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Budget Magic: One-Shot Metalwork Colossus Surprise! (Pioneer)

Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! A few weeks ago, we played a couple of matches with an infamous small-Japanese-tournament deck on stream that looked to use Brass Knuckles to power out one of our all-time favorite budget finishers, Metalwork Colossus. The synergy between Brass Knuckles and Metalwork Colossus was sweet, but the deck as a whole didn't feel great. It was super inconsistent and often ended with our massive Colossi being chump blocked until we died. Welp, Metalwork Colossus returns today, this time in a new, improved, and super-budget-friendly (and free on Magic Online with rental programs) form! The idea of the deck is simple: get enough mana value of noncreature artifacts on the battlefield that we can cast Metalwork Colossus for free and then hopefully give it some combination of flying, trample, haste, and double strike with equipment to kill our opponent with a surprise one-shot attack! Does Brass Knuckles mean it's time for Metalwork Colossus to shine in Pioneer on a budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Metalwork Colossus Surprise!

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The Deck

Colossus Surprise! is a combo-ish artifact-based aggro deck. The primary goal is to make Metalwork Colossus free by playing a bunch of noncreature artifacts to reduce its cost and then win either by flooding the board with free 10/10s, with the help of Sanctum of Ugin to tutor up more copies of Metalwork Colossus, or to win with one surprise attack with Metalwork Colossus, by using equipment to give it some combination of double strike, trample, haste, and flying!

The Colossus

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Our deck, as its name suggests, is all-in on winning with Metalwork Colossus. Pretty much every other card in the deck is designed to maximize its power by finding it, reducing its cost, and giving it additional abilities. Metalwork Colossus itself is a unique card. An 11-mana 10/10 isn't very exciting, but thanks to its cost-reduction ability, our deck can get enough mana value worth of noncreature artifacts on the battlefield that we can often cast Metalwork Colossus for free as early as Turn 4, which is pretty absurd. Once we get Metalwork Colossus on the battlefield, it typically wins the game in a turn or two (and sometimes immediately thanks to some equipment we'll talk about in a minute) if our opponent doesn't have removal. If our opponent does have removal, then Metalwork Colossus's second ability comes into play. Our deck is overflowing with cheap, sacrificable artifacts, so we can usually return Metalwork Colossus to our hand immediately and cast it again, making it really difficult for most decks to deal with, even if they have removal.

Finding the Colossus

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While we technically only have one finisher in Metalwork Colossus, which might make you think the deck is inconsistent, finding a Metalwork Colossus usually isn't a problem thanks to a bunch of cards that can dig through our deck to find Metalwork Colossus (or other artifacts). Glint-Nest Crane and Ingenious Smith have two jobs: their enters-the-battlefield triggers dig for Metalwork Colossus (or, if we have a Colossus, other artifacts to reduce the cost of Metalwork Colossus), and then they buy us a bit of time to get a Metalwork Colossus on the battlefield by chump blocking. In theory, they could be a backup plan for winning the game, but in reality, I've never actually won without at least one Metalwork Colossus

We've also got a couple of lands that can help find Metalwork Colossus. Inventors' Fair can gain us a bit of life in the early game, which is helpful against aggro. Then, once we have the mana, we can sacrifice it to find a Metalwork Colossus. Meanwhile, Sanctum of Ugin is unique. It can't help us find our first Metalwork Colossus, but once we find and cast our first Colossus, we can sacrifice Sanctum of Ugin to find the next copy. While a single Metalwork Colossus is quite strong, the deck often feels unbeatable when we slam two or three in the same turn thanks to Sanctum of Ugin.

Reducing the Cost of Colossus

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Outside of Metalwork Colossus, the most important card in our deck—by far—is draft-chaff Streets of New Capenna uncommon Brass Knuckles. At first glance, Brass Knuckles doesn't look great: it's an overcosted way to give a creature (or maybe two, with the help of other equipment) double strike. But double strike isn't the real power of Brass Knuckles in our deck. The trick with Brass Knuckles is the copy of itself it makes when we cast it. The copy keeps the mana value of the original, which means that we add eight mana value of noncreature artifacts to the battlefield for just four mana, which, in turn, makes our Metalwork Colossuses cost eight less. This means that with one other artifact on the battlefield, our Metalwork Colossus will cost one mana at most. With two other artifacts on the battlefield, Metalwork Colossus will always be free. This greatly speeds up the Metalwork Colossus kill. For example, a simple curve of Portable Hole or Moonsnare Prototype on Turn 1 into any other artifact (Alchemist's Vial, Wedding Invitation, or our other equipment) on Turn 2 or 3 followed by Brass Knuckles lets us drop our hand of Metalwork Colossuses on Turn 4!

