Lost in the Machine: The Mirrodin Artifact Review, Part 2

Mesmeric Orb has a cool and unique effect, it’s well priced, and it takes some very serious planning and understanding to use to advantage. Okay, so I like it from a design standpoint; next is how usable this actually is. Plan A is to build a deck completely around the Orb and challenge your opponent to live in that environment better than you can by either making yourself proof against decking or just making sure your opponent will run out of cards first. Plan B is to use the Orb in a deck that just looks to capitalize off having a fat graveyard. Plan C is to use this as an ambush from the sideboard for archetypes that rely on killing you over a more extended period of time than this card might otherwise allow.

Picking up where we left off, let’s start with the Myr cycle, since I inadvertently cut them from the first artifact article:

Copper Myr, Gold Myr, Iron Myr, Leaden Myr, and Silver Myr

One of the issues inherent to cards like these is the gains you can expect in return for your investment of a card. Back in the Mirage days (and even before) there were many different mana artifacts in the two-mana range that saw lots of tournament play. It’s easy to take that knowledge and try to extrapolate that forward but the thing is, the diamond cycle in 7th Edition barely saw any play if that. So what gives?

First off, mana curves were just looser in the older days, particularly because many of the decks didn’t have enough good cards to offer in the two- and three-mana range. R&D has drastically improved this issue to the point of swinging things in the entire direction at times: would you rather have a turn 2 Diamond or a turn 2 Mongrel? That the two slot has improved so much since those days has a lot to do with the drop in 2cc acceleration in tournaments. Also significant is the departure of Armageddon and Winter Orb (and Balance and Zuran Orb, depending on how far back we want to take this). All of those cards could severely punish many decks that relied solely on land for mana, and so even decks that didn’t otherwise need to turn to Diamonds and other alternatives did sometimes go this way out of reaction to the environments they were a part of.

Which brings us to the present: With the departure of Odyssey Block, we see several of the more dominating two-drops – Mongrel especially, but also cards like Aquamoeba or even Merfolk Looter (which actually rotated out with 7th, not Odyssey of course) leaving the format. There are still plenty of other strong two drops but to a certain extent the power of that slot has dropped for some of the colors (green most of all). That means two-mana acceleration starts to get more interesting, but the other problem right now is that removal-based control looks to be a real power in the new Standard. In combination with so many stellar global resets, I have to wonder how many decks can really afford to play with cards like the Myr. Oblivion Stone, Wrath of God, and Akroma’s Vengeance all look like they will get plenty of play, and that’s before we get to other spells like Barter in Blood and Starstorm.

With all that in mind, I want to stress that at this preliminary stage it’s very difficult to predict exactly how this kind of thing will play out. From where I stand right now it seems to me that obviously the green Myr is the worst, since Green can do better than this with its normal creature set. As to the other colors, any deck with more than one color that also wants acceleration is probably going to instead go with the Talisman cycle because of color consistency issues.

That brings us down to mono-colored decks. In Black + acceleration, you’re probably looking at control, in which case the Talismans are probably better since you can still play cards like Barter in Blood and you don’t have to enable small-time opposing removal like Shock. Mono-white control seems likely to want access to Wrath of God – so again, any acceleration is more likely to be of the Talisman variety.

That just leaves Red and Blue. The former would depend highly on just what kind of approach you’re going with, but certainly anything with global damage sweepers like Starstorm is going to be more interested in the Talismans as well. And now we’re down to mono-Blue, in which case I think it could go either way, depending on how many colors you are and what exactly the deck is trying to do (and why it wants acceleration like this in the first place).

So the result of all that? From this early perspective, my bet is that the Talismans will overshadow the Myr considerably, and moreso as the metagame develops and matures. The Myr will see play in various offbeat approaches, but I don’t currently think we’ll be seeing them in any real numbers. Just how much general two-mana acceleration people will opt for is a tougher decision, and one I’m not willing to even try to guess yet – but I am willing to bet that most decks interested in such a thing will instead go the Talisman route. Perhaps the real question is asking how many decks that would have otherwise gone with two-mana acceleration will instead be able to just go with Chrome Mox instead.

Lodestone Myr

Even with no other artifacts in play this is basically a 3/3 blocker the turn it comes down – but of course it’s also much more than that (like the possibility of going large thanks to Trample). In Limited, this strikes me as potentially very good, so the real question for me is how much impact he will end up having on Constructed.

