“The Cutting Room Floor: The ‘Power’ Glove”
Blue certainly gets its share of grief from players who despise the color because of its power in Legacy. While Force of Will and Brainstorm are certainly two of the pillars that define the format, let’s not forget there are plenty of other cards, even obscure ones, that when carefully crafted can create a truly frightening concoction. I always like to go big or go home, and that’s exactly what I’m doing today…with blue cards! But we’re not going any conventional route in the sense of traditional blue decks. No. Instead, we’re going to abuse a card that, while conditional in nature, can create some incredibly broken plays in conjunction with several noticeably powerful cards already seeing play in Legacy.
And that card is none other than Power Artifact.
For the last year and a half, I have been carefully crafting a Power Artifact-based deck behind the scenes that has proven to be incredibly effective in testing. When people think of Power Artifact they immediately think of Grim Monolith in order to generate what equates to nearly infinite colorless mana. Assuming you could assemble these two cards on the board, what would you then power out with so much mana to spare? That’s what I’m going to show you today, as the deck in and of itself is actually a bit more complex than one might think.
[Editor’s note – click any of blue card names or featured card images to view and purchase the card from Jupiter Games!]
For reference, here is the current list I’ve been tinkering with.
The deck at a glance seems relatively simply to play; you run out a Grim or Basalt Monolith and proceed to Power Artifact your way to victory, but not so fast. There are multiple paths to victory this deck can take in order to win the game aside from the obvious on paper. In fact, there are plays in this deck that are really nasty when you goldfish a lot of hands and become more and more familiar with it.
Let’s take a look at some of the cards that comprise the core of this list and work our way into some combinations.
It’s been many years since I’ve thought of Stroke as being a win-condition in a Legacy deck, but in this case it’s right there at the top. Blue Sun’s Zenith, while better in just about every other way, doesn’t quite mesh with the mana base we’re working with in this particular case. In order to get to three blue mana, you would probably be looking at a mana base that resembles something more along the lines of High Tide or a Mono Blue Control variant in order to make it viable. In this particular instance, we’re running Ancient Tombs and City of Traitors in order to cast our Monoliths, Jaces and Show and Tells earlier in the game. Because of this, Stroke of Genius is just the better option and fits the curve nicer.
Aside from being an obvious win-condition with millions of mana, Stroke can also be a nice draw spell at the end of an opponent’s turn for some serious card advantage. Obviously, in order to power out a big Stroke you’re going to need some mana to make that happen. The good thing about this particular deck is that excessive amounts of mana can be dumped into Stroke to draw plenty of cards. This makes artifact mana even more dangerous than it looks to an unsuspecting opponent because of the amount of potential mana you can pump into a Stroke.
Simply put, Stroke of Genius has the edge over Blue Sun’s Zenith because of its cost. In the event an attack won’t do it, this one surely will.
Show and Tell is arguably one of the most powerful spells in all of Legacy. It also happens to be incredibly useful in this particular deck for many different reasons. This card has many layers of usefulness behind it not simply because of how broken it is from a fundamental standpoint, but in how it acts as a de facto Counterspell. Against a non-Show and Tell deck, firing out this card with a reasonable hand will almost certainly draw some sort of response, which is exactly what you should anticipate. That’s a neat little trick that experienced players have and will use, but there’s an even better one aside from the infamous “Show and Tell into Emrakul” play that isn’t guaranteed, albeit powerful.
Let’s say you run into an opponent who is prepared to deal with a Show and Tell into Emrakul play. You have one of your Monoliths on the board and a Show and Tell in hand. You fire out the Show, and it resolves. Your opponent, licking their chops, will surely let it resolve. They quickly select a card and drop it onto the battlefield face-down. You calmly reach for that Power Artifact in your hand and drop it into play. Your opponent didn’t expect this, and now they must deal with the consequences. You’ve just tricked your opponent into thinking you were going to put some huge creature into play, when all you’ve done is enabled infinite colored mana.
You then “attach” your Power Artifact onto the Monolith, add a few grand of colorless to your mana pool and hard-cast Emrakul. This not only gives you an extra turn to play with, but it will probably win you the game. If you can catch up with these subtleties while playing with the deck, you’ll see that Show and Tell has a dynamic within the card itself that is far more complex than simply vomiting a huge creature into play. If your opponent cannot deal with it, the card is a complete blowout. The card is just really that good and even with millions of mana at your disposal, being able to power out a huge threat has never been this easy.
But to me the most important quality, even in a deck that can make double-blue more often than not early is the ability to drop Power Artifact onto a Monolith when you only have one blue mana at your disposal, which is ironically very critical.
