Image: Wizards of the Coast
What's Magic: The Gathering's Modern format without combo decks? Modern would probably be boring without epic combos that can win on the spot or give you infinite life. They provide unique strategies to win, and the satisfaction of pulling off an infinite combo just feels great, but which combo deck in Modern takes the throne for the best one in the format?
We let the members of our MTG Facebook group decide by letting them vote in the poll. This isn't a list of all the combo decks in Modern. There are combo decks that didn't make it in the list like Cheerios and Amulet Bloom because they didn't get enough votes, but most of you who play Modern will recognize the decks in this countdown. Most of you already know how their combos work but just in case, I'm embedding deck tech videos in this listicle for your reference. Here are the results...
Check out the Top 9 Best Modern combo decks by clicking "Continue" below.
When Wizards of the Coast banned Splinter Twin in Modern, players tried to find a way to exploit the closest thing to it: Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Chord of Calling gives players instant speed ways to bring out the creatures you need. With just one copy of it, you can search for an Eternal Witness to get back Chord of Calling, then use it again to bring out a Restoration Angel which can blink the Eternal Witness, letting you re-use Chord of Calling to bring out the Kiki-Jiki to make infinite number of Restoration Angels with Haste and attack for the win, Splinter Twin-style. Most decks just run 1 copy of Kiki-Jiki but you can easily find it with Chord of Calling.
Jeff Hoogland popularized the deck at the SCG Modern events. You can watch his deck tech here:
Chord of Calling also functions as a "toolbox card" that lets you get the creature you need for the right moment. Here's another deck tech from the Tolarian Academy:Advertisement
Expertise Fuse Reanimator
When Aether Revolt launched early 2017, players tried to find ways to abuse the Expertise cards in Modern format. I've seen a lot of brews using the Expertise cards to play Ancestral Recall or Fuse cards like Beck // Call for free, and they all look fun on paper but we didn't really see an Expertise deck take over a Modern tournament until someone took down a GPT for Grand Prix Vancouver with an exciting build that put the Expertise combo on the map.
The deck uses Kari-Zev's Expertise or Sram's Expertise to either play both modes of Breaking // Entering or Beck // Call for free. With Breaking // Entering, you can reanimate a huge threat like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Griselbrand, or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre as early as Turn 2. The kind of reminds me of Grishoalbrand decks without the Goryo's Vengeance.
Note: That even if Emrakul, the Aeons Torn hits the graveyard with the Breaking half of Breaking // Entering, the whole spell has to resolve before the Eldrazi shuffle-in trigger happens, so you can bring an Emrakul with haste if you pull off this sick combo.
In case the opponent doesn't have creatures in play, the deck runs a lot of mana dorks since Kari-Zev's Expertise requires a creature in play to trigger. Plan B is to use Beck // Call with one of the Expertise cards to get 4 tokens and draw 4 cards to refuel your hand so you'll have a chance to do it again or go for the reanimation plan.
Just in case, you don't draw an Expertise, you can use Brain in the Jar to play one of the Fuse cards for essentially just one mana.
Check out this deck tech from MTGGoldfish:
Jeskai Saheeli Combo
If you're familiar with the Felidar Guardian + Saheeli Rai combo in Standard, then you get the picture. We know how great that combo is, and we know how great the Deceiver Exarch + Splinter Twin was. A combo strategy out of a control deck is dangerous in an open format like Modern where it's typically hard to play control.
Just in case you haven't seen this combo in action, what you do is use Saheeli's second ability to make a copy of Felidar Guardian, which lets you blink Saheeli and do it again for as many times as you like to bring out an army of Felidar Guardians with Haste.
Both Felidar Guardian and Saheeli are value cards, and with Modern having a bigger pool of cards to synergize well with their abilities, there's a lot of possibilities to play with. I've seen builds that use Sun Titan which can also combo off with Saheeli when you have two copies of the Kaladesh Planeswalker in the graveyard.
I've also seen some decks that use Wall of Omens or Spreading Seas for Felidar to blink and gain extra value.
Just like Modern Splinter Twin decks in the past, this combo deck typically functions as a tempo deck that also plays counter spells to protect the combo and some burn/removal spells to wipe off opposing threats before you can assemble the combo.
