Welcome to a deck primer on Grixis Oracle in 7 Point Highlander! In this article we will take a deep dive into the Thassa’s Oracle combo, which is a representative of the Combo/Control archetype Highlander. We’ll briefly look at the journey Oracle has taken through the format, and how to approach the deck in the post Modern Horizons 2 world.
I have played a lot of Oracle, from the very first ‘Esper Oracle’ Deck I pioneered way back in Feb 2020, to the team deck we settled on (shoutout to BEMB) for Moxing day 2020 which managed to put 3 copies into the top 8 of Moxing day (where I came a very disappointing 11th, also on the same deck). I also played the deck for many of the rounds in the leagues earlier this year, although in both cases I picked a different deck for the top 8.
Oracle has a short, but storied history in highlander since it’s printing less than 2 years ago. After bursting onto the scene as a cool flash kill in January of 2020, it quickly established itself as the Blue Combo/Control deck of choice, taking over the metagame share once belonging to Time Vault and Twin. Since then Oracle has put up consistently good results in a variety of different colours and shells, including a dominant performance as part of the oracle breach deck in the MTGO league, that directly led to Underworld Breach getting 2 additional points.
This means it’s time to take a step back from the ‘best version’ of the deck from May, and see where we land with Thassa’s Oracle after Modern Horizons 2.
Pointed cards in Oracle
Combo piece points:
Thassa’s Oracle – 3
Tainted Pact – 1
Snapcaster – 1
Gifts Ungiven – 1
This leaves 1 spare point to play with, which I have opted to spend on Mana Drain. You can play another point depending on your metagame or playstyle. Other options include Mystic sanctuary , Force of Will and Wishclaw Talisman.
You can also for go Lutri over Lurrus, but that deck is different enough that I won’t cover it in this article
The Game Plan
The core plan for any Thassa’s Oracle combo deck is to assemble the combination of Thassa’s Oracle, and an empty library. Demonic Consultation and tainted pact are the cheapest ways to achieve this, and form a 2 card combo that costs only 3/4 mana, and beats removal spells and graveyard hate.
The strength and resiliency of this combo means that in almost every matchup your plan is to fight through any counterspells, and then resolve the combo. This means that unlike many traditional combo decks, you don’t have to dedicate a lot of the deck to defending your combo, or to racing to kill your opponent before they can get a rest in peace or similar hate piece in play, and you can slot naturally into a more interactive style of deck, taking time to sculpt your A+B reliably, with just enough protection to play through the few cards that your opponent may have to interact, particularly if they aren’t playing any/many counterspells.
This means that rather than an all in combo deck like storm, you’ll often be looking to combo on turn 5, with a counterspell, and it can be totally fine to hold off on comboing to find more protection for your combo, if you don’t feel under a lot of pressure.
The other big strength of these oracle decks, is that they have the tools to win a fair game of magic. In this version, given that your tutors can all go and get fair cards, you really only have Demonic Consultation and Oracle as dedicated combo cards. This can be particularly important when playing against other UB decks, or in post board games, where assembling the combo reliably can be difficult, don’t be afraid to plan to attack with a snap caster 10 times.
Rough guidelines for gameplans:
This is a very rough overview, to help provide context on the card choices within the deck. Specific matchups will be covered in more detail in the matchup guide.
Non blue Aggro/Midrange:
Race! Combo ASAP. Plan to kill on turn 4/5, and consider mulliganing any hand that doesn’t.
Blue+Black control decks:
Lean on the fair plan. May finish with a combo, but pressuring their life total matters a lot here. Look to squeeze out card advantage where you can
All about mana efficiency. Threaten the combo, try and force them to commit a threat in their mainphase, to help you force through the combo on yours. You’re probably winning with the combo here, and hopefully fairly quickly.
You can play a better fair game than they can. Do so.
Key Cards in Oracle
Lurrus, the reason this version of oracle stands apart from many others. With MH2 there’s finally enough threat density and good tutors that we can play Lurrus without sacrificing too much. With the addition of Step through and Profane tutor, there’s less need for the backup kill of Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, and ragavan and DRC comfortably replace some of the 3 mana alternative threats the deck would otherwise play. Lurrus lets you play an extremely powerful long-term fair game, putting you up 2+ cards in games where you’re trading 1-1 with counterspells and discard. Having Lurrus is also pseudo-protection for your combo, as you can recast oracle, or rebuy a snapcaster mage.
