Hey it's Ubastax guy. I sold my magic collection in 2012 for five houses in North St. Louis, and I've flipped over 150 ghetto properties since. In January I was alerted that a local shop was offering full proxy vintage so I've been playing most Sundays this year.
Stax in any form did not survive the restricting of Chalice as a tier 1 deck, but awhile back u/Zias posted 5-0 in mtgo league with an innovative Prison Dredge list. Combining Workshop, Bazaar, and Null Rod again spoke to me, so I've been running variations on this archetype. I finally went 5-0 in league myself last week. https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/competitive-vintage-constructed-league-2019-03-24
4 Bloodghast
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
3 Hollow One
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Black Lotus
1 Mana Crypt
1 Chalice of the Void
1 Thorn of Amethyst
1 Trinisphere
4 Null Rod
4 Serum Powder
4 Sphere of Resistance
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Mishra's Workshop
4 Wasteland
1 Strip Mine
2 Dakmor Salvage
1 Riftstone Portal
Sideboard (15)
2 Riftstone Portal
1 Hollow One
4 Dark Depths
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Thespian's Stage

The differences between my list and Zias
Main: -4 Cabal Therapy, -1 Riftstone Portal, -1 Wasteland; +4 Leyline of the Void, +2 Petrified Field.
Side: -4 Leyline of the Void; +4 Leyline of Sanctity.
I went 10-2 in games and my opponents discarded to Therapy in only two games, one of which I lost and the other I would have won anyway. Also given that Wasteland is the deck's primary weakness both pre and post board, I'm inclined to endorse Zias's maindeck, despite my good showing with this experiment. Sideboard, Tendrils is out of favor for Paradox wincon, and Hurkyl's is not a game breaker for this deck, so I'm still short selling white leyline, though Oath worries me. Instead I have had success holding off creature decks with Vengeful Pharaoh, or I see Spinning Darkness is back in pitch-dredge boards. Pithing Needle could also be worth slots vs Wasteland, as seen in the dedicated Dark Stage decks.

The deck plays along Dredge strategic lines, not Workshop. Its still a must-mulligan to Bazaar (at least game 1), and whatever disruption you can land is bonus. Cutting Moxen is the counter-intuitive breakthrough. It plays 10 cards that produce 2+ mana on their own, and all the disruption besides Trinisphere costs 2, so running Moxen would needlessly increase Null Rod parity. This was unthinkable in the Goblin Welder days of Stax, requiring cheap weldables and casting 4-drops. But Prison Dredge isn't trying for a hardlock, just slow the enemy enough that recurring free creatures carry the game. Its cutting the dredge package down to the minimum and foregoing free counterspells for the bargain soft lock pieces. Prison Dredge doesn't care at all about counter magic or creature removal or artifact hate. It only expects to drop 1 or 2 artifacts at most and can win without casting any. Enemy tempo and cards spent countering/removing your artifacts are not being spent winning the game, so just as good.
General opening hand plays.
Typical: Have Bazaar, Don't have both Tomb/Shop+Sphere/Rod in opening hand.
T1 Bazaar, discard dredge stuff, maybe cast Hollow One.
T2 Bazaar upkeep, play 2+c land, return avg 5 power, maybe cast Sphere/Rod.
T3 dredge a lot, avg 12 power on board.
T4 maybe attack lethal, or dredge most the deck w 15+ power on board.

Strong: Bazaar + Tomb/Shop + Sphere/Rod
T1 Tomb/Shop->Rod/Sphere
T2 Bazaar, discard dredge stuff, play another Rod/Sphere, maybe Hollow One.
T3 Bazaar upkeep, dredge, maybe return a creature.
T4 dredge a lot, return many creatures.
T5 Attack lethal.

Monster: Bazaar + Crypt/Lotus + Sphere/Rod
Plays like Typical, accelerated 1 turn. Can also draw into either Crypt/Lotus or Sphere Rod off first Bazaar activation.

The transformation into Dark Stage is clutch, by continuing to shrug off counter magic while ignoring yard and artifact hate. I easily won one memorable game against T1 Leyline of the Void + Black Lotus->Energy Flux.
Overall this deck has the main dredge upside of Serum Powder into the one card combo cranking out a fast, uncounterable, recurring ground game. It improves on other dredge builds by giving up the creature density and Dread Return big finish for more powerful disruption, plus the mana for alertnate uncounterable sb win, making it not dependent on either the graveyard or artifacts. I'm a fan, London mulligan should make this a tier 1 contender.

last edited by vroman

I've heard rumblings of your success in real-estate as well as your political ambitions; it's good to hear you're doing well! Also, glad to see you're playing vintage again. I sold my collection in 2014 to pay off legal fees on a personal matter, but still get to play as well.

  • Soly

I’ve played against a Prison style dredge a couple months ago online and I honestly thought it was more mainstream than it is given how good it seemed.

When I started playing Vintage back in 2006, your decks were genius. I actually played against you in 2012 Legacy champs round 2. You were on UW stoneforge and I was playing No RUG. I won, sorry about that.

