The Izzet Thopter deck that Team ChannelFireball and Face-to-Face piloted at Pro Tour Magic Origins is one of my favorite of all time, so I’ll take any opportunity to highlight a new spin on the archetype.
Ensoul Artifact is a powerhouse, and we’re about to see a similar card in Standard thanks to Aether Revolt’s Tezzeret’s Touch. While the new version is “safer” in that you can get the artifact back if it’s killed, Ensoul is still king thanks to the mana cost. For just 2 mana, you’re getting a 5/5 creature with virtual haste. On a Darksteel Citadel, it will be indestructible. Enchant a flying creature, and you build a Dragon.
Hangarback Walker was another major player in that Standard deck. It was cheap to cast early for just a 2-mana investment that would continue to grow. The counters on the Walker would count along with the Ensoul, so a turn-3 enchantment on the Walker would make it a 6/6 creature. The popular removal spells in the format include burn, Murderous Cut, and soon Fatal Push, which don’t interact very well with Hangarback. Other cards that combo well with the Walker are ones that can pump Thopters, or any way to sacrifice the Hangarback for tokens.
Ghostfire Blade is a big-time enabler for this deck. A single mana to cast and a single mana to equip for a massive power and toughness bonus makes your artifact creatures tough to deal with. This added speed and sustained extra damage with evasion creatures is critical to the deck’s success.
U/R Thopter decks have a ton of reach, and the bulk of that comes from Shrapnel Blast. While the Blast can sacrifice any artifact on the board to deal 5, the combination with Hangarback Walker is the most effective. Any way you slice it, this is a 5-damage burn spell at instant speed that can target both creatures and players. Combined with Lightning Strikes and Wild Slash, U/R Thopters has the ability to burn people out from double-digit life totals without needing many cards or mana.
Thopter producers are going to be quite strong in this deck. Thopter Engineer and Pia and Kiran Nalaar are at the top of the list, but there are plenty more that should be tested. Pia Nalaar may have what it takes, but Maverick Thopterist definitely seems worth a try once Aether Revolt is released. Being able to use your Ghostfire Blades and other Thopters to help cast this for cheap sounds exciting to me, but all of the Thopter producers have their own strengths and weaknesses to consider.
Another big benefit to Thopter production is the ease with which you’ll turn on Smuggler’s Copter. With its recent banning in Standard, this is the perfect format to dust them off for, and I don’t think I need to tell you just how dominant this card is.
The early creatures and pressure come from Inventor’s Apprentice and Ornithopter. Ornithopter may not seem like the most intimidating aggro creature, but with Ghostfire Blades to play and equip turn 2 or Ensoul Artifact to create a 5/5 flying creature with haste turn 2, Ornithopter ends up looking impressive.
There are lots of great artifacts available, and only more with Aether Revolt soon to be released. While this deck can’t take advantage of the powerful delve spells of the format or Collected Company, it has great speed and reach that can punish opponents for being too slow or tapping out.