Standard 2022 Includes a Two Card Game Winning Combo

D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR)
Decklists
Constructed Review
Limited Review
Limited Guide

UPDATE: The Book of Exalted Deeds has been banned from Standard 2022. It remains legal in regular Standard.

The newest card set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, was released on MTG: Arena today, and along with it, Wizards of the Coast also added a much anticipated play queue: Standard 2022. There has been a lot of discussion about one card from the set in particular, The Book of Exalted Deeds, and the interaction that it has with the existing card Faceless Haven.

The Combo:

The way this interaction functions is fairly simple: once a player controls both The Book of Exalted Deeds and Faceless Haven, they can activate the Haven (which becomes an Angel due to the “all creature types” clause) and then activate the Book of Exalted Deeds targeting Faceless Haven. Haven then gains the “You can’t lose the game and your opponents can’t win the game” ability, which it retains even when it becomes a land again. If the opponent doesn’t have a removal spell to destroy the Haven while it’s still a creature, or somehow destroy Faceless Haven after it becomes a land at the end of the turn, there is no way for the opponent to win the game. Even if the player who controls the Haven runs out of cards in their deck, they still won’t lose the game. This means that the Book/Haven combo player doesn’t really even need to run win conditions like large creatures or oppressive planeswalkers since eventually the opponent will run out of cards. Interestingly, if both players have executed the combo, the game should result in a draw (although it seems Arena does not have support for this at the moment).

There is even a card from Kaldheim, Search for Glory, that can tutor for either of the combo pieces to increase the deck’s consistency. If you’d like to see some decklists featuring this combo, along with some other decks featuring cards from AFR, check out this article written by DoggertQBones.

Dealing with the Combo:

The easiest way to stop the combo is to remove the Faceless Haven while it’s still a creature on the turn where the enlightened counter is placed on it. There is no reason why the player who controls the combo would activate the Haven again after that turn since it would be open to creature-based removal again. Therefore, if the Faceless Haven becomes a land with an enlightened counter on it, it must be removed with land destruction- something that hasn’t seen much play recently in Standard.

In the current Standard format, which includes cards all the way back through Eldraine, the only land destruction card that has been played much is Field of Ruin. Field of Ruin has typically been run by decks like Azorius that have little to no access to instant speed removal as a way to deal with opposing Crawling Barrens or Faceless Havens. Field of Ruin is a viable option for many decks, although since it’s a land that only produces colorless mana, it can be extremely clunky in decks with multiple colors. Even in mono color or two color decks, Field of Ruin definitely isn’t “free” in terms of deckbuilding- especially for decks that also run Snow lands for cards like Frost Bite or their own Faceless Havens.

A even bigger problem becomes apparent when one considers that Field of Ruin was most recently reprinted in Theros: Beyond Death, a set which is scheduled to rotate out in the fall and is therefore not legal in the new Standard 2022 queue. While it’s certainly possible that we could get more land removal options in the fall set Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, where does this leave players who are playing the Standard 2022 queue now?

There are only a handful of niche land destruction cards that are legal in Standard 2022, and they’re all red. A quick search finds that the only cards in Standard with the text “destroy target land” are Cleansing Wildfire from Zendikar Rising, and Smashing Success, Gnottvold Slumbermound, and Waking the Trolls from Kaldheim. None of these cards have seen much if any play at Magic’s higher levels, and there are no land removal options at all for decks that aren’t playing red. Even black decks that are stacked with creature-based removal will not always have instant speed spells at the necessary time to stop this combo from going off. [EDIT: Astute reader Nic Paolini pointed out in the comments that Lithoform Blight is also an effective tool for shutting down the combo. Thanks Nic!]

In short, it seems that there really isn’t a great solution, at least for non-red decks, to the Book/Haven combo in Standard 2022. The format is brand new, so we will have to wait and see how powerful this deck actually is, and whether it’s truly a problem in the format that Wizards will need to address. It does take a total of six mana to activate the combo, so it’s not a given that the Book/Haven decks will be fast or consistent enough to constitute one of the best archetypes in the format. If they are, however, Wizards may be forced to respond with some kind of banning or suspension to keep the much-hyped Standard 2022 format fun for players.

Decklists

Here are some sample decks from streamers that featured the combo:

BO1 Mono White Prison by Day9tv 

Spells (13)
4
Revitalize
2
Search for Glory
2
Shatter the Sky
3
Doomskar
2
Devastating Mastery
Artifacts (17)
2
Portable Hole
4
Glass Casket
4
Potion of Healing
3
The Book of Exalted Deeds
4
Arcanist's Owl
Enchantments (6)
4
The Birth of Meletis
2
Teleportation Circle
Lands (24)
4
Faceless Haven
20
Snow-Covered Plains
Cards (60)

Mono White Prison by AliEldrazi 

Creatures (10)
1
Reidane, God of the Worthy
4
Loyal Warhound
4
Skyclave Apparition
1
Legion Angel
Spells (19)
4
Emeria's Call
1
Ondu Inversion
4
Revitalize
4
Search for Glory
2
Starnheim Unleashed
4
Doomskar
Artifacts (11)
3
Portable Hole
4
The Book of Exalted Deeds
3
Cosmos Elixir
1
The Deck of Many Things
Lands (20)
4
Cave of the Frost Dragon
4
Faceless Haven
10
Snow-Covered Plains
2
Tyrite Sanctum
Cards (60)
Sideboard (3)
3
Legion Angel

Paul

Dude from Vermont who likes to play Magic and Escape from Tarkov. Musician, writer, and gamer. Submit feedback or corrections to @Paul on the Discord.

