Historic Tainted Pact Combo Deck Guide: Now This Is a Splinter Twin Situation

Welcome to our Tainted Pact Combo deck guide for the Magic: The Gathering Arena Historic format, updated for Strixhaven: School of Mages! Here, you will learn how to play this combo deck specifically for the best of three (bo3) game mode, from explanation of card choices, a complete matchup and sideboard guide, tips and tricks, and even how to beat the deck itself.

OVERVIEW

Hello everyone! Today we are bringing you the newest sauce dominating Historic ladder and tournaments alike: Tainted Pact Combo. There were a lot of cards that I knew were going to be good from the Mystical Archive, but I never expected an EDH card to be one of them! Although it seems really gimmicky, having a deck purely of ones ofs (beyond Tainted Pact and Thassa’s Oracle) is actually much less of a deckbuilding cost than initially thought, especially when it enables one turn wins. I guess if Companions and this deck have taught me anything about Magic, it’s that deckbuilding restrictions to enable insanely powerful cards can easily be worth it.

There are a huge amount of variations with the list already, unsurprising considering the deck is mostly one ofs, so I’ll start with what I’d consider to be a safe, “base” list. Here is the top Pact finisher from last weekend’s $5k.

DECKLIST

(H) Dimir Tainted Pact 

Companion
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Creatures (4)
1
Augur of Bolas
1
Fae of Wishes
2
Thassa's Oracle
Spells (27)
1
Agadeem's Awakening
1
Jwari Disruption
1
Silundi Vision
1
Bloodchief's Thirst
1
Brainstorm
1
Cling to Dust
1
Fatal Push
1
Inquisition of Kozilek
1
Opt
1
Thoughtseize
1
Agonizing Remorse
1
Censor
1
Drown in the Loch
1
Eliminate
1
Heartless Act
1
Shimmer of Possibility
2
Tainted Pact
1
Thought Erasure
1
Tyrant's Scorn
1
Cry of the Carnarium
1
Grim Tutor
1
Solve the Equation
1
Supreme Will
1
Languish
1
Mastermind's Acquisition
1
Yahenni's Expertise
Artifacts (4)
1
Soul-Guide Lantern
1
Mazemind Tome
1
Mind Stone
1
Wishclaw Talisman
Enchantments (2)
1
Omen of the Sea
1
Search for Azcanta
Lands (23)
1
Barkchannel Pathway
1
Blightstep Pathway
1
Brightclimb Pathway
1
Castle Locthwain
1
Castle Vantress
1
Clearwater Pathway
1
Dismal Backwater
1
Drowned Catacomb
1
Evolving Wilds
1
Fabled Passage
1
Fetid Pools
1
Godless Shrine
1
Hengegate Pathway
1
Ice Tunnel
1
Island
1
Radiant Fountain
1
Riverglide Pathway
1
Snow-Covered Island
1
Snow-Covered Swamp
1
Swamp
1
Temple of Deceit
1
Watery Grave
1
Zagoth Triome
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Pact of Negation
1
Duress
1
Grafdigger's Cage
1
Scrabbling Claws
1
Cast Down
1
Pack Rat
1
Tainted Pact
1
Test of Talents
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
1
Mystical Dispute
1
Necromentia
1
Extinction Event
1
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
1
Shadows' Verdict
1
Thought Distortion

Before I’ll even dive into how the deck works, we have to dive into an important question first.

TO LURRUS OR NOT TO LURRUS?

Lurrus of the Dream-Den Art by Slawomir Maniak
Lurrus of the Dream-Den Art by Slawomir Maniak

As I said before, the top finishing list was a nice base to go off of, but the best and worst thing about Pact is how customizable it is. No matter how you customize this deck, you can divide the lists into the two camps of Lurrus or no Lurrus. The way I see it, if you want to have the most consistent deck possible that works towards the combo element every time, Dimir Lurrus is the way to go. If you want to branch out with more threats so you aren’t as reliant on the combo, not only do I suggest cutting Lurrus, but you should likely branch into a third color.

That being said, I don’t currently think there’s a best third color to splash for. I’ve seen Red for Bonecrusher Giant and Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, Green for Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and ramp spells, or white mostly for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. I don’t think you can really go wrong with whatever direction you want to take, but we’re doing the Dimir version as that’s the cleanest base to start with.

Deck Configuration

I can keep reiterating that the deck is endlessly customizable, but that doesn’t at all mean it’s random in its construction. Every list seems to have the same core element that cards are swapped around for, but their functions are roughly the same.

THE COMBO KILL (4/60)

Obviously the way you win is with Thassa’s Oracle and Tainted Pact. If you’re not aware, the way it works is that Tainted Pact will keep exiling cards off the top of your library until you stop it, or you find a duplicate. Considering our only duplicates are Tainted Pact and Thassa’s Oracle, if you have one of each in hand (from your deck), you can mill your entire deck with the Pact to win the game! These slots are obviously non-negotiable.

