Daily Digest: Improvisational Dramedy

Why did Ornithopter become Ross Merriam’s mortal enemy? He can’t remember, but that’s not stopping him from showcasing a U/R Improvise deck that’s pushing Ornithopter to its Standard-legal limits!

I’m going to get this out of the way right at the start: Ornithopter and I do not like each other. Every time I put it in my deck, it shows up on turn 7 and not on turn 1, and Ornithopter is a lot better on turn 1 than on turn 7. I don’t know if I did something to it years ago that I no longer remember, but there’s some beef there.

That being said, I can never get away from an aggressive deck trying to cheat on mana to the point where it actively wants free spells that offer little to no value from their text boxes. Turn 1 Inventor’s Goggles plus Ornithopter leads to turn 2 Sweatworks Brawler, equip on the trigger for a 4/5 menace creature. That’s Modern-level power, albeit for a lot more work. And if they find a removal spell for your Brawler, you can suit up the flier and bash for one. There’s no greater feeling in Magic than pecking your opponent to death with a card they scoffed at as it entered the battlefield and were too proud to “waste” a removal spell on earlier in the game.

With eighteen improvise cards in total, Ornithopter and Bone Saw are as close to Moxes as you’re going to get in Standard in this deck, which makes them a lot more appealing than an 0/2 flier and a reverse Shuko. Once you start casting undercosted threats and near-Ancestral Recalls, the idea of having some stinkers in your deck becomes a lot more palatable.

The real question is whether Improvise as a mechanic can ever even approximate the level of brokenness that was affinity. Affinity snowballed by letting you leverage your artifacts for multiple spells in one turn, which Improvise wisely stops. You’ll have to live with only one mana a turn from your zero-mana artifacts like the rest of the Vintage community. Are some efficient bodies and a nice Mana Leak variant enough of a payoff to warrant the devastating reality of drawing Ornithopter on a key turn and trying to hold it in as you vomit in your mouth?

Despite my experiences with the card, history has proven Ornithopter’s worth–albeit mainly as a vindication of the power of cheap/free spells, but that’s what we’re doing here anyway. So power out your undercosted spells as your opponent wonders how they’re losing to a robotic sky toy. Just be sure to have them in your opening hand and not on the top of your deck when the game gets tight.