Here we are, once again in the world where Core Sets exist in Standard. The card I'm going to be talking about today is one I think is very strong and will definitely see Standard play. When given a card to preview sometimes it is unclear just how great it will be, but with this one, there is so much synergy with cards that already exist in Standard there's not much question.

This clearly wants to be in a deck with lots of artifacts, preferably artifact spells rather than cards like Servo Exhibition that simply create artifacts, so you can maximize your triggers. It is going to be very easy to make this card insane in a deck with lots of artifacts because you can always cash in excess tokens or cheap artifacts to draw cards. An army of Thopters can become a very good way to close out games.

As a three-mana creature that has a significant impact on the game, you would expect that Sai, Master Thopterist would be easy to kill. But if you thought that, you are wrong. The best deck in Standard right now is Red Aggro, and they play lots of removal that deals three damage, while this creature has four toughness. You can make the argument that a bunch of Thopters don't match up well against Goblin Chainwhirler, and while this is true you can work around it. The fact that you can convert Thopters into cards means that it isn't necessary to go wide against red decks, you can instead use the Thopters more as card advantage.

Sai, Master Thopterist also doesn't die to Cast Down, or a Fatal Push without revolt, so it is surprisingly difficult to answer. Even if the opponent does have a removal spell for Sai, Master Thopterist, that is often going to be fine. When playing Sai, Master Thopterist simply hold priority and cast an artifact out of your hand to net a Thopter even through an immediate piece of spot removal. Sai, Master Thopterist, also happens to be historic, which could be relevant depending on what deck this fits into.

The card I see being best friends with Sai, Master Thopterist is Mox Amber. Mox Amber hasn't seen a ton of Standard play yet, but it certainly could, as the power level is there. Mox Amber is also very much a synergy card that needs other legendary creatures alongside it. Sai, Master Thopterist makes a ton of sense alongside Mox Amber because you can play Sai, Master Thopterist followed by Mox Amber to both make mana, and generate a thopter. In addition, you can play this in a deck with four Mox Ambers, and when drawing multiple Mox Ambers you can sacrifice the first one to Sai, Master Thopterist.

Sai in Paradoxical Outcome

Perhaps the single deck that already exists in Standard that Sai most easily into is Mono-Blue Paradoxical Outcome. This is a fringe deck at the moment but has seen some success, and is definitely very sweet. We have seen the strategy do some absurd things in Vintage, so why can't that happen in Standard too? Here is a recent 5-0 list from a league on Magic Online.

This deck wins with Aetherflux Reservoir, and while that's not easy Inspiring Statuary helps you have a ton of mana at will to convert Thopters made with Sai into excess mana. The idea is that once getting a bunch of artifacts onto the battlefield, it becomes possible to go off in a single turn with Paradoxical Outcome by drawing lots of cards and then replaying all the artifacts returned to your hand.

While Paradoxical Outcome can't return the Thopters to your hand, a single copy of Inspiring Statuary should provide enough mana so that you can sacrifice the Thopters and get value that way. The deck also doesn't need to rely as heavily on Aetherflux Reservoir, since the Thopters can provide a backdoor way to win. These cards do work really nicely together, and Sai, Master Thopterist also happens to provide a legendary creature this deck has desperately been looking for. Playing Mox Amber only as a zero-mana artifact does have some merit in the deck, but it gets so much better with Sai, Master Thopterist.

Since Sai, Master Thopterist is legendary I wouldn't expect a deck like this to play the full four copies, as drawing two can be awkward. I would like to update the deck by adding a fourth Mox Amber and likely three copies of Sai, Master Thopterist. Shaving down on Reverse Engineer, Inspiring Statuary, Commit // Memory or even the single Traveler's Amulet seem like reasonable cuts. Here is the updated list:

Creatures:
4 Glint-Nest Crane
4 Ornithopter
3 Sai, Master Thopterist

Spells:
2 Aetherflux Reservoir
3 Baral's Expertise
1 Commit // Memory
3 Inspiring Statuary
3 Metallic Rebuke
4 Mox Amber
4 Paradoxical Outcome
4 Prophetic Prism
4 Renegade Map
3 Reverse Engineer

Lands:
1 Inventors' Fair
13 Island
4 Zhalfirin Void

Sideboard:
3 Baral, Chief of Compliance
3 Negate
2 Padeem, Consul of Innovation
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
2 River's Rebuke
1 Silent Gravestone
2 Sorcerous Spyglass

We are counting Sai, Master Thopterist as a form of card draw here, which means going down on Commit // Memory and Reverse Engineer is okay. The idea is to shave some of the pieces of the deck that you really don't want to draw multiples of, while keeping up its consistency. The primary reason for having the Commit // Memory is to have enough gas in hand when going off, but depending on the matchup the opponent drawing seven can be a real cost. Ornithopter and Mox Amber are the most important artifacts in my opinion as zero-mana plays that you can easily pick up and replay while netting mana on a key turn. Inspiring Statuary is important, but you don't need to draw multiples so going down one seems okay.

