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Last updated on July 12, 2022

Ingenious Smith - Illustration by Nicholas Elias

Ingenious Smith | Illustration by Nicholas Elias

Legacy’s Affinity was one of the decks I liked the most when I started playing Magic. Tons of fantastic artifact combos usually involved Arcbound Ravager, which led to explosive starts and potential 1-turn wins.

Affinity became one of the top decks a few years later when Modern was introduced. Mox Opal eventually proved too good in decks like Hammer Time and Affinity and was banned from the format. But we’ve seen similar decks in Standard like Azorius Smith that resemble the original Affinity gain some popularity.

With the introduction of Jumpstart: Historic Horizons we have more tools in the form of powerful artifacts from previous sets. Today I’ll be going over a Historic version of Azorius Smith designed by Lee Shi Tian for the Streets of New Capenna Championship.

Ready for Historic Azorius Smith? Let’s go!

The Deck

Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire - Illustration by ZOUNOSE

Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire | Illustration by ZOUNOSE

The Strategy

This Azorius Smith deck is very good at applying pressure early and has an explosive midgame that will eventually take over the match. It sometimes plays like a combo deck, where you get to cast your cards out of order, but I’d say it’s a midrange deck with the potential to snowball quickly if I had to describe it.

The Creatures

Esper Sentinel MH2

Esper Sentinel leads the pack as potentially the best 1-drop against control and tempo decks. Growing this artifact creature with the help of other cards almost ensures you get to draw. Sentinel’s ability stacks, so you could draw multiple cards if you have more than one soldier on the battlefield. You still get a 2-for-1 advantage even if your opponent casts removal.

Next on the list is Ingenious Smith, which helps find your other artifacts and grows the first time another artifact enters the battlefield each turn. Glint-Nest Crane fills the same role except that it doesn’t grow but instead has flying. This is sometimes relevant because you can grow it by attaching Nettlecyst, which is our honorary member of the creature club since it creates a creature token to attach to when it enters the battlefield.

Thought Monitor MH2

Thought Monitor is your primary source of card advantage. The catch on this one is just to play it for one mana to draw two cards. It’s very hard to lose if you start chaining these cards back to back.

Jegantha, the Wellspring

Your companion, Jegantha, the Wellspring, is a fine addition to the deck. It may not shine against decks like Auras, but it does against grindy decks like Rakdos Arcanist since they often can’t deal with it.

Ornithopter

Ornithopter is your final creature. It may not do much, it may just look cute, but I didn’t have the heart to leave it out of the deck. While it usually gets sided out, it opens the possibility for some explosive starts involving Moonsnare Prototype and the cheaper Metallic Rebuke. It also carries Nettlecyst very well since it has inbuilt evasion.

The Planeswalkers

This deck runs two versions of the same planeswalker in all 75 cards.

Karn, Scion of Urza

Karn, Scion of Urza fits perfectly with a deck mostly built around artifacts, and it can provide you with tons of card advantage in the late game.

Karn, the Great Creator

On the other hand, Karn, the Great Creator comes directly from the sideboard. Its primary role is to hate on the Cat/Oven deck. It can also tutor some other key artifacts from the sideboard that hate other decks.

Other Spells

The rest of the deck is a mix of utility cards, counterspells, and removal.

Moonsnare Prototype

As far as utility cards, the deck runs Moonsnare Prototype, which can be used as a ramp spell in early turns and pseudo-removal in later portions of it.

But as far as removal goes, Portable Hole and Glass Casket are the main ones since they target a big part of the meta. Especially the Hole, which can also deal with the likes of Witch’s Oven and Trail of Crumbs.

Shadowspear

Shadowspear is good against aggressive decks that want to go faster than you. And if you manage to stick this on a Nettlecyst or Karn token and get to hit your opponent with it, you’re hardly losing after that.

Unlicensed Hearse

While the above cards look good, the most notable inclusion of the deck is Unlicensed Hearse. The three more popular decks of the format (Izzet Phoenix, Golgari Food, and Rakdos Arcanist) rely on the graveyard the most. Hearse can innocently start messing with your opponent’s graveyard in the first bit of the game and aim to take over in later parts of it.

Metallic Rebuke

You also have a set of Metallic Rebukes to prevent your opponents from messing with your strategy since things don’t often go as planned. It can be the difference between winning and losing a game for one mana.

The Lands

As far as land goes, the deck runs smoother thanks to Hallowed Fountain and Hengegate Pathway.

You also have one Needleverge Pathway and one Riverglide Pathway to help cast your companion in the midgame.

Spire of Industry

Spire of Industry is also very good at fixing your mana, but keep in mind that you need to have an artifact in play first to use its max potential. This is one scenario where an Ornithopter comes in handy.

Your utility lands are Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire and Otawara, Soaring City, which often serve as removal if you’re being attacked, or if you just want to clear the board from a blocker.

Treasure Vault

Treasure Vault can enhance your Ingenious Smiths and enhance your Nettlecyst and Karn tokens.