But Brass Knuckles is even better than just reducing the cost of Metalwork Colossus a ton. It's also an important part of our one-shot-kill plan thanks to the double strike it offers. Since Metalwork Colossus is a 10/10, if we can get in one attack with a double-striking Metalwork Colossus, we will deal 20 damage and likely kill our opponent. Toss in Haunted Cloak for haste and trample, and perhaps Gilded Pinions for flying, and we can potentially one-shot kill our opponent the turn Metalwork Colossus hits the battlefield, perhaps as early as Turn 4!

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Rounding out our artifacts are a bit of artifact-based removal in Moonsnare Prototype and Portable Hole, with Moonsnare Prototype also being a solid ramp spell because it technically adds two mana toward Metalwork Colossus since it's a one-MV noncreature artifact and can also tap to make a mana.

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Finally, we have two cantripping two-mana artifacts in Wedding Invitation and Alchemist's Vial. While the main reason these cards are in the deck is to add artifact mana value to the battlefield, to reduce the cost on Metalwork Colossus, while also keeping us drawing through our deck to find our finisher, they both have some sneaky upside once Metalwork Colossus is on the battlefield. We can sacrifice Wedding Invitation to make our Metalwork Colossus unblockable, offering another avenue to the one-shot kill if we can get Metalwork Colossus double strike with Brass Knuckles, even if our opponent has blockers. And Alchemist's Vial can get a blocker out of the way or buy us another setup turn by keeping something from attacking.

The Mana

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While the mana of Colossus Surprise! is budget-friendly, it deserves a shout-out because it's actually pretty good. We already talked about Sanctum of Ugin and Inventors' Fair helping find our Metalwork Colossus. But even beyond these lands, we don't have any tapped lands, and we get two decent dual lands in Aether Hub and Spire of Industry. While Aether Hub is a bit odd since it can only make colored mana once, most of our deck is colorless anyway, so it's actually fine in the deck. We can use it on Turn 1 or 2 for a Portable Hole, Glint-Nest Crane, Moonsnare Prototype, or Ingenious Smith, and then it becomes a colorless land that we can use to cast all of our equipment and other artifacts. While the Azorius pathway and Hallowed Fountain would be an upgrade, we didn't really have any issues casting our spells with the budget mana.


Record-wise, we finished 4-1 with Colossus Surprise!, beating many of the best decks in Pioneer (Rakdos Midrange and Sac, Izzet Phoenix) along the way. Our only loss came to Mono-Red Aggro, which did feel tricky if our opponent got a fast draw, especially if we don't find removal early. But even there, we went three games, and it felt pretty close. All in all, Colossus Surprise! felt like one of the most competitive Pioneer budget decks we played in a while, which is especially impressive considering it's cheap enough that you can play it for free on Magic Online with the free card-rental programs, coming in at under 10 tix.

As far as changes to make to the budget build now that we've played some games with it, I don't think there really are any. There are a handful of potential upgrades (more dual lands in the mana base, some small sideboard changes), but they all add significantly to the budget. The deck killed it on a budget, so there isn't really a reason to change anything.

So, should you play Colossus Surprise! in Pioneer? I think the answer is clearly yes. It crushed the top tier of the meta, posted a great record, and is super fun and unique! If you're looking for a cheap-in-paper and free-on-MTGO Pioneer deck that can actually compete in leagues, FNM, and beyond, this is the one!

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Getting Colossus Surprise! down near $50 is pretty easy. In fact, we can do this without changing the main deck at all! All we need to do is drop Mystical Dispute for Negate, Soul-Guide Lantern for Tormod's Crypt, and Karn, Scion of Urza for Sorcerous Spyglass in the sideboard. If you want to try to trim back even more, the other somewhat expensive card in the deck is Inventors' Fair. Dropping the two copies would save another $17, but Inventors' Fair is quite strong and fairly important to the deck, so I'd try to keep it unless you're really desperate.

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Finally, for our non-budget list, we have a build that ShortAndPortly used to 5-0 a league on Magic Online, which was what inspired me to make the budget build of the deck. As you can see, it's very similar to our build but with some upgrades to the mana base and sideboard. While I think this build is slightly better, the budget build worked well enough that I wouldn't feel any pressure to run out and make upgrades. If you have any of the rare lands or Unlicensed Hearse for the sideboard, feel free to add them in.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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