If you are anything like me, then the topic of combos in Standard are always on your mind. I'm not talking general synergies, but instead game breaking combinations of cards that will win the game, all in the same turn. Being that it is my birthday today, I thought I'd treat myself to an article that delves into some of the infinite combos that can be found in #MTGRNA Standard.
Our format is fairly weird when it comes to infinite combos. When compared to other competitive formats like Modern or Legacy, our infinite combos often can be harder to pull off, mostly due to the fact that 2 card combos are often banned in Standard (see the travesty that was Copy Cat Combo from not but a year or two ago) and #WotC's RnD team had actively tried to stear clear of facilitating such game play to have a better play experience for their player base. That said, infinite combos have a place in #MTG, its an archetype that is difficult to play, difficult to build, but really fun to watch it go off the first few times. So, let's take a look at a few of the combos we can play now in Standard; some are LandSayGo originals, but most of them were designed by other players on the web. Some of these are going to be more janky than others, but it is always a fun challenge to try to build a deck around them and get them to work.
Let's take a look at probably one of the more competitive infinite combos we have in Standard. It focuses primarily on Famished Paladin. For 1W we get a 3/3 that can only be untapped whenever we gain life. However, one thing that many people were quick to point out is that if we are able to repeatedly gain life, we can untap the Paladin over and over again in the same turn. After that, we just need a tap ability and we have our infinite combo.
So, what do we have in standard that can work with this?
We actually have a few spells that work perfectly with the Paladin, and are pretty well on curve to boot. Our tap ability comes from Sorcerer's Wand. For 1 mana, we get an artifact equipment with Equip 3. Equipped creature can tap to deal 1 damage to a player or Planeswalker, 2 damage if the equipped creature is a wizard. So in order to make this combo infinite by turn 4, we also need a way to give our Famished Paladin lifelink. Cards like the Ixalan limited staple Squire's Devotion or the new Sentinel's Mark (if cast on our main phase) hit the mark on giving our Famished Paladin lifelink. You could also use a well timed Triumph of Gerard or the second clause of Deafening Clarion.
After our Paladin is equipped with the Wand and given lifelink, we are able to tap the paladin to ping our opponent for one, gain a life and untap our paladin. Rinse and Repeat. This combo is pretty easy to get off and has made waves on the #MTGArena meta. It is fairly powerful, has few moving parts, and the colors required for it can put you into easy to build single or dual color decks.
Naru Meha Infinite Mill.
This combo is much less involved than many of the strategies found below; however, it will take a total of 7 mana to pull off the loop in 1 turn, 9 mana to do the entire loop in 1 turn, or spreading the setup over the course of several turns, you can do it for as low as 4 mana.
What's the loop? Well, we can use Naru Meha, Master Wizard--a 3/3 Wizard for 2UU and flash--to copy another one of our spells, Release to the Wind. You see, Naru Meha, Master Wizard has the attached ability to copy an instant or sorcery you control whenever she enters the battlefield (she can also buff wizards +1/+1, but that doesn't really matter here). So, we can create a loop by casting a Release to the Wind, a 2U instant that allows us to exile a nonland permanent, and its owner can cast it for free any time they normally would be able to cast that spell. Well, if we flash in Naru Meha, we can copy Release to the Wind, exiling the wizard. And since Naru Meha has flash, we are able to recast her from exile for free while Release to the Wind is on the stack, again copying Release with the copy targeting Naru Meha. What we end up with is an infinite cast effect allowing us to cast Naru Meha until we decide to stop the loop.
How can we do this with only 4 mana? Well, we'd have to first have a Naru Meha, Master Wizard on the battlefield, and then exile her with a Release to the Wind. From there, we just leave her in exile until we find the next Release in order to go off.
How do we win?
We win the game in Standard with Drowned Secrets. This enchantment states whenever we cast a blue spell, target opponent puts the top 2 cards of their library into their graveyard. Well, since we are technically casting Naru Meha from exile every time with the loop, we will be continually milling 2 cards off of our opponent's library until they mill out completely.
While mill is our simplest game plan, you could theoretically abuse other instant and sorcery spells like Shock if you had a Naban, Dean of Iteration on the battlefield as well, casting both your Release to the Wind (and in this case, Siren's Ruse could work too, so long as you have enough mana to cast all of the spells: Siren's Ruse, Shock, and Naru Meha, Master Wizard). Naban, Dean of Iteration allows you to double up enter the battlefield effects for wizards, so Naru Meha's copying ability would trigger twice, copying both the exile effect and the burn spell. While this is possible, mill is still our easiest win.
