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Cube Archetypes: The Artifact Deck

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Casual Magic, Cube

Hello boys (and girls), I’m baaa-aack! It’s time for another Cube archetype cheat sheet!  Since we went with hyper-aggressive red last time, here is something significantly different:  The Artifact Deck! The artifact deck is most often blue-based, since it is a combo-control deck and those sorts of decks like doing things like drawing cards and countering spells, as well as having artifact interaction spells in the color.

The basic objective of the artifact deck is to assemble a collection of cards that can jump you ahead of the curve significantly, and use huge threats to close the game.  Those threats can be in a variety of forms, from Eldrazi to giant robots to Mindslaver lock and more!  One of the best things about the Artifact deck is that you get to customize it however you want based on the cards opened in Cube!  Let’s get started on how to draft this metal-based archetype! \m/ \m/

Note: These lists are by no means exhaustive; feel free to chime in with cards I may have missed!


(These are cards that can win the game single-handedly and/or could possibly pull you into the archetype)

Upheaval, Tinker, Metalworker, Goblin Welder, Tezzerets, Channel, Tolarian Academy. While all of these cards aren’t game-winners on their own, cards like Metalworker and Welder are going to set up your game-winning plays in this deck and should not be ignored.  While Upheaval, Tinker, and Channel fit into other decks (and should likely be first-picked accordingly), I believe they feature best in the Artifact Deck shell.  And if you haven’t gotten the memo on Upheaval yet (even though I and others have been beating this drum for years), here’s a brief tutorial on the three basic plays of Upheaval:

3 modes: Win, win, and maybe win!

Defensive: You are going to die if your opponent gets to untap.  You make him pick up everything instead, and start the game over.  Better than losing the game?  Yes.  Now imagine that you were able to float a mana or two because you had a signet in play, or maybe you already had the mana to play it without playing a land.  Now you are starting the game over with a 1-2 mana head start…pretty good, considering that you ideally dealt with some of their early cards that they won’t be able to re-cast.

Tempo-oriented: You are in the midgame, you aren’t dead by any means, and you have Upheaval in hand. You decide to float two to three mana, cast Upheaval, and then re-cast your two mana artifacts or creatures as well as make your land drop. Now you are a solid three to four turns ahead on development with your control deck, and winning shouldn’t be too difficult from there unless your hand was terrible pre-Ups and/or you draw tons of blanks afterwards.

Combo kill: Beyond the old-school Constructed play of ‘float mana/play Psychatog/kill you next turn’, any sort of ‘float mana play a bunch of cards/threats afterwards on an empty board’ play will get you there pretty easily. This is the easiest line of play to envision, and everything from ‘Upheaval/untap next turn with seven mana’ to ‘Upheaval/Lodestone Golem with countermagic backup’ is b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

TL; DR: Take Upheaval, it’s good.


(These cards are needed to make the deck go; they may not be the most powerful cards in your deck, but without them your deck will suffer greatly)

Its eyes DO look a bit … excited.

Mana rocks, mana rocks, and more mana rocks. Signets, Stones, Monoliths, Dynamos, Relics, Moxen, Lotuses … if it makes mana, it makes the deck.  They do so many important things: accelerate and fix your mana, turn on Tolarian Academy and Metalworker (not that way, sickos, but I can’t say for sure), give you fodder for Tinker and Goblin Welder, untap with Tezzeret the Seeker, turn into 5/5s with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas … you get the point. Other drafters will be snapping up the rocks, especially signets, so be sure to treat the mana rocks as Pokemon: Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

Also, be sure to pick up finishers for all of that mana that you will have/to find with Tinker or Welder or Tezzerets.  Artifact finishers work best since they can be put into play a number of ways and interact favorably with ‘artifact matters’ cards (Sundering Titan and Myr Battlesphere are good examples), but things like Eldrazi (likely snapped up by ramp decks) or big blue finishers work as well (Palinchron is a favorite of mine decks with Tolarian Academy decks due to the untap abuse).  Karn Liberated can be powered out to great effect as well as a finisher.

