Legacy’s Allure – Thoughts on Thopters

Visit the StarCityGames.com booth at Grand Prix Minneapolis
Tuesday, November 10th – This week, Doug considers the possibilities of Thopter Foundry, especially in conjunction with Sword of the Meek, its combo partner. How does this two-card combo that summons more flying dorks than the Wicked Witch stack up in Legacy? Is it worth making a dedicated combination deck with them, or can they be added into existing decks? See suggestions for its use alongside one of the best Planeswalkers printed and one of the worst cards of all time. Get lists, play tips and tech for Thopter Foundry in this week’s Legacy’s Allure!

Thopter Foundry is my new “cute card.” It’s a great little Johnny card for an inexpensive price. Repeatable effects, especially ones that just require a single mana, have great potential for deckbuilding.

The most obvious combination is with Sword of the Meek. Here’s how it works:

Get Thopter Foundry into play.
Sacrifice an artifact to the Foundry (which can be a Sword of the Meek or something else).
The 1/1 Thopter comes into play and triggers the Sword of the Meek’s graveyard ability.
The Sword comes into play and then it attempts to equip to the 1/1 Thopter.
You may then sacrifice the Sword of the Meek to the Thopter Foundry as many times as you want to pay a mana for. The Sword will attach to the last Thopter token.

The functional result is that for X mana, you’ll gain X life and have a 2/3 flier and X-1 1/1 fliers. Not a bad deal! While it costs four mana to set up, the combination gets out of control very quickly and here’s why — token generators and lifegain are both potent in Legacy right now. I found in my tinkering that untapping with the combination in play put me in an unlosable position. Getting to a second full turn of token generation is just unstoppable. It puts the deck operating the Foundry in a position where it can chump block while generating an air force and getting out of burn range.

The setup and execution are easy and the combo is somewhat resistant to graveyard hate. For example, if an opponent wants to stop your combo from continuing, they would remove the Sword of the Meek from the graveyard with its’ “return to the battlefield” trigger on the stack. The best way to play around something like a Tormod’s Crypt is to sacrifice a second non-token artifact when the opponent triggers a graveyard removal card, so that the Sword returns to the battlefield before the effect resolves. Since this obviously requires more artifacts in play, it’s wise to run Sensei’s Divining Top as well. Thopter Foundry makes Top marginally more useful because duplicate Tops can be tapped for a draw and then sacrificed for a token with its ability on the stack, so that you still draw a card but the Top does not go to your deck again.

Legacy is also equipped with many excellent cards for finding and playing the combination. For example, simple draw like Thirst for Knowledge interacts well, especially with Sword of the Meek. I found it was often just better to have the Sword in the graveyard anyway instead of trying to hardcast it, instead cashing in a Sensei’s Divining Top or Chrome Mox to start the engines. There are also dedicated tutors; Enlightened Tutor is on-color and gets either piece. Intuition can grab several copies of the card. I don’t think I would dip into jank like Fabricate, but it’s a possibility. I like the combo enough that I am splashing it into a lot of decks I’m trying out, but it’s not unreasonable to make a dedicated deck for the card. Gifts Ungiven is an excellent starting point, since with all the recursive cards in Legacy, one can get both combo pieces in hand for enough mana. Here is a short list of the cards I’ve been looking at for artifact recursion in conjunction with Intuition and Gifts Ungiven:

Academy Ruins
Trash for Treasure
Goblin Welder
Treasure Hunter
Argivian Find
Argivian Restoration (those Argivians are really industrious)
Mine Excavation
Rootwater Diver
Drafna’s Restoration
Beacon of Unrest

So obviously, the options are vast. The best Gifts pile is probably either Foundry/Sword/Argivian Find/Reconstruction. The slowest pile you’ll have will be Find and Reconstruction, giving you the combination for UUWW2. Six mana is sort of rough, but you can cut costs by using one of the recursive spells on a cheaper artifact like an Engineered Explosives and just sacrifice that instead to get the Sword of the Meek into play. That drops the price of the Gifts pile to WWUU. How cost-effective!

