As soon as Urza's Saga was previewed, I started testing it in Modern Hammer Time. Bopping opponents on the head with an equipped Inkmoth Nexus was my favorite thing to do in Modern, especially in a format dominated by Heliod's infinite lifegain. Now I had a new tool to try. Believe it or not, my expectations were low.
Yes, Urza's Saga can find your hammer and bring it into play through Chalice of the Void or any countermagic. But we could do that before with Stoneforge Mystic. We already had eight ways to search for our equipment. That wasn't our limiting factor: good ways to equip it. And the last thing I thought we wanted was another colorless land when we need to curve into Puresteel Paladin. However, the saga land's power soon became clear when it flipped our matchup against Death's Shadow from unfavored to favored.
Urza's Saga gives the Hammer Time archetype a fallback plan, making the deck even more resilient to targeted removal and Stony Silence. When your strategy isn't working, you'll often have artifacts on the battlefield doing nothing but collecting rust. Now they increase the stats of your constructs.
This article will review a 5-0 list from the MTGO June 11th League; it'll introduce my technology and preferred decklist, and it will end with sideboarding tips and thoughts of the archetype's prospects depending on whether Urza's Saga continues to be Modern legal.
Hammer Time | Modern | KADOONYEC
- Companion (1)
- 1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
- Creatures (24)
- 4 Esper Sentinel
- 4 Giver of Runes
- 4 Memnite
- 4 Ornithopter
- 4 Puresteel Paladin
- 4 Stoneforge Mystic
- Enchantments (4)
- 4 Sigarda's Aid
Colossus Hammer goes hand in hand with Lurrus of the Dream-Den. You may wonder if it would worth it to leave the companion behind to include Skyclave Apparition, Solutide, Batterskull, Sword of Fire and Ice, Kaldra Compleat, or Nettlecyst. The answers to those questions are no, no, no, no, no, and no. Until Wizards of the Coast bans the companion mechanic, Lurrus will be the best option for this and all decks whose strategy does not require permanents costing three or more mana. Before Modern Horizons 2 I did consider options for an alternative game plan, should your hammers get exiled with Surgical Extraction. Now we don't have to worry about that, thanks to Urza's Saga.
I want to congratulate KADOONYEC for going 5-0, and I do like the spice of the maindeck Tormod's Crypt. In addition to being able to tutor for your critical equipment, Urza's Saga is a toolbox for zero and one-cost artifacts. Springleaf Drum is another option, and its inclusion as a four-of means this list will reliably be able to cast Puresteel Paladin turn three. If you already have a Colossus Hammer on the battlefield and a creature to bang the Springleaf Drum, you'll have enough mana to cast Puresteel Paladin and attack with Inkmoth Nexus for ten infect.
Players of Affinity and Hardened Scales will affirm that half their wins comes from Inkmoth Nexus. For Colossus Hammer, the card is even more important. The 1/1 infect creature provides the cleanest kill, in a manner of speaking. Every other creature in the deck has to attack twice: POW-POW! That gives your enemy the opportunity to interact at sorcery speed, and if they succeed in prying lose the hammer, you may not be able to equip it again. The ability to equip is the choking point for our strategy. The above list only has eight ways to do it with four copies each of Puresteel Paladin and Sigarda's Aid.
The enchantment is the more dangerous option. With it in play turn three, you can tap 1 mana to activate Inkmoth Nexus, attack, and after no blockers are declared, use your third land to cast an instant Colossus Hammer. This evasive win is your most potent path to victory. Recall our other scenario, when you play Urza's Saga turn one. turn three you tap it for mana, tutor for Springleaf Drum, use it to cast Puresteel Paladin, and attack with an equipped artifact land. The problem is here you had to equip as a sorcery. Your Inkmoth Nexus loses flying and can be blocked by even a lowly Skyclave Apparition.
Without Mox Opal it's hard to get that extra mana on the third turn. And with all these colorless lands you can't depend on casting Puresteel Paladin before then. That leaves only Sigarda's Aid as our route to equip before turn three, let alone win. To my mind, that's not consistent enough. I mulligan until I have both parts of the combo, a hammer and a way to equip it, and only eight of the latter was insufficient in my testing. I wanted more, so I turned to an option that was less exciting but still practical.
Earlier versions of the deck played a few copies of Kor Outfitter. KADOONYEC decided against including any. I have come to the opposite conclusion. The cost of having nothing to do with your Colossus Hammer is so high that I found room for the full playset of Kor Outfitter. This opens up the line of turn one Colossus Hammer, turn two Kor Outfitter and equip. Build your own Phyrexian Dreadnought with the trample from Shadowspear. The kor also gives added resilience to Stony Silence.
