Innovations – Czech Out Forgemaster: Tezzeret With Juza!

Wednesday, February 23 – Just in time for this weekend’s SCG Open in DC, Patrick Chapin analyzes the Kuldotha Forgemaster deck with Blightsteel Colossus and Myr Battlesphere played by Martin Juza and other Czech players at Paris!

Isn’t it amazing how short people’s memories are? Last week, no less than three people told me that they loved the Forgemaster-Tezzeret list that
Martin Juza played at Pro Tour Paris; they just wished he knew how to draft. This is particularly comical for anyone who knows Juza, as he is one of
the best drafters in the world, as further evidenced by his GP finals appearance just days ago, in Denver.

At recent Pro Tour Paris, Juza and Lukas Blohon came flying out of the gate with a Tezzeret build, revolving around Kuldotha Forgemaster, designed by
Raul Porojan and Lino Burgold in addition to Juza and Blohon. Juza began 5-0, and Lukas opened at 4-1. Unfortunately, the draft and Day Two did not go
well for them, but that doesn’t take anything away from the technology they brought to the table. Let’s take a closer look at their list and see what
there is to understand about it, as well as ways we might be able to build on it.

Obviously this is a very different style of Tezzeret than the Grixis build we discussed on Friday. Let’s start by
looking to see what’s there with a Top -> Down perspective. The game is to develop a mana advantage with your artifacts, then leverage that into
superior planeswalker use, setting up Kuldotha Forgemaster. If you ever untap with Kuldotha Forgemaster, you’re generally going to win, as Tinker every
turn is next to unbeatable, thanks to bots like Blightsteel Colossus and Myr Battlesphere, as well as Mindslaver. Mindslaver can dismantle control or
trump an entire Valakut deck. Myr Battlesphere beats most removal, provides a fast clock, and can provide a ton of blockers or bump a Tezz ultimate to
lethal. Blightsteel Colossus might as well deal infinite damage.

Tumble Magnets, Ratchet Bombs, and Inquisitions of Kozilek provide an interactive element that’s highly synergistic with the Tezzeret engine. Both
Magnets and Bombs are fetch-able with Tezz and able to be sacrificed to Forgemaster, but they also are proactive tools that can be deployed early,
letting you tap out turn after turn while maintaining a level of defense. Additionally, they’re both well suited to this environment. Magnet is
particularly well-positioned on account of its effectiveness against various Swords, as well as its ability to combat haste creatures, Argentum Armor,
landfall creatures, Vengevines, and so on. Ratchet Bomb is a much-needed sweeper against aggro, such as Quest, Boros, and Kuldotha Red, that has added
utility against non-aggro decks on account of its ability to hit planeswalkers and equipment and just being able to feed a Forgemaster. Inquisition is
a tool not employed by Grixis that helps make up for the lack of red removal or Stoic Rebuttals, fitting at the exact right spot on the curve to help
Forgemaster-Tezz use its mana efficiently.

Now, let’s take a step back and look to see what’s not there, what’s missing. This Bottom -> Up perspective points out some interesting aspects of
the deck as a whole, as it forces us to consider why certain cards were not played. The first missing card most people notice is Mana Leak. Is
Mana Leak a great card? No question! That doesn’t mean that every blue deck wants to play it. Lightning Bolt is a good red card, but that doesn’t make
it right for every red deck.  

Forgemaster-Tezz is a tap-out deck, to be sure, and you’ll often not pass the turn with two mana untapped until turn 5 or 6. By then, you can’t count
on Mana Leak to actually counter anything. Mana Leak is a great tool for slowing opponents down; however, Tezzeret lists are generally going to want to
spend that spot on the curve speeding themselves up, rather than slowing opponents down. Another card that’s missing is Stoic Rebuttal, a card that we
actually employed in Grixis Tezzeret. I’m not sure the Forgemaster deck has that big of a desire for countermagic at all, but if it wants any, I
imagine that Stoic Rebuttal would be the best. Perhaps the mana base would have to be adjusted a bit, but it’s certainly worth considering. Juza’s list
does have a lot of basic Swamps to support the discard element, plus a lot fewer cheap artifacts, such as Prophetic Prism and Mox Opal, which could
make the mana just too hard. Still, one-mana discard spells are better suited to this game plan anyway.