From a Constructed standpoint, Loadstone Myr’s bonus comes in three varieties: Artifacts that you weren’t using right now so you can tap them for this instead (possibly artifact lands, for instance), artifacts that go on doing the same thing anyway even if they’re tapped (like Equipment), and finally artifacts where you actually gain some advantage to tapping a particular artifact (Howling Mine). What we’re really getting at here is that there are a lot of ways to try and take advantage of this creature. He seems like a natural to try out in anything Affinity-based as a way to convert your investment into some serious action, and I suspect there will be other decks that see him get some time as well.

Most other reviewers seem to have dismissed this card for Standard, but I think it might be too early for that yet. There are enough decks that will be coming out with lots of artifacts that I think this needs to at least get an audition before we dismiss it. The real problem is that, like much of the set, Lodestone Myr encourages you to overload the board with permanents… And unfortunately, that’s going to be much more difficult to pull off with so much global reset running around. Time will tell how much decks like these will be able to get around that central problem.

Loxodon Warhammer

Loxodon Warhammer is more expensive than the other Equipment I’ve been crowing about, but the effect it has on the game is dramatic enough to warrant exploration. The problem is one of pacing, where even if you put out a creature turn 2 and drop this turn 3, it’s not until turn 4 that you’re getting anything out of this. If in response they just kill your turn 2 creature, you’re really going to be playing catch-up. But this is the thing – if you do get this going, it’s going to get crazy very fast, as this is a very large swing when it’s working.

One way to mitigate the downsides to this particular Equipment is to simply run fewer copies and include it with the idea of playing this more around turn 5 or 6, preferably at that point when you can play it and use it, and then continue to move it as needed while still dropping out further reinforcements. As such I can easily see this as a compliment to a creature swarm that curves its equipment with something like four Bonesplitters, three Empyrial Plates, and one or two Warhammers. Exact numbers will depend on the deck in question and more practice, but that’s where I would start if I were building such a deck today.

While we’re here, a quick note that came up from a posting to the forum from my White review: As you’ve probably noticed, the focus of these articles is on Standard. I’m better at predicting that format and I also haven’t had as much experience yet with Mirrodin Limited, since I wasn’t able to attend the prerelease and it’s not available to Magic Online. The result is that comments for Limited tend to be brief (and are by necessity more speculative), particularly if the card warrants discussion for Standard. From time to time, I’ve actually just skipped mentioning a card’s use in Limited if I had enough to say about it in regards to Constructed and if I felt it was obvious you’d want to use the card (or not) in Limited.

However, I think I wasn’t clear enough that I was doing this as a couple different people read the section on Auriok Bladewarden and came away with the impression I didn’t like it for Limited. So! Quick disclaimer time: If I spend a paragraph or more on any of these and don’t mention whether or not I think it’s worth use in Limited, don’t assume I don’t like it for Limited – I’ll try to only omit Limited references when I feel it’s really obvious (like with this card). For future series like this, I’m still deciding how best to approach this issue, but for now I’m going to just continue as is and we’ll see what happens. (Feel free to email me with how you’d best like to see this kind of thing addressed; I’m always open to feedback.)

Malachite Golem

This is terrible for Constructed, and even in Limited that’s really not the kind of thing I’m looking for at six mana. The way this format is shaping up, though, we may have to use it anyway.

Mask of Memory

Currently, I’ve got my Equipment cards divided into three categories. The first category is the best and generally the most universal – the ones I’m trying in virtually any deck that runs Equipment. Currently that group is just Bonesplitter and the Plate, although Lightning Greaves moves in and out as well.

The second tier is the set of Equipment that I still find myself trying, but not as universally as that first group. (The third group is everything else.) Mask of Memory seems solidly entrenched in that second group for now. The ability is outstanding if you get to use it – but unlike some of the other powerful Equipment, the Mask of Memory doesn’t otherwise do anything, whereas the effect from cards like Bonesplitter always has influence (whether your critter is locked in combat or just going straight to their face), Mask of Memory depends on something actually getting through before it becomes useful, and thus means that you’re going to still have to have enough cards to clear opposing blockers out of the way and also enough creatures to put something like this on, all while also using slots for the Mask(s).

