s artifacts have become just as important as the other card types (a process that began in earnest in the Fall of 2003 with Mirrodin block), we as Magic players have seen the "artifact versions" of casual staples printed and used in various ways. Verduran Enchantress got a metal-based face lift for its counterpart Vedalken Archmage. Kismet was reduced in cost by one and received the colorless treatment to become Orb of Dreams. You get the picture.
Now it's 2009 (I know I'm still wrapping my head around it.) However, you'd think by now we might have an artifact version of the Timmy staple Elvish Piper. The closest that we've come on that front is the lowly Copper Gnomes, which isn't repeatable, unlike the consistent Piper.
A simple color-shift to blue and replacing the word "creature" with "artifact" might be cool, but maybe not preview week cool, am I right? This is the first week of Conflux previews, baby! There needs to be some real spice to these cards. Just look at Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, whose every ability is thoroughly insane. Take a gander at Progenitus, who signals two firsts for Magic (first mana cost with more than seven colored symbols, and first "protection from everything" (which is awesome, by the way!)). And, this is the Johnny column, after all, so this metal Piper needs something more. Perhaps a drawback? An advantage? The line between the two is a bit blurry when you crack open a Conflux pack, sift to this rare, and have your combo-seeking mind explode.
And here's the official FAQ on this baby.
Conflux FAQ: Master Transmuter
Returning an artifact you control to its owner's hand is part of the cost of Master Transmuter's activated ability. Paying a cost can't be responded to (with Naturalize, for example).
Since Master Transmuter is an artifact, you may return Master Transmuter itself to your hand. If you do, the rest of the ability will still work normally.
The artifact card you put into play when the ability resolves may be the same card that you returned to your hand when you paid the cost. If so, it returns to play as a new object with no relation to its previous existence.
Make sure to read those rules closely as Master Transmuter, despite its awesomeness, can be a little confusing. Pay especially close attention to that third entry in this FAQ, as most of today's decks revolve around that loophole ... I mean, rules quirk.
Master Transmuter screams broken so loud a five-star repairman halfway around the world will faintly hear her and wake up, thinking he was having a nightmare about something unfixable. (The horror!) By forcing a bounce of one of your own artifacts to your hand, Master Transmuter is ripe with synergies and flat-out combos. Of course, it's not broken to an instantly game-altering extent, but you have to admit the Transmuter has serious skills.
Before we get to some decks and such, I want to take a paragraph and discuss Master Transmuter's iridescent art. That is some spindly filigree! Of course, this art—clearly an Esper card—was revealed in the web site's new Multiverse section before Shards of Alara card previews even began, then didn't show up in Shards. Mystery solved! I like how the in-art "transmuting" of two artifacts forms the infinity sign, as there are surely some infinite combos out there that involve Master Transmuter. I might even be talking out some of them .... Hang on, guys! Let's follow the precedent set and build up to the finale.
Straightforward ... Maybe?
When dealing with an open-ended card such as Master Transmuter, it's helpful to start with the easy path and progress to the more complex strategies. To begin, let's go back to Master Transmuter's elvish ancestor, Elvish Piper. Something fun and interesting that the Piper does is, well, pop big creatures into play.
So, I began looking for a suitable fatty to "pipe" into play with Master Transmuter. Taking into account the bouncing opportunities that the Transmuter provides, I narrowed my search to fatties with either comes into play effects or leaves play effects. On a similar but different tangent, I also began searching for plain old artifacts with useful comes into play abilities.
On top of this, I was trying to work out my support cards. I knew I wanted to get the Master Transmuter online as soon as possible, so I mentally considered Etherium Sculptor and Vedalken Engineer as creatures to accelerate into Transmuting. I also knew I definitely needed to use artifact lands. In a pinch, they could be bouncing fodder for the Transmuter, and if I happened to get land-flooded, I could put multiple lands into play from my hand without violating the "one land per turn" rule.
All these restrictions suddenly added up in my head, and I found the perfect artifact creature to pop into play over and over again: Sundering Titan.
With both a "comes into play" effect and a "leaves play" effect, tacked onto a 7/10 body, Sundering Titan is the ideal fat guy to be masterfully transmuted into play. But let's actually look at these effects. Since the Titan specifically destroys only basic lands, your numerous artifact lands will survive unscathed. If your opponent is, say, playing a two-color deck (not that unlikely), by bouncing and popping into play of Sundering Titan (which you can do, according to the FAQ above) you could destroy four lands. And in these soon-to-be domain-heavy times, where five-color decks may be returning to the Magic forefront with a vengeance, smiting five lands in one go with a Sundering Titan is a crushing blow to your opponent.
Here's another path to victory: playing and replaying Jester's Scepter. It's a bit slower, but milling five cards a turn (plus your opponent's draw of one every turn) adds up quickly.
Controlling the board is also a priority. Bouncing and popping Duplicant into play can clear away (and copy) any creatures that pose a problem. War Barge becomes a kooky, ", tap: Target creature gains islandwalk. Then destroy it."
