"There's more than one way to skin a cat."
It's a bit of a morbid turn of phrase when you consider it. What was happening that discussions for how to skin a cat would reach such a level of prominence? Why were people so interested in skinning cats in the first place? If you were talking about larger animals you could see the relevance as people would use the fur to stay warm, but a cat? The whole concept is disconcerting to say the least.
It is relevant here today because I'm talking about a fun 60-card deck idea I had. I was considering some Commander ideas and Mishra, Artificer Prodigy showed up. While you can use him as a commander, I wasn't looking to jump through quite so many hoops. I started thinking about how Mishra would work in decks without the one-of restriction of Commander. You could essentially double up! I started thinking of artifacts and artifact creatures that would double up and work in a deck. Just something that straightforward would essentially make every card you cast with Mishra cost half of its usual cost. Play a Signet and search for another and put it onto the battlefield for free. Play a Baleful Strix and get two of them and draw two cards. This sounded like the beginnings of an interesting deck!
As I was putting together the deck, I noticed Phyrexian Metamorph. This cards is seriously underutilized in so many decks. I tend to love Clone effects generally, but this copy effect has it all! It can cost only three mana for those times when you are really tight for mana or just don't have the blue mana to spare. It can copy a creature or an artifact, giving it a level of utility other Clone effects can't match. Sure, paying four mana can seem like a lot if you are only copying a Signet, but getting the extra mana is a must sometimes. Other times you just want it copying a creature. I love the idea of copying cards already on the battlefield and getting a third (or even fourth!) version of the permanent with Mishra's ability!
It was at about this time that I remembered Revel in Riches. While it would certainly be underwhelming, the Metamorph could copy a Treasure token and get me to 10 tokens even faster! I started to think this could be an interesting way to win games – doubling up on creatures is great, but so far I've really only seen players use Revel in Riches for the mana boost. This deck could use the alternate win condition, and this would be just one of the ways to skin a cat, or at least win the game!
Executioner's Capsule is an artifact that would let me destroy an opponent's creature, adding another Treasure counter. With Mishra out, I could get the Capsules out two at a time. Myr Retriever would also work in the deck as a way to get the Executioner's Capsule out and using it again!
I was a little nervous about how to make this work with just Treasure tokens. It seemed like I was putting all my eggs into the Revel in Riches basket. Yes, I just went from cats to chickens; focus here people! I figured if I'm going with this alternate win condition, I could run Mechanized Production too! The Mechanized Production could give me a Treasure token each turn, or it could copy a creature instead. I started digging for a particular creature and found it quickly: Myr Battlesphere. With Mishra on the battlefield, you would get two Battlespheres and eight Myr. Enchanting one of Battlespheres with Mechanized Production means that you would get another Battlesphere on the next upkeep and with the game with all the myr you'll have on the battlefield, since the Mechanized Production is just looking for eight artifacts with the same name, not necessarily the name of the artifact it enchants.
With this in mind, I looked at Blade of Selves. Obviously you can attach it to the Battlesphere and get a lot of extra Myr that don't leave when the Battlesphere copies do. Blade of Selves also works especially well with Myr Retriever as you'll often see three Retrievers die, allowing you to Restock your hand with three different artifacts that you can play (and search for a copy) later. Even attaching it to Baleful Strix means that you'll often draw three cards just as combat is getting started!
With this base for the deck, I set to work filling in the blanks.
Steel Hellkite made the cut as a powerful flyer that can win games with Revel or Mechanized Production. Not surprisingly, two Hellkites can make very quick work of opponents. Swing both at one opponent and make the X ability equal two for one Hellkite and three for the other. Ten points of damage is tough, but getting a huge portion of your battlefield destroyed as well can leave an opponent virtually neutered. Yes, I'm back with the cat comparisons.
Shimmer Myr is probably the one artifact I'm not interested in doubling up on the battlefield. An extra one doesn't really do anything other than encourage opponents to use mass removal to try take out all my creatures. However, giving all my artifacts flash is just too good an ability to pass up. Playing and using two Executioner's Capsule after an opponent declares attacks costs only five mana and will make opponents reluctant to do that too many times. Using flash for artifacts means that Revel in Riches as a win condition is much harder for opponents to predict!
For a while I had Solemn Simulacrum instead of the Signets as it could attack, gave me lands that would be harder to kill than artifacts and drew a card when they died. I switched to Signets simply because they only cost two mana and I realized the only red mana needed in the deck is for Mishra himself, so I accommodated for that in the land count and stuck with a less expensive Signet. I also looked at Burnished Hart, but set it aside for all the same reasons Solemn didn't make the cut.
Finally, I did include Etherium Sculptor. With Mishra out, this becomes a two mana creature that can reduce the cost of other cards by two mana! I could get an early turn with Etherium Sculptor, casting a Signet for free and getting a second Signet through Mishra! This could lead to some explosive starts, especially if you have a Battlesphere or Hellkite ready to go soon after!
This version of the deck is particularly tuned for multiplayer games. I have several enters-the-battlefield tapped lands, and Morphic Pool leans on the multiplayer aspect as well. Blade of Selves is definitely something to replace if you expect to be running this in your casual games against a single opponent as well as games against multiple opponents.
If you decide that Mechanized Production is one way to skin a cat that you want to save for a different deck, and you are comfortable with loading your eggs into the Revel in Riches basket, you can certainly go all in on the Treasure aspect! With Mishra around, just look for artifacts that bring Treasure with them. Treasure Map seems like a no-brainer. While you can't put both landmark counters on a single Treasure Map if you put them both out, you can scry twice, digging deep for answers. It isn't exactly the quickest way to get the Treasure counters, but flipping even one of the Maps will give you plenty of extra card draw.
Two copies of Prying Blade attached to a Baleful Strix will give you two Treasure tokens when it deals combat damage. This will work a fair bit faster than the Treasure Map and can really make things ugly for an opponent. You can also attach them to separate creatures to make your opponent's decision about what to destroy just that much more difficult!
And finally, while Treasure Keeper doesn't give you treasure, you'll almost certainly hit an artifact when it dies. Since this artifact is cast, Mishra kicks in and finds another one. The odds you hit an Executioner's Capsule or some kind of ramp artifact are pretty good!
I had no idea Mishra could be such an amazing pirate all on his own! Mishra offers so many options! Even just the original idea of loading the deck with multiple copies of various artifact creatures can make the deck into a powerful machine that makes your combat step the most nerve-wracking time of the game for your opponents! With cards like Glaze Fiend and Thopter Squadron, as well as the host of other amazing artifacts, there are all sorts of options for you and your cat with Mishra!