Welcome back! I’m still going through the cards from the new set like a junkie on an IV drip…I want it all right now, but I’m loving the slow tease that WotC does in the weeks leading up to the prerelease. This article will focus on the artifacts that have been spoiled as of the weekend of January 22nd, which is a surprisingly large chunk of the set.
Just in case you think I’ve forgotten some of the big names, I won’t be analyzing cards like Blightsteel Colossus and Phyrexian Juggernaut, because I’ve mentioned Infect already in Part I. I’m also not going to go into detail on Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, because I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how awesome he is in an artifact-heavy deck, and how little use he’s likely to be in a deck that’s light on artifacts. With that in mind, on with the artifacts!
Bonehoard: Along with whatever other Living Weapons we get, Bonehoard rates very highly for me. There are a lot of games when you’re desperately hoping to topdeck a creature, and the last thing you want to do is draw an equipment when you don’t have anyone to wear it. Until now, manlands like Raging Ravine were the best answer to this problem, but Living Weapon adds a new angle to equipment because it doesn’t lose relevance when your board is empty. Bonehoard in particular has huge value as a Pigeon card, scaling up as more players put more critters into more graveyards. Back in the day, Lhurgoyf was one of the best multiplayer critters around, and today the Lhurgoyf family, perhaps best represented by Mortivore, is a force to be reckoned with in a large game. The size boost that Bonehoard provides is going to make a lot of harmless-looking critters suddenly seem very disturbing indeed. Decks that rely on small tribes like Clerics, Wizards and Knights, or decks built around other themes where the critters tend towards the puny (Shadow creatures like Dauthi Slayer, perhaps Infect-based decks, Meekstone decks and so on) can all get a radical power boost from this.
Brass Squire: This is going to work on two levels: awesome combat trick and Equip cost shortcut. For example, if you have Sword of Feast and Famine (see below) and you’ve got two creatures attacking into a single defender, then you can use Brass Squire to ensure that your blocked creature is wearing enough Equipment so survive combat, or that your unblocked creature is carrying the Sword, in order to get the saboteur effect (saboteur effects are effects that trigger when an attacking creature either isn’t blocked, or when a creature deals combat damage to a player. Hypnotic Specter and creatures with Ninjitsu are good examples of this). Because they combine Protection from two colors and powerful saboteur abilities, all of the Swords of Something and Something Else work really well with Brass Squire, although other combos abound. I’m particularly fond of Deathrender, and the Squire ensures that whenever any of my creatures dies, I can cheat a replacement creature into play.
And speaking of cheating, one of the ways that WotC balances out the power of Equipment is to increase the Equip cost. Argentum Armor, Heartseeker and Worldslayer are about the most expensive cards to Equip and Brass Squire gives you a big boost from cards like that, allowing you to Equip and swing with them on the turn you play them. Even if you’re using cheaper Equipment though, Brass Squire will save you a couple of mana on Equip costs, helping you to get maximum utility out of them. Plus, I suspect that there’s some sort of infinite combo with Sunforger, although that sounds more like Brandon than me.
Core Prowler: A useful little rattlesnake, and potentially very abusable with graveyard recursion. The thing about proliferate is that you don’t need to do it more than about nine times – that’s enough to kill an opponent with even a single poison counter, or get any Planeswalker up to its ultimate ability – so you don’t need infinite recursion by any means. That makes the deterrent value of the Prowler more significant.
Decimator Web: The jury is still out on this one, but the potential is undeniable. To start with, I’d consider it a solid deterrent in the rattlesnake mold, but it does have the disadvantage of not really hurting anyone immediately – Decimator Web does a series of flesh wounds, rather than a double tap to the head. Newer players may be very intimidated by it, but seasoned vets will realize that it doesn’t actually stop an attack or counter an offensive spell unless the target is already at two life or nine poison. It would certainly make me think twice about attacking you with my 1/1, but I would usually be willing to be decimated if I could drop you from 20 life to 10.
If you are going to use it, it seems to be more powerful in a poison deck or a milling deck, just because there are better options available for dealing two damage, but you might also consider adding Rings of Brighthearth to double your fun, Contagion Clasp to accentuate the poison angle, and Bloodchief Ascension, which likes to see opponents taking two damage, and the lifegain from which can help you to survive long enough to whittle them down, 10% at a time.
