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Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / "Tinker Time" Precon Upgrade Guide | Artifact Tokens | $30

"Tinker Time" Precon Upgrade Guide | Artifact Tokens | $30

March of the Machine Commander preconstructed decklists have been revealed and with it comes another round of my precon upgrades. We're going to do a thorough analysis of each deck, highlighting its goals and how well it accomplishes them, check out its deckbuilding fundamentals, identify its strongest and weakest cards, then use all that information to make an optimized $30 upgrade path!

*Note that all the new MOM precons come with a bonus 10 planechase cards (5 new and 5 reprints) that can be used if you run the planechase variant of Commander. They are 100% optional and can be completely ignored if you don't want to use them, and we won't be covering them in this series.

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Tinker Time is a preconstructed deck that takes a very popular Blue/Red archetype, Artifacts, and splashes Green into the mix, adding a focus on Artifact Tokens. The goal of the deck is to flood the board with a variety of token artifacts -- clues from Tireless Tracker, thopters from Sharding Sphinx, treasures from Pain Distributor, and so on -- and utilizing them in unique ways, such as tapping them for mana with Inspiring Statuary, drawing cards with Shimmer Dragon, and dealing damage with Ghirapur Aether Grid. Eventually we win the game off big beaters from Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy or animate our tokens into beaters with Rise and Shine.

If you wanted to play an Izzet Artifact deck splashing Green, then Tinker Time is the deck for you!

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The Precon List

Before we talk upgrades, let's take a look at the stock list to see what we're working with:

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Tinker Time cares about two things, Artifacts and Tokens, though all the tokens are also artifacts so there's heavy overlap. I count 15 artifact cards, 21 nonartifact cards that create artifact tokens, and 20 cards that care about artifacts and/or tokens. The deck is focused on a specific thing and executes it well in terms of numbers. When upgrading the deck I'm going to focus on making our thematic cards (Artifacts and Tokens) better and cutting the few cards that don't fit our theme, like Stroke of Genius for something with stronger synergy.

Choosing Our Commander

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There's only two potential precon commanders found in this deck: Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy and Rashmi and Ragavan. Both are excellent leaders for Artifact decks but ultimately want different cards in the 99:

  • Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy has a focus on Artifact Token Variety: the more different named artifact tokens you've got, the bigger the artifact creatures he pumps out become. Gimbal gives you a haymaker payoff -- big beaters to end the game with -- and is better suited as the leader of the stock list. However, I don't think the payoff is super strong all things considered, especially not for a 5-drop: you're getting a 4/4 that makes an extra beater each turn, and while there's obviously lots of synergy potential it's very fair value at a relatively high cost.
  • Rashmi and Ragavan also has a focus on Artifacts, but instead of being a finisher she's more of a value engine: every turn you'll be getting a treasure and maybe go up a card too (as long as it's not a land card). You even get to cast that card for free if you have enough artifacts so it's bonus conditional ramp! Also you're drawing off your opponents' decks not your own which is generally worse since odds there won't be good synergies between the two. All things considered this is an aggressively fair value engine that needs extra work to truly shine, such as doubling her triggered ability (Strionic Resonator) and seeing what you hit with Lantern of Insight.

I went back and forth on which commander I'd go with here. Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy is clearly the more unique of the two, requiring a specific deckbuilding strategy we've never seen before, but the payoff is lackluster in my opinion when compared with similar commanders like Urza, Chief Artificer. Also despite caring about a unique thing, only two cards in the entire deck care about artifact token variety! It's just Gimbal and Sandsteppe War Riders. That's it. So basically if Gimbal or Riders aren't on the battlefield there's literally no payoff to accumulating a variety of token names. Lame.

Meanwhile Rashmi and Ragavan can be played as just "generic goodstuff" which I generally avoid, though it's much stronger and more interesting if you actually run topdeck manipulation and artifacts to take full advantage of their ability. It also lets us cut a lot of bad cards that are only there to give us a rare token name, and instead focus on the good stuff like Treasures!

All things considered, I actually like Rashmi and Ragavan more as the commander and Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy more as part of the 99, but I think both are solid options that are interesting in their own ways.

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Analyzing the Precon & Identifying Weaknesses

Now that we've glanced at the stock list and settled on our commander, let's take a closer look at the deck itself to identify what parts benefit the most from upgrades.

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
  • 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 graveyard recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Let's see what the rough ratios are for Tinker Time and how it compares. I count:

The ratios here are ... interesting. There's a ton of ramp in the deck, more than I'd usually recommend, but if we look at the type of card draw we're working with -- lots of Clue generators like Tireless Tracker -- it makes more sense that we'll need more mana to crack them.

I think the removal options, while good ratios, are a mixed bag: Junk Winder and Perplexing Test utilize our Token theme very well, but Pia and Kiran Nalaar are way overcosted.

We also straight up are lacking in recursion.

These are all things I intend to fix with the upgrades.

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Upgrade Goals

I have some specific goals when upgrading Tinker Town:

  • Shift focus more to Treasures
  • add more Artifact synergy
  • add more support for our new commander, Rashmi and Ragavan
  • improve on ramp, card draw, and removal

With Rashmi and Ragavan as our new leader I actually feel like there's more we can and should build around: to ensure we keep hitting good spells we'll use cards that let us see the cards we'll hit like Lantern of Insight and Wizened Snitches, or force cards on top of libraries with Expel from Orazca. We can double our theft trigger with Strionic Resonator!

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I'm also shifting our focus towards Treasures. Our commander makes them and some of our best cards like Academy Manufactor loves them! Treasures let us cast spells we steal and generally have a ton of support, such as Magda, Brazen Outlaw and Xorn. High treasure count means we're more likely to cast any spell we hit off Rashmi and Ragavan for free!

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We pile on the artifact token goodies by pumping out Clues with Lonis, Cryptozoologist, tapping them for mana with Jaheira, Friend of the Forest, and turning them into finishers with Cyberdrive Awakener!

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So that's the new direction! Less token variety and more tokens, theft, and value!

$30 Upgrades

Disclaimer: Card prices are volatile and may be different at the time you read this article.

Here's the proposed adds and cuts.


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Further Upgrades

Rashmi and Ragavan make Treasures and cast stuff from exile, so it's basically a Temur Prosper, Tome-Bound except far less busted. But that means the Red cards that are good in Prosper are good here too: Rain of Riches and Goldspan Dragon are two awesome inclusions!

We're also in Blue, another color that loves Artifacts, so we can use cards like Fabricate to find whatever we need. Our commander's ability is powerful enough that we want more when we can, so Spark Double is great.

Green gives us access to powerful token doublers like Adrix and Nev, Twincasters. Double the treasures means double the fun!

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Four Down, One To Go!

Apologies for the delays on the final two precons. Between flying to Richmond for a convention last weekend and now flying to Paris for a month on top of my usual weekly schedule, getting these 5 extra articles was tougher than anticipated! You can expect my Call for Backup upgrade guide to come out this saturday though!

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