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How to Tinker with Tetzin, Gnome Champion in Commander

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Let's talk about the utter absurdity that is Tinker

The mind races with degenerate interactions as you read that textbox. For a mere three mana, you not only get to tutor for your best artifact, but then put it directly into play. In today's age of Treasure, Clue, Blood, and Map tokens, the cost of sacrificing another artifact is the lowest its ever been, and as time marches on, it'll likely get even easier. Tinker is one of the only Uncommons on the Commander Ban List, but despite that, it's odds of coming off that list are even lower than a Mythic like Iona, Shield of Emeria. Iona is largely banned due to unfun gamestates. Tinker's locked up cause' it can end the game.

Blightsteel Colossus

"Got Swords to Plowshares? No? GG, pal."

Since Tinker got the axe, we've seen more balanced designs try to evoke its original bustedness. Some tempered the power by adding higher mana costs (Reshape) or relied on what was in your opponent's deck (Acquire). Introduce Red, and suddenly the Graveyard becomes a viable source of Tinker-shenanigans, with cards like Goblin Welder, Trash for Treasure, and Goblin Engineer diving into the scrapheap for gold. The variety of draw/discard effects (Faithless Looting, Cathartic Pyre) in Red feed into this recycling-strategy, stocking up the graveyard. Then it's only a matter of swapping artifacts out via Daretti, Scrap Savant and co., or going full epic-mode and recurring everything at once (Scrap Mastery). Bring in White, and Scrap Mastery is joined by a myriad of other resurrection spells (Wake the Past, Brilliant Restoration, Open the Vaults, Roar of Reclamation, etc.), further fueling mechanical victory.

Blend that all into a Jeskai smoothie, and you end up with today's Commander: Tetzin, Gnome Champion // The Golden-Gear Colossus. Though Tetzin features a double-faced flavor, his abilities perfectly synergize with the recursive strategy described above. Not only can this gnome draw us cards, but he fuels the graveyard, uses said graveyard to flip into a threat, then unlocks powerful effects by letting us bypass costs. In the case of Tinker, it was mana costs. With Tetzin, Gnome Champion // The Golden-Gear Colossus, it's the cost/hurdle of having to flip certain artifacts. It's a dual-pronged approach to winning, with Tetzin's Craft ability speed-flipping us into tons of mana (Ex. Azor's Gateway // Sanctum of the Sun) as Plan A, and a graveyard-full of Artifacts to mass-recur as Plan B. All the while, the more double-sided cards we play, the more our Commander will keep our hand and graveyard supplied.

Within the lore of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, Tetzin and Gnome brethren are the creations of the Oltec people, who dwell within Ixalan's core. After The Immortal Sun was stolen to trap Planeswalkers on Ravnica during War of the Spark, the various competing factions of the Ixalan (pirates, vampires, merfolk, and the human/dino partners of the Sun Empire) discovered a Lost-World-esque secret: their world's core had civilizations and a sun (Chimli, the Inner Sun) all its own. The surface-dwelling Sun Empire are actually the descendants of the Oltec, who've thrived via their mastery of the mysterious element Cosmium. This luminous mineral enhances magical abilities, providing immense power when harnessed correctly. The Oltec tattoo themselves with the material, extending their lifespan and overall vitality. Technology that incorporates Cosmium is extremely resilient, virtually immune to wear and tear. Vampires can even feed on the material as a blood-substitute. All these uses naturally makes the resource of tremendous value to the factions from the surface.

With the stage set, let's talk a bit more about Tetzin, himself. Looking at the whole of Magic's history, double-sided cards are a fairly new addition to the game, making their first appearance in 2011's original Innistrad. Since then, we've seen iterations pop up in multiple forms. Tetzin specifically wants double-sided Artifacts to functional optimally, narrowing an already shallow pool of potential spells. Note that both sides of a card need not be artifacts to work with Tetzin: only a single side, provided it's the one Tetzin sees when the card is played. Thus, although Treasure Map is a land on its back half, you'll most often be playing it as an artifact, causing Tetzin's triggered ability to fire. Just remember that once Tetzin flips into the Golden-Gear Colossus, he won't be able to flip that land back into an artifact.

