EDH Tech: Artifact Destruction

Today’s theme is artifact destruction (something I’m sure we’ll revisit in the future).  For now, I’m going to touch on a few cards: most from the colors we expect (red, white, and green) and a pair of really weird, old ones (hint: they’re in black).

I’m sure this as a familiar face for all of you vintage players, but since, even counting proxy players, there are about 50 of us left, I’m going to assume that many of you remain unacquainted with this fellow.  His purpose is fairly self evident, he busts artifacts.   And does he ever!  While red has no shortage of mass artifact removal – Shatterstorm and Meltdown for instance – sometimes you want to blow up their stuff and keep yours.  And since you’re being greedy anyway, let’s throw some damage at your opponents faces.  While the extra 1 to the face for popping a Sol Ring is more insult than injury, blowing up your opponents Akroma’s Memorial is certainly on the side of serious damage.

EDH is a format filled with important artifacts and every deck plays them.  Sol Ring, Lightning Greaves and Oblivion Stone and/or Nevinyrral’s Disk are omnipresent, but the format abounds with other powerful artifacts.  Viashino Heretic is red’s best recurrent answer to troublesome artifacts.  Sure, you could play bozos like Chandler and Joven, but then people would laugh at you behind your back.  For the players more acquainted with modern Magic, Hoard-Smelter Dragon might seem like a good choice, but he suffers from a few problems.  At twice the cost, he isn’t around early enough to really stop mana ramp like Than Dynamo.   Moreover he has this other feature where he is a giant goddamn dragon.  While a 5/5 pumpable flying body might seem good, it also paints a giant bulls-eye on your utility creatures.  He’s a fine supplement, but if you only pick one red artifact zapper, the Heretic often has a much better chance of not drawing removal.  One thing that differentiates the heretic from other artifact destruction cards is the fact that it’s attached to a permanent, so it’s much easier to barter with than a theoretical card in your hand (unless you’re in the habit of tipping your cards).  It’s often necessary to play the card as a political tool, you will piss people off when you blow up their medium casting cost card and dome them, so it helps if you play it off as doing work for the “team.”  Blowing up something that you wanted to destroy anyway when it seems like it’s helping an opponent can be quite useful.  “Oh, you want to attack Phil?  Well, let me take care of the Ensnaring Bridge for you we better stop him before he get’s his combo going.”

While the overt threat of a Heratic on board can be useful, sometimes you want to surprise nuke an artifact.  This next card combines the utility of a known Heretic with the surprise of a hidden card.

Buyback is especially powerful in a format where mana is abundant.  Shattering Pulse combines the one-time surprise of a Shatter with the re-usability of a card like heretic and it hides out in your hand where it’s often much safer on than the board.  Can you believe that they printed this in the same block as normal Shatter, at common?  Yeah, R&D used to be markedly worse then they are today, whatever their faults.  A combination of Viashino Heretic and Shattering Pulse create a strong core of a potent artifact destruction suite.

Viashino Heretic is relatively cheap clocking in at a mere $.50 at SCG and $0.75 at CoolStuffInc.  As I mentioned, he’s a known quantity and sees occasional Vintage play, so I wouldn’t expect to see him go up too much in price. SCG shows an ample stock while CoolStuffInc’s is a bit more limited; this isn’t so much an investment card as a cheap quality tool for your deck.

Shattering Pulse on the other hand is an interesting case.  As a common to the Heretic’s uncommon, it is currently slightly cheaper – $0.25 at SCG and the same at CSI.  However, while CSI boasts a large stock, SCG is currently sold out.  The card will never command a huge price, but remember that other contemporary commons have a relatively high price such as Rancor‘s $2 despite being reprinted multiple times.  While it will never be as big as Rancor, which is beloved by casual players, it could see modest gains if it’s EDH popularity grows.  I’ve traded them at $1 successfully before as they’re hard to get in some areas.

Summary

Goes In: These should be considered staples for red decks.  I would recommend playing at least 1 if not both, you will rarely find yourself without a use for them.

Cost: Viashino Heretic $0.50-$0.75 / Shattering Pulse $0.25 – potential for minimal gains, no real room for a drop off.  Can probably be traded higher than it’s buy value due to rarity in some areas.

