Blog Elemental – Cog-Tacularity

I probably should have done this long ago, but here is a list of all Standard-legal”cogs” (artifacts of zero or one casting cost) and some commentary from me on whether I think they have a shot at making the deck. The Forums are taking on a great community feel, and I know a lot of people are taking their own cog decks in many different directions. For that reason, I’ll make this list comprehensive by including cogs that I’m already using and have already abandoned. Consider it your own handy-dandy cog deckbuilding reference.

Blog Elemental – Cog-Tacularity

July 30, 2004

I probably should have done this long ago, but here is a list of all Standard-legal”cogs” (artifacts of zero or one casting cost) and some commentary from me on whether I think they have a shot at making the deck. The Forums are taking on a great community feel, and I know a lot of people are taking their own cog decks in many different directions. For that reason, I’ll make this list comprehensive by including cogs that I’m already using and have already abandoned. Consider it your own handy-dandy cog deckbuilding reference.

Aether Spellbomb

There are currently four in the deck, and it’s the most-used cog. ‘Nuff said.

Aether Vial

This has been a common suggestion from readers. Since the deck is so mana-hungry, people argue, this allows me to play creatures for free while saving mana to cast, use, and recycle cogs. It’s a good theory. What makes me hesitant is how varied my creatures are with regards to casting cost.

Ancient Den

There are currently four in the deck. My version is base White in its mana so these are critical. Artifact lands are nice with Leonin Elder, Trinket Mage, Auriok Salvagers (in the case of land destruction), and Qumulox, to name a few.

Arcbound Worker

If you have no other artifact creatures, these are just lame Eager Cadets. However, if you start to have a focus on artifact creatures, say with Rust Elemental, Myr Servitors, etc. then these and Arcbound Crusher become a lot more attractive.

Avarice Totem

This is an attractive solution to cards untouchable by Engineered Explosives or Pyrite Spellbomb because of cost or toughness. If your deck has more bounce than mine, then you can sometimes get your own Totem back before an opponent has the chance to use it. Tel-Jilad Stylus is fun too, and the two are often suggested together. I still may try Avarice Totem in my deck, but the activation cost scares me.


Tried it, but Pyrite Spellbomb is a more reliable way to get in two damage and I don’t have any creatures that are particularly good with equipment. It’s not a weenie beatdown deck anymore.

Chalice of the Void

In any setting with a metagame, Chalice of the Void would probably make its way into the deck, at least as a sideboard card. The Casual Constructed room of MTGO is too random, though, for it to be of optimal use. I’m personally not smart enough a player to set the Chalice to the correct number in order to cripple my opponent. Also, as I said, the keys to my deck are of such varied casting cost that a danger exists of crippling myself too.

Chimeric Coils

A lot of people have recommended I try Chimeric Coils so I may give it a shot at some point. The logic is that here is a good recyclable cog creature; It dissuades an opponent from attacking early on and it becomes a real threat later in the game. The problem I see is in how much mana it requires when I am usually don’t have enough mana to do the tricks I want even in the late-game of most games.

Chromatic Sphere

There are currently four in the deck. Zanac might not like them, but with Engineered Explosives and Pyrite Spellbomb making the deck more than two colors, I’ve found these to be invaluable. The color-fixing is great and the extra card is too.

Chrome Mox

It’s not a cog you would want to recycle repeatedly, that’s for sure. It’s also expensive as all get-out to obtain on MTGO. With Artificer’s Intuition you have a slightly better argument here, but no thanks.

Clockwork Beetle

This is another candidate for a recyclable creature. What’s nice about Clockwork Beetle is that it doesn’t require any additional mana once it’s on the table, and yet it can kill opposing blockers and attackers.

Conjurer’s Bauble

There is currently one in the deck. Conjurer’s Bauble is the cheapest way to draw lots of cards via Auriok Salvagers and it’s the only hope of getting creatures from your graveyard back into your deck. When I first looked at Fifth Dawn during the names and flavor text process, I was sure I would like Wayfarer’s Bauble a lot more than this. At least in my deck, I was wrong.

Crystal Rod

Four Trinket Mages and Vedalken Engineers do not justify the inclusion of expensive lifegain, even if you’re bouncing them back to your hand. See comments on Ivory Cup below if you really need further convincing.

Darksteel Citadel

Artifact land is good, but not this good. The deck currently relies on way too varied mana to have a land that can only tap for colorless mana.

Dead-Iron Sledge

It’s nice that it kills stuff, but my deck currently doesn’t have that many expendable creatures. If you go the Arcbound Worker route, this looks a lot more attractive. I would argue that for a cog deck, though, even an activation cost of two is too high.

Engineered Explosives

There is currently one in the deck and you could argue that another is needed. This is the deck’s only and best way to deal with opposing artifacts, enchantments, and creature swarms. Sure it can only get up to five counters, and even then with difficulty, but this card has saved my butt time and time again.

