Let's Build an Engine

9 min read

One of the most powerful things that can be done in Magic is playing a deck based around an “engine” of some sort.  In Legacy, we see how [mtg_card]Counterbalance[/mtg_card] + [mtg_card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/mtg_card] can lock entire decks out as early as turn two.  Looking at Modern, we have [mtg_card]Urza’s Mine[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Urza’s Tower[/mtg_card], and [mtg_card]Urza’s Powerplant[/mtg_card] combining to give you seven mana as early as turn three.  Lantern Control, Astral Slide, Birthing Pod, and Elves are some other decks built around different “engines”. In practice, the best engines will have multiple redundant pieces and synergies, while avoiding cards that are bad on their own. There are some similar engines in Standard that I think could potentially see play,  not to mention the “engine” style of deck is by far my favorite way to play magic.  We’re supposed to be inventors right?  What better invention than the engine?

“I know you have a conscience because you are an inventor like me” – fellow inventor Mark Wahlberg in the classic movie Transformers: Age of Extinction

Engine # 1 : Scrap Trawler + Walking Ballista + Artifacts that sacrifice themselves

So the idea is that once you have a [mtg_card]Walking Ballista[/mtg_card] in the graveyard and a [mtg_card]Scrap Trawler[/mtg_card] on the battlefield, every time you crack, say an [mtg_card]Implement of Combustion[/mtg_card], you draw a card and get the [mtg_card]Walking Ballista [/mtg_card]back.  You can then replay it until you have killed off your opponents board.  Once they succumb to this engine, [mtg_card]Walking Ballista[/mtg_card] can start going to the face. Here’s an example decklist I’ve been working on.

BR Implement Control – Nick Peternell – Test deck

Creatures (12)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Sly Requisitioner[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Scrap Trawler[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Walking Ballista[/mtg_card]

Noncreatures (28)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Renegade Map[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Implement of Combustion[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Implement of Malice[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Terrarion[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Unlicensed Disintegation[/mtg_card]
  • 4[mtg_card] Fatal Push[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Pia’s Revolution[/mtg_card]

Lands (20)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Smoldering Marsh[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Foreboding Ruins[/mtg_card]
  • 6 [mtg_card]Swamp[/mtg_card]
  • 6 [mtg_card]Mountain[/mtg_card]

There’s some other good stuff going on in this list that is worth noting, first up is the interaction with [mtg_card]Sly Requisitioner[/mtg_card] and the rest of the deck. Every time we cycle an Implement or use up a Ballista we’re generating a servo. Untapping with Requisitioner can very quickly mean 3-5 tokens, buying us more time and keeping the engine gassed up.

[mtg_card]Pia’s Revolution[/mtg_card] also shines in a list like this. At first, this deck looks a bit like a control deck. It doesn’t do very much other than draw cards and kill creatures.  However, with Pia’s Revoltion we can actually close games out fairly quickly.  Your opponent can only afford to give you back [mtg_card]Implement of Malice[/mtg_card] so many times before life total is an issue or they’re out of cards. True, they get to pick the best case scenario, but the redundancy of the pieces means they are only delaying the inevitable.

In a meta of Mardu Vehicles I think this deck actually has some legs.   It’s great at killing small creatures.  It’s also fairly good against CopyCat decks because of the Implements.  [mtg_card]Implement of Malice[/mtg_card] can disrupt their hand and [mtg_card]Implement of Combustion[/mtg_card] prevents the combo from working. It has some problematic matchups against GB Aggro and dedicated [mtg_card]Torrential Gearhulk[/mtg_card] control though, which means that it’s a tough sell in the current metagame. It’s doing something fairly powerful though and is worth keeping in mind.  Decks like this can thrive in the perfect metagame, ESPECIALLY when nobody expects a deck like this and/or knows how to play against it.

Engine # 2 : Renegade Rallier + Sinister Concoction

How this idea works is fairly simple. [mtg_card]Sinister Concoction[/mtg_card] triggers Revolt, which lets [mtg_card]Renegade Rallier[/mtg_card] get back Concoction for a repeatable removal spell.  Repeatable, unconditional removal is something that isn’t really allowed by RnD anymore, but this gets us fairly close to that.  This starts looking even better once we pile on some other synergistic cards. My next deck I’m going to use to highlight this borrows some ideas from the RB deck, but with some different synergies.

