There are a lot of juicy things going on in Alara Reborn, but I keep finding myself being attracted to this little niblet of an artifact. I tried to Walk the Aeons back when that was around, attempting to go infinite with Crucible of Worlds and Rites of Flourishing, but this is different.
Time Sieve has several advantages. (Sure, it comes with the big disadvantage of sacrificing five artifacts, but we’ll get to that later.) The biggest advantage is that you can take an extra turn without spending any mana. As long as you invest UB at some point earlier in the game, taking another turn is free. Being able to spend all of your mana playing spells, then taking another turn and using all of your mana to play more spells is pretty awesome. The time engines of the past (mostly Walk the Aeons) were so mana intensive that even if you took an extra three turns and fizzled, you didn’t get very much advantage out of those turns. The other advantage Time Sieve has is built-in infinity. Even if you’re not going infinite I could imagine a situation where you take one or two extra turns, boosting yourself far enough ahead to make a difference.
The first question you have to answer: why do I want to take an extra turn?
There are a few inherent advantages to taking extra turns. The most basic is that you get to draw a card and play a land. Time Sieve wants you to sacrifice artifacts, but you get at least one of those cards back just by taking another turn, and you get some of that tempo back by playing a land. Even then, the ability “Tap: draw a card and play a land” isn’t worth sacrificing five artifacts for.
The basic inherent advantage to taking another turn is that you get more phases, the most important probably being the untap phase. Play spells, untap my lands, play spells sounds like a sequence of events I would like. It’s like Seedborn Muse for all of your spells, not just instants. Having another attack step could also be pretty brutal. Getting in free hits with Sharuum the Hegemon is a good way to end the game and doesn’t require infinity.
Taking another turn also gives creatures you play “haste,” letting you untap with something awesome like Master Transmuter. The biggest problem with Master Transmuter is getting it to survive until your next turn, but when you control time anything is possible! The Transmuter is so powerful that getting it active is probably worth sacrificing five artifacts.
The card I’m really excited to untap with, however, doesn’t actually have a tap symbol on it, but has one of the most powerful affects I’ve seen in a long time.
Holy moly! We could talk about how this is a Teferi, letting you resolve whatever you want, but that’s not ever close to how exciting that last sentence is. “You can play cards from that player’s hand this turn.” You can play anything, assuming you have the right mana for it. (Exotic Orchard seems perfectly positioned for such a task.) You can even play one of their lands! Imagine untapping with the Triplets and playing two spells and a land from their hand. Your opponent just lost three cards, and you gained three cards. That’s absurd on a Cruel Ultimatum level. Again, the biggest obstacle is untapping, and that’s where Time Sieve comes in.
It’s hard to get excited for anything after seeing Sen Triplets, but Tezzeret also works really well with Time Sieve. You get to play Tezzeret, untap two artifacts, then take another turn and hopefully kill them with Tezzeret’s ultimate. That requires probably nine artifacts or more to pull off. Hard, but not impossible, especially with the Borderposts helping out.
Now that we’ve decided why we want to take an extra turn, how are we going to do it? What artifacts are we going to sacrifice?
At the top of my list are the Borderposts. They’re not quite artifact lands, or Invasion tap lands, or karoos, or lairs, or Obelisks, but they get the job done. The biggest drawback is having to run basic lands. It will be challenging to find the right balance of Borderposts and basic lands, and how many lands you can cut from your deck when you’re running Borderposts. I’m hoping I’ll be able to sacrifice one or two Borderposts to Time Sieve and it won’t be such a big deal. I also like the way Tezzeret finally has a decent mana source to untap and some cheap artifacts to animate.
Next up is Puppet Conjurer, which seems to be the best way around to get a free artifact. He’s one step closer to going infinite, though I still don’t know how easy that will be. I’m scared that Puppet Conjurer won’t do enough on his own, though maybe having a recurring blocker is helpful enough. Etherium Astrolabe seems a bit slow, but maybe there will be other uses out there for the little homunculi. I suppose we could also try The Hive, man that’s terrible.
Etherium Sculptor is a must for this deck. You’ll want a bunch of cheap artifacts on the table quickly if you want to Time Sieve at a reasonable pace, and Etherium Sculptor does just that. He makes obelisks more attractive than Borderposts, but I think the flexibility of Borderposts gives them the nod. The Sculptor makes Chromatic Star, Kaleidostone, and Elsewhere Flask look attractive, giving you a lot of “free” artifacts to sacrifice. Chromatic Star and Kaleidostone also work well with Sen Triplets. We’ve also got Pithing Needle, Courier’s Capsule, and Executioner’s Capsule for cheap artifacts, and even Dragon’s Claw could make an appearance in the sideboard.
Sharding Sphinx opens up a whole new world of possibilities. If you’ve got it active with Time Sieve, it’s like a win condition and infinite turns rolled into one. I could see playing Sharding Sphinx, attacking with one or two other creatures, then activating Time Sieve for the win. We’ll have to see how reliable it is.
A question I’m scared to answer is whether or not I want to run Howling Mine. Traditionally Howling Mine has done well when you’re taking extra turns, though it really can backfire on you. If this deck is trying to take infinite turns I think Howling Mine (or even, dare I say it, Font of Mythos) deserves a shot, but I’m not sure that’s the direction I want to go. I’m thinking Time Sieve will be used as a temporary boost, letting you untap with game-winning permanents like Master Transmuter.
