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September 26, 2010


Ertai’s Trickery: Mad Machinist’s Mash-Up (Part 6 of 6)

by Dredd77

And so it’s come to this. A week of pooling and cutting, arranging and tinkering, and all the labour to be decided on a mere three games with Sam. Those who’ve read from the beginning have experienced our colour selection, choice of removal, card advantage and Land options, Creatures, and final assembly of the deck.

When we began this project, it was to take the cards of three Artifact-focused preconstructed decks (Planechase’s Metallic Dreams, Archenemy’s Assemble the Doomsday Machine, and Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Tezzeret’s Tezzeret) and combine them into one 60-card hybrid with which to take the field against Elspeth’s deck. When we analysed and playtested Elspeth’s deck, we found it strong in the early game with a decent removal suite, so a slower Artifact theme had its work cut our for it.

At the eleventh hour,  based on advice from readership I stripped out a Swamp and added a Mistvein Borderpost, which I had previously cut from consideration, to bolster the mana base of the deck.

Sam and I took them to battle, and here are our notes.


Game One

Sam lucks into a superb first turn, playing a Loyal Sentry off of a Plains. A nasty blocker, I’m already wondering which of my critters is going to have to ‘take one for the team’ going over the trenches at it as I lay a Seat of the Synod and pass.

With nothing standing in its way, the Sentry swings in for one after Sam puts a Kabira Crossroads into play, putting my life to 19 and hers to 22. I play an Island and pass.

As expected, Sam’s Weenie rush starts to gather steam as she swings in again for 1, then plays an Elite Vanguard, but I’ve the luck with my draw as I pick up a Serrated Biskelion. A third Land lets me get him right into play, and I pass back to Sam.

Turn 4, and the nightmare begins: Sam taps out to play Elspeth, Knight Errant. This is my worst fear- an early swarm backed up by a Planeswalker, and I have little recourse against it. Sam builds Elspeth by pumping the Vanguard, who comes in for 5. I’m at 13 life.

On the upside, I’m keeping pace with Land. I play an Island, then cast the Master of Etherium. Back to Sam, she builds with the Vanguard again, using Elspeth to have him come in for 5. I’m down to 8. At the ned of her turn, I pick off the Loyal Sentry with the Serrated Biskelion, giving both a -1/-1 counter. It’s a bit of a gamble, as I might have saved some life by killing the Vanguard instead in response to Elspeth’s activation, but I’m needing to roll the dice against her ‘Walker.

A Vault of Whispers on my turn lets me swing in with the 4/4 Master on Elspeth, since the blocker she anticipated having (the Loyal Sentry) is no longer there. Sam thwarts me, though, with a timely Raise the Alarm, using one of the 1/1 Soldier tokens it generates to chump the Master. Elspeth is unscathed. I play the Architects of Will, and turn it over to Sam.

Now turn 6, Sam drops another Plains then activates Elspeth again, targeting the Vanguard, but I tap the Biskelion to kill it in response. Were it not for the Master of Etherium on the board my Biskelion would now be dead as well, but it’s holding on as a 1/1. Annoyed, Sam plays a Kor Hookmaster, and indicates that the Biskelion’s to remain locked down.

I play a Stalking Stones, then go in on the growing Elspeth with both my Architects of Will (4/4) and Master of Etherium (5/5). Sam throws her remaining 1/1 Soldier and the Hookmaster in the way, desperate to get Elspeth’s ultimate off. Between my Land and Artifacts, I cast Broodstar for half price, and let my breath out- it looks like I’m stabilising the board now after an early scare.

Elspeth hits 8 loyalty on turn 7 by creating a 1/1 Soldier token, but Sam’s run out of gas. A lonely Burrenton Bombardier is assigned stall duty before she passes to me.

I start the turn off with a Steel Overseer, which lets me cast a Myr Enforcer for only – a steal, and exactly the scenario I’d hoped for when I included them in the build. I follow up for good measure with a Vedalken Engineer, then go for Elspeth’s throat with the 4/4 Architects, the 7/7 Broodstar and 7/7 Master. Sam’s two Weenie Soldiers explode before the larger pair, leaving the Architects to finally cut into Elspeth. Crisis averted, but it’s far from over.

Turn 8 sees Sam play the Stormfront Riders, which bounces itself but leaves behind a 1/1 Soldier. She also creates a second with Elspeth before ending her turn. I bring out the Pentavus, then send in the Broodstar to finish Elspeth off. Meanwhile, the Architects, Master of Etherium and Myr Enforcer are sent into the red zone against Sam directly. Her pair of 1/1’s die heroically, but Sam takes her first damage of the game and is at 17 life as I tap the Steel Overseer at the last moment to pump up my Artifact Creatures.

