Dominaria presents the new “historic” mechanic, which rewards you for playing with legendary creatures, sagas, and artifacts. In his weekly article, Mark Rosewater explains at length how that group came to be and why. The short version of it all is that historic is the glue holding Dominaria together, and crappy artifacts provide just the right amount of glue.

You can play good artifacts too, of course, along with sagas (which look amazing) and legendary creatures—but I want to focus on the bad artifacts. You know, the ones where “it’s an artifact” is the first good thing you say about it when you put it in your Limited deck. I’m not talking Darksteel Relic bad—it has to do something—but twelfth-pick stuff like Flamecast Wheel is where I’m at. Or back when they still printed Fear/Intimidate creatures and you’d pick up a Bronze Sable or Metallic Sliver in case you needed to block Nezumi Cutthroat or Krenko’s Enforcer.

My love for junky artifacts goes way back. However, in the earliest days of Magic: the Gathering, there really weren’t any. All artifacts were uncommon or rare, and they were big, permanent things. There were a few flashy one-use artifacts, and they were almost all awesome. Black Lotus and Chaos Orb are the most famous, but Nevinyrral’s Disk, Ring of Ma’Ruf, Gauntlets of Chaos, and Mirror Universe were early icons of the game as well.

Ashnod’s Transmogrant and Feldon’s Cane, from Antiquities, were the first artifacts you could throw away for a small effect. I liked them both, but neither are too exciting. Feldon ends up being a flavor home run, and the graveyard-shuffling effect would also prove to get better with age. But the real debut of crappy artifacts, for me as a kid, was this stupid rare from Fallen Empires:

Oh, how I love the old templating. “Sacrifice Aeolipile to have it deal 2 damage to any target.” Fallen Empires was ahead of its time, I suppose. Why is this card rare? Why does it cost two mana to cast? It’s actually pretty good. In most Limited formats it’s playable, at least. But if it cost one to cast and two to sacrifice, you could fetch it with Trinket Mage or curve out with it in a control deck.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed digging extra draft value out of marginal junk artifacts. Hunter Slaton and I used to egg each other on in this reard, if I recall correctly. He definitely played more copies of Witches’ Eye than I did, thankfully. Everyone loves Traveler’s Amulet, and Renegade Map was fun too; but you have to fight for those in draft pods.

Cards like Codex Shredder offer a fun sideboard value if you want to go deep. Hell, when you’re going that deep, you probably want it in your main deck because you won’t get much time to play with your sideboard. It’s a Modern staple, right? It must be great in Limited then. Not so much, but it has it’s place in my heart. Razortip Whip, however, is hot garbage. I have seen it in play, though.

The ultimate crappy artifact for Limited is Elixir of Immortality. William “Huey” Jensen worked that little trinket all the way to the top eight of Grand Prix Oakland in 2013, which he went on to win without that card’s help. M14 was a special set, where you could play four Divinations in one deck, and Opportunity too. Ah, the good old days.

The question for Dominaria is, will you be fighting for any artifact you can get just to turn on historic? How low will you go? Will you play this?

Dismember, this is not. But it is probably still playable in Limited, right? It kills a lot of creatures, even most big ones, and six mana is an acceptable price to pay for that effect. Sure, you have to spend seven if you topdeck it, but green and blue decks will be happy to take that deal.

What about this one?

I love Prophetic Prism more than anyone, but it draws a card. Navigator’s Compass does the same thing basically, filtering one mana each turn, but without the cantrip. If you really want to get historic, I can see this being good. It certainly helps in that regard more than Traveler’s Amulet would. Perhaps it will end up being a high pick, especially considering all the multicolor legendary creatures you can splash.

Talk about historic! This one seems designed more for Vintage than Limited. I’m not sure it gets the job done against Mishra’s Workshop, but those Tolarian Academy storm decks won’t like this much. Maybe if your opponent is going off in Sealed with the new Cabal Stronghold, you could get some value out of this. But will you pick one up late in draft to turn on historic? I doubt it.

They still make the sweet, iconic artifacts too:

Icy Manipulator definitely satisfies the historic requirement, and it does great work in Limited decks. Back in the day this card was hard to come by. Some even called it the Bone Crank, which tells you how desperate we were to get our hands on one. This one won’t be lapping the table in your draft pods. Premium removal for most threats goes early, and the best thing about artifacts is they go in every deck.

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast. He used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he pans the planeswalker points for bronze, or whatever happens to be the cheapest metal that bots will buy.

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