As you might guess, this article is all about the combo between 《Tainted Pact》 and 《Thassa’s Oracle》. For those who are not familiar with the combo, here a short and simplified version: You cast 《Tainted Pact》 and exile your Library and then you cast 《Thassa’s Oracle》 and win with the enters-the-battlefield-trigger.
So, shall we dive directly into a list? Here is the list I used to 7-2 the $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier:
Deck List: Pact-Oracle Combo
First of all, to enable the combo, you need to fill your deck with only one of the cards, except for 《Thassa’s Oracle》 and 《Tainted Pact》. You play 2 of each combo piece because when you are ready to combo, you need both cards in hand, which means that once again your library consists of only one card.
The mana base I built here tries to play as many untapped lands as possible but getting away without any tapped lands is sadly not possible. Most of your spells have a mana value of 2, which means you want your second land to be untapped. You can easily get away with playing your third land tapped, because the combo costs four mana or two plus two in some cases, which I will explain later.
As this is a classic two-card combo deck, all you need to do is to assemble the combo. The best way of doing so is to dig as deep as possible and tutor for some parts. 《Wishclaw Talisman》, 《Grim Tutor》, and 《Mastermind’s Acquisition》 are the actual tutors, which means they get you whatever card you desire out of your library (or sideboard).
《Grim Tutor》 fits perfectly, because of its mana value of 3. Your combo costs 4, which means if you have either 《Tainted Pact》 or 《Thassa’s Oracle》 in your hand, you can grab the missing piece and combo as soon as you have 4 available mana.
《Wishclaw Talisman》 can be played out on turn 2 and sit in play until needed, as activating it only costs 1 mana. Against some decks, you can play it out on turn 2, activate it on turn 3 to grab a missing piece and win on turn 4. The actual good part about 《Wishclaw Talisman》 is, it can dodge discard spells and if played on turn 2 It dodges most counters. Artifact removal is not widely played, so it is likely to stay in play.
《Mastermind’s Acquisition》 is the most expensive tutor, but if really needed it can also go to your sideboard. In case that one or both 《Tainted Pact》 are gone, you can grab another one from your sideboard.
《Thassa’s Oracle》 gone? Not a problem, just grab 《Jace, Wielder of Mysteries》. Playing against control? Grab a counter or discard spell. 《Mastermind’s Acquisition》 has its cost but helps you winning if something goes wrong or if you need help to protect the combo, which makes it an important card for this deck.
I did not mention 《Tainted Pact》 as an actual tutor effect, but from time to time it can be. If you happen to have 《Thassa’s Oracle》 and 《Tainted Pact》 in hand and somehow need to grab something, you can use 《Tainted Pact》 to get it. I do not suggest doing that, as you rather just combo and win, but there are rare occasions where it is appropriate to tutor for something.
A neat trick: If you manage to have both 《Tainted Pact》 in hand, you can use the first one to find 《Thassa’s Oracle》 and then win with the second one. It is important here that you stop with you first 《Tainted Pact》 as soon as you hit 《Thassa’s Oracle》 because if you continue and hit the second one, you might lose.
Then there are some soft tutors. 《Solve the Equation》 is one of those, as it can only get you 《Tainted Pact》 or an aforementioned tutor to find what you want. The other soft tutor is 《Fae of Wishes》, as it only tutors for cards from your sideboard and that does not always mean that you get an actual combo piece.
We talked about tutoring, but that is not the whole deck, sometimes we need to do some good old digging and here is something that I realized, that might seem strange.
Seeing several cards is better than just drawing a card.
Wait, what? How can drawing a card not be better? The answer for why seeing several cards is better than drawing a card in this deck consists of 3 parts:
Protection for the Combo
Okay, so for the combo we got some digging and tutoring going on, is it that easy? Kinda, against some decks that is all you really need, but from time to time you will not be able to assemble your combo by turn 4 or will need some sort of protection for the combo and for those times, you have cards that do something else.
