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Artifacts are a kind of card that I frequently try to avoid when I'm building Commander decks. The reason for this is two-fold. First, because artifacts are colorless, if you get too comfortable with them, you'll find the same artifacts taking up twenty slots in each of your decks. Even if all of the artifacts are powerful and worth including, what's the point in having different decks at that point? The second reason is because artifact mana is, in my opinion, one of the aspects of the format that needs to be brought under control. There's so much fast mana that you'll frequently see mono-Blue decks ramping faster than the Green decks. Sure, they're ramp might be more vulnerable, but the explosiveness more than makes up for it.
Speaking of Blue, blue is probably the color most closely associated with artifacts, because of Commanders like Arcum Dagsson and Memnarch. Along with artifacts, Blue is something I try to avoid in as many of my decks as possible, mostly because of the negative connotation the color has attached to it. What's the first thing that you think when you sit down across from a mono-Blue Commander? Generally, I start thinking about playing around Counterspells and Control Magics, and trying to narrow the range of game-ending combos they could be running so that I can hold answers to those combos as necessary. More and more frequently though, the response I see is that people would rather not play than play a game with a mono-Blue deck. Why would that be? Doesn't blue do all kinds of sweet things? Countering spells, stealing creatures, drawing cards, comboing off, extra turns - there's so many things you can do that are powerful and fun!
Honestly, I think the biggest problem for Blue in this format is that some of these powerful, unique, and swingy effects are so much fun to play with. That means that a lot of people want to play with them, and are completely willing to splash blue in their deck just to add countermagic or Time Warps. The problem is that almost every blue deck, that I've seen at least, is a either a combo deck or a "counterspell, theft, and extra turns" theme deck. The overlap here is that neither of these kinds of decks really lets other players, you know, play the game, either by ending the game quickly or by preventing other players from doing anything relevant. That's not to say that these effects don't have a place in the format, because they certainly do have roles to play, just that they're anti-social in nature.
So with all of the crazy blue generals who use artifacts to bring the game to a screeching halt who do you choose to head an angry army of automatons? I'm going with Sakashima the Impostor for a few reasons. Firstly because I need to learn to spell his/her/its name. But more importantly, she's able to copy your enablers like Grand Architect early, and then bounce herself to copy your threats to apply more pressure later on. And if that's not good enough, she can even copy utility guys like Treasure Mage or Mulldrifter to make sure that you have enough gas to make it through the mid- and late-game. With that kind of flexibility, what can go wrong?
Send in the Clones
This really is the crux of the deck, which is part of the reason I want to overemphasize the number of clones to start with, especially cheap ones. Because a number of the clones are so cheap, they let you play some sort of artifact enabler on turns two through four, and then clone it to start casting fatties. One notable exception here is Shapesharer. Now, he's usually a card that I'm all over, but in this case the activation cost kills his utility. When you want to use your clones primarily to produce mana and copy "enters the battlefield" abilities, having a mana intensive activated ability which doesn't copy EtB effects is pretty abysmal.
- Sakashima the Impostor (Commander)
- Phyrexian Metamorph
- Copy Artifact
- Cackling Counterpart
- Phantasmal Image
- Renegade Doppelganger
- Vesuvan Doppelganger
- Vesuvan Shapeshifter
- Rite of Replication
- Sculpting Steel
Most important here are the cards which can change what they're cloning. The most obvious of these is your Commander, Sakashima, who can bounce herself to rebuy EtB effects or change what she's copying. However, even the traditionally bad, aggressive clones like Renegade Doppelganger and Cryptoplasm are sweet here, since they give you a ton of potential for explosive draws, even if you give up some late-game utility.
Contrary to the cheap, aggressive clones, Rite of Replication and Cackling Counterpart are sweet because they let you be aggressive early while also being really sweet late-game when you need to go over the top of Titans and whatnot. The sheer flexibility of all of these cards as the game progresses is really where a lot of the power of the deck comes from; you have a number of reasonably costed cards whose effect scales with what phase of the game you're currently in. However, the thing that really defines the effectiveness of these cards is what you're planning on cloning!
