Sun-Crowned Ballista: Heliod and Walking Ballista Combo in Pioneer

The internet has been abuzz with the new “Splinter Twin” of Pioneer and that is all thanks to the brand new card Heliod, Sun-Crowned. The bastard who killed Elspeth is back with his new buddy Walking Ballista. Together, they form an infinite combo that can kill the opponent if they aren’t prepared for it. Here’s how the combo works.

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Start with Heliod on the battlefield, then cast Walking Ballista with at least two +1/+1 counters. Have Heliod give Walking Ballista lifelink and remove a counter from Ballista to deal 1 damage to your opponent’s face. Heliod can then put a +1/+1 counter on Walking Ballista to continue the loop. Repeat until your opponent is at one life, have Heliod put his +1/+1 counter on a different creature and make your opponent think you failed at your combo until they realize that Walking Ballista still has one counter on it. Then they need to realize that they should have scooped instead of making you click through a million different prompts on MTGO wasting everyone’s time. After they have an epiphany, ping them for one more damage.

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Anyways, back to the “Splinter Twin” of Pioneer. I keep putting this in quotes because while the combo is effective, it is nothing like Modern of yore. On the surface, it may seem that this combo only needs 7 mana when in reality if you want to combo off with just these two cards you will need 9 mana. This means that the earliest these two can combo off together is turn five, which gives your opponent plenty of time to deal with the life-threatening 2/2 you just left on the battlefield.

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Fortunately, there are ways to speed the combo up. Giving Walking Ballista lifelink from a separate source can make the combo faster and cost even less mana to go off. Out of all the options Mortal’s Ardor is especially interesting because it gives the creature +1/+1 and lifelink which means that Walking Ballista can be as small as a 1/1 allowing for turn 4 kills. Add in redundancy for Heliod in the form of Archangel of Thune and we start to have ourselves a deck.

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However, one combo alone does not satiate my thirst. WotC believes that white should only be good for lifegain, that Ajani’s Pridemate is the pinnacle of Modern white design. I want to weaponize lifegain and show the world how dangerous moving my spindown up can be. When there are this many ways to grant lifelink in a single deck, Famished Paladin, a card long forgotten from Dominaria Standard now arrives bearing its weapon of mass destruction, a Sorcerer’s Wand.

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Famished Paladin untaps whenever you gain life. With Sorcerer’s Wand, it now has a way to channel its unbridled rage by pinging something for 1 damage. Give it lifelink, and you are off the races. With everything going according to plan, you can very easily kill your opponent by turn 4 this way. On its own, Famished Wand Combo wasn’t doing enough to make any waves in the format, but with a second combo in the deck based around lifelink, there might just be enough redundancy to give white it’s own Splinter Twin. That is unless your opponent decides to play Tibalt, Rakish Instigator.

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