New Phyrexia: Artful Destruction Review (Part 1 of 2)
Our next stop on our tour of New Phyrexia will immerse you in histories new and old, in particular the story of an entire class of creature that has long inhabited Mirrodin, and is now coming to the fore: the Golem. It’s fairly-well known that Mirrodin was once known as Argentum (see: Argentum Armor) and created by Karn, the Silver Golem. Karn was a part of the Legacy Weapon that destroyed the original Phyrexia. Unfortunately, during the course of the struggle against Phyrexia he had become unknowingly contaminated with Phyrexian oil, and when he created his artificial plane, the oil trailed behind him.
To safeguard and administer Argentum while he traveled the multiverse, Karn created a golem by the name of Memnarch. Memnarch became aware of a certain corrosion that was making itself apparent- a fungal contagion known as mycosynth (see: Mycosynth Lattice, Decimator Web) which converted metal into organic flesh. Memnarch couldn’t know it at the time, but the mycosynth was a byproduct of the Phyrexian oil. Recognising a threat, Memnarch created a group of golems (the Ur-Golems) to help stop the spread of the mycosyth. Ultimately unsuccessful, the Ur-Golems were dismantled by Memnarch (all save for Bosh, Iron Golem, who disappeared into the Dross).
While the Ur-Golems were the progenitors of the golem tribe, their story merely begins there. Flash forward in time to the Phyrexian war, and like most anything else the Phyrexians could get their hands on the golems have been repurposed, ‘compleated.’ With Phyrexia’s victory at hand, reads the flavour text for Master Splicer, each sect has begun perfecting its vision. Like Slivers and Allies before it, the Golems have become the latest tribal faction that reacts to the merest presence of its bretheren on the battlefield, and the venerable Golems have creaked back to life under the tender mercies of the Phyrexians.
Thus we arrive at Artful Destruction, a Green/White deck which relies heavily upon the Golems and their Splicer masters. In the past, reactive tribes like the Slivers and Allies have typically been relatively inexpensive options designed to swarm your opponent and grow beyond control (naturally, there were pricey options in both tribes, but they were the exception moreso than the rule). The Golems upset the applecart of the usual deployment method. While generally more expensive to deploy, they have built-in card advantage as each Splicer comes equipped with both the Artificer (a 1/1) and a 3/3 Golem (and in some cases, more than one). The Artificers are the weak part of the equation- not only are they frail, but they are the ones that grant the cross-tribe abilities. Expect them to have targets painted on their foreheads once they enter play, especially to multi-target burn like Arc Trail and Forked Bolt. But if you can keep them alive, your deck has a clear shot at victory.
Blueprints of Countless Atrocities
A look at the mana curve for the deck’s creatures is a little discouraging:
The creatures of Artful Destruction can be widely divided into four categories, and it is a credit to the deck that these groupings are rather coherent rather than being rather stretched or forced. The first category is ramp. With a colossal back-end of the mana curve, you’re going to need some assistance in getting there before dying, and the deck doesn’t shirk its duty. A trio each of Gold Myr and Copper Myr, plus a pair of Palladium Myr help ensure that you stay on a steady trajectory for manabase development. Indeed, the reason you’re seeing the mana curve’s top slot highlighted in yellow rather than red is precisely due to such an array. You’ll still face the usual problems of a back-heavy deck (namely, bad initial draws), but at least you don’t need to abandon all hope of ever casting any of them before your opponent tramples you into the earth.
Next up we have the Splicers. These are the 1/1 minders that power up your Golem army. The pick of the litter surely must be the Blade Splicer, who also happens to be the deck’s foil premium rare. Essentially delivering a 1/1 body and a 3/3 first striker for only three mana, she’s an absolute steal in White. In addition to granting first strike to all your Golems, she is also the least-expensive Splicer you have at your disposal. You’ll seldom be disappointed to draw her.
The 4-drop range offers us a pair of Vital Splicers, which bring along very cheap regeneration along with their Golems. A trio of Master Splicers are also a terrific bargain- their +1/+1 to all your Golems means that they provide a 4/4 Golem right off the bat for four mana. Two creatures- five power- for four mana? If you’re able to entrench and weather any early rushes by your opponent, you should soon find yourself catching up quite quickly with economy such as that.
