Mishra, Jank Prodigy

☥ Welcome to the Machine ☥


Mishra, Artificer Prodigy is an incredibly unique commander with an ability that will confuse, befuddle, and amaze your opponents.

Mishra reads: "Whenever you cast an artifact spell, you may search your graveyard, hand, and/or library for a card with the same name as that spell and put it onto the battlefield. If you search your library this way, shuffle it."

It is at this point that you may be asking yourself, "Huh? How does that work in a singleton format?"

The essential "trick" to making Mishra work for us is the clever management of triggered abilities, combined with some seemingly-symmetrical Stax effects that we will leverage to punish our opponents more than ourselves. Want to know more? Then enter the Workshop below to see how all the cogs of this machine fit together:

☥ Key Concepts Show

Mishra is both a janky combo deck and a "light" Stax deck.

Stax refers to a deck archetype that uses cards such as Smokestack, Stasis, or Sphere of Resistance to "lock down" one's opponents, denying them resources and disrupting their ability to execute their gameplans. These decks can win because they are specifically constructed around these Stax pieces, choosing cards and commanders that break the parity of these effects.

Parity is an important concept in Magic: The Gathering, especially in the Stax archetype. Parity simply refers to a state of balance or equality. Many of the most efficient and most powerful Stax pieces in Magic are designed around the idea of parity — that is, they are designed to be symmetrical, affecting all players equally. Stax decks, however, are built so that their tax, disruption, and chaos effects hurt their opponents much more than they hurt themselves.

Mishra is no different: By leveraging the way our commander's ability interacts with certain Stax pieces, we can turn some otherwise symmetrical disruption effects in our favor, locking out our opponents and helping to ensure that our path to victory is clear. What makes Mishra so unique is that he allows us to gain advantage from some otherwise unplayed Stax cards, cards which might be totally unfamiliar to many of our opponents. This novelty factor, combined with the double-takes our opponents will do when reading our commander for the first time, make Mishra an especially interesting and fun Stax deck.

☥ Breaking Parity Show

Mishra's ability allows us to leverage a class of Stax pieces that don't traditionally see very much play in EDH: Effects that automatically counter spells when they are cast (as opposed to effects that make spells more expensive, or that deny players the ability to cast spells at all). This distinction may sound trivial, but it is actually very important, as we can see when we examine how Mishra's ability interacts with certain cards:

Mishra + Nether Void: Look closely at the wording of Nether Void and you'll notice that it isn't a straight tax effect like Sphere of Resistance or a cost-setting effect like Trinisphere. We can take advantage of the fact that it counters spells by cleverly stacking our triggers:

  1. Cast an artifact. Do not pay the extra for Nether Void.
  2. Both Mishra and Nether Void will trigger. Place Mishra's trigger on the stack first, then Nether Void's.
  3. Nether Void's trigger resolves first, countering our artifact and sending it to the graveyard.
  4. Now Mishra's ability will resolve, allowing us to search our graveyard, hand, and/or library for an artifact card with the same name as the artifact we cast in step 1 and put it directly onto the battlefield. Well, hey! Isn't that convenient? There's an artifact with that name right on top of our graveyard. Meanwhile our opponents are forced to pay to resolve any spells.
Mishra + Chalice of the Void: This works similarly to the Nether Void combo. If we cast an artifact that would be countered by Chalice, we put Mishra's trigger on the stack first, followed by Chalice's. The Chalice trigger resolves and counters our artifact, and then Mishra's ability resolves and fetches the artifact from our graveyard. This gives us quite a bit of leeway with Chalice, allowing us to set X to whatever will have the maximum disruptive impact on our opponents.
Mishra + Nullstone Gargoyle: The Gargoyle will counter the first non-creature artifact we cast each turn, but (as in the examples above) Mishra will retrieve it. Once we have cheated a non-creature artifact into play this way, we are then free to cast instants, sorceries, or enchantments since Gargoyle will not affect any other spells played the same turn. One word of caution, however: This once-per-turn counter is not player-specific, meaning our non-creature spells are open to countermagic and other interaction. However, getting to essentially ignore the Gargoyle's effect on our own turns still makes this a powerful parity-breaking effect.
Mishra + Ice Cave: This is yet another parity-breaking effect for us that requires some stack management. It can also be a political tool, as it gives all of our opponents the ability to counter each other's spells, while allowing our artifacts to slip through untouched:

  1. Cast an artifact.
  2. Ice Cave and Mishra will trigger. Place Mishra's trigger on the stack first, followed by Ice Cave's.
  3. While Ice Cave's trigger is on the stack, our opponents will have a window of opportunity to use it to counter our artifact. If someone chooses to do so, then when Mishra's ability resolves we can just fish it out of our graveyard and put it directly into play. If no one chooses to use Ice Cave, then our artifact just resolves (assuming no other counter magic). For us, it's a win/win.

