Prison-style Workshop deck viable post thorn-restriction?

I've been testing Null Rod and I'm really not liking it. I'm gonna give Ratchet Bomb another whirl since it can actually kill the moxen, albeit symmetrically. The fact that it can also kill zombie tokens (and ballista) right away, as well as be amped up to kill an Oath makes it pretty appealing.

Kill Switch seems like an amazing sb card vs MUD aggro. Nice.

That list from 2016 has 3 extra slots once you take out the Thorns. Since it runs Bazaar, I'm curious if Buried Ruin would be a good card for it. Bazaars always have been clunky for me in MUD, so I'm not a fan.

Yeah, I've always wanted to fit Kill Switch somewhere in a deck. That and Mana Web. I've brewed up a 5-color Stax build with some unusual choices, which I would consider running Kill Switch in, if it weren't for the fact I'm running Null Rod already. Between shutting down Moxen, Ballista, Belcher, Helm, Grindstone, Time Vault, etc., I've come to consider it irreplaceable. Multiples suck though, which is why I run a tutor package.

@dr-j Hmm I wonder how Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth works with Mana Web. Only problem is that they can still use all the mana from their lands so I'm not sure Mana Web is a good card.

Oh, I don't think it's good in Stax. It's just an artifact I always thought had potential, but never found much of a use for. Many years ago you could use it in control decks to hamper your opponent's ability to use countermagic.

I'm not really sure Stax/prison is super viable when it's missing 3 Lodestones, 3 Thorns, and 3 Chalices.

That being said, Ratchet Bomb seems pretty good so far. Also I would recommend players trying to lock out their opponents add in Rishadan Port. When used during their upkeep, it's essentially another sphere effect for non-instant speed spells. They've always been awesome for me.

People can doubt it, but Expedition Map is pretty solid. You should be running at least 3 Crucibles anyway, and they find your Strip or Wasteland for a low investment. For 3 mana you can get another Workshop to break even....or better yet get your Tolarian Academy. I don't like it (because I find it less consistent), but Map allows for running singleton utility lands if that's your preference.

Anyone else have any thoughts?

last edited by Brass Man


I've been using Expedition Maps in a recent Stax build. It's been fantastic. Usually I'll just get Strip Mine for an early basic land, but getting Tolarian Academy has been game breaking multiple times.

@senor_bisquick What list are you currently using?


Below is the most recent version of what I've been playing. My formal testing has consisted of three leagues and a local paper event, which has culminated in the middling record of 11-7-1. A few cards have varied across the lists, but the core has remained steady.

There's definitely room for improvement, but I am also certain that this is NOT the best thing to be doing with your Mishra's Workshops. Like you, I simply have an unhealthy fixation on prison shops these days.

Generally, Expedition Maps for me have been expensive, colorless sinkholes, although I also use them for acceleration frequently to enable early plays. With all the basics around these days, getting a Strip Mine has often been game-breaking with or without Crucible. They are also an excellent enabler for Karn via getting Tolarian Academy.

Dunes of the Dead let's you keep a Smokestack at 2 with a Crucible out. Even without Crucible, it can allow you to keep a ramped Smokestack around a little longer. It also doubles as a finisher if you keep Smokestack at 1. Overall I've been pretty happy with it as a singleton.

Sadly, I've recently cut Tangle Wire, which has historically been one of my favorite cards. Without a reasonable clock on the board, they just don't do enough even with the synergy with Smokestack.

last edited by Guest

@senor_bisquick Thanks for the list. I'll post one soon enough.

The counts are a bit off, for example the Ancient Tomb is in the Business section and there are 8 Mana Rocks listed.

And yes I agree, Stax/Prison MUD isn't probably optimal right now but I do feel it's still a viable option despite that fact. Stax decks will always be my baby. I loved the consistency since that made up for the lack of card draw these decks were missing.

That being said, I'm not sure why only 3 Smokestacks. To be honest, if they printed another version of that card I'd probably run 2 more copies.

I'm curious, why 1 Keg and 1 Bomb? I would think Bomb is far superior.

Metamorph as a 4 of has always perplexed me. Probably because I'm more proactive though. I generally hate seeing 2 of them in opening hands.

Since you have 3 Maps, why not just singletons of the utility lands like Bazaar and Fair? I'm actually going to test out 4 Maps soon enough. Not like they gave us too many other choices to work with....

Keep up the good fight!


