Sunday 28 October 2018

Winners and Losers from Commander 2018

Turntimber Sower
Usually the Commander sets offer some of the biggest names to cube each year since their introduction. While new cards is great too often those from commander sets have been either oppressive power levels or simply uninteractive and not all that fun to play with. The lower power level of this years Commander offering is actually quite a welcome one, there are no new cards oppressively disrupting cube. Very few have made it stick in the drafting cube but a lot have been great additions to the card pool allowing for some highly entertaining deck building exercises. I feel like I got my monies worth already in the game play I have had and I am expecting much more of that while still having the actual cards! Onto specifics;

Saheeli, the GiftedTurntimber Sower - big lose

Super hard to make relevant. You trigger it less often than you would like and only get a 0/1 for your troubles. The sac outlet mode is onerous in cost and limp in returns. The best thing about this card is that it is a Trained Armadon... In a dedicated land synergy deck this might have some place but in the drafting cube this performs woefully.

Saheeli, the Gifted - win  

Not a bomb but pretty solid all round card. Going to five loyalty and making a 1/1 is solid defensively and applies some pressure. What tips her over the edge is the artifact synergies. There are lots of things that sac artifacts or simply benefit from having them about. I haven't even pushed those synergies at all, just the good stand alone cards are enough to empower artifact synergies in even the unpowered cubes. Mostly you are just making Saheeli and churning out tokens and that is good enough even if a little linear. The cost reduction element is useful, mostly I use it for 1 or 2 ramp and mostly it is the turn after playing her. It is far better in a heavy synergy deck. My best thus far was playing Saheeli on turn three and instantly making a Karn, Scion or Urza off the back of Saheeli (which then made a 5/5 that attacked as a 7/7) but that is uncommon. Usually the cost reduction is a little win more as it implies your 1/1 servos are living and that in turn implies you are somewhat ahead. She has  a fairly useless ultimate but that isn't a problem with two useful other modes one of which can win the game on its own. 

Aminatou, the Fateshifter

Aminatou, the Fateshifter - lose

Just too narrow for the drafting cube. She really does very little when you don't have things that play off her and that is far too hard to draft. Especially for a three colour card. No real surprise here, not quite sure why I thought this was an add to the cube when it is a clear "exotic reserve" card. Great in flicker decks, great in miracle decks, even has her place in some combo decks, but no place at all in the drafting cube where those kinds of synergies are just too hard to draft.

Emissary of Grudges - massive win
Emissary of Grudges
Turns out this is beastly. It is borderline oppressive, only really kept fair by being a top end red card and thus fairly hard to incorporate in builds. The Emissary feels a bit like super Aetherling. It is certainly a very red take on such things. It might lack the same degree of inevitability of Aetherling but my god does it make up for that with speed. It comes down faster, hits right away, always has some evasion and two more power and a "save" available equating to four mana's worth of Aetherling tech per turn on top of the two turns head start on beatdown. Grudges hits the board and you are losing to it shortly there after. It is so hard to stop short of mass removal. The Misdirection effect deals with abilities and it works regardless of targets. Someone in a recent game had to shoot themselves with an Inferno Titan against this so as to not allow a retarget that would lose them the game. It is any thing of yours as well, they can't just ignore the Emissary and hope to not shoot themselves with their stuff. Once Emissary is in play, short of that Wrath, you are racing it and it is winning in most cases. A highly reliable finisher that provides disruption and usually some value too.

Retrofitter FoundryRetrofitter Foundry - massive win

This is the other card to really impress me from the set. It is subtle but brutal. The card offers mana efficiency and a mana dump. It offers trickery, value and inevitability. It does all this and it costs one! Granted you have to further invest in it for it to do much of much but it turns out that is not a problem. It is actually a surprisingly efficient card for churning out dorks. Your first 4/4 can come at the total cost of 4 mana by turn four. With that you get all your turn four mana and two of your turn three mana. That allows you to actually make some pretty swingy tempo plays. When your late game mana dump and inevitability/value tool lets you power out a tempo start you get suspicious of power levels! Not only can your first 4/4 arrive on turn four you get two block and sac effects or two one damage nibbles in before that. The former can also take the sting out of pressure you might be under. Subsequent 4/4s are only 3 mana each too if made slowly. There are also loads of other cards that produce servos and thopters which allows you to really milk Foundry for utility and value. Pia and Kiran Nalaar are great as they are, when you immediately upgrade a thopter into a 4/4 the card is silly good! Foundry beats a Wurmcoil Engine embarasingly well. This is certainly the most played card from Commander 2018 thus far by a long long margin. Obviously being cheap and colourless is most of that but it is also just a great card that works well with most draft decks. Easily the most powerful and played addition to cube from the set. 

Night Incarnate - lose

Night Incarnate

This has seen some play in draft/sealed and it has even been fairly good in some cases. The issue with this is that it is so hard to house appropriately. You can't just play it in any old deck as it has a good chance of killing your own stuff. It being an upon death trigger as well means that you concede a lot of control over the timing of it when you don't evoke it. The only place you can easily play this card is a control deck but in those you usually just want to evoke it and in that case you just have a bad Languish. The extra utility you gain on having a 3/4 body does not outweigh the below curve potency of the main aspect of the card. In a midrange deck that utility would be far more sought after but sadly you really struggle to make a good midrange deck with few things that die to a -3/-3 effect in it. 

Primordial Mist - lose

A great card in the same kind of way Retrofitter Foundry is. The issue is that this is a five drop and not a one drop. Even without the mana investments needed Mists just comes too late in the day for what it does. It is not even that the card is low powered, it is just slow. Combining a slow effect onto a high price card is an issue. You need a five drop to have a large and immediate effect on the game. Small and immediate or large and slow in the case of Mists just don't get it done. Mists any cheaper would be pretty over powered but at five it is essentially a win more. You have to be in such a good position to make it safely and profitably that you should be winning with any five mana card which in turns means just play planeswalkers that offer more utility and ideally more play from behind. You can do some really cool things with the effects on Mists but it is sufficiently slow to setup that you are better off with the cheaper and less potent manifest cards. 

Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign
Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign - lose

Good card but too many colours. You can have a Scarab God for one colour less. The God is harder to answer and wins the game more effectively. That is the power level you have to contend with as a top end gold card and Yennet fails at that despite being an otherwise incredibly powerful card. As a mono coloured card it would be totally cube worthy despite having to survive a turn to be more than a 3/5 flier.

Varina, Lich Queen - lose

Almost exactly the same issues as Yennet has. 

Boreas Charger - massive lose

I think I misread this on review, that or I am just getting senile... This is an on death trigger not an EtB one. It is low powered, outclassed repeatedly and not even well suited to task. I don't think this is really playable in any cube deck let alone worthy of the drafting cube. 

Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle - lose

No real abuses, hard to build into sensible looking decks and not all that powerful. No big surprise here. A shame this wasn't a little more pushed as it has lovely flavour and feel to it. Like just giving it trample would have made this much more interesting, and still probably not all that good. 

Nesting Dragon - fine

I cut this from my cube as it is a bit slow and outclassed by the other 4-6 CMC red options pretty hard. The slower the cube however the better this starts to look. I can see this being a good inclusion in many cubes. The card has nice flavour and is one of few cards in red that provide mass removal protection. It has a high power level even if it is a little aimless. 

Yuriko, the Tiger's ShadowYuriko, the Tiger's Shadow - win

This is only really a win because I underrated it a bit in the reviews. It is holding its own in cube. In fact just last night it did me 8 bonus damage thanks to a Treasure Cruise, that was a big swing in the state of the game. It was so unexpected it was actually interesting but that is not the norm! Despite being fine in cube I imagine I will be cutting it relatively soon. It isn't a huge pull to the colour pairing, it isn't an auto include in the Dimir decks and it requires build support. You have to be a bit more than just good to cut it as a gold card. That being said, with more good evasive one drops and more good cheap EtB creatures getting printed I could fully see Yuriko making a powerful return when the meta and support suits her better. Presently trying to make a Dimir based tempo deck is pretty ruinous and that is a problem for Yuriko.   

