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Whirring for Wins in Modern

Hello friends! Today I want to talk about two of my favorite decks in Modern, both of which are themed around Whir of Invention and a sweet toolbox of artifacts. I have a strong feeling that Whir of Invention will become a powerful contender in older formats, Modern and Legacy included. It does something unique that hasn't really been seen outside of really old cards like Transmute Artifact.

Lantern Control - Whir Edition

Let's start with one of my favorite decks: Lantern Control. I toyed with the idea of running Whir of Invention in Lantern some time ago but never could get it off the ground. Part of the problem was that I still wanted to use cards like Abrupt Decay in a manabase that needed three blue sources of mana by turn 3. I was also trying to play with multiple Inventors' Fairs and Academy Ruins because those lands are so powerful. All of this proved to be too difficult at the time which forced me to set aside this project. Recently however, I have been noticing other players having quite a lot of success with this version of the deck. Take a look at this:

I want to point out how important the mana base is for this deck. Of the 18 lands, only two of them don't make blue mana. Combine this with the four Mox Opals that the deck is running and we have a total of 20 cards that produce blue mana. Real quick percentage math tells us we'll have three cards that make blue mana by the time we reach 9-10 cards into our deck, which is the exact time we want to be casting Whir of Invention.

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So what's so important about this Whir of Invention card that we need to completely adjust our mana base to accommodate? One of the clear advantages to running Whirs is the ability to tutor for either of Lantern Control's two combo pieces: Lantern of Insight or Ensnaring Bridge. Both of these cards are crucial to the deck's primary goal of setting up a lock. Playing with Whirs essentially gives us additional copies of these cards on command. The second advantage to playing with Whir of Invention is being able to search up important utility artifacts. This functions similar to Chord of Calling in existing Modern decks like Counters Company or Elves, where they have a handful of 1-of creatures in the sideboard to tutor for in important matchups. With Lantern, we gain access to some powerful artifact tools listed below.

Witchbane Orb - Helps against Burn, Titanshift, Storm, Eldrazi Tron, Dredge, and any deck running Liliana of the Veil.
Grafdigger's Cage - Helps against Dredge, Storm, Counters Company, and most decks running Snapcaster Mage.
Engineered Explosives - While whirring for this won't get you sunburst counters, it's an important inclusion as a way to fight back against Chalice of the Void.

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Being able to main deck a card like Witchbane Orb is incredibly powerful in today's Modern metagame. Typically most decks try to win by attacking with creatures, which we already have Ensnaring Bridge to stop. For decks that win through other methods, such as direct damage, the orb will stop all of it. This helps secure one of the small holes that Lantern Control has suffered from for quite a while. There was a time where many Lantern pilots were running main deck Leyline of Sanctity because having hexproof was too important in any number of matchups. Having hexproof shuts down Conflagrate, Grapeshot, Gifts Ungiven, most burn spells like Boros Charm, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Walking Ballista and Endbringer from Eldrazi Tron, Liliana of the Veil's ultimate, and many more not-so-common cards like Shaman of the Pack and Hurkyl's Recall. The list goes on and on.

Going back to the utility that Whir of Invention offers, there's another common card played in Lantern that gains a huge bonus: Pithing Needle. Needle has been a common inclusion in almost every iteration of Lantern Control since it's inception as a deck. The primary use for the card is to answer otherwise difficult to stop abilities from planeswalkers, lands, or any other permanent. Usually it was easy to identify what card you wanted to name with Pithing Needle because you understood what deck your opponent was playing and that you wanted to stop their Karn Liberated from working before they got to cast it. 

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With the inclusion of Whir of Invention, we can now summon the needle from our deck at instant speed with the problematic card on the stack. For example, if our opponent casts Vizier of Remedies with a Devoted Druid already on the battlefield, we can respond by casting Whir of Invention to search up Pithing Needle, name the druid, and stop it from using its untap ability. Another small trick you can do is to Whir for more than just one mana to trick your opponent that you're searching for something when in reality you're wanting something else. If you Whir for X=3, you can still get any card that costs less such as Pithing Needle. This often can surprise opponents who will allow Whir to resolve instead of countering it or activating their Ghost Quarter, not realizing you plan to grab a needle to save your Academy Ruins from the Ghost Quarter.

