Deck Doctor: U/R Artificers

Dominaria introduced a number of cards (Karn, Scion of Urza, The Antiquities War, and Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp) that are particularly powerful in artifact decks. So naturally, when the call went out to submit your Standard brews, we received plenty of great submissions based around these 4-drops. As you showed, they could find homes in Four-Color Vehicles, Paradox Engine combo decks, and more.

But Linus surprised me by showing a potential home that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I selected his submission as my favorite, earning Linus $25 in store credit. Congratulations!

U/R Artificers

The basic idea of this deck is to play Inventor’s Goggles on turn 1 and then follow up with Artificers that pick up the Goggles for free, turning them into real threats.

All of the Artificers can churn out Thopters and Servos, which turn Zahid into a 4-drop (98.2% of the time against a non-interactive opponent) and strengthen Karn’s Construct tokens. Those 4-drops are powerful enough to dominate the game by themselves, but even if they die, you can go to the air. An aerial assault with Thopter tokens, Aether Swoopers, and Aethersphere Harvesters, all boosted by Pia Nalaar, can overwhelm any opponent relying on ground pounders.

The first time I saw a U/R Artificers deck was when Pro Tour champion Craig Wescoe went 5-0 in testing for Pro Tour Ixalan. Several weeks later, Okada Naoya piloted his version of the archetype to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Shanghai. Although the deck fell out of favor afterwards, Linus didn’t forget about it.

As he explained: “I really enjoyed [playing the U/R Artificer deck] in the past, but I also had a problem […]: most of the deck’s threats are easy to answer, and the deck did not really have a single card that was strong enough to finish a game. That’s the reason I always tried to put in The Scarab God, but that messed with the mana in a big way.”

“With Dominaria, I could include some nice mid to late game finishers. […] The first being Karn, Scion of Urza, who can give you some much-needed card draw and a few tokens that can become gigantic in a deck full of artifacts. Besides Karn, you also have Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp, who is basically a 4-mana 5/6 flyer in this deck. This Djinn doges most of Standard’s removal and can kill your opponent pretty quickly.”

I took his deck for a spin on Magic Online, and even though some of the Artificer cards felt underpowered, I liked the core synergies. One thing that surprised me was how often I beat Lyra Dawnbringer, one of the new Standard’s premier threats. Given the deck’s energy theme, she was easily killed by Harnessed Lightning. Also, she would lose in combat to Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp or couldn’t block thanks to Pia Nalaar.

I have several suggestions to improve the main deck:

  • Cut two Traxos, Scourge of Kroog. Even with 18 other historic spells in the deck, it was hard to reliably untap Traxos more than once each game. Especially when I wanted to play Pia Nalaar or Aethersphere Harvester on-curve rather than hold them to untap Traxos. Traxos was also answered too easily by Abrade and felt like a weak “payoff” card overall.
  • Add two Maverick Thopterist. Instead of Traxos, I wanted another impactful card that can come down on turn 4. Sadly, the deck doesn’t have enough actual artifacts for The Antiquities War or Herald of Anguish—these cards necessitate a completely different deck—but Maverick Thopterist is a perfect fit. It’s an Artificer for Inventor’s Goggles that boosts the size of Karn’s Construct tokens at the same time.
  • Cut two Scrapheap Scroungers. With only four Aether Hub as black sources, it was hard to reliably return Scrapheap Scrounger from the graveyard. Also, the deck had a glut of 2-mana cards—16 is too many. By replacing Scrapheap Scrounger with a 3-drop and a 4-drop, you’re more likely to use all of your mana every turn.
  • Add the 4th Karn and the 3rd Aethersphere Harvester. Karn was simply excellent. I always wanted to draw it, and I didn’t even mind multiples. Most of the time, I’d tick down to make Constructs anyway. Aethersphere Harvester synergizes with the flying, energy, artifact, and token theme of the deck, and a third copy isn’t overdoing it.
  • Go up to four Sulfur Falls. With 12 basic lands, you should be able to play an untapped Sulfur Falls about 94% of the time on turn 4, which is fine. And even if you lack a basic, you can usually drop a tapped Sulfur Falls on turn 1 with no repercussions, as the deck has relatively few 1-drops.

On the whole, these are relatively minor changes, as I liked the original split between lands, instants, support spells, and payoff cards in Linus’s build.

I was happy with his sideboard design of countermagic against U/W Control, removal spells against Mono-Red Aggro, and Syncopate and Glorybringer against midrange decks. But in re-tooling the deck, I added two Magma Spray as a sideboard card against Scrapheap Scrounger and other small creatures.

U/R Artificers 2.0

If you’re looking for a unique, competitive Standard deck that is somewhat reminiscent of Affinity, then give U/R Artificers a shot! Congratulations Linus once more, and thank you all for the countless great submissions that were made to the contest.


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