Long ago, in
an article I’ve enjoyed rereading many a time
, Jamie Wakefield discussed a mono-green deck called Secret Force, which powered out expensive fatties using mana creatures, Gaea’s Cradle, and Natural
Order. He also used a combination of Wasteland, Creeping Mold, and Natural Order-fetched disruptive creatures to render the opponent unable to handle
Fast forward to the present. Like many others, I greeted the news that Grim Monolith was unbanned in Legacy as an invitation to explore what could be
done with Grim Monolith and Transmute Artifact. And while I started out (like most, I think) attempting to resuscitate the Tinker decks of yore, I
ended up somewhere completely unexpected.
When the dust settled, I found myself with a Transmute Artifact deck that was less Tinker and less Stax â€” which had proved infeasible in testing â€” and
more Secret Force. And it was much, much spicier. I was smashing Goblins, smashing Merfolk, keeping pace with CounterTop, and packing four
apiece of Trinisphere and Chalice of the Void â€” each castable on turn 1 â€” against combo.
In a word, the deck was sick.
When Tinker’s on the tip of your tongue, where do you turn? To the
Top Eight of Pro Tour: Tinker
, I’d think.
SCG Talent Search competitor Carsten Kotter
sure did, and he quickly ended up in the land of Citanul Flutes and Lightning Greaves.
I considered that approach, but moved away almost immediately. One of the main reasons I think Rickard Osterberg won the Pro Tour was that Tinker decks
were everywhere, and Goblin Welder is really good against Tinker decks. In comparison, today’s Legacy environment offers Welder incidental
graveyard hate (cantrip hate, no less, in the case of Relic of Progenitus), zero Tinker decks to prey on, and a removal situation where fatties are
more often exiled or bounced than destroyed.
And while Welder still recycles Tangle Wires like a champ, that doesn’t really get me going.
What does get me going is fat gobs of mana obscenely early in the game â€” and that’s something Tinker decks have always had going for them.
That’s thanks in very large part to Grim Monolith, Metalworker, Ancient Tomb, and City of Traitors â€” each one now legal in Legacy â€” and only in part
due to their banned namesake card.
The next question is, “Assuming I can recreate that early game, what will I do with it?” Suppose I can generate quantities of mana so obscene
that the IRS rushes down to audit my second turn; then what? Step Three: Profit?
Perusing the Tinker lists from that Pro Tour Top Eight, I saw things like Urza’s Blueprints, Mindslaver, Stroke of Genius, Upheaval, Gilded Lotus, and
artifact fatties costing seven and eight mana to hard-cast.
Those are all admirable things to do with a bunch of mana, but right away a concern emerges. There are only four Grim Monoliths in the deck, and
Metalworkers are mortal creatures. Is that really enough acceleration to consistently afford all that?
In the olden days, a resolved Tinker made cost a moot point. Tinker for Lotus, Tinker for Platinum Angel, Tinker for Mindslaver. Psh, what’s a casting
cost? All I need is 2U.
The first difference that separates modern Legacy Tinker from the original incarnation is that Transmute Artifact is not Tinker, but Tinker Junior.
(Calvin’s Blue Transmogrifying Spell, perhaps?) You have to pay for your upgrades, so you can’t casually include super-expensive targets like
Blightsteel Colossus, and even very-expensive targets like Platinum Angel and Sundering Titan are a stretch.
More importantly, I was surprised to discover, you can’t realistically turn something like Seat of the Synod or a spare Chalice of the Void into more
than a four-drop or a five-drop. After paying UU for the Transmute and full price for the tutor target, you’re looking at a straight-up Reshape when
you sacrifice Seat or Chalice. Bad times.
Another surprise turned out to be the efficacy of Tangle Wire in this environment. How good is that card right now? The phrase “Garbage Wire is
garbage” comes to mind.
Whereas Tangle Wire used to actually shut down blue decks’ Counterspells so you could slip threats through, and serve up a Time Walk and a
half against creature decks to boot, now Blue decks just play their land for the turn and presto! That’s Spell Snare, Spell Pierce, Daze, and Force of
Will all back online. Meanwhile, creature decks merrily tick their Aether Vials and use the moment of inaction to Wasteland you… Or, if you’re really
unfortunate, they tap down everything but Goblin Lackey. And I’ll give you three guesses as to whether or not Dredge even notices it.
One final thing I had to come to grips with is that the deck’s mana ramping capabilities are under attack at every turn in Legacy. Wasteland is
everywhere. Force of Will is here. Spell Pierce is here. Daze is here. Thoughtseize and Hymn to Tourach and Vindicate are here. Playing Upheaval and
“Draw X Cards”-type spells is just asking to end up with a board of Voltaic Key, a smattering of lands, and a fistful of uncastables. (I found this out
the hard way.)
Even after realizing these things, I could not deny the deck’s explosive power. Turn1 Chalice and turn 2 Trinisphere are huge beatings, especially on
the play. Untapping with Metalworker often leads a cool six or eight mana to find its way into your mana pool, which often leads you to play out your
hand and win. Sometimes you run out a turn1 Grim Monolith and need only a second land to lay a six-drop on turn 2.
My game logs began to exhibit a pattern: when I died, it was with horrendously expensive game-enders in my hand â€” Upheavals, Braingeysers, and the like
â€” and when I won, more often than not, it was because I just powered out a Wurmcoil Engine on turn 2 and the other deck buckled.
…Which, in turn, led to the thought of “Hey, that seems to be a legitimately winning formula. What if I focused on that?”
So I did.
Playing the Deck
This thing is a blast to play.
It has opening turns that make you want to ask your opponent, “Was it good for you, too?” It has tutorable game-enders Platinum Angel and Myr
Incubator. It has Jace, the Mind Sculptor for the long game. Four of them. In the maindeck. And post-board, it has nastiness like Bribery (thanks for
the Progenitus!), Llawan, Propaganda, artifact bullets, and four graveyard wipe effects â€” whereas most opponents pack little or no hate with which to
return the favor.
With all that power, it’s easy to get overexcited, so the first thing to learn about this deck is how to properly manage its speed.
For example, turn 1 Ancient Tomb into Grim Monolith into Trinisphere, even on the play, is not enough to automatically keep the hand. That’s a great
turn one, but you have to consider: what are you going to do after that?
