Welcome to the colorless segment of our Gladiator Jumpstart: Historic Horizons set review! Let’s get to it!
A Brief Tangent – Artifact Aggro
Before we dive into the cards, it’s worth discussing the deck where several of them will find a home. Artifact Aggro, or Battlebots as it is affectionately known, is a deck that uses primarily artifact creatures, then utilizes payoff cards such as Tempered Steel, All That Glitters and Toolcraft Exemplar to generate a powerful board presence. Battlebots will most likely be red/white in Gladiator, though blue may also be considered in a slightly slower build. Red and white already have a set of powerful Aggro tools, but the artifact package offers the ability to compete against larger creatures, while still having a fast clock.
Living Weapon is a way to make Equipment significantly better by removing a key weakness; casting an Equipment while having an empty board does almost nothing. Sadly, Batterbone is probably too small to see play as a two mana 1/1 with lifelink and vigilance and the equip cost of five is very expensive for Aggro decks. Batterbone might find some play in more aggressive Midrange decks that want to trade off early board presence, then give lifelink to a bigger threat later in the game, but it may just be too small to compete in the early game. Decks that want lifelink will probably stick with Shadowspear for now.
Any one mana 2/1 will always have to be considered in an aggressive strategy, and even though this will be unlikely to attack until turn three, its statline will probably justify its inclusion in Artifact Aggro. Decks can get around this by playing more creatures with haste, and while the Bonded Construct isn’t at its best on turn one, or as a topdeck, casting it as a double spell in the early game will provide a solid board state. Having the Construct creature type helps with small synergies, but overall this is just a nice one drop that will help fill out a curve in the deck that wants it.
Is it a Zombie? Is it an Elf? Is it a Dragon? No, it’s all of the above and more!
First, it is very easy to cast, requiring only three generic mana, so multicolor decks will have no issues casting it. With Seek acting as a “draw”, it will almost always replace itself, and cantripping creatures are generally a reasonable inclusion in most decks. The most obvious decks to run Agent in are Tribal decks, where it both enables and takes advantage of Tribal synergies. This may help some of the Tribal decks such as Dwarves and Cats that need a little more support to compete.
The other use for Agent requires far more precision in deckbuilding, where it has the potential to help set up combos. Ideas such as running Niv-Mizzet Reborn as the only creature in Five Color Niv, or running a two creature combo, where this would act as a tutor for one half. There are lots of possibilities, and even if there isn’t such a use right now, there will always be the possibility of such a deck in the future. However this does run the risk of drawing the combo pieces before you draw Agent, and if the combo is otherwise disrupted, this would leave Agent as a dead card.
Now this Living Weapon is great! In Battlebots this is going to be +3/+3 at minimum, and after the Germ token is dealt with, the low equip cost will allow it to impact the board almost immediately. Expect this card to end games, as it turns every creature into a massive beater. This may also see play in enchantment or Aura based decks, utilizing a similar plan of amassing enchantments to allow for a large buff to a creature.
Ornithopter of Paradise
Rashmi better have won the Inventors’ Fair with this invention! The Ornithopter of Paradise is a solid two mana dork for any deck that isn’t running green, and even some green decks may want this effect. Mana producing artifacts at two mana are still very rare in Gladiator, and while this one can produce any color of mana, it is vulnerable to creature removal, and so is better viewed as a dork than a mana rock. However, decks utilizing Paradox Engine may still want this effect, just to reach a density of mana sources that cost two mana. Other uses may come from it being a cheap flier with an upside, allowing for possible uses with Equipment and Auras.
If you listen hard enough, you can hear the faint calls of a Bloodbraid Elf. Now obviously Bloodbraid this is not, but the effect is still very strong, and a four mana 3/3 is a reasonable body. The “death Cascade” is most likely to be used to generate value, but there is always the possibility of it being used as combo set up, as you need only to look at Belzenlok Combo to see a deck that can run only cards of mana value four or higher. Treasure Keeper is probably best at home in non green Midrange decks, where it provides a reasonable body and value for an unrestrictive casting cost.
A Second Brief Tangent – Modular
One new to Gladiator mechanic being added in Jumpstart: Historic Horizons is Modular. The rules state that “Modular N” means “This permanent enters the battlefield with N +1/+1 counters on it” and “When this permanent is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may put a +1/+1 counter on target artifact creature for each +1/+1 counter on this permanent.” In practice this means that if you are playing creatures with Modular, you want to be playing lots of other artifact creatures, in order to get maximum value from the Modular effect, meaning Battlebots is a prime candidate for cards with such an ability.
Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp
Zabaz is an odd card, but with five other Modular cards being added, and a few extra ways to add +1/+1 counters to them, it might be worth considering as a payoff. However this is assuming that all the new Modular cards would see play, and Arcbound Whelp isn’t exactly prime Aggro material. Zabaz’s base stats aren’t anything overly exciting. A 1/1 for one mana is easily outclassed, but when played alongside other artifact creatures, Modular will mean gaining some extra value when it dies.
Adding additional counters from Modular is a nice bonus, but this effect will rarely occur, leaving it a minimal but nice addition to the card. The red activated ability is most likely only going to be used to gain lethal via transferring counters using Modular, though sometimes spending a single red mana to blank a removal spell with upside such as Bonecrusher Giant may happen from time to time. Having the option to give it evasion is welcome, but most of the time I suspect the mana would rather be spent on developing a board. Overall if Artifact Aggro is to become a deck, Zabaz might be a fringe inclusion due to the utility it offers, but it will rely on the quality of the other Modular cards.
Arcbound Mouser, Prototype and Tracker
These three cards will almost certainly be playable in Artifact Aggro. All have reasonable stats, and Modular does enough to push them into a playable spot. Arcbound Tracker is the most powerful with built in evasion and the ability to grow, further increasing the strength of Modular.
Sadly, this little Dragon probably doesn’t make the cut because four mana for a 2/2 with minor upside is just too slow. Very few decks outside of Artifact Aggro are looking for this style of card, so right now it has no home.
Now this is a Battlebots payoff!! A three mana 2/2 first strike is a solid body, and with Modular added on as well, the baseline is a very reasonable creature. The true power of the card however comes with giving counters to most of your board on entering the battlefield, as these counters will help mitigate one of the main issues with artifact creatures; they are usually slightly smaller than most other creatures of a similar cost. When all of these effects are combined, Arcbound Shikari will almost certainly be a force to reckon with in Artifact Aggro.
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A lover of all decks GB, Tyreworm is rarely found without some form of hand attack in a Magic deck. Since starting in 2015, Tyreworm has delved into almost all formats, but always seems to converge on black based midrange. Outside of Magic, Tyreworm is very interested in stats and analysis, leading to him starting the weekly meta analysis
Tyreworm is the writer of the weekly meta analysis, and will occasionally write a deck tech on his latest midrange project.