Transmute This Artifact

Posted in Building on a Budget on March 5, 2009

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

One of my favorite cards from Conflux is Master Transmuter. The card's power level is absurdly high and if your opponent ever gives you the chance to untap with it, there's little or no chance of them ever catching up.

This week I'd like to explore the fabulous world of transmutation.

I was first introduced to the concept by a friend who was using Master Transmuter with Thousand-Year Elixir. This seemed like a really powerful combo and I decided it was worth my time to build a deck around the concept. After tinkering around with the deck I found it was quite easy to tutor for powerful cards like Grim Poppet; Platinum Angel; Sharuum the Hegemon; or Magister Sphinx and put them into play at any given moment.

I'll start by explaining the card choices.

The Combo

Master Transmuter: The Master's activated ability is, in my opinion, the most powerful effect available in Standard.

Thousand-Year Elixir: The elixir lets us use Master Transmuter's ability the turn it comes into play. It also lets us use our Master Transmuter more than once on the same turn. It's important to note that returning the artifact back to your hand is part of Master Transmuter's activated ability's cost. An active Master Transmuter is effectively immune to spot removal. If your opponent attempts to kill it you can simply pay and return it back to your hand and put it back into play.

Sphinx Summoner: The Summoner allows you to tutor for any of the fatty boom booms (random Sanchez shoutouts are undervalued) in the package. The Summoner can also be used to find a Master Transmuter when you fail to draw one on your own.

Fatty Boom Booms

Sharuum the Hegemon: Sharuum is a glue that holds this deck together. A lot of the time you want to play your Sphinx Summoner on turn five and find your Sharuum. Trade with an opponent's creature, and use Sharuum on turn six to return the Sphinx Summoner to play.

Grim Poppet: Grim Poppet is a really good way to deal with huge amounts of tokens that are produced by Spectral Procession, Cloudgoat Ranger, Bitterblossom, or Siege-Gang Commander. You can bounce it back into play and distribute more counters at your leisure.

Platinum Angel: Sometimes there isn't a card in the world that can save you. That's when it's right to go and find your Platinum Angel. If your opponent doesn't have a way to deal with it right away then you can buy enough time to find Magister Sphinx and reset your life total after you clear away their team with your Grim Poppet.

Magister Sphinx: Normally you just use the trigger to deal your opponent 10 damage, but sometimes you find yourself at a negative life total with a Platinum Angel out and you can use Magister to set yourself back at 10 life.

The Meat and Potatoes

Tidehollow Sculler: This deck is, for all functional purposes, a combo deck. It is very important that we disrupt our opponent's enough to actually get our Transmutation going. It's also important to note that our deck needs a good number of artifacts to return to its hand for the combo to start going. Sometimes you can use the Sculler to Castigate your opponent multiple times. You can play your Sculler, put its trigger on the stack, use Master Transmuter to bounce it back to your hand, then put it back into play, put another trigger on the stack, then use your Elixir to untap the Master and bounce the Sculler again. If you have the chance to get your Sculler/Master going, it becomes extremely hard for an opponent to win. You can also put it into play during your opponent's draw step to prevent them from topdecking.

Mind Stone: This accelerator can be transmuted into a Magister Sphinx on turn four. That seems really exciting to me.

Merfolk Looter: Merfolk Looter serves two functions in a deck like this: it allows us to thin our library and find our combo pieces, and it allows us to discard powerful creatures so we can use our Makeshift Mannequins to return them to play.

Makeshift Mannequin: An instant-speed reanimation spell works really well in a deck like this. If our opponent taps out we can put our Master Transmuter, Sphinx Summoner, or fatty boom boom into play at the drop of a hat.

Plumeveil: Initially I had some Shriekmaws in this spot, but I've found that Plumeveil is one of the most effective ways of dealing with the aggro decks of the format. People have to put a lot of resources into getting past a single Plumeveil, and I think it is time we start punishing them for it.

After hammering out the mana base, the deck looked like this:


Download Arena Decklist

I invited my friend Chris over and we sat down to play some games. A lot of you have asked me to play more games with my decks, so I decided to play games against what I believe are the five best decks in Standard and to give match overviews explaining which cards are most important in each match.