Common Interactions

This deck is tough to play at first and requires a decent amount of practice to get the basics down. That said, here are the most common things to keep in mind:

  • MTGA has this bad habit of tapping your colored mana sources first instead of tapping colorless mana from Treasure Vault. It thinks you’ll use its second activated ability instead of paying mana with it. You should keep an eye on it and tap your mana individually to prevent this.
  • Remember that Ingenious Smith only triggers once each turn.
  • You can trigger Ingenious Smith‘s ability every turn, including your opponent’s. Crack your Treasure Vaults on your opponent’s turns to pump your creature further.
  • Activating your Treasure Vault‘s ability can lead you to win the game more times than you think. You can create multiple Treasures to pump creatures equipped with Nettlecyst or Karn tokens.
  • If you side in Karn, the Great Creator, you can start siding out single copies of your other artifacts since you’ll be able to tutor them from the sideboard with Karn.
  • Some players might miss that Shadowspear gives your creatures trample which can turn things around, especially if you have a big Unlicensed Hearse.
  • You can bluff Metallic Rebuke against experienced players by not attacking on turn 2 with Esper Sentinel while having blue mana open. In the same regard, you can catch some players off guard by doing the same and countering their spells.
  • You can tap equipment or artifacts like Portable Hole to pay for mana with Moonsnare Prototype.

Sideboard Guide

This deck has an excellent plan against the most popular decks in the meta. But you may end up swapping one removal for a different kind of removal most of the time just to avoid some popular card choices from other decks like Hidetsugu Consumes All, even if that’s not intuitive.

So let’s talk about the individual card choices that aren’t part of the main deck.

Dovin’s Veto

Dovin's Veto

Dovin’s Veto excels against control and Food decks because it aims to disrupt their main plan and mana value engine while protecting our board.

Glass Casket

Glass Casket

You want to swap Portable Hole for Glass Casket against decks running Hidetsugu Consumes All, and you have eight removal spells against other creature decks like Auras.

Reckoner Bankbuster

Reckoner Bankbuster

Reckoner Bankbuster is an efficient way to go over the top of grindy decks and generate both card advantage and a creature that’s difficult to deal with.

Negate

Negate

Like Dovin’s Veto, a single copy of Negate is needed as an extra counterspell against control decks.

Karn, the Great Creator

Karn, the Great Creator

I’ve already mentioned it, but Karn, the Great Creator’s primary role is hating against Food decks. But it’s also excellent in the mirror, and you can bring a single copy in for control matchups.

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

You bring Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in against most of the creature decks. It also excels against Rakdos Arcanist since it clears the board and presents a threat that’s hard to kill.

Mystical Dispute

Mystical Dispute

Last but not least, Mystical Dispute is essential against decks like control and Phoenix.

Food Matchups

Food is an even match since you’ll try to keep them from killing you quickly with their insane Ravenous Squirrel Cat/Oven starts. Mulligan aggressively into cards with interaction and expect to win with a flying creature equipped with a Nettlecyst in the late game.

Counterspells are your main way to prevent yourself from getting board wiped post-sideboard. You also want to side in Karn, the Great Creator since it can mess up their oven activations.

In

Out

Control Matchups

Control is somewhat favorable to you, but you run some dead cards like Portable Hole against them, so mull hands with multiple copies. Outside of that it’s going to be hard for them to keep up because enough early threats paired with counter backup is usually too much.

Post-sideboard you want to remove those dead cards to get even better against them.

In

Out

Phoenix Matchups

This match is tricky because there are some phases in between it. The first five to six turns are tempo-based, and after that pass you start fighting on resources. Luckily you’re ahead on that last bit since they don’t get too much card advantage beyond Arclight Phoenix and Expressive Iteration.

You can easily handle their planeswalkers with a mix of vehicles and counterspells post-sideboard.

In

Out

Arcanist Matchups

Arcanist is a hard match to lose since their main way to win is to disrupt you, but if you get a start of Esper Sentinel into Ingenious Smith that’s usually more value than they can handle. That paired with counterspells and other value cards like Thought Monitor makes it an uphill battle for Arcanist, not to mention the main deck graveyard hate that Unlicensed Hearse grants.

Post-sideboard you want to trim your 1-mana value spells to avoid getting screwed by Hidetsugu Consumes All, as I’ve already mentioned multiple times.

In

Out

Other Cards to Try

Tempered Steel

Tempered Steel

You want to go wide with Tempered Steel and play as many cheap creatures as possible on your early turns. But it may not fit as there aren’t many of those in this particular deck.

Pithing Needle

Pithing Needle

Pithing Needle is good against planeswalkers and Food, so it’s reasonable to run at least one copy in the 75.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch

Emry, Lurker of the Loch

Emry, Lurker of the Loch is good since it can recur some artifacts from the graveyard against grindy matches. But it meets removal and mills your other key cards like the planeswalker or Ingenious Smith most of the time.

Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh

Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh

Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh was an exciting option, but it wasn’t as good at generating card advantage as I thought. That and the fact that Karn is a better version of it kept Tezzeret from being part of the main deck. But it’s still a reasonable sideboard option.

Sai, Master Thopterist

Sai, Master Thopterist

This legendary creature is good, but sometimes Sai, Master Thopterist dies to removal too fast. The issue was that you don’t like having creatures that entered the battlefield and do nothing the same turn.

Wrap Up

Esper Sentinel - Illustration by Eric Deschamps

Esper Sentinel | Illustration by Eric Deschamps

I’ve enjoyed piloting this deck. It feels like a breath of fresh air every time a new brew makes its mark in the meta. This build reminds me a lot of Modern Affinity builds and, who knows, maybe WotC will give us some presents in the form of Master of Etherium, Atog, or Arcbound Ravager in Historic.

I hope you have fun if you test this deck out. Let me know how it performed for you in the comments and changes you’d make to improve it! And make sure to grab Arena Tutor if you’re playing on MTGA and want a free app to track your matches.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you in the next one!

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