With all that in mind, my (limited) experience so far is that, like its predecessor Curiosity, the Mask is best in an aggro-control deck, and ideally one that has some pretty significant evasion or at least a hefty-enough commitment to creature removal that you can reliably get in. As to mana investment and the impact of this card on your development, the nice thing is that once you get this into play, the Equip cost is negligible given the potential effect.

The real issue is when to actually drop this into play. So far I’ve had some success combining this with Chrome Mox to help get it and my creatures into play and everything running in time, but sometimes it ends up feeling like a double-or-nothing card. If an aggro-control deck can reliably get its creatures to deal damage against another creature deck you’ve probably already jumped your main hurdle for the archetype (though sometimes that can be a dangerous generalization). Then again, if you are able to get those hits in because the creature has evasion, the fuel you gain should be enough to keep things going from there.

So where do we stand after all that? For now I consider this potentially powerful enough to still be actively trying to build decks specifically around this card. I’ve always been a very big fan of aggro-control when it could actually be played, and this card may be one of the ways to help make that happen this time around. My results are preliminary and nowhere near conclusive at this point, but I am willing to say that this card warrants your time if this fits the kind of deck you gravitate towards, and I am willing to predict that the Mask will prove itself to be a Standard-viable threat, though probably not as ubiquitous as some of the other Equipment like Bonesplitter. We’ll see if I’m right soon enough.

Mesmeric Orb

Like so many other cards in this set I have to say I’m very impressed with the originality the design team showed on this. It’s a cool and unique effect, it’s well priced, and it takes some very serious planning and understanding to use to advantage. Okay, so I like it from a design standpoint. Next is how usable this actually is.

Plan A is to build a deck completely around the Orb and challenge your opponent to live in that environment better than you can by either making yourself proof against decking or just making sure your opponent will run out of cards first. Plan B is to use the Orb in a deck that just looks to capitalize off having a fat graveyard. Plan C is to use this as an ambush from the sideboard for archetypes that rely on killing you over a more extended period of time than this card might otherwise allow.

After some relatively quick searching, Plan A came up with such nuttiness as avoiding decking with the likes of Teferi’s Puzzle Box or replacement effects like the”Words of x” cycle. The problem with this plan is that you can only afford so many of these cards and you have to worry about them being destroyed or just getting Millstoned before you can draw one.

Plan B came out even less promising, as there are far fewer ways to profit from a fat graveyard than was the case a couple months ago. Lhurgoyf and Skull of Orm popped up as candidates for this strategy, so you get the picture.

But then there’s Plan C, and that’s the one I like best right now. This is a powerful effect for the cost, and one that many decks just wouldn’t be set up for. Part of the problem with Plan A and B is that you’re trying to force things for game 1, when you don’t have any idea what you may be facing. With Plan C, you know that you can just go this way when facing decks that will be vulnerable. Of course, that’s going to depend on a lot of variables as well – you need a deck that can take advantage of the situation if offered as well as there being decks this will work against (and you have to be able to judge which decks fall under both of those categories).

For now, I see this as an outstanding effect; I’m just still trying to find a home for it. As new events come up you can believe that I’ll be keeping this card in mind as a sideboard surprise, and I would be very surprised if it doesn’t turn out to have enough to offer at least some decks in this role. If that does happen it will probably be due to the main drawback to the card, the same one that has always dogged Millstone: Mesmeric Orb doesn’t really affect the game unless it goes all the way.

Mind’s Eye

Heralded (or dreaded) by multiplayer fans the world over, Mind’s Eye strikes me as too expensive for its effect to see any Standard use. Instead, Mind’s Eye looks better for Limited, where card drawing options are far scarcer and games look to be giving players some more breathing room in terms of pacing.


Mindslaver is too expensive for the effect to consider for most Standard uses, but that’s not the point really. Casual gamers are going to get to tell all kinds of great stories about the things they got to do with this card, not to mention that it looks like Limited may be slow enough to let you go to town with this as well.

Mindstorm Crown

In most cases, this is going to be an improved version of Grafted Skullcap, as long as you plan accordingly. You get a lower casting cost, as well as the crucial ability to hang on to cards if needed. In fact, this card even allows you to keep cards in hand for the opponent’s turns and still draw extras as long as you ditch them in time. That alone (and particularly given the reduced casting cost) is a big improvement on the Skullcap in many decks. Combine that with the ability to hold onto the cards longer when needed, and you’ve got a very strong card to help aggro decks keep gas in their tanks.

