Jeff Zandi is a five time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


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20 SOLID GOLD HITS from Darksteel

by Jeff Zandi


The Mirrodin/Darksteel sealed deck PTQ season is three weeks old. Next week, if we all keep our fingers crossed, Magic Online will add Darksteel. This is a good time to talk about what cards in Darksteel are the best for limited play in sealed deck and draft formats. To this end, I have assembled my top ten lists for commons and uncommons. Decisions about rares are less crucial because you have so many less of them. After discussing the ten best commons and the ten best uncommons in the set for limited play, there are a few Darksteel cards that I think are a little underrated. I also want to talk a tiny bit after that about cards to avoid.




10 - Arcbound Hybrid’s ability to attack the same turn he comes into play makes him the best common modular creature in my opinion. Arcbound Bruiser at 3/3 is a great modular creature, but you can only have so many five casting cost cards in your deck, and this makes the Bruiser less cool. Arcbound Stinger is a neat 1/1 modular flyer for just two mana, but he also just misses the cut.


9 - Echoing Decay is solid removal for black. What’s important is not that it COULD give you two (or more) for one card advantage by hitting multiple targets with the same name. What’s important is that Echoing Decay is an instant that can kill annoying early game creatures EVEN if they are black.


8 - Tel-Jilad Outrider is a great bridge between the two casting cost Tel-Jilad Chosen and the five casting cost Tel-Jilad Archers. Green players in Mirrodin limited LOVE the artifact resistant creatures. Though the Outrider is probably a distant third to either the Chosen or the Archers, it is an important card that green drafters can pick up with the middle or late picks of the Darksteel pack.


7 - Chittering Rats is an awesome Bear that “Time Walks” all over your opponent by setting him back a turn. Multiple Rats in a deck could be very annoying for your opponent. Mix in any kind of bounce, especially Crystal Shard and Chittering Rats becomes completely BROKEN.


6 - Essence Drain is a drain life like effect that very efficiently deals three damage to a creature or player for five mana. Because it only requires one black mana to cast, this Drain is comfortably splashable.


5 - Neurok Prodigy is a two power flyer that can be very difficult to get rid of. Against an opponent with few or no flyers, the Prodigy will probably win you the game. You won’t always have an artifact that you want to discard to bounce the Neurok Prodigy back to your hand, but when you are able to throw away a late game Myr or Talisman that you didn’t really need anyway to effectively counter one of your opponent’s PRECIOUS removal spells, you will really appreciate the power of this card. This card would probably be quite playable in the current format even if it was just a 2/1 flyer for 2U with no special abilities.


4 - Vedalken Engineer out Myrs the Myrs. While the Engineer costs the same as a Myr (in a blue deck) it taps for TWO of any color mana (unlike the one colorless from a Myr). The catch is that you have to use the two colored mana from the Engineer to play an artifact or to pay for an activated ability of an artifact. This isn’t much of a limitation in The Artifact Block that is Mirrodin/Darksteel. This card can be SUPER ACCELERATION.


3 - Leonin Bola looks a little boring, and I have to admit that equipping creatures with it every turn does turn into a grind, but there is no arguing that this card is almost a common Icy Manipulator for one mana.


2 - Echoing Ruin is simply a sorcery-speed Shatter most of the time. In Mirrodin, more artifact kill is always better. Sometimes, however, Echoing Ruin can wipe out multiple Myr or artifact lands on your opponent’s side, swinging the game greatly in your favor.


1 - Vulshok Morningstar is the common that is the least likely to be passed in the last pack of a Mirrodin/Darksteel draft. This card fits perfectly between Leonin Scimitar and Vulshok Battlegear and is probably better than both. This is the best common in the set for limited play.


I hate to leave any discussion of Darksteel commons without mentioning the five Golems in the set. My favorite is the Razor Golem that attacks without tapping, followed by the flying Spire Golem, the Haste-y Oxidda Golem, the 3/2 Dross Golem (with Fear) and the 5/4 Tangle Golem.

Noted draft expert Neil Reeves says that there is a simple rule for using the Golems. If you have any Golems that have Affinity for either of the major two colors in your deck, you must play them. If you are not playing a significant number of the basic lands for which a particular Golem has Affinity, you should not play it. That’s strong advice that I have taken very much to heart, even though I still sometimes play Spire Golem in a deck without Islands.




10 – Dismantle destroys an artifact for 2R. This is solid removal for a fair price if all this card did was destroy an artifact. However, if the artifact destroyed had charge counters or +1/+1 counters, you get to move them onto the creature of your choice. This card counters the power of your opponent’s modular creatures by allowing you a way to destroy one of them without your opponent gaining the advantage of the dead modular creature’s counters.


9 - Vulshok War Boar walks on land, but as my pal Jonathan Pechon said, this creature is REALLY a dragon. This 5/5 BEAST can drop on turn three VERY often and can end games all by himself.


