Disclaimer: The author is not responsible for any undesirable consequences encountered when acting out what is highlighted in this article. The combos described below are dangerous and potentially unfun, and are built with the sole purpose of winning in mind. Side effects include dizziness, loss of friends, reduced desire to play Magic, and a lighter wallet. The reader is liable for any and all damages caused as a result of doing broken shit.
Infinity, and Beyond
Magic's a very complicated game. It's 20 years old. There are over 12000 unique cards in existence. Thus, it happens often during set design that someone forgets that useless rare X in this new set forms a broken combo involving forgotten uncommon Y from three standards ago. Things such as Rest in Peace interacting with Energy Field (although neither of these were useless or forgotten). And then you have more recent interactions, such as the well known Splinter Twin Deceiver Exarch combo (which were at one point in Standard together). Throughout Magic's history, there have been a lot of ways creating a neverending loop that causes the game to end in some fashion. Some loops don't even cause the game to end; they're more a means to an end. But a lot of them involve blue cards.
Yeah look at these assholes. Goddamn. Chances are if we've ever played EDH you'll have seen me cast one of these cards. Make sure I don't do it again.
But what if you're a fair player? Someone who doesn't like to play blue? You know, maybe you actually want your opponents to feel relevant in the game? Or perhaps you're just looking to have some fun with your friends, but there's always that one guy who takes forever or who's like "wait wait let me do this silly ridiculous thing!". I'm not necessarily recommending you to immediately go out and add these combos to your decks as soon as you finish reading that article (but if you have your reasons for doing so then I won't judge), nor is this necessarily a crucifixion of people that do run these combos. It's supposed to be somewhere in between. Think of it as me showing you that these combos exist. What you do with that information is up to you; whether you want to join the dark side and end EDH games that go on for too long, or simply prepare yourself against some of the ways that someone else at your table could pull a fast one on you.
I've tried my hardest to be balanced in the colours that are present, but as the paradigm goes; some are more equal than others. You'll notice this as well when it comes to the raw power of said combo that some colours just don't work as well as others in trying to end the game via an infinite fashion. Don't let this deter you; every colour combination has some way of being the last player to take a turn, you just need to find it. Hopefully you'll find at least one of these useful.
It runs on Death
This is a combo that results in infinite colourless mana. Here's how it works:
1. You have Ashnod's Altar and Nim Deathmantle in play.
2. You cast Grave Titan.
3. Grave Titan triggers, making two more zombies.
4. You sacrifice the zombies to Ashnod's Altar to make 4 colourless mana.
5. You sacrifice Grave Titan to the Altar to make 2 more colourless mana for a total of 6.
6. Nim Deathmantle triggers. You pay 4, leaving you with 2 colourless floating.
7. Grave Titan comes back into play. Go to Step 3 with 2 extra colourless mana.
So, what can you do with infinite colourless mana? Well, to play Grave Titan you need to be in black, meaning that Exsanguinate is already a very feasible option. Going into other colours you have Ambassador Laquatus for milling people out (if they have Phyrexian Unlife for example), you have the well-known Darksteel Citadel Mycosynth Lattice Nevinyrral's Disk combo to continually wipe the field, and of course you have the family favourite Helix Pinnacle.
The main weaknesses to know about this combo is its reliance on multiple triggers and Ashnod's Altar activations. A simple Trickbind on Ashnod's Altar or even destroying either artifact in response is a good way to shut this down. Be aware that unless you can exile the Grave Titan, going after it won't be helpful because the player can just sacrifice it to Ashnod's Altar and sink in some untapped mana to revive it with the Deathmantle. It also relies on a fourth card to actually end the game with, so it's a lot easier to interrupt than you think. The downside is that individually, all three pieces of this combo are rather decent cards, so you'd be tempted to run them in a normal EDH deck anyway, meaning this combo is difficult to spot, and sometimes just randomly smashing a Deathmantle may not be the best line of play.
Principle of Mass Conversion? Whatever.
For the newer EDH players, you'll remember Marath, Will of the Wild from this year's earlier preconstructed decks. Well, you'd be right in thinking that Ghave is an even better version. In actuality, however, Marath is the balanced version of Ghave. The reappearance of Ashnod's Altar signifies the similarity this combo has to the above, except for a few critical differences. First, how it works:
1. Ashnod's Altar has to be in play. Doubling Season does not have to be in play now, but it helps if it is. For the purposes of example we'll pretend it already is.
