Cheerios Combo in Modern (Videos)

Feature Article from Raphael Levy
Raphael Levy
4/11/2018 11:01:00 AM
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Last week on the mothership, Tom Ross posted a list of a particularly spicy 5-0 deck on Magic Online. That deck was Cheerios, a combo deck able to win games as fast as turn two (unlikely but still possible on turn one) that has been buildable for a while that never made it under the spotlight.

I liked it when it came out, but probably haven't paid enough attention to it until now even though I had built around Sram and around zero-casting-cost artifacts before.

I made up for the lost time and even submitted it as one of our six decks in our latest round of Team Modern Super League that we unfortunately lost to CFB, who surprisingly submitted Cheerios as one of their decks, a sign that we were on the same wavelength. Here's the deck in action and how it works.

The Creatures

4 Puresteel Paladin
4 Sram, Senior Edificer

Eight two-drops that pretty much do the same thing: draw you a card when you play an equipment. Puresteel Paladin allows you to equip your creatures for free once you have metalcraft (that shouldn't be a problem) while Sram allows you to draw a card right after you played it as you draw a card upon casting an equipment (your opponent can't prevent you from drawing). However, it's legendary, so you won't be able to have two of them in play at the same time.

The Equipment

4 Bone Saw
4 Cathar's Shield
4 Kite Shield
4 Paradise Mantle
4 Spidersilk Net

For the deck to work, you need a lot of free equipment. Your goal is to chain as many as you can before you cast Retract and recast them all to eventually have a storm count high enough so you can play a lethal Grapeshot. The equipment count (20) can't really go any lower as it's possible that you can't start the engine with only one or two artifacts in hand when you play your first creature.

While most equipment have very little use in terms of pumping your creatures (sometimes the Cathar's Shield, Spidersilk Net or Kite Shield will protect your Paladin), Paradise Mantle nets you an extra mana if you couldn't win on the turn you cast your first creature. That ability is relevant when you know your deck operates with only four lands that produce mana.

The Win Condition

2 Grapeshot

Your best chance to win will be to go off and fire a lethal Grapeshot (spoiler alert: you can also win with creatures). Some versions of this deck only play one, but I find this a little dangerous considering some opponents won't hesitate to strip it off your hand with a Thoughtseize.

The Card Draw

2 Reverse Engineer
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Thoughtcast
4 Retract


As mentioned above, the low land count in the deck keeps you from spending too much mana on draw spells. With only eight relevant spells in your deck, you need to find one early, or a second one fast if the first one was killed. Sleight of Hand is a cheap spell that digs through the next two cards, while Thoughtcast is easy to cast and draw you two cards, also helping you when you need to reach a critical mass of equipments when you started to go off. Reverse Engineer is a little more expensive, but helps you against decks that are heavy on early spot removals.

Mid
Low
 Retract
$4.80
$0.95
Store QTY Price  
Huscarl Hobbies 1 $2.54
Moonbase Market 1 $2.86
Game Nut 2 $3.19
Gruul Gaming 1 $3.38
Martigan Magic 2 $3.51
TheGloom 1 $3.54
A+ Comics 2 $3.64
Athoria Games 1 $3.77
Gamers Den 1 $3.83
The Keep 2 $3.85
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Retract Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Retract is part of the combo. It saves your artifacts occasionally, but what it does is return all your artifacts to your hand to replay them and rebuy the draw effects from your creatures. Along with Mox Opal (see below), it's the cheapest, most efficient draw spell you can hope for.

The Mana

4 Arid Mesa
4 Flooded Strand
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Mox Opal


It really should be a better mix of fetch lands to play around Pithing Needle (two Flooded Strands, two Marsh Flats, two Arid Mesa, two Windswept Heath), but since it's what I submitted we're going to keep it that way.

Playing basic lands really hurts the deck as you need both blue mana for your draw spells and Retract and double white for Puresteel Paladin. You don't mind shocking yourself when you search (life is going to be irrelevant in your games), and the extra land you'd get from a Path to Exile won't matter anyway. So might as well keep the full four Hallowed Fountain to optimize your main deck mana.

Mox Opal is a key component of your combo as it allows you to cast Retract virtually for free: you tap it for mana to cast Retract, play it again and have another blue mana. When your spell count is high enough, you can play two of them (just keep the untapped one when you play the second one as it's legendary), and cast a Grapeshot.

The Sideboard

1 Hurkyl's Recall
2 Galvanic Blast
3 Silence
1 Reverse Engineer
1 Disenchant
2 Pact of Negation
1 Dismember
1 Echoing Truth
1 Void Snare
2 Fragmentize


This is a sideboard I put together to answer most threats you can face. You want to have a mix of Silence and Pact of Negation against counters, so you might want to board in Silence against decks with a lot of removal so they can't interact with your creatures. Galvanic Blast and Dismember are here to deal with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Eidolon of the Great Revel or Meddling Mage (Humans is probably the hardest matchup). The rest is a mix of artifact and enchantment removals to take care of whatever threat you could face.

Mid
Low
 Pact of Negation
$27.01
$13.22
Store QTY Price  
DCWCards 1 $16.89
The Gypsies Den 1 $17.86
Sunshine Games 1 $17.87
Paradise Games 1 $17.88
Big Daddy Games LLC 1 $17.88
The Hydra's Lair 1 $17.88
Busbee alters 1 $17.91
jaymz games 1 $18.00
Main Street Gaming 2 $18.00
Kirwan's Game Store 1 $18.40
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Pact of Negation Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

After having played more games with the deck, I believe having a Plains or two in the sideboard is important. You don't want to have them in the main deck as Hallowed Fountain is too important, but when you're facing Field of Ruins or Choke, you actually wish one of your lands was a basic Plains. Since your sideboard slots are quite open (you don't really need Void Snare or Disenchant), basic Plains sounds like the best option.

In any case, there aren't a lot of cards you can board in at the same time. The deck relies on each of its components to win. You can't cut creatures or lands or spells to find your creatures, or your equipment… basically, you can't cut much! I usually take out Reverse Engineer that is the hardest card to cast for two sideboard cards (unless I want a third one to battle decks with lots of removal and discard spells) and one or two equipments.

I really like this deck. It is indeed high-variance, but wins a lot of games on turn two or three. Its biggest problem is that it loses to itself more often than other decks, but that's what it takes to have fast kills. Overall, I found it to be more resilient than what people would expect. Decks with a lot of removal often give you a window to act – when they play a threat for example – and don't always have the right answer at the right time.

I hope you enjoyed the article / video and see you next time!

Raph




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