As you are all probably aware Core Set 2019 preview season is well underway, and it looks like M19 is shaping up to be the triumphant return of the yearly core set we were all hoping it would be. Amazing reprints like Crucible of Worlds and Scapeshift, tribal support for elves, goblins and knights, not to mention the return of the classic Elder Dragons in all new forms has grabbed the attention of the community and pulled everyone aboard the hype train. While we have still to see what else the set has to offer, we here at Master of Magics have already been hard at work brewing new and exciting decks.
While we will be waiting until all the cards are spoiled before we delve into what the new Standard has to offer, today I’ll be looking at one card I want to try out in Modern. While it might not be the flashiest card from M19, it harkens back to one of my favourite cards of M15 and a strategy that made it to the finals of a Pro Tour. Yes, today we will be brewing with the spiritual successor to Ensoul Artifact, Skilled Animator.
For those of you not in the know ‘ensouling’ is an effect where one of your artifacts is transformed into a 5/5 creature, which you then use to beat down your opponent’s life total. This usually happens very early on in the game and if your opponent doesn’t have a removal spell handy, the game can be over very quickly. Apart from a few Tezzeret loyalty abilities there are currently two ‘ensoul’ effects that are available in Modern, Ensoul Artifact and Tezzeret’s Touch. However, when M19 drops in a few weeks we will get another ‘ensoul’ effect and this one is on a stick.
Skilled Animator is a 1/3 human artificer for two and a blue that allows us to run twelve copies of this ability, more than enough to be a consistent strategy. While there is always the risk of a rouge removal spell ruining our day, the idea of smashing face with a 5/5 as early as turn two is just two tempting to pass up. And yes, with this deck beating in on turn two is a very real possibility.
Obviously, we will be running full playsets of Ensoul Artifact, Tezzeret’s Touch and Skilled Animator in order to make sure we can animate an artifact asap. But we also need to make sure we have the cards to ‘ensoul’. Luckily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, as there is already a well-known deck in Modern we can use as a shell for our brew. Affinity is the quintessential artefact deck in the Modern format and provides a great base for our build. In fact we get to run many of the fun and exciting cards from the original build, only making cuts to a few cards that don’t really help our strategy. Rather than breaking down the deck into creatures, non-creatures and lands like I usually do, I am instead going to cover the different aspects of the deck and how they work with our strategy.
First off, we have our mana creation. If we want to be attacking from turn two onwards we need to make sure we have the mana to cast one of our ‘ensoul’ effects. Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum with a turn one Memnite or Ornithopter help support our land package (including Spire of Industry and Glimmervoid) to give us access to all the fast mana we should need.
Next, we need targets for our ‘ensouling’. While we could just use any of our available artifacts, not all metal is created equally. Ideally, we want to animate a Darksteel Relic or Darksteel Citadel as a 5/5 indestructible creature is very difficult to deal with if you don’t have a Path to Exile in hand. We could also use a Vault Skirge to pressure our opponent with a flying life linker, should we find ourselves in a race. You could even go for the superfast win with a 5/5 Inkmoth Nexus. Just pick the right tool for the job and watch as your opponent’s life total quickly evaporates.
Finally, we want to make sure if our primary win con is unavailable we have a backup. Luckily the rest of the deck closely resembles a traditional affinity deck and can win in much the same way. Memnite, Ornithopter and Signal Pest allow uses to flood the board with early game aggression, while Master of Etherium and Cranial Plating give us the means to force through damage. In stead of the usual Galvanic Blast I have gone for Fatal Push, simply because of the fact we are heavier in to Black than most affinity decks.
For the sideboard we have the usual answer cards. Hurkyl’s Recall and Metallic Rebuke to protect our board. Etched Champion and Spellskite in case our opponent is removal heavy, Dismember to handle larger threats and Walking Ballista sweeps up x/1’s. Thoughtseize to hand attack control and combo and Grafdigger’s Cage to take care of the graveyard.
2 Master of Etherium
4 Signal Pest
4 Vault Skirge
4 Skilled Animator
2 Darksteel Relic
4 Cranial Plating
4 Springleaf Drum
3 Mox Opal
2 Fatal Push
4 Ensoul Artifact
4 Tezzeret’s Touch
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Darksteel Citadel
2 Spire of Industry
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Walking Ballista
2 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Metallic Rebuke
2 Etched Champion
And there you have it, Blue/Black Ensoul for Modern. I personally love this deck, and if I can source the cards for MTGO would like to put it through its paces in a competitive league. But what do you think of the deck? Is this the kind of brew that floats your boat? What other cards from M19 are you looking forward to brewing with? Why not let us know about it in the comments below, and while you’re there subscribe to the site to stay up to date with all the going on’ here at Master of Magics. But until next time remember, Good Luck and Have Fun.