Since the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan as well as the ban announcement back in December, the ecosystem of Pioneer has changed rather drastically. New archetypes such as Abzan Amalia Benavides Aguirre combo have emerged as tier one mainstays. Rakdos decks have seen a resurgence, in part thanks to Inti, Seneschal of the Sun and Smuggler’s Copter.
Meanwhile, mono-green Devotion, once an almighty strategy, largely fell off the map after Karn, the Great Creator was banned. This only heightened Rakdos’s presence in the metagame, as players didn’t have to fear Old-Growth Troll and Cavalier of Thorns to the same extent anymore.
Despite the popularity of Rakdos and Abzan Amalia combo, though, players are still finding new ways to innovate and incorporate Ixalan cards into their arsenal. Recently, we covered a rather intriguing Scapeshift combo deck utilizing the power of Sunken Citadel. Today, we are going to focus on a unique take on an Izzet Artifacts shell that made it to the finals of a Magic Online Pioneer Challenge this past weekend. This deck makes great use of both Inti and Spyglass Siren from MTG’s latest premier set, and has a lot going for it.
Ensoul Artifact Package
The main goal of this archetype is to generate Artifacts in an efficient manner, then use them in conjunction with a handful of powerful payoffs to help win the game in short order. The best payoff the deck has access to is almost certainly Ensoul Artifact. Ensoul Artifact is an incredible card on rate but requires you to have an Artifact to Enchant early in the game to maximize it.
Years ago, Izzet Ensoul was a more popular archetype, but as more cards got added to the format, the deck struggled to keep up. It always had the potential for amazing starts involving Ensoul Artifact and Darksteel Citadel to create a 5/5 Indestructible threat for cheap. The issue was that it wasn’t the most consistent deck, and the rest of the deck wasn’t super powerful.
Now, this deck still has access to the strong play if targeting Citadel with Ensoul Artifact, but you have a much higher chance of being able to stick Ensoul Artifact turn two. Rather than trying to cast Ensoul Artifact on a Creature, like Gingerbrute, and risk a removal spell blowing up your whole gameplan, this deck makes great use of Voldaren Epicure and Spyglass Siren, each of which leave over an Artifact to Enchant. Now, even if the opponent has Fatal Push, you are still left with the Epicure or Siren itself.
While small, these Creatures do a great job Crewing Smuggler’s Copter, which is an excellent card in its own right. Not to mention, you can always suit up a Copter with Ensoul Artifact and start attacking with a massive, evasive threat.
Smuggler’s Copter also happens to work quite nicely with Inti, which is a huge reason for this deck’s success. Obviously, Ensoul Artifact is the star of the show. However, this deck has a solid backup plan of playing cheap Creatures and attacking, then using Shrapnel Blast to finish off your opponent.
Inti’s ability to grow your small, attacking Creatures like Spyglass Siren is strong, as is the card selection it provides. What makes Inti so strong, though, is its overall synergy with discard outlets. Whenever you rummage or loot, be it from Copter, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, or Blood tokens from Voldaren Epicure, you still get to exile a card to play until your next end step.
As such, even though this deck is quite aggressive, it’s capable of generating a bunch of value and playing the long game. The presence of Jegantha, the Wellspring is also a plus in this regard, as not only can it be cast later in the game, but you can also always put it into your hand with the plan to loot it away and convert it into other resources.
Embracing the Artifact ThemeTo further enhance the aggressive, Artifact-themed gameplan of the deck, there are a few more strong payoffs beyond just Ensoul Artifact. First up, we have Gleeful Demolition. Gleeful Demolition pairs perfectly with Voldaren Epicure and Spyglass Siren, helping to keep the pressure up in short order.
Next, we have Shrapnel Blast, which is perfect for a deck that has access to excess Artifacts. Generally, Shrapnel Blast will be used to help cross the finish line by targeting the opponent, but in some cases, you can use it to kill cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse that would run away with the game otherwise.
Similarly, Torch the Tower is a solid cheap removal spell for this deck that can kill three-toughness Creatures pretty reliably when necessary. All of these cards drastically improved thanks to the additions of Spyglass Siren and Copter, which helped give this archetype new life.
Strengths and WeaknessesWith a second-place finish under this deck’s belt, it’s clear this archetype has some strengths going for it. Against decks with lots of Creatures, like Boros Convoke, Ensoul Artifact can completely brick wall the opponent’s attacks. With a quick clock and solid interaction, this deck can certainly stave off the Amalia combo.
Meanwhile, even though Ensoul Artifact can be a bit weak to Fatal Push, cards like Inti and Fable give you a solid chance against Rakdos midrange. Not to mention, if you can land Ensoul Artifact on Citadel, Rakdos is in a world of trouble.
Where things get a bit dicey is when facing decks with access to Temporary Lockdown. Lockdown cleans up almost everything this deck can play. Gleeful Demolition tokens, Copter, and Ensoul Artifact all get swept under the powerful Enchantment. March of Otherwordly Light also outs any threat that you can put together.
Still, given how fast this deck can be, even a single copy of Spell Pierce out of the sideboard can be enough to push your advantage and close the game. In this sense, this deck has game against everything, even if certain cards in the deck are weak to specific forms of interaction. It would not be surprising if more players give this deck a shot in the coming weeks.