You can watch this deck tech from Channelfireball's Andrea Mengucci:
I've seen Steven Silverio pilot this deck in a Modern GPT in the Philippines, and he placed Top 8 with it. His deck looks versatile to deal against various threats in Modern when I saw him play it. I won't be surprised if we see more Jeskai Saheeli Combo decks in Modern in the upcoming months.
Grishoalbrand deck is one of the scariest decks to play against because it can execute a turn-2 victory out of nowhere with a relatively high degree of frequency. This is a Reanimator deck that uses Goryo's Vengeance to resurrect Griselbrand, Worldspine Wurm, and Borborygamos Enraged (and in the Grixis version - Emrakul, the Aeons Torn).
Once you resurrect Griselbrand from the grave, you can Pay 7 or more life to potentially draw your entire deck to have enough fuel to power up Borborygamos' effect and damage your opponent directly. With Nourishing Shoal, you can exile a fatty, gain life, and re-activate Griselbrand's effect to draw the cards you need and pull off the majestic combo. You can also use Through the Breach to bring out one of the fatties.
There's also a Grixis version that doesn't use Borborygamos Enraged or Nourishing Shoal but instead uses Emrakul, the Promised End. I think this version of the deck is slower but more consistent overall. Don't forget you can use the Splice into Arcane ability to penetrate through counter spell-heavy defenses.
Watch Bob Huang's deck tech from SCG:
Just like Grishoalbrand, Living End is a combo reanimator deck that runs a lot of creatures that let you discard them from your graveyard while replacing them in the form of the Cycling mechanic. Cards like Deadshot Minotaur and Architects of Will allow you to fill your graveyard with creatures.
Step 2: You Cascade into Living End. How do we do that? You can cast Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread to get Living End 100% since it's the only valid target in the deck.
Once you've cast Living End, you can wipe out your opponent's creatures while you bring back creatures from your graveyard into play.
Many people assume that this deck is just a one-trick pony, but that's not true. With Fulminator Mage and other removal cards like Beast Within, the key to Living End power is that it's secretly a land destruction deck. With Simian Spirit Guide, you can Cascade as early as Turn 2.
But what if your opponent has Rest in Peace?
No problem! You can cast your creatures and go for the beatdown plan. You can even use Violent Outburst to power up your creatures. Sure, that's the slower plan but with land destruction cards, you can easily cripple your opponent while you charge up your attack.
Because of the deck's versatility, Living End is one of the most difficult decks to play against, and mastering how to adapt strategies based on your opponent's moves will help you adapt the game even without comboing out.
You can check out this deck tech and online match video from Channelfireball:
There are different versions of Scapeshift decks - Bant, Red/Green, 4-color, and even aggro, but all of them center on the key combo: Scapeshift + Valakut, the Molten. Scapeshift is an all-around versatile deck that focuses on ramping up mana to eventually play Scapeshift and bring Valakut out. Once you have 5 or more Mountains, you can end up dealing lethal damage to your opponent. Some decks even use copies Bring to Light, which are like extra copies of Scapeshift.
If you like running Ramp decks with Control elements to it, this is the perfect Combo deck for you. The deck is difficult to play against.
Check out MTGGoldfish's deck tech for Bant Scapeshift:
I remember playing against this deck in a Modern SCG IQ last year, and I had a hard time interacting with my opponent's cards. This deck could really be difficult to deal with.
Lukas Blohon used the deck in the 2016 World's Championship because he believed that it was well-positioned against Abzan players. You can check out his deck tech:
When Birthing Pod was banned in Modern, Collected Company took its place, and it essentially did the same thing that Birthing Pod did: bring out a bunch of value creatures that synergize well together, sometimes even pulling out a combo out of nowhere. But Abzan Company is a deck that doesn't just rely on the combos to win, it can attack from different angles. With the card advantage that Collected Company and Chord of Calling brings, you can overhwhelm the board with your creatures and go for Plan A: the beatdown plan.
You can win that way but of course, it's more fun when you can pull off the infinite combo: Viscera Seer + Kitchen Finks + Anafenza Kin-Tree Spirit or Melira, Sylvok Outcast.
