Duel Decks- Elspeth vs Tezzeret: Tezzeret’s Deck Review (Part 2 of 2)
At last, the chance to sleeve up behind Tezzeret’s Artificer deck had arrived, and with the perfect opponent. Jimi, who particularly fancies White Weenie strategies, was excited to try and take me down with Elspeth. We played our opening customary ‘friendly’ just to get a dry run with the decks and determine play order for the first ‘real’ match, and I lost quite soundly. Eager to settle the score, we began our three with me on the play, and here are our notes.
An encouraging start! I open with an Island and a Steel Wall, comforted behind its 4 toughness which should give me some vital time to develop. Jimi’s in qith a quick start, though, opening with a Plains and Goldmeadow Harrier.
A next-turn Silver Myr for a bit of ramp is highly encouraging, especially when Jimi’s response is the lousy Glory Seeker. If she tries to sneak in for damage by tammping my Wall with the Harrier, it will at least slow down her board development to the tune of each round.
Turn 3, and I’m laying out a few more trinkets- a Trip Noose and Elixir of Immortality. In my previous write-up I slagged both of these Artifacts in particular as sub-par inclusions, since while they’re both valuable they do nothing on their own to advance my game state. Time to put that theory to the test.
I pass to Jimi, who drops a Kemba’s Skyguard, putting her life to 22. She passes back, and my turn 4 play puts my deck into gear: a 5/5 Master of Etherium. Beautiful!
Jimi’s undaunted, though, and I think I see the trace of a smile as she plays a Loyal Sentry, effectively neutering my offensive. Things are starting to become intricate- she can tap one of my critters, I can tap one of hers, I have to get around the Sentry, and so on. A lot of variables in play in the red zone. What I need is another beater, so she can’t lock down my offense so easily. As if to taunt, she swings in for 2 with the Seeker. I’m now at 18.
I get the beater I need on turn 5 with an Esperzoa. Thanks to the cheapie Elixir, the ‘Zoa’s drawback will be negligible, and I should be able to start getting through for damage, but Jimi’s next-turn Saltblast provides a ready answer and the Esperzoa is no more. I continue to disrupt her offense by tapping down her flyer, but it’s a stall, nothing more.
I’m in for damage on round 6 after tapping the Loyal Sentry and swinging in with the Master, taking advantage of the fact that Jimi’s tapped out and can’t activate the Harrier. With Jimi down to 17, I cast Argivian Restoration and bring the Esperzoa back to hand.
For her part, Jimi plays a Plains and swings in with the Glory Seeker and Kemba’s Skyguard. My Wall blunts the Seeker, but I have no answer in the air. Down to 16.
The Esperzoa returns to play in turn 7, along with a Mishra’s Factory. I cast it before my attack- it’s open knowledge that I have it now, and the Master of Etherium could use a boost. As expected Jimi taps down the Master, but the Silver Myr nicks in for 2, taking Jimi to 15. I’m in a very precarious position, though, as I now have no cards in hand and my entire offense pivots on one card- the Master of Etherium. Any removal could cripple me.
Jimi casts the Angel of Salvation (taking advantage of Convoke), then passes, apparently passing up its flash ability in return for getting it out immediately. It’s an apparent misplay that’s left her tapped out, and I’ll be looking to take full advantage.
The next turn (the 8th) sees me bringing the Elixir back to hand thanks to the Esperzoa, then swinging in hard after tapping down the Sentry. Jimi trades the Angel for the Esperzoa, but I’m still in for 8, dropping Jimi to 7. Had she waited to cast the Angel she might have taken the Esperzoa and kept her Angel, so I’m pleased with the trade. Of course, hers is not the only misplay as I look down and spot the Mishra’s Factory, which could have joined the attack and dealt Jimi 4 more damage (3 from the Master-buffed Factory and 1 additional from the Factory-buffed Master).
Jimi needs to stabilise, and fast. She Sunlances my Myr to chop the Master down a notch and remove a beater from play. Then she lays out a Temple Acolyte, and the life bump puts her to 10.
I’ve two cards in hand now, but they’re both Islands- I’ve drawn nothing new and it’s painful. Keeping the Sentry busy with my Trip Noose, I swing in with the Assembly-Worker from the Factory after Jimi taps my Master with the Harrier, taking her back down to 7. For her part, Jimi swings back with the Skyguard and Seeker, and again my Wall stops some of the damage but I’m now at 14.
