The Best Combo in Standard

Frank Karsten
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Premium Article from Frank Karsten In this article, I will provide a look at the possibilities for an Intruder Alarm combo deck for Standard. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Arcbound Ravager was still legal and combo decks had a hard time succeeding. Okay, maybe not so far away, and not too long ago, but the point I'm trying to get across is that Affinity won on turn 4 and combo decks won on turn 5. Therefore, most players wisely decided to leave the cards with combo potential in their trade binders and played decks that could actually compete with the artifact onslaught.

Fast forward to the present. The "big three" decks in the format (Ponza, Tooth and Nail and Mono Blue Control) are nowhere near as fast as Affinity. Tooth and Nail can't cast its namesake sorcery consistently before turn 5. Ponza does have the occasional turn 1 Mox, Slith Firewalker draw but other than that it isn't built with quick wins in mind. Mono Blue Control is a slow deck that thrives on generating card advantage in the late game. The best thing is that beatdown isn't winning on turn 4 anymore. All of this leads to the conclusion that combo strategies might actually be viable now!

If I had to pick one card out of the Standard card pool that just has combo written all over it, I'd choose Intruder Alarm. This blue enchantment reads, "Whenever a creature comes into play, untap all creatures". Why is this any good? Well, if you can manage to put a creature into play repeatedly, then you get an untap trigger every time this creature comes into play. If you find a combination of cards that enables you to put a new creature into play without it costing you any mana, then you can get as many Intruder Alarm untap triggers as you want. Once you have an infinite amount of untaps, you'd just need a cute creature with a "tap" ability to win the game. Options include using Archivist to draw your deck or ping your opponent to death with Vulshok Sorcerer. So I started to search the complete Standard card pool for a card like this:

Ornitflopter, 0 mana, artifact creature, 0/1, when Ornitflopter comes into play, return it to owner's hand.

This would have been a perfect combo with Intruder Alarm! Unfortunately, the above card doesn't exist so we'll have to be creative and look for other options. The best ones that I've found are:

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
A Forbidden Orchard that is turned into a creature
Meloku, the Clouded Mirror + Budoka Gardener
2 Myr Retriever + Krark-Clan Ironworks
March of the Machines+Crystal Shard+Ornithopter+Gilded Lotus
Pentavus+Fydhorn Elder
Oyobi, who Split the Heavens+Hana Kami+Soulless Revival+2 Birds of Paradise
Hoverguard Sweepers+4 Birds of Paradise+Genesis Chamber

And many more...

As you might have noticed, those last couple options aren't exactly serious and you will never be able to build a consistent deck around such a combo. There are a lot of funny options to be found. If you are a casual player you can easily build a deck that holds 10 different ways to go infinite with Intruder Alarm. But I digress ... the goal was to make a competitive deck!

There are 3 things that discern the good combos from the bad combos:
1. Number of cards needed to pull off the combo
2. Total mana cost of the combo cards
3. How easily the combo can be disrupted

Based on these 3 criteria, the best options are Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Forbidden Orchard.

The Intruder Alarm/Kiki-Jiki/random other dork combo is very appealing. You can use the Goblin to make a copy of a guy, making Intruder Alarm trigger and untapping the Mirror Breaker, allowing you to copy the same monster again. Repeat a billion times and voila. Let's take a look at the criteria.

1. Number of cards: It's a three card combo (Kiki, Alarm, other creature). That's a fine amount; many viable combos in the past were three card combos. Examples include Aluren+Raven Familiar+Cavern Harpy or Enduring Renewal+Goblin Bombardement+Ornithopter.
2. Total mana cost: This is a problem. Kiki-Jiki requires three red mana to cast, and that can be hard to achieve. Intruder Alarm and Kiki-Jiki have a total mana cost of URRR5, and that might prove to be too much to work.
3. Reliance to disruption: This is also problematic. You can be stopped at any time during your combo with a simple Magma Jet or other card that can destroy a 2/2 red Goblin legend.

