Porcelain Perfection

Posted in Building on a Budget on April 27, 2011

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

The entirety of New Phyrexia appeared in the Card Image Gallery on Monday, and the new set is certainly going to shake things up in all Constructed formats. Mental Misstep will change the way Legacy is played forever. When combined with Splinter Twin, Deceiver Exarch introduces a very real combo threat to the Standard metagame.

I'll be sure to attend some New Phyrexia Prelease events over the weekend of May 7-8. Prereleases are excellent opportunities to become a part of your local Magic community. The environment is very casual, and everyone is excited about the new cards and eager to talk about their latest deck ideas. You can trade for new cards that haven't even been released yet. Best of all, you can make new friends and get involved in a group that plays regularly.

It's never too early to start brewing decks for the new Standard now that the full set has been released. The Prerelease is a great opportunity to pick up cards for your newest creation before they become popular and difficult to acquire. I was lucky enough to trade for multiple playsets of Stoneforge Mystic within the first few weeks of Worldwake's release. This ended up being hugely beneficial to my collection. Noticing powerful cards before the masses and trading for them is an excellent way to increase the trading power of your collection. Savvy traders will probably be looking to fill their binders with Splinter Twin now that Deceiver Exarch has been printed. Splinter Twin hasn't seen a lot of play, but it seems like it's about to be the most powerful thing you can do in Standard. Foil copies of Mental Misstep are also gems that will only increase in trading power as they sit in your binder.

Splinter Twin

Today, I'd like to talk about a card from New Phyrexia that deserves a lot of love. Porcelain Legionnaire is one of the most impressive creatures we've seen in some time.

Spending two mana for a 3-power first striker is quite the deal. Sure, you have to spend 2 life to get it at that rate, but that has never deterred me from playing Watery Grave or Thoughtseize. A 3-power first striker is very well positioned in the current format. Squadron Hawk can't block Porcelain Legionnaire profitably, even when it has a Sword in its talons. Porcelain Legionnaire crashes into the red zone turn after turn in a normal game of Standard. The beats don't stop until a Titan hits the battlefield.

It's especially powerful when you consider that this card can be played by any deck, regardless of color. You can cast this on the first turn with Ancient Tomb in Legacy, if you're willing to take the major life loss. Every aggressive strategy in Standard will gladly welcome the addition of Porcelain Legionnaire. We may see an aggressive green strategy with Garruk's Companion and Porcelain Legionnaire. We may even see an aggressive blue deck that attempts to fully exploit Grand Architect.

Ancient Tomb
Grand Architect

It's a difficult card to put into perspective at first glance. Historically, there is usually some type of drawback when a two-mana creature has more than 2 power. Porcelain Legionnaire's drawback is situational, though. On the second turn you'll be happy to spend 2 life to put 3 points of power onto the table. As the game progresses and you have extra mana, you can simply pay the extra white mana and negate the drawback.

Porcelain Legionnaire closely resembles cards like Goblin Deathraiders and Watchwolf when you evaluate its power level. Notice that both of these cards have very intense mana requirements. Designers have often posed aggressive players with that sort of restriction: "We'll give you these very powerful cards, but you have to play these specific colors." Porcelain Legionnaire encourages, even challenges, deck builders to be as creative as possible when constructing their newest aggressive creation.

Steel Overseer
Tempered Steel

I tried to stay open-minded while looking through the New Phyrexia spoiler, but I kept looking up Steve Sadin's decklist from Pro Tour Paris. Steve played a hyper-aggressive artifact beatdown deck that abused the power of Steel Overseer and Tempered Steel. Steve's deck was designed to win games in a blisteringly fast flurry of metal. Here's his deck list:

Steel Artifact

Download Arena Decklist

Vector Asp may seem awkward, but Steve needed another one-drop artifact creature, and Vector Asp was the only card available at the time. Glint Hawk and Ardent Recruit will also be cut when we throw New Phyrexia into the mix.

Steve's deck may look outdated, and that's because it is. This deck was created before the designer had any knowledge of Caw-Blade and its suite of Squadron Hawks, Stoneforge Mystics and Swords. The deck doesn't have any way to interact with a creature carrying a Sword other than the obvious block.

This problem is easily solved by adding some Tumble Magnets to the list. Steve was unimpressed with non–Tempered Steel cards that cost three or more mana, but Tumble Magnet accomplishes a lot here.

Tumble Magnet

The most obvious strength of adding Tumble Magnet is its strength against Swords. Simply put, you ignore naked Hawks and Mystics and use your Magnet to tap equipped creatures during your opponent's combat step. This makes it very difficult for an opponent to profitably use their Swords.

It's also worth noting that draws with multiple Tumble Magnets can be used on the play to slow down the Splinter Twin decks by a full turn. This extra time can often be crucial when deciding upon the correct line of plays.