If I'm not mistaken I believe he's running a singleton Powder Keg for the shops mirror and Landstill matchup since it blows up man lands.


The split between Ratchet Bomb and Powder Keg are for the reasons @DunnyDee articulated. The split is especially important in the Shops matchup; Smokestack against Hangarback Walker is brutal without a way to deal with the remaining tokens and I can't afford to have a single Revoker shut that plan down.

I've settled on three Smokestacks because, in the end, they are often too slow. I would generally prefer to play something that impacts the board immediately and use Smokestack as a kill card. This is why I play four Phyrexian Metamorphs, as I want to maximize the opportunity to duplicate a Revoker or Sphere effect to lock up the game.

I play two Bazaars because it synergizes so well with Bridge and Crucible, and generally speaking, I don't want to tutor for it with Map.

Also I don't play four Maps because although I want to see one early, I can't generally exploit two quickly enough due to the activation cost. Three feels just right.

I just barely missed 5-0'ing a league a few minutes ago. I was 4-0 (8-0 in games) and lost a close game 3 to Oath. I'm starting to like the current configuration.

last edited by Guest

I play Red shops. I realize it's not tier 1. However I think it's a fairly skill-intensive and fun deck when piloted correctly. Ensnaring Bridge and Null Rod hurts the current meta. Plus Goblin Welder is such a fun card. Cons of the deck include: not blue or Ravager MUD, weak to GY hate, probably less consistent than mono brown stax. At the end of the day, I play it because vintage should be about playing what you like as it's such a unique format.

Anyways, here is my current list.

// Vintage Red Shops

// 60 Maindeck
// 28 Artifact
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
1 Trinisphere
1 Chalice of the Void
4 Sphere of Resistance
3 Null Rod
3 Crucible of Worlds
3 Smokestack
1 Mana Crypt
1 Thorn of Amethyst
3 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Uba Mask

// 10 Creature
4 Goblin Welder
1 Lodestone Golem
4 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Sundering Titan

// 22 Land
4 Mishra's Workshop
3 Bazaar of Baghdad
3 Barbarian Ring
3 Mountain
4 Wasteland
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
3 Ancient Tomb

// 15 Sideboard
// 8 Artifact
SB: 3 Tormod's Crypt
SB: 4 Grafdigger's Cage
SB: 1 Null Rod

// 1 Creature
SB: 1 Ingot Chewer

// 3 Land
SB: 3 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

// 3 Sorcery
SB: 3 By Force

Some maybe cards I want to include are Wurmcoil Engine, Duplicant, Karn Silver Golem, or Steel Hellkite.

I also want to test Sorcerer's Spyglass.


Have a list you're willing to share?

I haven't had much time over the holidays, but here's what I would try:

You could do a 2/2 split with Bomb and Powder Keg. I just prefer that Ratchet Bomb can get rid of Oath which I feel is more of a threat than man lands.

Rishadan Port is another sphere effect. Being a prison style deck, we want as many as possible especially after restrictions. Try it on their upkeep. Use the stack to your advantage and have Port resolve after Smokestack, or before Tangle Wire so you can make sure a creature gets tapped. Good on man lands too.

Karn turns your Smokes, Tangles, and Crucibles into a nice clock.

MUD's main advantage is it's consistency, so I prefer to use as many 4-ofs as I can to achieve this. If I'm putting a singleton card in a MUD deck, you better believe it's because it's restricted.

Bazaar is cute and situationally good , but it's never been amazing outside of UbaStax when put in a Workshop deck from my experience.

last edited by Brass Man


Thanks for sharing your list! I am a relatively new acolyte of the Church of Stax, and admittedly have a ton to learn.

I just made the immensely wise decision to spend real money to lease digital Rishadan Ports. I'll try them out in upcoming leagues and see how they fare.

Variants of my above list have continued to be ok. The list breaks at least even with the most represented archetypes except Oath. The Oath match-up is sickeningly abysmal. I am not sure if, or how, it can be solved; if I continue to crash and burn against it I may take a break from the Stax archetype. The Leovold matchup is similarly rough after Game 1; there are just so many two-for-ones.

Regarding Ratchet Bomb and Powder Keg, I think I'd be more likely to use a 3-1, rather than 2-2, split. The biggest reason I prefer the split at all is to mitigate Revoker. The bonus of handling man lands (men land?) is merely a tangential bonus in my eyes. Revoker on Ratchet Bomb has come up often enough that I believe the split is close to essential. Without a way to deal with Hangarback Tokens, Smokestack gets tough to leverage against Shops in my experience (especially in those long games that are so common with this archetype).

