Straight Shooting Mirrodin Block

Now with free Rogue Deck List! Recently Chad Ellis and others have published on a deck that I was working on (shh shh secretly) a while back. I will go into detail later as to why I disagree with a lot of what Chad thinks. First of all, here is my version…

Now with free Rogue Deck List!

Recently Chad Ellis and others have published on a deck that I was working on (shh shh secretly) a while back. I will go into detail later as to why I disagree with a lot of what Chad thinks. First of all, here is my version:

The Deck:

3 Aether Spellbomb

4 Conjurer’s Bauble

4 Engineered Explosives

1 Necrogen Spellbomb

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Scrabbling Claws

1 Sunbeam Spellbomb

4 Wayfarer’s Bauble

4 Artificer’s Intuition

4 Condescend

2 Echoing Truth

4 Thirst for Knowledge

3 Shatter

4 Auriok Salvagers

2 Ancient Den

2 Great Furnace

2 Mountain

10 Island

3 Plains

1 Swamp

1 Vault of Whispers


4 Annul

2 Echoing Truth

4 March of the Machines

4 Electrostatic Bolt

1 Shatter

Yeah yeah yeah, it’s 61 cards. The problem was that I really wanted that Scrabbling Claws. It only plays 21 land but it virtually plays about 25 because of all the Spellbombs, Intuition interaction, and so forth. Don’t forget you can pitch anything for an Ancient Den, Great Furnace, or Vault of Whispers early and just get it back after you’ve stabilized.

The Debate:

The main difference between Chad’s listings and mine is the presence of Artificer’s Intuition. Chad dismisses this card, but to my mind, Artificer’s Intuition is vitally important. First of all, there is the issue of speed. Artificer’s Intuition comes down on turn 2 and enables your game starting turn 3. Secondly, it is an enchantment. For all the Oxidizes, Molder Slugs, and Detonates in this block, Mirrodin has precious little enchantment hate; the advantage it can generate once on the table will therefore persist. Third, unlike the other options, Artificer’s Intuition allows you to create a steady stream of appropriate answer cards regardless of the opponent’s resistance… as long as you have an artifact in the grip: Explosives, Explosives, Explosives, Explosives is entirely possible once you have Intuition out.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, Intuition activation is extremely mana efficient (especially given the cost of the cards you are searching up); the strain between drawing and playing the appropriate card should be minimal, and it can even directly search for whatever color you need (I elected to not play a Seat of the Synod because of Wayfarer’s Bauble, but you can fit one in exchange for an Island).

There are two main drawbacks to Intuition. First of all, it is an Invested card. That means that while it can get you long term card advantage, putting down Artificer’s Intuition to begin with puts you behind by one. Second, in the midgame you don’t usually use it all that much. The reason? It is more mana economical to use your Auriok Salvagers to set up pure card advantage. But, much like the original Intuition, despite the fact that you don’t necessarily want to be spending mana on it in the midgame, you need Artificer’s Intuition to actually get going.

All that means is that Artificer’s Intuition is the Mirrodin Block equivalent of Survival of the Fittest.

One of the strengths of Survival of the Fittest the first time around was that you could go for the appropriate two-for-one turn after turn. Wood Elves was good long before Elf and Nail, and was joined by everyone from Wall of Blossoms to Uktabi Orangutan for wave after wave of gradual card advantage. Survival didn’t need an exterior card drawing engine because of the nature of gradual card advantage and its overall ability to disrupt strategies, but Squee, Goblin Nabob was obviously welcome once he hit.

Now in Mirrodin Block, you can still go for pinpoint answer cards. Engineered Explosives is probably the best but you still have Pyrite Spellbomb for Somber Hoverguard, Scrabbling Claws for Bringer of the White Dawn or Eternal Witness, and so on. With Artificer’s Intuition in play, even without Salvagers going, your draw quality in terms of threat / answer balance should consistently exceed that of every deck but Affinity, simply due to the relative concentration of lands and spells (for a discussion of this principle, see Why Dave Price Goes Second). The difference is that, most of the time, you can’t rely on gradual card advantage to overcome the initial Investment of Artificer’s Intuition, drawing a redundant Artificer’s Intuition, or, to a lesser extent, a lower overall land count.

Just as Survival adopted Squee to keep its tutor engine going, this deck has Auriok Salvagers. Salvagers is superior in that it is a big body, potential win condition, and truly infinite (but it is significantly inferior in terms of speed). If you want to, you can exhaust your opponent’s entire deck with Conjuror’s Bauble and Scrabbling Claws and win in the very late game while time dwindles on. It might actually come to decking while you are drawing gas the entire time. The interaction between Conjuror’s Bauble, Auriok Salvagers, and Artificer’s Intuition cannot be exaggerated. Conjuror’s Bauble is like a faster, but weaker, Gaea’s Blessing. It is held in check by the fact that it puts the gas on the bottom instead of anywhere else in the deck. Artificer’s Intuition Shuffles Your Deck such that you can literally draw a Condescend for every threat your opponent presents. In addition, you have Thirst for Knowledge, which is very solid in obvious ways.

