One of the hallmarks of successful decks in Magic is that they possess cards that are individually powerful, but that also interact very well with each other. Some decks are built for synergy and some are built for raw power, but the best are always able to combine both synergy and power together. A great example of this is Restoration Angel and Thragtusk, a combo that dominated Standard for a year. Restoration Angel and Thragtusk were both very good cards on their own, but together they were dominant.
I want to take a look at some two-card interactions that have caught my eye in Kaladesh. Granted, it’s unlikely that any of these come close to reaching the power level of RestoTusk, and some of these are rooted purely in synergy and not in power, but it’s still important to understand how cards work together when examining a new set.
Eldrazi Displacer and Noxious Gearhulk
I’ve seen a lot of talk about the interaction between Eldrazi Displacer and Cataclysmic Gearhulk. You can use Eldrazi Displacer to flicker Cataclysmic Gearhulk and choose Eldrazi Displacer as your creature and Cataclysmic Gearhulk as your artifact to keep. This combo restricts your opponent’s ability to add to the board until they are able to kill off your Displacer to break up the combo. The downside is that it also restricts your own ability to add to the board, and doesn’t necessarily “beat the board” if your opponent has a creature that you can’t attack through and can’t afford to flicker, like the red, blue, or black Gearhulk.
That’s why I think Eldrazi Displacer and Noxious Gearhulk is an even better combo. Displacer and Cataclysmic Gearhulk have diminishing returns in that the best you can do is to just reduce your opponent to one creature and one artifact, whereas Displacer + Noxious Gearhulk can wipe their board completely clear of creatures and provide a life buffer in the process. Granted, you can’t mess up noncreature artifact synergies with this, but it remains to be seen if that will actually be a part of the new format. If dominating creatures is your goal, this combo is one of the most devastating I can think up.
Nissa, Vital Force and Nissa’s Renewal
Both cards say Nissa on them. That is a really good interaction!
In all seriousness, I guess it’s not too surprising that the Nissa cards work well together. The idea behind this interaction is that you play Nissa, Vital Force, protect her for a turn, and then ultimate her on the next turn, followed by playing a 6th land, drawing a card, then casting Nissa’s Renewal, gaining 7 life and drawing 3 more cards.
While that may seem like a Magical Christmasland kind of scenario, I don’t actually think it is that hard to pull off. Nissa can protect herself in some ways and both cards are a natural fit into a ramp deck. Both cards are useful outside of their interactions with each other, they just so happen to also interact really well with each other as well.
Metallurgic Summonings and Torrential Gearhulk
Metallurgic Summonings is a card I have my eye on already. It’s a do-nothing card by itself, but the effect is extremely powerful and would completely take over a game if left unchecked. It also doesn’t seem like it takes very long for the advantage this card creates to manifest itself.
I really like the interaction between Metallurgic Summonings and Torrential Gearhulk in that, with an instant in the graveyard, you can create a huge board state at instant speed. Imagine a scenario where your opponent attacks with 3 creatures and you are able to play Torrential Gearhulk, flashback a removal spell to kill one, and then block and eat the other two. That’s a huge blowout.
Even outside of mid-combat ambushes, this combo threatens to put a near-lethal amount of power into play at your opponent’s end step. While you may take a turn off to do nothing to play Metallurgic Summonings, if you follow it up with Gearhulk, the next turn you can catch right back up or even pull ahead.
Saheeli’s Artistry and Verdurous Gearhulk
Based on the way Saheeli’s Artistry is worded, you can actually choose the same creature for both choices if it is an artifact creature. Fortunately, all the Gearhulks are artifacts. That means that you can do something like curve Verdurous Gearhulk into Saheeli’s Artistry to make 2 more Verdurous Gearhulks on turn 6 and send your opponent on a one-way ticket to Ghirapur. Ghirapur? More like Gear-Up-Here.
I’ve outlined the green Gearhulk here because it is a natural curve to follow a 5-drop with a 6-mana spell, and the only other Gearhulk that costs 5 mana, Cataclysmic Gearhulk, doesn’t exactly combo particularly well with Saheeli’s Artistry. In actuality, though, you can really combo with any of the Gearhulks. I imagine making 2 more copies of Combustible Gearhulk or Noxious Gearhulk would also be a pretty good play, but I’ll leave that kind of value-mongering to others.
Whirler Virtuoso and Era of Innovation
This is straight out of the Michael Majors handbook. Whirler Virtuoso seems like a playable card in its own right. It’s basically on a similar power level to a card like Thopter Engineer, which saw some play. It has the drawback that if you kill the Virtuouso with the energy trigger on the stack, you won’t be able to make a Thopter, but it has the added benefit that it can actually make a lot of Thopters if you have extra energy to burn.
The way this combo works is that Era of Innovation can generate that extra energy for you as long as you have extra mana.
Consider a situation where you have 6 lands in play with Era of Innovation and draw Whirler Virtuoso. You play the Virtuoso and pay 1 to generate 2 extra energy. Then you spend 3 energy to make a Thopter. Pay 1 mana when the Thopter comes into play to make 2 more energy. Pay 3 energy to make another Thopter and then spend 1 mana again to make 2 more energy. Then pay that 3 energy to make yet another Thopter. When it’s all said and done, you have a Whirler Virtuoso and 3 Thopters.
As long as you don’t dip below 3 energy, you can use this combo to effectively make a Thopter for 1 mana and 1 energy, which is a really good rate. There are a lot of cards in this set that give you extra energy to work with, such as Aether Meltdown, meaning that it could be very possible to just machine-gun out Thopters with these cards and enough other easy energy generators.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance and 4 Mana Sources, Two of Which Must Produce Red
This is a combination that has gotten a bit less fanfare, but nonetheless it is an important one to note. The idea behind this combo is that you take Chandra, Torch of Defiance, a powerful new planeswalker from Kaladesh, and exploit her synergies with another series of cards, known as mana sources, frequently manifested in the form of “lands.” You use these “lands,” or other mana sources, in tandem with each other to generate 4 mana—of which 2 must be red—and then you utilize that mana to cast Chandra, Torch of Defiance from your hand.
This combo has only been spoken of in hushed terms in the darkest corners of the internet because the fear of its proliferation has driven many mad. It’s also considered very difficult to pull off, as this combination requires 5 cards to execute. 4 mana sources and 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance must be present in order to demonstrate the combo. Opponents do sometimes make you play it out after you present the combo, although it has traditionally been accepted to concede to it.
There’s also Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and 4 Mana Sources, Two of Which Must Produce White, but that combo has been known for a while now. This one is new, and I’m always partial to the new hot thing. Speaking of new things, there’s also Smuggler’s Copter and Creature with Power 1 or More, but don’t get me started on that...