Note that there is some inherent risk in using Ice Cave: Our opponents can potentially use it to counter any of our non-artifact spells. Fortunately, our primary win conditions are all artifact-based combos. Also note that countering a spell with Ice Cave requires players to pay the unmodified, printed mana cost of that spell, including color(s). If a spell is discounted or taxed in some way, Ice Cave doesn't care. If a player is using an alternative cost, such as Overload, Ice Cave doesn't care. If a spell has in its cost, then Ice Cave sees as whatever amount it is on the stack.

Mishra + Possibility Storm: This is the signature combo in this deck, and it works a little different than the "counter" effects above. While Possibility Storm ensures that our opponents aren't going to be able to cast what they want when they want, we are going to be getting a 2-for-1 deal on all our artifacts:

  1. Cast an artifact.
  2. Both Possibility Storm and Mishra will trigger. Place Mishra's trigger on the stack first, then Possibility Storm's.
  3. Possibility Storm's trigger resolves, exiling the artifact we cast and giving us the next artifact in our library for free.
  4. As part of Possibility Storm's resolution, the artifact we originally cast is placed on the bottom of our library.
  5. Now Mishra's ability resolves, fetching the artifact off the bottom of our library and putting it into play. Two for the price of one!

☥ Combo Lines Show

Our primary win conditions are all artifact-based, meaning they can be executed through any of our own Stax effects as long as Mishra is in play.

Krark-Clan Ironworks is a true powerhouse in this deck. There are many possible combo lines with KCI, too many to list here. However, many of these combos are simply variations on the following two:

On the battlefield: Krark-Clan Ironworks + Scrap Trawler + Myr Retriever + Any 1 or 0 cost artifact (let's go with Sensei's Divining Top in this example)

In our graveyard: Junk Diver (OR Workshop Assistant)

  1. Sacrifice Top to KCI. We now have in our mana pool
  2. Sacrifice Myr Retriever to KCI, going to .
  3. Two triggers will go on the stack: One from Myr Retriever and one from Scrap Trawler. With Myr Retriever's trigger, return Junk Diver to our hand. With the Scrap Trawler trigger, return Top to our hand.
  4. Cast Junk Diver for . Cast Top for . So far, we have broken even on mana.
  5. Sacrifice Top to KCI, gaining .
  6. Sacrifice Junk Diver to KCI, going to .
  7. Junk Diver and Scrap Trawler will both trigger, returning Myr Retreiver and Top to our hand.
  8. Cast Myr Retriever for and Top for . We are now up from where we started.

With Etherium Sculptor or Foundry Inspector in play, we can execute the Junk Diver + Workshop Assistant variant with a 2-cost artifact as well (3 or higher won't work because of Scrap Trawler's limitation). Also worth noting is that most of our cheap artifacts actually tap for mana, which means we can usually net even more mana per loop, often colored. I used Top in the example above just to keep things simple.

So what can we do with this combo?

With Reckless Fireweaver or Disciple of the Vault in play, we can make short work of our opponents by cycling through this loop enough times to ping the table to death.

Another outlet for our KCI combos is Aetherflux Reservoir. We gain more and more life as we move through the loop, eventually banking up enough to nuke our opponents from orbit.

If we have Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain or Vedalken Archmage in play, we are also drawing cards every loop.

If we draw into a Pyrite Spellbomb, and we have a way of generating red mana in this loop (Mox Opal, for example), we can start looping Spellbomb's first activated ability to blow up the table. Since we'll be sacrificing Spellbomb to its own ability and not to KCI, we'll need to use the excess colorless we've gained to pay for the repeated casting of Spellbomb. Note that we can drop a Mycosynth Lattice in place of looping a mana rock to pay for Spellbomb's red activation. If we're at risk of decking ourselves due to Jhoira or Archmage, and we don't have a Scroll Rack, we can blow up our own creatures with Spellbomb before looping infinitely for the win.