Ideally, we want Tetzin to be triggering every turn, warranting as many double-sided artifacts in the 99 as possible. There're only so many to choose from, so slower options like Mysterious Tome // Chilling Chronicle warrant consideration. Our current build is ~25% double-sided artifact, enough to trigger Tetzin more often than not. As time goes on, more and more double-sided artifacts will be printed, making Tetzin, Gnome Champion // The Golden-Gear Colossus better and better. Keep an eye on what new tech pops up with each new set. With the overall number of available double-sided artifacts being limited, rolling out a sub-theme of artifact selection/recursion brings in an additional edge to take advantage of the graveyard.

Tetzin, Gnome Champion | Commander | Matthew Lotti

Card Display

Optimus Prime, Hero
Chrome Host Seedshark
Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice

Robots (and other assorted appliances) in Disguise: Starting with our army, the most obvious choices hail from outside the Magic: The Gathering universe. All of the Transformers cards from The Brother's War are double-sided artifacts, and those that are on-color mostly fit with Tetzin's gameplan. Goldbug, Humanity's Ally doesn't have many humans to work with, so we'll leave him at home, but fellow Autobots Optimus Prime, Hero, Ratchet, Field Medic, Prowl, Field Strategist, and Jetfire, Ingenious Scientist all work well with The Golden-Gear Colossus, who's able to flip the robots back and forth without having to trigger their specific conditions. We even invite a Decepticon to the fray, with Slicer, Hired Muscle spreading the damage around everyone's combat phase. Let's extend honorary Transformers-status to Golden Guardian, as a robot that turns into a factory that makes more robots totally sounds like an 80's-era toy.

Chrome Host Seedshark and Progenitor Exarch aren't double-sided on their own, but the Incubator tokens they produce are. The shark will provide a steady stream of Tetzin triggers, and with them, an ever-filling graveyard and hand full of fuel for subsequent shark-triggers. Or we can draw n' mill a ton of cards all at once by pouring ample mana into the Exarch, especially after flipping cards like Azor's Gateway and Matzalantli, the Great Door // The Core. Incubator tokens also come with Sunder the Gateway and Sunfall, removal that'd be useful even without bonus synergy. Another kinda-but-not-quite double-sided artifact is Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms, who'll you'll most often be playing as Sword of the Realms to trigger our Commander. We may not pack much equipment to support Halvar, but Sword of the Realms helps protect Tetzin, bouncing him back to hand to dodge the Commander tax and getting more mileage from his ETB-ability.

The remainder of troops synergize directly with Artifacts, no matter how many faces they have. Urza, Lord High Artificer provides both ramp and an ever-growing Construct token. Gandalf the White revs our deck up to Instant speed while doubling Tetzin's triggers, a feat shared with Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice. Look to the graveyard, and creatures like Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Osgir, the Reconstructor provide repeated card advantage via recycling milled artifacts. Ironsoul Enforcer, Daretti, Scrap Savant, and Goblin Welder take this even further, lifting fallen artifacts back into play regardless of mana cost. Goblin Engineer's a more limited in the mana cost of what it can revive, but makes up for it by providing a bonus Entomb effect for Artifacts, netting something tasty like Portal to Phyrexia for one of our other recursive cards to play with.

Budget-wise, only a lone Esper Sentinel jumps above the $20 mark. While his card-draw potential is huge, plenty of Artifact-centric options like Oswald Fiddlebender, Myr Retriever, and Scrap Trawler serve as capable graveyard-supporting replacements.

Azor's Gateway
Brass's Tunnel-Grinder // Tecutlan, the Searing Rift
Thousand Moons Smithy // Barracks of the Thousand

Double-Sided Scrapyard: Though our Commander does an admirable job filling the graveyard for us, let's give him some help. Faithless Looting, Faithful Mending, Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge, Izzet Charm, Brass's Tunnel-Grinder // Tecutlan, the Searing Rift, and Prismari Command provide both draw and discard, fueling two resources at once. Our Commander's ETB ability also makes bounce and flicker useful defensive options, especially if we can get multiple uses out of the same card (Saving Grasp, Ephemerate).

