Izzet Ensoul in Pioneer
Artifact decks have long existed in Magic, but there’s one type in particular that’s held my interest for quite a while, but never seemed to break out: Ensoul Artifact decks.
Unfortunately, today isn’t so different, as Ensoul Artifact still hasn’t gotten its big break. But based on the fact that this list managed to 5-0 a Pioneer League, I’d say it might have something going for it.
This list makes the best of cheap artifact creatures, giving us lots of keywords to play around with when we start ensouling our artifacts. Ornithopter is a cheap flier that we can swing in with very early on, and Bomat Courier starts swinging from turn 1 while also potentially generating card advantage. Gingerbrute can also attack right from the start, but it has built-in evasion if we need it, and can even gain us life in a pinch. Stonecoil Serpent has the potential to be our biggest threat, running over blockers and dodging some removal. Scrapheap Scrounger is aggressively-costed, and can come back from the graveyard, allowing us to play a longer game than we’d otherwise be able to.
Skilled Animator acts as extra copies of Ensoul Artifact, and can swing in or protect our own life total if we need it. Additionally, Animator stays on the board even if the animated artifact is killed, which makes it slightly more valuable in a long game. Finally, we have Hazoret the Fervent, who comes online easily and hits hard without needing an Ensoul effect.
For spells, we have Stubborn Denial, a long-time Death’s Shadow staple that is great in decks with low-cost, big creatures, like we have here. Shrapnel Blast also works very well in this deck, giving us a very potent amount of damage for a very small mana cost. Ensoul Artifact is here for obvious reasons, turning our Gingerbrutes and Springleaf Drums into creatures that can quickly end games. Speaking of Springleaf Drum, we have it in here too as a way to quickly pump out mana in the early game. Finally, there’s Ghostfire Blade as a cheap way to buff our artifact creatures, giving us a permanent +2/+2 that we can move to something else if we get a better target.
For lands, we have Shivan Reef and Steam Vents to make sure we have the colors we need, as well as Spire of Industry to help us get black for Scrapheap Scrounger or the occasional Leyline of the Void. Mutavault gives us a way to swing in even if we’re running low on creatures, and it can even carry a Ghostfire Blade, and Darksteel Citadel is a great Ensoul target.
In the sideboard, we have Pithing Needle, helping against cards like Narset and Teferi, an extra Stubborn Denial for decks that are more removal-heavy, and Leyline of the Void to deal with graveyard strategies. Metallic Rebuke is a great catch-all counterspell for a variety of matchups, and Roast is a nice removal option when we need more than our four copies of Shrapnel Blast can give us.
- Using Ensoul Artifact on Darksteel Citadel results in a 5/5 that’s quite difficult for the opponent to remove.
- If Scrapheap is your only artifact and your opponent targets it with removal, you can tap Spire for black mana before it dies, then bring Scrapheap back immediately afterwards.
- Gingerbrute is effectively unblockable against a large number of creatures for just one mana, meaning if you can Ensoul it, it’ll hit hard and often.
- Tezzeret's Touch is an extra Ensoul effect that also gives some light protection to whatever it’s put on, although it does require more investment into black.
- Heart of Kiran is an interesting option if you want more keywords on your artifacts, since it will have Flying and Vigilance as long as it’s Ensouled, potentially making it a decent option for matchups where you need blockers.
- Lupine Prototype is leaning hard into the spice realm, but I’ve loved it since it was printed, and considering that this deck has no problem emptying its hand, this could actually be a decent spot for it.
Ensoul Artifact has always been a fun card, and now it’s looking like it might have found a home. Half the fun of these decks is figuring out what weird things you can kill your opponent with, like Universal Solvent or Ghostfire Blade, and ultimately the deck has the potential to kill the opponent very quickly.
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