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Budget Magic: $81 (48 tix) Standard UR Thopters

Kamusta Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. This week we are heading to Standard for a deck I've been trying unsuccessfully to make work for months. This week I figured it out, and I'm ready to unveil UR Thopters! There are several powerful "artifacts matter" cards in Standard (e.g. Thopter Spy Network and Ghostfire Blade) and a few good enablers (e.g. Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Hangarback Walker and Whirler Rogue). It feels wrong that no one is taking advantage of these cards, so we are going to rectify the situation! 

In the past, when trying to build UR Thopters I kept running into two problems. First the three most powerful cards in the deck are four-drops, which can lead to some clunky draws. Well, I finally got the mixture right. Second, I tried to build the deck without Hangarback Walker for the sake of staying on budget, and it simply didn't work. Without Hangarback Walker, UR Thopters is severely lacking in early game plays. Alchemist's Vial was the second best two-drop artifact I could find, which didn't fit the definition of playable.  I decided to accept the tax and play with Hangarback Walker. Once I did that, everything came together, and the deck ended up not only super powerful, but extremely fun to play!

Let's get to the videos, then I'll talk more about the deck. A quick reminder. If you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

UR Thopters Intro

UR Thopers vs Esper Tokens

UR Thopters vs Mardu

UR Thopters vs Abzan Rally

UR Thopters vs Narset Control

UR Thopters vs Naya Aggro

The Payoff

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Obviously, building a deck where every creature is either an artifact or produces artifact tokens is a fairly big deck building restriction. Let's start by talking about the payoff. Ghostfire Blade and Thopter Spy Network are the reason we are willing to warp our deck, and both are extremely powerful in their own way. 

Ghostfire Blade is one of the most aggressive equipments ever printed, assuming you always have a colorless creature to equip. It's pretty much Super Bonesplitter, boosting toughness along with power. In our deck, it makes our two-drops aggressive threats and turns our 1/1 Thopters into legitimate ways of closing out the game. The other benefit of Ghostfire Blade is that, unlike our artifact creatures, it's extremely hard to kill. When we play it on turn one, we are more or less guaranteed to trigger Thopter Spy Network in the mid to late game.

Half Bitterblossom, half Joe Biden of Thassa, Thopter Spy Network is an extremely powerful card in a deck that can trigger it consistently. It creates a steady stream of 1/1 flying Thopter tokens which are great at chump blocking and can eventually go on the offensive to close out a game. My favorite thing about Thopter Spy Network is how it puts the opponent in an awkward position. Watching an opponent Ruinous Path, Stasis Snare, and Murderous Cut Thopter tokens in an attempt to keep Thopter Spy Network from triggering is not only hilarious, but game winning. I'm not sure what fraction of a card a 1/1 Thopter token represents, but it is pretty small. When we force our opponent to spend a "real" card to kill one, we come out super far ahead. 

The Creatures

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As I mentioned earlier, I tried my best to build a functioning version of UR Thopters without Hangarback Walker, and I found it was impossible. In the end I bit the bullet, decided that I'd have to accept the fact that Hangarback Walker would double the cost of the deck in paper and quadruple it on Magic Online, and started to win matches. One of the biggest problems with UR Thopters without Hangarback Walker is the lack of good early game plays. Hangarback Walker might be the best two drop in the format. Plus, it fits right in with the artifact theme. I don't want to imaging playing the deck without it. 

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Both of these creatures are filler artifacts. They are necessary because we need artifacts to wear Ghostfire Blade and trigger Thopter Spy Network. Neither is especially good. As an artifact 2/2 for two, Runed Servitor is on curve, but generating card advantage for the opponent when it dies feels bad. It is important to hit four mana in this deck, and Pilgrim's Eye has its uses when searching out our fourth land. Otherwise it's underpowered.   

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When I built the deck, I was lukewarm on Thopter Engineer. After playing a bunch of matches, I learned she is insane in the deck. Having all our artifact creatures enter the battlefield with haste is super powerful, allowing us to attack with Thopter Spy Network tokens or level up our Hangarback Walker immediately. She's key to beating planeswalkers since we can play a Pia and Kiran Nalaar or Whirler Rogue, equip one of the Thopter tokens with a Ghostfire Blade and kill a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar out of nowhere. 

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Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Whirler Rogue are interchangeable in our deck. While Pia and Kiran Nalaar is generally the more powerful of the two since the couple gives us reach, we are only playing two copies in the deck. First, we are overloaded in the four-drop slot, so something had to go. Second, they're legendary. Given that we are already prone to clunkiness thanks to drawing too many four drops, drawing multiple copies of Pia and Kiran Nalaar wasn't an option.

Whirler Rogue is usually worse than Pia and Kiran Nalaar, but not by much. Making a creature that's wearing a Ghostfire Blade unblockable is almost as good as sacrificing an artifact for two damage, and we don't have to worry about the legendary drawback. 


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Fiery Impulse is a concession to all the powerful early game plays in the format like Atarka Red, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and opposing Hangarback Walkers. It's pretty much the best way to kill something on turn one or turn two, and having answers in the early game is important since our plan is to throw hay makers on turn four.

Reality Shift is a really sweet card. Our deck has a really hard time answering big and hard to interact with threats like Dragonlord Ojutai and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Reality Shift gives us an answer. While it's horrible against early game creatures, turning an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger into a 2/2 at instant speed is a pretty good deal. It also provides an instant speed answer to the Temur Battle Rage / Become Immense combo. Basically, in 80% of situations Reality Shift is horrible, but in the other 20% it saves us in a way no other Blue or Red card in the format could.

Finally, let me tell you a story about Ghirapur Aether Grid. This is the card that got me thinking about building an artifact deck in the first place. My plan was to play every zero and one mana cost artifact in the format, four copies of Ghirapur Aether Grid and four copies of Molten Nursery to "combo off." I ran jank like Bone Saw and Keeper of the Lens. Then we could play Displacement Waveto bounce all the artifacts back to our hand and trigger our enchantments again. I played a few matches with it, and while the idea was cool, the deck was far more Against the Odds than Budget Magic. Here's the list.

Anyway, I ended up keeping a single copy of the enchantment in the main deck because it's a great way to kill tokens. It also gives control decks fits.


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Not much to see here. If I'm building a Blue deck, I will almost always have some number of counter spells. We are slightly weighted towards Disdainful Stroke because Siege Rhino is a really annoying card for our deck to deal with. Mr. Rhino tramples over our Thopters and survives most of our removal. Otherwise, these counter spells are just a bunch of generic answers with no real specific purpose.

Ultra-Budget UR Thopers

Unfortunately, it is pretty hard to make an ultra budget version of UR Thopters. The only expensive card in the deck is Hangarback Walker, and I've tried for months to make the deck work without the two-drop. I couldn't. While I think you could play this version at an FNM, and possibly win some games, getting copies of Hangarback Walker should be your top priority. 

Post Oath of the Gatewatch Jeskai Thopters

Oath of the Gatewatch brings some really interesting options to the deck. First, we get the UR creatureland Wandering Fumerole, which is a huge improvement over Swiftwater Cliffs. Secondly, we get another potentially powerful equipment in Stoneforge Masterwork, which offers a way to turn a bunch of Thopter tokens into huge, game ending threats. Finally, while I'm not sure she's good enough, Weapons Trainer seems that it is at least worth testing. Turning all our Thopters into 2/1's offers a way to close out games much quicker and makes trading much more profitable. 


Anyway, that's all for today. I had a blast playing the deck this week. It was competitive even when we were going up against tier one decks. I definitely recommend giving it a try. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestion in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 




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