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Casual Freakshow - Mono-Artifact That Works
By Dustin Alexander
I've designed a mono-artifact deck that I'd like to share with you. That I'd like to share with the world.

This deck is not the latest tech. It is Type I legal and the line is drawn in the sand there. It is not tournament-level, because the instant it ever gets that good, someone's going to fling a Pulverize at it and then where will we be?

I give you the latest build of what I lovingly call...


"The Ultimate in Home Security"

LAND...
4x Ancient Tomb
4x Maze of Ith
1x Strip Mine
1x Tolarian Academy
4x Urza's Mine
4x Urza's Power Plant
4x Urza's Tower

ARTIFACTS...
2x Claws of Gix
1x Cursed Scroll
3x Ensnaring Bridge
4x Grafted Skullcap
1x Grim Monolith
3x Grindstone
1x Helm of Obedience
1x Jalum Tome
1x Mana Vault
1x Memory Jar
3x Null Brooch
1x Sol Ring
1x Soldevi Digger
1x Temporal Aperture
4x Thran Turbine
4x Urza's Armor
1x Voltaic Key
1x Zuran Orb

CREATURES...
2x Junk Diver
2x Metalworker


It looks like a monstrosity, right? Try playing it. Be surprised. Be dazzled at its effectiveness.

You don't have to play it exactly in the design I've listed here, and it's actually a wonderfully flexible design. Here's what you need to keep in mind...

Land-wise, you need a Tolarian Academy and four sets of Urza Lands, neither of which should be terribly difficult to get, especially since the Academy is seeing use strictly in Type I. You NEED the Academy. The mana-base is functional at only eighteen mana sources because the lands themselves produce so much more mana - and because this is a mono-artifact deck, there are plenty of alternatives for mana. I always include Strip Mine, myself. I've only used it for sacrifice maybe once or twice, but it's versatile enough to warrant a spot in the deck. Basically, after you've added the Academy and Urza lands, you have five more lands you can put in. Ancient Tombs work very well because of the Urza's Armors and provide solid acceleration early on. Crystal Veins are also very effective in here. Mishra's Factories are generally a bad choice because you'll find yourself leaving mana open for them. City of Traitors is also poor because it's one less land once you bring out another. Mishra's Workshop rules if you have 'em.

Early builds of this deck always included four Mazes of Ith because the creature defense wasn't sound. This build could easily remove those four and replace them with whatever you wish.

Artifact-wise, your mana core is simple, and you'll need these key artifacts...
Grim Monolith
Mana Vault
Sol Ring
Voltaic Key

Metalworkers are also VERY effective in this deck, but generally are only one-shot uses. They empty your hand very, very quickly and become fodder later, but are kept in simply for that burst.

As for the deck core itself, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you NEED to be able to prevent damage. Avoid it or play countermeasures, but prevent it. The creature control part of this deck can be done in one of the following methods, and I encourage you to try some of your own ideas...

Maze of Ith + Crawlspace
Ensnaring Bridge + Grafted Skullcap
Maze of Ith + Portcullis

The Skullcap has worked surprisingly well in this deck design and has incredible synergy with Cursed Scroll, Null Brooch, and Ensnaring Bridge. However, all but the Scroll can be easily enough removed and replaced with your choice of control. Early versions of this deck ran Icy Manipulators, but Icies aren't very effective.

Damage prevention is key to this deck and it WILL have problems with burn if you don't have any suitable options. The Urza's Armors are expensive but worth having four of. Shields of the Ages are also effective, but I've found that other cards like Pentagram of the Ages are virtually useless. Zuran Orbs and Claws of Gix are also VERY important to keeping yourself around.

Once you have your damage prevention down, the deck constructs itself. Kill cards are in the form of Grindstones, Cursed Scroll controls the board...your options are vast and wonderfully varied. This deck can be configured specifically to your tastes. I've found Thran Turbines to be very effective in here, as well as the Temporal Aperture.

Fundamentally, this is a Millstone deck. It departs in its wholly unusual design. Discard artifacts are often good choices, and with enough tweaking, this deck can be rearranged to kill through damage instead of decking. I've found, however, that given the option of doing either, decking is more consistent and more effective.

You can see a lot of esoteric choices in the deck list and I have yet to create the most formidable version of this deck. But that's the beauty of it - the concept is simple and the execution is wide.

There are, however, some very important don'ts involved in making this deck.

1. No colored cards of any kind. I've tried splashing colors in but it throws off the fragile mana base beyond repair. When I tried to find ways to refill my hand, I tried turning all the lands to Swamps to run Necropotence, and it slowed the deck to a crawl. The deck was easily dispatched.

2. Creatures should be kept to a minimum, but never remove the Junk Divers. Karn is also a worthy addition, but keep in mind that if you run him, you can't run Caltrops, which are also solid creature control. Creatures are much easier threats to deal with than basic artifacts, and you'll find your Metalworkers getting offed with frightening regularity. Additionally, they go against the grain of the design.

3. Howling Mine and Helm of Awakening are both bad choices for this deck. Sure, you'll get more cards and play your hand out faster, but your opponent will, too, and they're going to draw into more creature threats at a faster pace than you'll be prepared to deal with. It's important for you and your opponent to both maintain tempo without being sped up.

4. Never go below or above eighteen lands. This is the bare minimum and maximum I've found to get the very most out of the deck.

5. Tolarian Academy is crucial to this deck's function. It won't seem to be when you play with it, but removing it may cripple the deck badly. Sometimes, the only solution for a situation is a good Academy.

Also, I'd like to point out that the Voltaic Key is very useful for sinking mana when you need it to - just have it untap itself!

That's all. I encourage everyone to post their variants on this deck design, as I'd really like to see what other people put together. By all means, though, try the deck. Your friends will be horrified when they find themselves powerless against your legion of...

Suboptimal artifacts.

-D. Alexander

Read More Articles by Dustin Alexander!

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