Last weekend was Grand Prix Portland, so between the results of that event and the Standard portion of the SCG Team Open in Baltimore I was hoping to have a lot of Standard news to discuss and deck lists to share today. However, the big story of those events is that everything is exactly as it seems. There was really nothing new going on, at least not at the top tables, and I don't want to squeeze water from a stone and talk about the same decks we have been seeing for weeks.
What I did notice out of the ordinary were a couple of successful decks built around Marionette Master. Marionette Master can be quite a powerful win-condition when combined with enough artifacts, like freely sacrificed Treasure tokens or the identical Ethereum Cell tokens created by Tezzeret the Schemer. Hidden Stockpile gives these decks a way to repeatedly sacrifice creature tokens and gun down the opponent with Marionette Master, and is a source of tokens in itself. Because it works so well with Hidden Stockpile, most of the Marionette Master decks I have seen previously used Anointed Procession and embraced the tokens gameplan, the decks last weekend removed it in favor of playing their own distinct strategies.
One variation on Marionette Master is this Esper build that takes a controlling approach and combines it with a ton of removal spells.
The control plan is great at protecting Tezzeret the Schemer so it can generate value, as well as buying time for card advantage engines like Treasure Map, which works very well with Marionette Master as a source of Treasure tokens.
A more aggressive approach supports Marionette Master with a curve of creatures.
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner provides card advantage while the other creatures have artifact synergy with Marionette Master, including Maverick Thopterist and Pia Nalaar. Captain Lannery Storm gives the deck a source of Treasure tokens, which can be as useful for accelerating into Marionette Master as they are for winning with it once it is in play.
These Marionette Master decks did pretty well in their events, but they are far from breaking the format. What makes them so interesting to me is their potential to get even better after Rivals of Ixalan as artifact-driven decks like these could provide a home to the recently spoiled Storm the Vault.
When I first saw Storm the Vault while browsing social media, I immediately assumed it was an Unstable card, as we were in the middle of the new Un-set spoilers, and the bright artwork and wordy text box looked right at home on one of those cards—but instead it was part of Wizards of the Coast's CEO's keynote address at PAX Unplugged. Storm the Vault represents Tolarian Academy coming to Standard, not to mention Modern and Legacy. The card is among the most powerful in all of Magic, a Vintage staple that was a role player in Combo Winter—the time during Urza's Saga block when Standard was dominated by a variety of broken combo decks.
Tolarian Academy had broken artifact mana like Grim Monolith to help it along—and the broken cycle of "free spells" like Frantic Search to untap it for additional uses—but I am sure R&D didn't take producing a reprint of this effect lightly. Growing Rites of Itlimoc brought Gaea's Cradle back, and while it was extremely hyped, the card has yet to make any sort of impact in competitive events. The burden will be on Storm the Vault to prove that is a great card, but the potential is clearly there, and it comes at the opportune time when artifact decks have been mounting a presence in Standard.
Making the most of Storm the Vault will require two things, enough artifacts to trigger and flip it, and a payoff for the mana that it generates. The face side of Storm the Vault helps it flip by generating a Treasure token each turn that you damage the opponent, so ideally it is supported by aggressive creatures, ideally artifact creatures or those that generate artifacts. A card like Captain Lannery Storm is suited for the job, which is why the Four-Color Marionette Master deck stands out as a possible home, and the Grixis Thopter deck that just finished in the top four of GP Shanghai seem like a great fit. Once flipped, mana from Vault of Catlacan needs something to be sunk into. It will be ideal with big payoffs like Walking Ballista, or even The Scarab God, but it can also help cast normal spells, and could be great for accelerating into something like Marionette Master or drawing cards with Reverse Engineer. Putting it all together and finding the right balance will be a challenge, but it will be worth the work.
I am sure there are many possible approaches to using Storm the Vault with Marionette Master, which seems like a nice combination because Marionette Master can produce three tokens towards flipping it, and it's a nice expensive spell to cast after one has been flipped.
The question is how to support them, and to me the most exciting place to start is with the Animation Module and Metallic Mimic engine and embracing a Servo subtheme. Animation Module is triggered whenever a creature gets a counter, and Metallic Mimic adds counters to creatures, so naming Servo with Metallic Mimic adds counters to any Servos generated by Animation Module and starts a Chain Reaction that converts each mana to a new Servo. It's a strong engine that is reminiscent of Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek, and it works very well with Storm the Vault, not only because it's a combo based around cheap artifacts that will help flip it, but because it would be supercharged by extra mana from Vault of Catlacan, potentially a ton of mana since each new Servo would add to its production. It's a great payoff for flipping Storm the Vault and one of the best mana sinks I can imagine for the card.
