Scars of Mirrodin: Eternal Set Review

Tuesday, September 28th – “Unless you’re an Affinity player, there’s not much need to hang onto your Mox Opals.” See why the numbers aren’t in favor of Mox Opal and how to play Assault Strobe, Kuldotha Forgemaster, or Liquimetal Coating in Legacy.

Mirrodin was an important block to Eternal formats. Artifacts are an intrinsic part of these formats, and a focus on them lends itself to a higher percentage of relevant cards. Scars has a couple of relevant cards, but on balance, I’d say it’s somewhat disappointing. It isn’t bad or even below average from an Eternal perspective, but many, myself included, had high expectations. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Mox Opal

General thoughts on metalcraft in Eternal formats (Vintage and Legacy):

People associate Vintage — and to some extent Legacy — with powerful, cheap artifacts. Moxes, Lotuses (Black and Petal), Lion’s Eye Diamonds, etc. are all played in Eternal Magic. So just how easy is it to have three artifacts out in these formats?

First, let’s see what it looks like when we don’t actively try to turn on metalcraft; we just take an existing deck and see how fast it gets metalcraft online. Say we add Mox Opal to our TPS deck. Something around twelve artifacts is typical: one Black Lotus, one Lotus Petal, one Mana Crypt, one Mana Vault, one Memory Jar, five (non-Opal) Moxes, one Sensei’s Divining Top, one Sol Ring. Best case scenario for metalcraft: we cut three to four lands for Mox Opals, increasing the artifact count.

With fifteen artifacts in our deck (Memory Jar hardly counts), we’ll have three or more artifacts in our opening hand around 23.4% of the time.

(Arrived at by calculating the hypergeometric probability of the number of successes in the sample being greater than or equal to three given population 60, sample 7, successes in pop. 15;
this site

can crunch the numbers.)

This number must be adjusted downward slightly because some amount of the time, our three artifacts include two Mox Opals, and the legendary rule will do us in. Making mana around 23% of the time isn’t even in the ballpark of making Mox Opal an effective choice.

A very important additional strike against Mox Opal is that those draws that

contain two other cheap artifacts are the draws that need Mox Opal the least. This principle will keep Mox Opal out of decks like ANT as well.

Chrome Mox is just better when you need that first black mana (which is often), and they both do the same thing once you resolve Ad Nauseam: They kill the opponent. It’s rare that the imprint poses a problem at that stage of the game — in fact is probably more of an outlier than the “I only hit two artifacts” scenario.

It’s hard to put Opal ahead of a card like Cabal Ritual, since if you have two other artifacts out, many times you’ll be able to produce 1B and get the extra mana that way. All the times you have Dark Ritual but not two artifacts, the Cabal Ritual is going to outperform the Mox Opal.

Basically, unless we tweak our deck to add many more artifacts, Mox Opal isn’t playable in Vintage decks like TPS or ANT that seem like they’d want more Moxes.

What about Mishra’s Workshop decks that often have two or more artifacts out early in the game? I don’t like Mox Opal here either. First, we only want Mox Opal where the five easy Moxes aren’t enough. Moxes are good in Shop decks, but you definitely start getting diminishing returns somewhere around four to six of them. You need a certain amount of “business” in your deck, so we’d need to cut something like Gemstone Mine from 5-Color Stax or some other land from MUD to make room for the Opal.

This sounds more promising than cutting lands from TPS/ANT, but I’m still skeptical. What’s the best case scenario? Mox Opal, Mox Ruby, Chalice for 0, Ancient Tomb, Lodestone Golem? In this scenario, having an extra Mox powered out our Golem turn 1. The problem is that a more likely draw is Workshop, Mox Opal, Lodestone Golem, and maybe a Chalice. Now, you can’t cast your Golem because your Mox isn’t turned on.

Also, when you have Mox Opal out, artifact removal and Spell Pierce are more effective against you. Someone can “Stone Rain” you by countering or killing your third artifact, and when they use Spell Pierce to do it, the Opal can’t help pay the two mana because metalcraft isn’t active yet.  