Beyond there we have a pair of Sensor Splicers, a five-mana package which offers your Golems vigilance, and a single Maul Splicer weighing in at seven mana. Of course, this final Splicer brings along a pair of 3/3 Golems with her, and gives them all trample to boot.
The third category are your other Golems. The deck carries a few extra Golems which offer abilities quite independent of any sidekick Splicer, yet still benefit from bring card-carrying members of the Golem tribe. There’s a couple of straightforward beaters in the Stone Golem and Phyrexian Hulk. The Golem Artisan offers a raft of additional special abilities such as flying or haste. Finally, the deck’s second rare- Precursor Golem– gives you a trio of 3/3 Golems for only five mana, but with a catch- a single removal spell could wipe out your entire Golem army. Of course, the upside is that any combat tricks you might have can really stretch their value if cast on a Golem, so the ability will be hit or miss. It’s of note that this is a card from Scars of Mirrodin, but unlike the Tower of Calamities in Feast of Flesh, it’s a card that very much feels like it belongs here. If the idea was to use rares from earlier sets in the block that support the aims and themes of a particular deck, you could probably find no better support for it than in Artful Destruction.
Finally we come to the last group of characters, your comes into play supporters. The small cast here are creatures which synergise with your deck and give you a little variety in the process. A pair of Suture Priests are a rather clever addition. Ordinarily the services of this jumped-up Soul Warden might be easily dismissed, but with so many of your creature cards being two-for-ones, you’ll often get a steady trickle of lifegain from her. Since part of this deck’s strategy is to absorb early damage while trying to establish your Golem army, we grudgingly concede that she has earned her spot here more than the usual gaggle of filler.
Then there’s a Garruk’s Packleader. A complete flavour dud that feels shoehorned in at first glance, you’ll nevertheless find those misgivings slipping away under the stream of free cards it will typically yield. Although we’re only two decks in, early indications seem to be that the core set filler in New Phyrexia has been selected with a touch more regard for the aims of the deck than in past offerings. Rather than being the “token garbage cards” that call to nascent deckbuilders for early replacement, these are cards that have something to offer the deck, suboptimal though some of them may yet be.
Lastly, we have a Brutalizer Exarch, a nice (if pricey) bit of utility. It can either tutor up a creature for you (at the cost of a draw), or solve a particularly nuisome (noncreature) artifact, enchantment, or even a land. It’s six mana, but I suppose at a certain point when you’ve got so many expensive cards crammed into one deck, what’s one more going to hurt?
Horror Beyond Imagining
With so many creatures on offer for Artful Destruction, the rather threadbare pantry for noncreature support should come as little surprise. There’s a spot of ramp in a pair of Cultivates, and a splash of combat trickery in singleton copies of Mighty Leap and Giant Growth (which can be game-enders if the Precursor Golem is in play). The removal suite is laughably bad: a pair of Forced Worships and a Glissa’s Scorn. Be prepared for frustration, especially if your opponent manages to land a particularly nasty utility creature which they’ll keep out of the red zone. Even a single Vedalken Anatomist can spell ruin for this deck.
Moving on, there’s a token generator in the form of the underwhelming Conversion Chamber, which can convert trash to treasure. Of course, your first 3/3 Golem will set you back a total of seven mana, which tells you something about the efficacy of the Chamber. Finally, there’s another splash of lifegain to offset any early trouble you run into while building up your Golems. A Viridian Harvest is a rather unreliable way to get a solid chunk of life, but offsets this by being rather inexpensive to play. The twin War Reports are nasty in the same way that the Suture Priest is- you get to double-dip with your two-for ones, and dip again when you realise that your Golems- being artifact creatures- give you double the lifegain. It’s a clever interaction, though we’d have been far happier with a pair of Arrests.
Two decks in, and we are liking the look of New Phyrexia already. This deck in parts feels more like a theme deck than an intro pack, which is a change we welcome. We’re less enthusiastic about the change in rare cards, although it’s hard to argue the model as implemented here- Precursor Golem is a hand-in-glove fit for the deck. Still, one never knows how things will shake out upon first contact with the enemy, so we’ll be taking this deck into battle. Join us next time when we report our findings, and offer a final verdict on Artful Destruction.