Golem-Skin Gauntlets

I suppose this could get scary if the deck had kept its weenie-equipment theme. We’re a long way from that alternate future, though, so don’t hold your breath.

Great Furnace

There are currently two in the deck. Usually I can draw either Great Furnace or Pyrite Spellbomb on my own, which means a Trinket Mage needs to get the other. Chromatic Spheres offer a nice quick fix for Pyrite Spellbomb, but to really get it recycling I need a permanent red source of mana. See Ancient Den about the benefits of artifact land, too.

Iron Star

Let’s see… Number of Red cards currently in the deck? Zero. Let’s move on.

Ivory Cup

Ah, now there are actually some White cards in the deck. If you think hard, though, you realize that this is nothing more than an expensive Leonin Elder that can’t attack or block. If you need more lifegain than Leonin Elder, use Sunbeam Spellbomb instead.

Lantern of Insight

Lantern of Insight is going to be tested, I’m pretty sure. Some people have reported great success in getting a very soft lock on an opponent via the Lantern, recursing it several times each turn to control an opponent’s next card. I think this is probably best used in conjunction with Necrogen Spellbomb so you can secure the lock better, but it’s a neat idea nonetheless.

Leonin Bola

There is currently one in the deck. Leonin Bola is the Cinderella of my cog deck so far. I never expected it to make it this far into the deckbuilding process, yet just when I consider dropping it I’m reminded how useful it can be against big, scary attackers. Since it’s cheaper to reuse than Aether Spellbomb, the Bola acts as a second line of defense in case an opponent has multiple scary critters.

Leonin Scimitar

Though I didn’t explicitly try it, see the comments for Bonesplitter. This makes my 1/1s and 2/2s hardier, but so far I’ve been fine without the boost.

Liar’s Pendulum

Long ago, I visited Renton and Mark Rosewater let me playtest Mirrodin when it was very early in its design. I had this card in my draft deck, though it was a little different back then. Anyway, you have to go through a lot of gymnastics to have this reliably draw you a card. A cog deck doesn’t need these kinds of gymnastics when it can simply recycle Conjurer’s Bauble, Scrabbling Claws, or Spellbombs.

Lifespark Spellbomb

This is the only Spellbomb that doesn’t seem worth including. The effect doesn’t change the board enough to be useful, and my land is too valuable in this deck to send on attacking or blocking duty. Since the deck isn’t really tempted to dip into Green for other cards, this is best left alone.

Myr Mindservant

Myr Mindservant is a funny card when you’ve built a deck around Psychogenic Probe. I just don’t see how it can be useful here except in combination with either Lantern of Insight or Future Sight. The deck has enough shuffling built into it, though, without needing to use a spot for this.

Myr Moonvessel

Tried it, quickly dropped it. See my first revisions of the deck to understand why I don’t think this card has a place in my cog deck.

Myr Servitor

I think Myr Servitor might be the best cog I’m a) not using, and b) not tempted to use. I think this card makes Artificer’s Intuition, Salvaging Station, Skullclamp, and a whole host of other cards a lot more attractive. I can see why other people have used it in their cog deck. I don’t want to dedicate four slots to it, though, nor do the tricks it allows entice me all that much. Like the Intuition, consider this a personal preference call.

Necrogen Spellbomb

If you have the mana, you can recycle this to deny your opponent their draw each turn. That’s a pretty cool trick, and it gets better if you go more heavily into Black for Disciple of the Vault. I’m tempted, but I’m not that tempted, since I think the Disciple sees enough play in the Casual room and it would be a serious departure from where I’ve taken the deck so far.

Neurok Hoversail

If I am going to include equipment whose equip cost is more than one in my cog deck, it better do something really cool. Viridian Longbow is really cool, especially if you’re using Battered Golem as some people have suggested. Flying for my creatures is nice, but it’s not in any way”really cool.”


With Auriok Salvagers, Ornithopter becomes a nigh-undefeatable blocker. Unfortunately, I just didn’t find this little trick all that useful or compelling in practice. Since my only equipment currently is Leonin Bola, I just don’t see this being worth a card slot.

Paradise Mantle

The benefits of Paradise Mantle in my deck are that 1) I need a lot of mana-fixing and mana, and 2) this is a cheap cog to both cast and use. That said, the huge drawback to Paradise Mantle is that it requires me having a creature that is neither attacking, blocking, or otherwise tapping. The only creature that serves this purpose is Leonin Elder, and that’s too narrow to argue for its inclusion.

Pyrite Spellbomb

There is currently one in the deck. I could argue for more, though, if the mana could accommodate it. This card almost singlehandedly turns a cog deck from”cute” to”scary.”

