Combo is just synergy perfected. With the entire card pool to choose from, and the absence of any serious aggro strategies putting too much pressure on you for you to develop your position given some prep time, there are hundreds of different combos in Commander that can do anything from winning the game outright to making it impossible for someone else to win the game at your expense. Today, and in a couple of articles in the future, I am going to examine these combos that I usually so disdain. I’m going to talk about different categories of combo, look at how you can disrupt them or protect them, and hopefully provide a fairly thorough look at the combos you can reasonably expect to see in the Command Zone. Metaphorically, at least.

So let’s get started.

First off, there are three types of combos we care about. There are combos that win the game, combos that enable you to win the game, and combos that make it hard/impossible to lose the game. There are other, more durdley combos out there, but those are usually more akin to public masturbation, and like public masturbation, I find the best solution is usually to ignore it and hope that the perpetrators will go away.

It might seem there’s a fine line between “combos that win the game,” “combos that enable you to win the game,” and “combos that prevent you from losing the game,” but it’s actually a bit obvious once you start looking at specific examples. A combo that wins the game looks like Helm of Obedience and Rest in Peace. When you get it online, your opponents die. A combo that enables you to win the game looks like Sun Titan, Fiend Hunter, and a sacrifice outlet. It gives you infinite death triggers, infinite enter the battlefield triggers, and infinite of whatever your sacrifice outlet lets you do. Infinite mana combos also are in this category; you have all the tools to win the game, but you need something to turn those tools into victory. Luckily, there are a lot of things that can do that! As for the final category, this accounts for combos that prison your opponents out of the game (Mycosynth Lattice & Null Rod), combos that steal all the permanents on the board (Enchanted Evening & Aura Thief), or combos that grant infinite turns (Thopter Assembly & Time Sieve).  You’re probably not going to lose once you’ve gotten these combos online, but you always could deck yourself if you can’t take the overwhelming advantage and use the head start to actually kill your opponents.

Most of the time you can, though.

So let’s start with one of the most familiar win combos, and then talk about where and how to hit it to be as disruptive as possible. Because, let’s face it… some combo pieces need to be killed on sight.

Trope Namer

First, let’s look at the one powerful enough to be seeing play in Modern in a variety of forms: Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or Splinter Twin and something to untap or reset the creature. In Modern, where you can play four-ofs and have to get your combo off as quickly as possible, these combos just tend to play Pestermite, Deceiver Exarch, and occasionally Restoration Angel or Zealous Conscripts to set it off. In Commander, you don’t have the ability to play all these cards as four-ofs, however… but there are a shocking number of other cards that make the combo work. You’ve got things like Intruder Alarm, which makes Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki work with any creature, Village Bell-Ringer, which is another untapper but can be run in a Boros shell, and Sunstrike Legionnaire, which works with Splinter Twin but not Kiki-Jiki. And these combos enable other sub-combos, like Elemental Mastery and Intruder Alarm, a handy Plan B if you’re already running part of it.

The Pod-able Trope Namer

Basically, it’s a mess. So here’s a handy chart of all of the different Splinter Twin-ish combos you can do in EDH, and might even find crammed into the same deck:

Splinter Twin-ish Combos for EDH
Card Kiki-Jiki Splinter Twin Elemental Master Comments
Benthicore No Yes No Not a first pick
Blasting Station No Yes Yes Only when animated—otherwise it enables other wins
Breaching Hippocamp Yes Yes No Theros adds another
Captain of the Mists No Yes No You can get it to work with EM via Xenograft and it can pay to make a bunch of tokens with Kiki-Jiki
Deceiver Exarch Yes Yes No One of the classics
Intruder Alarm Yes Yes Yes The perfect enabler for each strategy
Midnight Guard No Yes Yes Another draft common with this weird upside
Pestermite Yes Yes No Classic numero dos and can kill through Moat effects
Restoration Angel Yes No No It can also save other pieces although not enchanted ones
Sky Hussar Yes Yes No Used to be part of the victory package for Cephalid Breakfast
Sunstrike Legionnaire No Yes Yes And a tapper to boot!
Village Bell-Ringer Yes Yes No One of the cards that makes Boros Twin a viable archetype
Zealous Conscripts Yes Yes No Very powerful card in general

In general, the best way to disrupt these combos is to counter the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Splinter Twin, Elemental Mastery, or Intruder Alarm. The rest of the cards are occasionally annoying, but they’re not exactly over-powered bodies, and the untapping ability is not the end of the world. If you don’t have spot removal or counterspells, though, just try to keep the twin player’s board empty. They can’t go off without fuel, although most of these cards are fairly cheap to drop the turn you plan to go off.

The Solid Plan B

The annoying thing, though, is that while these are the only ones that go truly infinite (I think, although it’s possible I missed some), there are plenty of cards that either have activated abilities that let you untap your spawner, or that allow you to pay for tokens. Pulling from the above list, while Captain of the Mists only goes truly infinite with Splinter Twin, it allows Kiki-Jiki to make a bunch of copies of humans for just 1U each, which may get there! And that’s not to mention cards like Puppetmaster which, if you have an enabler like Blasting Station, still give you infinite bodies and come into play effects, even if the requisite tapping means they can’t attack without some help.

The Universal Enabler

URGH! Combo, amirite? It’s just annoying to even talk about this. Anyway, I’m going to stop part one of this article series here. I’m tired of writing about it, and I can’t imagine you’re not tired of reading about it. Anyway, this project is going to take as long as it takes, so at this point I don’t have a clear plan or schedule as to when this series will get done. To keep it interesting I’ll be doing at least one week a month on other topics, if not more, like interesting cards from Journey into Nyx or maybe even some discussion about getting back into competitive formats. There’s a lot of combo in EDH, and I plan to hunt most of it down.

Until next week!

Jess Stirba is not an infinite loop.

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