It’s not going to make waves in Modern Affinity, but I like the self-synergistic design that gets better when your deck is set up to exploit him. You can’t just slap the new Tezzeret into every deck—you need to build around it. In that regard, he is more of a niche planeswalker like Nissa, Voice of Zendikar than an inherently powerful one like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. But that’s all the more fun for deck building!
Let’s break him down one by one.
5 Starting Loyalty
There is no other 4-mana planeswalker in Standard that starts with 5 loyalty. Generally, you pay 5 or more mana for that, so this is a great starting point.
Thanks to its high starting loyalty, Tezzeret the Schemer can immediately tick up to 6 the turn it comes down, which means that it can survive a Gideon hit if you have a blocker for his 2/2 Knight Ally Token.
Moreover, it’s a two-turn ultimate, just like Nahiri, the Harbinger. So if all goes well, you could activate Tezzeret’s ultimate as early as turn 6.
The high loyalty is also useful for supporting Heart of Kiran. That new Vehicle seems perfect for a Tezzeret deck because it also boosts Tezzeret’s -2. But we’ll get to that.
+1: Create a Lotus Petal
It’s apparently called an “Etherium Cell,” but I know a Lotus Petal when I see one. You can exploit the artifact token in various ways.
The most obvious way is to use the mana right away, essentially turning Tezzeret the Schemer into a Manalith that builds up to a planeswalker ultimate. Alternatively, you can store the tokens for later. If you do a little bit of both and combine 2 Lotus Petals, then you can cast an awakened Ruinous Path or World Breaker as early as turn 5! So Tezzeret is a potent ramp spell.
The Lotus Petals can also fix your mana. You can easily support 3+ colors or converge cards (like Woodland Wanderer) in a Tezzeret deck, especially when you take into account that Tezzeret decks are likely interested in Prophetic Prism for its -2 ability.
A bank of artifact tokens can also help for Tezzeret’s -2 ability or for spells with the new improvise mechanic, which is essentially convoke for artifacts. But to really get value from your Lotus Petals, you need cards that trigger when artifacts enter the graveyard or battlefield. Contraband Kingpin, for instance, offers a free scry. It’s a minor bonus, but it could add up over time.
Perhaps even better is Fatal Push and other cards with the revolt keyword, which checks if one of your permanents left the battlefield this turn. Sacrificing a Lotus Petal is a great way to turn on revolt at will. For instance, when your Mardu Vehicles opponent attacks your seemingly defenseless Tezzeret with a Cultivator’s Caravan on turn 4, then sacrificing a Lotus Petal for Fatal Push is perfect.
-2: Target Creature Gets +X/-X Until End of Turn, Where X is the Number of Artifacts You Control
The first use of this ability is to kill something. Since many cheap creatures in Standard have 1 or 2 toughness, Tezzeret the Schemer can often kill something when it comes down, provided your deck has enough cheap artifacts.
With 1 artifact, you can kill Toolcraft Exemplar, Selfless Spirit, or Veteran Motorist. With 2 artifacts, you can kill Servant of the Conduit, Grim Flayer, or Tireless Tracker. With more artifacts (or an assist from Liliana, the Last Hope or Yahenni’s Expertise) bigger creatures like Bloodhall Priest or Archangel Avacyn also get into reach.
To reliably kill 1-toughness creatures on turn 4 and to have a decent shot at hitting 2-toughness creatures, I recommend a minimum of 13 artifacts (or artifact-generating cards) that cost 1, 2, or 3 mana. Here is a collection of some of the best ones in Standard, both for more controlling and more aggressive decks.
The second use of Tezzeret’s -2 ability is to boost the power of one of your own creatures. The power boost will be best on high-toughness creatures with lifelink or double strike, so Contraband Kingpin or Electrostatic Pummeler with a bunch of energy counters come to mind.
Another creature that relies heavily on its power and that synergizes with Lotus Petal is Marionette Master. Imagine that your opponent is at 20 life while all you have is Tezzeret the Schemer and 3 Lotus Petals. Simply cast a 4/6 Marionette Master, use Tezzeret to give it +3/-3, and sacrifice the 3 Lotus Petals to have your opponent lose 21 life!
