Immediately following the restrictions of Lodestone Golem and Sphere of Resistance, Workshop decks were declared dead. Anyone who’s ever played Classic could instantly identify those two cards as essential pieces of every single non-Affinity deck that has placed in a DE or PRE. It was with good reason that people would be skeptical of how good the deck could be without 6 of its best cards, myself included.
Affinity also had to undergo some changes as it needed to replace 3 Golems in the deck. In the very first DE after the restriction, Affinity placed with 2 players including the only deck that went 4-0. It was clear that Affinity was still a powerful and viable deck, but what about other Workshop decks?
I knew that it would take a different approach to building a new Workshop deck. The “lock your opponent out with as many spheres as possible” plan would no longer work. Perhaps looking at cards that were previously good in Workshop decks was the best place to start?
My first attempts were to create some Goblin Welder decks and try to attack from an angle of recursion/disruption. Welder is a very powerful card in a vacuum, but unfortunately, Classic is not played in a vacuum. Getting a Welder into play is quite the task. Mental Misstep is everywhere and even if Misstep is not available, players will recognize how broken Welder can be and will Force of Will the card on the spot. In the remote chance that you manage to get the Welder on the battlefield, there is no shortage of possible answers to prevent you from untapping with it (Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, Phyrexian Revoker, Abrupt Decay, and so on). I quickly realized that Welder was too fragile to not dedicate a significant part of your deck of your deck to either casting it or protecting it, usually through Cavern of Souls and Lightning Greaves.
Leaving the Welder plan, I explored a more aggressive Metalworker plan. I much preferred Metalworker to Welder since it didn’t require that I play lands that didn’t help to cast my large artifacts (Mountains and Caverns), and it wasn’t susceptible to Misstep. I think I found a deck that could be viable, but it also ran into many of the same problems that Welder did once it was on the battlefield since it dies to the same subset of cards.
The next step I took in building a new Workshop deck was to try out the old standby: Smokestack. Along the way, I found a card that I had never considered as a Workshop card before: Winter Orb. After some research, it appears that Winter Orb has been used in Vintage before, but having access to Moxen limits the effectiveness of its lock effect. Thankfully, that is not really a problem in Classic with few, if any, decks running the “bad” Moxen. In the end, with a little bit of testing, I came up with the following list and jammed it in a recent Daily Event:
Winter Stax by enderfall
The deck is not without its warts. But the fact that it managed to perform so well in this tournament is affirmation that it can still be a viable strategy. The cards that over-performed for me were Chalice of the Void, Batterskull, and Crucible of Worlds, but those are known commodities.
Is Smokestack the best direction to take Workshop? I can’t unequivocally say either way. I didn’t win too many games on the back of the card, and there was one instance where I waited too long to get rid of it and ended up losing to it. What I observed in testing, albeit a small sample size, was that the card provided a powerful card advantage engine when played within the first 1-2 turns of a game. If combined with Crucible, it certainly can take over a game. However, it is usually a poor draw after Turn 4 or 5, unless something goes incredibly awry. One interesting aspect to drawing multiples of it is that you can play the second one and sacrifice it on the following turn, making it less of a dead card.
I would also tweak the sideboard a little going forward. Maze of Ith is a good card, but its inclusion is probably unnecessary. It really only helps with Blightsteel Colossus out of Oath and things like Trygon predator out of Fish decks. Having beaten Dredge on the back of my hate, I dislike going below 8, but feel free to roll the dice there. More Triskelions would be appropriate if you think there will be a similarly Fish-dominated metagame, as seen in this DE where BUG Delver and BUG Fish were 3-0 entering the final round and there were several Stoneforge Mystic decks.
So, what do you guys think? Did I luck sack my way to this 3-1 and are still unconvinced that Workshop is still viable? Am I on the right track, but completely built the deck wrong? Let me know in the comments!
Clan Magic Eternal
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