THE TUTOR PACKAGE (6/60)

A deck of a lot of one ofs isn’t naturally the most consistent, so most lists run a good amount of tutors to help you find your combo pieces ASAP. For this list, we have 6 tutor pieces which I believe is generally one more than most other decks (Solve the Equation being the extra one).

THE CARD DRAW (10-12/60)

Similar to the tutors, we’re looking to get through the deck quickly to find the combo. We have a lot of pieces in the deck that can both draw cards and generally do something else. Augur of Bolas finds spells and is a blocker, Silundi Vision is a land and a way to find spells, Cling to Dust is graveyard interaction and draw, etc. Make sure you pack your deck full of these.

THE INTERACTION (15/60)

The interaction will always be the largest segment of your Pact lists. Since we can’t just bank on having the tools to find the combo quickly, the better solution is to have enough interaction so we can stall the opponent while putting together the win. You can change the interaction suite as you wish, but don’t shirk on it.

THE LANDS (23-26/60)

This list goes for 23 lands and 3 MDFCs which I like a lot. Missing a land drop with this deck, or being forced to use a draw spell on a land, is extremely brutal so having a higher land count is nice for that reason. I personally would never go below 24 lands.

Remember these are rough numbers and not set in stone, but it’s good to know where the baseline is. Obviously if you go for the 3 color versions you’ll have some additional win cons or you may have different proactive cards and so on, but I recommend staying around these ratios when possible.

CARDS TO USE AGAINST TAINTED PACT

I know a lot of people want to learn how to play this deck, but there are many who want to know how to beat this deck too! Where better to put it than here?

COUNTERSPELLS

When attacking a combo deck, counters can be your best friend. Something like Dovin's Veto to stop Tainted Pact can be invaluable.

Archon of Emeria

A mainstay of GW Company, this extremely hinders your ability to find and execute your combo so kill this on sight when possible. You can still wait until the opponent’s end step to Tainted Pact, but they could be constricted by time and by any further interaction.

Rule of Law

New technology from Control decks for both Pact and Auras. If this picks up, you need to add a way to get rid of this like Brazen Borrower or Unsubstantiate to interact as this isn’t like Archon of Emeria that you can normally kill. I wouldn’t recommend Rule of Law in any white deck, but in conjunction with counterspells this card is functionally unbeatable.

Nimble Obstructionist

Let the opponent combo off, then Obstruct the Oracle trigger! It’s a great answer and an uncounterable one at that!

Baleful Mastery

Baleful Mastery is a medium removal spell, but casting it for 2 mana forces the opponent to draw a card which can kill them before the Thassa’s Oracle trigger resolves! Note that the opponent could leave 1 card in library to play around this, but won’t always have the time or knowledge to.

MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARD GUIDE

Thassa’s Oracle Art by Jesper Ejsing
Thassa’s Oracle Art by Jesper Ejsing

AURAS

INOUT
+1 Cast Down-1 Cry of the Carnarium
+1 Extinction Event-1 Cling to Dust
+1 Shadow’s Verdict-1 Soul-Guide Lantern

Auras is going to be a complete race between you comboing them off and them overrunning you with creatures. We have a good amount of interaction to keep them off balance and all they have is their hand disruption to try and fight through the combo. Keep interaction heavy hands and try to quickly assemble the combo.

GW COMPANY

INOUT
+1 Cast Down-1 Agonizing Remorse
+1 Extinction Event-1 Cling to Dust
+1 Shadow’s Verdict-1 Soul-Guide Lantern

This matchup (like many) will be a race between your combo and their clock. The issue is, they have extremely strong cards like Elite Spellbinder and Archon of Emeria that both heavily disrupt you and race pretty well. Do your best to keep heavy interaction hands so you can stall them while you assemble the combo. You don’t have to race as hard as you do against Auras as they are naturally slower.

GRUUL AGGRO

INOUT
+1 Cast Down-1 Agonizing Remorse
+1 Extinction Event-1 Cling to Dust
+1 Shadow’s Verdict-1 Soul-Guide Lantern

We’re seeing a lot of the same boarding, but a lot of the time the game plan is going to be the same! You need to race Gruul while ideally holding them off long enough to assemble the combo. Unlike the previous two matchups, they have no way to interact with you so don’t worry about your combo being disrupted.

DIMIR ROGUES

INOUT
+1 Pact of Negation-1 Solve the Equation
+1 Duress-1 Jwari Disruption
+1 Pack Rat-1 Brainstorm
+1 Test of Talents-1 Censor
+1 Mystical Dispute-1 Supreme Will
+1 Shadows’ Verdict-1 Soul-Guide Lantern 

Rogues is an unbelievably hard matchup and there isn’t much we can do about it. We have a lot of interaction which can help slow them down, but they have so many pieces of interaction it’s near impossible to resolve the combo without a really good hand. Do you best to stall them long enough to set up the combo with an unreasonable amount of protection to force it through.