Keen to keep the pressure on, I swing in again, but Jimi casts the Celestial Crusader after tapping down my activated Factory. She chumps the Acolyte to the Master, and I’m in for no damage.
Jimi returns fire after casting a Kor Aeronaut and Kicking it to give her Seeker flying, and swinging in with the Seeker, the Crusader and the Skyguard. Thanks to the Crusader’s buff, I’m rocked for 8 damage, dropping me to 6. Unwilling to give up momentum (and knowing I have no answer to an air strike other than pressure), I go in with the Assembly-Worker after she taps the Master, but she accepts the trade with the buffed Aeronaut and both cards head to their graveyards.
Jimi swings in hard for another 8 on turn 11, and I cash in on the Elixir or Immortality. Once the dust settles, I’m at 3 life- barely hanging on, and with no answer in the air. Even using the Trip Noose defensively (leaving the Sentry alone), it’s just not enough and Jimi claims the lengthy game one.
On the play, I lay out an Island and Aether Spellbomb, then a turn 2 Steel Overseer. Another strong start, I’m hopeful it will have a different outcome than the last. Jimi’s playing with an almost Red-like aggression, casting a turn 2 Kor Skyfisher and returning a Plains to her hand. I get the dynamic duo turn 3, playing a Mishra’s Factory and using it to cast Assembly-Worker before passing. Jimi’s response is the Mosquito Guard after swinging in for two points of flying damage. I activate the Steel Overseer at the end of her turn (putting +1/+1 counters on the Overseer and Worker), and she passes.
On turn 4, I activate the Overseer again after I animate the Factory. Jimi casts Swords to Plowshares on the Overseer, and I trigger the Spellbomb in response (Unsummoning the Overseer). His contribution, though, helps my other two robots get in for 7, taking Jimi to 13.
My offense is dealt a heavy blow when Jimi taps for an Abolish, sending my Assembly-Worker to the grave. She attacks for 3, and passes.
My only available play is to recast the Steel Overseer, which leaves me no mana to activate the Factory. I pass turn. Jimi drops a Crusade, and swings in again, this time for 5. I’m now at 10 life, while Jimi remains at 13.
Desperate for reinforcements, I play the Faerie Mechanist on turn 6, revealing a Juggernaut and two Islands. The Land goes to the bottom of my library, and I gratefully put the ‘Naut into hand. Jimi punishes me by blasting the Faerie with a Sunlance, swinging in for 5 and playing a Glory Seeker. Overwhelmed by her speed, I need an answer or it’s lights out. At her end of turn, I activate the Steel Overseer for some more counters.
With turn 7 I drop a Clockwork Condor, a timely answer to her aerial threat. It’s for naught, though, as her response is to play Elspeth, pumping up her Skyfisher with Elspeth’s builder, and swinging for the fences. I’m left with no alternative to chumping both my Condor and the Overseer just to stay alive. The expensive answers in my hand are mere ashes as I scoop after drawing nothing of use.
After three defeats in a row (counting the first “pre-game game”) I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong. My draws seem to be highlighting a lack of focus I didn’t quite pick up in Tezzeret when I took the deck apart- I’m just not able to get enough credible threats on the table with the same speed that Elspeth can, and my stalling measures are not getting the job done as I’d expect they should in a slower deck. Still determined not to wear the collar for the match, I draw a hand, declare that I’m keeping it, and drop a turn 1 Aether Spellbomb. Jimi’s response is muted- a Daru Encampment.
It’s a telling sign that I’m actually thrilled to get out a turn-2 Runed Servitor, dreaming of big things ahead with the Energy Chamber in hand. Jimi casts her first critter- a Temple Acolyte (bumping her life to 23), and passes.
With my land drops hitting just fine, I’m able to use turn 3 to get out two Artifacts- the Energy Chamber and an Elixir of Immortality. The Elixir feels like a mulligan here, like the best use of the card is only to cheapen an Affinity beater or pump the Master of Etherium, but it’s a fine use for the open mana. Jimi plays the Kemba Skyguard and is now at 25 life as she swings in with her Acolyte, which bumps against the Servitor.
