've been thinking about it a lot recently, and I think that Contagion Clasp might be my favorite Limited card in Scars of Mirrodin.
Contagion Clasp does so much. It kills mana Myr, which can put your opponent off of key plays for turns and may even lock your foe out of one of his or her key colors for the majority of the game. It can kill all sorts of other utility creatures like Myrsmith or infect creatures like Plague Stinger. And it lets you proliferate—so you can power up your Tumble Magnet and take down even larger threats by piling on the -1/-1 counters.
And it counts towards metalcraft! So even after you've taken down one of your opponent's key creatures, you will have a permanent that allows you to proliferate for a very reasonable price that will also power up your Chrome Steed.
While Contagion Clasp is a great addition to any deck, it is an absolute all-star in metalcraft decks.
And Contagion Clasp isn't the only card that rises to the occasion in metalcraft decks; there are a whole host of cards that really come into their own when they are surrounded by other artifacts.
Ready to take full advantage of the plentiful artifacts that Scars of Mirrodin has to offer? Then read on!
Taking the Plunge
When can you take a Rusted Relic? How about a Carapace Forger, a Vedalken Certarch, or a Chrome Steed?
From the very start of the draft, that's when!
When I look at a pack and I have to choose between a non-metalcraft artifact, and a slightly better colored card—I'll typically go for the artifact because it leaves me with far more options. If I have to choose between a metalcraft card and a colored card of roughly equal strength, then I could go either way as both require a good amount of follow through in order to be put to good use.
You see, picking up a metalcraft card is equivalent, in a lot of ways, to picking up a card with two colored mana symbols in its casting cost. Yes, it requires a decent amount of follow-through to be used effectively—but as long as there aren't too many people around you trying to do the same thing, you will be able to (fairly) comfortably get the deck that you are looking for.
No, your metalcraft deck might not always end up being great (especially if you have a player or two on your near right that is trying to do the same thing), but you should still be able to get the cards that you need to put together a pretty solid deck. And if you notice that you aren't getting the right pieces, you should have plenty of time to bail out and switch to some other strategy.
You see, you never have to worry about getting enough artifacts for your metalcraft deck ... but you do have to worry about getting enough good artifacts. You are always going to be able to pick up not only traditional 14th pick cards such as Golden Urn (which you should not play except for in the most extreme situations), but you will also be able to get your Snapsail Gliders, your Replicas and your Spellbombs with ease.
And while we're on the topic, the Spellbombs are much better than they might appear to be in metalcraft decks. While none of the Spellbombs are very effective on their own—with the exception of Horizon Spellbomb—being able to add an artifact to the board for only one mana is a pretty great thing to do if you are rushing to attack with a Rusted Relic. And as soon as you've added enough extra artifacts to the board to keep your metalcraft running, you can junk your Spellbomb for a new card (and often, a decent effect).
Not only are there plenty of artifacts that you can get super late, there are a lot of cards that are significantly better in metalcraft decks than they are anywhere velse. For example, Tumble Magnet.
While an isolated Tumble Magnet might only be able to tap permanents for three turns (which can be well worth the cost, especially if you are facing down something particularly nasty—or if you are in a tight race), in a metalcraft deck it gets to do so much more.
But how do you know what metalcraft cards to start with?
Getting Things Started
It's typically much better to start your draft with a metalcraft card that is an artifact than it is to start your draft with a colored metalcraft card.
Sure an Ezuri's Brigade is awesome enough to first pick, but you wouldn't want to take, say, a Ghalma's Warden too early unless you were ready to sincerely commit yourself to drafting an aggressive white metalcraft deck.
Why is this? Well, one of the most attractive things about metalcraft decks is that they offer you an immense amount of flexibility. You can wait until you open your third pack, when you are fortunate enough to crack open a Skinrender to commit to your second color. You can easily take advantage of that Carnifex Demon, that True Conviction, or even that Kuldotha Phoenix that happens to come your way because your deck is so full of artifacts that you can easily move in on any powerful, color-intensive card that comes your way.
So if you start your draft off with a Carapace Forger, you know that you are going to need to draft a very specific type of deck to be able to properly take advantage of it.
