The Kitchen Table #158: The Mishra Challenge

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I’d just finished my most recent entry in the Casual Metagame series, and was trying to brainstorm a cool idea for my next article. However, I didn’t really have any ideas. For a day, I wracked my head. On what should I write my next article? Then inspiration hit. Well, not really inspiration so much as a full-blown challenge. I read the following quote by The Ferrett in his article over at MagictheGathering.com…

I’d just finished my most recent entry in the Casual Metagame series, and was trying to brainstorm a cool idea for my next article. That series is coming to an end, but it can be kinda heavy at times to write. I wanted something a bit more relaxing to write for a week or two. It was time for a bit of a break.

However, I didn’t really have any ideas. For a day, I wracked my head. On what should I write my next article? Then inspiration hit. Well, not really inspiration so much as a full-blown challenge. I read the following quote by The Ferrett in his article over at MagictheGathering.com…

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
I gotta be honest; I looked at this card and went, "Wow. That’s a powerful effect!" And then I waited for someone in my gaming group to build a deck around it, since I certainly didn’t have any obvious ideas of how to abuse it.

Surprisingly, I’m still waiting.

I think this is an absolutely great card. And when someone turns up with it, it’s either going to be so powerful that it just wins in some stupidly effortless way that it won’t be much fun to play against, or it’ll be less potent than it looks and encourage some weirdo combos.

I can’t tell you for sure. I’ve shaken the Magic 8-Ball, and it says, "Ask again later."

Italics are added for emphasis.

Now, this is what The Ferrett supposedly wrote. These are the words and everything. However, there is a super-secret hidden meaning here that I suppose I should just divulge for you all. Here is what he really said:

Nobody, not even The Deckmeister Abe himself in all his Deckbuildingness has figured out a way to use and abuse Mishra yet. I’m still waiting on his article.

Well, let it never be said that I won’t respond to a challenge! I am confident that, today, I will build Mishra decks that will astound and amaze.

The only problem with the above statement, is that I’m writing it first. You see, I don’t actually have any ideas yet on how to use / abuse Mishra. I need to figure out what to do with this card, and then see if I can back my admittedly boastful claims.

A Closer Look at a Prodigy

Mishra’s pretty cool. He’s a 4/4 body for four mana. Sure, that four mana is spread out over three colors, but that just increases his coolness. Mishra can attack and block with an ease that far surpasses normal utility creatures. Normally your comborific creatures are things like Academy Rector with its mighty 1/2 body for a four mana cost.

Mishra is also amazing against countermagic. Play an artifact, and you can get one of the exact type directly into play. Even if the original is countered, you still get one in play. Now that’s pretty tasty. I’m sure there are several nasty cards that you might think of that otherwise might get countered. Play a Skullclamp and get a guaranteed Skullclamp (etcetera).

The double artifact retrieval system is interesting because it can prove interesting to some effects to have two in play at once. Sure, super Johnnies (or Super Timmies) might think of Mirror Gallery and then dropping a pair of Krark’s Thumbs, but I think we can do better than that. I certainly hope we can do better than that!

Now, because we are building a deck around good ol’ Mishra, we’ll typically need a way of retrieving the good Prodigy. Also, after Mishra comes down, we need to find and cast artifacts. Therefore, you can expect a similar theme of these decks to be tutoring or search. Cards like Impulse, Fact or Fiction, and Scroll Rack will likely put in an appearance alongside tutors and transmute cards.

If you have money, Mishra would really like it if you used his Workshop with him. A pair of Workshops in addition to three or four land would create powerful artifact combinations. Sure, you can get jank like Myr Moonvessel but you’d rather fetch big, mean stuff that wins you the game, right?

Okay, these are the things that I’ll be looking at when building my Mishra decks. I still don’t know where I’m going to start, but I figure I should just head in.

The Mishra Basics

Since I’m building a bunch of decks with the same theme. I expect that every Mishra deck will begin with this foundation.

The First Mishra Deck

I have no idea where I’m going with this Mishra deck, so I’ll look up a few things in StarCityGames’ spoiler generator to see if a card or three sparks my creativity.