Below is a list of cards I have not included in the drafting cube but have built with at least once. These are the cards that will likely provide the most longevity and value from the Commander 2018 set over the years to come. They will provide a wealth of building and synergy options and that is always most welcome. There are still at least as many again of interesting cards I have not yet had a chance to build with or around. All of these cards are too narrow for most cubes but all have something to offer in the right place. Fun cards and interesting cards. 

Ancient Stone Idol
Estrid, the Masked
Octopus Umbra
Infinite Atlas
Saheeli's Diretive
Entreat the Dead
Coveted Jewel
Estrid the Masked
Reality Scramble
Genesis Storm
Tuvasa, the Sunlit
Estrid's Invocation
Kestia, the Cultivator

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Top 12 Colourless Removal

Serrated ArrowsThis is an important top X list that I am surprised I didn't think to do sooner. It is basically a list of cards that facilitate the interactive blue and/or green decks. On occasion these cards will also pitch in for a colour like red that is wishing to be well covered just in case they face something too tough to burn down or just an enchantment! This list is mostly about creatures although there is plenty of value to be had from colourless cards that can kill other card types. Only white is able to deal with everything that can be put into play, all the other colours need to lean on these things from time to time. White might be able to cope with everything but it isn't always able to do it in the most suitable way and so even white benefits from some of the cards on this list.

Warping Wail12. Warping Wail

As a pure removal spell this is pretty limp. It hits a lot of creatures and a lot of good ones but it doesn't hit many top end finishers and thus rarely saves your bacon or even obtains you a mana advantage. It hits utility dorks and early plays not the must answer cards and that is an issue. The other huge issue is that this is the wrong sort of colourless. Trying to fix for cards that expressly require colourless mana is basically as hard as splashing a proper colour and it offers less return as well. Wail is great if you need such things and happen to have the mana to support it but that is very rare indeed. It is also only great because it has three useful modes, purely on the removal front it is neither super mana efficient nor overdone with range and consistency.

Cursed Scroll11. Cursed Scroll

Things are just a little too quick for Scroll to really shine these days. There are better things you can spend this sort of mana on or indeed use a card for. Scroll is a tool to kill small creatures or provide reach but it is neither cheap nor easy to have active early in the game which is when it is most important to kill small things. The only decks I really like to run Scroll in these days are those which have both a need of it and synergies to go with it. The only good example that comes to mind is a blue build (hence needing removal) that has cards like Vedalken Engineers, Trinket Mage and Grand Architect. Certainly no self respecting red deck is looking to a card like this for reach and value any more. Red would only consider this against things with protection and in those cases Spellbombs and Shrines and many other things are going to be better suited.

Molten-Tail Masticore
10. Masticores (four mana ones)

MasticoreTime has also been unkind to these classic bombs. The original is less efficient than Cursed Scroll for damage output which is pretty tame but it is still an excellent card to deal with a bunch of one toughness dorks. Masticore will do work against an Elf deck if you can get it out and active in time. The damage output is pretty poor but it does also do other things like attacking and blocking which help to make up for this somewhat. In a deck that can make lots of mana, like a green ramp deck or indeed the blue deck used as an example for a place you might still run a Cursed Scroll I can see Masticore being at least a good sideboard card. The Molten-Tail version is far more powerful and far better suited at dealing with midrange creatures what with having twice the mana efficiency on damage output. The need to exile creatures to power it makes it a little more needy but not much. The thing with Molten-Tail is that it tends to simply bypass the removal step and tends to try and end the game by going face. That isn't at all a downside to the card but it does mean it is far less often used as removal than the others!

9.   Oblivion Stone

Oblivion StoneThe generally better version of Nevinyrral's Disk. While not quite so close as Ratchet Bomb and Powder Keg there are some similarities in the comparisons between Stone and Disk such as the ability for only one to hit manlands. Typically Oblivion Stone is not good enough for cube anymore. Games are too quick and it is far too slow. Eight mana is too much for a mass removal effect and taking two turns to split the cost is a problem as well. The situations where you somehow have 8 mana when you need that mass removal spell and didn't die before you got there or where your opponent has gone all in but you still have the comfort of two turns are just not common. The most frequent use for Stone is a close grindy game where you have the luxury of time to put fate counters on your own stuff. That is nice but it is pretty late game and also situational. When you really need colourless mass removal Stone is one of the best (of few) options but to make it work you are going to need to make more concessions in your build. Perhaps you are going to need to run a fog!

8.   Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

Skysovereign, Consul FlagshipEven as a five mana Volcanic Hammer this is more efficient than the previous cards in an initial tempo sense. Flagship also offers ongoing value although it is conditional on having three power in play. This might be a little easier to support in build but it is also much easier to disrupt than the conditions on Masticores and Cursed Scroll. Those are not really the cards that Flagship is to compete with, it is actually good while they are on the path to bad. I think Flagship is the weakest of the good colourless removal. It is a better threat than it is removal, a bit like Molten-Tail. It is nice that it takes things down as it beats people up but a lot of the time it would have just won as a hard to kill 6 power five mana flier. It has the issue that 3 damage doesn't actually kill a lot of the things you want it to kill by the time the game has reached the five mana stage. For that reason I find the card to be best when combined with things that offer haste such as Surrak, Caller of the Hunt so that you can lay it and attack for a total of 6 damage at something. While colourless is theoretically nice for playability I only ever see this in green decks these days. They support it well and need what it offers most.

Powder Keg7.  Ratchet Bomb / Powder Keg

These are useful bail out cards. I will play these in midrange and control decks where I am soft to go wide strategies. Being able to take out all the tokens for 2 mana is great. Being able to take out all the one drops is also outstanding in my cube. The return of both of these cards was indeed a response to the explosion in popularity of super low to the ground go wide decks. Ratchet Bomb gives a little bit more all round cover and Powder Keg can take out manlands, that is the main difference between them resulting in a comparable power level. What holds these cards back is that as an answer for a four drop they really blow. Either you have to preempt the problem card or you have to wait a long time to deal with it. Both of those are horrible ways to have to answer something. There are not many four drops you need to kill that you are not just going to have lost to by the time you get your counters upto four. Even two can feel like forever. Nice fair, option dense, skill intense, cover all cards.

Karn Liberated6.   Karn Liberated

A little overrated generally by cube players. Karn is certainly good but he is not as much of a game winner as most other seven drops. Often Karn comes down, deals with the problem card and then dies to removal or even an attack. It is only the close games or those where it is all about one card where Karn tends to win. My most common experience with him is as a removal spell. An expensive one but at least an effective one. I like to use him when I feel like I need both more answers and more weight to my deck. Not many answers also double up as win conditions or even as high powered cards but Karn does so admirably. While Karn may not offer the biggest of swings for his hefty seven mana price tag he is nice and safe. His floor is high and that is not all that common in the colourless removal department.

Umezawa's Jitte5.   Umezawa's Jitte

A colourless removal tool so good that many colours with removal themselves will still run it. What Jitte does really well that white nor really black does all that well (and obviously blue and green don't do at all) is efficiently kill small dorks. Jitte kills a pair of one toughness things each time it charges. You can massacre boards of little creatures in short order with a Jitte, often so much so that it will act as a Moat if you can equip it to a creature to threaten to block with as well. While being amazing at killing small things it is still fine at handling bigger dorks. A 2/2 can trade with a 6/6 with just two easily obtainable counters and that sort of thing. Jitte is obviously just a powerful and versatile card. The fact that it provides a sought after role is really what makes it such an oppressively often seen card. It is a little overrated but it is still strong. I think it is more misuse of the card that makes me think it is overrated rather than the card itself. I see a lot of people treat Jitte without sufficient respect and get burned by it. It is very much not just a case of having Jitte equates to winning although it was a bit more like that back when it was first printed. Jitte is high risk and initially tends to be low tempo and people overlook these elements of the card based on reputation.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon4.   Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

I previously mentioned 8 was too much mana for a mass removal spell which is the case when it is Oblivion Stone. When it is Ugin it is a different story. Not only is Ugin a vastly superior mass removal tool than Oblivion Stone it is also a much better everything else as well. Ugin is value, control, a threat, reach, even lifegain. Ugin is one of only two eight mana (without cost reduction effects) cards I have in the cube as testament to his power. Ugin is such a huge upgrade on Karn Liberated but one mana more is increasingly onerous at the top end. Ugin is a better tool to close a game with but the real reason he shines so much more than Karn is how much of a swing he can be on a game. It is not uncommon that Ugin lands and completely removes all the action from the opponents board while keeping some stuff as well as the Ugin on your side. When facing Ugin it can be very hard to play around it too and you just have to hope they don't see him, or of course that you beat them before they get to eight mana. Having the option on Lighting Bolts with loyalty gain or super exiling Pernicious Deed effect makes Ugin unreasonably versatile in how he makes a board look regardless of how it looked before! He is the removal tool that always seems to leave you looking ahead.

