Ertai’s Trickery: The Mad Machinist’s Mash-Up (Part 5 of 6)
At last we are ready to assemble the Mad Machinist’s Mash-up! Over the past week, we’ve taken the cards from three different Artifact-based precons (Planechase’s Metallic Dreams, Archenemy’s Assemble the Doomsday Machine, and Duel Decks: Elsepth vs Tezzeret’s Tezzeret deck), and pared away cards in search of making a cohesive whole.
As we said in the beginning, we won’t always make the same choices that you might, and we’re certainly not against being wrong on occasion, but the end result should be a deck that blends the strengths of all three, capable of holding its own even moreso against Elspeth’s deck in the Duel Decks. In our next (and last) installment of this Trickery, we’ll be taking the Mash-Up to battle against her mono-White deck. So let’s go deckbuilding!
Creatures: the Foundation
This is hard. I’ve decided to start with a basic deck framework of 24 Lands, leaving 36 open slots. I’d like the deck to be Creature-heavy, so let’s say we take between 20-24 Creatures. We’ll first begin by laying out all open candidates by converted mana cost, to get an idea of how the deck’s beaters will curve out.
Verdict: We’ll be keeping them all. The card pool bulges at the 3-4 CMC level, so 2-drops are especially useful. The Myr are the superior ramp choices, because they have the versatility of being creatures as well. The Steel Overseer is a linchpin of any deck with so many Artifact Creatures, and we’ll throw in the cheapie Engineers for a little extra speed.
Verdict: Again, they’re all in. I had some reservations about the Biskelion, but with so few options at this lower drop slot for Creatures, and its synergy with +1/+1 counters, it gets the nod.
Verdict: We’re bloated here, and so the cuts begin in earnest. The Lodestone Myr is too situational, heavily dependant upon how many Artifacts you have in play that you can afford to tap to it. Although initially enthusiastic about the Synod Centurions, careful consideration has opted to trade them out to make room for the Myr Enforcers, since by the time the deck can produce four mana it should have at least three Artifacts in play. Time will tell, but that’s the call. In fact, most ‘reasonably priced’ cards are hitting the scrapheap: Juggernauts, Lodestone Golem, Arcbound Crusher, Arsenal Thresher… all of them are solid, but just don’t bring enough to the table. The Juggernauts are fine but tie up your strategy a bit by attacking even when unprofitable, the other three are too conditional or spotty in effect as singletons. We’ll really want to focus more on heavy beaters on the top-end that get cheated out a bit through Affinity. In the end, only the Architects of Will and Master Transmuter make the grade. These may well be the unkindest cuts of all.
Verdict: Talk about tough! We’d already settled on the Myr Enforcers, so they’re in. We also want a Pentavus to exploit the synergy of having so many Artifact Creatures on the board at once. With the potential for a two-for-one, the Duplicant is in as well. One Broodstar and one Qumulox, for the Affinity, and we’ll round things up with the Triskelion and Razormane Masticore to give us some access to repeating direct damage. This is a rather frightening total of eight expensive critters, but the idea is that half of them have the potential to be paid for at a tremendously steep discount in an overwhelmingly-Artifact deck. We’ll have to play it out to see how it does, but we’re wanting to give the concept a try.
Non-Creatures: the Support
Again, let’s see what we have in each slot and make the painful cuts necessary. Now that we have an idea about what our Creatures are trying to do (Artifact-based synergies with both Affinity and +1/+1 counter-based strategies), how can we best support that aim? Once we’d finished with the Creatures, we found we had selected 20, which was the low end of our desired range. This gives us a full 16 slots for the non-Creature spells… time to go shopping!
Verdict: Two Chalices make the cut, the rest is out. We’ll be wanting a solid ramp presence to hit out top-of-curve Creatures, but with other options in the deck we don’t want to overdo it. Chalices make superb payment for the Esperzoa’s bounce ability as well. Cutting Spellbombs was painful- their versatility is most welcome, but we have to keep as tightly focused as we can.
Verdict: Agony Warp and Echoing Truth are must-haves for our coming battle with Elspeth. The Energy Chamber has done superbly for us in the past and gets in on past performance. The Clasp is an easy pick, with as many counters as will be floating around the various Artifacts we’ve selected. The Dimir Signet is one last bit of mana acceleration. That means we lose the Equipment- Lightning Greaves and Cranial Plating. These are painful losses, especially since the Plating optimises with Black mana and the Greaves grant Shroud. But we’ll just have to rely upon strength and numbers to get the job done.
Verdict: A curse of abundance! More than half of these didn’t make the cut. The Mistvein Borderpost lost out because of the Dimir Signet- the Signet is cheaper and a bit more aggressive as it doesn’t come into play tapped. Although the Nuisance Engine would feed the deck’s synergy by pumping out Artifact Creatures, it had two things against it. First, you’re paying five mana to get your first Pest, and secondly, it’s a “Mono” instead of a “Poly” Artifact. One Pest per round, that’s it. If it didn’t tap with use, it might have made it in. The Moonglove Extract hit the end of the road here as well. Although the direct damage is superb against Elspeth, it just didn’t do quite enough to be worth a card in this very competitive pool. We’d wanted to keep a Skeleton Shard in, but it was our 17th card. Since it is useless without a stocked graveyard, we had to let it go. Every Artifact that makes the final cut needs to be doing things almost right away. Finally, we pitched one of the Thirsts.
What did we keep? The Warhammer was too good to throw away, and the Serum Tank should synergise well with Proliferate and the Energy Chamber to keep us in cards. Fabricate was never in doubt, and Thirst for Knowledge wasn’t either. This deck should have little trouble keeping its options stocked.
Verdict: Slim pickings here, sadly. March is out, because of the negative synergy with the Artifact Lands (any you have in play will become 0/0 Creatures and immediately die cursing your name). A one-of counter can’t be relied upon. Unlike the other two, Argivian Restoration was a tough cut, but fell by the wayside for much the same reason as the Skeleton Shards (namely, it’s only relevant when you’ve lost something worth retrieving, and utterly useless otherwise). That’s not to say it’s not a solid card, but had I ways to throw Artifacts into my graveyard I’d be more inclinded to take it.
Verdict: Tezzeret’s in, of course. So is Thoughtcast (for the cards) and Spin into Myth (for the removal). Sorry, Whiplash Trap, you’re a good card, but just not what we’re looking for for five mana.
And so, here are the mana curves of the Mad Machinist’s Mash-Up:
And after a week’s work, we’re proud to unveil the Mad Machinist’s Mash-Up!
There you have it, the deck is now ready to take the field against Elspeth in our concluding column for this Ertai’s Trickery. A few lingering questions remain about the Mash-up, namely:
Does the value of having a stacked back-end of Creatures outweigh the drawbacks such Creatures present in the early game? Ordinarily eight would be too many for comfort of such expensive cards, but there is some mana ramp in the deck and half of them can be brought out at a discount through Affinity (not to mention the Master Transmuter).
Second, how quickly can the deck put up threats to avoid the early Creature-rush Elspeth is sure to lead with? Despite being an amalgamation of three different decks, the Mash-Up is still very shy on removal. Can it get its defenses up in time for it to take over in the mid-to-late game?
Join us next time for the concluding piece of this Trickery and find out!