Ichor Wellspring: A poor man’s Hatching Plans, at least. This is either going to be filler in a deck that doesn’t have enough cards, a nice bonus for a recursion combo (getting more value out of a Goblin Welder, for example), or it’s going to allow some Johnny somewhere to get around the 60 card limit (four each of Urza’s Bauble, Mishra’s Bauble and this will let your deck do a very good impression of a 40-card deck, which is not to be sneezed at).
Knowledge Pool: Supreme wackiness enabler. It is probably possible to go nuts with this, although it doesn’t seem to be as easy to abuse as Eye of the Storm (Brainstorm + Reset + Vedalken Orrery = Cast everything in your deck during your opponent’s Upkeep). However, I’d be content to cast this without a game plan and just see what happens, as it is almost certain to be entertaining. Cheap instants are the key to abusing it, I feel, although you may also need cards like Riftsweeper to get rid of any particularly troubling cards. Another option is just to blink it out with cards like Venser, the Sojourner, which will reset the cards underneath it.
Myr Welder: Words fail me. The only limit to this little guy is that he can’t use the abilities of (most) other Imprint cards. For example, Soul Foundry has an activated ability that allows it to make copies of Imprinted creature, but this is actually limited to copying the card that was Imprinted when Soul Foundry comes into play. Because Myr Welder can’t Imprint cards when it comes into play, it can’t use these abilities. Other than that though, this is the Peter Petrelli of the Myr family. Exile your opponent’s artifacts so that they can’t reuse them, and then take them yourself. Blow up the world with Nevinyrral’s Myr, accelerate your mana with a Gilded Myr, or pile on the charge counters and take your pick of abilities, from Myr Cannon to Grindmyr.
Phyrexian Revoker: An obvious adaptation of Pithing Needle, this is a big ability on a little, and therefore vulnerable, body. I see it first and foremost as an aggro deck’s temporary solution to cards like Royal Assassin, troublesome Equipment and various Planeswalkers, because an aggro deck only needs a temporary solution. However, you will definitely find other ways to take advantage of this extremely powerful ability. Another use for this card for the casual player is trading it for value to tournament players – I’m sure it will lose value when MBS rotates out of Standard, and you should be able to pick them up for much less later.
Pierce Strider: Definitely superior to Peace Strider in multiplayer, this card can be a valuable rattlesnake, similar to Stuffy Doll. Another Hill Giant won’t revolutionize the game, but if you’re looking for cards that say “go and attack someone else”, then you can add this to your list.
Psychosis Crawler: Anything that says “each opponent” is probably going to be good in multiplayer, and this is no exception. It really combines the two things you most want to be doing: drawing cards and hurting your opponents. Oh, and by the way, it has the power and toughness of a card like Maro or Kagemaro, which is potentially a lot of fun! Any deck can use this, but I think blue and black can make the tricksiest use of it; I’m definitely building a deck around it as soon as I can.
Spine of Ish Sah: A really expensive Vindicate – almost certainly too expensive for tournament play, and not the most efficient choice for most multicolor decks. However, compare this to a playable card like Desert Twister (a six-costing sorcery with the same effect) and I think you’ll see that the Spine is at least worthy of consideration. On top of that, there are a lot of opportunities to recur this effect, whether that involves board sweepers, bounce or sacrifice effects such as Culling Dais. I think a lot of EDH decks, especially monocolored decks, which always have vulnerabilities against certain types of permanents (except for white, I suppose), will consider that one Spine out of 99 cards is fair, especially if more expensive options are hard to come by.
Sword of Feast and Famine: Protection from Green and Black is pretty good – black covers a lot of removal spells, and green helps your critters to survive combat with some of the biggest beasts in the game. The discard ability is weak, although more relevant in a vacuum than gaining three life (Sword of Light and Shadow) or milling your opponent for 10 cards (Sword of Body and Mind). However, the star of this show is definitely the ability to untap all of your lands. Don’t make the mistake of overcommitting to the board by casting creatures before and after combat, because this will just make you vulnerable to sweepers, but take advantage of the extra mana by getting the most out of your activated abilities. Attacking with manlands, switching Equipment between attackers and defender, and pumping critters like Nantuko Shade or Hellkite Igniter are all good ways to use this ability, but the main thing might just be keeping your mana untapped so that you can interact with your opponents on their turns.
