A new set is upon us! The Mirrodin Besieged prerelease occurred this past weekend, and it will be legal in all constructed formats once the set is officially released this Friday. The impact on older formats will not be apparent immediately, but Standard will be irrevocably changed. There are many Standard tournaments, including the National Qualifiers, on the horizon, so the time to familiarize yourself with these new cards is now. I am qualified for Pro Tour: Paris, which is now less than two weeks away, and happens to be, you guessed it, Standard. This brings Standard into the forefront for myself and other pros, and everyone is working on understanding what has changed since the last major Standard event, the World Championships in Chiba. Success in Paris will go to those players who have a strong grasp of the fledgling format. They will do that by determining what new decks are viable and how existing decks will change to adapt to the new metagame, either by adding new cards or revisiting old ones.
There are many new cards and strategies available, and far too many to go into great depth on all of them in this article. Instead I will highlight a strategy that is poised to be a contender in the upcoming season. Artifacts are one of the major themes of this block, yet a strong artifact-based deck has yet to make a splash in Standard. With the addition of some new cards, I believe that the time is now.
The real power of this card, of course, is hosing planeswalkers. Jace, the Mind Sculptor has finally met its match. Phyrexian Revoker can be used to preempt planeswalkers from ever doing anything, or can be played afterwards as a huge tempo swing. Imagine an opponent plays a Jace Beleren, and you follow it up with a Phyrexian Revoker. Now the opponent cannot use the Jace and, assuming you don't attack it, will be hard pressed to remove his own Jace. Now every Jace, the Mind Sculptor they draw will be stranded in their hand. They could pay a Jace to kill their own, and follow it up with a Mind Sculptor, but that isn't exactly ideal.
I've compiled a list of the most common and important cards that Phyrexian Revoker will stop:
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If a metalcraft deck becomes a Tier 1 player in the new Standard, it will be on the back of Tezzeret. In a very artifact heavy deck, the +1 ability is a very powerful draw engine, the -1 ability is capable of producing an army all on its own, and the -4 ultimate will be game ending.
The puzzle to solve is figuring out what cards should accompany Tezzeret. First and foremost, a Tezzeret based deck will need to play a large amount of artifacts. Once we get that out of the way, the real work begins.
At its core, Tezzeret is an aggressive card. The ability to make 5/5 creatures is overwhelming when used in conjunction with other creatures. Not only will the opponent have to fend with the creatures you cast, but they will also have to deal with a planeswalker that produces creatures, similar to how Elspeth and Garruk can take over the game. The ultimate ability is at its most powerful when you can put pressure on the opponent's life total, as even having a few artifacts in play leads to a large amount of damage.
You could also go a more controlling or combo route. The ability to dig 5 cards through your deck will allow you to find your artifacts easily. Turning any random artifact like mana acceleration into a 5/5 is very powerful, and making a few 5/5s will often win the game. Tezzeret is excellent at fighting other planeswalkers by making hasted 5/5s. The ultimate ability is an instant win when you have 10 artifacts in play against an opponent with 20 life.
Tezzeret is Blue and Black, so it is essential to be able to produce those colors. Base Blue and Black is a possibility, but we could go another color and simply splash Tezzeret in some fashion. The main draw to any color will be powerful metalcraft creatures and support cards.
These are some of the main considerations, and there sure is a lot to consider. Standard now has a huge amount of powerful artifacts and artifact related cards, so there is a lot of work to be done.
I'm going to list the most powerful, efficient artifacts and colored cards with artifact synergies in Standard. There is a huge variety, and there are ones I am going to leave off because they are not a great fit here. There is still another set in this block to be released, so the time for many cards has not yet come.
It is important to note that we still have to compete with decks like Valakut, UB Control, and GW Quest. Jace, the Mind Sculptor still exists. These are all efficient, resilient, and extremely powerful. It will be a tall order making our deck compete with those, so only the truly best cards need to be considered.
