New Artifact Synergy
There were a lot of cards released in The Brothers’ War that I was excited to brew around, and while my immediate attention went to the Soldier cards, I put a few other things in the back of my brain for later.
Namely, those cards were Teething Wurmlet, Yotian Dissident, Steel Seraph, and Kayla’s Reconstruction – which, in and of themselves, are a foundation for a functional deck. And in the context of Explorer, The Brothers’ War brought another new card to the format: Springleaf Drum. And with all those cards in hand, we are off to the artifact races.
The several new Brothers’ War cards go very well with some other tech we’ve gotten over the last few years – namely in Ingenious Smith from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms and Patchwork Automaton and Michiko’s Reign of Truth from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. The goal of this deck is simple: Play artifacts; buff your creatures; kill your opponent dead. It is pretty effective at that game plan, and I don’t think it would be possible without the new additions.
Most of the 31 total games I played were with the exact list you see above, with the only difference being two Dromoka’s Command and a Knight of Autumn in the sideboard over the three copies of Destroy Evil. Run the Destroy Evils. That card is the real deal, especially for a deck like this that was really struggling to interact with anything higher than three mana value.
The first five matches were played without Kayla's Reconstruction, in favor of a couple copies of Rishkar the Redeemed. While I can’t for sure tell you Reconstruction is right (I’ll get to that a little later), I can tell you Rishkar is wrong and that slot needed something else, and since the deck felt like it was missing a top-end piece, I decided to try out Reconstruction. Additionally, I was also loaded up on Hangarback Walkers at the start, and had no Michiko’s Reign of Truth, which is so obviously an original oversight.
As for the rest of the deck, it’s honestly what I would consider stock for a deck like this. Your threats are all pretty solid and they grow at a reasonable rate. Ingenious Smith finds more gas and you can main deck four copies of Portable Hole, which isn’t even dead in its worst matchups because you can just play one with no targets to put counters on stuff. I didn’t do that a lot, but it did come up.
Early-game sequencing is fascinating with this deck. You have to make a lot of tough decisions on how you deploy your early-game threats, and you often have to choose between maximizing how many of your threats receive counters, or going more in on early pressure. Building on that, land sequencing is also tricky. Because you have seven artifact lands, those trigger all your creatures except Patchwork Automaton, so saving your artifact lande until you have the most amount of things on board is usually the way to go if possible.
Ornithopter is the card I have gone back and forth on the most. It is both immensely vital to the deck’s game plan while also being complete garbage a lot of the time. I think playing four of it and Springleaf Drum are a wildly necessary evil. Ornithopter allows lines such as playing Teething Wurmlet turn one, Automaton or Ingenious Smith turn two, and then just free rolling Ornithopter to give both things a counter. It’s also often the ideal find off Ingenious Smith for that reason.
The one Hangarback Walker that remains is definitely a flex slot, though I really liked having something that left behind a thing when it died. I won a couple games with the 1/1 flier that stuck around after my 1/1 Hangarback was killed. It obviously gets better if you pump it higher than that, but this deck is so weak to board wipes that something like this was needed. But realistically, this slot could be anything you see fit. It’s one of the few slots in the deck I feel that about.
Yotian Dissident is the most snowbally card in the deck. It’s very weak on its own, but you notice a difference when you have one on board as opposed to not – let alone keeping multiples alive. Dissident is how those Ornithopters get so big, and unlike Ingenious Smith and Wurmlet, Dissident isn’t capped at once per turn, allowing you to dump as much of your hand as possible out there; or, you benefit from a ton of buffs off of Kaya’s Reconstruction if you have Dissident on board.
Steel Seraph, Michiko’s Reign of Truth, and (almost most importantly) Shadowspear are how you end games, and they’re all incredibly good at doing that – especially any two of them in conjunction with each other. An 8/8 Ingenious Smith is a lot scarier when it’s in the air or has lifelink and trample, and scarier yet when it’s actually a 15/15 with Michiko’s. You can certainly win games without seeing these cards, but your job is harder.