Assuming we are looping a black-generating mana rock, or assuming we have a Lattice in play, another outlet for our unbounded colorless mana is Wishclaw Talisman. Working the Talisman into this loop means we can repeatedly tutor for exactly the cards we need to win.

In addition to the basic loop and its variations above, there are a few KCI combos that fall under what I'm calling "The Activation Dance" — so named because these combos rely on some rules technicalities about the process of activating an ability or casting a spell.

These technicalities can be difficult to wrap one's head around at first. See the "Rules Reference" below if you'd like to learn more about the specific rules at play here. Otherwise, let's take a look at two of the specific iterations of this "dance":

Krark-Clan Ironworks + Scrap Trawler + Myr Retriever + Mox Opal + Pyrite Spellbomb + Any 3-cost artifact

This loop was one of the main win conditions for the KCI combo in Modern, when that deck was at the top of the format (KCI was banned in Modern in January 2019). Spellbomb is also useful in Mishra, as it can serve as both efficient, artifact-based removal and card draw in one, even outside of this particular infinite combo. There are other options for this win condition, but none quite as tidy as Pyrite Spellbomb.

The combo works as follows:

  1. Announce that we are activating the first ability of Pyrite Spellbomb (Note: If we don't have a source of red mana available, or we want to draw cards instead of comboing off for damage, we can execute this loop using the second ability instead).
  2. Choose a target. We're going to end up looping Spellbomb to nuke the whole table, so let's just pick a kill order and demonstrate our loop. We can deal with any pesky creatures first if we need to.
  3. We now have a chance to activate mana abilities to pay for our Spellbomb's ability. There is nothing in the rules preventing us from generating more mana than we need, and that's exactly what we're going to do.
  4. Note that the triggered abilities caused by all these artifacts hitting the graveyard won't actually go onto the stack until we're finished activating the ability of Spellbomb.
  5. Use our and sacrifice Spellbomb to pay the cost of its activated ability.
  6. All of the abilities that triggered in step 4 (in addition to the Scrap Trawler trigger from Spellbomb hitting the graveyard in step 5) now go on the stack. All of the targets for our recursion triggers are now in the graveyard together, which means they can all "see" each other:
    • With the Scrap Trawler trigger from our 3-drop dying, target Myr Retriever. With the Trawler trigger from the Retriever dying, target Pyrite Spellbomb. With the Trawler trigger from the Spellbomb dying, target the Mox Opal. With the Myr Retriever's trigger from itself dying, target our unnamed 3-drop artifact.
    • All four artifacts are returned to our hand.
  7. With our , replay our 3-drop (), Retriever (), Spellbomb (), and Opal (). We are now back to where we started, but we have dealt 2 damage to an opponent. Rinse and repeat!

Note that with Etherium Sculptor or Foundry Inspector in play, we can use a more expensive artifact to execute this loop (not just a 3-drop). Also, with a 4+ cost artifact in the loop, we can substitute Junk Diver or Workshop Assistant for Myr Retriever.

On the battlefield: Krark-Clan Ironworks + Scrap Trawler + Junk Diver + Mox Opal + Wishclaw Talisman

In our graveyard: Workshop Assistant

This is an especially janky and specific KCI loop, and one that is really only possible in EDH. It allows us to loop Wishclaw Talisman for repeated tutors (as an alternative to looping card draw effects, if we can't/don't want to draw cards for some reason).

The basics of this loop are the same as for Pyrite Spellbomb above:

  1. Announce that we are activating the ability of Wishclaw Talisman.
  2. We now have a chance to activate mana abilities:
  3. As with the Spellbomb loop, the triggered abilities caused by these artifacts hitting the graveyard won't actually go onto the stack until we're finished activating the ability of Wishclaw.
  4. Use one of our to pay the cost of Wishclaw's activated ability.
  5. The triggers from step 3 now go on the stack:
    • With the Scrap Trawler trigger from Junk Diver dying, target Mox Opal. With Junk Diver's trigger, target the Workshop Assistant in our graveyard.
  6. Hold priority. With Wishclaw Talisman's activated ability now on the stack, sacrifice Wishclaw to KCI. We now have in our mana pool.
  7. Everything resolves. We tutor up a card with Wishclaw, and Workshop Assitant and Mox Opal return to our hand.
  8. Cast Assistant () and Opal (). We now have .
  9. Sacrifice Workshop Assistant to KCI, going up to .
  10. With the Scrap Trawler trigger from Assistant dying, target Wishclaw. With Assistant's own trigger, target Junk Diver.
  11. Recast Junk Diver () and Wishclaw Talisman (). We are now exactly back to where we started, but we are up one tutored card.
These are the sections in the Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules that are in play here:

