Duel Decks- Elspeth vs Tezzeret: Tezzeret’s Deck Review (Part 1 of 2)
The role of the Artificer has long held a rightful place in the world of Magic: the Gathering, truly beginning in 1994 when a small, 100-card set was released three months after Arabian Nights. Called Antiquities, it introduced a flood of artfacts into the game, and lent itself well to those seeking to take on the role of a mad tinkerer.
Flash forward to today, and one need not go back all that far to find the role alive and well. Archenemy’s Assemble the Doomsday Machine cast its villain in such a role, as did Planechase’s Metallic Dreams. Alara block’s Esper decks tread a similar path. But in looking over the contents of the Tezzeret deck, this may well be the very best of the lot.
That’s not necessarily the same thing as saying that it plays better than any such deck previously released. What we mean is this: if you’re looking for a deck that gives you the feeling of actually playing as an Artificer, a mage surrounded by mechanical minions- this one is the best in breed.
To see why, let’s begin with a survey of the workshop.
A Mind Unfettered
For one thing, the deck seems less concerned with being ‘showy,’ and more with cards that actually get the job done. The noncreature spells here do a solid job of setting the deck up for success.
Being a mono-Blue construction, there are the customary and expected Blue effects represented in the deck. Chief amongst these is card draw (two copies of Thirst for Knowledge and a Thoughtcast), bounce removal (Echoing Truth) and countermagic (Foil). The Weatherlight reprint Argivian Restoration even gives the deck a splash of recursion (perhaps to bring back that expensive Artifact you pitched to Thirst for Knowledge), and of course there’s Tezzeret himself, a win condition and utility wrapped up in a Planeswalker.
But unlike other Artifact-heavy decks, the array of noncreature Artifacts is fairly tight to its purpose (Phyrexia, we’re looking at you). Two Everflowing Chalices provide some useful mana acceleration, an Energy Chamber is a resonably-costed buffer, and there’s even some removal in the form of a Moonglove Extract (particularly useful since so much of Elspeth’s deck has two toughness or less). An Aether Spellbomb is a solid inclusion, as is the Scars of Mirrodin preview card Contagion Clasp.
There are a couple of misses, though- the Trip Noose is decent, but seldom the answer you’ll be looking for against a deck with wide threat density (White Weenie), and the Elixir of Immortality just feels out of place here. However, these are far more the exception than the rule.
Wityh a solid complement of noncreature spells packed into the deck, let’s next look at the ground and air forces you’ll be winning the bulk of your games with.
As Strong as the Whole
The first thing that stands out when looking at the beaters of the deck is that the follow a very traditional and sensible mana curve:
This means that there should be a steady flow of options available to you as the game progresses. Make no mistake, Tezzeret is not equipped for a rush or an early game win (whereas Elspeth is), so the key to victory here is to build up and stall in the early game, giving your bigger threats time to come on-line.
Here is the deck’s mana curve, with the noncreature cards included:
With a total of six one- and two-drops, you are given some tools to stall with. The Steel Wall is perhaps the best of these, able to blunt an early rush, and the Modular ability of the Arcbound Worker means that you can sacrifice (or trade) it and still derive some benefit from the card. A pair of Runed Servitors are an odd bunch- their replacement effect benefits both players, so try and ensure that they’re taking something with them when they block.
The Silver Myr’s a singleton mana ramp critter, but the Steel Overseer will be the best draw at the slot. With the large number of Artifact Creatures present here, he’ll have no shortage of friends to make (and synergises particularly well with the Contagion Clasp).
It’s at the three-drop slot, though, that the deck really starts to take off. The Master of Etherium is almost always going to punch well above his weight in an Artifact-filled deck like this, and having him as an early 5/5 or so will not be uncommon at all. The Serrated Biskelion is a sort of Serrated Arrows-type of removal in creature form, and like other artifacts in the deck with counters can have some solid buffs when certain other cards are in play (for instance, Energy Chamber or Steel Overseer). The Trinket Mage offers card advantage in the form of limited tutoring, and Conflux’s Esperzoa can set up a nasty pattern if you use his ‘drawback’ to your advantage (for instance, returning a Contagion Clasp every round, or returning an Everflowing Chalice to rekick it).
Things get stronger from there, with additional beaters (Juggernaut, Synod Centurion) and card advantage (Faerie Mechanist). Frogmite’s Affinity is nice, but at the end of the day it’s still just a 2/2 body.
It is in the rest of the creatures, though, that the feel of the Archivist really shines through.
The original ‘crazy Swiss cuckoo-clock’ card from the start of the game was Clockwork Beast. A 7/4 for six mana with an intriguing mechanic that simulated winding up and running out of steam, it was to be the first of a number of different such cards, where like wind-up toys they ran themselves down. The selections in Tezzeret evoke this feel through cards like Clockwork Condor, Clockwork Hydra, Pentavus and Triskelion, and with the substantial counter support here (Contagion Clasp, Steel Overseer, Energy Chamber, etc) your diabolical machines.
Most decks packed with Artifact creatures have tended to feel like you’re leading an army of robots moreso than actual machines, unthinking nonsentient automatons. Tezzeret gets high marks for evoking such a feel. But theme is one thing- the question remains, how does the deck perform? Next we’ll be taking Elspeth vs Tezzeret into the field to see how they hold up against one another. Join us again in another 48 hours to find out!