Legacy is the format containing the deck with the best chance of using Mox Opal effectively. (Yes, Belcher is a Vintage deck too, so some of this analysis applies there as well, but it’s primarily a Legacy deck due to its relative power level in that format.)

Here is a Belcher list for reference:

Without yet addressing which cards to cut to add the Mox Opals, let’s crunch the numbers on the assumption we’ll cut three non-artifact cards for three Mox Opals. There are 23 artifacts in our deck, but Belcher might be hard to resolve while the Mox isn’t making mana, so let’s count the four Belchers as one artifact and use twenty as the number of artifacts in our deck.

We get up to around 43%, not bad. Still, the Mox is going to have to outperform whatever we cut. Note that the deck has already passed on playing the full amount of Pyretic Rituals, which, as with Cabal Ritual in Vintage, plays like a more consistent Mox Opal. It makes one mana but never the first or second mana.

I’d pass on Mox Opal even in the Belcher deck.

Finally, we get to Affinity. Mox Opal is very, very, very good in affinity. Legendary is pretty much the only drawback here. Affinity is not a powerful deck in Vintage (though it gets to play four Skullclamp), and even in Legacy, Affinity is only a very minor player. Mox Opal helps, so perhaps we’ll get to see more of Rietzl’s favorite deck in the near future.

Okay, so Mox Opal is pretty underwhelming if we just stick it in existing decks that aren’t Affinity. But Affinity does provide a lesson: with artifact lands and other cheap artifacts, Mox Opal starts to resemble Mox JetRubySaphPearlEmerald.

What if we just add artifact lands to our decks like TPS, ANT, 5cStax, etc.? The problem here is that a) artifacts lands are appreciably worse than fetchlands, dual lands, and basics, especially against Wastelands or artifact removal, and b) we still can’t get the Mox Opal to do much better than 40% on turn 1.

Unless you’re an Affinity player, there’s not much need to hang onto your Mox Opals.

Here’s an Affinity list for Legacy that does seem to use the Opal pretty darn effectively. You hardly ever see Berserk in the random Affinity decklists that pop up, and it’s probably just because when someone plays Affinity in Legacy, they usually don’t have a Legacy deck or Legacy cards and are using some old Extended deck.  

This list makes me wonder if there isn’t some way we can push artifact lands + Mox Opal + Lotus Petal + Lion’s Eye Diamond into a combo kill rather than an affinity kill. The artifact lands won’t let us Belcher, but we could still Empty the Warrens or Tendrils someone. I’m not confident we end up better than existing Storm or Belcher strategies, but it might we worth exploring.

Dispense Justice

Wescoe’s invitational card from the new set.

Elspeth Tirel

You’ve got to win the game for five mana in Legacy or Vintage, and even if you do win the game for five, there might be a way to win for four that you should be looking into (Jace, Aluren, Natural Order). If your other favorite five-drop from the new set didn’t make my review, this is probably why.

Ghalma’s Warden

Once upon a time, Chapin had to send letters about Magic to his friends from a prison cell. Some letters discussed the game, and others were a game, one move at a time like in chess by mail. All your mail, incoming and outgoing, is read by the prison staff for security reasons.

I’ve always wondered what they must have thought reading about Magic games. If I was discussing Scars with someone in prison, I’d ask to play a test game, and I’d make sure Ghalma’s Warden was in my deck. Then when I cast it, the guy in prison would write back “Grasp of Darkness, kill the Warden, attack with everything,” and probably get 5-10 years added to his term, and his mail privileges revoked.

It would be a good prank though.

Glint Hawk

Cool card, easy to get into play in these formats, but doesn’t provide enough of an impact on the game to make it worth our while.

Leonin Arbiter

Smile, Pussycat.” —Borat Sagdiyev

Now we’re talking. Disruptive Bears in white or green already see play in Vintage, although the G/W and G/W/x beatdown decks haven’t been very popular of late.