We do also have an infinite turns combo in Standard as well. Its one I haven't really seen anyone try to utilize yet. Rivals of Ixalan gave us a 1/1 wizard for 1U that has a very strong ability. By paying 2UU and tapping Timestream Navigator while Ascend is online (having 10 or more permanents), we take an extra turn and put the Navigator on the bottom of our library. The next piece of the combo is Helm of the Host, a 4 mana legendary equipment from Dominaria that allows us to create a hasty nonlegendary copy of the equipped creature at the beginning of combat. So, by combining a Timestream Navigator and a Helm of the Host (and assuming we have The City's Blessing), we would get a free Timestream Navigator every turn with haste, allowing us to pay 4 mana to take an extra turn every single combat. And if we have a Biomancer's Familiar down, for just UU, we literally get a Time Walk every turn. After this, you can most assuredly find a way to win the game, especially if you build your deck around blue green creature beats.
Whisper, Blood Liturgist is an incredibly unique legendary uncommon with the ability to tap and sacrifice 2 creatures to return a creature from your graveyard to the battlefield. What makes this fairly unique is that Whisper allows you to 1) sacrifice himself and 2) bring back the creature to the battlefield untapped. So, when we pair this with a haste enabler and a token generator we are able to continuously loop Whisper by sacrificing itself and a token and bring back another copy of Whisper to the battlefield.
I mentioned haste enablers and token generators?
To generate the additional tokens, in Standard we have Open the Graves [writer's edit: we also have Desecrated Tomb!], a 5 mana enchantment that gives us a nontoken death trigger granting us a 2/2 black zombie creature token. For haste enablers, we actually have 2. Garna the Bloodflame was the original for the combo, a 5 mana 3/3 creature with flash that sends all of our creatures that died that turn back to our hand. She also has the added clause of "other creatures you control have haste." What I like about Garna is that she has flash and allows us to play around counter spells or removal much easier than being just sorcery speed. She can also be a great way to reset our combo if our opponent finds a board wipe. What I don't like about her is the fact that she's yet another 5 drop we'd have to run in the deck, since we are forced to run Open the Graves for the tokens. So, I personally like the idea of running the next card over her.
The second haste enabler is Rhythm of the Wild, a 3 mana Gruul enchantment that makes all of our creatures uncounterable and all nontoken creatures enter the battlefield with Riot, an ability that allows us to either buff a creature with a +1/+1 counter or give it haste. I love that we can have this effect as a 3 drop, which can significantly lower the curve of our deck. On top of that, preventing counter spells can really help with getting our game plan working, as our Whispers can come down without incident, and can activate themselves in response to any targeted removal. The only downside I can see is having to add a third color. By adding green, we will make our mana base less consistent. However, with the shock lands and buddy lands in the format, now is going to be the time to try it.
But how do we win?
Once we have our loop setup, we actually have several ways for us to win the game. The immediate win is to use Judith, the Scourge Diva. This 2/2 for 1BR has a fantastic nontoken death trigger of pinging our opponent for 1 damage. So, as we infinitely loop our Whispers, we are slowly but surely pinging our opponents to death.
We can also have another, riskier, immediate win Bloodcrazed Paladin. This 1/1 for 1B can be flashed in and it gets a +1/+1 counter for each creature that died that turn. So if we do the Whisper loop 10 times, we'd have a 21/21 with haste with our enabler online.
Lastly, we have our slowest infinite combo yet, with just a second Open the Graves (or a Desecrated Tomb!). By having 2 Open the Graves on the battlefield, every Whisper ability will net us an additional token. So, when looping our Whisper combo, we can get infinite 2/2 zombie tokens. The only downside is that if we are running Rhythm of the Wild, these tokens won't gain haste, and we'll have to wait an additional turn. However, if we are running Garna, the tokens will be able to attack the same turn. So maybe we should be running something like 4 Rhythm of the Wild and 2 Garna in the deck.
Another infinite enter the battlefield or infinite death loop utilizes Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle. This 2/2 flyer for 3W gives us a a unique ability to return a creature with converted mana cost 3 or less from the graveyard to the battlefield so long as we cast a historic spell. Historic Spells, for those who don't know, were defined in our most recent return to Dominaria as Artifacts, Legendary spells, Planeswalkers, or Sagas. So, one of the ways to loop this ability is to use Skirk Prospector, Squee, the Immortal, and Goblin Warchief (theoretically Jhoira's Familiar, Pitiless Plunderer, and The Immortal Sun could work in place of Goblin Warchief, but they are more difficult to cast). So the combo goes like this: Reduce the casting cost of Squee by 1 mana. Sacrifice Squee, the Immortal for a Red mana using Skirk Prospector. Then, sacrifice the Prospector to himself, get an additional Red mana and cast Squee from the graveyard returning Skirk Prospector to the battlefield.
So, now that we've established the loop, how do we win from here?
Well, being in white actually gives us another way to win the game that we didn't have before, at least, another way to stall out the game. We can use cards like Ajani's Welcome to weaponize all of the enter the battlefield triggers. From here we can go on to gain an infinite amount of life and win the game through sheer attrition. Unfortunately, we no longer have an Aetherflux Reservoir in the format; however, we should be able to find a way to piece a win together so long as we know we won't die to combat damage.