Black and Blue have traditionally had ways to pull this kind of thing off if they wanted, but the Crown adds refueling ability to Red, White, and Green – colors that haven’t traditionally had this ability. The real problem (as compared to the Skullcap) is that this is harder to get going initially; you’ll need to empty your hand manually first and thus this will have to come down a bit later than Skullcap might have. That’s a drawback, no question, but I think there are still decks that would potentially benefit from this card (and which don’t have any real alternatives to choose from).

Mirror Golem

This is very versatile for Limited, but the body’s too small for the package in Constructed.

Mourner’s Shield

Fine (and annoying) in Limited, in Constructed this is a bad Story Circle.

Myr Adapter

Way too romantic for Constructed, even in Limited I’m not interested in him for most decks…

Myr Enforcer

But this guy, this one I am interested in, and not just for Limited. In a dedicated Affinity deck there are a lot of reasonable ways this guy can end up in play on turn 3, and at 4/4 he’s a sizable enough body to have some impact. And if that does turn out to be true, it’s possible that I need to give more respect to Frogmite if it’s able to help enable these bigger Affinity cards. I’m still all over the map trying to figure out how highly to rank this ability but I don’t think the wait is going to take much longer.

On a related note, Diminishing Returns – a card I’ve always had a soft spot for – didn’t get much use when it returned with 6th Edition, but I’m starting to suspect it’s a very good thing that it didn’t make it into 8th.

Myr Incubator

This is one of the most powerful effects in the set, essentially setting up a”one-card combo” that should be able to win most games if it goes off (at least under”normal” circumstances). As with so many other cards in this set, the Incubator becomes a lot more viable thanks to the artifact lands. It’s also powerful because you have a lot of options to work with here. You can go with a straight combo approach (generic sample: turn 2 accelerator, turn 3 some tutor if needed, otherwise kill a guy or perhaps Coercion or other disruption, turn 4 mass removal, turn 5 Incubator, turn 6 you win) or it could be added as another prong in the Affinity approach – something of a”Plan B.” You’ve already got the artifacts and things to do in the early turns, so it’s a natural fit here as well. I also like that this second approach to the card is probably a lot less fragile than the more dedicated combo route.

In these articles, you’ve often seen me saying variations of the following:”For this much mana, you need to be able to do better.” If you were curious, this was the kind of thing I was talking about.

Myr Mindservant

Even in affinity decks, there are many other one-mana artifacts I’d look at first.

Myr Prototype

This strikes me as good enough for Limited, but it’s way too slow for Constructed.

Myr Retriever

I’m not even sure how interested I’d be if it were comes-into-play, much less as a death trigger. In Constructed, the only way I can see this is if there’s a method available to start looping the effect (a la Recurring Nightmare or some such). If you aren’t outright abusing this guy, I’d keep moving on to something else.


That a 2/2 for four is playable gives you a lot of feel for the new Limited in a nice little nutshell. The instant effect actually comes up more than you might think (depending on how much you’ve played the new set) and helps ease the pain of paying so much for a 2/2.

Neurok Hoversail

Flying is a scarce and precious resource in Limited this time around. The ability to grant it to attackers is good enough to consider at this cost (and don’t forget the option to suit up flying blockers when needed once you’ve attacked).

Nightmare Lash

The rarity on Nightmare Lash suggests it was intended for Constructed use, and it does offer a potentially dramatic effect in the right deck. The lack of a mana cost on the activation helps the aggressive decks this would end up being played in by allowing you to drop and use the Lash in the same turn. However, that four in the casting cost means you automatically have to compare this to Empyrial Plate unless you actually want both, and the Plate looks like the better card by far to me (at least for most decks). The Lash offers a strong effect, but the result of the life payment means that against other aggro decks you won’t have the ability to switch back and forth to new creatures for blocking after attacking.

Even against Control decks, the activation could quickly become an issue, where you potentially have to keep paying three life each time they kill your target – and it’s important to note that even heavy Control decks contain more threat cards than was the case in older formats; activating this just two or three times could get you in trouble if they drop out a serious threat of their own, forcing you into a race you’re quite possibly no longer equipped to run.