Razorgrass Screen

Call me crazy, but I think this is the best blocking cog apart from Clockwork Beetle. It’s better than Ornithopter and Steel Wall because it kills things, and since most cogs will live to rise again its durability isn’t important. Still, I’m not in such desperate need of early defense that I need to resort to Razorgrass Screen, especially when Clockwork Beetle is almost strictly better.

Scrabbling Claws

There is currently one in the deck. Against graveyard-based decks, this is the single best cog you can get. Against other decks, it at least allows you to draw a card.

Seat of the Synod

There are currently four in the deck. With four Aether Spellbombs playing such a critical role in the deck, Blue mana is important and artifact lands in general are great to have (see Ancient Den).


I’m not using it because it’s banned in Standard. If you aren’t limited to such pedestrian thinking, then you definitely want this in your deck and you probably want to focus on 1/1 cogs like Myr Servitor.

Slagwurm Armor

It solves some of the defense problem, especially if hooked up to an Ornithopter, but again it requires a creature, again its equip cost is relatively huge, and again it doesn’t punish an opponent at all for attacking. A wall-oriented version of a cog deck might want this, but my deck is fairly far from this idea.


You may be surprised by how tempted I am by Spellbook. I can easily imagine a deck using Thirst for Knowledge and lots of card-drawing cogs to go along with a lone fetchable Spellbook. I don’t think the need comes up often enough in my deck, though, but it’s an idea.

Steel Wall

The good news is that it’s early defense. The bad news is that it doesn’t punish your opponent for attacking and is more expensive to recycle than Ornithopter. If you need a blocker, it should be Ornithopter, Clockwork Beetle, or Razorgrass Screen, not Steel Wall.

Sunbeam Spellbomb

There is currently one in the deck. Against most sorts of mono-Red strategies, this is likely your most critical cog since a recycling Sunbeam Spellbomb quickly puts your life out of any sort of realistic burn range. This strategy works pretty well against a lot of beatdown decks, actually, giving you time to do Aether and Pyrite tricks for the win.

Synod Sanctum

I made a deck around this card, so I certainly appreciate it. I don’t see that hiding your creatures from harm, especially given the mana requirements, is as useful as other potential cogs, however. I would rather use Conjurer’s Bauble to get things back into my library than set aside the mana required to make this effective. Besides, Tel-Jilad Stylus works just as well for the same effect.


On the upside, it’s more reliable than something like Ivory Cup. However, Ivory Cup is so much worse than Leonin Elder or a recycling Sunbeam Spellbomb that it’s barely worth discussing. Tanglebloom is closer to Ivory Cup than Leonin Elder, so it’s unlikely to see its way into the deck.

Tel-Jilad Stylus

This is the cog deck’s way of getting the Synod Sanctum effect, in my opinion. You can save your own creatures, land, etc. from certain death, and it’s also a fun trick to pull with Avarice Totem.

Throne of Bone

See Iron Star, then go see Ivory Cup, and if you are still considering it see Crystal Rod.

Tree of Tales

This is the only artifact land I have a hard time picturing in the deck, largely because I don’t see a Green card I want to splash in the deck (setting aside of the idea of something like Naturalize in the sideboard). If a Green card rears its head, then this becomes a nice way to support it.

Vault of Whispers

There is a good argument to be made for using Vault of Whispers, Disciple of the Vault, and Necrogen Spellbomb. In my deck, that idea either puts a huge strain on the mana base or turns it into a different deck, however.

Viridian Longbow

I tried it, and eventually decided that Pyrite Spellbomb was better. The equip cost really got in the way of me falling in love with the Longbow. However, in the Forums the idea of including Battered Golem into the deck came up, which is a very fun suggestion. If you use Battered Golem, definitely include a Viridian Longbow to equip it.

Wayfarer’s Bauble

I tried it, and strangely decided it didn’t fit my deck. For me, Chromatic Sphere is a better mana-fixer and the times when I could theoretically be recycling this to thin the land from my deck are usually better used recycling a different cog for a different purpose.

Welding Jar

It seems so obvious, but when you look closely you realize that I’m not actually playing any good targets for this except artifact land and Salvaging Station. It’s a little too narrow to protect some of my land and two artifacts. I would rather just use Leonin Abunas if I’m really that scared.

Wooden Sphere

See Iron Star, then Ivory Cup, then Crystal Rod, then Throne of Bone, then abandon this idea completely.

Since I’m not logging games today, expect a longer-than-usual log on Monday. Also expect me to revisit the cogs of the deck given this little exploration. Some changes are in order, something recently suggested by a member of R&D as well as the Forums…

Blog Elemental – Mana Theory

July 29, 2004

I can talk about mana for a long time, longer than anyone except Zvi Mowshowitz, probably. Luckily for me, I wrote down my general philosophy on land- and mana-balancing quite awhile ago. [Which is so good that it’s in the Magic University… except that I put those on hiatus for a bit because um, yeah. – Knut, moving on]

The article isn’t perfect – I wrote a revision about a year later for Sideboard that never got published – but it’s generally correct in describing my approach to land and mana. Anyway, you should read the article if you want to have any hope of following me today.

