Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gotta Catch Em All (SoM Deck Archetypes) # 9 - "G/W Metalcraft Primer"

Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Hopefully you've all been well the past couple days; I personally have been *trapped* at work being *forced* to playtest Standard decks all day (the horror!).  When we last left off we finished the 8th installment of our series about deck archetypes in SoM booster draft; "Gotta Catch Em All".  Let's jump right back into the mix by looking at one of the most basic but effective aggro decks in the format; G/W Metalcraft.  While less popular than some of the other "flashier" Metalcraft decks this archetype is both very aggressive and resilient; it's also much easier to draft.  Green based Metalcraft-ish cards are considerably easier to come by than Red ones for example and most of the time I end of playing this deck it's because I notice Green is "open" after I load up early on good White/artifact cards. 

Description:  Despite being the unwanted stepchild by comparison to the other Metalcraft decks available in SoM drafts, G/W is actually an incredibly powerful choice when built properly.  Combining cheap White flyers and removal with fat Green monsters has always been pretty effective in draft and both colors synergize well with SoM's artifact theme.  Typically this archetype will start the aggro rush early with White based flyers and then crash in for 4-8 damage at a time once it's Metalcraft enhanced ground forces spring into action.  It's awfully hard to outrace a seemingly infinite army of 4/4 "beatsticks" when you've already taken 4-6 damage in the air.  Like most good Metalcraft decks in the format this archetype is extremely dependent on drafting and playing a significant number of artifacts; often you'll only have room for 10-11 colored cards in total!  As a side note I have also seen G/R Metalcraft versions of this deck that are functionally quite similar; simply swapping White removal for Red.  This variation seems less common however; likely owing to both the popularity of G/R Dinosaurs and the recent mass over-drafting of Red that's been a trend for SoM in general.    

Key Cards:  One of the most frustrating aspects of playing *any* Metalcraft based deck in this format is managing the "artifact" vs "non-artifact but broken Metalcraft card" ratio in the build.  Both Green and White have strong common cards that become downright broken when you have 3 artifacts in play and the tendency will be to over-value these cards when you should be drafting artifacts.  Always remember folks; 10 artifacts and 1 Carapace Forger/Auriok Sunchaser/Ghalma's Warden is the basis of a draft deck .  10 Forgers/Sunchasers/Wardens and 1 artifact however is the basis of an impending train wreck.  

Once again the top commons in this build are all pretty much removal cards; Arrest, Sylvok Replica and Revoke Existence are all high quality 1st-3rd type picks.  You won't be passed these cards very often so if you want them it's probably wise to take them early.  As regular readers of my column already know I think Glint Hawk Idol is one of the best commons in the entire set if you're running some Plains to activate it.  In a White based Metalcraft deck however this card goes from "great" to "unfreaking-believable" and should be drafted accordingly.  It's also pretty hard to go wrong with either on-color mana Myr in virtually any Metalcraft deck; in a format that values both mana acceleration and having artifacts in play these cards are almost never "dead".  Other strong common artifacts in this build include Perilous Myr, Origin Spellbomb, Accorder's Shield, Chrome Steed, Tumble Magnet, Snapsail Glider and Sylvok Lifestaff.  Green is noticeably thin at the common slot due to Infect; the only cards we really want here are Alpha Tyrranax, Carapace Forger or Molder Beast and even then we don't want too many copies.  White is marginally better; Glint Hawk is amazing is you have enough cheap/reloadable artifacts.  Ditto for Sunspear Shikari and Equipment.  While I'm not a *huge* fan of Ghalma's Warden in the right version of this archetype it can make a strong "1 of" and it's still a 2/4 blocker even when you don't have Metalcraft active.