If Ancient Tomb is your only land there, the answer is “not much.” And Trinisphere doesn’t affect Wasteland, so even if you have Ancient Tomb and an
Island, you have to consider â€” how screwed are you if the Tomb gets Wastelanded? As exciting as that hand might be, remember The Danger Of Cool Plays; you might be better off
visiting Paris for a less “all in” six.
Another thing that’s important to get the hang of is throttling your mana supply.
Like most, I initially had Voltaic Key alongside Grim Monolith. It often sat on the table and did nothing, or sat in my hand because I had played the
ubiquitous Chalice for One, but hey â€” how else am I going to untap those Monoliths?
It didn’t take too many games where I drew Monolith but not Key to realize I didn’t need the Keys; Monolith was good enough as a one-turn Mana Savings
Account. You simply play it, untap, play a third mana source, and now you have six mana for Wurmcoil Engine or Steel Hellkite. Then next turn you play
a fourth mana source and untap the Monolith. Then the turn after that, you once again have six mana for a second fatty.
So you throttle the speed back and forth: crank it up from zero to six mana in one turn, then dial back your plays to recharge for another zero-to-six
turn the next time you untap.
You do the same with City of Traitors and Crystal Vein. You sacrifice a land or two on this turn to power out something obscene, knowing that next turn
you’ll be dialing back the explosiveness while you rebuild the two to four mana worth of lands you expended. Then the turn after, you lay another land
and fire the cannons once more.
The deck works because although your threats commonly demand two turns worth of mana, they generally dominate whatever your opponent spent his last two
turns doing â€” especially with Chalice, Trinisphere, and Jace backing them up.
4 Transmute Artifact
4 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Steel Hellkite
1 Myr Incubator
1 Platinum Angel
It’s fairly obvious which fatties rule this roost: the dynamic duo, the gruesome twosome, the Brothers Extra Grimm, Wurmcoil Engine, and Steel
Wurmcoil is almost everything you could want in a beatstick. It has lifelink, meaning it can race a swarm of smaller dudes. It has deathtouch, meaning
it can take out a whole gang of Lord-pumped blocking Merfolk or Goblins, and even the odd Iona or 6/7 Tarmogoyf. If it gets hit by Warren Weirding,
Krosan Grip, Vindicate, etc. it leaves a pair of presents behind â€” and if you need more warm bodies for blocking, you can hard-cast a Wurmcoil, swing
with it to gain six, and then Transmute it for a mere UU into a fresh, untapped fatty.
Steel Hellkite is more fragile, but a better problem solver. Chumpers got you down? Fly over â€˜em. Permanents giving you trouble? Show â€˜em the Crime
side of Crime / Punishment. Midrange decks have always been drawn to cards like Vindicate, Maelstrom Pulse, and Pernicious Deed because they can get
you out of so many tricky situations…this deck pumps out mana so fast, it can run a fatty that’s both a major threat and a recurring answer
â€” basically, it’s what Trygon Predator wants to be when it grows up.
Platinum Angel is the one card in the maindeck that demands more than six mana to cast, but she’s worth every penny. Given Transmute Artifact and
enough mana, you can turn any game, no matter how disastrously it’s been going, into “Got removal?” And for some decks, especially in game one (or when
you have a Chalice out), the answer is “Man, I don’t even run removal that can handle that.”
Myr Incubator is the reliable Win The Game card. It’s for two situations: one, you need to kill ASAP and have the mana to pop it immediately or next
turn. Two, you’re more worried about removal than racing, and would rather wait until you find the six mana to activate it than search up a threat
that’s vulnerable to Swords to Plowshares or Jace. And considering half the deck is artifacts (okay, twenty-seven out of sixty cards) and that most
opponents crack fetchlands, it should come as little surprise that I’ve yet to be short of lethal on the first attack.
I considered Myr Battlesphere as a way to supplement Steel Dragon and Wurmcoil Engine, but it doesn’t seem worth it. Although it definitely meets the
criteria of “being able to win the game on its own,” it’s not nearly as frightening as either of those two against beatdown, and it’s only slightly
better against control. (Any of them win if they stick; Myr Battlesphere is nice in that it leaves tokens if it gets Plowed, but the 1/1s are easily
stopped by, say, a random Trinket Mage or a Firespout that otherwise would have had nothing to do.)
Most importantly, though, the difference between six mana and seven mana in this deck is commonly a full turn; that extra point of casting cost is a
big drawback for a creature that does nothing more than fight.
I had Masticore in the list initially, because it kept coming up that I’d have a tapped Grim Monolith and only 2UU to spend on a Transmute, but it
seemed like for every game where Masticore was good, there were two games where it was terrible. The mana-throttling strategy doesn’t really jive with
a threat that demands four-plus mana per turn to shoot dorks. (Plus, without the shooting, he’s not much good. Phyrexian Processor had the same mana
commitment problem.) Also, the discard drawback was constantly getting me in trouble. Ultimately, I found it was almost always correct to just wait
until I could afford a real threat, so I cut the four-drop artifacts altogether.
I strongly considered Platinum Emperion over Platinum Angel. This deck is quite good at getting to six mana, but often enough it jumps from six to
eight without stopping at seven. And Emperion doesn’t die to a medium-sized Gempalm Incinerator, he preserves your life total in case he’s dealt with
before you finish off the opponent, and he sports a way faster clock. However, I think that because Angel is much better against
Progenitus (you can actually fly over to damage them), she’s easier to cast, and she’s a slightly more impermeable shield (theoretically Brain Freeze
is a card), she wins out overall.
Frost Titan seemed potentially good, as did Razormane Masticore, but both proved consistently worse than Hellkite and Wurmcoil, and with ten spells
already costing six-plus to cast, I didn’t think it was worth it to add any more unless they were absolutely essential.
I glanced at Epochrasite, since he allows you to turn a spent Grim Monolith into a 4/4 for a mere UU â€” but as cute as that is, a random 4/4 dork with
no board-affecting abilities doesn’t do it for me, even if he is reasonably resilient. Lodestone Golem likewise didn’t make the cut, since he’s too
easily traded for in combat despite having a decent disruption effect.
