Control, midrange, aggro, combo, and tempo. These are the decks we are told about and that we know soon after learning how to play Magic.
- Control decks traditionally have a lot of permission spells like Counterspell, Mana Leak, or Silumgar's Scorn. They try to control the game by countering your spells and then ending it with a big creature, like Grave Titan, or one big spell like Cruel Ultimatum.
- Midrange decks used to not be that big, believe it or not, but are now one of the biggest decks in Standard. Midrange decks excel in the middle game where they play most of their spells. These decks are usually creature-based decks that attrition you out and kill you with medium-sized creatures like Baneslayer Angel, Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc, or Spiritmonger.
- Aggro decks are usually hyper aggressive decks that try to kill you on turns three through six. If a game goes longer than that, their chances of winning drop drastically. These decks usually have a good amount of burn spells and haste creatures like Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear, Ball Lightning, Boros Charm, Blistering Firecat and Volcanic Hammer.
- Combo decks just try to stall the game out until they can assemble a one-, two-, three-, or even four-card combo that kills you on the spot. These combos can be Splinter Twin / Pestermite, Scapeshift, any storm card, or Reveillark / Body Double / Mirror Entity / Riftwing Cloudskate. Once they assemble the combo, you are usually dead or not in a position to play any more magic.
- Tempo decks kill you with small creatures and pack permission as well. You know these as Blue / Black Faeries, Delver decks, or Merfolk.
These are the decks that stand out for us, however today I will be talking about an archetype that wizards has tried to kill or no longer supports because it's not “fun” for the game: prison decks. The goal of these decks is to literally stop you from playing Magic. They can lock you out of spells, attacking, or deny you mana. We have one in Modern in Lantern Control.
In the old days we had them in Stasis, Smokestacks, and Winter Orb / Icy Manipulator. Today I'm going to cover a new list I came across, Black Stax. I got this list from the same person who won a Grand Prix with Lantern Control, Zac Elsik. I'd like to talk about this deck and how it functions then evaluate the cards in the deck.
Before we dive into the deck I just want to say Zac didn't create the deck but got the idea from someone on Facebook. We tried to get his name but have failed. His Facebook user name is German Bustanmante.
Now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about the deck. This deck can lock the opponent out as early as turn one with a two-mana land and Chalice of the Void on one. It also has another lock in Wasteland and Crucible of Worlds. However it really wants to get a Trading Post or Ophiomancer in play alongside a Smokestack or Braids, Cabal Minion to force the opponent to lose at least one permanent per turn as you just sacrifice your Snake Token that was generated by Ophiomancer over and over again. You have a sacrifice source in Ophiomancer and in Trading Post by making 0/1 Goats. If things get desperate you can also just sacrifice a land over and over again if you have Crucible of Worlds. You won't be able to pull ahead on mana though until you get a good sacrifice source.
I know this deck can be confusing if you've never played a deck like this before. So let's go over the deck card by card so you can better understand everything.
City of Traitors: Another “sol” land. Just be sure never to keep a hand where your only land is this card.
Peat Bog: We really want “sol” lands. While this is not as good as the colorless ones it does provide two black mana which is very nice for casting Braids.
Wasteland: Destroying people's lands: a great strategy for any prison deck.
Mox Diamond: Remember how we like “sol” lands? Well this can act as another way to have two or three mana on turn one.
Phyrexian Revoker: A great creature that can lock key pieces against all kids of decks. For example against storm you can turn off Mox Diamond or Lotus Petal. Can also name Deathrite Shaman, Liliana of the Veil, Cranial Plating, Wirewood Symbiote, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Grim Lavamancer, AEther Vial, Pernicious Deed, Sensei's Divining Top, Sneak Attack, Griselbrand, Metalworker, and the list just goes on. Lock ‘em out while hitting them for two!
Ophiomancer: A great generator for our sacrifice outlets. Keep in mind this thing triggers on each upkeep. So you'll get a snake on your opponent's upkeep as well if you don't already control one. What's great about Ophiomancer is, against some decks, he'll just shut them down on his own unless they can deal with him right away. Tarmogoyf, Gurmag Angler, and even Batterskull's Germ will not get past Deathtouch snakes.
