Artificer Flavoring

Magic Origins has quite a few interesting legendary creatures to build around for Commander, and Bennie puts Ma and Pa Nalaar to work in this off-the-wall combo machine full of interesting and unexpected outcomes!

According to Chandra Nalaar’s origin story, Fire Logic by Doug Beyer, Chandra’s parents Pia and Kiran Nalaar were inventers. So as I pondered how I’d make a Commander deck built around Pia and Kiran Nalaar different than the artifact-heavy Feldon of the Third Path Commander deck I’d made in the fall, I decided to put the notion of invention first and foremost. Contraptions… machines… gizmos… gadgets. I wanted to build a deck that would amuse my opponents as I played strange and funky cards while also providing just a tinge of worry that things could suddenly snap into place and kill everyone.

So what sort of artifact-fueled shenanigans can I fit into this deck?

Parental Guidance

The first order of business was to see what sort of crazy combo I could build with Pia and Kiran Nalaar themselves considering they would be my Commander and be available to me from the Command Zone any time I had the mana to cast them. Since it’s basically three creatures in one card, my thoughts quickly turned to Ashnod’s Altar, which converts each creature into two colorless mana. Pia and Kiran Nalaar cost four mana, and sacrificing all three to the Altar you get six, so you’re getting two extra colorless mana. The question is, how can we keep this going?

Pia and Kiran Nalaar Ashnod's Altar Nim Deathmantle

The answer of course is one of my all-time favorite artifacts for Commander, Nim Deathmantle! Sacrificing one Thopter and Pia and Kiran Nalaar provides you with the four mana you need to pay for Nim Deathmantle’s trigger, which brings Pia and Kiran Nalaar back into play and gives you two more Thopters. This will generate an arbitrarily large number of Thopters which you can either cash in for an arbitrarily large amount of mana with Ashnod’s Altar, or…

There is certainly something fitting about having another artificer stepping in to give haste to all the Thopters Pia and Kiran created with their Nim Deathmantle/Ashnod’s Altar machine so you can swarm your opponents with however many Thopters it takes to kill them all. Of course, sometimes your opponents will play something to spoil that plan:

Caltrops Windborn Muse Crawlspace

So as a backup I first turned to trusty ol’ Goblin Bombardment, but something about that didn’t sit right. I mean, that’s an enchantment, not an artifact! It felt a bit like cheating. Looking for alternatives I found the new card Ghirapur Aether Grid. While this was an enchantment too it certainly felt like a better fit since it’s specifically fueled by artifacts. I also came across Blasting Station, which works great with the engine — sacrifice the extra Thopter to deal a point of damage to a creature or player, then when Pia and Kiran come back into play Blasting Station untaps to do it again.

Welcome To The Machine

Adding Blasting Station to the mix brought to mind the whole sweet Station cycle from Fifth Dawn. Aaron Forsythe wrote about how, if you assemble all four Station cards and have an artifact that costs one mana or less (say, an artifact land), you can start up the machine with an arbitrarily large number of activations.

Grinding Station Blasting Station Salvaging Station Summoning Station

I’ll let Aaron explain how this runs, from Deus Ex Machina:

Still don’t know how the Stations work? Get all four in play along with any artifact land. Tap Summoning Station to make a 2/2. Sacrifice the token to Blasting Station to deal one damage to your opponent. Sac the land to Grinding Station to mill your opponent for 3, and Summoning Station untaps. Tap Salvaging Station to put the land back into play, and Grinding Station untaps. At this point you’re basically back to square one. Wow, that’s still pretty complicated, and I now realize that you can generate infinite mana as well by tapping and reusing the artifact land fuel. Crazy. I can’t wait for these to be on Magic Online.

Thinking about playing this multi-artifact cycle got me thinking about a couple others that, while not a game-winning engine, would still be fun to assemble and reap the benefits. One is relatively new:

Crown of Empires Scepter of Empires Throne of Empires

And another one is from years back:

Helm of Kaldra Shield of Kaldra Sword of Kaldra

The Empire cycle can’t really be made into an engine, but I like how each piece gets so much better if you happen to get all three into play. The Kaldra pieces work fine straight-up by making a giant indestructible 9/9 creature with first strike, trample, and haste that exiles any creature it deals damage to, but you can also make a sort of “death” engine by spending one mana for the Helm of Kaldra activated ability to make a new Kaldra token. You can use this to feed Blasting Station or Salvaging Station activations, or do what you want with Ashnod’s Altar and you know where it goes from there.

