The Splinter Twin Files: Suspicious Combos in Modern and Pioneer (March of the Machine Edition)

The Splinter Twin Files: Suspicious Combos in Modern and Pioneer (March of the Machine Edition)

Every set brings new combos, and new rumors of the second coming of Splinter Twin.

It has been many years since Splinter Twin walked the earth. That has not stopped the faithful from scrutinizing every powerful new combination, searching for the next great combo.

Some of these alleged Splinter Twins are very real. They provide strong on rate effects, with the potential to anchor new strategies in Modern and Pioneer.

Others are highly suspicious.

In this article we investigate 15 potential new combos from March of the Machine. These range from game-ending A+B combos, to three-part engines, almost-lethal sequences, and “virtual kills” that create a massive board advantage without actually ending the game.

Trust no one.

Let’s investigate!

1) Chrome Host Seedshark + Shining Shoal (X=15)

Turn 3 Seedshark, pass. On the opponent’s end step, FLASH IN A 17/17 CREATURE.

It’s more likely than you think.

There is already precedent for pairing Shining Shoal with high CMC spells. Autochthon Wurm also pitches to Nourishing Shoal, and Sickening Shoal works with Shadow of Mortality. Once the Seedshark is down, the 17/17 Incubator is guaranteed (not even countermagic stops it), plus you get whatever benefit the Shoal provides.

Shoal is the most explosive, but don’t mistake Chrome Host Seedshark for a one trick gimmick. Any cost reduction spell is going to work exceptionally well, from a simple Leyline Binding to an explosive Treasure Cruise or Temporal Trespass.

Seedshark is the truth. Expect big things.

2) Rona, Herald of Invasion + Retraction Helix

Slap a Retraction Helix (or Banishing Knack) on Rona and you can recast Mox Amber infinite times, generating infinite mana.

From here there are many ways to win.

Unctus, Grand Metatect loots the entire deck, finding Thassa’s Oracle.

Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler can mill the deck and find your win condition. Tyvar also re-buys Rona when she dies, and greatly accelerates her pace of looting.

This will be very powerful, and may impact Modern and Historic as well.

3) Kroxa and Kunoros + Altar of Dementia

Kroxa and Kunoros, a.k.a. “Dogxa,” resembles a fixed Sun Titan. But you know what they say: if it’s fixed, let’s re-break it.

This 2-card combo requires only Altar of Dementia in play. With Dogxa’s ETB on the stack, sacrifice it to self-mill 6. Then escape Dogxa with its own ability. (This works because you don’t have to choose a target until after the escape cost has been paid.)

Repeat this loop until your deck is empty. The last trigger finds Thassa’s Oracle for the win.

Graveyard combos are brittle, but this has potential. Stitcher’s Supplier can support a quick kill if using Goryo’s Vengeance, but Kroxa and Kunoros is a reasonably powerful play at 6 mana if the game goes long.

4) Ghalta and Mavren + Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord

Turn 3 Sorin has always been scary. You never know when an early Champion of Dusk is going to ruin your day. But now we face an even greater danger: Vampires riding Tyrannosaurs!

So cool. So stupid.

Vampires get new toys in this set that play great with Sorin’s +1s. Dusk Legion Zealot draws a card on each activation, and Voldaren Thrillseeker becomes a Terminate that gains life. Some form of Vampires should be a contender in Pioneer, but how hard it leans into the Ghalta and Mavren combo remains to be seen.

5) Wrenn and Realmbreaker + Jeskai Ascendancy

Jeskai Ascendancy + hexproof mana dorks is a classic combo. Sylvan Caryatid leads the way, but Paradise Druid often accompanies it.

Wrenn and Realmbreaker’s +1 provides another hexproof mana dork, with huge upside. The -2 can dig for the namesake enchantment, while filling up the graveyard for Treasure Cruise, which most Ascendancy lists also play.

It’s a perfect pairing. Almost too perfect.

6) Yargle and Multani + Cragganwick Cremator

18 power is 2 more damage than the previous biggest creature (Impervious Greatwurm). This should 1-shot most opponents in Modern, where shocks and fetches are ubiquitous. But we can play Lightning Bolt and aggressive creatures just in case.

Cragganwick Cremator decks have had modest success in the past. Eldritch Evolution is the cleanest way to find the giant on time, usually sacrificing Strangleroot Geist.

Looks like frog legs are back on the menu!

7) Hidetsugu and Kairi + Explosive Singularity

The Neon Dynasty duo wants a 10 mana spell that deals 10 damage. If only such a card existed…

Oh. Here’s one. From Neon Dynasty. It even has pseudo-Convoke, a year ahead of the mechanic’s return in March of the Machine.

Suspicious. Very suspicious.

Clearly this combo was an inside job. But it is powerful? A sacrifice outlet is required, which adds a third piece to the A+B combo. Once the pieces are assembled, only 5 mana is required. Tools like Mystic Sanctuary are available in Pioneer to help put everything in the right place.

8) Wrenn and Realmbreaker + Transmogrify

Transmogrify is powerful, but risky to cast into open mana. A single Fatal Push on your token creature can fizzle your entire plan.