  • Rule 602.2 describes the steps involved in activating an activated ability:
    • 602.2a: "The player announces that they are activating the ability..."
    • 602.2b: "The remainder of the process for activating an ability is identical to the process for casting a spell..."
    which leads us to:
  • Rule 601.2 describes the steps of casting a spell. There are several, but the following steps are especially relevant for us:
    • 601.2g: "If the total cost includes a mana payment, the player then has a chance to activate mana abilities..."
    • 601.2h: "The player pays the total cost in any order..."
    • 601.2i: "Once the steps described in 601.2a–h are completed, effects that modify the characteristics of the spell as it’s cast are applied, then the spell becomes cast... If the spell’s controller had priority before casting it, they get priority."
  • Rule 603.3 deals with placing triggered abilities on the stack: "Once an ability has triggered, its controller puts it on the stack... the next time a player would receive priority..." This timing is further clarified under Rule 117: Timing and Priority:
    • 117.2a: "Triggered abilities can trigger at any time, including while a spell is being cast, an ability is being activated, or a spell or ability is resolving... However, nothing actually happens at the time an ability triggers. Each time a player would receive priority, each ability that has triggered but hasn’t yet been put on the stack is put on the stack."
    • 117.5: "Each time a player would get priority, the game first performs all applicable state-based actions as a single event... then repeats this process until no state-based actions are performed. Then triggered abilities are put on the stack... These steps repeat in order until no further state-based actions are performed and no abilities trigger. Then the player who would have received priority does so."
Bolas's Citadel + Sensei's Divining Top + Aetherflux Reservoir:

  1. Use Top's second ability to draw a card, putting Top on our library.
  2. Cast Top off our library with Citadel, paying 1 life.
  3. Gain the life back immediately from Aetherflux Reservoir.
  4. Rinse and repeat, gaining more and more life from Reservoir each time.
  5. Nuke the table with Aetherflux Reservoir.

If we are at a higher life total than our opponents, then Reckless Fireweaver can be substituted for Aetherflux Reservoir in this combo.

If we are at risk of decking ourselves with Top, or with the mandatory card draw effects from Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain or Vedalken Archmage, we can use Scroll Rack to mitigate this. There are two important things to remember about Scroll Rack's ability that give us an out in this situation: 1) Its ability is not a draw effect, so it won't deck us, and 2) We can use it to put more cards back than we get. That is, if we have 70 cards in hand and only 5 remaining in our library, we can Scroll Rack for 70 and end up with 70 cards in our library and 5 in hand. Scroll Rack also lets us stack our library.

Mystic Forge + Sensei's Divining Top + Etherium Sculptor OR Foundry Inspector:

  1. Use Top's second ability to draw a card, putting Top on our library.
  2. Cast Top off our Library with Mystic Forge, paying zero mana due to the cost reduction from Sculptor/Inspector.
  3. Rinse and repeat to draw as many cards as we like.

This combo works similarly to the Bolas's Citadel loop described above. Without an outlet on the battlefield already, this combo will allow us to draw as much of our deck as we need to dig for a win condition. With Aetherflux Reservoir, the repeated casts of Sensei's Top should gain us enough life to nuke everyone at the table. We can also use Reckless Fireweaver in place of the Reservoir to ping our opponents down one damage at a time.

Mycosynth Lattice works nicely with several cards in our deck, including all of our planeswalkers. The Lattice can be a double-edge sword, however, because its effect is symmetrical. Unless we combo off the turn we play it, we are opening ourselves up to the same combos from our opponents. Use with caution!

Mycosynth Lattice + Vandalblast: A totally one-sided board wipe, destroying all of our opponents' permanents and sparing all of ours.

Mycosynth Lattice + Karn, the Great Creator: This combo presents a hard lock on our opponents, forbidding them from activating any abilities of their permanents, including tapping lands for mana.

Mycosynth Lattice + Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge: Besides adding value to Tezzeret's passive, the Lattice overcharges his +2 ability, which might allow us to steal a few wins through stax pieces that traditionally shut us down.