Further, you will have more flexibility if you start your draft off with a couple of solid artifacts, like Contagion Clasp and Darksteel Axe, than you would if you started your draft off with a pair of Rusted Relics. Sure the two Rusted Relics might be better in most metalcraft decks, but with the Contagion Clasp and the Darksteel Axe you would be able to go in a number of different directions, all the way from metalcraft, to infect, to black-red beatdown.
What Else Can You Do?
Even if you've picked up fifteen artifacts and some solid removal spells for your metalcraft deck, you still might want to take advantage of some of the other mechanics that Scars of Mirrodin has to offer.
You can easily take advantage of proliferate in your metalcraft decks—using it to accumulate extra charge counters for your Tumble Magnet and to help make that Instill Infection that you grabbed even more effective than it is on its own.
But it is very difficult to build an infect deck that is also in a good position to power up metalcraft cards.
Yes Corpse Cur, Ichorclaw Myr, Vector Asp, Necropede, Trigon of Infestation, and Grafted Exoskeleton are all artifact infect cards—but aside from Corpse Cur, Ichorclaw Myr, and the not-so-impressive Vector Asp these cards are all uncommon.
That means that most of the infect creatures in your deck are going to have to be colored, and hence non-artifact, spells. So, if you're drafting infect—you're going to need a good number of your non-artifact spells to be creatures with infect.
Now, having a lot of creatures with infect isn't a problem for a Limited deck to have—not in the slightest. If you can get a lot of infect cards together in one place you can make some really good things happen.
But it is a problem for metalcraft decks because the majority of the artifacts in the set, especially the metalcraft ones, just don't mesh all to well with infect.
The lack of synergy between the two halves of your metalcraft/infect deck will lead to a lot of very frustrating situations. Situations where you have two artifacts, and you've given your opponent seven poison counters but you just can't get quite enough going in either direction. Situations where a single removal spell can completely disable you.
Instead of having Cystbearer and Blight Mamba, you want Carapace Forger and Ghalma's Warden in your metalcraft deck. It's just so much stronger to have a deck where all of its cards work together rather than a deck trying to do two totally contradictory things.
Just having three artifacts on the board isn't really enough for your metalcraft enhanced creatures to feel safe. Sure, if you're just worrying about sending in your Rusted Relic—you can go wild as soon as you possibly can as nothing too bad will happen even if your opponent is able to shut down your metalcraft. But if you're planning on your Chrome Steed or your Carapace Forger being a 4/4, you are going to want to have more than three artifacts on your side of the board.
A single Shatter, Grasp of Darkness or even a Disperse could absolutely ruin your day if you only have three artifacts.
Heck, if you have four artifacts and one of them is attacking or blocking you might end up with a pretty ugly outcome if you aren't careful.
This has a number of implications—some subtle, some not so subtle. This ranges from the most obvious ones, such as the fact that you need to play with a ton of artifacts for metalcraft to work properly. To the slightly less obvious, but still fairly straightforward points, such as the fact that you should try to avoid walking into situations where a single bounce or removal spell will decimate your board. All the way down to the fact that you want to actively avoid trades that would put you into positions where your metalcraft status would be in danger.
So while that all out attack that you are considering might put your opponent on the ropes—that also might be exactly what your opponent, who is holding a Shatter and a Slice in Twain, is trying to lure you into.
Yes you might only fall to four artifacts given what your opponent has on the board—but if your opponent knows that the only way he or she will be able to get past your monstrous force of artifacts is by some cocky plays on your part he or she is going to do everything in his or her power to get you to make those bullheaded plays.
It pays to be cautious while you're playing metalcraft, but just as it is with every deck—you don't want to be too cautious. You need to distinguish between the times when your opponent could be setting yourself up for something devastating and the times when your opponent is simply hoping that you will be too afraid to make the right moves for enough consecutive turns so that he or she might be able to inch his or her way back into the game.
How do you distinguish between a trap and a hopeless opponent?
Well that's a very complicated question (which will never have just one answer) but as a general rule of thumb:
An opponent who has done little for many turns might have had a terrible string of draws, but it is just as likely (if not more likely) that he or she has drawn some very powerful cards that he or she is waiting for just the right moment to spring on you.
Whereas an opponent who has been making a lot of not so impressive plays over the last few turns is quite likely to be sitting on next to nothing.
I'll have more on spotting traps soon (and when it's right to be afraid), but until then be sure to keep an eye on what your opponent could be setting you up for—especially if he or she hasn't done much in several turns.