That is a lot of cards to consider, and they are spread out over all of the colors. Luckily for us, there is a lot of good fixing in Standard at the moment. The Zendikar fetchlands and Worldwake manlands are the best options for mana fixing. Of course there is also the M11 dual lands and the Scars of Mirrodin allied dual lands. We also have access to Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds for any tricky color requirements. If our mana is stable enough, we gain access to powerful cards like Tectonic Edge and Dread Statuary.
This deck is certainly aggressive, but it is also midrange and certainly has some long term Staying Power.
Steel Overseer makes the rest of the deck better, and turns all of your artifact creatures into very potent threats. If left unanswered it will take over the game.
Phyrexian Revoker is an all-star here, and will stop the cards that give this deck problems. This deck does not have any counterspells, so by playing Phyrexian Revoker we now have some psuedo-permission.
Etched Champion is a card that has yet to really see play, but it is poised to be an all-star. Protection from all colors is extremely potent. It can block any colored creature indefinitely, and can attack through almost everything. It is also immune to targeted removal. It gets particularly scary once it starts getting pumped up by Steel Overseer.
4 Lodestone Golem: This card has a fat front for its mana cost and will end the game quickly on an open board. It can be played on turn 3 with Mox Opal or Everflowing Chalice/Sphere of the Suns, and doing so will put an immense amount of hurt on the opponent. Sometimes you will be able to play multiples and set the opponent back too far to ever recover. This deck is able to work around the drawback by playing a small amount of non-artifacts.
2 Molten-Tail Masticore: This is not a card you want to draw in multiples, but it can win the game by itself in some situations. This deck is replete with creatures, so it should always have fuel. Molten-Tail Masticore can clear out opposing creatures and planeswalkers while maintaining the ability to simply go to the dome. It is a great mana sink in the late game, and it is deadly in conjunction with Grand Architect.
1 Wurmcoil Engine: This is another card you rarely want to see in multiples, but it is game winning in some situations. The acceleration this deck plays should let you cast it without real problems. By playing Treasure Mage we effectively play two.
1 Chimeric Mass: This is the ultimate mana sink while also being a very flexible creature. You can cast this for 0 if you need metalcraft, for a few mana in the early turns for a small creature, or in the late game as a sheer monster. It is also the best target for Trinket Mage in many situations.
4 Grand Architect: It has many roles in this deck. One is to function as mana acceleration. It makes two mana by itself. IIt also turns your Trinket and Treasure Mages into mana acceleration. Grand Architect can also be used to turn every artifact creature you have into an extra mana. You pay U to turn it blue, then tap it to get two colorless. This allows you to play out many artifacts in one turn, or generate mana for an expensive one. Keep in mind this is not a “tap” ability, so you can use it even if the creature was just cast. Grand Architect also functions as a “lord.” While mana intensive, Grand Architect has the ability to +1/+1 any of your artifact creatures. Keep in mind that the threat of this is often as good as actually doing it, so it is deceptively powerful. It turns extra mana into extra damage throughout the game. Grand Architect is rarely useless; in the early game it helps you cast all of your threats, and in the late game it pumps up those threats.
1 Mindslaver: This is probably my favorite card of all time, and I have nothing but fond memories of Mindslaver from the years I played it in my Urzatron decks. This card is very potent in our artifact deck, and playing 1 copy puts a powerful tool in our arsenal. Tezzeret and Treasure Mage allows us to see it more often than you would think. Grand Architect can be used to play and activate Mindslaver early in the game. Generally, activating a Mindslaver will win you the game because the effect is simply SO powerful. In my mind there is nothing more powerful in the game of magic, and only in rare situations will it not result in a victory. Sometime the opponent will not have much to do, but in these situations the game will already be completely won or lost.
1 Brittle Effigy: This is a flexible removal spell that can remove any problem creature, and playing one gives us some versatility with our Trinket Mages. Brittle Effigy is a great answer to the various Titans you will play against.
