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Artifact Facts

Sai, Master Thopterist is rumored to be making some Standard progress, but he’s for sure going to be at Commander tables! Bennie shares his build!

Did you hear the news late last week? Wizards gave us a little tease
regarding the upcoming Commander 2018 product! They told us the
deck names, color schemes, and general themes of the four decks. There’s an
Esper deck called Subjective Reality that has a “top of your deck matters”
theme-that’s intriguing! There’s a Bant deck called Adaptive Enchantment
that’s enchantment themed. There’s a Jund deck called Nature’s Vengeance
that’s land themed. And then there’s an Izzet deck that’s artifact themed.

Now, I know a lot of people have been clamoring for a U/R commander that’s
explicitly all about artifacts, and given that most of these Commander
decks will have three new legends tied into the theme, I imagine those
folks will be very satisfied. I’ve built a couple artifact-themed decks
over the years. I took the Breya, Etherium Shaper precon and made some fun
tweaks to it and played it a while. I more recently built a partner deck
with Silas Renn, Seeker Adept and Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa that was heavy on
artifact recursion.

Both were fun decks, but one thing I found was that I just couldn’t fit in
all the cool artifact-themed cards that I wanted across four colors-there
were just too many! I’ve even found two-color artifact themed decks to
offer almost too many cool options and inevitably some get left on the
bench. So when Core Set 2019 came out and I saw Sai, Master
Thopterist, I knew I’d found the artifact commander I never knew I had
needed.

Who needs all those extra colors? They just clutter up our card pool with
way too many options! Just pure blue artifact shenanigans-that’s what I’m
talking about!

What I like about Sai is how simple and powerful it is. Cast an artifact,
get a Thopter. Sacrifice two artifacts, draw a card. It’s a self-contained
engine that can potentially turn each artifact into another card drawn if
that’s what you need to do. And if you don’t need to dig a little deeper,
Sai churning out 1/1 flying creatures for each artifact is pretty amazing.
They make fantastic chump blockers, so if you want to play any
planeswalkers you can protect them. Sai is just a solid, generally powerful
commander for whatever sort of artifact shenanigans we might want to build
into the deck.

Okay, let’s get brewing!

Sacrifice for Profit


The first place to start are artifacts we don’t mind sacrificing to Sai.
Sword of the Meek jumps to mind since any time you make a 1/1 Thopter, the
Sword will jump back out of the graveyard and equip itself to it. We can
also take a page out of the Krark-Clan Ironworks Modern combo deck with
Chromatic Star, Terrarion, and Ichor Wellspring. We can also add Servo
Schematic to the mix.

Skullclamp is insanely powerful in any deck that churns out 1/1 tokens so
easily, and we can equip any larger artifact creature we want to sacrifice
to Sai for even more card draw.

Higher up the curve, Spine of Ish Sah was made for sacrificing assuming we
have enough mana to recast it. Wurmcoil Engine isn’t something we’re going
to want to sacrifice willy-nilly since it’s awesome intact, but if someone
tries to hit it with an exile effect we can break it and another artifact
to draw a card and maintain a presence on the battlefield.

Engine Cards

Okay, here’s where the fun begins! Continuing with some themes from the
Krark-Clan Ironworks deck we can add Ironworks itself, Scrap Trawler, Myr
Retriever, and some Myr Retriever-types like Junk Diver and Workshop
Assistant. Etherium Sculptor, Foundry Inspector, and Jhoira’s Assistant can
shave mana off our artifacts’ casting costs, potentially making them free
to cast. This dovetails nicely with Sensei’s Divining Top and Future Sight,
turning into a powerful draw engine that can churn out as many Thopters as
we might need (depending on the size of our deck).

If we’re casting a lot of cheap or even free artifacts, we can make use of
Aetherflux Reservoir to gain a ton of life and turn that life into
game-ending chunks of damage. Aetherflux Reservoir brings to mind that
weird and wacky Paradoxical Outcome deck from Standard a few seasons back
so let’s toss that in as well.

Mishra’s Self-Replicator is a lot of mana but just might be worth it in
this deck, especially if we’re able to start casting artifacts for free.
Each copy gives us the ability to make more copies, so maybe we can churn
out an army of Self-Replicators to go with our Thopters?

Then of course there’s good old Trading Post. Everyone loves Trading Post.
Who doesn’t want to make Goat tokens?

Artifacts Matter

Okay, since we’re playing lots of artifacts let’s dig into other cards that
care about artifacts. I like some of the new cards that care about historic
since that includes artifacts, like Artificer’s Assistant, Weatherlight,
and Traxos, Scourge of Kroog. Then there are older cards like Broodstar,
which can potentially be a gigantic flier. Thopter Spy Network and Sharding
Sphinx can churn out even more Thopters.

To make our 1/1 fliers more threatening we can run things like Steel
Overseer, Chief of the Foundry, and Master of Etherium. Several of the
Tezzeret planeswalkers and The Antiquities War can temporarily turn our
horde of small creatures and artifacts into giant 5/5 beatdown machines for
a game-ending alpha strike.

