Hey everyone! Today I’m going to be covering my Mardu Fiddlebender deck in Explorer which I recently used to go 25-5 across 6 constructed events on MTG Arena including three 5-0s. This is an artifact-based deck combines the sacrifice engine of Oni-Cult Anvil with the toolbox capabilities of Oswald Fiddlebender to outgrind most of the decks in the format and it’s a ton of fun to play too!
I’ve also put up a video on my YouTube channel with a full constructed event’s worth of game play if you’re interested in seeing the deck in action.
Oni-Cult Anvil: This is one of the main cards that the deck is built around. This deck has a plethora of cheap artifacts in order to enable Oni-Cult Anvil in the early game which allows us to produce a steady stream of 1/1 tokens every turn that are useful in basically every matchup.
You can use them to block in order to stabilise against aggressive starts or use them to apply pressure to the opponent’s life total or Planeswalkers if they’re playing a slower deck. The fact you can use Oni-Cult Anvil to drain the opponent for 1 every turn also gives the deck good reach and allows you to burn out the opponent if you’re unable to connect in combat.
The Oni-Cult Anvil Enablers
The best two Oni-Cult Anvil enablers in the deck are usually Terrarion and Implement of Combustion, as they enable Oni-Cult Anvil to activate on turn 2 and then immediately replace themselves when they’re sacrificed.
The downside of running these cards is that they’re not great on their own – Implement of Combustion can be used to finish off 1 loyalty Planeswalkers which can be useful against control and Terrarion being able to fix mana can also be useful in spots, but outside of that, they can be a bit clunky.
One of the biggest upsides to this particular build is that we’re also running Oswald Fiddlebender and Rite of Oblivion as additional payoffs for these cheap artifacts so this issue comes up a lot less frequently than if you were running a pure Oni-Cult Anvil deck – more on those later.
Voldaren Epicure is also a nice enabler that allows you to get Oni-Cult Anvil online on turn 2, and even though it doesn’t replace itself like Terrarion or Implement of Combustion it’s still very useful. The 1/1 body is great at providing an additional blocker against aggro, an additional creature to apply pressure against slower decks, and the one point of damage can definitely matter when combined with the reach Oni-Cult Anvil provides.
Don’t forget that you don’t have to activate Oni-Cult Anvil in order to get the 1/1 token, you’ll get it as long as an artifact leaves the battlefield during your turn, so if you have extra mana available it’s usually better to crack the Blood token for value rather than simply sacrificing it to Oni-Cult Anvil as you’ll still get the 1/1 token.
Experimental Synthesizer is another card that pairs really well with Oni-Cult Anvil and is a great source of card advantage since you get an extra card to play when it enters the battlefield and when you sacrifice it, therefore it’s one of the best cards to draw once you have a lot of mana available.
The one downside of Experimental Synthesizer is that it doesn’t effectively enable Oni-Cult Anvil in the first couple of turns as you’ll likely not be able to cast the card you exile off it, but since the main deck isn’t running cards with a mana value higher than 2, you can confidently cast this at the start of turn 3 and you’re basically guaranteed to be able to play what you exile off it (assuming you have a third land in hand and the right colours of mana).
This is the other main card in the deck and the ability to tutor up specific artifacts off this is really strong!
Like I mentioned previously, one of the nice synergies in this deck is that Oswald Fiddlebender works really well with all of the cheap artifacts that you already want to be running to enable Oni-Cult Anvil: Terrarion, Implement of Combustion, the blood tokens from Voldaren Epicure, and Experimental Synthesizer are all great cards to sacrifice to Oswald Fiddlebender.
Not only that, but you can also use Oswald Fiddlebender to tutor up Oni-Cult Anvil itself by sacrificing your 1 mana artifacts, so if the opponent isn’t able to kill it, you can pretty easily get 4 Oni-Cult Anvil in play which is really difficult to beat. We also have some other useful tutor targets at 2 mana as well – we have a couple of copies of Glass Casket as removal and Unlicensed Hearse as graveyard hate (which is particularly important against decks like Greasefang, Okiba Boss, Izzet Phoenix and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger decks.
Another neat interaction is you can tutor up 1 mana artifacts by sacrificing either Blood tokens from Voldaren Epicure or creature tokens from Oni-Cult Anvil (since they’re both technically 0 mana artifacts) which is really useful at constantly providing value if we can get Oswald Fiddlebender and Oni-Cult Anvil in play together.
