Hidden Strings - Coveted Jewel
(Coveted Jewel | Art by Jason A. Engle)
Elite Vanguard... ATTACK!
Hello everyone, and welcome to Hidden Strings, the series where we build decks that can run any card as their commander without the need for a Rule Zero conversation.
In this third installment, we're doubling down on powerful artifacts:
Of all the things specifically designed for multiplayer environments, cards like Coveted Jewel and mechanics like Monarch are easily among my favorites. In a format where attacking a specific opponent "without a reason" is too often taken as a personal offense, introducing a simple reward for doing so is usually enough to incentivize players to rightly commit to the combat phase, leading to more interactive play patterns and a quicker game pace.
It doesn't end there, though. Alongside strategical and political subgames, Coveted Jewel also offers mana plus card advantage, and does so in ways that can easily be exploited through a number of popular game mechanics, making for a very well-rounded card that is equal parts fun and powerful.
As is customary for this series, the first step in putting together our decklist is to choose the face commander that we intend to send on Jewel-fetching duty.
So, confession time: the idea for this deck actually came to me as the unexpected result of a different experiment.
A couple years back, I was determined to prove that, even with the relatively few tools at its disposal, mono-white could still out-draw and out-ramp any number of Simic opponents without having to resort to infinite combos. The deck I ended up concocting was a monstrous creation led by Oswald Fiddlebender, whom I would use to search for an artifact (which prefers to remain anonymous) that would eventually allow me to draw multiple bursts of 10 to 20 cards in a single turn.
While that could be labelled as a success, I couldn't help but notice how the first steps of the process always involved searching up Coveted Jewel and milking its abilities through flicker effects. And just like that, the basic concept behind today's build had emerged. It only seems fair, then, to honor the deck's origin story by running it back with its original commander at the helm:
Pulling Coveted Jewel out of our library through Oswald's ability requires that we first drop a five-mana artifact to be used as sacrifice fodder.
Norn's Annex is the best of the bunch, allowing us to search for the Jewel on turn four without any piece of early ramp. Gilded Lotus and, oddly, Meteorite come in as close seconds, as they produce the very mana that is needed to immediately cash them in and find the Jewel. Clone Shell and Staunch Throneguard offer small upsides on the two ends of the reshaping process, while Ironsoul Enforcer and Bronze Guardian are just a good artifact creatures that also happens to have a mana value of five.
Running a lot of five-drops is the most obvious way to guarantee that we always hit one to feed to Oswald, but going overboard and clogging the deck with heavy and useless pieces of metal is an easy recipe for disaster. Adding cheaper artifacts and being willing to climb up a couple steps of the mana-value ladder will definitely make our deck smoother.
In much the same vein as the previous section, Frogmite simply acts as a discounted four-drop, while all the Hedron Archive variants offer a little rebate after hitting the field (and can still come in handy during the later stages of the game thanks to their activated abilities). Dross Scorpion behaves similarly with the help of an artifact mana source in play, and Treasure Keeper rounds up the group with his pseudo-Cascade trigger.
Saying we should be okay with activating Oswald a couple of times doesn't mean we should be content with doing so over the course of distinct turns. Commanders that tutor tend to be scary and attract removal, meaning it'll be in our best interest to speed the searching process up rather than hope our opponents will lets us have more than one opportunity.
Veteran's Reflexes is the baseline for this effect, with Burst of Energy and Light the Way being the best iterations due to their possibility to interact with the Jewel itself. To Arms! and Blessed Alliance also offer minor upsides and flexibility in exchange for a slightly higher mana cost, which will sometimes be offset by the opportunity to untap one or two mana dorks alongside our commander. Manifold Key is also able to untap Oswald through a Liquimetal Torque activation, but it's mainly there to reset the Jewel and ensure that we can get it back should it get stolen.
Don't Blink! (Flicker Instead!)
Once the Jewel is in play, our top priority should be to exploit its two abilities as best we can. If we do things right, we will often draw the tools needed to retain control of the artifact through the turn cycle.
The most obvious ways to break a mana rock that also draws cards upon entering the battlefield are flickering and blinking. While both mechanics work, the former is definitely the most effective, as it allows to chain multiple spells on a single turn. The same effect can be obtained by copying the Jewel. This would be much harder to achieve weren't it for the existence of Sculpting Steel, which can be easily retrieved by untapping our commander and sacrificing a small mana rock to his ability.
You Shall Not Pass!
Shaping our gameplan around Coveted Jewel (and occasionally introducing mechanics like Monarch and Initiative during the process) calls for solid defensive measures that can prevent our opponents' creatures from going unchecked during combat.
Preemptively blowing up the board is the most drastic of such measures, but probably the most effective, so we should definitely put a high premium on any card that is able to do that on the cheap. Formidable blockers or even just surprise ones can also do a great job at staving off attackers and buy us some precious time before the turn gets back to us. One last trick up our sleeves will be to ignore the attackers and just use cards like Usher to Safety or even Oblation to make the Jewel vanish right before the eyes of an opponents who's trying to snatch it.
Playing Opponents Like Fiddles
There will be times when the safeguards we just mentioned won't be enough to stop all of our opponents from trying to steal our Precious. This is where good plotting and politicking come into play. Losing control of the Jewel is not the end of the world and can even be advantageous at times. After all, taking it back is just another way to trigger its draw ability, and passing it around the table is also a way to incentivize our opponents to go for each other's throats.
Besides, there will always be that one player who's having mana troubles or just had a slow start, and helping them get up to speed can be a good way to gain an effective ally. Choosing the right time to pick a fight will then be crucial to our success, as will be our ability to manipulate our weakest opponents into devoting some of their resources to protecting us in exchange for a shiny piece of the pie.
Despite being very powerful, Coveted Jewel is not the type of card that gets often destroyed or otherwise targeted by removal, as the prospect of stealing it is much more alluring than using a card to deal with it. Of course, we're not going to let that happen nearly as frequently as our opponents might think, but pretending like that's the case will let us cut down on protection spells and backup plans.
Refurbish is going to be our best option, based on its cheap cost and the potential to also a act as a pseudo-flicker spell in scenarios where we decided to sacrifice the Jewel through Oswald's ability. Its big brother, Brilliant Restoration, will prevent us from getting obliterated by a Vandalblast. Lastly, Pull from Eternity is a card that I always try to sneak in when I build around secret commanders, since a simple exile effect can easily ruin our whole plan.
Giant Robot... ATTACK!
Having access to lots of mana and card draw is great, but ultimately only matters if it's channeled in an attempt to win the game. In fact, our deck is not really equipped with the tools to stop our opponents' plans for very long (if at all), so once we approach archenemy territory we better find a way to close out the game quickly. For the budget-friendly and lower power version of this deck, cheating out big beaters seemed like a fine way to do so.
Graaz is a card I haven't tried yet, but searching for it after having blinked a Myr Battlesphere looked fun enough to grant it a spot. Nettlecyst is mostly there as a curve-filler for Oswald, but it can be a good Equipment to slap on one of our fliers in a pinch. Similarly, Bronze Guardian and Angel of the Ruins have other roles in the deck, but they still pack up punch when we need them to hit.
Covering the (Non)Basics
Most of our pieces of interaction were chosen so that, depending on the situation, they could also act as enhancers for our own strategy. As a consequence, most of them have already been mentioned throughout the article. Dispatch and Dispense Justice round up this category together with Patrician's Scorn, a very underrated card that I play in almost any white deck that doesn't plan on resolving enchantments of its own.
As for early acceleration, we're going to play a big chunk of the two-mana pieces available, whether they are rocks that come into play untapped or dorks that synergize with our untap spells, with Planar Atlas and Helm of Awakening being the only exceptions.
Finally, nothing too crazy is going on in the nonbasic department: a couple staples for artifact decks, two lands that can be cycled away after our engine goes online, and a few utility lands that have basically no drawbacks in a deck that is mostly colorless.
My PreciousView on Archidekt
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View this decklist on Archidekt
At the time of writing, low prices for this list put it below the $35 mark, making this deck the cheapest we've built so far!
The Top 10 for this price range is pretty stacked, so much so that I was having a really hard time ranking all the cards.
Most of these are just improved versions of the ones we already run, so finding basic replacements for them should be pretty easy. As for the remaining few, Approach of the Second Sun stands out as the perfect win condition for a deck that wants to draw cards and wipe the board, while Brought Back will always feel like the best card to cast after having sacrificed a couple big artifacts to Oswald's ability.
Budget UpgradesView on Archidekt
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A lot of familiar faces tend to show up in the higher price range, and this Top 10 makes no exception.
Phasing out the Jewel is the perfect way of not having to pass it around, and being able to do so for the convenient cost of three mana is just icing on the cake. Chromatic Orrery is probably the second most powerful artifact that we can cheat out without breaking much of a sweat (and if we're planning on doing so, Razor Golem should also find its way into our deck). Lastly, even drawing chunks of three cards for multiple times a turn won't prevent us from occasionally hitting a streak of lands or useless mana rocks, and that's something Scroll Rack can easily help us with.
UpgradesView on Archidekt
Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
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And there you have it! A well-oiled (and very Precious) Oswald build that will make even the Simic-est of Simic players take note of our ramp and card-draw power.
Do you love it? Do you hate it? Let me know in the comments! And while you're at it, feel free to leave a suggestion for a card you'd want to see as a hidden commander: I'm always up for a deckbuilding challenge.
Until next time!