As we said, both Mox Opal and Prophetic Prism are missing from this list, compared to Grixis Tezzeret. This reveals a fundamental difference in the
theory behind each deck. While Grixis Tezzeret is built around abusing Tezzeret to the fullest and making all three abilities as good as they possibly
can be, Forgemaster-Tezz focuses on Tezz a lot less. He’s still probably the second best card in this deck (behind Forgemaster), but his primary role
is just to +1 looking for Forgemasters or Robots. With only two colors, the fixing demands are much lower, making Prophetic Prism and Mox Opal less

Another card that the Czech list is missing is Wurmcoil Engine (and along with it, Treasure Mage). Wurmcoil is an obvious choice in such a deck, but
you only need so many robots. Forgemaster is cheaper than Wurmcoil and is a bigger game if you untap with it. This leaves the Wurmcoil resigned to its
functionality as a “resilient” robot. Once we’re primarily cheating our robot into play, Myr Battlesphere becomes a more appealing choice, here.
Wurmcoil Engine at six may be slightly better than Battlesphere at seven, but Battlesphere tends to be better if you aren’t paying any mana (such as
with Tinker or, I don’t know, Kuldotha Forgemaster…). The Treasure Mage is not needed, as it would just be a bad Forgemaster in this list.

The next suspicious absence is the third and fourth Preordain. I asked Martin about it, but he insists that two is the right number. His concerns were
with the mana curve (they wanted the mana base to be set up to cast Inquisition on turn 1 as much as possible). With only nine untapped blue on turn 1,
they were concerned it would be somewhat awkward. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Juza, but I have to disagree with him on this one. Keep in
mind that I don’t have the experience with their list that he does, but in my experience with Tezzeret, Preordain was one of the best cards in the
deck. This list seems like that is especially true, as all you want to do is find Forgemaster. Additionally, you may always want Forgemaster on turn 4,
but you aren’t always going to get that, and Preordain is a great play when you have five mana, not to mention in games where you draw multiple
accelerators. I suggest making room for the third and fourth copies; though let the record show Martin advises against this.

The Czech deck features a lot less removal than the Grixis list, but this is to be expected, as we’re talking about a pretty all-in combo deck. Ratchet
Bomb tries to help shore this up a bit, but generally you don’t need the removal as much because you’re planning on making a Battlesphere on turn 5
anyway. Black Sun’s Zenith helps out of the side, of course, but neither it nor Ratchet Bomb is as fast as Pyroclasm, Slagstorm, or Galvanic Blast.
Still, the mana base is a bit less wonky, so there’s an upside.

The final missing component is in the mana base. Where are the Creeping Tar Pits and Tectonic Edges? Well, the Edges are a lot less necessary because
of the combo kill. Edge is obviously at its best against Valakut, a matchup that’s quite good for Forgemaster-Tezz (and poor for Grixis). Without
Prophetic Prism and Mox Opal, there’s less ability to play colorless lands. Add to this the need for more artifacts to sacrifice to Forgemaster,
meaning more Inkmoth Nexus slots, and you just run out of room for toys.

As for Creeping Tar Pit, Juza told me that they just couldn’t afford to have their lands enter the battlefield tapped. They really want to curve out
perfectly and did not value the Tar Pit backup plan highly. The area where this really hurts is against planeswalkers, but they thought it would help
them enough against everyone else to be worth it, especially when people with Jaces often have Edges and Seas anyway.

One card missing from the sideboard is Disfigure, a card that I know Martin wanted to play. They ended up using Go for the Throat instead, but this is
a deck that really values each mana so much. I’m pretty sure when he works on the deck again, he’ll try Disfigure some more. Go for the Throat has a
lot of applications, but in the places where Forgemaster actually needs the help, Disfigure gets the job done sooner and often at spots where you were
going to waste the mana otherwise (making it basically free).

