The Art of the Expensive Combo

In Magic: the Gathering, I gravitate toward late-game awesomeness. Forget quick and easy combos–I want something that takes several turns to set up, so that I can savor the win when it becomes unstoppable. The idea of building an invincible combo one unassuming card at a time is so much fun.

This tendency certainly hasn’t dimmed or vanished in recent years. One of the recent decks I’ve been working on is basically a combo deck involving Sanguine Bond and Boon Reflection.

The epic–and expensive at 10 mana–combo

I LOVE This Idea…

These two card effects blend beautifully, making my opponents lose double life every time I gain life. I’ve actually been able to use two Whitesun’s Passages to defeat somebody in one turn with that combo on the table.

With Boon Reflection on the table, you gain 10 life instead of 5. Two of these played while Sanguine Bond’s out, and you’ve just made your opponent lose 20 life… 😀

…But It Took a Lot of Work to Get Here

However, just because a combo works beautifully in your head doesn’t mean that it will ever come to fruition. I worked on my Sanguine Boon deck (as I’ve come to call this particular combo deck) for almost a year before it really got off the ground, because I couldn’t draw enough mana to play all the combo pieces when I needed to play them. Either that, or I couldn’t even draw the combo pieces at the right time. Since it’s a deck that involves enemy colors working together, I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t expect it to be impossible.

So, I ended up chatting with one of my friends about this conundrum I was having, forgetting momentarily that he was quite knowledgeable about many of the cards and strategies available to Black. I was (admittedly) venting about my frustration with the deck, and after a few thoughtful moments, he said, “Hey, you ever tried Dark Ritual or Demonic Tutor in that deck?”

These cards solve two problems: having enough mana and getting the card you need at the right time.

I hadn’t. Truth be told, I kinda knew the cards existed, but I hadn’t really paid attention. Black has never really been “my color” in M:TG, so I didn’t know the color inside and out like I know White and Green. His question made me ask myself: why am I not using Black’s support cards to get my combo, anyway?

Making This Expensive Combo Run Right at Last!

I realized then that I had been relying completely on the luck of the draw with this deck. I had built the deck with only Sanguine Bond as the main Black card, and had not used Black’s wealth of searching cards (also called “tutor cards”) to get the cards I needed into my hand. When you have an expensive combo like Sanguine Bond and Boon Reflection, you need both the actual cards to play AND the available mana to play it, fast!

The addition of Demonic Tutor and Dark Ritual has helped Sanguine Boon become a truly winning deck in the games since then. The Black components (deck-searching and mana generation) helps all the White components be able to gain their life and defend life points long enough to get the combo in play. Once Sanguine Bond and Boon Reflection are both in play, White takes over and begins to kick butt by gaining life (a LOVELY strategy if I’ve ever heard of one!).

Moral of the Story

Don’t put aside the idea of a combo just because it takes too much mana to pull off. There are plenty of cards in M:TG to support even the most expensive of combos, if you’re willing to look outside your comfort zone!

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