In our last Scion’s School article, we talked a little about combo and card synergy – the idea that, in using cards in concert with each other, we can greatly increase the value of those cards comparative to how they work separately. I want to talk about that in further detail today, as we bend it towards our latest silly ends in the hopes of turning bad ideas into good ones.
In ye olden Magic terms, a “Combo” deck was exclusively lethal or game-ending in its archetype, and typically relied upon a single set of working cards, plus a number of cards to reliably find and draw those effects. As time has gone on the definition has tended to widen as most combos that are THAT good are uninteractive to the point of being a problem. Most combo decks in Eternal either win through non-lethal advantage spikes or (like the Static Bolt/Trailblazer Carpet Shuffle) a difficult setup.
Still, the good folks at Direwolf clearly know how devastating a consistent combo can be, and it costs the cards that make combos consistent – like Celestial Omen and Rise to the Challenge – appropriately. These costs match the power of these cards, but it also means that if the combo is less powerful than an instant lethal, we want to turn to alternate methods assembling a certain synergy. Such as: Why not build a deck that’s all combo?
4 Predator’s Instinct (Set1 #75)
2 Protect (Set1 #132)
4 Safe Return (Set1 #330)
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Accelerated Evolution (Set1 #351)
4 Ephemeral Wisp (Set1 #84)
2 Twinning (Set1 #79)
4 Amber Acolyte (Set1 #93)
4 Hooru Envoy (Set1 #155)
4 Mirror Image (Set1 #217)
1 Stand Together (Set1 #334)
4 Righteous Fury (Set1 #322)
3 Rise to the Challenge (Set1 #320)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
1 Strength of the Pack (Set1 #367)
1 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
4 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
3 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
2 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
4 Seat of Impulse (Set0 #54)
4 Seat of Order (Set0 #51)
4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)
4 Seat of Wisdom (Set0 #63)
So here’s the thing. Hooru Envoy is a nifty combo card, if it’s played on time. Targeting it constantly with small spell effects redraws more small spell effects until it becomes a rabid monster, killing everything its sight with Predator’s Instinct and then rolling in for massive spikes of damage with Righteous Fury. Like Oni Quartermaster (a card we’ll definitely be brewing with in the future) it turns a small spell-focused deck into a giant card draw engine. Unlike Quartermaster, Envoy actively encourages (and then brutally punishes) removal. Your opponent decides to cast Feeding Time? Well, draw a card, and then Protect it and draw a second. Got an Annihilate to follow that up? How about Safe Return for another two cards, renewing Aegis and any Killer effects AND giving a small bonus to the Envoy?
But! If we don’t draw the Envoy, we’re dead in the water. Rise to the Challenge helps here, but waiting until turn 4 to get a 3 drop and then dropping that 3-power card on turn 5 only to have to further set it up is iffy. Aggro decks will have a field day, and control decks have any number of possible answers ranging from Rain of Frogs to a simple Lightning Storm if we don’t have the right cards going. And even then, we are still relying on 8 out of 75 cards to draw a combo piece – not the greatest odds.
This is where Ephemeral Wisp comes in. Normally Wisp is a decent stall card, using its constant resurrection ability to slow boards and allow access to your higher cost stuff. That’s certainly true here, but as it turns out, Wisp also has all of the same synergies that Hooru Envoy has – a strong love for buff spells that turns even slight bonuses into a powerful recursive advantage. None of the spells targeted on Wisp will draw cards, but each of them repeat their value over and over again every time the Wisp dies and respawns, renewing Killer and Aegis effects and making an almost insurmountable obstacle in a world where 8-silence Combrei is currently at an all-time low. What’s more, Wisp is actually a hilarious Rise target, as a 2/1 for 2 that can’t be permanently killed is often worth fetching all on its own.
This is the alternative to combo-seeking – simple redundancy. By stacking multiple coherent battle plans together in a way that our cards can easily benefit one or the other, we have a higher chance of executing on that plan, in case of hate cards like Steward of the Past. As a last, less effective backup, our normally power-fixing Amber Acolyte can be an emergency target for spells if our other cards don’t come through. With protect effects, buff spells and Righteous Fury, Acolyte can be a hilarious win condition, and in a pinch, you can even Rise To The Challenge for it or Mirror Image it to fetch a missing influence or power you need.
One last important concept to leverage that we’ve already explored through the Wisp: the power of recursion, or repeating an effect over and over again. Recursion is particularly powerful in Eternal because of the way that modified cards stay modified in the hand, void and battlefield. To that end, we also run Mirror Image, a card that allows us to duplicate our goofy monster units, and a singleton Strength of the Pack at the top end. In addition, we use Twinning to create backup copies of our key cards early and, later, to replicate buffed cards after their Safe Return to our hand. As is often the case, this isn’t even the goofiest iteration of the deck – previous versions ran Crown of Possibilities or 5 Faction with Dark Return to take full advantage of Twinning.
As to the rest of the deck, every card has some amount of synergy with each other, and we try to keep multiple options open for every base we want covered. Protect is backed by Stand Together and Safe Return to keep our combo pieces warm and happy. Stand Together works with Return, Accelerated Evolution, Twinning and Rise To the Challenge to get the necessary light attack buffs that make our units worth recurring and make Righteous Fury our blowout spell. Almost everything in the deck is a single target spell for Envoy and most of them are great hits for Wisp as well.
Apart from Predator’s Instinct, the deck lacks significant removal, which is why we vote for Harsh Rule at the top end when units get completely out of control. Harsh Rule is especially strong in our decks as Wisps shrug it off and we can often Safe Return our Envoy on the turn before the big green boom. Lightning Storm is a sincere consideration here, but due to Righteous Fury’s ability to stymie token Aggro decks, we will pass in this version to make space for more pump spells. Still, it’s not wrong to find space for it if you’re running into too many Praxis tokens and Jito Queens.
Like most of the brews we post on Fridays, this one has more potential for goofy fun than for competitive laddering. But those three concepts are what makes the deck as competitive (and fun to play!) as it is. If you’d like to see a round in action, go ahead and check out my video on the subject. Give it a shot – and then go try some weird combo decks for yourselves!