The Combo Support
These three (alongside the gifts package below) let you reliably assemble the combo pieces you need. Both muddle and Profane tutor can get either half of the combo, which helps a lot. Importantly all three can also get excellent fair cards, another piece of protection (via snapcaster in the case of step through), and can be effectively cast into open mana. The ability to safely tap out into potential counterspells while still furthering your combo plan can really punish decks trying to rely on counter magic to interact with you.
Gifts Ungiven provides the deck with a powerful 1 card kill option, with a deterministic package (see above) that guarantees a 5 mana kill. While this does open you up to Graveyard hate, having this available to you means that any opponent must respect 4 open mana. If you have drawn or cast certain of these pieces, you have some flexibility in the piles to make up for it, particularly if you have spare mana. For example step through + Consult + Tainted pact + Muddle the mixture can also guarantee a slower kill, if you don’t have access to reanimate. There are lot of lines available with gifts ungiven, so if you are going to play the deck, I recommend sitting down and working some out in advance, to save you some mental load in game.
When the combo isn’t working for you, or you just want to force your opponent to do something to expend resources while you setup the combo. All of these also have the benefit of advancing your combo plan, by either drawing extra cards or recasting key spells. Keep an eye out for the synergy between profane tutor and DHA if it comes up.
The Mana Base
Because of tainted pact, we’re limited to 2 of each basic (one snow-covered, one not). That means that there isn’t really any ability to build a manabase that can play through back to basics, which means there is no reason to play a basic mountain. The mana curve in the deck is also extremely low (It’s a Lurrus deck, with tops out at 1 4 drop), so tap lands in general are very poor. The combination of these means that there’s very little flexibility in the manabase, and very little room for budget considerations.
9 fetches, 3 duals, 3 basics and 2 shocks forms the core of the manabase. You then want UUU fairly often, to have counter magic alongside oracle, so minimising the number of non-blue lands is key. I settled on 20 lands, based on the very low curve, and the extremely high cantrip count, but I could see playing 19, or 21.
For the remaining flex slots, I’ve opted to play the two fast lands, and a creeping tar pit, to help enable the fair plan B. Other options include drowned catacomb, fiery islet, prismatic vista, blood crypt, or the 2nd swamp.
In the blind, you should look towards opening hands that can assemble a turn 5 kill, with a single piece of interaction along the way. Any hand that does this, is probably an automatic keep (in the extreme case, I’m keeping 5 land thoughtseize gifts ungiven every time).
Otherwise, look for hands that have a solid proactive plan. Cantrips can be ~40% of a combo piece/tutor, and multiple cantrip hands are actively good, because doing nothing for 3 turns can still win on turn 4. Any hand without a proactive 2 drop, a combo piece, or a tutor is probably not keepable. Mulligan every 5 land hand, unless it has the kill in it as well.
The Sideboard Guide
These matchup splits will be a little unusual, as the nature of the deck means that very specific colours have access to much better interaction than others In general. I’ll pay more attention to the matchups that have tools to interact.
Red black aggro, mono red burn or zoo. Cheap creatures, plenty of burn spells and a plan to get you dead as quick as possible. Not the blue-based tempo decks, but the more aggressive decks with less interaction.
This is a straight race. They have very few ways to meaningfully interact with your combo, and they have the inevitability of reach. If you don’t combo quickly a fireblast or price of progress to the face will kill you eventually. Cheap removal is at a premium, and you want to only keep hands with multiple pieces of interaction, or with a path to the combo on turn 5. You have a lot of cards that really suck in this matchup, so don’t be afraid to mulligan aggressively if you see them and know what you’re playing against.
Lurrus is a nice tool to buy time too, as a lifelink blocker, but you may not often have time to deploy it
Seal of fire
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Keep in Dark confidant against the decks full of 1/2 mana x/1s and /x/2s It blocks totally fine, and if you block with it you never need to see the life loss. It looks super awkward, but sometimes you just need a blocker, and it’s serviceable. Counterspell is terrible against these decks, as you can’t afford to hold it up when they already have 4 power in play, and it usually ends up only gaining 3/4 life anyway.