Breaking with tradition I feel the absolute best uncommon for this archetype isn't another removal spell, it's the borderline ridiculous Metalcraft enabling Myrsmith.  When played early enough in a good deck this little lady can turn Metalcraft from an "important mid-game objective" to "a foregone conclusion" in a matter of turns.  She also makes it possible to cheat a couple more on-color cards into your deck simply by promising a small army of 1/1 artifact Myr whenever she's in play.  Of course your opponent can always kill the Myrsmith and in fact he probably *has* to simply to avoid losing the game; she's that powerful in this archetype.  Once you're sure the pack is all out of Myrsmiths things go back to normal; removal spells like Dispense Justice and the criminally under-rated Slice in Twain are always high picks in these colors for example.  I also tend to value artifacts that feature removal/control effects quite highly in this archetype; Rust Tick, Necropede, Contagion Clasp and Trigon of Corruption are all excellent cards in an aggressive Metalcraft build.  Other top uncommon artifacts in this deck include Rusted Relic, Palladium Myr, Golem Artisan, Barbed Battlegear, Trigon of Rage and Darksteel Axe.  Assuming you have enough Myr or a Myrsmith, Myr Galvanizer can be a very powerful "plan B"; as can sacrificing some of those chump blocking Myr tokens to a Culling Dias.  In terms of colored cards I'm fond of Razor Hippogriff,  Belllowing Tanglewurm, Tangle Angler, Glimmerpoint Stag and Acid Web Spider; albeit again only in the right artifact/non-artifact ratios.  This shouldn't be a huge problem as most of these cards are early picks for other deck archetypes; it would be hard to draft enough copies of these cards to threaten your status as a Metalcraft deck.

While it's generally true that most of the rare cards in SoM are very strong in booster draft there are actually several Green rares I don't recommend running in this build.  Putrefax, Ezuri Renegade Leader, Genesis Wave and Asceticism all come to mind as good rares "for someone else to play".  I'm also not overtly fond of Leonin Arbiter in White and artifact rares like Platinum Emperion, Tower of Calamities, Venser's Journal, Grindclock, Lux Cannon, Mindslaver, or Myr Propagator.  Aside from these obvious low-synergy choices this deck is open to exploiting an absolutely huge number of solid Green, White and artifact rares in this set.  In terms of "on-theme" rares however some of my favorites include Indomitable Archangel, Ezuri's Brigade, Kuldotha Forgemaster (especially w/ Myrsmith tokens!), Tempered Steel, Precursor Golem, Darksteel Juggernaut and Myr Battlesphere.  While I've never been personally fond of the card I've been on the receiving end of a beating from a G/W Metalcraft deck that cast a Prototype Portal and imprinted an Origin Spellbomb under it.  I'd already used up my Shatter by then and my opponent proceeded to make a mockery of our game by spitting out 1/1 tokens and drawing extra cards every single turn.  Of course as "cute" as the above cards are there's really no replacing raw power; Sunblast Angel, Contagion Engine, Liege of the Tangle, Elspeth Tirel, the list goes on and on.  Don't ever let the "theme" of your deck keep you from playing a "bomb" rare that just doesn't fit; winning the game is still the ultimate goal even if you'd *rather* do so in style.

Over-rated Options:  I am often astounded when I see drafters running 8-10 colored cards with the word Metalcraft written on them in decks that also contain multiple on-color removal effects.  This is especially true of White cards like Auriok Sunchaser and Auriok Edgewright because they're simply over-costed for what they do without active Metalcraft status.  While Carapace Forger and Ghalma's Warden are marginally better the truth is that people over-rate and typically over-draft all 4 of these cards; at best you'll want 1-3 of the better ones (Forger, Warden).  Alternately there is almost nothing that would make me main-deck cards like Abuna Shaman, Trigon of Infestation, Lifesmith or Darksteel Myr despite all of them being at least reasonable Sideboard cards.  Horizon Spellbomb is generally less useful here than in other green decks unless you have a bunch of giant monsters you want to cast; sacrificing artifacts for land is a tricky way to go about establishing Metalcraft after all.  While reasonably strong in an Infect archetype I don't think Heavy Arbalest or Strider Harness work all that well here despite being artifacts for your Metalcraft count.  While I *might* be tempted to draft a Memnite around pick 7 or 8 if I had a very fast Metalcraft based aggro deck in the works; generally this card is horribly over-rated and will be snatched out of packs by pick 5ish.  Don't believe the hype, if you're looking for a creature *just* to trigger Metalcraft the Vector Asp is basically the same card and can be drafted around picks 12-13 fairly consistently.  Finally I try to avoid questionable "bomb" artifact creatures like Darksteel Sentinel and Etched Champion in this build; the simple truth is that neither card is all that great to begin with and the other creatures in this archetype are simply bigger/better.