8 - Emmisary of Despair attacks for two. If it hits you, you lose a life for each artifact you have in play. How many artifacts might you have in play by as early as turn four? Could be a lot. This card would deserve a higher rating if it didn’t cost 1BB to play. If you aren’t already playing heavy black after drafting two packs of Mirrodin, I doubt you should be drafting this card and trying to squeeze it into your deck.


7 - Carry Away disconnects an opponent’s equipment from any creature it may have been equipping, then Carry Away, er, carries that piece of equipment away to your side of the board. The only thing better than destroying equipment is stealing it and using it yourself. The double blue casting cost of this card does hold it back a little bit, making it non-splashable.


6 - Darksteel Gargoyle performs a very similar function in limited as the rare Platinum Angel. In fact, I probably prefer the Gargoyle. This creature is largely indestructible. I USED to think he was indestructible, but since I’ve lost EVERY Darksteel Gargoyle that I’ve had in play to Irradiate sooner or later, I’ve learned that this card is only LARGELY indestructible. He is still very good. Only the seven mana casting cost keeps him from being a lot higher on this list.


5 - Stir the Pride is the card that a lot of people are calling the white Grab the Reins. For an entwined cost of 5WW, all your creatures gain +2/+2 and the Spirit Link ability until end of turn. This will be the last card you play in many games that you win. Easy to play and easy to fit into one of the more popular colors in Mirrodin limited play.


4 – Spawning Pit is the uncommon that you can’t believe isn’t a rare. Some of your creatures are going to die, it just can’t be helped. With this card on your side, you can turn today’s creature losses into tomorrow’s NEW creatures. Basically, you can get a shiny new 2/2 token for every two creatures that you sacrifice to the Pit. This may be the best Magic card ever with “Pit” in its name.


3 - Murderous Spoils is the fraternal twin to Mirrodin’s Betrayal of Flesh. B to the F let you destroy any creature, even a black creature, and return one of your creatures from the graveyard to play at the same time. Murderous Spoils’ benefits may not be that dramatic, but they are dramatic just the same. Most of the time, I find myself using this card much more for the STEAL EQUIPMENT effect and less for the destroy creature effect. Very, very powerful, this card is also splashable in most draft decks.


2 – Fireball is that old girlfriend that forgot how much you liked until she wanders back into your life. Of course, it feels more like a nightmare when you have your opponent almost knocked out when he top decks Fireball, taps all his mana, points it at you and says “good game”. This is the most unbalanced card in Mirrodin limited. Which, of course, means you should draft it and play it EVERY TIME you get the chance. Fireball has been ending games since the whole thing began ten years ago.


1 – Skullclamp is still the best card in the set. In fact, it’s the best card in Mirrodin OR Darksteel. This card does it all. It’s cheap to cast, cheap to use, makes Spikeshot Goblin better and turns every late game Myr into two free cards. You should probably never pass this card in drafts.




There are a number of Darksteel cards that I feel people are overlooking in sealed deck and booster drafts. Here are five of them, in no particular order.


Darksteel Ingot DOES cost three, making it less attractive than the Talisman cards from Mirrodin for the purpose of creating mana. On the other hand, the Darksteel Ingot is indestructible and creates mana of any color without causing you to take damage for the privilege.


Tanglewalker makes ALL of your creatures unblockable as long as your opponent has a non-basic land in play. Wow. The most powerful limited decks are those with heavy doses of artifact Affinity. These decks go out of their way to include artifact lands, even off color ones.


Quicksilver Behemoth is a giant fatty for blue decks with any level of artifact Affinity. In decks with a lot of Affinity, this card can get sick, turning its “drawback” of returning to your hand after attacking or blocking into an advantage. With a lot of artifacts in play, it’s no big deal to be able to attack with this big man and then replay him to have him back on your side untapped and ready to block.


Darksteel Pendant is a cheap piece of Flood Insurance. This card lets you look at and potentially move the top card of your library to the bottom of your deck. This ability to veto the top card of your deck can be very good. Late game, it’s VERY fun to hardly ever draw land when you want action cards.


Machinate is no Impulse, but in blue/red Affinity decks, it can get you to that Fireball a lot faster, allowing you to finish your matches faster.




Without going into too many details, here are a few cards I think you should avoid in limited play. I think Chimeric Egg is a little too iffy since you have to wait for multiple non-artifact cards to played by your opponent before this card does anything. Second Sight lets you look at a lot of cards, but since it puts exactly ZERO of them in your hand, you can’t afford to give it a place in your deck. Scrounge fills your brain with all kinds of great visions of moving your opponent’s best artifact from his graveyard to your side of the table. In reality, this three casting cost black sorcery will net you a Myr more often than anything else and is far too iffy for the best limited decks. Specter’s Shroud looks like it turns every one of your creatures into a Hypnotic Specter. Maybe. If you get it in play early and can get it onto an evasive creature and your opponent doesn’t have a blocker. All in all, this card is only good as a +1/+0 piece of equipment that MIGHT let you bust up an opponent every once in a while.


Jeff Zandi

Texas Guildmages

Level II DCI Judge

Zanman on Magic Online


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