Mycosynth Lattice + Tezzeret the Seeker: With the Lattice in play, Tezzeret's -5 ability turns all of our permanents into 5/5 creatures, potentially allowing us to overrun our opponents with combat damage.

☥ Individual Cards Show

Brainstorm and Scroll Rack: One quirk of Mishra's ability is that it allows us to shuffle our library every time we cast an artifact (even if our desired target is in our graveyard, or even if we "fail to find"). If we know we've got junk on top of our library, Mishra makes it easy to shuffle it away.

Cursed Totem and Torpor Orb: We only run one creature with an activated ability, and one creature with an ETB (and we don't run anything else that triggers when a creature ETBs).

Krark-Clan Ironworks: It probably won't come up, but remember that KCI's ability is a mana ability, which means that it "doesn’t go on the stack, so it can’t be targeted, countered, or otherwise responded to. Rather, it resolves immediately after it is activated." (605.3b)

Possibility Storm: This pairs especially well with our other Stax pieces. For example, Nether Void's "tax" effect will all also affect the "free" spell cast off Possibility Storm, severely hampering our opponenents.

Praetor's Grasp and Thada Adel: While Mishra can do some neat tricks with Nether Void and the like, he also lets us 2-for-1 with Grasp and Thada Adel, if we steal an artifact from someone that we also run in our deck.

Scrap Trawler: A critical part of KCI loops and all-around great value by itself in this deck. But don't forget about Trawler's restriction — the card you return from your graveyard has to be of lesser CMC than the artifact that's triggering Trawler's ability. This is critical when identifying possible KCI lines that you might have open to you.

Shimmer Myr and Emergence Zone: You haven't lived until you've pulled off an infinite KCI loop for the win during an opponent's turn, while they themselves are trying to combo off.

Wishclaw Talisman: A Demonic Tutor that we can use through all of our Stax pieces, if Mishra is in play. Yes, it passes to an opponent, but we can either try to win the same turn we use it or sacrifice it to KCI while its ability is on the stack.

Opposition Agent: This relatively recent addition is a great card for any deck that can run it (at least in a decently high-powered meta). In Mishra, however, it can also serve as another Praetor's Grasp if we manage to snipe a tutor that can get an artifact. Just like Praetor's Grasp, this allows us to 2-for-1 an artifact with Mishra out.

☥ Weaknesses Show

This deck has four main weaknesses:

  • We are reliant on our commander to break parity on most of our Stax effects.
  • We are potentially vulnerable to aggro or creature-heavy strategies.
  • Both of our main win conditions rely on activating the abilities of artifacts.
  • Our KCI loops rely on recurring cards from our graveyard.

The first weakness isn't quite as bad as it might seem, as we can replay our commander through many of our Stax pieces:

  • Possibility Storm only triggers off cards played from hands, so it has no effect on replaying Mishra from the command zone.
  • Nullstone Gargoyle only affects non-creature spells.
  • Ice Cave requires that our opponents have exactly open to counter Mishra.
  • Nether Void will make Mishra quite expensive, but it also disrupts our opponents' ability to interact with him.
  • We also run a copy of Homeward Path in case of theft effects.

Regarding the second weakness, it's important to note that this deck was built to live in a fairly high-powered combo-based meta. If we end up facing more decks that win by turning creatures sideways, we can try swapping in a few different types of Stax pieces or additional removal to compensate.

The third and fourth weaknesses are truly the Achilles' heel of this deck: Artifact hate such as Null Rod or Collector Ouphe have the potential to totally shut down our engines, while graveyard hate such as Leyline of the Void or Dauthi Voidwalker can negate our KCI combo lines.

What options do we have?

Praetor's Grasp, besides letting us 2-for-1 certain artifacts with Mishra in play, can often fish for interaction or wincons from our opponents.

Phyrexian Metamorph, Sculpting Steel, Copy Artifact, or Mirrormade are likewise very flexible and may be able to get us out from under an oppressive board state.

Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge, besides providing great value with his passive and serving as a source of artifact recursion, can potentially be a sort of "soft" wincon with his +2 ability, if we have enough artifacts in play. Note that this works through Null Rod-type effects.

Of course we also run some countermagic, as well as some removal. In the end, however, our best protection is often to try and get our Stax pieces online as soon as possible. As the saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

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+1 Disciple of the Vault main
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