Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012: Machinations Review (Part 1 of 2)
One of the interesting aspects we’ve seen of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is the differentiation between decks. The first Sorin deck, for instance, focused on life loss and lifegain, while the next- while remaining Vampire tribal- worked off of bloodthirst and +1/+1 counters. This time around, we see a second Tezzeret construction on the heels of Relics of Doom, a deck from the first Expansion Pack of the original Duels.
That first deck had an unsual theme, one focused around a particular card: the Glaze Fiend. The Fiend, a common from Shards of Alara, incentivized you towards playing lots of cheap artifacts and trinkets. Chaining together enough of them would inflate the Fiend to brutal proportions, while its evasion gave it a good chance of landing the attack.
This time around, Tezzeret’s taken the gloves off. Rather than going deep into a specific strategy, he’s gone wide, filling the deck with a number of more robust artifact creatures. What sort of plan does he have in mind?
Machinations is largely comprised of two-drops and three-drops, with some of the earlier creatures helping to set the stage for a series of closers at the top of the mana curve. In that regard, it’s actually quite similar to a deck like Apex Predators, even if on the outside they don’t immediately resemble one another superficially.
Chief amongst these is the Etherium Sculptor, a creature from Shards of Alara. As a playset the Sculptor forms the backbone of the deck, reducing the mana cost of your artifacts. Since the overwhelming majority of your cards are of that type, this can offer substantial savings over time- especially when you’re able to land more than one.
A touch of offensive pressure is offered with the Alpha Myr, a vanilla 2/1, while the Tidehollow Strix is a much more attractive bargain for the cost. Another Shards of Alara card, the Strix is great two-way player, able to get in some damage in the air while remaining a superlative blocking option thanks to the deathtouch. Finally, there’s a pair of Steel Overseers. These are one of those interesting cards that bursts into life in a core set, then isn’t optioned for a reprint and fades away- though it did get an encore (fittingly enough) in Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Tezzeret. These are methodical creatures, able to boost your army permanently each turn at the cost of tapping. These are one of those time-sensitive cards that is wickedly effective early in the game, but loses efficacy each successive turn that passes before they appear.
For three-drops, we find another playset on offer in the form of Snapsail Gliders.These are simple 2/2 creatures with metalcraft, letting them become evasive if you meet that condition. As you’d expect, it’s not one you’ll often struggle to attain. Also in the air are a pair of Pilgrim’s Eyes. This card, from Worldwake, doesn’t give you a very impressive body, but it also helps smooth out your manabase by giving you an extra basic land of your choice when it enters the battlefield. This was particularly relevant in the landfall environment of the block, but is still useful here as well. Finally, metalcraft gets a redux with an Etched Champion. Although not especially impressive on its own as a 2/2, with metalcraft up it can become almost impossible for an opponent to deal with. It also becomes virtually unblockable, as many opponents won’t be running artifact creatures. Supported by a Steel Overseer, it can wrap up a game fairly quickly.
From there, we jump right up to the top of the mana curve with an arsenal of closers. The least of these is the Stone Golem, a reasonably-priced deal as a five-mana 4/4 and like the Overseer a one-shot card from Magic 2011. Next is a pair of Razorfield Rhinos from Mirrodin Besieged, which become 6/6’s when you’ve managed to trigger their metalcraft. This puts them right on curve, even if the initial buy-in is a bit pricey. Scars of Mirrodin also supplies a Razorfield Thresher, essentially a colourless Craw Wurm.
Seven mana is a bit of an ask, but there’s still more to come. Conflux offers us the Magister Sphinx as another rare, and this one has a very interesting special ability. This can be either boon or drawback, depending upon when you manage to play it, but in most cases you’ll have a use for a 5/5 evasive body even if it means healing your opponent for a couple points of life. Finally, a Darksteel Colossus caps the deck weighing with at a colossal eleven mana (there’s a Spinal Tap joke in there somewhere). This rare from Darksteel was upgraded to mythic status in Magic 2010, though it seems like a high hurdle to leap. Although the Etherium Sculptors can lowe the sticker price, it’s the rare game when you’ll manage to have four in play to bring this guy down to seven mana. Nevertheless, if the game locks into a stall that lets you find enough land to play it, this should decide the matter quite decisively in your favour. As we’ll see, you also have a sneaky way to get this into play without paying for it.
The Pursuit of Knowledge
That card is Shape Anew, another rare from Scars of Mirrodin. Shape Anew lets you trade one artifact for another, though what you get is purely a matter of chance as the deck has few ways to manipulate the top of the library. You’re actually more likely to transform your creature into an Alpha Myr than a Darksteel Colossus, but the times you do are the kinds of stories that can stick with you.
The deck has quite a bit of other one-shot effects as well, perhaps surprising given the consistency of multiples found in the creature suite. A Seer’s Sundial and Venser’s Journal are particularly suited for the long game, where they allow you to continue to amass resources over the course of successive turns. Darksteel’s Hunger of the Nim can give one of your creatures a massive power boost, though at sorcery speed your opponent will have a chance to react. This is best suited for one of your evasive bodies that can put it to good use, though it’s certainly a nice party trick for your Darksteel Colossus as well.
Sleep is one of those cards we always like to see in creature-focused decks, as they’re wonderfully versatile. On offense, they could let your creatures in for a game-ending alpha stirke (especially if you have a Hunger of the Nim in hand), while defensively they can give you the gift of time as you look to develop your board.
Removal in Machinations is a bit underwhelming, consisting of only three cards. Two of these are Go for the Throat, which like the Etched Champion becomes much stronger in an environment weak on artifact creatures. There’s also a Dead Reckoning, from Worldwake. This card is another that becomes absurd when you envision it in conjunction with your Colossus, but can be fairly middling otherwise given the high proportion of your creatures with either 1 or 2 power.
Finally, the deck gives you a small countermagic suite with a trio of Stoic Rebuttals and an Undermine. The Rebuttals are just as good as a Counterspell when you’ve activated metalcraft, while Undermine is one of the older cards in the deck coming as it does from Invasion. It’s a strong counter, tacking on a useful life loss effect along with the denial of its target spell.
Given the deck’s tri-colour construction, a trio of Terramorphic Expanses give you some remedy towards mana fixing, and its colour base alone helps set it apart from the sea of one- and tw-colour decks. We’ll take it out for a spin and report back on how it held up in the stress of battle.