Screenshot: Gathering Magic/YouTube
How does it work? You sacrifice Kitchen Finks with Viscera's Seer ability, bringing Finks back thanks to Persist, but thanks to Anafenza or Melira, the -1-1 counter on Finks goes off, allowing you to sacrifice and revive it again infinitely to gain as many life points as you want. Gaining infinite life doesn't kill your opponent, and sometimes there are other ways to kill you even after you gain infinite life. Tron can use Karn to restart the game; Infect can poison you; Emrakul can mill you out, the list goes on. Eventually, you'll need to take down your opponent before you die from other means, and Murderous Redcap does the job efficiently. It can combo off with Viscera Seer and either Anafenza or Melira. Every time it comes back to play, it will deal 2 damage to a creature or player. You can do this infinitely to take your opponent down with style.
A three-card combo is usually way harder to assemble than 2-card combos but thanks to Collected Company and Chord of Calling, you can easily find the missing pieces you need at an Instant speed. Even if you don't pull off the combo, the deck is great at surviving and bringing midrange beatdowns.
If you like a deck that can win in different angles and surprise your opponent with an infinite combo out of nowhere, this is the perfect combo deck for you.
You can watch the deck tech from Channelfireball here:
Ad Nauseam is a powerful deck that can consistently win by turn 3 or 4. Many players would probably put this on their top spot, and it's easy to see why. Most players are not prepared to play against Ad Nauseam. Even Control decks struggle against it since the deck can win in Instant speed and have copies of Pact of Negation and Boseiju to protect its combo.
So how can it kill by turn 3 or 4? The deck's first goal is to ramp up to 6 mana, and the deck can accomplish that with cards like Lotus Bloom, Pentad Prism, and Simian Spirit Guide. Once you have 6 mana, you can cast Angel's Grace + Ad Nauseam. Since you can't lose with Angel's Grace, you can cast Ad Nauseam to draw your entire deck and win with Lightning Storm or Laboratory Maniac.
Even if you don't draw Angel's Grace, you can win with Phyrexian Unlife.
The decks run a lot of cards that will help you dig for your combo pieces. Cards like Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand, and Spoils of the Vault will help you dig for Angel's Grace, Ad Nauseam, or Phyrexian Unlife.
Being able to consistently win on the spot within a few turns while having answers to protect your combo is difficult to beat, and that's why Ad Nauseam made the #2 spot.
Check out this deck tech from MTGGoldfish:
By a high margin, Storm got the most votes in our poll, so this clearly gets the top spot.
In the history of Modern bannings, Blue/Red Storm has been targeted way more than any other decks in the format. Various cards were banned from Modern Storm decks but players were able to find ways to keep Storm alive. They either add new cards or find new ways to keep the deck consistent.
The goal of the deck is to play a bunch of Instant or Sorcery cards in one turn to increase your Storm count then play Grapeshot to finish your opponent off.
When the deck goes off, it can be so annoying to your opponent since you're casting a lot of Sorcery and Instant cards while keeping count of Storm count and mana while your opponent watches you helplessly. I remember playing against a Storm player in Grand Prix Charlotte once, and it took him about 15 minutes to finish his turn and win. I should have just conceided to save the time.
So how can you Storm for the win as early as turn 3? You play a lot of spells that either get you extra mana (Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual) or draw you cards (Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand, Thoughtscour). Then if you get Gifts Ungiven, you can send Past in Flames to your graveyard, so you can cast it with Flashback from the graveyard. Note that you can get 4 cards with Gifts Ungiven and whatever your opponent chooses, you'll be able to play Past in Flames either from your hand or your graveyard. This gives all your Instants and Sorceries Flashback, which helps you get the Storm count levels high enough to Grapeshot your opponent.
The deck also gained a new card from Aether Revolt: Baral, Chief of Compliance. This acts like an extra copy of Goblin Electromancer, but I probably would just run 3 copies of Baral because it's Legendary and 4 copies of Goblin Electromancer.
Baral doesn't just make your spells cheaper to cast, it can also draw you extra cards when you counter a spell. Storm decks are not usually counter-heavy but some versions run copies of Remand and Dispel to raise up the Storm count while protecting your combo.
The deck can also win with Empty the Warrens that can give you an insane amount of Goblin tokens if your Storm count is high.
I gotta share this hilarious comment from Jonathan Mellette from the MTG group page:
You can watch deck tech from Gathering Magic:
And that's it for the Top 9 Modern combo decks. You can check out the results of the poll in our Magic group page here.