Sam tries another desperation move, casting a second Raise the Alarm followed by Stormfront Riders. This nets her the Riders and a pair of 1/1’s. At the end of her turn, I detach a Pentavite and now have a 1/1 Flying critter out, smelling blood.

On my turn I detach four more Pentavites, leaving my Pentavus as a 1/1 (thanks to the Master of Etherium). I then tap the Steel Overseer, giving all my Artifact critters another +1/+1 counter (including the wee Pentavites!). I now have a total of 14 Artifacts in play, music to the ears of the Master and Broodstar, who both derive their power and toughness from that number. For good measure, I use my Serrated Biskelion (who thanks to the Overseer and Proliferate is now safely back in good health) to kill one of Sam’s 1/1 Soldiers, then go all in.

Sam chumps the 14/14 Broodstar with the Riders, then hurls the remaining 1/1 Soldier in front of the charging 16/16 Master of Etherium (he has 2 +1/+1 counters from the Overseer, mind). The remaining beaters slam into her for 16 damage, leaving Sam at 1 life with the promise of plenty more to come.

Sam scoops up her cards and plots vengeance.

Game Two

Another strong early showing for Sam, this time with a turn 1 Goldmeadow Harrier followed by a turn 2 Crusade. I’d been happy to plot a turn 2 Vedalken Engineer, but some of the polish comes off the apple after Sam lays her enchantment. I’m on a much shorter clock now.

Turn 3, and Sam swings in for 2 with the Harrier before playing a Kor Aeronaut. I counter with a Seat of the Synod into a double-kicked Everflowing Chalice, thanks to the assistance of the Engineer. Sam’s relentless, coming in for 5 the next turn and playing a Kor Skyfisher. I’m down to 11 life.

For my part, I play a second Seat and bring out Tezzeret the Seeker, hoping he’ll draw Sam’s attention for a turn or two, building his loyalty by untapping the Chalice. I then Thoughtcast into a Silver Myr and Fabricate. Not the answers I’m needing.

Not taking the bait, Sam slams into me for 8 with all three Weenies, and I’m on death’s door. With no real answers in hand, out of spite I have Tezz go ultimate, swinging into Sam with a trio of sudden 5/5’s (the Chalice and two Seats of the Synod). Fearing a trick, Sam exiles one of the Seats with Swords to Plowshares, bumping me up to 8 life but taking 10 damage herself. A next-turn Kabira Crossroads puts her to 12, and with new wariness she swings in for 6. She’s left me alive one more turn, and I cast Fabricate just to see if there’s anything in my deck that might save me against her pair of flyers with the mana I have open.

There isn’t.

It’s not losing to an early Crusade that’s most distressing about this game. It’s the fact that Sam managed it with only two Land.

Game Three

On the play, I being with a Mishra’s Factory, happy to see an early critter materialise. Sam meets it with a Kabira Crossroads, then back to me. Dropping an Island, I play an Everflowing Chalice, kicked once, looking to get ahead with a somewhat Land-poor hand. Sam returns with a Plains and an Elite Vanguard.

Another Island on turn 3, and I’m able to cast a Faerie Mechanist, giving me a 2/2 Flying body. There’s only one Artifact in my top three cards- a Pentavus- and Sam groans as I reveal it and put it into my hand. It’s expensive and unwieldly, but I sure love the card.

For her part, Sam swings in with the Vanguard before playing her Kemba’s Skyguard, and she’s now at 24 life with me at 18.

Looking to stabilise my board position, I put out a Master of Etherium on turn 4 after missing my first land drop. Feeling plucky, I push my Faerie Mechanist into the red for 3, dropping Sam to 21. Sam looks to return the courtesy, so she exiles the Master with a Swords to Plowshares. Although my Mishra’s Factory is tapped, I do have the Chalice open, so I respond by activating my Factory into an Assembly-Worker. It doesn’t stop the loss of the Master, but allows me to get 4 life from the Swords instead of 3. Sometimes its the little things…

Sam claws the 4 life back, swinging in with her Vanguard and Skyguard.

Turn 5 sees me play my own Scars of Mirrodin ‘preview’ card, Contagion Clasp, opting to put its -1/-1 counter on the Skyguard rather than kill the Vanguard outright- I don’t want Sam to have any defenses in the air if I can help it. Passing to Sam, she casts a Kor Hookmaster, locking down the Faerie Mechanist, and swinging in for 3.