The Ozolith is another flex slot, though it’s an explosive one. I’m considering upping my count to two, and it may even take the Hangarback Walker slot. The Ozolith is another finisher and another thing that doesn’t make all your creatures dying so bad. All of a sudden, any topdecked Ornithopter becomes a 15/17 thanks to the Ozolith retaining counters through all of your creatures leaving the battlefield. Anything becomes an immediate threat if it’s been on board long enough. I could see playing more.
The sideboard, especially the updated one with Destroy Evil over the other worse gold cards, is pretty simple.
Pithing Needle is a nice Smith target to help with Planeswalkers or Parhelion.
Runestone and Soul Guide Lantern may be a bit redundant, but I like having the option of both, especially for games where you don’t want to side in Runestone because it messes with Kayla’s Reconstruction.
Glass Casket is for aggro matchups when four Portable Holes isn’t enough (it often isn’t) and Casket is also very good against Green Devotion.
Destroy Evil is just awesome and I can’t believe I played 26 out of 31 matches without it.
Safekeeping and Bankbuster are for removal-heavy, grindy matchups. I could actually see upping copies of Safekeeping, but I don’t know for what.
And finally, I want to talk about the manabase in conjunction with Kayla’s Reconstruction. The mana is by far the sketchiest part of this deck. I deceptively have included a lot of pips here, with eight true colorless lands. This makes WWW difficult at times, though that’s where Springleaf Drum is very often your friend.
While the Artifact Lands are completely necessary, Inventors’ Fair might look a bit questionable due to the mana base inconsistencies, but it’s too good to exclude. I have used its activated ability many times more than I thought I would, as oftentimes getting Shadowspear or Steel Seraph would be the push I needed to close the game. It’s the closest thing we have to Urza’s Saga in this format, and it gave at least a somewhat reasonable impression of the last chapter sometimes. An easy couple changes to make to the mana base would be to turn the one Forest and the one Pathway into extra copies of Brushland. Having white is immensely more valuable than having green, and I think this deck can afford to only play one basic.
With all the iterations of this deck, I went 14-12 in ranked ladder and 3-2 in an Explorer Event I played through for fun, for a total of 17-14, which is incredibly disappointing, as I went on a 7-0 stretch early on and at one point had a record of 10-2.
That said, I don’t think 17-14 is a fair representation of the deck. I truly believe it is much better than that, particularly against various aggro decks like Mono Red, Heroic, and Spirits, all of which I lost to, but all of which also feel like they should be very positive matchups thanks to the Portable Holes and life gain. I think down the stretch, I was both a victim of some poor variance with a lot of mulligans, though some of that is with how the deck is constructed thanks to the manabase and dorky enablers that are otherwise useless like Ornithopter and Drum. I also had several misplays and missequences that led to a lot of those losses, as this is a deceptively difficult deck to play at times because of that early sequencing. I truly believe 17-14 is an underperformance in the Explorer meta. With tweaks to the mana base and tighter play, along with the sideboard Destroy Evils, there is a lot of room to get the win rate up.
The most encouraging thing, however, is the matchup this deck has against Explorer’s newest boogeyman, Mono-Green Devotion. I’ve faced it five times for a clean 5-0 record. Turns out when given the chance to snowball with no disruption, this deck really shines.
Elephants in the Room
With every deck I play, there are elephants in the room. With this one, there are two. For one, I’m sure a lot of people are wondering if I forgot that either Hardened Scales exists or that Hardened Scales is on Arena. No, I didn’t forget about it and I didn’t forget that it’s on Arena. I feel like that card is a trap for a list like this. The only spot it has to go in is the slot occupied by Kayla's Reconstruction, and maybe it could go there, but Reconstruction is there for the top end. This deck doesn’t need help getting extra counters, it needs to have some ability to go over the top. Reconstruction does that. Hardened Scales does not. It not being an artifact itself is incredibly limiting, and while I understand Michiko’s Reign of Truth isn’t an artifact either, it synergizes significantly better with the rest of the deck than Hardened Scales would. Try it out if you want, I might be wrong, but I am heavily inclined to believe it’s the ultimate trap card.