There are a lot of things that make the Nuts and Bolts deck complicated with regards to mana and land. Here are some of those things:

  • The high number of artifacts in the deck, especially those with colored mana requirements like the Spellbombs and Engineered Explosives

  • The cogs that can be sacrificed to draw cards, since cheap cantrips can dig to find land

  • Auriok Salvagers, whose activation cost I want to use multiple times in a turn

  • Vedalken Engineers, a mana creature outside of the deck’s main color who gives a boost only to artifacts

  • Salvaging Station, which is an outlier in the deck’s mana curve;

I think the twenty-two land number is roughly correct. The Engineers are so specialized that they almost don’t count as mana creatures, but they do count a little. The cogs help sift through land-screw, as I said, and yet the deck becomes very mana-hungry once it gets going. For now, let’s assume twenty-two land for the foreseeable future unless I start messing with the deck’s mana curve.

The way I’ve decided to resolve the color complications in the deck is to separate what the deck needs in the early game (which I’ll define as”before I’m able to get cogs reliably recycling”) and what the deck needs in the late game (“once the deck has cogs reliably recycling”).

In the early-game, the only cards the deck cares about are:

4 Leonin Elder

4 Leonin Squire

4 Vedalken Engineers

4 Trinket Mage

4 Auriok Salvagers (without activation)

If the deck can cast these cards, then it can get going and solve whatever problems it’s facing. Using the formula from my article, that gives me:

12 White spells (4 Elder, Squire, Salvagers)

8 Blue spells (4 Engineers, Mage)

Given this balance, I would normally set up the twenty-two land along these lines:

7 Plains

3 Island

4 Ancient Den

4 Seat of the Synod

4 Blue/White land (probably Flooded Strand or Coastal Tower)

Then we have the late-game, in which the deck cares about these cards:

4 Leonin Elder

4 Leonin Squire

4 Vedalken Engineers

4 Trinket Mage

4 Auriok Salvagers (with activation)

2 Qumulox

4 Aether Spellbomb

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Sunbeam Spellbomb

1 Engineered Explosives

Which gives me:

16 White sources (4x Elder, Squire; 6x Salvagers; 1x Sunbeam, Explosives)

16 Blue sources (4x Engineers, Mage, Aether; 3x Qumulox; 1x Explosives)

2 Red sources (1x Pyrite, Explosives)

If these numbers confuse you, they’re from my earlier mana article. For example, Qumulox costs UU so it counts as 1.5 the actual number in the deck.

This balance, in turn, would suggest the following land base (again assuming twenty-two land):

4 Island

4 Plains

4 Ancient Den

4 Seat of the Synod

2 Great Furnace

4 multi-land (right now Grand Coliseum)

How do I resolve these two very different pictures of what the deck needs mana-wise? Well, clearly if I’m going to weight these two requirements, I weight the early-game more than the late-game. After all, if I don’t figure out the mana in the early game then it’s unlikely that I survive into the late-game. The addition of Chromatic Sphere helps a lot, too, since it provides early Blue mana when I might not otherwise have it.

Still, it’s helpful to remember that the deck needs more Blue mana in the late-game than I’m giving it. This is also something I’ve been feeling intuitively. As a result…

OUT: 1 Plains

IN: 1 Glimmervoid

Yes, this is a minor change. It puts the mana just about right where I want it (“just about” because I think there’s room for another multiland over time, probably replacing another Plains), though, which means that over time I should be a lot more satisfied in games. The Glimmervoid could just as easily be another Coliseum or City of Brass, but this gives me a chance to try out Glimmervoid without spending too much on it.

So here is the deck right now:

Nuts And Bolts V.2.4

Critters (22):

4 Leonin Elder

4 Leonin Squire

4 Vedalken Engineers

4 Trinket Mage

4 Auriok Salvagers

2 Qumulox

Non-Critters (16):

4 Aether Spellbomb

4 Chromatic Sphere

2 Salvaging Station

1 Conjurer’s Bauble

1 Leonin Bola

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Scrabbling Claws

1 Sunbeam Spellbomb

1 Engineered Explosives

Land (22):

6 Plains

3 Island

4 Ancient Den

4 Seat of the Synod

2 Grand Coliseum

2 Great Furnace

1 Glimmervoid

Mirrodin’s Core is a terrific multi-land for many decks, and one that I may be overlooking. The reason I haven’t included it in my deck yet is that I have watched the Core be played enough to know that it’s best when you have a land to spare on many of your turns. This deck, at least in my experience, is using most of its land most of the time. As a result, I don’t consider Mirrodin’s Core to be a good solution for the deck’s color requirements. That said, if you don’t have access to rare lands like Grand Coliseum, City of Brass, or Glimmervoid then I think two or three Mirrodin’s Core is a good call.