Speaking of “death” engines, this cool little card can do some cool stuff with the Thopter shenanigans I wrote about with Pia and Kiran:

Way back in the early 2000s I wrote a column for Magicthegathering.com called Single Card Strategy, and one of my early pieces was based on Dross Scorpion. Check it out if you’re interested (SCS: Dross Scorpion), but as you see firing off an engine where a bunch of artifact creatures die lets the Dross Scorpion triggers untap artifacts a bunch of times. Untapping Great Furnace or a Sol Ring can turn those triggers into a lot of mana; untapping Steel Overseer can make all your artifact creatures quite big. Untapping Goblin Welder can do all sorts of shenanigans… oh wait, he’s not an artifact so… let’s make him one!

Since we’re playing Liquimetal Coating we might as well play this:

Wheeee! Ultimate utility! And if your opponent is doing too many crazy things with Gaea’s Cradle or annoying with Maze of Ith, we can use Liquimetal Coating to make the land an artifact and combine with this:

Aw heck, we might as well go nuts with Liquimetal Coating

I love the thought of coating something with metal to turn it to an artifact and then this crazy Viashino runs in and smashes it in your face!

One last thought…

Liquimetal Coating lets you turn any critical permanent into an artifact (say, Pia and Kiran Nalaar) and then Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer can make it indestructible for you.

Digging For Treasure

Of course all these cycles and combos are sweet, and with enough of them packed into the deck you can figure randomly running across each of them here and there, but how can we make it happen more frequently with mono-red? We don’t have Demonic Tutor and its ilk available, sadly, though we can play things like Fork and Dualcaster Mage in case one of our opponents is kind enough to cast one for us to piggyback off…

Okay, okay, so Kuldotha Forgemaster does provide us with a way to assemble artifact combos. In fact, if we’ve created infinite Thopters with Pia and Kiran along with Deathmantle and we’ve got Dross Scorpion in play to untap off the death triggers we can pretty much put every single artifact from our deck into play! But outside of Forgemaster it seems to me the best way to assemble some of these combos is to dig hard into the deck with some of these spells:

Wheel of Fortune Memory Jar

These cards brought to mind one of my all-time favorite weird artifact that I immediately wanted to add to the deck. Some of you may remember me talking about this before:

Ice, ice baby! The cool thing about Ice Cauldron is that you can use it to exile cards in your hand that you can play at a later time, even if something happens to Ice Cauldron. So it’s the perfect thing to protect cards you don’t want to lose to Wheel of Fortune or Memory Jar and if you’ve got a bunch of untap triggers from something like Dross Scorpion you can tuck away any number of cards safely in exile. Maybe that won’t matter, but sometimes it might and at any rate you get mad style points for doing stuff no one exactly understands with frigging Ice Cauldron! If you’re interested in learning the fine details of Ice Cauldron check out the rulings here (Ice Cauldron in Gatherer), and if you still have questions let me know.

Zuran Orb Great Furnace Salvaging Station

Salvaging Station is a sweet Magic card that pops into lots of my Commander decks even outside of the other Station cycle. Creatures die a lot and often in multiples when a sweeper resolves in Commander, so you can get a bunch of Salvaging Station untap triggers stacked up in a flurry. My go-to card to combine with this is Mishra’s Bauble, which will turn each creature dying into a card draw, but another nice option is Zuran Orb and Great Furnace, which will turn each creature dying into two life. Sometimes that comes in handy!

Okay, I think you get the idea so without further ado, here’s how the deck shook out:

There are quite a few cards I didn’t talk about that can be potential engine cards, some of which I have fiendish plans for and some of which I have no idea what they might do other than the suspicion that they could do something cool. One of the things I love about this deck is that there are so many different moving parts that anything could happen if I’m paying attention and constantly thinking. If you have any questions about specific card choices, or have any other ideas you would toss into the mix, please let me know in the forums!

StarCityGames Open: Richmond

I am so stoked that the StarCityGames Open Series comes to my hometown of Richmond this weekend and that I’ll be able to play both days! Of course my hope is to make a deep run on Standard both Saturday and Sunday, but if I fall short my backup plan is to play Modern on Sunday with a very spicy brew. I’ll also have a couple Commander decks with me and, with any luck, I’ll have some time to play some casual Commander games with some folks too. If you’re at the event please look me up and come by to say hi. I’ll be sure to recount my weekend in my next column too, so I’ll see all of you then!

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Nissa, Vastwood Seer (Seer and Sage)

Liliana, Heretical Healer (When I Get That Feeling, I Need Heretical Healing)

Melek, Izzet Paragon (Double the Weird Fun)

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (An Epic Derevi Commander Deck)

Cromat (The Ultimate Planeswalker Commander Deck)

Dragonlord Dromoka (Dromoka’s Haymakers)

Sidisi, Undead Vizier (Exploiting Sidisi’s Greatness)

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visonary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)