(4 Transmute Artifact)
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Chalice of the Void
1 Pithing Needle
Tangle Wire might be weak right now, but Trinisphere remains gasoline â€” as does Chalice of the Void. A blind Chalice for One on the play is
consistently amazing. If four Trinispheres look shaky (obviously two Trinispheres in play is no more disruptive than one), remember that a) blue decks
counter them on sight, b) you can Jace away spares, and c) as a three-coster, it’s actually one of the deck’s best Transmute Artifact offerings.
Needle answers a wide variety of problems, chief among them Sensei’s Divining Top and Maze of Ith. It also gives you a maindeck answer to the Painter’s
Servant combo, and you can almost always find something good to do with it if you randomly draw it: shutting off Wasteland, Aether Vial, Diving Top,
Putrid Imp, Coralhelm Commander, and so on.
I originally had Thirst for Knowledge in place of Jace, but after losing enough games to opposing Jaces from CounterTop, I got frustrated and added
four to the board â€” if nothing else, to Legend Rule away the ones my opponent was playing. Then after realizing how well they fit in the deck, I tried
replacing the Thirsts with Jaces, re-tested the aggro matchups, and haven’t looked back. There are enough articles out there singing the praises of his
many abilities, so I won’t belabor the point; suffice to say, he’s a house, and four copies has not proven excessive.
Some cards that didn’t make the cut were Tezzeret the Seeker, Silent Arbiter, Crucible of Worlds, Crumbling Sanctuary, Mishra’s Helix, Defense Grid,
Krark-Clan Ironworks, Serrated Arrows, Aether Spellbomb, Ratchet Bomb, Parallax Tide, and Mindslaver. All proved too situational, too expensive, not
powerful enough, or some combination thereof â€” even for the sideboard.
I didn’t try Solemn Simulacrum, and neither should you.
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Traitors
4 Crystal Vein
Most of these are fairly obvious inclusions, so I’ll focus on the eyebrow-raisers.
The land count of twenty-five may seem on the high side for a deck with this much artifact mana. However, keep in mind that you frequently sacrifice
lands to power out fatties, that Legacy is full of Wastelands and Daze effects, and that this deck plays a bevy of expensive spells.
Since the deck is mono-blue, the default plan would be to load up on Islands; the fetches are in there first and foremost for Jace’s benefit. (Though
they’re also good against Rishadan Port, given that all your colored spells cost UU. And, I suppose, for land thinning over long games. Sure.) I chose
Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest to because they signal CounterTop on turn 1, which seems like a better deck to have the opponent mistakenly put you
on than Merfolk (with Polluted Delta).
Some people get really nervous when they see more fetches than fetchable lands, but keep in mind these are all basic Islands. They’re Wasteland-proof.
They’re not going anywhere. So the real question is, “What’s the most Basic Islands I can see myself needing to have on the table?” By that measure,
five is on the conservative side. Trust me, when you have five Islands out in a deck with twelve nonbasics and four apiece of Grim Monolith,
Metalworker, and Jace, no game is ever going to hinge on whether or not you’re able to fetch out a sixth.
Plenty of games will, however, hinge on whether or not you can shuffle to Jace your way out of a tough spot. Every fetch is important, and I have yet
to want a sixth Island.
That said, you could make the case that eight is somewhere across the line that separates “the loss of life is worth it” and “the loss of life isn’t
worth it.” Adrian Sullivan suggested that six fetches might be the optimal count to maximize the chance of having one when you want it for Jace, while
minimizing the incidence of lost close games that could have been won at one life. He could be right; I haven’t tried the list with only six fetches.
I had Voltaic Key in the list originally, but without Thran Dynamo it was just too situational. All it could profitably untap was Grim Monolith (very
good), artifact creatures (good in a race), and Metalworker (definitely “win more”), meaning it often did nothing in games where creature races didn’t
come up. As soon as I realized how good Monolith was even without it, I cut it for more business spells and have not missed it.
Cards like Everflowing Chalice, Basalt Monolith, Thran Dynamo, and Gilded Lotus, the type of card you’d have seen in Tinker decks, offer the “mana
savings account” feature of Grim Monolith, but they’re not explosive. They keep the mana flowing in the midgame, and help build up to something epic
like Upheaval, but they don’t accelerate the turn you play them. That’s an acceptable drawback in the case of Metalworker because he usually taps for
around six â€” but when we’re only talking about two or three mana, it’s not worth it in my book.
Seat of the Synod was in here for awhile. It has some obvious applications: powering up Metalworker and Myr Incubator, feeding Transmute. However, I
kept a close eye on it in playtesting and found I never needed it for any of these purposes. I never wanted to Transmute it because
Transmuting a zero-coster is really expensive, activating Metalworker didn’t need help winning the game, and I always had enough to kill with Myr
Incubator without using any Seats.
When you consider how many games hinge on Wasteland, you can see why it makes more sense to just run a basic Island. It even makes a big difference in
your opening hands â€” can you keep a hand of Seat of the Synod, Ancient Tomb, and spells that all cost at least three? With Island, it’s safe to assume
you can lay the basic on turn 1 and get off at least one three-mana effect on turn 2 before Wasteland enters the picture. But with Seat of the Synod,
you have no idea if you’ll get to play even one three-drop.
I tried various other nonbasics â€” Academy Ruins, Gemstone Caverns, Wasteland, Urza’s Factory, manlands, Desert, even Saprazzan Skerry â€” but they all
turned out to be worse than Basic Island or a fetchland. I think I activated an Academy Ruins once in twenty games against control decks, and it didn’t
even change the outcome of that one game.
Frankly, Islands set the bar pretty high â€” tapping for blue while being immune to Wasteland is actually pretty awesome â€” and aside from fetches and
lands that can produce two mana without coming into play tapped, I have yet to find any nonbasics that exceed that bar.
