Workshop Aggro


  • TMD Supporter

    EDIT: This was moved from a separate thread to better utilize the new system. Feel free to make separate threads to address specific questions

    I mentioned in the "DTB Workshop Aggro" thread that I am interested in shops, but I feel a dearth of information on historic lists, and why things have changed. So I reached out to some members of Team Serious who have been playing shops for many many years, and asked them some questions that occurred to me so that I could write down the answers.

    Please anyone out there with domain knowledge of these decks feel free to argue. I am going to write these out as potentially controversial "TRUTHS" of the archetype as it stands today. As well as some questions that I have, primarily rooted in the past of vintage. Mostly for that reason, because I want to stir up some conversation.

    Truths about Shops

    • Shops decks should be running at least 26 mana sources, you need a good reason to have more than 27 (in the main). Of those 26+ the following are locked in are 4 shops 4 Tomb 5 Wasteland/Strip Mine 1 Tolarian Academy
    • Shops decks should have 4 Thorn 4 Sphere 4 Phyrexian Revoker 1 Lodestone Golem
    • Most successful shops decks have 4 Ravager and 4 Ballista, and you need a good reason not to run them.
    • Forgemaster is no longer playable for a number of reasons including but not limited to: swords becoming more popular, the printing of dack fayden, the commonality of arcbound ravager, and the number of decks running 4 Phyrexian Revokers
    • People are either running Tangle Wire or Precursor Golem you are a person so you should be in this camp also

    Questions about shops moving forward

    • Can Metalworker Staff be a thing again?
    • Is going big (more duplicants, wurmcoils, steel hellkites) or going small (more chief of the foundry, steel overseer, animation module, memnite) viable?
    • What about Stax? Can we make a version that makes non-ravager, prison builds keep up with the aggro builds?
    • What about colors in shops?
    • Is any draw card worth it in shops (meaning Coercive Portal, Sea Gate Wreckage, Staff of Nin, the staff half of Metalworker Staff)?
    • Is there any weird combo-y deck with all the new weird artifacts that have been printed lately? I am thinking about Aetherflux Reservoir, Scrap Trawler, Animation Module, KCI, Genesis Chamber and some other things that people have been playing around with in modern as possible avenues.

  • TMD Supporter

    @hierarchnoble said in Workshop Aggro:

    @garbageaggro said in Workshop Aggro:

    I am starting to be interested in the workshops archetype, I have been playing various blue, hatebears, and eldrazi decks in vintage for years, but I haven't worked much in the Mishra's personal playroom. I am grateful for this over-arching primer (thanks @Brass-Man !), but I don't understand why this archetype hasn't gotten more love. As far as I know, there are many different approaches to Shops from different folks in the community, but there are basically know focused primers on different versions of the deck. Any chance I could call upon those folks to write up some specifics about what makes THEIR shops different and better/worse than other versions?

    You'd be better off actually calling them. The high-profile Workshop players in my area (Ryan Glackin, Nicholas Dijohn, etc.) don't use TMD.

    I wish this was something we could change. It gets lonely being a MUD advocate here sometimes.

    Additionally, I would love to hear insight from solid shops players regarding matchups, sideboarding, deckbuilding, and metagame interactions. There's a bevy of information we could all gain.


  • Administrators

    @garbageaggro said in Workshop Aggro:

    Truths about Shops

    • Shops decks should be running at least 26 mana sources, you need a good reason to have more than 27 (in the main). Of those 26+ the following are locked in are 4 shops 4 Tomb 5 Wasteland/Strip Mine 1 Tolarian Academy
    • Shops decks should have 4 Thorn 4 Sphere 4 Phyrexian
      Revoker 1 Lodestone Golem
    • Most successful shops decks have 4 Ravager and 4 Ballista, and you need a good reason not to run them.
    • Forgemaster is no longer playable for a number of reasons including but not limited to: swords becoming more popular, the printing of dack fayden, the commonality of arcbound ravager, and the number of decks running 4 Phyrexian Revokers
    • People are either running Tangle Wire or Precursor Golem you are a person so you should be in this camp also

    I don't know that I'd go as far as to say these are truths, but I think this is a really solid foundation to start a shops deck. Some of your 4's (Ancient Tomb, Sphere of Resistance, Arcbound Ravager), I have run as 3's in the past ... Ravager and Tomb in particular are great cards I rarely want to draw 2 of. (However, I so desperately want to draw 1 of them, that running 4 makes a lot of sense, too).