2. Cast Ghave.
3. Ghave comes into play with 10 +1/+1 counters because Doubling Season is a fair and balanced card.
3b. Now is when you need to cast Doubling Season.
4. Activate Ghave, removing a +1/+1 counter from him and putting two tokens into play due to Doubling Season.
5. Sacrifice one of them to make 2 colourless mana.
6. Use that colourless mana to sacrifice the other one to put a +1/+1 counter on Ghave. He now has 11 +1/+1 counters on him and you are up 1 colourless mana.
6. Repeat Steps 4-6 so you have effectively infinite colourless mana and an infinitely large Ghave.
So to win the game, you can either swing at people with your ginormous Ghave, or you can take all those counters off him and make an infinite number of tokens. Or go somewhere in between and make a large army of large tokens. Whatever, baby. But we can do better.
Introducing Phyrexian Altar. Suddenly those infinite tokens you have now produce coloured mana. Meaning Debt to the Deathless, Genesis Wave, Entreat the Angels, and literally every card in your hand and library are now options. Want to talk about ETB effects? Let's talk about Bronzebeak Moa, Soul Warden, Champion of Lambholt, and Juniper Order Ranger. You want to talk about sacrifice effects? Let's talk about Harvester of Souls, Unruly Mob, Reaper of the Wilds, and Ob Nixilis, Unshackled. If you can imagine it, you can do it. Let's also not forget the part where Ghave is your general, meaning constant access when you need it.
So, weakensses? Easy. Again, interrupt the combo. Trickbind the Ghave. Stop the Altar from happening. Hell, even a Vampire Hexmage stops this from doing anything because then you kill Ghave and then your opponent is just left with a bunch of tokens of variable size. Killing Ghave over and over before that player reaches this combo is a good bet; eventually Ghave will cost so much that they'll have needed to start comboing off before they can even cast him. Finally, this isn't as much a way to stop this combo as it is more a rule of thumb when playing EDH, but never let Doubling Season resolve.
They've become autonomous
Finally, a combo involving a red card. Mana Echoes doesn't really feel red, though. It's more green, I'd say. Doesn't stop this being silly. While this one does take a while to ramp up to, it's a lot harder to interrupt. Here's a quick rundown of how it works:
1. You need 4 Myr already in play to start with, along with both the pieces.
2. Activate Myr Matrix for 5. Make a Myr token.
3. Mana Echoes triggers. You make 5 mana because you have 5 Myrs.
4. Activate Myr Matrix. Make a Myr token.
5. Mana Echoes triggers. You make X where X>5 mana because you have X Myrs.
Once again, you have infinite colourless mana and an infinite army of Myrs. You could Bonfire someone's face and then attack some other dude with a Myr Battlesphere. If you're playing red then there's a very good chance you can give those myrs haste. For what it's worth, this combo also works with any other card that make tokens for only colourless mana. Sliver Queen is one example, Spawnsire of Ulamog is another, Goblin Trenches is a very dangerous one depending on how you intend the game to go on for.
To stop this combo rests entirely on destroying either the token generator or the Mana Echoes. Bear in mind you need to wait for the Echoes to trigger, otherwise in response they'll just re-kickstart the loop with your removal spell still on the stack.
United I stand
This one has a lot of potential for abuse given the colours its in and the ease with which it can run away with itself. It's really simple:
1. Have at least three elves in play.
2. Attach Umbral Mantle to Elvish Archdruid.
3. Activate Elvish Archdruid fro at least GGG.
4. Use the mana to untap Elvish Archdruid via Umbral Mantle's ability.
Now at this point, if you have more than three elves in play, you've just made infinite green mana. Whether or not you don't doesn't stop the fact that you now have an infinitely large Elvish Archdruid. You're probably already an elf tribal deck if you have Archdruid, so slamming Ezuri or any large green pump Overrun-like effect will do the job. Because there aren't very many good green X spells, you'll usually be using this mana as colourless mana to end the game in one of the myriad of ways described above.
Interrupting this combo is very difficult due to the nature of Archdruid's ability being a mana ability and how untapping as a cost works. Assuming you have some floating mana open (and why wouldn't you, Mantle costs 0 to equip), this combo actually cannot be interrupted. You can't respond to Archdruid's ability to generate mana, which means that you need to response to the untap ability. But the untap is part of the cost, meaning by the time your spell goes onto the stack, the Archdruid can just make more mana and activate the untap effect again. While the power pumping effects may never resolve, the ability to generate as much green mana as tickles your fancy is already strong enough. The solution? Phyrexian Revoker.
