“You said I'd need to equip goggles to play this deck, right?”
Hey there people, it's Dan, and I've got a tasty new deck to share with all of you. I've been busy getting my teeth kicked in for a few months during Eldritch Moon Standard after trying to play a ramp strategy, but now I'm back and ready to burn. Kaladesh is looking like a bucket of fun, and I am prepared to Thop till I drop.
Those of you who have read my deck tech articles around the web know that there are three things I hate:
- Paying too much money for a deck.
- And wasting my time casting spells that can't smack the opponent.
I broke all of these rules last Standard when I made a fairly pricey Simic ramp deck, and everything about it was terrible. Well, except for the deck name, Big Green-Bluizers. That was great, but the deck itself… not so much. I'd like to apologize to all the Red cards I may have spurned - I'm here to make it up to you.
Kaladesh has brought a big ol' pile of great new Red cards for us to fiddle with. We get Pia Nalaar (RIP Kiran), Combustible Gearhulk, Chandra the Mind Sculptor (Chandra, Torch of Defiance), and most importantly, Inventor's Apprentice.
Whoever first thought of calling her “Nerd Ape” is my hero.
Sure, a 1/2 for R isn't going to break the format, but there is more than meets the eye. She gets swole if there's an artifact on the field, and in a set based upon artifacts, that shouldn't be the hardest thing in the world. Her creature type - Human Artificer - is also extremely important, as we got one hot piece of equipment from Kaladesh as well.
Efficient and stylish.
Ok. So far I've stated that my favorite cards from the set are a 1/2 for R and a +1/+2 equipment for 1. Not exactly dreaming big. But just like milk and cereal, these two relatively bland parts come together to form one delicious breakfast. Since the Apprentice is an Artificer, she can don the goggles free of charge when she enters play, assuming the goggles are already sitting on the battlefield. Being able to have a 3/5 out on the field as early as turn two and still having an extra mana available to play another one drop is something I'm very interested in. I noticed this interaction right away thanks to it being super obvious, and got to brewing.
I've gone through a few iterations of this list while testing, and there are a few spots that are still flexible. We don't know how the meta will shake out entirely, so some things may be stronger/weaker. Maybe every deck mainboards four Take Down due to the prevalence of fliers, so Smuggler's Copter ends up bad. Maybe enchantment removal is rampant, so Always Watching proves useless. Who knows. Certainly not me. But so far the most consistent and resilient list I've piloted is this one:
Cute, huh? We have a lot of fun little synergies going on with this list that aren't apparent at first glance. We have plenty of Artificers, thus ensuring that once some goggles are on the field, someone will be able to pick them up. We also have Stone Haven Outfitter and Weapons Trainer to give our equipment some extra power. Those are all obvious, but why Thraben Inspector? Don't worry baby, I won't leave you hanging. We'll get to that in a bit.
This deck is capable of getting some oversized threats on the field way ahead of curve, and once able to establish some small offense, it's capable of recovering after removal, while also having the power to close out the game past blockers. Let's take a look at each individual piece of the deck, and see how we can pile on minor synergies to give us huge advantages.
Unlike the Burn deck I gave a spin last Standard, this deck is primarily creature based. Almost all of our non-creature spells are just meant to buff up our creatures on the cheap, allowing us to combine our low-power cards to make spooky threats well ahead of curve. Our creatures are all born to be near equipment, and even those that don't have inherent Artificer synergy with the goggles have their own role to play. I also just noticed that almost all of them are ladies too. #Girlpower. Let's get into the nitty gritty and figure out how to maximize each one.
We discussed the most obvious synergy up above, which is the Apprentice's inspiring ability to pick up dirty goggles off of the floor. Luckily, that's not the only upside of this innocuous little 1/2. She gets her +1/+1 buff as long as you have any artifact on the field, so the goggles aren't a necessity. Thraben Inspector clues, Pia Nalaar's Thopter, Smuggler's Copter, or any other piece of equipment will all make the Apprentice a wee bit better. She also has two creature types that are found all throughout this list, ensuring Stoneforge Masterwork will have relevant types to look for.