As to the question of Moxen, honestly, I don’t like my options. The deck doesn’t have enough early artifacts to support Mox Opal, and wouldn’t even if
it played artifact lands. Chrome Mox would have for imprint targets… let’s see, Transmute Artifact and Jace? Yeah, no thanks. And Mox Diamond gives
you a faster one mana, but less mana overall because you have to pitch a land, and this deck is very mana-hungry. When you consider how often
you have Trinisphere in play, and how awful it is to topdeck a Mox when it costs three, none of the Moxen pass the Better Than Basic Island test
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress
2 Sundering Titan
1 Null Rod
Bribery is mainly for Progenitus, but it also gives you phenomenal scouting information against CounterTop while getting you the best creature of the
moment â€” usually â€˜Goyf or Sower of Temptation (if they have them), but sometimes Trinket Mage if you want a Pithing Needle, or Vendilion Clique if, for
example, you’re going for Myr Incubator next turn and want to knock Krosan Grip from their hand first.
Propaganda works wonders against both Dredge and beatdown decks. And while Llawan is mainly for Merfolk, she’s also effective against Progenitus decks’
Trygon Predators, Sowers, and of course Progenitus itself.
The “two and two” split between Relic of Progenitus and Tormod’s Crypt is to help dodge Pithing Needle from Dredge. If I were to add a fifth graveyard
wipe, I’d favor Tormod’s Crypt â€” both because it comes down faster, and because it’s more compatible with Chalice for One.
Sundering Titan is obviously to Armageddon multicolored decks that are heavy on removal â€” CounterTop, Junk, etc. Triskelion is actually mainly for
those same matchups, included as an answer to such pests as Sower of Temptation, Jace, Dark Confidant, Grim Lavamancer, and Vendilion Clique. (It’s not
for the beatdown matchups at all, where it’s just a random two-for-one and a leftover 1/1 dork.)
Note that although Triskelion is boarded in a lot, it’s often to answer sideboard cards like Sower of Temptation; that’s not an indication that he
belongs in the maindeck.
Null Rod is usually a card you’d prefer not to see on the table, since it shuts down your own Grim Monolith, Metalworker, Steel Hellkite, Myr
Incubator, and Triskelion. However, remember that Steel Hellkite is still a 5/5 flyer, and that Myr Incubator and Triskelion are one-of bullets; its
main drawback is shutting off Grim Monolith and Metalworker. Which means that against the decks where you bring it in â€” like Affinity, Painter, and
Belcher â€” it’s a hindrance to you, but it’s absolutely devastating against them. (Belcher can make Goblins, granted, but you’ll be bringing in
Propaganda for those.)
Wash Out didn’t make the final cut, but is worth mentioning. It’s basically impossible for Goblins or Merfolk to outrace even one fatty if you resolve
a Wash Out â€” and if you have Trinisphere out, it can get you back in the game when you’re far behind and don’t have six mana for a fatty yet (because,
say, you’ve been hit with several Wasteland). I didn’t end up playing any, because more Propagandas were just better in all the matchups where Wash
Out would have come in (I didn’t end up having room for it in the matchups where it would answer Progenitus), but it’s on my short list if the need for
a bounce effect should arise.
I had Take Possession in for awhile as an uncounterable Jace-stealer, Shackles-stealer, and even Divining Top-stealer. It was generally strong, but
they can steal back creatures using Jace, and permanents using Repeal, not to mention Krosan Grip and Pyroblast, so I ended up deciding a second
Sundering Titan would be more consistently game-ending. (Plus, it made sure I could still Transmute for him if I drew one copy, which is important
because he’s so expensive to hard-cast.)
I’ve strongly considered moving Sundering Titan to the maindeck, because having access to one is so insane against CounterTop, but you already have
Incubator (and they don’t have Krosan Grip in game one) and Titan sucks against almost every other deck, so I’m not convinced it’s worth it.
It’s also possible that Divining Top is worth it against CounterTop, since you have shuffle effects and all… but considering you both want Chalice at
One and Pithing Needle naming Divining Top in that matchup, I didn’t get to trying it.
At various points the list included Mana Maze, Deep Analysis, Frost Titan, Lightning Greaves, Meloku, Damping Matrix, Static Orb, and Crystal Shard
(against Sower of Temptation), but obviously none of them worked out in the end.
On The Forgemaster Deck
I originally submitted this before Indy â€” Steve let me slip in this section since the article hadn’t gone up yet â€” so Michael Bomholt’s Forgemaster list, which took second, wasn’t on
my radar when I wrote most of this. I’m sure plenty will be written on the deck, so I won’t go into it too much here â€” but given that it’s a Grim
Monolith deck that went very much in a different direction, it’s certainly worth discussing.
Actually, “different direction” is a fairly comical understatement â€” from the looks of things, Bomholt embraced basically every major choice I decided
against, and some of the minor ones, too. I rejected Welder, Moxen, Artifact Lands, Voltaic Key, Top, Wasteland, Lightning Greaves, Lodestone Golem,
Crucible of Worlds, and Myr Battlesphere. The Forgemaster deck is maindecking every one, and running zero basics where I made them a priority.
I didn’t even consider Kuldotha Forgemaster for the creature base, since he costs five, has summoning sickness (unless you Lightning Greaves him, I
guess) and will probably make me sacrifice at least one artifact I want to keep. Ditto Phyrexian Revoker â€” I guess he attacks, and dodges Chalice for
One, and can name mana abilities, but I disregarded him immediately in favor of Pithing Needle because he dies to creature removal and can’t name
Wasteland or Rishadan Port.
We did seem to agree on a few things: Monolith, Metalworker, and Wurmcoil Engine are awesome, Garbage Wire is Garbage (he has four Welders main and
didn’t even board it), non-explosive stuff like Thran Dynamo and Everflowing Chalice aren’t worth it, and Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors deserve to
be four-ofs. I was pretty surprised not to see Relic of Progenitus, Tormod’s Crypt, Myr Incubator, or any Platinum creatures in the list, but I guess
there’ll be an explanation in a forthcoming article.
As far as battling the two decks goes, I’m not sure which would have the upper hand. Welder has to be really good against me, but I can stop it with
Pithing Needle (and sometimes Jace), and Chalice for One looks really good against them. Their only out to Myr Incubator is Welder, and Chalice for
zero blanks six Moxen, which is probably sweet on the play. Null Rod has to be nuts against them post-board because their only ways to cast Welder are
by tapping artifacts, and I can also bring in Relics and/or Crypts to combat Welder and Crucible. Then again, Crucible plus Wasteland would wreck me
pretty badly, and Voltaic Key means they pack more explosive potential.
