It's skull-clamping good!
Another round of legends, another chance for Commander shenanigans!
Magic the Gathering's Adventures in the Forgotten Realms adds a whole new wrinkle of lore to the game. I adore the vast Magic storyline, but know little about characters within Dungeons and Dragons. Some research was in order, so I trekked to the Forgotten Realms Wiki to see what I could find on Oswald Fiddlebender. Twas' there I discovered our grumpy friend is both engineer and brewer (granted, of potions), thus my Samuel Adams-inspired playfulness above. He's also notorious for crashing his own airship, so I assume his flavor text is either an in-joke, or that he's working on a second one. Being a sarcastic soul, I'm guessing it's the former.
He seems a fun, eccentric character. Now aware of his character bio, I applaud the connection between flavor and function. But having known nothing of Forgotten Realms lore during preview season, my first glance at Oswald Fiddlebender prompted a decidedly-Magic reaction:
Commander sparks began flying, as Oswald Fiddlebender's legendary status allows him to helm an entire Commander deck while being the closest approximation we've had to powerhouse Birthing Pod in a long while. Pyre of Heroes is fine, but its restrictions limit it to tribal builds. Good ole' Oswald here works with any and all artifacts, allowing vast possibilities. "Grizzly Bear"-sized stats and cost also make him an inexpensive general, easier for repeated casting as the Commander tax stacks up. Oswald Fiddlebender also illustrates the recently-resurrected theme of White dipping more into generalized Artifact synergies:
I say 'recent' because White actually has a quite history of Artifact synergies. It just hasn't been fully explored in some time. Starting all the way back in Antiquities with Argivian Archaeologist (who'd be in today's deck were it not $600), getting more creative with cards like Auriok Salvagers and Scourglass, then narrowing heavily into equipment with via Sram, Senior Edificir, Armament Master, and Sigarda's Aid. Up until recently, much of White modern connection to artifacts has been consumed by equipment. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. It's fitting for the color of civilization to care about arms and armaments; it's just nice to see a branching out, back to more wide-reaching synergies.
With card-advantage being so paramount, and our general needing plenty of fuel to craft with, my take on Oswald Fiddlebender leans on the mighty Skullclamp. Our deck seeks to tutor out this insane source of card advantage immediately, using plentiful 0-mana artifacts for Oswald to tinker with. Once Skullclamp arrives, many of those same artifacts (Memnite, Servo Tokens, Thopter Tokens, etc.) turn into card-draw fuel.
In all, we've 20+ sources of 0-mana artifacts via the direct approach (Ex. Phyrexian Walker[/card), creature tokens ([card]Servo Schematic), treasure (Smothering Tithe, Treasure Map), and even artifact lands (Urza's Saga, Ancient Den, Treasure Vault). We also load up on multiple sources to grab these starting blocks, such as Recruiter of the Guard and Ranger Captain of Eos.
Once we've established our Skullclamp-base, card draw should be ample and our hand full of gas. And future targets for Oswald Fiddlebender to chain into. Many of our sacrificial artifacts also provide additional value (Ichor Wellspring), giving the deck an Aristocrats vibe. The more value we accrue, the closer we work our way up to haymaker cards like Spine of Ish Sah, Possessed Portal (Who needs card draw when Oswald can tutor up whatever we want?), and Darksteel Forge.
So, grab an ice-cold Artifact Ale, hop aboard the airship (sorry, Oswald), and let's explore what this brand new Birthing Pod-with-legs has to offer!
