18, Jun, 24

Amazing Tree Combo Deck Surges Out of Nowhere!

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Article at a Glance

Since the release of MH3, many players have turned their attention to the Modern format. After all, the emergence of Nadu, Winged Wisdom combo and Ruby Medallion Storm has completely shaken the format’s metagame. MH3 has also had a massive impact on Pauper, Legacy, and Timeless.

As players continue to explore different archetypes and innovate with the new cards, it’s easy to lose sight of formats like Pioneer and Explorer that remained unaffected. However, a unique strategy with a rather unorthodox gameplan had a surprising breakout weekend.

This Rakdos shell featuring the mighty Tree of Perdition managed to both win a Magic Online Pioneer Challenge and also help an Explorer player earn a spot at the Arena Championship. The deck’s sudden success is truly remarkable, and the Tree of Perdition package can easily catch opponents off guard.

Tree and Cauldron Combo

Agatha's Soul Cauldron

At first glance, this deck may look like a pretty typical Rakdos strategy. You’ll still find elite efficient threats like Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker alongside top-tier interaction in the form of Thoughtseize. Once you notice the full playset of Agatha’s Soul Cauldron, though, it becomes obvious that there’s a lot more going on.

Agatha’s Soul Cauldron is an extremely powerful card that lets you exile creatures from across graveyards to put +1/+1 counters on your threats. Then, those threats gain any activated abilities of creatures you exiled with Cauldron. Almost every deck that utilizes Cauldron looks to abuse an incredible activated ability of some kind.

For example, Golgari Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo decks in Modern get a ton of mileage out Cauldron. Exiling the namesake card can enable you to combo out of nowhere, and exiling Grist, the Hunger Tide can help you flood the board with Insect tokens and generate tons of value. In the case of this Rakdos Pioneer deck, the best card to exile with Cauldron is Tree of Perdition.

Tree of Perdition is a weird card that, on its own, isn’t very strong. Making your opponent’s life total 13 in Constructed isn’t all that impressive, so in order to make Tree’s activated ability scary, you’d also need some way to reduce Tree’s toughness. On top of that, because Tree doesn’t have Haste, the opponent can often kill it before you even get a chance to activate it.

This is where Cauldron comes into play. Cauldron solves both of these problems. All you have to do is exile Tree from your graveyard and put a +1/+1 counter on a really small creature you control. You can do this at Instant speed, and as long as the creature you target isn’t Summoning Sick, you can activate the newly gained ability right away. Let’s say you put a +1/+1 counter on a 1/1. Your now two-toughness creature gains Tree’s ability, and you can immediately bring your opponent’s life total all the way down to two! This is the dream scenario, but as we will see, this deck has more tricks up its sleeve.

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Vampire Package and Discard Outlets

Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord

While Tree certainly provides the most upside in conjunction with Cauldron, it isn’t the only card in the deck with a strong activated ability. For example, if you manage to exile Voldaren Thrillseeker, you then get to start flinging your buffed creatures at will. Voldaren Thrillseeker makes it incredibly easy to close out games after a Tree activation, too.

As you might expect, this deck features a multitude of ways to discard Tree and Thrillseeker in order to make Cauldron a reliable win condition. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Bloodtithe Harvester are strong individually but work overtime as discard outlets. Voldaren Epicure also makes an appearance.

Interestingly, Voldaren Epicure, Voldaren Thrillseeker, and Bloodtithe Harvester all happen to be Vampires, and this Rakdos build takes full advantage. The dominant combo of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Vein Ripper gives this archetype another avenue to victory. Of course, if you don’t draw Vein Ripper, you can start distributing +1/+1 counters to your Vampires with Sorin.

Of note, Sorin’s ability to put +1/+1 counters on your Vampires is quite synergistic with Cauldron. Cauldron gives activated abilities of exiled creatures to ALL of your creature with +1/+1 counters on them, regardless of where the counters came from. So, in some games, you may be able to exile Thrillseeker from your graveyard, then deal a ton of damage to your opponent by sacrificing a bunch of creatures.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Preacher of the Schism

Overall, this deck has a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses as Rakdos Vampires. The Vampires “core” is still intact. However, the addition of the Cauldron package lets you attack from an entirely different angle.

This can be helpful in a variety of matchups. Against combo decks and Niv to Light, traditional Rakdos Vampires shells can have trouble applying enough early pressure. Here, Voldaren Thrillseeker enables more aggressive starts, while assembling the Cauldron+Tree combo quickly can help you win games you otherwise couldn’t. Cauldron itself even has the added bonus of functioning as graveyard hate, giving you a big leg up versus Izzet Phoenix.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some benefits to sticking to a more typical Rakdos Vampires build. Losing out on Preacher of the Schism, Archfiend of the Dross, and extra removal spells can definitely come back to bite you against aggro. You also run the risk of drawing Tree at an inopportune time, since the card is pretty weak without Cauldron in the mix.

The upside that the Cauldron package provides, though, is no joke. This deck’s elite performance this weekend simply cannot be ignored. There’s a lot to like, so it’ll be interesting to see if this new technology catches on long-term.

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