“Staple gun, or Tiny Hammer? They both look like such fun!”
Toolcraft Exemplar is a finely-tuned aggro machine, and the lone dude in this deck. With any artifact on the field, he can bash in for three damage as early as turn two, and if suited up with some goggles, he's a force to be reckoned with. Oh, would you look at that, he's an Artificer, so the goggles can even attach to him for no cost when he enters the field. Note that similar to the Inventor's Apprentice, his pre-combat +2/+1 trigger checks for any artifact, not just equipment. Once again Thraben Inspector's clues will pull double duty, letting Toolcraft be relevant even if you can't locate one of your equipments.
Don't forget to read the rest of the text like I did! Once you control three artifacts, he gets First Strike in addition to +2/+1. Several of the artifacts in this deck are equipment, and getting to strap that extra power to a creature with First Strike makes Toolcraft an exemplary target to equip.
“Hmm… yep, those are tentacles alright. Mystery solved.”
Inspector has shown herself to be one of the better one cost cards over the past few months, and she is just as potent in this list. Her clue is her best feature (next to that model-quality jawline), and it enables all sorts of shenanigans for us. It buffs up our other one drops, can get us more cards later, and even gives us a non-essential artifact that we can sacrifice with Pia Nalaar to get past a pesky blocker.
Thraben Inspector's stats are quite good in this deck as well. Any sort of buff, whether it be equipment or Always Watching, makes her an actual threat when attacking and blocking. Then even without a pump, 1 power is apparently all it takes to fly a helicopter, so she can always jump in your Smuggler's Copter as your equipped creatures rumble on the ground.
That hair. That makeup. She is much cooler than I will ever be.
You're telling me that with Weapons Trainer, all my creatures get +1/+0 just for controlling an equipment? It doesn't even have to be equipped? Dope. Multiple Trainers just gets silly; any equipment sitting on the field makes any creature a terrifying beater. These ladies also are great with Smuggler's Copter or Pia's Thopter. Getting free power onto our fliers is an excellent way to close out the game, and Weapons Trainer is one of the easier ways for our deck to do that.
Is she the one that made all the hook swords for the Orcs in LOTR?
Here is the best payoff cards in the deck. Outfitter is a potent beatdown machine early game when equipped, and even moreso if that equipment happens to be the Inventor's Goggles. A 4/5 on turn two that draws us a card if it dies is beautiful. She also is our best tool for going late, letting us spread our equipment out and getting cards back if anything dies. Oh, also any other equipped critter gets buff. Love it.
It's a good idea to try and keep a piece of equipment on the Outfitter at all times. She's a lightning rod for removal, and will most likely be targeted first to make sure we don't draw additional cards. Ensuring you get a card off of her biting the dust is a good way to keep the pressure going, and I'd be hesitant to just throw her on the field without any equipment.
I'm glad this doesn't have flavor text, because it'd be painfully sad.
Pia is back! Kiran and his thopter are not :'[. Turns out Pia isn't the kind of lady who's going to let this hold her back though. Despite only giving us one thopter, the additional abilities Pia Nalaar brings to the table make her a surprisingly versatile card. You can pay 1R to pump any artifact creature - either her own thopter, or possibly a Smuggler's Copter, giving you something to do with extra mana late in the game. The ability to sacrifice an artifact for 1 generic comes up more than you'd think as well, and gives us a bit of reach. Using a clue or extraneous piece of equipment to eliminate a blocker can be the last small advantage you need to close out the game.
Like most creatures in this deck, Pia doesn't seem to have much going on at first glance. However, her small artifact synergies along with the important creature types of Human Artificer make her relevant in this deck, and quite the roleplayer for our top-end. Her thopter can even pilot a Smuggler's Copter the turn she comes into play, and then you can pay 1 to sac the thopter to kill a blocker before smacking them with the Copter! I couldn't even begin to explain to you how a thopter pilots a helicopter, or how that helicopter keeps flying after its pilot dies, but whatever.
