Lord of the Rings cards have come with a lot of hype. This is true not only for flavor reasons and for Limited but also for Constructed formats. Cards like the One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters are becoming Eternal format staples. Interestingly, Lord of the Rings cards are also legal on Arena, and there are a number of cool combo decks the set gave rise to in Historic. As it turns out, Rosie Cotton of South Lane and Scurry Oak aren’t the only cards that combo well together. Today, we go over another combo deck that continues to dominate the Historic ladder on Arena and why it’s doing so well.
The interaction between Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven is a well-established synergy that is utilized in Historic and Pioneer alike. Unlike this synergy, however, a new Samwise combo intends to drain all of the opponent’s life total at once.
Samwise makes a Food token whenever any non-token Creature enters the Battlefield, including Cauldron Familiar. If you have access to any repeatable sacrifice outlet, you can 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. You can then repeat this process over and over, and your opponent will get drained of one life each time.
As good as Witch’s Oven is in these styles of decks, because it has to be tapped to sacrifice a Creature, it doesn’t go infinite here, as it is not a repeatable sacrifice outlet. There are a number of other good options the deck can play though.
Likely the easiest card to pair with Samwise is Woe Strider. Not only is Woe Strider a repeatable sacrifice outlet that is good on its own, but it’s also a recursive threat. What makes this deck powerful is that Woe Strider, and especially Cauldron Familiar, are already proven cards that are strong and synergistic. One of the weaknesses of traditional sacrifice strategies has been the ability to close out the game quickly, and adding Samwise in the mix adds a combo kill that can be accomplished as early as turn three.
One of the nice things about this combo is that Cauldron Familiar doesn’t necessarily have to be in hand. For example, if Samwise is in play, and you cast Woe Strider, Samwise will trigger to make a Food token. This can be used to bring back Familiar from the graveyard to get the train rolling. Because of this, milling over Cauldron Familiar and even Woe Strider, that can be Escaped for five mana, is an effective strategy.
Grisly Salvage helps find Samwise or Woe Strider to get the ball rolling, with the ability to potentially mill over Cauldron Familiar in the process. Even though this is a three-card combo, Cauldron Familiar is easy to bring back from the graveyard, and any repeatable sacrifice outlet, including Altar of Dementia, will do.
The challenge, of course, is getting a copy of Samwise to stick, which is what your other cards help to accomplish. Just like with Rosie Cotton of South Lane and Scurry Oak, any piece of this combo can be found off of Collected Company, meaning your opponent has to play scared even if you pass the turn, as they could die if they tap out and you have a Familiar in your graveyard. Company is an excellent card on its own, and very effective at digging for the combo.
With cards like Salvage in the mix that mill you, this deck can also utilize Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler as a way to return any copy of Samwise that slips through the cracks or is removed from play. This deck is quite good at finding the pieces necessary to combo, but that’s not all it has going for it.
Witch’s Oven may not help directly with the combo, but it provides an excellent plan b that is quite good at playing a grindy game. Using Witch’s Oven to drain the opponent for one every turn in conjunction with Familiar is strong, even if it’s not an infinite combo. It makes attacking on the ground difficult for the opponent and isn’t broken up by typical removal spells.
Samwise also has another relevant ability in which you can sacrifice three Food tokens to return a historic card from your graveyard to your hand. This includes Witch’s Oven, so if any Ovens get milled over or destroyed, Samwise can bring them back and get the Familiar synergy started.
Beyond that, the deck has some room for flex slots that help solidify this strategy. Gilded Goose is a solid mana accelerant that can continue to make more Food tokens in the late game to maximize Samwise and Familiar. Cards like Thoughtseize can help clear the way for your combo as well as break up any combo from your opponents. As a Collected Company deck, however, this deck doesn’t have a ton of room for non-Creature spells. With Witch’s Oven and Grisly Salvage already in the mix, Thoughtseize and Fatal Push may have to be relegated to the sideboard at minimum, despite how efficient they are. Of course, should you favor the noncreature spell approach, you could simply try a shell of this combo that does not use Collected Company, and instead uses a bunch of Thoughtseize, Fatal Push and Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler.
The biggest weakness this deck has is in the manabase. Samwise is a Selesnya two-mana card that forces the deck to not only run three colors but also reliably have black mana turn one to cast Familiar and green and white mana turn two to cast Samwise. This makes Pathways noticeably worse, as a Pathway that makes black mana turn one doesn’t help cast Samwise turn two.
Samwise being a Selesnya card isn’t just awkward on the manabase, though. This means that, in order to stay in three colors, this deck misses out on some all-stars in general sacrifice strategies, such as Mayhem Devil and Claim the Firstborn.
This deck also has to focus a lot on the combo, which means that some flex slots that synergize well in typical sacrifice strategies simply won’t make the cut. There likely isn’t room for a playset of Deadly Dispute, for example, in this version of the deck.
Still, the combo is extremely useful in two aspects. First, it can end the game much quicker, which is very useful against opposing combo decks. Second, it makes Collected Company even better, and forces the opponent to leave up mana to break up the combo at all times. Giving up Mayhem Devil is a real cost, but this combo has a lot going for it, and should continue to be explored further in the coming weeks.