Friday 7 December 2018

Thopters and Servos .dec

Servo Exhibition
I built this deck expecting it to be a low tier fun affair. It looks a bit like a block deck and pushes a mild synergy with a couple of cards far too far to be all that reasonable of a thing to do. I built this deck for an excuse to play with cards I don't get to play with often enough otherwise. In my head this is a bad halfway point between a Boros aggro list and an affinity list. Refined sensibly this deck feels like it should wind up at one of those places. In practice this deck did a whole lot of winning. It took a bit of unpacking to work out why it outperformed expectation so hard. What I thought was a bit of a comedy deck was easily a tier one deck. Here is exactly what I ran;

25 Spells

Mox Opal

Animation Module
Retrofitter Foundry
Servo SchematicGalvanic Blast
Nerd Ape

Toolcraft Exemplar
Thraben Inspector
Sparring Construct

Servo Exhibition
Hangarback Walker
Servo Schematic
Makeshift Munitions

Walking Ballista
Orcish Vandal
Smuggler's Copter

Thopter Engineer
Master Trinketeer
Thopter EngineerPia Nalaar
Tajic, Legion's Edge

Spear of Heliod

Tshar, Ancestor's Apostle
Sram's Expertise
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Karn, Scion of Urza

Angel of Invention

15 Lands

Great Furnace
Ancient Den
Blinkmoth Nexus
RW Duals

Sparring ConstructThe best way to appreciate why this deck did so well is to think of it as an aggro deck that also plays like a midrange deck. In the rock paper scissors world of most magic metagames being able to be one of two things makes you favoured! This deck seemed to be able to outpace or out value any opposition as required. As to why the deck gets to play as both aggro and as midrange in the first place however is a little more subtle. It is the combination of being able to support synergies without having to play any individually low powered cards. Yes, there are only two cards that directly empower having servo and thopter tokens in the deck but most of the cards in the list benefit from artifacts. Usually synergy decks have a bunch of weak stand alone cards but this deck is able to easily avoid doing that and is potent enough that you don't have to. When you have a bunch of good stand alone cards that are empowered by synergies they become great. There are a few weaker cards in this list in more of a support role like Sparring Construct and some stand alone do nothings like Animation Module but none are key cards and all have a nice deep pool of alternatives to chose from. Most of which would be stand alone more powerful cards.

Toolcraft ExemplarThe quality of the one drops is a pretty big deal. A 3/2 first strike, a 2/3, and a Flame Javelin all at one mana is pretty unreasonably above the curve. It doesn't take much at all to go from fine to completely nuts on a one mana card. These three cheap cards are filthy powerful and do a great job of stealing the early game. This list has less on the one slot than most other aggressive decks I build but in terms of quality it outclasses most other things.

Another sneaky way this deck edges ahead of other similar lists is having so much utility on the creatures it runs. As such it can afford to be incredibly light on pure disruptive cards that are usually offering no synergy support and are typically reactive. Loads of your creatures are able to do damage to other creatures and players, buff your own and so forth. The deck is full of natural reach and natural late game sources of gas without any effort, it simply gets those things from the cards it wants to play. The synergies mean that those cards are even better at those things than usual.

Tajic, Legion's EdgeI played Tajic but not because he is a good fit in the deck really, I just wanted to test him. Despite having played him in at least five decks I am yet to even draw him which feels unreal. The odds on that must be minute. True to form I didn't draw him in this deck either. The idea was that he would empower Animation Module which was looking a little under supported. Really I think I need to go Steel Overseer, Arcbound Worker and most importantly Arcobound Ravager for the Module to get there. At that point you are looking to trim all of the non-essential non-artifact creatures for their lack of synergy with Overseer and at that point you wind up with a very different deck. A kind of Tempered Steel list with Bomat Courier and Signal Pest replacing your premium tempo one drops which is quite a different affair all together. For better theme reasons I would replace Tajic with something like Bygone Bishop, Aether Chaser or Myrsmith. The Smith is a little scary to introduce into the themed deck however as you open it up to the Myr subtype and have all the dilemmas that come with such things. Suddenly you can't resist that Origin Spellbomb instead of that clearly inferior Cogworker's Puzzleknot! Another good shout for Tajic replacements would simply be a land. This is a mana hungry list and one that does typically want to curve upto four and eventually wants at least five lands in play. 15 is a touch greedy even with the Mox. Speaking of Mox, that is another reason this deck performs so well. When your Boros aggro deck gets to play with power 9 levels of potency at no real cost it obviously gives it a bit of a boost!

