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Losing your temper with Anvils!

Written by James Heslip on . Posted in Casual Magic

Losing your temper with Anvils!

James Heslip

James is a budget Magic connoisseur who values silly strategies and rogue decks. He has been playing Magic since 1998, and competing in Legacy events since 2010. When he is not teaching high school English, he can be found brewing Casual and Legacy decks to play with his students and peers. Always appreciative of feedback, he loves it when people send suggestions and share crazy decks with him!
There are many cards in Magic’s history that are famous for their combo potential. Semblance Anvil is one of those cards. As a Helm of Awakening on steroids, it doesn’t take too much imagination to see the possibilities Anvil has to offer. Drawing is a theme in this article series so far… Can we keep up the tradition for just $10?
The Core

Drawing tons of cards for free is the name of the game, like the infamous Eggs decks of old. With a cost reduction effect in play, any card that can both draw us cards and get played for free is a card we want. Ichor Wellspring is the most obvious choice, but Alchemist’s Vial, Elsewhere Flask, Kaleidostone, Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot, and Prophetic Prism all draw cards when they hit play as well. We always want to draw more cards, so we want to play a full set of all of them.
While not immensely powerful, each has their own secondary effect that can help in certain situations. For example, Vial can stop a large threat from attacking, keeping us alive just long enough to finish the combo. In rare but possible cases, Prism or Kaleidostone can be used to generate Black mana, which can draw us just one more card off of Puzzleknot, should we need it.

Unlike the Eggs decks, all of our artifacts will be sticking to the field after they serve their purpose. With that in mind, our finisher of choice is one of the only non-artifact cards in the list: Ghirapur Aether Grid. With Grid as our finisher, there is almost never a risk of a fizzle. Grid hit play and stays in play, just like our cantrip artifacts. We don’t need to generate storm for some big finale, potentially tripping up the combo half-way through and losing as a result. If we can’t kill the opponent in one go, that’s fine. We’ll use grid with everything we did play and burn away their threats, then finish them off in another turn or two. Grid also allows for extra Anvils to serve a purpose. Because Anvil’s Imprint is a may ability, we can just jam extras into play without imprinting anything, and then use them as additional pingers.

The Backup

Because we are so reliant on finding Anvil, we need to maximize our potential to find it every game. Although all of our artifacts draw us cards (and we can use this to dig for the win), without Anvil itself this is simply too slow. Cantrips like Anticipate let us dig for the combo or win condition as needed, but we need more. Enter Drift of Phantasms. While he is a decent wall on his own, it is his Transmute ability that lets this star shine. With this, we can search not only for Anvil, but also Aether Grid, as both have a Converted Mana Cost (CMC) of three. With Drift in the deck, we will always have what we want, when we want it.

The Final List

At a price of roughly $15, we went a little over budget here. Sadly, the Anvil itself is the primary reason for this, so there is not much we can do about it. However, almost every other card in the deck is a bulk common at best, so you should have little trouble completing the list based on what you or friends might have lying around.

Izzet Signet was added for it’s potential to “ritual” us into extra mana during our combo turn, thanks to the mana boost we get after playing it for free. While not often needed, the mana fixing does help when we need to make double blue to pay for the Transmute cost of Phantasm. More artifacts to pair with Aether Grid doesn’t hurt, either.

Crystal Vein allows for turn two Anvils. A second turn Aether Grid might just be early enough to make it a threat without the full combo, too. Land count here is a bit awkward due to the nature of the deck’s strategy. More often than not, we want to hit three lands so that we can cast our namesake card. During the combo, however, it is almost never good to draw more lands. With Signet and Vein at our disposal, we might be able to get away with fourteen lands instead of the current sixteen, but more testing would be needed to say for sure.

Playing the Deck

  Piloting this deck should almost never be a case of waiting for a key turn to “go off.” Play everything you have whenever you can. We are not building storm here. We are trying to fill the board with artifacts until Grid becomes lethal.

Sometimes we will have that turn-two Anvil that lets us puke out our hand and half our deck, and that’s great. Other games, though, we will have to improvise. These are the games where we will cast an early Grid to clear the board of threats. Perhaps we won’t find an Anvil or Drift of Phantasms in our opener, and our first couple turns will be spent digging with artifacts to find one of them. Maybe we will need to use Kaleidostone or Prophetic Prism to make black mana for Puzzleknot activations. Maybe we need to Transmute extra copies of Phantasms just to find more Semblance Anvils, if only because it’s one more artifact in play for your Aether Grid.

Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors are just better Crystal Veins for us, but the price tag on each is limiting, to say the least. The three artifact lands mentioned work great when Aether Grid hits play and you no longer need them for mana production. Again, though, price becomes an issue at this point.Fabricate and Trophy mage are alternatives to Phantasms, but they can only find you your Anvil, so they’re likely not worth the inclusion. Enlightened tutor, however, could be very powerful if you have the cash and the means to splash another color.Each listed cantrip is better than Anticipate, but also more costly. If you have an extra set of Impulse or Ponder lying around, play them. Otherwise, Anticipate does an okay impression. Tsabo’s Web was excluded for price reasons as well. If you want to spend the extra money, you can lose the Anticipate or Izzet Signet altogether for a full play set.


I look at combo decks in MTG like I do glitches in video games: you’re not supposed to be able to use them, but man, it’s great when you do! At $15, this is a glitch almost anyone can afford to use. How do you feel about combos in casual Magic? Let me know in the comments, or on my facebook page. You can also send me an email at Spooky386@gmail.com.


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