12, Jun, 23

Underexplored Two-Card MTG Combo Dominates Major Format!

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Article at a Glance

This past weekend featured the MTG Regional Championships, and with it came some really cool deckbuilding decisions. From Rakdos Goblins to Azorius Lotus Field, these tournaments displayed lots of innovation and showcased just how much of Pioneer was underexplored. No deck showcased this better than the one combining Archfiend of the Dross and Metamorphic Alteration.

Archfiend had been getting more and more hype leading up to the Regional Championships, with some people going as far as to replace some copies of Sheoldred, the Apocolypse in Rakdos Midrange with the powerful Demon.

While there was undoubtedly controversy over the Sheoldred/Archfiend debate, others decided to try to tech for Archfiend by playing Heartless Act as their two-mana removal spell of choice. While decent on its own, Heartless Act’s ability to remove three counters from a Creature combined with Archfiend’s four oil counters ticking down meant that you could force your opponent to lose the game to their own Archfiend on their upkeep. This was definitely a cool idea in theory, but almost no one expected people to take the Archfiend of the Dross oil counter interaction a step further.

The Combo

Archfiend of the Dross
Metamorphic Alteration

Archfiend of the Dross is a powerful four-mana six-power flyer capable of ending the game in short order. Reminiscent of cards like Desecration Demon, this does not come without a downside, though. The downside is that it enters with four oil counters, and every turn cycle, it loses one of those counters. If there are no counters remaining, you lose the game.

Archfiend’s large stats means it can often win the game on its own before the counters get removed, but what if the card started with zero oil counters instead of four? Then Archfiend would be a complete liability, and you’d be forced to remove your own or simply die to the trigger on your upkeep. This is the basis for the Metamorphic Alteration combo.

Archfiend of the Dross only gains the four oil counters when it enters the battlefield. By using Metamorphic Alteration to turn an opponent’s Creature into a copy of your Archfiend, your opponent will be forced to remove their now Archfiend-copy or they will lose on their upkeep. This combo is fully capable of killing your opponents out of nowhere, especially if they don’t see it coming. Sometimes though, your opponent won’t oblige. Maybe they kill your Archfiend. Maybe they don’t play a Creature, rendering Metamorphic Alteration mostly useless. What is your gameplan then?

Read More: New MTG LOTR Card Creates Two-Card Infinite Combo!

Why the Deck Works

Dig Through Time

While there are dedicated combo decks in Pioneer, such as Lotus Field Combo, this deck functions much more like a Midrange deck with a potential combo finish. In fact, a lot of the deck overlaps with the powerful Rakdos Midrange shell. Both make use of two elite pieces of one mana interaction in Fatal Push and Thoughtseize alongside the seemingly omnipotent Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

While this deck does miss out on Sheoldred, it gains Archfiend, which still can dominate a game of magic all the same. In this way, the deck does not need to assemble the combo in order to win the game. This plan B is what truly makes the deck a powerful choice in Pioneer. That being said, having access to the combo does two important things that traditional Rakdos Midrange decks can struggle with.

Benefits to Combo Access

The first thing the combo does is help you win faster or win otherwise unwinnable games against decks with Creatures and limited interaction. Take a matchup like Mono-Green Devotion, for example. Traditional Midrange decks sometimes struggled fighting through a sea of Cavalier of Thorns andStorm the Festival, and they usually don’t have access to consistent early pressure to get out ahead of these powerful finishers. This combo solves that problem. Even if you are unable to use Archfiend to win combat, there is very little the opponent can do to break up the combo.

The second thing the combo does is make the opponent play scared. The opponent has to fear the combo at all times, which only heightens the advantage gained from your other Midrange cards. This deck also gets to make use of four copies of Dig Through Time, which are not only excellent at finding your combo pieces but also help further your attrition-based gameplan against decks where the combo is less reliable. The more your opponent plays scared, the more time you have to maximize Dig Through Time, which puts your opponent in a bind.

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Inverter Similarities

Inverter of Truth

It is pretty clear that Octopedes_Rex is comparing Inverter of Truth with Thassa’s Oracle to Archfiend with Alteration. While almost certainly hyperbole, there are some key similarities that showcase why the Archfiend deck was successful this weekend. At the 410-player $10k Regional Championship Qualifier at Regional Championship Dallas, Nicole Dubin finished the Swiss rounds undefeated with Archfiend Alteration combo, and their list has a lot of overlap with pre-ban Inverter decklists.

In addition to the similarly costed combo pieces, Nicole utilized Fatal Push, Thoughtseize, and Dig Through Time, just like old Inverter decks. From there, most of the rest of the deck, besides other Midrange threats like Fable, is filled with additional interaction in the form of removal and Counterspells. This showcases how playing a midrange/controlling gameplan with a combo finish can be quite an effective strategy, regardless of the combo itself.

It is worth mentioning, though, that while these decks do have similarities, the Inverter of Truths combo was a lot more robust. Unlike Alteration, Thassa’s Oracle could win the game through instant-speed removal and was, therefore, a lot harder for the opponent to break up. I expect as more people learn about the Alteration combo, more people will be better prepared to protect themselves from the combo.

Still, there are decks that can’t do much about the combo, whether they know about it or not. Combine that with the deck’s effective plan B as a solid Midrange deck with Archfiend as a finisher, and this deck can still be quite effective in the coming months. If you are eager to play Pioneer moving forward, definitely keep this combo on your radar.

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