I love the possibilities of a new set. Even before the fragrance of a freshly-cracked pack hits my nose there is a spoiler to comb through. Normally core sets can be pretty bland, but Wizards’ new policy on core sets gives them a lot of room to make shiny new cards. This makes a person that likes to build decks, a person like me, very happy.
Out of all the cards in the Magic 2010 spoiler, one of them just screams “break me!” I’m not sure I’ve seen a card this obviously busted since I started playing Magic six years ago. It practically says “resolve and win” in the rules text. Check out Open the Vaults:
All artifacts and enchantments? Into play? Seriously? Sure, my opponent gets theirs back too, what the heck are they getting back that I care about? I’m getting back a full graveyard of sweet juicy cards, and they are getting back what, a Loxodon Warhammer that somehow left the battlefield? [Or maybe a Loxodon Warhammer that somehow left the core set. -Riki, spoilingly] If everything works out, I should win the turn I cast Open the Vaults.
Step One: Gather
The first thing I do with a card like this is a Gatherer search to see what I want to be bringing back. I manually set the filter to post M10 Standard, ordered by converted mana cost, and switched to the visual spoiler.
The first thing I noticed was a pack of cards that would give an incremental advantage when brought back. Executioner’s Capsule and Courier’s Capsule are perfect examples of the incremental advantage you can gain by using Open the Vault. You could mess around with Armillary Sphere and Wanderer’s Twig, or even Kaleidostone and [card]Elswhere Flask[/card]. All of these options ensure that you’re going to draw a mass of cards after you resolve an Open the Vaults.
This strategy has a few inherent problems. The first is that it’s very mana intensive. Maybe if there was some kind of Lotus Bloom we could afford to sacrifice Armillary Sphere, but until then it’s not worth four mana upfront, followed by two mana after Open the Vault, to use. The same is true for Courier’s Capsule.
The other problem that a deck like this starts to have is that as you fill it up with do-nothing card drawing artifacts, all you’re drawing is do-nothing card draw artifacts. You cast Open the Vault, draw a bunch of cards, but your wheels just spin in place until you die. There needs to be something more impacting that Open the Vaults can do other than gain incremental advantage.
Other interesting targets that I saw in the gatherer for Open the Vault are artifact creature spells, namely Sharuum the Hegemon. Sure, Sharuum doesn’t naturally combo with Open the Vault, but it’s what happens when you have two Sharuum that’s interesting. Two Sharuum, with a little help from the legend rule, can loop into and out of play infinitely. Combine that with a Glaze Fiend that was already in play and you’re golden. Glassdust Hulk is another way to combo off, and it works well with Open the Vault because it can dump itself into the graveyard. The problem is the lack of haste, but that’s where super janky cards like Ashling’s Prerogative come in. There aren’t a lot of enchantments that caught my attention, but strangely enough Ashling’s Prerogative was one of them.
Now we come up against another obstacle: a lack of decent discard. Standard is practically void of efficient and cheap ways to put cards into your graveyard. What are you going to do, conspire Ghastly Discovery? When you have to put cards in your graveyard the hard way, by playing those with sacrifice abilities and using them, Open the Vault becomes a lot less attractive. We want to cheat Sphinx of the Steel Wind into the battlefield! Playing fair is for chumps. Knollspine Invocation is the most exciting discard outlet I can find, but you’re still paying for all your spells upfront. I guess we could Traumatize ourselves, but that seems sketchy.
Open the Vault’s biggest weakness is a lack of synergistic spells, be they artifacts, enchantments, or disSharuum the Hegemoncard outlets. This is where I sat for a few days, moping over the most broken card in M10 going un-busted.
Remix: Back to the Future
Pouring through the Gatherer yet again, I finally stumbled on a tiny little artifact with potentially. It was cheap, had a “free” activated ability, and sacrificed itself. Heck, it didn’t just sacrifice itself, it brought other artifacts with it. Bonus! If anything in standard is going to break Open the Vault, it’s Time Sieve.