Ah Aura Shards, combining artifact and enchantment removal in its hallmark colors.  Green and white offer a bevy of of solutions to artifacts and enchantments, but as usual, repeat use is a highly desirable.  Aura Shards has a couple important features.  One is obviously the versatility to not only destroy troublesome artifacts but also enchantments.  However, more significant is the “may” clause, which prevents us from blowing up all of our own shiny things when we dump a bunch of creatures onto the battlefield.  As an enter the battlefield trigger, this effect can be combined profitable with token produces like Ant Queen or a general like Rhys the Redeemed.  Enchantments tend to be under targeted in EDH as many decks only deal with they via sweepers like Oblivion Stone and Nevinyrral’s Disk, an oversight that you should not be guilty of.

Aura Shards is somewhat popular in EDH and this is reflected in it’s price.  Selling for $2 at both SCG and CSI.  Like Shattering Pulse, this is also sold out on SCG.  Unlike Shattering Pulse, it’s not very well stocked at CSI.  It has a small potential for growth, but keep in mind the prices of the most expensive Invasion uncommons: Fact or Fiction ($3) and Sterling Grove ($6), both of which see some limited Legacy play, though Fact or Fiction has seen several printings such as FNM and Duel Decks.  Again, this is a card that you can probably leverage will in trades due to simple scarcity.

Summary

Goes In: Decks that make a decent amount of creatures.  You probably want 20+ creature or a few token generators/a token generating general.  Without these, the card starts to become less reliable, and you risk it being destroyed before you can utilize it.

Cost: $2 potential to move up and somewhat scarce, but probably won’t go past $3.

As promised, your bizarre artifact removal card, and its companion:

Neither Gate to Phyrexia nor Phyrexian Gremlins fit well with current flavor or the color pie.  Older versions of Phyrexia emphasized the destruction of artifacts as opposed to the newer version which emphasizes the remaking of artifacts and beings into perfect forms.  Similarly, back in the day, bleed across colors was common and sometimes strange.

Gate to Phyrexia is obviously the more powerful of these two, and even then you’re getting  a host of restrictions.  You can only destroy one artifact per turn cycle, it has to be during your upkeep, and you have to sacrifice a creature.  Still, if you’re playing mono-black or black/blue, your options are limited.  The best way to utilize this card is to couple it with a deck that takes advantage of sacrifice effects.  It couples well with EDH favorite Grave Pact or reanimation strategies. Ideally, you want to create a deck were sacrificing the creature is itself a benefit and this becomes an additional sacrifice outlet.

The Gremlins are an interesting case.  While their best feature is the goofy Amy Weber artwork (squint and you can see the googly eyes), they can also lock down a key artifact, artifact creature, or in the absence of a better target, they can force an opponent to draw their Sensei’s Diving Top.  While not as potent as straight removal, they are one of your relatively limited options in black and a fair bit more powerful than atrocities like Curse Artifact.

So the cost.  Gate has recently gained some note in the EDH community, though it is still very much an unknown card in many places.  However the price is currently on the rise.  SCG is sold out at $4 and CSI is sold out at $3.  I was buying these at $0.25-$0.50 a few months ago, so the rise is fairly significant, and as an Antiquities card, there is always room to climb.  Considering a playset recently sold on ebay at $25, I would pick these up now as opposed to later.  WotC is much stricter about the color pie these days, so the odds of getting a new mono-black artifact removal spell is slim, and as the best option, this will continue to rise in price as EDH gains popularity.  I would say that $6+ in the short term is very feasible and I could see a $10 price tag a year from now if the format grows as well as many predict.

Phyrexian Gremlins are quite the opposite.  They are very cheap and in plentiful supply.  SCG sells them at $0.15 and CSI has them at $0.25.  There are a ton of these floating around and although they could gain in price, they will probably not see any significant increase.

Summary

Goes In: These cards are passable in any black deck, though Gate shines in decks that focus on reanimation or sacrifice.  Again, you probably want 20+ creature or a few token generators to be sure that you have ample sacrifices.  Phyrexian Gremlins are more of a curiosity than a staple, but if your meta is particularly artifact heavy, they maybe worth consideration, particularly if you use sideboards.

Cost: Gate to Phyrexia – $3-4 likely to increase now (I would buy at least 1, price memory is strong on cards from the dawn of Magic).  Phyrexian Gemlins – $0.15-0.25 stable price, not likely to increase in the near future.

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