Abzan Revolt – Nick Peternell – Test deck

Creatures (12)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Renegade Rallier[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Restoration Specialis[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Vengeful Rebel[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Walking Ballista[/mtg_card]

Noncreatures (24)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Sinister Concoction[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Hidden Stockpile[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Implement of Malice[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Renegade Map[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Thopter Arrest[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Vessel of Nascency[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Quarantine Field[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Ajani Unyielding[/mtg_card]

Lands (22)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Blooming Marsh[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Concealed Courtyard[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Evolving Wilds[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Forest[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Canopy Vista[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Swamp[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Plains[/mtg_card]

Sideboard (15)

  • 3 [mtg_card]Fatal Push[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Fumigate[/mtg_card]
  • 3 [mtg_card]Vessel of Malignity[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Transgress the Mind[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Natural State[/mtg_card]
  • 1 [mtg_card]Vengeful Rebel[/mtg_card]

The other engines in this deck aren’t necessarily two or three card “engines”, but cards that just synergize with the rest of the deck. [mtg_card]Restoration Specialist[/mtg_card] can buy back [mtg_card]Sinister Concoction[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Vessel of Nascency[/mtg_card], and an [mtg_card]Implement of Malice[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Walking Ballista[/mtg_card], while also triggering Revolt. Restoration Specialist reminds me of [mtg_card]Eternal Witness[/mtg_card], and is a card that I believe is underplayed.  If the deck is built correctly it can be even better than an EWitness, sometimes being a 3-for-1.  Oh, and Renegade Rallier can get it back for the extreme trip to value town.

[mtg_card]Hidden Stockpile[/mtg_card] is virtually a 1 card engine.  It asks a lot from a deck building perspective but can act in a very similar fashion to the classic [mtg_card]Bitterblossom[/mtg_card].  The best start for this deck is turn 1 [mtg_card]Renegade Map[/mtg_card]  into turn 2 [mtg_card]Hidden Stockpile[/mtg_card] with revolt.  From there it can trigger revolt by itself or from any of the enablers in the deck.  It’s a 2 CMC enchantment so it plays perfectly with Restoration Specialist and Renegade Rallier.

[mtg_card]Vessel of Nascency[/mtg_card] is worth noting as an enabler for every other engine in the deck.  A 1 CMC enchantment that triggers Revolt and finds other pieces and fills the yard is just fine. [mtg_card]Vessel of Malignity[/mtg_card] on the other hand is a, [mtg_card]Mind Rot[/mtg_card] variant that comes out of the board to combine with [mtg_card]Implement of Malice[/mtg_card] to shred the hand of our opponents. Both can be brought back with Specialist and Rallier. Whoa! Can you feel all that synergy?

I also just want to note how absurd [mtg_card]Ajani Unyielding[/mtg_card] is in this deck.  with a whopping 39 non land permanents to hit Ajani will almost always draw multiple cards with each activation. It’s very difficult to lose the game if you untap with him.

This deck has game against a wide variety of decks and I’m actually looking to take it to a tournament this weekend.  It has the best matchup against control I’ve seen yet. It struggles against Mardu Vehicles and has an even matchup against GB, so as far as the metagame wheel goes, it lines up pretty well.  As a rogue deck it enjoys a few additional percentage points because it’s difficult to play against and opponents won’t necessarily know what to prioritize when playing against it.

Engine # 3 : Call the Bloodline + Ghirapur Orrery

This is an engine I’ve been trying to make work for a long time now to reasonable success.  I’ve had this floating around since Kaladesh released, but I’ve only recently revisited it with Aether Revolt.  The idea is that if you have both [mtg_card]Call the Bloodline[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Ghirapur Orrery[/mtg_card], the worst you turn can possibly have is to make 2 lifelink vampires, one on each turn.  You can potentially start playing [mtg_card]Ancestral Recall[/mtg_card] on turn 5!  Removal coupled with Madness creatures, and this deck can overwhelm the opponent with card advantage. Here’s a sample list that I’ve been playing on MTGO to some pretty healthy success.

Mono Black Orrery – Nick Peternell – Test deck

Creatures (16)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Stromkirk Condemned[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Heir of Falkenrath[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Voldaren Pariah[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Asylum Visitor[/mtg_card]

Noncreatures (19)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Fatal Push[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Ghirapur Orrery[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Call the Bloodline[/mtg_card]
  • 3 [mtg_card]Gisa’s Bidding[/mtg_card]
  • 3 [mtg_card]Grasp of Darkness[/mtg_card]
  • 1 [mtg_card]From Under the Floorboards[/mtg_card]

Land (25)

  • 25 Swamp

Sideboard (15)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Gifted Aetherborn[/mtg_card]
  • 3 [mtg_card]Transgress the Mind[/mtg_card]
  • 3 [mtg_card]Lost Legacy[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Ruinous Path[/mtg_card]
  • 1 [mtg_card]Liliana, the Last Hope[/mtg_card]

This deck uses cards that you might not even draft, but you shouldn’t underestimate the different things that it’s doing.  It’s very easy to say that this is just another rehash of the already failed attempt at building Standard Vampires. I’ll say that this deck plays much closer to Mono Black Devotion than BR Vampires.

