Tarmotog's picture
By: Tarmotog, Naoto Watabe
Jan 18 2008 11:01pm
Login or register to post comments


This is written to let people know that while some decisions of Wizards are very questionable, there are some that are done smart.


You banned me!

Flash is a card that has greatly warped the formats it was legal in. You've heard it once and you will hear it again. It's almost like Tarmogoyf except it has no impact on Extended and Standard unlike the most powerful green creature (although far underrated when released)  which made its presence felt everywhere.

Flash and Protean Hulk is by far the most powerful two card combo to ever exist (it's technically many more cards considering what you use to win) and is capable of a turn onr kill if accelerated by a Mox.

Post Future Sight, HulkFlash gained even more tools in the form of the Pact of Negation and Summoner's Pact. One to protect and one to search for the combo piece. What more could we want?

It seemed like something that wouldn't affect the Singleton community. In reality, if there were more people actually playing the deck, there wouldn't be much to play at all. There might be a possibility of the format becoming Flash vs Anti-Flash. However, this did not happen. I'll discuss the possibilities later on.

#1 The Combo and The Kill Condition

The initial win condition used in Legacy involved Karmic Guide, Carrion Feeder and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Karmic Guide gives you a creature from your graveyard. It costs five mana so it came into play with Carrion Feeder.  Return Protean Hulk, sacrifice to the feeder to find Kiki.  Copy Karmic Guide and sacrifice Kiki before the copy ability resolves. The token comes into play and returns Kiki. Kiki copies the guide and sacs itself to the feeder again. While this happens, you get 2/2 flying haste Karmic Guides. Win by attacking.  This takes up three slots but can be disrupted mid-combo.

5x4= 20 poison counters. 10 wins the game.
In prismatic, people easily adopted Flash hulk using the four Disciple of the Vault kill.  Phyrexian Marauders come into play as 0/0s and makes the opponent lose four life per copy. Arcbound Ravager could come in too and sacrifice itself for the final four or bring in Ornithopters for more life loss action. At least nine slots in a 250 card deck? Reasonable at the very least.

In vintage, the kill evolved into four Virulent Sliver and Heart Sliver (gives haste) to spam poison counters. 5x4=20. You only need ten to win. Which means you need three slivers to hit to win but this win condition takes up five slots in the deck. However, the win could not be stopped by graveyard removal (except Leyline of the Void if you consider it as graveyard removal) which was important in avoiding splash damage from Dredge hate. It's not as effective now with more creatures going into the red zone.

In Singleton, I used a kill derived from the original Legacy kill. We had Kiki and Carrion Feeder available but no Karmic Guide. There definitely wasn't enough cards to actually win with one Disciple of the Vault or the poison sliver route. I searched up cards that looked functionally mirrored Karmic Guide and found Phyrexian Delver. The problem with it was that it demanded a life loss per reanimation (and reanimating the hulk once costs seven life) so there would have to be a change in the winning plan. Let's see. I can copy the initial sequence of getting a Carrion Feeder, Phyrexian Delver and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker out but what next? I used the Kiki+Sky Hussarcombo brought over from Tooth and Nail's win condition. At the current state, I would need a minimum of seven (to get out kiki)and another seven(to get out hussar) which is fourteen life to win. So double Lightning Bolt removes me from the game. Great. To bring down the minimum life needed to combo off, I used Children of Korlis and Body Double.

This means I FlashHulk into Body Double Carrion Feeder. Body Double becomes Protean Hulk. Sacrifice the double to get Phyrexian Delver and Children of Korlis. Delver returns Body Double which becomes Protean Hulk and I lose five life. At this point, I can sacrifice Children of Korlis to get back five life. Sacrifice the doubled-hulk into Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Activate and make a token of Phyrexian Delver to return Body Double again. Your total life loss is ten if you didn't sacrifice the white human rebel cleric. Sacrifice the doubled-hulk for the last time to get Sky Hussar which untaps Kiki. Kiki the hussar again and again and again to make a swarm of 5/4 fliers. Attack for the win.

I would definitely prefer to win without having to attack but my cognitive abilities confine me to just being able to improve something and not actually being able to branch into the huge card pool and pull out a combo that wins like the disciple kill. Not that it matters now since Flash is banned. I heard from a person that he uses Teardrop Kami to win. His version involves using Soul Warden/Essence Warden to gain 1 life while he makes delver copies to return Teardrop Kami to play and untap Kiki. In hindsight, this selection of cards might be more effective as essence is one green and teardrop is one blue, making them more playable even if stuck in your hand.


