Hello everyone, and welcome back to Strictly Average for another Modern article. For those of you following along at home yes the title is a reference to the Industrial Metal band Die Krupps who happen to be one of my favorites. I always try to reference things in my articles to put a little unique twist on things, and provide an overall theme to what I am about to write. Today will be no different as we take a look at one of my favorite planeswalkers ever printed: Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.
(Yes it’s true. John Travolta can be cast as me in the MTG movie)
In recent articles I have spoken about a Control deck, an Aggro deck, and a Midrange deck. These are just a few of the pillars in Magic. This time we’re going to talk about Combo. These types of decks try to assemble a combination of cards that will lead to your victory. This can either be done by having a sequence of spells resolve to cause a Storm of spells that target your opponent (or make a bunch of Goblins), or provide some sort of infinite effect. Now you may be thinking that a 4-mana planeswalker in a Combo deck may not be that great, however you can definitely get a few people at your local FNM with this deck. It also has shown up on coverage before in both Legacy, and in Modern, so it’s definitely not a completely unknown deck.
Tezzeret is a sweet character in Magic, and one I wish they would truly turn into a villain. I have always been a fan of of intelligent villains especially ones who have multiple schemes working at the same time. Another bonus for me is that he has grafted metal onto his body (in the form of etherium), and has essentially a robot army with the artifacts he can create. What is not to love with this guy?
So how does a mad cyborg scientist fit into a Magic deck? Well let’s take a look.
(click the image above to see the deck)
3 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Damping Sphere
1 Hearld of Anguish
1 Tezzeret the Seeker
1 Witchbane Orb
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Golgari Charm
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Welding Jar
How the deck works
- Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is the primary win condition here. His first ability is a tutor for any artifact from the top 5 cards, and in a deck with no creatures game 1, as well as over 20 artifacts that should hit quite often. His second ability allows you to turn an artifact into a creature that can block any incoming attacks. Doing this to an expended Pentad Prism, or Darksteel Citadel are some of the most often targets for this ability. Once you assemble 10 artifacts in play you can simply end the game with Tezzeret’s ultimate. Taking the opponent from 20-0 in one ability is why he is here.
- Thopter Foundry is our engine. Being able to constantly keep the life total above 0, and make a creature, is crucial for staying alive in a format that’s known for it’s aggressive decks. If your artifact is being targeted by a Kolaghan’s Command you can activate the Foundry, and make a token (while also gaining a life). The Foundry can also sacrifice itself to it’s own ability so keep that in mind when playing the deck.
- Sword of the Meek was once on the Modern banned list. It may sound crazy, but it was thought to be too strong to play in Modern based on it’s play in Extended. Fortunately it was given its rightful release, and it has been fun playing this along with Thopter Foundry. For every mana you have available you can sacrifice the Sword to the Foundry. The Sword goes to the graveyard, and then the Foundry makes a 1/1 flying Blue Thopter. The Thopter then triggers the Sword to come back from the graveyard, and equip itself to the Thopter. Then you can repeat this process.
There are ways to make infinite Thopters with the deck. You can either play Time Sieve which allows you to sacrifice 5 artifacts to take an extra turn, or you can play Krark-Clan Ironworks (which already has another deck it’s played in). Both of these cards can be put into play with Whir of Invention, a card that is quite possibly the glue of this deck. With Ironworks in play, especially on the opponent\s end step, you can sacrifice a Thopter (or any other non-Foundry or Sword artifact) to make 2 mana. Use 1 mana to sacrifice the Sword to The Foundry getting an equipped Thopter, and repeat that process to go infinite. Now you must name a number so I usually name something that can be looked up. Some examples are:
- The distance in whole miles between (whatever store you are at), and the center of the sun in this solar system.
- The amount, in whole dollars, of the United States national debt.
- The total number of losses in the regular season of (insert your favorite sports team here) in their entire history.
