Let’s Take a Look at These 14 Powerful Card Combos in Wingspan
In this article, I will highlight what I feel are some of the best card combos in Wingspan. While many fun and strong combinations exist, some perform better than others.
Whether you’re a beginner just starting out or a dedicated tournament veteran, understanding these synergies is a key element of planning ahead and preparing for what might come your way during a game. Please note that these combos are not ranked in any particular order.
1. Common Raven/Chihuahuan Raven and Franklin’s Gull/Killdeer (The Power 4)
You knew they were going to make the list. When played in the Grasslands, they represent the “OG” most powerful combos in Wingspan. I’ve written quite a bit about these birds and won’t repeat anything here. Check out the following links for more on these birds.
2. Franklin’s Gull / Killdeer and Grasslands Birds That Tuck Cards
One of the more well-known power combos from the Core Set involves the notorious Franklin’s Gull or Killdeer. Pairing these birds with tucking powers in the Grasslands facilitates some of the highest point-scoring engines possible by tucking cards and laying eggs simultaneously.
Tuck/Draw birds such as Barn Swallow help recycle bad cards into better cards for future play, significantly improving card quality. Food-producing tucking birds, such as Dark-Eyed Junco and Cedar Waxwing, help you ignore the Gain Food Action. A repeat bird is always a welcome addition to most engines, and this one is no exception.
3. Ravens and Teal Powered Tucking Birds
With the European Expansion, Ravens find another avenue to leverage their power to great effect. There comes a point in many Raven games where you stop using their power because you aren’t going to be playing any more birds; you’re just going to run your engine for your final points.
It’s at this moment where the teal-powered tucking birds ask Ravens to keep going. The Raven can turn one egg (one point) into two food (zero points). Then, at the end of a round, the teal tucking birds can convert up to five food into five points by discarding that food and tucking cards from the top of the deck. In this manner, one egg becomes two points, doubling its value. I think that this is one of the most interesting card combos in Wingspan, as it inflates the value of eggs and gives Ravens the ability to go all out.
Add a repeater bird into the mix, and things get bonkers, allowing you to support multiple teal-powered tucking birds simultaneously through repeating Ravens. Repeating Ravens isn’t traditionally effective because you’re only going to need so much food in any given game, but when you have a lot of hungry mouths to feed, there are more reasons to keep the food flowing.
4. “Play Another Bird” Powers (PABs) and “Zero Food Cost” Birds
These Teal Powered, and Yellow Powered birds might not look like much at first glance, but they should not be underestimated. Playing a bird at the end of the round or the end of the game without paying food (some birds have alternative costs) or an action cube is super-premium and is one of the most powerful card combos in Wingspan.
The best candidates to play off these powers are the top-tier Bonelli’s Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Griffon Vulture, or even a last-ditch effort California Condor at the end of the game. In the absence of those top options, other passable options exist, such as the “play on top” predators, Turkey Vulture, or Black Vulture.
5. Teal Power Bonanza!
Shout out to Motherlove for pointing these combos out to me. Teal-powered birds may be the best examples of true combos in Wingspan.
At the end of the round, Yellowhammer, Moltoni’s Warbler, and White Wagtail can behave just like white-powered “Play Another Bird” powers (PABs), playing off each other. Since the conditions are met for one, all of them can be triggered if you happen to have one on the board, another one in your hand, and the appropriate resources are available.
Furthermore, this is a great way to clear eggs out of a habitat and put more birds down in a habitat to receive eggs from Black Redstart (BRS) and Lesser Whitethroat (LWT). Conversely, if you don’t have enough eggs to play the birds you want, BRS and LWT produce those eggs first in order to give you the fuel you need. Dunnock and Common Goldeneye interact in much the same way. This is a versatile interaction between these teal powers.
If you happen to have European Honey Buzzard as well, that could be the burst of food you need to squeeze out these combos. Choosing the order in which these effects take place really opens up possibilities, and having some key teal powers on deck really makes Honey Buzzard worthwhile at the end of round four, when its food gaining power might otherwise be a dud.
If activated first, Ruff and Hooded Crow allow you to cycle through cards at the end of the round and dig for choice targets for your PABs, such as Bonelli’s Eagle and birds like it (Eagle Digging). This is especially powerful at the end of round four, where the teal-powered PABs tend to be their weakest (since they may force sub-optimal actions/decisions to activate their power). You might not be able to waste an action by drawing more cards in the final turns of the game.
These teal power interactions are certainly some of the most complex yet satisfying card combos in Wingspan, should you pull them off.