My next play is an Everflowing Chalice, this time kicked twice, and I pass right back to Sam. Sam takes me to 10, swinging in with both ‘Guards and the Hookmaster for 5.

I add a Myr Enforcer on turn 7, which halts Sam’s advance in her tracks. She plays a Catapult Master and goes to pass, when I activate the Clasp to Priloferate at the end of her turn. This adds a charge counter to each of my Chalices, and kills her Kemba’s Skyguard- happiness all around.

After untapping, I play a Darksteel Citadel, then deploy a Loxodon Warhammer. Equipping it to my Myr Enforcer, I swing in hard for 7. Thanks to its Lifelink, I actually pull ahead of Sam, 14-17. Sam plays a Plains, and I Proliferate (via the Clasp) again at the end of her turn. My Chalices are now tapping for seven mana.

Now turn 9, I swing in hard again with the Warhammer-equipped Myr, but Sam’s had enough. Using Swell of Courage to Reinforce the Catapult Master, she taps out to make it an 8/8. Not wanting my Myr to die alone, I hit the Master with Agony Warp, and down they go together. Thanks to Trample, the Myr still gets in for 2 damage, and I gain 2 life. Sam’s now at 12. Flush with mana, I play both a Pentavus and Esperzoa to escalate the pressure.

Sam’s turn consists of dropping a Kor Skyfisher, returning one of her tapped Plains and replaying it untapped. She then sends the Esperzoa on a Journey to Nowhere before passing.

With the Pentavus granted a reprieve, I attach the Warhammer to it and send it in. Sam’s in for a difficult choice, and considers several options before deciding she’d use her three critters to gang-block and kill the Pentavus. Since the Pentavus + Warhammer is doing 2 more damage than needed to kill off her blockers, I respond by detaching two Pentavites. Sam’s Hookmaster, Vanguard, and Skyfisher are wiped out, a backbreaking trade. I top things off with Architects of Will, then pass.

Sam’s a broken duellist, and her only play is to lay down another Land. I Proliferate once more at the end of her turn, for good measure. I then use turn 11 to cast a Qumulox (for !). I attach the Warhammer to the Architects, then activate Mishra’s Factory. Sending everything in gets me there, as the two Pentavites I saved are just enough for the kill.

Final Thoughts

It would seem that it’s ‘mission accomplished’ for the Mad Machinist’s Mash-Up. While it suffers from a weak early presence and has some difficulty establishing itself- problems with all three of the source decks- once it does it is capable of explosive development. In both the first and third games, once I managed to catch up my deck was well-nigh unstoppable.

In large part this was due to the hideously effective synergies between counter creatures and the abilities that bestow them. Proliferate is the real deal- although I’m not huge on Contagion Clasp (with it’s high cost to Proliferate), I’ll be looking very closely to see what other options are available in Scars. But even cards like Steel Overseer and Pentavus became all-stars in this deck (the latter in particular synergises frightfully well with Affinity and the Overseer). I’m still not convinced, however, that the high tail on the mana curve was as good as this deck could be. Were I to do it again, I’d probably look for a couple more early plays at the expense of the late ones, for too often I was holding something expensive without the ability to play it for awhile. Even if Affinity does bring the cost down to bargain levels eventually, that’s little consolation in the early phase of the game while it’s effectively a mulligan.

In truth there really was little I could do against Sam’s turn 2 Crusade in game two, but I was very happy to see the deck manage to fight back against a turn 4 Elspeth. Above all else, though, it was an absolute blast to play the role of the Mad Machinist with the deck, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for that kind of experience.

Thanks for joining us on this inaugural episode of Ertai’s Trickery, and we’ll be excited to do another one soon!

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. web8970
    Sep 26 2010

    Will there be any similar tweaking of Elspeth’s deck in order to match up?

    If not … here’s another idea for Ertai’s Trickery: Combine the -1/-1 counter distribution theme from “Mortal Coil” and “Deadspread” as a win-condition beefed up by a little sneakyness from the 5th Dawn’s “Special Forces” deck … that would be somewhat amazing …

    • Sep 26 2010

      There may be, I’ve had interest in a guest post doing precisely that. I like your -1/-1 counters idea, would be a lot of fun to play with the concept. I’m still playing out some of the SOM decks, and Deadspread is one of my two top picks this far (the other being Phyrexian Poison- this time a B/G deck that makes sense!)

  2. Robert Johns
    Sep 28 2010

    Speaking of SOM additions, I think Thrummingbird is going to be a great proliferate engine. After an opponent was hit with it and realized what it did, he commented “that’s never going to attack again” 🙂


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