Monday, November 29, 2010

Gotta Catch Em All (SoM Deck Archetypes) # 2 - "R/W Metalcraft Primer"

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  For those of you just joining us this is part 2 in an ongoing series of articles about deck archetypes in SoM booster draft.  Last time we looked at most popular deck in the format; B/G Infect.  This time let's take a look at the *other* most popular deck in SoM booster draft; R/W Metalcraft.  If Infect is the "Coca-Cola" of this format than this deck is almost certainly it's "Pepsi".

Red/White Metalcraft

Description:  Only marginally harder to draft/play than Infect the secret to R/W Metalcraft's success is very simple; access to to ridiculous amounts of cheap and effective removal.  Between these two colors there are 5 excellent removal spells in the common slot alone; Shatter, Revoke Existence, Arrest, Galvanic Blast and Turn the Slag.  This combines seamlessly with cheap flyers and some of the best colored artifact enablers (Myrsmith/Embersmith, Razor Hippogriff) and Metalcraft cards (Galvanic Blast, Dispense Justice) in the format to create a very formidable deck archetype.  To my knowledge there has never been a time in the history of Magic where swarming your opponent with cheap creatures while killing all of his "mans" has been a bad idea; this format is no exception.

Key Cards:  One of the first things I noticed about drafting this deck is that both Red and White are so deep in SoM packs that you will invariably draft more playable colored cards than you can possibly run in a single deck.  Additionally the value of these cards goes way up or down depending on the artifact density of your build; the best cards for a 12 artifact deck are at least somewhat different than the best cards for an 18 artifact build.  For the purposes of this article let's assume we're talking about a deck with a high density of artifacts (15-18), later on we'll discuss more traditional R/W aggro in it's own article.

Top commons in this archetype include the previously mentioned 5 removal spells (Shatter, Revoke Existence, Galvanic Blast, Arrest and Turn to Slag) and the ever popular Tumble Magnet.  Cheap flyers are also very important in this build; especially Glint Hawks, Glint Hawk Idols, Snapsail Gliders and in some decks the Auriok Sunchaser.  Additionally like most metalcraft decks on-color mana Myr provide extra value as artifacts in this archetype while still helping you accelerate your mana production.  In terms of "groundpounders" Chrome Steed, Origin Spellbomb, Perilous Myr, Vulshok Replica and with the right equipment Sunspear Shikari are all excellent "mans" to draft onto your team.  Regardless of how many Shikari's you have R/W makes excellent use of Sylvok Lifestaff, Strider Harness and even Accorder's Sheild; which can be used to "turn on" Metalcraft cards more quickly than expected.

While the commons in this deck-type are strong it's the never-ending "Hit Parade" of Uncommons that really push R/W Metalcraft over the top.  As far as removal spells go, Arc Trail is probably the single best card in the format and I'll rarely take anything that isn't worth a significant amount of money over it in pack 1.  Dispense Justice is also a fine spell and certainly stronger than many experts have declared it during early set reviews.  Contagion Clasp and Trigon of Corruption are also very strong in this archetype; particularly when combined with Glint Hawk.  In terms of uncommon creatures however this deck enjoys an embarrassment of riches; Glimmerpoint Stag, Razor Hippogriff, Myrsmith, Embersmith, Oxidda Scrapmelter, Golem Artisan, Rusted Relic, Necropede, Palladium Myr and Rust Tick all blend perfectly into this design.  Finally of course no weenie rush Metacraft deck will be hurt by the inclusion of power boosting artifacts like Darksteel Axe, Barbed Battlegear or Trigon of Rage.

As far as rares go you'd almost be better off asking what *doesn't* work well in R/W Metalcraft.  I'm particularly fond of cards like Tempered Steel, Kuldotha Phoenix, Darksteel Juggernaut and Indomitable Archangel but those are really just the "Metalcraft" specific rares that work well in the deck.  Other possible options include Elspeth Tirel, Koth of the Hammer, Precursor Golem, Sword of Body and Mind, Kemba Kha Regent, Sunblast Angel, Nim Deathmantle True Conviction, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Spikeshot Elder, Wurmcoil Engine, Strata Scythe, Steel Hellkite, Myr Battlesphere, Molten Tail Masticore, Mimic Vat, Livewire Lash and Etched Champion.  As you can see there's simply no shortage of strong rares this archetype could play.

