Card games naturally revolve around creating combos. Magic: The Gathering (MTG) has plenty of cards and counting to choose from for any deck idea. It is no surprise an endless amount of possible card combinations exist in MTG. One could call me a combo advocate of sorts. I love mixing and matching cards together to produce some ideal effect. Heck, half of the fun for me entails brainstorming combo ideas.
With this in mind, understanding basic combo premises helps in pairing up cards together. Below are five (of many possible) basic concepts for card combos in MTG.
Note: The names for these combos are my own and nothing official.
By far, this combo happens to be the easiest to understand. You play a creature and then boost up their stats with other cards. Very straightforward, but the basic strategies often are very useful regardless. My Bogles deck is a strategy revolving around pure augmentation. I play a creature and then bestow it with additional stats and bonuses to make it a scary threat for my opponent.
Certain combos trigger when a particular sequence occurs. And thus, these cards are all about “timing” and using these windows of opportunity to create certain outcomes. A good example would be Madness cards. Madness cards offer a player a different casting cost when they discard a card with the Madness keyword.
Let’s say you have Heir of Falkenrath in play. You use her discard effect to transform the card.
3. Board Setup
Building a board in MTG occurs as a match unfolds. Both players place cards into play, and over time cards begin to build up. Some combos focus on making your board state overwhelming for your opponent in some fashion.
A deck I want to play while I can is the Starfield of Nyx build. You put a lot of enchantments into play and then “bring them to life.” Out of the blue, you have an army of enchantments as creatures.
Of course, this combo can be inherently risky. In MTG, this is the equivalent of overextending. Your opponent will see your strategy from a mile away. If your opponent is prepared to remove your board, then you can be back to square one quite fast. It is an all-or-nothing tactic, after all.
Losing cards to your graveyard does not have to be all bad. In fact, some decks specifically want to toss cards there on purpose. Finding ways to manipulate the graveyard to your advantage can be incredibly useful. All of a sudden, your lost cards become extra resources.
As an example, cards that mill you fill up your graveyard naturally. You can then use the cards you lose for other purposes later in the game.
5. Meta Changers
Finding a powerful combo that warrants special recognition is difficult to achieve. Of course, some combos make huge metagame splashes for their run. The combo that comes to mind is a deck called Splinter Twin.
In a nutshell, this deck’s main aim was to do a one-turn-kill. It could beat you as soon as a player put the combo pieces into play. The deck basically produced an infinite amount of creatures who could attack you for potentially incalculable damage. Below were the two original cards that started it all.
With just these two cards alone, you could win any game. Obviously, a combo this brutally efficient needs to be scrutinized. It is not fun to lose to combos like this one. At the same time, combo innovation should strive for finding strategies that produce amazing results. For Wizards of the Coast to ban this deck and its combo says a lot. The combo was too good.
Ultimately, combos in MTG, or any card game for that matter, keep the game fun. Without players being eager to create and discover new combos, the game would never evolve. Some strategies are more effective than others, but being constantly curious of how some cards would interact with one another keeps everyone still invested in playing. I have found a lot of wacky combos on my own and will continue to do so for the sake of in-game creativity.