Some say it's still erupting
All of the combos we've seen so far involve infinite mana in some way shape or form. Thjs one is no different, except that rather than relying on permanents to generate the mana, you're now relying on spells. This means that you either need to kill them this turn or you're going to be dead in the water. The plus side? LOADS OF MANA. LITERALLY TONS.
1. Cast Mana Geyser.
2. Cast Reiterate targetting Mana Geyser with buyback.
3. Allow the copy to resolve.
4. Repeat while the original is still on the stack.
Reiterate costs a total of 6 CMC to buyback, meaning that as long as your opponents have a combined total of at least 6 lands tapped between them means that you're taking the one-way express route to Valuetown. You're in red also, so you can do whatever you feel like. Conflagrate them? Sure. Bonfire? Even better.
All dragons all the time
Now this is a combo. It doesn't even rely on infinite mana (although that is a side-effect). It doesn't even need you to supply a game-ender yourself because it's built in as part of the combo.
1. Have both pieces in play.
2. Attack with Savage Ventmaw.
3. Use the mana to activate Aggravated Assault.
4. Go to Step 2.
Yes, it's that easy. Attacking them causes you to attack them which causes you to attack them... you see where we're going with this. This is reminiscent of the Hellkite Charger + Sword of Feast and Famine engine back in the day.
There's not a lot to say here except that remember that the mana that Savage Ventmaw makes doesn't empty until the end of turn, meaning you could just attack into someone with Glacial Chasm and just farm mana. But the goal is to eventually 4/4 flying them to death. Unfortunately this combo is also easy to interrupt. Can you say "flying blocker" or "removal spell"?
Jesus got nothing on this
Again, moving on from infinite combos, here's one that actually wins the game, at the cost of being a lot easier to interrupt.
1. Have Blasting Station in play.
2. Cast Angelic Renewal.
3. Sacrifice Sun Titan to Blasting Station.
4. Triggers Angelic Renewal, bring back Sun Titan. 5. Sun Titan triggers to bring back Angelic Renewal, Blasting Station untaps.
The Blasting Station alone should be enough to kill everything and everyone, but just in case it isn't, you can also be aware that Sun Titan will enter the battlefield each time which may trigger various ETB effects.
Of course, you now have multiple triggered abilities all of which can be interrupted, which makes this a lot more dangerous. On top of that, you're playing with graveyard interactions, which means that if someone else is known for graveyard-based shenanigans, then that puts you at risk also. Fortunately, you can stop them trying to shred Sun Titan in response because you can just sacrifice it to the Blasting Station.
The grandaddy of infinite mana. Why did I leave this until last? Because it goes everywhere. It's colourless. You just slot it in and go. No thinking, just do.
1. Have Rings in play.
2. Make 3 mana from Monolith.
3. Untap Monolith using the mana made from it.
4. Triggers Rings of Brighthearth, pay using whatever other mana.
5. Basalt Monolith now has two untap abilities on the stack; let one resolve, then tap the Monolith before the second untap happens.
6. You now have 6 mana. It costs 5 to untap the Monolith twice.
And on the note of infinite colourless mana, we end where we started.
Don't ever stop
The whole point of infinite combos is that you go until either the game ends or people walk away. They're a necessary evil though, I feel; you hear these horror stories of EDH games lasting hours and people getting tired; because everyone just wants to play a Timmy game. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, everyone just has to be on the same page in wanting that. I know I don't always look for that, so I employ a combo in every deck to end the game when I need to.
Some people may prefer to have fun doing silly things they want to, and in which case, being aware of these combos is very useful because they can now prepare for when someone wants to come along and ruin their fun on turn 4. Of course, you need to remember that I've only outlined non-blue combos here. Don't forget that blue players have the freedom to counter every spell you ever play (in Deadeye Navigator + Venser, Shaper Savant), the ability to take infinite turns (see Beacon of Tomorrows), and the ability to just immediately win the game (a la Enter the Infinite). Of course, we haven't even touched on the "Gentleman's agreement" rubric of EDH yet; you are more than free to sit down and immediately say "I don't want to play with infinite combos". Sure, people may not always comply, but I know that if I play Azami, I will hold back; the game doesn't need to end unless everyone wants it to.
In a way, it boils down to that Spiderman quote: "With great power, comes great responsibility."
With that, I'll see you guys next time, where I'll be talking more about specific applications for your cards and advancing your game plan. It'll hopefully be a lot less oppressive to the casual EDH player who just enjoys playing cards with their friends. Look forward to it!