With the scry and card draw this deck can see a ton of cards, and you really are relying on drawing into all parts of the combo at some point in the game. Glint-Nest Crane is another card that can be picked up with a Paradoxical Outcome for value and finds you the key artifact you are looking for a lot of the time. I'm actually surprised the original list didn't have four Glint-Nest Cranes in it. One of the big advantages to being mono blue is getting to play Zhalfirin Void, as scrying in a combo deck like this one can be a difference maker.

Since this is a combo deck, you are forced into ignoring most of what the opponent is doing and hoping they are more of a threat-dense aggressive deck rather than a disruptive deck with countermagic and discard. Metallic Rebuke plays the role of Mana Leak here and becomes an effective catchall for disruption the opponent might present. Most of the sideboard is dedicated towards transforming the deck a bit against control decks. Game one you are a dog but after sideboard you can become more of an artifact midrange deck, with lots of countermagic.

The legendary creatures out of the sideboard provide additional ways to make Mox Amber useful, so it is likely to be even stronger after sideboard. Baral, Chief of Compliance works well with the Negates in the sideboard, because the ability to loot can become quite relevant. Baral's Expertise on turn four is pretty great as well. The fact that you can Baral's Expertise away an opposing board presence for a full turn while also putting into play a card like Inspiring Statuary or Aetherflux Reservoir is why this deck is capable on preying upon the creature-based strategies.

The one card I have added to the sideboard here is Karn, Scion of Urza. For players who are not trying to break their budget, this one may not be completely necessary, but the card has been proven to be very strong in a deck with lots of artifacts. This isn't a deck that is built around Karn, Scion of Urza, but I do see it as another good alternative way to win games. Sai, Master Thopterist should be seen in decks that are blue Karn, Scion of Urza strategies.

Green-Blue Karn

The Green-Blue Artifacts deck that we saw at the Pro Tour could also potentially be a home for Sai, Master Thopterist.

While Sai, Master Thopterist does fit in this deck, it also isn't as obvious what to cut for it and because there is no Paradoxical Outcome you aren't replaying artifacts that are already in play. That said, some additional flying attackers to put counters onto could be valuable, and the sacrifice ability allows for some silly Scrap Trawler interactions. This is one of the other decks that could benefit from Sai, Master Thopterist.

Grixis Improvise

We know that Sai, Master Thopterist needs to be played in an artifact synergy deck to make it good, which does limit the options. However, improvise is a mechanic that players are sleeping on right now, here is a Grixis Improvise deck:

Creatures:
3 Whirler Virtuoso
4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
4 Herald of Anguish
3 Sai, Master Thopterist

Spells:
2 Battle at the Bridge
4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Navigator's Compass
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
3 Servo Schematic
3 Prophetic Prism
4 Renegade Map
1 The Antiquities War

Planeswalkers:
4 Karn, Scion of Urza

Lands:
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Aether Hub
4 Spire of Industry
2 Dragonskull Summit
1 Island
2 Mountain
4 Swamp
1 Zhalfirin Void

Sideboard:
1 Battle at the Bridge
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 The Antiquities War
2 Fatal Push
2 Treasure Map
2 Arguel's Blood Fast
3 Duress
1 Fetid Pools
2 Negate

There is plenty of artifact synergy here, though not as many actual artifact spells. However, Servo Schematic is great as a card that can be sacrificed to Sai, an artifact that triggers off Sai and a card that puts multiple artifacts into play for improvise. Whirler Virtuoso provides another way of getting Thopters onto the battlefield. Herald of Anguish becomes easy to cast, and Battle of the Bridge can gain you lots of life.

To be honest, the main home for Sai, Master Thopterist is likely in Standard, though it is possible we could see it elsewhere. For example, is this a card that could make a splash in Vintage Paradoxical Outcome decks? It could be another Monastery Mentor type card. While not as powerful as Monastery Mentor, the fact it can draw cards is definitely useful. I'm sure there are Modern artifact synergy decks that also might want it, though a deck like Ironworks Combo doesn't currently play blue. There are old Eggs-style decks that play lots of cheap artifacts similar to Ironworks combo where Sai, Master Thopterist could really shine.

Thanks for reading,
Seth Manfield