Leonin Arbiter is absolutely good enough to see play alongside Gaddock Teeg, Qasali Pridemage, and perhaps Ethersworn Canonist in our 2/2-for-two slot. Fish decks have more cards competing for slots, so a non-blue creature has to really impress to make the cut. Arbiter may or may not be good enough.

Fetchlands + tutors + Tinker is a significant percentage of many decks in the format. Aven Mindcensor serves a similar function to that of the Arbiter, but it costs one more, and sometimes they find the land in the top four cards with a fetchland. These things matter. Not being able to pay two to turn off the Mindcensor matters too, but at first glance, I’d rather have the Arbiter.

We’re certainly playing Null Rod and Wasteland in our G/W beats or Fish decks, so the two mana to turn off Arbiter isn’t all that easy for the opponent to come by.  Also, two important strategies against Wasteland are to fetch basic lands, and to leave fetchlands uncracked until you need the mana. If we play Arbiter turn 1, those options aren’t available to the opponent. But even if the Arbiter doesn’t come down until turn 2 or 3 when the opponent is sitting on a fetchland or two, he/she’ll have to crack those fetches in response, and we can they play Wasteland or Strip Mine to kill the land(s) they got.

Tinker tends to be one of the most powerful anti-Fish cards, and tutoring for Tinker is a common game plan against Fish or G/W beats. Arbiter makes Tinker
a lot

more difficult to pull off.  

In Legacy, to the extent White Weenie becomes a viable deck (Fathom Seer Wayfarer is played, but not really Tier 1), we might see Arbiter. Also, given the popularity of Survival of the Fittest decks at the moment, we may want Arbiter even in non-weenie decks as a sideboard option.

Revoke Existence

If it were an instant, it’d definitely see play. At sorcery, it has to significantly outperform Disenchant, Seal of Cleansing, and others. Exiling the artifact is very relevant against Vault/Key, but only a minor improvement against Workshop decks (if they have Welder, otherwise it’s strictly worse than Disenchant). We need our Disenchant effects most against Shop decks, where Tangle Wire punishes sorcery-speed removal.

Argent Sphinx

A nice finisher, but we again need to keep in mind the kind of return we need to get for an investment of four mana in Vintage or Legacy. This guy is more five-drop than four-drop against some decks, and he just doesn’t impact the board enough.

Grand Architect

my article last week


Necrotic Ooze

Turn 1 Birds of Paradise. Turn 2 Survival of the Fittest, go get Pili-Pala. Turn 3 discard Pili-Pala, get and discard Palladium Myr, get Oxidda Daredevil, discard it, get Necrotic Ooze. Turn 4 play Ooze and some artifact or artifact land, sacrifice an artifact to get haste, generate infinite mana, Survival for Maga, Traitor to Mortals

…and then realize you should just be playing Emrakul + Loyal Retainers + Anger.

Assault Strobe

This review could’ve gone under several cards, but here’s a deck I brewed up, and Chapin helped me add to it (he thought of Invigorate, which was the biggest innovation ┢ Chapin).

Strobe and Berserk both double the number of poison counters an infect creature “deals.” One Invigorate or Might of Old Krosa on a 1/1 infect, and you’re going to the next game. Is this a competitive deck in Legacy? Not really. But it’s fun, and if somehow everyone else is playing combo decks without disruption (if there’s a local 8-man Legacy event or kitchen table), you could do worse than this one.

It’s possible but unlikely that Strobe + Berserk has applications elsewhere. In most cases you’d just play four Berserks and not have much need for doubling effects five through eight.

Kuldotha Rebirth

With this card and Devastating Summons, it isn’t hard to make Goblin Bushwhacker a very good card. Throw in Goblin Warchief or Goblin Chieftain to help the Kuldotha Rebirth, and maybe we’ve got a nice Standard deck.

