I love the card Smokestack. It has such potential. But in Legacy it has never been quite good enough. Vintage has Mishra’s Workshop, so beautiful decks like this Uba Stax list can exist. Without the level of fast mana provided by Workshop and Moxen you can easily die before you can establish proper control of the board and can leverage your higher number of permanents and advantageous sacrificial targets. In the past I have played a Legacy Stax list like this.
|Main||3 Ratchet Bomb|
|2 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale||1 Powder Keg|
|1 Maze of Ith||3 Ensnaring Bridge|
|4 City of Traitors||4 Tanglewire|
|4 Ancient Tomb||4 Lodestone Golem|
|3 Rishadan Port||2 Bottled Cloister|
|4 Mishra’s Factory||2 Zuran Orb|
|4 Mutavault||4 Revoker|
|3 Mox Diamond||1 Ensnaring Bridge|
|4 Smokestack||1 Ratchet Bomb|
|4 Crucible of Worlds||2 Tormod’s Crypt|
|4 Chalice of the Void||1 Cursed Totem|
|4 Sphere of Resistance||2 Spellskite|
This is an incredibly late game oriented deck that can easily lock out opponents and is an absolute blast to play. Ensnaring bridge is great at the moment. But its weaknesses are clear. If your cards come in the wrong order you will loose, there are no boardwipes here to get you back into the game. A well placed Wasteland from the opponent or counter/removal on your Crucible of Worlds can wreck your mana and any chance of casting things. This is only made worse by having a Sphere of Resistance on the board. You also rely far too heavily on Ratchet Bomb to answer early threats that have slipped through your slightly slow prison. Loosing the die roll can make this even worse. Lastly your win conditions of eight manlands can sometimes be too slow or not good enough in the face of a Swords to Plowshares and Snapcaster Mage.
With the printing of new cheap Eldrazi and the obvious power of that deck I had planned on putting some work into seeing if the extra eight sol lands could make a better Colourless Stax deck. GP Prague got in the way, but luckily Valentin Mackl managed to do most of the work.
The changes between my Stax list, Eldrazi aggro and Eldrazi Stax are pretty logical. We still want to lock people with Smokestack but the Eldrazi cards give us a much quicker clock.
Out come the Eye of Ugins. Terrible in multiples and they don’t cast our lock pieces. We also take out the aggressive Eldrazi, Mimic and Endless One, now not very good without Eye. We want to be casting creatures and attacking so no Rishadan Ports or Tanglewire. Big Eldrazi are also better than Lodestone and Ensaring Bridge. In comes Trinisphere, Smokestack, Crucible of Worlds and Mox Diamond to give us a little more ramp. The final addition is Hangerback Walker which should be amazing with Smokestack.
We now have an approach that sits between Eldrazi Stompy and the above Legacy Stax list.
|Main||3 Crucible of Worlds|
|4 City of Traitors||4 Reality Smasher|
|4 Ancient Tomb||4 Thought-Knot Seer|
|4 Wasteland||4 Matter Reshaper|
|4 Eldrazi Temple||4 Hangerback Walker|
|4 Mishra’s Factory||1 Umezawa’s Jitte|
|3 Cavern of Souls||Side|
|2 Dismember||4 Thorn of Amethyst|
|3 Mox Diamond||3 Warping Wail|
|4 Smokestack||3 Pithing Needle|
|4 Chalice of the Void||3 Surgical Extraction|
|4 Trinisphere||2 Ratchet Bomb|
This deck is hoping to play a lock piece on turn one and then follow it up with some big Eldrazi. It can also go long with the combination of Hangerback or Crucible of Worlds, and Smokestack. Matter Reshaper adds a much needed early drop and is also a fine sacrificial lamb to Smokestack. We have a little bit of mana disruption in the form of four Wasteland and our own Crucibles should help alleviate some of the problems traditional Eldrazi have with Wasteland decks. The sideboard is a total guess but has some removal for annoying permanents and cards to make our combo matchup better.
Sitting down to some matches on a Tuesday I was quietly confident that this was by far the best deck that anyone had ever built in Legacy ever. Probably…
Round 1 vs Alex on Shardless
I haven’t played against Alex in a while so it was nice to have him as my round one opponent and catch up a bit. He usually flits between Enchantress, Show and Tell variants and Shardless, probably not the best matchups but I had unshakable faith in the format’s new best deck, and according to Alex a 13-4 record against him! Game one Alex has a slow hand (with a Creeping Tarpit and 1 / 2 Goyf) that doesn’t interact well with my Chalice on one and double Matter Reshaper. The Reshapers die and net me a Trinisphere and Crucible, and when I play a Smokestack Alex is too far behind. A couple of turns later and we are on to game two.
- +3 Pithing Needle
- +2 Ratchet Bomb
- -1 Jitte
- – Other Probably wrong stuff
Game two Alex leads on a Deathrite, into a Goyf. He has the Abrupt Decay for my Trinisphere and I am behind to his Shardless Agent and cascade into a second Deathrite. I stabalise with a Hangerback and Thoughtknot but I have taken too much damage from my Ancient Tomb. Two turns before the end I can see it is over, provided Alex doesn’t make any mistakes. Ticking Smokestack up to two will wipe his board but unfortunately his Deathrite deals me the last two points of damage with the Stax triggers on the stack. I have been tempo’d out. I think back to my turns with Ancient Tomb but can’t see a turn where I took a needless extra two damage.
Game three is over quickly as I curve nicely from Matter Reshaper into Reality Smasher just at the right moment to kill Alex’s Liliana. He has chosen not to block my Reshaper for a few turns with his Strix for this exact moment but he has taken too much damage and I close out the game.
Round 2 vs Tom on Eldrazi Stompy
Tom was playing Anton Karlinski’s exact 75 to investigate his success at consecutive Bazaar of Moxen events. From talking to Anton in Strasbourg (just after losing to him on camera) I knew that he has optomised his version of Eldrazi for the mirror. He also told me that Eldrazi was the matchup he didn’t want to play because it is so very dependant on opening hands. My deck has the possibility of Waste Locking Tom out of the game so I was quite hopeful despite his supposed improved matchup against other Eldrazi lists.
Game one was wonderfully close with plenty of rusty combat math from both sides of the table. We both lost plenty of life to our respective Ancient tombs and the board was stalled out as our early plays of Trinisphere and Chalices had done very little to impact one another. Main deck Eldrazi displacer from Tom was going to take over the game before my Smokestack could. The critical turn was when I attacked for lethal and Tom had to use two activations of Displacer using Ancient Tombs for mana to put himself on 2 life. I had left a Factory back to block the lethal return swing. His outs were a land that didn’t damage himself so he could flicker my factory or a Reality smasher for the haste kill. Unfortunately he drew the land. A very very close and fun game.
- + 3 Pithing Needle (for Endbringer, Jitte and Displacer)
- +2 Ratchet Bomb
- -4 Chalice
- -1 Trinisphere
Game two I had a Pithing needle for Tom’s turn one Jitte. Then an early Thoughtknot Seer to see that Tom had two Endbringers and an Eldrazi Displacer. I took the Displacer and hoped he would not draw enough lands to cast the Endbringers. I dealt with one Endbringer with a Dismember but the second ground me out of the game.
We played some more games afterwards and it felt like the person on the play was very much advantaged. However this Stax build was very weak to early Mimics and unfortunately I never got to assemble Crucible and Wasteland that I was sure would give us the edge.
Round 3 vs Joao on Storm
These two games were both the most devastating and boring of the night. To make a short story even shorter I played a turn one Trinisphere in both games. In the first I drew a Mox Diamond to play the Trinisphere after Joao saw my hand. Game two I had a turn one Thorn and Mox and then drew the Trinisphere. Hands like these are why many people are attracted to this kind of deck but it felt like a waste of everyone’s free time to bring this kind of plan to a Tuesday night.
Round 4 vs Matt on RUG Delver
Matt was also testing an exact 75. The one espoused here by Jonathan Alexander.
Both of these games went along the same line. In game one my early Chalice was countered, Matt’s Delver flipped and a combination of Ancient tomb and Delver puts me to too low a life before Wasteland and Smokestack can destroy his board.
- +2 Ratchet Bomb
- -1 Trinisphere
- -1 Smokestack
- Play draw considerations are probably important here
In game two I had a much better chance, curving into two Reality Smashers, but unfortunately another turn one Delver, my Ancient Tomb shocking me every turn, and a Dismember for second Smasher, puts me on zero quickly.
These games against Delver were a wake up call. This deck has real trouble dealing with a resolved early threat that can do so much damage. The problem only gets worse when combined with a mana base that does damage to us. Perhaps I was just unlucky not to win the die roll or resolve an early Chalice, but this deck has a real problem in dealing with a flipped Delver and the recent rules change has made Ratchet Bomb slightly worse in these situations.
This deck feels like it is capable of doing incredibly powerful and fun things but just never quite got there. Perhaps I am playing it all wrong and hoping to grind people out with Hangerback, Crucible and Wasteland whereas we should be thinking more as a tempo deck; early disruption with Chalices/Trinisphere and a big beater to close the game out. I think that it is the tension between these two plans that made the deck feel so odd to play.
There are some positives to take from the Eldrazi Stax list. I really liked Matter Resphaper and I am looking forward to investigating that card further, perhaps in combination with Hangerback Walker and Smokestack again. The deck is obviously very powerful against Storm and it is probably good against other fast combo decks. 12 Spheres will do that. I also think that it would be good against fair decks as we have a good plan for going into a long grindy game.
The real issue is the weakness to Delver as we are not set up to race aggressive starts like that or deal with flyers. It was also not a particularly fun deck to play. I can’t quite put my finger on why as some of these cards are my favourites in the whole game. I suspect it was because you sometimes have two different gameplans that don’t quite come together and both are very reliant on drawing the correct cards to fit.
I really hope some of you who read this article try the deck, make some changes and have enjoyment and success. It feels so close to being ‘there’!