The cost to activate Kuldotha Forgemaster is usually pretty steep, but in
this deck there should be plenty of extra artifacts lying around to cash in
for just the right artifact for the job. Maybe Gonti’s Aether Heart? Taking
an extra turn is always nice!

Other Artifacts

Must play more artifacts! I wouldn’t count these as engine or
artifacts-matter cards, but just good artifacts to include in the mix. We
do have Paradox Engine so Tezzeret’s Simulacrum could actually be a win
condition if we stick one of our Tezzeret planeswalkers. Darksteel
Juggernaut and Darksteel Colossus are huge threats that seem like good
targets to search up with Kuldotha Forgemaster.

Inventor’s Goggles equip to our commander for free, but there are a couple
other Artificers in our deck that could make use of the equipment too.

Mana Ramp

We’ve already got some cards that shave mana off the cost of artifacts that
help on the mana ramp front, but that doesn’t mean we can’t include some
more. In particular the artifact mana ramp cards just fit perfectly well
with our artifact theme, and with Sai the more mana the better. Solemn
Simulacrum is a great candidate to sacrifice to Sai, and sometimes you’ll
be able to keep getting it back with Trading Post.

Control

What’s a good blue deck without some measure of control? My personal view
on counterspells in Commander is only using them for those “hero” moments
when you stop someone from combo-killing the whole table, though they’re
also good at protecting your own position too.

I’m of the opinion that every blue deck should run Fumble, but I’m
particularly excited about it here as potentially stealing a handful of
extra artifacts is particularly nice.

Sweet deck! But wait… there are too many cards! Let’s figure out where to
make out cuts.

We’ll start by taking a look at our mana curve:

1 mana: 12

2 mana: 15

3 mana: 13+commander

4 mana: 15

5 mana: 12

6 mana: 5

7+ mana/X-spells: 5

78 total cards, plus 37 lands, equals fifteen cards over the line. Let’s
start at the top of the curve and see if there are some cuts we can make.

These are two large creatures that we can often cast at a big discount due
to having lots of artifacts on the battlefield. Broodstar gets a slight
advantage due to being able to count Thopters towards its discount.
Metalwork Colossus gets an edge due to being able to come back from the
graveyard pretty easily. In the end, I think Broodstar gets the nod due to
its evasion, since Metalwork Colossus can just get blocked for days so I’m
going to cut the Colossus. I could be wrong though, what do you think?

Do we have too many Tezzerets? My initial feeling is no, but we have to
make some cuts somewhere. Tezzeret, Cruel Machinist is certainly the least
exciting of the three so I think it’s safely cut to make room.

Mishra’s Self-Replicator is a weird card that pulls on my heart-strings. I
want it to be good. I think it can be good here… so I’m going to keep it.
Karn, Silver Golem is an old favorite, but I don’t think I have enough
large non-creature artifacts that warrant his really cool special ability.
I mean, I could toss Mycosynth Lattice into the mix to do the cheesy
destroy opponents’ lands combo, but that’s not the sort of game I’m looking
for. Sorry, Karnfather, the O.G.

I’m a bit top-heavy at five mana, even after cutting Karn. Baral’s
Expertise is a fun card that did some good work in the Aetherflux
Reservoir/Paradoxical Outcome Standard deck which is how it ended up here.
But I’m not sure it pulls enough weight in a multiplayer game so it gets
the cut. I don’t think I want two expensive counterspells in the deck, so I
need to choose between Spell Swindle and Mystic Confluence. Mystic
Confluence is incredibly flexible and has the edge on power, but I think
I’m going to stick with Spell Swindle since it has the potential to make a
lot of Treasures, which play nice with our artifact theme.

We’ve got way too many four mana cards so we’ve got to make some deep cuts.
Tezzeret’s Gatekeeper is probably the easiest cut on power level, but the
rest of these cards are sweet. Jhoira’s Familiar is nice and all, but we’ve
got a fair number of similar cards lower down the curve that it’s a safe
cut. I don’t know that we have enough huge artifacts that we’d want to
cheat out with Master Transmuter to make it totally worth it, but I could
very well be wrong. What do you think?

These three cards basically do the same thing, but I think we’re safe
cutting one for space. Workshop Assistant is marginally weaker than Junk
Diver so it gets the boot.

For my last cuts I’ve chosen these four. They’re all good enough to play,
but we’ve got to cut somewhere, and I don’t think the deck is losing too
much with their absence. Is there anything you’d cut over any of mine?

Here’s how the deck ended up after the cuts:

Sai, Master Thopterist
Bennie Smith
0th Place at Test deck on 07-16-2018
Commander


So, what do you think? Do you agree with the cuts, or would you have gone
another way? Are there any great cards I overlooked? And which of the Commander 2018 deck themes are you most excited about?


New to Commander?


If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visionary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo ( The Indestructibles)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling
)

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius ( new player-friendly)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Progenitus (

Fist of Suns and Bringers

)

Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts

)

Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)

Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)