The better combo, in my opinion, is Lifespark Spellbomb+Forbidden Orchard+Intruder Alarm+a way to win with infinite mana. The idea is to turn Forbidden Orchard into a creature with Lifespark Spellbomb. Then you tap Forbidden Orchard for mana. This puts a creature into play under your opponent's control, which triggers Intruder Alarm. All creatures, including Forbidden Orchard, are untapped. Net gain: one mana. After a million repetitions you can Fireball your opponent's life total down to a huge negative number. Does this combo hold its ground? 1. Number of cards: It's a four card combo, so it's harder to pull off than the Kiki-Jiki combo.
2. Total mana cost: Very low! It only costs 3GU to cast all your combo pieces. Forbidden Orchard is a land so it doesn't cost any mana to play and that's a huge advantage.
3. Reliance to disruption: Better than the Kiki-Jiki combo! A 3/3 Orchard can't be killed by Magma Jet or Echoing Decay. These cards are staples in many decks, so if your combo can't be interrupted by them then that's a huge plus.

Since the Orchard combo beats the Kiki-Jiki combo on two out of three criteria, I'm going to focus on the former and introduce a deck that is based around the Orchard combo. Here's my decklist:

Intruder Combo by Frank Karsten
Main Deck
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Eternal Witness
1 Kumano, Master Yamabushi
3 Sakura-Tribe Elder
Creatures [11]
2 Chrome Mox
2 Diabolic Tutor
3 Fabricate
4 Gifts Ungiven
1 Goblin Cannon
4 Intruder Alarm
4 Lifespark Spellbomb
2 Sensei's Divining Top
3 Serum Visions
3 Sylvan Scrying
Spells [28]
2 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 City of Brass
4 Forbidden Orchard
5 Forest (306)
3 Island (294)
1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Swamp (298)
Lands [21]
Deck Total [60]

1 Bringer of the White Dawn
4 Cranial Extraction
4 Dosan the Falling Leaf
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
1 Mindslaver
4 Sacred Ground
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

This decklist might seem very random. Why am I playing so many 3 of and 2 of cards? It's basically the result of many goldfishing draws and a couple playtest games (thanks go out to Hoo-Yin Lam for this!). I fiddled with the deck for a while, adding cards, removing cards, changing the numbers and juggling with the possible options. This decklist worked out the best for me eventually. It felt like it held the perfect mix of search cards and gives you the best shot at assembling your combo pieces.

Let's analyze this deck card by card, shall we?

4 copies of Intruder Alarm, Forbidden Orchard and Lifespark Spellbomb are obvious. These cards provide the infinite mana combo and you want to maximize the chances of drawing your combo pieces, hence 4 of each.

Ways to win

Goblin Cannon and Kumano provide you with a way to channel infinite mana into infinite damage. Goblin Cannon is included because you can Fabricate for it and Kumano is better than Fireball/Blaze because it provides you with an out when Cranial Extraction removes all your Intruder Alarms. Kumano could potentially win a game on its own, while Fireball won't.

 Intruder Alarm
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Red Raccoon Games 2 $6.25
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NEPA Gaming 1 $6.82
Gilt Leaf Games 3 $6.87
Prof Bonds Emporium 1 $6.87
Masterpiece Games 3 $6.87
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The other way to win is Blinkmoth Nexus. You can turn it into a creature and have it pump itself a thousand times in the process of going off. Your opponent will have a bunch of Orchard tokens, but Blinkmoth Nexus happily flies over them. Advantage of this kill is that it's a land, so it doesn't really take up important space in your deck.

Finding your combo pieces

4 Gifts Ungiven - This card is incredible in this deck because it searches out 2 combo pieces. Consider a Gifts Ungiven for Forbidden Orchard, Lifespark Spellbomb, Intruder Alarm and a new Gifts Ungiven. You will always get some pieces of the combo. Or envision this scenario: you already have Orchard and Spellbomb, but you still need Intruder Alarm and a way to kill your opponent once you get infinite mana. Then you can play Gifts Ungiven for Intruder Alarm, Diabolic Tutor, Eternal Witness and Fabricate. You are ensured to get a card that leads to Intruder Alarm and a card that leads to a win condition in your hand.

