Commander, aside from being the most popular MTG format currently, is also one of the more complex ones. Thanks to using cards from all of Magic’s 30-year history, any number of bizarre and complicated interactions can appear on a table.
Since there are so many cards available to utilize in Commander, it’s easy for some unheard-of gems to go undiscovered for quite some time. There are literally tens of thousands of different game pieces for Commander players to consider and, while players have discovered a lot of uniquely powerful cards from Magic’s history, every once in a while, one MTG player’s discovery, when put in front of others, starts to spread across the internet.
Last week, a question regarding finding a way to gain protection from The One Ring forever brought MTG Lethal Vapors, a long forgotten stax piece, to the spotlight. There’s no infinite combo in question this time, but we have another MTG card from an old set that may be incredibly powerful. Let’s look at MTG Hecatomb!
Unfortunately for fans of the niche Wizards of the Coast game named Hecatomb that died off relatively quickly in the mid-2010’s, we are talking about the MTG card Hecatomb that released in Ice Age.
Hecatomb enters play with a rather significant downside that is much more severe than it looks. While reading this iteration of Hecatomb suggests that you do not necessarily need to have four creatues to sacrifice, failing to sacrifice four creatures will result in sacrificing Hecatomb. That said, the secondary effect, when used properly, can be well worth it.
Aside from forcing you to sacrifice four creatures on entry, Hecatomb allows you to repurpose your Swamps as one-damage effects that can deal damage to any target (the oracle text clears that up).
Like MTG Lethal Vapors, as inquired about on Reddit you are capable of activating abilities of Hecatomb in response to its own abilities, meaning that you can throw some damage around before the sacrifice trigger resolves. That means that if this is the last piece of an infinite combo you’ve assembled, the sacrifice trigger won’t necessarily resolve before the game ends as long as the combo functions at instant speed.
This also means that, if you do not have four creatures to sacrifice to Hecatomb, you still get a small window where you can use its other abilities.
Way back in the day, Sengir Autocrat was a great way to enable MTG Hecatomb while getting around the sacrifice trigger. Nowadays, however, there’s a lot more that this card is capable of.
Commanders that Want MTG Hecatomb
The most obvious place where Hecatomb can go to work is alongside Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin. Ob Nixilis cares about dealing damage in increments of one. This allows you to Impulse draw and grow your Commander to lethal heights. Hecatomb gives Ob Nixilis users a way to use their mana for card draw if they need more gas. The problem is finding creatures to sacrifice to Hecatomb.
Endrek Sahr and Hecatomb strangely benefit from one another. This time, we care more about the sacrifice trigger than the upside of Hecatomb, but Hecatomb can still turned unused mana into potential removal.
Endrek Sahr creates a lot of tokens, which enables Hecatomb’s sacrifice trigger to be a lot less harmful. Sacrificing four 1/1 Black Thrull Tokens is not a big deal in comparison to four bigger creatures.
At the end of the day, even if the tokens aren’t too useful, sacrificing creatures is usually still a cost. You can use those tokens for blocking or chip damage otherwise. I say most of the time because Endrek Sahr presents an exception.
In exchange for wielding the ability to create a ton of tokens, Endrek Sahr will sacrifice itself once you control seven or more Thrulls. This means that, in order to keep Endrek Sahr around to maximize his token creation, you need to cull the number of tokens you have at any given time. Not only can Hecatomb get rid of four Thrulls initially, but its activated ability can kill a Thrull if need be to prevent Endrek Sahr from being sacrificed.
Shirei, Shinzo’s Caretaker is yet another Commander that can abuse Hecatomb. This card cares about small one power creatures dying. Those creatures can be returned to play at the beginning of the next end step as long as Shirei is still in play. This could allow for players to reuse ETB or death triggered effects over and over.
Not only can Hecatomb sacrifice four of these creatures in one go, but you could also use your activated ability to kill off your own creatures on opponent’s turns. Shirei doesn’t care who’s turn the one-power creatures die on. It triggers on every end step.
MTG Hecatomb Infinite Combos
Alongside some niche Commanders that can really abuse MTG Hecatomb, there are a few infinite combos that this card can also utilize.
A majority of infinite combos surrounding Hecatomb involve Earthcraft. This Legacy-banned card allows players to tap a creature in order to untap a Basic Land. Notably, Hecatomb can tap a Swamp to deal a damage to anything, enabling an infinite damage combo, as long as you can consistently untap a creature.
Pili-Pala is one of the better ways to do this. Alongside something that makes basic lands tap for double, like Crypt Ghast for Swamps, Pili-Pala can untap infinitely, generating infinite mana. All you need past that point is something like Leech Bonder. the Bonder can use the extra mana to untap, and Earthcraft can untap a land. This extra land can be tapped by Hecatomb, dealing infinite damage.
There are more infinite combos available with effects like Hecatomb threatening to be the damage dealer that closes things out, but many of them appear to find their way back to Earthcraft. If you manage to find some more interesting interactions with Hecatomb, feel free to share them with the world! While niche, this forgotten MTG card can pack a punch!