1 Everflowing Chalice/1 Sphere of the Suns: This deck is not lightning fast so these are welcome additions. These will set up the deck for success, as they help with metalcraft while accelerating to the powerful 4 drops like Lodestone Golem and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. Everflowing Chalice is also effective when cast for 2 or 3 later in the game to help cast more expensive spells. It is also a great Trinket Mage target. By playing 1 Sphere of the Suns we get to play some additional mana fixing, and we will rarely need to use the Sphere 4 times, so I think playing a 1-1 split is correct.
2 Mox Opal: This is one of the best reasons to play so many artifacts. It is efficient acceleration and fixing while enabling us to have some truly busted draws. I must also note that the mana acceleration is great with Tezzeret. One, it lets you play Tezzeret earlier. Two, every artifact turns into a 2 point Drain Life when you activate Tezzeret's ultimate. Three, Mox Opal is a great target for the -1 5/5 ability. We don't play tons of fast artifacts, we have 2 Trinket Mage to tutor for Mox Opal, and it is a legend, so I think 2 is the correct number for this deck.
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas: This is the reason we are playing an artifact deck in the first place, and it will shine in our now finished product. There are 26 artifacts in the deck, so Tezzeret should hit an artifact the majority of the time. Very often there will be multiple options, and this is where Tezzeret really shines, as the ability becomes an Impulse. There is plenty of fodder for the -1 ability, as not only can the non creature artifacts be turned into 5/5s, but so can any artifact creature. A 5/5 Phyrexian Revoker is quite the creature. The high number of aggressive artifact creatures will put pressure on the opponent's life total, allowing the ultimate ability to win the game most of the time. This makes it one of the most powerful planeswalkers ever simply because the ultimate ability is so cheap and so devastating.
4 Creeping Tar Pit: This gives the deck an extra edge that it certainly can use. Creeping Tar Pit is arguably the best man land in standard, and this deck takes full advantage of it. A quick creature or two supplemented by a Creeping Tar Pit puts a huge amount of pressure on the opponent. It is also perfect in this deck because it helps bring the opponent into Tezzeret range very quickly.
1 Dread Statuary: This deck has great mana so I think it can afford to play 1 additional colorless manland. Being an artifact makes it particularly good here. This number could go up or down depending on how playtesting goes.
4 Tectonic Edge: This is one of the best lands in Standard. The land destruction and tempo it gives this deck are absolutely amazing, so it is essential that we play 4.
The sideboard is rough at this point, but I think it is the direction we want to go with it.
The discard helps against Valakut and Blue-based decks.
Basilisk Collar is a great Trinket Mage target against any aggressive deck. It lets your small creatures win in combat while also gaining you a lot of life to win a race. Tezzeret gives you inevitability so you want to extend the game as long as possible, a task at which Basilisk Collar is particularly effective.
Thada Del is going to be a trump in the artifact-based mirror. This could not be needed if there aren't many artifact decks, or you could play more, but two is a good number to start with.
2 Spell Pierce: After sideboard this deck gains discard, and adding some Counterspells gives it a nice variety of disruption. These are for Blue based decks and whatever other random deck may be weak to them.
Go for the Throat and Doom Blade are the best removal spells in Standard. Putting 4 in the sideboard allows you to kill any threatening creature you make come across. Fauna Shaman and Cunning Sparkmage are two creatures that stand out, as are the various Titans. 3-1 is a good place to start, but those numbers could change in any direction depending how the metagame develops.
This deck is powerful, well rounded, and great at abusing Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. It is important to compare it to the existing UB control deck that is popular in standard. One of the major advantages of this deck is the synergies it contains. UB control is not much more than a bunch of good blue and black cards. The control deck can suffer from drawing the wrong cards at the wrong time. You will often draw cards that are ineffective against the opposing strategy. The artifact deck plays cards that work off of each other. This gives you a proactive, powerful game plan that you can follow against almost any opponent.
