Origin of Synergy

Posted in Limited Information on July 1, 2015

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

Last week we went in-depth on a cycle of cards that cared about having multiple copies of themselves in your Limited deck. It's kind of a strange way to phrase it, "cared." Cards are inanimate objects that don't really care about anything. Except for maybe humid environments or clothes dryers. But if you put on your game designer hat, it makes sense to say it like that.

Cards that care about other cards in the set are a key way to show one great aspect of our game: synergy. Synergy is a broad topic, but it mainly refers to cards that get better in the company of other, similar cards. The previews from last week were an even narrower example, as they cared about having more copies of that specific card in your deck. Usually synergy is expressed in a wider sense.

As an example, there have been many instances of tribal synergies in the past. The tribe of the creature refers to its creature type (think Merfolk, Elf, Jellyfish). Cards with tribal synergy want to see you play as many cards of that tribe as possible—and they reward you for it. Even lowly cards that wouldn't be playable otherwise jump up your priority list simply because they enable the great synergies available in your deck.

This week we have five more Origins preview cards, and they all revolve around a different kind of synergy from the previews from last week.


Thopters are 1/1 colorless artifact creature tokens with flying. And in Magic Origins, you'll see a lot of these little guys flittering about. They contribute to one of the synergies available to you in this new set: artifacts.

We've seen artifact synergies before (think Affinity or Metalcraft) but in Origins it's a little different. The cards we are previewing today care about if you control any artifacts, and how many. And they reward you nicely for doing so.

Let's get down to business.

First up we have a simple but effective card called Ghirapur Gearcrafter.

Ghirapur Gearcrafter (the creative team is really just trying to tongue-tie me in the commentator booth) is a 2/1 for 2R, which—as you probably know—fails the Vanilla Test. The Vanilla Test is just a starting point; it's not the end point for an evaluation. What it tells us is that we should expect something pretty good in the text box. And that's exactly what we get.

We get an aforementioned 1/1 colorless Thopter artifact creature token with flying. That's a mouthful. But it's also a meaningful creature and it makes the Gearcrafter a darn good card.

Remember this card from Fate Reforged?

How often did you put the +1/+1 counter on it? I think I did either zero or one time for the whole time I played with the card, which was a long time. Ghirapur Gearcrafter is a lot like this card, which means it's really good.

The main benefits are that you get two creatures from one card, which can matter in many scenarios. It gives you two separate blockers, two things that have to be killed if the opponent finds him- or herself behind, it can take advantage of cards that pump all of your creatures (or even just two of them), and it gives you an evasive threat to pick up Equipment or an Aura or whatever.

We will also note that this card produces an artifact for you. Keep that in mind as we proceed.

Next up is a similar card, named Whirler Rogue:

Whirler Rogue is an uncommon, and costs more mana, and is harder to cast thanks to the double-mana symbol casting cost. But wow, it gives you a grand total of three bodies, two of which have flying, and they even threw in a bonus ability!

We get our first hint of the artifact synergies I was talking about earlier. You can tap two untapped artifacts you control to make a creature unblockable this turn. It's not a stretch to see that you can play Whirler Rogue, and use the two Thopters it produced to make something unblockable right away. That's right, it can use this ability even if it has summoning sickness.

But honestly, that ability—as good as it is—is not the reason to play this card. The reason is you get so much value! You get 4 power, 2 of which has flying, spread out over three creatures, two of which are artifacts, is great for four mana. I can't wait to draft this card, it's like its own little board state all packed into one card.

So you get the idea here, we can make Thopter tokens for "free" here and there. My guess is there are even more ways in the set to make them. Besides just attacking and blocking with them, how do we benefit?

Let's look at Artificer's Epiphany:

This common will likely remind you of a card we've seen printed many times: Divination. And it is a lot like Divination, except it's an instant. That is an important distinction—it allows you to keep up mana for combat tricks, removal spells, and counterspells. And then, if those aren't needed, fire off the Epiphany to draw some cards.

And by some cards, I mean two. Sort of. Assuming you have no artifacts, what happens here is you draw two, and then discard a card from your hand, also known as "discard a card." I'm focusing special attention here because it's easy to read this as "Draw two cards, then discard one of them," which is most decidedly not how this card works.

What happens here is you can use Artificer's Epiphany to draw two fresh cards, and discard a useless land or a spell you couldn't cast (or just didn't want to cast) later in the game. If you find yourself flooding out a bit in a game but know you have this in your deck, make sure you hang onto at least one land just so you have something useless to discard to it in case you draw it.

That's the baseline. But even better is to just keep both cards, right? If you control any artifacts, even say, a 1/1 colorless Thopter artifact creature token with flying, you get to play Divination at instant speed. That's pretty good, and something I look forward to doing.

Let's think a little bigger picture now. Let's look at Chief of the Foundry.

Now, the big chief here doesn't count itself, but all other artifact creatures you control get +1/+1, which can be very powerful. And it works particularly well with small, cheap (or free), evasive artifact creatures. Like Thopters!

Since Chief of the Foundry is colorless, you can put it into any deck, but it feels like the blue and red deck capable of producing a lot of Thopters is the way to go. It will, of course, also pump other artifact creatures you control, but my excitement level for when to draft this card is directly proportional to how many Thopter-makers I have.

If you happen to have two of these on the battlefield, they will affect each other, making them each 3/4, and making any Thopters you have quite scary.

One more card for the week. A well-timed one of these will be a massive swing in any reasonable game. Let's look at Reclusive Artificer:

First up, we have to note that we have a gold card here, and one that is in the two colors we've been focusing on today. That's not a mistake, and interestingly it means you are more likely to get this card if you are in these colors. This is because there is only one deck that wants a Reclusive Artificer: the blue and red artifacts deck. Even though it may be one of the better cards in your deck, assuming you are the only one in those colors, you could see these going quite late in the draft.

So how good is it? In the right deck it's devastating. In the almost-right deck it's just ok, and in the wrong deck it's not worth playing. The best-case is one where you curve out a couple of Thopter-makers and then clean up a strong start by killing your opponent's creature with the Artificer and attacking for a bunch of damage. The haste aspect of this card isn't a huge deal, but when it's good, it's going to shine.

My gut says you'll need to prioritize the Thopter-makers over the reward cards. The Thopter-makers are good on their own and don't need help, but if you can pick up a few of these support cards you'll have a highly synergistic deck.

This whole artifact thing is just one of the synergies available in Magic Origins, and I look forward to exploring the others with you as more is revealed!

Until next week,


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