Teamwork Makes it Happen: A look at combos, synergies, and getting a better value out of your cards – by John McMullin

Often times I find myself playing Commander games or kitchen table M:TG. While these types of play tend to be more casual, there comes a time when you stumble upon a killer combo, or some neat trick that just saves your butt. Either way, when you find these – remember them! Whether playing for fun or for sport, combos and synergies are going to be the key difference between playing well and playing expertly.

And I’m no expert!

That said, what we need to learn first, is the difference between a combo and a synergy. defines a combination as:

the act of combining or the state of being combined.

a number of things combined: a combination of ideas.

While a synergy is described as:

the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.; synergism.

So, lets break it down like this. In M:TG, a combo is going to be when two or more cards come together to achieve an effect. However, a synergy of cards is where two or more cards come together to create an amplified effect.

With this in mind, lets take a few examples. See if you can identify them as synergies, or combos.

First, lets take one of my all-time favorite cards – Goblin Bombardment:


What is there not to like? As far as sac-engines go in this game, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing some direct damage whittling away at your opponent’s life total. The thing is, on it’s own, Goblin Bombardment can be kind of slow. I mean, it’s only one damage at a time. That’s where synergies and combos come in handy! What happens if we couple Goblin Bombardment with either of these?:


Suddenly, we’re not only doing damage to our opponent(or their creatures), but we’re also gaining some graveyard recursion. Doing this allows us to re-play some cards from our graveyard. Having multiple copies of these cards allows you to do damage over and over again, since you can keep grabbing copies of these two cards when further ones are sacrificed to the Goblin Bombardment.

But, is this a combo – or a synergy? If you ask me, it’s a synergy – taking two or more elements, and creating a larger effect from combining them. In this case, your larger effect is damage plus card recursion. Individually, each card only has one effect – and – needs something to work with it to achieve their individual effects. The Bombardment requires a creature sacrifice. And the Retriever or Diver requires that they go to the graveyard from play in order for their effect to trigger.

So then, what’s a good example of a combo? Well, every player is going to have different combos that they play in their decks, but, this is one I rather enjoy:


For this, you also need at least two artifact cards in your hand.

So, for this combo, we have one effect that we’re generating – tapping the Metalworker to produce 2 colorless mana for every artifact you reveal. The combo here is that you create this ONE effect. The Construct lets you repeat it over and over, which is why I feel this one is a combo. Of course, there are always other options for comboing the Metalworker, such as Voltaic Key, but being a once-only effect, I prefer the Construct. I’m an infinity kind of guy.

We can talk about taking this one further, and finding ways to play those Junk Divers and Myr Retrievers on the cheap! Not only will this strategy keep you alive in multiplayer, but it lets you sneak your win condintions onto the field THAT MUCH QUICKER:



These cards are more about support than anything. The Helm of Awakening will synergise with your Bombardment/Diver/Retriever, making re-casting your creatures quick and cheap, allowing more recursions, and more castings per turn. Howling Mine lets you be everyone’s friend with the card draw for all! Filling your hand up quicker allows Metalworker to tap for even more mana!

With all these combos and synergies running loose, your deck now just needs some win conditions. My favorites for that are these dudes:



All the mana you get from your Metalworkers means that you’ll have to spend it on something. While the per-damage cost is higher on Magma Mine, you have the luxury of using it the turn you play it, where as with Rocket Launcher, you’d best hope you can survive a turn – because when you put that on the board, you’re going to become a target regardless how many Howling Mines and Helms you’ve got on the battlefield.

What are your favorite combos? Feel like my examples are more one than the other? Let us know in the comments!

Article submitted by John McMullin

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