Tetzin, Gnome Champion | Illustration by Kekai Kotak
Magic’s pushed the design space around double-faced cards into fresh mechanics with The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, and the new Tetzin, Gnome Champion breaks the ceiling on what transform cards can do. With a hyper specific mechanic that cares about only double-faced artifact cards, Tetzin makes for a fun deck building challenge that’s guaranteed to create some new play patterns we’ve never seen before.
Mycosynth Lattice | Illustration by Anthony S. Waters
Drafna, Founder of Lat-Nam
Jacob Hauken, Inspector
Ludevic's Test Subject
Unctus, Grand Metatect
Urza, Lord Protector
Urza, Powerstone Prodigy
Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain
Urza, Prince of Kroog
Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer
Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation
Eye of Ojer Taq
Matzalantli, the Great Door
The Everflowing Well
Thousand Moons Smithy
The Mightstone and Weakstone
Seat of the Synod
While there are more than enough double-faced artifacts in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan to fill out a Tetzin, Gnome Champion deck, that’d be too easy. Instead, this Tetzin, Gnome Champion deck revolves around transforming those double-faced artifacts as well as non-artifact transformers. Cards like Jin-Gitaxias, Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation and the Phyrexian Incubator tokens can all benefit greatly from a “transformation matters” playstyle. You’ll have to work a little harder to make sure those nonartifacts can be targeted by The Golden-Gear Colossus, but that shouldn’t be a problem with the suite of “artifact-ify” cards you’re running.
Tetzin, Gnome Champion is a double-faced legendary creature with two triggered effects you’re basing your deck around. The first, on the front side, helps you to dig through your library to find the artifact cards you need at any given moment. The Golden-Gear Colossus becomes your win condition when you’re suddenly transforming cards back and forth, keeping threats like Jin-Gitaxias and Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation in play and generating value off of transformers like Ludevic's Test Subject.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan brings with it a trove of new double-faced artifacts ripe for synergizing with Tetzin, Gnome Champion. Most transform using the new “craft with…” mechanic, usually an expensive precursor to transforming artifacts. Luckily, the exiled targets can be from nearly anywhere! Well, they can be from your graveyard or the battlefield, which are easy enough places to stick some rocks.
Some of your most important LCI artifacts are Clay-Fired Bricks (important 2-mana ramp in white), Master's Guide-Mural (for replacing your dinky 1/1 Gnome tokens with 4/4 Golems), and Thousand Moons Smithy, the backside of which pumps out as many exponentially-growing X/X Gnome tokens as you could possibly need. Unstable Glyphbridge pulls double-duty as a pseudo-boardwipe plus a painful stax effect.
You’ve got several non-artifact transformers you’re looking to transform with Tetzin’s backside ability. Both Elesh Norn and Jin-Gitaxias make great targets for your Liquimetal Torque, letting you flip straight to their saga sides or back into creatures if you need to skip their board wipes. Turning Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation’s backside into an artifact lets you skip the conditional ability to flip it back into a creature with that token-tripler effect, too. Jacob Hauken, Inspector’s backside, Hauken's Insight, is one of your best by far. You can skip right to its Omniscience side with Tetzin transformed on the field.
Artifact-ing your permanents isn’t as hard as it sounds. There’s been quite a few new artifactifying effects printed since Mycosynth Lattice was our only choice. Liquimetal Torque is my new favorite way to do this, and it’s also a 2-drop mana rock to boot! The deck also runs Liquimetal Coating alongside the Torque as there are occasional situations when you’ll need to be able to turn Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation back from a land into a creature.
Encroaching Mycosynth is your second copy of Mycosynth Lattice; since it’s guaranteed to draw fire from those Vandalblasts, having another copy to fetch up with Fabricate is almost essential to your game plan.
Unctus, Grand Metatect is the best artifactifier. A repeatable artifacting ability that costs basically nothing in a 40-life format? Yes, please! On top of this, Unctus makes your entire board looters and gives them an anthem! If only you could activate that ability at instant speed, this’d be the perfect tech for this deck.
At first glance, it might not seem like Tetzin, Gnome Champion creates many tokens. Two 1/1s per transformation or attack really isn’t that much after your 7-mana investment, so you’ll need to make the most of each of those token artifact creatures. Because of this, the deck has a handful of anthem effects to turn each of those Gnomes into a force to be reckoned with.
Classic artifact creature anthems are here, including Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer and Tempered Steel. The backside of Clay-Fired Bricks becomes a Glorious Anthem after it resolves, and the second stage of Elesh Norn’s saga side can routinely end games with a large enough field. Besides these, there’s also The Brothers’ War Urza, Prince of Kroog.
You can speed along your army assembly with Anointed Procession and Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation, plus cards like Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and Mirrodin Besieged can pump out some extra artifact creatures for use in your craft costs.
Once you’ve assembled your army of Gnomes and Golems, it’s time to start laying down some combat damage. Help your creatures sneak past blockers with Vedalken Humiliator, crushing your opponents’ measly 1/1 creatures underneath your gnomish mechanical boots.
Despite the consistency of The Golden-Gear Colossus, you’ll inevitably end up having to pay that craft cost either on your own commander to transform it or one of your many transformers in a pinch. Luckily, Magic just released a set built around powering your artifact’s abilities in the form of Powerstone tokens. Much of the traditional ramp has been replaced with Powerstone-generating cards to capitalize on the high number of artifacts you’re running and the steep activated ability costs.