Toxic Deluge: A three-mana sweeper. Fantastic against all the fair decks. Three mana to basically have a Perish for all creatures. What more could you ask for? Also gets around protection, so take that True-Name Nemesis.
Crucible of Worlds: A lock piece with Wasteland or it can be used to rebuy City of Traitors and Peat Bogs. Also keep in mind in a pinch you can just keep saccing the same land over and over again to Smokestack or Braids, Cabal Minion. However if you have a Gods' Eye, Gate to the Reikai, you will actually start generating value.
Ensnaring Bridge: Many decks can't get past this card in game one. Games two and three they still won't be able to get past it unless they draw their sideboard cards. For example this card is fantastic against any creature-based decks, but it's also very good against some combo decks like Lands or Sneak and Show.
Trinisphere: This card slows the game down tremendously which is great for you. You have sol lands so it's pretty easy to not get yourself locked out to this card. Trinisphere can and will win you games against storm decks too. Very hard to storm off when all your spells cost at least three mana.
Braids, Cabal Minion: Braids is basically a Smokestack on legs. She's easer to kill than Smokestacks but she can also attack for damage unlike Smokestack. If you have multiple don't be afraid to just jam her out there and sacrifice her on your upkeep then play a new one. Since she's a legend you can't have multiples of her out.
Smokestack: Whenever you play this card your opponent will read it and then get really scared. You can't Abrupt Decay this bad boy and if it triggers two or three times, you're favored to win. The first turn you can stack the triggers so that you don't sacrifice any permanents but your opponents will. You can continue to do this each turn so your opponent is always sacrificing one more permanent before you do.
I have a funny story about Smokestack. I was playing against Show and Tell and had a Smokestack with three counters. My opponent sacrifices down to two lands then plays a Lotus Petal and casts Show and Tell. I put a Braids into play and he puts Omniscience into play then casts Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. He takes another turn and thinks he is about to win the game when I remind him he also gets another upkeep with that turn. He loses all his permanents and I promptly sacrifice Smokestack and Braids on my turn and am able to Rebuild thanks to Crucible of Worlds. Pretty crazy stuff.
Trading Post: A wacky card that can gain you some much needed life if we've taken too much damage from Ancient Tomb. It can make chump blockers and/or give you a sacrifice outlet. It can also regrow a Phyrexian Revoker or an artifact that has been countered earlier. The last ability I rarely used but you can get a Smokestack pretty high then sacrifice it at the end of your opponent's turn to draw a card and so you won't have to sacrifice any permanents on your upkeep.
Chalice of the Void: In the blind it's great to Chalice of the Void for one counter. This will lock out many opponents and make it hard for them to play Magic against you. Also great to set on zero against storm decks since that will counter their Mox Diamonds and Lotus Petals.
That's it for the maindeck. Hopefully you have a decent understanding of how the deck works and some of its interactions. Now let's go on to discuss some of the sideboard options we have.
Plague Spitter: A fantastic card to have against tribal decks like Goblins, Merfolk, and Elves. Also does a number against Death and Taxes since most of their creatures only have one toughness.
Toxic Deluge: Nice to have a fourth against midrange decks or even Delver decks. Basically any deck that is trying to kill you with a decent amount of creatures.
Leyline of the Void: Great against any deck trying to use its graveyard. Also not bad against storm decks.
Helm of Obedience: Bring this in when you bring in Leyline of the Void to have a combo kill against your opponents. You can activate Helm of Obedience for one with Leyline of the Void in play and it will exile all of your opponent's library.
Ensnaring Bridge: It's great to have another one against any decks that can't get through this card in games two and three. Decks like Delver, Death and Taxes, or any creature based decks.
Thorn of Amethyst: Another card to have against storm decks or any decks with little-to-no creatures. We use this over Sphere of Resistance since we play creatures and would rather not have to pay an additional one mana for them. Storm decks, or even Show and Tell decks, is where this card shines!
It's always sweet to see a new deck in Legacy, especially a prison deck. These decks are few and far between. Now I want to warn that this deck isn't fully tuned, however it's a fantastic starting place. If you like these types of strategies or just want to try something new in Legacy, give this a go!
As always thank you for reading and we'll see you next time!