You CAN Play Type I #125: Deconstructing Darksteel, Part II – Artifacts

Geth’s Grimoire

Lots of beginners who want to build Rack decks oooh and aaaah when they see Megrim. Thing is, unloading your discard on the opponent is top priority, so your opponent has no hand by the time you have a moment to remember to play Megrim. At that point, a creature cleans up far better.

Geth suffers from the Megrim problem as well.

Life sucks.

I get out of bed, find something groggily wrong with my stomach, and take a few steps before I call it quits. Sorry school, I’m not going today.

Take note, kids, the mark of adulthood is being able to call in sick anytime you want, and be free to sign your own excuses without going through the motions of forging Mom’s.

So what do I do to pass the time, aside from staying in a coma the entire morning and afternoon?

I e-mail my professor, of course, who also felt so bad she didn’t get out of bed. In my somnambulistic state, I think I actually got around to asking her to set me up for Valentine’s Day – now, you might think that’s the mark of a loser, but it might also be the mark of someone looking for leverage to ask her to postpone the midterm she scheduled – but I think I held off on asking her out.

Hey, it beats writing Magic columns…

Tait Ends Card Theory Series

Geordie Tait recently ended his card advantage spiel with”Effective Card Advantage.” Now, I’ve criticized the ideas he added to the traditional writers’ as gibberish – and not just the now infamous”a token is not cardboard, hence it’s not a card” theory – to the point that Misetings did a number on us (see”Card Advantage Gladiators“). But this one is a bit more interesting.

Geordie again took an existing concept – card quality – and slapped a new name onto it.”Effective Card Advantage” is as confusing as a name gets since”card quality” can come from a bunch of other concepts like tempo, not just CA. (see”Counting Shadow Prices“). What interests me is how he went around the”baby food mush (see”Counting Card Quality, or Why You Can’t“).”

I’ve criticized that there are so many fluctuating factors in Magic that you can’t just take a decklist and plug the cards into some sabermetric equation and get a”deck score (see”Counting Shadow Prices“).” However, I also said the closest you come to a unifying currency is”picks” in Limited, since this is an additional constrained resource. Geordie demonstrates this more vividly.

He didn’t emphasize this difference between Limited and Constructed, though, when he proposed drawing up a list of more arbitrary numbers for a Constructed matchup that mimic the Limited”pick order.” Still, he limits the baby food mush problem by limiting the scores to a particular matchup only. Now, you don’t need a mainframe to go over each relationship, and as long as you’re not gunning for extreme accuracy, the arbitrary numbers give you an additional mental benchmark.

Just remember – as Geordie failed to note – that all these assigned numbers change. Pick values can change depending on what you have. More so in Constructed where the numbers are truly arbitrary to begin with.

Of course, where does he get off saying I live in a trash can, hence I’m grouchy? I’ll have him know I live in a Law library-

Okay, so he has me there.

But hey, at least where I live, a bag of pastrami doesn’t cost a hundred dollars (see”Realizing How Bad You Are“). That Flores link actually made me happy to be living in the Third World.

Bring the deathmatch on (see”Deathmatch: TurboZvi v. Finkeltron!“).

Deconstructing Darksteel

Again, our 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?

And, for the general discussion, refer to”Shadow Prices” (see”Counting Shadow Prices“).

Modifying the article order for Mirrodin, we go to artifacts next. I’ve had to be conscious of my mental benchmark biases; for example, I wrote off Mindslaver as costing a little too much and needing a little too much effort to Weld out. It turned out, though, that multiple Thirst for Knowledge and Mindslaver weren’t a bad start at all.


If Mirrodin brought Chalice of the Void hype, Darksteel has Trinisphere.

However, after the restriction of Lion’s Eye Diamond changed the way we look at Chalice, the hype surrounding Trinisphere is more cautious. On the Paragons list, my first opinion was to look at this as a slightly better Sphere of Resistance.

Thus, you take a look at the decks that run Sphere, and you add Trinisphere to the list of reasons to make Steve Menendian cry by complaining yet again against Mishra’s Workshop.

Obviously, with a permanent Dark Ritual, you can go turn 1 Trinisphere (dumping all your jewelry first), turn 2 Juggernaut. Since Trinisphere affects even Force of Will, it’ll be at least two turns before your opponent can cast something, and more if you get a well-timed Wasteland in there. (This exemplifies something I loathe about Workshop: It makes winning the coin flip and going first so much more powerful.) Since a Workshop’s decks”two-drops” are really four-drops (see”A Mana Curve Can Be a Line or a Blob“), it isn’t as effected. Non-creature Workshop decks work similarly.

But again, it’s not all that different from Sphere of Resistance, except that you get a crucial extra turn of disruption if you go first and go Workshop-Trinisphere. Especially after the decks that needed it already adjusted to Chalice, Trinisphere may not quite be the straw that breaks the Workshop’s back.