Metallic Mimic works well with Marionette Master and allows it to generate more threatening creatures 2/2 or larger. The Animation Module engine needs a creature entering play to start working, and Marionette Master is a great way to do that since it will trigger whether it makes Servo tokens or retains the counters itself.
The deck will definitely need an additional way to get the Animation Module and Metallic Mimic engine going—and Hidden Stockpile is an ideal solution that also supports Marionette Master, so it rounds out the deck very well and ties everything together.
Treasure Map is omnipresent in Marionette Master decks, where it can produce Treasure tokens to be sacrificed for value or to finish off the opponent, and it's better than ever with Storm the Vault. Treasure Map is an artifact towards flipping, and when Treasure Map flips, it's three Treasure will help flip Storm the Vault. Treasure Map can also convert the Treasure tokens generated by Storm the Vault into cards, which gives more value to the card than just the mana-producing ability of Vault of Catlacan.
Another card that goes hand-in-hand with Marionette Master is Tezzeret the Schemer, which not only is a source of artifacts to sacrifice, but can supercharge Marionette Master's damage ability by using its -2 loyalty ability to increase its power.
The deck will need more cards to be filled out, and Weaponcraft Master seems like a nice addition. The card has always impressed me as something like a Hordeling Outburst, and it looks good here. As a follow-up to Metallic Mimic on turn three it can generate two 2/2 tokens and start beating down or gum up the ground to protect Tezzeret the Schemer the next turn, it generates two artifacts towards Storm the Vault, its remaining 0/1 body can be sacrificed for value to Hidden Stockpile, and the card can kickstart the Animation Module engine. This is a nonessential addition and could be replaced by something better once the deck is further developed, maybe even a new card from Rivals of Ixalan.
Walking Ballista gives the deck another payoff for flipping Storm the Vault, and it's an artifact that can help flip it. The icing on the cake is that as a creature with counters it will trigger Animation Module, making it the perfect card here.
I'd also like to experiment with Storm the Vault in a straightforward deck like Grixis Thopters. Another source of inspiration Craig Wescoe's Blue-Red Artificers deck, which includes a playset of Walking Ballista to provide a payoff for the extra mana.
Craig split between Aether Swooper and Aether Chaser. While Aether Swooper was a four-of in the Top 8 deck from Shanghai, Aether Chaser was absent. I'll leave the first striker out and play a set of the flier, which seems like a more reliable source of tokens. Buckingham's deck actually splashed into Glint-Sleeve Siphoner in this slot, but the necessity of playing artifacts every turn to curve into Storm the Vault means this deck can't really play it.
Pia Nalaar produces an artifact and gives extra value to artifacts, so it's an inclusion in all of these aggressive artifact decks, but it's better than normal in a Storm the Vault deck because its +1/+0 ability is an excellent mana sink for Vault of Catlacan, which provides a real payoff for flipping. It's also a nice source of pressure for generating Treasure tokens with Storm the Vault, so it seems like the ideal creature to pair with the enchantment.
Metallic Rebuke as efficient disruption was successful in the Shanghai deck and a nice addition here, and Reverse Engineer is a great way to sink blue mana once Storm the Vault is flipped.
Taking a page from the Shanghai deck, adding singletons of Aethersphere Harvester and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is a nice way to round out the deck and gives a good reason to play Inventor's Fair, which the two-color mana will support even better than the Shanghai deck that include two copies.
A piece of tech from the Marionette Master deck that will work well in any Storm the Vault deck is Renegade Map, which gives the option to be kept in play to bolster the artifact count towards five.
My concern with the deck is that it doesn't have enough payoff for Vault of Catlacan, which would make spending four mana and a card on it seem like a bad deal, but Walking Ballista as a mana sink will surely be big game. I'd be intrigued by a one-of to tutor for if it was a great mana sink, but Walking Ballista is probably the best card anyways.
As far as other ideas, it seemed excellent in a Paradox Engine deck until I realize it didn't untap lands, but it could still work there in an artifact-centric build because Reverse Engineer and Whir of Invention are great mana sinks. Scrap Trawler could work as the centerpiece of an aggressive artifact deck that uses Vault of Catlacan to sink mana into Walking Ballista, which has always gone hand-in-hand with Scrap Trawler as a zero-mana card to recur. Metalwork Colossus benefits from flooding the battlefield with artifacts, so I could see it working with Storm the Vault, especially with Glint-Nest Crane attacking for Treasure tokens. There's also the whole world of Modern to explore with Storm the Vault, where cards like Darksteel Citadel and Mox Opal make hitting five artifacts an afterthought.
What ideas do you have for Storm the Vault?