Grand Architect Deck Tech in Standard with Tom Harle

How to Get Better at Magic The Gathering by Tom Harle

Grand Architect in Standard

So there was the final Standard PTQ last weekend and I brewed up something special – sadly I didn’t do very well – 1-2 on the day, but the deck is still powerful and I’m confident that it’s got a place in the Standard metagame.

So without further ado on to the decklist!:

4 Phantasmal Image
2 Spellskite
3 Riddlesmith
4 Grand Architect
2 Palladium Myr
4 Phyrexian Metamorph
4 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Batterskull
2 Staff of Nin
4 Ponder
2 Gut Shot
2 Go For the Throat
1 Doom Blade
1 Dismember

2 Cavern of Souls
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacombs
2 Evolving Wilds
1 Swamp
7 Island
3 Buried Ruin
1 Ghost Quarter


1 Go for the Throat
1 Volition Reins
1 Spellskite
2 Gut Shot
2 Negate
2 Dissipate
3 Torpor Orb
3 Ratchet Bomb

The deck is obviously based on the Grand Architect deck that Brad Nelson used to come second at a GP with a few months ago with a few changes which I shall go through here.


The Creatures

Obviously the deck is based around Grand Architect and accelerating out a big 6 drop in either Wurmcoil Engine or Staff of Nin, the metagame I saw in Chesham was very green heavy and green decks really stuggle with Wurmcoil Engine – especially when you’re running ruins to recur it and 8 clones to copy it.

The 2 Myr are there as Architects 5 and 6 and were relatively late additions to the deck so i’m not 100% sold on them. Accelerating to your 6 drop is obvisouly the decks plan A but they’re not that impressive a card otherwise.

The Clones are the real workhorse of the deck though allowing you to be very versitile in your game plan- either copying lots of Architects to create a powerful ground army, lots of wurms for massive threats and lifegain or just stealing what your opponent is doing – from Blade Splicer plus Restoration Angel to Primeval Titan.

One of the best feelings is double copying a titan then Doom Blading it! Spellskites provide protection for your other guys from removal spells and also so much needed early defence against aggro decks like Zombies. Spellskite is also very good against infect which seems to be gaining in popularity.

Lastly Riddlesmith is something I’m surprised never made it into the deck before – Brad was playing Merfolk Looters before and said afterwards he was unimpressed and ol’ Riddles does the same and more. Being able to tap for mana via Architect and still get the loot ability is very powerful and having 2 power allows you to better go on the offensive when you get the Riddle into Architect draw.

He does sometimes suffer in the mid-late game when you’re out of artifacts but you usually only need 1-2 activations to tune your hand. A relatively common play is t2 Riddle, t3 Architect tap both pay 2 life and Clone Architect + loot which hopefully sets you up for a nice t4 Wurmcoil or Staff.


The Spells

You might recognise the removal spells as being the same as I played last time in the esper deck as I was pretty happy with that split then. The Gut Shots are obviously great at the moment with so many people playing Delver of Secrets or Birds of Paradise and Elves and the Terrors are there for Titans and Restoration Angels.

It might be that you should be playing Snapcaster Mage but I originally build the deck to make use of maindeck Torpor Orb and so didnt want the non-interaction, but after testing I decided that Orb was only really good enough against Angel+Splicer, Pod and Elves decks so moved it to the sideboard.


The Sideboard

The sideboard is pretty flexible and one of the things I like most about the deck. The early removal – Gut Shots, Bombs, Go for the Throat – are against Delver, Infect and Elves and allow you to better control the board. 

Delver is only really good with a threat on the board the game favours you the longer is goes due to trumps like Wurmcoil and Staff and the card disadvantage inherent in Vapor Snag. Therefore the plan is to board in as much removal as possible and just kill everything that moves – between the targeted removal, bombs and clones for Geist of Saint Traft you should be able to keep your life total high and eventually stick a 6 drop or 2-3 architects and finish them off. I usually board a couple of Wurms out against Delver as you can easily draw too many of them and you want to make sure you draw some early removal.

The counters and Volition Reins are for control decks and you can play quite a good fish style deck by making a couple of early guys and keeping counters up for their board sweepers. If you can get an Architect into play then both Image and Metamorph are cheap enough to be able to expand your board position while keeping counter mana up.

Staff is really good here too as people arent playing that much removal and the extra cards soon overwhelm them with card advantage. It’s a great Metamorph target too and the ping can add up to be a win condition and keep planeswalkers in check. The Reins are obviosuly for stealing big threats – specifically Planeswalkers. A good control draw can quite often make and protect a walker which is very good against you so having a big trump like Reins to steal it from them helps in long games.

The extra Spellskite is for against Zombies and Infect – the 0/4 body is nice and the retargeting ability is great against infect. It’s also pretty helpful against Zealous Conscripts and Act of Aggression from Zombies which can be pretty nasty on a Wurmcoil.

Lastly there’s the 3 Torpor Orbs which is the main reason I wanted to build the deck in the first place. Restoration Angel is so powerful that it’s warped the format quite a bit to make use of lots of come into play effects – from Splicers, to Elvish Visionary, Snapcaster to Titans. Originally I had them maindeck but found I was playing against slightly too many decks where I wanted to board them out. The final deciding factor was that I was boarding them out against Delver to make room for proper removal which made me think that maybe having them maindeck was wrong.

In hindsight I’m not so sure as the games you make an Orb and it’s relevant it usually wins you the game. Turning their best cards into 3 mana 1/1s or Ambush Vipers while not affecting you at all seems pretty good IMO!


*** Latest Update ***

so I made a few last minute changes, which I still think was correct but if you do try the deck out and want to try it for yourself here they are and the reasoning behind them:


-1 Island +3 Torpor Orb
-2 Staff of Nin +2 Trading Post
-2 Palladium Myr


-3 Torpor Orb +2 Staff of Nin
+1 Nihil Spellbomb

Not massive changes but if maindeck Torpor Orb would be good in your local metagame one worth making I think. The choice between Trading Post and Staff of Nin is close I think as they both generate about a card’s worth of value every turn when things are going well. Post does allow you some selection though in what you get back from the graveyard and I’ve also used the lifegain ability and the Goat + chumpblock ability against massive Dungrove Elders which Staff isnt able to do.

That said I’ve also used the Staff ping a lot to kill creatures but it does also cost 2 more mana. Something that hadnt really occurred to me until playing at the tournament is that by moving the staffs maindeck you’re limited to just the 2 of them post board, rather than 2 Posts and 2 Staffs against control as it used to be. If you’re maindecking the Orbs then I think you have to play Post to make use of multiples or if they’re not useful in the matchup but like I said very close.


Final Thoughts

Good luck playing the deck if you do decide to try it out, it’s very powerful with the right draws and has some very good matchups (Naya Pod, Dungrove Green, Infect, Ramp) but is a little bit weak to Esper Midrange and Zombies and about even with Delver so I think has a place in the right metagame.

Thats it for constructed events for a while so I’ll probably talk a bit about M13 limited and then on to Return to Ravnica, which I’m really looking forward to!
Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.

Tom Harle


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