They get a few new cards you have to care about, sometimes discard spells, sometimes blood moons, always pyroblasts. Moons are unlikely in the BR decks, and all but guaranteed in mono red. Try to preserve your life total, and combo as fast as possible. Keep up answers to moon where you can, but there’s going to be a significant portion of games where you just have to accept that you can’t beat a blood moon if they have it. Better to make them have it, then risk losing games where they don’t by playing around it too much.
You want to avoid grindy long games here, and just try and kill as fast as possible.
Mulligan hands without 1 mana interaction, you can’t really afford to play from behind
Don’t be afraid to block. Don’t look for value off your bob, or your Ragavan, be happy trading them for a goblin guide. Basically try and kill every creature ASAP. Worry less about the big stuff they can resolve, as outside of a blood moon locking you out, you can probably race a Hazoret, or a Chandra or any other big scary card.
Jund Midrange. Lands. Abzan clamp. Mardu. Even Yidris builds fit in here. All of the value midrange decks that are light on counterspells.
You’re very safe in game 1 here. This is one of the best matchups available for the deck. They likely only have a few discard spells to meaningfully interact with you, and the disruption you can present is probably enough to buy you plenty of time. Focus on assembling the combo, as you’re unlikely to a long fair game, but don’t need to rush for it unless you’re likely to die before your next turn.
Submerge (if they’re green)
1x Hydroblast (if red)
Dress down (Matchup specific)
Dire Fleet Daredevil (for discard heavy decks)”
Dauthi Voidwalker (Depends if the yard hate is good, it doesn’t block and attacking isn’t useful)
Ragavan is uniquely bad in these matchups, because despite how powerful the card is, they have a large number of blockers, and you’re not equipped to clear the ground. Take him out for anything better.
Sideboarding here is very individual deck specific. Post board you’re looking to just bring in tools to fight the hate they have, and still looking to combo. Once again you’ll struggle to win games going long that you can’t combo in, but if you see several pieces of dedicated hate in game 2, you may want to transition to a fairer game plan in game 3.
Be very wary of choke, as you probably can’t beat a resolved one
Other hate cards to consider include Rule of Law effects (Archon of Emeria in particular), which can be very awkward to combo through, and Endurance, which can stop your combo completely, for free.
Dress down isn’t usually good in these matchups, but I mention it because it’s a card that cycles, that you can bring it to protect yourself from an Endurance. Be careful that you cast oracle first though!
RUG. Grixis tempo. UR Moon (the aggro variant). A variety of cheap threats backed up with Daze and spell pierce. This matchup is your worst one, particularly if they are playing specifically Grixis, as the discard can make it even harder to setup a winning combo turn.
They have few, if any spells that you can’t let resolve, so you can tap out freely on your turn. That doesn’t mean jamming into their countermagic, but these are the matchups where ‘uncounterable’ effects like Profane tutor and Muddle the mixture really shine. Just pickup Lurrus if they ever pass with all their mana up! Don’t be afraid to tap mana in your main phase. The potential for the combo can stop them playing to the board, to give you time to assemble a winning hand. They tend to have a lot of soft permission too, so every land in play makes you more likely to win.
A neat trick in these matchups is that you can use tainted pact in the end step, to split the mana costs on the turn you’re trying to combo. That way if you have multiple counters, you can fight in the end step over your tainted pact, and then untap and oracle.
2x Blue Blast
Dragon’s Rage Channeler
Submerge (if forest)
Dire Fleet Daredevil (if discard)
Seal of Fire(For the delver style decks, much worse if they don’t have x/2s)
Reanimate (keep in for the discard decks)
Muddle the Mixture
Profane Tutor? (Particularly if they have cards like T3feri or Opposition agent, that are already difficult to play around)
Force of Will(Take out against TS decks, where the combo is less reliable. The more aggressive they are, the better it is)
Drown in the Loch (particularly against the heavy delve decks)
Post board you want to pivot to a fairer more proactive game plan, to pressure their life total, as they have even more interaction. It’s not worth siding out the combo, as it has very few slots, and having it exist is a real threat, but cards like Muddle and Gifts are extremely slow for a deck full of 1 mana interaction. Try and keep the board clear, and get lands in play, and trade 1 for 1 as much as possible. If you can invalidate their dazes etc, you can take over the game with Lurrus eventually, as you only need to stick one threat.
Kess Pile. Sultai control, or many colour good stuff. Forgoing soft permission and cheap threats, for even more interaction. They have every tool available to them to not die, and figure out how to kill you afterwards.
