When you can play any card in your hand whenever you want, and some of those cards are outrageously-powerful pieces designed for the ‘late game’, you can end up with some pretty strange interactions. In boring Magic, a combo deck usually drives purposefully towards assembling two or more cards for a specific purpose, pushing towards this same objective like an OCD sufferer on speed over and over again in every game. As we’ve discussed, Type 4 games tend to be inconsistent so consistent combos are hard to pull off, but forming from the chaos of limitless mana you will occasionally see an infinite loop assemble itself.
Usually, it’s almost inadvertent; sometimes, people don’t realize it’s a combo until a player who doesn’t control the pieces points it out. It can feel a bit odd to be mired in a typical Type 4 slugfest with 8/8 creatures crashing into each other when suddenly somebody goes, “hold on, I think I just won.”
So you have to ask yourself, ‘is this a bad thing’?
I’ll disclose my (excellent) bias upfront: I kind of like having combos pop up when playing Type 4. Here are some reasons why.
An improvised combo is a hype moment that shouldn’t leave anybody feeling salty, but instead by congratulated for managing to scrape together a working combo from the junk that unceremoniously landed in front of a player as a library. The last time I remember getting an infinite combo in Type 4 involved the following pieces:
Sengir Nosferatu + Marshal’s Anthem + Where Ancients Tread
How is that not kind of awesome to see that organically occur? This happened months ago and I still remember it, which speaks volumes itself as I can barely ever remember anything about individual games of Magic.
Adds Depth to Draft Strategy
I like it so much that I actually add cards that might not be all that good otherwise because they’re combo enablers. The first card I think of here is Crab Umbra. This isn’t a super-powerful card, or even very good… but it gets drafted high, because it provides tons of potential for backbreaking combos. Just about any creature with a meaningful tap ability plus Crab Umbra means game, leading to scrambling hate drafts and high picks with thirsty looks for potential Crab Umbra targets down the line. It enriches the draft strategy a good deal, but I can’t help but wonder if it distorts it somewhat as well. When certain cards become must-grab in a specific set of circumstances, is this positive or negative? I’m still trying to sort it out myself, but I think I kind of like it.
It’s Another Potential Strategy
Most games of Type 4 consist of the ‘strategy’ of three or more guys circling each other with sledgehammers and then swinging away until only one guy isn’t dead. Is this a superb spectacle? Of course. But wouldn’t it be nice if one of the guys had a trident and a net occasionally too?
That’s what the possibility of a combo does in Type 4: it just adds a pinch of spice to an otherwise typical game. Given the reason most people pick this format up in the first place is to shake up their routine, this is just a little extra shaking. Embrace it.
It’s Too Hard To Regulate
This is probably the best reason, because it’s also the laziest. If your Stack reaches a size of over 300 cards and most of them are awesome, eventually, combos will be possible. It’s just the nature of the beast. Trying to eliminate all the combos will mean creating some kind of criteria for what makes a card too combo-y, and so on. To be honest, that sounds like a lot of work that isn’t necessary to avoid an occasional game-ending combo. I prefer to stick with a simple questions like ‘is this fun?’ Maybe a card does cause a lot of combos, but as long as it’s fun to see or do, who cares?
And there, again, the First Commandment shines through. If you find a combo card fun enough to hold on to, problem solved. If not, shoot it into space. Simple solutions for simple problems.