Unlocking the Vault #71: Introduction to Vintage Workshop

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for vintage. Numerous bugs have started to impact the number of Daily Events that have fired, with the worst offenders being Tangle Wire, Gifts Ungiven, Necropotence, and Ponder. These bugs make playing “Vintage” rather difficult as they are key cards in different deck archetypes leading to a distorted metagame where some decks are completely absent.

In addition, the value of playing in Daily Events started to fall as the price of Vintage Masters packs decreased below seven tickets. Before M15 was released online, Vintage Masters provided good EV for grinders who were interested in gaining the most value out of each tournament they enter. JBT netted you far less than events paying out in Vintage Masters if you went 3-1 or 4-0 in a DE; now packs of M15 are significantly higher than those of JBT, resulting in a shift in EV toward events that do not pay out in Vintage Masters.

Nonetheless, WotC has pledged to fix Wire, Gifts, and (hopefully) Ponder during this week’s downtime. Necro seems to be a much harder bug for WotC to nail down, but if all the others get fixed, I think most players can live with Necro being bugged for a little while longer. Let’s all cross our fingers that they don’t create any new bugs this time around, at least not any that are as format breaking as these were.

Once true Vintage is back, however, I’m looking forward to preparing for the upcoming Vintage Masters Championship. Qualifiers begin on August 13th, with the Constructed Championship being held on Saturday August 30th. One of the decks that I am seriously considering jamming in either the qualifiers or the Championship event itself is Workshop, also known as MUD, or Stax. Despite the various nomenclature, they all refer to decks built around these cards:

These 3 cards form the core of every single Workshop deck.

Workshop itself is the most explosive mana-producing land in the game, offering Artifact-based decks something along the lines of an unrestricted, uncounterable, and reusable Black Lotus. Golem is the quintessential lock piece + win condition rolled into one efficient package. An early Golem against an empty board is often enough to win the game against many decks. Wire is both a lock-piece and a pseudo-Sleep (clearing the way for an Alpha Strike) in one compact package. It can be used to win the game or be an effective way to climb back into a game that looked unwinnable. A couple weeks back, I piloted a Workshop deck in a DE; you can watch those matches here.

There are variations on the deck which can range from Prison-Lockdown, to Smokestack attrition, to blazing fast aggro (Affinity). I’m going to start to highlight the general aspects of each deck to hopefully help you understand which deck suits your playstyle/interest best. This isn’t meant to be a primer, which usually outlines one specific deck, but rather an introduction to those new to Vintage, or those interested in joining the fun on MTGO.

The deck that has seen the most success early on has been Forgemaster MUD. Here is a snapshot of the deck:

This deck is a flexible Prison-style MUD list with a toolbox package built around the Tinker on legs, Kuldotha Forgemaster. Foregmaster has been around for a couple years, but only in the last 12-18 months has it gained steam in Vintage as a way to find the right answer at the right time. The great part of Forgemaster is that it can turn a less impactful artifact into something you are looking for. Tangle Wire is one of the best cards to sac to a Forgemaster after it has locked down an opponent for a couple of turns, especially if you can activate Forgemaster during your opponent’s turn, after their upkeep. Extra Moxen, Spheres, and even the Forgemaster itself can be used to find what you need.

Let’s take a look into the creature package:

Wurmcoil Engine – As far as beaters go, there are few creatures that can provide the impact that Wurmcoil can. It can tangle with every single creature in the game, save for an opposing Blightsteel Colossus, and trade profitably. Wurmcoil can also bail you out of low life situations to turn the game around, particularly against aggro decks and other Workshop decks. Wurmcoil is also great against some of the spot artifact removal in the format, such as Ancient Grudge, Ingot Chewer, and Nature’s Claim. Swords to Plowshares is perhaps the only piece of spot removal that favors your opponent.

Sundering Titan – Against some decks, this can be a one-sided Armageddon and will likely win the game on the spot. Against Workshop decks, it is sided out in Games 2 & 3.

Steel Hellkite – There is no artifact creature better suited to fight opposing Trygon Predators than Hellkite. It can also clear the way against token producing decks, or Hate Bears… basically anything that utilizes multiple permanents with the same converted mana cost. Hellkite can also turn the tide in a mirror match by flying over a cluttered ground stalemate.

Phyrexian Metamorph/Duplicant – In many ways, these two guys provide the same impact, so I’m lumping them together. Metamorph obviously has the advantage in that it can copy non-creature artifacts, including your own. Copying a Lodestone is a rather common thing to do with your Metamorph, but also copying a Wire or some other creatures of yours can have a large impact. Copying an opposing Tinker-bot, such as Blightsteel, is a great use of the card. Duplicant is best used as “removal” for your opponent’s creatures, especially against Oath decks. There is no better feeling than exiling your opponents Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and getting a 15/15 to boot.

Nonetheless, the core of this deck is still the Prison elements. The full 13 Sphere effects (Thorn of Amethyst, Sphere of Resistance, Lodestone Golem, and restricted Trinisphere), plus 4 Chalice of the Void are used judiciously in the early game to help prevent your opponent from being able to play anything or respond to your threats.

