Prison-style Workshop deck viable post thorn-restriction?


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

How do y’all feel about tanglewire? I’ve always been fond of the card but because of how aggressive ravager MUD is along with how fast PO decks are, I feel like I’m better off dropping the tanglewires for either more null rod, ensnaring bridge, or damping Sphere.

@senor_bisquick said in Prison-style Workshop deck viable post thorn-restriction?:

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.

Expedition Map for me reads target 65% of the field discards an otherwise useless Skillstep. I boarded a map or two in matches where Null Rod is bad, in those matches map is good. I also played Dunes both at Gencon and at Champs. It's OK, has a high ceiling with stack but is also and awful Wasteland target for your opponents.

It's admittedly painful to turn on missteps game one, but I feel like people are ignoring 66% of the games here. Once you get to game two, no reasonable anti-Workshop plan includes Missteps. Somehow convincing your opponent to keep Missteps in their deck probably helps you more than getting one for one'd hurts you.

I've played Signal Pest , Skullclamp , Animation Module , Voltaic Key , and Sensei's Divining Top in Workshop decks before, and I've never once thought "This matchup would be better if my opponent didn't have Missteps in their list"

That said, I'm not sure how great Expedition Map is with or without eating a counter

last edited by Brass Man

I've been leaning hard in a pure Stax direction as well. I'm not in love with the Ravager decks and I have a weird feeling that what we saw at Waterbury recently may be a critical turning point in the current metagame where the Xerox decks and Outcome decks have found out how to beat the aggro shops decks. That being said, I don't know the right formula for traditional stax. I'm really struggling with victory conditions. I like the ports, but thinking of doing a 2/2 Port/Factory plan with a Dunes of the Dead as a third land that you can win with. I think the deck has to be a four Null Rod deck to make it competitive with Outcome and Aggro Shops. I'm still in the lab, but as we get closer to EW or I get something concrete I'll get a list up.

I've been playing a Ghirapur Orrery Stax build with Null Rod and doing well in the leagues.

I 5-0ed with it last week (

Here's the list:

1 Lodestone Golem
3 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Black Lotus
2 Bottled Cloister
1 Chalice of the Void
3 Crucible of Worlds
2 Ghirapur Orrery
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
4 Null Rod
2 Smokestack
1 Sol Ring
4 Sphere of Resistance
4 Tangle Wire
1 Thorn of Amethyst
1 Trinisphere
4 Ancient Tomb
2 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 Ghost Quarter
2 Inventors' Fair
4 Mishra's Workshop
1 Strip Mine
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
1 Tolarian Academy
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Wasteland


2 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
4 Ensnaring Bridge
4 Grafdigger's Cage
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Walking Ballista

Orrery has been great. With all the Ghost Quarters, you can chew through basics at a good clip. It also lets you build up permanents for ramping Stax. Bottled Cloister is there mostly for Bridge, but if you stack it correctly you can always trigger Orrery on upkeep.

Just saw the Team CFB modified my build for the VSL which was exciting!

last edited by Guest

That's a very interesting list. How do you actually win with it? Is lodestone and revokers the only victory conditions in the deck? Congrats on the VSL pick up that's awesome:)

last edited by defector


Yep, they're the only ones in the main. I'm trying to keep wincons low with the idea that I'll try to get a lock first and worry about a win second. It's possible that more threats are needed.

Ballista comes out of the board in a lot of matchups, often just as another way to win. The deck often goes to time, and having a threat that can end the game fairly quickly helps. Ballista helps a lot vs dredge by enabling a win with a Bridge on the table. Once a true lock is established, you can use Smokestack to clear things like null rod to turn ballista on.

I'll say that the deck is far from optimized. It was really meant as a proof of concept to see how good Ghirapur Orrery can be. The biggest problem is Planeswalkers. For that reason I think cutting a Revoker wasn't the best idea. If anything a fourth would be great.

Untimely, I think Orrery has promise but I'm not sure how legitimately competitive it can be. My hunch is that it isn't truly competitive, just good enough to earn back playpoints.

But I will say one thing: Orrery is a blast. Some of the games are hilarious, and that's worth a lot to me.

Orrery seems like it should be amazing to me. Nice call.

Well you convinced me to get a playset of Orrerys today:) I don't know if its correct but I want some for testing. It's a very interesting card and maybe there is a Shops-Lands future, it looks like Horn of Greed and Exploration in one card, which should be amazing:) This is what I am currently working on, but I don't have any play in my area, and I'm not on MTGO so I have no idea how bad it is:

Workshop X4
Tomb X4
Wasteland X4
Port X4
Inventors Fair X1
Dune of the Dead X1
Tolarian Academy*

Artifact Acceleration:
Moxen* X5
Sol Ring*

Darksteel Juggernaut X2
Lodestone Golem*

Artifact Control:
Tanglewire X4
Sphere of Resistance X4
Null Rod X4
Sorcerous Spyglass X4
Ensnaring Bridge X4
Smokestack X4
Crucible of Worlds X3
Bottled Cloister X2
Thorn of Amethyst*
Chalice of the Void*

Grafdigger's Cage X4
Tabernacle X3
Witchbane Orb X3
Ratchet Bomb X3
Wurmcoil Engine X2

I'm not pretending Witchbane Orb is actually good, but when 5 of the top 8 decks at Waterbury run 4 Hurkylls and Oath is still a tough MU it can't be that bad:) The deck plays like a complete pile sometimes, but when it synergizes its a hard lock. Its def short of being optimized though and maybe the new Traxos agro is just better, but I feel like this deck should beat that. IDK, this is my rough draft where I've started from. I want to experiment with Orrerry in it, I think maybe the key to making Smokestack good again is getting it to two. I feel like with the token generators and pws that we need to find a way to leverage more value out of that card.

I miss 1 Buried Ruin in these lists. Makes you able to retrieve wincons from the graveyard.

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