Legacy is a tougher nut to crack. Forget Devastating Summons. Is having Chieftain and Goblin Pyromancer enough? Probably not. Mogg War Marshal is just a more consistent way to get Goblin tokens.


Just making sure you’re paying attention.

Spikeshot Elder

Could this be a good Goblin Matron target in Legacy Goblins?

No. To pump it, you need another questionable one-of card like Goblin Sledder or Goblin Chieftain. I’m just not seeing it.

Tunnel Ignus

For the opponent to play a fetchland and immediately get a mana, they’ll need to take four. That alone isn’t enough to make us play a 2/1 for two in Legacy. If Warp World cost three mana instead of eight, we might be onto something. As it stands, this isn’t good enough.

Venser, the Sojourner

Good with Gilded Drake, for all the cube drafters out there.

Culling Dais

Pretty easy to get back your investment of one card, but getting back the 3+ mana you spent is more tricky. The Kobold or Goat lands are too slow for Legacy, and decks like Dredge and Affinity are far too fast to want this effect.

Darksteel Juggernaut

If you’re wondering why this isn’t in my Affinity list above, it’s because it costs five mana.

Etched Champion

This card is pretty nice for three mana. I expect it to be popular in slower formats, but could it have it a chance in Legacy?

A 2/2 for three has to do a lot. Merrow Reejery does a lot. Etched Champion does a lot against creature decks but not so much against control or combo. I don’t think our artifact decks need help against creatures badly enough to resort to this, but it’s closer to contention than some of the other cards I just discussed.

Kuldotha Forgemaster

This guy can grab some powerful things out of your library: Sundering Titan, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Inkwell Leviathan, Memory Jar (in Vintage), etc. In Vintage, we could try to use Workshops to get him out quickly and sacrifice our Moxen and/or artifact lands to his ability. Our deck could already play a Tinker, a Duplicant, and a Sundering Titan to give us targets, as well as just being able to grab Crucible or Trinisphere to complete a lock.

I wish he cost four, as all of this would be more likely to succeed. At five, I think he is okay, but one mana too expensive to get my full confidence.

In Legacy, we have different tools: Grim Monolith and Metalworker (with Voltaic Key). Forgemaster is a pretty good thing to do with a Grim Monolith on turn 2 after you got it out turn 1 with an Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors. This deck gets to play four Trinispheres, which is helpful.

Here’s an initial sketch:

I’d like to have Chalice of the Void in the deck, but this list isn’t tuned. I don’t want to squeeze it in at the expense of some experimental card at this point without trying the deck.

There may be a Tezzerator deck that could use some of the cards above, including the Golem, so that’s worth keeping in mind if you think of something that contributes along those lines.

Liquimetal Coating

In Vintage, artifact hate and Disenchant effects are good enough that if you could use Liquimetal Coating as an excuse to play a bunch of Ancient Grudges and Nature’s Claims, you wouldn’t be too far underwater when you didn’t have the Coating out. Trygon Predator is pretty darn good with the Coating out as well. Null Rod isn’t a concern, since even though it shuts off the Coating, we’ll have a bunch of cards in our deck that kill artifacts. This card also combos extremely well with March of the Machines or Titania’s Song.

The problem with this deck is twofold: 1) we can only play four Liquimetal Coatings in our deck, and more importantly, 2) several of the decks in Vintage (or Legacy) don’t care all that much about us destroying their permanents. Vindicate is only very marginally playable in Vintage, even though it kills anything for three mana. Decks like Dredge, TPS, ANT, anything that can Tinker out Inkwell, etc. all have ways to ignore our many “Vindicate.”

With those limitations in mind, I still want to try the Coating out alongside artifact destruction in Vintage. It’ll be very well positioned against MUD naturally, which doesn’t hurt in the current metagame.


Memnite Shyamalan is a boon to Skullclamp decks in Vintage. The problem is: I’ve never seen a good Skullclamp deck in Vintage, so Memnite has its work cut out for it. Also, the Kobolds were already available, so all we’ve really gained is the type artifact, which is something, — but I don’t know if it’s enough.

Affinity can likely make use of the Memnite. It’s likely better than Ornithopter in formats where blocking isn’t very common. In Legacy, I might still give the nod to Ornithopter, or go with a mix.

Nihil Spellbomb

This is one of the best cards in the set for Vintage, even though it only provides a slight upgrade to Tormod’s Crypt. Here’s why it’s often better than Crypt but is also sometimes worse than Relic of Progenitus:

Crypt’s advantage over Relic is that it comes down

can be activated on your first turn, and it doesn’t remove your own graveyard. Relic’s advantages are that it doesn’t target (which matters because of Leyline of Sanctity), it draws you a card, and to stop it with Chalice of the Void costs two mana.

Hopefully you can see how Nihil Spellbomb is a very good middle ground between the two. It requires black mana to get the card, so Crypt is usually better in decks without black. But in decks with black mana, this card is very good.

We have access to its ability on our first turn. On subsequent turns, we can use it and draw a card. Chalice only rarely stops it. It doesn’t remove

graveyard. However, it’s still stopped by Leyline of Sanctity.

A good strategy against Dredge (in both Legacy and Vintage) is to mix and match the dedicated hate you bring in. If they use Pithing Needle (as they often do) to stop you, two Relics isn’t as good as one Relic and one Spellbomb. Darkblast kills Yixlid Jailer, but not Nihil Spellbomb. Try and mix up the hate you use. The one caveat is that Leyline of the Void is often so much better than the other hate cards that you should play four Leylines and other hate cards only as cards five through eight.

Ratchet Bomb

I expect this card to see a lot of play in Vintage and Legacy. It’s pretty much a strict upgrade to Powder Keg, which doesn’t kill enchantments or planeswalkers (while the Ratchet Bomb doesn’t kill artifact lands or manlands, which means Powder Keg will sometimes be better in a particular game state, but will not get played over Ratchet Bomb very much since this isn’t all that common). Moxes, Oaths of Druids, and Welders are all cards Workshop decks want to kill, so I expect Ratchet Bomb to see play there and be effective (Keg was already being played in some Shop decks, and it wasn’t to kill manlands).

In Legacy, decks that want to remove Aether Vial along with whatever one-drop came out will be happy to have it. It has to compete with Engineered Explosives, though, in Legacy, and I’m not sure it compares favorably. Killing a Nacatl

turn is
a lot

better than killing one next turn. Same goes for Survival of the Fittest. While Ratchet Bomb isn’t much slower than Explosives when you drop it turn 2, it’s much slower on say, turn 4 or 5. Also, Explosives can blow up Counterbalance through a two-drop on top, by pumping extra redundant colored or colorless mana into the casting cost, increasing the casting cost but not the sunburst amount.

Steel Hellkite

Cool card with limited applications, like in the Mono-Brown Legacy list above.

Sword of Body and Mind

Green and blue are the colors of most of the beatdown creatures in Legacy, but I’d still give four Swords of Fire and Ice and three Umezawa’s Jittes the nod before my first Sword of Body and Mind.


4 Vesuva
4 Cloudpost
4 Glimmerpost
4 Expedition Map

That’s a lot of mana potential, but in formats where Wasteland is legal, I’m not confident my Cloudpost will survive and make my Vesuvas good and my Glimmerposts acceptable.

The New Dual Lands

I’m of the opinion that not including the word “basic” on the fetchlands is the single greatest mistake R&D has made and not corrected (in fact, it was repeated). A ton of shuffling happens every round, and a ton of dual lands are obsolete in Eternal formats because of the fetchland + dual lands interaction. I just think we’d all be better off without the fetchlands.

Add these five Scars duals to the list of lands that don’t get a chance in Legacy or Vintage due to fetchlands + dual lands.

If I’ve left something off my list or missed some combo I should’ve mentioned, let me know in the forums!

Matt Sperling


on Twitter