    I think as Shops threats get more and more streamlined, they get the ability to run less mana, and I think 25 is reasonable in some lists. Still, we're talking super minor differences here.

    I haven't figured out where I stand on Tangle Wire and Precursor Golem. At this time I'm thinking this isn't an example of Golem being so strong he edged another card out, but rather a discovery that Wire isn't as essential as it once was, and I think there's more room for experimentation here. I don't consider Wire and Golem to be necessary to the core deck in the way that a lot of the other cards you mentioned are.


  • TMD Supporter

    @brass-man said in Workshop Aggro:

    At this time I'm thinking this isn't an example of Golem being so strong he edged another card out, but rather a discovery that Wire isn't as essential as it once was, and I think there's more room for experimentation here.

    I've been thinking a lot about the absence of Tangle Wire, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if existing decks will simply slot in wires if one of the sphere effects gets restricted. They both are strong tempo plays, whereas that is the extent of Tangle Wire's usefulness and Spheres also act as combo disablers.



  • Even though I'd probably like the archetype and own all the cards (on MTGO), I've never played Shops since 1) I am not a big fan of mirrors of any type; and 2) I hate the randomness of sideboard hosers determining outcomes. Since the new Eldrazi-based Shops lists mitigate against both those phenomena, I could see myself easily switching over soon.



  • @garbageaggro i will try to answer some of your questions :

    • Metalworker/staff : not the best choice with all those STP and null rods around. It requires also lots of slots so you must cut some critical ones. I did try to build one (with forgemaster too) and made it as quick and explosive as possible. It works but looses much too often to mentor ...

    • Going big or small : going big is basically adressed by my previous answer. As for going small, those kind of decks disapeard when mentor decks became a thing. I am not expert here but i guess they could not race it.

    • Stax : chalice restriction hurted a lot stax deck. Some builds do exist still but in the current meta they are not as efficient as aggro MUD can be.

    • Color: red is the best one (for goblin welder basically) but those decks are basically stax decks (see above). More over welder is very fragile to MM and STP. Years ago some blue agro decks did exist but nothing very conclusive. 5C also were played but are not being played for many years. To make it short, the drawback of color shop is the mana base (less stable and less explosive) so the advantage should overcome that, nowdays it is difficult.

    • Draw : i used to play coercive portal and staff of nim. They are good cards and a drawing engine in a shop deck is a great thing. The problem is that available slots nowadays are really few so mostof the time they don't make the cut.

    • Combo : shop decks are not playing one of the most efficient one (vault/key) so why would they run lesser ones ? A shop combo deck is difficult to build because of not many tutor effect available.



  • @albarkhane said in Workshop Aggro:

    Combo : shop decks are not playing one of the most efficient one (vault/key) so why would they run lesser ones ? A shop combo deck is difficult to build because of not many tutor effect available.

    Inventor's Fair and Kuldotha Forgemaster definitely come to mind, but the former is rather expensive to activate, and the latter has issues that have already been cited. MUD combo is a hard nut to crack -- combo pieces are often dead by themselves and fail to apply pressure or resistance to the opponents' game plan. 3-Card Monte is a thing, but that's because each combo piece does something strong enough on its own, or enough in conjunction with other parts of the deck to have merit. I'd love to play 3 voltaic keys and a time vault, but neither will pull enough weight on their own.

    As for color -- White has a ton of great prison parts (creature and non), but they can't be cast off of a workshop. That ends up being an issue much of the time, because of mana fixing and your spheres. I do wish for a world where Thalia and Suppression Field can hold hands with Sphere of Resistance and be merry.


  • Administrators

    @billcopes I've been messing around with a Kuldotha Forgemaster, Inventor's Fair, 4 Voltaic Key / Time Vault deck on MTGO. It's definitely not as consistent (or likely, as good) as regular Workshop Aggro ... but it wins on turn 2 and 3 a surprising amount!



  • @brass-man You should totally post that list if you have the time! Perhaps something could be viable if there were enough targets worthwhile to untap with Key.

    (As I say all of this, Null Rod is hotter than ever)



  • Theres another Workshop deck on the map called ''Stacker''!

    It's basically the original Workshop Aggro deck that was ran back in 2007.

    Heres both of the list I could find.

