29, Oct, 23

MTG Hardened Scales Archetype Has Appeared in Standard!

Article at a Glance

After the release of Wilds of Eldraine, the Standard format began to settle around three main archetypes. These include multi-color control decks utilizing Leyline Binding, Azorius Soldiers, and Esper midrange. While other decks like mono-red aggro would pop up, these three decks dominated a very push-pull metagame. Azorius Soldiers was generally favored against control, while Esper midrange had a strong matchup against Soldiers but a weak matchup to control. Over the past few weeks, most Standard events have been heavily centered around these decks, without much room for innovation.

One player in Saturday’s Magic Online Standard Challenge, however, brought a very unique deck and had a decent amount of success with it. This archetype is none other than Gruul Artifacts. The strategy utilizes a lot of the same elements that Modern Hardened Scales decks use. The more Artifacts you play, the better, as your Creatures begin to grow larger and larger. Let’s take a closer look at this strategy and see how it stacks up against the top tier decks of the format.

Growing Your Creatures

Patchwork Automaton

The main goal of this deck is to make use of a handful of Creatures that grow over time as you play more Artifacts. The best of these Creatures is Patchwork Automaton. Not only does Patchwork Automaton grow every time you play an Artifact spell, but it also has built-in protection thanks to its Ward 2 ability. This deck is fully capable of chaining multiple Artifacts together in a single turn, and Automaton will just continue to grow.

While not quite as strong as Automaton, Teething Wurmlet plays a very similar role. Wurmlet doesn’t have Ward and can only get grow once each turn. However, the life buffer it provides against aggressive decks is quite nice, and the ability to gain Deathtouch against Esper Midrange’s high-toughness Creatures, such as Raffine, Scheming Seer, can be important.

Finally, we have Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender. Syr Ginger specifically grows when Artifacts you control leave the battlefield. Luckily, this deck has plenty of Artifacts that are easy to get into the graveyard and generate value. You even get a Scry bonus, helping you find more action.

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Playing Lots of Artifacts

Ozolith, the Shattered Spire

With all of these Creatures that grow whenever you play Artifact spells, it’s important to have access to lots of cheap Artifacts. Both Syr Ginger and Patchwork Automaton are indeed Artifacts, but there are plenty more. Gingerbrute is an aggressive one-drop that can be very difficult to block. Gingerbrute happens to synergize quite well with Monstrous Rage, making Gingerbrute an even scarier threat on subsequent turns.

Two of the most important Artifacts in the deck are Experimental Synthesizer and Mishra’s Research Desk. Both of these Artifacts help keep card advantage flowing while also being easy to put into the graveyard to maximize Syr Ginger. These cards act sort of as the glue that holds the deck together.

None of these Artifacts compare in power level, though, to Ozolith, the Shattered Spire. Ozolith acts as this deck’s Hardened Scales variant, allowing your Creatures to grow twice as fast. Wurmlet, Syr Ginger, and Automaton all become significantly scarier with Ozolith in play. Not to mention, Ozolith can be used as a mana sink to put additional +1/+1 counters on Creatures you control. Pairing this ability with Gingerbrute can help you win even through a stalled out board.

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Removal Package

Voltage Surge

As mentioned, Experimental Synthesizer and Mishra’s Research Desk are vital pieces to the deck. Part of what makes them so strong is that they help enable two key removal spells for this deck. Both Voltage Surge and Torch the Tower are capable of killing small threats without any extra effort, but they are both capable of killing larger threats if you have Artifacts lying around to sacrifice. Both Synthesizer and Mishra’s Research Desk provide value even if they get sacrificed. Synthesizer earns you a card right away, while Mishra’s Research Desk can be Unearthed later in the game.

Voltage Surge in particular is very important to enable given the high density of four-toughness Creatures in the format. Getting to kill Raffine, Scheming Seer or Adeline, Resplendent Cathar for only one mana is fantastic, especially in a deck that relies on efficiency. Notably, these removal spells do not interact favorably with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, hence why there are copies of Witchstalker Frenzy and Rebel Salvo in the sideboard.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Go for the Throat

This Gruul deck is in an interesting spot in the metagame overall. Some of the benefits of playing an archetype like this is that other players are simply not prepared for it. Esper midrange decks, for example, have a playset of Go for the Throat as their primary source of removal. Go for the Throat importantly only kills non-Artifact Creatures, though, making it significantly worse in this matchup. The cards in this deck are also very efficient, giving it a chance to race against the multi-color control decks. Additionally, the fact that this deck’s Creatures can grow extremely large potentially gives you an edge against aggressive decks, especially when backed up by cheap removal like Voltage Surge.

Where this deck does falter, though, is against board wipes. The fact that multi-color decks generally play a playset of Sunfall can definitely be problematic. This deck doesn’t have much in the way of reach outside of Gingerbrute, and the threat count in the deck is relatively low. Cards like Temporary Lockdown are nightmares for this strategy, since they also remove your non-Creature Artifacts. As strong as this deck can look when its Automatons and Syr Ginger grow freely, the lack of threat density makes this archetype a bit vulnerable to cheap removal from the opponent as well.

Fortunately, with Go for the Throat being mostly a dud against this deck, Gruul does seem fairly well positioned. Both Azorius Soldiers and Esper midrange have minimal ways to efficiently interact with your gameplan, and when things get going with the Ozolith, this deck can get out of control quickly. It’ll be cool to see if this deck begins to pick up steam, and if you’re a fan of Hardened Scales-style decks in other formats, definitely give this deck a shot.

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