Step 1, assemble your combo. Step 2, don’t cast it, and attack with your idiots, Step 3, cast Lurrus, and grind them down with card advantage. If they ever tap low to interact, or a discard spell shows weakness, finish them off with oracle.
They will probably win an infinitely long game, as they’re designed to go bigger than you, but you can lean on your cheaper threats to push through an arcanist or a bob, and get ahead on cards. The further ahead on cards you are, the easier it will be for you to kill with oracle.
1x Blue Blast?
Soul Guide Lantern
Post board combo becomes totally impossible. They will have multiple pieces of interaction, they have discard to pick apart your hand and they are likely trimming creature interaction to be more anti-combo. Board it back in if you see a whole heap of creature removal and you think you can resolve the combo, but drawing oracle or consult will be awful 90% of the time in these post board games.
Getting Extra lands in play. Casting Big Green idiots. It might be scapeshift, it might be eldrazi, or just someone who really likes primeval titan.
Plans are optional. Take game actions at random, cast oracle on turn 5/6. They make a tradeoff on speed for resilience. and they have no way to meaningfully interact. Try not to lose to endurance I guess. They can’t race you, and you don’t care about them going over you.
Submerge I guess.
Soul-guide Lantern (For Endurance)
They almost certainly have an endurance post board, and maybe a little bit of discard. Be wary of Thought Knot Seer taking your oracle, as that’s one of the ways you can lose a game. Continue to praise the pairing gods who brought you this matchup.
Tolarian Academy. Urza’s Saga. Mana vault, mox opal. Whether they’re casting Sundering titans, Time spirals, or paradox engine, this is all flavours of artifact ramp.
This is pretty close to a combo mirror. The best draws from artifacts are faster than you, their average draws are slightly slower. You have the burden of interaction, as they’re typically 100% proactive. Try to work out where it’s correct to attack their mana, and when counterspells should be better directed at threats. Playing this matchup well really means knowing the intricacies of their deck list as well. You should be pretty safe to kill them, once you can assemble the combo, just try not to let them cast anything too scary first. The good news is because you are not winning a fair game, you can safely ignore many of the larger threats, like Ugin or Wurmcoil engine, for a turn or two.
Force of Negation
Dragon’s Rage Channeler
Pyroblast? (Depends how blue they are)
Unholy Heat (keep this in for the hull breacher/draw sevens variant)
The Sideboard isn’t really setup for this matchup. If there is a lot of these style of decks in your metagame, I recommend playing a null rod, and possibly some other artifact hate card in your sideboard instead. The cards you bring out vary depending on the threat selection of your opponents deck, so use your discretion.
DRC is good here, because despite not being on a fair plan, it will probably live a long time, so it helps you did a long way for the combo.
Game 2 looks very similar to game 1, in all honesty. They might have slightly more interaction, and you can cut the truly terrible cards like the potentially targetless fatal push, or pyroblast etc.
Dress down is awesome in this matchup, particularly combined with Lurrus. Dress down kills any constructs created by Urza’s Saga/Urza/Karn, so you can keep them off the board completely. It’s also super handy against threats like Wurmcoil, or sundering titan, as it lets you cleanly answer them 1:1. It even lets you kill ulamog, although you’re still going to lose 2 permanents there.
Like you, but not you. Any deck containing Thassa’s oracle and demonic Consultation. Some will have Laelia, some Underworld Breach, or some might be this exact 75.
This game is a GRIND. Going for the combo is super risky. Hold onto your discard spells, as you’re better off getting the cards after they tutor, or trying to protect your own combo. Don’t just fire them off on turn 1. Lurrus is a powerful threat here, Both as it lets you rebuy the combo, and because it’s another must kill card.
Blue blast (1x if red)
Soul Guide Lantern?
Muddle the Mixture
Gifts Ungiven? (Particularly if they have GY hate)
There’s an argument here for siding out the combo, and trying to play a fair game, as there is a lot of interaction and ways to stop the combo. I’ve sided both ways in the mirror, and I think it’s case by case. The more midrange your opponent is, the more you want your combo. Given the low to the ground nature of this deck, I suspect you want the combo in most places.
These games are super complex, and can swing wildly between a fair game, and the combo ending the game. Focus on trying to establish whatever card advantage you can. Don’t focus too hard on not losing to the combo, that you end up down on cards, don’t lose a game to the combo when you’re winning and can play around it. Respect the blasts, hope that Lurrus provides enough value in the game going long.