Now of course you may want to name an actual number at a larger event, but at FNM these are fun ways to describe how many times the combo you have will go off.
These following cards will either help you obtain your pieces, or protect you from your opponent’s plays. Remember we are not a Control deck so you need to make the right play very often.
- Ensnaring Bridge is part of a Prison lock where you prevent your opponent from attacking you. Most of your cards will be on the battlefield as you assemble your artifacts, and for most opponents they will be going the same. This leaves you few cards in hand to hold on to, and this is where the bridge shines. Locking your opponent out of attacking you keeps you alive long enough to enable your plan. Keep in mind this card has a target on it’s head, and it’s not unheard of to increase the number of Welding Jar in the main deck to counter any artifact destruction you may see.
- Collective Brutality is a card that sees extensive play in both Modern, and even in Legacy. This card not only allows you to strip your opponent of artifact hate (as long as it’s an instant or sorcery), but is also good against aggro (especially Burn). Sometimes the 2 life swing will be beneficial to you, and this also helps you discard cards to keep a low hand count for your bridge to be useful.
- Serum Visions is a card I have been back and forth with for a while. Not only does it fit the theme of the deck, however more often than not you will have untapped Blue mana on turn 1 as opposed to Black. This card is also better late game than an Inquisition of Kozilek, and may even find you part of your combo.
Another card key to the deck is Fatal Push. While it’s primary use will be to stave off aggro long enough to have a low hand count with a bridge in play keep in mind you can get the Revolt trigger from this card by using the Sword of the Meek + Thopter Foundry combo. This allows you to deal with creatures larger than a 2-mana cost which could help depending on your opponent.
In the sideboard we have a few cards to deal with key matchups.
- Herald of Anguish is a quick clock that can be landed early, and get around Stony Silence. Keep in mind that Ensnaring Bridge will prevent you from attacking if you have less than 5 cards in hand. It’s ability to sacrifice other artifacts to use as spot removal is also good.
- Witchbane Orb protects you from any sort of discard spells, and is helpful vs Storm decks as well as Valakut decks. This also can be brought in instant speed with the help of Whir of Invention. Did I mention how awesome that card is yet?
- Abrupt Decay is the reason we splash Green. Along with Maelstrom Pulse, and Golgari Charm they can answer a number of threats primarily enchantments. However in a punch the later two cards can deal with tokens that can often times get through a bridge.
Other cards in the board include Damnation. Although only a one of this keeps the board clear of pesky creatures, and can be a good catch up card. I still only recommend one though as you would have too many 4-mana cost cards in the deck.
Some other choices could include:
- Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver: Being a cheaper planeswalker than Tezzeret you can deploy this behind a bridge, and win when the opponent is locking out your artifacts with Stony Silence.
- Battle At The Bridge: Perhaps a better removal spell for the deck due to the Improvise mechanic, and the -X/-X it does. The life gain could also be big.
- Chalice of the Void: This card along with Leyline of the Void could help with the Prison aspect of the deck, however it would dedicate a lot of slots. Keep in mind your 1-mana artifacts can be put into play via Whir of Invention even when you have a Chalice on 1 in play.
Why should you play the deck?
- Assembling a bunch of non-creature artifacts to win in one turn sounds like fun.
- You’re not a fan of creature based strategies, and locking them out from attacking sounds like a good time.
- You want to catch your friends off guard with something different.
Why should you not play this deck?
- Tier 1 decks may only be of interest to you. Nothing wrong with that.
- The deck feels clunky to you, and some hands don’t provide a clear path.
- You don’t like assembling complicated combo decks regardless of the deck’s construction.
Overall this strategy can provide different avenues to victory. What do you think of the deck? Have you played against it before, or have it yourself? What tips would you provide others? Please share your thoughts below, and make sure to follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter. Also don’t forget to check out Die Krupps, because they are awesome.
Until next time, where I talk about the current Modern banned list…
TAP MORE MANA!!!
Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.