Wrenn and Realmbreaker flips the script on this. Once again, hexproof from the +1 ability proves invaluable. The -2 can also dig for more traditional targets like Fable of the MIrror-Breaker, Esika’s Chariot, and Courier’s Briefcase. You’ll be swimming in Atraxas in no time.

Polymorph has always been a rigged game. Now the fix is truly in.

9) Rona, Tolarian Obliterator + Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

We like the front face of Rona, Herald of Invasion, but back side is no joke either. Flip it turn 3 with Omen Hawker, or the infinite Retraction Helix combo described above. Then ping it yourself for profit. Buy an Emrakul with the insurance money.

If you need to do this quickly, cheap or free burn spells are available in the form of Gut Shot, Lava Dart, Fury, or Wrenn and Six. It can be secondary angle with Retraction Helix, or perhaps Goryo’s Vengeance, which Rona’s front side also supports.

10) Etali, Primal Conqueror + Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

The search for Twin can lead to unlikely places. Etali, Primal Conqueror is capable of ”cascading” into Emrakul, but how can we possibly set this up? The pieces exist, but they are dubious. Here is a two card setup:

Cast Congregation at Dawn on the opponent’s end step, stacking Barrier of Bones, Etali, and Emrakul. Draw the Barrier, cast it, and mill Etali. Then follow up with Goryo’s Vengeance on the dinosaur.

Technically, this requires only two cards (plus a draw step) and six mana. Brew at your own risk.

11) Djeru and Hazoret + Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

This combo requires no special tricks. Just swing with Djeru and Hazoret and choose to believe. You can free cast any legend you find. Works especially well with Emrakul or Valki, God of Lies (cast the Tibalt half).

It’s not unreasonable to put Djeru at the top of an aggressive curve, but we may want to pair it with other explosive engines. Winota, Joiner of Forces can find Djeru, and Djeru in turn can find Winota. Both pair well with Goryo’s Vengeance.

12) Omen Hawker + Wizard Class

Omen Hawker is a massive sleeper. It fuels the activation of Nykthos, Urza’s Saga, Incubator tokens, and many other powerful cards.

Wizard Class combo is a good place to start. Level up Wizard Class to grow an infinite Benthic Biomancer while looting your whole deck. The Pioneer version of this combo has already seen success, and now gets an additional explosive mana engine. It will be even stronger in Historic, where Level 3 of Wizard Class costs 2 less.

Who needs Alchemy buffs?

13) Xerex Strobe-Knight + Intruder Alarm

One good Knight deserves another. Like most Intruder Alarm combos, this one is very simple. Find any creature that taps to make another creature. Play Intruder Alarm and go infinite.

Casting two spells a turn is trivial in Modern. The challenge will be making each piece not suck on its own. Perhaps we give Xerex Strobe-Knight haste, or pair it with untap effects for multiple uses, or Unctus for massive looting.

14) Baral and Kari Zev + Alrund’s Epiphany

Reports of Splinter Twin are often exaggerated. A “virtual Twin” combo leaves you far ahead, but stops short of actually winning the game. (But let’s be honest — that’s no fun. Once you win you don’t get to be way ahead any more!)

Baral and Kari Zev promise great things but are finicky in practice. The most powerful payoffs are all sorceries, which means we need two powerful sorceries in hand. Treasure Cruise is the best option, allowing you to cheat in Alrund’s Epiphany on turn 4. This nets +3 cards and adds lots of bodies to the board, including the option for First Mate Ragavan next turn. The Ultimatum cycle can also be considered.

15) Hoarding Broodlord + Feign Death

Hoarding Broodlord can be reasonably convoked on turn 4, assuming you curve out with multiple bodies like Lazotep Reaver and Woe Strider. But does that win the game? In Pioneer, it’s closer than you might think.

Broodlord can immediately convoke any one mana spell. It’s like a giant Micromancer that free casts whatever it tutors for. If you know the matchup well, you can choose between disruption (Thoughtseize) or protection (Feign Death, Malakir Rebirth) and ride your 7/6 to victory.

Feign Death is the strongest option if you have Woe Strider or Catacomb Sifter in play. It guarantees another Hoarding Broodlord trigger, even against exile effects. You can even sacrifice your Dragon on the next turn (after swinging for 7) to “reset” the tutor with more mana available. Get a second Broodlord to present lethal damage, or find a giant threat (Bolas’s Citadel, Thought Distortion, Necromentia) and immediately convoke it to lock out the opponent.

The Truth Is Out There

Now that you’ve heard all the theories, it’s time to head out into the wilds and gather real evidence. This will be our task on the Faithless Brewing Podcast, where we brew fresh decks every week in both Modern and Pioneer. If there’s a true Splinter Twin to be discovered among all the rumors and hoaxes, Faithless Brewing is where you’ll find it. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube every Monday and Friday, and follow us on Twitter @FaithlessMTG for even more brewing content.

Thanks for reading and happy brewing!

Looking for more analysis for Modern and Pioneer? Check out our Compleat Brewer’s Guide to March of the Machine:

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