The removal and card draw suite gives it a huge edge in fair matchups.  Control decks sometimes just lose the game on turn 2 to Call the Bloodline and GB can’t beat Voldaren Pariah and Call the Bloodline.  The Mardu Vehicles matchup is a little sketchier but still very very winnable.  The only really bad matchup for this deck, I feel, is Marvel. The other iffy matchup is the 4 Color Saheeli deck, where we can sometimes fall behind to their card advantage.  Still, this deck is well positioned and consistent.  I would highly recommend giving this engine a test drive before brushing it off.

I’ve looked at splashing with this deck to decent results, but the mana is very difficult. Many of the spells are double and even triple black.  It also is very interested in curving out and casting its spells on time.  Allied colors in particular have given me troubles with the mana.  Still, here are some variants on this engine with different splashes:

GB Orrery – Nick Peternell – Test deck

Creatures (18)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Tireless Tracker[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Noose Constrictor[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Voldaren Pariah[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Asylum Visitor[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]The Gitrog Monster[/mtg_card]

Noncreatures (17)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Ghirapur Orrery[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Call the Bloodline[/mtg_card]
  • 3 [mtg_card]Grasp of Darkness[/mtg_card]
  • 3 [mtg_card]Fatal Push[/mtg_card]
  • 3 [mtg_card]Crawling Sensation[/mtg_card]

Lands (25)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Hissing Quagmire[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Blooming Marsh[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Evolving Wilds[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Forest[/mtg_card]
  • 11 [mtg_card]Swamp[/mtg_card]

Green gives us a couple of upgrades that pull us away from the Vampire paradigm. [mtg_card]Noose Constrictor[/mtg_card] is a great card that hasn’t had a home for a while. [mtg_card]Tireless Tracker[/mtg_card] is a proven commodity that plays extremely well with [mtg_card]The Gitrog Monster[/mtg_card] and Ghirapur Orrery.

There is also an additional synergy in this deck I’d like to talk about: [mtg_card]Crawling Sensation[/mtg_card] plays extremely well with [mtg_card]Call the Bloodline[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]The Gitrog Monster[/mtg_card]. This can often pump out 4 tokens a turn cycle and draw an absurd amount of cards.

UB Orrery – Nick Peternell – Test deck

Creatures (22)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Prized Amalgam[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Scrapheap Scrounger[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Haunted Dead[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Cryptbreaker[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Voldaren Pariah[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Elder Deep-Fiend[/mtg_card]

Noncreatures (14)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Fatal Push[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Call the Bloodline[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Ghirapur Orrery[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Just the Wind[/mtg_card]

Lands (24)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Choked Estuary[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Sunken Hollow[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Submerged Boneyard[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Island[/mtg_card]
  • 10 [mtg_card]Swamp[/mtg_card]

Blue gives us the Zombie package we’re all familiar with by now, and Elder Deep-Fiend. This version is more “generically” good and uses some already established engines as being viable. If you’re just trying to dip your feet into what Ghirapur Orrery can do, I’d start here.  I love the start of a turn two Call the Bloodline into a turn three, pitch Haunted Dead to Call the Bloodline and activate.

RB Orrery – Nick Peternell – Test deck

Creatures (20)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Bloodhall Priest[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Heir of Falkenrath[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Stromkirk Condemned[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Asylum Visitor[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Voldaren Pariah[/mtg_card]

Noncreatures (15)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Fiery Temper[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Call the Bloodline[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Ghirapur Orrery[/mtg_card]
  • 3 [mtg_card]Grasp of Darkness[/mtg_card]

Lands (25)

  • 4 [mtg_card]Cinder Barrens[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Smoldering Marsh[/mtg_card]
  • 4 [mtg_card]Foreboding Ruins[/mtg_card]
  • 2 [mtg_card]Mountain[/mtg_card]
  • 11 [mtg_card]Swamp[/mtg_card]

BR Gives us a more aggressive leaning strategy with some solid burn.  I like this version a lot too because of the side boarding options we get with things like Chandra and Release the Gremlins.  Bloodhall Priest is great here because we are so incentivised to drop our hand.  It’s great on curve and as a draw off of Orrery.  The mana is tough, but on raw power level alone I think the deck is there.

I hope you enjoyed my foray into the build around engines of Kaladesh Block. These decks are certainly FNM ready and a few of them might not be too far off from something greater.  Let us know what you think, and thank you for reading!

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