When you think of the best combo decks in Canadian Highlander, your mind probably goes to Flash-Hulk, Thoracle, breach-storm, or Eggs. Over the last month I have brewed what I believe is the next great addition to that list, Doomsday-Breach.
As some background on me, I’m a retired Victoria Legacy player who’s recently returned to Canlander after a 6ish year hiatus. I won last year’s streamed highlander for Chris event, made the finals of the streamed Yellowjacket 2022 Highlander Year End, and am currently tied at the top of the leaderboard for our 2023 year end. You may also know me as the creator of Omnitiative, 10 Triome domain-pile, and Reanimator-Breach.
What makes Doomsday-Breach so good in 2023.
“When your opponent takes the initiative, cast Black Lotus”
Since the introduction of the initiative to Canlander, the landscape of our format has changed substantially. Playing to the board has become an essential component of any fair matchup, where games can often be decided by who can introduce and protect the initiative. This has helped subsidize removal over counterspells, and has solidified hatebears as the best way to balance the need to maintain board presence & combo interaction.
The initiative has also substantially upgraded the clock of the average fair deck. Even the slowest midrange deck now has the chance to race combo off the back of an accelerated initiative threat.
Because all the initiative threats only require 1 coloured pip, and fetch a basic on ETB, cards like Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon and Back to Basics have lost a lot of their efficacy, even against 4c decks. This combined with all the recently printed splashable threats (White plume, seasoned dungeoneer, minsc and boo, etc) has made many players reach for the 3rd color when deckbuilding, instead of blood moon effects.
These 3 factors have helped produce an environment where
- Stack based interaction is trending down, removal + hatebears are trending up.
- The average fair clock is up, so combo decks must go faster, with less setup.
- The incentive to play Blood Moon effects is often less than the incentive to run an extra color.
Doomsday Breach fits perfectly into this environment. The Doomsday half of your combo is extremely resilient to anti-breach hatebears like Pridemage & Scavenging Ooze, and the breach half allows for blisteringly fast kills. Because both your kills only require 1 tutor effect, you need way less setup than 2 card combo decks like Thoracle and Flash, resulting in a faster average kill. Even Blood Moon and Magus–historically the bane of any combo deck–have been trending down as more players are incentivized to splash the 3rd color for all the insane new cards.
What are the merits of a hybrid combo? Doomsday-Breach vs Breach-Storm
When comparing hybrid combo decks to their original counterparts, you shouldn’t be thinking in black and white “X is a worse version of Y”. What makes a “best deck” is as much a metagame factor as a raw power level one. Hybridizing combo decks allows you to exploit a hole in your meta where there is a lack of hate that hits both combos.
Because we don’t have sideboards, Canlander combo decks force opponents to aggressively mulligan for hate pieces, while balancing a reasonable clock. Hybrid combo puts even more pressure on these decisions, often forcing opponents to commit to a hate piece that only hits ½ your combo. The most effective hybrid combo decks can avoid committing to a specific combo early, allowing them to pivot if an opponent presents proactive hate.
The tradeoff to this is that you decrease the overall power/consistency of your deck. You have to include a certain number of “dead draws,” along with support cards that are important to one archetype, but suboptimal in the other. Perhaps most importantly, the setup actions you take before your kill turn should set up both combos.
There are 3 pillars to effectively hybridizing highlander combo decks.
- Synergy in deckbuilding
You want to maximize the number of cards that function with both combos, and minimize the cards that work with only one. Ideally only the actual combo pieces are the crossover, with the tertiary support elements at least functioning with both packages.
- In-game setup synergy
When you’re playing the match, the play-patterns you take to set up one combo should also be able to set up the other. Ideally this will let you avoid commiting to a specific combo, enabling you to seamlessly respond to hate by swapping kills.
- Asynergy in effective hate-pieces
Make a Venn-Diagram. In one circle you have the hate that hits combo A, in the other the hate that hits combo B. Hate pieces that occupy the overlap should be minimal, and ideally even less prevalent in your meta.
Doomsday-Breach epitomizes every one of these pillars.
- The overlap in deckbuilding between the 2 combos is extremely high. Leaving you with very few completely dead cards, and the support cards are still functional with the other half of the combo.
|Exclusive to one combo
|(2) Doomsday, Jace
|(7) Gush, conjurer’s bauble, x3 transmute cards, Street Wraith, Wrenn’s Resolve
|(2) Breach, Brain Freeze
|(5) Ransack the lab, Strategic Planning, x3 transmute cards
- Your in-game play patterns really help you avoid committing to a specific combo. If you’re ever unsure what hate your opponent has, and you have x2 tutors in hand, tutoring for lotus early allows you to pivot to either kill on your combo turn.
- The overlap in hate is minimal.
If you’re picking up Doomday-Breach over more conventional Storm, you’re looking for increased resiliency to hate, at a slight cost to your clock in un-interactive matchups. Breach is a very fast kill that folds to specific hate, whereas Doomsday is a slower kill that can be tailored to beat almost any hate. By hybridizing the two, you’ve increased your resiliency, by decreasing the consistency of the blisteringly fast graveyard based kills. In essence, Doomsday-Breach is to Legacy ANT as Breach-Storm is to TES.
Ultimately, which is better will depend entirely on your local meta. Remember, for most of legacy’s history ANT has been the consensus best storm deck, but in recent years TES has held dominance over that title. Metagames change, pilots learn how to adapt, and hate pieces evolve.
Lots of magic players have this misconception that storm (Doomsday especially) is some giga-brain archetype that needs 200+IQ to pilot effectively. Throw that notion into the dumpster
- Anybody can play Storm
- Anybody can play Doomsday
- Anybody and their grandmother can play Breach-Storm
The best way you learn to play any of these archetypes is to remember the setup requirements for each combo, and goldfish a bit so you understand what hands you should keep/mulligan. Don’t stress about learning when to play around hate and when to shove in on a combo, it will come naturally over time and matches.
If you’ve never played breach-storm before, here’s the basic sequence you want to construct.
Tutor for Underworld Breach-> cast Breach->Escape Tutor for LED/Lotus->Play LED/Lotus, break it for tutor mana->Escape LED/Lotus Making blue-> Escape tutor for brain freeze->Cast brain freeze for deterministic kill.
This generally requires twice the mana cost of your tutor, 1R, and 9 cards in the graveyard.You can also reduce the mana requirement by casting that first tutor for breach on a setup turn. If you already have LED or Lotus in hand it will reduce the requirement down to just mana to cast your tutor & underworld breach + 6 cards in the graveyard.
- When using your restrictive tutors, it’s often correct to get another tutor like infernal/grim tutor, since you can’t escape a transmute effect with Underworld Breach in play. This is particularly true for the transmute cards.
- When setting up for a breach kill, it’s often correct to tutor for LED over Lotus, since the extra cards discarded from your hand might put you over the threshold to kill off an underworld breach.
Don’t worry, this isn’t The Source’s 200+ page forum on Doomsday Piles. Just take some time to familiarize yourself with some basic piles, what the setup conditions are for them, and what hate might impact them.
Core Doomsday Stacks
- Unless you’re casting Doomsday onto a zero pressure board, you are pretty much always looking to immediately draw into your pile with a cantrip effect.
- If you think you might be on the Doomsday plan in a game, it’s important to be looking to conserve a draw effect for your combo turn. This can sometimes mean not casting a cantrip on an early turn.
- Your Doomsday kills are substantially upgraded by having x2 islands in play to enable gush. Fetch accordingly.
- The more mana you have floating after drawing into your Doomsday pile, the more resilient you are.
- If you have an extra land drop on your combo turn, you can use gush to net an extra mana. Similarly if you know you’re land-light and think you’re on a Doomday kill, it’s sometimes better to fetch a dual-land over the 2nd Triome, just to ensure that gushable land-drop.
Notes from the brewing process
- Cute Doomsday cards (Ideas Unbound, Meditate, Predict) are unfortunately bad in 2023.
- lotus is a much better card than Thoracle in Doomsday.
- A hybrid Doomsday-Thoracle deck isn’t super viable, just due to the un-synergistic setup requirements of the two combos.
- A pure Doomsday shell substituting the breach package for tutors/synergy cards is perfectly reasonable.
This deck is an absolute blast to both brew and play. It rewards pilot skill and matchup analysis, since your fetch and cantrip decisions on early turns matter so much, while still having the opportunity to go “oops I win”. Similarly, opponents who understand the combo (or have just read this guide) will know how to exploit those setup constraints. It’s still weak to the same archetypes that beat up on storm, but has a better ability to play through them. If you’re looking for a slower, more resilient version of Breach-Storm, this is the deck for you.
You can find me on Moxfield @SachasHideousLaughter
& Twitter @SachasLaughter