Tetzin'll mill away plenty of artifacts with each trigger, but he'll also draw us a double-sided trinket of our choice each time. Early on, these provide a variety of utility, including card selection/advantage (Treasure Map, The Everflowing Well // The Myriad Pools, Azor's Gateway, Brass's Tunnel-Grinder // Tecutlan, the Searing Rift, Paleontologist's Pick-Axe // Dinosaur Headdress, etc.), land search/ramp (Thaumatic Compass, Eye of Ojer Taq // Apex Observatory), extra creatures (Thousand Moons Smithy // Barracks of the Thousand, Master's Guide-Mural // Master's Manufactory), and even a few power buffs for early damage (Dowsing Dagger, Dire Flail // Dire Blunderbuss). As our graveyard fills and other conditions are met, we might organically flip some of these before Tetzin transforms into The Golden-Gear Colossus, but once he does, the goal is to get the most raw mana off the 'free' flips he'll provide. Azor's Gateway and Matzalantli, the Great Door // The Core are some of the best choices, as they're likely to provide tons of extra mana. Eye of Ojer Taq // Apex Observatory can also enable huge plays, but you'll need to Craft it to get the effect, as a flip off of Tetzin won't allow you to Exile the needed cards to enable the Observatory's effect. Similarly, Storm the Vault's Enchantment status ignores Tetzin's ability, but honestly seldom needs it. Five artifacts isn't too much of a reach, especially when Treasure tokens accrue off damage. Not a high price to pay for a Tolarian Academy.

But once we have all this mana, what to cast with it? All the mana in the world is of little use without an outlet. Our win conditions span from the scorchingly-direct (Crackle with Power), to mass-Graveyard recursion (Wake the Past and Scrap Mastery, both of which pair nicely with Mirrodin Besieged), or one-sided 'Wrath effects (Portal to Phyrexia, Organic Extinction, Soulscour). You'll note that Soulscour doesn't say 'non-land', leaving players opponents with literally no non-mechanical resources. You'll lose the majority of your lands, too, but your army of machinery is left without a scratch.

Among these spells, only Portal to Phyrexia passes the $20 mark. For deck-builders on a budget, Rise and Shine and Cyberdrive Awakener can provide win-condition replacements with a sizable array of artifacts to animate. Alternatively, you could further supplement your card-advantage tools with Thopter Shop or Artificer Class.

Supporting Spells: We're vulnerable on two fronts: Artifact- and Graveyard-heavy reliance. A single Farewell ruins our day. As such, we'll make full use of the Blue-side of Tetzin's Jeskai heritage for efficient counterspells (Swan Song, Fierce Guardianship, An Offer You Can't Refuse, and the aforementioned Izzet Charm). Teferi's Protection might not shield the graveyard, but it'll protect everything else. Including us. Sweepers Sunfall and Unstable Glyphbridge // Sandswirl Wanderglyph further enhance our stockpile of mass-removal. Gotta stay alive long enough to assemble all these machines, after all. We can also squeeze extra utility out of our ramp, with Fabrication Foundry letting us recycle the best artifacts out of our graveyard, and Archaeomancer's Map serving as sacrifice fodder once its Plains have entered play.

Within this category, the budget's broken by Teferi's Protection and Fierce Guardianship, which is of little surprise. Both are ironclad staples, but have tons of affordable alternatives. For protective options, consider Clever Concealment, Boros Charm, and Guardian of Faith. Free counterspells are harder to come by, but plenty of mana-efficient choices still come in under budget. Dovin's Veto and the new Permission Denied (with Wayne Knight villain-action!) are fantastic choices, but even the humble Negate will do the trick.

Tinker may be banned, but that doesn't mean we can't make our own Tinker-at-home. Quite a bit of machinery will need to hit the graveyard first, but Tetzin, Gnome Champion // The Golden-Gear Colossus loves to help out. Along the way, we'll be flipping and crafting so many other gadgets, by the time we're ready to replicate a Tinker-effect, we may already have all the tools we need to win. Just imagine that: Tinker as a backup win-condition. We live in a crazy age, folks.

Thanks for reading, and may you always have something cool to craft with!

-Matt-

@Intrepid_Tautog

Limited time 30% buy trade in bonus buylist