Version 2.0

Posted in Top Decks on September 16, 2010

By Mike Flores

Once upon a time, peeling back the pages more than ten years distant, there was released a summer set called Urza's Destiny.

Urza's Destiny was the third chapter in a powerful block defined by very powerful cards. This was a block of Time Spirals and Tinkers, of Memory Jars and Morphlings. To be noticed at a time like this, you had to boast at least a Wildfire, or make a ton of mana starting on turn two ... At this stage every kind of deck was firing on every piston of imagination and potential.

At the time it was released—despite the pedigree of all the cards swirling in the metagame around it—Urza's Destiny still managed to come in as one of the most powerful Magic sets of all time. Even eleven years later, it is still the home to a good many icons, both fantastic creatures and magical spells. Urza's Destiny had everything. It had a powerful card-drawing enchantment that did nothing but spawn new archetypes for as long as it was legal to play in Yawgmoth's Agenda. Urza's Destiny's Masticore was likely the most flexible kill-card ever, straddling archetypes from mono-green StOmPy to acting as the clean-up man for every mono-blue deck of the age; years later, Masticore would pepper Extended archetypes, and even join forces with Phyrexian Negator (another spicy Urza's Desiny hit) out of the Trix sideboardl Urza's Destiny also had its fair share of seemingly unfair (but actually simply-quite-advantageous) utility cards ... like Plow Under or Powder Keg.

Now that Powder Keg was a real something special. Let's focus on that one for a moment. At first we didn't know how good Powder Keg might be. Remember, at the time, we had Nevinyrral's Disk—then marketed as "the ultimate combo-breaker"—as the bar for colorless sources of sweeping. Powder Keg, at the time, represented a cost savings, but did so much less than what we were used to.

However the speed of Powder Keg won out. The little two-mana artifact was fast enough to slip under Counterspell walls and fast enough to compete even with Goblin Cadets and Cursed Scroll. Powder Keg eventually grew into a bane for beatdown across many formats and a source of artifact defense for colors that had none.

Eventually, Powder Keg ended up getting played next toNevinyrral's Disk in Extended, but was a ubiquity in Standard. Blue decks played all four copies: Accelerated Blue, Thieving Magpie decks, almost every blue mage wanted four copies of Powder Keg. I remember how tricky Powder Keg could be in the supposedly ponderous Thieving Magpie decks. The best of the Magpie mages would pretend that StOmPy was the bad match-up for mono-blue deck—but secretly, between his Kegs and main deck Seal of Removal, the little green men were among blue's most likely victims. Powder Keg was key to this unexpected success.

But as I said, Powder Keg was eventually everywhere. Some Ponza Rotta Red land-destruction variants ran Powder Keg to supplement their many ways of breaking many different kinds of permanents, and even Napster—a super precise mono-black Vampiric Tutor deck—played a copy in the sideboard as a catch-all.

Why all this talk about the ubiquity of Powder Keg?

Of the transformative qualities of Powder Keg?

It probably won't surprised you to learn that come Scars of Mirrodin, we have a brand new Powder Keg! Click here to light the fuse.

This is a card that very nearly speaks for itself.

"I am going to be very good!"

There are two key differences between Powder Keg and Ratchet Bomb.

  1. Powder Keg could (optionally) take on a new fuse counter each upkeep all by itself; Ratchet Bomb only gets a charge counter if you tap it.
  2. Powder Keg could only destroy creatures and artifacts; Ratchet Bomb takes on all comers ... artifacts and creatures—thank goodness—but also planeswalkers, enchantments, whatever newfangled permanents types they think up next.

While the first difference is not insignificant, I don't know that it will drag down the long-term playability of Ratchet Bomb overmuch. For the most part you will be able to tap a counter onto Ratchet Bomb before untapping for your next turn (when, in the same spot, Powder Keg would be acquiring its counter), so Ratchet Bomb will not usually be much slower. There may be a danger insofar as your opponent being able to keep Ratchet Bomb tapped (say, in environments that include Ajani Vengeant), but that difference shaves relatively little value off of the newcomer artifact.

On the other hand, that second difference is extremely significant. In most ways, shapes, and forms, Ratchet Bomb is just a much better Powder Keg! And when you consider the extraordinary popularity of Powder Keg eleven years ago, that spells—nay screams—one thing for Ratchet Bomb.

"Play me!"

This card has numerous implications. For one thing, it will give control decks a new and potentially advantageous way of dealing with enemy planeswalkers. You can sit behind it with four or five counters (or the ability to spring to that many counters) and potentially force the opponent into a difficult corner. Lazy players who aren't thinking about Ratchet Bomb will get multiple planeswalkers sniped ... much as they do today when losing to All Is Dust.

The creatures have for the most part gotten better, but Ratchet Bomb should be no less the beatdown bane than Powder Keg was those many years ago. Ratchet Bomb should help you save significant amounts of life, especially in the early game as you ramp towards your "real" strategy.

And as for artifacts? The fact that this card—this descendant of that other card—can "still" destroy them seems more relevant than ever. The presence of metalcraft as a key element in Scars of Mirrodin-influenced deck construction means that there will be lots of (enemy) artifacts on the battlefield. This card may be able to get two or three at a time. Card advantage is one thing, but Ratchet Bomb will also shut down metalcraft. If it can do so mid-combat, combat shenanigans (and other hilarity) may follow.

But more than that, Ratchet Bomb is just a good artifact! That means that you can "passively" play Ratchet Bomb in decks that have artifact-driven or true metalcraft requirements as an enabler. Yes, you can blow it up for value or profit, lean on it for creature defense, or use it to collect proliferate counters. But the fact that this is "just" a good artifact that you can play—and play onto the battlefield as part of a larger scheme—makes for even more possibilities.

Speaking of possibilities, how about a couple of ideas?

    Mono-Blue Control

One deck that I tried to make with the coming of Scroll Thief in M11 (seemingly an upgrade over the once super-popular Ophidian) was Mono-Blue Control. This deck never panned out. Part of the problem was that the most efficient "catch up" card was seven mana away with All Is Dust. Ratchet Bomb gives Mono-Blue Control players the potential for a faster way of defending the battlefield—one that "plays nicely" with All Is Dust, if we continue to be so inclined.

    Any Kind of Non-White Control

Green-blue, in the past, has had to rely on combo kills, speed, or (admittedly advantageous) answers like Vapor Snare. Ratchet Bomb gives this color combination an answer that does not require dipping into the traditional pair to blue.

What about mono-green? Ratchet Bomb gives you not only a kind of Day of Judgment, but the ability to control the tempo of the game and the destiny of the battlefield. You can tier the creatures you drop while determining—theoretically you would use surgical precision—what will survive, and what won't.

    An Answer for Everybody, and Every Thing

Just as Powder Keg was played across even unexpected archetypes (the sideboard of mono-green decks, redundancy in decks that you might think were already overflowing with sweepers) ... Ratchet Bomb can potentially be there. For example, in new (and soon to be even newer) Extended, Ratchet Bomb can give a Faeries deck (or any deck!) a legitimate answer to Bitterblossom (or, if appropriate, just the Bitterblossom tokens).

All in all, I expect Ratchet Bomb to be one of the most popular staples of the upcoming Standard environment, and for that matter, a cross-format option. It just does too much too well, while costing you so little mana for any other destiny. This is what it will say next:


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