The 5 Most Successful Modern Combos That Are Still Legal

As far as Eternal formats go, Modern is certainly not as combo-heavy as formats like Vintage or Legacy, but it’s still got its fair share of wicked endgame interactions. This article discusses the top five combos that continue to have a considerable impact on the Modern meta.

Let’s face it, every Magic player loves combos. What they might love less is having to deal with combos from the other side of the table, especially when this involves watching the opponent play by themselves for 10 minutes, which is arguably Magic at its most tedious. But being the guy who goes infinite? That’s pretty sweet, no matter how many times you have to tap that Elf, and how much mental math is involved.

Now, Modern is a protected format where early-turn wins are frowned upon, and ideally prevented through targeted bans. It’s the reason why Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf are considered for unbans, while cards like Glimpse of Nature and Dark Depths remain safely locked away. Over the years, all kinds of combo pieces have been removed from the format’s equation, from Blazing Shoal to Second Sunrise, to Splinter Twin and many others. But some juicy enablers of crazy endgames remain, and according to mtgtop8, combo archetypes still amount to 20% of the meta.

For the purposes of this list, I’ve only considered combos involving a restricted number of specific cards combining to generate some effect as opposed to combo decks where the majority of the build is combo related, as is the case with Storm and Dredge, among others.

1. Scapeshift/Valakut

Scapeshift Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

I discussed this combo several times already (both while talking about lands, as well as land-fetching spells), and yeah, it’s currently still the #1 most successful combo in Modern, with a good 4% of the meta to its name. Something I find interesting about it is that most combos are about assembling a set of cards that generate the wanted effect. Once you have one card in hand or in play, you find (at least) another, and voilà, you’re going off. But in this case, one half of the combo, Scapeshift, is what finds the other, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, so it’s essentially a 1-card combo. Or better, it’s a combo between Scapeshift and any number of lands you dropped, provided that the number is large enough to trigger Valakut.

2. Devoted Druid/Vizier of Remedies

Devoted Druid Vizier of Remedies

The most assured way to generate infinite mana in Modern. Once upon a time, when Creatures Toolbox list were fueled by Birthing Pod rather than Collected Company, the queen of the -1/-1 counter denial was Melira, Sylvok Outcast. Come Amonkhet, the unassuming Vizier of Remedies stole her thunder, thanks with her interaction with old Devoted Druid, whose Johnny-friendly text had already inspired past combos (for instance, with Necrotic Ooze). Of course, Vizier is able to replace Melira in all her functions, most notably as an enabler for infinite life with Viscera Seer and Kitchen Finks, which becomes infinite damage with Murderous Redcap. That endgame went out of fashion, though, in favor of dumping all that mana into a Duskwatch Recruiter, in order to find and cast an infinitely large Walking Ballista. However, in other versions of the archetype, creating infinite copies of Restoration Angel via Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is still a popular and effective way to seal the deal.

3. As Foretold/Living End

As Foretold Living End

Back in the day, Living End lists would use cheap cascade spells like Violent Outburst and Demonic Dread to cast their signature sorcery without waiting for suspend. Nowadays, for the same CMC, they are trying to use As Foretold, which allows them to go monocolored, and is able to immediately resolve all manners of powerful, uncastable stuff like Ancestral Vision and Restore Balance (Hypergenesis still firmly resides on the Modern banned list). The rest of the deck requires cycling creatures in order to find your combo pieces and Street Wraith is always a favorite, while the newfound monoblue shell now also uses finishers like Striped Riverwinder and Nimble Obstructionist.

4. Goryo’s Vengeance/Griselbrand

Goryo's Vengeance Griselbrand

Like many cards from Kamigawa block that went unnoticed at the time, Goryo’s Vengeance becomes stronger whenever a new powerful legend is printed. It seems unlikely though that any future target will ever beat Griselbrand, since Avacyn's nemesis perfectly sets up even more shenanigans by instantly drawing 7 fresh cards. The Instant Reanimator archetype, which continues to be a solid presence in the lower tiers of the meta now has several efficient ways to drop its favorite Demon into the graveyard, chief among them being red’s Faithless Looting and Cathartic Reunion and black’s Collective Brutality. A secondary reanimator in the deck is Through the Breach, again hailing from Kamigawa, and particularly effective when paired with Worldspine Wurm and a secondary combo with Nourishing Shoal, which, with the Wurm, serves as the Bane of Burn.

5. Phyrexian Unlife/Ad Nauseam

Phyrexian Unlife Ad Nauseam

Ad Nauseam is clearly the kind of card that feels written as a Johnny challenge, and there are different solutions to its inherent conundrum (“How to abuse it in order to be able to draw the entire library without dying”?), Phyrexian Unlife being the most permanent, but Angel’s Grace the safest. Once you go off, you can either discard all your lands to a giant Lightning Storm, or engineer a Laboratory Maniac win. It’s a cool little combo deck that might feel like a one-trick pony but has its devoted fans, keeping it afloat in the meta rankings for the last few years.

Honorable mention

Burning Inquiry Hollow One

A very up-and-coming combo chain, although included in mtgtop8's aggro category is Burning Inquiry/Hollow One/Flamewake Phoenix/Vengevine; if the stars align, you might be able to deal 10 damage on turn 1, then potentially 14 more on turn 2. It’s worth noting how the first two cards in the chain have been first printed 8 years apart. Magic is a puzzle box that never ceases to try and put its disparate pieces together, still adding new ones while repurposing those that were initially dismissed as useless.

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


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Kumagoro(2018-02-27 17:50)

@tailsfromvienna: Yeah, you're right, for some reason I was thinking ferocious had the same wording as, say, Gravecrawler. I guess you can still add a discarded Phoenix to the turn-2 attack. We're not talking realistic expectations, anyway.

tailsfromvienna(2018-02-20 18:51)

how exactly works the "stars align"-start with 10 damage T1 and 14 damage T2?
Vengevine calls for 2 creature spells, so Phoenix does not count.
discarding 2 vengevine and playing 2 hollow one are 8 damage T1 and 16 damage T2