Top 3 Two-Card Kill Combos

"Johnny" once said that combos are the best part about Magic. Of course he did. They may not be the most universally beloved or important aspect of the game, but they are fascinating and an important element. Naturally, if we're looking for the most powerful examples, we have to look at Legacy and Vintage.

A while back, Tobi wrote a great piece on some of the most iconic two-card combos in Magic. In this article, however, we look at the most mana-efficient instant-win combos. We are not analyzing lovely, synergistic duos like Land Tax and Land's Edge or Recurring Nightmare and Survival of the Fittest. This time, we're going straight for the throat. It's all about making your opponent despise you. So if you are not interested in nonsense like making friends or being nice, you should give the following combos a try.

With "instant win" I mean that you effectively earn victory on the spot. Of course, when you empty the opponent's library, they technically get another turn, and then there are also ways not to give them another turn without technically killing them. An infinite-life combo, on the other hand, doesn't count here, as it still leaves room for your opponent to win the game, for example by dealing infinite damage or milling. Such combos do not qualify as "instant win."

Combo Winter

In 1999 Urza's Saga brought a combo-dominated era over the Magic world. Now Urza's Saga is back to haunt players once again. The card makes cheap artifact combos even more playable—easier to obtain the parts and with a backup plan to boot.

Time to observe the best of the best options for Legacy and Vintage. You need to know a couple so that when your best friend tells you to avoid playing that unfair combo, you can instantly switch to the next one.

We also take a look at the efficiency of the combo. How much mana does it cost and how much interaction does it allow? Is it hard to remove and does it do more than the actual combo? One last mention before we start: because it is super clunky and not played anymore, I did not consider the legendary Channel plus Fireball, although it is highly mana efficient and also game ending.

Grindstone and Painter's Servant

grindstone painter's servant
  • Total mana investment: six mana
  • Type: creature/artifact infinite-mill combo
  • Restriction: none
  • Further functionality: Painter's Servant's interaction with Pyroblast and Hydroblast

  • Fragility: Very fragile. One of the pieces has two card types, a clear disadvantage over other combos. Simply killing the Servant at instant speed stops the combo.

  • Decks: Legacy Goblin Welder and Monored Painter, Vintage Two Card Monte.

This is a colorless infinite-mill combo for the price of just six mana. Painter's Servant creates a situation where all cards in all zones share a color of the caster's choice. A single activation of Grindstone mills an opponent's entire deck, since all cards share one color. The only weakness is the huge target on the Servant's back. It dies to regular artifact removal and to nearly every creature removal spell such as Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push, Dismember, and Swords to Plowshares.

On the flip side, the Servant turns your Pyroblasts and Red Elemental Blasts into one-mana counterspells/Vindicates with its ability to paint everything blue. On the flip side of that, however, it allows opponents to pitch any card to pay for their Force of Will/Force of Negation.

Helm of Obedience and Leyline of the Void

helm of obedience leyline of the void
  • Total mana investment: five—in case of Leyline of the Void in your opening hand
  • Type: artifact/enchantment infinite-mill combo
  • Restriction: none
  • Further functionality: main-deck graveyard hate

  • Fragility: Once activated, killing the artifact is meaningless, and enchantment hate is not as common as artifact hate. A Leyline in your opening hand cannot be countered.

  • Decks: Legacy Enchantress and Monoblack Curses, Vintage Two Card Monte.

Helm of Obedience and Leyline of the Void make up the second infinite-mill combo on this list. It works similarly to Painter/Stone. Since Leyline of the Void prevents cards from actually going to the graveyard, the process continues until the whole library is exiled. Leyline also gives you a great matchup and possible free wins against graveyard-centric decks without having to sideboard. The combo also works with Rest in Peace.

Time Vault and Voltaic Key (Manifold Key)

time vault manifold key

Obscure wording. Power 10. Restricted and banned. Hit by errata over and over again. Primary Vintage two-card win condition. Time Vault has a dubious record in Magic …

The combo is great because it is cheap, compact, simple, and dirty. It just gives you an infinite number of turns and still sees play in a whole bunch of decks. Time Vault also has one of the coolest artworks in all of Magic.

Upon the latter's release, competitive players changed their Voltaic Key for Manifold Key. It gives you the bonus of getting through safely with a lethal Monastery Mentor or Blightsteel Colossus.

The Saga Continues …

Urza's Saga single-handedly made two-card combos based on a one-mana artifact better than ever before and breathed fresh air into some archetypes. Sometimes you even see lists containing both Vault/Key and Painter/Stone. In a shell like that Urza's Saga becomes even more powerful.

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


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snoopylittlebirdy(01.11.2021 10:58)

I would love to see more articles like this one - loving that time vault combo.

Cards-of-Paradise(04.11.2021 08:06)

Snoopylittlebirdy Mille grazie Snoopy!

ScouterTF2(21.10.2021 00:34)

Um are you just gonna ignore Demonic Consultation + Thassa's Oracle which is in vast majority of Vintage Doomsday Decks, can only be stopped by counterspells and torpor orb, wins not just "effectivly" but *l i t e r a l l y* instantly not giving any room for comeback or error, costs only 3 mana? (albeit color intensive) and has consultation act as last resort tutor if necessary as well. It surely can't just be me who looks at this list and feels pretty disappointed.

Cards-of-Paradise(21.10.2021 07:09)(Edited: 21.10.2021 07:18)

ScouterTF2 Wanted to look at combos which are played in several decks across the formats. Thought about the combo too and decided not to put it in because it involves the naming of a third card when resolving also. A debatable, technical matter. Should have mentioned that. Thank you for doing that!

ScouterTF2(21.10.2021 12:05)

Ctobehn Technicly you don't need a third card since nothing stops you from naming consultation with the consultation. From what I know it's only legal in vintage out of the 2 formats you mentioned where it's restricted so it is a 2 card combo in current circumstances. Sure you usually name something that you don't have just in case but as of now naming demonic consultation works just fine.

averethel(22.10.2021 16:20)

While this is technically true "Abandon Hope" is the name of choice for many players. For instant flavour win.

Mentioned Cards