Mana Theory over. Let’s log some more games…

Game 57: Sunburst

The guy knows me, and says that I’ve inspired him to do a similar experiment with the Sunburst preconstructed deck. In the early game, it looks like his experiment is going much better than mine. He gets some quick Wayfarer’s Baubles to give him access to four colors of mana, then proceeds to drop Infused Arrows (three counters), Etched Oracle (three), Infused Arrows (four), Infused Arrows (four). Crap. I am in trouble. His 3/3 is killing me while his arrows are killing my creatures, including two Leonin Elders and a Trinket Mage.

My only hope is to get him to commit early with his Arrows in order to get Auriok Salvagers or Qumulox into play, so I cast a variety of Vedalken Engineers and 2/2s and sure enough he kills them. When he drops Mindslaver it looks bad, but I’m able to sacrifice all of my cogs so he can’t really do anything but tap me out. Still, my life is getting into the single digits. I drop Salvaging Station, then Qumulox and start to stabilize when he drops Bringer of White Dawn (Mindslaver in the graveyard, recall). I’m able to keep the Bringer in his hand via Aether Spellbomb, then a recycled Engineered Explosives, Conjurer’s Bauble and Scrabbling Claws get me back into the game and I eventually win at twenty-two life.

A cool moment is when he says something along the lines of”Are you finding Salvaging Station any good?” and then it untaps three times in a turn to do crazy bouncing and card-drawing madness. His response:”Oh. I see.”

Also, let’s circle back to include Bringer of the White Dawn on the list of potential finishers for my deck, shall we?

Game 58: White/Blue Control

Some people, I know, are annoyed by people like my next opponent. All of his lands are foil, even the Temples of the False God. He uses Eternal Dragon, Wrath of God, Akroma’s Vengeance, Pristine Angel, among others. He has paid a pretty penny for his deck. That actually doesn’t annoy me at all, since I think it shows some pride of ownership. What does bug me is bringing a deck like this to the Casual room – not the price, but the obviously-powerful card choices. Still, he seems like a nice fellow despite his evil deck. I have early Leonin Elder and Leonin Squire fun, recycling first one, then two Aether Spellbombs. When he Wraths I get back my two creatures and start over. It’s the Vengeance that hurts a lot, since it also kills a good portion of my land along with my new Salvaging Station. After that he has enough mana to recycle first one, then two, then three Dragons and I die a pitiful death with only Vedalken Engineer and some land on the table.

Game 59: Mono-Black Zombies

It’s a pretty typical Zombie deck, complete with Gravedigger, Carrion Feeder and Rotlung Reanimator. What makes it slightly trickier is the inclusion of Lightning Greaves and Spawning Pit, both of which cause me a few headaches. In fact, my early Leonin Elder, Vedalken Engineers, and Trinket Mage can barely hold off the onslaught and I start getting dangerously low on life. Auriok Salvagers makes a nice blocker and Engineered Explosives comes down first for two, then zero, then one, then two, then zero. I am at three life, but he has no cards in hand and no non-land permanents on the table while I have an Elder, Salvagers, and Salvaging Station. My life starts climbing as I take control and when I play Qumulox he concedes.

Game 60: Sunburst

This guy also has what looks to be a modified Sunburst deck, though this time it has Plated Slagwurm, Juggernauts, and Vine Trellis. This time, too, my opponent only sees one each of Etched Oracle and Infused Arrows, which is relatively easy to handle given my fast start with Leonin Elder and two Leonin Squire to go along with Chromatic Sphere, Aether Spellbomb and Pyrite Spellbomb. When Auriok Salvagers drops into play I’m feeling like the game is well in hand, but then he plays his Slagwurm and I have to pause. Now I need to block with Squire and bounce it each turn, which is pricey enough to slow everything else down. Luckily a Qumulox is happy to play clean-up for only two mana and he sails to victory.

Game 61: Red/Blue Counter-Burn

For the second time in over sixty games, I don’t draw cogs for a long, long time. I am slightly color-screwed, too, stuck on White mana. While I am busy getting a slow start, my opponent is dropping foil land every turn, mostly Mountains but also some Islands. He Magma Jets me, then plays Beacon of Destruction. I finally draw an Island and can Tinker Mage out a Sunbeam Spellbomb. He plays Rorix Bladewing and I play Auriok Salvagers, so now it’s whether I can outrace his dragon and burn with my Spellbomb. I can’t, and after some bouncing of my life total over three turns, he’s able to burn me out. I had Qumulox as a blocker in hand, but no second source of Blue mana to cast him.