If I had to guess, I’d expect a lot of games to come down to “Active Welder or no?” but that’s just guesswork; I haven’t tested them yet.
A huge variety of decks see play in Legacy, but it seems to me the most popular ones of the moment are Merfolk, Goblins, CounterTop, and Junk.
Metal Force smashes Merfolk and Goblins, and CounterTop is a hard-fought battle that should reward the better-prepared player. Junk, however, is a
nightmare â€” it’s brimming with relevant disruption and capitalizes with fast clocks. You’ll have to get lucky to beat them.
Smaller players like Dredge, Elves, and CounterTop with Progenitus, are a mixed bag. The maindeck accelerated Trinispheres, Chalices, Pithing Needle,
and tutorable Platinum Angel allow you to steal more Game Ones than most from Dredge, and those cards plus Steel Hellkite make a crippling combination
against Elves. On the other hand, you’ll be shocked to learn that Trygon Predator takes this deck apart, and that Progenitus is very tough to race
without a head start or a clutch Platinum Angel.
In general, though, this is definitely what Adrian Sullivan refers to as a Level One Marketplace deck. It doesn’t rely on exploiting specific
weaknesses of the best decks; it’s just powerful in its own right. If you’re paired against a random unknown deck, you’ll generally be confident about
I didn’t test the entire massive gauntlet of matchups in Legacy, but for those I did test, I’ll go into what I learned on a case-by-case basis.
This is a very straightforward matchup, and possibly your easiest. Goblins has two ways to disrupt you: mana denial and removal. Port and Wasteland
will try to keep you color-screwed and short on mana for as long as possible, while Stingscourger and Warren Weirding will try to remove your fatties.
There’s no countermagic to play around, no flyers to impede Steel Hellkite, and no insta-kill combo to worry about.
Fortunately, neither the removal nor the mana denial tactics work very often. Goblins is surprisingly soft to Trinisphere â€” consider how much better
they are with Goblin Warchief out, and consider how much slower they are when they can only cast one Goblin per turn â€” and each of your fatties is a
huge beating against them.
Chalice for One is super awesome if you can drop it turn one on the play, but if you can’t stop Aether Vial and Lackey, usually your best bet is to set
it on two to stop Warren Weirding, Goblin Piledriver, and the odd Stingscourger or Tin-Street Hooligan.
A situation that comes up from time to time is that the opponent has only Goblin Lackey and two lands, and swings into your summoning-sick Metalworker.
You might worry that he has Gempalm Incinerator, and if you block, he’ll cycle Gempalm Incinerator so that the Lackey trades for the Metalworker. This
is true, but you should always block anyway. If he has Gempalm, the unblocked Lackey will dump out a second Goblin and your Metalworker will get
Gempalmed anyway; blocking at least takes the Lackey down, too. (Plus, if he’s bluffing Gempalm, you get to eat his Lackey.)
Pithing Needle can be very important in this matchup. If your opponent is nailing you to the wall with Rishadan Ports, don’t hesitate to Transmute a
Trinisphere or Chalice for Pithing Needle. When they beat you it’s almost always because of mana denial, so don’t think you’ll be “wasting” a Transmute
to stop Rishadan Ports that are the only things keeping you from casting that Wurmcoil Engine in your hand. I know that Transmute could turn into a big
threat if only you had the mana for it, but it’s better to have two threats in hand and the mana to cast them than to die with three threats in hand.
Finally, if you go for the Myr Incubator win, don’t forget about the possibility of a hasty Goblin Sharpshooter surprise.
-1 Chalice of the Void
-1 Platinum Angel
-1 Myr Incubator
You don’t really want to Transmute for Myr Incubator post-board. It’s almost always better to go for Wurmcoil, because if they have an artifact
destruction spell, he’ll still leave behind the 3/3s. Platinum Angel isn’t reliable because they have so many ways to remove her â€” not just Warren
Weirding, Tin-Street Hooligan, Stingscourger, or whatever spot artifact removal they might have boarded in, but even Gempalm Incinerator is usually
enough to kill a 4/4.
You generally don’t have time to cast two Chalices, meaning it’s not so hot in multiples and I’m happy to board one out.
The biggest thing to watch out for post-board is Stingscourger. Unlike Warren Weirding, he can be Vialed out to circumvent Chalice for Two â€” and
particularly in the case of Wurmcoil, getting your fatty bounced is often worse than getting it killed in this matchup.
Still, in the grand scheme of racing effects, Stingscourger is pretty tame compared to Propaganda â€” just remember that they may have brought in
Pyroblast, so don’t assume just because it’s an Enchantment against a Red deck that it’s safe from removal. (The same goes for Jace and Transmute
Artifact.) Also, don’t forget that Propaganda does not apply to creatures attacking Jace.
This isn’t as much of a beating as Goblins is, but it’s still a beating. Merfolk lacks Rishadan Port, and tends to play only one hard counter â€” Force
of Will â€” alongside wimpier counters that merely increase the cost of your spells.
Since you often naturally play Jace with a Crystal Vein or something left over, and since Transmute Artifact only asks for a sacrifice and payment
after it’s already resolving (meaning you can safely sacrifice the Trinisphere that allowed it to resolve in the first place), often the Merfolk
player’s best play is to expend a Cursecatcher or Spell Pierce (or both) just so that your Transmute can’t get something super scary, and must
instead settle for a Trinisphere or Monolith or Pithing Needle.
If the Merfolk player goes for a low-pressure Standstill â€” like all they have is a Cursecatcher or a random bear â€” it’s sometimes better to let it sit
for a turn or two while you make land drops rather than breaking it right away. For example, if breaking it right away would entail walking your
Wurmcoil into a Daze, you’re often better off taking the extra one to two damage, letting the opponent make another land drop (your land drops are way
better than his), and reducing his outs to just Force of Will and maybe double Daze.
As with Goblins, remember that Transmute Artifact for Pithing Needle is a fine disruptive play when you don’t have the mana to get a fatty. Shutting
down Wasteland, Aether Vial, Mutavault, or Coralhelm Commander are all noble causes, and will help the first fatty you do play take home the win.
Don’t forget about Islandwalk when doing your racing math.