Myr Servitor always seemed like a solid enough creature for the tricks you can do with it. It just needs a partner to play nice. Well, with Mishra, you can now get yourself that partner. Once that is settled, you can build from there.

Okay, here we have a deck where Mishra’s power is amazing and… um… hmmm…? Let’s try this again.

Here we have a deck where Mishra’s power has been turned into a glorified utility creature. It can get extra Servitors, Catapults, and Helms. Other than that, he’s a superfluous 4/4 beater in a recursion deck.

I like the non-Mishra elements of the deck. The Pit Demons are a nice touch, the Sword a fun card, the Gate a classic Abe card, the Skull Catapult a hidden Goblin Bombardment, the Helm of Possession an underused card and the Ashen Ghoul / Myr Servitor / Nether Shadow / Nether Traitor combo is just fun!

Still, this deck has no Buried Alive, no Bazaar of Baghdad, no Phyrexian Vault, no Tolarian Serpent… not even a single Altar of Dementia. This is not a great deck, and it will not live in the annals of Casual Magicdom.

Let’s try again.

The Second Mishra Deck

The first deck tried to find an artifact that could really play well with a second version of itself. This time, I decide to find a different path. Another way to use and abuse Mishra is to combine him with tasty artifacts that sacrifice themselves for a really powerful effect. Getting two should be twice as nice, right?

This is more like it! What we have here is a Mishra fuelled Krark-Clan Ironworks deck. It’s not super-Type One level, nor is it really even teched out tournament top level either. Instead, it uses Mishra to fuel a bunch of tricks and ultimately combos out using several possible combos.

In this deck, you can make a lot of mana, and then pop the Basket. The Snake Basket is your Fireball. Once you have brought forth a large quantity of Cobras, there are several options for your enjoyment. Firstly, you can just attack. Twenty or thirty Cobras should be enough to bring down any G.I Joe at your multiplayer table.

Man, that joke never gets old.

Seriously though, use Cobras-a-go-go to initiate the beatings. Of course, you can just use the Goblin Bombardment substitute known as Blasting Station. When you pull a bunch of Cobras from Ye Olde Basket, if you have a Blasting Station in play, you will put an equal number of “Untap Blasting Station” abilities on the stack. Before each one resolves, you can tap it, sac a creature, and deal a damage. In other words, if you Twiddle your Bone Flute and bring out some Cobras, then you can sacrifice each and every one in a frenzied hail of fire that makes Hail of Arrows look like a light drizzle.

Remember, with Mishra in the deck, every single artifact you play (which excludes the lands) will get you a second copy and put it right into play. Artifact oriented decks are going to love that. Each time you play an artifact for the table, you get a second. That means you’ll have lots of artifacts for things like Krark-Clan Ironworks. It also means your deck will thin very quickly. A result of this thinning is that you’ll draw more lands and get to artifacts you haven’t drawn more quickly.

Also note, every time you use Mishra, you shuffle your deck. I hear shuffling your deck works well with Sensei’s Divining Top. Those two play very well together.

I have the janky Myr Retriever combo. In case you don’t know, here is how it works. With two Myr Retrievers and a Krark-Clan Ironworks, you can sac a Retriever for two mana, get another Retriever, play it with the two mana, sac it to get two mana, get the other Retriever, play it off the two mana, etc.

By itself, it generates no additional mana, but just allows you to play and sacrifice any number of Retrievers. What can be affected by this? Blasting and Salvaging Stations.

The Blasting Station untaps when a creature comes into play, so there’s a way to deal damage, although you need creatures (like Cobras!). The Salvaging Station untaps when a creature goes into the graveyard from play.

For unlimited mana, you need two Myr Retrievers (Thank you Mishra!), an Ironworks, a Salvaging Station, plus another cheap (1 or 0) artifact.

1) Tap a Salvaging Station to return an artifact from your graveyard to play. Sac that artifact immediately for two mana.

2) Sac a Myr Retriever for two more mana.

3) Untap the Salvaging Station and put a Myr Retriever back into your hand.

4) Tap the Salvaging Station to return an artifact from your graveyard to play. Sac that artifact for two mana.