How Does it Win?:  Like most aggro decks G/W Metalcraft seeks to flood the board with cheap aggressive creatures and establish an early beatdown strategy.  Unlike most aggro decks however this archetype is designed to switch into "Beadown with Fatties" mode in the mid game once it achieves Metalcraft status.  Usually this forces the opponent into a war of attrition he can't win; forcing him to sacrifice weenie after weenie to avoid "4 beats" to the head while absorbing incidental damage from any flyers you played earlier.  Throw in efficient removal options like Arrest and Sylvok Replica and you end up with a formidable "mid-range" deck that periodically blows people out of the water on the "nuts" Metalcraft draw.

Back-Half All Stars:  As previously mentioned the only people at a draft table that should really want a card like Carapace Forger are G/X Metalcraft players; unfortunately this doesn't always work out as many new players vastly over-rate this card.  At a table of experienced drafters however I've seen the Forger slide as late as picks 8-11 and if you can get him there he's an incredible value pick. Additionally most Metalcraft decks will get excellent value out of Wall of Tanglecord; both clogging up early enemy attacks and still simultaneously helping you achieve "MC" status.  In a deck with forests however the Wall is even stronger; there aren't many flyers that can deal with a 0/6 defender with Reach after all.  Although it seems like people are starting to catch on you can *still* typically get Wall of Tanglecords around pick 10-11ish in my experience.  Late pick Ghalma's Wardens and Kemba Skyguards can both be useful in this archetype provided they aren't taking the place of an artifact in any way; both of these cards are frequently draftable between picks 10-13.  The ultimate value pick in this archetype however is probably the Vector Asp; you certainly don't want to run a whole pile of these guys but when you're scrambling for a late pack way to hit your "metal" vs "not" ratios you could do way worse than a 1/1 for 1.  Best of all I've literally been passed a Vector Asp in favor of a basic land at pick 15 at least once in this format.  

Overall Rating:  While arguably one of the least "sexy" decks in the entire format there's simply no denying that G/W Metalcraft is remarkably effective.  This format is largely dominated by 3/3's for 4-5 and any deck that can go right over top of that to 4/4 and 5/5 Metalcraft enhanced beatsticks is going to be strong.  Alternately the deck can struggle against good removal and has a limited # of options against large on-color "Bomb" creatures (Arrest).  Also like most straightforward aggro decks G/W Metalcraft is designed to be in the lead for most of the game; if your opponent owns the board with faster/larger creatures this can sometimes lead to unwinnable games.  Despite these overall failings G/W Metalcraft is still one of the most aggressive and stable builds in the format.  It's also ridiculously easy to play well with few activated triggers and a bunch of "big numbers" cards.  I feel pretty safe calling this deck a 6 out of 10 overall with a note that it's played less often than it should be simply because it's a little boring.

Well folks that pretty much wraps up our 1 page primer on drafting/building G/W Metalcraft in Scars of Mirrodin booster drafts. As always I hope this information was useful to you and I'd like to thank ya'll for reading my blog.  As usually I'm behind at work and not feeling the greatest so don't panic if it takes me a couple days to put out the next article; I'm still planning on finishing *every* single decktype I've seen pop up  in triple SoM booster drafts.  Until next time remember to let someone else corner the market on Auriok Sunchasers and always keep it weird!

1 comment:

  1. So this is actually a deck I drafted about 3 weeks ago and just never got around to desleeving. I went 3-0 with it but every round went to 3 and to some degree I won as many games with Sunblast Angel as I did with anything that said "Metalcraft". The deck does have a ton of cards that work well with artifacts however so I'm happy enough providing it as an example:

    1x Glint Hawk
    2x Gold Myr
    1x Necropede
    2x Perilous Myr
    1x Silver Myr
    1x Wall of Tanglecord
    1x Myr Galvanizer
    1x Rust Tick
    1x Sylvok Replica
    1x Ezuri's Brigade
    1x Ghalma's Warden
    1x Bellowing Tanglewurm
    1x Acid Web Spider
    1x Darksteel Juggernaut
    1x Sunblast Angel

    1x Accorder's Shield
    1x Darksteel Axe
    1x Contagion Clasp
    1x Trigon of Rage
    1x Arrest
    1x Dispense Justice
    1x Tumble Magnet

    9x Forest
    7x Plains

    I was ACTIVELY looking for Carapace Forgers this draft but after seeing some early ones in the first pack they never tabled; oh well.