Hex Parasite is another card that doesn't seem to be getting the love it deserves. It straight-up kills Jace, the Mind Sculptor and other planeswalkers. It neuters Tumble Magnets. It turns off Pyromancer Ascension. It's a one-mana artifact creature that can replace Vector Asp.

Hex Parasite is especially strong in more aggressive decks. Playing Hex Parasite alongside Porcelain Legionnaire, Steel Overseer, and Tempered Steel will thin your opponent's outs by a huge margin. Planeswalkers are normally enough to soak up an attack and have a powerful effect, but Hex Parasite lets us continue bashing our opponent.

Vault Skirge may not look like much, but the evasion and lifelink are definitely worth it when you're playing this type of strategy. Any Ravnica Limited connoisseur will regale you with tales of 20-point life swings courtesy of a Mourning Thrull. This body becomes a huge threat if you ever get a Steel Overseer or Tempered Steel onto the battlefield.

The rest of Steve's deck can remain intact.

Memnite and Ornithopter provide this deck with hyper-aggressive draws that often result in an empty hand by the second or third turn.

Glint Hawk Idol provides the deck with a surprising amount of resilience to board sweepers while also providing a very reasonable threat.

Signal Pest is an excellent way to take advantage of the swarm mentality that Tempered Steel encourages.

Steel Overseer and Tempered Steel are the obvious all-stars in this type of strategy.

Contested War Zone provides yet another Glorious Anthem–style effect.

The most important sideboard concern for a deck like this is going to be the combo match-up. Celestial Purge seems like the perfect card here. The card is very strong against red decks and Vampires. I'm particularly interested in the fact that Celestial Purge exiles both Pyromancer Ascension and Splinter Twin, both of which are likely combo cards in the new Standard. These decks have more card manipulation than us, so I'd like to have a fifth card that can interact here. Demystify seems like the best choice.

The deck wants a better plan against Lotus Cobras, so I've decided to include a playset of Oust in the sideboard. Ousting your opponent's Cobra will usually slow them down by a full two turns. This gives you the opportunity to put them on the defensive.


A fourth Tumble Magnet is a huge help against decks that intend on abusing the Swords.

Torpor Orb, from New Phyrexia, is another way to interact with your Caw-Blade opponents. Turning off Stoneforge Mystic and Squadron Hawk is a surprisingly big deal for them.

A few copies of Kor Firewalker can't do anything but help our red matchup.

Here's the final budget deck list:

Steel Artifact

Download Arena Decklist

I can confidently say that this deck is competitive in the new Standard.

I've decided to include a plan to upgrade the deck for those who have the means to do so. If you are lucky enough to own a few copies of Mox Opal then I would replace three Plains with three copies of the Scars of Mirrodin artifact. I would also replace two Glint Hawk Idols with Phyrexian Revokers. I expect board-sweepers to lose popularity if combo decks are a major force in the new Standard. Phyrexian Revoker helps battle cards like Ratchet Bomb, planeswalkers, and Swords.

Mox Opal
Phyrexian Revoker

Here's the non-budget list.

Steel Artifact (Off-Budget)

Download Arena Decklist

This may be the most obvious route to take with Porcelain Legionnaire, but the possibilities are boundless. For example, check out this aggressive black deck.

Mono-Black Aggro

Download Arena Decklist

Black Knight is about as well positioned as a card can be right now. Sword of Feast and Famine is the main worry I would have if I were to sleeve this one up. Luckily, the deck has a nice discard suite to nab the Sword before it becomes a problem.

Porcelain Legionnaire makes a deck like this have a lot more power than would otherwise be available.

A testament to Porcelain Legionnaire's strength is that it can actually make a whole slew of very different aggressive archetypes possible. I've hit countless walls when deck building because I was unable to find another good two-drop for a particular deck. Porcelain Legionnaire affords every deck the option of a very powerful aggressive two-drop.

I hope you all enjoyed this discussion of the powerful new common from New Phyrexia, Porcelain Legionnaire. I'm sure this isn't the last we've seen of this guy on my column.

Be sure to free yourselves up the weekend of May 7-8. The New Phyrexia Prereleases are being held in gaming shops all over the world. Try to get there early to ensure you get a promotional copy of Sheoldred, Whispering One.

Sheoldred, Whispering One (available exclusively at prereleases May 7-8) and Phyrexian Metamorph (available exclusively at launch parties May 13-16)

Also, Prerelease attendees will be given an "Achievement Card." The Achievement Card is a fun activity that gives you a number of goals to accomplish over the course of Prerelease weekend. Try to have the satisfaction of completing all the tasks before your friends!

There are fun things going on throughout the day. So it's worth stopping by for a draft even if you're unable to play in the main Sealed portion. Just call or e-mail your local tournament organizer and they'll be happy to give you a rundown of events being held.

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