+2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress
-4 Chalice of the Void
-1 Myr Incubator
This is the matchup where Chalice of the Void is most situational. It’s rare that you’ll stop Aether Vial with a Chalice for one (not only do you have
to have Chalice, two mana on turn one, be on the play, and have a keepable hand, they also have to not Force it), and shutting down Spell
Pierce and Cursecatcher often doesn’t get you anywhere because you usually end up dodging them in the course of playing around Daze anyway. Chalice for
two is generally stronger, since it hits Daze and a bunch of Merfolk, but a single Aether Vial can easily relegate it to anti-Daze duty, which is
usually not worth four mana.
Propaganda is nuts in this matchup (I can tell you’re shocked) and Llawan is even more nuts.
If you know they have Sower of Temptation, I’d probably bring in Triskelion for the Pithing Needle. Yes, Llawan and Jace are already answers â€” but this
matchup is great unless something stupid happens, and I’d be reluctant to offer them any more ways to mise wins than I have to.
Finally, there’s Back to Basics. It’s good against this deck, but usually not devastating; it basically turns all your Ancient Tombs, City of Traitors,
and Crystal Veins into Crystal Veins that you always want to pop right away. Remember that it won’t land any sooner than turn three, and at that point
it doesn’t really matter if you’ve already resolved a Steel Hellkite or something. Just be mindful of it; don’t tap your nonbasics for some minor
effect going into the opponent’s third turn if Back to Basics would wreck you.
Vs. CounterTop (non-Progenitus)
Practice this one a lot, because it’s extremely involved. Timing is crucial, as is deciding when and which lands to sacrifice. Often it comes down to a
question of “I can resolve this right now. How scary is it if I let that window of opportunity close, compared to how much I’ll miss this mana in a
turn or two if I make my move now?”
Your primary aces are Jaces (in large part due to the Planeswalker Legend Rule) and Chalice of the Void for one, which stops the CounterTop player from
casting Swords to Plowshares, Brainstorm, Ponder, Spell Pierce, Spell Snare, Divining Top, and Pithing Needle for Myr Incubator.
Secondary to Chalice and Jace is Myr Incubator, which, once resolved, can win the game with very little regard to what has been going on up to that
point. It’s the most common Transmute target in this matchup by a huge margin.
The opponent’s biggest aces, also by a huge margin, are Divining Top and Jace. When Jace Unsummons a fatty, chances are you won’t be able to replay it
right away â€” sometimes because you expended a City of Traitors or Crystal Vein to play it the first time, sometimes because Grim Monolith is now tapped
â€” and if you can’t get a Myr Incubator or a Jace of your own to stop him, you’ll be locked out in a hurry.
Their other scary cards are Vedalken Shackles and Engineered Explosives. Once the opponent hits four Islands, Shackles makes Platinum Angel a dangerous
creature to summon. At five Islands, Steel Hellkite becomes risky. At six, even Wurmcoil is unsafe. Fortunately, unlike Jace, Vedalken Shackles cannot
lock you out of the game â€” and you can use a Jace of your own to get your guy back. (You won’t be able to replay him, of course, unless you Needle the
Shackles first, but you can at least fall back to an Incubator or Jace Lock plan.)
Explosives is important primarily because it clears away Chalice for One, but also because it’s one of the opponent’s few answers to Myr Incubator. The
Chalice-killing is way more important though. Remember that they don’t have to play it until you’ve already resolved a creature; they can just drop the
Explosives, clear away your Chalice, and Plow your dude before you can play a second Chalice â€” while firing off those saved-up Brainstorms, too, if
Trinisphere isn’t out.
Because of Explosives (and Krosan Grip post-board), I rarely play a second Chalice if I draw it; instead, I save it as a backup Chalice for One in case
the first one is knocked out. It’s that important in this matchup.
Most of all, remember that Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique can come down at any time to put you on a clock. Don’t think that just because you pack
scarier threats you’re always in the driver’s seat.
+2 Sundering Titan
-1 Platinum Angel
Triskelion is primarily an answer to Sower of Temptation and Jace (without turning off your own Jaces, which tutoring up Pithing Needle does), but
obviously he has opportunistic applications as well.
(As a side note, you may or may not know that I hate Triskelion; I tried Cursed Scroll and even Goblin Charbelcher in this slot before resorting to
Trike, but they were too unreliable at actually dealing damage.)
One of the nice things about Bribery in this matchup is that it’s a threat you can usually cast without expending any lands or Monoliths. Remember that
if they pack Sower of Temptation, Bribery can be a better response to an opposing Tarmogoyf or Vendilion Clique than just summoning a fatty, since they
can Krosan Grip the artifact fatty but not the Sower.
If Transmute Artifact resolves and you can afford either, you usually want Sundering Titan over Myr Incubator, but not always. Important questions
include things like “What if he has Krosan Grip?” â€” in the case of Incubator, he may be able to Grip it before you can pop it, whereas in the case of
Titan, you may blow up so many of his lands it won’t matter if he has Grip. Another good question is, “What if he has Explosives, Pithing Needle, or
Trinket Mage?” Or “Can he race Sundering Titan with the beaters he already has out, even without lands?”
I considered bringing in Inkwell Leviathan here, but I think Sundering Titan is better overall â€” and cheaper, too.
Vs. CounterTop (with Progenitus)
This matchup is similar to regular CounterTop except that they have fewer answers to Metalworker (and resolved fatties in general), and â€” oh right,
that whole Progenitus thing.
An obnoxious quantity of games come down to Progenitus. Sometimes the opponent has a quick Progenitus and all of a sudden nothing else matters except
how quickly you can find Platinum Angel. (Obviously, because of this, you can’t very well board her out like you do against non-Progenitus versions.)
Generally, though, the threat of Progenitus mainly means you have to speed up your game. It’s possible for Wurmcoil or Steel Hellkite to race
Progenitus (or at least force him to stay on defense in the case of Wurmcoil, buying you time to find a threat that can connect), but they absolutely must get in one hit before Progenitus arrives, and you have to be super-aggressive â€” pumping Hellkite, throwing down Jace just to Unsummon a
Because of this, you have to be constantly aware of how close the opponent might be to Progenitus. Pausing to erect a Chalice/Trinisphere shield before
dropping a fatty, or setting up a big turn in which you play multiple threats, or even playing around Daze and Spell Pierce, can be the difference
between being able to race and being dead on board once Natural Order resolves. Be aggressive.