Engineered Explosives3.   Engineered Explosives

Cheap and versatile cover all card. It is not the most mana efficient when compared to a lot of coloured removal options but when compared to the colourless ones it looks pretty cheap indeed. Especially when considered how low end it is. Explosives lets you run mass removal effects in decks with permanents in them. It lets you pack artifact and enchantment hate without having to dedicate a card to doing that. Really Explosives is just the good versions of Ratchet Bomb and Powder Keg. It kills all tokens for 2 mana and it controls low end CMC permanents quite well. Where explosives shines over the others is in its ability to get huge swings or big X for <X plays. Killing multiple tokens is good but it is not that often card advantage to do so. Killing a couple of two drops however is much more of a proper two for one and is good value. Explosives will cost you four mana to do so making it not much of a tempo play however it can do so without having to sit in play charging up and therefore without warning. Giving no warning means much high chances of catching people off guard and getting a big swing. It is pretty hard to recover any game in which Explosives gets a couple of one, two, or three drop cards of yours in the early game while losing nothing else themselves.

Walking Ballista2.   Walking Ballista

This card is everywhere. It is a bit like the new Jitte in that regard. It is not overly broken in power level but it just has nothing wrong with it. Ballista is just an all round great card and like Jitte it provides a good weenie removal option to all the non-red colours. Late enough in the game it provides removal for more serious threats but if you are getting your Ballista that big you are likely well on the way to winning anyway. Ballista is a fine two drop and it is a fine eight drop. It provides reach, a mana sink, more options than you can shake a stick at and synergies all over the shop. It does all this while mostly being a two mana Mogg Fanatic! It might legitimately be the most played non-land card in my cube. It is just that little bit too convenient.

Dismember1.    Dismember

Although not strictly a colourless card it is played in that capacity an awful lot. Even in black decks this is most commonly cast in the one mana pay four life mode. Blue and green decks run this all the time so as to have answers for creatures. Red decks even play this sometimes as a tool to deal with protection effects. Even white decks run this when they didn't have quite enough Paths and Plows! Dismember is nominally a very powerful removal effect and comfortably ranks in the top five creature spot removal spells in the game. It is as cheap as it comes, it deals with most things, has no restrictions on targetting and is the all important instant speed. It is the only card on this list that affords that biting early tempo swing that a well placed spot removal is played to do. It is not something that has fairly polar performance based on what you are playing against like Engineered Explosives nor a card that needs specific builds like Ugin or Karn. Dismember can basically be played anywhere and usually is. Sure, you can't find it with an Ancient Stirrings, a Mother of Runes can protect against it, a Chameleon Colossus can ignore it as per other black spot removal and if that bothers you for the spirit of this list then by all means just bump everything else up by one, have Ballista at the top, and ignore this. In practive however, when you are looking for removal options for your decks, absolutely don't forget Dismember regardless of your colours.

Friday 12 October 2018

Slivers .dec

Muscle Sliver
Slivers are one of the oldest tribal creature sub-types in magic. While some of the big tribal names had lords prior to a Sliver seeing print, in most cases it took a long time after the arrival of the Slivers before they would really get their tribal shit together. Slivers, however, were instantly viable. Merfolk are really the only older tribe that saw play before the Slivers and there was basically one synergy card involved, so it lacked that interwoven tribal feel of the current good tribes. Despite this wealth of time and a good amount of support, I have never really seriously entertained the Sliver tribe in cube until recently. The issue was not power or depth, but fixing. You can make a five colour control deck work with tri colour lands and Vivid lands. There is a lot of depth in lands that come into play tapped but provide outstanding fixing. Doing that for an aggressive deck, however, is highly counter-productive. Mono-coloured aggro decks are typically the most successful in cube, because all their lands are fast and they never get colour screwed, and by that same logic the five colour ones are the least effective. Even if you have access to all the premium dual lands, there simply isn't room to have all the land options you want, nor be robust in the face of mana disruption. A five colour aggro deck can simply lose to having the wrong land blown up. With only 15 or 16 land slots you get really thin, really fast. For a complete even split, you could run 5 sac lands and the complete cycle of duals and your mana base still wouldn't be that consistent or robust. It turns out, however (mostly due to recent experimentation with five colour humans), that a number of reasonable five colour lands have crept into the pool. Enough that you can cobble together an uncomfortable but suitably fast-acting mana base which has little trouble with colour. It is also convenient that the seemingly best builds of cube Slivers contain a chunk more green cards than the other colours, as well as some further fixing from those green cards. This makes it a little more like a five colour green deck, which is far easier to build a mana base for. That being said, this deck should have one drops in all the colours and that is more somewhat more relevant than the ratio of the mana symbols in the deck.

Unclaimed TerritorySpeaking of one drops, there are currently eight with the Sliver type, and a ninth if you want to throw in Mothdust Changeling to bring up the numbers. I advise playing all eight. That is almost always the most important thing in tribal decks - you need to get those bodies on the board so that enhancing them is high value. There are no good, cheap ways to generate Sliver tokens and so you just have to play lots of cheap Slivers. They’re all about the spreading of buffs, so a high and quick count of them is essential. A lot of the one drops are great as well. The white ones add a lot to combat. Galerider is good enough to play as a two drop. I stole games with mill and poison thanks to Virulent and Screeching. Striking is impressively potent. Even Plated is good, just because it is easy to cast! I am sure Mindlash would outperform Virulent and Screeching in a larger sample of games, too, with hand disruption and a sac outlet both being potent. You can lock people out of a lot of things due to the instant speed of the discard. The one drops might look like a bit of a motley crew, but they performed admirably and are a lot lot more than just bodies to receive buffs.

Heart SliverAs you move into the two slots and above you get a bit more choice in how you build and what cards to include. The three Anthem Slivers are the core of the deck and a big part of the strength of it, so don't leave home without. Haste is arguably better, so that locks in Heart Sliver too. After those four, there are still plenty of good options, but I think we are past the auto-includes at this point. While on the topic of haste, we have Blur Sliver on offer as well, which is certainly tempting.

I was a big fan of both Manaweft and Gemhide Sliver, especially with effects that gave haste and vigilance. The fixing was nice, but the burst was also impressive, it gave lots of options and empowered all the abilities with mana costs significantly. I think these two come as a package with Sentinel Sliver.

That is already 15 Slivers, not including Blur, your eight one drops, 3 lords, the haste, the vigilance and the two mana producers. Pretty core stuff! I think 22 is a pretty good number of Slivers to run, you can go a little more or a little less, but you are certainly looking to max out that group pretty hard. When every card buffs every other card, it is hard to justify non-slivers. Regardless of how many we want, we don't have much room to mess about with due to the core of the deck being so well set.

