You CAN Play Type I #105: Maximizing Mirrodin, Part III – Scepters And Belchers

Last week, I said three artifacts stand out in Mirrodin: Chrome Mox should be restricted on principle because of the inherent danger of free artifact mana that evades the land drop restrictions. Chalice of the Void deserves to be banned (note, not necessarily”should be”) because of how it cuts off entire decktypes or forces them to radically change their spell mix all by itself, irrespective of the deck that slips it in-or the intelligence of the player who does. Isochron Scepter? Well, that’s a tougher nut to crack.

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I Lied About Liar’s Pendulum

My e-mail was filled with more feedback than usual regarding last week’s review and I might print some of the letters in a future.

I got a lot of flak, however, from one major cognitive goof-up. Yes, apparently you see your topdecked card before you name a card for Liar’s Pendulum, meaning I gave the right probabilities for the wrong scenario. I am in deeply embarrassed to admit that I have, in fact, studied conditional probabilities and all, you snip off a lot of branches of probabilities and leave the opponent with a simple 50-50: Are you lying about the card you just saw or not?

(He shouldn’t be deeply embarrassed – I should be. I’m still in the process of memorizing all 350 cards in the set, and this mistake blitzed right by me. I take full responsibility for not catching it and asking for a rewrite – The Ferrett)

Correcting my mistake, the 50-50 chance of drawing makes Liar’s Pendulum a lot better than I originally wrote. However, despite the reduced mana costs involved, Liar’s Pendulum still seems worse than Scrying Glass, Jayemdae Tome, and the like. In this case, paying half the mana for half the ability is too weak compared to new picks from Intuition/Accumulated Knowledge to Skeletal Scrying and Future Sight.

You might be a solid poker player and bank on an ability to outbluff your opponent, but I’d rather bank on traditional skills. Besides, a gullible opponent could wise up and just flip a coin for his answer, returning you to 50-50. Finally, while you can bluff and decline to reveal your hand some of the time, the one-card investment for this is too cumbersome.

Again, my apologies for the error and credit to the first person who e-mailed, Wiz-O Myst from the Wizards boards:

With regard to your last column about Mirrodin artifacts, you should read Liar’s Pendulum again.

When you activate Liar’s Pendulum, you KNOW what cards are in your hand. No matter how many cards you have, no matter what they are, there is a 50% chance you are lying. The odds are not whether you draw a certain card; it’s just whether or not you are lying.

(Although thanks to you, lots of people will now say”no” as a matter of course, making my card drawing much more reliable.)

I think the truly interesting thing about Liar’s Pendulum is that says,”you MAY reveal your hand. If you do…” If they guess right, you don’t have to show them your hand, which is some small grace. Even if they guess wrong, you can choose to not reveal your hand to make them think they guessed right; either making them believe you do have a card, or that you don’t.

You have to give up a draw to do it, but having them tap out because they’re sure you don’t have an answer in hand and walking into it head-first, or having them play over-cautiously because they think you do have an answer and allowing you time to actually draw into it may be worth it from time to time.

Otherwise, an excellent article. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on Isochron Scepter.

Thanks for your time,


Wizards TCG boards team.

Maximizing Mirrodin: Artifacts

And so we continue with our mental weighing of this insane expansion’s artifacts. Again, it’s a lot of Rule #2 from my two rules:

  • Is the card more efficient than an established benchmark? (Or, do I get more bang from my buck?)

  • Does the card do something no past card ever did, and if it does, is this new card playable?

Isochron Scepter

Last week, I said three artifacts stand out in Mirrodin. Chrome Mox should be restricted on principle because of the inherent danger of free artifact mana that evades the land drop restrictions. Chalice of the Void deserves to be banned (note, not necessarily”should be”) because of how it cuts off entire decktypes or forces them to radically change their spell mix all by itself, irrespective of the deck that slips it in-or the intelligence of the player who does.

Isochron Scepter is a tougher nut to crack. It shocked the living daylights out of quite a few players when they read it. It’s not as easy as Imprinting Ancestral Recall and being good to go, though (and although it will happen some games, it should be considered as a bonus instead of the main reason to play the card).

Scepter follows the basic Jayemdae Tome framework, and”Investment Theory” (as discussed in “Counting Tempo”) handles it nicely. When you play it, you lose two cards (the Imprinted card and Scepter itself) and part of a turn’s mana. That’s a loss worth the better part of two turns – no small thing. What you hope to do, then, is to get enough return on your investment over time to make the transaction worth it.

Thus, the card seems to be a mid-game play, coming out after resources are depleted and you have some breathing room. Also, by midgame, you can play Scepter and activate it immediately, gaining back the Imprinted card and minimizing the investment to roughly a turn.

It takes two turns just to break even on the investment, and that makes faster decks think. Classic Sligh is the first that comes to mind, but holding back two spells is like holding back on a third of the opponent’s life total for it (Price of Progress and sideboarded instants may change its impact, though).

Isochron Scepter is thus logically tested in slower decks with a good percentage of instants. These instants tend to be diverse and not redundant like Sligh’s burn spells, and play up a second strength of Scepter: Flexibility.