Remember that fetches can get Dryad Arbor, and that Platinum Angel plus Chalice for One isn’t a reliable solution because she can still get bounced by
Jace. Also remember that if you can pull it off (usually via Metalworker), Chalice for Four will keep Natural Order at bay.
+2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress
-1 Pithing Needle
FYI, when you see Bribery in your opening hand against a deck containing Progenitus, cackling like a mad scientist is definitely a “tell.” Resist the
Seriously, though, it’s important that you cast Bribery before they can Natural Order â€” countermagic be damned. Resolving it the turn after
Progenitus has hit the table is not helpful, and although with Monolith or Metalworker you can cast your Progenitus-fetching spell on turn 3, you have
to remember that they can potentially Natural Order on turn 3 as well. If you don’t have a Metalworker or Monolith, Jace can helpfully bounce a mana
creature to buy time for Bribery.
I considered boarding in tutorable artifact answers to Progenitus such as Noetic Scales, Nevinyrral’s Disk, and Oblivion Stone for this matchup â€” but I
was having trouble seeing myself winning the game after using them. Yes, they’d probably keep me from dying to Progenitus, but having obliterated all
my own creatures and Chalices and Monoliths (or locking out my own fatties in the case of Noetic Scales), am I really going to win that one?
I decided it would be better to take my chances with Platinum Angel backing up my Llawans and Briberies and make them show me the removal spell rather
than just making them show me they could recover faster from the board wipe.
Sundering Titan isn’t really worth it here; they have mana creatures, only 2-3 colors, and the games don’t go as long as they do against
Remember that if you need to run out an emergency Llawan to stop a Sower of Temptation or Trygon Predator, you can bounce her with Jace later if
Progenitus comes knocking.
Speaking of Trygon Predator, I’m on the fence about Meloku the Clouded Mirror as an answer to it. Meloku is a really slow threat, but Trygon Predator
is a huge beating. Vendilion Clique might be a good tiebreaker; if they have both, I’d probably bring him in for a couple of Wurmcoils.
“Unwinnable” is a harsh word, but it’s not inappropriate here. This matchup is god-awful, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. You can hope
they get manascrewed, I guess, or that you randomly Jace-lock them after they lead with a bunch of hand destruction and no Vindicates, Divining Tops,
+2 Relic of Progenitus
+2 Sundering Titan
I tried various boarding strategies to turn this one around â€” Threads of Disloyalty / Vedalken Shackles / Sower of Temptation-type effects, Deep
Analysis, Frost Titan, and so on. None of them got me very far. Eventually I decided it was just a lost cause, and that I’d rather have a better board
against the rest of the environment than waste sideboard space on something I’ll probably lose to anyway.
Basically, this boarding plan tries to disrupt the opponent in as many relevant ways as possible. Trinisphere rarely does anything against them (I left
one copy in for tutoring purposes in the rare case where it seems good â€” in conjunction with Sundering Titan, for example), and often when they let you
untap with Metalworker, it’s because your hand has been stripped of artifacts and he’s just a random 1/2.
Relic keeps their monsters small; both â€˜Goyf and Knight of the Reliquary are necessarily tiny when the graveyards are empty. Bribery can steal
Confidants, which can mise wins. Sundering Titan can mise wins if you can find a way to afford it.
It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.
Back when I was testing Dredge a lot, there were maybe one or two decks that actually had a decent game one against it. This deck has joined their
There are three main ways you can beat Dredge in game one. One is that it beats itself, mulliganing into oblivion or needing an opening Careful Study
to find dredgers and whiffing. Two is that you lead with Chalice for one on the play. Three is that you get out Platinum Angel before you’re dead.
(This almost always involves Trinisphere stalling Dread Return, forcing them to stop dredging and hunt for a third land using â€” ew â€” the draw step.)
You also have a lot of ways to capitalize on a slow Dredge draw. Sometimes you’ll lead with Chalice for one on the draw, letting through Putrid Imp but
shutting down Careful Study â€” and then, after the opponent’s only had two draw steps with which to dredge, you drop Jace and bounce the now-Chaliced
Imp, leaving the opponent down a creature to sac to Cabal Therapy and stuck trying to chain-dredge without a discard outlet. Other times you’ll have a
fast Steel Hellkite that keeps wiping out the Zombie tokens his Ichorids produce on end step, and he’s never able to accumulate enough main phase dudes
to flash Dread Return.
You’re not the pre-board favorite â€” I mean, what deck is? â€” but you’ve got a much better shot than most of the format.
+2 Tormod’s Crypt
+2 Relic of Progenitus
-3 Wurmcoil Engine
-1 Myr Incubator
Myr Incubator comes out because it’s too slow, and Metalworker’s acceleration isn’t very relevant. All my disruption costs three or less, so if I have
three mana I’m going to play a disruption spell instead of Metalworker â€” and once I’ve disrupted them, I’m more concerned with having a threat in hand
to finish them off with than I am having a bunch of mana. The nightmare scenario is where I disrupt them but then have only Metalworker for a threat
and then they get me with Ichorids anyway.
A useful trick is to have Triskelion shoot Putrid Imp, respond by shooting Putrid Imp (or something else if it’s still 1/1 somehow), then respond by
shooting itself. That will wipe out opposing Bridges and their discard outlet.
Note that you can Transmute for Tormod’s Crypt on turn 2 if you play consecutive Islands and a Chalice for zero.
I’ve considered Bribery here (gimme Iona!) but it’s too risky for my tastes. If I were a Dredge player, I’d probably be bringing in Chain of Vapor
and/or Pithing Needle, and in terms of Dread Return targets I’d probably go down to just something that can blow up Propaganda. Meaning that even if
Bribery does find Iona, nabbing her and naming black isn’t a guaranteed winner (end step Chain of Vapor her, untap, pitch her to Putrid Imp,
Dread Return her naming Blue), and if it doesn’t, you’ll seriously wish you’d just had a Steel Hellkite.
Finally, remember that this is Dredge. Its plan is to have you dead (or dead on board) by turn 2 if you don’t do a meaningful job disrupting it.
A nice feature of this matchup is that Trinisphere doesn’t just slow them down, it actually prevents them from going off. Ditto Chalice for One.