Game 1 vs. Black-White Tokens

I win the die roll and keep Arcane Sanctum, Island, Island, Mind Stone, Thousand-Year Elixir, Sphinx Summoner, and Plumeveil. I play my Arcane Sanctum and pass. Chris plays an Arcane Sanctum of his own and passes. I untap, draw a Swamp, and play my Mind Stone. Chris plays a Knight of Meadowgrain. I untap, draw Makeshift Mannequin, play another Island, and pass. Chris attacks with his Knight, and I play my Plumeveil. Plumeveil gobbles up the Knight, and Chris plays Spectral Procession and passes back. I draw another Sphinx Summoner, play my Swamp, and play Sphinx Summoner finding Master Transmuter. Chris untaps, plays Ajani Goldmane, gives his team some counters, and passes back. I play my Thousand-Year Elixir, attack with Ajani with my Sphinx (it gets double blocked), and pass. Chris plays Cloudgoat Ranger and gives his team more counters. I draw another Island on my turn, play the Island, and play my Master Transmuter. I pass, and on Chris's turn he plays a Glorious Anthem, gives his team more counters, and attacks for a huge amount of damage. I chump-block the Cloudgoat Ranger and block a token with my Master Transmuter. I transmute the Master out and put the Sphinx Summoner back into play. This time I go and find my Platinum Angel. Black-White Token decks only have Terror as removal, and a Platinum Angel is good enough to end the game. Chris is at the ready with Thoughtseize, though, and makes me bin the Angel. At a precarious life total, I draw a Plains for my turn. I play Master Transmuter and use its ability to bounce my Sphinx and put the Sphinx back into play. I find Sharuum the hegemon. I use the Transmuter again thanks to my Elixir and put Sharuum into play. Sharuum puts my Platinum Angel back into play and Chris concedes.

Match Overview: Black-White Tokens is a powerful deck that combines disruption with threats that are difficult to deal with. Platinum Angel is our most important card here. It's important that you find a way to put Platinum Angel into play; nothing else really matters. A lot of the time their draw isn't blisteringly fast and you can simply tutor for the Angel and hardcast it before they can kill you.


Game 2: Red-White Reveillark

I keep Merfolk Looter, Thousand-Year Elixir, Vivid Creek, Island, Swamp, Plains, and Makeshift Mannequin on the draw. Chris plays a Windbrisk Heights and passes. I draw a Master Transmuter, play my Vivid Creek, and pass. Chris plays a Knight of the White Orchid. I untap, draw a Vivid Meadow, and play my Merfolk Looter. Chris plays another Knight of the White Orchid, attacks for 2, plays another Windbrisk Heights, and passes. I untap, draw another Island. Play my Elixir, and pass. Chris untaps, plays Spectral Procession, and passes. I activate my Looter on his end step and draw a Grim Poppet, which I discard. I draw another Swamp on my turn, play another land, and pass. At the beginning of Chris's combat step I activate my Looter, draw another Makeshift Mannequin, discard Sharuum, and play Makeshift Mannequin targeting Sharuum. Sharuum brings back my Grim Poppet and I kill his Spectral Procession tokens. Chris plays a land and another Spectral Procession and passes. On my turn I draw another Transmuter, attack for 5 in the air, play Master Transmuter and a land, and pass. At the beginning of Chris's combat step I bounce my Grim Poppet and put it back into play. I kill his tokens again. Chris plays a Siege-Gang Commander and passes. On my turn I draw another Elixir and start going nuts with my Transmuter + Grim Poppet. Chris concedes.

Match Overview: I was lucky Chris didn't draw a Path to Exile here, but I probably would have won regardless. This match is very much about tutoring for your Grim Poppet. Black-White Tokens has Glorious Anthem and Ajani Goldmane, but the Red-White 'Lark decks have a lot of trouble keeping any threats on the board when you get your Poppet going.