An amazing creature to pop into play with Master Transmuter is Epochrasite. It will gain the three +1/+1 counters immediately. This can be confusing, but you never played it from your hand; it was put into play from your hand. The former implies actually spending the appropriate mana to play the spell. It's a subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless.
Besides Sundering Titan, there are other fine metal fatties to transmute into play. Consider Triskelion, which debuted alongside Tetravus, which inspired Pentavus, all of which definitely inspired Triskelavus. Burn all their +1/+1 counters away for various effects, then bounce and replay them with Master Transmuter. You've basically just clicked Refresh.
Serum Tank can build up crazy amounts of charge counters with all the bouncing, and it can refill your hand with more tasty artifacts. Mana artifacts, such as the Mirrodin Talismans or the Ravnica block signets, are great as either bouncing fodder or just acceleration material (the best of these, I'd say, is the mighty Coalition Relic). A card from the Conflux Visual Spoiler on the minisite, which debuted last week, Esperzoa, could possibly be a powerhouse here, with even more bouncing attached to a 4/3 body.
Here's the deck. I've outlined a ton of routes you could take with this, which explains the multitude of one-ofs. Consider it friendly incentive for you guys to shape it into something you might like better.
Darksteel Garrison is there to make some of your Islands indestructible in case a Titan hits them. Meanwhile, Umbral Mantle equipped to Master Transmuter doubles your artifact bouncing rate for each you might have. Of course, there are numerous cards to add to the deck, or numbers to shore up. Go all out with Jester's Scepter. Try to work some of the Fifth Dawn Stations into the deck. Lose the one-ofs and experiment with Mishra, Artificer Prodigy, who is strangely Grixis-colored for such an Esperian ability. Hey, he's freaking Mishra. He does what he wants.
No, I'm not talking about the dreadful Sacramento Kings. I'm talking about the Standard possibilities of playing Master Transmuter alongside the Scarecrow tribe. The real inspiration for doing came dually from two all-star Shadowmoor cornfield stalkers. Grim Poppet seems like a great artifact to bounce and replay, as it turns Master Transmuter into a Puncture Blast on a stick. Reaper King, meanwhile, is prone to casting Vindicate every time a Scarecrow comes into play. With all the masterful transmuting, advise your opponent to say goodbye to their best permanents.
Which other Scarecrows to use? Scuttlemutt is an automatic four-of, but apart from him, most of the Scarecrows are decent enough together that you can customize your own mix. I personally take a shine to underused cards, so I'll go with Wicker Warcrawler. It definitely qualifies as a fatty, and if it gets saddled with too many -1/-1 counters, give it a transmutation to wax it brand-new. Scarecrone is the second Scarecrow lord of sorts, and Pili-Pala is cheap and fixes your colors of mana. Name blue with Lurebound Scarecrow for some cheap fat. (Turn-three Etherium Sculptor, Turn-four double Lurebound Scarecrow? Risky, but pretty cool.)
This deck wants to be Scarecraggro, so I added the favorite weapon of the citizens of Bant: Sigil of Distinction. After a while, when most of its charge counters have worn away in battle, you can return it to your hand with the Transmuter. However, do not choose the Sigil to return to play, as it will henceforth have zero charge counters. Choose to pop a random Scarecrow into play, then replay the Sigil the old-fashioned way.
Support cards round out this deck, as well as a fun singleton: Lich's Mirror. Imagine this: you're on the brink of losing, and you have an untapped Master Transmuter in play. During the lethal combat step, Transmute the Mirror from your hand into play and snap a picture of your opponent's shocked face.
Don't Gild the Filigree
Infinite mana time. To those familiar with infinite mana engines, the pieces I'm using won't be too out of the ordinary. A cheap and repeatable way to untap Master Transmuter (Freed from the Real) and an artifact that taps for at least three blue mana (Gilded Lotus) are the ingredients for a massive tidal wave of blue mana.
For those unfamiliar with these pieces, here's the lowdown. Enchant Master Transmuter with Freed from the Real, so it can untap for . Have Gilded Lotus in play. Tap the Lotus for . Spend to bounce and pop the Lotus back into play (untapped). Repeat, gaining a profit of every time. Funnel it all through Goblin Cannon for the victory. (Remember, you can stack Goblin Cannon triggers to deal 20 or more damage with it.) For alternate funneling, use Dimir Guildmage's first ability and keep targeting your opponent until he or she is decked.
I picked out Silent Arbiter as one of those artifacts that could severely hurt your opponent's game plan, for a Transmuter target. "Piping" it into play in the beginning of combat step is great against weenie rush decks. For those decks that have one big finisher, Trip Noose can keep you alive. Master Transmuter can switch the two at a moment's notice, so you should be defended. Drift of Phantasms is a "Wall" that can transmute (hah!) for Freed from the Real or Fabricate, which can find the missing combo piece.
I hope you enjoyed this look at Conflux. I'll see you all next week, sans preview (sad face) but un-sans wackiness (happy face!) I'm absolutely sure I missed a ton of nifty ideas and combos with Master Transmuter (so ... many ... possibilities), so be sure to send them in!