Switching perspectives again, let’s look Front -> Back. With this perspective, we start at the beginning and move forward. Forgemaster-Tezz is built
to play out the same way every game for the first few turns, then finish with whatever the appropriate endgame is for a given position. Turn 1 starts
with a discard spell to not only disrupt the opponent but to help formulate a plan for how to play the game. Alternatively, Preordain can help find
some missing element for the next three turns.

Turn 2 is generally going to be used to drop an accelerator. It’s absolutely vital to ramp into four on three and five on four, most of the time.
Forgemaster-Tezz has so little defense that you need that extra turn. Looking at the deck a little more holistically, we see that it’s an excellent
example of redundancy well used. Everflowing Chalice is better than Sphere of the Suns, here, but they basically serve the same role, giving the deck
eight accelerators. Personally, I found eight accelerators a little clunky in my list, as you don’t want to get stuck having to cast all of your
artifact mana while missing land drops. However, I had more removal to help me catch up if I fell behind, so it’s really hard to compare the two. By
turn 2, it’s generally pretty clear whether this is the type of matchup where you want to play a Ratchet Bomb on two instead. Ratchet Bomb can
interfere with your mana base if you’re not careful, but generally it’s not too hard to play around your own cards.

Turn 3, we ramp straight into a sick planeswalker on a mission to find Forgemaster and give the opponent something to worry about for a turn while we
set up our real game plan. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is better than Jace, the Mind Sculptor (in this deck, not in the abstract…), but they serve
similar roles, giving you eight amazing sources of advantage that dig. You won’t always have an accelerator on two, however, and Tumble Magnet actually
makes a great three-drop in those games, as it generally slows the opponent down by a turn.

We want to be spending our turn 4 casting Kuldotha Forgemaster, most of the time. He’s actually a pretty impressive body, surviving both Lightning Bolt
and Go for the Throat, though he does have a weakness to white removal like Journey to Nowhere and Day of Judgment. Additionally, it will not be long
before people figure out that they should be playing a lot more artifact removal. This will be a sad day for the Forgemaster, indeed.

Finally, on turn 5, we take over the game with one of the big targets. If we aren’t able to find a Forgemaster, the backup plan is once against
Tezzeret powering up an Inkmoth Nexus. While Forgemaster has more artifacts in it than Grixis, they are much more expensive and less likely to be
sitting in play without your winning anyway. Usually if you’re ultimating someone out, it’s because you Forgemastered up a Battlesphere that only has
time to hit them once.

Reversing our perception with Back -> Front thinking, we start with the end position and work backwards. Okay, so we want a Forgemaster on turn 4
every game? What does it take to get that? Well, Jace and Tezz the turn before obviously go a long way, but how can we set them up? Tumble Magnet and
Ratchet Bomb let us proactively protect our planeswalkers without having to hold up mana, as we said. With a curve of two, four, five, we don’t really
have a good place to play permission, so turn 1 discard spells are the natural fit.

The problem with this game plan is that it doesn’t have a lot of time for defense. Yes, against Boros or a similar deck, we have Ratchet Bomb and
Tumble Magnet to try to play a passable control game. However, where things get really sticky is against Caw-Blade. Forgemaster-Tezz was an excellent
surprise factor deck for Paris, but moving forward, it’s going to require some changes, as one of its bad matchups is actually the breakout Paris deck,

While it does generate a nice little mana advantage and have superior planeswalkers, it struggles a bit with an early Stoneforge Mystic, as well as
with Spell Pierce. To make matters worse, white removal spells are actually golden against Forgemaster (instead of terrible, as they are against
Grixis). To make matters worse, Divine Offering out of the sideboard is actually backbreaking, a card that’s sure to rise in popularity.