 2# The Deck

The combo is the easiest combo to pull off to date. It only requires two specific cards in hand and it costs 2 mana and can be played at instant speed. What more can you want? Flash is a blue instant that costs 2 while Protean Hulk is a green creature that costs 7.
Summoner's Pact puts the hulk into your hand at instant speed and costs 0.
This fact means that the combo parts can not only be tutored out by both Mystical Tutor and Vampiric Tutor but also by the slower Mystical Teachings if need be. Lim-Dul's Vault gives you whatever part you need as well. So now we technically have 4 different cards that can specifically search out any missing combo piece.

To make it all the more better, it has access to blue and black, the deepest colors in Magic. You can play you Vintage style deck against your extended style playing opponents. That isn't very much fair. So what if you have a Gifts Ungiven into cycling lands + Life from the Loam card drawing engine? I cast my Flash and win on my next attack step. Urgh. Countermagic? I have those too! GG!

Mystical Tutor
"Search for target combo piece."

The fact that your winning card costs 2 mana is more scary enough. Of course it's not everyday you pull off turn 1 kills but just the possibility of it makes the combo so crazy. Plays like end of turn tutor into win are not to be laughed at as well.

Building a viable version of this deck is very easy. Load the deck with the combo pieces, the tutors and the protection and last but not least, the mana and you will have a solid Flash deck.

The prebannings card pool included Lorwyn and MED but not Weatherlight. Not as though Weatherlight has anything to contribute to the deck besides maybe Disrupt which is also available in Invasion.

 Without further ado, I present my maindeck

1x Carrion Feeder
1x Phyrexian Delver
1x Trinket Mage
1x Sky Hussar
1x Children of Korlis
1x Tarmogoyf
1x Protean Hulk
1x Body Double
1x Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

1x Cabal Therapy
1x Dream Cache
1x Duress
1x Merchant Scroll
1x Ponder
1x Portent
1x Serum Visions
1x Thoughtseize

1x Counterbalance

1x Brainstorm
1x Chain of Vapor
1x Counterspell
1x Delay
1x Disrupt
1x Disrupting Shoal
1x Flash
1x Force of Will
1x Force Spike
1x Gifts Ungiven
1x Memory Lapse
1x Muddle the Mixture
1x Mystical Teachings
1x Mystical Tutor
1x Pact of Negation
1x Reclaim
1x Remand
1x Spell Snare
1x Summoner's Pact
1x Vampiric Tutor
1x Worldly Tutor

1x Chrome Mox
1x Mishra's Bauble
1x Sensei's Divining Top

1x Bloodstained Mire
1x City of Brass
1x Flooded Strand
1x Gemstone Mine
1x Overgrown Tomb
1x Polluted Delta
1x Forest
3x Island
1x Swamp
1x Underground River
1x Watery Grave
1x Windswept Heath
1x Wooded Foothills
1x Yavimaya Coast
1x Breeding Pool
1x Tolaria West

I can't call it the most perfect but I'll explain how it works.


Firstly, regarding the low land count, the deck runs at 2-3 mana. The only 4 mana cards are Mystical Teachings and Gifts Ungiven. There are 18 lands and 1 Chrome Mox plus many card filtering so mana issues aren't that great. The main concern was to actually chances of actually drawing into business spells rather than drawing into lands. This is not a control deck bent on bringing the game into the late game. This deck wins by outclassing clunkier cards with more mana efficient cards.

What I'm trying to say here is that I play my Spell Snare into your Counterspell, Remand into your Venser, Shaper Savant. The card choices allow superior trades against blue based control decks where the opponent is confined by his or her card choices which tend to be "bigger" (cost more than yours). Control decks cannot only trade every card, one for one, against aggresive decks and expect to win. These decks take advantage of cards which let them trade 1 card for more so that in the long run, they would win simply because they have more cards (I know this is not always true but let's simply assume so).

Disrupting Shoal, Pact of Negation and Force of Will allow you to counter without paying mana. This adds on to the burden of the opponent trying to defend himself. I can exhaust my whole hand to win while my opponent will have many cards that he can't play because he just doesn't have the mana to. That's the reason why there are so many 1 mana spells that situationally counter spells. These cards allow players to win because they fight the cards that are actually involved in the fight.