Stuff to Copy
As I mentioned before, the kinds of cards we're planning on copying break themselves pretty conveniently down into three categories: Enablers, Beaters, and Utility Guys. The enablers are primarily accelerants, but also just cards that play well with an artifact-themed deck, especially in multiples. Similarly, the Beaters are the giant artifact guys that you want to ramp into, and are again cards that tend to improve in multiples. Lastly, you've got utility guys. They're generally not your first choice to copy, but they do give you extra value, and help make sure you don't run out of gas as the game progresses. While they're certainly not as flashy as most of your other options, they get the job done!
- Etherium Sculptor
- Grand Architect
- Master Transmuter
- Vedalken Engineer
- Silver Myr
- Palladium Myr
- Plague Myr
So, some of these guys are really exciting, like Grand Architect, Etherium Sculptor and Vedalken Engineer. Those are the sort of cards that the deck is really built around, and are some of your most powerful enablers. There's also some less exciting accelerants like the mana myr, which aren't awesome, but you've got to have a reasonable density of comparable effects in order to do the same kind of thing with any sort of consistency in a 99-card singleton format.
Thrummingbird may seem a little out of place, but there are actually some really sweet interactions with it hidden in the deck. You can proliferate onto things like Everflowing Chalice and Coalition Relic, Tezzeret the Seeker, or just poison people to death with Plague Myr plus Thrummingbird. It's a cute card, and is very likely too cute, but it's still the kind of card that's really fun to try.
- Master of Etherium
- Sharding Sphinx
- Steel Overseer
- Steel Hellkite
- Arcbound Crusher
- Lodestone Golem
- Etched Champion
- Wurmcoil Engine
- Precursor Golem
- Myr Battlesphere
- Thopter Assembly
- Arcbound Overseer
- Arcbound Ravager
- Djinn of Wishes
The crux of the deck, and the part that's the most fun! What kind of gigantic fatties can you cast, and how quickly can you ramp into them? Sure, some of them are pretty underwhelming on their own, like Master of Etherium and Steel Overseer, but that's what all the token generators are for, right? The worst card here is probably Etched Champion, since he's only ever going to be a 2/2, regardless of metalcraft. That said, I think that if you can copy him a few times or find some of your artifact anthems, he gets pretty scary pretty fast.
On the other side, the most underrated card here is probably going to be Arcbound Crusher. That guy is actually just one of the best cards in the deck. Especially because of all of the other fatties that come with tokens in tow, this guy gets gigantic very quickly, and if you can clone him, you just get so far ahead on board.
Djinn of Wishes was actually the last card I added to the deck, and that was mostly because I wanted an excuse to keep Thrummingbird in. That said, I don't think it's a bad inclusion. Being able to clone for more free spells is obviously insane, as is proliferating Wish Counters. There are some games that this guy will just run away with, and the random nature of his ability is a ton of fun to play with! Who says you can't wish for more wishes?
- Faerie Mechanist
- Treasure Mage
- Solemn Simulacrum
- Kuldotha Forgemaster
- Karn, Silver Golem
- Vedalken Archmage
While these guys aren't nearly as exciting as your enablers or beaters, they smooth out your draws, and let you do some cool things you wouldn't get to otherwise. Besides, the obvious removal and tutors or card selection, Karn lets you copy non-creature artifacts with your Clones, which can be pretty sweet sometimes. Beyond that, Scarecrone gives you some resiliency to board sweepers, even if the deck doesn't really run any Scarecrows. Besides that, there's really not much to say about these guys; they're good, solid, generically poweful effects.
More Cards, More Bombs!
One thing that aggressive decks traditionally have trouble with is card advantage. Because you're investing your cards into killing someone from the beginning of the game, it's likely that you'll just run out of things to do by the mid-game. This deck tries to avoid that trap in two ways. Firstly, we're blue, so the deck gets to run blue card-drawing spells, particularly ones that will net you multiple cards with minimal investment. Secondly, you get to run "bad" cards that require you to invest time and mana, but generate extra creatures and cards to help you grind out the control decks. The more time and mana you get to invest, the more cards you get out of them, and the further ahead you get!