Gemhide SliverThe best thing to do at this stage is rule out things we are not doing. Cube is no place for Sliver Queen and all that five mana cool stuff. If you wanna play with your various iterations of Cromat, then EDH is the place for such things. There is enough depth and power in Slivers that you barely even need three drops, let alone four and above. The lower to the ground you can keep an aggro deck, the better it tends to perform. The only four drop that has any appeal is Bonescythe Sliver and it is probably a bit overkill. It certainly isn't solving the problems the archetype faces. This is mostly how I want to spend the remaining slots in the deck, protecting it against its inherent weaknesses. Those weaknesses number two and are a lack of interactive disruption and vulnerability to mass removal. Both have a couple of couple of solutions. For handling mass removal, you can either try and take it out of their hand, counter it when they play it, protect your dorks with spells and effects or pack a lot of card advantage effects so as to replenish after eating a Wrath. For disruption you can simply play good disruptive spells yourself, you can pack Slivers with disruptive effects on them or you can play supporting cards that are not directly disruptive but that allow you to bypass things your opponent might rely on you not bypassing. With those vague things in mind let us plow into the good options on cards to fill out the rest of the deck.

Acidic SliverAcidic Sliver is a strong contender. It is the Siege-Gang Commander of Slivers and does a great job at providing control and reach. It wouldn't be as good without Gemhide and Manaweft to help power it, but it is never terrible. Instant damage to any target at a reasonable mana rate, not to mention a sac outlet, is just good. Acidic starts off as a 2/2 as well, so is a good stand-alone card too. You can't go far wrong with this one. This card helps cover both your weak points too, although one significantly better than the other. Disruption and interaction are great with Acidic. Against mass removal it is, however, only the mildest of helps, allowing you to get some return on your cards should you have mana up to throw them at face. Cautery Sliver is just a lower powered version of Acidic, I would say. It is slightly more convenient, but the damage return per Sliver is awful and as you are not producing tokens or anything, it isn’t ideal.

Hunter SliverHunter Sliver is another effective creature control card you can use. While not as direct, diverse or reliable as Acidic, the Hunter can do its thing without having to bin valuable Slivers and it can do it without having to spend any extra mana. Both of those perks are huge. Provoke scales very well with First Strike and even makes the deathtouch-giving Venom Sliver have some appeal. I think in reality that is too deep down one small avenue, but it is cute. I think Hunter Sliver is perfectly solid without need for deathtouch or even first strike. It is just a handy tool that affords a lot of control and potential. It is even mild reach and planeswalker control. When all your dorks have provoke you decide most of combat. If you have more dorks you can remove any options they have in combat all together if you wish.

Blade Sliver is OK, it’s aggressive and an affordable buff, but it is no Muscle Sliver. It is what you want but it a more average power level. It is akin to Blur Sliver or Winged Sliver. Playable, perhaps needed, but leaves a slightly bitter taste.

Crypt SliverClot and Crypt Sliver are both mass removal protection, but neither are great at it. Two mana up per dork is super hard to do, as is having everything untapped and not summoning sick. In both cases, you need the vigilance providing Slivers to make that a reality and there is only one good one of those. Also, regenerate is protection against half the mass removal, at best. Wrath, Damnation, Settle the Wreckage and Wingshards ignore it, while Deluge and Languish bypass it, as does Terminus. Blue board clears are as effective as they ever are, so all you are really doing is handling the red options and a few others. I am not a huge fan of either of these anti-mass removal tools, they seem more like sideboard cards and fairly mediocre ones at that. They may well be necessary in some cases, but I would try and avoid where possible.

Hibernation SliverA far better mass removal protection tool is Hibernation Sliver. It doesn't preserve your board, nor your tempo. It does nothing against blue mass removal effects, but it does allow you to keep all your key Slivers. Redeveloping a board of Slivers is also fairly quick work if you have the mana producing ones and haste. Hibernation Sliver offers protection for no mana cost and that is active immediately. It is the closest you can get to a Selfless Spirit and, in many ways, it is better due to the re-usability of it. Hibernation Sliver also does a great job of protecting against spot removal – much like with Mother of Runes, you really need to aim removal at it first before being able to take down anything else. It is like a mini Standard Bearer that recurs rather than dying. Standard Bearer meets Cavern Harpy. In combination with Quick Sliver and a lot of mana and life, your Slivers become near impossible to kill! Much as I love dorks with flash, I don't think you get much value from it in a very aggressive deck. In more midrange Sliver builds I could see the value of Quick going up, but as a base line two mana 1/1, I don't think it is worth it for the build with all the one drops.

Crystalline SliverOther good spot removal protection Slivers include Diffusion and Crystalline. The latter is very powerful, but it prevents you using combat tricks, targeted buffs, and even some of the utility on the Sliver effects. I don't think you really lose anything you really want to play and so the power level of Crystalline seems too high to pass up on. Diffusion is just a smaller, weaker version of Crystalline, that doesn't get in the way of your own plans. You likely don't want many of the spot removal protection cards as most of the ways that protect you from mass removal also work on spot removal, but not the other way round. You are far better off running the cards that cover more areas and ones that are more of a problem for you - these are more of a luxury.

That pretty much covers all the two-mana Slivers of interest. There might be some ones offering evasion, but even the three mana options seem worse than Winged Sliver and I don't think you need more than two Slivers providing evasion effects. More is obviously nice, but the opportunity cost is big and the returns are diminishing. You have so much control over things like creatures and combat if you want, anyway, which combined with potentially large and powerful Slivers makes it all a bit ‘win more’. The matchups where evasion is good are not your bad matchups.

Frenetic SliverSo what other remaining three mana Slivers offer good utility and power? Firewake Sliver is a potential alternative to Blur. The sac ability is OK but the tempo of the card is poor, even compared to Blur. The high value Slivers are not ones you want to risk in combat and the low size to cost ratio of this one makes it lose appeal. It is one of those cards that has poor Synergy with Crystalline Sliver too.

Frenetic Sliver is another version of Hibernation Sliver offering some reasonable Wrath protection. You lose half your dorks, but the rest stay in play and don't need loads of mana reinvested in them. Also, two life adds up fast, so you can't go too nuts on that against a red deck, for example, and as such Frenetic might well be the better option in that setting. Especially with some of the lands you are forced to play, life can be an issue.

Harmonic SliverHarmonic Sliver is a popular one. Depending on your cube and format, I would try and run a card like this in a sideboard. Most decks have few to no targets. When you are not killing something with Harmonic itself, the tempo of it is awful and it gives your opponent the chance to deal with it before playing any key things it can dispense with. As such, you wind up holding it back thus also costing you, probably in tempo, but certainly in opportunity. Against those decks that are made up of many artifacts and enchantments, however, this Sliver will utterly devastate them. It is one of the most brutal things you can bring to bear on a number of cube decks. Ultimately, that makes it a very polar card which I try and avoid. It also means you can't really play your own artifacts or enchantments, as they will be forced into getting killed. Losing a one drop Sliver, even one of the worst, is not a trade-off I want to make for this at all!

Necrotic SliverFor an answer card, I much prefer Necrotic Sliver to Harmonic. It doesn't have the same ceiling, but it does have a much higher floor with a much greater consistency of usefulness. You always have targets, you can even land lock people! Necrotic is primarily a creature removal tool, the big brother of Acidic Sliver. Like Acidic also doubles up as reach when going face, Necrotic doubles up as Naturalize and thus does the job of Harmonic Sliver, if not better directly, at least a lot better overall and without detriment to your build or game. Necrotic seems like one of the most important three drop Slivers, as it brings so much to the deck.

Syphon Sliver is an interesting option. Life gain is useful to fuel both your mana base and your Hibernation Sliver, while also being a really strong way to defeat other aggressive decks. Being aggressive yourself, you frequently won't need to consider your own life total and can go pretty ham on spending it. As such, Syphon Sliver is also a fairly polar Sliver in performance, but it has a reasonably high floor making it a better way of hedging. It is certainly much less of a risk or an opportunity cost running this over Harmonic Sliver. Darkheart Sliver is a cute alternative although, while it is a better tempo play, I am not nearly as much of a fan of having to sacrifice valuable Slivers to gain life.