Game 3: Five-Color Control

I keep Merfolk Looter, Thousand-Year Elixir, Mind Stone, Mind Stone, Vivid Creek, Vivid Creek, and Makeshift Mannequin on the draw. Chris plays a Vivid Creek and passes. I draw Sphinx Summoner and mirror his play. He plays a Vivid Crag and passes. I draw a Plains, play my Merfolk Looter, and pass. Chris plays another Vivid land and passes. On my turn I draw Master Transmuter, play a Mind Stone and a Vivid Creek, and pass. Chris plays another land, evokes a Mulldrifter, and passes. I activate my Looter, draw a Plumeveil, and discard the Plumeveil. I draw an Island for my turn and play my Elixir and my other Mind Stone and pass. On Chris's turn he plays another land and passes. I double loot at the end of his turn and discard Sharuum the Hegemon and a land. On my turn I play Master Transmuter and Chris uses Cryptic Command. Chris plays draw-go for a while and counters every spell I play except for a second Thousand-Year Elixir, Chris eventually goes for it by tapping out for Cruel Ultimatum. I discard a bunch of cards and leave myself with a pair of Makeshift Mannequins and a Tidehollow Sculler. On the end of his turn I play the first Makeshift Mannequin targeting my Sharuum and return Master Transmuter. I play the other Makeshift Mannequin on another Transmuter. On my turn I play Tidehollow Sculler and use Master Transmuter to bounce it back to my hand, then put it back into play and use the other Transmuter. I untap both transmuters and do this again, leaving one Transmuter untapped and four de facto Castigates on the stack. I take every card in Chris's hand. during his draw step I use the other Transmuter to bounce and replay the Sculler. Chris didn't draw Volcanic Fallout, and he concedes.

Match Overview: Once the game gets into its later stages it's important to keep at least four cards in hand and have one of them be a Makeshift Mannequin. The Five-Color player will likely let your Elixir resolve and you can keep a few in play. You want to find a Sharuum as quickly as possible and try to force it into play. Once you get your combo going it's tough for them to keep any leverage. Their spells are very powerful, so it's important to use your Tidehollow Scullers wisely and make sure they mess up and feel they "need" to go for the Cruel Ultimatum. Not many decks can come back from Cruel, but this deck usually just needs to wait for the opponent to cast their big spell so it can go off.


Game 4: Faeries

I keep Merfolk Looter, Makeshift Mannequin, Mind Stone, Vivid Creek, Vivid Meadow, Swamp, and Plumeveil on the play. I lead with a Vivid land and pass. Chris plays a Secluded Glen and passes back. I draw an Island, play my Merfolk Looter, and pass. Chris plays Bitterblossom. I draw another Plumeveil and use my Looter. I find another Island and use the opportunity to get Plumeveil into play. On Chris's turn he makes a token and passes. I continue to loot and end up with Platinum Angel in my 'yard. When Chris goes for a Mistbind Clique during my upkeep' I use Makeshift Mannequin on the Platinum Angel. Chris uses his remaining mana to kill the only Plumeveil I have left in play. He continues to attack me until I am at a negative life total and then he Cryptic Commands Platinum Angel back to my hand.

Match Overview: Faeries is by far our toughest matchup. It's hard to break through their countermagic and even harder to race them. I'm not sure how to make this matchup better. If it weren't for the deck's Faerie matchup I probably would have played the Master Transmuter deck in Kyoto.


Game 5: White Weenie

I keep mulligan on the play and keep Thousand-Year Elixir, Grim Poppet, Master Transmuter, Mind Stone, Arcane Sanctum, Island. I play Arcane Sanctum and pass. Chris plays a Windbrisk Heights and passes. I draw a Vivid Creek, play my Mind stone and pass. Chris plays Knight of Meadowgrain. I untap, draw a Plains, play Thousand-Year Elixir and Vivid Creek, and pass. Chris plays Wizened Cenn and attacks for 3. On my turn I play Plains and Master Transmuter before passing. Chris plays Glorious Anthem and attacks with both his creatures. I use Master Transmuter to turn my Mind Stone into a Grim Poppet and use the counters to kill Wizened Cenn before blocking and killing Knight of Meadowgrain. There's pretty much no way a Kithkin deck beats this draw. Chris concedes promptly.

Match Overview: If the Kithkin player has a fast draw on the play this match can be tough. Usually, though, this match is pretty easy. Don't be afraid to trade your Sphinx Summoners, and eventually you should resolve the Poppet. Once you have your Transmuter going with a Grim Poppet it becomes really hard to lose.


I hope you find the time to take this deck for a spin. It's some of the most fun you can have in today's Standard.

Happy brewing!

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