Whoever first thought of calling this the “Looter Scooter” is my other hero.
Copter is spectacular. Once on the field, it lets any of our creatures become a 3/3 flying haste looter, which is absurd. It triggers our artifact synergies, gives poor bodies like 1/1 Kor tokens or un-buffed Thraben Inspectors something to do, filters our draws, hits hard early… It both slices and dices. This is one of the slots that was most hotly contested for me - I could totally see upping this to a four-of, as it's just amazing. Currently I only run two, as a lot of people testing online seem to expect it to show up a lot, so there's a lot of hate for it. If hate for it ends up being rare, I'll definitely run the four-of.
Equipment and Enchantments:
I'm lumping these two together since they serve the same purpose: Make our mediocre creatures stronger. Gryff's Boon obviously helps us pop through some evasive damage, and Always Watching pumps the whole team while letting us play strong defense, which is often valuable when you have a 4/6 Inventor's Apprentice to hold down the fort.
Gotta wear goggles when you go this fast.
This is the card that makes the deck tick. An opening hand with goggles is where we want to be. Dropping them on turn one lets us follow up with one of half of the creatures in our deck and be in great shape thanks to the free equip-to-Artificers clause. Many decks just don't have a method to deal with a five toughness creature on turn two, and we can get in a significant amount of damage before they can respond.
Captain's Claws and Stoneforge Masterwork are less powerful than the goggles, but are our next best choices for cheap equipment. Claws in particular are powerful, and probably our second best piece. They often push an attacker's power to the point where they must be blocked, and if that's the case, we're typically leaving behind a 1/1 Kor which can them pick up an equipment to attack with. Masterwork is great at breaking up boardstalls, and can make one of our creatures massive at a low cost. There are plenty of shared creature types in this deck, so Masterwork will net some power as long as there are multiple creatures on board.
Lands and Leftovers:
Declaration in Stone is our only non-creature non-pump spell, and it's vital. This is purely a tempo play, letting us eliminate their most annoying blocker on the cheap so we can bust through as much damage as possible.
We run four of the new R/W Fast Land, Inspiring Vantage, which typically comes into play untapped with our fairly low land count. We also run Needle Spires for some late game boardwipe insurance. Thus far having four tapped lands hasn't created any issues for me, and I've typically been able to hit the mana necessary to activate it and swing. I could be convinced to cut down to three, but for the time being four is great.
We have a total of 21 land, which may seem like a lot for aggro. But having extra land gives us the ability to swap equipment around, dump mana into Pia Nalaar's abilities, eat Thraben Inspector clues, activate Needle Spires, and sideboard in Planeswalkers against control decks.
Playing the deck:
Your ideal opening hand will have Inventor's goggles, two to four creatures, and two land. Two land is enough to deploy a vast majority of our gameplan. Our one-drop creatures are very powerful when paired with equipment, and stay relevant later as we begin to deploy our two cost spells.
Weapons Trainer and Stone Haven Outfitter add extra oomph to our early plays. Turn one goggles, turn two play two one drops, and then turn three dropping an Outfitter, Trainer, or Always Watching is our ideal curve. This lets us attack for a big chunk of damage with creatures that aren't easy to remove with damage-based removal. Alternatively, you can play one of our one drops that care about artifacts, then be attacking for a significant amount on turn 2. Post turn three, we keep bashing with our biggies, and then rely on our utility cards in case anything goes wrong. Pia Nalaar gets rid of blockers and gives us flying pressure, the Smuggler's Copter lets us keep something on the field after a boardwipe, Gryff's Boon lets us fly over blockers, and Declaration in Stone clears out problematic creatures. At this point we get enough mana to deploy and attach equipment in one turn, which is very powerful in this deck. We can often pump a boring 1/2 into a 3/5 or larger without spending more than three mana. Be wary equipping into open mana, though, as they can respond to equipping by removing the creature.
Let's take a look at what to do in each matchup. As of writing this Kaladesh Standard hasn't actually started, so a lot of this is speculation against general strategies. Sideboard options may just be comically incorrect, so take that advice with a grain of salt, or whatever your preferred spice is.