Thopter Foundry Applications for Control

It’s no secret that classical control decks have been underperforming lately. Decks like Landstill cannot get their gameplan working quickly enough to beat the faster decks of the format. Glacial win conditions like Mishra’s Factory take a long time and require the Landstill player to tap out during their turn to attack. The Thopter combo can be slowly played out and then works at instant-speed, meaning the player can hold up Counterspell during an opponent’s turn. Further, the lifegain and blockers from the combo are very relevant because they present an endgame that aggressive decks have a very hard time beating. It reminds me of Kamigawa-era Standard, where tapping out for Keiga, the Tide Star was an excellent play because aggressive decks had a very hard time getting past a 5/5 wall that would steal something on its way out. The Foundry is similar because it effectively stalls attacks while allowing the controller to attack with spare fliers.

Further, Foundry is in the two best colors, whether you think they’re Blue and Black or Blue and White. Both colors bring plenty of potent controlling tools. White gives us Swords to Plowshares, Meddling Mage, Wrath of God, Humility and more, while Black gives Dark Confidant, Thoughtseize, Smother and Extirpate. Together, they give access to Vindicate. I can see the combination going into a control deck that aimed to stall for several turns and then start making a flying army; this strategy would even work well in (nearly) Mono-Blue decks and represents an excellent improvement over the finishers that are usually run. Mono-Blue often runs expensive evaders like Sphinx of Jwar Isle; while potent, they often have to tap out to cast it. Imagine, instead, having to only tap two mana at a time to set up a combination that gains life and undoes everything an opponent has tried to do. All the while, it can represent counters and use disruptive cards like Propaganda or Back to Basics.

Thopter Foundry might also be the edge that Counterbalance decks need to reclaim their fearsome position in the metagame. The cards cost a very relevant two mana for the enchantment and can make up for the time lost in setting up the soft-lock enchantment. I don’t know if it’s good enough to replace Tarmogoyf, but it’s great alongside it. With Sensei’s Divining Top, Ponder and Brainstorm, it’s easy enough to find both pieces and with so much countermagic, resolving and defending the cards is natural too. I found that, with many of my games playing CounterTop decks, I’d lose because I would have one or two creatures, but could not stanch a life loss and got burned out or killed by fliers. The Thopter combo solves both problems.

Thopter Foundry Applications in Affinity

Let’s face it, both combo pieces are lame on their own. Sword of the Meek is laughably below the power level we expect from two-mana equipment, and Thopter Foundry is only as good as what you can feed it. Luckily, Legacy has Affinity, which has ample artifacts and packs cards that get downright scary with Thopter Foundry on its own. In many ways, Thopter Foundry acts as another Arcbound Ravager; it converts dead artifacts directly into damage and makes Disciple of the Vault downright terrifying. Combined with Master of Etherium, the artifact makes a squadron of 2/2 fliers. Spanish Meloku looks on longingly (as he was, accidentally, printed to create 2/2s). Thus, Thopter Foundry makes every artifact drawn into a 1/1 lifegaining flier, which dramatically increases the card quality later in the game for the deck. It doubles the number of artifacts that an Arcbound Ravager can eat, which makes calculating combat math much more challenging for the opponent.

Granted, you do not want to draw multiple Thopter Foundries, and you certainly don’t want to draw multiple Swords, but the nature of them being artifacts means that they’re never truly dead in Affinity. Sword of the Meek can jump onto a Disciple of the Vault or Arcbound Worker to protect them from a burn spell or make Ornithopter a robust blocker. The Foundry really helps the lategame of Affinity, which can suffer when an opponent counters an Arcbound Ravager and kills a Disciple of the Vault and the Affinity player is looking at these awful 2/2s and 4/4s that cannot beat a Tarmogoyf or Knight of the Reliquary. Consider that the Thopter machine can generate blockers to stop big attackers and can grab a Cranial Plating to evade for piles of damage. Getting the Sword combination rolling adds a good combo element to the deck too.

