Mishra's Bauble: Something for Nothing
Despite my recent problems with opponents hard-casting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Modern remains a format that is about cards that cost two mana or less. The drive for low-end casting costs is due, in part, to games ending by turn four and to avoiding tempo blowouts from cheap responses like Remand or Path to Exile. It is somewhat surprising then that a card that:
- Costs zero mana
- Replaces itself
- Provides information
- Has a variety of possible synergies and tricks
has not seen far more play in the format. For those unfamiliar, this description refers to the Coldsnap uncommon Mishra’s Bauble:
To be fair, this card has seen some Modern action. It’s biggest splash was Patrick Chapin’s Esper Delve list at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. His deck ran a playset of Baubles alongside Gitaxian Probe, Thought Scour, and Serum Visions to power out early Gurmag Anglers and Tasigur, the Golden Fangs backed up by Stubborn Denial. While that deck had an abysmal finish of 0 wins 5 losses, Chapin was correct about Gurmag Angler being a legitimate Modern card and I believe he was also correct on Mishra’s Bauble.
The Esper Delve deck has more or less given way to Grixis versions that drop the Bauble in favour of Snapcaster Mage, Kolaghan's Command, and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but Bauble soldiers on elsewhere. The cantripping artifact is found in Jund and Temur Prowess decks with Monastery Swiftspear and Abbot of Keral Keep, as well as suicide Death’s Shadow decks where it fuels the turn three one-shot hilarity of Become Immense with Temur Battle Rage.
If you’re interested in playing this zero mana ticket to value-town here are the tricks and synergies you should be looking to exploit:
Know the Next Card You or Your Opponent is About to Draw.
Okay, so this is not exactly a trick since it's literally what the card does - but don’t overlook that this small piece of information itself is worth something. While it's not unusual to know your opponent's deck and basic game plan based on their first turn, when you’re on the play with a Bauble you can know even sooner. This could matter in determining what lands to fetch, whether to fetch tapped or untapped, and even which turn one play to lead with if you have options. As the game progresses, knowing the next card on either deck can allow you to play more aggressively or manage your mana better. For example, knowing you are about to draw a Snapcaster Mage, or knowing your opponent is about to draw a Boros Charm.
“Scry 1” - By Activating a Shuffle Effect
This was really the earliest and most obvious trick with the card. Activate the Bauble to look at your top card and if you do not wish to draw it crack a fetchland before the next upkeep to shuffle your deck and (hopefully) draw something else. The only downside to this sequence is being forced to fetch at a sub-optimal time - generally before your opponent’s upkeep - thus foregoing the ability to fetch an untapped land if you need to interact. General consensus is that Scry 1 is worth about half a card, so an occasional sub-optimal fetch is a small price to pay for the upside.
Fuel for Delve
The idea behind Chapin's Delve list was to use Thought Scour as a cantripping Black Lotus and Bauble/Probe as cantripping Lotus Petals to fuel out an early Delve creature. We’ve since learned that it’s actually better to delay the Delve creature for a few turns and let your graveyard build naturally rather than to stuff your deck with sixteen pieces of "Delve fuel" (which it turns out can also be considered “air”). While I would not run the Bauble purely for the Lotus Petal effect on Delve spells, it certainly doesn’t hurt to push out something like Gurmag Angler a turn sooner than you might otherwise be able to.
All Tarmogoyfs Get +1/+1
While 'Goyf decks will run cards like Liliana of the Veil, Courser of Kruphix, and even Tarfire to help increase their 'Goyf’s size beyond the traditional 4/5 (creature, land, instant, sorcery), none of these is as fast or reliable at getting the job done as Mishra's Bauble. More than just an extra point of damage, getting Tarmogoyf to a 5/6 is relevant for putting it out of range of removal spells like Roast and Dismember, and allowing it to defeat things like Tasigur, Angler, and Siege Rhino in combat.