As turn 4 begins, I put a +1/+1 counter from the Chamber onto the Servitor, then swing in with it for 3. I finish by playing a Trinket Mage which allows me to go fishing for an Everflowing Chalice. Having missed my first land drop and keen to avoid a repeat of the last game, it’s easily the best choice.
Jimi drops a Kor Skyfisher, opting this time to return the Temple Acolyte which she declines to recast despite having two mana open. This makes me anxious about a possible combat trick, but I decide I have little alternative than to go in hard while I still can.
The Servitor gets another counter at my Upkeep, and is now a 4/4. I play the Chalice (Kicked twice), then swing in for 4. Jimi declines the block, and is now down to 18. If she had a trick, she must have opted against it because Jimi now plays the Acolyte, putting her life at 21, then swings in for 4 damage of her own.
On turn 6 I opt to put another counter on the Servitor rather than powering up the Chalice despite having a couple nice, expensive options in hand, figuring it better to keep some steady pressure on her now rather than to give her a chance to regroup. I swing in for 5, then cast both the Juggernaut and Arcbound Worker. Jimi reaches for the Juggernaut with Sunlance, but I have the mana open to pop my Aether Spellbomb, and it comes back to my hand. Still, Jimi gets all in for another 5 then casts a Kor Aeronaut.
Next turn, I opt instead to diversify threat and put the +1/+1 counter from the Energy Chamber on my Arcbound Worker, figuring even if it dies it won’t go to waste as the Worker has Modular. I swing in again with my robot army, and Jimi gives up the Kor Aeronaut as a chump blocker. She’s down to 12, and I play the Juggernaut. My land drop of the round adds to my threat: it’s the high-performing Mishra’s Factory.
For once, it seems like Jimi’s the one desperate for an answer. Her turn 7 play is to lay out a Plains and pass. I put another counter on the Worker, then cast a Triskelion. He won’t add to the offense, but instead is there as insurance against a combat trick (figuring if she tried to cast Mighty Leap or some other such card, I could burn the target down with the Triskelion and fizzle her spell). My assault claims the lives of the Temple Acolyte and Kemba Skyguard, crippling her defense. She’s unable to draw an answer, and Tezzeret gets his first win.
As mentioned above, one thing we didn’t see with the deck under inspection is that it seems to suffer from an occasional lack of focus. Unlike Elspeth’s deck, where there’s so much synergy that most every draw is either helping to set up other cards (see: Catapult Master) or benefitting from them (see: Crusade), there’s a disjointed stripe running down the middle of Tezzeret’s. There are certainly a number of synergies, but too many cards that don’t pull their own weight here.
Elixir of Immortality is probably the worst offender here. Being something of a “PTI” card (“prolong the inevitable”), it was never something that helped advance my threat state and I hated drawing it.
Trip Noose was another. Tap-down effects work best when you’re presented with a clear target- the 5/5 leader of a few 1/1’s, for instance, or a particularly unpleasant utility critter. When faced with a horde of Weenies, all you’re really doing is saving yourself a few extra points damage… in other words, prolonging the inevitable when what you really need is a solution.
For a third example, we present the dreadful Frogmite, who at its best is a vanilla 2/2 on turn two and nothing you’d ever want to see later in the game.
Perhaps the most painful absence from Tezzeret is actual removal. Blue provides the deck only with bounce effects (though if you cast Echoing Truth on one of the many Solider tokens that clutter up Elspeth, you’ll often be delighted with the result), leaving only a small number of artifacts to offer permanent solutions to nettling problems like the Goldmeadow Harrier or Elspeth’s many flyers. By nature, though, these are very limited answers- limited either in effect (see: Triskelion) or by time (see: Contagion Clasp).
But enough with the negatives- Tezzeret remains a blast to play! There was something very rewarding about laying down a bunch of early trinkets and robots which captured the feel of an Artificer perfectly. Although not quite as enthusiastic about the deck as we were when we analysed it, it’s a good foil to Elspeth in the set.
Although we conclude that Tezzeret is slightly the weaker of the two decks, it’s a perfect matchup if you are playing against someone of lesser skill than you but want you both to have a great time playing. Elspeth is a much more straightforward deck, and it’s Weenie strategy is well-suited to newer players, while Tezzeret has considerably more complicated decisions for optimal play and is a solid skill-tester. The package overall is easy to recommend.
