In commander there are many effects that can take over a game. When these effects are on a single card, the cost can become prohibitive for players to purchase and place them in several commander decks. But in commander, an eternal format, when you can pair multiple cards from across Magic’s history you can get card effects that can take over the game and often they can be more reasonably priced. This is true of the pickles lock or pickles combo. This combination includes two cards not used in other formats and at the time of this writing can be purchased for about $1.25.
The pickles combo receives its name because of one of the key cards, Brine Elemental. This moniker was given as pickles are made from brine a combination of water, salt and vinegar. Place cucumbers in brine and you have pickles. Add Vesuvan Shapeshifter to Brine Elemental and the pickles lock is formed.
The Pickles Combo Cards and Interactions
The Brine Elemental is the key. This card is a morph card. Turn it face up and then each opponent skips their untap phase. The word each is a powerful word in commander because it means it scales with the number of players in the game. The fact it hits your opponents only allows you to continue playing your cards while locking your opponents out for a turn. Unfortunately, the Elemental’s morph ability costs seven mana and in most games it will cause you a turn in order to activate the morph ability. A turn for a turn is not a good rate for this ability.
This is where Vesuvian Shapeshifter takes over. It also is a morph card. When it is flips face up or enters the battlefield it becomes a copy of any creature on the battlefield. The play line for the combination is to morph the Vesuvian Shapeshifter. When it does the face up the shapeshifter becomes a copy of Brine Elemental. This triggers the Brine Elemental text of opponents skipping their next untap step. The Vesuvian Shapeshifter has additional text that allows you to flip the card face down on during your upkeep. This allows you to first flip down the shapeshifter and then continue to flip it face up turn after turn locking out your opponents. Finally, the Vesuvian Shapeshifter’s morph cost is two mana as opposed to the Brine Elementals morph cost of seven. This gives you a repeatable ability at a discount compared to the original card.
Breaking the Lock
The pickles combo is a soft lock. It will not immediately win the game because your opponents can break it. These cards can be easily removed, because these effects are on two creatures. In commander there are several cards for one or two mana that remove creatures. Your opponents are still drawing cards.they can draw into lands and play spells such a Path to Exile, Doom Blade, or Rapid Hybridization. These are all targeted removal that costs little mana and there are plenty more in commanders card pool. What the pickles lock can do is buy you time and provide a mana advantage. For every turn cycle you are drawing cards and playing them While you are spending five or more mana a turn and your opponents are not it allows you to gain board advantage that can help you win the game.
Where Pickles Combo is Best Used
Finally, the color for this combo are only blue cards. There are You can include this lock in many color combinations to help win the game. Simic is the best two color combination as there are many cards to ramp your mana. To play the Brine Elemental you will need at least six mana and the Vesusian Shapeshifter will cost five mana to play it face down and then morph it . Eleven mana is a lot to achieve if you want to play it on the same turn but this can be worked around as Simic also contains Alchemist’s Refuge which will allow you to cast these cards at flash speed. This will allow you to chain two turns together to accomplish the lock.
In three colors Sultai is the best choice. green provides Worldly Tutor which will put one of the creatures you need on top of your deck. This will allow you to draw it and play it face down.However, this card is expensive. Add black instead and the card pool opens up several different tutors that will allow you to put cards in your hand without revealing them. Many of these tutors are more affordable than Worldly Tutor as well. .
Every playgroup is different. some may not like this combination of cards. Other will be OK with it. When looking for a strong combination of cards at an affordable price, pickles is one of the better ones. It can give you the time to win the game while not winning the game itself. It also provides a way out for players so that there is hope that they can still win the game. This can help keep other players at the table engaged compared to other devastating cards. Pickles combo is worth considering if you build a deck with blue in it. .