The Silvery Singleton of IntoTheAether

Posted in Feature on March 1, 2005

By Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

Singleton ideas for Artifact Week

First off, sorry about constantly saying “this weekend” last week when talking about the Betrayers of Kamigawa Release Events. Sometimes writing articles in advance can really mess up a person's head. Rest assured the Release Events really are this weekend. Honest.

One of the things I didn't touch on when focusing on the many Premiere Events, Premiere Leagues, Drafts, etc. during this weekend's fun is the fact that you also can begin playing with Betrayers of Kamigawa in your Constructed decks. In fact, since Betrayers officially went on sale yesterday for Magic Online, many of you are probably already beginning to add wicked Ninja action to your decklists.

For the most part, Betrayers will drift into your Constructed consciousness slowly. After all, most people use multiple copies of cards in their decks, and it will take a while to trade for what you need for, say, the brave new world of Standard.

However, there is one Constructed format you can reasonably jump into this weekend, Betrayers and all. That format is (no points for guessing given the title of my article)... Singleton.

There Can Be Only One

Singleton isn't a new topic for me. As a refresher, though, here are the simple yet elegant rules for deck construction:

  • Minimum of 60 cards.
  • Your deck can only contain a maximum of one copy of any card except basic land.

Check out my first article on Singleton for some initial insights on the format and tips for deck construction. My second article dives into a deck very close to my heart and gives you a sample game on which to gnaw (this article also happened to occur the week before the Champions of Kamigawa Release Events, demonstrating that I am nothing if not consistent). Since these articles, sanctioned Singleton tournaments have begun, running twice per week. It's a format definitely rising in popularity, Scott Larabee tells me.

Because you can only have one copy of any card in your deck, Singleton has a very low barrier of entry. Finding four of every Ninja you want in your Ninja deck might take a while, but finding one of each is a lot easier. Maybe this is why Singleton is so popular; Not only are games highly varied, but the budget deckbuilder is on more equal footing than in other formats.

Silvery Singleton

I'm not going to talk overmuch about Betrayers' influence on Singleton, since there will be plenty of opportunities to dive into the new set after this weekend. Instead, I'm going to celebrate the fact that it's Artifact Week here at magicthegathering.com. I've stated before that a very plausible way to approach Singleton deckbuilding is to latch onto a loose, mechanic-based theme and build from there. What better way to test this theory than by exploring some of the artifact-based decks I see available to the Singleton deckbuilder?

Below are the mechanical themes I think provide good foundations for artifact-based Singleton decks. Pay close attention to that sentence, though: I'm talking about artifact-based decks only--that is, decks that use a high number of artifacts as their central strategy. Surely lots of Singleton decks can be built around artifacts I won't mention today, and the list below isn't comprehensive. The point today is to get your mind churning about building Singleton decks from a very loose theme.

Ready? Here we go!

Affinity

Well, duh. In case you've been chained in your basement playing Homelands theme decks for the last couple of years, you may have realized that “Affinity for Artifacts” is... um... pretty good. In every stinkin' format. Throw one of every artifact land, plus Frogmite, Myr Enforcer, Thoughtcast, Somber Hoverguard, Tooth of Chiss-Goria, and some other cheap artifacts into a deck and you're bound to win a lot of games. The great thing about Singleton is that not only are you using the usual suspects like Disciple of the Vault, Ornithopter, Cranial Plating, and Arcbound Ravager, but you're also dipping into the lesser-used Quicksilver Behemoth, Broodstar, Chromescale Drake, and Qumulox. You're probably also using Blue for more card-drawing. Anyway, even with only one copy of these cards your deck will be, as they say, scary.

The Nim

 

Nim Devourer
A fun variation on the Affinity theme is to load up on cards with the “Nim” ability. Nim Devourer, Nim Grotesque, Nim Lasher, Nim Replica, Nim Shambler, Nim Shrieker, Hunger of the Nim, Mephitic Ooze, and the aforementioned Cranial Plating make a nice core to a black-based artifact deck. Disciple of the Vault still makes an appearance, and after that you can take the deck into either a Zombie arena or go the cheap artifacts and equipment route. Maybe you splash Blue for card-drawing and unblockability (I'm thinking Whispersilk Cloak makes its way into every Nim deck). This is also a way to use a lot of the good Affinity cards without tainting yourself with that awful Affinity feeling.

