The Mirrodin Artifact Dilemma: One Wall to Rule Them All

The dilemma this week is something I would not have expected at the beginning of this format, and is certainly not what I would have expected when I was told this was the artifact block…

Darksteel, Darksteel, Darksteel. That is the word on everyone’s limited lips these days. Good. I am glad to see people so eager to sink their teeth into the new set. Limited is as popular as it has ever been, and I attribute that mostly to Magic Online. As I cautioned about this time last year, it is really too soon to be writing intelligently about the strategy involved with this set. Even those, like myself, who have access to the beta test server and are already battling with Darksteel cards still aren’t fully qualified to write definitive articles. I do however promote previews, reviews, and speculations as they get the creative juices flowing.

However read these with a caveat. Whether you are reading Kai Budde or Random Randomson… Don’t take these words as gospel. If you recall many people called Bonesplitter the best common, now Kai says he will sometimes take Viridian Longbow over it. Nick Eisel heralded Loxodon Warhammer as the best card in the set. I barely have it at top 20.

One interesting thing I noticed about Darksteel is that the colors didn’t change much in power or what they do. Perhaps that is to be expected, as this is the artifact set. The biggest change I have noticed in my drafts is the need to take Myr and Talismans higher. While Darksteel Ingot is a fine card, and superior to Talismans in a lot of ways, it is only one card in one set, and you can’t count on it. Spellbombs also move up, since these don’t exist in the last set and there is no real replacement for them.

With the increased importance of these fifteen cards there is a decrease in the importance of off-color artifact lands… at least for now. Darksteel Citadel seems to fly around the table like it is Chimney Imp and I am not sure why. This may change, but I think this is a solid card for Affinity decks. You run a low land count and you always put your neck out there when you drop an artifact land turn 1. It is a risky gambit, because you want to maximize affinity, but if your opponent went first or perhaps has a Detonate, you could find your self slapped in the face, tempo-wise. You lose your first land drop and your Affinity is likely weakened. The Citadel lets you breathe a little easier with this strategy, and you can usually pick them up later than off-color artifact lands.

In any case, my point is I am not expecting to have to write an update article on how Darksteel affected my Mirrodin pick order. But we have one more Mirrodin Dilemma to flesh out.

Mike and I were extremely close on our pick orders for this one. Let me start out by saying for this dilemma we opted not to include off-color Golems, as neither of us has ever played one without a semi splash. All Spellbombs, Mana Myr, and Artifact Lands should be considered completely off-color with no ability in the deck to activate/use the colored mana.

That being said, the dilemma this week is something I would not have expected at the beginning of this format, and is certainly not what I would have expected when I was told this was the artifact block. The fact of the matter is the common artifacts in this set are extremely lackluster. However, if there is one thing Masques block taught us, it is that power relative to the environment is relevant and different from power relative to the entire game of Magic. Some of the”all-stars” in Masques Limited may not make the cut in a lot of Odyssey block Limited decks (this is just an example, so please don’t cite the Spellshaper/Madness synergy).

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, our series will be ending with the thrilling argument of Off color Spellbomb versus Steel Wall!

Sorry if you were hoping for a more graceful exit, but that is what we are left with. The combination of underpowered card pool and near complete agreement on pick order has left us here.

My arguments this time around are quite simple. An 0/4 Wall is just a better bargain than”1, sac: draw a card.” There are clearly situations in which random card from your deck is better than and 0/4 Wall, I just happen to think this will be true less often than now.

Four toughness in Mirrodin block is not something to sneeze at. Four toughness for one mana, that is actually quite good. It doesn’t stop one of the most annoying early drops, Tel-Jilad Chosen, but it does stop a lot of other things. One of my favorite things about this card is that it can stop all but one of the Sliths, even after they have started growing.

Another point, which I have addressed ad nauseum, is that decks are consistently creature light, and while Walls are really only half creatures, they can stall long enough for you to draw your beaters. If you get a Leonin Scimitar on this bad boy, nothing is going to get through.