There is definitely a lot of power to be gained by transforming the more standard GB Lantern Control deck into a more blue-based version that can use Whir of Invention. Looking at the list again, there also appears to be only one green card: Ancient Stirrings. This card has played an important role in Lantern Control as a way to consistently find the important lock pieces in Lantern of Insight and Ensnaring Bridge. It's important enough that it's included in the deck even though it's the only card of its color. This is probably one of the biggest reasons that I believe the Whir of Invention build of Lantern is here to stay; it strengthens the deck's ability to assemble the lock quickly and consistently. Both of these factors are important for a deck to have in order to survive in today's diverse and somewhat hostile Modern format.

UB Tezzerator - Thopter Combo

Next up is another sweet deck that I've had the pleasure of playing on a few different occasions. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is easily in my Top 3 most favorite planeswalkers to play with. Partly because I just love artifacts and partly because of how satisfying it is to beat down with a 5/5 Mishra's Bauble. Most Modern lists that aim to take advantage of the value from Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas are decks that focus on being Midrange or Control. The list that I've been working on most recently is more of a Combo deck aiming to win with Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek. Take a look:

The primary goal of this deck is to assemble the two card combo in Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek to generate a ton of 1/1 flying thopters, while gaining some life. In short, you spend 1 mana to sacrifice the sword to the foundry's ability. This creates a 1/1 thopter, which in turn triggers the sword in your graveyard to come back to the battlefield. It's not an infinite combo, as you have to spend a mana for each thopter you want to create, but it is an extremely powerful setup. Most creature based decks in Modern have a very hard time beating an onslaught of thopters as well as all the incremental lifegain you get along with them. With my version of the deck, I included a single copy of Krark-Clan Ironworks to allow you to go “infinite.” After you make the first thopter, you can sacrifice that thopter for 2 mana. This mana creates two more thopters and with each one of those you can sacrifice for 2 mana, a total of 4 mana gain. Repeat this process any number of times for an arbitrarily large amount of colorless mana, thopters, and life.

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In older versions of Tezzeret decks, this combo would eventually assemble itself overtime either by naturally drawing the two cards needed or by using Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas's +1 ability to find them. Assembling the combo now becomes much easier to set up thanks to our friend Whir of Invention. Similar to Lantern Control, we can whir for either half of the combo piece that we are missing, or if we already have both ready to go then we can grab the Krark-Clan Ironworks to go infinite. I've also included a single copy of Tezzeret the Seeker to serve as Whir of Invention number five. It tutors any of the three combo pieces as well as important defense cards such as Ensnaring Bridge. While playing both Tezzeret the Seeker and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas in the same deck was something that was usually avoided because of the “planeswalker uniqueness rule,” that rule is long gone, meaning we can have both of these planeswalkers on the battlefield at the same time.

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Part of the deck building challenge of wanting to play with Whir of Invention is the requirement of needing the deck to be composed of quite a few artifacts. We want a lot of cheap artifacts to put into play early so that we can improvise off of them later. Mishra's Bauble and Mox Opal are obvious inclusions because even without metalcraft they still help pay for the cost of casting Whir of Invention. To add to this, Pentad Prism works really well with whir as you can remove the two sunburst counters for mana and tap the artifact itself for improvise, providing a total of three mana to fuel the tutor. The prism also can help cast either Tezzeret as early as turn 3!

While this Tezzerator deck is still in development, I definitely want to spend some more time toying around with it. Whir of Invention is a powerful tool to be used in Modern and likely has the potential to be very good. It improves upon the consistency of artifact-themed combo decks as well as offers a backup plan of grabbing an Ensnaring Bridge to stall for a bit or a Witchbane Orb to go full defense mode.

Which Will You Choose?

As always, I hope you enjoyed reading about these two interesting Modern decks that have caught my eye. I'm always looking to innovation when I see potential, and I definitely see it waiting to be set loose in Whir of Invention. If you've had success brewing with Whir let me know! Feel free to leave a comment or reach out on Twitter @UTDZac.

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