Artifacts

From EDHWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Artifact decks, as their name implies, assemble a large number of artifact cards to achieve victory over their enemies. These decks use cards that reduce the cost of artifacts, put them onto the battlefield for free, make them indestructible, and may even take advantage of intricate synergies between artifacts to achieve an infinite combo. Artifacts are consistently one of the most popular themes in the Commander format.

Artifact decks almost always include blue and/or red.

Popular Cards & Commanders

Cards that commonly appear in artifact decks include:

Popular artifact-based commanders include:

Strategy

Artifact strategies are among the most diverse in the entire game of Magic. Because artifacts are colorless, they are not bound to any one color, and therefore are used by each color in different ways. The colors blue and red are the most fond of artifact synergies, while the color green largely avoids interactions with artifacts. While some themes and tribes may cause decks with the same commander to have fairly similar cards in the 99, it is unlikely for any two artifact-based decks to contain a high number of overlapping cards, even when led by the same commander.

Common Features

Cost Reduction

Artifacts are typically colorless cards, which makes cost reduction abilities very useful for this strategy. Effects that reduce mana costs tend to reduce the generic mana required to cast a spell, which does not typically affect a spell's colored mana symbols. Because artifacts do not usually have colored mana symbols in the mana costs, efficient cost reduction can make them almost entirely free to cast.

Common artifact cost reducers include:

Recursion and Switching

Artifact decks occasionally mirror Reanimator decks in their ability to return artifacts from the graveyard to the battlefield. Artifact players may even intentionally discard artifacts from their own hand or else sacrifice their own artifacts with the intention of returning those artifacts later on, often to avoid having to pay their large mana costs.
A common trope among artifact cards, especially ones that return artifacts from the graveyard, is to switch the artifact with another, rather than bringing it back outright. This is often thematically tied to the idea of reshaping the metallic device into another.

Common artifact recursion and switching effects in Commander include:

Artifact decks also have a high level of more general Recursion effects that return the artifacts to their hand rather than to play. This high level of recursion can make it difficult for opponents to permanently get rid of artifacts during the game.

Popular artifact recursion includes:

Artifact Tutors

Dedicated artifact strategies have access to a very high number of cards that allow them to search their libraries for artifacts and put them either into their hand or into play. This high density of tutor effects is often seen as one of the strengths of the strategy, providing it with any effect it requires at a moment's notice.

Popular tutors include:

Tokens

It is not uncommon for artifact decks to utilize Tokens as part of their main strategies. Artifact decks are able to make a high number of tokens, including Treasure, Servos, Myr, and Thopters. These tokens may be used both offensively and defensively, and may serve as sacrifice fodder for other artifact abilities, as cost reduction for abilities like Affinity, or increase the power of their army using effects seen on cards like Cranial Plating.

Token-makers often seen in artifact decks may include

Activated Abilities

A defining feature of artifact cards tends to be their activated abilities. While enchantment cards often avoid activated abilities in favor of triggered and static abilities, artifacts embrace activated abilities. This gives artifact decks a distinct style of gameplay separate from other strategies, often allowing them to respond to any scenario at instant speed. It is also popular for players to use artifacts to help enable the re-use of these abilities to achieve multiple activations per turn.

Balancing Artifacts with Nonartifacts

Building an artifact deck in Commander often requires players to weigh the considerable number of artifacts in their deck against the high number of nonartifact cards that support them. A high number of enchantments, nonartifact creatures, and even planeswalkers provide substantial benefit and payoffs to artifacts, and many spells are involved in the tutoring and reanimation of artifact cards as well. Playing all of these effects while leaving enough room in the deck for the actual artifacts themselves is not usually possible, and some artifacts decks that contain too many artifact-enchancing spells may find their decks struggling to work correctly. Players must make an effort to maintain a large enough number of artifacts in their deck to make sure the nonartifact cards that enhance them work at optimal capacity.

Propensity for Combo

A common trope among artifact decks is their capacity for infinite combo. Because artifacts involve a significant degree of recursion, cost reduction, a substantial amount of colorless mana production, and many repeatable activated abilities, it is possible for players to create infinite combos between artifact cards, sometimes even when a player does not intend for that combo to occur.

Commanders such as Sharuum, the Hegemon and Breya, Etherium Shaper are particularly infamous for their direct involvement in infinite combos. A classic example of combo with Sharuum, for instance, involves cards such as Phyrexian Metamorph. Sharuum may revive the Metamorph, which can copy the legendary Sharuum, sending the original to the graveyard as a state-based action per the legend rule, then use the copy's trigger to return Sharuum to play, recycling the entire process. This infinite flow of creatures entering and leaving the battlefield can become lethal when paired with an effect like Disciple of the Vault. As another example, Breya can be paired with the cards Nim Deathmantle and Ashnod's Altar to repeatedly sacrifice and resurrect herself and her tokens to deal lethal damage to her opponents.

These combos are notable because they may appear even by accident, as the component parts are often quite useful effects on their own merits when used in an artifact deck. Players who enjoy artifact strategies but who do not enjoy infinite combos may find them occasionally difficult to avoid entirely, and may end up removing useful cards from their decks so as to avoid stumbling onto these combos during the course of gameplay. Conversely, players who enjoy combo strategies are likely to find a wealth of them in the artifact strategy.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Artifacts often have access to abilities that individual colors are not able to accomplish on their own. Meteor Golem, for example, may destroy any permanent, which would give mono-black the ability to destroy enchantments, a thing it is not usually able to do. Artifacts like these are allowed to give colors access to these effects because of their high mana costs, preventing the ability from shoring up color weaknesses too efficiently. An artifact-based deck, however, is able to skirt these high mana costs, either by dramatically reducing their costs or by putting them into play from another zone without paying mana at all. Artifacts therefore can give colors access to abilities they aren't usually able to enjoy at a much lower cost than it would first appear.
  • Artifact decks are among the most flexible in Commander, and tend not to shoehorn themselves into linear styles or deck compositions. A player building an artifact deck may dedicate the deck to a combo strategy, a token strategy, a recursion strategy, or a mix of all three, giving them a variety of avenues to achieve victory during the game. Their high number of tutors also allows players to find any card they need to help respond to any given situation. This prevents artifact players from being obstructed during gameplay if an opponent shuts down one of these avenues as a viable win condition, allowing them to always have a backup Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D.
  • The artifact archetype's focus on instant-speed interactions can be difficult for other decks to disrupt, particularly once an artifact deck has established some manner of combo. Artifact combo cards are also usually able to create infinite combos with more than just one or two other cards, but may create infinite loops with a large number of other artifacts, which makes it difficult for other players to entirely prevent this combo potential and to judge which piece of these puzzles is most threatening.

Weaknesses

  • Several colors have access to forms of Mass Removal that destroy all artifacts, such as the cards Bane of Progress, Vandalblast, or Aura Shards. A well-timed removal spell will do away with an artifact deck's entire board state, which also usually includes their mana rocks, making it difficult for them to accumulate enough resources to reestablish their strategy.
  • Artifact decks are, by necessity, quite complicated, particularly when it comes to their infinite combo potential. Extracting the highest level of value or benefit from artifacts often involve multiple intricate, interlocking pieces and excessive attention to minute detail. While these interactions can ultimately be very powerful, they can also be unfriendly to players who are brand new to the archetype.


References: