Throwback Standard Gauntlet 4: Mirrodin Standard

Posted in Magic Online on May 31, 2017

By Randy Buehler

After the relative calm of Invasion, Odyssey, and Onslaught-era Standard; Mirrodin burst onto the scene with a flood of linear "artifact matters" mechanics, the most powerful of which was affinity for artifacts. Affinity was so good and so influential that the aggro artifact strategy in Modern is still called "Affinity" to this day even though it hasn't had any cards with the actual affinity for artifacts mechanic in it for years.

Mirrodin also introduced the Equipment subtype to the game, and the second set of the Mirrodin block had a particularly broken piece of equipment in it: Skullclamp. It went into not just the Affinity deck but also various green-based decks that were happy to kill off their own Elfs for value. In June 2004, Skullclamp became the first card banned in Standard in five years (since the end of the Urza-block era).

However, the banning of Skullclamp barely put a dent in the results of the Affinity deck. Cranial Plating slotted straight into its place in most lists, and the metagame was essentially Affinity versus Anti-Affinity until March of 2005 when the banhammer hit not just the two most powerful creatures in the deck—Arcbound Ravager and Disciple of the Vault—but also all six artifact lands, just to be sure.

This Gauntlet focuses on just a two-year slice of time (the two years when Mirrodin was legal in Standard) because that artifact theme had such a powerful effect on both decks and sideboards that it doesn't make sense to mix it with other environments.

Note: This event can be found in the Limited Leagues area of Magic Online play lobby.

Mirrodin Standard Throwback Standard Gauntlet League

  • Start Time: June 7 at 10 a.m. Pacific
  • End Time: Entries end June 14 at 7 a.m. Pacific, matches end at 10 a.m. Pacific
  • Location: Play Lobby -> Limited Tournaments -> Leagues
  • Entry Options:
    • 10 Event Tickets
    • 100 Play Points
  • Number of Players: 8
  • Product: One randomly-selected phantom deck from the below list. The cards in the deck willnotbe added to your collection.
  • Structure: Deck review, followed by 3 Swiss rounds
  • Prizes:
    • 3 wins: 150 Play Points
    • 2 wins: 100 Play Points
    • 1 win: 40 Play Points
    • 0 wins: 10 Play Points

Plating Affinity

While Aeo Paquette was the one who made the finals at Worlds 2004, it was Kamiel Cornelissen's version (which also made the Top 8) that would prove to be more influential. Cornelissen was the first player to use Æther Vials to supercharge his aggro deck (whereas Paquette used Chrome Mox). Cornelissen also made great use of Myr Retrievers to allow him to potentially win longer games versus enemy removal.

Plating Affinity

Skullclamp Affinity

The original version of the Affinity deck was even more aggressive, with fully four copies of Shrapnel Blast giving this list (brought to us by Go Anan/Shuhei Nakamura via Japanese Nationals) a lot of "reach." Meanwhile, four copies of Skullclamp gives it solid staying power too, and if you ever assemble the combo of Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Ravager, that's usually lights out for your opponent.

Skullclamp Affinity

Elf and Nail

The best use of Skullclamp in this era of Standard was probably in this deck, which Craig Krempels used to win US Nationals in 2004. The deck makes a crazy amount of mana by putting extra Forests into play and then doubling their effectiveness with Vernal Bloom. Tooth and Nail usually fetches up Kamahl, Fist of Krosa so those Forests can then attack for the win. Or you can just put Darksteel Colossus into play. Or why not both? Oh, by the way, you've also got a ton of mana dorks, and Skullclamp turns them into extra value once they're done accelerating you through the early turns of the game.

Elf and Nail

Eternal Slide

Fifteen-year-old Julien Nuijten won Worlds in 2004 with this deck. He remains, to this day, the youngest person to ever win a Pro Tour. On its surface, it's fairly similar to the Rift-Slide deck from the last Gauntlet, but instead of red for Lightning Rift, Julien paired Astral Slide with a pair of great green creatures with "comes into play" abilities that could be reused over and over again thanks to Astral Slide: Viridian Shaman and Eternal Witness. Interestingly, Nuijten credited an article by Brian Kibler as his primary inspiration for his decklist.

Eternal Slide

Goblins

Affinity wasn't the only good beatdown deck running around Standard during this era. The Onslaught-fueled Goblins deck remained a part of Tier 1 for as long as Goblin Warchief and Goblin Piledriver were legal in Standard. Once Mirrodin came out, most versions splashed green for anti-artifact cards, including this one which Hall of Famer Tsuyoshi Fujita used to win Japanese Nationals.

Goblins

Ironworks

There was more you could do with artifact lands than just sacrifice them to Ravager after they were done fueling your cards with affinity. Like any good artifact block, Mirrodin gave us some combo decks as well. Manuel Bevand made the Top 8 of Worlds 2004 with this Krark-Clan Ironworks deck, whose primary plan was to sacrifice everything to play and then activate a Myr Incubator as soon as possible. Note also the sideboard plan of Seething Songs and Furnace Dragons[nbsp] . . .[/nbsp] it's safe to say that Affinity had a target squarely in the middle of its forehead during this era.

Ironworks

UrzaTron

Urza's Mine + Urza's Power Plant + Urza's Tower, also known as the "UrzaTron," fueled Antonino de Rosa's win at US Nationals in 2005. Memnarch, Triskelion, and especially Mindslaver were his big colorless weapons of choice. Since Affinity had been banned out by the summer of 2005, I've also tweaked his sideboard to include March of the Machines, which had been in heavy use by many blue decks to turn enemy artifact lands into 0/0 creatures.

UrzaTron

White-Blue Control

Despite all the aggressive Affinity and Goblin decks that were running around, Gabriel Nassif managed to make the Top 8 of Worlds in 2004 with a very old-school White-Blue Control deck. Counterspells, Wrath of God, and card drawing was still a good combination, and having lands that could tap for multiple mana gave him the ability to pull ahead in the late game (especially with Decree of Justice). Nassif's deck was designed to have game against both affinity and anti-affinity decks, and it secured his third Pro Tour Top 8 of the season—enough to become the first Player of the Year that did not win a Pro Tour on his way to the title.

White-Blue Control

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