Geological Appraiser
5, Mar, 24

MTG Arena Changes Erase Problematic Turn One Combo

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Article at a Glance

Not all problematic turn one combos in Magic necessarily win the game on the spot. All you need to do is get disgustingly far ahead early in a way your opponent cannot interact with, and it can become very difficult for them to have a legitimate game of Magic.

A good example of this is the new combo of Leyline of the Guildpact and Scion of Draco in Modern. The combo definitely won’t end the game on the spot but dealing with a turn 2 4/4 with a slew of keywords, making it near-impossible to interact with, can be difficult.

Play patterns that completely skew games, making them uninteresting, are common ones that are addressed by bannings. A good example is the recent Pioneer banning of Geological Appraiser. This card led to turn three wins, completely warping the format. While the Leyline of the Guildpact combo is not this egregious, there is another Leyline combo that went too far.

This Leyline combo was not part of a paper format. You could instead find this plaguing the Historic Ladder on MTG Arena. Thanks to an Alchemy exclusive card, you could easily turn a Leyline of your choice into a dangerous clock that is incredibly difficult to interact with, kind of like Scion of Draco. While this combo was eventually dealt with, it nonetheless warped the metagame heavily.

For those sick of the Leyline combo ruining their play experience in Historic, you are in luck! A recent MTG Arena announcement highlighted distinct Alchemy rebalances to two cards. Rather than seeing these cards banned outright, these rebalances still give players the opportunity to play with fixed versions of the two cards. Let’s take a closer look.

Fragment Reality

Fragment Reality

Up to this point, Fragment Reality has been completely dominating the Historic format. The main archetype that uses Fragment Reality has one main goal: get Geist of Saint Traft into play as quickly as possible. This deck functions like an all-in combo strategy, playing upwards of 20 various Leylines. As long as you are able to begin the game with a Leyline in play and have Fragment Reality to cast, putting Geist into play turn one is trivial.

Not only was this deck extremely powerful, but it also led to relatively unpleasant gameplay experiences. Beating a turn one Geist can be very difficult for many strategies, especially when on the draw. Meanwhile, this archetype is incredibly one-dimensional, encouraging tons of mulligans until you have a hand that can “do the thing.” Sometimes, even if you managed to find an answer to Geist, Slip Out the Back would ruin your day.

The way Fragment Reality is being rebalanced is simple. Rather than change the effect of the card, Wizards of the Coast ultimately decided to restrict the card to only target your opponent’s permanents. This seems like a strong change, as it removes the broken nature of the card while still leaving room for players to utilize it as a removal spell.

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Geological Appraiser

Geological Appraiser

The other card that saw a rebalance today was Geological Appraiser. Once again, while this change is labeled as an Alchemy rebalance, it seemingly will affect Historic the most. Geological Appraiser is an incredibly strong combo card that got banned rather quickly in Pioneer. The Pioneer and Historic versions of Discover combo were actually pretty similar at the time, utilizing the power of Eldritch Evolution and Glasspool Mimic.

The deck’s main gameplan was to first resolve a copy of Geological Appraiser. From there, you were guaranteed to reveal either a Clone variant or Eldritch Evolution. If you revealed a Clone variant, you would just get another copy of Appraiser and Discover 3 once again. Otherwise, you would search for Trumpeting Carnosaur and Discover 5, opening the door for you to reveal Geological Appraiser, too.

Assuming you don’t get unlucky and burn through all of your copies of Eldritch Evolution right away, you will end up with a big board of Creatures. Eventually, your last copy of Eldritch Evolution can find Doomskar Titan, allowing you to attack for lethal. This deck was not only strong, but also pretty fast. While you couldn’t play any other cards with mana value three or less for fear of breaking up your own combo, cards like Magma Opus could still help you ramp into Geological Appraiser a turn early.

Ultimately, the change that was made on MTG Arena is that Geological Appraiser now costs five mana instead of four. At minimum, this slows down the deck’s combo potential by a full turn, which is quite significant. The goal here was to make Discover combo decks a little less aggressive without completely removing their existence from Historic.

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Will These Cards Still See Play?

Orcish Bowmasters

This time around, these Alchemy rebalance decisions appear to be perfectly reasonable. Sometimes, the rebalances remove too much of what made certain cards powerful in the first place to the point where they end up seeing virtually no competitive player moving forward. Take Orcish Bowmasters, for example. This card was absurdly strong in Historic, but since the removal of the enters-the-battlefield effect from it, the card has been nowhere to be found in the format.

Obviously, in the case of Fragment Reality, the Leyline combo deck in its current iteration is gone. However, some Historic strategies like Jeskai control already utilized Fragment Reality as a basic removal spell. The downside, of course, is that even if you remove an opponent’s threat, they may be able to replace it with a Creature of lesser mana value from their deck. Still, the card answers problematic one-drops like Esper Sentinel effectively, and its efficient nature works well in conjunction with Snapcaster Mage.

In the case of Geological Appraiser, delaying the combo a turn doesn’t necessarily mean that a similar deck won’t see play. Between Appraiser, Carnosaur, and Pantlaza, Sun-Favored, the deck can still execute the combo relatively consistently. All things considered, these changes feel like decent ways to address two problematic combo cards without outright removing them from Historic and beyond. It’ll be interesting to see how these changes end up affecting various metagames on Arena in the near future.

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