Simply, being able to recycle a specialized instant of your choice has value in itself, and Cunning Wish and tutoring make the card even more attractive.

Deck Parfait is one such slow control deck, and its options include Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant, Enlightened Tutor, and Argivian Find. And imprinting Abeyance or Orim’s Chant make for a very painful lock.

“A slow, flexible deck,” however, fits the description of”The Deck” perfectly, and this is the deck you want to test Scepter in first. As a default mode, you can Imprint a cantrip and use Scepter as a cheaper Tome with a funkier draw. Every version should have multiple Brainstorms, and there are a few others in use such as Fire / Ice and Impulse (and Ancestral, of course). Accumulated Knowledge is a possible, too, if you overhaul the deck. Other blue-based control decks benefit similarly.

After that, commonly-used or possible cards main and side include:

Mana Drain

Swords to Plowshares

Diabolic Edict

Fire/ Ice


Red Elemental Blast

Blue Elemental Blast


Orim’s Chant



Artifact Mutation

Hurkyl’s Recall

Mystical Tutor

Vampiric Tutor (though you pay two life per activation)

Lim-Dul’s Vault

Coffin Purge

Ebony Charm

Raise the Alarm

Rain of Blades



Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Finally, last week’s column featured the latest Holy Tommy Gun White Weenie decklist, which pairs Scepter with Raise the Alarm and Fire for more than the usual white tricks. (Everything else is covered by Paragon Non Disclosure Agreement, so kindly wait for the expiry dates.)

Culling Scales

This is an interesting twist on the likes of Drop of Honey and Braids, Cabal Minion. Against weenies, The Abyss and others from Ensnaring Bridge to Plaguebearer and Peacekeeper are probably more effective since they don’t sacrifice to themselves when the board is clear. I wonder, though, if it might have any use against decks with cheap noncreature permanents such as Vengeur Masque and Workshop-based decks.

Goblin Charbelcher

They’ve already been rolling out proposed combo decks in the younger formats, and Mishra’s Workshop players are happily testing this alternate kill with their decks that sport just a handful of Mountains. There is actually a Type I deck, though, that can easily manipulate its library to leave just a single land or even a single Mountain inside. It’s Deck Parfait, and I defer to the creator himself:

Hi Oscar,

Sorry for this very late reply, but I was busy as hell this week.

This is the card I was hoping for months ago, when Paragon Keeper appeared with its infamous Allay. Before then, most people had limited disenchant abilities, but Cunning Wish (Parfait’s real hoser) made playing with very narrow hosers a possibility.

I had to react by changing many cards in my deck. First move was to replace Zuran Orbs with Claws of Gix. They allowed for some fizzling and at the same time managed to play the role of a semi-Orb, plus all the little saccing tricks. At that moment, I felt my match against Keeper was a tough one, but I felt I still had my fair share of chances against it.

Then Gro-A-Tog appeared and I began to have serious problems since they could counter my anti-control card (Orim’s Chant) against me (Misdirection). I had no choice but to consider adding black for Duress.

A bit later, the printing of Eternal Dragon finally gave me the non-enchantment kill card I wanted. It fit really good in my white/black deck, and won me a surprising high number of games. Previously, I had to play oddities like Grindstone, which was great during the mono-blue era but eventually fell off when monocolored decks became extinct.

So Charbelcher appears when I’m not really looking for another kill card. Still, after having tested the card a bit online, I have to say the card is incredible. It’s definitely better than Sacred Mesa – way faster. It seems to change the deck’s philosophy from control to control/combo.

Exciting, isn’t it?

However, the metagame we’re heading to is still vastly uncertain, and since Charbelcher is not the only great artifact coming from Mirrodin, artifact hate might be so prevalent that it could make the new stronger kill card less playable. We might be even forced to play both cards.

Parfait is, and will stay, a metagame deck. Since nothing is too certain right now, I can’t provide you with any refined decklist, except for the testing deck I’m using.

Raphael Caron a.k.a. K-Run, Deck Parfait, September 2003

1 Enlightened Tutor

4 Zuran Orb

4 Tithe

4 Land Tax

4 Argivian Find

4 Orim’s Chant

4 Swords to Plowshares

4 Scroll Rack

2 Isochron Scepter

1 Balance

4 Aura of Silence

4 Humility

3 Goblin Charbelcher

4 Chrome Mox

1 Mox Diamond

1 Lotus Petal

1 Sol Ring

10 Plains

Sideboard (15)

3 Gilded Light

4 Tormod’s Crypt

4 Abeyance

4 Abolish

A few notes about the above list:

  • Zuran Orb is back! Parfait is discarded as a viable option by most players, so they removed some enchantment hate in their sideboard. Allay not being used anymore means Orb can be played again.

  • The above decklist is highly dependent on Land Tax and Tithe. It might be a terrible thing or a good one depending on the post-Mirrodin decklists.

  • Chrome Mox and Isochron Scepter allow me to play less lands and more redundancy. I like it, but it’s a bit stressful to play a ten-land deck.

  • No non-basics for maximum Belching efficiency. You usually kill with one activation.

  • I’ve dropped the black, since Chant is better vs. Long and still not that bad vs. control. Helps the mana a lot.