Chalice is perhaps the most difficult to time correctly and fight the same threats. On the play, if in your opening hand, it is almost always correct to play any Moxen of your own, then drop Chalice down for zero counters. This will prevent your opponent from playing any of their own Moxen and can really punish opponents who keep a land-light hand hoping to lean on artifact mana to get going. Unless you know what your opponent is playing, this is likely the best plan. Perhaps Dredge is the only deck that really doesn’t care about Chalice (they’ve been known to use Chalice themselves in the past). After Turn 1, however, things get a little trickier. Correctly playing Chalice depends on knowing your opponent’s deck and understanding what threats they may have to deal with your deck. For instance, against a Blue Control deck, they may have a maindeck Hurkyl’s Recall, making Chalice set to 2 the best option. Against a UR Young Delver deck, Chalice set to 1 counter is probably best, though you’ll have to watch out for something like Ancient Grudge, especially after sideboarding. I could probably write an entire article describing all of the potential situations to play Chalice optimally, but the best way to understand how to use Chalice is to get in a lot of practice playing against different decks.

The next Workshop deck that I’d like to highlight is Smokestack:

There are many similarities to the Forgemaster MUD deck above (12 Sphere package + Chalice), but the deck eschews the Forgemaster toolbox for a grindier, attrition-based decklist centered around Smokestack. When combined with a Crucible of Worlds-Wasteland lockdown as well as the Moxen-eating Karn, Silver Golem, this deck can make it absolutely impossible to do anything.

Playing Smokestack efficiently is probably the most difficult aspect of playing any Workshop-based deck. The fact that it does nothing to your opponent for a full turn can lead to awkward positions, especially when drawing it late in the game. Regardless, an early Smokestack combined with Crucible can beat every deck out there. Another difficult aspect of Smokestack is knowing when to place more than 1 counter on the card. Due to its symmetrical effect, running Smokestack up to 2 counters can really hinder your own game plan. However, sometimes it is the correct play just to try to reset the game, even at the expense of losing a couple of your own permanents.

Pyrexian Revoker is another prison style card that I wish would find its way into more Forgemaster lists. It can render Planeswalkers moot, shut off Moxen/Sol Ring, and deal with a host of other potentially problematic creatures (Deathrite Shaman, Stoneforge Mystic, Grim Lavamancer, etc.).

The last deck I want to discuss here is Affinity:

Affinity is a brutally fast Workshop deck that leverages synergies of certain cards to overwhelm the board. I believe that there are 2 main engines to the deck: Skullclamp and Signal Pest. Some might argue that Clamp and Ravager are the engines, but the point is that the deck is more of a sum of its parts rather than powerful cards in a vacuum.

Clamp is what really makes this deck tick. When combined with the token producing outlet such as Genesis Chamber, it can provide an endless supply of card advantage that is really only limited by the mana that you can produce. Signal Pest is really only there to shorten the clock, but again, when combined with Genesis Chamber, the extra point of damage can really add up.

Lodestone serves the same purpose here that he does in the other Workshop decks, but there aren’t any other Sphere effects to be found in the main deck. Against Combo decks, Thorns are added post-board, but really this deck is all about speed and creating an overwhelming board advantage.

Mulligans are one of the more difficult aspects of piloting this deck. Because there are few overpowering cards on their own, keeping the right hand is imperative. Hands that lack any sort of game plan will probably lead to a quick loss. Any hand with Clamp is usually a good keep, as is a hand that lets you play a Turn 1 or Turn 2 Lodestone. {card}Memory Jar[/card] is something that can lead to an explosive early game, and deserves merit to keep in an opener, particularly since it is restricted in Vintage. A hand such as Mox/Mox/Memnite/Signal Pest/Workshop/Wire/Revoker is simply not a keepable hand.

Beyond these 3 examples, there are several other variations of Workshop decks. “Terranova”, for example, uses 4 Mishra’s Factory and 4 Mutavault as a way to beat down your opponent underneath your own sphere effects, etc. Metalworker used to be a popular card to help drop your entire hand onto the battlefield on Turn 2, but has fallen out of favor for several reasons, particularly due to the presence of Abrupt Decay. Goblin Welder builds have been popular in the past as well. Others use a Forgemaster shell, dropping the Forgemasters for more 6-drop beaters (Wurmcoil, Hellkite, maybe even some 5s like Precursor Golem, or Batterskull, etc.). With each new artifact that WotC prints, the possibilities for Workshop decks continue to grow.

The only problem with Workshop decks right now is the fact that Wasteland is so expensive. It appears that the only people piloting the deck are those that already had a Classic/Vintage collection prior to Vintage Masters, or bought in during the days after the full spoiler list of Vintage Masters and got the card for about 40% of the current price. Hopefully, a reprint or promo of Wasteland is forthcoming because without either, Wasteland is only going to become more expensive (though it’s probably near its peak price right now; few cards have ever cracked the 150 barrier on MTGO and stayed there).

Clan Magic Eternal
Follow me on Twitter @enderfall

  1. Sorry, burt. With Tangle Wire broken, I didn’t feel it was really worthwhile to record videos of a deck (or any deck for that matter) that doesn’t function properly. The bug is supposed to be fixed with tomorrow’s downtime, so next episode!

  2. Dont u think Stax version its better for now ? I got better results on MTGO with Stax instead Forgemaster.
    Or its just about lucky and metagame?