Pros: Complex interactions between cards results in high variety of play in games; exceptional flavour and theme to the deck captures the essence of an Artificer-mage better than previous offerings
Cons: Some card choices are suboptimal in Tezzeret-Elspeth matchup and seem poorly chosen; high back-end mana curve can be difficult to cast and clog your hand; removal options could be a little more robust
FINAL GRADE: 4.6/5.0
Postscript: I was rather disturbed by the disparity between what we analysed in the deck during breakdown and what we saw during the actual playtest. Tezzeret looked well-constructed, but just didn’t come together very well at all in actual use. How could we have been so off?
As usual, the answer lies in the details. Concerned, I challenged my usual sparring partner, Sam, to a couple casual matches with her playing Elspeth. I stole a win in the first game through a couple mised draws, but absolutely crushed in the second when I played (in order): Steel Overseer, Runed Servitor, Energy Chamber, Steel Wall, Contagion Clasp. Despite being slightly mana-short, I was able to pump up my Artifact Creatures rapidly with the Chamber and the Overseer, played a few more junker trinkets and destroyed Sam when I got Tezzeret out and went ultimate the next turn.
It’s the nature of Duel Decks that the Planeswalker singleton in each can massively swing the game, and it’s a fun bit of chance. But the real lesson I learned from the follow-up games is that Tezzeret has a greater degree of variance than initially thought. Much like Phyrexia, the nut draws can absolutely crush, while the inferior draws can leave you more or less stranded as your opponent easily outpaces you and you fight to tread water.
Higher than normal variance comes with the territory of preconstructed decks and shouldn’t count severely against them. Nevertheless, it was missed here and needs to be noted. To use a school analogy, Elspeth is a solid ‘B’ performer (tighter variance but less top-end), while Tezzeret depending on draw can be anything from a ‘C’ to an ‘A’ (higher variance, but higher potential). We saw this in Phyrexia vs The Coalition as well, where the outcome of the game was somewhat contingent on how good the Phyrexia players draw and first few plays were. Remember, though, that variance is a design parameter!
Hello! Although I mostly agree with your assessment
of Elixir, it does have its uses (other than the obvious
life gain and Master/Affinity pump). I often use it in
conjunction with Tezzeret’s -X ability to return a useful
artifact from the graveyard. It’s very gratifying to see
your opponent moan as you return Overseer back to the
In the first game, you “cast Argivian Restoration and bring the Esperzoa back to hand”. However, the Restoration returns it directly to play. Could’ve saved here 🙂
As soon as I read that, I knew you were right and it was a /facepalm moment. Great catch, I’ll be kicking myself for that misplay periodically throughout the day.
Will we see any meddling with this one? I would love to see if you have any suggestions that would make this deck a little more consistent. My experience was that the Tez player not only needs to have a little luck to get things working, but that the Elspeth player needs to help as well with bad draws or bad decisions if the Tez player has any hope of winning. While the artifact cards on a whole are tremendous (aside from the few stinkers you mentioned), the blue spells seem a little weak. I can’t understand the decision to include a card like Foil when M11 has a much cheaper common in Mana Leak that would be a better fit here — After all, the Tez deck needs help early, once it gets into the end game, as long as the pieces are together the giant automata of artifacts can run itself. Also, Foresee would probably be better fit than Thirst for Knowledge.
Intriguing idea! We hadn’t considered doing a Meddling with the Duel Decks, but we’ll certainly give it some thought. With Scars of Mirrodin right around the corner, though, I fear any tinkering will be blown wide open by all the new Artifacts that set will present us!
I remember Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar doing that sort of thing when he wrote for Building On A Budget on mtg.com. Example: http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtgcom/daily/jm117
Wow, great link! I might borrow that format for this one, takes an intriguing idea one step further. Thanks!
Interesting matchup … I was not aware of those lurking weaknesses until I lead my Elspeth into battle 🙂
But again, some tweaking in the form of Aether Spellbombs and the much underrated Cumberstone (both added to keep the flavor and the casual level) contributed to turning the tide …
Have fun artificing!
do you think more aggressive Mulliganing would have helped?