Now that we know the why and the how, it’s time for the spice.
Sharuum the Hegemon is probably the most impacting, so much so that I want to run four in every version of this deck I make. Running four creatures that cost six could be a bad idea, but this thing is more impacting than Broodmate Dragon a lot of the time. I like the idea of casting an Etherium Sculptor on turn two, which boosts you far ahead if left unanswered. On turn four you have a must-answer Master Transmuter. Turn five you have Sen Triplets, a must answer. Then on turn six you set Sharuum on the table and bring back another must-answer permanent. They’ve got to run out of answers at some point, right?
Scarecrone is like a mini Sharuum that has a lot of potential. It’s not as game-dominating early on, but serves as another way to keep putting ridiculous artifacts into play. Gavin Verhey showed me an inspirational deck not too long ago with Scarecrone and Thousand-Year Elixir. (I’m not sure where the deck came from, so I’m sorry I can’t provide proper credit.) There were cool things going on, like Thousand-Year Elixir giving your Master Transmuter haste, and I want to see where this leads. I’m not sure I’m willing to go as far as Reaper King, but the Sphinx Summoner looks pretty awesome. With so many good artifact creatures, maybe I’ll have to Makeshift Mannequin something into play.
On a similar note, Sanctum Gargoyle fits into the theme of recurring game winners, but it might be too slow for Standard. Maybe Block? Heck, there’s always Treasure Hunter, though not having artifact status himself is really a bummer. I am detecting a different deck, however, focusing on Sanctum Gargoyle, Treasure Hunter, and Mine Excavation, though I don’t know where it’s going.
Tidehollow Sculler provides some pretty good disruption, and happens to work fairly well with Master Transmuter. (Though, to be fair, what doesn’t?) There’s always the play of using Time Sieve with the Sculler’s ability on the stack, but is that really necessary? Still, with so many ways to recur artifacts, and so many artifacts that you want to protect from removal, Tidehollow Sculler seems great. They are usually forced to use a removal spell on him, paving the way for the rest of your deck.
There are a few other cards that work well with cheap artifacts, but might not make the cut. If this deck is really good at producing artifacts that you want to sacrifice, Etherium Astrolabe looks like a good fit. The only thing I’m worried about is sacrificing artifacts I would rather just leave on the table for Time Sieve, but it could be worth it. Esperzoa likes cheap artifacts, especially things like Elswhere Flask and Kaleidostone, but could also tie your mana up unnecessarily. Master of Etherium can get really big with a lot of cheap artifacts, but is it something we need? Maybe a blocker that can be bigger than Woolly Thoctar is what we want.
I also have a few very, um, questionable ideas.
I once saw Kellen Abel demolish a limited game by playing Kederekt Leviathan, bouncing a lot of permanents, and then playing Etherium Sculptor and Ethersworn Canonist. His opponent was looking at a hand full of Wild Nacatls and other cheap creatures, while Kellen could unload his entire hand of artifacts with Etherium Sculptor, unimpeded by the Ethersworn Canonist. Is this doable in Constructed? Canonist also works well with Howling Mine. I’m just saying.
Deathrender probably isn’t worth mentioning, but it’s pretty cool with Sharuum and a sacrifice outlet (like Time Sieve). Along the same lines of jankiness is Colfenor’s Urn. I can’t think of other four-toughness artifacts I want under this thing, but it’s awesome with Sharuum. Time Sieve sacrificing three or more four-toughness artifact creatures with Colfenor’s Urn in play is nuts, but that’s pretty far-fetched.
Last but not least, Citanul Flute has potential. It’s really expensive, and probably just worse than Sphinx Summoner overall, but it can really take over a game if given time. Fetching a bunch of Tidehollow Scullers is the cheapest option, though Sharuums or Sen Triplets are exciting. I’m keeping my eye on this one.
Enough rambling, let’s get a decklist going!
The first deck is the most straightforward: Turbo Time Sieve. It runs all the cheap artifacts, Howling Mine, and tries to activate Time Sieve x as fast an often as possible, probably winning with a Tezzeret ultimate.
Turbo Time Sieve
While goldfishing you can usually hit “infinite” turns on turn five or six, as long as you see a Howling Mine. Etherium Sculptor and Howling Mine are very important, and once you have two Etherium Sculptors your Kaleidostones and Elsewhere Flasks are pretty awesome. It still feels a little clunky and slow, and a few of your key artifacts get swept away by Volcanic Fallout. This deck doesn’t fool around with Master Transmuter or Sharuum, but that’s what really excites me, so let’s check that out.
This deck is just trying to untap with something amazing. You’ve got a lot of big hitters with Master Transmuter, Sen Triplets, and Tezzeret. The deck seems a little unfocused, and Time Sieve isn’t as reliable in this version. It’s hard to take multiple turns, though one isn’t too bad. Scourglass may need to work its way in, and I always want more Sharuum. There are so many options for this deck, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential mentioned in this article. These are rough lists I’m hoping to refine for a future article. I’m sure I’ll be testing something similar to this for Block constructed, especially now that the full spoiler is out for Alara Reborn. Speaking of which, I’ll be going over some of the new set next week.
Thanks for reading,
Loucksj at gmail