In the history of Magic, there have been a lot of 1-mana artifacts that initially looked unplayable but eventually proved powerful.
But the list is longer:
- Prism Ring turned out to be an important piece of Mono-Blue Prison.
- Amulet of Vigor got Summer Bloom banned.
- Shuko teamed up with Cephalid Illusionist for a game-winning combo.
- Implement of Ferocity was included in the U/G Karn deck.
- Despotic Scepter was broken by Matt Nass.
What this teaches us is that we should never disregard 1-mana artifacts, even if they don’t look like much. Time after time, some weird deck pops up that needs their effect, mana cost, or card type. So let’s review the new 1-mana artifact in Core Set 2019.
If your first impression upon seeing this card is “meh,” I don’t blame you.
1 life per turn generally isn’t worth a card. Sure, we’ve seen Nyx-Fleece Ram and Sun Droplet as sideboard cards against burn decks, but those cards came with an additional blocker or with double the life gain speed.
3 mana to draw a card isn’t particularly efficient either. The ability to exchange it for another card means that Fountain of Renewal is never dead against control decks, which is nice, but 3 mana is a steep cost.
Yet, if you combine the abilities and the card type, then you get something relatively unique for 1 mana. The closest comparisons in Standard are Navigator’s Compass and Implement of Improvement, but they won’t grant as much life over the course of an average game and either don’t cycle or don’t cycle for colorless mana. Fountain of Renewal is a big improvement.
So which Standard archetypes might be interested in Fountain of Renewal? There are two that stand out to me.
Life Gain Triggers
If you can exploit Fountain of Renewal’s life gain triggers to continually get free Horses or other effects, then that’s a big benefit. Crested Sunmare and Ajani’s Pridemate look most appealing to me, and a mono-white life gain deck could benefit from adding Fountain of Renewal. You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Improvise and other artifact-matters mechanics are still in Standard. For these decks, Fountain of Renewal taps for improvise, fuels your other payoff spells, and buys time.
They also get better in multiples. If you have two Fountain of Renewal and one Inventors’ Fair going, you have effectively nullified an opposing Scrapheap Scrounger and should be able to reach the final chapter of The Antiquities War with ease.
My build of this archetype is heavily inspired by ZerrisX’s excellent Reddit post, with a few tweaks of my own. Most importantly, I cut several interactive spells to add Core Set 2019 cards. Fountain of Renewal is an ideal turn-1 play, I praised Sai, Master Thopterist in my previous article, and Tezzeret, Artifice Master is a solid sideboard card against control and midrange decks. (Tezzeret is a poor payoff card against aggro decks, so I don’t think it belongs in the main deck.)
For synergy-decks like these, I never want to disturb the balance between cheap artifacts and payoff cards, so my sideboard isn’t filled with interactive spells like Fatal Push or Negate. With my sideboard slots, I mainly want to gain the ability to make small tweaks in the setup or payoff suite (for instance, add Merchant’s Dockhand against Esper Control or add Zahid against Mono-Red Aggro), or add high-impact kryptonite (like Bontu’s Last Reckoning against green decks).
This deck is as close as we can get to Affinity in Standard, and Fountain of Renewal is nice upgrade. I can’t wait for the set to release so that I can try it out.