So I'm supposed to write something “fun” for this contest huh? Most of the articles that come up when you say “fun” all seem to be fun because they're funny. I mean when Mark Gottlieb was writing them even the rules updates were hilarious. My problem? I don't think I'm a particularly funny guy. Pretty sad really as I really like writing about Magic and I'd sure enjoy getting to do so regularly.
You know what? I think it's time to cheat on this one! I'll just have to define what writing something “fun” means in a way that suits me. How about instead of writing something that's fun(ny) I'll write about one of the things in Magic that is the most fun for me? Now we're talking!
Aside from actually playing matches what I enjoy most is deckbuilding in particular brainstorming deck ideas. So I was going to write about my favorite deckbuilding approach – focusing on breaking a single card – but once I reached 4000 words it rapidly became clear this wasn't going to fly with a word limit of 3000. Seems like having a lot to say isn't always a good thing... Well maybe I just talk too much – nah that can't be it.
Let's try again. How about two common and easy approaches to find uses for newly discovered cards? What I call newly discovered cards are either simply new cards (duh!) or old cards that the rest of Magicdom has dismissed but that you (or rather I in this case) believe might be a lot better than people think.
One card that falls into this category is Transmute Artifact. Yep sorry no hot new Standard tech here. For those of you who haven't just zapped to a different article while I'll be talking about Transmute Artifact my main goal here is to illustrate the deckbuilding process. So even if you couldn't care less about Legacy you might get some useful information out of this article if you plan on building your own decks in the foreseeable future. Might as well stay and see if you enjoy learning something about an awesome older format on the side amiright?
Before we start why would I want to use Transmute Artifact for this? The card has been around in Legacy ever since its inception after all and its peaceful slumber in the old card binder hasn't ever been interrupted. Why change that now?
Well there are three reasons I think it's worth reconsidering in short: unrestrictions set releases and errata. To elaborate the unrestriction of Metalworker and Grim Monolith might finally allow us to play a deck that can Transmute for expensive things without running bad cards like Su-Chi and Basalt Monolith. The release of Scars makes artifact decks more interesting to run in general (which in turn makes Transmute more likely to find a home) and finally the new errata it received makes the card stronger against blue decks. If you didn't know the latest errata makes the sacrifice part of the effect not the cost and therefore insures you against the two-for-one blowout if it gets countered. Now that this is out of the way let's get cracking.
The first and easiest way to make use of a newly discovered card is to find some already existing deck it will have synergy with and slot it in. So what does Transmute Artifact have synergy with?
Artifacts obviously especially high-casting-cost artifacts that enter play early. I suppose you figured this one out already: Affinity is the obvious candidate here. So what could Transmute Artifact do for Affinity? Well it already has acceptable synergy without any modifications allowing you to upgrade random artifacts into Masters of Etherium Cranial Platings or Ravagers (to finish the combo with Disciple of the Vault).
Personally I think Ravager has become pretty underwhelming ever since Master and Plating have teamed up simply because you're usually giving up as much damage as you gain once you start sacking your artifacts. Losing damage on the stack just compounded the issue. If we replace Ravagers with Thopter Foundries we'll still have access to a solid sacrifice outlet but one that keeps artifacts around (not to mention that all those Thopters are pretty good with Master). Once we figure that we want to run Transmute splicing in the full Foundry-Sword combo becomes relatively easy.
The other way Affinity has synergy with Transmute already is the Myr Enforcers. If you hit an Enforcer early it shouldn't be too hard to pay your friendly next-door alchemist to Transmute it into something huge. The only problem here is that we'd need to run four Myr Enforcers and the guy is actually pretty bad usually not coming down before turn 3 – three-mana 4/4s are over-costed who'd have thunk?
So if we decide not to run Enforcer is there something big to transmute into for four to five mana (Frogmite/mid to late game)? Well considering how much removal the opponent will want to spend on equipped creatures Masters and possibly Disciples most decks should run out of spot removal at some point. Think about Legacy – the format is full of creatures but most decks still don't run more than four Swords to Plowshares or four Bolts. At that point Precursor Golem becomes pretty insane especially if we can get a Master down the turn after and swing for twelve. It's at least worth trying out.
With Transmute a single Ethersworn Canonist is probably good enough™ too. It slows most opponents down to a crawl and also gives us five ways to actually win the otherwise pretty hopeless Storm matchup.