Disrupting Shoal
If your spell is not getting countered by this, you are probably not casting it by paying mana.

To make it even simpler, the deck has access to Duress, Thoughtseize and Cabal Therapy. You can effectively make the opponent play the way you expect them to with all the information you get while removing the most threatening card from the battle at the low cost of B.
(Note: Cabal Therapy has many uses in this deck. In the scenario where both Flash and Protean Hulk are put into your graveyard prematurely, you can get Body Double to copy the hulk and flashback Cabal Therapy to get the whole combo started. A Cabal Therapy on yourself may sometimes let you combo out properly in certain scenarios)

The cards played are based on a few criteria:

1) Don't simply draw cards.

There are 6 cards that you want hiding in your deck. The most important being Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Sky Hussar (which is probably why Teardrop Kami might be better barring a more tedious win and moat) as they are the most difficult to get into play. The flash-hulk combo doesn't exactly work like Tooth and Nail which lets you put cards from your hand into play. You want your combo sequence to be in the deck, not in your hand or your graveyard.
That said, there are 3 ways to put cards back.

A) Brainstorm
-The best card to hide what you don't want. The only problem is that you want to have a shuffle effect to get rid of the cards more effectively.

B) Dream Cache
-A slower Brainstorm at 3 mana and sorcery speed. You want as many of such effects so you can't really complain. It allows you to put stuff at the bottom so you don't have to shuffle.

C) Mulligan
-A strategic mulligan should be employed when you find that it might be too troublesome to play when the hand has too many of the combo sequences and it takes too long to fix your hand and find the combo. The deck can easily mulligan down as the combo is so easy to actually assemble.

2) Be able to build up for 1 single massive counter war and win.

Protect the combo and win. Counterspells are most annoying but do not forget that other decks have tools to fight the combo. You want to protect yourself against those too. It all comes down to being able to break through in a critical turn to win.

3) Find the combo pieces

We know this already, even just by looking at the title.

4) Have a Plan B

Plan B? Tarmogoyf beatdown! (Actually every deck that can have it has it so it's not much of a plan. It's much better than not having it though. It can be tutored out and protected to go all the way against decks that seem to be weak to fat 2 mana creatures turning sideways every turn) 
At the very worst, you can always beat with the
Protean Hulk like in the previous Invitationals where Protean Hulk bashed through little Goblin Welders for the win.

The real Plan B is getting the combo to work past hate or out of disruption from the opponent. It is technically possible to still go off via topdecks with Sensei's Divining Top and Reclaim (great card- cheap and useful) after massive discarding. Other hate can be bounced by Chain of Vapor before the crucial turn. The tutors work in many ways in the deck. What is required is the ability to judge the most important play at the right time.

The best UNCOMMON creature. =(


#3 What the deck is afraid of

Public enemy number 1 = Umezawa's Jitte!

Don't be suprised. This equipment (it's not supposed to be such a lethal weapon actually) is the bane to this deck. Reasons being:

1) It slices 
(Once equipped, this is +4 damage per turn. It forces you to have an answer for it/ the creature. Why?)

2) It dices 
(The ability to give creatures -1/-1 is the killer to the combo as it is based on Carrion Feeder sacrificing its friends. Whatever.. It kills its friends too. Urgh.. )

3) I have creatures in my deck so I naturally have a copy of this in my deck 
(this means every deck you face might have it. Not good.)

4) It beats the beatdown with fat creatures plan. (I once killed Silvos with this equipment . Not even Morphling can block well against this..)

Serves you right for getting banned.


Other random stuff:

Aggro side:
Seal of Fire: Can't counter once in play, the only way to pop it is either bouncing it or luring it to kill


Lava Dart: Flashback action is tough. Counterbalance can solve this problem though.

Sudden Shock: Can't counter this. You can only rip it out of the hand.

Control side:
Tormod's Crypt: In my opinion, this wrecks almost all the popular combo decks and they don't even know that it does. Serious.

Scrabbling Claws: Similar to crypt, it disrupts the combo midway. (now we have (Phyrexian Calander) too but it wasn't there pre-ban)

Counterbalance: Used to win the Flash vs Flash mirror in the Legacy tournament it was legal in (well, it won the tournament). At 1 and 2, too many of your spells go down the drain without putting up a fight.
Counter this at all cost or counter the Sensei's Divining Top to have a chance to win through this.

Stifle: It does stop the combo midway but it's not as problematic as the others. Not good for you anyway if resolved or if used as Wasteland.