A final interaction that I can already imagine is when you are on the draw with Heart of Kiran on turn 2 and some removal spell on turn 3. Your opponent, trying to be smart, might cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and tick him up to 5 loyalty, seemingly out of reach of a Heart of Kiran attack. In that case, you can cast Tezzeret the Schemer, animate and boost Heart of Kiran, and take down the 5-loyalty Gideon.
-7: At the Beginning of Combat on Your Turn, Cast Ensoul Artifact on One of Your Artifacts
It’s good that we don’t play planeswalkers for their ultimates, because this one is fairly weak.
At least you get there quick.
I find it a little strange that the ultimate essentially yields a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas with the stipulation that you have to use his -1 every turn. It’s possible that Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is too powerful for the current Standard, but when the ultimate ability of a new 4-mana planeswalker essentially provides an old 4-mana planeswalker, then something is off.
Either way, the effect can close out the game quickly if you have some artifacts lying around. Prophetic Prisms or Terrarions are perfect, as are left-over Lotus Petals. A steady stream of Clues is good too, Tireless Tracker or Tamiyo’s Journal will ensure that we make the most of Tezzeret’s ultimate.
Putting It All Together
Tezzeret the Schemer is best in a deck that has cheap artifacts, multiple colors, mana sinks, and artifact-related triggers. The following brew features all of those aspects.
The dream of this deck is to curve Heart of Kiran into Liliana, the Last Hope and Tezzeret, the Schemer. The end-game is Marionette Master, who doesn’t really care about Ishkanah, Grafwidow and who could be fast enough to win the game before Emrakul, the Promised End comes down on the other side of the table.
A key card that informed many of my card choices is Yahenni’s Expertise, the new sweeper from Aether Revolt. The -3/-3 effect doesn’t kill any of the creatures in the deck, provided you use Tireless Tracker wisely and don’t foolishly attack your Contraband Kingpin into a Reflector Mage for a point of life first.
The free-spell ability of Yahenni’s Expertise is best in a deck with cheap card draw effects, making Pentad Prism even more appealing. Tireless Tracker and Ruinous Path are bridge cards in that they are both a 3-drop for Yahenni’s Expertise and a mana sink for Lotus Petals. Speaking of Tireless Tracker, the mana base of this deck doesn’t contain many green sources, but Yahenni’s Expertise and Tezzeret are excellent fixers.
This deck is largely a sketch of initial ideas, and if I’m honest, it does look a little underpowered compared to other Standard decks. But Tezzeret allows for plenty of spicy possibilities, and the majority of Aether Revolt hasn’t been revealed yet. All of the new Aether Revolt mechanics seem well-suited to a Tezzeret deck, and there might still be enough awesome artifacts, revolt spells, and improvise cards to complete Tezzeret’s new home.
How about Metalwork Colossus or Metallurgic Summonings?
Tezzeret, the Schemer would surely be good in a Metalwork Colossus deck as well. But Metalwork Colossus is not well-positioned in the metagame as long as Emrakul, the Promised End remains popular. After all, they can just run Metalwork Colossus into Emrakul and then sacrifice all your artifacts to its ability. For that reason, I chose to work on the above Sultai build instead. The Sultai deck might also not be great against Emrakul in game 1, but at least you can counter Emrakul or Aetherworks Marvel with Ceremonious Rejection after sideboard. I particularly like that you can play Tezzeret on turn 4 and, after getting a Lotus Petal, pass the turn with Ceremonious Rejection mana up.
The Metallurgic Summonings deck is in the same colors as Tezzeret, the Schemer, but I still don’t think the planeswalker will be a great fit. The current build of that deck doesn’t have enough cheap artifacts, which means that Tezzeret won’t be able to defend himself properly in the early game. Torrential Gearhulk, Confirm Suspicions, and Metallurgic Summonings produce artifacts later on, but I’d like to be able to play Tezzeret on turn 4 and kill something right away. When one half of the deck wants me to play Pentad Prism and the other half asks for Anticipate, it results too easily in an unfocused mess.
The new Tezzeret, the Schemer is weak in non-dedicated decks and almost certainly worse than Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas in artifact-centric decks. Nevertheless, in blue-black decks with plenty of artifacts, which is admittedly a niche category, Tezzeret, the Schemer should be good enough to deserve a slot. Whether such a deck will be competitive in Standard will depend on the remaining contents of Aether Revolt.
What’s your first impression of the new Tezzeret?