Many decks with Gifts Ungiven play with Revive or All Sun's Dawn to ensure you will get the card you need, but I prefer Diabolic Tutor. Revive or All Sun's Dawn are often dead cards when you draw them, but Diabolic Tutor is always a fine draw in this deck. It's costly at 4 mana, but finding a crucial combo piece is always good. Getting Diabolic Tutor out of a Gifts Ungiven will only cost you 4 mana to get to the card you need, while Revive costs 5 (Revive on Eternal Witness, then play Witness).

2 Diabolic Tutor - I already explained why it's good in combination with Gifts Ungiven. I only play two because you don't want too many four mana search cards in your deck and the double black is quite taxing on your mana base.

2 Sensei's Divining Top - With so many shuffle effects in the deck, this can dig into your deck, searching for the last pieces of the puzzle, multiple times during a game. I play only 2 because you don't want to draw multiples.

3 Serum Visions - It's cheap, it lets you scan through three cards and it fills the holes in your mana curve. An overall fine card.

3 Sylvan Scrying - It will almost always function as your 5th-7th copy of Forbidden Orchard, but if you already have the Orchard then you can fetch Blinkmoth Nexus with it.

3 Fabricate - It fetches a Lifespark Spellbomb for the combo or a Goblin Cannon for the kill. You also have the option of getting Sensei's Divining Top, which might come in handy if you already have the Spellbomb and a way to win, but no Orchard or Intruder Alarm yet.

3 Eternal Witness - A necessary inclusion because of Gifts Ungiven. It's never a bad draw because you have enough spells in your deck that you can return.

The mana

4 Birds of Paradise - We're playing a lot of colors, it's one of the best mana accelerators in the game and it might untap occasionally with Intruder Alarm. This might come in handy sometimes; if you have Intruder Alarm and Forbidden Orchard in play, Birds of Paradise will untap once you tap Forbidden Orchard for mana.

3 Sakura-Tribe Elder - It seems out of place, but you want additional pieces of mana acceleration to ensure you will be able to start casting Gifts Ungiven by turn 3. It also smooths out your mana in this three color deck and stalls beatdown decks by chump blocking for a turn.

2 Chrome Mox - More acceleration, clear and simple. Why only 2? Because you don't want to draw multiples. You'll probably have a spare card for the first imprint, but too often when you'd draw a second Mox, you'd look at your hand and be like "I can't miss any of my spells, I need all of them to find my combo!"

4 City of Brass - If only you could play 8 Forbidden Orchards...You need City of Brass to ensure your mana is right. I know, the damage you will get from 4 Orchard and 4 City of Brass will add up but taking some damage is better than being color screwed.

1 Swamp - Sakura-Tribe Elder can search this one out of your deck if you have Diabolic Tutor in your hand.

1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers and 1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge - They might seem totally out of place but they are included for a reason. First of all you have the big legend plan after boarding to battle Cranial Extraction. Furthermore, these lands reduce the chance that you will be crippled by a Sundering Titan. You might just be able to use it as a Stone Rain on your Mono Blue Control opponent.

I have dreams of catching a Mono-Blue player off guard. Envision the situation where your mono-blue player has 6 lands in play. He just played Thieving Magpie and left an Island and Minamo, School at Water's Edge untapped, ready to play Mana Leak. You already have Lifespark Spellbomb and Forbidden Orchard in play and Intruder Alarm in your hand. However, you only have 4 lands in play so if you'd play Intruder Alarm, you wouldn't be able to pay for Mana Leak. Then you realize you have Minamo, School at Water's Edge in your hand. So you play it. This leaves your opponent with only one Island untapped, unable to cast his Mana Leak. You proceed to cast Intruder Alarm and go off. Imagine your dazed opponent muttering, "If only that stupid land was an Island." Although this scenario will probably never come up during your Magic career, it's fun to think about nevertheless.

5 Forest and 3 Island - I think this is the perfect balance. You want to be able to cast turn 1 Serum Visions, but you also want to be sure to be able to cast your green mana fixers consistently. I felt 5 Forest, combined with Chrome Moxen that have imprinted a green card most of the time, is just about right.

A grand total of 21 land. Combined with 2 Chrome Mox, 4 Birds of Paradise and green cards that search lands out of your deck, you should be fine in the mana department.

Cards that are not included

There are many other cards in this format that can turn Forbidden Orchard into a creature or that search out Lifespark Spellbomb.

Trinket Mage - inferior to Fabricate because it can only fetch Lifespark Spellbomb. You can't find a way to win with the Mage.

Soilshaper - you don't have enough Spirit/Arcane cards for it to work.

Living Terrain - too costly at 4 mana. Hey, Spellbomb only costs 2!

Natural Affinity - it's cool, but it turns Orchard into a 2/2 which is too easily killed with cards like Magma Jet.

 Forbidden Orchard
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Snapcasters Gaming 2 $5.39
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Sennin AdventuresMTG 1 $6.00
IWinGames 5 $6.04
Card Monster Games 1 $6.05
Arcadian Marketplace 1 $6.05
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Thought Courier - it has nice synergy with Intruder Alarm, but I just couldn't find any room for it. I felt all other tutoring cards are better.

Plunge into Darkness/Night's Whisper - too painful.

Thirst for Knowledge/Concentrate/Inspiration- for three or four mana I want to be SURE to find combo pieces in this deck. These cards can't provide that security.

Auriok Salvagers (with more Spellbombs) - I never found time to effectively use the Salvagers for card advantage. Salvager can provide you with a win mechanism because once you have infinite mana you van start to recur Lifespark Spellbomb and eventually you will draw into Pyrite Spellbomb. The problem is that you'd have to actually play Pyrite Spellbomb in your deck, which is a card you'd rather not draw. I like my win mechanism better, they only take up 2 slots, you can Gifts Ungiven for a win condition and Goblin Cannon can be fetched with Fabricate! More advantages than Auriok Salvagers provide, in my opinion.

The Sideboard

Dosan the Falling Leaf - this is your best card against MUC. If it resolves, they can't counter and if they can't counter then your route to victory is easy.

Cranial Extraction - Tooth and Nail can still spell trouble for you when it resolves. Normally you manage to pull your combo together the turn before your opponent can cast his 9 mana sorcery, but this is just extra insurance.

Sacred Ground - Ponza decks can give you a headache, because they have no problem with destroying your lands, especially Forbidden Orchard. This white enchantment solves all your worries so you can shrug off those Stone Rains.

The last couple slots are an answer to Cranial Extraction. That card is a huge problem for this combo deck, since you can't win the game without Intruder Alarm (the card your opponent is most likely to name with his Extraction). You could consider boarding countermagic like Condescend, but the problem with that is that you'll have to keep mana open all the time. This deck is full of sorceries like Fabricate, Diabolic Tutor and Sylvan Scrying and if you have to keep Condescend mana open all the time then you can't play those sorceries!

This will slow down the process of finding your combo pieces and you might succumb to fast creature beatdown as a result. So I'm not a fan of countermagic as an answer to Cranial Extraction, since it totally messes up your game plan. A possible alternative is free countermagic in the form of Disrupting Shoal, but everything has to go perfectly right for that. In this deck you would need the Shoal and a Gifts Ungiven in your hand to counter Cranial Extraction. That seems like a longshot; not a reliable plan at all.

So what's my solution? To put in another combo! If your Intruder Alarms are removed, then you can Gifts Ungiven for Eternal Witness, Diabolic Tutor (which will get Eternal Witness), Bringer of the White Dawn and Mindslaver. Your mana base can support the Bringer and you will eventually take over all of your opponent's turns.

