Deep Analysis – The Toolbox


This week I will be explaining my favorite archetype in Magic, the Toolbox archetype.

What is the Toolbox archetype?

The term toolbox archetype refers to a deck that has a number of answer cards in your deck and/or sideboard as well as a number of search effects to find the answer cards (Survival of the Fittest, Enlightened Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Burning Wish, etc).  Many of the answer cards are only a single copy of a card that are powerful against certain decks.


I began being enthralled with the Toolbox archetype for a very long time.  My first set was Mirage, so I was exposed to tutor effects quite early.  The first large scale ‘toolbox’ deck involved Survival of the Fittest:

Survival of the Fittest | Art by Shelly Wan

Survival of the Fittest | Art by Shelly Wan

Survival Oath

Main Deck Sideboard
4 Avalanche Riders
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Wall of Blossoms
1 Bone Shredder
1 Fallen Angel
1 Fireslinger
1 Ghitu Slinger
1 Bottle Gnomes
1 Monk Realist
1 Verdant Force
1 Spike Weaver
1 Tradewind Rider
1 Uktabi Orangutan
1 Keldon Vandals
1 Phyrexian Plaguelord
3 Living Death
3 Oath of Ghouls
4 Survival of the Fittest

2 Brushland
3 City of Brass
6 Forest
3 Karplusan Forest
1 Mountain
2 Reflecting Pool
4 Swamp
2 Thran Quarry
1 Underground River
1 Volrath's Stronghold
1 Arcane Laboratory
1 Carrion Beetles
1 Cartographer
2 Duress
1 Fireslinger
2 Lobotomy
1 Megrim
1 Radiant's Dragoons
2 Repopulate
1 Spike Feeder
1 Wood Elves
1 Yavimaya Granger

The deck allowed for players to have many answers to problems that you might run in to.  Survival allowed you to search for any creature in the deck and Oath allowed for you to return creatures you needed to take control of the game back to hand each turn.  It also had an aggressive land destruction (Avalanche Rider) plan as well as a quick way to finish a game via Verdant Force.

Gifts Ungiven by D. Alexander Gregory

Gifts Ungiven by D. Alexander Gregory

4C Gifts

Maindeck Sideboard
3 Liliana of the Veil

2 Snapcaster Mage
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Grave Titan
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Unburial Rites
1 Dismember
3 Abrupt Decay
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Sphinx's Revelation
2 Lingering Souls
1 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Path to Exile
1 Raven's Crime
2 Thoughtseize
1 Damnation
2 Remand
1 Life from the Loam
4 Gifts Ungiven
1 Wrath of God
2 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Tectonic Edge
2 Marsh Flats
3 Verdant Catacombs
1 Sunken Ruins
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Watery Grave
1 Temple Garden
3 Polluted Delta
1 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Plains
1 Island
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Stony Silence
3 Timely Reinforcements
2 Spellskite
1 Memoricide
1 Terastodon
1 Celestial Purge
1 Thoughtseize
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Night of Souls' Betrayal
1 Pulse of the Fields

Gifts Ungiven was a powerful 4 mana Instant that allowed you to search for up to 4 cards, all of which have different names, of which you get 2 of them of your opponent’s choice. This doesn’t seem like a profitable situation but with recursive threats, flashback spells, and Snapcaster Mage, it makes any decision for your opponent very difficult.

The deck is primarily a control deck and uses the reanimation spell Unburial Rites and a large creature that attempts to lock their opponent out of the game (Iona, Shield of Emeria or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite) or flood the board (Grave Titan).  Having cards like Academy Ruins, Life from the Loam and Snapcaster Mage make it very difficult on your opponent to deal with any 1 particular card.

