Today, I want to talk about something a little different. Rather than focusing on a deck or strategy, I would like to focus on talking about a single card. It's one that I love dearly and find to be criminally underutilized in Commander. I'm talking about the awesome Scars of Mirrodin card Prototype Portal. It's been a favorite in my Sharuum deck for years and I find it constantly surprises opponents. It often feels like people don't understand its utility, and I'm here to fix that.
If you've been playing Magic for roughly two decades, you may recall a point in time during Mirrodin preview season where the card Soul Foundry was shown off. An artifact that can make as many copies of a creature as I can muster? That sounded awesome! As someone still more casual than competitive at the time, this seemed like a great way to dish out tons of sweet creatures with abilities over and over again. Turns out that paying six mana, exiling a card, and usually needing to wait a whole turn to actually use it, giving opponents an opening to blow it up, isn't as great as it seems.
Despite that, there're still tons of fun ways it can be used! Those who recall my old Brion Stoutarm Commander list may remember that I used Soul Foundry to imprint and clone Serra Avatar over and over and throw the copies at opponents' faces with Brion. This would lead to exceptionally quick kills! It doesn't take a genius to see how you can use various ETB effects as well. I could rattle off several without even trying. Mulldrifter, Eternal Witness, Ravenous Chupacabra, Karmic Guide, Wood Elves, Avenger of Zendikar, Wall of Omens, the five Modern Horizons 2 mythic elementals - you get the point. There's simply tons of things you can do, but it often ends up feeling like you'd probably just be better off playing a blink deck instead.
With something like Prototype Portal, you can't do as much blinking shenanigans. Instead, you need to find decent artifacts to make solid use of. Many decks run a good number of artifacts in them, so you'd be surprised by some of the ways this card works in your decks. Let's break them down!
Let's start with the most obvious choice: mana ramp. Odds are good that in most decks you play several mana rocks in some form or fashion. Most commonly, this might include obvious inclusions like Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and some combination of the original Ravnica block signets. Every one of these makes a fine and easy way to generate more mana. With Prototype Portal, you can easily stick any one of them under and be set on making additional mana for a very affordable rate each turn.
You know what's better than paying for your extra mana each turn, though? Not paying anything at all! There's a little-known bit of utility with Prototype Portal that I've always thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, it's what inspired this article. The utility is you can stick an artifact land underneath the Portal and every turn generate an extra land for free! Even if you don't have much by way of artifact synergies in your deck, putting in some number of Modern Horizons 2 bridges gives you lands that can't easily be wiped out - and those can go hand in hand with your usual mana rocks as noted above.
There's also a number of mana rocks that will also give you additional benefits in certain scenarios. The most obvious ones are card draw abilities, of which there are several. Think Mind Stone, Hedron Archive, Commander's Sphere, and so on. You can put it on a Cursed Mirror to make a rock that also comes in as a creature for a turn every turn, which can benefit you in a multitude of ways. Multiple copies of Crowded Crypt will each gain counters on them when creatures die, granting you no shortage of zombies to utilize yourself to close out games. You can even utilize something big and bold like Pyromancer's Goggles to go all the way and blow away your opponents by copying spells multiple times! There's no shortage of excellent options as far as mana rocks for you to choose from.
Speaking of drawing cards, let's talk about that for a moment. Simply put, there are endless amounts of cantripping artifacts that you can slip under a Prototype Portal. Personally, I've been quite partial to Courier's Capsule for years, only to be replaced by Mnemonic Sphere last year as it just feels better on the whole. I mostly use this as a way to draw multiple cards at a time, but it's not hard to find individual means of drawing cards either. Put cards like Prophetic Prism, Golden Egg, or Lembas under your Portal and you'll find yourself drawing cards each turn while benefiting from some additional bonuses they provide as well.
There's also no shortage of more one-shot effects that you can use as well. Think of things like the Spellbomb cards from both original Mirrodin and Scars of Mirrodin. Pyrite Spellbomb, Aether Spellbomb, and Nihil Spellbomb are all classics. However, you can also use smaller abilities like Origin Spellbomb and Horizon Spellbomb to get way more value than you might expect to generate using just one of those effects on their own. There's also the likes of Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Star, and Wizard's Rockets to help you draw cards, or you can use something like Implement cycle from Aether Revolt to get a number of various effects.
Then there's the ultimate means of drawing cards that always catches people off-guard: the ones that repeatedly draw cards each turn. My favorite here is Howling Mine. It's one of those cards that seems innocuous to most players and you'll often find that most people are excited to draw more cards. By the time you play the fourth or the fifth Mine, though, the game ultimately ends up descending into total chaos! You can even go more extreme with Font of Mythos or take a more one-sided approach with extra upside by using cards like Coercive Portal or the new The One Ring. In fact, using The One Ring is great because it both resets your counters on it and every turn grants you a mega Fog that makes it incredibly difficult to take you down.
