Tempered Steel Art by Wayne Reynolds

Historic Tempered Steel Deck Guide: Artifacts with a Temper

Hello planeswalkers! I am The MTG Hero, and I am super excited to share with you one of my absolute favorite historic decks, Tempered Steel. This has been one of my favorite decks since Worlds 2011 when Team ChannelFireball ran the tables with it, all of them finishing in the top 8. The deck was hot.

When Tempered Steel came to historic, I knew I had to play it, but the deck was just bad at the time. Cards like Inquisitive Puppet and Locthwain Gargoyle were jammed into the deck despite them being bad cards. The thought process was that Tempered Steel would make them playable. While this is true, it made any hand without Tempered Steel almost unwinnable when compared to the more powerful decks. Venerated Loxodon was then added by Jim Davis who called the deck “Loxobots.” This helped to a degree, but the deck was still dreadfully slow.

Since then, Historic Horizons and other Anthology sets have entered the picture, and the deck now has a host of new cards that increase the power level of the deck to new heights. It no longer looks like a meme deck, but instead a real threat to any unprepared opponent unfortunate enough to be paired against it.

This was the deck that carried me to Diamond in just a few days when I was trying to rush to Mythic since I was going to start working a lot of mandatory overtime at work and wouldn’t have a lot of time to play. Since then, it has become one of my main decks I played in Mythic this season and I don’t see any reason to retire it!

The New Cards

Esper Sentinel is a huge pickup from the Historic Horizons cards. It is an early threat that gives the deck a form of card draw without the need to splash for an additional color. While it isn’t a hard draw engine, it makes decks tapping out to deal with our threats on a 1-for-1 bases a negative for the opponent. Esper Sentinel has become a staple in Modern for decks that can play it and historic will be no different.

Aggro decks are largely defined by their 2-powered 1-drops. Court Homunculus fills this role. While it requires another artifact to become a 2/2, I think it is great in this shell as it is easy to turn on. Having a 2-powered threat early gives us pressure the deck severely lacked before.

Oh boy, good ol’ Vault Skirge. This card has been a staple in affinity since the beginning of modern. While it is just a Healer Hawk that costs life on the surface, throwing any equipment or boost effect on it when the opponent has no answer is just a free win. While we don’t have Cranial Plating, we do have our next card, Nettlecryst, which is a perfect combo versus aggro decks.

Nettlecryst eliminates the need for the dead top deck that is All That Glitters. This statement might shock some players as All That Glitters is an amazing card, but it sets us up to be 2-for-1’ed far to easy and we have no protection from it happening.

Shock (Play with Fire), Fatal Push, and now Unholy Heat are very popular. Nettlecryst is an equipment that enters and makes a creature to attach it to giving us a blocker or an extra attacker and doesn’t get us 2-for-1’ed as the equipment sticks around. The more I play with it, the more impressed I am.

The Deck

Putting it all together, this is my current build:

Tempered Steel by The MTG Hero
by MTG Arena Zone
Buy on TCGplayer $28.31
best of 3
0 mythic
26 rare
6 uncommon
28 common
Creatures (32)
Arcbound Mouser
Esper Sentinel
Steel Overseer
Vault Skirge
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (4)
Tempered Steel
Lands (20)
Blinkmoth Nexus
Shefet Dunes
60 Cards
Fateful Absence
Make a Stand
Rest in Peace
15 Cards

Splashing other colors is always an option with this deck. In fact, it is probably easier to splash with this deck than others thanks to access to Spire of Industry. I chose to not splash in this version as I don’t think it achives much. If you were to, however, Blue is probably the best option as it provides access to counterspells, helping the most in the worst situations such as handling sweepers. Black gives you Thoughtseize and Fatal Push which covers some bases. Red provides Bomat Courier which is a great form of card advantage if it goes unanswered. Green doesn’t really do anything for us, so it is the weakest splash in my opinion.

Playing the Deck

Nettlecyst Art by Vincent Proce
Nettlecyst Art by Vincent Proce

Starting off, we want to lead with a 1-drop and Ornithopter if possible. The order of prioritization is Esper Sentinel > Court Homunculus > Vault Skirge > Arcbound Mouser > Gingerbrute > Stonecoil Serpent.

Esper Sentinel is fantastic if your opponent wants to play a cantrip or an early removal spell, since you will often draw a card from it even if they remove it in a trade that is favorable for us. Court Homunculus does the most damage turn 2 and onward, so I think it is matchup dependent and up to the rest of your hand to which is better. Vault Skirge wins games. I think it is best to pay the life early and get it out so it can start bashing to gain some of it back. Mouser is slightly weaker than Vault Skirge as it doesn’t fly, but if it trades with a blocker or attacker, it makes whatever we play on turn two much better thanks to modular. In most situations I don’t like leading with Gingerbrute unless I must because it adds up to more damage in the long run to play your summoning sick creatures first. Stonecoil is the worst 1-drop due to it having value later since it grows. I will most likely play Stonecoil on turn two if I don’t have a Steel Overseer or specifically, two more 1-drops and a Tempered Steel.

Turn two, if I don’t specifically have the hand mentioned above, my order is Steel Overseer > Stonecoil Serpent. I think getting Steel Overseer out then playing the smaller threats is much better than the alternative since you can grow your board faster, plus the damage will be more in the long run and better in most situations.

Turn three is simple. If you don’t have Tempered Steel or Nettlecyst, then run out the rest of your hand unless you suspect a sweeper coming. In sweeper matchups you want to think efficiency. Only play the best threats. Nettlecryst really shines here since it is often the biggest threat you will have and can be equipped to a Blinkmoth Nexus after a sweeper if you have no other plays to force instant speed interaction.

Sideboard Guide

Arcbound Mouser Art by Campbell White
Arcbound Mouser Art by Campbell White


+2 Rest in Peace-4 Arcbound Mouser
+2 Hushbringer-4 Steel Overseer
+2 Fragmentize
+2 Fateful Absence
+3 Containment Priest if they play Collected Company-1 Esper Sentinel
-1 Vault Skirge
-1 Gingerbrute


+3 Containment Priest-4 Gingerbrute
+2 Fateful Absence-4 Steel Overseer
+2 Hushbringer-1 Nettlecyst

Elves / Merfolk

+3 Containment Priest-4 Esper Sentinel
+2 Fateful Absence-4 Court Homunculus
+2 Hushbringer-1 Nettlecyst

Control Decks

+2 Make a Stand-4 Ornithopter
+2 Idol of Endurance

Tips and Tricks

  • If you have a Stonecoil Serpent in your hand, the game reads casting it for 0 as a valid action you might take. So, if you are trying to hide contents of your hand you want to turn on auto pass quickly if you are tapped out.
  • You can cast Stonecoil for 0 if you have a Tempered Steel in play and it will be a 2/2 and not die.
  • You can also turn a Blinkmoth that is already tapped into a 1/1. This is useful for what is mentioned above, but also after you use its second ability to give another Blinkmoth +1/+1.
  • Never forget that you can re-equip Nettlecyst to another creature after attacking. This is very useful when racing especially when juggling on lifelink creatures.


I am so glad to see this deck finally get some good cards that push it into the realm of being a serious contender. I have been a huge fan of this deck for a long time, but never thought it would truly be playable in historic. Climbing with this deck is very easy and enjoyable. It is easy to pick up, but difficult to master. This means that the more familiar you are with the deck, the more rewarding it is to play. Also, as mentioned, if the meta shifts the deck can easily be customized by splashing another color.

Be sure to check out my YouTube and Twitch for more content and cool decks. Also, if you enjoy the content check out my Patreon with exclusive benefits for the patrons! Any contribution goes a long way and means a lot. You can also follow me on social media for memes, puns, and even more decks. All links will be listed below. Until next time Planeswalkers, Hero out!!!

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The MTG Hero
The MTG Hero

My name is The MTG Hero. I have played Magic for over 15 years. I am a consistent high Mythic ranked player. Follow me on Twitch and subscribe on YouTube!

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