MIRROR

INOUT
+1 Pact of Negation-1 Bloodchief’s Thirst
+1 Duress-1 Cry of the Carnarium
+1 Pack Rat-1 Languish
+1 Test of Talents-1 Yaheeni’s Expertise
+1 Mystical Dispute-1 Fatal Push
+1 Necromentia-1 Eliminate
+1 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries-1 Heartless Act
+1 Thought Distortion-1 Tyrant’s Scorn

The mirror is very much like a Control matchup, but it’s going to be a race to the combo. You can either keep a consistent hand, a heavy disruption hand, or a mix of the two. I would avoid keeping hands that could waffle for too long as you’ll likely just get run over.

CONTROL DECKS

INOUT
+1 Pact of Negation-1 Eliminate
+1 Duress-1 Cry of the Carnarium
+1 Pack Rat-1 Languish
+1 Test of Talents-1 Yaheeni’s Expertise
+1 Mystical Dispute-1 Fatal Push
+1 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries-1 Heartless Act
+1 Thought Distortion-1 Tyrant’s Scorn

This board plan is really straight forward as you can get rid of all your creature removal and put in all your counterspells and hand disruption. This will be a classic situation of trying to piece together more interaction than the Control deck has to stop you. However, you still need to be fast enough that you don’t get killed by one of their top end cards like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Torrential Gearhulk. Be patient in going for the combo and play around Dovin’s Veto when possible.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Nimble Obstructionist Art by Shreya Shetty
Nimble Obstructionist Art by Shreya Shetty
  • Fae of Wishes is going to be fetching your Tainted Pact 9 out of 10 times, but grabbing a card that can severely hamper your opponent’s game plan can definitely be better than grabbing the Pact. Don’t always assume you should turbo the combo out.
  • When you’re going for the combo, hold full control and cast Thassa’s Oracle. Once it resolves, with the trigger on the stack, cast Tainted Pact. The reason being that if you use up all your ropes, Arena will auto decline all may triggers (which will exile your deck), and then Oracle’s trigger will resolve killing them.
  • As more people know how the combo works, if you happen to have both Oracles, you can play out a Oracle in an attempt to bait out a counterspell.
  • Although it’s tempting to hold discard spells for the turn before your combo, it’s generally more important to be mana efficient than to save up for one large turn. Most games generally don’t go super late so it’s hard to assemble enough mana to do the combo and have multiple pieces of interaction. Obviously this advice doesn’t apply in slow matchups like Control or the mirror.
  • Brainstorm is excellent in this deck as we have a large amount of shuffle effects. If possible, wait until you can shuffle your deck with a Tutor or something like Silundi Vision to maximize the value.
  • Casting a Tainted Pact to find a Thassa’s Oracle or a Tainted Pact on the opponent’s end step is a very common play. Furthermore, although it feels bad, you can use Tainted Pact to try and find a certain piece of interaction. If you are looking to do that, click through as fast as possible to give yourself the highest chance of finding it in time.
  • Trying to plan around the specific cards you draw is impossible, however, you can plan around the type of card you’re likely to draw. No matter what build you go for, keep the ratio of the types of spells you run in mind to help you plan ahead.
  • Generally speaking, I would not leave a “wish” card in the board if it’s good in the matchup. Fae of Wishes is deceiving as you may be tempted to leave something decent in the board, but you can generally find room in the deck to get a swap. This is especially important as we have a huge host of Tutors so finding an impactful one of is pretty easy.

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

4 Responses

  1. David says:

    I don’t see how Archon of Emeria or Rule of Law are particularly good versus this deck. You can just Tainted Pact at the end of their turn, exile all but the last card, then go to your turn, draw your last card, and play Thassa’s Oracle, right? As long as you have a timeout banked, you should have time for that, right?

    Also, if you use Fae of Wishes to get Tainted Pact, you will have to manually exile cards and stop once you hit the first Tainted Pact in your deck, right? Otherwise you will fail since you will stop once you hit the second Tainted Pact.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      For the first one being able to lock them out from doing it all in one shot is extremely helpful for a few reasons. One, they can’t exile their whole library as they lose on draw step so they have to keep at least a few cards. Two, since they can’t exile their whole library time is a very relevant factor. Three, since they can only do one spell per turn, even if they Pact on end step and go for Oracle, any interaction would make them lose. I definitely worded it too strongly as you can still technically win through these cards, but it is very difficult.

      Second, if you Fae of Wishes for Pact and haven’t drawn any yet you will likely stop once you hit the first Pact. This is fine though since you get to cycle your Pacts and ensure your deck is in the right spot to combo.

  2. Brian says:

    If we’re going to exchange companion Lurrus for a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries post board against a significant portion of the field, then why shouldn’t we build the deck to have the likes of Narset and other powerful 3+ mana permanents? Is having a companion not as valuable against the mirror and control decks?

    • DoggertQBones says:

      We generally don’t board in the Jace and just use it as an alternate win con against decks that can be fetched with Mastermind’s Acquisition or Fae of Wishes