Game 62: Blue/Black Skeleton Shard

For the first time in what seems like a long time, I get a first turn Leonin Elder. Then I get a second turn Elder to go along with Trinket Mage for Engineered Explosives. Ahhhh… It feels good. My opponent is playing artifact lands and two Genesis Chambers, but he can’t make any creature tokens with them. I can, though, and then my Explosives for two kill his Chambers. My little army of dudes get protected by an Aether Spellbomb. He gets Skeleton Shard, then Bottle Gnomes, but it’s not enough to stem the onslaught and he dies with me at forty-nine life.

That’s enough torture of the editor for one day. I sure send a lot of work Ted’s way, don’t I?

Blog Elemental – When Will It End?

July 28, 2004

Today I have an announcement:

I had originally intended to run this experiment through the end of August. I’m feeling like that might be overkill, though. Instead of a date, I’m going to say that after my one hundredth game, I will officially call the decklist finished and move on to the next experiment. That means I’m just over half done, so you still have a lot of playing/tweaking to witness.

I now return you to your regularly-scheduled deck testing…

Game 52: Red/Green… Something

His deck seems to be at a bit at cross-purposes. He casts three early Spark Elementals to go along with Viashino Sandstalker, but he also is casting Journey of Discovery and Sylvan Scrying to horde land. Maybe it was a Confusion in the Ranks deck, now that I think about it. Anyway, my Leonin Elder and two Leonin Squires recurse Chromatic Sphere and Aether Spellbomb and I win easily.

Game 52: Mono-Green Beasts

I can’t believe I can’t remember this guy’s name, but he challenged me with a deck he just threw together because he wants to see my deck in action. What he threw together isn’t bad, with a full four Ravenous Baloths to complement Rampant Growth, Infested Roothold, Barkhide Mauler, and Sprouting Vines. A long, drawn-out affair ensues in which I’m tapping things with Leonin Bola, killing things with Engineered Explosives, bouncing things with Aether Spellbomb and ultimately killing him with Pyrite Spellbomb, all with the help of Auriok Salvagers and Salvaging Station. The game is over long before I get him to zero life, and I end up somewhere in the sixties. A nice guy, though. Sorry I didn’t write down your name.

Game 54: Mono-Black Arcbound deck

It gets scary quickly when my opponent gets Disciple of the Vault and two Arcbound Workers. Then a Carrion Feeder, Nantuko Husk, Skeleton Shard, Arcbound Slith, Arcbound Stinger show up at various times to give me grief. I get very low on life, but a recycling Engineered Explosives set first at one, then at three, then at two, keep me alive long enough to find a Leonin Elder. After that my life starts climbing. When I have enough mana to repeatedly get Aether Spellbomb bouncing his Arcbound fellows and Carrion Feeder, my opponent concedes. [Am I the only person who wonders why it seems none of Jay’s opponent’s run much removal? Kill the Salvagers! – Knut, confused]

Game 55: Blue/Black Reanimator

His deck is really cool. It uses Guardian Idols to ramp up mana, Thirst for Knowledge to dump fatties into his graveyard, then Beacon of Unrest to reanimate. It works like a charm and by the fifth turn or so he has a Memnarch of the table with plenty of mana. I’m slightly land-screwed (darned twenty-two land) and can’t cycle through cogs fast enough to recover with two Leonin Squires on the board. I concede when he can turn my permanents to artifacts and gain control of them in the same turn.

Game 56: Nuts and Bolts (!)

Game fifty-six is my first mirror match. He’s a few iterations behind me, but after checking to make sure it’s really me he says that I”inspire” him, which is awfully flattering. Anyway, it turns out not to be much of a game as he gets stuck on three land, all White mana sources. I get a full array of tricks, and by the time he’s at four land I have two Leonin Elder, two Vedalken Engineers, two Leonin Squire, and a Salvaging Station recycling Chromatic Spheres like mad. At five life he says”okay, okay” and concedes with my life in the forties. He hadn’t put red into the deck yet and I would have popped my Spellbombs faster if I were him to dig through the manascrew, but still it was great fun to see firsthand someone else trying my experiment.

After five games, I’m liking Vedalken Engineers a lot. They help with the Explosives and Spellbomb activations mostly, but they also help get a quicker Salvaging Station.

I am not, however, liking the deck’s mana. Ever since I dropped an Island and added four Blue cards, I am finding myself with too much White mana and too few Blue. If the Engineers actually come into play they are tremendously helpful for sorting out the deck’s mana requirements, but I’ve already found that they sometimes get stuck in my hand.

Here is a quick-fix today before I seriously examine the deck’s mana tomorrow:

OUT: 2 Plains

IN: 2 Grand Coliseum

As I said, I don’t think I can cut into the deck’s Blue mana anymore while I seem to have a surplus of white available. Out go two Plains, then, for a land that can generate all five colors of mana without the constant pain of City of Brass – there’s a lot of colorless casting going on in my deck, so it’s nice to have the option to not take damage.

