One of the hallmarks of Modern has always been its powerful combinations. While most of them are kept in check via either metagaming or bans, they are well-loved by players, as they provide a unique way to play Magic: The Gathering. Combo strategies have existed in Modern since its inception and remain a well-loved archetype, despite the overreaching power level of some of these strategies in the past. Playing combo strategies can force you to learn how to think through different lines of play to come up with the winner or how to play through hate to "combo off." Through experience, you will learn how to navigate each matchup as the combo player, which may involve taking unconventional lines of play to victory, helping you grow into a more well-rounded player over time.
With this in mind, I present three combo strategies in Modern under 30 tickets on Magic Online. With the current global—let's call them "happenings"—I'll be focusing on Magic Online since it's the only realistic avenue to play Modern at present. Once again, the goal is to offer semi-competitive success on Magic Online Leagues and at FNMs while maintaining the fun factor.
Swans takes advantage of the interaction between Swans of Bryn Argoll and Seismic Assault or Molten Vortex. Once you have both Swans of Bryn Argoll and Seismic Assault on the battlefield, each land discarded to Seismic Assault targeting Swans of Bryn Argoll will draw you two cards. With the abundance of lands in the deck, the odds of drawing at least one land per activation are pretty good—from there, rinse and repeat until you have enough lands to target the opponent instead of the Swans of Bryn Argoll.
Like most decks, Swans has improved since the release of Modern Horizons, gaining Lonely Sandbar, Forgotten Cave, and Throes of Chaos. Adding Throes of Chaos into the mix allows a consistent option to cascade into Treasure Hunt, Molten Vortex, or Seismic Assault, with the option to retrace the spell later on. Swans is oddly resilient to Thoughtseize, given you usually keep hands that are brimmed with lands, which means your opponent has no luck in catching those Swans of Bryn Argoll.
If you are looking for upgrades, adding four each of Steam Vents and Spirebluff Canal would improve the mana demands that this strategy imposes. Realistically, you want three red mana by turn three and two blue mana by turn four, so adding a few flexible dual lands will improve consistency. However, there is very little flexibility in the maindeck due to the high land count, and adding cards makes Throes of Chaos and Treasure Hunt weaker. If you are feeling creative, expanding the deck to incorporate Yorion, Sky Nomad as a companion could be an interesting line to take. Even though Swans doesn't really have good targets for Yorion, Sky Nomad's enters-the-battlefield triggered ability, having access to a 4/5 flier every game may be a decent tradeoff. While it is a narrow strategy, Swans is especially unique and there isn't another Modern strategy like it.
By getting Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Knowledge Pool into play the deck creates a lock where opponents can no longer cast their spells—Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir "Each opponent can cast spells only any time they could cast a sorcery" clause prevents opponents from being able to cast the spells in the Knowledge Pool since the spell that triggered the Knowledge Pool will still be on the stack. The deck has plenty of ways to protect that combo, from countermagic to sweepers to keep the board clean of threats. While we can win through beating down with a Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, the addition of Cataclysmic Gearhulk supports this approach with a built-in sweeper that keeps the board clear of threats.
Even though the deck is a combo strategy, it provides an excellent entryway into Azorius Control that you can slowly invest in over time. Initially, I would look to add another win condition outside of the combo to close out games. Traditionally, Lyra Dawnbringer or Baneslayer Angel are fantastic finishers in Azorius Control that slide into this strategy effectively. Once again, adding Hallowed Fountains and Flooded Strands would be an excellent first step toward mana consistency.
Control strategies have existed in Modern since the introduction of the format, and are built on experience and format knowledge. While this may take a modest amount of time to develop, it promises a big reward. With this deck, you can learn plenty about other Modern strategies while converting Teferi's Pool into Azorius Control if you wish. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with keeping this combo-focused to reap the salt from your opponents.
Mindcrank is a combo that can fit within a Delver of Secrets shell as an alternative route to victory. Once both Mindcrank and Duskmantle Guildmage are on the battlefield, activate the Duskmantle Guildmage's first ability and any card the opponent puts in the graveyard will trigger an endless loop between both Mindcrank and the Duskmantle Guildmage. Regardless of whether your opponent is on infinite life or playing a Battle of Wits-style strategy, the sequence will either mill your opponent out or they will lose due to the life loss. While the combination can be achieved as early as turn four, there are ways to achieve consistency: transmuting Dimir Infiltrator or Muddle the Mixture. Besides, the strategy can play out as a Delver of Secrets strategy given our density of instants and sorceries; flipping into an Insectile Abberation provides an evasive way to push through damage with Mindcrank. There is an alternative approach if you are against a Rest in Peace or other hate cards: Runechanter's Pike. The equipment pairs well with any evasive creature, such as Dimir Infiltrator or Creeping Tar Pit. With the density of instant and sorceries available, Runechanter's Pike can deal an incredible amount of damage.
If you want to go super budget, you can swap Dismember for Cast Down or Doom Blade, which decreases the overall value of the list on Magic Online to a paltry ten tickets. If you are looking to upgrade this deck further, adding Watery Grave and Polluted Delta will offer consistency with Delver of Secrets. Switching Duress for Inquisition of Kozilek will offer better hits to discard, and adding Remand over Spell Pierce and Thought Erasure yields better interaction. Overall, Mindcrank Combo is a janky combination that can fall into a Dimir Tempo or Control strategy if required. Having your two-card combination fall into an alternative win condition is a fine line to take, as your opponents won't expect it which as a result, can steal victories from unwinnable situations.
Despite the negativity toward combo strategies due to their linear approach, they remain a fun and valid option if utilized fairly. In Magic, there is a common misconception that combo is inherently unfair or degenerate, which is far from the case when it comes to fringe strategies like Swans. One of the redeeming factors of these strategies is that not only are they cheap, but they also offer a fresh approach if you want to play something different. Branching out into different archetypes allows you to grow as a player. Losing to a fun and unique strategy can always encourage you to try it yourself, which is one of the charms of Modern. Modern is built on pet cards, fringe decks, and everything in between—you can always learn something new by playing something different.