Here is my pick order for non-Equipment artifacts:

1. Myr Enforcer

Wowie. This guy is large and in charge. He is my favorite common to first pick in this set. My favorite memory of this block so far is casting two of these on turn 3 attacking for eight on turn 4 and attacking again on turn 5 and casting Fists of the Anvil for the win. Clearly this isn’t the type of scenario that happens daily, but man oh man, it was fun. He’s a 4/4 usually for under six mana, you have got to love him.

2. Off Color Mana Myr

From the 4/4 to the 1/1. Affinity is the best deck to draft and this guy helps the cause better than any common. He is mana acceleration, and an artifact. He also swings for one every now and again. In the best affinity decks, the color just doesn’t matter.

3. Frogmite

The Enforcer’s younger brother, the Frogmite has more bite than it seems. Creature light format a 2/2 for zero can be quite impressive. Even at one mana you get some absurd starts with this guy.

4. Steel Wall

5. Off Color Spellbombs

6. Chromatic Sphere

This card is below the spell bombs only because in the late game when you are just trying to cycle, it you may wind up taking a point of manaburn. In a three-color deck, I could see this moving up.

7. Clockwork Condor

You could do a whole lot worse for four mana in this block. He is generally a defensive card in decks than can’t deal with fliers, but if you are on the offensive you will find him sneaking in for five or six damage.

8. Off Color Artifact Land

You can move this bad boy down in decks that have no use for it, but they are few and far between. In fact it seems lately the only decks where these are warming the bench are Green/White decks. And this is only if you aren’t packing an Enforcer.

9. Goblin War Wagon

I used to be a huge fan of this guy, but that was back in the days when I was a big fan of Vulshok Gauntlets. Since then I have learned that nothing is more important than efficient mana use in this format. War-Wagon is fine in a pinch, but you shouldn’t drafting him unless you are short on men.

10. Alpha Myr

There are decks in which I pick this guy super high, but the fact of the matter is, more often than not you need to take other cards. He has been making the cut for me more and more as time goes on, but in general he is not the cream of the crop.

11. Tooth of Chiss-Goria

Tooth is a personal friend of mine. As soon as I started drafting the Affinity archetype, I saw the value of this and Scale increase. They often have a relevant impact on the game, plus they aid Affinity as artifacts with low casting costs. Not infrequently, it can yield you some form of board or card advantage. There is also an implied synergy with Fractured Loyalty. This advantage decreases with the new set being added, but if you are on Magic Online, drafting MMM, I suggest trying it.

12. Yotian Soldier

I liked this guy a lot in the beginning, but since then he lost his stuff. Now back when I started playing, I actually played him in Constructed, but that was a time where goblins were running rampant, and before such a card was ineffectual against them. These days on my third turn, I am generally casting stuff for four mana, and it generally has a greater effect on the game than this guy.

13. Welding Jar

This card, while seemingly innocuous, always seems to find its way into my decks. And unlike a lot of other lower picks, this card gets better, the better your deck is. If you have an Icy Manipulator or a Platinum Angel, or even a Myr Enforcer, you really want this card in your deck. In fact, this card makes Myr Enforcer one mana cheaper, while making it more potent as well.

14. Scale of Chiss-Goria

This echoes everything I said about Tooth, keeping in mind that power will always be more important than toughness in Magic, it’s just the way of the world.

15. Dross Scorpion

Drosssssssssssssssssssssssyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. This guy lets you build your own Goblin Sharpshooter with Viridian Longbow, but outside of that, his uses are minimal. The untapping just isn’t all that exciting in other circumstances.

16. Omega Myr

Unlike Drossy, this guy isn’t broken with the Longbow. If you find yourself short on men in a deck with a lot of Equipment you can play him, but avoid him in all other cases.

17. Clockwork Beetle

Affinity decks can sometimes use a one-drop to get things going, but you need a very Affinity heavy deck with none of the one-drops that belong much higher on this list to put this guy in.

