How do I beat a sphere-heavy shops hand when I'm on the draw without FoW?

@vaughnbros getting locked out on the draw means they play sphere turn 1.
You lead with land, mox.
They play revoker turn 2 naming your mox
You drop a land.
They drop another sphere effect.
You drop a land
They waste/strip. Meanwhile because their lands produce 2 and 3 mana a pop they are playing a sphere and another aggro piece and suddenly on turn 4 you are 5-10 life and facing lethal.

Happens all the time because the deck has 1/4 to 1/3 of its cards tailored to stop you from executing your game plan. If you can get this far where you can resolve a spell or two - you now have the advantage because they've probably emptied their hand and are in top deck mode. But you now have 1, maybe 2 turns at most to stop them before your life total runs out. This goes back to what Chubby was saying a few posts up. If your game plan is just, "resolve some solid anti-artifact cards after you get a couple of mana sources in play" then you are going to lose. Fast and hard. But if your game plan includes what to do after those anti artifact cards are played and how you recover and stop them from re-establishing themselves you are a lot closer to winning.
If you are a creature based deck, you'll do much better in those lock scenarios as you have a board presence to slow down the aggro onslaught, at least until ballista comes down. Perhaps you are using energy flux to wipe their board with creatures to beat them down. Getting EF into play involves at least 3 mana so you need to make sure you aren't missing land drops.
If you are a combo deck you are looking for something like hurkyls to force them to reset their board and remove their sphere effects at the end of their turn. You aren't just doing this as soon as you draw hurkyls. You are either doing it when you a) can win on your turn so you hurkyls EoT or b) need to stop lethal so wait until they commit and force them to reset, buying yourself an extra few turns or c) wait until you are in a position where you can stop them from redeploying their board so fast maybe by having a null rod in play for example to slow down their mana and development after a reset.


I think you misunderstand my position. I think they are an aggro deck. You should treat them as such. Worrying about getting locked out, means that you've probably already lost the battle against them, and you are probably getting locked out because you are: 1. Playing Poorly, or 2. You mana base + curve aren't good.

Your example and the examples above are fairly easily playable through by fetching basics, playing Ancient Tomb/ESG/SSG, or hitting enough fast mana, like multiple moxen, or a lotus, ect. If you are avoiding all of these cards, along with Bazaar, Force, Workshop, then I honestly have no idea what deck you are playing, but its probably bad.

Eldrazi, Mono Red, RG, Jund and other non-FOW/Bazaar/Shops can still generate insane win %'s against shops because they have access to these tools. You certainly don't want to get caught in the trap of just playing 1 anti-hate card, but you can take them to value-town with a Shattering Spree, Ancient Grudge, Serenity followed by your own threats or just combo kill them with something like Painter+Grindstone. There are nearly countless ways to beat the deck at this point because they aren't a lock deck. They are an aggro deck! If you can stabilize by turn 3/4, you've usually won the game.

I think there is a difference here in nomenclature. There is a difference between a hard lock and a soft lock, and I would qualify that there is actually a 3rd type of lock which falls in-between the 2 that is a hard lock that looks like a soft lock.

Shops on the play has opening hands that can look like something you can fight through, but your fate has already been determined by the clock that was set and what you can draw / unknown but predetermined configurations of your draws. A turn one opening hand of Shops, Mox, Foundry Inspector, Sphere is something that players can fight through, but very often players would be able to look at there hand and make declarative and truthful statements such as "I can beat this but I need to draw X and they cannot have Y". There are many hands like this where if you just had perfect information on your opponents cards in hand you would know if you were already dead before you took a turn.

That being said, many games of magic are like this. The game can be deterministic once the randomness of the shuffle is complete, it just isn't as obvious as it can be with shops.

Lands are necessary but not sufficient to beat Shops. It's pretty punishing of minor stumbles and the london mulligan hurt Shops as it enabled decks to more consistently hit land drops with Moxen thrown in.

That said, you really shouldn't be completely locked out consistently by Shops right now even with the Vancover mulligan (might be different with Karn but I haven't found a version of Shops with Karn I like). @Khahan's example above gives a window to cast a 1 mana removal spell on turn 2 either on Revoker or Sphere. Leverage that into another removal spell on Sphere into a stabilizing card like Tarmogoyf or Grudge and you can begin to turn the table even through the mana denial. Or Wasteland them and hope they are stuck under their Spheres if the have a Sphere heavy draw. 🙂

I tried to find old replays of games I won on the Draw against Shops with either Junk, Jund, Depths, or whatever but my replays seem garbled. Thanks MODO 🙄

Good discussion, all. I honestly didn't want this to devolve into a restriction convo, and I'm glad it hasn't.

Without divulging my whole list (it's in flux), I will say it is white and comprised of:

lotus, crypt, ring, 2x moxen
21 mana lands, 3 of which are ancient tomb, 4 of which are basics, and 4 fetches
5 "2cmc land tutors"
1 strip mine, no wastes.