5) Use two mana in your mana pool for the returned Retriever, then sac it for two more mana, and two more triggers

Make as much colorless mana as you want.

What do you do that all of that mana? Snake Basket. Make one bajillion Cobras, and with a Blasting Station out, immediately deal one bajillion damage to each person, and leave a bajillion Cobras in play after the great Cobra Sacrifice of 06. These can attack if, for some reason, a person decides to protect themselves with a variety of cool prevention spells.

Okay, so that’s cool. What else can the deck do?

Fabricate is an emergency artifact tutor. When you need something and your Top/Mishra happiness is not working, use the Fabricate to get the needed combo piece.

Wayfarer’s Bauble will get you some needed land in the early game and also serve as your cheap artifact when you want to Myr Retriever combo out.

Another artifact that allows you to combo out is Mishra’s Bauble. Having Mishra’s Bauble is his own deck is pretty cool. Play one, get a second, and sac them both for a pair of cards. That’s good stuff. They also satisfy the combo provision and make a cool two mana when played from the hand with an Ironworks out – that’s the same profit you get from a Dark Ritual.

After that, we have some mana to round out the deck, including artifact lands, Glimmervoid, basics for the Baubles, and cool Fellwar Stones. You’ve got plenty of opportunity to get a land of mana in play to just win the old fashioned way without going uber-Combo.

This is a control deck that uses Mishra to get various control pieces to help it establish dominance.

For example, casting an Icy gets you a second, to lock down double the creatures. Normally an Icy has some problems seeing serious play outside of fun decks because it costs four mana, which is getting up there for an artifact that requires a mana to lock a creature down for just one turn. However, when that four mana investment yields you two separate Icies, then it begins to appear to be worth it.

Powder Keg is great with a double dosage in play. You can choose two different converted mana costs to sit on your Kegs. Typically you sit your one Keg with a low number of counters to prevent someone from playing nasty threats under the Keg. However, if something of size this the table, it can take you several turns to build up your Keg. Now you can sit one keg at a low level and one at a medium level. A Keg at one can easily off anything that costs one or two in a single turn while the other Keg at three can easily off anything three or four in just one turn. It gives you much better board coverage.

The Jar with Mishra out is just plain mean. If I wanted t build a combo Jar deck, I’d toss Mishra in if I could afford the mana, which I just might be able to do with Welders and Tinkers and Megrims in an ideal Jar deck. However, adding another broken element to a deck that was already powerful enough to get elements of it banned doesn’t seem like much of a chore.

On the other hand, here the Jar gets you cool cards two turns in succession. Remember to cast any cool artifacts you draw off the Jar and get a second one for free. Also remember that Mishra can mine your graveyard for a duplicate, so you can leave a copy in your library if you wish.

The Cap is just as good off a Mishra as the Jar. Pop a pair of Caps and watch your opponent’s chances of winning the game drop significantly. Remember, since this is a control deck, you expect to be playing for a while. Capping your opponent twice is like forcing him to play Russian Roulette with more bullets in his gun than in yours. Sure, you might still lose, but the odds are in your favor.

The deck also has some classic control elements. Expunge for dirty creature killing. Note that Terminate, although better in many ways, costs both off-colors, and I don’t want to emphasize that. Plus, Expunge cycles, which is always something good to fall back upon. A control deck does not want dead cards against Pro Black boy or Morphling girl.

Fact or Fiction rounds out our card drawing collection. It’s a pretty fancy card that we all know and love (or know and hate, whichever describes you.)

After that, it’s the normal Counterspell / Forbid suite of happy countermagic that helps your control deck win the game. Pretty cool.

Oh yes, and you’ll need a way to win, so why not load the deck with one of the stompiest creatures around. Control decks love the Colossus because it’s impervious to a lot of removal. If you want to Timmy up your control deck, look no further than the Colossus of Darksteel. Note that playing one with Mishra out is just unfair.

Voila! Three Mishra decks for you to try out. I hope that at least one strikes your fancy as a pretty happening deck. Enjoy!

Until later,

Abe Sargent