Point and mass-removal help you against all sorts of creature decks and usually buy you enough time. I decided against playing 《Doom Blade》, because there are some black creatures, like 《Mayhem Devil》, that you really want to hit with your removal.
A new card that I have not tested yet, but probably could make its way into this deck is 《Baleful Mastery》. It hits every creature and Planeswalker, you usually do not care too much if your opponent gets to draw an additional card and in some corner cases, you can win the mirror with it. If your opponent goes for the combo and decides to exile their entire library, you can hit their 《Thassa’s Oracle》 with 《Baleful Mastery》 and they lose the game before you do.
Discard and counter spells – those are just really good. Against aggressive decks you want them early and against control decks later to help to force through your combo.
Oh, and I almost forgot the lovely companion this deck plays: 《Lurrus of the Dream-Den》. It rarely happens, but in some games, you will need to grind and play way more than just 4 turns. In those games, our buddy 《Lurrus of the Dream-Den》 works overtime. From drawing additional cards, keeping your opponent’s graveyard or creatures in check, or simply just attacking, 《Lurrus of the Dream-Den》 does it all.
This list is certainly not perfect and there are still many options to explore. Just as an example, you could go for more colors and play red for 《Underworld Breach》 and some sort of different win condition or splash green for more ramp and 《Regrowth》. I have a feeling, that the best list has yet to be found.
Looks like we have built us a combo deck, now we only need to find out how to use some of these cards, right? I will start with the part that most of you really wanted to read: a sideboard guide!
Not entirely true, sorry! I will only help you out a bit, not provide you with a fully detailed sideboard guide.
Against aggressive decks you only want to survive until you can combo, therefore you want removal to buy yourself some time. For that reason, I usually board out counter spells and 《Thoughtseize》 and fill those slots with even more removal from the sideboard.
Against control decks, you need some sort of protection usually. For this reason and as most control decks do not pressure you at all, I board out almost all removal, keeping only 《Bloodchief’s Thirst》. In case you expect your opponent to play a 《Gideon of the Trials》, you should also consider keeping 《Eliminate》.
Cards you want to bring in are all the discard and counter spells. Another small hint here: I would strongly suggest somehow make room for a single 《Thought Distortion》 in the sideboard.
Tips and Tricks
Now on to some tips and tricks for this deck and MTG Arena.
Do not fear the rope, while being in the combo. If you activate full control, cast 《Thassa’s Oracle》, resolve it, put its trigger on the stack and with its trigger on the stack cast and resolve 《Tainted Pact》, just sit back, and relax. As soon as your rope is gone, Arena will automatically decline for your 《Tainted Pact》, until your library is gone and resolve 《Thassa’s Oracle》’s ability.
You can win on turn 3 if you manage to have 《Tainted Pact》 and 《Thassa’s Oracle》 in your hand. End of your opponent’s turn 2 just cast 《Tainted Pact》 and make sure to leave exactly one card in your library, as with your turn 3 you will draw that last card. Here you need to decline cards with 《Tainted Pact》, so make sure to be fast.
If you have 2 《Tainted Pact》 in your hand, but not 《Thassa’s Oracle》, cast one 《Tainted Pact》 until you hit your first 《Thassa’s Oracle》 and take it into your hand. Now you got both combo pieces and are ready to go.
Playing against discard might be annoying from time to time. 《Wishclaw Talisman》 plays around to discard, as it usually sticks in play, waiting for you to use it. Another card that is helpful, is 《Brainstorm》. It can hide the cards you want on top of your library.
It is usually correct to just scry with 《Mazemind Tome》, especially in your upkeep. Do not wait to draw cards.
《Tainted Pact》 can be used as a tutor, not only as a combo piece.
《Fae of Wishes》 exists and sometimes it is correct to just slam her on turn 2 and to not wait for her Granted side.
That is all for today. I can only hope this deck will not get banned too soon, as I certainly want to have some more fun playing it and hope you will have some fun with it too. Stay safe and healthy, until next time.
Immanuel Gerschenson (Twitter)