    // 60 Maindeck
    // 19 Artifact
    1 Black Lotus
    1 Mana Vault
    1 Mox Emerald
    1 Mox Jet
    1 Mox Pearl
    1 Mox Ruby
    1 Mox Sapphire
    1 Sol Ring
    4 Sphere of Resistance
    3 Sword of Fire and Ice
    4 Thorn of Amethyst

    // 21 Creature
    3 Goblin Welder
    3 Gorilla Shaman
    4 Juggernaut
    4 Magus of the Moon
    4 Solemn Simulacrum
    3 Triskelion

    // 20 Land
    4 Mishra's Factory
    4 Mishra's Workshop
    6 Mountain
    1 Strip Mine
    1 Tolarian Academy
    4 Wasteland

    // 15 Sideboard
    // 3 Artifact
    SB: 3 Crucible of Worlds

    // 4 Creature
    SB: 3 Duplicant
    SB: 1 Goblin Welder

    // 8 Instant
    SB: 2 Pyroblast
    SB: 4 Rack and Ruin
    SB: 2 Red Elemental Blast

    That's the first list, the second is just some alterations.

    // 60 Maindeck
    // 25 Artifact
    1 Black Lotus
    1 Mana Crypt
    1 Mana Vault
    1 Mox Emerald
    1 Mox Jet
    1 Mox Pearl
    1 Mox Ruby
    1 Mox Sapphire
    1 Sol Ring
    4 Sphere of Resistance
    4 Tangle Wire
    4 Thorn of Amethyst
    1 Trinisphere
    3 Umezawa's Jitte

    // 19 Creature
    2 Duplicant
    3 Goblin Welder
    3 Gorilla Shaman
    3 Juggernaut
    4 Magus of the Moon
    4 Solemn Simulacrum

    // 16 Land
    4 Mishra's Workshop
    6 Mountain
    1 Strip Mine
    1 Tolarian Academy
    4 Wasteland

    // 15 Sideboard
    // 3 Creature
    SB: 1 Razormane Masticore
    SB: 2 Triskelion

    // 4 Enchantment
    SB: 4 Leyline of the Void

    // 8 Instant
    SB: 2 Pyroblast
    SB: 4 Rack and Ruin
    SB: 2 Red Elemental Blast



  • Why Triskelion over Ballista? Would Sword of War/Peace and/or Jitte improve over Sword of F/I (and mitigate against Revoker).



  • @shax When you say it's basically the same as Workshop Aggro from 2007, you aren't kidding, huh? Most recent card on those lists is from Future Sight... Are these just old examples, or have you seen someone running that list a decade later?



  • @shax

    Stacker is a lot older than 2007. I was playing something like that (without the swords) in 2003. And I wasn't an innovator with shops, it was a pretty good well known deck at that time, but not that common. I don't think it had a great matchup v keeper.



  • That list could translate to this nowadays

    https://www.mtggoldfish.com/archetype/vintage-scuttling-welder#paper

    1 Duplicant
    4 Goblin Welder
    1 Lodestone Golem
    4 Scuttling Doom Engine
    4 Solemn Simulacrum
    4 Shrapnel Blast
    1 Black Lotus
    2 Coercive Portal
    1 Crucible of Worlds
    1 Ensnaring Bridge
    1 Mox Emerald
    1 Mox Jet
    1 Mox Pearl
    1 Mox Ruby
    1 Mox Sapphire
    3 Null Rod
    1 Sol Ring
    4 Tangle Wire
    4 Thorn of Amethyst
    1 Trinisphere
    4 Ancient Tomb
    4 Mishra's Workshop
    3 Mountain
    2 Snow-Covered Mountain
    1 Strip Mine
    1 Tolarian Academy
    4 Wasteland

    As far as I know, the list saw just small play. Got reminded of the list, by watching Brassman's Stream tonight.



  • You really want to abuse Welder in those Stacker list, so Triskelion keeps coming into play with 3 counters and so on. The equipment isn't mandatory but is a good way to manage the game. Whatever equipment manages the game the best is usually the way to go in Stax or Stacker decks.

    The list are actually still good, but you gotta know how to do things like play with a Juggernaut or equipment really.



  • Stacker was the template I used when I was designing my first Slash Panther deck. I literally cut Magus of the Moon for Slash Panther and Sword of Fire and Ice for Phyrexian Metamorph (and tweaked a few numbers). This is the build Ryan Glackin first top 8'd with, for reference.


  • TMD Supporter

    So I tried the "stock" precursor golem list that i found online, and it is VERY powerful. That being said, if you ever do fall behind, it really feels like there aren't a lot of options.

    I am going to be doing some testing against a couple different things, but most specifically I am going to try putting in Scrap Trawler, as I think enabling Walking Ballista/Arcbound Ravager is really powerful. I have been intrigued by that card since it came out, and only more so after seeing it enable a combo deck in modern. I think the idea that you can keep returning leads to a potentially earlier fundamental turn with that combo of cards, because it let's you "rebuy" Ballistas for more damage at that sac the board stage of the game.