You could just draw into Meloku or Kumano and win with a broken legend. Is this going to work? Is this actually better than the countermagic plan? To be totally honest, I'm not sure. Maybe my judgement in this matter is clouded because I was running Meloku, Genesis and other fatties in my Extended Aluren deck. My experience in that format was that I won many games where multiple Extractions resolved by attacking with 1/1 flying Illusion tokens and I just loved that. You have to admit, my sideboard gives you a fine game plan that enables you to win without Intruder Alarms and it will hopefully provide food for thought at the very least.

The Matchups

This matchup revolves entirely around their land destruction. In game 1 you'll have a hard time keeping your Orchards alive and you need them to be in play for a turn before you can combo out. Sacred Ground helps a lot after sideboarding but it still doesn't stop Sowing Salt. This will turn out not to be a good matchup for you. I don't think it is worth it to board in the anti-Extraction plan. If your Orchards are removed from the game by Sowing Salt, you just lose. I don't think you'll be able to cast the White Bringer against a land destruction deck, so your best plan is hoping that those Orchards will stay in your deck.

Sideboarding: +4 Sacred Ground -1 Eternal Witness -1 Fabricate -1 Diabolic Tutor -1 Sensei's Divining Top

Tooth and Nail
Tooth and Nail has a hard time beating your combo, you are simply too fast. You should still focus on going off as quickly as possible though, because if your opponent has a decent draw he might power out Tooth and Nail (for Triskelion and Mephidross, this totally stops your combo) or Oblivion Stone (which will slow you down for a while) or heaven forbid Mindslaver (a smart player will leave himself with 10000 Orchard tokens after he's done with screwing up your turn).

After boarding you have Cranial Extraction to improve this matchup even more. Remove all of his Tooth and Nails and now you have all the time in the world to find your combo pieces.

Sideboarding: +4 Cranial Extraction -1 Eternal Witness -1 Serum Visions -1 Diabolic Tutor -1 Fabricate

Mono Blue Control
This matchup isn't good by any means, but it won't be as bad as you think. Countermagic is a perfect foil to any combo strategy, but MUC only has 4 decent hard counters (Hinder) and won't put a lot of pressure on you. This means that you have a reasonable amount of time to find multiple copies of your combo pieces. The key is to play really tight. Always play around Mana Leak with Intruder Alarm, because it's the most important card to resolve in this matchup. Furthermore, you should be sure to have at least 2 different routes to victory in your hand when you try to go off. You don't want to give your opponent a million men first and then run into a Hinder on your Kumano. If your opponent gets out Vedalken Shackles, you have to find a second Forbidden Orchard first before you can combo out.

After you go to your sideboard Dosan helps to improve things.

Sideboarding: +4 Dosan -1 Sylvan Scrying -1 Fabricate -2 Chrome Mox

Aggro decks (Mono Green Beatdown or White Weenie)
You have a slight advantage, since you win just a little bit faster on average. It all depends on whether your opponent has answers in his deck. Kami of Ancient Law or Naturalize on an Intruder Alarm can spoil your combo. If you smell a Naturalize coming (let's say, your opponent is keeping 2 mana open all the time) then you should try to find a second Orchard or second Intruder Alarm and have it in play before you try to go off. Not much to say here other than that. There won't be much interaction; your opponent will drop a bunch of creatures and attack with them, while you try to assemble your combo pieces as soon as possible. Luckily, more often than not you will win this race against the clock.

 Lifespark Spellbomb
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You don't want to board anything in because you wan to keep the focus of your deck on comboing out as soon as possible.

Sideboarding: nothing

Big Green decks (red/green with Kiki Jiki or black/green with Death Cloud)
Against red/green, be careful not to play your own Intruder Alarm too soon. You don't want to give your opponent the opportunity of dropping Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, which will gladly combo on the verge of your Intruder Alarm. Good thing is that these decks don't pack much disruption to your combo maindeck. Black/green might run Terror, but you will often be able to find a second Orchard before it's too late.

After sideboarding, you can expect your opponent to have Cranial Extraction. Even most red/green players have it in the board. If you hear Cranial Extraction naming Intruder Alarm, then your game plan switches towards assembling the White Bringer and Mindslaver combo.