  • This version is unpowered for a reason. I try to make a deck viable, and then I add power. That’s how I build my decks.


You can do a lot with this card. You can waste the spells in your opponent’s hand (having him counter his own stuff is always amusing), sacrifice everything that isn’t bolted down, overextend him into your own mass destruction, or simply order bad blocks.

Those of you who loved Grinning Totem will love this, too. Those of you who play competitively know you can do the same things with a fraction of the resources demanded.

Perhaps the wackiest thing you can do with this one is Goblin Welder or Tinker it out against a combo deck, decking him or forcing him to go off against himself. (I use the metagame before the new set’s release as a baseline, so yes, I did say last column that Chalice of the Void is going to change combo’s position.)


Yes, it’s cute and expensive, too. Teferi’s Veil doesn’t combo with this, but you might dig up old themes that used old cards from Jokulhaups and Rukh Egg to False Demise.

Tower of Fortunes

Cute. Expensive. Next.

Skeleton Shard

The Shards are a cute idea, bringing a little of the color wheel in with the artifact overdose. None is particularly strong, though. Skeleton Shard pales in comparison to Goblin Welder, and unless you use you use Mishra’s Workshop in your more laid-back decks, the best it’ll probably do is bring a new twist to your Chimera deck. Crystal Shard is another of the cuter ones, and substitutes for the likes of Stampeding Wildebeests and Shadow Guildmage in decks based on old lists.

Pyrite Spellbomb

These new cycling Seals are the more interesting colored effects, and could be usable in a deck centered around interactions with artifacts (though Tolarian Academy is hardly the central component these days in Academy decks). Pyrite or Aether Spellbomb, for example, can hedge against weenies in some kind of combo, though probably a more casual-level one. Sunbeam Spellbomb offers an interesting new life gainer, though Renewed Faith is probably only worse if you play Balance or Yawgmoth’s Will.

Talisman of Dominance

The Talismans are better than their predecessors, Fellwar Stone and Mirage Diamonds, since they come untapped and produce more than one color. These are only used in some budget control decks, though. Note that Mind Stone is still a contender for a mono-colored deck.

Oblivion Stone

Nevinyrral’s Disk has long since given way to cheaper alternatives Powder Keg and, to a lesser extent, Pernicious Deed. Again, while a one-way Disk looks attractive, increased mana costs never do, and there are more efficient or more potent ways of doing the same thing.

For what it’s worth, incidentally, note that you can’t Capsize or phase out Stone the way you did Disk.

Psychogenic Probe

This is a strange twist on Ankh of Mishra, though the original punishes fetch lands worse. I’m still not sure what we’re supposed to do with this, but feel free to include stories without the obvious Soldier of Fortune.

Sculpting Steel

Top tier artifact-based decks are too tight to fit Copy Artifact in, but it’s nice to give all the colors a shot.

Scythe of the Wretched

A fun old theme deck I remember from Homelands days was Vampires with Arena. This is added hilarity in that sort of thing.

Synod Sanctum

This should remind you of Safe Haven from The Dark. That was also fun, but note it’s another thing just a bit too cumbersome for competitive play.

Tel-Jilad Stylus

The best description I can give is,”Better Despotic Scepter.” Note that while you are recycling permanents that would have headed towards the graveyard instead, you gain no card advantage.

Scrabbling Claws

Not a better Phyrexian Furnace.

Blinkmoth Urn

At five mana, this will probably be one of the last things to go from your hand, and a first-turn”Mishra’s Workshop, Metalworker” play does everything you want Urn to do but faster. If you planned on having a lot of things to sink the mana into each turn, cheap artifact mana can set up the mana faster and get an engine going earlier. Now, assuming Chalice screws the conventional combo mana base, that’s not going to be much of a reason to switch to Urn, is it?

Extraplanar Lens

I never liked Mana Flare because, aside from the symmetry, you were hard-pressed to design a deck that could both abuse it yet function efficiently without it. A one-way Mana Flare like Mirari’s Wake is more interesting – though again, the conventional combo fast mana mix is there. Extraplanar Lens is a cheap, one-way Mana Flare, but what mono-colored deck would want it?

Raph Caron e-mailed that he’s happily trying it in Deck Parfait since it has wonderful synergy with his all-Plains mana base and Land Tax. He also notes that it works with Argivian Find and Enlightened Tutor, and is better than Moxen against Gorilla Shaman, Null Rod, and Chalice of the Void, though it’s a tempting Mana Drain target.


This is also cute, but even with Mishra’s Workshop, you’d be hard-pressed to design a deck with a lot of four-mana and higher spells, and the efficiency loss is just not worth this one card. Then again, Chalice of the Void turns mana curves inside out, so you might try it…

Soul Foundry

This triggered a very interesting discussion on TheManaDrain.com, and it covered streams of Meddling Mages and a Foundry-Seedborn Muse token kill.

That said, I think Phyrexian Processor is still the most straightforward of this class of effects.

Till the next breather from final exams! (Yes, my mailbox has a small backlog.)

Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

Paragon of Vintage

University of the Philippines, College of Law

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