Kinda Sorta Combo: Grand Architect and Thopter Foundry
By Neil T Stacey (@NeilTStacey on Twitter)
Modern right now makes me feel like a little kid again. Specifically, it makes me feel like I’ve had all my new toys taken away just to teach me a lesson. Or because they were too powerful, depending on what you’re willing to believe about my childhood.
The silver lining, of course, is digging out all those old toys and wondering why I ever stopped playing with them. The Delve cards were good enough to make a lot of plays pointless by comparison, and Pod had much the same effect on creature-based strategies. Now that they’re gone, I’ve had the opportunity to reconsider a ton of old deck ideas and synergies that I had been forced to write off when Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time arrived.
Most of them are still unplayable but the bans have made them less embarrassing at the very least. Before it became possible to draw 3 cards for 1 mana in Modern, one of the cards I was dead set on breaking was Grand Architect. It does double duty providing explosive bursts of mana and powering up any blue creatures you have lying around.
One powerful line of play is to lead with an Etherium Sculptor on turn 2 and follow with a Grand Architect. Because Grand Architect’s mana ability isn’t affected by summoning sickness, you can immediately tap him and the Sculptor for 4 mana and plonk down a Batterskull.
And don’t even start thinking about what happens when you play Grand Architect and Master of Waves. Instead, think about the ultimate durdling tool that is Thopter Foundry.
Mana produced by Grand Architect can be used to activate the foundry’s ability and because the Thopters are blue, they can be tapped to provide mana via Grand Architect as well as getting +1+1. What this means is that each time you activate that ability while you have Grand Architect, you gain a life, make a 2/2 flyer and net one extra mana.
So you get to turn a pile of artifacts into a bunch of flyers, some incidental life gain and a big burst of mana. Any deck trying to abuse this interaction need access to cheap artifacts as well as ways to use mana that can only be used for artifacts. Chromatic Star is perfect here; it draws you a card when you sacrifice it and you can use its mana filtering ability to convert Grand Architect’s output into mana you can use for anything. Chromatic Sphere isn’t quite as good but it still serves a purpose. Ichor Wellspring gets you ahead on cards while Mox Opal gets you ahead on mana.
At this point, we have built half of Eggs so why not go all the way? The Modern Eggs deck fell from the spotlight when Second Sunrise was banned, ruining its consistency. Caleb Durward tried out a post-ban version built around Krark-Clan Ironworks which uses Open The Vaults to return artifacts and make a ton of mana and win by casting Emrakul. A video set for that deck can be found here: http://www.channelfireball.com/videos/channel-calebd-modern-kci/
I’ll take elements of that deck while still going with Faith’s Reward as the main plan. The deck I’ve come up with looks like this (Disclaimer: this deck is fiddly):
Grand Eggsitect By Neil T Stacey:
4x Darksteel Citadel
4x Ghost Quarter
4x Flooded Strand
4x Hallowed Fountain
1x Academy Ruins
4x Grand Architect
4x Faith’s Reward
2x Open the Vaults
4x Mox Opal
4x Chromatic Star
3x Chromatic Sphere
4x Krark-Clan Ironworks
4x Ichor Wellspring
3x Thopter Foundry
2x Mind Stone
1x Conjurer’s Bauble
For those who want a good look at this (hopefully all of you), I’ve put the list up on Tappedout.net and you can find it here: http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/grand-eggsitect/
The deck is able to play out like a straightforward Eggs deck that sacrifices a bunch of artifacts to make mana and draw cards, then casts Faith’s Reward or Open The Vaults to get all the artifacts back and do it all over again. Faith’s Reward has added synergy with Fetchlands and Ghost Quarter, making it possible to get extra lands out while recovering some of the mana you used to cast it. Ordinarily these decks have major weaknesses. The first is that they do nothing if they don’t draw their key cards and the second is that sometimes they fail to draw a recursion spell and fizzle out. They’re also limited in the number of ways they can get ahead on mana with each loop.
The Grand Architect/Thopter package addresses all of these weaknesses in one way or another. The architect by itself acts as straight mana ramp, letting you go off sooner.
Thopter Foundry works as an alternate sacrifice outlet for your various artifacts that draw cards when they die, protecting your life total and adding board presence as you cycle through your deck.
The Architect and the Foundry together act as an alternate mana engine if you haven’t yet drawn Ironworks and on those occasions you have all 3 you maximise your mana output from your artifacts by sacrificing them to the Foundry, then tapping the Thopter for Grand Architect and before sacrificing it to the Ironworks. This nets you 3 mana per artifact instead of the usual 2, which is occasionally relevant. The best part about this is that even if your combo fizzles out, you’re left with a ton of 2/2 flyers and a high life total, which is a sight better than what you’re left with when a typical eggs deck fizzles (nothing).
So how good is this deck, really? I see it as a good game 1 deck. It frequently goes infinite (or infinite-ish) on turn 4 and sometimes turn 3, which is perfectly fine, if not all that unusual for Modern combo decks. It has redundancy for all the pieces it needs to combo off, making it fairly reliable. It can attack on an alternate axis by playing a straight value game with Thopter Foundry.
However, it lacks interaction and can be raced by faster decks. It also folds to a lot of the artifact hate in Modern sideboards. Stony Silence is particularly brutal and siding in a bunch of enchantment removal doesn’t do a lot for this deck’s game plan. This deck is ideal for carving through a metagame where artifact hate isn’t prevalent but with Affinity here to stay, that isn’t a commonplace situation. ‘
For the moment I am relegating this to more casual tournaments, to be picked up again if Cranial Plating ever finds its way onto the banned list. Meanwhile I remain on the lookout for the best way to break Grand Architect in Modern.