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Clue Machines


In this experiment, we march on as we investigate, seeking illuminated clues to machinate.

The new keyword action from Shadows over Innistrad is investigate, which creates Clue tokens, which can be sacrificed for 2 to draw a card. This turns any card into a kind of a half-cantrip. If a cantrip is a spell that lets us draw a card in addition to its normal effect, having us pay 2 to cash in the card, I’d say, makes it a half-cantrip.

Of course, that means these cards can be cheaper in terms of mana cost. For example, while Elvish Visionary is a 1/1 for 1g, Thraben Inspector is a 1/2 for w.

However, is there anything else going on here? Is there a way we can take this half-cantrip effect and turn it into an advantage other than just a discount on investigating spells?

Post-Publication Note: Unfortunately, when writing the below article, I had somehow come to the conclusion that Clues would have a converted mana cost of 2, probably because of the 2 required to sacrifice them. Clearly, however, these tokens have no converted mana cost and will die as 0/0s when under the effect of March of the Machines. The deck’s concepts still apply if you instead have Tezzeret the Seeker make the Clues into 5/5s, so the decklist has been adjusted accordingly (cutting March of the Machines). The rest of the article retains the false assumptions. Sorry, everyone!

Seeking Answers

Well, a card in our hand can’t attack or block. Neither can a Clue—unless we have March of the Machines or Titania's Song. If we know we’re going to be casting a March of the Machines, Thraben Inspector suddenly becomes a 1/2 and a 2/2 for just w! Now that’s a good deal.

Thraben Inspector
March of the Machines

If we start playing a lot of investigating cards, we can have a bunch of Clues primed and ready for machination as soon as we drop the 4-mana enchantment. Now, we’re losing the card we have to spend on the March, but that loss should be regained by all our semi-free 2/2s.

Thraben Inspector This is a pretty sad little 1/2—it generally just doesn’t seem that good. But if we’re going to make the Clue a 2/2, it suddenly becomes an inexpensive Nest Invader variant. Also, having that effect on a 1-mana spell means we can spend later turns making more Clues in preparation for a big March.

Confront the Unknown This 1-mana investigator requires a target creature, but it’s another source of a 2/2. It should also be a Giant Growth at least if our plans come together—imagine attacking with five 2/2 Clues and knowing that whichever one goes unblocked will be able to deal an extra 6 damage for the win.

Erdwal Illuminator This is a kind of fragile hinge of the deck. If the plan works, the extra Clues will be kind of crazy. But we’re already resigning ourselves to spending a card on March of the Machines, and having to spend another one on a 1/3 flying creature might not be worth it. Then again, if we can make two or three extra Clues with it and then March, this little Spirit should be worthwhile.

Confront the Unknown
Erdwal Illuminator
Expose Evil

Expose Evil Our little plan here is cute, but what we’re ultimately giving ourselves is an army of little 2/2s. This will help tap down potential big blockers to let us get in for the damage. It can also be used to help us set up while defending ourselves.

Press for Answers Much like Expose Evil, this can be used aggressively or, if needed, defensively. It’s worth noting that our weird game plan also helps streamline and find the combo pieces. We have a to sacrifice a Clue to do so, but by the very nature of us setting up for March of the Machines, we’re giving ourselves resources to help find the March of the Machines. I decided to run fewer copies of Press for Answers than Expose Evil because I want to be able to tap down more blockers when attacking with my 2/2s.

Tireless Tracker For only 3 mana, we can start making a Clue every time we play a land. And if we happen to be in the mood to sacrifice Clues, we can pump up the Tracker.

Press for Answers
Tireless Tracker
Confirm Suspicions

Confirm Suspicions This might be my favorite card for the deck—excepting perhaps the otherwise-useless Thraben Inspector. Our opponent may scoff at the March of the Machines on a barren board, but when that opponent taps out to cast a spell and has it countered by our Confirm Suspicions, it will be pretty satisfying to then untap and attack for 6 with machinated Clues.

Tamiyo's Journal I’m not sure how well this plays into our game plan. I can imagine a control-style deck that sits back on a Journal and other investigating spells before eventually dropping a March of the Machines to attack for the win, but in this more aggressive, combo-style version of the deck, it might not fit as well. Still, it wouldn’t have seemed right to not include at least one Journal. And if we happen to have more Clues to know what to do with and just really need that March, the Journal will let us find it.

Investigative Support

Most of the card in the deck either came straight from Shadows over Innistrad or are named March of the Machines, but a few others did sneak in.

Signets — Three copies each of Simic Signet and Azorius Signet seem great. They let us curve into March of the Machines as soon as possible, and they also serve as additional 2/2s once we’re marching. It might not always be correct to drop the March before setting up a bunch of Clues, but the Signets will help us nonetheless, both as mana sources and as attackers. If you really want to go all-in on the Clue theme, consider Simic Cluestone and Azorius Cluestone instead, but I like curving from 2 mana on turn two to 4 mana on turn three.

Simic Signet
Tezzeret the Seeker
Tamiyo's Journal

Tezzeret the Seeker Tezzeret’s ultimate ability is like March of the Machines but—in the case of our deck—two-and-one-half times bigger. That is, instead of turning our artifacts into 2/2s, Tezzeret turns them into 5/5s. It only lasts for the turn, but prepped for and timed properly, it should be a game-winning move. The only problem is that we can’t surprise our opponent with this tactic—the Planeswalker will always come down a turn beforehand, use the +1, and be susceptible to be attacked for planned for.

So if there are clues you might love this deck, if you need to investigate further, or if your suspicions have been confirmed, give this deck a try.

Andrew Wilson


fissionessence at hotmail dot com

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