Another strategy and direction to take the deck would be to make it even more aggressive.
Here is my take on that version:
This deck is BRUTALLY aggressive and seeks to end the game as early as possible.
A brief rundown of some card choices:
4 Memnite: This is a free 1/1 that is synergistic with the rest of the deck, so it is an auto include.
4 Signal Pest: This is an absolute all-star. It is a 1 drop artifact creature, which this deck sorely needs. It is very hard to block, meaning it is effectively a +1/+0 to all of your creatures. It is also synergistic with almost every card in this deck. Glint Hawk and Etched Champion have evasion, so giving them an additional +1/+0 leads to a lot of extra damage. Even more absurd is Signal Pest with Tezzeret. Making it a 5/5 ends the game very quickly. Finally, drawing multiple Signal Pests is a combo in itself.
4 Ardent Recruit: This deck will generally always have metalcraft, making this effectively a W 3/3. Move on over Wild Nacatl, there is a new sheriff in town. This is one of the major draws to play white, as this card is what really pushes an aggressive white-based metalcraft strategy over the top.
4 Glint Hawk: There 7 free artifacts and 4 1 drop artifacts so you will generally have a cheap artifact to return. The 2/2 Flying body is right at home in this deck. It has the not so obvious use of being able to reset a Phyrexian Revoker.
This deck plays 24 creatures that cost 2 or less, meaning it is able to empty its hand early and deal a lot of damage very quickly. It also is great at turning on metalcraft, which makes Mox Opal very degenerate.
The 24 artifact creatures here make Tempered Steel is extremely powerful. A few early artifacts followed by Tempered Steel is very difficult to beat. The total number of artifacts, when you add the Mox Opal, is 27, meaning Tezzeret is going to be very effective. This deck is also capable of dealing a lot of damage very quickly, meaning Tezzeret is all the more game ending.
Playing all of these cards make you capable of having absolutely absurd draws reminiscent of Mirrodin-era Affinity.
This deck pays a price for all of this speed and power, however. It is not as resilient to removal as is the midrange UB deck. It also does not have as much Staying Power into the late game. The mana is also not as great, as we are essentially splashing Tezzeret. The great fixing lands combined with Mox Opal should make this fine in most cases, but there will be games where casting Tezzeret or Tempered Steel is difficult.
I haven't included a sideboard because, frankly, there are too many options and no real metagame to sideboard for. As I continue testing these builds I will post in the forum as I discover new sideboard cards and learn more about the deck. I can say that Frantic Salvage seems like a great option against decks that will seek to beat you through attrition. This deck also could probably play Mana Leak or Spell Pierce to great effect. Bonehoarder also seems excellent, and it could even be moved maindeck.
Another thing to note is that you could cut Tezzeret from this deck completely, either for consistency or simply budget concerns. It is also hard to come by Planeswalkers when sets are fresh, so you could play a monowhite version in the meantime.
Bonehoard is an excellent card in the mid to late game. This deck plays a huge amount of creatures, so after the dust settles Bonehoard is poised to be a very large creature. Once it dies, it can be moved around to turn any small creature into a huge threat.
I hope that you've gained some insight into the process of building a new deck in an unexplored format. This has certainly helped me in my process of preparing for Pro Tour: Paris, so I hope you too have benefited.
I am confident that these decks are a good place from which to continue the deck building process. They should be very competitive in the new Standard format, and as they evolve they will become even more deadly.
There are many other ways to take artifact based decks. One promising avenue would be to base a deck around Proliferate. You could also go a more combo oriented route. Molten Psyche and Time Warp make quite the combination, especially in conjunction with Semblance Anvil. Those are topics for another article and I may write on those ideas in the future if you are interested. If you are feeling adventurous, experiment on making your own deck. If you share in the forums I'd be glad to help.
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