The loss of Chalice killed the Workshop deck. I’m pretty sure the intent of this restriction was to weaken the Workshop deck without killing it completely, but the end result was what everyone feared – Workshops dropped off the face of the Earth and the blue based decks took over. I talked to several of Workshop’s most famous pilots as they lamented the change that crippled their favorite archetype.
While many of the fair weather fans of Workshops have jumped ship and went running back to the blue decks (myself included), the true Workshop diehards have been working on a way to get bring the artifacts back into the spot light.
The problem seems to stem from the approach that many have taken to replace the missing Chalice of the Voids – Null Rod. Null Rods were part of a previously successful Workshop variant, Terranova, and it made sense that if the Chalices weren’t there to stop the Moxen from entering play, then the Null Rod could be there to stop those same Moxen from functioning once they were in play. Of course we all know that Chalice did a lot more than just stop Moxen and in practice the Null Rods weren’t winning. I think that the Null Rod Workshop deck is actually at its best when the metagame was dominated by Kuldotha Forgemaster Workshop decks, as it was just a few months ago. Now that more players are playing blue, the Null Rod Workshops decks just aren’t positioned as strongly.
This thing does nothing
I recently played in the Eternal Extravaganza 3 Vintage tournament and with over 100 players and a top 8 featuring zero Workshop decks it seemed to prove that Shops were dead. That result, however, ignores the story of the 9th place deck, a deck that almost made it. With a record of 5-1-1, Nick DiJohn barely missed making top 8 with his Workshop deck. I had a chance to talk to him about it and found out that his draw was received unintentionally when he faced the notoriously slow Landstill deck. If only a few things had shaken out differently, Nick would have snuck into the top 8 and it is arguable that he was well positioned to make a run at first place.
Let’s take a look at what he played:
9th @ Eternal Extravaganza
By Nicholas DiJohn
4 Lodestone Golem
4 Kuldotha Forgemaster
3 Phrexian Revoker
1 Sundering Titan
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Karn, Silver Golem
This deck handles the problems of the new metagame in some excellent ways. Kuldotha Forgemaster can find Sundering Titan to annihilate the blue player’s manabase and Steel Hellkite can easily destroy an entire board of tokens and Moxen (among other things). This deck doesn’t care if the opponent plays Moxen, it just shuts them down with Phyrexian Revokers or destroys them with Hellkite and Karn. He doesn’t even run the one copy of Chalice of the Void that the restricted list allows.
For Workshops, this deck embodies the strategy that seems to be working – being fearless. Don’t be afraid of Moxen – Workshops are like Black Lotus every turn! Instead of worrying about controlling the opponent completely, this deck uses Spheres as speed bumps to slow the opponent just enough that they get swallowed up in the brute force beating that this deck can put down.
Playing Null Rods forces you to build your deck without some of Workshop’s best cards. When I made top 4 of the Vintage Championship this year my deck only featured three copies of Chalice of the Void, although that was because I was expecting to play in a lot of Workshop mirrors where Chalice was weaker. Still, the strategy of pairing Workshops with Archbound Ravager is a strong one which was proved by this deck from the 100 player MTGO Power 9 tournament held on 10-24-15:
Workshop Affinity, Vintage Challenge #8922879 on 10/24/2015
By S4mmich (6th Place)
4 Lodestone Golem
4 Signal Pest
1 Cranial Plating
2 Expedition Map
4 Genesis Chamber
This deck is a derivative of the Vintage Affinity deck that Adrian Becker designed a few years ago. S4mmich wisely adds Hangarback Walker which seems like an obvious upgrade. If you’ve never seen Vintage Affinity before it has a lot of the elements from a Legacy or Modern Affinity deck but it also gets access to Skullclamp. Skullclamp is banned in pretty much every other format but it’s not even restricted in Vintage! Genesis Chamber is included almost exclusively because of its synergy with Skullclamp. This gives the deck access to a fairly robust draw engine, which is something Workshops decks rarely get to do.
OT Genasis Chamber is in love with the Skullclamp
One last note about this deck – the two Blightsteel Colossus in the sideboard are there as a way to defeat the painter’s Servant combo that Rich Shay and several other players were using in the event. If your opponent tries to Grindstone you with a Painter’s Servant in play, normally it would dump your entire deck into the graveyard. Blightsteel Colossus has a replacement effect that prevents it from ever touching the graveyard and it has to be shuffled back into the deck even during resolution of the Grindstone effect. Ultimately if your deck contains two copies of Blightsteel Colossus and someone tries to Grind you out with the Painter combo both copies will continuously shuffle back into your deck and it will cause the game to end in a draw. Unless your local metagame features a ton of Painter, you would probably want to replace the Blightsteels with something else.
For several years now the only way to play Workshops has been to do it without splashing in any colored cards, but in this new metagame that’s necessarily true anymore. Some of these Workshop decks featuring colored cards are a far deviation from the norm, but they’re also worth a look. Here’s a list from the Top4 of the MTGO Power 9 tournament:
By Thiim (5th Place), Vintage Challenge #8922879 on 10/24/2015
4 Lodestone Golem
4 Vampire Hexmage
I vant to suck your… ice counters
This deck splashes black for a bit of tutoring and for Vampire Hexmage which serves several roles in here. First and foremost it combines with Dark Depths to remove all of the ice counters for an immediate transformation into the 20/20 Merit Lage. For redundancy, the Merit Lage token can also be created by combining Depths with Thespian’s Stage. Vampire Hexmage also has another nifty function, though – it kills Planeswalkers. When you remove all of the loyalty counters from a Planeswalker it dies, so Hexmage becomes a great answer for annoying cards like Dack Fayden and Jace.
As a bonus, this deck requires only TWO Power Nine cards making it much more budget friendly than most other Vintage decks, especially in a proxy environment. If you’re playing an event that allows 10 (or more) proxies and don’t have many Vintage staples this deck could be a great choice.
Sometimes the obvious answer is wrong. I’m not saying Null Rod is bad – it certainly has its place in the right metagame – I’m just saying that now isn’t the right time. Workshop players need to leverage what their deck does best, and that’s put powerful artifacts into play quickly and efficiently. Workshop isn’t just a prison archetype, it can be highly aggressive or even a combo deck. These are the paths Workshop pilots need to explore to put their favorite deck back on the map.
Don’t fear the Moxen, for fear is the path to the dark side.
Until next time,
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