Commander Focus: Budget Combos Episode 1

Hi everyone! I’m back with something a little different this week. When I first started writing about Magic, my goals were twofold:

  • Show players that Magic can be accessible with strong, focused decks on a reasonable budget.
  • Demonstrate that “budget” does not necessarily entail a lower power level

Today, I’m going to support the latter half of my hypothesis by sharing some awesome combos that are accessible at a very reasonable price point. In case you’re newer to the format, a “combo” in EDH usually implies some sort of combination of spells/abilities that work together to make some hugely impactful play. Usually (not always, but frequently) a combo does something that will make an “infinite” or arbitrarily large number of something. Whether it’s making a billion tokens, drawing your deck, or even just dealing enough damage to wipe every opponent out of the game, combos are a great way to swing a game in your favor if not winning outright. While there sometimes is some animosity regarding combos with groups, combos are a really good way to prevent games from stalling out or to stop greedy strategies from winning the game. They can be great backup plans to your deck’s primary win condition as well, and outside of cEDH-style combos, most are pretty interactive to a degree.

I have a few specifics in what combos I’d like to share. All of my combos listed have to meet the following criteria:

  1. It must be a reasonable cost to fit in my standard budget of $50-60, meaning a combo usually will be under $3-5 total.
  2. The combo must be under 3 cards. There are some crazy combos out there, but for simplicity’s sake the whole thing must be in a 3 card shell at max.
  3. Every card should be able to reasonably find a home in a deck that would make sense. Running a card purely for a combo where it has no purpose to the rest of the deck’s game plan is silly, so a combo should have cards that naturally have synergy.

With that out of the way, lets take a look at some combos! I’m going to highlight 5 of my favorites, but you want to see some of your own, I highly recommend the Commander’s Spellbook website! They’re a fantastic community and a great resource for finding combos that best suit your deck. I’m going to start off with a few simpler ones, and we’ll move to the complex ones further in.

Combo #1Herd BalothIvy Lane Denizen

I adore this combo just because of how many decks can easily find a spot for it. To start, we have to just have Ivy Lane Denizen in play. Herd Baloth can be in play as well, but you need another green creature in hand. When Herd Baloth/the other creature comes in, Ivy triggers to put a counter on Baloth, which then causes a 4/4 green beast to enter play. This loops to make as many 4/4 beasts as your heart desires. Both of these cards are solid includes on their own in a +1/+1 counter deck that includes green, so having a way to go from 0-100 with your board state can be nice to have in your back pocket. Without haste, it can cause a big target on your back, but if you have a way to attack right away or use the tokens differently it can be a great backup plan.

Combo #2Retreat to CoralhelmWalking Atlas + Any “Bounce” Land, such as Guildless Commons

This combo is something for the landfall players. With everything but the land in play, you can play your bounce land using Walking Atlas. Retreat then triggers, leaving you with both the “return a land” trigger and the Retreat trigger on the stack. Resolve the land first, targeting itself, sending it back to your hand. Retreat will then trigger, and you’ll use the first effect to untap Walking Atlas. You can loop this for as many triggers as you want. While this doesn’t do anything outright, almost every popular landfall commander will have a way to get value off this effect. Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait can use it to draw your whole deck. Omnath, Locus of the Roil can make all of your elementals dumb big. The possibilities are endless, and while there are other versions of this combo, I love this one because every card is super useful in a landfall deck on it’s own and it can fit in any deck with blue!

Combo #3Brash TaunterGuilty Conscience

Another combo that has a few other versions, but here’s my favorite. With Brash Taunter in play, attach Guilty Conscience to it. Have Taunter deal combat damage to something (Player, creature, planeswalker; it doesn’t matter. It can fight something in a pinch if needed). Guilty will then trigger, dealing 1 damage to Taunter. It then deals 1 damage to an opponent of your choice. This loops for infinite 1 damage pings. I love Brash Taunter with a passion. Maybe it’s because I play a Fling deck, Goblin deck, and Fight deck, but I think this card is a surprisingly strong piece in a lot of archetypes. Guilty Conscience is also a hilariously effective deterrent for 1 mana; you’d be shocked how many combat-oriented cards are shut out if they can’t reliably get their toughness above their power. You can swap Taunter for Stuffy Doll to make this combo White-only, but that will only work targeting a single player. If there’s one person you want to absolutely send to god though, be my guest.

Combo #4: Grumgully, the Generous + Any non-human with Persist (For this example, we’ll use Putrid Goblin)+ Goblin Bombardment

This is a fun way to teach an interaction that some players might not be aware of! In Magic, +1/+1 counters and -1/-1 counters cancel each other out. Lets say I play a Backup Agent and it puts a +1/+1 counter on itself. My opponent then plays Banewhip Punisher, putting the counter on Backup Agent. The creature doesn’t have two different counters on it; they just cancel out and it will end up counterless (and naked, oh, the humanity!).

To explain the actual combo, it’s pretty simple now. Just have everything in play. Sacrifice the Putrid Goblin to Goblin Bombardment. As it dies, it will come back in to play with Persist (assuming it didn’t already have a previous -1/-1 counter on it ), but Grumgully will also trigger, putting a +1/+1 counter on it at basically the same time, making it come in without counters. You can loop this for infinite pings off Goblin Bombardment! Alternatively, you can do:

Grumgully, the Generous + Murderous Redcap)+ Any free sacrifice outlet (such as Viscera Seer or Woe Strider)

which works functionally the exact same way, just with the damage coming from the Redcap entering rather than the sacrifice itself. There are plenty of non-human creatures that have Persist, so you can find a home for this combo in a lot of decks, but Jund Sacrifice decks will easily find a home for this one.

Combo #5Tidespout Tyrant + Sol RingCodex Shredder

This is one of my all-time favorite combos, and I actively play it in one of my paper decks. To start, you need to have Sol Ring and Tidespout Tyrant in play. If you have Codex Shredder in your hand, you’re golden. If it’s in play already, you just need to have an extra spell to cast to start the combo, which you can achieve by using Tidespout to target Shredder and send it back to your hand after casting. To begin, tap Sol Ring, putting two colorless mana in our mana pool. We then will cast Codex Shredder using one of the two mana we generated. This will trigger Tidespout, which we will use to target our own Sol Ring, sending it back to our hand. We then will tap the Shredder to mill someone for 1 card. We then will use that remaining one mana that we generated to re-cast Sol Ring. Tidespout will trigger, returning our Shredder back to hand. Repeat to mill everyone down to 0 cards!

I love this combo, since what it lacks in explosive power and cheap cards, it makes up for in flexibility and consistency. I’ve used it as a combo finisher in the top end of multiple Mono-Blue decks, but right now it has a home in my Lier, Disciple of the Drowned deck, since it has such a low barrier to entry there. Sol Ring is basically an auto-include, Tidespout is a great late-game control tool, and Codex Shredder can be used to mill yourself to fill up your graveyard! You also can mill yourself entirely out if, say, one player has an Eldrazi Titan card like Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and can’t be milled out. In many decks with blue, you can usually have a way to potentially win from either emptying your deck or just having the option to cast/recur something powerful enough to close the game from there. You can run this combo in any deck with blue, but I think it works best in Mono-Blue or any deck that benefits from slinging spells as well as having cards in the graveyard, like Kess, Dissident Mage or as a solid backup in Zethi, Arcane Blademaster.

That’ll wrap it up for today, I hope you enjoyed! Until next time, I’ll wobble back to my cave.


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