Forgotten Harvest - Raff Capashen, Master of Baubles

(Masterful Replication | Art by Victor Adame Minguez)

Parvus sed Potens

No, you're not in Ancient Rome, you're reading Forgotten Harvest, the article series that shines a brilliant light on all the hyper-underplayed gems that see play in 300 decks or less on EDHREC. Today, we're digging into a strategy that I've been itching to build around since Fifth Dawn. The brew is going to be all about baubles: artifacts with converted mana cost one or less. I know this may not sound like the most powerful strategy at first, but let me send some card images across your screen for you to change your mind.

Right?!? Not only are these cards at their normal level of greatness in any old deck, but if we're building our deck to abuse low-drop artifacts, they'll play directly into that strategy and still be as amazing as they are in the first place.

Powerful baubles have been around for quite a while, so I'm sure you're asking why I haven't brought this deck concept up before now. Well, the deck is capable of slinging around quite a bit of power with all these cheap artifacts. However, there haven't been enough ways for the deck to pull off an actual win with these baubles. A high density of low-drop artifacts means that the build is creature-light, and traditional combat strategies aren't an option, leading to mill or Mirrodin Besieged as the only reliable win cons.

Enter Throne of Eldraine!

The newest Magic: the Gathering set provides just enough artifact animation, when combined with existing creatures, to make combat an option for snatching the big win with baubles. Now all we need is a commander that feeds into an artifact synergy as well. While Hanna, Ship's Navigator seems like a great choice, I think I want to go with Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage instead.

This deck isn't heavy on instants, but there are tons of baubles with activated abilities; Raff should help us keep our mana open for these abilities, which can be quite mana-intensive, during other people's turns. There are enough reanimation options without Hanna, Ship's Navigator that I don't know how often her ability would be relevant. Feel free to try either/both in your own versions of this deck, but I think I'm gonna stick with my trusty Raff.


Burst your Bauble

As stated above, there have been many wonderful artifacts printed throughout the history of Magic which are both baubles and critical pieces in any Commander deck, such as Sol Ring, but we're also going to use some baubles that see significantly less play than Sol Ring. Because this deck makes them easy to tutor up and easy to recur from the graveyard, we're going to rely on these effects in lieu of typical Azorius instants and sorceries. The effect will cost more in artifact form than on an instant or sorcery spell, but with increased deck synergy, the cards should be well worth it.

Easy first additions to this deck are the Spellbombs printed in various Mirrodin-based sets. Of those that we're relying on, Origin Spellbomb is the least played, seeing play in 230 decks on EDHREC. This excellent bauble replaces itself when sacrificed, both on the battlefield and in hand. Providing an emergency chump blocker can be invaluable, as can being a viable sac outlet for Angelic Purge. Aether Spellbomb also makes the list, but sees far more play than the Origin version.

I remember, back in Invasion/Odyssey Standard, playing a Balancing Act deck that ran all of the Eggs from Odyssey and several sacrificing lands from both sets. These generated a bunch of mana in one turn before clearing the board and then dropping a few Nimble Mongooses to finish off the opponent. Several baubles from that deck make an appearance here, including Chromatic Sphere and the hyper-underplayed Skycloud Egg (223 decks). An early draft of this deck tried to work in Balancing Act to really up the nostalgia level, but alas, Supreme Verdict is just too reliable and non-situational. The Eggs are all interesting choices, and require some special circumstances to make a final decklist, but the Skycloud iteration works out here for sure!

A prime example of a bauble replacing an instant in this deck is Bloodtallow Candle. Included in only 79 decks, this artifact provides some excellent creature removal albeit for a higher cost. However, being able to grab this out of the deck with Artificer's Intuition or out of the graveyard with Auriok Salvagers makes that cost worthwhile to me. While more popular, we see similar spell replacements with baubles like Dispeller's Capsule, Universal Solvent, and Dark Sphere.


Benefits to Over-Artifact-ing

Since we're invested in playing a bunch of easy-to-cast artifacts, it would make sense to abuse that as much as possible. Plus, we need to be on the lookout for ways to win whenever possible using these baubles. Glassdust Hulk is the epitome of this strategy. A pet card of mine, the Hulk only sees play in 194 decks, which seems ludicrous! After casting several baubles in a turn, this creature can get huge and unblockable quickly. A few turns of that, and you'll have taken someone out of the game for sure. Combine that with recursion or maybe some repeatable artifact bounce, and those 'few turns' become a regular occurrence.

I forgot that mentioning "artifact bounce" makes Esperzoa and Salvage Scuttler magically appear! These cards, in 103 and 34 decks respectively, are the key to abusing cards like Glassdust Hulk, Sai, Master Thopterist, and Riddlesmith. With all our artifacts costing so little, who cares if you're replaying your Manifold Key for the third time this turn? If you're getting tokens or cards out of the deal, it's well worth it!

A fair number of our key creatures in this deck, like Master of Etherium or the countless tokens we can generate, are artifacts. Thus, it's a good idea to have some way to protect against damage-based board wipes or combat predicaments. Enter Ethersworn Shieldmage, which only sees play in 102 decks on the site. When played correctly, this creature is a fun little surprise for your opponents. Plus, with Esperzoa and Salvage Scuttler, it becomes a reusable resource. I try and sneak this card into artifact-based builds whenever I have room.

A card that I've been itching to use lately is Mirrodin Besieged, and this felt like the perfect deck to work it into. As I plan to select its second mode 90% of the time, I looked for cards which would help me find the enchantment in my deck, and get artifacts into my graveyard. Riddlesmith helps take care of this for me, but so does Lumengrid Augur (34 decks). While not the looter for just any deck, the Augur here provides re-usability which can allow us to quickly hunt for the buried enchantment we need. Or, should the right conditions exist, it can be turned into some minor mill against an opponent, with a slight upside if an artifact is discarded. This card should be on your radar, even if it's not always the right pick.

I'm sure I'll catch some flack for running Override in this deck over something like Render Silent or even Absorb. I wish I could tell you I had reasons beyond theme that caused me to consider the soft counterspell, but I have no excuse beyond theme and its use in only 105 decks right now. Consider this card for budget decks in an artifact theme. There are definitely better counterspells out there, but they definitely don't cost as much to add to your collection.

Finally, we come to a card that I'm shocked is still below 300 decks on EDHREC. Masterful Replication is a beautiful instant, only in 267 decks right now. While Core Set 2020 is still fairly new, this card's potential is so great that I think that that number is inexcusable! The second mode pairs nicely with Mechanized Production, Smothering Tithe, and Glassdust Hulk, or the first mode is usable all on its own. You all should be playing more of this card, so pitter-patter!

Enough baubling, here's the decklist.

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An Artisanally Crafted Conclusion

That's all I've got for this artifact-heavy edition of Forgotten Harvest. I know you've got to have some questions, some comments, and of course some snide remarks regarding the deck, so leave them in the comments below. I'll be around to talk about all the counterspells that are better than Override, and which deck I should tackle in my next article. Speaking of, if you've got a hyper-underplayed card you think I need to look at, or a deck idea/challenge worthy of the Forgotten Harvest treatment, let me know. I'm always looking for new ideas. Until we meet again, may you be able to separate artifact from arti-fiction.

Midwest transplant to the Pacific Northwest, Kyle has been playing the jankiest of decks for nearly 20 years. He loves non-lethal combos, obscure deck themes, Cloudstone Curio, and winning with Coalition Victory. When he's not tapping lands or brewing decks, Kyle is enjoying his other ridiculously expensive hobby: building with Lego.