Honorable mention: BotsBots
Thomas Bot has been tearing up the online metagame with his artifact aggro deck. I was going to include a sideboard guide for the matchup, but the honest answer is that the list included in this article doesn’t have one. If you’re playing this exact 75, just hope you don’t get paired into him.
Currently the deck really only has one successful pilot, but if it’s a force in your metagame, there is a lot of neat artifact hate available to you. I’d recommend vandalblast or shatterstorm, over some of the narrower sideboard cards. As with any dekc you can sideboard to your metagamke.
What is my opponent siding in?
There are a lot more recent answers to Thassa’s Oracle than there once was, but it’s still pretty resilient. I would expect every deck to have at least one card in the board that can interact with Thassa’s Oracle. Remembering which cards to expect from each deck can change how you resolve your spells, and the order to do them.
The most important new one to consider is definitely Endurance, being free, and available to decks that have few other ways to interact. A key interaction, is that if you have <2 cards in your graveyard when the ability resolves, you can still win the game with your oracle trigger. Extra devotion can protect you from removal or allow you to have additional cards in your yard. Leaving a Nihil Spellbomb or relic in play, or using Cling to dust proactively can help you get to 1 card in the GY.
You can also often play around “target player draws a card effects’ with a tainted pact, going down to 1 or 2 cards left in library, but you may still be better off just trying to hold up counter magic rather than playing around these to avoid losing to removal.
The 2nd class of cards to worry about is mana denial. Because you need UUB to combo, both choke and blood moon are excellent against you, and you should play around them carefully where possible.
When to play this deck?
The bigger and midrangier your metagame, the better oracle is going to be. It has great matchups against anyone trying to play siege rhino, Titania or bloodbraid elf. The fewer counterspells, and the less aggressive your metagame, the better. On the otherhand if your metagame is full of UB decks, be it control or tempo, this isn’t the deck you want to be playing at all.
The more important question is when you should play this variant of Oracle over the other versions, and the answer is that this is a safe middleground for oracle. If you’re expecting all aggro, you should play an esper or Bug version, which has access to better defensive tools, and if you’re expecting only green midrange, you should play something like Vale’s excellent oracle breach deck, that combo’s slightly faster and more reliably.
This Lurrus breach option is positioned more in the middle. It has all the tools to fight the mirror, it has baked in resiliency through Lurrus, and has an extremely low to the ground curve to let it fight the tempo decks. If you’re expecting an open metagame, or for people to turn up with their own versions of combo decks, that’s when you should play this version.
But mostly importantly this deck can play a different role for every matchup, and I personally think that that makes a deck fun. If you want to be able to have game against everyone, to change your plan based on what your opponent has to offer, and never be truly 100% dead ever, this is the deck for you.
The Flex Slots
While there are some fairly tight constraints on the deck, supporting both a combo kill, and Lurrus, there is also room for some tuning to the metagame. This build is build with a look towards a metagame that is quite graveyard heavy, at the time. It’s possible with the extra points on Underworld Breach the metagame shifts away from there, but each of the three GY hate pieces also neatly serve another function. Unholy Heat is a concession to the aggro/tempo decks, but could easily be a different removal or Counterspell, perhaps mana leak or Dreadbore.
Some alternatives, if you wish to make some changes:
An extra tutor for a more reliable combo: I think shred memory is the next best unpointed one.
An extra removal spell, or an extra counterspell (eliminate or mana drain perhaps)
Additional protection for the combo can come in from the board (Duress, flusterstorm)
Additional cantrips (Serum visions is the next best one, tied with consider, when that is format legal)
DRC can come in from the board into the main, if you want an extra threat.
If you don’t have access to a Volcanic Island and a Badlands, they are not critical, and you can replace them with a Sulfur Falls, and a Blood Crypt respectively. The same isn’t really true for Underground Sea, as the deck is very UB heavy. Ragavan is also replaceable, although any alternative WILL be a downgrade, as the card is super powerful. The deck does function totally fine without him though. Unfortunately even with these concessions the deck still comes in at over $2k USD, so it’s not particularly a budget friendly option. The limitations on basics with Tainted Pact means it’s very difficult to build a functional mana base on a budget, particularly when trying to support Hymn to Tourach and Thassa’s oracle.