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

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