- Rhystic Study
- Mystic Remora
- Thirst for Knowledge
- Tezzeret the Seeker
- Transmute Artifact
- Jace Beleren
Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora are the best cards for this deck here. Netting cards without having to invest very much is a powerful effect, especially since you want to be tapping out on your own turn as much as possible. Generally, I don't like these cards since it's often pretty easy to play around taxing effects, but when you're backing them up with threats and forcing people to play into your Rhystic Study to play answers, the card becomes much, much better.
Transmute Artifact is a card I really would love to see reprinted so more people could play with it, since it's really about as close to a "fair" Tinker as we're ever going to see. That said, you can do a ton of interesting things with it, like transmuting away a Wurmcoil Engine or a clone into yet another giant threat. The card does some very cool things without being overpowered.
Back to the Grind
These cards are just insane. Mirrorworks especially lets you do absolutely stupid things with double Myr Turbine or Sharding Sphinx. Few cards get out of hand as quickly as mirrorworks, and I think it's a card that really should see a lot more play than it does.
Myr Matrix and Myr Turbine are similar to Mirrorworks in that they slowly generate an advantage for you. Myr aren't really much, but it's difficult to get rid of the Matrix. Unfortunately, there aren't a ton of Myr who are worth tutoring up with Myr Turbine. Fortunately, Myr Battlesphere is one of them; it's gigantic, and even changes combat math quite a bit in conjunction with cards like Arcbound Crusher or Master of Etherium.
In the late game, Strata Scythe turns every card in your deck into a legitimate threat, and will let you get in with Sakashima for 21 Commander damage pretty easily. It's certainly not as impressive as the Sword of Feast and Famines of the format, but I think it's a better role-player here, since the Sword is only going to encourage you to overextend, and Scythe turns any random guy into a much larger threat later in the game, which is where this deck will struggle most.
The Mana Base
The mana for this deck is really pretty easy. You want some kind of artifact acceleration, you want a lot of 2-mana lands to accelerate you out of the gates, and you want a few utility artifact lands to help you grind out the last couple of points of damage in the late-game. Let's start with the acceleration package:
- Mind Stone
- Dreamstone Hedron
- Sol Ring
- Gauntlet of Power
- Caged Sun
- Everflowing Chalice
- Coalition Relic
There's not a ton to say about the artifact ramp suite. Mind Stone and Dreamstone Hedron are my go-to ramp spells, because you can cash them in for cards once you have enough lands and don't need the excess mana anymore. Gauntlet of Power and Caged Sun not only let you go over the top and just out-mana people, but are also a Glorious Anthem for any [card Sharding Sphinx]Thopter Tokens[/card] you might generate!
Last are Everflowing Chalice and Coalition Relic, two cards that made the cut mostly because of [card]Thrummingbird. They're both solid on their own, but if you get a couple of hits in with a Thrummingbird proliferating Everflowing Chalice, you're going to get real big real fast!
- Inkmoth Nexus
- Blinkmoth Nexus
- Mishra's Factory
- Saprazzan Skerry
- Ancient Tomb
- Temple of the False God
- 31 Island
Now, there are a couple of cool things I chose not to do with the mana base here. You could run Snow-Covered Islands, Mouth of Ronom, and Scrying Sheets. You could run Wasteland, Tectonic Edge and the like. You could even run Sand Silos and Saprazzan Cove to interact with Thrummingbird. The problem you may run into is that those lands are all colorless, and this deck wants to be sure to have double blue early on so that Sakashima can copy an enabler. If you stumble in the early game because you're missing your second blue mana, lots of the midrangey control decks can just take over the game before you get out of the gates.
Since I'm now well over word count, let's take a look at the final list and wrap this up!
[deckbox did="a143" size="small" width="560"]
I'm pretty happy with this list, since it's doing something powerful and proactive without turning into an overbearing prison or combo deck, and without running countermagic. I'm sure that the list is far from perfect, and the Thrummingbird package especially is probably just not good enough, but it is a ton of fun to play with, and can lead to some incredibly tense, high-energy games. Next week we'll edge a little more towards the combo end of the artifact spectrum with Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer. Be sure to check it out to find out what my favorite mono-Red combo is!
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2 thoughts on “Arcbound Imposter”
Love the deck! Especially the low "staple" count. I am actually trying to build something very similar to this because i just love most blue creatures and i also don´t enjoy countering stuff in commander that much. Awesome deck!
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