Lord of the Rings brought multiple powerful cards to the forefront of the Modern format. Cards like The One Ring and Delighted Halfling have been popping up in lots of different archetypes, cementing themselves as significant parts of the format. Beyond individual cards, Lord of the Rings also brought a handful of combos to various MTG formats. Lots of players have been utilizing Samwise Gamgee and Cauldron Familiar on the MTG Arena ladder to great success. As it turns out, Samwise is also working its way into Modern. Not only that, but it’s helping to revitalize a unique archetype centered around Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar (Asmo for short) and the Underworld Cookbook that hasn’t been in the spotlight for a while. Is this the perfect shell for the Samwise combo? Let’s take a look.
The key parts to the combo involve Samwise, Cauldron Familiar, and any repeatable sacrifice outlet. Samwise makes a Food token whenever any non-token Creature enters the Battlefield, including Cauldron Familiar. You can then sacrifice Cauldron Familiar and use the Food token created with Samwise to bring it back to the battlefield. Cauldron Familiar’s entry will cause Samwise to trigger again and make another Food token. You can repeat this process indefinitely, and your opponent will get drained of one life each time.
In Historic, these cards were often paired with cards like Witch’s Oven and Collected Company to maximize synergy, and the sacrifice outlet of choice was typically Woe Strider. In Modern, the best sacrifice outlet is likely Viscera Seer, purely due to its efficiency. Modern’s card pool is also much deeper, and as such, there are a lot of cards that can be utilized alongside the combo. In top eight of the Magic Online Modern Showcase Challenge this past weekend that featured over 400 players, we saw this combo mashed together with a typical Food token strategy. Each part of the deck seems to synergize well with each other, which explains why the deck had so much success.
The Food Core
Samwise is not the only card in this deck that can generate a healthy dose of Food tokens. The combination of Asmo and the Underworld Cookbook not only provides a stream of Food tokens, but also provides a way to turn those Food tokens into removal spells. Asmo is extremely powerful. It digs for the Underworld Cookbook, then can throw two Food tokens at any opposing Creature to deal it six damage. The Underworld Cookbook does require you to discard a card to create a Food token, but if you discard Ovalchase Daredevil, the Food token entering returns the Daredevil to hand, and it’s like you never discard a card at all!
Another source of Food tokens the deck has access to is Gilded Goose. Gilded Goose is both a decent mana-dork and also a way to make more Food tokens for Asmo and Samwise. All of these Food token producers also synergize super well with Academy Manufactor, which allows you to create a Treasure and a Clue token in addition to each Food token you make. This helps provide you with extra mana and card advantage to help get the Samwise combo going or just bury your opponent in value.
Of course, none of this would be complete without Urza’s Saga. Because all the Food tokens are Artifacts, Urza’s Saga is capable of producing absolutely massive Construct tokens. It can then search up a copy of the Underworld Cookbook or a handful of other utility Artifacts that synergize with your gameplan. This includes Witch’s Oven, which synergizes quite nicely with Cauldron Familiar. The whole deck meshes really well together, and the Samwise combo is a perfect fit.
What makes the combo work so well in this deck is that Samwise is a fantastic source of value. So much of the deck’s gameplan is to out-value the opponent, keep the board clear with Asmo, and play as a control deck. Samwise has two excellent abilities that further advance this gameplan. Anytime a non-token Creature enters the battlefield, you get a Food token. This is a great way to get immediate value out of Academy Manufactor. Because of Asmo and Urza’s Saga, this deck never has a shortage of ways to maximize Food tokens. Samwise can even cash in three Food tokens to return powerful cards like Asmo or Urza’s Saga to your hand.
This deck is never short on ways to generate value. This deck even gets to utilize Deadly Dispute, another great source of card advantage that works well with excess Food tokens and Academy Manufactor. What the combo adds to the deck, however, is the ability to close the game quickly. Modern is a fast format. As good as Asmo is at controlling the board and Urza’s Saga is at generating value, that matters very little if the opponent is trying to go way over the top of you by casting something like Living End.
This deck has a great mix of ways to generate value and card advantage, then use that card advantage to dig for the combo and end the game on the spot. Finale of Devastation is a nice addition that can find Asmo or the one-of Viscera Seer to help execute the combo. This deck’s strengths revolve around synergy. The combo helps with the deck’s natural weaknesses, but the deck as a whole is still not fool proof.
Ways to Beat The Strategy
Perhaps the biggest weakness this deck has is its manabase. Playing Urza’s Saga in a deck that features a double-colored two-drop is not perfect. Gilded Goose and various Treasure tokens can help mitigate this problem, but because the deck is three colors and plays Urza’s Saga, it is quite weak to Blood Moon. The deck does feature one basic Land in each of its colors, but searching for these in time is difficult, and weakens your ability to cast multiple spells on the same turn. That doesn’t even factor in the fact that Urza’s Saga doesn’t stay in play in the face of a Blood Moon.
What’s nice about this strategy, however, is that outside of specific hate cards like Blood Moon, this deck covers its bases well against different kinds of strategies. It can combo quickly against other combo decks like Living End, utilize Asmo and Food tokens as repeatable removal against opposing Creature decks like Hammer Time or Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer decks, and can generate lots of value against decks like Rakdos.
This deck can still have some problems with consistency, such as reliably having a discard outlet to get Asmo onto the board, but its cards synergize so well with each other than this usually isn’t too big of a problem. The combo is certainly powerful, and it appears it has found a nice home for the time being.