Nezumi Graverobber and Withered Wretch: These are problematic but nobody expects the combo all the time and you can get a shot after they try munching into the yard.

Extract and Hide/Seek : Duh!

#4 Format Analysis

This is where I find reasons why Flash didn't work in the tournaments.

Possibility 1: Not too many people knew about the fact that Flash could pull it off in Singleton.
-This is due to the fact that there is not much information going around about the Singleton format unlike many others. 
=You can netdeck the Legacy Flash-Hulk deck but where do you find a Singleton version? Not many people bother to make "new" decks and not many people have discussions  regarding this format. 
=Seriously, I've only ever seen full Singleton decklists from the magicthegathering.com coverage of Singleton and this website. (Once on starcitygames about this ugb deck which was just a small portion of the article)

Possibility 2: People think that this deck might be too random.
-"A two card combo in a Singleton format? You're kidding. I'm not going to risk it."

Possibility 3: People are afraid of running it.
-"If such a powerful two card combo exists, I'm sure everybody under the sun would be prepared for it."

Possibility 4: People don't like winning immediately.
-Maybe people who knew about the deck just prefered control decks against aggresive decks. Aggresive decks with good draws make playing the deck a little difficult with the correct cards in play or in hand.

Possibility 5: The deck is horrible.
-I don't play in the PEs so I have not been awakened to the fact that this deck is utterly lousy and I am so deluded by the fact that I won quite abit with this deck when I play it pre and post tweakings.


Possibility 6: The tournament regulars use the same decks.
-"If I just got into top 8 with this deck, I could just play this deck again to top 8." 
Until some people bring new technology into the format, the format will be the same as the week before and the week before that?


I hope somebody would enlighten me on why no one played Flash and won. Top 8 in a Singleton PE means being top 1/3 of the people there. A deck that can win so early and so consistently can't be that lousy. Anyway, it doesn't exist anymore post bans which is why I'm happily talking about it. IF Flash isn't banned, I would definitely take a shot at the Singleton PE once just to see it work to a top 8. I never expected the ban out of the blue so I missed my chance. (Pure excuses) Still, it was a powerful combo while it lasted. I hope people will agree with this statement and acknowledge Flash for the card it was (and still is).


by iceage4life at Sun, 01/20/2008 - 11:11
iceage4life's picture

I totally agree the format is under-explored in terms of combo decks.  When I was running Heartbeat Desire I found aggro decks a problem because they goldfished a turn or two slower than me and were more consistant.  A poor draw on my part or any disruption from them set my clock back a turn or two and often resulted in a loss.

This is not really a problem of aggro in them metagame so much as the combo decks not being strong enough to consistantly race it.

Hopefully in the future the bans in the format will be rare and some of the good combo cards from Tempest and Urza blocks might open things up. 

by Tarmotog at Sun, 01/20/2008 - 10:05
Tarmotog's picture

You can't assume what is true for traditional formats have the exact same implications in this format. Combo decks tend to be more resiliant against control decks in this format simply because control decks tend to have dead cards. The aggro decks are really the main problem for the combo decks because the typical combo decks in singleton could not pull off kills with turn 4 consistency or less. Some combo decks want to get greedy by using shocklands + fetches but they have to choose between setting up earlier or giving 3 life to accomplish that.

That said, people did not dare to play combo against a field where aggro is rampant. No doubt control decks actually dominated the top 8, I would dare say that the control decks just had more say becaused they were more tuned to fighting aggro decks. Maindeck exclude is a proof of this.

Another factor which I believe leads to the lack of combo decks is the fact that there are not many people actually tuning the combo decks till their highest possible potential. Combo decks have only a certain number of cards that have definite slots in the decks. The rest is up to the players themselves. Plus not everyone who actually bothers making "stronger" combo decks play in the PE. There are definitely more than 30 people who play singleton. Combo decks are also tough to tune when you cannot gauge the real threats in the casual rooms where you see all sorts of decks. It is alot more advantageous to play a control deck into the PE than a combo deck. I believe you mentioned playing a heartbeat combo which unfortunately didn't post great results. If you have played against it on the other side of the table using a control deck, you would find that it was possible to actually counter until you have no counters left and they can still go off. You can discard their hands but they can also recover with much ease. The actual problem lies that the combo deck needs a very tight player. When I say this, I do not mean that you are not good but that there are players who can actually pilot these decks to a very high level of accuracy of technical play. If starwarskid did play a heartbeat deck in a 30 man event, he would probably t8ed because he has a very high technical understanding of how the deck works. The little parts of the deck also contribute to how much the deck can do because I have seen many heartbeat decks play some awful cards.

