Two qualities I look for in overpowered Magic cards are the ability to scale up in power level, and the ability to produce more than one mana.
Cards that exemplify the first quality include Pack Rat and Accumulated Knowledge. Slightly more subtle examples would be a tribal deck where each creature in play benefits from and pumps up the others, or a Sphinx’s Revelation deck where each progressive Revelation finds you more lands and another Revelation to cast. In all of these cases, the better you’re executing your game plan, the more powerful your cards, are and the harder it becomes for your opponent to catch up.
The second quality shows in cards like Tolarian Academy, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Thran Dynamo, and Urza’s Mine, Tower, and Power Plant. Playing with cards that tap for more than one mana is a way to essentially break the core rules of Magic, providing both card advantage and tempo advantage, and facilitating extremely powerful turns.
Dominaria‘s Powerstone Shard strikes both of these chords.
It may not catch your eye,, because having a single copy in play provides a familiar and unexciting effect. But the prospect of putting multiples onto the battlefield is a relatively easy way to set up a winning game state. Today I’ll discuss the potential of Powerstone Shard and offer a deck list to use as a starting place.
How to Find Them
Jumping from 3 mana to 5 mana isn’t bad at all, and the fact that it’s the floor on Powerstone Shard is one of the things that appeals to me. The 5-mana spells in Standard—Glorybringer, The Scarab God, etc.—are so powerful that taking one turn off to cast them ahead of schedule will sometimes be a fine idea. But there already exist more efficient ways to do that job. If you were at the mercy of trying to draw two Powerstone Shards in your top 12 or 13 cards by random chance, it wouldn’t be particularly strong.
Thankfully, you need not leave it to chance. There are a handful of great ways to ensure that you can find Powerstone Shards early and often.
Glint-Nest Crane is a strong card and a natural fit in a Powerstone Shard deck, but the deckbuilding costs are a lot higher. In my opinion, you want about 16 artifacts before you begin to consider Glint-Nest Crane, and you want 19 or 20 before you’re excited by a full playset.
The Antiquities War is another cool artifact payoff from Dominaria, but it faces stiff competition from cards like Tezzeret, the Schemer, Jhoira, Weatherlight’s Captain, Padeem, Consul of Innovation, and the improvise cards. I suspect that you have to be really building around it before The Antiquities War becomes your best option.
I’m very excited by the idea of pairing Mirage Mirror with Powerstone Shard. The Mirror can represent additional copies of Powerstone Shard when you need mana, or it can be a mana sink when you have as much mana as you need. The cherry on top of everything is that you can search for it with Trophy Mage!
With even a single Powerstone Shard in play, Mirage Mirror can net mana. You spend 2 colorless to copy Powerstone Shard and the Mirror-Shard can then tap to get the 2 colorless back right away, while your existing Powerstone Shard taps for extra mana. With two Powerstone Shards, the Mirror will net you 4 mana, and things only get better from there.
Even as a standalone, Mirage Mirror is a powerful card that has some exciting applications in Standard. An easy one is to copy an opposing The Scarab God, which gives you access to the most powerful creature in the format on a turn where you still have most of your mana available. More generally, Mirage Mirror can continuously copy the most powerful card on the battlefield and, given enough mana, will be a difficult card for your opponent to contend with.
Note that you can get tricky with Mirage Mirror by putting multiple copy triggers on the stack, then taking actions in between the copies resolving. For example, you activate Mirror targeting The Scarab God and respond by activating Mirror targeting Powerstone Shard. Mirror becomes a copy of Powerstone Shard and you tap everything for a generous helping of mana, then Mirror becomes a copy of The Scarab God and you get to spend the mana.
How to Use Them
I’m excited about the play patterns that are possible with Powerstone Shard, both with and without Mirage Mirror. One of the important subtleties is that Powerstone Shard enters the battlefield untapped. This means that you can cast Shard plus a 2-mana spell on turn 4, and that your second Shard doesn’t actually cost you any mana. (It will tap for 2 and your existing Shard will tap for 1 extra). In the mid- and late-game, you’ll have no trouble finding time to cast extra Shards that you draw since they can provide bursts of mana even on the turns you cast them!
I’ve already highlighted a few ways to take advantage of the mana from Powerstone Shard.
A second way is to sink extra mana into activated abilities like those of The Scarab God or Mirage Mirror. Building with this in mind is good deck building, as it means that you can take advantage of Powerstone Shard without unbalancing your mana curve and making for awkward draws.
A third way is to play with X-spells, which scale in power based on how much mana you devote to casting them. Walking Ballista is the best example, as it’s both an X-spell and a permanent with an activated ability to sink mana into (as well as being one of the best cards in Standard). Other natural fits are Pull from Tomorrow, Whir of Invention, and Battle at the Bridge.
Finally, Powerstone Shard is a natural fit alongside Metalwork Colossus, one of the forgotten strategies of Standard. Powerstone Shard does a great job accelerating out Metalwork Colossus, and both can combine to form the shell of an artifact-based deck featuring Glint-Nest Crane and Trophy Mage. You can even create infinite combos! Here’s an example:
You have four Powerstone Shards (or Mirage Mirrors copying Shards) and a Scrap Trawler in play with one Metalwork Colossus in your graveyard and one in your hand. You cast Metalwork Colossus (for free), you tap a Powerstone Shard for 4 mana, then you sacrifice the Colossus and the tapped Shard to return the other Colossus from your graveyard to your hand. Scrap Trawler’s ability triggers, which allows you to return the Powerstone Shard from your graveyard to your hand as well. You spend 3 of your 4 floating mana to cast Powerstone Shard and then Metalwork Colossus (for free). Now you’re back to the starting point and can repeat the processes, netting 1 colorless mana each time. Finish off with a Walking Ballista for 50 million, and voila!
Note that going infinite (or simply generating massive amounts of mana) becomes easy with a Paradox Engine in play, and these combo pieces can be accessed with relative ease via Whir of Invention and Glint-Nest Crane.
One Sample Deck List
Who knows if Powerstone Shard will make Metalwork Colossus a great strategy for Standard? It’s similarly unclear whether it should be built as a dedicated combo deck, or even what that combo should be! This isn’t the time or place for answering such complicated questions, so instead I’ll offer somewhat of a more tame shell for using Powerstone Shard.
This is a Tezzeret-based control deck that takes advantage of the X-spell and activated abilities angles, as well as the simple fact that Powerstone Shard and Trophy Mage keep your artifact count nice and high.
Pull from Tomorrow will be carrying a lot of weight here, as the idea is to play out your hand (complete with plenty of cheap removal), and then refill with a Pull around turn 5 or 6, potentially fueled by multiple Powerstone Shards. That Pull will find you more mana, and hopefully a second Pull or The Scarab God that you can leverage into a win.
Where Pull from Tomorrow can be expensive and unwieldy (put at risk by missed land drops or a well-placed Negate), Sunset Pyramid is the opposite. It can slip in underneath permission, and helps to smooth your draw whenever you have mana to spare. It becomes powerful when Powerstone Shard gives you extra mana, and is generally one of the underappreciated cards in Standard.
There are tons of exciting things you can do with Powerstone Shard, and U/B Tezzeret is just one starting place of many. Perhaps U/R with Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain? Or a wild combo deck with Metalwork Colossus? What would you do with 16 colorless mana?