Birthing Pod by Daarken

Birthing Pod by Daarken


Maindeck Sideboard
1 Reveillark
1 Shriekmaw
2 Restoration Angel
2 Siege Rhino
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Eternal Witness
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Sin Collector
1 Orzhov Pontiff
3 Kitchen Finks
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Spellskite
3 Voice of Resurgence
2 Wall of Roots
2 Noble Hierarch
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Birthing Pod
2 Thoughtseize
3 Abrupt Decay

2 Gavony Township
3 Razorverge Thicket
1 Plains
1 Swamp
3 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Temple Garden
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Marsh Flats
4 Windswept Heath
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Dismember
1 Murderous Cut
2 Memoricide
1 Choke
3 Chalice of the Void
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Entomber Exarch
1 Kataki, War's Wage
2 Thoughtseize
1 Orzhov Pontiff

Birthing Pod is probably the most recent style of Toolbox deck, which was so good it had to have the namesake card banned in Modern.  The deck has a modest beatdown plan that can Pod into a combo.

The ‘new’ toolbox

Eldritch EvolutionThanks to Eldritch Evolution from Eldritch Moon, we have another tutor to build around in Modern.  Many of the creature based toolbox decks in Modern have been using Collected Company and Chord of Calling but the new evolution will make finding what you need a bit easier, however your deck may need to be build differently to take advantage of it.

Chord of Calling
Eldritch Evolution
4 Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch

Now that we have our tutor cards and ramp spells, let’s determine our other colors.

We need a way to kill our opponent that can be tutored up or naturally drawn.  Let’s take a look at a few of them available:

Archangel of Thune + Spike Feeder

This would be the lightest on colors, putting us in only in White and Green.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + EITHER Restoration Angel OR Deceiver Exarch OR Pestermite OR Zealous Conscripts OR Bounding Krasis OR Village Bell-Ringer

So these combo pieces are either Red and either White or Blue with combo pieces.  That would put us in either Naya (WRG) or Temur (RUG).

Viscera Seer + Murderous Redcap + EITHER Melira, Sylvok Outcast OR Anafenza, Kin-tree Spirit

So these pieces would put us into Abzan (WGB).

Chord of Calling - Karl Kopinski

Chord of Calling – Karl Kopinski

For my example today, we will use Naya (WRG).  So we will add the combo pieces and some removal to the shell:

Chord of Calling
Eldritch Evolution
4 Path to Exile
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Restoration Angel

That brings our total to 13 cards.

These cards below are either resilient, has an enter the battlefield trigger, or has a dies trigger:

Wall of Omens
Imposing Sovereign
Selfless Spirit
Kataki, War’s Wage
Aven Mindcensor
Banisher Priest
Blade Splicer
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Fiend Hunter
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Ranger of Eos
Archangel of Tithes
Sun Titan


Voice of Resurgence
Qasali Pridemage
Gaddock Teeg
Kitchen Finks
Sigarda, Host of Herons


Elvish Visionary
Scavenging Ooze
Strangleroot Geist
Viridian Emissary
Borderland Ranger
Eternal Witness
Reclamation Sage
Wood Elves
Obstinate Baloth
Ondu Giant
Seed Guardian
Acidic Slime
Stingerfling Spider

Burning-Tree Emissary

Cunning Sparkmage
Tuktuk the Explorer
Pia and Kiran Nalaar

Runed Servitor
Perilous Myr
Matter Reshaper
Pilgrim’s Eye
Solemn Simulacrum
Wurmcoil Engine
Scuttling Doom Engine

Eldritch-Evolution-Eldritch-Moon-MtG-ArtMany of these cards making the deck are going to be dependent on your environment.  Some of these cards will be closer to auto includes like Wall of Omens, Spellskite and Voice of Resurgence.  Below is the list I put together based on this information:

Chord of Calling
Eldritch Evolution
4 Path to Exile

4 Birds of Paradise
3 Wall of Omens
4 Voice of Resurgence
Scavenging Ooze
1 Selfless Spirit
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Spellskite
2 Eternal Witness
1 Cunning Sparkmage
2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Restoration Angel
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Obstinate Baloth
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

1 Stomping Ground
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Rugged Prairie
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Raging Ravine
2 Temple Garden
1 Arid Mesa
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
2 Razorverge Thicket
2 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains

The cards that are bold faced are the ones that are interchangeable.  These pieces are used to meta against your local field.  Use this to your advantage.


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