Why not Glimmervoid, which has no pain at all and keeps the deck Mirrodin Block legal? Two reasons. First and most practical, Glimmervoids are hard to come by and I already have four Grand Coliseum in my collection. Second, I worry given all of the saccing of cogs I do that Glimmervoid will either die or get stuck in my hand. Artifact land help, of course, but less than half of the deck’s land is artifact land. That feels unnecessarily dicey to me. All of that said, I still think Glimmervoid is just as good as Coliseum to test here, and the Coliseum’s comes-into-play tapped ability might stress me out.

Nuts And Bolts V.2.3

Critters (22):

4 Leonin Elder

4 Leonin Squire

4 Vedalken Engineers

4 Trinket Mage

4 Auriok Salvagers

2 Qumulox

Non-Critters (16):

4 Aether Spellbomb

4 Chromatic Sphere

2 Salvaging Station

1 Conjurer’s Bauble

1 Leonin Bola

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Scrabbling Claws

1 Sunbeam Spellbomb

1 Engineered Explosives

Land (22):

7 Plains

3 Island

4 Ancient Den

4 Seat of the Synod

2 Grand Coliseum

2 Great Furnace

Blog Elemental – Confession Time

July 27, 2004

Confession #1: I did a naughty thing. I played a whole batch of games without logging the results. I had just done a bunch of writing on my novel and frankly, was a little written out. I wanted to play some Magic as an escape, and I wanted to play the Nuts & Bolts deck without the burden of documenting what happened. I am bad. I am sorry.

The good news is that I won almost all of my games and logged some good experience with Artificer’s Intuition. Before I get into my impressions, here are some”official” games from Friday:

Game 46: Mono-Red Weenies

I felt bad for my opponent. She (I’m assuming it was a she by her screenname) had a Red deck that looked pretty cobbled together from Eighth Edition and Mirrodin block. Barbed Lightning, Crazed Goblin, Hill Giant, Goblin King, Vulshok Berserker… you get the idea. To add insult to injury, I have a first-turn Leonin Elder, second-turn Sunbeam Spellbomb, third-turn and fourth-turn Leonin Squire to recycle the Spellbomb twice. Then I get an Aether Spellbomb to bounce my Squires after they get blocked. She concedes at twelve life when I play Qumulox for two mana, with my life in the thirties. Ouch.

Game 47: White/Red Form of the Dragon

This game was ridiculous. First, I keep a hand that is Leonin Elder and six land, three of them artifact land. I don’t know why I kept it, but I did. I then proceed to draw four land in a row. My opponent isn’t messing around either. He plays two Solemn Simulacrum, Nuisance Engine, then Worship. I thought the Worship-Engine thing is the deck’s”trick,” but I was wrong. I search out Engineered Explosives to kill the Engine. When he plays Leonin Squire (getting nothing back) and Auriok Salvagers, I’m confused and more than a little scared, so recycle the Explosives, find Chromatic Sphere, and blow up everything with four mana. Then it comes: Form of the Dragon, and I think I’m screwed. Oh, and did I mention that no less than six people decided to watch this game? I’m cursing and frowning and thinking”This is the game everyone watches?”

I’m going to die, so I start cycling through cogs like mad to find some answer – any answer. Salvaging Station helps, and a Sunbeam Spellbomb means I can stay ahead of the Form damage. Then, eventually I see it, sitting there. I already have one Great Furnace, and there are two Trinket Mages in my hand, which I had been hoarding to wait for inspiration. I get Chromatic Sphere back with Salvagers. I play one Mage for Pyrite Spellbomb, the second for another Great Furnace. Then I Salvage my Explosives at zero, pop it to kill his two Pest tokens, which triggers the Station and allows me to Pyrite Spellbomb three times for the win. A smattering of applause trickles from the peanut gallery. Whew.

Game 48: Obliterate the Indestructibles

Okay, I made up that dumb deck name. After seeing the last game, LesJarvis asks me if I want to play and I say sure. For the second game in a row I keep a hand that’s too land-heavy, but this time I have a wee bit of offense. Meanwhile, he gets out a Solemn Simulacrum or two, and a Gilded Lotus (“Mind’s Desire deck?” I ask.”No,” he says) on the way to setting up first Forge[/author]“]Darksteel [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] (“March of the Machines?””No.”) then Mycosynth Lattice (“Obliterate?””More or less.”), then Tower of Murmurs. Since I’m clearly going to lose if he finds an Obliterate, I go on all-out offense. Both Qumulox come down and he can’t find his key card. Whew again.