Equipment and Vehicles
A constant favorite of Magic players everywhere is the ability to use equipment and suit up your creatures to your preference. Arguably one of the game's best inclusions since its introduction in Mirrodin, there's no shortage of awesome equipment to pull from. Among the more obvious choices here is the Sword of X and Y cycle. There're tons of them and they're usually good enough to run just one copy in a deck. Imagine if you were able to make additional copies every turn! There're tons of other Commander staples, though, such as Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves, Skullclamp, and Basilisk Collar which make for no-brainer inclusions. You can even run cards like Nettlecyst or Cranial Plating to great effect on a Portal because the more you make, the more your creatures' powers will grow exponentially! How about Blade of Selves for extra creatures or Paradise Mantle for additional mana? The possibilities are endless!
In a similar vein is vehicles. There are far fewer of these to go around, but there's plenty still that have no shortage of utility to tap into. The most obvious choice here is Smuggler's Copter. The card was banned in Standard and eventually in Pioneer, and for good reason! Multiple copies will let you filter through your deck and work best in reanimation strategies. Reckoner Bankbuster becomes a constant draw engine, Surgehacker Mech is a repeat pinger, and Unlicensed Hearse can tear up graveyards while pounding your opponents to death at the same time. There're far fewer vehicles to go around compared to equipment given how new they are; but, as the years go on, I'm sure there will come many more great cards to use in conjunction with the Portal.
The one unfortunate downside to this part of Prototype Portal utility is that a number of staple equipment (and a handful of notable vehicles) are ultimately legendary. That means many cards you'd often love to have multiple copies of can't be cloned reasonably. This includes cards like Helm of the Host, Umezawa's Jitte, Sword of the Animist, Embercleave, Hammer of Nazahn, Shadowspear, Esika's Chariot, and more. If you were playing a deck that relies on something like Mirror Box, maybe then you could make it work reasonably enough in these cases. In most cases, though, if you're looking to clone a bunch of equipment, make sure you're being careful that you're not trying to make copies of legendary artifacts in the process. If you do, you won't have a good time.
Next up is a much more broad concept: utility artifacts. In many ways, these cover all the previous areas in some capacity. After all, I'd bet you think of abilities like card draw and mana ramp as utility effects. Instead, I'm thinking cards that provide a more general effect - either just one time or over and over. Many of the one-use artifacts I noted in the card draw section. That's because many artifacts that sacrifice themselves also draw you cards when you send them to the bin, though you can still find a handful of more unique options like Expedition Map or the game-ending Door to Nothingness as well.
There're far more than just those sorts of effects, however. For example, have you ever thought about what it would be like to play multiple copies of Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield at once? The game would get out of hand quite fast! Putting a Halo Fountain under the Portal basically lets you spit out creatures at breakneck speed and then win the game in record time. You can even use something like Coat of Arms with it and watch the battlefield get extremely out of hand in no time flat. It might be hard to keep up with, but at that point, math truly is for blockers.
How about going the route of the ol' Saffron Olive special and making multiple copies of Panharmonicon and getting ridiculous value off of ETB effects? Similarly, you can put the likes of Conjurer's Closet to fantastic effect by repeatedly blinking creatures. Multiples of Strionic Resonator, Thousand-Year Elixir, and Rings of Brighthearth can additionally give you many abilities time and time again. You can use cards like Urza's Incubator or Herald's Horn for a constant cascade of creature type value or utilize Door of Destinies for a more one-sided and less chaotic version of the Coat of Arms play. You can even be a masochist and slip out tons of stax pieces like Thorn of Amethyst or Tangle Wire to really lock opponents down and make their lives miserable, if you please.
Last but not least is, well... creatures! I started off this article talking about how awesome Soul Foundry looked at first but then how expensive it was to play. After all, six mana is a lot. However, there's a ton of rock-solid artifact creatures that work amazingly with Prototype Portal, which only costs four mana. I find I'd much rather use the Portal on more general sense artifacts like the ones above that have a broader approach to a game. Sometimes, though, that just won't cut it and you instead need to find an artifact creature to drop instead.
Putting something like a Solemn Simulacrum or a Baleful Strix is going to get you tons of value that you'll be happy to see in just about any deck. You can even slip a Foundry Inspector or Academy Manufactor underneath it if you're playing a deck that can utilize their abilities well. If you are later in the game and have the mana to spare, something like Myr Battlesphere or Wurmcoil Engine can really put the hurt on your opponents. You don't always need to play something big, however. I personally loved putting Darksteel Sentinel underneath for many years because of how it provided me with something that could both attack and block well with minimal effort every single turn.
How about a Phyrexian Revoker to shut down multiple of opponents' activated abilities? Steel Overseer or Master of Etherium to boost entire boards by monstrous proportions? You can even simply use a mana dork like one of the many Myr to get some truly minor advantages. Multiple Master Transmuters can allow you to loop ETB effects over and over for a very low cost while also enabling you to cheat in your bigger artifacts at the same time. Even putting something with little-to-no bonuses in multiple quantities like, say, Golem Artisan works in a pinch because it provides you with a body at the very least.
This is but a small fraction of the ways that you can effectively utilize Prototype Portal to great effect. It's one of my favorite things to do in Commander and I generally feel it goes tremendously under the radar for most people. I hope this gives you some appreciation for this cool artifact and inspires you to try it out in a Commander build of your own. It's easy to get ridiculous value out of it and will almost assuredly impress your friends when you do something seriously flashy with it.
Try it out for yourself! I promise you won't be disappointed.