For more, see Smmenycakes’ more comprehensive article,”Harmony of the Spheres.”

Serum Powder

I can say this one made many a Paragon’s eyes bug out.

Of course, this is also the card I misread at first glance, and I originally thought you just removed Serum Powder and not your entire opening hand. With this in mind, you weigh the option of seeing an opening hand of six then seven then six, all for just one mulligan.

Cheat mode? Well, you also have to consider that every Serum Powder in a hand you want to keep is a dead card. Every Serum Powder you topdeck later is dead as well.

Random factor is inherent in Magic, and everyone tries to reduce it, from running four of each card to using tutors. Aggro, aggro-control, and combo all have their redundancy strategies, and aren’t hell-bent on getting the best optimal hand they can mulligan into.

Of course, that leaves combo, and all the alarm bells ring.

So you think that Serum Powder will be amazing in all those five-color combos chock full of restricted cards (differentiated from the more redundant combos that run on unrestricted cards). But wait, doesn’t Serum Powder actually say remove your hand to mull into a new one?

Now we have a problem, since the cost of the mulligan easily makes your deck more erratic by removing combo pieces – possibly restricted combo pieces – and you no longer have unrestricted Burning Wish to lean on. This is good only if you can chuck a hand filled with useless cards, but that already indicates a deckbuilding problem.

And again, the more consistent combos already don’t need to bother.

Finally, as Steve Menendian added, at the very least, you screw up your deck’s mana/spells ratio by using this.”I have no respect for Serum Powder,” he e-mailed the Paragons.

Panoptic Mirror

The inevitable comparison is to Isochron Scepter. Would you rather have those cheap instants early, or wait a while to cast this and then those devastating, higher-cost instants and sorceries?

Assuming you’d rather have the latter and can set up the Mirror reliably, what would you Imprint?

It’s like a You Make The Abyss!

“Wrath of God every turn, mwahahahahahahahaha!”

Not too hot.

“Armageddon every turn, mwahahahahahahahahaha!”

Again, not really.

“Yawgmoth’s Will every turn, mwahahahahahahahaha!”

Even this is just a slightly better Yawgmoth’s Agenda.

“Twiddle on Bone Flute every turn, mwahahahahahaha!”

Old Inquest joke, where’d that come from?

So you see, if you Imprint the strongest spells you can think of, the ones that don’t go onto Scepter, you realize you don’t need more than one use out of them. Thus, Burning Wish and a stocked sideboard would have been better.

Even if you Imprint something that you want to get more than once like Concentrate or Opportunity, you’d still be better off just casting it once without waiting a couple of turns, then going with the resources you get.

Whatever you Imprint on Mirror has to win the game outright after the two turns it takes to set it up (roughly one to cast, one to Imprint). The only thing I can think of is a Time Walk/Time Warp combo that recreates Turboland.

Parenthetically, Paragon Steve Holeyfield a.k.a. Nameless has something like this. He uses Cunning Wish on Reclaim, Imprints it onto Isochron Scepter, then finds and casts Time Walk.

Watch Mark Acheson a.k.a. Nevyn post his new plan for world domination on Misetings.


Sacrificing your own creatures in a normal weenie deck isn’t all that efficient, and if you try to set up some combo a la Breeding Pit or Carnival of Souls, it’s simply far more awkward than existing designs.

Well of Lost Dreams

Again, I’m not sure if we can run with this newfound emphasis on improving life gain. Maybe this can replace Slate of Ancestry in those Elf decks? Maybe the dreaded Noble Panther plus Armadillo Cloak combo? Theoretically, the problem lies in having to add cards that gain life, few of which are that useful or efficient in their own right.

Thought Dissector

Remember Helm of Obedience, that hyped Millstone from Alliances? Now remember the jewelry commonly found in Type I decks?

Even in a budget environment, the best you can do is find someone running a Darksteel Colossus deck, and even then you’ll probably have spent eleven mana to get it.

Darksteel Reactor

Here’s to all you boys who laughed at Battle of Wits, then saw it Top 4 at Neutral Ground once (along with Stompy maindecking Rushwood Dryad).

Seriously, Darksteel Reactor is like giving your opponent a second life total.

Ever had games like this?

Opponent: I’m at 25 from my Ivory Tower.

You: Okay, keep going.

Opponent: I’m at 37 from my Ivory Tower.

You: Okay, okay.

Opponent: I’m at 73 from my Ivory Tower, you’re going to lose, dude!

You: Sigh… Living Death out the four Scaled Wurms and four Craw Giants from my graveyard.

Now you can have games like this:

Opponent: Three counters, three wonderful counters, mwahahahahahaha!

You: Land, go, yawn.

Opponent: Twelve counters, twelve wonderful counters, mwahahahahahahaha!

You: Land, go, yawn.

Opponent: Nineteen counters, you’re going to lose, dude!

You: End of turn, Decree of Justice for ten tokens, untap, attack, Time Walk.

