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Much Abrew: Vraska, Swarm's Eminence Combo (Pioneer, Magic Onine)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Next week, we'll have new Theros: Beyond Death cards to work with, but for this week, we're taking a combo that people are excited about thanks to a new Theros: Beyond Death card and turning it on its head. Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Walking Ballista is one of the most hyped combos from Theros: Beyond Death, but there's more than one way to turn Walking Ballista into an infinite damage machine. Our deck is looking to combo off with Walking Ballista and one of the forgotten War of the Spark planeswalkers: Vraska, Swarm's Eminence! The deck's goal is to get a Walking Ballista with two counters, stick a Vraska, Swarm's Eminence, and then give Walking Ballista deathtouch with the help of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord or Status // Statue, which allows us to continually ping our opponent by removing a counter from Walking Ballista only for the counter to be replenished by Vraska, Swarm's Eminence's static ability. The rest of the deck is a weird mishmash of card-drawing Vampires to work with Sorin and help us find our combo pieces as well as deathtouchers to benefit from Vraska. Is Vraska, Swarm's Eminence a legitimate way to go infinite with Walking Ballista in Pioneer? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Much Abrew: Vraska, Swarm's Eminence Combo

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  • Record-wise, we ended up 4-1 with the deck, with our only loss coming to Soulflayer, which feels like a really difficult matchup since we don't have a ton of graveyard hate (just two Ashiok, Dream Render), and Soulflayer itself usually dodges our removal by becoming indestructible or hexproof. Add in the fact that Soulflayer can win quickly enough that assembling our infinite damage is unlikely (especially since Soulflayer can attack our planeswalkers, which we need for the combo), and it seems unlikely that our deck will win very often in that matchup. 
  • We played some absolutely absurd games with Vraska Combo. In reality, we probably should have lost to GB Delirium, but our topdecks were incredible, with a timely Walking Ballista (with an otherwise dead Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord on the battlefield) allowing us to kill an Emrakul, the Promised End and steal a win. One of the most impressive parts of the deck is how good Walking Ballista is with Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord (or Status // Statue) outside of the infinite combo. We won several games by giving Walking Ballista deathtouch and sniping down our opponent's big creatures with a single ping of damage. While Sorin looks like a planeswalker that is only good with Vampires (and this is mostly true), its ability to give any creature lifelink and deathtouch is extremely relevant in our deck. 
  • The rest of the deck is sort of odd. It's Vampire-y but not really Vampire tribal. If you actually break down the Vampires in our deck, they either draw us cards to help us find combo pieces (Dusk Legion Zealot and Champion of Dusk) or have deathtouch to make Vraska, Swarm's Eminence into a pseudo-lord (Knight of the Ebon Legion and Gifted Aetherborn). Otherwise, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is just a good card against both aggro and some graveyard decks. 
  • The main challenge of playing the deck is figuring out when our goal for the game is to win with the combo and when it's better to try to win naturally with creatures. Running out Walking Ballista early in the game makes it much more difficult to combo off, but in some matchups, just using it as a two-mana removal spell with one of our deathtouch cards is the right play. Probably the best plan is to play a lot of games with the deck so that the choices become more natural. 
  • Looking forward, it will be interesting to see if Heliod, Sun-Crowned / Walking Ballista decks could incorporate some aspects of this deck. We have several lifelink creatures plus Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord, which would work with Heliod, while Vraska, Swarm's Eminence offers a backup way to win with Walking Ballista. While jamming Heliod, Sun-Crowned into a Vampire-themed deck seems weird, it could have potential.
  • All in all, Vraska Combo was fun to play, but the biggest takeaway was how insane and close many of our games were. We played some of the most interesting Pioneer matches we've had in a while with the deck, and with a bit worse luck or play, we could have easily lost another match or even two along the way. It was that close.
  • So, should you play Vraska, Swarm's Eminence Combo in Pioneer? The deck felt competitive, and giving Walking Ballista deathtouch is very powerful in our current Pioneer meta, although it is fair to wonder if Heliod, Sun-Crowned will trump Vraska when it comes to going infinite with the Construct. That said, the deck was fun to play and has a cool surprise combo, so if you want a head start on going infinite with Walking Ballista, it seems like a fine option for the format.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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