Tezzeret... It's been too long.
Anyone can Jace, but to Tezzeret takes an uncommon level of sophistication...
Aether Revolt features the return of Tezzeret, and two versions at that. Although, to be fair, these are the third and fourth versions, since Tezzeret used to do some seeking, back when he was a “good” guy.
Let's start with the Planeswalker Deck Tezzeret, since it is less likely to be as pushed. Kaladesh began an experiment of having the premier characters of the set (Chandra and Nissa) appear in Planeswalker Decks, but in more modest incarnations. Aether Revolt continues this path, with an alternate Ajani and an alternate Tezzeret.
Tezzeret, Master of Metal is certainly killing it in the names department, but how strong of a card is it?
Tezzeret, Master of Metal is an unusual planeswalker in that his top two abilities pull you in such opposite directions, despite being conceptually linked. Sure, they can both be used in whatever artifact decks we might want to build, assuming we're in for a six-cost planeswalker (which is a big ask). However, there is a surprising tension just below the surface.
+1: Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal an artifact card. Put that card into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.
Without doing much fancy, we can easily get an extra card per turn, and we've got a fair bit of control over that card during deckbuilding. In fact, if we're so inclined, we can build our deck in such a way as to ensure we always get the artifact we want, or one of two artifacts we're interested in.
For instance, if Aetherworks Marvel was the only artifact in our deck, Tezzeret's +1 ability would draw us another Aetherworks Marvel every turn. This would interfere with our ability to play Woodweaver's Puzzleknot or Glassblower's Puzzleknot, but maybe we can construct our deck differently because of the added tutor power of Tezzeret finding Aetherworks Marvel. Maybe we're getting more of our energy from Glimmer of Genius and Live Fast?
Maybe we decide we want to play Woodweaver's Puzzleknot. Still, Tezzeret always drawing one of those two might be interesting. It's even another card type for reducing Emrakul's casting cost. My concern is that we're talking about a six-cost tutor, which is already slower than we'd like, and now we're not even reliably getting the one we want.
To really get our money's worth out of Tezzeret, Master of Metal, we need to value him sitting on the battlefield as a card drawer, not just a one-time tutor. Maybe there's a way to get the best of both worlds?
Torrential Gearhulk is an absolutely incredible artifact that we'd very much love to draw with our six-cost card draw engine. It's also an easy card to use in a deck with no other artifacts, ensuring that every Tezzeret activation produces another Gearhulk. If they can't kill your Tezzeret the turn you cast him, what do you think the chances are they can once you are drawing a Torrential Gearhulk every turn? Even if they can, you're still up a Torrential Gearhulk...
This sort of a path doesn't ask much of us, but it is not without cost. How many sixes can we really play in our deck? It's possible that there is enough payoff that we just play a substantially greater amount of mana. However, without being able to play accelerators, we're really under a lot of pressure to limit the top of our curve.
Of course, neither of the aforementioned paths involves making much use of Tezzeret's -3 ability.
-3: Target opponent loses life equal to the number of artifacts you control.
Whereas Tezzeret's +1 ability pushes us to play with few artifacts in order to increase the quality and control over the ones we draw, his -3 ability scales proportionate to the number of artifacts you control. I guess it is possible that we could stack up lots of artifacts from Clues, Servos, and Thopters, but in general, building towards the -3 means playing as many artifacts as possible. Then we drop him and -3, followed by a +1, followed by another -3. Alternatively, we could +1 first, if we're really sure our opponent won't be able to remove him. Either way, the hope is to kill them with Tezzeret life loss, whether in one hit or two.
Finally, we come to his ultimate, and frankly, it doesn't add all that much.
-8: Gain control of all artifacts and creatures target opponent controls.
Which deck are you playing? The one that draws a Torrential Gearhulk every turn for three turns, and then can steal everything? Or the one that wants to -3 twice? Yeah, it'll definitely come up some; it's just got a lot of power in spots where you're probably already winning. It is nice to be a backup victory condition in control, I guess, and there will be some games where you don't draw enough artifacts to kill people with the -3 ability. Still, it might even be more of a liability than upside, if there ends up being a good way to steal planeswalkers (like Dragonlord Silumgar or Zealous Conscripts).
What could the -3 deck be? Well, I suppose you could try him in some kind of a Metalwork Colossus deck. After all, they do have tons of artifacts, plus Cultivator's Caravan and Hedron Archive can help us actually cast Tezzeret at a reasonable time. Of course, maybe he's not even the right Tezzeret for the job?
We need to get a lot for a six-cost planeswalker, but a four-cost 'walker is a little less demanding. Tezzeret the Schemer even has a defensive ability!
-3: Target creature gets +X/-X until end of turn, where X equals the number of artifacts you control.
The top level use of this ability is as a removal spell. It isn't all that hard to arrange to have enough artifacts on the battlefield to pretty consistently kill the majority of threats. However, it can also be used for some burst damage. For instance, let's say you flash down an Elder Deep-Fiend on your opponent's end step. You might be able to drop Tezzeret the Schemer and hit your opponent for ten instead of five. Metalwork Colossus and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship are both capable of surviving pretty big “modifications” by Tezzeret.
In addition to big hits for a lot of damage out of nowhere, Tezzeret can also give you slightly improved ability to fight planeswalkers. For instance, Smuggler's Copter could actually kill a Liliana, the Last Hope or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in one hit.
+1: Create a colorless artifact token named Etherium Cell with “Tap, Sacrifice this artifact: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.”
Basically, his +1 is to cast a Lotus Petal, which has tons of applications in this context.
- Mana fixer: Produces one of any color, and can produce mana every turn.
- Accelerator: Ramps you to six.
- Mana battery: Also ramps you to eight and actually stores mana every turn, saving up for a big turn.
- More artifacts to count: Such as his -3 ability…
- More artifacts entering the battlefield: For abilities like Contraband Kingpin…
- More artifacts to sacrifice: To cards like Metalwork Colossus or that care, like Marionnette Master.
Finally, we come to his ultimate. An emblem that lets you turn an artifact you control into a 5/5 every turn is not nearly as game-ending as some. However, it does make every artifact into a potentially game-winning threat from here on out. It's also just a two-turn wait before the option to go this way is online. It even triggers at the start of combat, so you get to attack with the 5/5 immediately.
- 1 Foundry Inspector
- 4 Metalwork Colossus
- 1 Pilgrim's Eye
- 1 Scrap Trawler
- 2 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 4 Glint-Nest Crane
- 1 Trophy Mage
I'm not sold on Tezzeret the Schemer in Metalwork Colossus, but I think it is definitely worth trying. I do think Tezzeret the Schemer is a much more likely to succeed option than Tezzeret, Master of Metal. The card draw ability isn't particularly strong here, and the possibility of pumping a fatty gives us most of the upside of the Master of Metal's -3, but with the added utility of more removal.
Another possible avenue to take Tezzeret the Schemer is in some sort of quasi-Affinity deck. In addition to Chief of the Foundry and Foundry Inspector, Gearseeker Serpent could be a potentially interesting inclusion if we had enough cheap artifacts early.
After all, it is bigger than Myr Enforcer, and the floor never going below two isn't that bad in Standard.
Some other interesting cards to consider include:
Between Unlicensed Disintegration; Battle at the Bridge; Skysovereign, Consul Flagship; Harnessed Lightning; Deadlock Trap; and so on, there are lots of options for removal. Underhanded Designs might be cute in small numbers if the ability to produce Etherium Cells every turn gives us a lot more triggers than before.
These aren't new, but it is interesting that you can play one of them in the same turn as Tezzeret the Schemer by sacrificing the Etherium Cell.
Tezzeret the Schemer might help pull together various Voltron artifact synergies.
Tezzeret is another four-drop, but the prospect of playing lots of artifacts with both of these cards sounds interesting. Besides, Key to the City can combine with both, and there are plenty of artifacts to support all the rest, such as Smuggler's Copter and Scrapheap Scrounger. If they print a good artifact creature with deathtouch or lifelink, maybe Quicksmith Rebel enters the picture, particularly if there is some way to reliably untap our artifacts over and over.
I don't think Tezzeret the Schemer is optimized for Modern, at least as far as I can tell, right now. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas seems mostly better. That said, maybe there is some weird Modern deck that uses eight to twelve Tezzerets and just goes upstairs.
Quicksmith Spy, on the other hand, is kind of interesting. It's probably bad, but there are some interesting support cards to synergize with it.
Some of the Fifth Dawn Stations have untap conditions that are very doable in the sort of combo deck we might be able to build. Give one of them Quicksmith Spy's ability and you're really doing it.
Depending on how serious you are, there are a lot of additional options for getting repeatable untaps. If you want more ways to use the untaps, you might consider Retraction Helix or Banishing Knack, possibly alongside some Village Bellringer or Jeskai Ascendancy craziness.
While I don't think they fit in neatly, a couple other oddballs that might be worth keeping in mind include:
That's part of the beauty of Modern, though. There are always many more threads one could explore than time in the day. I don't think Quicksmith Spy is highly abusable, but I am interested.
As for Tezzeret the Schemer, I am mostly looking to put him to work in Standard. I am not head-over-heels for him, but he's got my attention. The good news is, this set is already proving to be an extremely artifact-focused one, so there would seem to be a pretty good chance he gets some support.
Verdict: Cautious, but hopefully a role-player.
Hope you are having a happy holiday season. I super-appreciate you reading every week. See you Monday!