Big Mana

If there is one thing that artifacts are good at doing, it's creating mana. There are Diamonds, Talismans, Cameos, Ingots, Myr, etc. all focused on mana production. But not just that, cards like Blinkmoth Urn, Extraplanar Lens, Doubling Cube, and Krark-Clan Ironworks are artifacts that don't just produce mana, they roll around naked in it with rapture. These cards can all combine into a deck trying its best to hoard mana like it's the end of the world, pointing 20-point Fireballs at an opponent's face, slinging behemoths like Bosh, Iron Golem and Clockwork Dragon around, and activating the likes of Aladdin's Ring, Tower of Fortunes, and Riptide Replicator to dramatic effect. Mana is good. Big Mana is great.

+1/+1 Counters

Two different artifact themes play around with +1/+1 counters: Modular and the Clockwork creatures. There are enough of both to make the heart of a bizarre artifact creature deck that probably also plays Green to benefit from Phantom creatures, Forgotten Ancient, etc. Oddly enough, this is the one artifact-based theme I've already tried in Singleton. My latest +1/+1 counter creation is a bit of a mess, but still fun to play.

Charge Counters

 

Coretapper
If the idea of artifact creatures is a little too boring for you, feel free to shift over to a focus on charge counters. Coretapper, Dismantle, Energy Chamber, and Power Conduit are the main workhorses in such a deck, which probably necessitates some tutors like Fabricate and Reshape. The counter-producing cards, in turn, fuel things like Darksteel Reactor, Infused Arrows, Chimeric Egg, Ion Storm, Clearwater Goblet, Lightning Coils, Orochi Hatchery, Spawning Pit, Sun Droplet, and more. What's fun about a deck like this is the sheer randomness of what your deck can do and how it can win, taking the spirit of Singleton and embracing it. Don't forget that Betrayers of Kamigawa brings Umezawa's Jitte, as well.

Cogs

Ah, cogs. I love them so. “Cogs” refer to any artifact of converted mana cost one or zero. Fifth Dawn contains an entire subtheme with regards to cogs, thanks to cards like Auriok Salvagers and Trinket Mage. Combine all of these cards into a deck--along with hordes of cogs, naturally--and you have yourself a very fun deck. For Singleton, this strategy is particularly powerful because a) you have some tutoring ability thanks to Trinket Mage, Artificer's Intuition, Fabricate, and Reshape, and b) you can recycle your single copies of cogs thanks to Auriok Salvagers, Salvaging Station, and Leonin Squire. The result is a deck that is slightly less random than your typical Singleton deck, as well as being relatively low on the manacurve.

Here's an example:

One Cog, Two Cog, Three Cog, Four

Download Arena Decklist

Cantrips

Here's a variation on the cog theme. It may not sound like much initially, but throw one copy of each of the Odyssey Eggs (e.g. Darkwater Egg) and the Mirrodin Spellbombs (e.g. Aether Spellbomb), add Conjurer's Bauble, Chromatic Sphere, Scrabbling Claws, and Sensei's Divining Top, and guess what? You are about to draw a heck of a lot of cards. The question, of course, is what you choose to do with all of those cards and all of those artifacts headed to your graveyard. Disciple of the Vault and Moriok Rigger? Roar of Reclamation and Leonin Elder? Psychatog? Threshold? All of the above?

Sunburst

I have recently run into a lot of 5-color Singleton decks, but so far they have either been promoting Hondens, Volvers, Battlemages, or all of the above. I have yet to see a multicolor deck that really hones in on the Sunburst mechanic, which is a shame since so many fun Sunburst cards exist, along with plenty of ways--Kodama's Reach, Rampant Growth, Harrow, Wayfarer's Bauble, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Chromatic Sphere, etc.--to reliably access all five colors. The cool thing about a Singleton Sunburst deck is that it pushes you beyond the staples like Etched Oracle, Clearwater Goblet, and Infused Arrows to use wackier stuff like Solarion, Heliophial, and Opaline Bracers. Don't forget Emblazoned Golem, too, which is about as close to Sunburst as you can get in earlier sets.