Spectral SliverSteelform Sliver I think is probably too low powered to bother running. It will afford minor edges against decks leaning hard on burn removal and combat heavy opponents. I think, overall, Blade Sliver is going to increase your win percentage more than this across the field. I doubt you can make a good argument for playing this main over other much higher powered Slivers, nor much more appropriate hedge tech for a sideboard option.

I think I prefer Spectral Sliver to both Blade and Steelform. Certainly, it is more mana intensive to do anything, but it gives options and control. You definitely don't want too many mana-sink cards in a build, but this is an ongoing one that is always pretty useful. Certainly one of the more fair options you could go for, but it does offer something a little different to the flat, static buffs.

Sedge SliverSedge Sliver is undoubtedly one of the most powerful Slivers on offer. The issue isn't power level, but difficulty in having a Swamp in play. Even with access to all the premium lands, it is pretty hard to get Sedge consistently online and not struggle with casting your other exotic gold stuff. I think Sedge hurts the rest of your deck too much to play while reliably being online. If you build from a black base, or even a black / green base, you might well be able to make it work, but it sounds like you reduce your power too much to make that option worth it.

Homing Sliver is a cute one. It can help find your silver bullet answers and even your reach tools. The issue is that it is all very pricey to use. It is a clunky, low-power card to play and it is just worse than most black and green general or creature tutors. In a more midrange deck, perhaps a Bidding based one, I would be more into this, but in the aggressive slant I think you avoid this slow Sliver.

Hive StirringsThat about does it for the worthwhile Slivers you can play in a build. So other than lands and Slivers, what can we enhance this deck with? There is Hive Stirrings as an appealing two Slivers in one card. Having bodies is great and this is your most efficient option for doing that. While it may seem poor compared to a Raise the Alarm, the nutty level of buffs your deck contains means that Stirrings should far outperform such things on average. The main downside of the Stirrings is that it is just dorks in a card that lacks the creature type. If you are packing other cards that make use of the creature type (which is pretty much all of the good ones!) then Stirrings loses value.

Aether Vial is a tempting card to run. It is pretty terrifying for people going into combat against a Slivers deck when they have an untapped Vial and cards in hand (although the same can be said of Quick Sliver). All blocks have to be made with the consideration of a wide array of Sliver buffs suddenly applying. Vial is more for the trickery and counter-proofing than it is for mana production or tempo. Certainly, the card never provided early tempo but it somewhat overlaps with the mana production Slivers in the midgame when it would have its most pronounced effect on the tempo. The dud draw of Vial in the late-game also hurts this deck more than most. If playing Vial, I would likely do so in place of a land.

Lead the StampedeGreen has some nice card draw tools that work well in a Slivers deck. Both Collected Company and Lead the Stampede are about as powerful as you can have them be in this list. Company is obviously powerful already, but it has the added bonus of huge combat trick potential on top of being card advantage, card quality, and tempo! The unusually high count of 0-3 CMC dorks in this deck makes it better selection than usual as well. Lead the Stampede is not that far off draw 3. It is more like 2.8 cards, but with all of them being action it feels more like draw four. It doesn't have any tempo to offer, but is one of your most efficient and reliable card advantage tools, which is something the deck sorely lacks otherwise. They help immensely in any grindy game.

Patriarch's Bidding is always a good option in the tribal decks. Double black is pretty difficult to do on a five drop, with several of your lands not fixing for it and some not even helping to play it. In a Sedge Sliver build you will have a better shot at running Bidding. It should do fairly well when you cast it, too, what with having so many buff effects including the all-important haste.

Beyond these few non-sliver non-land cards the only things I might consider are some top rate removal spells. Generally I would rather run those on Sliver cards and try and run more things like Collected Company and Aether Vial to offset the slower function of creature based removal. Here is an example list;

25 Spells
Sidewinder Sliver 
Galerider Sliver
Plated Sliver
Sidewinder Sliver
Striking Sliver

Virulent Sliver
Metallic Sliver
Screeching Sliver
Mindlash Sliver

Aether Vial

Muscle Sliver
Predatory Sliver
Sinew Sliver

Gemhide Sliver
Galerider SliverManaweft Sliver
Heart Sliver
Sentinel Sliver

Hibernation Sliver
Acidic Sliver
Crystalline Sliver 
Hunter Sliver

Necrotic Sliver
Syphon Sliver
Spectral Sliver

Lead the Stampede 

Collected Company

Sentinel Sliver15 Lands

City of Brass
Mana Confluence
Tarnished Citadel
Gemstone Mine

Aether Hub
Tendo Ice Bridge
Cavern of Souls
Unclaimed Territory

Sliver Hive
Ancient Ziggurat
Reflecting Pool

Horizon Canopy
Blooming Marsh
Sliver HiveYavimaya Coast
Stomping Ground

Some final notes on the mana base. The Ziggurat is a bit annoying given that the top of your curve is where most of your spells are, and is thus an awful pairing with Collected Company. I think the need and power level of both is such that you still run them, but hopefully one day this can be avoided. I doubt you can run Ziggurat in a list with Bidding in it, simply because five mana is that much of a taller order than four in this kind of deck. There are some more any-colour lands on offer but their cost is way too much to use. I would consider Exotic Orchard before anything crazy like the Forbidden One, Forsaken City, Thran Quarry or Undiscovered Paradise! While Exotic Orchard can be great, it is unreliable, and critically, unpredictable. I would take the tempo hit and run Vivid Grove in preference to any of the other options mentioned. That, or perhaps just any old random decent dual land .

Metallic SliverMutavault is the final land option I have for consideration. A colourless land is a huge hit to take, but having a hard to deal with Sliver you can call on is potent. I would be inclined towards playing it in a spell slot rather than a land one. In the list above, I would more likely take out the Aether Vial and run the manland. 

So that is my cube take on aggressive Slivers. While I don't think there is loads of directional options in the building, nor indeed that many flexible slots, this archetype has extreme amounts of fine tuning potential. Being five colour, it also has access to basically anything it wants so even with few slots you certainly don't have few choices! Even confining yourself to Sliver cards, you have some good options to hedge against most strategies. The deck is very powerful, easily able to overpower other creature builds. The fine tuning allows you to cope better with the less favourable combo and control matchups. In game, you get a surprisingly fresh experience each time you play, as your dorks are never the same. Even turn to turn your cards fluctuate in what they will get done for you and that is a unique and fun thing to have going on. I think the best way to define Slivers is to call them the most tribal of the tribal decks. Perhaps not as potent as elves, or as powerful as goblins, but absolutely more of a tribe. Most other tribes have good stand-alone cards they can make use of. Slivers are all pretty awful stand-alone cards and only look good when working together. If, like me, you love a tribal brew, Slivers will not disappoint. 

Sunday 7 October 2018

Puresteel .dec

Puresteel PaladinRounding out my series of decks using and abusing Paradoxical Outcome we come to the final group of zero mana cards - the equipment. I had thought this would just be a more restricted version of the various artifact iterations, however a friend shed light on how to make such a deck distinctive. This deck isn't a combo deck - it has no combo win despite having several engine style things going on. Mostly this deck uses 0 mana equipment to fuel triggers and card draw, which in turn empower a fairly straight forward beatdown plan that takes advantage of some metalcraft style themes, because it might as well.

I have done Puresteel Paladin equipment builds of white weenie before, but I always tried to keep them fairly redundant with a limit on do-nothing cards. This lead to problems like either having too much equipment and not enough action, or too many cards supporting equipment and not enough returns on them. The balance was just impossible to get right, so I ended up forcing in living weapon cards just to keep the action and equipment counts sufficiently high. This list rather pushes the boat out and accepts that, in order to make Puresteel and company work, you need a much higher critical mass of stuff. This list plays that critical mass of stuff and then finds ways to use it so as to have enough action.