Over-rated Options:  In a perfect world you want your Metalcraft cards to be both artifacts themselves and useful even when you don't have Metalcraft.  Of course this ideal is rarely achieved but when a card meets neither criteria I think it's fair to suggest it might be over-rated.  White is particularly guilty of this with Auriok Sunchaser and Ghalma's Warden both being fairly uninspiring/overcosted without metalcraft.  In the case of the Sunchaser you could even suggest that she's worthless without 3 artifacts in play.  While not quite as bad, Auriok Edgewright is certainly overcosted at WW until he gets double strike.  On the opposite side of the coin cards that serve *only* to help maintain Metalcraft aren't very good either; including Memnite, Liquidmetal Coating (unless you have eleventy billion Shatters), Vector Asp and Golden Urn.  Bloodshot Trainee is virtually worthless without a way to consistently increase his power to 4 when he flips into "broken" mode; draft accordingly and don't waste high picks "chasing the dream".  Barrage Ogre makes a fine "1 of" in this archetype but don't use him too early; it's hard to play R/W Metalcraft if you can't keep the keyword active because you're blowing up all your artifacts.  I personally do not consider Abuna Acolyte, Ogre Geargrabber, Darksteel Myr, or Infiltration Lens to be playable cards in this build even though I have often seen people include them.  In terms of rares I typically see Myr Propogator, Prototype Portal, Lux Cannon, Kuldotha Forgemaster, Argentum Armor and Cerebral Eruption drafted far too early.  While these cards have some value in this archetype they are rarely going to be worth the picks you'll have to spend to get them; take Scrapmelters and Hippogriffs and let your opponents overdraft these marginal rares.  

How does it Win?:  While the sheer # of playable cards in this archetype ensure a certain amount of deck variety the typical strategy for a R/W Metalcraft deck remains pretty consistent.  In the early game the deck spills out fast/cheap creatures and works towards achieving Metalcraft.  While doing so the R/W player will also press the attack, using spot removal to deal with dangerous enemy creatures.  This ensures that once Metalcraft status is achieved your opponent is already behind the clock and is now facing down a significantly larger/more dangerous army.   While this is typically enough to finish most opponents it's not unusual for this archetype to struggle against enemy control decks.  To combat this it's important to have a couple or larger "bomb" type cards; something to kick the final enemy walls down just when your opponent thinks he has stabilized.

Back-Half All Stars:  While it's certainly harder to find late pack values when you're drafting the most popular deck in the format, there are still a few cards that excel in this archetype which nobody else seems to want.  Flameborn Hellion is an excellent example; as a 5/4 colored creature with Haste this card functions as a poor man's finishing "bomb" and yet it's often available as late as 12th or 13th in a pack.  Blade-Tribe Berserkers will often hang around in packs as late as 9th or 10th pick while vastly inferior artifacts are selected all around it.  Even the lowly Auriok Replica finds a home here; helping you achieve Metalcraft, win aggro races and even counteract the effects of a game winning Untamed Might against an Infect deck.  It's hard to argue with that much value out of a card you can pick 8th-12th at most draft tables.  Finally of course there's my homeboy; the Saberclaw Golem.  While a 4/2 artifact body for 5 mana isn't very exciting the ability to create a combat dominating monster by giving it First Strike for 1 red mana certainly is.  There is no way this card should be available after pick 8 and yet it consistently is.

Overall Rating:  Fast, aggressive, easy to build and incredibly deep R/W Metacraft is without a doubt the single best deck to "force" in the format.  Even at a table heavily populated by other R/W drafters it's fairly easy to consistently build a strong deck.  With that having been noted however this archetype can be very vulnerable to Control decks without some late game bombs and generally the very best B/G Infect decks will defeat the very best R/W aggro decks.  As a result I can't possibly rate this deck higher than an 8 out 10, making it a perfect match for it's popular counterpart; B/G Infect.

Well ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our 1 page primer on R/W Metalcraft.  Next up we'll take a look at the last of decks I consider obvious "Frontrunners" here in SoM booster draft; U/W Skies.  Until then thanks as always for reading and remember folks; never ever pass a Red or White "X"smith.

1 comment:

  1. In the interests of completeness here is the list for probably the best R/W Metalcraft deck I've drafted so far. It was a 10 person draft and I went 3-0 (6-1) to win it. My first picks were Koldotha Phoenix, Galvanic Blast and Oxidda Scrapmelter in packs 1,2 and 3 respectvely. Everything else was passed; really. As usual this list is sorted by type, casting cost and title in the order of Creatures, Spells and Lands.

    1x Embersmith
    1x Gold Myr
    1x Iron Myr
    1x Leaden Myr
    1x Myrsmith
    1x Perilous Myr
    1x Silver Myr
    1x Auriok Replica
    1x Myr Galvanizer
    1x Snapsail Glider
    1x Vulshok Replica
    1x Chrome Steed
    1x Oxidda Scrapmelter
    1x Barrage Ogre
    1x Kuldotha Phoenix
    1x Myr Battlesphere

    3x Galvanic Blast
    1x Origin Spellbomb
    1x Glint Hawk Idol
    1x Livewire Lash
    1x Arrest
    1x Tumble Magnet

    9x Mountain
    7x Plains

    While I'm not overltly happy with only 14 artifacts for such a "Metal" orientated deck the truth is Myrsmith and Myr Battlesphere pretty much made the point moot. Obviously milage may vary; I've played R/W about 25 times here in SoM draft and I've never drafted anything as broke as this before or since.