Magic: The Gathering: In A World Without Combos, Ruination Reigns

A few days ago, our tabletop writer Josh Nelson heard an interesting question posed in the wake of a series of significant (and arguably poorly-timed) bans in Magic: The Gathering: "What would happen if every combo in Magic was suddenly banned from all formats of the game?" Josh believes that ruin would follow. The game would be forever marred by a loss of a major archetype such as combo. Let's discuss this!

Note: The following article is an opinion piece that cannot be quantified in practice. Wizards of the Coast would never remove a major archetype from Magic: The Gathering, and as such, this piece serves only as a dire hypothetical.

The artwork for Cauldron Familiar, a card from Throne of Eldraine, a recent expansion set from Magic: The Gathering. Cauldron Familiar was a significant combo piece that was recently banned. Illustrated by Milivoj Ćeran.
The artwork for Cauldron Familiar, a card from Throne of Eldraine, a recent expansion set from Magic: The Gathering. Cauldron Familiar was a significant combo piece that was recently banned. Illustrated by Milivoj Ćeran.

Combo is one of three major intermixing archetypes in Magic: The Gathering, standing alongside aggro and control in the game as one of the most important cornerstones of checks and balances in the game. When someone says that the color pie is the most important check/balance system in Magic, they'd be wrong because it is actually this three-pronged archetype system that is most vital to the longevity of the game as a competitive entity.

So what happens if players lose combo as an option?

Well, for the game and the enfranchisement of its player base, Armageddon.

The artwork for Armageddon, an iconic land destruction spell and a thorn in the side of many Magic: The Gathering players of old. Illustrated here by Chris Rahn.
The artwork for Armageddon, an iconic land destruction spell and a thorn in the side of many Magic: The Gathering players of old. Illustrated here by Chris Rahn.

You see, without combo, aggressive decks have no particular check to balance out their power level. Control will falter without the means to effectively slow down the game plan of every other deck except in the case of a mirror match, and as such, aggro decks will reign supreme. The only answer for this on Wizards' part, having removed combo as an archetype, is to strengthen control aspects. That often will mean faster or more efficient control spells.

The artwork for Teferi, Time Raveler, a recently-banned card from War of the Spark, an expansion set from Magic: The Gathering. Illustrated by Chris Rallis, Teferi also recently got the banhammer pointed at him.
The artwork for Teferi, Time Raveler, a recently-banned card from War of the Spark, an expansion set from Magic: The Gathering. Illustrated by Chris Rallis, Teferi also recently got the banhammer pointed at him.

Eventually, games would get so dull under a two-archetype system (three if you count midrange, we suppose), that Magic: The Gathering's player base would simply cease to play and the game as we knew it in this alternate timeline would end.

This is probably true of the removal of the other two archetypes, but it's best that we keep the game as is, where archetypes are concerned (obviously some cards need bans but all the same, an entire archetype should not be removed from this beloved game). We'd also like to hear your theories on this phenomenon. What do you think happens if aggro or control were removed from Magic? Let us know in the comments below!

About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.

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