Sadly, singleton is not a format that encourages people to go all out to work for it unlike the more main stream formats that have a larger player base. I write about singleton to try to bring people into actually wanting to play the format and because I want to see the decks evolve more than just the usual decks that have seen little change since 2 years back despite having alot more cards available. I believe that singleton truly is a format of much more potential than what PE results show.

I may never get your understanding by such replies and neither do I expect you to think critically about this small format when you already give players a weekly insight into the current news of the so many of the "lesser" formats. This format is still lurking in its infancy and there are many characteristics of the format which make it so different from others. Hopefully what I present can bring more understanding into the singleton-playing world.

by iceage4life at Sun, 01/20/2008 - 02:23
iceage4life's picture

Combo beats aggro which beats control which beats combo.  That is how it is supposed to work.  If combo can't be aggro its not much of a deck is it?

 Pre bannings control decks ruled the format not aggro.

by Tarmotog at Sat, 01/19/2008 - 13:00
Tarmotog's picture

Well, Jitte is not just -1/-1. It's a big clock against a deck not trying to do anything relavant to the ground with its +4/+4. Not only that, it reloads with every hit and the life gain is relavant against decks trying to pull off tendrils or some sort of 20 damage. It's the card that makes ichorid look dumb, force decks to combo off in the next few turns and such. Singleton already has its inherent slowness and saying "hey.. go combo off in 2 turns or lose" is going to be tough especially with cards that don't do the same stuff. I'm not asying that it was that big a deal for it to be banned but it's one of the cards that can do so many things with so little mana and all parts may actually be relevant to the game state.
Upheaval-Tog is not really a combo so as to speak. UB didn't try to go for the "combo" as though it had to. It didn't and upheaval just put the game in a very highly advantageous situation for it. Seriously, an academy ruins + triskelavus is sufficient to win games. You don't have to bother to upheaval. UB is a deck that won by its card advantage and mana advantage.

The reason why combo decks don't win now is that aggro decks are overly rampant. Control decks don't really have that much of a chance against for example: heartbeat of spring decks. It was possible to break through walls of countermagic with its cards and still pull it off. Control decks tend to have quite a relavant amount of creature hate in some form or the other which becomes dead against some combo decks. It is not ultimately easy for control decks to win even if they do simply because they have to rely on having anti combo tactics.
The aggresive decks are a big force and they make combo decks less played simply because they need to go off turn 5 for example and some decks cannot fully utilize the dual lands to combo off faster because they bother so much of their life totals. If I were to play, I would definitely choose a control deck and have a minimal amount of cards against combo simply because they format itself places combo decks at a disadvantage. The decks to beat would simply be more of control and aggro decks.

Also, combo decks are almost thrice as hard to build as compared to a aggro/ control deck where they can simply jam pack the decks with good to subpar cards and still win. I enjoy reading what you say about the different formats but I do have to say that I am a little disappointed with your comments on the upheaval-tog,jitte and with regards countermagic pertaining to this article. Discard isn't that bad unless against storm based decks. If the combo can't survive simple stuff that everyone will play, it's not so much of a deck is it?

Flash in PEs by iceage4life at Sat, 01/19/2008 - 02:10
iceage4life's picture

People played Flash in Singleton PEs.  They just never made t8.  Much like the Singleton Desire decks it looks good on paper but has consistancy issues.  I don't think everyone playing knew Flash could be run in Singleton but those that did and played it did not win.  Counter magic is good vs the deck, discard is good vs the deck, and burn is good vs the deck.9/10 singleton decks are running at least one of those card types.

As far as the whole Flash being banned thing don't you think it should have broken the format before they banned it?  But who knows maybe the Singleton world would collapse if a combo deck made top eight for the first time in months. 

Also like many people you overstate Jitte's impact.  The -1/-1 is the only super-relevant part of the card.

by iceage4life at Sat, 01/19/2008 - 02:11
iceage4life's picture

Oh and pre banning why not just run Upheaval-Tog as your "I win" combo?  Two cards that are good by themselves and none of the bad tutors/combo cards that Flash needs.  It costs more mana but getting the game there is what UB did, countermagic and creature removal.