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Standard Robots

Written by John Cuvelier on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

It’s been a long time since Arcbound Ravager and friends have dominated standard. That’s the last time an artifact based aggressive deck was anywhere close to a tier 1 threat. We all know that Shrapnel Blast and Ensoul Artifact have been in Standard for about a year now and have seen very little if any success on large scale events. The plethora of new toys from Magic Origins may finally give us enough fodder to work with.

First let’s begin by examining what we have to work with before Magic Origins. By understanding why these cards are good will help determine how best to utilize them in building new decks.

Darksteel Citadel – The only artifact land to get reprinted and not banned. The affinity mechanic isn’t around anymore so the only real benefit of this being an artifact is you can Shrapnel Blast this away or drop an Ensoul Artifact on it. A lot of decks will have trouble beating a 5/5 Indestructible and is why it’s a must include when you’re playing Ensoul Artifact or Shrapnel Blast.

Shrapnel Blast – A must include in any Red based Artifact list. The most efficient way of finishing off our opponent, killing a large threat like Siege Rhino or even comboing with some cards in Origins you’ll find out about later.

Ensoul Artifact – Another must include in any Blue based Artifact list. Making a 5/5 for U1 is a very big return to a very small mana commitment. The tradeoff here is the threat of being two for one’d via a removal spell. Generally speaking the risk is worth the reward, and combos very well with evasive threats like Ornithopter or an indestructible one in Darksteel Citadel. You can also help minimize risk by playing this on something like Springleaf Drum or Ghostfire Blade against red decks. You can’t burn what isn’t a creature!

Springleaf Drum – This shines brightest in an aggressive shell because of the extra mana this will get you in the early game. The mana fixing also helps in multi-color decks and allows you to cheat a little bit on your mana. This also helps with the Inspired mechanic I’ll be talking about a little later as well.

Ornithopter – When paired with a Cranial Plating there aren’t too many more threatening things in Modern. In Standard however this needs a little more help to be useful. Luckily it can still be threatening while combining with Springleaf Drum, Ensoul Artifact or Ghostfire Blade. It also acts as a “ritual” effect when used with the Convoke mechanic. This is something to keep in mind moving forward.

Ghostfire Blade – It’s no Cranial Plating but it’s the best thing we got right now. This card screams aggressive artifact deck. The bonuses are solid for the mana cost and equip cost. It makes our do nothing by itself Ornithopter at least a respectable threat and makes other ground threats bigger too.

Chief Engineer – I’ve had my eye on this card since it was printed. Unfortunately it never got enough help to really shine through. But with all the new cards he may finally find a new home. Any time you play this on turn two it will almost always be truly broken. I’ll show you what I mean later in this article.

Bident of Thassa – Traditionally used for Blue Devotion strategies it can find a home elsewhere. Being an artifact is great with Chief Engineer and also combines well with evasive cards like Thopter tokens. We’ll be seeing plenty of those from our Origins cards.

Those are all of the existing staples prior to Origins. There are certainly other playable artifact cards but these are the ones that you’ll see the most in the upcoming lists I have for you today.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the new cards that Origins brought.

Pia and Kiran Nalaar – This mini Siege-Gang Commander has got me a bit excited. This card offers a diversified threat and a very threatening ability. This can give you that extra reach you need or mow down annoying creatures.

Thopter Engineer – The perfect card to set up a Pia and Kiran Nalaar. Giving all our artifacts haste is certainly the most exciting ability on this card. The fact that it also provides a Thopter is just gravy. You can expect to play against this card in almost every artifact deck.

Hangarback Walker – This is probably the most exciting new card. It synergizes very well with Shrapnel Blast, Chief Engineer, and even Pia and Kiran Nalaar. It fits well at any point in the curve and offers up some card advantage. Being resistant to sweepers is also a huge bonus in a deck that is often weak to them.

Chief of the Foundry – Please say hello to your first Artifact lord to hit Standard since Master of Etherium. The Chief is going to shine brightest in a low to the ground, fast aggressive deck or an evasive thopter beat down deck. His stats aren’t the most exciting, but its ability is strong enough to fit in most artifact builds.

Foundry of the Consuls – We don’t get to have all-stars like Blinkmoth Nexus or Inkmoth Nexus. What we do have is a late game utility land that acts like them. This will fit best in decks that are either mono colored or more towards the midrange or control role. You can expect to see this not just in Artifact based decks, but many control decks as well.

Ramroller – Awwwwww it’s a baby Juggernaut. If you’re looking to stay low to the ground Ramroller certainly does a good job of that. He pairs well with Stubborn Denial and is pretty tough not to include in most aggressive lists.

Bonded Construct – Finally we get a one drop with reasonable stats. The drawback restriction of not being able to attack alone hurts a bit. But if you’re in the market for an aggressive one drop that pairs with Ornithopter you’re certainly in luck.

Thopter Spy Network – I thought it was worth including this one to talk about even if I think it’s just a worse Bident of Thassa. It’s possible this will be a fixture in most Artifact sideboards to help fight against control strategies. But since this only draws a single card when an Artifact hits your opponent and isn’t an Artifact itself, it leads me to believe this is just a worse Bident of Thassa. I do expect to at least sideboard some amount of these to combat control decks however.

That about sums up the new guys on the block, let’s take a look at what I’ve come up with when we combine the new and the old.

Little Bots

This list is keeping low to the ground and trying to abuse Chief Engineer the best. Since it has a cheap mana curve you can get away with 18 lands and with it being one color we get access to the full four Foundry of the Consults. This is most definitely the most aggressive of the lists I have and is looking to end the game quick. It’s nice that Bident of Thassa gives you extra fuel against the control matchups too.

Big Bots

This version is a bit slower but utilizes a lot of the new cards from Origins. The color requirements means I had to cut down a little bit on the colorless lands to make sure we can cast our double red and double blue spells on time. This deck is certainly capable of some pretty insane draws.

Turn 2: Chief Engineer
Turn 3: Thopter Engineer, Chief of the Foundry
Turn 4: Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Scuttling Doom Engine, attack for 9.

That’s certainly a start that most decks in the format have little chance of stopping. Having access to Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Scuttling Doom Engine and Shrapnel Blast means this deck offers a lot of reach and is the most appealing part of this deck.

Stubborn Bots

This is another low to the ground aggressive version, similar to Little Bots. The big difference here is that this version is trying to utilize Stubborn Denial. By using Ramroller, Ensoul Artifact or Ghostfire Blade you shouldn’t have any trouble getting Ferocious. This will come in handy with all the new decks sporting playsets of Languish.

Convoke Bots

The last version I have for you is Convoke Bots. This version is trying hard to utilize the Inspired mechanic off of Daring Thief. Convoke Bots still has a lot of the same things going for it as Big Bots did. There’s a lot of burn here as well, giving it reach and cheap ways to interact with opposing problematic creatures.

These should be a good starting point for figuring out the best way to approach robot builds coming in to Origins. Which list do you like the most? Is there a build I missed? Feel free to chime in and let me know what you think!

John Cuvelier
@JCuvelier on Twitter
Gosu. On MTGO

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