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The Return of Tempered Steel


I absolutely love aggressive artifact decks to death. They're one of my favorite competitive styles that I've ever played with. Back in the days of Mirrodin, when I was first cutting my teeth on the competitive scene, I built one of my first true decks ever: Affinity.

Myr Enforcer

Now you're probably thinking how wild it must've been to start out with something like Ravager Affinity, right? Well, I wasn't exactly running a fully tricked out Raffinity list. After all, I was a freshman in high school at the time and wasn't really able to afford Arcbound Ravagers and the like. A lot of the important cards, however, were commons and uncommons, meaning I could still build a solid variant of the archetype on a budget. In fact, a lot of the deck is actually Pauper legal and is a strong contender in the format today, though worth a bit more due to a higher player base against the supply.

The list I played packed a much bigger wallop compared to the Pauper version of today thanks in part to these two cards:

Cranial Plating

Gotta love the early days of broken powerhouse equipment because they didn't yet know how to really gauge their power levels. Cranial Plating has shown up a considerable amount since its days in Standard and has made a good home in Modern and Legacy in the past, even if it's fallen out of favor in recent years. It's such a powerful card, though, that it's now very banned in Pauper. As for Skullclamp, well...it's Skullclamp. 'Nuff said. The card is broken and allowed me to cycle through my deck like it was nothing. My friends eventually refused to play me because it won so much, so I switched to something sillier like a Leveler and Endless Whispers combo deck.

Years later, however, as I was returning to the game from a three-year hiatus to Magic, we once again were revisiting Mirrodin in Scars of Mirrodin. For a while, I was getting my bearings in the game and playing things like draft and Commander more than anything else. Soon enough, though, came two things: the announcement of the Modern format and the SCG Tour coming to Tampa, Florida where I was living at the time.

I got some cards together to sell so I could put together a deck and jam it during the Modern and Legacy events held on-site. The deck I picked up was, of course, Affinity. At the time, the deck had tons of similarities between formats with only a handful of differences. I quickly realized that a lot of the cards I picked up had tons of overlap with the Tempered Steel list that was in Standard then and picked it up to take with me.

The main events back then were much more affordable, so while I really wanted to play the Modern event at the Open, I decided to try my hand at the main event. Either I'd get there or I'd drop out and wait for the other event to start. I ended up in 21st place and cashed my first major event ever with this list:

What I found was a renewed love for the aggressive artifact strategy thanks to the powerhouse of Tempered Steel and a host of cheap artifact creatures. It's more Robots than Affinity, but who's counting? You spit out a ton of cheap creatures and beat face. I loved it so much I found myself hardcore grinding on the deck Magic Online for three months straight following the Tampa Open. It allowed me to build into other formats as well and laid the foundation for me as a real truly competitive player like no other deck had done before.

Tempered Steel

Upon rotation that fall, however, Tempered Steel all but vanished. It was never good enough for Modern, which had bigger cards at its disposal, and it certainly wasn't good enough for Legacy. It never even made appearances in Commander or Cube either, being too narrow for most players. For years I found myself lamenting the disappearance of the card from the competitive scene and held dearly to my full-art promos with the hopes that one day they may again have a chance to shine.

Just a few weeks ago, the chance finally arose with the release of Historic Anthology 3 on MTG Arena. For those of you who might not be aware, Historic is a format exclusive to MTG Arena due to a lack of formats like Pioneer and Modern. It consists of every card ever released on the platform. Because it has such a Limited number of sets right now, Wizards of the Coast set out to inject some oddball cards into the mix to stimulate a diverse group of archetypes. With this most recent Anthology set came Tempered Steel and a classic archetype was born anew.

This list looks considerably different from the one in Scars of Mirrodin era Standard, but it's still got the core down. Play a ton of creatures, pump them up, and beat face! The moment I discovered the card was coming to Arena I just about lost it, and jumped at the first list I saw. I quickly started grinding the new Historic ladder and found myself reaching diamond for the first time in over a year.

Rediscovering my love for the card, deck, and overall archetype of aggressive artifacts made me think. After talking about Heartless Gyruda last week, where I threw it back to a classic archetype I played in Standard just before Tempered Steel, I wondered what it might look like to redo other classic decks as Commander lists. With a renewed love of Tempered Steel, I sought to apply the aggressive artifact strategy to EDH. What I came up with was a blend of Tempered Steel and Affinity variants, with a dash of Hardened Scales and general good stuff to round things out.

Partnered Steel | Commander | Kendra Smith

Originally the list started out with a lot more of the cards you might expect to find in the Tempered Steel lists that inspired it. Things like Memnite and Glint Hawk Idol. I realized that with a number of these cards, however, they likely wouldn't be very impressive in most games of Commander and would become quickly outclassed. As such, I streamlined it to simply be a deck based around strong artifact creatures, pump effects, and attacking rather than a lot of the typical Jenny shenanigans you might expect in my Commander lists.

Originally I wanted the list to be Selesnya or Abzan to be closer to the original list, but the allure of Akiri, Line-Slinger was just too appealing to pass up. I didn't add too much by way of Red cards with its addition, only making use of it by adding Embercleave in the mix to be searched up with Stoneforge Mystic. While you can also go in on Batterskull or Skullclamp, I really love the idea of trying to go in on the Kaldra pieces and assembling them together for a monstrous creature.

Besides that, it's all pretty straight-forward. Just like the lists that came before it: put out a bunch of creatures, make them big, and take down your opponents. There's a handful of removal options added to the mix just in case you need them, but they're in much lower numbers here. We're trying to take the opponent down, after all, not control the game. Hit 'em hard and hit 'em fast, just like we've been doing with these aggressive artifact strategies since 2003.

I can't wait to play this deck during my weekly Casual Commander Night games with my friends. It's been a real treat going back and revisiting some classic favorites. Heartless Gyruda was a blast on all fronts that managed to off super hard and I imagine this list will be no different. Can you imagine if we went back and hit up lists like Eternal Slide or Omni-Door Thragfire in Commander form? It's a great way to brew up some decks, so try it out yourself sometime!

Kendra Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: Kendra Smith

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