Thopter Assembly: Strange but definitely worth playing, and an interesting addition to the Pentavus/Triskelavus/etc family. You don’t actually get to attack with your 5/5 flier right away, but on the other hand you can easily return it to your hand and cash in on those weenie tokens without losing a single card, so in that sense it can be very useful. Those five creatures could serve a multitude of different purposes, including helping you to survive against an Eldrazi attack or a Smokestack lock, blocking forever and generating 20 mana during your upkeep with Mana Echoes in play. Or if you’d prefer to keep your 5/5, there are actually a number of different Thopter creatures available, going all the way back to Homelands, in addition to the Changelings from Lorwyn block. Of course, if you’re just trying to smash face with a 5/5 flying artifact for six mana, then I think Steel Hellkite is your best bet, but the versatility of Thopter Assembly will keep all of you Johnnies happy for months to come.
As always, new cards start the old deckbuilding wheels turning in my brain, however slowly. Here are a couple of ideas that might form the basis of something for you.
4 Fog Bank
4 Palladium Myr
4 Psychosis Crawler
3 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Dark Ritual
4 Liliana’s Caress
4 Words of Waste
4 Geth’s Grimoire
4 Teferi’s Puzzle Box
3 Urza’s Guilt
4 Tainted Isle
Of course, the mana curve of this deck is horrible, as most of your business spells cost four, so consider adding more cheap walls or mass removal as needed. Also, notice that there is a certain amount of tension between making your opponents discard so that you can draw with Geth’s Grimoire, and keeping their hands nice and full so that you can draw more with Teferi’s Puzzle Box. Feel free to go fully in either direction – group draw or mass discard. The former might involve using Indentured Djinn, Underworld Dreams and Prosperity so that the Puzzle Box/Crawler combo kills them, especially if you can make Consecrated Sphinx stick (if an opponent has seven cards in hand with a Crawler and Sphinx on the table, they will draw a total of eight cards on their turn, giving you 16 cards and probably killing the whole table. Mass Discard could focus more on the Grimoire, Unnerve and Siphon Mind, and perhaps kill everyone with a combination of Psychosis Crawler and Rack damage.
These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking for
4 Wall of Souls
4 Priest of Norn
4 Pierce Strider
4 Stuffy Doll
4 Death Grasp
4 Go for the Throat
2 Ajani Goldmane
3 Decimator Web
3 No Mercy
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Esper Panorama
This is a deck designed for a style of play rather than winning in a particular way. The idea is to use your rattlesnakes and spiders to establish a strong enough deterrent that people leave you alone until the late game, at which point you should be able to start taking people out. Ajani might be a better choice for a small game, while Congregate or Phyrexian Rebirth would do more for you in a larger game. Other choices might include Sanguine Bond, Sangromancer, Wall of Essence or Souls of the Faultless.
4 Aven Riftwatcher
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Mana Vault
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Worn Powerstone
3 Thopter Assembly
3 Spine of Ish Sah
2 Academy Ruins
The core of this deck is making Smokestack asymmetrical, which means you’ve got a lot of options for adapting it – even different colors could work here, but I’ve been playing around with Reveillark recently so that’s what came to mind. The first thing you could change is removing the highly expensive Smokestack and replacing it with the highly cheap Umbilicus, or its twin, Blood Clock. It is probably worth going to four of each if you go the Umbilicus route, just to be on the safe side. As long as you have some form of global permanent control, you’re challenging the rest of the table to keep up; as long as you’re sacrificing/bouncing Ichor Wellsprings while they’re sacrificing/bouncing lands and creatures, they won’t be able to. The only thing we have to fear is one of the new anti-artifact spells, either Into the Core or Creeping Corrosion, but the same can be said for any artifact-based deck. At the end of the day you’ve got to take the chance if you want to be able to play with your toys!
I just realized that those are three very controlling decks, which is not typical for me. I’ll probably give you some good old fashioned aggro mayhem next time, depending on how my muse works.
Keep it casual,