Warrior’s Honor for Your Prowess Creatures
While the only proven Prowess creature in Modern is Monastery Swiftspear, the Abbot of Keral Keep is making a reasonable case and stubborn people (like me) keep trying to find ways to play Myth Realized and Monastery Mentor effectively. The free Prowess triggers from a Bauble cast can add up to serious damage in a deck running multiple Prowess bodies, and while the Prowess options are limited at the moment Wizards made the keyword "Evergreen" - meaning it can appear in any set just like Flying or Trample. This means each spoiler season could hold a new gem for Modern Prowess decks.
Red Card Draw - The “Limited Time Offer”
Red has acquired a particular brand of card advantage over the past two years where it exiles the top card of your library and allows the card to be played this turn for its mana cost. It first appeared on Chandra, Pyromaster but has since been printed on Outpost Siege, Prophetic Flamespeaker, Commune with Lava and most recently Abbot of Keral Keep. The challenge with this effect is to cast the exiled cards and generate a meaningful impact on the board state (i.e. not just Lightning Bolt to the dome). Bauble serves double duty with this effect by allowing you to check that the top card is worth exiling and casting, and by being a free cast itself if it gets exiled from the top of your deck.
Double Dipping - Stacked Upkeep Triggers
There are two very strong Modern cards that involve revealing the top card of your library on your upkeep - Dark Confidant and Delver of Secrets. By using Mishra's Bauble on your opponent's end step and then stacking your upkeep triggers you can effectively choose between the top two cards (one known, one unknown) when revealing. In the case of Dark Confidant, this means fewer painful upkeep triggers, especially considering a revealed Bauble itself deals zero. For Delver it means you can run Bauble and Delver together without hurting your chances of transforming into Insectile Aberration, as the double-dip is offset by the times you naturally find a Bauble on top of your deck.
Hiding Cards on the Battlefield
Because the draw trigger of the Bauble is activated by sacrificing the artifact, you can effectively "hide" a card from your hand on the battlefield. This is hard to exploit, but is useful against discard effects and especially Liliana of the Veil when you're in top-deck mode. Going really deep, the “hidden card” can also work with Day’s Undoing allowing you to sandbag an extra card before re-drawing up to seven. Although, I would caution that a lack of card draw is not really the problem facing Day's Undoing in Modern.
Planning For a Miracle
Since we're already in the kitchen table area with the Day's Undoing talk, we might as well note that Bauble can be used to trigger Miracles on our opponent’s upkeep step. While there's still a lack of ways to get Miracles on top of the deck in Modern, Bauble gives you a "second swing" during your opponent's turn. It also doesn't hurt that a Bauble activation lets you know if you are indeed about to reveal a Miracle, so that you can plan your mana accordingly. This is particularly relevant if you’re trying to maximize a Bonfire of the Damned or Entreat the Angels, but can also just help optimize mana on your turn by knowing to reserve a single red mana for a Thunderous Wrath.
Preparing for a Surge
Oath of the Gatewatch spoilers have introduced a new mechanic called Surge. Surge allows you to cast a spell at a reduced cost if you've played a spell this turn, and sometimes gain an additional effect (more or less the Prowl ability of something like Earwig Squad with a different trigger condition). The Surge cards do not appear strong enough to see Modern play, but if any do see Modern action cards like Mishra's Bauble, Burning-Tree Emissary, Manamorphose and Gitaxian Probe will be the key enablers.
BONUS: Get the Most of Your Bauble With This One Weird Trick!
Perhaps the biggest test of skill when it comes to playing Mishra's Bauble is consistently remembering to draw your card on the next turn’s upkeep. This is especially true when sequencing a bunch of Prowess and Delve triggers and possibly chaining other draw spells - it's easy to forget that it all kicked off with a Bauble activation. While you can place a die on top of your deck to remind you of upkeep triggers, your opponent will not likely do this for you when the trigger is on their upkeep. I recommend making some kind of brightly coloured Bauble reminder - be it a card or object - and placing it somewhere very visible on or near the battlefield when you have the delayed trigger -a visual reminder to stop your opponent before their draw step.
Until next time, good luck with finding more ways to exploit this zero mana cantrip!