The Degenerate’s Combo Guide to Unstable

When I heard that Unstable was coming out, I wasn't going to write a combo guide for it. Typically, the Un-sets are not legal in any format, so it wouldn’t make sense to write a combo guide. Two things have since changed my mind. First, the full brilliance of the set was unveiled, and the set is awesome. These cards are just begging to be played in cubes, battle boxes, casual decks, and Commander! Speaking of which, the second thing that happened is, the commander rules committee made all silver-bordered cards legal in Commander! The legality only officially last until Jan 15th, but I expect this decision to linger in playgroups around the world indefinitely. I know that I personally will always be ok with silver-boarder cards at my Commander table.

Once I knew that I was going to write this combo guide, I briefly considered using this opportunity to fantastically troll you by writing an entire article about silly host/augment combination. This is a “combo” guide after all! Even though that would embrace the spirit of Unstable, I decided to play it straight instead. As I said above, these cards are legitimate Magic cards in many environments outside of the tournament scene. Before we jump in, let’s do some paperwork.

As always, I’ll be focusing on card combinations that can either be repeated “infinitely”(an arbitrary number of times, to be precise), or that can win the game. All of the combos in this article will be based on one (or more) new cards from Unstable. Unlike my previous combo guides, I will mainly be talking about combinations in Commander, since it’s really the only format that these combos can reliably occur. This also means that I will be staying within the color identity for many of these combos. Playing combos in Magic can lead to Unstable results, your mileage may vary.

Half-Squirrel Half- + Ordinary Pony

Half-Squirrel, Half-
Ordinary Pony

Result: Remove a creature from the battlefield, and then return them infinitely.

Key Rules Text:

Half-Squirrel, Half- — Whenever a nontoken creature enters the battlefield,

Ordinary Pony — When this creature enters the battlefield, you may exile target non-Horse creature you control that wasn't put onto the battlefield with this ability this turn, then return it to the battlefield under its owner's control.

Setup and Execution:

This combo didn’t even make it out of the gate before getting hit with errata. In its original form, it would allow you to “infinitely” flicker a creature on and off the battlefield. This means playing a Kitchen Finks would give you infinite life, or an Venser, Shaper Savant would bounce everything, or a Numbing Jellyfish would mill everyone. Here’s how it worked; Ordinary Pony has a flicker effect when it enters the battlefield. When you augment Half-Squirrel, Half- onto the Ordinary Pony it modifies that affect to trigger every time a creature enters the battlefield. This means that you would flicker your creature out, and upon entering the battlefield it would trigger the ability again because of Half-Squirrel, Half-‘s clause. This was deemed too powerful and Mark Rosewater (Head Designer at Wizards) took to his Blogatog to address the concern, and errata the combo.

Black border Magic tries to avoid power level errata, but silver border tends to break black border rules, so what we did was errata Ordinary Pony to do all the fun stuff it normally does and just disallow the infinite combo.

Ordinary Pony’s Oracle text now reads:
When this creature enters the battlefield, you may exile target non-Horse creature you control that wasn’t put onto the battlefield with this ability this turn, then return it to the battlefield under its owner’s control.

You can now bounce any creature with one name once a turn, but not more than once.

Why would I include this in my combo article? Because this series is about breaking the game, and we have the technology to rewind the hands of time, thanks to R&D's Secret Lair!

That’s right, with R&D’s Secret Lair we can play the combo as it was (not) indented.

Squirrel-Powered Scheme + Copy Enchantment + Lobe Lobber + Any Creature

Squirrel-Powered Scheme
Copy Enchantment
Lobe Lobber

Result: Wield a game-winning brain cannon!

Key Rules Text:

Squirrel-Powered Scheme — Increase the result of each die you roll by 2.
Copy Enchantment — You may have Copy Enchantment enter the battlefield as a copy of any enchantment on the battlefield.
Lobe Lobber — Equipped creature has "Tap: This creature deals 1 damage to target player. Roll a six-sided die. On a 5 or higher, untap it."

Setup and Execution:

This combo can be assembled in Limited by replacing the Copy Enchantment with another Squirrel-Powered Scheme. The idea is that with two copies of Squirrel-Powered Scheme in play, every dice roll will be 5 or higher, since each Squirrel-Powered Scheme raises the dice roll by 2. This results in the Lobe Lobber always untapping after dealing its one damage to a player! This combo invokes my obligatory shout-out to Open the Vaults. With Open the Vaults you can put this entire combo into play from your graveyard, including the needed artifact creature. If you use an artifact creature like Snare Thopter, with Haste, then you can immediately start dealing out the damage.