Paradoxical OutcomeI am going to do this a bit more like an archetype breakdown, but without rating the cards, just looking at each one individually so as to best appraise them. I have not yet had enough practice with this deck to know exactly how it should be built, so this is a bit of a learning exercise for me, too! Having had a few goes with and against a few builds, I can say the deck is fun and potent. Scarily potent, in fact. Easily a proper tier one deck. Here are my thoughts on the options, as I understand them: 

The Payoff Cards;

Puresteel Paladin - insanely powerful in all ways. I would be playing more of these that only had one of the abilities (and indeed Sram is testament to that). So powerful that I really wanted ways to find and protect him. One of the main reasons to build a deck like this. Frequently able to arrange the precise equipment setting that assured lethal with the metalcraft ability, whilst also able to fuel the deck with the other. 

Sram, Senior EdificerSram, Senior Edificer - your backup Puresteel. Easier to cast, but all his other perks are useless in this build. I guess he would help with Mox Amber if you wanted to go down that route... Despite being heavily eclipsed by Puresteel, Sram is still very much one of your best cards and a reason to build the deck.

Sai, Master Thopterist - one of the genius directional cards my friend used to tie this list together. It works with your aim as well as with all your synergy cards. A perfect fit for a narrow but highly powered card. You need winning payoff as well as value payoff and Sai is great at the former although is really both! 

Monastery Mentor - the backup Sai. He is a little easier to trigger and has a much faster clock with the prowess stuff, but actually evasion is more what this deck is after. You tend to dump your load very quickly in this list too, meaning you are less likely to have stuff left to pump the following turn. Mentor is also easier to kill than 4 toughness Sai.

Sai, Master ThopteristMyr Smith - the other Monastery Mentor. It is quite a lot weaker than Mentor, simply because of the mana cost on the trigger. More than going off and having a fatal army like the three drops,Myr Smith is more about offering you a good way to spend your mana, a good way to provide Skullclamp fuel, and a good way to keep the body count high enough that your equipment isn't useless as equipment. Useful, on theme and cheap to get online. Myr Smith just fits very well into this build, but it is somewhere between a support card and a payoff.

Paradoxical Outcome - this card is very silly. It is worth putting it in an aggro deck. In an age where Fact or Fiction isn't even playable in a control deck, you have aggressive ones basically splashing for Outcome. It is that good. Huge amounts of raw draw and the ability to reuse all your trigger generators. It is mostly this that lets you get away with running so many terrible stand-alone cards. Sram helps, but Outcome is the card that has made equipment a viable deck.

Kemba, Kha Regent - slow and vulnerable. You need to make it *and* get stuff on it *and then* have it survive *and then* the turn following that you get to reap the benefits of your free 2/2 cats! Four toughness is nice on a three drop, but that doesn't stop the card being vulnerable just because it is so slow to do anything. Certainly playable, a bit of a beating to midrange decks, but for a maindeck I think you can get a much more streamlined build than Kemba speeds.

The Equipment

Cathar's ShieldCathar's Sheild / Accorder's Shield - not great equipment, but these are still quite good considering you are only playing them for their cost and type. When you can equip these for free, they have a huge impact on combat.

Kite Sheild / Spidersilk Net - worse than the above ones, but still probably in most builds. You just want the mass of 0 mana equipment, which means playing these. I don't know what the optimal number of 0 mana equips is, as obviously it changes as your build does, but I don't even know the optiomal build yet. The range is anywhere between four and ‘all of them’, I would say. At four, you get to dodge these two although you may even go for a Net over one of the shields, if you are for some reason concerned about fliers.

Bone Saw - one of the best 0 mana equipment, as it is the only one that directly increases your goldfish clock. It supports the engines and it supports the aggression for an all-round win.

Paradise MantleParadise Mantle - the other premium 0 mana equipment. This gives you mana, which gives you burst, which is what you need for those big swing turns. Great card just as it is, but combined with free equipping and token generators, Paradise Mantle becomes a bit of a Cryptolith Rite. You can even set it up with haste-giving equipment, so as to have things produce mana the turn they come in.

Sigil of Distinction - the weakest of the seven, as when used as a 0 mana equip it cannot even be equipped (without help) even though it does nothing when equipped. You might still want it,because seven isn't an unreasonable number of 0 mana equipment. It offers some offensive utility as a mana dump later in the game, too.

Skullclamp - After Puresteel, and perhaps Outcome, the Skullclamp is your big name. It combines with token generators for a lot of gas, and with equip-cost reduction it goes quite mental. The way in which it provides draw works well with the deck, but is suitably different to the others used that it ensures the deck is flush with cards. That is what the deck needs to do with all the Kite Shields it runs, so don't leave home without Clamp.

SkullclampBonesplitter - Just a cheap and efficient little artifact. It helps with the aggression nicely and still does work with the engine cards. As a balance between those things, it is probably the best on offer. Used with the right dorks it really applies a scary amount of pressure. Equip-costs of one are a bit of a sweet spot if you elect to run Steelshaper.

Golem-Skin Gauntlets - A slightly clunkier Bonesplitter option that doesn't have the sweet equip-cost, nor the stand alone potency, but likely makes up for that big time with the scaling potential it has. This is not far off a Cranial Plating in this list. It feels like it should be better, given that it is far easier to empower plating than it is Gauntlets, but that isn't really my purview.

Flayer Husk - just a way to bolster dork count without hurting the equip count. This is very low powered, but it can be a good help in construction. It is a pretty perfect example of a support card in this list. Cost and theming combine to make up for lack of power.

Golem-Skin GauntletsO-Naginata - one of the more powerful equipment you can find on a budget. I think it is a bit too hard to get this onto things and not powerful enough to be worth playing. Just an interesting option you should be mindful of. It doesn't take too many things that work with it before it is more than viable. It is the kind of hardware I want on a doublestrike dude.

Bloodforge Battle-Axe - this looks like it should be better than it is. Sadly, this list just doesn't get that much back from making token equipment. It is all about casting equipment or bouncing non-token things. The card is a decent stand alone one and does some good work with evasive dorks and equip-cost reducers. Playable, but likely a luxury. It does offer some extra synergy, but it is on the mild side.

Cranial Plating - the better Golem-Skin Gauntlets! So good, it is perhaps worth splashing black mana into the deck. There are a few other things, beyond even Lingering Souls, that might like some black mana in the mix. Plating is pretty much the win condition in this deck, what with it packing the most punch and having the most overlap with the themes in the deck. Drawing all the cards is a great thing to do, but you always need a way to win, for which this is one of your best equipment options. With that being the case, doublestrike and evasive dorks sound good.

Cranial PlatingLightning Greaves - a useful piece of utility equipment. It offers mild speed boosts through giving your dorks haste, but that is likely its least relevant aspect in this list. Where it is better is protecting Puresteel Paladin, and should you have ways to instantly equip, then the rest of your stuff as well! It is also great with tokens and Paradise Mantle plus equip-cost reducers, so as to generate a lot of mana. That may sound like a four card combo (and it is!) but it is much more common than you would expect, due to how much draw the deck can muster.

Mortarpod - as well as being one of the better living weapon cards, being on the cheap side and being nice and interactive, Mortarpod has other specific uses in this list. You can combine it with equip-cost reducers so as to mimic a Goblin Bombardment. Make 7 tokens, throw everything at your face and win! Pod gives you more reach and closing potential than most other equipment on offer. It also has great synergy with Stone Haven Outfitter and can work as a bit of a backup Skullclamp for you there. Great card all round for this deck.

Sword of the MeekUmezawa's Jitte - not much better than it normally is, but still very good! It affords you some good disruption, but despite its power the lack of specific synergy makes me inclined to exclude it. Space is super tight in a deck like this and you probably need all your equipment doing specific things for you.

Sword of the Meek - on initially seeing this list I thought there was ample space to ram in a Thopter Foundry combo. Likely just the Foundry and a Timesieve, so as to have the potential for an infinite combo. Both of those additions would work nicely with the high count of disposable 0 mana artifacts, and the Sword of the Meek would work nicely with the equipment tutors. While this is probably fine I don't think you need it. There are enough good options for your main plan and the deck is good enough at doing them. You might as well just keep it simple when it is working out well.