We have a few 1 mana 1-ofs as tutor targets – Portable Hole is nice as removal for both cheap creatures and cheap engine pieces like Witch's Oven and Trail of Crumbs, Pithing Needle is great at shutting off Planeswalkers, important engine cards like Witch's Oven and Cauldron Familiar, as well as shutting off the crew ability on Parhelion II to shut off the Greasefang, Okiba Boss combo, and Soul-Guide Lantern is great as additional graveyard hate.
If you don’t need any of those specific cards, you can just tutor up a card like Experimental Synthesizer instead which will immediately provide card advantage, assuming you have mana available, and then you can sacrifice it again to Oswald Fiddlebender the following turn to get another card off the exile ability, and put Oni-Cult Anvil or another 2-mana artifact into play. As you can see, Oswald Fiddlebender tends to just run away with the game if the opponent can’t kill it.
I wanted to quickly address why I’m running 2 Glass Casket and only 1 Portable Hole, when Portable Hole is generally a better card. The reason for this is that when I was running only 1 Glass Casket, I kept running into issues where I’d have an active Oswald Fiddlebender, but only have access to 1 mana artifacts to sacrifice (which isn’t uncommon since the deck only runs 8 cards that can produce 0 mana artifacts). If you only run 1 Glass Casket, you’re in trouble in these spots if the opponent plays a second creature you need to deal when you’ve already used your first Glass Casket, so the second copy felt more important than a second Portable Hole.
The Other Cards
Ingenious Smith: This is another card that takes advantage of the naturally high number of artifacts the deck is already running and is great at finding cheap enabler artifacts as well as being able to dig for Oni-Cult Anvil and other artifacts we bring in from the sideboard. The fact it then grows every turn we put an artifact into play means that it’s a threat the opponent can’t typically afford to ignore, and it also trades well with removal as it will usually replace itself off the enter the battlefield ability.
Rite of Oblivion: Similar to Oswald Fiddlebender, this is another card that provides redundancy as a payoff for running cheap artifacts like Terrarion and Implement of Combustion. It’s also a really important card at dealing with threats that the deck would otherwise struggle to deal with, like big creatures, Planeswalkers, and problematic artifacts and enchantments.
My first build of this deck didn’t run Rite of Oblivion and was more reliant on artifact removal like Portable Hole and Glass Casket which meant the deck had no way of dealing with bigger creatures like Crackling Drake and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King which was a big issue. Rite of Oblivion not only gives you an efficient answer to these sorts of threats, but you also get a second activation off it because of the flashback.
Jegantha, the Wellspring: This is basically free to play as your companion and is very useful at providing additional insurance against mana flood. It’s a card that certain decks can struggle to deal with, especially if they’re relying on red damage-based removal. It’s also a card that can be hard to remove post-sideboard as a lot of decks will be bringing in artifact removal to deal with Oni-Cult Anvil or cheap removal to deal with Oswald Fiddlebender which can leave them without good answers to Jegantha, the Wellspring in certain matchups.
22 lands has felt like a good amount to me considering that the deck is very low curve, but it’s also important to keep hitting land-drops as mana can be a choke point once you have your engines online. I feel like a basic land is important as a lot of Azorius control decks are running Field of Ruin, but I wanted to run all dual lands for the rest as the deck does have quite stringent mana constraints.
We need red and white on turn 1, and white + black and red + black on turn 2 for Rite of Oblivion and Oni-Cult Anvil which can be difficult to achieve if you start cutting dual lands for utility lands. With the current configuration, I very rarely struggle to have the right colours on time – the one slight downside is that running 7 fastlands can result in having tapped lands later in the game but that’s felt worth it to ensure you have the right colours in the first few turns.
3 Portable Hole: Additional copies of Portable Hole are mainly here for decks running cheap creatures, but it’s also useful against sacrifice decks at dealing with cards like Witch's Oven, Trail of Crumbs, and opposing Oni-Cult Anvil.
3 Soul-Guide Lantern: Extra Soul-Guide Lantern is really nice at ensuring you have graveyard hate as often as possible against decks like Greasefang, Okiba Boss and Izzet Phoenix while also synergising well with what the rest of the deck is doing, as you can use it to enable Oni-Cult Anvil and hit it off Ingenious Smith.
Greasefang, Okiba Boss decks or other more all-in graveyard combo decks are the only decks I tend to bring in all 3 copies against, but Greasefang, Okiba Boss is one of the more popular decks right now and this deck struggles to beat them without graveyard hate or Pithing Needle, so having a high number helps ensure you can stop them comboing.
2 Thoughtseize & 4 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary: I wanted to group these together as they’re your main cards to help against the control decks. Usually against control, you’d probably want to be running 4 Thoughtseize, but I’m much more interested in Ob Nixilis, the Adversary in this particular list.
Thoughtseize can be useful at helping to clear the way to set up our important engine pieces, but since our deck doesn’t close the game out particularly quickly, it still gives them a lot of time to draw into good cards. This is especially problematic against a card like Farewell that is probably the single best card against our deck. For this reason, I prefer Ob Nixilis, the Adversary as more of a proactive sideboard card that also helps to ensure we don’t get completely blown out by Farewell.
1 Pithing Needle: Second copy of Pithing Needle for decks running Planeswalkers as well as Cat/Oven decks. I like running 2 in these matchups as you’re more likely to find it naturally, but having access to 2 off Oswald Fiddlebender can be nice at shutting off 2 different cards, for example Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and The Wandering Emperor against control or Witch's Oven and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary against sacrifice.
1 Reckoner Bankbuster: This is nice to bring in as an additional tutor target for Oswald Fiddlebender in slower matchups like control and provides additional card advantage in situations where you’re light on resources or don’t have enough artifacts to take advantage of Oni-Cult Anvil.
I don’t think I’d make any changes for Bo1 – I feel like the main deck is already pretty well set up since you have access to main deck hate cards like Unlicensed Hearse and Pithing Needle off Oswald Fiddlebender already.
Your worst matchup overall will probably be against control (because you won’t have access to Ob Nixilis, the Adversary), purely because of Farewell so in that matchup you want to close the game out as fast as possible to give them as few draw steps to find Farewell as possible.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
This is a difficult matchup to give a set sideboard plan for as it will largely depend on their build. If they’re running Planeswalkers then definitely bring in the second Pithing Needle, and the extra Soul-Guide Lantern is largely there for Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger. If they’re running a build without Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, then either keep the second Glass Casket in or potentially swap it out for a Reckoner Bankbuster if they’re playing a less aggressive build.
This matchup is very grindy, but you tend to have a big advantage if you can get either Oswald Fiddlebender or Oni-Cult Anvil to stick. Oswald Fiddlebender can dig for answers to basically any of their threats as well as repeatedly providing card advantage or tutoring Oni-Cult Anvil into play, so prioritise getting that into play as soon as possible (unless you know they have removal) and put them to the test – they typically will run a lot of removal, but they won’t always have it so it’s usually better to play it early before they have more opportunities to draw into removal.
Oni-Cult Anvil producing tokens repeatedly makes it very difficult to attack through as well as providing ways to attack down their planeswalkers, especially if you have multiples in play. Rite of Oblivion is a very important card in this matchup at dealing with their most problematic cards so think carefully about when you play. Be wary of Graveyard Trespasser as it can exile Rite of Oblivion from your graveyard which can be a blowout if you were relying on casting it off the flashback.
The combo part of their deck is by far the most problematic and important to shut down so Soul-Guide Lantern to shut off the graveyard and Pithing Needle to stop them crewing their vehicles is crucial to that end.
If you can shut off the combo then your deck can pretty easily out grind their backup plan which usually consists of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and midrange creatures like Graveyard Trespasser and Bloodtithe Harvester. Since shutting off the combo is so important and you need to do it before turn 3, you should strongly consider mulliganing any hand that isn’t strong unless it has a piece of graveyard hate or a Pithing Needle.
Since most of their backup plan is fairly easy to deal with and most of this matchup comes down to stopping the combo, Rite of Oblivion becomes less important, but if they’re running a random bigger creature out of the sideboard that you struggle to deal with, then consider keeping in Rite of Oblivion and trimming the second Glass Casket and some number of Ingenious Smith.
This is another matchup where the opponent’s deck configuration should change how you sideboard – specifically if they’re running multiple 2-drops like Sprite Dragon in addition to Ledger Shredder then definitely consider bringing in Portable Hole too.
Rite of Oblivion is very important in this matchup at dealing with their bigger creatures like Crackling Drake so don’t waste them on cards like Arclight Phoenix if you can avoid it. Since you’re running a decent amount of graveyard hate you should try and shut off Arclight Phoenix with that and save your removal for their other threats wherever possible.
They’ll typically struggle to deal with Oni-Cult Anvil once it’s in play which is great at providing tokens that can apply pressure and trade favourably with removal, as well as draining the opponent which is important at both closing the game out, and providing you some lifegain so you don’t get one-shot by a big Sprite Dragon or Arclight Phoenix turn.
|+2 Portable Hole||-1 Soul-Guide Lantern|
|+1 Pithing Needle||-1 Unlicensed Hearse|
|-1 Implement of Combustion|
Extra Portable Hole is useful here at taking out their engine pieces like Witch's Oven and Trail of Crumbs. Pithing Needle is great at shutting off Witch's Oven + Cauldron Familiar as well as Ob Nixilis, the Adversary if they bring that in. They can pretty easily make excess Food in order to play around our single-use graveyard hate which stops us breaking up their Cat/Oven loops so we cut Soul-Guide Lantern and Unlicensed Hearse.
This is another very grindy matchup, but Rite of Oblivion gives us great interaction against all of their most important cards and Oswald Fiddlebender will be able to run away with the game if it’s not killed since it can tutor up Portable Hole to shut off their engine pieces and dig for Oni-Cult Anvil and other card advantage to help push us ahead.
Even though Trail of Crumbs is very important to kill, the most important threats to kill quickly in this matchup are Mayhem Devil and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, so try and hold onto your Rite of Oblivion for them wherever possible.
Mono Blue Tempo
This matchup is all about being as low to the ground as possible to try and cast multiple spells a turn and sneak important cards under their counterspells. Portable Hole is great here as additional cheap removal and we cut the Pithing Needle and graveyard hate which basically does nothing in this matchup.
Resolving Oswald Fiddlebender here is huge as they’ll either have to bounce it or it’ll run away with the game: being able to tutor up removal, Oni-Cult Anvil, or other card advantage is really difficult for them to interact with which is obviously powerful.
Even though we’re largely favoured in this matchup, you can still lose if you let them race you as we don’t have any ways to block flyers, so it’s generally a good idea to kill their creatures as a priority and it’s often correct to sac your 1/1 tokens to Anvil just to gain a life every turn to slow down their clock as you’ll tend to win the long game.
|+2 Thoughtseize||-2 Glass Casket|
|+1 Pithing Needle||-1 Soul-Guide Lantern|
|+1 Reckoner Bankbuster||-1 Unlicensed Hearse|
|+4 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary||-4 Rite of Oblivion|
Farewell is the most decisive card in this matchup which means Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is the most important card from our side in games 2 and 3 as it’s generically great in the matchup and also survives Farewell.
Outside of Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, Oswald Fiddlebender is probably the best card in this matchup as it can tutor up Pithing Needle to shut off Planeswalkers and provide repeated card advantage and set up Oni-Cult Anvil.
In general it’s important to apply as much pressure to the opponent’s life total as possible as you’ll usually win by getting them to a low life total and then finish them off with the +1 off Ob Nixilis, the Adversary and the drain ability from Oni-Cult Anvil.
I cut Rite of Oblivion as you can’t really afford to keep reactive hands that rely on interacting, as waiting for the opponent to put a problematic permanent like a Planeswalkere into play is usually too slow.
Embercleave Aggro (Mono Red / Gruul)
Sideboarding is pretty simple here, Portable Hole is nice as additional cheap removal and we cut the Pithing Needle and graveyard hate which largely does nothing in this matchup. Stabilising and keeping them off Embercleave are the most important things in this matchup, so you’ll usually want to kill their creatures as soon as possible.
Rampaging Ferocidon is the most problematic creature in this matchup as it not only shuts off the lifegain on Oni-Cult Anvil, but it also deals us damage for each token it generates so if you’ve stabilised, hold onto removal for that if possible.
Tips and Tricks
- Don’t forget to play Experimental Synthesizer before your land for the turn as you may hit a land off it.
- If you have an Oni-Cult Anvil in play and you’ve not had an artifact enter the battlefield yet, you can buff your Ingenious Smith during combat on your turn by sacrificing an artifact at instant speed, which will produce a 1/1 token off Oni-Cult Anvil and put a +1/+1 counter on Ingenious Smith.
- Even though you can trigger the Anvil to get a 1/1 without activating it’s ability, it can often be correct to sacrifice your tokens to drain for 1 at the end of your opponent’s turn anyway if you’re not able to attack with them or you don’t need the tokens to chump block. The drain ability on Anvil is only once per turn so you don’t want to be left in a scenario where you have an army of 1/1s that can’t do much and you would have been able to kill the opponent if you’d been draining for 1 each turn instead.
- Unlicensed Hearse can work well as a blocker to pick off a bigger creature – you can crew it, declare a block with it and then exile two cards from a graveyard to make it even bigger before damage is dealt.
This deck has been so much fun to play so if you like playing grindy, value-based toolbox decks, I’d definitely recommend it. Thanks a lot for reading!