I don’t really consider Jace an alternate win-condition, I just consider it too good to pass up here. Saprazzan Skerry, Svyelunite Temple and Tomb/ City enable an easy turn two Jace which is an incredibly powerful play most decks cannot handle. Jace’s obvious ability to draw cards and fate seal gives the deck a nice edge against other control-based strategies, and although I hate to admit it, the card itself is in fact a win condition. I was contemplating running one more in the main, but I’m not too sure yet. In the event you run into some aggressive strategies and need to buy yourself some time, bouncing critters can be a very nice bonus when needed.
Although, most aggressive decks, even with a slightly above-average hand, can’t really match the power of a deck that can hard-cast Emrakul on turn two. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the most powerful planeswalker ever printed, and there’s no reason to exclude his incredible multifaceted abilities in a deck that thrives on adding lots of mana to our mana pool early and often.
This is the one card I have been tossing around now for quite some time, but I think I’m totally sold on it right now. You see, any combo deck by its very nature is somewhat prone to discard. While being able to hide combo pieces with Brainstorm and Jace is neat, it’s even neater to punish an opponent who wants to tear your hand apart with Hymn to Tourach or Thoughtseize by returning the favor yourself. Granted it’s not always card advantage, but it still protects and covers your butt for free, which is exactly what you want in the early game where attrition is key.
I also like Misdirection’s ability to rework the strategy of an opponent once it’s cast. Being able to strategically defer your opponents’ key spells is an inherently powerful ability most players probably take for granted. But you don’t want your opponents gaining any sort of edge at all. Against something like Dredge, Misdirection becomes key against spells like Dread Return where you can interject an opponent’s choice by giving them something like a Golgari Thug instead of a Griselbrand. Against Burn, you can redirect that Fireblast to their dome. These examples aside, Misdirection is a card you want to consider in a meta that thrives on aggressive strategies with spells that aim to disrupt your productivity.
It works overtime for Force of Will and I like that it’s free without the stipulation you lose the game the following turn. This makes it an attractive option in many facets of the game and I hesitate to cut them at this point.
Ulamog is just a nice, huge catch-all that has some very important utility against troublesome cards like Ensnaring Bridge and the like. It’s a big creature that isn’t out of the hard-casting question with the loads of mana you should have floating around. Against decks like Sneak and Show that want to power out big creatures early, putting this into play when an opponent has four or less permanents in play will essentially win you the game. That’s quite important even in the face of opposing Emrakuls because you get first-dibs on the attack – assuming they don’t have a Sneak Attack to work with. You then proceed to wipe out permanents and clean up the following turn.
As I already mentioned, hard-casting Ulamog is a lot easier than it looks. Opponents tend to let you cast accelerates during the course of the game because they pose no immediate threat aside from the subsequent spells played off of them. As a few turns go by and you accumulate enough resources, dropping him into play becomes much easier. And even in the event he is countered, he stills destroys a permanent – and that’s the point of his inclusion.
For many years, especially when players wanted to try and break Transmute Artifact, people tried finding ways to get two blue mana onto the battlefield in order to combo out. This is under the exact same pretense in that we want to get to two blue mana in order to fire out a Power Artifact or Jace early in the game. This kind of advantage prohibits an opponent from having the ability to do anything relevant the first two turns in order to try and interact with you in the event you can combo out. That’s precisely what this deck wants to do: to keep an opponent on their heels early and often and give them the impression you will annihilate them before they even know it. That’s where these two lands enter the equation.
Skerry is a card from the Masques cycle of lands that add two mana of a specific color to your mana pool, but enters the battlefield tapped and with two counters. This becomes only slightly relevant in a prohibitive way because you can’t cast anything turn one. However, in a hand that begs for mana early, this becomes an incredibly powerful play setting up your turn two spells. If you play Skerry turn one and then drop a Tomb turn two, you then have the ability to do one of many things:
- You can cast a Jace.
- You can cast both Grim Monolith and Power Artifact.
- You can Ponder or Brainstorm and then cast Show and Tell.
- You can Show and Tell with mana to pay for Daze.
Assuming you are running some good sideboard cards that strategically work to your advantage, Skerry becomes just that much better. As I mentioned, the basic idea in this deck is to power out cards early and often. The card gives you double-blue mana, which is perfect for what we’re looking for. It enables the turn-two win, and it’s too good to pass up.
The same is true for Svyelunite Temple – the oft-forgotten Fallen Empires land that essentially performs the exact same way Skerry does. The only difference here is that in the match-ups where you can afford to wait a turn without doing anything, playing a Temple turn one is just fine because it stays in play and adds blue mana to our mana pool. It supplants the basic strategy which is why we’re running a pair to enable the broken starts. We have enough basic lands and fetches to cast other things turn one or two, but it doesn’t really change the fact this is a critical component for early-game shenanigans.