BatterskullSwords of This and That - none massively appeal. They are all just a bit like bad Jittes. This deck is not about power, it is about synergy. The worst Sword, Light and Shadow, is the one that appeals most for this deck as it can help get back key cards. Cheaper equipment is what this deck is about. If you want to go big you have to tools to go really big and so these mid-level heavy hitters really don't feel like they have much of a place here.

Batterskull - a fine enough top end tool that can help to make Stoneforge premium levels of abusive. It helps with threat light decks and helps with burn matchups. I think I actually rate this somewhere around Kemba levels. A good hedge tool or sideboard option, but something I would prefer not to run main.

Argentum Armour - while this can work with some of the other cards that negate and reduce various costs, you only really want it with Quest for the Holy Relic, but even with all the draw I think the creature count is too low for Quest to shine. Also you might just draw your Armour with all that draw and ruin that plan all together.

Toolcraft ExemplarOne Mana Dorks

Thraben Inspector - it is an auto include in basically every other white deck, so why make an exception, especially when you have extra metalcraft synergies to offer. Too good to pass up on.

Toolcraft Exemplar - the classic companion of the Inspector. When you are looking to apply pressure, having access to some of the most aggressive and powerful one-drops on offer is perfect -that opportunity should not be missed.

Ardent Recruit - speaking of which, I hear Wild Nacatl is a good card! Metalcraft isn't assured for turn two but it is consistent enough that Recruit is great. While a bit better on defense than Exemplar you don't much care about that, with all your Kite Shield crap! First strike is super handy and makes the Exemplar the better of the two. Exemplar hits for 3 more reliably, too, and is better clamp fodder. Recruit's only real advantage is resistance to removal, courtesy of consistently high toughness.

Glint HawkGlint Hawk - likely one of those too-good-not-to-play cards. Hawk is rarely worse than a one mana 2/2 flier, which is already well above the curve. At best, it is either zero mana and a couple of free tokens or comes with a couple of cards instead of the mana reduction. You want one-drop bodies to equip and to gain tempo, you want evasion to empower the equipment. Perfect all-round supporting dork. You can almost consider this as another equipment, which is nice for hitting those critical masses.

Mother of Runes - a little dull and not directly on theme, however still probably too good not to run. She offers a way to force through huge tooled up dorks and indeed protect them while tooling up. She protects your key engine cards, which are all pretty vulnerable creatures. She even holds equipment herself, and takes a Skullclamping as well as the next 1/1.

Artificer's AssistantArtificer's Assistant - this is a fairly cute card that ticks many boxes. You need a great mana base to play this, as you want it played early. This is a one mana body with evasion, good start. It scrys for each legend and for each artifact you make, which adds up to a whole lot of scry very quickly. How much scry do you need before Flying Man is playable? Less than this deck offers you via Assistant, I suspect.

Kor Duelist - while seemingly very on point, I am not that into this guy. There is not that much on offer in the good equipment that provides evasion and so this is not a very effective threat. It can be quite scary early, but it can also be a 1/1. The other synergy one-drops have a better baseline and a much better average, even if they lack the ceiling of the Duelist.

Kitesail Apprentice  comically, I think this lower powered alternative to the Duelist is the superior choice. You have things like Cranial Plating to pack the punch, making doublestrike rather overkill. This gives you what you lack and thus would be the better call. I think that is probably irrelevant, as I think you have enough good one-drops to be able to forgo both of these "if equipped" kor.

Vedalken CertarchVedalken Certarch - this card is filthy-good. The reason he is not a big name is due to having never had decks that fit him well. This is a rare example of a deck that easily finds metalcraft and wants the services of this kind of card. The power level really is up there with Mother of Runes. A Gideon's Lawkeeper with no mana to activate is already well above the curve. Certarch gets to be a Rishadan Port and a Relic Barrier, all at the same time. This is potent disruption, decent defense and a fine way of forcing through damage. It is in your splash colour, and is less on theme than Mother so will be harder to make room for.

Siren Stormtamer / Judges Familiar / Mausoleum Wanderer - I have lumped these together as they are pretty comparable in most regards. They are just disruption and protection in a mild form,on a nice one-mana flying body. I guess you could throw Hope of Ghirapur into this mix, as well, for the progression of ease of casting/using and decreasing disruptive potential! I think I prefer these to the "if equipped" aggressive options, but I am not sure you overly want or need cards from either group. There are just sufficient bomb-like one-drops that the fair stuff seems a bit meh.

Court HomunculusCourt Homunculus - this is only good if you really want to empower your metalcraft themes. Although a fine one-drop in a general sense, the bar for this list is sufficiently high that a one-mana 2/2 just isn't impressive. You can have a flier for that price, or a creature 50% bigger. If you could clamp this, I would be more into it as great support but not being able to sac it off for value late game on-command is a bit of a turn off. That being said, you do want to keep that artifact count high, so it is a good way to remain consistent without going off theme.

Two-drop Dorks

Auriok Steelshaper - pretty miserable when compared to Puresteel Paladin, but none-the-less, this card is pretty impressive in this list. It reduces the cost of the more important equipment to zero, and that in itself is enough to carry this guy. Between Clamp and Paradise Mantle, this dude can make a lot of mana and draw a lot of cards for you! He will even turn a somewhat useless equipment into a mild Anthem effect for some of your dorks. Not something potent enough to build around, but a nice little boost to make you feel better about just having one Puresteel.

Leonin ShikariLeonin Shikari - a nice bit of utility to throw into the mix. Shikari lets you rejig equipment, post-blocking, to force through damage. It works nicely with Lightning Greaves, too, for the ability to fizzle targetted effects. While seemingly a lovely thing to have access to in this deck, I fear it may reside dangerously close to the luxury line. The fact you ideally want a slot for this and Greaves if playing either, means they are rather onerous on deck space.

Kor Skyfisher - just another Glint Hawk. More all-round utility but rather less punch! If, for some reason, you were going down a Quest for the Holy Relic or Oketra's Monument route then Skyfisher is the card for you. In this deck you want it, but with space being so tight it is looking like one of the more cuttable cards.

Auriok EdgewrightStoneforge Mystic  oddly, this is one of the least exciting cards in the list, relative to its normal power level. Here it is just as bit of a two for one, a body and an equip. Some mild selection and perhaps even some trickery. It is much less a win condition or a way to cheat massively on mana. You just play Stoneforge because it does everything your deck wants to do, and does it well.

Looter il-Kor - a cute tool being, essentially unblockable whilst also just being a good card quality and filter card. This deck does rather want some looting options, as it will fill up on far too many lands as soon as it starts to go off. They are a pretty wasted resource, and a Looter would help with that. Sadly, I suspect it is a bit slow and vulnerable to be an auto include. Very much one of my favourite cards, so I am unlikely to be sad about it in any lists.

Selfless SpiritAuriok Edgewright - for much the same reasons the 1/1 for W that can doublestrike is not good enough, this also falls down. Certainly the extra stats make it more robust and more dangerous,but you need less two-drops and have more locked in spaces in the two slot as well. This card feels like filler - good quality filler, but still something a refined list shouldn't have.

Selfless Spirit - hard to argue against this card in any creature-based deck. Especially ones relying on key dorks to power their heavy synergy components. Spirit protects, but it also attacks! It saves all of your stuff at once, not just one at a time, it saves it from stuff Mother can't help with like Wrath of God, and it doesn't have a window of summoning sickness. Not needing to tap to protect means it can attack and still do its job, and the two power and flying make that a worthwhile endeavor. Really powerful card generally, and pretty maxed out on usefulness in this deck. Very hard to leave this out of the 40. If it is this or Mother, I would go for the Spirit. You will goldfish a lot better without cards like this, but in reality you need cards that allow for interaction.

Stone Haven OutfitterSera Disciple - cute synergies, but you don't have enough sustained ability to pump this for it to be worth it. One big hit when things are going well does not offset a one- or two-powered flier that does nothing else to support or help the deck. There are two types of synergy card, those that give and those that take. This purely takes from the synergy and the power it returns is not enough.