I also run main deck null rods with 4 tutors that can get them and have even tried maindeck kataki (ballista just owns him and academy/tombs just shrug him off).

I run few creatures, but balance hasn't even helped much.

I also run a main crucible to help fight wastes, but I can rarely get to 3 mana beyond sphere taxes.

SB, I have like 6 anti-shop cards, including serenity. Casting anything that costs up to 3 mana past spheres is the tough part.

If my opponent opens with any non-sphere hand or a hand with just 1x sphere (without a slew of waste/strips) and a bunch of non-revoker bots, I will win without much problem.

I think my toughest games are when the opponent opens with a sphere, follows with a sphere (thorn, golem, metamorph), follows with revoker on the moxen I paid to cast, follows with a waste, etc. etc.

I think my main issue is how to "dig out" from a sphere avalanche when additional sphere effects (by my count, there's trini, 4x SoR, thorn, golem, 4x metamorph, Karn tGC, 4x revoker - losing a mox is as good as a sphere) and strip/wastes happen each subsequent turn. When this happens, a pair of factories or revokers alone can go the distance, and on the draw, I've found no good way to beat it.

For reference, here is the deck I'm testing AGAINST:

// 60 Maindeck
// 16 Artifact
1 Black Lotus
1 Chalice of the Void
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
4 Sphere of Resistance
1 Thorn of Amethyst
1 Trinisphere
1 Sorcerous Spyglass

// 24 Creature
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Foundry Inspector
1 Hangarback Walker
1 Lodestone Golem
4 Phyrexian Metamorph
4 Phyrexian Revoker

3 Steel Overseer
3 Walking Ballista

// 18 Land
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Mishra's Factory
4 Mishra's Workshop
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
4 Wasteland

// 2 Planeswalker
2 Karn, the Great Creator

// 15 Sideboard
// 10 Artifact
SB: 4 Grafdigger's Cage
SB: 3 Null Rod
SB: 2 Sorcerous Spyglass
SB: 1 Mycosynth Lattice

// 4 Creature
SB: 2 Chief of the Foundry
SB: 2 Precursor Golem

// 1 Instant
SB: 1 Dismember

Even Spyglass on the play can shut down a fetch. Smartly, my 4x fetches are all different ones that can get plains. I bolded every card that is essentially a sphere (reduces my mana by 1+). Even in the current B&R environment, it's still quite a lot of mana-denial effects

last edited by Thewhitedragon69

Again, there is little point in speculating on a plan when we don't know the particulars of your deck.

In general, Tomb is assumed to be a good card against Shops but in actuality has tested poorly. The life loss often accelerates the clock more than the additional colorless mana helps prevent dying. Multiples in particular are quite awkward.

Balance is horrible against Shops, yet again people think it would be good for some reason. Shops breaks the resource game by running a land that taps for 3 mana and dumps its hand on turn 2. A balance leaves both players hellbent, the Shops player with access to 3+ mana in play and the first draw, and the caster with 1-2 lands and maybe the ability to cast the spells they draw if lucky. Just play a more reliable removal spell...

Null Rod is bad against Shops if you can't trump their creatures with larger creatures. It's tempo are losing your own mana artifacts and still leaving them with their own creatures in play with no way to stop the attacks. It's a different story if you can throw a tarmogoyf in front of something. Even a DRS can do work.

Serenity is slow. Giving Ravager Shops an additional turn does not normally work well. Dredge can use it because their deck forces Shops to dilute its game plan and board in Dredge hate. Your deck deals with the optimized disruptive/beatdown variant that is the Shops maindeck.

There is a reason White Eldrazi has a sub-20% match win rate against Shops. They are trying to do many of the things that it looks like you are attempting with your Enlightented Turor deck or whatever. It just isn't a coherent game plan and basically comes down to throwing hate and hoping Shops has a bad hand.


You're right in that having my decklist would help with my particular issue - but I don't want to tie discussion to my list so much as the problem I'm facing (which I think has some universality). The deck I run is 4x ET, as you guessed. But my main purpose in noting white was that I tried kataki, balance, and serenity...and they all severely underperformed.

But what if I wasn't on white, particularly? Would a base of 1 strip, 17 other tap-for-1 colored mana lands (4 basics and 4 fetches) and 3 tombs be decent enough? Is there a way to reliably dig out of the mana-denial pile-on when on the draw? Play around it with dredge or counter it with FoW seem like the only options I've found thus far, and I don't like those as the only 2 outs.