Sundering Titan is one of my favorite win conditions since he directly disrupts your opponent — sometimes cripplingly — which helps your win percentage well beyond having a 7/10 creature.  He is also just a completely debilitating Tinker target on early turns: I once put him in play on turn three after my opponent played a turn three Doran, the Siege Tower off of Plains + Swamp + Forest.  Shockingly, I won that one.

And the rest …

Draft ’em if you see ’em

Card drawing spells (especially Thirst for Knowledge), X-Spells (like Stroke of Genius, Braingeyser, or burn spells on the splash), and artifacts with a big upside for big mana like Memory Jar and Mindslaver (both abuse-able).  Academy Ruins should also be invaluable in any artifact deck, even more so if you have the previously abuse-able cards.  Lodestone Golem is also a nice addition, since he can attack/block as well as be a powerful disruptive element.

Make sure you have

Ways to stay alive that function well within the framework of the theme.  Cards like Icy Manipulator, Phyrexian Metamorph, Crystal Shard/Erratic Portal, and Tangle Wire (since you should have the same or more permanents) keep you alive and also fit into your plans.  Also be on the lookout for cards like Repulse, Repeal, Man-o’-War, and Sower of Temptation that can provide value while buying you time.  Countermagic is also a valuable part of any blue deck, and quite often necessary to protect your game plan and life total.  You won’t have room for the same amount as a typical blue control deck (as you’ll be prioritizing other things like artifacts), but you’ll definitely want to grab a few if possible.

Only a light dusting of

Artifact-based mass removal like Nevinyrral’s Disk or Oblivion Stone, while powerful, can undo a lot of your work by destroying your mana rocks.  However, removal is removal and ya gotta do whatcha gotta do.  It is what it is, so call a spade a spade and try not to blow up all your own stuff.

Stay away from

Worrying about a mana curve of creatures.  Be careful not to draft cheap-ish blue creatures that are supposed to attack or attacking-primary creatures like the Masticores, because they will likely be cut anyway in favor of keeping your deck engine running and you don’t want to be a bad tempo or skies deck.  An occasional Fettergeist can provide a nice blocker, but it isn’t a habit you want to form while drafting; too many cards like this in your deck likely means something went wrong.

Best splashes

White for Enlightened Tutor, Armageddon (if you have the rocks), and mass removal (but not Akroma’s Vengeance!), Red for x-spells and Wildfire/Burning of Xinye.

Note:  The Wildfire Deck is a very effective sub-archetype of the Artifact Deck, and it functions much in the same way, but instead of having Upheaval as a way to restart the game (well, it could have Upheaval too!), you have Wildfire(s).  This makes non-creature artifact mana even a higher priority (and lowers cards like Metalworker), as well as making sure your threats are 5+ toughness (or immune, like Karn Liberated).

Bad news bear

Cards you can likely loop

Oddly enough, a lot of your bombs: Goblin Welder (very powerful, but also very narrow), Metalworker (only in the artifact deck), expensive artifact creatures including stuff like Duplicant or Platinum Angel.

Cards to hate, if you’re into that sort of thing

Shockingly, anything that says ‘destroy’ and ‘artifact’: white stuff like Akroma’s Vengeance, Kataki, War’s Wage, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (who can REALLY throw off your entire game), and creatures like Uktabi Orangutan and Keldon/Manic Vandals that can be abused with entering play multiple times.

Good/bad matchups

Likely good matchups: Midrange decks without a ton of disruption, slower control decks. Likely bad matchups: Zoo-type decks with artifact destruction creatures, any aggressive deck with Thalia in play (heh), a Bant-type deck with light countermagic and lots of artifact destruction.

Sample decklist from a 10-man Survivor draft

This is the deck in which I played more of newly-anointed Magic R&D member Sam Stoddard’s turns than he did in a game, and also cast Upheaval into Lodestone Golem multiple times (and once cast Greaves/Welder post-Upheaval in order to blow up his first land with an instant-speed Sundering Titan). It has all the right pieces: acceleration (five signets, Academy, and Metalworker), disruption (two counterspells, Winter Orb, Willbender, Revoker, Icy), card drawing (Fact or Fiction), and good finishers (Welder/Mindslaver, Sundering Titan, Upheaval). A fun deck!

-Anthony Avitollo
@Antknee42 on Twitter
Listen to The Third Power, my Cube Podcast with co-host Usman Jamil!

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