Soooo... something like this?
4 Master of Etherium
The deck should easily power up Mox Opal allowing us to cut a land or two compared to pre-Scars lists and providing fifteen ways to generate blue mana. This should be enough to hit Transmute mana reasonably early so instead of dropping often underwhelming Ravagers and Myr Enforcers we'll hit our real bombs (Master and Plating) more often. There still is a single Arcbound Ravager for those games when we get to keep a bunch of Disciples in play in which case Transmuting for Ravager just kills them.
A word of warning concerning Foundry the combo with Sword of the Meek doesn't work with a Master in play (as the Thopters aren't 1/1s) so don't waste a Transmute trying to get it online. Foundry plus Master is still a lot better than drawing a Ravager in those spots though as we'll keep Master huge while turning our board into a swarm of 2/2 artificial bees. In dire cases or when we know they're just cold to Foundry-Sword we can simply transmute the Master itself into a Sword (and sac any extra Masters to the Foundry though I don't see when we'd ever need help with two or more giant fatties and an army of 3/3 fliers at our disposal).
While I think this is only scratching the surface of possible ways Affinity could and probably should evolve after the release of Scars of Mirrodin that's for another time. Today is about building decks and Transmute Artifact!
Above I mentioned the availability of Metalworker and Grim Monolith as one of the reasons for Transmute Artifact possibly becoming playable. It doesn't fit the shell of any deck using these cards in Legacy though (they don't run blue) which means we can't just splice them in somewhere. Luckily there's a solution for this dilemma that involves the second deckbuilding aid I'd like to discuss –
What you do here is to mine the past to build the future. Look through other formats older versions of formats or past deck archives to find decks that have lost central cards to either bannings or simple rotation (in the case of Standard and Extended) and see if the card you want to use could replace those. This obviously also works the other way around finding an old powerful deck that has become unplayable for some reason and see if you can find new cards to recreate something using the same kind of skeleton. The huge advantage here is that you don't have to develop a solid structure for the deck yourself as long as the deck you're mining was already well built you can simply transfer it over to your current project and it should at least be reasonable.
Considering what Transmute Artifact does there's one event that should really spring to the mind of players that were active when it took place – Pro Tour New Orleans 2003 or as it became “affectionately” known PT Tinker. Seven(!) decks in the Top 8 of that event ran Tinker and the winning deck Rickard Osterberg's Tinker-Stax deck dominated the PTQ seasons till WotC used the big bad ban hammer on a full three cards from the deck – Grim Monolith Ancient Tomb and Tinker. With the former two being legal in Legacy and Transmute Artifact possibly providing a reasonable alternative for Tinker updating that deck might prove quite strong.
To begin with we need Rickard Osterberg's original decklist:
The best way to work on a decklist like this is to break it down into its functional subsets to see what kind of pieces we need where we can upgrade things and what we can simply keep.
Wait did someone just tell me to stop throwing around weird formulations such as “functional subset” without explaining them? Very well what I mean by functional subset is a number of cards in a deck that is meant to perform the same basic function.
In a deck like last Standard's Mythic (another Tinker-style deck if I ever saw one) those might be mana base (lands) mana engine (Birds Hierarchs Cobras and arguably Knight) game breakers (the planeswalkers Baneslayer Finest Hour and the Sovereigns combo) and defense/utility (Mana Leak random creatures like War Monk). If you try to create a modern version of an old deck or port something from one format to another you'll want to use similar numbers in each subset at least assuming the basic structure of the deck was already sound the last time it was around.
Yes I know there are more lands in the deck; this is not a typo. Similar to how I classed all the lands in Mythic as its mana base even though it plays manlands (and beating people down with Colonnade happened a lot AFAIK) cards should always be classed by their primary function. The primary reason to run the two-mana lands is not to provide a stable mana base (their disadvantages also make that a bad idea); they're meant to accelerate. The fact that they also happen to be lands just makes them easier to run and skimp on other lands.
The Legacy cardpool will allow us to improve on Rickard's mana base considerably thanks to duals and fetches. Something we'll have to look out for during modification is that Transmute costs UU a requirement the original deck didn't have. To address this issue we'll want one basic Island to make it harder for them to Wasteland us when we're desperately trying to put double blue together. Getting that Island means any freshly dropped blue source will allow us to run the Transmute Artifact out independent of how many Wastelands they have.