Another nice feature is what an attacking Steel Hellkite does to a deck full of non-flying one-drops.
Remember that they may have access to a tutorable Viridian Shaman in game one, so don’t bet on Platinum Angel over Steel Hellkite if you can avoid it.
Likewise, if you play Steel Hellkite and they play Fauna Shaman, it’s risky to blow up the one-drops when the single two-drop could serve up the
Viridian Shaman that gets them back in the game. You really have to consider how likely they are to be able to go off if you don’t wipe the one-drops â€”
but keep in mind that they didn’t have it last turn, or they would have simply gone off instead of casting Fauna Shaman.
+2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress
-4 Wurmcoil Engine
-1 Myr Incubator
Embarrassingly, you basically have to bring in the anti-Progenitus package even though Llawan doesn’t touch a single creature in their maindeck,
because Progenitus is their best chance at circumventing your disruption; you have to assume they’ve boarded it in. (If you Bribery them and don’t see
Natural Orders, of course, bench the Llawans if there’s a game three.)
Fortunately Bribery is still good even if they didn’t board in Progenitus, because stealing Regal Force both gives you a beatstick and cripples their
ability to go off.
I take out Wurmcoil Engine here because I don’t want to be taking out any disruption cards, and there’s almost no situation in which Wurmcoil Engine is
better at racing a deck full of one-drops than Steel Hellkite is.
This deck is awesome. It’s got sick disruption, sick threats, and sick matchups against some of the format’s most popular decks. Better yet, no one’s
sideboard is gunning for it â€” and it’s a blast to play.
Hope you enjoy it!
Bonus Section: Alternative Colors
You may have noticed that this deck maindecks only two blue spells: Transmute Artifact and Jace. You may also have noticed that there are eight fetches
and five basics in the mana base. Given that, you might wonder how the deck would look with changes along the lines of:
-4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
+4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
+4 Underground Sea
With eight fetches, this would give you twelve black sources â€” plenty, I think, as long as you’re careful to play around Wasteland â€” while retaining
access to a single basic Island. You can also imagine switching up the deck’s base color(s) â€” this could be a mono-red deck, or B/G, or really any
other combination of up to two colors you’re in the mood to try. It could even be mono-brown, cutting the two colored spells and running only nonbasics
Given all the color options out there, you might be wondering why I chose mono-blue.
The short answer is that I want Blue because no other color offers any spell as tempting as Transmute Artifact, and none of the splashes I contemplated
seemed worth making the mana base less consistent and more vulnerable to Wasteland.
For the adventurous deckbuilders out there, here are some cards to consider if changing up the mana base sounds appealing to you.
Wildfire / Devastating Dreams
Best against beatdown decks â€” not that you need any help there â€” but also exciting against Elves as a quick wipe in the case of Dreams. Unfortunately,
these are somewhat “win-more” cards, since you usually need a fatty out for a full Armageddon to be imbalanced in your favor, and they can actually be
a liability against Tarmogoyf decks. (Wiping the board only to watch them go “Land, Land, Tarmogoyf” is bad times.)
Most of your deck costs brown, but the same is not at all true for CounterTop and Junk, for example. I’d run the enchantment over Magus of the Moon
because that guy dies to Firespout, which CounterTop might conceivably keep in to hit Metalworker. (Or Magus, if they know about him from scouting or
This is reeeeeally slow, and eats part of your sideboard, but it would let you rock some exciting cards that are normally too situational to maindeck.
Consider Obliterate when Wurmcoil Engine or Jace is on the table, for example, or Upheaval, Thoughts of Ruin, Wash Out, Trash for Treasure, and of
course Wildfire and Devastating Dreams. You could also move a Transmute Artifact to the board and have access to “seven” copies main.
This also eats part of your sideboard, and is also typically slow, but at least unlike Burning Wish you could make up for the speed loss by fetching a
land. Grabbing uncounterable dudes against CounterTop, Llawan against Merfolk or Progenitus, or Loaming Shaman against Dredge, all sound sweet.
Tooth and Nail
Almost impossibly expensive for the maindeck at nine mana, but certainly a game-ender if resolved. The fact that you could sometimes pay seven and dump
two fatties onto the table might make it playable, though, and being able to board in Boseiju, Who Shelters All would be nuts for the lengthy
Pretty much the only hope CounterTop has of defeating this guy is a 6/7 â€˜Goyf, which should be tricky to assemble if neither of you have enchantments,
and both sorceries and planeswalkers are scarce in the matchup.
Not so hot if blue is one of your colors â€” but in a G/R, G/W, or G/B build, this could be insane against CounterTop and Merfolk.
Knight of the Reliquary
Float a mana, sac a land, bust out Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors for +2 mana this turn. Like Metalworker, but less explosive â€” and huge in
a deck that sacrifices as many lands as this one does. (I doubt you could fit much of a land-tutoring package, though, with all the colorless
producers you need to run.)
Alongside Chalice and Trinisphere, this would give you twelve early disruption spells. Besides its strength against fetchlands, it would cripple
Rishadan Port, Wasteland, Mutavault, and planeswalkers, would leave Aether Vial rarely an upgrade over just paying for the creature, and would render
Sensei’s Divining Top almost unusable. It would make Steel Dragon worse, though.
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Turning Chalices and Trinispheres into 5/5s (which can realistically attack immediately) is exciting, and the “draw an artifact every turn” ability
seems comparable to Jace’s Brainstorming ability (and possibly better). This is the splash I most strongly considered, but in the end Jace’s
versatility â€” and the packaged Wasteland resilience of the mono-blue mana base he affords â€” won out. Being able to bounce opposing threats and your own
Sowered creatures, and the ability to lock the opponent out of drawing answers to your board, are not things I give up lightly, and vanilla 5/5s still
chump Tarmogoyfs most of the time.
I’m sure there are other spicy cards out there I haven’t thought of, and I’m almost positive that if this deck gains any traction in Legacy there will
be different-colored variants, but I’ll reiterate that for my money mono-Blue seems to be the strongest for now.
Finally, I’d strongly suggest giving the list I posted a run around the track before starting to experiment. It’s important to understand what you’re
giving up before moving on to what appear to be greener pastures.