There are times when a card catches your eye and you know you have to build a deck with it. Mishra, Artificer's Prodigy was not one of those cards. At first it just seemed silly to me; as a Commander player it just seemed like a card that was going to force you to jump through a series of hoops to get to a point where you could play a spell, then get a spell for free. While that sort of puzzle is something plenty of Magic players grab onto and try to make work, I was not one of them. There were plenty of other options to build around.
Fast forward to a few months ago and I'm flipping through my cards to find a particular card for another deck and Mishra stares up at me as if to say, "Am I really just going to sit here in your library card catalog for years, and never see the light of any deck at all? You know, there are formats outside of Commander, right?" The lights went off and suddenly I'm looking at ways to abuse him in a casual 60-card deck.
Sure, to most of you Commander players, this has to feel like cheating a little. All those intricate plays to make him work are just set aside and instead it boils down to getting Mishra on the battlefield and casting an artifact, then finding a copy and putting it into play for free. Well, hang in there folks, because there is something in the deck for you too!
When building for 60-card casual around a particular card, the expectation is to put four copies in the deck. When using legendary creatures, I tend to go to three copies. Given the mana cost and never wanting more than one copy at a time, I have found that three copies is generally right, especially for the initial build.
At this point I decided I was going to run two copies of every artifact I chose to put in the deck with the idea that the deck would be flexible and play out differently with a wider variety of cards. While doing this, I hit on Unwinding Clock and things started to change. If I could untap artifacts on every upkeep, I could probably get quite a bit of mana available every turn. What was I going to do with all that mana every turn?
All right, so my artifacts now have flash! So, on each player's turn I can play one of my artifacts and search the other one and put it onto the battlefield. This sounds great! I keep digging to find cool artifacts and find the next piece of a puzzle I hadn't realized I was building:
Esperzoa is a flying jellyfish that returns an artifact I control to its owner's hand. This wouldn't be all that interesting in a deck that has Mishra and only two copies of artifacts since I should have both copies on the battlefield, so returning an artifact would only be a downside unless I decide to run more than two copies of some of the artifacts! So with a card like Solemn Simulacrum I could play the first copy then find a second one and put it on the battlefield. Esperzoa will bounce one of them so I can play it again later, finding a third copy and putting that onto the battlefield!
The next problem I could foresee was a lack of cards in hand. If I'm going to play out a card on each person's turn, it won't be long until I run out of cards!
The Archmage isn't an artifact, but getting one on the battlefield means that virtually every other card I cast will be replaced with a new one in my hand! I considered using Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain here since it includes any historic spell, but since the deck is so heavy with artifacts, I opted for the card that was only one color and I could have both in play at the same time if I decided to be particularly greedy.
At this point I was pretty sure of the big guns I wanted to run in the deck. Wurmcoil Engine and Noxious Gearhulk are both big artifacts that offer something beyond just a big body. Wurmcoil survives through mass removal effects pretty well, leaving behind the smaller 3/3 artifacts that continue to beat down. Noxious Gearhulk destroys creatures and gives me a little life while doing it. Noxious Gearhulk also has menace, so when you can destroy an opponent's blocker and demand that they still have two creatures to block with, it quickly becomes the ObNoxious Gearhulk.
I was pretty sure I wanted more removal than just what the Gearhulk was providing so I started looking at other options and found Spine of Ish Sah. This would allow me to get rid of any permanent, not just creatures. With Mishra, I get two of them for seven mana, and when any Spine is destroyed, it goes right back to my hand to get cast again, finding the next one. This would hardly be an infinite loop, but seven mana to get rid of two permanents can make getting damage through an opponent's defenses much easier. The only question is how to destroy a Spine of Ish Sah? Or for that matter, how to destroy other artifacts since Mishra can find those artifact cards in the graveyard and get them back onto the battlefield when you play them?
Atog was the perfect answer. While there are other options, Atog is old school and can be a serious threat when you have enough artifacts out. It lets you sacrifice more than one artifact if you want as well, and there are plenty of times when someone will try and mess with your setup, so having a way to interfere with their attempt to exile or steal one of your artifacts is great.
I also decided to include Skeleton Shard. Sometimes you just need to get an artifact out of your graveyard because you can't find another copy in your library. This means that you can cast your Solemn Simulacrum, find a second copy and put it on the battlefield for free. You can then sacrifice both copies to draw two cards, then use the Skeleton Shard to put one of them in your hand. When you cast it again, Mishra will find the one in the graveyard and put it back on the battlefield. Or you can find another one in your library if you prefer. Whatever works for you!
If I'm going to try to do this on each opponent's turn, I'm going to need some mana. I opted for Chromatic Lantern and Obelisk of Grixis. I know there are ways to get more mana (Thran Dynamo is a favorite) but there are a few cards that require colored mana, so I decided to focus on that. I also wanted more slots for artifact mana, so I added in some artifact lands. They don't work well with Mishra, but they'll untap every turn and I'm hoping that will give me access to plenty of mana each turn.
Finally, with the last few slots I opted for Phyrexian Metamorph. This is one of my favorite cards. It can work as another copy of any of my artifacts on the battlefield, sending Mishra off to find another copy of the card. The Metamorph can also just copy something an opponent has out, giving the deck all kinds of options that aren't even in the deck! Add to all this that the Metamorph is still an artifact, so Atog and Esperzoa can still do their thing with it if need be. This makes the Metamorph into an artifact that can always copy the best thing on the battlefield, or repeatedly get an enter the battlefield trigger that an opponent's artifact or creature has! It is just a great utility card!
The deck has come together as this bizarre mash of cards that will sing beautifully together!
In the end, the obvious criticism is that this is Magical Christmas land or a delicate house of cards that is bound to come crashing down. This is true if I expected to get every piece in play, but I don't. If it is just Mishra and Esperzoa, then that is enough. Even Wurmcoil Engine and Unwinding Clock is fine, since it means I'll have a blocker that can attack. I'll take what I can get and try to make it work with whatever is available. The deck promises to be an interesting puzzle every time I play it!