Last time I talked about Standard was last month with my Top 8 list of "most oppressive cards," and at the end of the article, I mentioned a few cards I liked and that I'd love to play either more with or just more competitively with. During my time off in South Africa, I built some decks with these cards but most of them needed some help from Aether Revolt. But one of my decks in particular was close from becoming something...
One of the cards I talked about was Neglected Heirloom. It probably sounded a little weird as the card never saw play in competitive Standard. The best shell I played it in was a White Weenie deck with Township Gossipmonger and Lone Rider to transform the sword, along with an equipment subtheme with Stone Haven Outfitter and Stoneforge Acolyte. The deck was not great but had some potential; it was lacking a second breath. When Sram, Senior Edificer was previewed last week, it felt like the problems the deck had could be solved.
Here's a list I put together. It's a budget deck that won't cost you more than $25 in paper Magic, and between 2-5 tix on Magic Online (depending on how much Sram will cost). Note that it's nowhere close to optimised and that it's still waiting for new cards to come out!
The deck tries to swarm the opponent with small creatures (15 one-drops) and either set up for a longer game with Stone Haven Outfitter to pump your team, Gryff's Boon to fly over your opponent's defences, or Sram to find whatever you need to add more pressure. Equipment glues the deck together, interacting with most of the cards in there and enabling huge swings.
Neglected Heirloom was the weapon of choice (I built the deck around it). Leonin Scimitar was never really playable, but its transformed side makes all the difference. Once it becomes Ashmouth Blade, every creature you control becomes a huge threat. Its equip cost keeps you from going too wild as the deck doesn't have a lot of mana sources, so you're gonna have to choose between playing more threats or equipping one of your creatures. It has two ways to transform: the easiest way is attached to Town Gossipmonger. Equip the 1/1, tap it along with another creature, transform it as well as the Heirloom, and it becomes a 5/6 first-striking, Firebreathing beater. The other way to transform it is with Lone Rider. To become It That Rides as One, you need it to deal three damage in one turn, any combination of Neglected Heirloom, Bone Saw, Stone Haven Outfitter and Gryff's Boon allow that. It That Rides as One becomes at least an eight-power, first strike, lifelink, trample, sometimes-flying creature and that can happen as soon as the third turn.
Bone Saw was one of the viable options for equipment. On its own it's not super exciting, but it makes a lot of sense to play it n this deck. First of all, it's a nice way to attack with a jacked Toolcraft Exemplar on turn two. It also helps Lone Rider transform and give a cheap and nice boost when Stone Haven Outfitter is in play. So far, so good, but what makes it a real play is Sram. Since Sram triggers upon casting, if you have both in your hand, you're sure to replace your Bone Saw on the same turn you cast Sram, even if they have a removal for the dwarf.
I wanted to have 10 pieces of equipment in the deck to ensure consistency, so I added two Inventor's Goggles. The equipment cost is a little steep, but with 12 artificers in the deck, there's a good chance you can take full advantage of the card.
Since we're playing a lot of do-nothing-on-their-own cards (equipment, Gryff's Boon), we need to play a lot of active cards, which means a low land count and a lot of cheap creatures. Fifteen one-drops is a minimum when we're playing just 17 lands.
Stoneforge Acolyte helps you to find the one piece of equipment you need to pump your Exemplars, and fuel Outfitters and Sram. He's both an artificer for the Goggles and an ally if you have another one out, and that ally synergy is the reason we're running Expedition Envoy over Thraben Inspector, especially since we don't have that much spare mana for the clue anyway. Acolyte is also the reason we're playing 10 equipment to improve our success rate on each activation.
Expedition Envoy isn't a great card but plays its part. It's a one-drop to help Town Gossipmonger to transform and activate Acolyte. It unfortunately dies to a Liliana activation or a block from Thraben Inspector, but you can equip it with a sword and give it just enough toughness to survive both.
We mentioned Town Gossipmonger above for its interaction with Neglected Heirloom. One thing to keep in mind while playing against Reflector Mage is that if they bounce Incited Rabble, you will be able to recast it as Town Gossipmonger on the next turn (same for Lone Rider). Toolcraft Exemplar is the biggest beater in the early game. It can attack for five flying damage on turn two (Bone Saw + Gryff's Boon), it's also an artificer so it can acquire the Goggles easily. It's cheap, it's efficient, clear four-of in the deck.
Stone Haven Outfitter has been around for a while and has never been played, even though it does a whole lot for two mana. It's an artificer and an ally (so it has the same upsides as Acolyte), makes all your equipment much better (Bone Saw starts to give a significant boost at +2/+1), and it can be a 4/5 that draws you a card when it dies as soon as turn two (with Inventor's Goggles). It can turn your equipment into mini-Skullclamps so you can send your troops into battle to trade and draw cards.