18. Myr Adapter

This was another guy I judged poorly. For some reason I thought there was a lot more playable Equipment than there actually is, and I wound up rating this guy pretty high. The fact of the matter is, he is just bad in all decks.

19. Tanglebloom

Again if you Affinity deck is struggling for one-drops you could do a lot worse… oh wait, no you can’t.

20. Galvanic Key

Hi! Okay I’m not going to say that here. If you have three Icy’s in your deck, go ahead and play this.

It is unclear yet if we are going to do a dilemma series for Darksteel. The smaller expansions are much harder to do dilemmas for as the pick orders are more clearly defined. But I hope you enjoyed the series for Mirrodin.

Good Man of the Week: Michael J. Flores

Jon Finkel Steve OMS Worth Wollpert Pat Chapin. Nicolai Herzog Anton Jonsson Sigurd Eskeland. Ken Ho Lan D Ho Dan Clegg. Bryan Hubble Jason Opalka Ryan Carpenter. Dirk Baberowski Masashi Ooiso Brian Davis Randy Buehler.

I am really bad and I screwed up.

Ben Farkas Dennis Spiegel Adam Lemke Jamie Parke Bryan Manolokos Lyle Cohen Joe Weber. Tim AND Mike Aten Kenny Hsiung John Marks. Rob Dougherty Darwin Kastle Little Darwin. Ken Krouner Mike Turian Nick Eisel Paul Sottosanti. Bob Maher Neil Reeves Baby Huey. Gabe Nassif Raph Levy Antoine Ruel.

I did make the wrong pick and it effected my whole draft causing me to go the big 0-3.

John Larkin Carlos Romao Dave Humphreys. Mark LePine Tom Guevin Nate Clarke Brian Kibler. Ed Fear Alex Shvartsman Pete Lieher. Osyp Lebedowicz Ken Ho Zvi Mowshowitz. Scott Johns Dave Bachmann Jens Thoren. Mike Long Chris Pikula Olle Rade. Jin Okamoto Jordan Berkowitz Justin Gary Daniel Zink.

So for knowing all these people despite being a self proclaimed bad player, Mike Flores, I award you Good Man of the Week!

Bonus Game

In the above Good Man of the Week featurette, there are groups delineated by periods. Much like Geordie’s Anagram Contest, I offer no reward, but the people in the groups are related in some way. Give it a go. I am going to ask Brian Kibler to answer only in e-mail or IM form, as I know he will be able to get them all easily, but the rest of you feel free to guess anywhere you like. In case that horizontal list of names is too much, here are the groups broken up in a little more viewer friendly manner:

1. Jon Finkel, Steve OMS, Worth Wollpert, Pat Chapin

2. Nicolai Herzog, Gabriel Nassif, Sigurd Eskeland

3. Ken Ho, Lan D Ho, Dan Clegg

4. Bryan Hubble, Jason Opalka, Ryan Carpenter

5. Dirk Baberowski, Masashi Ooiso, Brian Davis, Randy Buehler

6. Ben Farkas, Dennis Spiegel, Adam Lemke, Jamie Parke, Bryan Manolokos, Lyle Cohen, Joe Weber

7. Tim AND Mike Aten, Kenny Hsiung, John Marks

8. Rob Dougherty, Darwin Kastle, Little Darwin

9. Ken Krouner, Mike Turian, Nick Eisel, Paul Sottosanti

10. Bob Maher, Neil Reeves, Baby Huey

11. Bertrand Lestree, Raph Levy, Antoine Ruel

12. John Larkin, Carlos Romao, Dave Humphreys

13. Mark LePine, Tom Guevin, Nate Clarke, Brian Kibler

14. Ed Fear, Alex Shvartsman, Pete Lieher

15. Osyp Lebedowicz, Ken Ho, Zvi Mowshowitz

16. Scott Johns, Dave Bachmann, Jens Thoren

17. Mike Long, Chris Pikula, Olle Rade

18. Jin Okamoto, Jordan Berkowitz, Justin Gary, Daniel Zink


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