Ertai’s Meddling: Relic Breaker (Scars of Mirrodin)
It’s time for another installment of Lament’s most popular series, Ertai’s Meddling! This is the series where we take a preconstructed deck and have our way with it, gutting the cards that aren’t carrying their weight and packing in ones that will. Of course, it wouldn’t be sporting just to toss in a heaping cup full of Rares and Mythics, so we look to build within the resources of what a new or returning player might have. As such, we’ve developed the following two Rules:
Today we return to the Scars of Mirrodin precons, and it’s anti-artifact poison pill, Relic Breaker. Scars is an artifact block, absolutely crammed with them, so it was only natural to expect that one of the five decks might be dedicated to smashing things up! When we last visited Relic Breaker, we found it to be a bit of a one-trick pony. Here are the qualities we identified:
Perhaps the most worrisome for Ertai’s Meddling is that third weakness. We can fine-tune artifact hate all we want to, but when happens when you’re up against a mate who either hasn’t bothered to stock up on Scars decks, or just eschews artifacts in general? Dead draw after dead draw is just no fun, so after we Meddle with the original recipe a bit, we’ll be reworking it to be more reliable in a less artifact-dense environment. That way, with only a small number of swaps you can still have a very aggressive deck.
Before we begin, let’s take another look at the decklist as it appears out of the box:
For this version, we’re going to assume you’ll be playing in an artifact-heavy environment, which is Relic Breaker’s reason for being. Although it does a brutal job at nailing your enemy’s devices, there is still plenty of room for improvement. In particular, we’re most concerned about the deck’s ability to handicap you early in the game with so many expensive spells and few ways to fix your mana.
The Acid Web Spider is a conditionally efficient card that just has too much downside for our liking. Sniping Equipment on the way in is nice, but Equipment won’t always be lying about. In that case, you’ve just bought what is in essence a 4/4 defensive-minded critter for five mana- no steal there!
The Barrage Ogres will be joining their arachnid friend on the bread lines. Red usually gets a worse deal on creatures, and the nifty trick of turning any of your already-played artifacts into Shocks aside, he’s just not all that great for what you’re paying. He’s a card that induces best-case-scenario mentality (BCSM), but looking closer it’s actually something of an ouroboros. “He’s great because he can clear blockers out of the way.” “He’s great because he can get in those last few points of damage to win.” A canny player might ask themselves if the fact that they need a five-mana solution to these problems is instead symptomatic of letting the game get that far in the first place! Out.
Next up is the Prodigal Pyromancer. We love pingers, but will confess to having been spoiled some by the Cunning Sparkmage. He’s not a bad card, but we’d like something a little more aggressive. Still, depending on your meta, you might well benefit from leaving it in (he’ll handle the ‘Smiths all day long).
Finally, we get to our friends the Vulshoks. We’re going to go ahead and dump the Replicas, because the damage they can be sac’d for is limited to player only. We’d rather something more versatile, and it’s lopsided power and toughness means it’s not worth a lot as an attacker when your opponent can profitably block with some chumpy 1/1 that’s been sitting on the sidelines awaiting its date with destiny. The Heartstoker, meanwhile, just doesn’t offer enough bang for the buck. It’s ETB ability is nice, but after that what are you left with? A “French Vanilla” creature.
Moving on to the noncreature spells, we’ll actually be cutting one of our Rares- Asceticism! In a heavily ramping deck where you can pay its rather bloated cost with ease we may have been more merciful, but we’re not looking to save our critters at the end of the game. Rather, we want spells that will be direct contributors to the war effort. The best defense, after all, is a good offense!
We’ll throw in Barbed Battlegear, Horizon Spellbomb, and the Panic Spellbomb as well. Again, not terrible cards, but we’d rather draw a solid card than a less useful one that cantrips. Both Untamed Mights are out. Finally, we’re cutting both Shatters. Blasphemy? Well, there’s method to this madness, as you’ll see below.