6. Common Chiffchaff and Birds That Draw Cards
Common Chiffchaff really seeks to establish itself by the end of round two, and it’s incredibly hungry for cards. If you surround it with a Tuck/Lay bird or two, you’ll experience a severe card famine (since Tuck/Lay birds don’t give cards back). If your opponents are feeding you resources, this is a prime opportunity for you to go all-in on a Mass Tucking Strategy.
You’ll need six eggs and a few pieces of food to fill out your Wetlands (ideally, a couple of these birds will tuck cards themselves for a truly massive tucking engine). If your opponents are giving you free resources, that gives you more action cubes for drawing cards and tucking since you don’t have to waste turns on the Gain Food or Lay Eggs Actions.
The Wetlands on its own won’t be able to supply you with this high volume of cards. Birds that can draw at least two cards, such as Ruddy Duck (and the birds like it), help draw excessive amounts of cards and feed your mass tucking engine. This might also give you the option of realistically playing some big point birds instead of just tucking all of them.
The “repeat birds” (specifically Northern Mockingbird and Grey Catbird) have the tremendous ability to duplicate the best brown powers in the game by being able to live in any habitat, as opposed to their Wetlands predator restricted counterpart, Hooded Merganser. This means there are a lot of situations where adding one of these birds to your engine is extremely beneficial. There’s a reason they have been mentioned multiple times on this list.
They work best when triggering brown powers that don’t require you to spend resources since this allows you to repeat your best powers while having zero food, eggs, or cards. If you have an excess of any particular resource, Northern Mockingbird and Grey Catbird are a tremendous help in converting those resources into points.
In this scenario, repeater birds allow you to repeat your card drawing bird(s), making it easier to feed all of the tuckers in your engine. In the event you end up with a massive amount of cards in hand, this gives you the option of repeating the Chiffchaff a couple of times to convert dead resources into points before the end of the game.
Cycling through such a huge volume of cards will allow you to see and play the best cards in the game at a much higher frequency than your opponents. This is one of the most powerful expressions of card advantage at work. Pro Tip: All mass tucking birds want to be paired with a strong card drawing bird like Ruddy Duck.
7. Mute Swan and Birds That Draw Cards
Mute Swan, backed by a card drawing bird and a repeat bird, is outstanding since it outperforms Common Chiffchaff which needs a full Wetlands to really shine; Mute Swan only needs three birds in the Wetlands by comparison. It costs three times the food as the Chiffchaff, though, and this is harder to pull off for a dedicated Wetlands mass tucking engine. A cheap food-producing bird that can be played into the wetlands will really help a Mute Swan engine develop.
The fact that Mute Swan cycles a card back to you (two when repeated) is a key element of its overall effectiveness and the main reason it is much more effective with a repeat power than Common Chiffchaff. It’s much harder to feed ten cards to a Chiffchaff with zero returned than to feed six cards to a Mute Swan that will give two new cards back to you. At its worst, Mute Swan is an expensive Tuck/Draw bird, tucking one card and giving one back to you.
In a Mute Swan engine, you can focus on repeating the Swan (the bird that is scoring points). In a Chaffinch engine, you need to focus on repeating the card drawing bird (the bird not scoring points). This is certainly one of the most powerful card combos in Wingspan.
8. Maned Duck and Birds That Draw Cards
With the Oceania Expansion, we were introduced to Dark-Eyed Junco’s big brother, Maned Duck.
We can see a trend developing here with “mass tucking birds.” A repeated Maned Duck is an excellent way for a Wetlands engine to tuck bad cards and convert them into valuable food and points. Maned Duck tucks up to three cards under itself to produce one seed, so you don’t need to worry about building out your Wetlands in the same way that Common Chiffchaff or even Mute Swan does. It still helps quite a bit, but it isn’t as critical for Maned Duck to serve its purpose.
Even tucking a single card will produce a seed, so it can be a great foundation for any budding Wetlands engine. In the early game, you’re not going to have the card volume to do a lot of tucking but by end game, you’ll be tucking for the full three points. A card drawing bird will give you more points and more options. A repeat bird will give you the option of producing twice the points and twice the seeds.
There are several bird cards that can make use of excess seeds generated by Maned Duck. Crested Pigeon, Australian Raven, Common Starling, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Stubble Quail, and Canada Goose to name a few. Depending on what big point birds you have access to, these birds make great alternative targets for your extra seeds. Stubble Quail in particular is a great way for a Wetlands engine to produce a burst of eggs with extra food.
9. Forest Wood Duck and Common Chaffinch / Common Chiffchaff
Say hello to more mass tucking madness. A Forest Wood Duck backed by a repeater bird gains tremendous card advantage while gaining food, seeing four cards, and discarding two. This alone would be great, but in turn, this gives a Forest engine the ability to feed Common Chaffinch and Common Chiffchaff, something that would otherwise be very difficult to do. You even get to avoid the discard effect of the Wood Duck if you end up tucking all four cards.