Grusilda, Monster Masher + Phage the Untouchable + Platinum Angel

Grusilda, Monster Masher
Phage the Untouchable
Platinum Angel

Result: An 8/8 flying death machine — that, by the way, prevents you from losing the game.

Key Rules Text:

Grusilda, Monster Masher{3}{B}{R}, Tap: Put two target creature cards from graveyards onto the battlefield combined into one creature under your control.
Phage the Untouchable — Whenever Phage deals combat damage to a player, that player loses the game.
Platinum Angel — You can't lose the game and your opponents can't win the game.

Setup and Execution:

To pull this off you need both Phage the Untouchable and Platinum Angel in the graveyard, and a Grusilda ready to be activated. Once you’re set up, simply active Grusilda’s ability targeting both creatures. Phage and Platinum Angel enter the battlefield as one creature simultaneously. Phage’s ability will trigger, and you would lose the game, except Platinum Angel says you cannot lose the game. You’ve finally done what so many Magic players have dreamed of doing since Legions; reanimated Phage, and lived to tell the tale! After creating this Zombie Angel abomination you’re going to want to take out at least one person for your troubles, this is a good time to talk about haste. My favorite option, especially for graveyard-based combos is Anger, but you can also use one of these:

Lightning Greaves
Swiftfoot Boots
Urabrask the Hidden

One last note on this combo, and it goes for the next one too. If you have Grusilda as your commander people are going to expect shenanigans, so it’s good to be careful with your timing. Either you’ll want to surprise them by putting Grusilda on the battlefield at an unexpected time — my favorite way to do this is with Winding Canyons, or Vedalken Orrery — or you’ll want to dump cards in the graveyard unexpectedly with something like Faithless Looting, or Entomb. With that in mind, let’s talk about another Grusilda combo that I think is really cool.

Grusilda, Monster Masher + Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon + Scourge of the Throne

Grusilda, Monster Masher
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
Scourge of the Throne

Result: Another flying death machine, but this one swings twice!

Key Rules Text:

Grusilda, Monster Masher{3}{B}{R}, Tap: Put two target creature cards from graveyards onto the battlefield combined into one creature under your control.
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon — Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.) Black: Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon gains haste until end of turn.
Scourge of the Throne — Dethrone (Whenever this creature attacks the player with the most life or tied for most life, put a +1/+1 counter on it.) Whenever Scourge of the Throne attacks for the first time each turn, if it's attacking the player with the most life or tied for most life, untap all attacking creatures. After this phase, there is an additional combat phase.

Setup and Execution:

This mashup is very similar to the one above, but instead of using Phage’s touch of death, we’ll turn to the most hated (and loved) form of damage, Infect. For this combo you’ll need both Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon and Scourge of the Throne in the graveyard. Like before you’ll also need a Grusilda ready to activate. Using Grusilda’s ability to combine both dragons will give you a 9/9, flyer, with Infect, and Dethrone. Combining these two creatures gives you access to a couple unique things that our first Grusilda mashup does not. First, Skithiryx offers the built-in ability to grant haste. Second, Scourge of the Throne’s dethrone ability not only pumps the creature to a 10/10 (exactly enough Infect to remove a player from the game), but it also gives you an additional combat step, which allows you to attack two players in the same turn!

Dragons, Infect, and multiple combat steps! What’s better than that? Some might say artifacts, Blue cards, and infinite mana.

More or Less + Basalt Monolith

More or Less
Basalt Monolith

Result: Infinite Mana!

Key Rules Text:

More or Less — Add or subtract 1 or one from a number or number word on target spell or permanent until end of turn.
Basalt Monolith — Tap: Add ColorlessColorlessColorless to your mana pool. 3: Untap Basalt Monolith.

Setup and Execution:

More or Less is a card with far reaching implications. Magic is a game of numbers, and fiddling with those numbers can bring all kinds of craziness to the table. For this article, I picked from the low-hanging fruit and selected an old combo: Power Artifact + Basalt Monolith. This has been a combo ever since Antiquities, and More or Less improved it by reducing its cost by oneBlue mana. Here’s how it works: You first need to get Basalt Monolith onto the battlefield. Once the Monolith is on the battlefield, use More or Less to reduce the cost of the untap ability by one. This will allow you to uptap the monolith for 2 mana. Since the Monolith taps for 3 mana, you’ll net 1 mana in for each time you tap then untap the Monolith.