Other than that Mox Diamonds and Mox Opals can easily take the place of the underwhelming Chromatic Spheres. Both provide the same fixing Sphere did but accelerate at the same time. They also stay around making it easier to get to the mentioned UU.
This is the heart of the deck and thankfully legal in Legacy in its entirety making this whole project even reasonable. The Voltaic Keys are the least essential part of the acceleration package as they do nothing without a Monolith or Metalworker out. We can probably replace some of these with more Moxen to help fix the mana issues.
Tinker is going to be replaced with Transmute Artifact obviously. Not having access to actual Tinker means we have to take a little more care with our high-end artifacts. Assuming a two-mana land and two blue mana Transmuting an untapped Grim Monolith will allow us to get something with a maximum converted mana cost of seven. As Monolith is likely to be our limiting Transmute-outlet (Metalworker should do just fine going to as much as nine) seven is the magic number for our targets.
The Welders are a particularly useful element to port over. Even if we don't get to use Transmute Artifact as Tinker having a slightly worse Entomb when there's an active Welder on the table should be plenty enough.
Now this is the section we'll most want to modify. PT New Orleans took place before even Darksteel was released and creatures including artifact creatures have become a lot more powerful since then. Bosh Pentavus and Masticore aren't really that impressive any more though one might make a case for Masticore against Goblins/Elves.
Three newer creatures that could fill Masticore's role are Silent Arbiter Wurmcoil Engine and Steel Hellkite. Arbiter and Hellkite provide options that are closer in functionality (actually removing/nullifying opposing threats) but Wurmcoil has the most raw power. The additional synergy we get from its interaction with Welder is just gravy.
Pentavus is meant to enable repeated Welder usage ranging from full-blown Mindslaver recursion to spitting out a bunch of 1/1s every turn. Triskelavus would be a newer option but I think Myr Battlesphere is the most promising because it also fills the role of Bosh (fast massive damage).
Platinum Angel has competition in Platinum Emperion. Both generally serve to lock out the opponent especially when combined with Lightning Greaves and Angel is both easier to get down and more sure-fire (Brain Freeze Painter/Grindstone and Jace the Mind Sculptor are all used to deck opponents and Infect/Pump/Berserk might become a deck). Sevens being better than eights (see Transmute Artifact) clinches it.
Mindslaver Citanul Flute and Gilded Lotus on the other hand should stay. Slaver is useless against some opponents but backbreaking against others. It also represents the ultimate Welder-endgame. Citanul Flute provides us with a nearly unending stream of Welders which usually wins if Transmuting for a specific target won't. Gilded Lotus is a concession to the mana-hungry nature of the deck. Getting Lotus insures that we get to hard-cast pretty much anything we want whenever we draw it perfect in hands with shaky acceleration.
Finally there is Sundering Titan. While costing eight really weighs against it dropping a Titan is such a blowout against most decks that he's worth it. Also: this plus Welder is just filthy.
Lightning Greaves seems like a weird choice on first sight but hasted Welders or Metalworkers are a beating. Additionally protecting the
Transmuted-for fatties is quite powerful. Thirst for Knowledge gives this deck something most other two-mana-land decks in the format miss card-advantage. It also happens to make Welder even better.
Finally there's Tangle Wire this deck's one piece of disruption. We could consider Trinisphere or Chalice of the Void like Stax and the whole slew of Artifact Stompy decks but I think in this deck Tangle Wire is actually better. We're not trying to gradually lock the opponent out of playing the game by constricting his mana; we only want to buy time until we get to drop something sick. Tangle Wire doesn't need to come down on turn 1 to be fully effective freeing up the mana curve to drop Welders and Metalworkers first and it can actually slow down a creature-based assault after the creatures are in play making it a better topdeck (and far better against turn 1 Aether Vial). Transmuting old Tangle Wires into fresh ones is also quite useful and with Welder online the opponent can be kept tapped low until very late in the game.
With all these considerations made this is the modern version of TinkerStax I'd try out:
Here you have it an article about deckbuilding Legacy and Transmute Artifact. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it. If so vote for me and hopefully I'll see you next round! Until then have fun building decks or trying out the ones I just presented whatever tickles your fancy!