This is not to say that Forgemaster is not a good option, as it does have tons of upside. First of all, its Valakut matchup is excellent (whereas
Grixis is soft there). In addition, every Tezzeret deck ever beats the hell out of non-Tezz U/B. Juza mentioned that they had a lot of success against
Boros, but I’m cautious here, as I imagine Boros will have more artifact kill in the future, which will be trouble. Juza did mention that he felt they
benefited from opponents not knowing what they were up to. Now that people will have more artifact kill and Caw-Blade will be everywhere, this might be
a risky time to adopt such a strategy. Martin did add that he sure hopes someone invents a way for Forgemaster to beat Caw-Blade, as he really enjoyed
playing this deck and would like to play it at future events.

Personally, I think that the all-in combo approach is probably not where you want to be this weekend. If you want to play Tezzeret, one option to
consider is sideboarding four Kuldotha Forgemasters, one Battlesphere, and one Blightsteel Colossus. This might be the missing sideboard plan to beat
Valakut with Grixis, though it seems less good if the Valakut players figure out to play Acidic Slime (as they should). On the other hand, if your
metagame has mostly old Standard decks (Worlds-era, such as Valakut, U/B, Vampires, RUG, Boros), then this might be the perfect tool for the job. Even
if you aren’t going to play a Tezzeret variant, it’s crucial as a tournament player to get some experience against these decks. Both Forgemaster and
Grixis are the exact type of deck that’s very hard if you’re not familiar with the right sequences and pacing. A little experience against each goes a
long way.

At the end of the line, if I were playing in a Standard event this weekend, I’d probably be working on Tezz, as he is just amazing and really is  that much fun to play. However, I keep having this nagging
suspicion that the next step is elsewhere, such as understanding how
to use artifact kill in the modern era. Where are the Viridian Corrupters? What about actual Shatter or Crush? People that complain about losing to a
turn 1 Quest but don’t play Crush or Shatter in their red decks are just being silly. Don’t get me wrong; gaining some life from Divine Offering is
obviously sweet, but that isn’t why the card is so amazing right now.

While we’re on the artifact-hating tip, where are the Baloth Cage Traps? Baloth Cage Trap is actually pretty sick! It’s even worded in a way that makes
Stoneforge not somehow dodge it. Yes, the Beast itself is green, making it unable to block a guy with a Sword, but if you can destroy the Sword or tap
the guy, you can certainly benefit greatly from a two-mana 4/4. It’s vulnerable to Jace’s -1 ability, but that can be worked around. Outside of just
serving as a tool against Caw-Blade, Baloth Cage Trap is obviously going to put a lot of pressure on a Tezzeret player that plays a Chalice or Sphere
on turn 2. It provides an excellent early blocker against Kuldotha Red, Boros, and Quest, or possibly just an early attacker.

The main decks where you won’t get to trap against it are Valakut, Classic U/B, and Vampires. However, in these matchups, it’s still a 4/4 at instant
speed. You’ll probably want to board it out against Valakut and Vampires (yeah, I’m talking about playing it maindeck!), but against control, it does
surprise Jace a fair bit, often killing him before he can bounce the Beast.

Demolish gets kind of a bad rep. Yes, it’s a little inefficient, but mana denial is actually pretty good right now, and it has good targets against
everyone. Whether it’s a Valakut, a Tar Pit, a Sword, an Armor, a Magnet or a Forgemaster, there’s no shortage of reasonable targets for demolition.

Similarly, Fissure Vent is a bit more ambitious, but if enough opponents will consistently have an artifact that you want to kill, this makes an
excellent second land-destruction spell (or land-death, as Conley Woods, would say). It seems a little expensive, but if you compare it to Plow Under,
it really is costed at a pretty good spot, as long as enough opponents actually have artifacts. Not everyone will have two good targets to hit, but
everyone always has a good land to hit, so I actually like this much better than Into the Core or Relic Crush.

Manic Vandals and Oxidda Scrapmelter are both interesting options, especially if you have some backdoor way to abuse them, such as bouncing them with
Jace. Still, even if you just need someone to carry your equipment, they do a great job. It probably isn’t time for Creeping Corrosion yet, but if
there ever gets to be a reasonable number of Tempered Steel and Tezzeret decks, this becomes a very devastating option for green mages.