Lastly, it’s crucial to acknowledge the other options Black now has for using life as a resource. Promise of Power alone makes me want to throw Nightmare Lash in the trade binder. Combine how good Promise would be with Empyrial Plate, and my mind’s made up that the Lash just doesn’t make the cut. The lesson’s a good one: You can’t just judge a card just on its own power; you have to look at the deck it’s going into, the other available options, and what you might have to give up to use it.

Nim Replica

3/1 for three is usually at least par in most Limited formats, but early experience and reports suggest that tempo is much less important this time around. It’s important to note that many sets start out slower in pacing until players are better able to get a feel for how to draft the aggro decks for the environment (remember how slow people thought Odyssey draft was at first?). This time around, though, it looks like early impressions are likely to be correct and that makes for a world where a base 3/1 for three loses some of its shine. The effect is reasonable but expensive and illustrates one of the reasons why many are claiming that Spikeshot Goblin is even more dangerous for this format than Sparksmith was for his (since it takes more than just -1/-1 to kill the Spikeshot).

All that said this is still usable, and actually does a handy job against Black and its army of one-toughness dorks, but it’s not quite as interesting to me as it would have been in some other sets.

Nuisance Engine

Compare the cost and activation to Squirrel Nest, a card that still didn’t get played in many of the Green decks that had access to it, and you get a card that isn’t going to see much use in Constructed. Fortunately the card is just fine for Limited so (like so many cards in this set) it’s not a complete loss.

Oblivion Stone

(from my original article on Mirrodin, since I still feel the same)

Holy $#!*!

No, seriously – this card makes my jaw drop. In many ways this represents Nevinyrral’s Disk, and in some ways it represents an improved Nevinyrral’s Disk. The initial cost is one less, but comes with a hefty activation of five. In return you get a card that returns the ability to efficiently destroy everything non-land to all colors. What’s that, black? You can’t destroy artifacts or enchantments? Seriously, what happened to that color pie again? Didn’t we just see the following quote in a (somewhat) recent Sideboard article?

“No card in Magic is such a pervasive answer to each color’s most notorious problems. Black can’t handle artifacts? Pop the Disk. Red has trouble removing enchantments? Pop the Disk. Green and white have no creature removal? Pop the Disk. Blue can’t deal with permanents? Pop the Disk. The Disk is the bridge allowing whole colors to cheat their own limitations. No card in Magic has ever been such a boon for each color; no mass removal spell has ever been so ‘splashable’.”

Interestingly, the added investment does slow the new Disk down somewhat, but at the same time it is potentially trickier to play against. Whereas against the Disk you had to avoid playing too many resources since they’d just get tossed in the bin, against the Stone you have to worry about opposing threats getting to stay around. This ability to load the Stone into a progressively more one-sided reset makes for a very potent threat in the right circumstances – and this is especially true given the kinds of mana acceleration currently available (and Temple of the False God is even a land!). Now you’ve got tension between putting enough pressure on them to make them pop the Disk (I mean”Stone”) before they blow up just your half of the table, all while also having to worry about overextending in the process. Furthermore, once they get enough mana, they can even drop this and use it right away if needed!

The result is a card that comes at least somewhat close to the Disk in terms of overall strength – and make no mistake that even a somewhat close second to a card of that magnitude represents a tremendous amount of power. The mana investment is significant, but the results are spectacular. Easily one of the most powerful and influential cards of the set.

Omega Myr

” ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” The reference to the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet illustrates the obvious concept that God is the beginning and the end. More debatable is the intention that this also illustrates that God represents everything, from one side of the spectrum to the other, both good and evil.

I can’t help but wonder if this second interpretation was in mind when these cards were named, where Alpha Myr is good enough to potentially see Constructed tournament play and Omega Myr is about as bad as a two-mana creature can be. Both like and unlike in their way, only one of them ever deserves to see competitive play of any kind.


How much play this will see in Constructed is going to depend largely on how viable Affinity decks prove to be – and, if so, how much garbage they can afford to run in order to get the most explosive starts possible. The jury’s still out on that one, but surprisingly this can even be considered in Limited if you have enough Equipment and other enhancement to reliably pump its otherwise humble stats (flying is that important and Equipment is that good).