Game 49: Mono-Red Burn

This guy’s deck was just burn, burn, burn right to my face. I was faintly amused, thinking there was no way he had a chance really, since I get a nice good start. I get Auriok Salvagers, then Trinket Mage for a Sunbeam Spellbomb and I chuckle to myself. Silly, silly man. He cannot win. Then he drops Damping Matrix and all of my plans come to a screeching halt. No more Salvager recursion. No more cogs. Now I just have a bad weenie deck, and I’m racing a bunch of burn. Luckily his hand is mostly shot and what he draws is Extraplanar Lens and Barbed Lightning. I cast Leonin Squires and Trinket Mages with abandon, knowing I’ll lose to a board sweeper, but also knowing I’ll lose if he gets too many draws. Luckily he doesn’t, and my two-power dudes carry the day.

Game 50: Black/Green Grave Pact

His deck works just as it’s supposed to, getting some quick mana in the form of Birds of Paradise and Copper Myr before casting two Diabolic Tutors and two Plunge Into Darkness. He sets up Lightning Coils to go along with Grave Pact, Wirewood Herald (to get Caller of the Claw), Carrion Feeder and Nantuko Husk. So I lost, right? You bet your bippy I lost.

Once he had Grave Pact and Carrion Feeder on the table, my Auriok Salvagers, Qumulox, and Leonin Elder all die horrible deaths, and I’ll never be able to keep a creature on the board again. I have to Artificer’s Intuition for Engineered Explosives for one just to survive, and it takes me too long to draw a way to recurse it (Leonin Squire) and set it to zero. I manage to delay the inevitable for a few turns, but the inevitable soon turns into a 24/24 Husk.

Game 51: Mono-Black Lightning Coils

The Feared Avocado (yes, really) asks me for a game, and I say sure. Unfortunately, I have to leave for a haircut right afterwards, so I’m not going to be able to recount the details of what was a very long and fun game against a nice guy with a cool deck. Suffice it to say, he is using Lightning Coils, Spawning Pit, Energy Chamber, Coretapper, Myr Retriever, and a variety of other tricks. I am fortunate that he never sees Grave Pact or Disciple of the Vault, both of which are in the deck.

Anyway, I have a Leonin Elder to go along with Auriok Salvagers and although I haven’t found a tutor I’m doing fine recursing Sunbeam Spellbomb to draw cards and Pyrite Spellbomb for damage. I eventually get Engineered Explosives for two which sets him back a bit. He Diabolic Tutors for his lone Scrabbling Claws, I find mine, and now things get tense. After lots of gymnastics, the game basically gets decided when I try and recurse my Pyrite Spellbomb, he targets it with his Claws, I target it with my Conjurer’s Bauble, then blow my Explosives set at two again, he sacs his Retriever targeting Claws, and I remove his Claws with my own. Like I said, it was a long and fun game. After about three turns of recycling tricks, I win at sixty-four life.

Confession #2: I don’t like Artificer’s Intuition. It just doesn’t fit my style. I keep wishing the Intuition was a creature or a trick I could perform instead of pure tutoring. It also strikes me as too Blue for a base-White deck and too slow for what it does. Mostly, though, I just don’t think it’s cool. Was it helpful in my games? I guess. Is it good for a cog deck? I guess. Are four Trinket Mages enough tutoring? Probably not, so it’s nice to have duplication of the effect. Through roughly fifteen to twenty games, I don’t see anything mechanically wrong with Artificer’s Intuition except the minor quibbles I listed above. But I’m still going to change it.

Let that sink in for a moment. The card has proved fine in testing and I am going to change it.

Why? Well, the answer for that is complicated. This is a pet deck of mine and pet decks contain all sorts of cards that resist logic. If this were a pet tournament deck, I would say that you have full license to call me an idiot (well, let’s be honest: You already have full license to call me an idiot). Casual pet decks, though, should resist logical criticism a bit more hardily.

In my case, I think there are three things to keep in mind:

This is a casual deck. Don’t get all worked up, man. We’re all friends here.

The goal of this experiment is to make a deck I enjoy playing. My hope is that in seeing my journey you will get inspired to do some of your own deckbuilding and maybe learn something from my thinking and process. When you boil it all down, though, it’s all about my enjoyment and my enjoyment alone. Heh.

I’m not in any way arguing that you should play my version of the deck. In fact, I think I’m arguing the opposite. People have already posted about their own versions using Grinding Station and Myr Servitor or adding Black for Necrogen Spellbomb and Disciple of the Vault or using Battered Golem and Viridian Longbow. I haven’t yet taken my deck down these paths, but they are really cool ideas. Make the deck that brings a smile to your face.

I’m probably belaboring the point, but this is the first time that I have tried a card out, recognized it as good, and moved in a different direction. When I’m not documenting my deckbuilding process, I make these sorts of decisions all of the time. In fact, I almost guarantee that this isn’t the last time I will do something that makes you shake your head and say”Wow… that’s not what I would have done at all.”

OUT: 2 Artificer’s Intuition

OUT: 1 Island, 1 Plains

IN: 4 Vedalken Engineers

This was a suggestion made by krzyzewski in the Forums and I like it.