That leaves vacancies for nine creatures, and eight noncreature spells if we want to keep to the original ratios. What to add? Well, the sad fact is that there’s not a lot of excitement amongst the Red commons and uncommons with regards to bodies and beaters. We’re not going the Metalcraft route, so that’s a few options right out the window. Instead, for our first add we’ll be visiting M11 for a playset of Manic Vandals. Shatter is a fine spell, but generally only grants us card parity- use one to destroy one. We want to make up for this with the Vandals. While we do lose the ability to destroy artifacts at instant speed, its a tradeoff we’re willing to make. The Vandals are an automatic two-for-one against anyone playing with relics.
We still have some difficulties with aggression, so we’re going to move into Green to give us some solid early bodies. We’ll need to skew our mana a little Green to make it worthwhile, but a playset of Garruk’s Companions give us some nicely-costed beaters taking advantage of the “Green discount.” Plus our cuts already have left Turn to Slag and the Hoard-Smelter Dragon as the few cards needing double-Red, so we’re pretty safe there.
We’ll also go ahead and add a second Cudgel Troll to give us a little more presence in the mid-game.
Moving on to the noncreature spells, we have eight slots to fill. Right off the bat a playset of Lightning Bolts is a no-brainer, with an additional pair of Arc Trails right behind it. Remember those two Untamed Mights we dropped? We’re replacing them with Fireballs. Although the snap combat trick can be useful, there’s always the danger of removal being played in response that has you end up getting two-for-oned. A Fireball gives you the versatility of getting that extra bit of damage in, but also of being targeted removal (which Untamed Might is not).
With all the burn, your critters should be able to get in after you clear them a path right up the middle, and you should be assured of finding a little extra reach later in the game. You’ll still be the terror of any artificer you come across, and shaving a few of the expensive cards gives you a more reliably fast start. And just to aid in the Green, we’ll skew the land to be 16 Green with 8 Red, which should be more than enough to let you reliably play most anything you draw when you need to.
For this build, the full decklist can be found here.
Time to have a little fun! For this deck, we’re going to operate under the assumption that your opponent isn’t playing a great deal of artifacts. Fine for him or her, but what about the bonuses you get for artifacts? Well, let’s bring some of our own! It’s “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” with a twist!
Our first cut is going to be Green. Lock, stock, and barrel, the Forests and everything they stand for is right out. Continuing our gutting, we’ll release Barbed Battlegear, Fireball, the Spellbombs, Shatter, and Turn to Slag from active duty as well. We’re wanting a very lean, tight noncreature spell complement, so we’ll be going with playsets of Galvanic Blasts and Arc Trails, so we’ll almost always have plenty of burn to go around.
We’ll be wanting some equipment, too. With Red burn, one of the biggest weaknesses of the archtype is the susceptibility to playing empty-handed, having exhausted your resources early. Another weakness is that your early beaters tend to get outclassed rather quickly by larger beaters on defense. The answer to both problems? A playset of Infiltration Lenses. We’ll also be throwing in a pair of Bladed Pinions, to give you some evasion when you’ll need it most.
From the creature side, we’re keeping the Hoard-Smelter Dragon, of course, as well as one of the Flameborn Hellions. We’ll be adding a playset of Perilous Myr and Ember Haulers, and throwing in two more Iron Myr to bring them up to four as well. With a total of fourteen artifacts, your Metalcraft should be firing with comforting reliability and that recommends to us a set of Blade-Tribe Berserkers. Paying four mana for a 3/3 isn’t dreadful for Red, and with some cheap burn you can clear a path for them to come down hard once you’ve three artifacts in place.
Lastly, we’ll want to take advantage of our many artifacts in other ways as well. To that end, a pair of Embersmiths and Ferrovores will give us some added reach. The Ferrovore in particular will have the ability to close games in the typical “all-in Red” fashion, by gobbling up your artifacts if left unblocked.
So good ol’-fasioned mono-Red burn n’ beats. Who wants some barbecue? You can see our decklist for this build here.
So thanks for joining us yet again for this installment of Ertai’s Meddling. This being Magic, there are many other ways to rebuild these decks- let us know what route you took!