Sideboarding: +1 Meloku +1 Mindslaver +1 Bringer of White Dawn -1 Sakura Tribe Elder -1 Fabricate -1 Serum Visions

A guide on playing with the deck

This deck is very challenging to play. You will get hands with a ridiculous amount of tutoring power and it's hard to figure out when to cast certain cards and what to search with them. Because you will encounter so many different situations with this deck and it's impossible to cover all the nuances, I decided to cover three sample goldfish draws, to give you an idea of the difficult decisions you might encounter and how I decided to deal with them. Just imagine that you're playing against your goldfish who hasn't truly understood Magic yet and who brought his 60 land deck to the table, or an aquarium, whatever. Your goal is to win as quickly as possible. Follow along as I explain how this deck works.

Goldfish hand number 1

Opening hand: Forest, City of Brass, Chrome Mox, Birds of Paradise, Fabricate, Sylvan Scrying, Gifts Ungiven. It's definitely a keeper; you have lands, mana acceleration and ways to find your combo.

Turn 1
The play: It's not Forest, Birds of Paradise! No, the right play here is Forest, Chrome Mox (imprint Birds of Paradise), Sylvan Scrying (fetching Forbidden Orchard). You'll have access to three mana on turn 2 no matter which play you choose, but this way you have already found your Orchard on turn 1. You imprint Birds of Paradise on the Chrome Mox because you need all other spells to find your combo pieces

Turn 2
Draw step: City of Brass.
Board: Forest, Chrome Mox (green).
Hand: City of Brass, City of Brass, Forbidden Orchard, Fabricate, Gifts Ungiven.
The play: First you play City of Brass. It will prove to be less painful than Forbidden Orchard in the long run. Then Fabricate for Lifespark Spellbomb.

Turn 3
Draw step: Birds of Paradise.
Board: Forest, Chrome Mox (green), City of Brass
Hand: City of Brass, Forbidden Orchard, Lifespark Spellbomb, Gifts Ungiven, Birds of Paradise.
The play: Forbidden Orchard, Gifts Ungiven. You still need Intruder Alarm and a way to kill your opponent, so you search Intruder Alarm, Diabolic Tutor, Eternal Witness and Gifts Ungiven. Let's assume that your opponent will give you Diabolic Tutor and Gifts Ungiven.

Turn 4
Draw step: Lifespark Spellbomb.
Board: Forest, Chrome Mox (green), City of Brass, Forbidden Orchard.
Hand: City of Brass, Lifespark Spellbomb, Lifespark Spellbomb, Diabolic Tutor, Fabricate, Birds of Paradise.
The play: Play City of Brass, then cast Lifespark Spellbomb and Diabolic Tutor for Intruder Alarm.

Turn 5
Draw step: Forest.
Board: Forest, Chrome Mox (green), City of Brass, City of Brass, Forbidden Orchard.
Hand: Lifespark Spellbomb, Fabricate, Birds of Paradise, Intruder Alarm, Forest.
The play: Forest, play Intruder Alarm, animate your Orchard with Lifespark Spellbomb, tap it and start to produce an arbitrarily large amount of mana. Then play Gifts Ungiven for Eternal Witness, Fabricate, Kumano and Diabolic Tutor. Use Diabolic Tutor or Fabricate to get to Goblin Cannon if necessary and deal a huge amount of damage to your opponent.

Goldfish hand number 2

Opening hand: Forbidden Orchard, Island, Island, Forest, Chrome Mox, Lifespark Spellbomb, Kumano. I'd keep it. You have 3 out of the 4 required combo pieces and only need an Intruder Alarm to win.

Turn 1
The play: Island, Lifespark Spellbomb.

Turn 2

Draw step: Forbidden Orchard.
Board: Island, Lifespark Spellbomb.
Hand: Forbidden Orchard, Forbidden Orchard, Island, Forest, Chrome Mox, Kumano.
The play: Forest. That's it. Cross your finger and hope to find something that leads to Intruder Alarm soon.

