Whenever new sets are on the horizon, one thing that tons of players are routinely on the lookout for is combos. For instance, when The Lost Caverns of Ixalan spoilers were coming out of the woodworks, players were quick to realize the synergy between Amalia Benavides Aguirre and Wildgrowth Walker. Of course, not every combo that players come up with end up breaking out in the competitive scene, but they are always important to keep an eye out for.
Recently, we went over a new combo in the upcoming Standard format that emerged thanks to a Karlov Manor uncommon: Forensic Researcher. With two copies of Forensic Researcher and Deeproot Pilgrimage in play, you can create infinite Merfolk tokens! Today, we are going to focus on some notable synergies that can lead to a quick kill as early as turn three.
Even though this isn’t exactly a combo in the sense that you can go infinite, it helps make an intriguing Karlov Manor Creature much more effective than it would normally be. Since The Pride of Hull Clade was previewed, players have been intrigued by its massive toughness. Well, in Pioneer and Modern, it’s quite possible to cast the enormous Defender as early as turn two. With the right draw, you can attack for 20+ damage as early as turn three! Let’s take a look at the pieces necessary to accomplish this goal.
Aegis Turtle Opens the Door
In order to have the opportunity to play The Pride of Hull Clade on turn two, you want to have access to Aegis Turtle. Aegis Turtle isn’t exciting, but because it has five toughness and does not have Defender itself, it’s the perfect card to pair with The Pride of Hull Clade. The simplest way to cast Pride on turn two is by casting Aegis Turtle turn one, then a second copy of Aegis Turtle turn two. Now, you can cast The Pride off of your second Land drop for turn.
From there, Assault Formation and High Alert are the perfect cards to pair with The Pride once it’s in play. Not only can the mythic rare Turtle attack as though it doesn’t have Defender, but it also will deal damage based on its toughness rather than its power. With access to either High Alert or Assault Formation, as well as Aegis Turtle and The Pride in play, attacking for 20+ damage on turn three is easy.
Turn Three Assault Formation Kills
Notably, there are a couple other lines of play that do allow for this to happen, even if you don’t have access to two copies of Aegis Turtle. For example, in the tweet above, after casting Aegis Turtle turn one, you can cast Wall of Roots on turn two.
Now, with 10 toughness in play, you can cast The Pride by making green mana with Wall of Roots. Importantly, even though Wall of Roots will lose a toughness in the process of making mana, you can still cast The Pride for only one green mana, as you determine the costs of a spell before actually paying said costs.
What’s nice about the Wall of Roots kill is that, if you don’t have a third Land, you can still win turn three. Wall of Roots’ ability to make mana the turn it comes into play and on subsequent turns really comes in handy. You can also always lead with a mana dork like Birds of Paradise turn one to make things easier.
Then, on turn two, you have access to three mana, letting you cast two copies of Aegies Turtle and The Pride or one copy of Aegies Turtle, Wall of Roots, and The Pride instead. This line even opens the door for you to cast Arcades, the Strategist instead of High Alert or Assault Formation on turn three, though this clearly requires more cards to accomplish and actually doesn’t allow Aegis Turtle to deal five damage when it attacks, since Aegis Turtle doesn’t have Defender to begin with.
Building a Pioneer Shell
Speaking of Arcades, it’s cool that Arcades, High Alert, and Assault Formation are all Pioneer legal. Wall of Roots is not, but Aegis Turtle is and The Pride will be, of course. The question is, how would you go about building a deck around these cards? The easiest method is to just fill your deck with high-toughness Creatures with the intention of attacking, but as elite MTG player Piotr Glogowski points out, there’s room to add in infinite combos as well.
If you control Axebane Guardian, Secret Door, High Alert and at least three other Defenders, you can generate infinite mana in any color combination and win the game in a trivial manner. You can just tap Axebane Guardian for five mana total, use four of it to activate High Alert and untap Axebane Guardian, then rinse and repeat.
With infinite mana, you can dump all of it into Secret Door, repeatedly Venturing into the Dungeon. Because one of the Dungeon rooms of Lost Mine of Phandelver drains the opponent, you have a guaranteed kill by entering the same Dungeon over and over. This is obviously a lot to set up, but even without access to High Alert, Arcades and The Pride are fully capable of winning games in short order once in play.
In Modern, there are some sweet additions that can make it a bit easier to reliably cast The Pride, even in the face of removal. Wall of Denial, for example, brings The Pride’s casting cost down to three mana by itself. With Shroud, your opponent probably can’t kill it, giving you a window to cast The Pride the following turn.
Skinshifter is another card that greatly reduces the casting cost of The Pride. With access to four mana, you can make Skinshifter into a 0/8 Plant, then cast The Pride.
It isn’t super likely that this archetype becomes highly competitive, especially in Modern where efficient reactive elements like Solitude can put a wrench in your plans. Nonetheless, The Pride of Hull Clade is a strong card in its own right, so it’s worth monitoring if the card does end up successfully breaking out in a major format.