Running out an Urza, Powerstone Prodigy makes for a great early game play. You’ll have no trouble getting those artifacts back from the graveyard with Repair and Recharge, Campus Renovation, the all-new Fabrication Foundry, and the staple Scrap Trawler.
Use those powerstone tokens to activate the expensive abilities on Urza, Lord Protector and Urza, Prince of Kroog. Training Grounds helps you along and hits the activation costs to transform cards like Elesh Norn, too.
Artifact decks tend to run a lot of mana rocks, but here I’ve eschewed traditional ramp in favor of cards you can transform. This might not be the best plan, but it makes me happy to pull my cards out of their sleeves and flip them around as much as possible, so I’m committing to the bit.
The only traditional mana rocks here are Arcane Signet and Sol Ring since you literally can’t leave home without them unless you want the Commander Rules Committee visiting you in the middle of the night with a sock full of pennies.
Instead, this deck runs Foreboding Statue, a 3-mana rock that’ll eventually flip into a 5/5. Thaumatic Compass fetches up the basics we need, and Dowsing Dagger and Azor's Gateway are great ramp lands as soon as you can flip them. Treasure Map is a fair investment for its cost, and eventually it’ll pay off if you’re looking to ritual on the following turn. Finally, Eye of Ojer Taq really pays off once you can flip it into a free spell each turn.
This Tetzin, Gnome Champion wins by playing a ton of double-faced artifacts and then transforming them without wasting time or mana on their craft costs.
Early game for this artifact deck might look different from what you’re used to. There are only a handful of mana rocks, and most are 3 mana. Keep a hand with access to all your colors so Tetzin can hit the field as soon as possible and you can start generating value off its mill ability.
As soon as Tetzin, Gnome Champion hits the field, start dropping those DFC artifacts. You want to transform Tetzin as soon as possible, so dropping your cheap artifacts as fodder for its craft cost makes the most sense. Don’t be afraid to pitch your Welding Jar and Tormod's Crypt early on. If it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to transform Tetzin after sticking it, it’s probably best to avoid casting it until you’ve set up effectively.
“Setting up” in this deck looks like dropping Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, Slagstone Refinery, and Training Grounds before casting Tetzin, possibly equipping it with Illusionist's Bracers to dig, flip, and generate Gnomes twice as fast. If you’ve drawn into some of your non-artifact transformers, it’s worth it to Reckless Handling or Fabricate up your Mycosynth Lattice or a Liquimetal Coating to ensure you can execute the flip-combo.
Tetzin ends the game by either going wide or going tall. With Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation and Anointed Procession, your army of 1/1s can grow exponentially before capping them off with Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer and Tempered Steel. Alternatively, just let the vigilant trampler side of Tetzin wail on your opponents with Dire Flail.
There are two alternative win conditions present here, as well. The first is Mirrodin Besieged’s “Phyrexian” mode, which should be easy enough to execute given you’ll be milling and discarding so many artifacts in an average game. The second involves Mechanized Production. Often, you’ll just “end up” with eight Powerstones lying around and win on the beginning of your upkeep without realizing.
The first is the way Tetzin interacts with nonartifact double faced cards. You want to flip Elesh Norn back and forth without wasting mana on its activated ability, so changing it into an artifact with Liquimetal Torque, Liquimetal Coating, Mycosynth Lattice or Encroaching Mycosynth opens up a lot of options for Tetzin. Suddenly the “drawback” of the new Ixalan gods is easily solved by tapping the Coating and attacking with Tetzin’s backside.
There shouldn’t be any Rule 0 violations in this deck. I think you’ll be fine to show up to any old FNM with this pile of jank and feel confident that no one will throw a fit.
The price ceiling on artifact decks can be insane, but there are a few bougie upgrades you can give this deck. There’s always room for a Darksteel Forge and a Sensei's Divining Top, plus you can counteract your reliance on flipping mana rocks by replacing your Sol Ring with a Mana Crypt.
Unfortunately, the most expensive cards in this deck are some of its most essential. Cutting the $30 (currently) Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation and the $45 Anointed Procession really slows down your Gnome production, but they can be replaced with some general artifact creature generators like Thopter Spy Network and Thopter Foundry.
Tetzin, Gnome Champion is clearly designed to be built around a double-sided artifacts-matter deck, but there are a few other directions you could go with it. One of my favorite things to do with new commanders is to try to force a creature type themed deck with them, and in this case a gnome deck could be a goofy alternative to the typical artifact build. Throw in the staple creature type-matters cards like Coat of Arms and Door of Destinies, and make up for the small number of gnome cards with an Arcane Adaptation.
Azor's Gateway | Illustration by Yeong Hao Han
Tetzin, Gnome Champion dares to ask the question, “What if you had to take your cards out of your sleeves 100 times during a game?” Say goodbye to those pristine top edges on your flip cards, because this Tetzin deck will have you wearing out sleeves like nobody’s business.
What do you think? Is Tetzin, Gnome Champion destined for the jank pile, or are there some powerful combos involving flipping a permanent early? Are there any other playable gnomes in Magic? And what are the best sleeves for easily removing and flipping a Magic card over and over? Let me know in the comments, or over on Draftsim’s TwXtter.
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