Nature’s Claim is a card that already sees some play, but you can use Naturalize to, you know. Nature’s Claim is a more powerful card, but if you’re
playing an aggressive strategy, sometimes that four life really matters a ton. Revoke Existence is another option that sees some play, but I like
Divine Offering more, right now. The life is much more relevant than exiling the card (Blightteel?). More important, however, is the instant speed,
which I think is more important than hitting cards like Tempered Steel and Quest (both of which go in decks quite vulnerable to Divine Offering
anyway). Solemn Offering is a bad Divine Offering, as sorcery speed and costing more are two major strikes against it. Slice in Twain is probably too
greedy, but at least it’s also an instant and sure would be fun (because honestly, is there anything better than drawing cards?). It’s unlikely that
Standard is ready for Steel Sabotage, but it’s a very effective card if things ever get too extreme.

Tuktuk Scrapper is an exciting card to think about. Liquimetal Coating already combines with the Scrapper to add a new dimension to an Ally deck.
However, the continued emphasis on artifacts makes the Scrapper look better and better on his own.

To summarize, artifact kill is back in fashion (or will be in the weeks to come). That’s where the next generation of technology will come from. While
this poses a serious threat to decks like Forgemaster and Grixis Tezz, they’ll be able to adapt. Forgemaster will struggle with Caw-Blade and is not
very resilient to artifact hate, but if you’re looking for a hot combo deck to catch people off guard, it’s obviously quite high on power.
Additionally, it matches up quite well against the Standard decks from Worlds if your local meta is primarily decks from that period. Before I go, here
are ten ideas to consider about Standard in the weeks to come:

Bottom of the Article Ten

10. Both Forgemaster and Classic U/B Control will need to invent some technology to beat Caw-Blade. This is a great time to get creative! If they can’t
hit you with a Sword, they aren’t actually very scary at all, so that’s the pressure point to try to hit.

9. Elves is Caw-Blade’s worst matchup. Just something to think about.

8. Caw-Blade should sideboard four Divine Offerings. Additionally, other people will realize this, so playing two Sun Titans is the next level in
trumping the Caw-Blade mirror, as well as preparing for the inevitable shift towards a hostile environment for artifacts.

7. Tumble Magnet is a short-term fix for anyone having trouble with Swords, but the secret is out, so people will be ready for this move.

6. Phyrexian Revoker is actually super sweet. A lot of decks can’t actually get rid of him easily, and he certainly stops a Sword. Other good gets
include Jace, Tezzeret, Gideon, Adventuring Gear, Tumble Magnet, Ratchet Bomb, Kuldotha Forgemaster, Quest for the Holy Relic, Fauna Shaman,
Mindslaver, Everflowing Chalice, Sphere of the Suns, and Mox Opal, just to name a few.

5. If people play fewer sweepers, slow down their decks, and play more artifact kill, straightforward aggro decks like Vampires look more appealing.

4. Luminarch Ascension is terrible in U/W. Everyone that you’d board it in against should realize by now that they should be attacking more, whether it
is with Stoneforges and Squadron Hawks or with Sphere of the Suns and Inkmoth Nexus.

3. Pyromancer Ascension is still legal!

2. Boros should have more Hero of Oxid Ridge action going on. I spoke with Paul Rietzl about this very topic, and he suggested that he should’ve played
four Heroes, or more likely three Heroes and a Bonehoard. Boros as a whole had a losing record against Caw-Blade. Boros with Hero of Oxid Ridge had a
winning record against Caw-Blade. That’s well worth reflecting on.

1. Valakut may want to go back to playing a couple of Lightning Bolts, plus maindeck an Acidic Slime with more artifact kill in board. With Caw-Blade
as the new public enemy number one, Valakut is poised to make a comeback (now that there’s going to be less hate against it and more hate against stuff
like artifacts, permission, Jace, weenies, etc.).

See you on Monday, when we switch back to Extended and winning a PTQ (or a GP if you’re going to Barcelona)!

Patrick Chapin

“The Innovator” 

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