39 Responses

  1. dan says:

    This isn’t a game winning combo, it’s a game not losing combo

  2. Not viable says:

    Tricksters God heist and the uncommon elf that has two modes to choose from(remove counter or -x/-x) are options in black/blue & black. Blue has divide by zero. Red has land destruction. Green/blue has aether helix. White has nothing… Except the same combo lol

  3. Austin Anthony says:

    just means you’ll be seeing cleansing wildfire and field of ruins seeing sideboard or main deck play.

  4. Austin Chuilli says:

    Add tyrite sanctum to make faceless haven indestructible then land destruction means nothing.

  5. Nic Paolini says:

    Lithoform Blight takes care of the Haven.

    • Paul says:

      Hey, that’s a good one! I’ve updated the article to include your suggestion, thanks :]

      • Jimm24k says:

        It removes abilities but does it remove counters? It’s not an ability of the land that is part of the combo. It’s a counter sitting on the land that’s the win condition

        • DoggertQBones says:

          The counter doesn’t actually do anything beyond being a notation of which land was targeted. It gains the ability.

  6. ViR says:

    Also talking in the comment about sideboard options in a stricly BO1 format isn’t a great suggestion unfortunately

  7. Jason says:

    It’s only a 6 mana combo after you have the book on board, so there’s going to be a turn where they have an opportunity to interact with the book (artifact destruction, bounce, permanent exile, etc). You need 9 mana to drop and activate the combo in the same turn.
    It’s janky and fun, but hard to imagine it taking the competitive scene by storm.

  8. Gray says:

    This article is incorrect. There are cards in standard that interact with this even after resolves. One that comes to mind is thornmantle striker

    • DoggertQBones says:

      You’re half right. Field of Ruin is a reasonable card that answers Faceless Haven and you have weirder options like Cleansing Wildfire, Smashing Secrets, Waking the Trolls, and Gnottvold Slumbermound. Removing the Enlightenment token doesn’t actually remove the ability based on the wording. I don’t know if they intended it to work that way.

    • Mister Rip says:

      Hexmage vampire.

  9. Hatter10why6 says:

    There are always ways to remove cards, you have to be prepared if you’re playing against a deck with white, mono or multiple, deck building is why we play this game

    • CilantroKiller says:

      No. Deckbuilding is not why we play this game, people play for various reasons and deckbuilding is just one of many. In fact, a majority of competitive players are net-deckers, caring more about plays than brewing.

      You sound like the average “DIES TO DOOMBLADE SO NOT GOOD”. The fact that something can be removed doesn’t mean it’s not good. It appears you did not read the article, since there’s mentioned exactly which options are there to remove it, and they’re extremely scarce (and bad in the sense they kill only that): 3 of them are red (and bad cards in general), 1 is a colorless land, 1 is black and is a terrible card. What would be your deckbuilding suggestion for a mono green player? To not play their deck? Such deckbuilding.

      See the problem now?

  10. MariosAmj says:

    so that demands 4 of cleansing wildfire for mono red players

  11. Jeffery Powell says:

    Nissa’s zendikon

    • Jeffery Powell says:

      Will, scholar of frost

    • CilantroKiller says:

      Nissa’s Zendikon will make the haven become a creature, and then you’ll need an actual removal spell to kill it, which really isn’t a great way to answer it.

      If you meant to say it would cease to be an angel (since it’ll become an elemental only), that’s no answer to it, because that won’t make it lose the ability, the angel subtype is required only for targetting it with the Book’s trigger.

      A lot of people here are basically saying “yay no prob let’s just nerf the entire metagame to fend off this combo”. Guys… “dies to removal” is an ages old joke for a reason. You guys are the reason.

  12. Jessie says:

    Damn easy match up for me 🤣

  13. Joshua says:

    Alpine Moon is another card that shuts this off after the fact.

  14. jason says:

    Will, scholar of frost could exile it.

  15. So… What happens in Arena if both players get the combo? The game gets stuck? I mean, literally you can’t finish the match until one of the player forfeits?

  16. David says:

    I think what we can take from this comment section is that many players are sure they know how the rules work, but they actually don’t. (Removing the Enlightened counter does nothing to stop this combo; the counter actually does nothing.)

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