Also definitely the kind of deck that seems up your alley. It’s hard to imagine someone wanting to play against this.

I support Vengeful Pharoah - it's incredibly powerful in a Dredge deck as you only have to give up something like 1/5 or 1/6 of a draw step per creature killed. Obviously it can be meta-dependent but it's firmly in my list of Dredge playables.

I'd encourage you to try to include Ichorids in the deck - they are simply the best creature for grinding games out, especially in the context of Bridge from Below. To my mind, Bloodghast is more of a combo piece, second only to Narcomoeba in this respect, as well as a questionable aggro creature post-board.

The real virtue of Therapy is that once you start Dredging it allows you to buy time to close out the game while taking very few slots from the rest of your deck. If you need more of a 'finisher', I would add Therapy first then start looking at things like Dread Return

Congrats on the 5-0!

Echoing @ajfirecracker, I've found 1-3 Ichorids to be very strong in the maindeck. The biggest value in my mind is having another way to trigger Prized Amalgam. Adding just one Ichorid increases the probability of having a way to trigger Amalgam by 25%.

The down-side of Ichorid is that it is relatively inflexible across the match--it's much better Game 1 than in Games 2-3. I think in general that cards supporting only half of the plan in a hybrid deck need an especially-high cost to benefit ratio for consideration. I think that the first Ichorid meets that criteria comfortably, but I'm not 100% sold on additional copies, as the returns diminish quickly (at least regarding Amalgam triggers; +20%, +17%, and +14% for adding each Ichorid beyond the first).

I haven't had time to play in any leagues in weeks, but I did play in five leagues with 2-3 Ichorids and 1-2 Golgari Thug and went 18-7. A small sample size, but the Ichorids felt smooth.

Like you, I also have developed mixed feelings about Leyline of Sanctity. It's so good at ensuring lockpieces stick around against Outcome, does great things against Oath, and deals with targeted hate like Ravenous Trap and Tomord's crypt. Consequently, it synergizes with both halves of the deck, but it also doesn't help win the game and does so little on its own.

As I side-note-- I have adored your Stax lists since I started playing Vintage in the early 2000s. It's cool to see you back!

vroman doing well with Mishra's Workshop alongside Bazaar of Baghdad sounds about right

I can’t imagine a reason Hollow One isn’t a 4 of in the main.

On the dredge side... I don't think Therapy is necessary, given that you've cut Dread Return, Bridge From Below. I also wouldn't add Bridge or Ichorid back in as that is a very large package that takes the deck in a different direction (back towards more traditional dredge). If you are looking for another creature, I'd play Nether Shadow.

On the shops side... I'd consider Walking Ballista. This is an answer to some hate pieces, along with being a great broken card with Shops. Lodestone Golem is also still great, and always seems like a fit alongside of Workshop (even without the moxen to get it turn 1).

On the combination side... Leyline + Helm is a natural fit for this decklist.

@vaughnbros

I've tried to make Bridge work in these lists, and have found that like you suggest, it pushes the build too far in to Dredge territory at the expense of the other gameplans.

Regarding Ichorids: out of the several dozen lists I've tried, those with Ichorids have fared best for me. The list I 5-0ed with didn't have the Ichorids (looks like the list above), but on the whole the versions with some number of Ichorids have done best. I kept finding that the Dredge plan Game 1 is a little too anemic with just the Bloodhasts/Amalgams, so I've been trying to give it just a little more strength.

I have also wanted to explore Ballista in these shells, but have hesitated to explore that in the current list because of the dis-synergy with Null Rod. I think there is potential, though, perhaps in a very different list or for matches where Null Rods don't excel.

Also, after a month break from leagues, I took out the below list last night and ran back-to-back 4-1's:

0_1553700802684_0cb3c6e9-7ab2-4d44-8002-e5a20915f73b-image.png

Only losses were to Uba Stax (how fitting in this thread) and Outcome, both in Game 3.

Life From the Loam was fantastic all night. It was responsible for several match wins and felt much better than Crucibles when I've tried them. As both a tutor and recursion engine for the Depths plan, I am optimistic about its role in the deck.

Cursed Totem is a nod to Shops primarily. Shops, for me, has been the worst match-up for these lists. Null Rod is the best card in this match up, and buys a lot of time with Hollow One as a wall. Cursed Totem gets pretty close to Null Rod number 5 in that match-up.

Last night brings my last 7 leagues to 26-9 (somehow managing not to 5-0 in that span).

last edited by Zias

I came up against this online just before last eternal weekend and I was sure that this was going to be something that would show up there.
This is a really great deck only helped more and more as time goes by.