Lone Rider is the biggest creature of the deck. There's nothing more satisfying than to attack for 10 flying, lifelink damage on turn two with one creature. However, two mana to cast might be its biggest flaw as you don't want to have too many 2-drops in your starting hand.
Finally we have the newcomer: Sram, Senior Edificer. Sram is neither an ally or an artificer (come on, couldn't it have been advisor and an artificer?), but it does a lot in the deck. You draw a card off all your equipment and Gryff's Boons and make your removal a sure two-for-one. It is Legendary, but when you can have one in play for more than a turn or two, the dead second copy in your hand isn't going to matter two much.
Gryff's Boon is a great way to fly over defences, pump Lone Rider and Toolcraft Exemplar, and is a nice aantrip with Sram out (note that you don't draw when you bring it back from the graveyard since you didn't cast it).
The other interesting aura in this deck is Bound by Moonsilver. On its own, it's not great removal. It can't be cast as an instant (in comparison to Stasis Snare), but in the deck, there are only so many times when you have open mana on your opponent's turn. However, compared to Revoke Privileges and Choking Restraints, it can deal with Emrakul in a much better way. Emrakul is very likely to ruin your day, but your opponent won't be able to get rid of the Bound in your hand and you'll still be able to enchant Emrakul on your next turn.
Now let's talk about the "Skullclamp trick." Stone Haven Outfitter says that when an equipped creature you control dies, you draw a card. With Bound by Moonsilver, you have the option to sacrifice a permanent to move it. Sacrifice a creature with a Bone Saw on it, and you'll draw a card. If you have two Outfitters, you'll draw two cards... If you have a useless Sram in hand, you can equip the one you have in play, sac it, draw a card and play the other one.
The deck isn't even in its final form yet, so here are some thoughts on the options available:
A red splash; Weapons Trainer would have been great if it wasn't so hard to cast. Lands like Aether Hub, Inspiring Vantage and possibly Ally Encampment help you to cast it. The deck is mono-white but a red splash would hurt the mana base too much. It's heavily relying on one-drops and you just can't miss a play on the first turn or miss white mana to cast all your spells on the following turns if you spent energy or don't have allies to play. Maybe the new land Spire of Industry could help with that?
More token generators might be a good option in this deck. You need cannon fodder to carry your equipment and the Skullclamp trick works great when you can make more than one creature at once.
CARD IMAGE Metallic Mimic
Another interesting two-drop. It can be an artificer or an ally and will pump future artificers/allies. Not sure it fits the deck yet, but I'll keep it in mind.
When I built the deck around Neglected Heirloom, I found that Lone Rider was the best way to take advantage of the card. I just might need some extra ways to transform it right away. Strength in Arms provided the boost to do that and added a creature that could be used to equip or enchant. I took them out for more auras and equipment to take full advantage of Sram, but I still like the instant-speed trick and the Soldier it provides to carry equipment.
Another aura that could go well in the deck. Like other auras, it draws you a card off Sram, it It gives a boost just good enough to transform Lone Rider, and with the option to make it fly later in the game it also helps you with the "Skullclamp trick," allowing you to sacrifice an equipped creature when Outfitter is out. However, it's a disaster when your opponent plays Emrakul and you have a Mantle in play...
I wasn't convinced with Smuggler's Copter when I tried it here. The deck already requires you to tap creatures to transform Gossipmonger and activate Acolyte, and it just becomes too hard to do everything. At two mana, you want to cast creatures that you can equip and Copter just isn't a great sword wielder. With Sram around, it might become a little more valuable though.
While I wouldn't run Gideon in the main with 17 lands, I would consider adding a few extra Plains in the sideboard to support the Planeswalker and bring it in against matchups where it shines.
Here's a potential sideboard for the deck (replace Declaration in Stone and Gideon to keep it budget):
1 Gryff's Boon
2 Repel the Abominable
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Declaration in Stone
1 Fairgrounds Warden
1 Sigarda's Aid
1 Stasis Snare
Against other budget decks, I think this deck is great, and it might get more playable cards from Aether Revolt when the whole set is out. That said, against tier one decks it might just fall a little short.
Let's face it, the decks around are pretty powerful. Emrakul on turn four is hard to beat and you can't really race it, plus you can't interact with your opponent if they're playing Marvels. Ishkanah, Grafwidow also is a huge problem since it provides blockers for your flying creatures. Unless you have a huge trampling Lone Rider, it's going to be hard to deal damage unless you can Declaration in Stone the tokens. Archangel Avacyn might come to haunt you as well if you don't have instant removal, though Bound by Moonlight does keeps it from transforming. The oppressive cards are at it again, and will probably keep our deck from being a thing. But this is something we can work on and improve, further testing will tell if the deck is to keep in the budget box or if it can be a contender for bigger tournaments!
- Raphael Levy