In recent weeks, we’ve seen Scrap Trawler embed itself into the Modern format as a mainstay of Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo. It’s easy to forget that this card is in Standard—not to mention the suite of other synergy-heavy artifacts that joined us in Kaladesh. With energy stealing the spotlight as the set’s busted headline act, some of the more ridiculous artifact cards kind of faded into the background.
Built around a common core of artifacts and artifact creatures, Construct Tribal decks of all kinds play a strong value game that squeezes even more juice out of the ripe Standard staple that is Walking Ballista. Ballista, alongside Metallic Mimic, Scrap Trawler, and Foundry Inspector all work together to generate more value than an episode of Extreme Couponing, and with a little help, can even go infinite.
Another strong draw to Construct Tribal is just how much it can do with Karn, Scion of Urza. Of course, it’s no secret that Karn is one of the best cards in the format, but being among his robo-people only helps the Karnfather get it done all the more convincingly. Karn’s often overlooked -2 ability is at its best in artifact-heavy lists like Construct Tribal, so you’re getting more bang for your buck when letting Karn off the leash.
Given that the core of the deck is colorless, there are a few different directions that can be taken in rounding out the 75. Rather obviously, the first question I asked was whether it was possible to play Islands and Plains alongside the new robot menace, and happily, yes—yes it is.
White-Blue Construct Tribal
Aside from having an infinite combo—something quite rare for any Standard deck to have—this list is a value-laden engine deck that will slowly but surely pull together an accumulation of tiny edges and bury the opponent. It’s not so much death by a thousand cuts as it is entombing by a thousand specks of dirt.
There are so many tiny interactions that put you ahead by incremental inches until you run away with the game and can’t even see your opponent in the rear view mirror. Most of these interactions are centered on Walking Ballista and Foundry Inspector, and sometimes both. Being able to bring back a Walking Ballista to any and every Scrap Trawler trigger is ridiculous, and casting it for 1 mana with Foundry Inspector is even more disgusting. Enter Metallic Mimic, and you’re now casting your Ballistae for zero.
The infinite combo in this list is a little demanding, but will win the game on the spot if your opponent can’t break it up. All you need is Walking Ballista with two counters, Scrap Trawler, two Foundry Inspectors, Metallic Mimic, and Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle. You shoot your opponent and your Mimic for one each with the Ballista, trigger Trawler on the Ballista, cast Ballista for one (paying zero mana) and trigger Teshar on the Mimic. The cycle then starts again with your Ballista on two counters—an unbeatable six-card combo!
Even without the convoluted infinite combo, the value this deck can generate over a longer game is very difficult to overcome. Even something as innocuous as a Renegade Map can put in some real work—not only fetching basics—Map also triggers Teshar when cast, and triggers Trawler to return a Ballista when sacrificed. Finally, let’s not forget about Karn! This deck can gum up the ground and the air (thanks, Glint-Nest Crane) and keep the Scion of Urza around long enough to pull you ahead.
White-Blue isn’t the only direction to take, however. More than a few pilots have had success with Black-Green “Constructor” in the MTGO Leagues. Given that you’re already playing with +1/+1 counters thanks to your Ballistae and Mimics, why not include Winding Constrictor?
therock988, 5-0 in a Standard Competitive League
The one-two punch of Winding Constrictor and Verdurous Gearhulk has been doing work in Standard for a long time, and here it threatens to be even more impactful thanks to other artifact synergies. Gearhulk costing 4 thanks to Foundry Inspector? Coming down as a 6/6 even without its trigger thanks to Metallic Mimic? Doesn’t seem too bad.
Playing black not only widens your options for removal with Fatal Push, but also enables Scrapheap Scrounger rather than Scrap Trawler for graveyard-based value. Green gives you Llanowar Elves (for which you need a squillion untapped green sources), as well as Adventurous Impulse as something approximating Ponder. And that’s without mentioning the good old Pokedex in the board—Lifecrafter’s Bestiary also helps to keep the action flowing in longer games!
This take on the core of Ballista/Inspector/Mimic is much less grindy than the white-blue version, but will close out games faster with huge, stomping Gearhulk draws. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both have appropriate sideboarding strategies to bolster games two and three (I always love seeing Negate and Duress as sideboard 4-ofs).
Still, the powerful synergies at work in both lists means that this strategy might be a dark horse for the upcoming Pro Tour. While there are quite a number of established dominant archetypes in Standard, you should never be too quick to discount a deck that has an outside chance, especially if it has the element of surprise on its side!