Since OP, I went 4-1 twice w this. 1of Ichorid is surprisingly good. Pithing Needle also worthwhile, maybe 2of main over Thug. I'm interested to try the Loam version, to increase dredge count, and Petrified Field is meh, and living the dream of hardcast Grave Troll ftw.
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Mishras Workshop
3 Wasteland
2 Petrified Field
2 Dakmor Salvage
1 Strip Mine
1 Black Lotus
1 Mana Crypt
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 Serum Powder
1 Pithing Needle
1 Chalice of the Void
1 Thorn of Amethyst
1 Trinisphere
4 Null Rod
4 Sphere of Resistance
1 Golgari Thug
1 Ichorid
4 Bloodghast
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Golgari Grave Troll
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Hollow One
Side
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Dark Depths
4 Thespian Stage
2 Vengeful Pharaoh
1 Pithing Needle

I've been crushing a lot of Pyromancer. Its surreal boarding out Workshop.

last edited by vroman

@vroman

What's your sideboard plan against Pyromancer? I'm intrigued by the idea of boarding out Shops in that match-up. That never occurred to me.

And how have the Vengeful Pharaohs been for you? It's been high on my list of things to try since @ajfirecracker suggested them to me awhile back.

Pharaoh has been relevant. My board plans:
Oath / Survival / any U-control w Wasteland+Snapcaster
+15
-4 null rod
-4 sphere
-1 Thorn
-1 Trisphere
-4 Workshop
-1 Thug/Ichorid/Imp

Paradox
+9 Dark Stage and needle
-9 Ichorid/Thug/Imp/Grave-Troll

Ritual
+13 not Pharaoh
-8 Troll/Imp
-5 Ichorid/Thug/Amalgam

Shops
+11 not leyline
-4 sphere
-1 Thorn
-1 Trisphere
-1 Chalice
-2 Shop
-2 Thug/Imp

Dredge
+15
-4 null rod
-8 Imp/Troll
-3 Ichorid/Thug/Amalgam

last edited by vroman

@vroman It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on Vintage now versus then, after a 7yr lapse. It was fun to follow your innovations on the drain many years ago, looking forward to it again!

Got the 5-0 with the above list featuring Life From the Loam.

I've played Loam in six leagues, going 23-7 across two different lists. Four of those leagues were with the verbatim list posted above (17-3) and two were with a modified version that cut the Salvages/Ichorid for more Portals/Loams/Leyline of Sanctity (6-4).

Obviously a small sample size, but I think Dakmor Salvage may too important to cut. In the two leagues and a bunch of practice matches without it, I've had trouble reliably triggering the Bloodghasts or ensuring a land drop to get Loam going. Dredging a Salvage often accomplishes both in a single turn.

I can't overemphasize how good Life from the Loam has been. What's really impressed me is how good it's been against Shops and Eldrazi, which were the two match-ups that have given me the most trouble. Loam doesn't just help keep Marit Lage looming, but also undermines the ability of Shops and Eldrazi to overwhelm the board with threats by recurring Wasteland. Null Rod and Wasteland consequently buys a lot of time. The Spheres, which I keep in against Eldrazi, have also become more effective at keeping Thought-Knots and Smashers off the table with a stream of Wastelands flowing.

@vroman
Thanks for the run-down on your sideboarding, I find your approach very interesting. I've always kept in the Shops and lockpieces against the Oath/Survival/U-Wasteland decks to hamper the ability to find and play answers to Marit Lage or the dredge plan and prevent their threats (e.g., keep Oath off the table or Survival from going off in a single turn through a Sphere).

But it looks like you are going for a more all-in attack strategy by keeping the threats and tossing the prison element. I'm going to try that. I think that might be the better approach (especially on the draw).

Also, what are your thoughts on Spyglass vs Needle? Are you going for the latter because you tend to board out Shops?

last edited by Zias

I like the Loam version a lot, but def opposed to cutting Crypt. Lock + bazaar is one of the best T1 plays. Plus loaming thru my own spheres, and tomb#5 for DarkStage and the occasional grave troll finish. The only times I've lost to crypt rolls is when they waste my bazaar which is a tough slog regardless.
I haven't played since my last post until tonight. The London Serum Powder interaction is more complicated than I assumed but still a very comfortable improvement. I went 4-1 w this, only loss to a maestro w T1 Containment Priest both G1+2.
4 tomb
4 shop
4 riftstone
2 waste
1 strip
1 lotus
1 crypt
4 bazaar
4 powder
4 null rod
4 sphere
1 thorn
1 trisphere
1 chalice
4 grave troll
4 stinkweed
4 bloodghast
4 amalgam
4 hollow one
3 loam
1 balance
side
4 w leyline
4 b leyline
4 stage
3 depths

I brought back sanctity after bad record v oath w last iteration. If I were to cut white leyline again, I like needle over spyglass, bc unlike stax, not trying for long term denial (ie dack/jace), only defending Marit for one turn, so their hand info isn't tactically relevant, and I want to be able to cast via Stage alone, regardless if Shop still in the deck.
Postboard Vs Pyromancer/Survival/Oath Ive found they're pretty good at still playing their hand out through minor locks, and if they hit my yard, I feel dumb starting from scratch w just a sphere in play vs their regular threats. I'm more concerned about spreading my wincons against their hate.
I have yet to face eldrazi w prison dredge.

@ajfirecracker

I’ve played a lot of Balance in Dredge and it’s a a strong card to overcome Containment Priest and Creature-Based Aggro. It’s marginal in other scenarios.

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