A Forest engine like this will wind up with excessive amounts of food (something a Wetlands Chiffchaff engine could only dream of). In the absence of appropriate big point birds, Teal Powered birds such as Common Starling and Eurasian Collared-Dove are great ways to convert that extra food into points; in this regard, it’s like scoring points by laying eggs.
Stubble Quail is a great point bomb for this type of Forest engine as it converts seven pieces of food into ten points, six of which come from the eggs it lays. Those eggs can be used to build out your forest for a stronger engine and more targets for your Chaffinch/Chiffchaff. Any egg-laying bird is going to be super-premium in this engine.
10. Galah and Australian Zebra Finch
A Galah backed by a repeater bird tucks a whopping four cards from the top of the deck, 66% of what a repeated Mute Swan can tuck, and the Swan’s cards must come from your hand. If based in the Grasslands, you’ll be gaining eggs off a Galah engine for even more points.
Throw an Australian Zebra Finch into the mix to capitalize on the seeds handed out by the Galah (Choose the player to your right), resulting in an eight-point engine (seven on the Oceania Expansion board) with just three birds. As with all Egg Spam engines, strict management of your total nest capacity is mandatory. The Zebra Finch’s three-egg star nest is a nice bonus here.
11. Repeating Wood Stork / White-Throated Dipper / Black-Throated Diver
A Grasslands Wood Stork backed by a repeater bird is looking at six cards, keeping two, and laying eggs at the same time. This is the same card volume and superior card quality as what Franklin’s Gull and Killdeer produce, and it costs zero eggs! Nest capacity is an issue in the earliest stages of the game, where you’re going to want to spam this the most.
White-Throated Dipper and Black-Throated Diver gain the same benefit from repeating as the Wood Stork, but that action isn’t producing eggs; it’s producing more cards. This is a great way to dig through larger volumes of cards in the earliest stages of the game for those critical birds you need. Just be aware that your opponents will benefit from that tray cycling as well.
12. Rodentologist, Falconer, Food Web Expert, Omnivore Specialist, Bird Counter, Historian, and Birds that Qualify
These are pretty obvious synergies to those who have been playing Wingspan for a while, but they are essential card combos to be aware of for new players. Many cheap birds can pick up two points from these top-tier bonus cards turning what might be an average or mediocre play into highly food efficient point bombs. It turns birds that are already food efficient into amazing point-scoring plays.
13. Griffon Vulture / Carrion Crow and Predator Birds
The key to the success of these birds is that you can choose yourself to be the target of their power. Just having one of these plus two predators on the board in round one will result in eight points by game end. Three predators in round one will get you twelve points.
Even if you don’t have predators yourself, if one of your opponents has a predator-heavy game, these two birds are a great way to piggyback off their efforts. When your opponents are scoring points for you, it erodes their own efforts and reduces the efficiency of their actions.
14. Snow Bunting and European Goldfinch (Snow Gold)
I like to call this combo Snow Gold. Specifically in the European Expansion metagame, building superior grasslands engines is usually the most consistent way to win a game and these two birds make that more difficult.
In general, each of them on their own are effective ways to piggyback off your opponent’s tucking strategies. When you pair them together though, they aggressively work to counter any engine that is scoring one or two points off of random tucks, such as from a couple of predator birds or a pair of Swallows in an opposing Grasslands.
Even against one of these pink powered birds, a lone tucking predator essentially becomes a blank card, lowering the overall value of the opposing action used to play it. Snow Bunting even gets an opportunity for a impactful card cycle off the back of a weaker power.
Even if you don’t have a card to cycle, your opponent may decide not to tuck, just because of the presence of the Bunting. In the digital metagame, we can’t see opposing cards in hand (unless that happens to be a round goal in a specific game), this can be a powerful mind game that works in your favor. Your opponent would be denying themselves points to stop you from using a power you can’t or won’t use that turn. This isn’t a problem in the physical game of course.
When you have this pink powered combo on the board, an opposing Canada Goose pays one seed to net zero points over you, and without its power, the Goose is pretty much a worthless card. An opposing Galah might give you a seed to net zero points over you, greatly reducing the impact of this premier Oceania Expansion bird.
If an opposing engine relies on birds like Dark-Eyed Junco, Cedar Waxwing, or Maned Duck for food, Snow Gold harshly penalizes them for their versatility. Birds that tuck and hand out resources to multiple players, such as Noisy Miner, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, are penalized even more harshly. They become worthless plays for your opponent, as they give you points and resources.
In closing, I’d like to remind readers that this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all card combos in Wingspan. I hope this post opened your eyes to some card interactions that you may not have considered before, regardless of your skill level. I know I learned some new things in writing this. Thanks for reading.