oldie will be in the Legacy metagame going forward. Currently, Lurrus of the Dream-Den is pushing Delver strategies to new heights of domination. Decks that are both aggressive and disruptive with access to Force of Will and Wasteland look like the perfect candidates to prey on strategies such as Bomberfox. After all, one relies on Sol lands and threats that are weak only to counterspells and demand tapping out in the face of Daze. Also, Collector Ouphe is a nightmare for this deck — and the main reason for the many point removal spells in the sideboard — but became an evergreen staple of the format since it's release last summer.

On a more general note, Legacy is in turmoil at the moment and no one knows which crazy Ikoria brew will be on top of the metagame next week. I've been playing and following Legacy for ten years now and never has there been a time when new sets changed the format this drastically and often as we've seen since the early printings of 2019. Ikoria is the pinnacle of this trend and will change the face of Legacy probably forever.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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mattopul(18.05.2020 16:59)

DidN't Zirda just get banned from Legacy?

Bajuwarenzorn(19.05.2020 07:25)

Hi, mattopul!

You’re right, Zirda was banned in Legacy on the 18th of May, only five days after this article has been published.

I’m just sad that Astrolabe and Veil stayed as well as the format is now rescued from Zirda and Lurrus but faced with the previous problem.

What do you think about the state of Legacy and the B&R announcement from yesterday?