This deck is funderful (both fun and wonderful) against creature-based aggro. Someone trying to attack with Falkenrath Gorgers is going to have a bad time when you're dropping creatures with 5+ toughness on turn two. Often you'll just defend yourself with one of your fat butts until you can find an Always Watching or Declaration in Stone so that you can safely get in damage.
Burn is a bit trickier. You don't have any life-gain mainboard, so it will be a race. Getting your creatures past three toughness will be extremely important, as you'll need to sneak past Galvanic Bombardment and Incendiary Flow. Once you're at 5 or more, though, you should be in the clear, and you can begin attacking.
For sideboard, I've been running Aerial Responder for a Lifelinker that can block, attack, and break up boardstalls. He's very potent when paired with any equipment, and getting one to stick to the field will usually make you win. Maxing out on Declarations is another good call, along with bringing in any additional removal you may be packing, particularly Savage Alliance.
Depending on the colors, our Midrange matchup isn't that bad. Though they typically have better creatures in the long run, ours outsize theirs in the early stages of the game. Stone Haven Outfitter will be a big player here. She lets us trade creatures in combat for cards, or negate the impact of removal. Keeping up with the opponent on cards may be difficult, but with the right setup, it can happen.
Exile-based removal is a nightmare, and very difficult for this deck to beat. Cataclysmic Gearhulk is also a huge issue, since our deck performs best with multiple artifacts and creatures on the field. I'd recommend bringing in as many Gideon, Ally of Zendikars as you can afford, since that lets us diversify our threats a bit. Removal for big creatures along with modal spells will help us switch up our game plan. Collective Effort is a great way to take care of a big problematic threat, get rid of a Stasis Snare or some other enchantment, and buff up our team.
Aggro is typically great against control, but we aren't your typical aggro deck. We don't come out of the gates swinging on turn one, and we need a bit of setup to maximize our guys. We can have very explosive starts, but it isn't as likely as the Mono Red decks of Standards past.
Once you've realized you're playing against a control player, try to minimize your commitment to the board without giving up all of your pressure. Two one-drops with equipment can represent a huge amount of damage per turn without us having to spew out our whole hand and spend all of our mana. Stone Haven Outfitter is once again a good insurance policy against removal, and our Needle Spires play a huge role here. Sidenote: It's really funny when you get enough mana that you can activate and equip a Needle Spires. Make that your life goal.
Again, I'd sideboard in the Gideon crew to diversity our threats a bit. A Reckless Bushwhacker or two can give us a lot of damage out of nowhere as well, and is worth considering. Post-board our matchup is poor, so just be careful about walking into boardwipes, and cross your fingers that they don't draw all of their cheap removal.
So there she is! That's how you beat down with Artificers in Kaladesh Standard. The main deck should run somewhere in the $60 range, and most of that cost is tied up in dual lands, Declaration in Stone, and Smuggler's Copter. If you're trying to bash on a budget (who isn't?) then feel free to swap the duals out for more basics; it may lower your consistency somewhat, but it won't totally cripple the deck. Declaration in Stone is hard to replace, but Skywhaler's Shot is a new card that isn't half bad at killing big blockers, and you can always run Incendiary Flow, Galvanic Bombardment, Outnumber, or any one of the many red removal spells in its place. Sky Skiff is a weaker Smuggler's Copter, or you can always toss it out entirely to put in something like Stone Haven Outfitter, which can give minor card advantage.
Sideboard also costs a few bucks if you're running Gideons. If that's too rich for your blood, I'd go ahead and sideboard cards to facilitate a “kill before they stabilize” plan. Reckless Bushwhackers and Goldnight Castigators are great for melting face, and you'll often be able to steal games before the opponent can defend themselves from your onslaught.
I hope you all enjoyed the article, and more importantly I hope you like the deck! If you see a nerd in a Heavy Salami T-shirt running around at a GP, you can safely assume it is me playing this deck. Feel free to use that knowledge to your advantage.
Until next time folks. Thanks for reading!