The other elephant in the room is actually two-fold, but it’s two folds of the same issue. That issue is the existence of both Temporary Lockdown and the newly released, more devastating counterpart, Brotherhood’s End. I somehow avoided both of these cards for all 31 matches, but I know they’d be a complete beating – particularly End. Lockdown can be blown up post board, and I’d get all my ETBs back upon it getting blown up. End, though, is brutal because it can hit almost every card in the deck. There might be a decision point for the person casting End between dealing three damage or blowing up all the artifacts, but other than that, this, I assume, is an absolute backbreaker. Your best out here is to either pretend it doesn’t exist or hope you have a Wurmlet or Smith on board to live through it. End will also blow up your Treasure Vaults, though your Citadels will survive thanks to being Indestructible. Skillfully dodge decks playing this card.
Tips and Tricks
There are a few neat tricks I feel like pointing out that might come up when playing this deck.
Ingenious Smith’s artifact trigger is a strict once per turn, and while Wurmlet’s is also once per turn for the counter, the life gain ability is not limited to that. That will trigger as many times as you have artifacts enter the battlefield. This is a corner-case but if you need to gain some life, you can go nuts with a Wurmlet on board. Additionally, don’t forget about Wurmlet’s deathtouch.
And while Smith and Wurmlet are limited to once per turn, they can trigger during both players turns, which is where something like Treasure Vault can come in very handy. I have often sacrificed Treasure Vault at the end of my turn to get that extra Artifact trigger, and building on that, Treasure Vault can often work as a combat trick against opponents not paying as close of attention. This is perhaps one of the most important tricks the deck has to offer.
If your opponent has used Brutal Cathar on your Steel Seraph, prioritize getting Seraph back as much as possible, as it will come back as the full six-mana version. Many people likely already knew this, but Prototype is a new enough (and complex enough) mechanic that some people might not.
Kayla’s Reconstruction can hit the Artifact Lands, which makes the card – at the very least – more consistent, however, it doesn’t hit Steel Seraph or Michiko’s Reign of Truth, so don’t cast it expecting to hit those.
Other Cards to Consider
Haywire Mite would be an interesting inclusion, as it’s another cheap artifact creature to help with blowing up artifacts or enchantments. I don’t know where exactly it would slot in, but I could see it being a good inclusion.
Animation Moduleshould probably be in this deck, as with Yotian Dissident especially, the card could lead to some snowballs. I’m going to continue trying this deck out and that will probably be something I include sooner rather than later.
Pioneer Port and Economy
It doesn’t appear that there are any changes the deck would need if you wanted to play it in Pioneer. It’s also pretty cheap to rent, coming in at 65 Tix on MTGO – 36 of which come from the single copy of Boseiju.
This deck also isn’t amazingly wild card friendly, needing 31 rares and no mythics. Some of the rares translate well to other decks, such as the actual Selesnya lands, but a lot of them are specific to this deck.
As for if you wanted to build this in paper, the total cost of the deck is $200, which is pretty reasonable. The one-ofs like the Ozolith, Shadowspear, and Inventors’ Fair are among the biggest price drivers, along with the rest of the mana base.
I think this might be the most fun I’ve ever had playing a deck I’ve built, and yes, that includes Soldiers. I enjoyed this a lot and am looking forward to continuing to play it with some changes to make it better. It’s a high-synergy, low-interaction deck, which usually isn’t my cup of tea, but you get to play with a lot of pretty unique cards that all work very well together. If the wild cards aren’t too much of a burden, I highly recommend trying out an iteration of this list if you want a fun change of pace with a deck that seems to have a favorable Mono-Green matchup.