You can repeat this process to your heart’s content. Once you have all the mana that you could need, then you can use something like Staff of Domination to draw your entire deck. If you need color mana then Gemstone Array is a nice conversion tool. With your entire deck in your hand, and infinite mana — it’s likely you’ll find a way to win the game. Speaking of winning the game, I’d love to win a game with this next combo.

Baron Von Count + Desperate Ritual + Seething Song + Goblin Tutor + Past in Flames + Grim Tutor

Baron Von Count
Desperate Ritual
Seething Song
Goblin Tutor
Past in Flames
Grim Tutor

Result: Infinite Mana!

Key Rules Text:

Baron Von Count — Whenever you cast a spell with the indicated numeral in its mana cost, text box, power, or toughness, move the doom counter one numeral to the left. When the doom counter moves from "1," destroy target player and put that doom counter on "5."

Setup and Execution:

I've been racking my brain trying to figure out the most efficient collection of cards to pair with Baron Von Count. I’ve come up with five cards (technically seven) that can snatch victory from a four player Commander table. Let’s jump in.

The first step is to get Baron Von Count on the battlefield with access to a lot of mana ({10}{R}{R}{B} to be exact,) and seven cards in this graveyard. Once you're set up you'll kick the combo off by adding mana to your pool, then you'll complete the sequence that follows.

Fueling Up

Doom Clock One:

  • Cast Goblin Tutor. The Doom Counter moves to 4.
  • Cast Past in Flames. The Doom Counter moves to 3.
  • Cast Grim Tutor, and search for Tendrils of Agony. The Doom Counter moves to 2.
  • Flashback Seething Song, adding {R}{R}{R}{R}{R} to your mana pool. The Doom Counter moves to 1.
  • Flashback Cabal Ritual, adding {B}{B}{B}{B}{B}{B} to your mana pool, destroy target player. A trail of smoke rise from where they were sitting, and the Doom Counter moves to 5.

Tendrils of Agony

Doom Clock Two:

  • Flashback Goblin Tutor. The Doom Counter Moves to 4.
  • Flashback Past in Flames. The Doom Counter Moves to 3.
  • Flashback Grim Tutor, and search for Recoup. The Doom Counter moves to 2.
  • Cast Tendrils of Agony targeting the player with the lowest life, they lose 24 life (storm count is 11) and you gain 24. The Doom Counter moves to 1.
  • Cast Recoup targeting Tendrils of Agony, destroy a player that you did not target with Tendrils. The Doom Counter moves to 5.

Recoup

The Finale

  • Flashback Tendrils of Agony targeting the same play that you did before. They lose 28 life for a (total of 52) and you gain 28 life.

Now we know why we call him Von Count! Look at all the counting you had to do; counting mana, counting spell, and counting on the fact that they did have a Stifle effect! I’m sure that the Gathering Magic hive mind can simplify this, if you can, share it in the comments. It will be helpful to me when I put this deck together.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed running through these Unstable combos. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with Unstable cards. Hopefully my Commander playgroup will humor me beyond January 15th. Leave your favorite Unstable combos in the comments, and I’d also love to hear whether or not you plan on keeping them legal indefinitely under your Commander house rules.

Shout-Outs

These are like the movie credits of my articles. I like to send some positive vibes out to those who make time in the Magic Community enjoyable.

The Council of Marks — I want to shout-out Mark Rosewater, Mark Purvis, and Mark Globus for making an awesome set (Unstable). To read more about the story check it out here.

First Strike Nation — I’ve got to give a shout-out to the podcast First Strike and its listener for inviting me on the show and making me a semi-regular host. If you want to watch or listen you can catch me on these episodes; From Team Trios Energy To The Magic Cup Curse, Unstable Mulligans, and From Challenger Decks to Challenging Content.

Nate Burgess — Nate has an excellent article on building a Baron Von Count Commander deck over on EDHRec. It’s a great resource. He does a fantastic job of crunching the numbers, and giving you a view of all the options for the deck. Check it out!

As always, thank you for reading.

<3 Jonathan
@MedinaMakesGame


Unstable is Now Available!

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