Oneburst

Download Arena Decklist

Stations

This one is tricky. Theoretically all you need is one copy of Grinding Station, Blasting Station, Salvaging Station, and Summoning Station together in order to make the ultimate machine. With only one copy of each artifact in your deck, though, how do you pull it off? First step is to load up on tutors (Fabricate, Diabolic Tutor, Tainted Pact, Insidious Dreams and the like). Second step is to load up on mana (Salvaging Station and Summoning Station ain't cheap, folks). Third step is to load up on things like Myr Retriever, Eternal Witness, and Ritual of Restoration to get back any of the Stations that are destroyed. Fourth step is to use whatever remaining slots you have to play defense like Wrath of God, Mutilate, Solar Tide, and Ghostly Prison. Fifth step is to pray a lot and hope you win one game in five with your cool, wacky deck.


The Great Machine

Milling

Of course, you can always just decide to use Grinding Station for more direct (read: evil) purposes and make a “milling” deck that looks to run an opponent out of cards instead of dealing twenty damage. Mesmeric Orb, Millstone, Tower of Murmurs, and Hair-Strung Koto can team up with staples like Brain Freeze, Ambassador Laquatus, Dampen Thought, and, of course, Traumatize. Maybe this isn't as directly artifact-focused as some of the other decks I'm mentioning today, but any Singleton milling deck is still going to be relying heavily on its artifacts to win.

Equipment

You probably saw this one coming, since equipment is right after Affinity as the most obvious artifact-based deck. Usually this takes the form of quick beats like Bonesplitter, Leonin Scimitar, and Empyrial Plate, with maybe Sword of Fire and Ice or Loxodon Warhammer at the top of the manacurve. The favorite color to suit up with equipment is White, largely because of a) the tutoring power of Steelshaper's Gift, Steelshaper Apprentice, and Taj-Nar Swordsmith, b) the Equip Goodness of cards like Auriok Glaivemaster, Skyhunter Cub, Auriok Steelshaper, and Leonin Den-Guard, and c) the quick weenies of White like Savannah Lions, Lantern Kami, Silver Knight, and Leonin Skyhunter. Don't feel pigeonholed into White, though. Red has quick beats too (and Spikeshot Goblin to boot). Green has trample going for it. Black has blocker removal and some good weenies. And Blue... well, Blue might look something like this:

Fish Sticks

Download Arena Decklist

Silly deck? Yes. But it's also a silly deck that won eight of its first ten games. I'm not sure this is the correct configuration of a Blue Weenie deck (I think there should be a sprinkling of countermagic and/or bounce in there and some of the creatures are just awful), but it's a reasonable start.

As a reminder, Betrayers of Kamigawa provides fun tools for any equipment-based deck like this, including Umezawa's Jitte, Ronin Warclub, and Shuriken.

Kaldra

I've always maintained that a perfectly fine Kaldra deck (attempting to get Shield of Kaldra, Sword of Kaldra, and Helm of Kaldra all into play at the same time) need not use more than one piece of each equipment. Singleton obviously tests this assumption pretty heavily, because a Singleton Kaldra deck can also only use one Steelshaper's Gift, Steelshaper Apprentice, Fabricate, and other tutors. I think the trick here is to load up on board-sweeping, Wrath of God-like defense along with lots of Blue-based card-drawing. Again, this is one of those decks where the rare win by Kaldra is worth the previous (and multiple) losses.

Indesctructibles

 

Myr Matrix
A popular constructed archetype involves using indestructible artifacts like Darksteel Ingot and Darksteel Pendant coupled with March of the Machines. This strategy doesn't translate well to Singleton because of the low number of afforable indestructible artifacts and only one copy of March. Instead, you need to use all seven Darksteel indestructibles (plus Myr Matrix), along with a variety of other tricks. March of the Machines is one such trick, but so is Akroma's Vengeance, Obliterate, Dismantle (pointed at Darksteel Reactor), Inferno, etc. Just keep in mind that all of these tricks cost a lot of mana, which means you need to stockpile some of the ideas from the “Big Mana” paragraph above. Also, it might be worth waiting until after this weekend when you can add That Which Was Taken to your decklist.