Stonehaven Outfitter - more cute stuff, but this can be considered at least good’, as well. I think I would only run this if also running Mortarpod. The pump is nice, but not a reason to play. Card draw is what you want and Outfitter does do that, somewhat.

Spellskite - more protection options and some general disruption. Even able to get in on the aggression, if given the right equipment. Hard to rule this out, being such a powerful card in its own right, and having two further desirable attributes to add to the deck (being an artifact and protecting dorks). Despite that, there seems to be a lot of even better protection options open to this list,so perhaps no Spellskite needed.

Leonin SquireKor Outfitter - this is a support card I might consider using, if I was trying to play with Argentum Armour. Between Outfitter and Stoneforge Mystic, you can somewhat mimic the cost reductions on Quest for the Holy Relic. If you are not using this to cheat a significant amount of mana in a useful way, really don't bother. Probably not worth bothering, even if you are!

Leonin Squire - I don't see this at all. You are not putting your equipment in the bin yourself, and destroying equipment doesn't stop any of the triggers you are playing them for, which means opponents are infrequently looking to counter you by destroying your artifacts. Squire is not only slow and basically just a value card, but it is also largely a Grizzly Bear.

Phantasmal Image - comic as it sounds, playing this in an equipment based deck, I do still quite like it. The creatures you want to copy mostly don't need to be equipped. Sadly, I think too many of them are legends which likely rules this out for being too win more and inconsistent.

Danitha Capashen, ParagonMiscellaneous Dorks;

I don't think we need to look at any of these in detail. It is becoming increasingly clear this deck has a wealth of good cards it can run, as well as very little wiggle room to be that experimental with. With all the synergy and critical mass needs, the deck has over 75% of the slots locked in. These kinds of pricey, cute and luxury cards are just super unlikely to be part of an optimum build, although they might be fun and interesting to mess about with. These cards include:

Phyrexian Metalmorph
Danitha Capashen, Paragon
Ironclad Slayer
Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle
Stoneforge Acolyte
Stonehewer Giant

Ornithopterand of course the mighty Ornithopter. Comically, the Ornithopter has most appeal and might well just be a lock in, too, in which case Memnite and Phyrexian Walker might also be correct! The answer to that kind of question takes more raw playtesting than I am likely to get done with this deck, fun though it is! More 0 mana cards certainly pushes it in the combo direction, and would need more support appropriate to that, like tutors.

Bastion Inventor / Somber Hoverguard - these get their own row as they are bit more interesting. I think you are taking the deck in a more aggressive and less card draw direction with these options, but they both represent incredibly efficient bodies. When you can play a pair of 2 or 3 power beaters on turn one and then follow it with cards of this quality, you really don't need to worry that much about draw! Hexproof in particular has some scary applications with the right equipment. 

Other non-dork cards;

DispatchDispatch - the best removal in the game when you have metalcraft, so likely your first port of call for removal. Beyond this, you would obviously play other premium white spot removal, as required. This kind of deck wants to be as light as possible on purely disruptive cards, so it can use the slots to ram in more on-theme synergy stuff.

Cast Out / Unexpectedly Absent / Council's Judgement - after Dispatch, I think I would want a more rounded removal tool if I felt more spot removal and disruption was needed. These are the three best for that. Being so low to the ground and proactive, I feel like Absent would be my first choice, but really my first choice would be not playing any of these cards if I could get away with it! A blue bounce spell is probably OK as well, but these are all still going to be better on average. I considered Chain of Vapor as an option, because it could let you mass bounce your equipment for lots of extra triggers. Most of the time, however, drawing a pile of cards isn't a help, if you put all your lands in the bin! Even a token making plan is a bit of a high risk all-in if it costs you your lands.

Metallic RebukeRetract - a kinder way to get bonus triggers from your cards than Chain! Sadly, with no other modes of use this card is far too situational and very win-more. This is not a card you want in an aggro deck.

Metallic Rebuke - probably your best counterspell option. You don't have close to the blue depth for any of the big names in countermagic. You want a general purpose counterspell, and a cheap one if you are going to run that kind of disruption, so Rebuke seems like a pretty clear winner. I reckon Mana Tithe would be my second choice...

Mox Opal - obviously mentally good here. Play it if you can. Win quicker, draw more cards, have more stuff! A lock in when you have it, but not the end of the world if you don't.

Mox AmberMox Amber - this seems like one of the best possible decks for the card. It benefits from the artifact synergy and from the mana burst. It is exactly the card you want with Outcome. You already have some fairly cheap legends to turn on the Amberand the cost of running a few more isn't huge. Kytheon and Isamru are worse than things like Examplar, but they are still bodies you can equip and that apply pressure. Despite how close this deck is to being the perfect home for the newest Mox, I still don't think it is there. It just does too little for you too much of the time, and probably is just win-more the rest of it.

Chrome Mox - always tricky to run this in a deck so artifact heavy. You do have the draw to support it, but that is more of a late game thing. I think, in the early game, you will simply have toomany 6 card hands thanks to Chrome. Not only is a lot of the deck not imprintable, but you also just have too many key combo cards you really really don't want to lose. Playable but high risk.

Steelshaper's GiftMox Diamond - likely the second best Mox for this list. You can even go pretty land-light and still run this, which is a rare luxury. The synergieslate game draw and replay potential are all relevant perks for this card. Even the fixing aspect has won games with Cranial Planting trickery. With the deck being so low to the ground, it is no huge disaster making this instead of a land and not having that 3rd land drop arrive in good time. You can get on with good things with just two mana.

Steelshaper's Gift - a nice versatile little filler card. It is draw with Clamp, a finisher with Plating or just a trigger in the bank with a zero mana equip. It thins the deck, lets you use spare mana and is even a rare conventional prowess trigger for Mentor! While is it great support, it is a tempo loss card, not unlike playing Preordain. It isn't bad at all, its just a little out of place. You are trying to beat down and so playing negative tempo one-for-one cards feels a bit wrong. I like it a lot, but I have reservations as well.

Board the WeatherlightOpen the Armory  this, however, I do not have reservations about. At twice the price and no extra utility, this has no place in this list.

Board the Weatherlight - this I like a little more than Open, as it has the option on finding lands or payoff creatures, but it is still on the slow side.

Quest for the Holy Relic - a good card that might seem on theme, but in practice is a somewhat different thing with more linguistic overlap than functional. Sure, there is some synergy overlap,but not really enough. I think there are better places to go on this particular Quest. Your creature density is just a little low and your free space is really low. It is not that this would be bad in the deck as such, just that having it in the deck would make the deck too much worse for it to be worth it.

So, with all that in mind, here is my proposal for a list. As mentioned, I think a good 75% of the spells are lock-in cards and of those 25% or so, most of the cards would have to be swapped for similar cards fulfilling similar roles like one-drop dorks or equipment. There is still some wiggle room to explore many of the discussed cards and options, to morph into different builds which would potentially swap cards beyond the 25% optional cards and into the core ones. Obviously, they are only core for this direction - once you change direction, your core shifts too! Go in a Thopter Foundry direction, you better be sure that at least three new cards become core!

26 Spells
Bone Saw 
Mox Opal
Mox Diamond
Bone Saw
Paradise Mantle

Cathar's Sheild
Accorder's Sheild
Kite Sheild
Spidersilk Net

Thraben Inspector
Toolcraft Exemplar
Ardent Recruit

Vedalken Certarch
Mother of Runes
Court Homunculus
Ardent RecruitSkullclamp


Sram, Senior Edificer
Puresteel Paladin
Stoneforge Mystic
Myr Smith

Selfless Spirit
Cranial Plating

Sai, Master Thopterist
Monastery Mentor

Paradoxical Outcome

14 Lands
Seat of the Synod
Ancient Den
Spire of Industry

Adakar Wastes
Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain

Seachrome Coast
Mana Confluence
2x Plains

Celestial Colonnade
Blinkmoth Nexus