Perhaps I need more creatures to leverage my null rods. Bazaar -> Hollow One seems a decent way to mash a blocker/threat through a sphere. "Free" shatters like abolish seem good in theory, but a 1-for-2 when 1 of those cards is my mana seems not hot. A card like pulverize seems like it could do some duty, but I'd have to be on mono-red to pull that off. Things like serenity ARE slow, and something like Dust to Dust will just never have enough mana to be cast. Could adding main wastes or field of ruin help to hit their shops? Or is it too slow and irrelevant once they dump an inspector, mox, shop, sphere hand?

Who has successfully dug out from shop's spheres, on the draw, without needing dredge to do it?

Shops is an aggro deck... you need to play removal and larger creatures. Or combos that are faster than them.

@vaughnbros As is my case, I am on a dark depths deck. I can get a turn 1 Marit sometimes, and a turn 2 Marit often. The trouble is casting anything through the spheres. Even if I have a hand like urborg, ritual, depths, lotus, hexmage...on the draw I will never get to assemble that combo.

Even if I were on PO and had an ancestral, PO, sapphire, sol ring, ponder, island, academy hand...they open with inspector, sphere. I play island, sapphire. They play revoker on sapphire, thorn. I play academy, they waste on and so forth.

Yes, there will be games they play inspector, ravager, overseer, pass, and I just explode in their face. GG.

But the games where they lead with sphere, follow with sphere, then sphere with legs, etc...those are the games I need to figure out how to win sans FoW or dredge.

The dark depths deck was played out of the format years ago due to a bad shops matchup... this isn't a universal problem. You picked up a deck that has a horrible shops MU.

@vaughnbros Perhaps, perhaps not...but this is exactly why I didn't want to reveal my deck. I don't want this to be about how depths can beat shops (it can and does). I want to figure out how to get out from the sphere-into-sphere sequence when on the draw with ANY deck (sans FoW or dredge). As I noted, if I was on PO and had a bomb hand like ancestral, PO, sapphire, sol ring, ponder, island, academy, a "sphere"-a-turn strategy when I'm on the draw would just bury me. That's the universality I'm referring to.

One thing I do actually like about depths is that it can win through spheres - sometimes. If they don't draw a strip/waste, I can play stage, tomb, depths and get a turn 3 Marit through 10 spheres and revokers. It doesn't happen often because it seems they always have the waste (or multiples...and yes I know this is just a "bad-taste-in-my-mouth" bias). But it is a fast combo that shirks spheres. Despite wasteland being rough, I love a "go big" combo that disregards counterspells and spheres and oaths.

Bazaar->Hollow is another sphere shirker. Dredge as well, but I specifically dislike playing this archetype. I'm interested in knowing "what else shirks sphere after sphere after sphere?"

last edited by Thewhitedragon69

Play green in your deck. Add Tarmogoyfs. Add Nature’s claims. Add Engineered Explosives.

@vaughnbros I actually have green in mine. I considered EE and might go that route. Goyf is an interesting addition. I tried Seeds of Innocence too...but the problem is hitting 3 mana. Claim is decent, but just a 1-for-1 and that kind of a trade rarely works - they are so redundant that hitting any one artifact is usually negligible.

I'm guessing just loading up on enough 1-for-1s is okay, but seems like a losing proposition.

Is damping sphere a possibility? Gets through golem, doesn't require color, isn't shut off by rod or karn, and turns tombs/shops into derp-lands. Has anyone tested this?

Mangle Horn, Swords, Path to Exile, Tabernacle, Fragmentize, Nature's Claim, Fatal Push, The black swords for artifact creatures, Snuff Out, Ingot Chewer, Trygon Predator, Bolt, Shock, Shattering Spree, ESG/SSG, Engineered Explosives, Powder Keg, Steel Sabotage, Dack Fayden, Annul, Hurkylls, Tin Street Hooligan, Tarmogoyf, half the Echo spells, and many others.

MuD has only artifacts, and it's facing 5 colors that all now have hate for it's aggro archetype. You have choices a plenty besides drege and FoW.

Depends on how fast they're killing you. If the kill itself is super-fast, the lock pieces are probably light, so something like Serenity or Spree might be enough. Conversely, if they have heavy lockage, you have time for something that gives you incremental advantage to edge out from under the lock.

Sounds like your deck is maybe only 2 colors? In which case, give Thawing Glaciers a try. Assuming you have time to Thaw twice, this can ramp your Mana consistently to beat spheres. Maybe run a complementary plan to beat fast hands (Swords/Fragmentize/Serenity).

@serracollector tabernacle, EE, goyf, hurkylls...those all work. Any of the others you name are 1-for-1s, and that's not going to get there. I doubt tabernacle is even that hot as Kataki taxes more than just their creatures and they can easily pay through him with tombs and academy. They can also waste tabernacle even easier than they can ballista kataki, and kataki gets rolled pretty easily.

I've been thinking about how turbodepths in legacy play ESG and crop rotation to be even more turbo. It feels like if you play ESG then seeds of innocence gets a lot better. But i guess crop rotation is to big a liability with so much misstep around.