I’m not sure if this is amazing or awful, but it’s a good starting point to consider the power of the combo:

The challenge is that Thopter Foundry needs two colored mana; a Springleaf Drum is often the key to putting the card into play. Since Thopter Foundry is also Blue, it opens up avenues with Force of Will in Affinity, an oft-explored side strategy for the deck.

Tezzeret and Dedicated Combination Decks

Tezzeret the Seeker, the bustiest Planeswalker in Eternal formats, loves this combination. He’ll willingly off himself to grab both sides of it from the deck and can get all sorts of other utility cards like Ensnaring Bridge or Meekstone. Further, Tezzeret can help assemble infinite combos with other artifacts. The two that come to mind are Time Sieve and Ashnod’s Altar. With enough artifacts in play, Time Sieve enables infinite turns; remember that it does not sacrifice itself. Five artifacts — say, five Thopter tokens- can get the Sieve going, and Tezzeret can grab the Sieve if you already have one part of the Sword combo in play.

Ashnod’s Altar can also create another infinity by allowing every Thopter made to create two more, making an arbitrarily large life total and as many fliers as you can count. It’s fetchable with Tezzeret just like Time Sieve and it’s probably better because it doesn’t require so many artifacts or mana to get going. It’s far less cool than infinite turns, however. If you’re playing around with Tezzeret and fear artifact destruction, get the Sword first so that next turn, you can get the Foundry and immediately make a token before passing priority. That way, even if an opponent launches removal at the Foundry, you’ll end up with a 2/3 flier. Thopter Foundry also works well with Carnival of Souls, creating a giant army as well. If you’re really intent on using this card, this is one of the few applications that’s decent and not too Johnny.

The combo has a corner application in Dredge, though it may be more of a curiosity than anything else. One can Dread Return Shauum, The Hegemon to get back a Dredged Foundry and then make Thopters. I don’t know if this is actually better than just getting two Sharuums to bring back each other and die to the Legend rule to make infinite Bridge from Below tokens, another option that nobody plays.

Wrapping Up: Comparisons to Other Combinations

Unfortunately, the Thopter Combo has to match up against many other two-card combos in Legacy. I give it the nod over Painter’s Servant/Grindstone because it doesn’t lose to creature removal. It’s better than Helm of Obedience and Leyline of the Void because it does not require Black and usually will cost much less mana. The Vampire Hexmage/Dark Depths combination is a bit more tricky; the Thopters can easily block Marit Lage all day long, but it costs a bit more mana. I think the most telling thing about Thopters over Flying Dead Gods is that many Extended players with both combinations in their deck favored Thopter Foundry and used the 20/20 as a distraction or a stall. Since Legacy is packed with removal like Swords to Plowshares and Wasteland and HexDepths loses hard to those, the Foundry is probably stronger. Its biggest weakness is artifact removal in the form of Krosan Grip; if you’re relying on the combination, it’s wise to pack something like Academy Ruins postboard to deal with problematic removal.

If you’re playing with Thopter Foundry, you absolutely need cool tokens. StarCityGames.com sells Thopter tokens for the miserly price of fifteen cents, so if you want to look professional, they’re a great option. I’ve been using old Iraq’s Most Wanted poker playing cards, but I’ve also been considering Desert Storm trading cards and Yo! MTV Raps! cards too. Equipping the Sword to Kool Moe Dee and EPMD and attacking has a lot of potential and giving the Sword to the Wu-Tang Clan seems only natural. You can also branch out into G.I. Joe helicopters and postage stamps with planes on them (and if Summer Magic Serendib Efreets bore you, just use Inverted Jennies).

If you’ve got an interesting take on Thopter Foundry decks, send me an email or post in the forums. I’m interested in sharing my decks when they’re better-formed (I move about eight cards in and out every time I test!) and I’d like to see how other tinkerers are approaching the card. I absolutely suggest that you buy sets of both of the cards now; it’ll be popular in Extended and, since Sword is from a third set, it could easily reach three dollars. Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek open so many interesting avenues in Legacy deckbuilding; I’m eager to see how players apply the combo!

Until next week…

Doug Linn

legacysallure at gmail dot com