  • I'm still quite new to Vintage/ Type 1 (playing Magic for nearly 20 years now, but mostly Extended, Standard, Legacy, Modern and Draft - now Vintage as well, but I took a couple of breaks in between) and while being drawn to the format because of Ancestral and Time Walk at first, the absurd percentages of Shops as of late wanted me to get more familiar with the archetype as well so I practiced it a bit in the last few weeks.

    First, thanks @Brass Man for all the work he is doing to keep a place alive where people can talk about the real way to play Magic, and for maintaining a lot of different sub forums and topics.
    A little bit of critique from my side: as a new player, this primer could be compared to an iceberg: the surface explains quite nicely to people not familiar with the format what the deck is about, but it lacks any in depth discussion for people who are new to the deck and look for edges to get better.

    Anyway, back to the topic. As I explained, I'm mainly a blue mage throughout various formats, so playing Shops now feels both weird and interesting. It feels like the average opening hand has so much more variance than in a blue deck. Lands, counterspells, cantrips? Keep. Often you can exchange the counterspell for a removal and it works as well; the same could be true for 2 counterspell, 2 cantrip, 2 removal etc, the slots are kind of interchangeable, blue decks often don't even need a threat in their opening hand but can just evade long enough until they find one. Shops on the other hand is a deck where I often feel like you need to have Exodia in your opening hand to stand a chance. Like, all the pieces must fit together or you easily fall behind or fail to do anything at all. What makes it even worse is that a good hand against a blue deck is often terrible in the mirror. And mana always seems to be a problem - either too much or too few.

    I'm sure I come off as a total scrub, but since mulligans are an important skill to the deck I think I may be lacking there. Are there any general advice? Like... is a hand with a mox and 1 mana land, but not that much to do with them - let's say a Sphere and a Ravager, + some stuff costing 3 or more - a keep? A hand with just spheres and mana but no threat? A hand with 3 Shops, 2 Foundry Inspector 2 Revoker? A hand that does nothing on turn 1 but can be explosive once it gets down an Inspector?

    There are many more options, so so many. I mull a lot of hands and don't seem to get rewarded - like often when I mull a mediocre hand my next one is really bad, so I'm kind of afraid of refusing the mediocrity.

    Phyrexian Revoker has to be the most skill intense card of the deck because I hate it the most. I hate hands where it is my only threat (same for Ravager, do I just mull these hands? They are so slow) and I hate being on the play with them. Naming cards in the dark always feels bad, as cards that you want to name are usually 1 or 2 offs, so it mainly turns off a mox, which is ok but not impressive. I mean just beating for 2 gives blue opponents too many windows. In the mirror it is an interesting and complex card, as it can often mean the difference between winning or losing, or it just sucks as a 2 mana 2/1 against a barrage of 3/3 golems.

    I'd also like to hear some sideboard plans from other players. How often do you board out Trinisphere on the draw? Is there any reason to bring in Cage against Big Blue decks (so far I think no)? How do you board against the different blue archetypes? Is there any reason to leave in Sphere in the mirror?

    Also, I don't share the sentiment that creatures in Shops are large :D Ravager/ Ballista/ Revoker and also Inspector are all kind of small, even though the first 2 can grow they will rarely attack for more than 1 or 2 on their first occasion. In general, after watching some videos on Youtube before Lodestone and Chalice were restricted, the deck looks more fair and way slower these days than it used to be.


  • Administrators

    @wintage said in Workshop Aggro:

    First, thanks @Brass Man ...
    A little bit of critique from my side: as a new player, this primer could be compared to an iceberg: the surface explains quite nicely to people not familiar with the format what the deck is about, but it lacks any in depth discussion for people who are new to the deck and look for edges to get better.

    Thanks right back! As for your critique I totally agree. The primers as they stand are supposed to be an absolute intro, for a player who knows magic but is new enough to vintage that they might not know what a Workshop deck is. I definitely want to get more in-depth information on the site for people who decide they want to dive in further. Hopefully some of that discussion will happen in this thread, and I hope down the line some more experienced Shops specialists will be interested in writing up something more comprehensive for intermediate-to-advanced players

    It feels like the average opening hand has so much more variance than in a blue deck. ... Shops on the other hand is a deck where I often feel like you need to have Exodia in your opening hand to stand a chance. Like, all the pieces must fit together or you easily fall behind or fail to do anything at all.
    ... Are there any general advice?