Also, I've found Bazaar to be necessary in lists with Ensnaring Bridge. The match-ups where Bridge shines brightest are Shops and Dredge, both of which put on fast pressure. Getting my hand clogged with lands is real, and I often cannot win without Bazaar to lower my hand-size in time. In any case, with Bridge out of the picture, I agree with you.

last edited by Guest

@senor_bisquick Cool, I think you'll like the Ports. A very underrated and underplayed card in my opinion when it comes to Stax. Let me know how they work for you. Just remember to stack them optimally during upkeeps.

Hmm if Oath is that much of a pain is there a reason you don't want the 4th Smokestack? If i can get an early Smoke online, I'm pretty happy sacrificing orchard tokens. And it's not like we run a ton of creatures. A late game Karn can be used as a finisher if you have enough artifacts to swing for the kill.

I hope to be able to test more soon.

@madmanmike25 '

I've been trying out the Ports on MTGO. They have performed well so far, especially with the sharp up-tick in sorcery-speed removal (most notably By Force and Energy Flux). I've warmed up again to Tangle Wire again for the same reason.

I'd recommend trying Sorcerous Spyglass. It has merit in almost all matchups and has good synergy with Port to boot. When the opponent has fetch lands in play, Port doesn't do much. Playing Spyglass forces your opponent to crack their fetch land in response, which turns on Port.

I've dropped Chalice and haven't looked back. I often don't want to play it at 1, and it doesn't pair well with the Ratchet Bombs and Powder Keg.

Also, Inventor's Fair is fantastic. I'm not sure I would ever cut that card. The life-gain mitigates Tomb damage, slows aggro, and I use it for tutoring more often than you'd expect.

I just 4-1ed a league with the below list, and top-8ed a local Vintage event last weekend. The archetype doesn't seem totally dead. Have you had the chance to test your list?

last edited by Guest


Yeah, using Port in between Stax and Tangle is pretty good. I've always been a fan.

How are you liking no metamorphs in the maindeck? I always preferred them in the sb.

I like that Spyglass is proactive as well as reactive. Sure would have been great if it had legs. I'd run it, but then I wouldn't have very many win conditions left in the deck. Truly missing those extra 3 Lodestones....

I'm back and forth on Expedition Map really. Sometimes it's amazing, and then sometimes it's just clunky. It seems great in your list since you run utility lands. The only singletons I use are Tolarian Academy and Strip Mine. I'm running a similar land count as you (22) and kinda want them all. I love rarely having to mull.

I don't think the lone Chalice will make or break the deck to be honest. But I'll still keep the dream alive because on turn 1 it prevents permanents hitting the board and has a huge impact on the game.

I'm testing out a more proactive card and it's doing surprisingly well in Stax. Not sure why I haven't really tried it before. Once I see some more results I will share my findings. Might be a tournament I want to take it to first 😉


It's funny, I actually miss Metamorphs in the main deck and tended to sideboard them out. The reason I ultimately dropped them is the same reason I sided them out of the main deck--playing them after game 1 opens up the opportunity for big blow-outs due to removal. I kept running into situations where I would play a Sphere turn one, and Metamorph turn two, to which the opponent would respond with something like Ancient Grudge or Smelt on the Sphere.

Expedition Map has been amazing for me and the utility lands are a big reason for that. But before your suggestion of Ports, I was becoming ambivalent about them too. However, adding the Ports meant having more lands to get to the activation cost which made Maps much better. The two synergize as well, since the Ports and Maps both put pressure on the opponent's lands.

Of course, the biggest liability for Map is Misstep. For that reason, I tend not to play it in the early game against decks that have Misstep. But that's ok, because Map generally shines in the mid to late game. By that time, opponents have either pitched their Missteps, discarded them, or can't afford them through Spheres, Tangle Wires, Ports etc.

I've gone a total of 17 - 4 across three leagues and the P9 challenge with the above list (with a change here and there). Missed out on the top 8 yesterday by losing in a super-close, grindy final match in the swiss, and then was eliminated on tie breakers.

Looking forward to hearing about the card you're trying out.

(edit: my 5-0 list from yesterday is here:

last edited by Guest
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