Animation ModuleIt is pretty hard to hold off running a Stoneforge Mystic package. Skullclamp is great artifact support and loves a deck full of 1/1 token makers! Cranial Plating is pretty naughty and Jitte is still a fine little card. Undeniably Stoneforge is pretty busted when you can use it with the most busted equipment and would stand to make this deck even better. With so many great options on cards these days I find I enjoy playing new stuff ever more. I would rather lose with Tshar than win with the same old over tuned cards. When I am doing themed decks I would rather go as deep as I can go while still being a viable deck. I thought this would be good enough to function without the support of the tried and tested Stoneforge and that is why it is not here. It is also a good habit to get into if you play much in the way of rotisserie formats. Knowing what contested cards you can do without and what the good uncontested cards are for any kind of deck is a pretty big win. When a card is so potent that it is playable in a significant chunk of all the decks in the meta you are not assured of it, or at least if you are, then you are not getting much of a look in on other cards of that kind of potency. In a rotisserie for this kind of deck grabbing a Stoneforge package would come at the cost of the Mox Opal, the Smuggler's Copter, or worse still, some of your mana base.

Master TrinketeerAs for the cards in the deck the surprise standout was Sram's Expertise. With a couple of global +1/+1 effects on three drops as well as a dude that gives things haste you can have some pretty explosive plays. From having just lands and Trinketeer in play I was able to go expertise into Thopter Engineer and swing in for 11! All the many sac outlets were great, it made me want more things that put token artifacts into play and also more artifacts that draw cards when they die. The deck had so many sac outlets it felt impossible to resolve targetting spells which is super annoying for a bunch of cards. It felt a bit like goblins decks do with their Sledders and Prospectors fizzling everything! Sparring Construct was a bomb as well! He was the on board combat trick that made life even harder for the opponent. Without the sac outlets and the artifact synegies the card would be pretty tame but in this list it worked wonders! Here are the other cards I was considering for the build that I have not already mentioned in the article.

Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Goblin Welder
Shrapnel Blast
Implement of Ferocity
Chromatic Star
Countless Gears Renegade
Board the Weatherlight

Pia NalaarTh other great thing this deck does is attack from every angle. It has direct damage, it has efficient conventional beaters from turn one, it has the ability to go wide and to go tall. It has evasive dorks. It has permanents of every type making all kinds of removal, mass or spot, that much less effective. It can grow the whole team, or send a load of haste dudes your way. It can go all in aggro at you and it is pretty scary or it can sit back and play a control value game and do so very effectively. Thopters really are not to be sniffed at. They are good in all kinds of cube deck and an awful lot of the cards that make them, or indeed other flavours of 1/1 flying token, are top rate cube cards. This deck has the highest density of thopter cards I have ever had in a deck and I think that is a decent enough explanation of why this is a potent build! I have had a draft "Card spotlight: Thopter token" article in draft form for ages. Mostly unpublished because all it really says are that thopters are great! The performance of this deck was at least some testament to that sentiment. I find the two best ways to learn in Magic are losing and the unexpected. This deck brought the latter of those things and as such gave me much to mull over.


  1. Hi! I've been reading your blog for some time now, thanks for being one of the people that write continuous, good resources for cube.

    What is your cube at cubetutor? I didn't find a link here. Mine is 107410.

    Would you do a post for best cube resources? I read mtgsalvation forum and your blog, but that's basically the two things that get updated with time.


    1. Thanks for the kind words. My cube is roughly this;

      Much as I would love to do an article as you suggest I use basically no cube specific resources other than CubeTutor. Most of what I learn is simply through playing a lot of cube, different cube lists, different formats, discussion with the other people involved and that sort of thing.

      I initially stated doing this blog as I was looking for cube content online and found none. I understand there is a good Reddit community. I tend to use Mythicspoiler for new card info. I use Gatherer loads to search for things and browse types of cards. I look a lot at constructed deck lists so as to get inspiration for things I want to try from legacy through to standard. I even dip into commander content a bit as they unearth some real gems that are a bit too low powered or niche for constructed formats to pick up on.

      Your cube is fascinating, you must explain the design philosophy to me! I am particularly intrigued by the lands.