That’s a great question, Eric, as that’s a component of my own game I’ve identified as something I’d like to improve upon. Undoubtedly mulliganing becomes even more important in a deck with high variance, as Tezzeret’s has. In each case documented here the draw was at least playable by a baseline standard (lands and an early play), but given the composition of the deck it could have improved its chances to angle for a more solid draw, even if a card (or *gulp* two, short).
Thanks for the comment!
Tezzeret just seems to play slower against a faster deck, if you get things rolling right sure it’s going to work but against the Elspeth deck it just gets stomped. Both are viable though and fun to play which is the point of them. WotC hit it right with these two.
Unlike the Urza’s Rage from the PvC-Duel Decks, both theme defining cards are actually highly playable 😉
I don’t know if you noticed, but Trip Noose is really good at hosing Elspeth’s +3/+3 ability, which would otherwise be almost unbeatable for Tezzeret (he has no flying creatures with enough toughness to do any more than chump block and die). Same with Angel of Salvation. I think you’re underrating it. Remember, a flying blocker might not even work because Elspeth has so many tappers and removal spells of her own, so a noncreature answer to Angelic Blessings is important to keep from auto-losing.
What about Propaganda? Not an artifact but a huge spoke in a WW deck’s wheel. Or to go on with blue stalling: Fade Away works wonders versus Wheenies …
Well, ideally it would be fetchable with Trinket Mage. But I can’t think of any one-mana artifacts that answer Elspeth’s pump ability as well as Trip Noose.
Hmmm … take a closer look at the cost …
But if you like the effect, feel free to add some more 🙂
Another remark: What really annoys me when piloting the Coalition against the Phyrexia deck is Puppet Strings – you might like it as well.
I see your logic, and find your thinking completely understandable- threat mitigation! Here’s my thought process about it.
You’re absolutely right to identify Elspeth’s ability as a serious threat to Tezzeret- I’ve had some difficulty against it as well. But let’s say your average game goes about 8 turns (your results may vary). That means each player is drawing 15 cards out of a 60 card deck, which in turn means that the Elspeth player is drawing their Planeswalker about once every four games. So I am faced with a choice: do I add in a card as an answer to a problem I’ll be facing less than 25% of the time? Or do I put in one that will help me 100% of the time (but may leave me vulnerable to Elspeth in some games).
I won’t fault you a bit in your decision- there’s no wrong answer here, but rather a matter of preference. If the Noose had additional benefit, it might keep its slot with me, but for the most part all it will be doing is tapping down Weenies, which itself is no solution. Now, if we were talking about facing down Garruk’s deck, where the threat density for larger beaters is much deeper, I’d be quite inclined to leave it in! I’ll happily take 2-3 damage a round if I’m setting up my win, but in a slower deck (like Tezz’s tends to be), 4-5 damage a round is unsustainable.
It might be worth noting that my favourite deck archetypes are Grixis Control, Suicide Black and Red Deck Wins, so I am very accustomed to taking scads of damage on my way to a win. Of course, this causes me to lose some games I might have won with a more cautious approach (for instance, a Trip Noose).
As for the Angel, I must proffess that I’ve had little trouble with her- Pentavus owns her much more effectively than Trip Noose. Angel + Elsepth well, that could pose a problem. 😀
I notice that a lot of people run into the same problem. Tezzeret’s deck is pretty slow at start and because Elspeth’s is built to quickly overwhelm, you often run into problems. So here’s a little tweak to the deck that i’m considering. Not too much since i don’t want to overpower it.
I’m thinking to swap the Elixer for another Mishra’s Factory (i still have one from back at 4th), add 2 more Myrs (one for the assembly worker, the other for arcbound worker). Taking out the Frogmite since, as you mentioned, it’s only a 2/2. And putting in an Arcbound Crusher.
Maybe change some islands for Seat of the Synods or Darksteel Citadels.
Are you sure you want to put in an extra Myr and take out Assembly-Worker? Don’t forget, Mishra’s Factory synergises with that Assembly-Worker! If you’re going to put in a second MF, then the A-W might earn his keep.
Well, i have noticed that i often need more mana, but maybe taking out Aassembly Worker isn’t the way to go. Runed Servitors however rarely do me good. One thing i definitely don’t need is Elspeth’s player having more cards.
Assembly Worker is still only a Ghost Warden at best, and Ghost Warden isn’t exactly an all-star.