Yep, life is irrelevant until you hit the twentieth point, too.

Forge[/author]“]Darksteel [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

More seriously, could you use a Guardian Beast that can’t be nerfed short of Oxidize?

Not really. Aside from the trouble you go through to Weld out this nine-mana substitute, protecting your artifacts doesn’t add as much as simply playing another artifact threat, not unless half your opponent’s spells are Disenchants, maybe.

In creature-based Mishra’s Workshop decks, even if you do get this out, it doesn’t affect common removal like Swords to Plowshares and Balance, anyway.

Lich’s Tomb

Back in Beyond Dominia days, some people actually posted Lich decks, fueled by obscure cards like Dark Heart of the Wood.

Imagine yourself as Strahd or Lord Soth. Sell your soul for power and eternal damnation – but hey, since it’s just a game, you can make up as many souls as you want.

As Lich hits the board and the combo gets cranking, you can imagine yourself changing into a giant bat to save on gas costs, mesmerizing your professors by looking them in the eye, turning into mist and mixing oh so comfortably with the rising steam inside the girls’ locker room…

All this for the minor downside of fearing sunlight, garlic, crucifixes, and Wesley Snipes.

Lich’s Tomb, on the other hand, gives you an ability you can only use when you’re about to lose, but the same drawback. So now imagine yourself still running from sunlight and garlic, with the Type II-esque package of changing into a mosquito, a cheat sheet of Parker Lewis-certified excuses, and a list of Ted Knutson cheesecake links.

So many things from Zuran Orb to Platinum Angel are better.

If you want an invigorating Lich’s Tomb, go dig up Baldur’s Gate 2.

Mycosynth Lattice

There are two sets of effects here.

First, you get to dig up your ancient Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] plus Viashino Heretic or Joven (or, to be funky, Aladdin or Kukemssa Pirates) combos.

Cute, but straightforward removal beats all the mana you need and all the trouble you go through to set it up.

Second, you get to give both players Celestial Dawn. However, this was only useful in”The Deck” against heavily stacked Red sideboards, since it neutralized all their sideboard spells from Red Elemental Blast to Price of Progress. Barring that, the mana smoothing itself is not worth the effort, since your deck needs to be just as playable without the Dawn in play. And since Lattice is an artifact, you doubt you’ll need the smoothing.

And besides, six mana is six mana.

You can bet, though, that some sadistic person in your playgroup will build a Nevinyrral’s DiskMycosynth Lattice-Forge[/author]“]Darksteel [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] deck, just so he can say he won with that combo once in this lifetime.


Remember Orim’s Prayer, the lesser half of Humility? This is likely more hilarious than Caltrops if you want to recreate that old lock.

Geth’s Grimoire

Lots of beginners who want to build Rack decks oooh and aaaah when they see Megrim. Thing is, unloading your discard on the opponent is top priority, so your opponent has no hand by the time you have a moment to remember to play Megrim. At that point, a creature cleans up far better.

Geth suffers from the Megrim problem as well.

What you might do is look at a narrow matchup like Oshawa Stompy, with its Bazaars of Baghdad, Survivals of the Fittest, and Wild Mongrels. Even assuming this is better than existing solutions, you’d still have to draw and play it before any of those engines gets going, or its suboptimal.

Aether Vial

In Type I, the comparison to Illusionary Mask is inevitable. Unlike face-down effects, though, Aether Vial doesn’t sidestep comes-into-play costs, and so doesn’t work with Phyrexian Dreadnought.

So you’re left with two effects. First and most important, you can gain mana by playing creatures for free. Thing is, you have to wait a few turns. You can play a free one-drop on turn 2, a free three-drop on turn 4, and so on.

Oops, this is Type I, broken things happen.

With all the broken fast mana, waiting a few turns can kill. Moreover, you have to choose creatures’ mana costs to milk it.

Second, you get to play uncounterable creatures at instant-speed. Whoopee. You can just play Xantid Swarm, and Flash and Winding Canyons weren’t all that for a precious slot.

What Aether Vial is, possibly, is a sign that R&D is increasingly Blue-hostile.

Ur-Golem’s Eye

You’re not going to cast this Sisay’s Ring rehash, so Gilded Lotus is still the best option for boosting mana via Goblin Welder.

Angel’s Feather

Here’s to all you beginners who once put Soul Net into every deck. Ivory Cup lives!


It turns out that no Equipment hit the efficiency level of Rancor, and it hasn’t really made an impact. Picking one at random, Spellbinder is a tempting setup. Aside from the trouble of finding the powerful instant you want to Imprint, protecting the Equipped creature, and attacking successfully, it’s worlds better than, say, Ophidian.

Well, it’s back to bed for me. I had to get hit by some bug the day my next class is at 9 A.M. Till next week!

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

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

Paragon of Vintage

University of the Philippines, College of Law

Forum Administrator, Star City Games

Featured Writer, Star City Games

Author of the Control Player’s Bible

Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)

Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance