Workshop Elders

Throne of Eldraine has arrived, and with it comes a plethora of fun new cards to try out. We could take time to break down what’s to come of the new Standard or Modern meta, but instead we’re going to focus on one of the more overlooked cards of the set.

I can’t tell if the flavor text is reassuring or terrifying

A seven mana 4/4 needs to make a strong case for itself if we’re going to run it in a deck. Workshop Elders is most likely not going to see competitive play, and that means it’ll be relegated to Commander and more casual circles.

Usually the argument for a high-cost card is that it needs to impact the board immediately. Look at something like Craterhoof Behemoth: for eight mana you get a 5/5 with haste that, at minimum, gives your whole team +5/+5 and trample. That’s powerful because it happens immediately and there are a limited number of things our opponents can do to respond to it. On the other hand, something like Godsire seems great since we can repeatedly make 8/8 creatures, but without haste we have to wait an entire turn for its ability be used. That gives our opponents a ton of time to deal with it.

Workshop Elders comes into play and immediately grants our artifacts flying. If we’ve been making 1/1 Servos with Saheeli, Sublime Artificer or spawning a ton of 1/1 Myr thanks to Genesis Chamber, now they’re basically thopters! On top of that, if we cast Workshop Elders during our first main phase, we get to turn one of our noncreature artifacts into a 4/4 creature. This creature also gets flying thanks to the elders. This can turn a food token into a 4/4 beater, but what else can we do with it?

Vehicles

The first thing that came to mind when researching the elders was vehicles. These artifacts aren’t creatures until we crew them, which is done by tapping any number of creatures with power greater than or equal to the crew cost.

Just lie and tell your opponents they can’t block it

With Workshop Elders, we can ignore the crew ability and simply attack with 4/4 flying vehicles. For vehicles with flying like Skyship Sovereign or “the looter scooter” Smuggler’s Copter this isn’t incredible, but not having to tap any of our creatures to crew them is a welcome improvement. I know I wouldn’t mind a Parhelion II that I never need to crew.

Something of note: the ability on Workshop Elders overwrites the power and toughness of our vehicles. That means if we use the ability to target something like Silent Submersible, it won’t become a 6/7 creature because the power and toughness printed on the card gets overwritten by the Workshop Elders‘ ability, which sets the power and toughness to 0/0. If we crew the vehicle after its power and toughness has been set to 0/0, it won’t have any effect. The crew ability doesn’t give the artifact its power and toughness, it just turns it into a creature (which the elders have already done).

Indestructible

One of the intriguing things about Workshop Elders is the fact that it doesn’t remove anything from the artifacts it animates. With that in mind, we can take a look at artifacts that most certainly weren’t designed to be creatures and see where the elders can take them.

The Darksteel Snitch

Every card that has “darksteel” in the name comes with “indestructible” in its text box. This is wonderful for us; we’re making 4/4 creatures out of them, and indestructible creatures are much more useful than indestructible non-creatures. Darksteel Ingot, Darksteel Relic, and Darksteel Citadel are all great targets for Workshop Elders.

Darksteel Brute is also a great choice since it has indestructible, but also has the ability to change its base power and toughness. This is different from the issue we encountered with vehicles. Vehicles have a printed power and toughness, so Workshop Elders overrides that. Darksteel Brute and other artifacts that become creatures set their own power and toughness until the end of turn, which will work on top of Workshop Elders‘ ability. Darksteel Brute allows us to make it a 2/2 indestructible creature; assuming we’ve already targeted it with Workshop Elders ability, it becomes a 2/2 with four +1/+1 counters on it, making it a 6/6.

Finally there’s a reason to actually use the second ability outside of limited

With that in mind, we can start looking at the oft-ignored portions of Keyrunes and Monuments. In a game of commander, why would I ever activate Dimir Keyrune‘s or Silumgar Monument‘s second ability? A Keyrune will get outclassed as a creature very quickly. Similarly, the monument costs a lot of mana for just a single turn as a 4/4 dragon. However, if we add four +1/+1 counters and a permanently-animated state into the mix, now we’re cooking something up that feels special. Dimir Keyrune becomes a 6/6 unblockable creature (with flying) and Silumgar Monument becomes an 8/8 dragon! We could even attack with a 4/4 Monument and only decide to pay mana to make it an 8/8 if we need to. The rest of the monument cycle is the same (they’re just different colored dragons), but some of the keyrunes have interesting abilities. Dimir Keyrune is probably the best of the group, but Simic Keyrune becomes a 7/7 with hexproof and Boros Keyrune becomes a 5/5 with first strike. And don’t forget, they all have flying!

Everything Else

Blessings of Elesh Norn sounds like a sweet card

Using Workshop Elders on artifacts that have creature-based abilities isn’t the only way to get value. There are plenty of other artifacts that the Elders would love to animate. Darksteel Forge costs nine mana, but it makes all of our artifacts indestructible; if we start making 4/4 creatures with flying, we’re going to have a dangerous army on our hands. Mycosynth Lattice makes any non-creature permanent into a target for Workshop Elders which means we can turn any basic land we control into a 4/4 with flying. It’s basically “Awaken 4” for free, every combat!

Ugin’s Nexus is a fun card to use, but it can be a challenge getting it to your graveyard. Turning it into a creature allows you to use it as a blocker, or attack with it and simply sacrifice it to Ashnod’s Altar if it doesn’t die. Turning any of the god-related “Enchantment Artifact” cards into creatures just feels hilarious to me; Bident of Thassa and Whip of Erebos make great targets for Workshop Elders.

Work it!

Workshop Elders isn’t a crazy card, but it grants a passive flying to all artifact creatures and it can turn some overlooked artifacts into powerful threats. I hope you’ve been inspired to build something in your own workshop! Join me next time when I turn Door to Nothingness into a creature with Workshop Elders, then sacrifice it to kill an opponent while I have Marchesa, the Black Rose on the battlefield.

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