Oswald's Artifact Ale | Commander | Matthew Lotti
- Commander (1)
- 1 Oswald Fiddlebender
- Creatures (26)
- 1 Auriok Salvagers
- 1 Barbed Spike
- 1 Bronze Guardian
- 1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
- 1 Cathodion
- 1 Digsite Engineer
- 1 Esper Sentinel
- 1 Filigree Familiar
- 1 Junk Diver
- 1 Kuldotha Forgemaster
- 1 Leonin Abunas
- 1 Luminous Broodmoth
- 1 Memnite
- 1 Myr Retriever
- 1 Myr Welder
- 1 Nettlecyst
- 1 Ornithopter
- 1 Phyrexian Walker
- 1 Ranger-Captain of Eos
- 1 Recruiter of the Guard
- 1 Scrap Trawler
- 1 Silent Arbiter
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Sorcerer's Broom
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle
- Enchantments (1)
- 1 Smothering Tithe
- Artifacts (29)
- 1 Archaeomancer's Map
- 1 Darksteel Forge
- 1 Everflowing Chalice
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Extraplanar Lens
- 1 Eye of Vecna
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Ichor Wellspring
- 1 Illusionist's Bracers
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Liquimetal Torque
- 1 Magewright's Stone
- 1 Mimic Vat
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Mirrorworks
- 1 Mox Opal
- 1 Mycosynth Wellspring
- 1 Mystic Forge
- 1 Parhelion II
- 1 Possessed Portal
- 1 Rings of Brighthearth
- 1 Scourglass
- 1 Servo Exhibition
- 1 Servo Schematic
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Spine of Ish Sah
- 1 Thousand-Year Elixir
- 1 Treasure Map // Treasure Cove
First agenda is to get our general out early, then pair him with something that can be crafted into Skullclamp. We can't start building giant robots until our card advantage engine is online. We've a variety of artifact-flavored win conditions within, but we'll need to survive long enough to build up to them. That's why so much of the deck is focused on inexpensive artifacts. Even a humble Servo will do work, turning into a Skullclamp or into cards after putting one on. Tokens remain useful throughout the game, as there's plenty of other goodies they can chain into like Sol Ring and the aforementioned Esper Sentinel.
Once your mana is in place and Oswald is tinkering, you'll be able to grab the most context-appropriate artifact for a given board state. Then work your way up to more devastating machines.
Workshop Residents: Our creatures are broken into three categories: sacrifice fodder, utility tools, and supporting non-artifact creatures. Starting off, we begin with 0-cost creature like Memnite, Ornithopter, and Phyrexian Walker. These are the most direct way of using Oswald Fiddlebender to find Skullclamp, but we've plenty of other avenues, too. Additional sacrifice-fuel comes in the form of Solemn Simulacrum, Myr Retriever, Junk Diver, Cathodion, Filigree Familiar, Barbed Spike, and Nettlecyst. Note that all these either provide additional value upon dying or produce creature tokens on top of being artifacts, themselves. In that same vein, Sorcerer's Broom acts as a repeatable token-generator, letting us make a broom each time we sacrifice another permanent. Which we'll be doing quite often, so running out of steam is unlikely.
Our next variety of creature are artifacts that exist to provide utility or support the aforementioned sacrifice plan. With our Commander acting as a tutor, we can afford to sacrifice consistency for versatility. Esper Sentinel is another fantastic 1-drop artifact for Oswald to grab early on. Scrap Trawler helps us recycle artifacts throughout the game. In creature-heavy matchups, Silent Arbiter assures we're protected from swarms. Bronze Guardian provides mass-protection while quickly growing into a massive threat. Cataclysmic Gearhulk acts as a board-wipe on legs. Kuldotha Forgemaster, with enough support, can bypass the incremental tutoring of Oswald and immediately fetch us something expensive. Speaking of which, Steel Hellkite doles our damage and destruction in equal measure, often wrecking multiple permanents with each attack.
The final band of creatures aren't artifacts, themselves, but play incredible supporting roles. Digsite Engineer, Recruiter of the Guard, and Ranger-Captain of Eos all either make or find creatures to fuel our engine. Luminous Broodmoth, Auriok Salvagers, and Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle act as repeatable sources of recursion. And Leonin Abunas brings the ever-important Hexproof to the board.
Fuel for the Tinkering: We've stressed the importance of Skullclamp, but we also include Eye of Vecna, Ichor Wellspring, Mycosynth Wellspring, Treasure Map, and Mystic Forge for additional card advantage. Once Treasure Map is flipped, the three resulting treasure tokens all make great fuel. Similarly, token-makers like Servo Schematic, Mirrorworks, Servo Exhibition, and Mimic Vat help keep us stocked up on resources for Oswald to brew with.
Speaking of brewing, because we aim to make the most out of Oswald Fiddlebender's potential, we bring in Thousand-Year Elixir, Illusionist's Bracers, Rings of Brighthearth, and Magewright's Stone. Each of these allows Oswald to fire multiple activations in a single turn. Illusionist's Bracers and Rings of Brighthearth are especially appealing, as they'll double-up the tutor effect without sacrificing and additional artifacts, as the sacrifice is part of the cost, not the ability.