Turn 3
Draw step: Sensei's Divining Top.
Board: Forest, Island, Lifespark Spellbomb.
Hand: Forbidden Orchard, Forbidden Orchard, Island, Chrome Mox, Kumano, Sensei's Divining Top.
The play: tap your 2 lands to play Sensei's Divining Top and immediately use it to look at the top 3 cards. You see Chrome Mox, Forest and Serum Visions. You can still play a land this turn and you'd rather use that mana, so you put those cards in this order: Serum Visions on top, then Forest and then Chrome Mox. Play Forbidden Orchard as your land for the turn. Why Orchard and not Island? Because you might topdeck Intruder Alarm next turn and you want to be sure to be able to go off in that situation. Then use Sensei's Divining Top to switch it with the top card. You get Serum Visions and immediately play it. You draw Sensei's Divining Top and put both the Forest and Chrome Mox on the bottom of your library with the scry effect.

Turn 4
Draw step: Fabricate.
Board: Forest, Island, Forbidden Orchard, Lifespark Spellbomb.
Hand: Forbidden Orchard, Island, Chrome Mox, Kumano, Sensei's Divining Top, Fabricate.
The play: tap Island and Forest to play Sensei's Divining Top and check out what's on the top of your library. Your top 3 cards are 3 lands. You don't want to draw them, so you want to shuffle the deck with Fabricate. You accomplish this by playing Island and Chrome Mox (imprinting Kumano) and tapping your mana sources to play Fabricate. Fetch Goblin Cannon. You'll need it since you had to imprint Kumano on the Mox.

 Goblin Cannon
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Turn 5
Board (upkeep): Forest, Island, Island, Forbidden Orchard, Chrome Mox (red), Lifespark Spellbomb.
Hand (upkeep): Forbidden Orchard, Goblin Cannon.
The play: In your upkeep, use Sensei's Divining Top. Look at Eternal Witness, Intruder Alarm and Birds of Paradise. Put Intruder Alarm on top, draw it, play it, turn Forbidden Orchard into a creature and combo out.

Goldfish hand number 3

Opening hand: 2 Forest, City of Brass, Birds of Paradise, Goblin Cannon, Chrome Mox, Sylvan Scrying. You only have 2 out of 4 combo pieces. As a rule of thumb, mulligan any hand without more than 2 combo pieces and without any way of finding others. Your 6 card mulligan provides you with Island, Forest, Blinkmoth Nexus, Goblin Cannon, Gifts Ungiven, Sakura-Tribe Elder. This hand can provide you with a turn 3 Gifts Ungiven and you definitely don't want to go to 5 cards, so you keep it.

Turn 1
The play: Forest.

Turn 2
Draw step: Diabolic Tutor.
Board: Forest.
Hand: Island, Blinkmoth Nexus, Goblin Cannon, Gifts Ungiven, Sakura Tribe Elder, Diabolic Tutor.
The play: Island, Sakura-Tribe Elder. Sacrifice it for a Swamp as you want to be able to cast Diabolic Tutor sometime this game.

Turn 3
Draw step: Serum Visions.
Board: Forest, Island, Swamp.
Hand: Blinkmoth Nexus, Goblin Cannon, Gifts Ungiven, Diabolic Tutor, Serum Visions.
The play: Blinkmoth Nexus, Gifts Ungiven for Gifts Ungiven, Forbidden Orchard, Intruder Alarm, Lifespark Spellbomb. Why these cards? First of all you want to fetch out combo pieces, that's obvious. The card you want most is Forbidden Orchard, because it's a combo piece and it gives the second black mana to cast Diabolic Tutor.