You may wonder about Magnetic Theft. Yes, I tried it. No, it's not better. The trouble is that it fulfills only one role, equipping. Kor Outfitter can do that and also be the creature to hold the hammer, and that flexibility is what the deck needs more. I also tested Kor Duelist. It can lead to turn-two wins, but again, I found it too narrow. Remember, we can't consistently cast the majority of our equip cards before turn three anyway.
Speaking of that turn-three win, if we do a straight substitution of Kor Outfitter into the above list we still would lose evasion with Inkmoth Nexus. A chump blocker would deny our victory. Unless, that is, we find a way to play Kor Outfitter at instant speed.
Coming from my background of tribal decks, Aether Vial was an obvious choice. It adds to our artifact counts, and it enables the turn-three win. Play it on the first turn with Urza's Saga. Turn three you'll have your hammer and two counters on your Aether Vial. Attack with Inkmoth Nexus and after blocks, slam down Kor Outfitter.
Beyond this lethal sequence, Aether Vial is great with Lurrus. Upping it to the third charge counter will allow you to move your companion to hand and deploy it the same turn. Sure, you can replay a Mishra's Bauble from the graveyard, but you can also rebuild a destroyed Colossus Hammer, if you have another mana.
Picture this scenario that happened in my testing with Aether Vial. My opponent killed my equipped Puresteel Paladin turn three with Assassin's Trophy, giving me another land. Turn four, I had five mana, enough to move Lurrus to hand, deploy it with Aether Vial, and immediately resurrect Puresteel Paladin for the win.
Vial Hammers | Modern | AE Marling
- Companion (1)
- 1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
- Creatures (16)
- 1 Signal Pest
- 2 Ornithopter
- 2 Spellskite
- 3 Stoneforge Mystic
- 4 Kor Outfitter
- 4 Puresteel Paladin
- Sorceries (1)
- 1 Steelshaper's Gift
- Enchantments (4)
- 4 Sigarda's Aid
- Artifacts (16)
- 1 Pithing Needle
- 1 Shadowspear
- 1 Springleaf Drum
- 1 Welding Jar
- 4 Aether Vial
- 4 Colossus Hammer
- 4 Mishra's Bauble
- Lands (23)
- 4 Plains
- 1 Temple Garden
- 2 Arid Mesa
- 4 Horizon Canopy
- 4 Inkmoth Nexus
- 4 Urza's Saga
- 4 Windswept Heath
My deck leans less on Springleaf Drum to accelerate and mana fix. Because of this, I also have less need for free artifact creatures like Memnite. These zeroes are mostly useless, and I am happy to not rely on them. That said, they do give you some lines where you can begin attacking with a hammer on turn two. Because of that I retained a pair of Ornithopters.
I excluded Esper Sentinel entirely and am content to leave that card to Commander. My background with Diffusion Sliver and Unsettled Mariner has given me experience in how these taxing effects play out, and this one is not what I want for this deck. Neither am I too sorry to say goodbye to Giver of Runes. Though I will sometimes miss its ability to provide evasion, it was powerless to protect your Colossus Hammer. I found about half the time my opponents destroyed the equipment itself. For that reason, I preferred Welding Jar for protection along with Spellskite. The horror is stronger and becomes all the more alluring with Aether Vial.
A few of my singletons warrant explanation. Signal Pest retains its evasion even when equipped with Colossus Hammer. I wanted maindeck Pithing Needle primarily against Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar.
You'll note I splashed for Green sideboard cards. It's not too important either way, but regardless you want to play Horizon Canopy and fetch lands to improve Mishra's Bauble. The opportunity cost was low.
Notes on Sideboarding
As with all combo decks, you can't sideboard too much without diluting your strategy. We only have a few cards we can realistically side out: Ornithopter, Signal Pest, Springleaf Drum, Pithing Needle, and, against attrition decks with discard, a couple of Aether Vial cards. Versus other combo decks I will sometimes side out Mishra's Bauble, as I don't expect to reach the late game where they have additional upside with Lurrus.
What should you side in? In general, you want more defensive cards in subsequent games, as people bring in more disruption. Gaddock Teeg is good against Control and some combo decks. Expedition Map will find you an Urza's Saga against attrition decks and an Inkmoth Nexus against Heliod. Chalice of the Void stops cascade decks. Grafdigger's Cage is a non-bo with Lurrus, but worth it against some strategies, such as Feasting Troll King with Finale of Devastation.
Hammer Time with Aether Vial is currently the top deck in my testing and deserving of tier-one status. If the meta becomes hostile to nonbasic lands and or artifacts, you will feel it, but your foes will need that adaptation for any chance against the three-for-one of Urza's Saga. If the enchantment land is banned we will lose ground against interactive strategies such as Death's Shadow. Hammer Time will still be fun and competitive against the field. Simply max out on Stoneforge Mystic and Steelshaper's Gift. With the upcoming Forgotten Realms expansion, I would add Portable Hole to the sideboard. If Death's Shadow becomes widely played, swap Path for Oust.