Lastly, we also pack a suite of late game tools to work up towards. Chaining Spine of Ish Sah into Possessed Portal into Darksteel Forge can be nightmarish. Or turn Spine of Ish Sah into Parhelion II if you find it more fun to win with a fleet of angels. Before long, casting a timely Roar of Reclamation or Open the Vaults is likely to generate an explosion of game-winning value. One-sided sweepers like Scourglass and Soulscour certainly don't hurt, either. Although ridiculously expensive, that Soulscour nukes all non-artifacts, including lands, means it's a likely game-over if you're able to resolve it. In this build, it's a Plague Wind on super-soldier serum.
Supporting Spells/Permanents: We're pretty all-in on the artifact theme, so we only equip a handful of supporting spells for general defense. We've already covered artifact-centric board wipes Cataclysmic Gearhulk and Scourglass, but we also bring in Phyrexian Rebirth to wipe the battlefield and generate a monstrous threat. The only spot removal we include is a sole copy of Dispatch, the Metalcraft of which is likely to be on more often than not.
Mana Support and Rocks: As if Smothering Tithe wasn't ridiculous enough already, in this deck it also generates tutor-fuel. Archaeomancer's Map makes for an excellent target to 'cash in' for an Oswald tutor once you've caught up on land drops. Early on, our inexpensive artifacts go a long way towards helping fetch up mana rocks Sol Ring, Mind Stone, and Fellwar Stone. Everflowing Chalice and Mox Opal have that ever-important 0-mana cost to help grab Skullclamp. While Liquimetal Torque will most often be used for mana, its ability to roboticize one of our non-artifact permanents provides additional tutor fuel.
Similarly, Expedition Map can be vital toward grabbing artifact lands (Ancient Den, Power Depot, Treasure Vault, and Darksteel Citadel, the sacrifice of which also grabs the 'clamp. Though not artifact lands themselves, Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus provide similar roles, either via the sacrifice of the animated land (which is an artifact creature) to Oswald or directly to Skullclamp. Of course, we could bypass all this trouble by just playing Urza's Saga, which will tutor for us all on its own, making tokens along the way.
Utility lands include War Room for card draw, Blast Zone for break-in-case-of-emergency removal, Buried Ruin for recursion, and Inventors' Fair for even more tutoring fun. Lastly, we use the old Snow-Covered Plains + Extraplanar Lens combination to prevent opponents playing basic Plains from getting the mana-doubling effect.
Inventors' Fair by Jonas De Ro
Unsurprisingly, the creatures that provide card advantage command high price tags. To generate value on a budget, we'll turn to artifact-recursive creatures like Leonin Squire and Treasure Hunter. Taj-Nar Swordsmith is also able to tutor up Skullclamp for only one extra mana on top of its price tag. Not a bad deal. Finally, because we'll be casting many artifacts throughout the game, Myrsmith makes for an excellent token generator.
Though it's tough to replace Teferi's Protection, but the recently-printed Guardian of Faith does a solid impression. It won't protect all your permanents, but it'll leave an army standing after a board wipe. Regarding Thousand-Year Elixir, Puppet Strings may be slower, but it'll perform a similar function with bonus defensive utility, if needs be. Another consideration is adding inexpensive but value-providing artifacts such as Terrarion, Implement of Improvement, or Trading Post.
When it comes to replacing Darksteel Forge, we've a bounty of other expensive (mana-wise), splashy artifacts to choose from. Mindslaver is enough to ruin someone's day on its own, but with the amount of artifact recursion in this deck, it'll likely ruin someone else's day, too. Other fun options include Elbrus, the Binding Blade, Soul Conduit, or if you're up against a graveyard-centric opponent, Keening Stone for the joy of milling with compounding interest.
*Sigh* It's always the lands and mana sources, isn't it?
Shoring up our mana base with additional rocks like Arcane Signet, Hedron Archive, Worn Powerstone, and Thought Vessel may not be fancy, but they'll do the work needed to ramp up your mana and can be searched-up via Oswald if needed.
Another good option are lands that animate themselves into or produce artifact creatures, such as Mishra's Factory, Dread Statuary, Urza's Factory, and Foundry of the Consuls. Though not ramp in its own right, Angel of the Ruins provides mana-development early on while acting as a great source of removal and evasion later on.
Myr Retriever by Trevor Hairsine
For all the mechanical marvels we've discussed today, there are countless more to experiment with. In the course of building around Oswald Fiddlebender, I found that making cuts from the plethora of options was far more difficult than coming up with enough pieces. That bodes well for you, dear reader. It means there are tons of fun and creative angles left to explore. Like the good old artificer himself, keep on tinkering!
Thanks for reading, and may you never crash your airship.
Sorry, Oswald. Again.