I love cycles. Generally, when they are printed at rare or mythic rare, I will try to do something with all of them, be they Oaths or Vessels or various types of Expertise. Having seen Sram's Expertise get previewed on the same day as I submitted my article on Yahenni's Expertise, I knew I was going down the white road next. Rather than just stop at the Expertise, though, let's also take a look at Sram himself and where we can play him. Here's a hint: he's nicely equipped to shield one of my pet decks from removal.
Sram is an expert at a few things: protecting planeswalkers, adding a bunch of power in a hurry, making sure we can crew some fairly impressive Vehicles (hi, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship!), and recovering from sweepers. As we said when looking at Yahenni's Expertise, we have no shortage of planeswalkers to cast at converted mana cos three or less: Standard alone gives us Nissa, Voice of Zendikar; Liliana, the Last Hope; and Saheeli Rai. I believe the last of these has been gaining some attention lately in combination with Felidar Guardian, which also happens to be white. Huh, it's like they want us to protect Saheeli until we can combo off.
I am okay with this, really.
Go away, Tibalt. Nobody likes you.
Most of the three-mana planeswalkers have trouble protecting themselves in the mid- to late-game, but Sram's Expertise makes that a lot easier to do. Ajani can even make one of them bigger, while Nissa can make them all bigger.
The spell itself is reminiscent of Spectral Procession (though ironically it cannot cast Spectral Procession) in that it takes you from zero to 60 in one easy step. Chief of the Foundry, Master Trinketeer, and Tempered Steel all turn this into nine power for four mana. Master of Etherium ups the ante to ten power, assuming the Servos are the only artifacts you control. Servo Exhibition and Weaponcraft Enthusiast both go even wider and add two more artifacts to the battlefield. Master Trinketeer and Chief of the Foundry were already near the top of my “want to try” list, and now I have even more incentive:
- 3 Chief of the Foundry
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 2 Angel of Invention
- 2 Bygone Bishop
- 2 Marionette Master
- 3 Master Trinketeer
- 4 Syndicate Trafficker
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 3 Weaponcraft Enthusiast
It's a little thrown-together, but the core feels exceptionally powerful and attacks from a few different angles. I wanted to get Defiant Salvager into the main deck somehow but I honestly didn't see a card I wanted to cut. I would also really like to squeeze a Drana, Liberator of Malakir in here...just for a change.
That the tokens we make are artifacts cannot be overlooked. We know we can buff them. Improvise is a powerful ability in theory, as any cost-reduction ability has the potential to be. Making three or even five artifacts at once opens the door to some very powerful turns. Foundry Assembler is not exactly the best card ever printed, but Sram's Expertise into Servo Exhibition does let us cast it on the same turn. Barricade Breaker is a slightly better card that requires little more in terms of investment.
The best options are a little further up the curve, I think. Herald of Anguish is a very powerful card even without the cost reduction, and Sram's Expertise gives us the three “mana” we need to be able to cast the Demon next turn (assuming we have the color requirements). Paying one mana for a Sweatworks Brawler is okay, but what about paying 1RR for a huge Dragon? I like huge Dragons.
Free spells almost always provide some obscene value scenarios, and Sram's Expertise is clearly no different. We mentioned Ancestral Vision last week, and although three 1/1s are decidedly less impressive than killing a bunch of creatures, that's still not a terrible thing to put in front of “Draw three cards.” What is though, really? We might not get to cast Reflector Mage in Standard any more, but we still can in Modern! We also have Geist of Saint Traft. That's the start of a solid U/W shell right there, if such a thing actually exists in Modern.
Know what does exist in Modern? Beck//Call. Sure, we don't get to draw three from the Servos. We do however get to draw from the Bird tokens, and from anything we can convoke or otherwise cast after that. Seven creatures and four cards for four mana, though, really doesn't need any additional bumps to be good. I am definitely going this route early in the new season.
But What About Sram?
The guy is an expert, that much is clear. And we know that his Expertise can bring him to the battlefield. Is that something we want to do, though? Better yet, do we want to be casting him at all?
You bet we do.
The obvious place for Sram is in a R/W Vehicles shell. Not only does he refill our hand as we cast our vehicle, he's also a Dwarf to get pumped up by Depala, Pilot Exemplar. The deck might be losing Smuggler's Copter (good riddance), but I'm a huge fan of Aethersphere Harvester as a potentially passable replacement even if it costs three. Heart of Kiran does cost two, but is harder to crew. The potential for Gideon to crew it and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship at the same time evokes a certain image...
But really, who wants to play the obvious deck? Well, people who want to win the Columbus Open in boring ways, that's who. I'd rather do something more fun, like finally trying to make the W/R Equipment deck work in Standard. Although we are short on powerful equipment, we have plenty of enablers: Weapons Trainer, Stone Haven Outfitter, Militant Inquisitor, and Kazuul's Toll Collector join Sram himself in wielding Captain's Claws, Stitcher's Graft, Slayer's Plate, and True-Faith Censer. From the new set we gain three creatures with double strike: Lightning Runner, Solemn Recruit, and Scrapper Champion. There's definitely a framework there, even without a game-breaking equipment to play with.
Enough stalling. The best use for our new Dwarven friend is clear. If casting Equipment in Standard is good, it must be much better in Modern, right? Especially if that Equipment costs nothing…
This deck was fringe-playable before, but the addition of another creature that draws you cards for each Equipment may be what it needed to be worthy of consideration. Paradoxical Outcome might be worth thinking about, but it does cost four against the one mana of Retract. Muddle the Mixture remains very important to the deck, as it can tutor up all our win conditions and our draw engines. Sigarda's Aid is another recent addition that can help us go off in response to removal, although it is pretty terrible on its own. Whatever else this deck is, it's an absolute blast to play.
That's all we have for this week, folks. As always, thanks for stopping by. Aether Revolt is full of powerful and interesting cards, and the LAB was given a boost of brew funding when the Standard bannings (that still looks wrong to type) came down earlier this week. Until next time...Brew On!