25, Jun, 23

Nostalgic MTG Archetype Returns Thanks to Broken Combo!

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Article at a Glance

Ever since the printing of Faerie Mastermind in March of the Machine, Dimir Rogues has seen mild representation in Pioneer. With a bunch of Creatures with Flash and solid interaction in the form of discard spells, removal, and Counterspells, the deck has a decent tempo gameplan for a variety of matchups. One of the bigger weaknesses of the deck had always been its inability to close out games quickly. With the ANZ Super Series Finals in Sydney, Australia underway, one MTG veteran decided to address this problem by adding a recently discovered combo into the classic Rogues shell.

The combo of Archfiend of the Dross and Metamorphic Alteration has been a well-established gameplan since the round of Regional Championships in early June. However, it has typically been utilized in Midrange shells, maximizing the power of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Dig Through Time to help find the necessary combo pieces. Adding this combo to Dimir Rogues is an interesting approach, but one that can help in a number of matchups.

The Combo

Archfiend of the Dross
Metamorphic Alteration

The basis of the combo relies on the fact that Archfiend of the Dross normally enters the battlefield with four oil counters on it. Every turn cycle, you remove one of these counters, and once all are removed, you lose the game. Archfiend of the Dross is a huge Flier that is capable of winning games on its own if left unchecked, but puts you on a clock to close out the game. However, Archfiend of the Dross only gets these starting oil counters when it enters the battlefield.

By using Metamorphic Alteration to turn an opponent’s Creature into a copy of your Archfiend of the Dross, it will maintain all of Archfiend’s abilities, but will not have four oil counters on it because it never entered the battlefield specifically as Archfiend. As such, at the beginning of your opponent’s upkeep, they will lose the game because Archfiend has zero oil counters on it.

What makes this combo relatively effective in the first place is Archfiend is a massive threat on its own. Pairing it with other midrange elements was a good way to utilize the combo in a well-established shell alongside other powerful cards in the format. However, this archetype has begun to fade in recent events as more and more people became aware of the combo and how to play around it. The combo is still powerful and worth exploring but may need a different shell to maximize its potential. Sam Loy’s deck pairing the Dimir Rogues Shell with the Archfiend combo has a lot to offer, and the strategies meld pretty well together.

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The Rogues Shell

Thieves' Guild Enforcer

Rogues, similar to Spirits, has a solid tempo-oriented gameplan. By establishing a clock and backing up pressure with necessary interaction, both decks can keep the opponent on the backfoot until you cross the finish line. Unlike Spirits, however, Rogues does not have quite the abundance of threats. It makes up for this by playing extra pieces of interaction like Thoughtseize and Fatal Push, as well as an unbelievable piece of permission in Drown in the Loch. Drown in the Loch functions both as a Counterspell and a removal spell for anything that may have slipped through the cracks, and pairs nicely with the threats the Rogues deck has access to. Thieves’ Guild Enforcer and Soaring Thought-Thief naturally mill the opponent, making Drown in the Loch an elite piece of interaction.

The problem is that, in some matchups, the deck does not apply enough pressure early. With Thieves’ Guild Enforcer as the only one-drop in the deck, Rogues relies on Thoughtseize and Fatal Push more heavily. Drawing Drown in the Loch without Enforcer or Thought-Thief can be awkward too, as the opponent may not have the requisite number of cards in their graveyard to maximize the versatile spell. Against a matchup like Mono-Green Devotion, drawing the wrong half of the deck and not applying enough early pressure can be very problematic.

Luckily, that’s where the addition of the Archfiend combo plays in. Even if your initial clock isn’t the fastest, having access to the combo means that you can close the game out quickly after interacting for the first few turns. Archfiend also fits well into a tempo deck like Rogues, as the downside of Archfiend only having four oil counters is less of a problem. It may seem strange to utilize the Sorcery-speed combo in a deck that primarily plays at Instant-speed, but both aspects of the deck compliment each other.

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Two Decks in One


Part of what makes the Flash gameplan of Rogues so effective is that it gives you the agency to either add pressure to the board or interact with the opponent depending on what they do. Many decks in Pioneer, especially aggressive decks, don’t have this luxury. As such, they are often forced to play to the board to deny you the opportunity to cast your Rogues and start attacking. This is another area the Archfiend combo comes in handy.

When playing Archfiend and Alteration in a more traditional Midrange shell, your opponent has more of a chance to play around the combo by either holding up removal for Archfiend or simply choosing not to deploy Creatures into a potential Alteration. However, the pressure the traditional Rogues strategy offers forces the opponent to play further to the board, which puts them in a bind. You still get to make use of cards like Thoughtseize to make sure the coast is clear for the combo, but now you get to add Counterspells and efficient sources of pressure to the mix, making it harder for the opponent to play around the combo even if they know about it.

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The Best of Both Worlds?

Dig Through Time

It’s clear that gaining a potent combo has its benefits for a deck like Rogues. That being said, implementing the combo does not come without its costs. First, the Rogues deck is cutting or trimming some other reasonable threats to make room for Archfiend and Alteration. This includes multiple flex slots, such as Sheoldred, the Apocolypse and Nighthawk Scavenger. It’s nice that Archfiend is a threat capable of closing out games, similar to Sheoldred in that regard. The problem is that Alteration is a relatively weak card without the combo assembled.

The original Midrange variants utilizing the combo played cards like Dig Through Time that, as the name suggests, could dig for either missing piece of the combo and refuel your hand. Rogues does not have that luxury. Rogues has minimal slots available for cards that aren’t efficient ways to add pressure to the board or interact. By adding Archfiend of the Dross, there is less room for high-mana value-centric cards like Into the Story.

Additionally, Archfiend being a four-mana Creature means it doesn’t directly help advance the Rogues gameplan. It contrasts with the deck’s natural card efficiency. In some ways, this actually makes the “wrong half” problem stated earlier with Rogues even worse. Drawing multiple Archfiends can make it difficult to add quick pressure to the board, and drawing multiple Alterations without Archfiend is a disaster.

This deck certainly has some powerful draws, and having access to a combo can help the Rogues deck close the game quicker on average, but this does not come without consequence. Still, Rogues’ ability to maximize cheap interaction makes it easier to execute the combo, as does Rogues’ ability to naturally pressure the opponent. At minimum, this shows that the combo can fit into multiple strategies, and that there is plenty of room for innovation in Pioneer, even within established archetypes.

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