I’ve written about this artifact before, but the problem with my last deck was that it fizzled too often. Time Sieve couldn’t quite keep up with the number of artifacts it needed each turn to go infinite, and the games it won, the deck just collapsed over the finish line with a Tezzeret, barely making it before falling apart.
That was before Open the Vaults. I can’t imagine losing with this deck after casting that card. The engine of Etherium Sculptor and cantrip artifacts was interesting, and now I get to bring the whole thing back into play? Sick.
This is my most recent list:
Do the Time Warp:
I’m going to give my usual mana base disclaimer: it’s probably terrible. I’m especially bad at building Howling Mine manabases. Do you need less land because of the extra cards you’re drawing? Or do you need more land because of how important each land drop is? Until that’s answered, I’ll stick to the usual 24. I tend to build decks then let smarter people make the mana base. I actually enjoy getting down and dirty with percentages and number of sources. By the end of the Extended Martyr of Sands deck’s career, I knew every nook and cranny of that manabase. At this stage, however, that’s much less important.
Chromatic Star, Elswhere Flask, and Kaleidostone all look like they would make your mana issues disappear, but these artifacts are so valuable for your Time Sieve that you can’t afford to sacrifice them willy-nilly for mana.
Running four Time Warp was the biggest improvement to this deck’s clock and consistency. It’s so hard to lose with the Font of Mythos double Time Warp draw. One of the best hidden benefits of Time Warp is that it gives you an extra turn using just one card, so your hand tends to be really full after using it. This gives you access to the cheapest discard outlet in the game: the cleanup step. Discarding a bunch of excess borderposts on the end of your turn for an Open the Vault to pick up later is a huge bonus.
Tezzeret the Seeker is a great card for this deck. He serves as your win condition, building up to an ultimate that throws all your artifacts at the opponent, while fetching Time Sieve in the meantime. Being able to play Tezzeret and tutor up a Time Sieve, take an extra turn, then use Tezzeret’s untap ability on some borderposts to power out an Open the Vault is amazing.
This deck is goldfishing on turn five pretty consistently, and turn six almost guaranteed off of any decent hand.
Possible Matchups & Sideboarding
I’ll have to throw this against some of the aggro decks with Ball Lightning or Elite Vanguard to see if turn five is fast enough. I think the deck can switch into more of a slow turbo fog role against the aggressive decks, but has a combo plan to take control of the game that I really like. Instead of having to battle through all 60 of the opponent’s cards (meaning all four of their Lightning Bolts) this deck just needs to stall to the point where it can Time Sieve into Open the Vault for the win. This version of the deck isn’t exploring the possibility of a Pollen Lullaby, but I think that’s the next step if it wants to beat aggro.
Against the midrange decks that might destroy your Howling Mine with a Maelstrom Pulse, I think Open the Vault gives this deck one big advantage over the traditional Turbo-Fog decks. Maelstrom Pulse means your opponent is spending a turn not killing you, and as long as you can survive to six mana for an Open the Vault, you should be fine. The biggest threat is Pulse on your borderposts, not on your Howling Mine.
Cryptic Command then becomes the spell I’m most scared of. Again, the deck comes with the inherent combo advantage where I don’t have to fight though all four of my opponent’s Cryptic Commands, I just have to squeeze through an extra turn and then keep going. Luckily, M10 gives this deck a great tool against Cryptic Command in Silence. Now I get to Silence my opponent and force an Open the Vault through for ten artifacts, and then they’re done. Jace Beleren was the last card cut from this list, and he would probably help the control matchup a lot. He provides another Howling Mine effect, along with a win condition they need to answer.
Time to Shine
All the pieces seem to be there, now it’s just a matter of cutting the chaff and polishing what remains. The deck feels very smooth most of the time, I’m just worried that it isn’t fast enough. I feel like this is one of those situations where the cards exist, I just need to find the right combination. Who knows, maybe I’ll be doing the Time Warp at Nationals.
Thanks for reading,
Loucksj at gmail