Let's assume that your opponent knows this deck and he knows that Intruder Alarm is the toughest combo piece to find. Based on that information, he is not going to send Intruder Alarm to your hand. So you can choose three other cards, out of which you will get 2. You might outthink yourself by including Sylvan Scrying and Forbidden Orchard to ensure you'll get an Orchard, but the problem with that play is that your opponent will probably give you Orchard and Sylvan Scrying, leaving you with a redundant card in your hand. No, you want to ensure that both cards you get off Gifts will be useful. Normally you'd do that by searching out Eternal Witness, but you don't have a second green mana to cast it. The solution is to search out a new Gifts Ungiven. If you get it in your hand, then you get more tutoring power. Probably your opponent won't give you this Gifts because you already used a mulligan and therefore there's a reasonable chance your hand is weak. Your opponent might suspect you don't have anything useful in your hand left and he doesn't want to provide you with another copy of Gifts so you can search out more combo pieces at your leisure. If you search out Intruder Alarm, Gifts Ungiven, Lifespark Spellbomb and Forbidden Orchard in this situation, I think most opponents will choose to put Gifts Ungiven and Intruder Alarm in the graveyard. You end up with Lifespark Spellbomb and Forbidden Orchard in your hand, which is perfect!

Turn 4
Draw step: Sakura-Tribe Elder.
Board: Island, Forest, Swamp, Blinkmoth Nexus.
Hand: Goblin Cannon, Diabolic Tutor, Serum Visions, Lifespark Spellbomb, Forbidden Orchard.
The play: Put Forbidden Orchard on the table, Diabolic Tutor for Intruder Alarm and play Lifespark Spellbomb. Setting up for the kill next turn...

Turn 5
Draw step: Intruder Alarm. Yarrr, all that Tutoring effort for nothing!
Board: Island, Forest, Swamp, Blinkmoth Nexus, Forbidden Orchard, Lifespark Spellbomb.
Hand: Goblin Cannon, Serum Visions, Intruder Alarm, Intruder Alarm.
The play: You know the drill. Intruder Alarm, make a billion mana and choose whether to win with Goblin Cannon or a huge flying Blinkmoth Nexus.

Important things to remember

If you have Intruder Alarm and Lifespark Spellbomb in play and all of your lands except for one Forbidden Orchard are tapped, you can still go off. You don't have to animate your Orchard before you tap it for mana the first time. You can get mana out of the Orchard first and then, with the Intruder Alarm trigger on the stack, you use that mana to turn it into a 3/3 creature. When the Intruder Alarm untap effect resolves, it notices that Forbidden Orchard is a creature and it will untap. Now you can proceed to make a million mana.

A crucial mistake you might make when you play this deck for the first time is failing to realize that a Forbidden Orchard with summoning sickness can't tap to produce mana! As you know, if a creature hasn't been in play since the beginning of your latest upkeep, it can't attack or use abilities that require it to tap. You can normally use lands right away, but a land that is turned into a creature will suffer from summoning sickness if it hasn't been in play for at least one turn yet! So you should always play Forbidden Orchard the turn before you plan to go off.


As you might have seen in the sample goldfish draw explanation, this deck usually combos on turn 5. It does so in an admirably consistent manner. It might seem very tough in theory to assemble all 4 required combo pieces, but if you play some games then you'll notice that the deck has a very strong tutoring base, which will enable you to find all your combo parts. Consistent turn 5 kills are good, but the main problem with this deck is that it is relatively easy to disrupt. Naturalize on Intruder Alarm or Terror on an animated Orchard are common nuisances. You're also not happy to face land destruction or countermagic. Let alone cards like Sowing Salt or Cranial Extraction...ugh!

I do think that this deck is the best possible combo deck available for Standard (and no, I don't count Tooth and Nail as a combo deck) so if you're a dedicated combo player by heart or if your entire metagame only consists out of Tooth and Nail decks, then I'd recommend this deck. However, I'm afraid this deck won't become tier 1; it just doesn't post good enough results yet and I have found no way to overcome its weaknesses.

I wonder what you, my faithful, dearest, reader&emdash;that sounds nice&emdash;thought of the play by play explanation of the goldfish draws (was it readable and/or useful?) and if you have any suggestions on how to improve this deck. You can reach me in the forums for discussion!

Frank Karsten

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