Combo has escalated to old-school “You’re dead!” levels in Standard. Standard lived and breathed midrange, but Aetherworks Marvel was a sign that WotC was ready for a change. Then all of a sudden, Felidar Guardian was previewed, and the entire Magic community went nuts over the news that a new “Splinter Twin combo” was Standard playable thanks to Saheeli Rai.
On Monday, January 9th, there was a pressing ban announced, and I thought for sure this infinite combo was going to get the ax. Why else would the B&R schedule get pushed up? I was surprised, to say the least, when I was wrong—completely wrong—and 3 other cards got banned instead. Among them, Smuggler’s Copter, a card that was ultimately keeping planeswalkers in check and one of the key cards I was thinking about when building around the new Saheeli combo. This ban and Aether Revolt really open up Standard, and I imagine there’s going to be a whole slew of ways to build around the Saheeli + Guardian combo. That said, I decided to go deep early and save the obvious builds for other Magic writers. Let me introduce you to Standard Green Twin:
There’s a lot going on here, but ultimately this deck aims to play a fair game with a combo kill. Saheeli is obviously broken with Felidar Guardian, but she does a lot of other nice things here. The most obvious is making more Gearhulks and smashing for a ton, but she can also draw cards off Prophetic Prism or create extra Clues by copying a Tireless Tracker before a land drop.
Speaking of Verdurous Gearhulk, this deck manages to play a pretty impressive plan B thanks to it. Verdurous Gearhulk synergizes nicely with Felidar Guardian in addition to Saheeli, but also smashes in for 10 immediately thanks to Arlinn Kord. It also can put counters on Heart of Kiran for a giant vigilant flyer because you can easily activate the Vehicle before resolving Gearhulk, thanks to all the planeswalkers.
Nissa is just a good value planeswalker here, but also combines nicely with Heart of Kiran. She can occasionally go wide and then put a lot of +1/+1 counters on your Plant army, especially when paired with Felidar Guardian. Arlinn isn’t the most impactful the turn she comes down, since she won’t usually have great targets in play yet, but she has a lot of unique play patterns. One is hasty Gearhulks, but another is to play Arlinn and make a Wolf, untap, Bolt something, then Felidar Guardian her and haste in for extra damage. She can also sometimes plus and make a creature big enough that you can crew Heart of Kiran without spending loyalty counters.
What I love about this shell is that beyond the fair game it plays, it can assemble the infinite combo a decent amount of the time. Traverse can sometimes find the Guardian, but both Ajani and Oath of Nissa give the deck extra ways to find both missing pieces. If you already have Felidar Guardian , you can even blink Oath or Ajani for extra looks for Saheeli!
One thing you may be wondering is how this list is possibly able to cast all its spells, but the mana base is surprisingly resilient thanks to the fact that the deck is mostly green. It has 11 untapped green sources for turn-1 Oath and Traverse, both of which help you cast your other spells. This is especially true thanks to the planeswalker-heavy subtheme, which also helps turn on Heart of Kiran. Prophetic Prism is also key, and the card is less embarrassing now that it pairs with both Saheeli and Felidar Guardian for some extra card draw.
To combat pseudo-mirrors you have Heart of Kiran, which can take out Saheeli in a single hit. Saheeli is also vulnerable to Shock when she minuses on Felidar Guardian post-blink, a key reason why that’s a 3-of in the deck. Against other decks, you can always go bigger, whether in the form of 8/8s or infinite damage. Without Emrakul in the format, there’s a lot of room for more variation at the top of the curve, but it might just be that Verdurous Gearhulk becomes the biggest kid on the block.
The sideboard is entirely speculative at this point, but has answers to potential problems this deck could run into. The first is Dispel, which is a very important piece versus opposing counter-heavy decks. Green Twin runs a bunch of 4-6 mana spells and having those countered is a surefire way to lose the game. Dispel can ensure you resolve key spells, and also provides some interaction with removal spells trying to break up your combo. Of course, I think it’s entirely possible you will want to shave on the combo post-board versus control decks, and I’ve constructed this sideboard with that in mind. Tireless Tracker and Bristling Hydra provide more late-game potential to help fight on the same card advantage axis as your opponent, while giving you beefy threats to help further your game plan. Of course, that is mostly theory at this point, and will need to be adjusted once the actual metagame becomes established.
There’s a ton of brewing to do now that the whole set is public knowledge. The Saheeli Guardian package clearly fits into Jeskai, but there could also be a U/W control package that splashes Saheeli, or other crazy 4- or 5-color builds. Maybe there’s one out there that can use the new Tezzeret? We’ll know what’s right with time, but for now I just know that the Saheeli Guardian combo is extremely powerful and it will be interesting trying to find the best shell for it. What do you think the best build is, and are there any other sweet combos in Standard you’re particularly excited for?