I threw out my workers for maxing out my arcbound workers. Plays right into Pentavus. Another thing for Trinket Mage to nab.
Heck, it gives my Steady Progress another toy to boost.
Assembly and Mishra’s need to be a 4 of each to be worth it. Otherwise, I prefer to dump them.
The Tezzeret deck is terrible. I played 8 sets of 3 games with it with my buddy and I only won 1 set. The only thing Tezzeret has is huge bombs, but you discard so many cards that for some reason, the elspeth player constantly have cards in their hand. Plus, dealing with flyers and a bunch of removals is nearly impossible. And once they get that crusade out, it’s even more GG. It feels like the Elspeth deck is playing more like a blue deck than tezzeret itself.
Amazing game breakdown, and the comments are an interesting read as well.
One suggestion that you might want to try in the near future: since you already have all these Wizards-made decks (Intro Packs, Duel Decks, etc), what say you to doing a mash-up of sorts? I mean, use cards from another precon to tweak and improve this deck. For example, use the “Assemble the Doomsday Machine” Archenemy deck or “Metallic Dreams” Planechase deck to give the Tezzeret deck a boost. I know that you have specified your procedure of editing decklists (e.g., no adding rares) but this might be a good thing to try. 🙂
just an idea! 😀
What an intriguing idea! I enjoy putting curveball topics out on the occasional non-post day, I may take a look at this and see what I can come up with. Thanks for the suggestion!
It doesn’t seem like the white weenie strategy of Elspeth and the slow buildup of bombs for Tezzeret really match up well. Maybe Wizards needs to put more consideration into mana curve in precon products and do some more thorough playtesting, with little in the way of removal in Tezzeret you’re bound to lose to Elspeth. Oh, and I found my way here via Monday Night Magic 😛
It seems the Tezzeret deck really needs some help. Like its all over the place and not nearly as focused as its counter part. I wouldn’t mind buying it, but I have to know: will you be meddling with this one? Please do. If so, say goodbye to frogmite. lol
First of all: congratulations for your excellent blog. It is nice to see a Magic player who is actually playing and tinkering with the precons without making constant references to more expensive cards, commonplace decks, or semi-pro competition.
As you have tested both decks, I would like to ask you: is it worth to buy two sets of the pack to exchange the sub-par card with copies of the more useful ones? (I am a casual player coming back to Magic after a several year hiatus, so I am seeking a way to get some solid casual decks without breaking the bank, and these seem like a good starting point).
Thank you so much for your time! Greetings from the other side of the Pond!
Hey mate, thanks for the comment, and glad you’re enjoying the site! You could probably do fine with buying two and rebuilding, though you might have just as much success picking up a few singles cheaper, especially now as we’re in the midst of an artifact block. It’s not necessarily the bombs or rares you have to worry about finding in that kind of deck (there’s already a few in there), it’s the common and uncommons that form its backbone and making sure you have four of each card you need for consistency’s sake.
Somethingelse that might interest you here is an article series we did on rebuilding Tezzeret’s deck with *other* simlar precons, found here: https://ertaislament.com/2010/09/16/ertais-trickery-the-mad-machinists-mash-up-part-1-of-6/
I had already read The Mad Machinist Mash-Up and got a grasp of some ideas :).
I could get my hands on Archenemy´s Bring About the Undead Apocalypse and the Fire & Lightning premium deck as companions to my old Lorwyn elf deck. I think I will follow your advice and get some single cards along the duel deck to improve them all (and have some colors to choose from) 🙂
Once again, thanks for your time and your site!
There are plenty of cheap artifacts that can go into this deck and just make it mindblowing.
I’m trying out a set of Lodestone Golems right now. Wanted a golem deck, but I couldn’t find enough cards fitting it. Making my Tezzy deck a sort of Golem deck just makes a lot more sense. Far more cost effective too!
Looks like your Golem tribal deck is about to become a very nasty reality…
I really want to get this preconstructed pair of decks, I’m only missing this and Garruk vs Liliana. I managed to assemble DvD and EvG by singles very cheaply, but I was wondering if I should do the same for this product?
Most sites have a 49.99 +Shipping price tag attached, and Im not sure if it is cheaper just getting the singles for it or not. I am patient, but I havent seen many auctions on ebay. I must also note that I live in canada, so shipping is alot more expensive….