An alternate card advantage solution is Myr Servitor. Digging for all your Servitors at once and getting a fast three-for-one over two turns is pretty reasonable, but because of the fragility of this card against, well, everything and the fact that you never really want to draw or play a Servitor (especially without Intuition down) makes it significantly weaker, if playable.

The Plans:

The neat thing about this deck is that you can set up long game trump against basically every kind of opponent. In a control mirror / land war, you can go for infinite Wayfarer’s Bauble and thaw out every land in your deck and then demolish the opponent’s board with your artifacts. You can toss your Great Furnaces early and reclaim them setting up a larger and larger mana advantage as the game progresses.

Against damage, you have inevitability between your fast answer cards and long game Sunbeam Spellbomb. Imagine how bad even one Sunbeam Spellbomb is for Big Red trying to fight past your Condescends and other resistance. Now imagine five extra life every turn. Can a Pristine Angel plan even beat you once Salvagers is in play? You certainly can’t get decked once the engine is going.

Against any deck, you have The Black Arts. Not just a spiffy deck name calling up images of human sacrifice and beheaded chickens, but the agnostic long game plan against any generic opponent. The implication of the BLACK ART[ifact]S is going for Vault of Whispers and Necrogen Spellbomb to lock your opponent’s hand down, Weissman style. Notice the presence of a Swamp allows you to late game Hymn the opponent rather than just settling for Disrupting Scepter duty.

The Spoiler:

Originally, the above was our”secret deck.” We were going to be all hush hush about it and spring it on the metagame come, well, tomorrow at Grand Prix: New Jersey. The reason why we didn’t is Affinity. That’s it. Seth tested with Zvi for Worlds formats and said something like”this deck is really great but Affinity invalidates it,” or something and that was that. The next day he told me to play with Aether Vial and I found his recommendation quite excellent.

Affinity can’t actually steal Inevitability from you. The problem is that their best draw is far too quick for your laborious setup. Against a slower opponent, you can milk one-for-one or even bounce based removal to buy enough time to lay Salvagers, draw a million cards, and lay a million lands. You can force the opponent to discard his hand while you gain a ton of life. But Affinity fights so fast and attacks on so many fronts – especially with Ravager and Disciple – that unless they hiccup, your early game is not favored.

How can you solve this? Maybe move March of the Machines to the main. I dunno… I never tested it that way after we went Vial; Spellbombs work under Vial, so that plan might have some merit. I do know that people who aren’t playing Affinity typically don’t understand how to beat it, strategically. I can’t tell you how many people with long faces I’ve crushed.”You’re so lucky! I sided in thirteen cards against you!”

Yeah? So now what?

First of all, it ain’t easy to side in 10+ cards and not screw up your own deck’s baseline strategy. Secondly… who cares? Detonate, Electrostatic Bolts, whatever, are one-for-ones. You can’t actually beat a deck like Affinity with one-for-ones. You are drawing the cards you want – your sideboard cards – to blow up any random card. Guess what? There are more Frogmites where that one came from. You are siding one-for-ones against a deck that by nature of its namesake mechanic and the presence of Aether Vial has you beat in speed. Consistently. You are siding one-for-ones to fight against Thoughtcast, Myr Retriever, and in some cases Night’s Whisper (a.k.a. two-for-ones). Do the math. Who is going to end up on top of this fight? They’ve got you beat on volume as well.

When you are getting exactly what you want and losing anyway, maybe you should re-think your strategy.

The numbers don’t favor one-for-ones against Affinity. Sometimes you draw an overwhelming amount of them. Sometimes they draw Darksteel Citadel and Glimmervoid and laugh at you. Sometimes you set up a removal kill cards and lay down the Molder Slug… only to lose to the Disciple of the Vault that feeds so greedily on your overload.

This is not to say you should just blindly purchase Arcbound Ravager from Pete. It is to say that going into a tournament like GP:NJ this weekend with your eyes open means that you have to actually understand what is going on. Mike Clair tried awfully hard to beat Affinity with Tooth and Nail. His testing said it didn’t, he was forced to go Ravager himself… and he walked away with the slot. Successful decks in this format have to do things other than destroy artifacts to win. By all means be true to yourself… but don’t lie to yourself to do it. Not if you want to actually succeed. The reason Big Red can compete in this format is that, even if it is ostensibly siding a million one-for-ones, it can also fight on other battlefields, like The Philosophy of Fire. Other decks, like mono-Green, can both smash artifacts and race at the same time. Otherwise you can blow up all the artifacts you want and will lose anyway. Nice job with that one.