    Awesome questions. I'm not a master shops player, but I've been around it for a while and I've had some success with the deck.

    I wrote the following about mulligans in my "Mod Squad" primer, but I think it applies generally to all Workshop Aggro variants.

    None of this should be surprising to a Workshops player. What you're looking for against an unknown opponent is 2-3 lock pieces (at least one of which is not a Wasteland), 2 threats, 2-3 mana, and that mana has to be enough to play a lock piece on turn 1, and a lock piece or threat on turn 2.

    Against a known aggro opponent (Workshops / Eldrazi), you want 3-ish threats and the mana to cast them, lock pieces are nice but not critical. Against a known non-aggro opponent (Mentor / Outcome) you want 3-ish lock pieces and at least 1 threat.

    If you don't have a turn one play and you still have 6 or 7 cards in your hand, mulligan. Once you hit five, I honestly don't know.

    That kind of focuses on your ideal hand, but maybe could go more deeply into when to mulligan ... In my opinion:

    • Any 6-card hand without a turn 1 play is a mulligan. Any 7-card hand without a turn 1 and turn 2 play is a mulligan.
    • You need at least 1 threat and at least 1 lock piece. You need at least 3 (threats+lock pieces), 4 is better.
      • I count Phyrexian Revoker and Wasteland has half a lock piece here. Sphere effects are really want you want to open with, but multiple Revokers/Wastelands might be enough in an otherwise acceptable hand.
    • The exception to the 1 threat + 1 lock piece rule is a hand with lots of one or the other, and enough fast mana to play multiples immediately. 2 Sphere effects on the play with a follow-up Wasteland, can give enough time to find a threat. A hand with enough power to kill on turn 3 or 4 might be able to race an opponent with no lock pieces. These hands aren't usually as good as a mix, but they're usually keepable.
      • The "no threats, multiple first-turn lock piece" hand is a lot worse on the draw against an unknown opponent. I'd have to consider a mulligan unless the mana was really good.
    • If your only lands are Ancient Tombs, your hand is a lot worse than it would be otherwise. It's not an auto-mulligan, but be more critical with your other cards when deciding.
    • Things change against a known opponent, and things get tricky when you think you might know what they're on but aren't sure. In pre-board games:
      • against a combo deck, even a very fast hand with no lock pieces is probably unkeepable.
      • against another Workshop deck, threats are usually more important than lock pieces, Spheres get a lot worse, but on the play a Trinisphere (with good mana), and Chalice of the Void at 0 can be devastating. It's important here to not lose to Wasteland, a one-land-Workshop hand is risky.
      • against dredge, all of your card values change. Wasteland is MVP, Phyrexian Revoker is useless. Walking Ballista is great at knocking out Bridge from Below and keeping them off of small creatures. One sphere effect can keep them off of dread returns, but multiples are dead.
      • against Mentor you're basically pre-boarded so your standard logic applies. All-lock piece hands are less bad here, all-threat hands are a little worse, but not auto-mulligans if they're fast and Swords to Plowshares-resistant
      • against Oath you can either race them, or keep Oath of Druids off the table, which actually makes all-threat and all-lock piece hands better than a mix, as long as they're sufficiently fast
    • Post-board there are just too many variants to make any general rules of thumb

    Hope that helps ... and if anyone disagrees, please post!


  • TMD Supporter

    Great recap @Brass-Man . I would just echo, that if you are new to shops, you really need to be careful with those lock piece + fragile mana hands. Many a shops player can get locked underneath their own lock pieces (which makes the 1 Workshop, 1 mox + tons of bombs hands a really tough thing to play properly). Exposing your sole workshop in the current meta is super dangerous. Shops is a deck of calculated risk, so you sometimes have to go for it, but it is not uncommon to see almost every deck in the meta
    running at least a Strip Mine, and many more also running Wasteland(s). I often think that a well timed Strip Mine can be one of the best cards a Mentor/etc deck can play against shops. Ancient Tomb mana management also presents other challenges.

    As you get more experience with the deck, you'll also get a feel for when it's useful to use a Revoker aggressively (blind call, early mox), and when it might be worth holding back a turn or two (Dack, Jace, Voltaic). The "racing with a revoker" plan rarely works and is probably even more hit or miss than the "all in on the land destruction plan (more common when playing Stax)." Those two plans require a lot of experience.

    I'm being very broad here, as Shops can actually have a ton more nuance to it than most people realize, but unlike other decks, once you commit to a line, it's a lot harder to deviate than in other decks.


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