Golems

It seems to me that two tribes can translate into artifact-heavy Singleton decks. The first is Golems. You won't be able to reasonably use all of the Golems available online, but you could try a core of Brass Herald, Battered Golem, Voltaic Construct, Bosh, Iron Golem, Arcbound Reclaimer, Arcbound Overseer, and Mycosynth Golem. If you can get Mycosynth Golem into play, obviously, your deck starts to hum, and you need enough Golems in the deck to make Brass Herald worth it. That probably means using at least twenty Golems, which in turns means using sketchy creatures like Alloy Golem, Junk Golem, the Invasion Attendants, and Composite Golem. Given the fact that your deck is probably five colors, you may also benefit from Fist of Suns, Bringer of the White Dawn, Door to Nothingness, and some of the tricks from the Sunburst deck above.

Myr

The second tribe available to Singleton artifact decks is Myr. There are certainly a wider variety of Myr to choose from compared to Golems, but the problem is that, on average, the Myr do a lot less on their own. The good news is that Myr Matrix, Genesis Chamber, and Myr Incubator can combine to make cards like Lodestone Myr, Coat of Arms, and Echoing Courage really spiffy. Riptide Replicator and Seedborn Muse probably make an appearance too. The trick is to look at any card where strength in numbers matters (Epic Struggle, Orochi Eggwatcher, Overwhelming Instinct) and build from there.

Sacrificial Junk

Atogs don't constitute a tribe when it comes to artifacts, but the ability of Atog, Megatog, Sarcatog, and Lithatog combine with cards like Spawning Pit, Shrapnel Blast, Trash for Treasure, Reprocess, the Krark-Clan crew, Diabolic Intent, and Stronghold Assassin, to turn your carefully-crafted artifacts into scrap. Basically there are a lot of ways to sacrifice artifacts if you want to, and even more ways to sacrifice artifact creatures. The question is why? Maybe it's simply to keep Rust Elemental or Vulshok War Boar alive, or maybe it's to feed Arcbound Ravager. These are good reasons, as are Disciple of the Vault, Mortivore, or Morality Shift. Don't forget, too, to include ways to get your artifacts back into play a la Skeleton Shard, Bringer of the White Dawn, Roar of Reclamation, and Moriok Scavenger. Get creative, and scrap your artifacts for good reason.

Control

 

Ensnaring Bridge
Some artifacts are just plain annoying. Icy Manipulator, Staff of Domination, Oblivion Stone, Static Orb, Ensnaring Bridge, Caltrops, Mindslaver, Crystal Shard, and Platinum Angel are good examples. These cards are meant to demoralize and demean, to shape the game with your will while your opponent stares uselessly into the puddle of his own tears. Singleton allows you to combine most or all of these artifacts into a deck of pure malice. You're probably playing Blue thanks to Vedalken Shackles and other unfair spells like Fact or Fiction and Bribery. You're also probably playing countermagic, just because you can. Maybe your Artifacts of Evil are a way of controlling the game so you can win with Door to Nothingness or Darksteel Reactor, but more likely you just like to watch people concede out of frustration. Orb of Dreams is waiting to make an appearance in your deck, too.

Spirit/Arcane

This last one isn't an artifact-focused deck per se. But it's worth noting that an increasing number of artifacts in Kamigawa block interact somehow with Spirits and Arcane cards. Jade Idol, Long-Forgotten Gohei, and soon Baku Altar and Slumbering Tora are the beginnings of a deck packed full of other Spirts and/or Arcane spells. Maybe this strategy is best left for Kamigawa Block Constructed, but the hope is that after Saviors of Kamigawa there will be enough here for a Singleton strategy as well.

Speaking of other formats, keep in mind that the exercise I just went through holds true generally in constructed. That is, these are mechanics that can form the basis of almost any artifact-based deck in the Casual Constructed room. I focused on Singleton because I would argue that Singleton forces you to explore mechanics more fully as opposed to zeroing in on specific cards with that mechanic. As a result, Singleton deckbuilding can be daunting. Allow these initial ideas to push you on your way.

Based on recent e-mail I've received, there is both a lot of excitement and a lot of confusion about Vanguard. As I have more information to share, I will certainly do so. Before the Magic Invitational, I'm sure, I'll dedicate an entire article to the wonder that is Vanguard. Speaking of the Invitational, don't forget to cast your votes for who participates. I've heard a rumor that some future Magic Online events will give someone an opportunity to hang out with the Pros there at E3. For this, too, stay tuned.

I hope to see you online this weekend! Betrayers of Kamigawa is here! Woo!

-j

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