Okay, so we have a general idea how the deck operates and some of the card choices that make the deck work. Taking all of this into consideration, let’s look at some of the cards that didn’t make the cut in this particular list but are still incredibly viable options.
Sensei’s Divining Top
Top in this deck I think would be really good with the amount of fetches we’re playing and the extra-added bonus of possibly playing Counterbalance post-board. Not only does it help smooth out our draws, it also works very nicely off of turn-one Tombs, one of my favorite plays in any deck running Top and Tomb together. I just think that the intense nature of pumping mana into it early makes it more of a liability and less of a necessity with Wasteland being prevalent as it is. We want to push our mana into key spells and leave the filtering to cards like Ponder, Jace and Brainstorm with fetches.
Top is definitely not a “bad” choice, but is it worth the slots in this deck? I’m not so sure.
Additional filtering is incredibly important and Preordain fits that bill nicely. I had slots reserved for this card earlier on in the deck’s initial conception, but over time wound up cutting them down to two and then one and then out. If you think it’s worth running then by all means try it out, but with the deck tight as it is, I’m not so sure we want to run any more than one or two max. A lot of combo decks max out on the filter and draw, but realistically we don’t want to overdo it with our power-plays saturating our early game as it is.
If we’re keeping a hand predicated on primarily filtering (which is likely with potentially twelve of these types of cards), we’re setting up for a turn or two later than we normally would in possibly going off. This might be the safer line of play, but it’s entirely objective. If you feel more is the right call, by all means go for it.
Spell Pierce and Flusterstorm
Given the incredible amount of mana this deck can churn out, Spell Pierce is a card that seems better suited to the sideboard as opposed to the main-deck here. We can just win before an opponent has a chance to do anything relevant and protect our investments with free counter-magic in Force and Misdirection. In the event we run into a counter-heavy meta, we have the ability to run more in the main and side if we so choose.
I just don’t know if playing more than six protection spells are necessary at this point. The same is effectively true for Flusterstorm, which shines in some match-ups more than Spell Pierce. It’s really up to you if you choose to play them; I personally think both are fine.
More Sol Lands
I did have a full complement of Sol-lands in this deck previously but wound up crafting the list to a configuration that worked for me. If you want to go all-out with more of these types of land by all means go for it. For right now, I just see the configuration working nicely as it does.
Staff of Domination
Speaking of Power Artifact, how about this card used with it? After trying it out for a long time, it worked as a nice alternate win condition with infinite mana in being able to draw your deck. I’m kind of on the fence about it though, so I’m not sure if it’s worth playing as anything more as a one-of. I might switch back to one in the main, but I’m 50-50 on it at this point.
This is likely the one card that if I could make room for (which is possible), I would play one or maybe two as a catch-all “Tutor.” Is Intuition worth running here? I honestly think it might very well be. I am working it back into the list as we speak, but as of right now I don’t have it in the one provided. It gets whatever we need, whenever we need it and that’s very important.
There are plenty more cards to look at as potential suitors for slots, but this particular list has been testing nicely. Blue as a color in Magic has been scrutinized for years because of its powerful permission and ability to filter and draw cards far more than any other color in the game. There are, however, untapped (no pun intended) blue resources that most people have dismissed as either obsolete or not viable in Legacy today. Who are they to say that rogue strategy isn’t viable? Look folks, if you know the ins and outs of your deck and carefully craft your deck with a great deal of thought and enthusiasm then you’re setting yourself up for success, even in the face of failure.
Is this a dedicated Power Artifact deck? It’s hard to say. You’ve got win-conditions in Emrakul and Jace, so I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily one in the strictest sense. But that’s what makes it viable in that it’s not solely trying to win in one particular way. There may even be times where you’ll hard-cast an Emrakul with the absurd amount of extra mana you’ll produce in the course of the mid to late game. Show and Tell is here in all its broken glory, and like I said I know that it’s arguably the hardest card to play in this deck at the most critical of times. You can and should consider dropping Power Artifact into play off of it when an opponent clearly has the hate setup for the Emrakul, but when they see that you would prefer to actually cast Emrakul instead of “cheating” it into play the old-fashioned way, your opponent might just have to stop and scratch their head and wonder “How the heck did that just happen?” as you take your extra turn and annihilate them into oblivion.
Remember: it’s not always the biggest play that wins games – it’s sometimes the smallest plays with the most amount of thought.