@josefk In my deck, I run Into the North (depths is a snow land!) and Sylvan Scrying. I also run 1 Expedition Map since I have 4x ETs for it. Crop Rotation is a huge liability with missteps and FoW in abundance. It's also tempo-negative as you spend 1 card and 1 land to get just 1 land. Into the North actually gains you a land (I sometimes grab a snow-covered plains just to ramp mana) for only 1 more mana, dodging misstep and not being devastating if FoWed. ESG is too much of a narrow lotus petal to me. I guess it has uses, but it's such a negative-value play beyond turn 1, that I rarely find it useful.

So...I didn't want to post my deck (even though it's been on RomancingTheStones tourney post) because I don't want this to be about MY deck, so much as how to get out from under a sphere-a-turn sequence when shops is on the play against ANY deck. The 1-for-1 answers don't seem that viable. I run fragmentize, and even that is often too slow or just doesn't hit enough to get value. I think I'm looking for "free" answers (bazaar-hollow one, tabernacle, EE, etc.) that have a big impact. Goyf seems interesting, but as a vanilla beater in a matchup against a deck with no instants or sorceries, it seems he'd be a 2/3 far too often. Costing 2 mana might also just be too expensive when you are on the draw and face the sphere, revoker, golem, metamorph sequence with waste/strip thrown in just because. Serenity is probably the cheapest wide-sweeping answer, but at 2 mana, it may never be castable.

Anyway, since this keeps coming back to what MY deck can do, despite that being secondary to my main question, I'll post it here in hopes that it facilitates thought and discussion without pigeon-holing the focus. This is my latest iteration of Selesnya Depths:

61 Maindeck

// 8 Artifact
1 Mox Pearl
1 Black Lotus
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mana Crypt
1 Sol Ring
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Expedition Map

// 6 Creature
4 Spirit of the Labyrinth
1 Mother of Runes
1 Kataki, War's Wage

// 10 Enchantment
4 Solemnity
3 Phyrexian Unlife
2 Stony Silence
1 Ghostly Prison

// 8 Instant
4 Mental Misstep
4 Enlightened Tutor

// 25 Land
4 Thespian's Stage
1 Strip Mine
4 Dark Depths
1 Karakas
4 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Arid Mesa
1 Flooded Strand
1 Marsh Flats
1 Windswept Heath
4 Savannah
2 Ancient Tomb
1 Wasteland

// 4 Sorcery
2 Into the North
2 Sylvan Scrying

15 Sideboard

SB: 3 Grafdigger's Cage
SB: 1 Sorcerous Spyglass
SB: 2 Containment Priest
SB: 1 Sylvan Safekeeper
SB: 1 Mother of Runes
SB: 1 Tomik, Distinguished Advokist
SB: 1 Rest in Peace
SB: 1 Stony Silence
SB: 1 Seal of Cleansing
SB: 1 Serenity
SB: 1 Disenchant
SB: 1 Fragmentize

First, as I said before, you can assemble the thespian/tomb/depths combo fairly quickly beneath a slew of spheres, so I like that.

Solemnity is also a bomb. Not only does it completely erase 12 of shop's creatures, but it makes 4 more (overseers) into vanilla 1/1s. If I play lotus/pearl+tomb/plains+crypt/mox+sol ring + plains into a turn 1 solemnity, Shops typically is DOA. They have golem, revoker, factory, and inspector and 13-16 dead creatures (ravager, balista, hangarback are all 0/0s). Solemnity also shrugs off tomik, negates a blightsteel, and can lead to turn 1 Marits. A common line in this deck is land into ET turn 1 for lotus or solemnity, turn 2 solemnity + depths. It's solid. Y'all can say it sucks as much as you want - it doesn't.

The combo with Unlife has also won many games and it's just a nice secondary card since I'm already on 4x solemnity for Marit and have 4x tutors to get the 2nd half. Alone, Unlife also means I can't die to tendrils and get a time walk vs a lethal attack at the worst.

So, as you can see from the list, I have:

  1. A combo that can activate under spheres
  2. 5x tutors for land
  3. basics, fetches, and sol-lands
  4. Crucible to recur killed lands
  5. main kataki
  6. 2x main stony, 4x main solemnity + 4x main tutors for them
  7. sideboard full of 1-for-1 artifact removal (seal is tutorable)
  8. A sideboard serenity as a tutorable nuclear option

...and yet it's not enough. When I'm on the draw and the opponent opens with sphere, then revoker + sphere, then wasteland + metamorph, etc., I can't win too often.

How do other decks do it? What can I add to make my list have a fighting chance? What other strategies altogether will do it?

So far the best options seem to be tabernacle or EE. Goyf is intriguing, but I doubt I can cast him through the line I described above since it costs 2 mana.

last edited by Thewhitedragon69
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