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By: RWHope, RWH
Jul 04 2013 10:14am
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Mono White Stax: A Legacy

Smokestack

   Stax is an archetype created and made popular with the printing of Smokestack. It is most known as a Legacy deck today that focuses on controlling the board, namely by keeping as many permanents off of it as possible. Using powerful hate cards like Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere, and Armageddon, the Stax deck slowly grinds out its opponents before finishing them with a big hitter or until the opponent quits from frustration. The difference between Stax and Death and Taxes is that Taxes tries to out tempo you with cheap creatures that make it harder to cast spells, it relies on tempo and creature beats. Stax grinds the game to a snail crawl and keeps the opponent from doing anything! Which one sounds more fun? Thought so. A sample Legacy deck, as used by Kevin Long earlier this year at an SCG Live event. 

   
 
Even the lands do some filthy things with Tabernacle tapping down opponents who play creatures. I wanted to have the same eye-gouging, mind-numbing fun in Modern as this deck is in Legacy. Now many of the above cards (most) are not Modern legal so the direction taken has to be a bit different but can still make long and grindy games. When moving a deck from one format to another, especially from a bigger card pool to a smaller, it is important not to get caught up trying to find cards that purely substitute for another effect but just don't do it as well. For example: say I found a deck online that played Llanowar Elves but I didn't have any. I could just as easily play Arbor Elf without a problem. This is fine. But if I wanted to play a deck that had Tarmogoyf and tried to substitute Garruk's Companion I would be severely weakening myself and would be better off playing a different deck. Now there are situations where you have the choice between two cards of similar power that all depend on what you want to do and that’s fine too. Like for us today, I may not be able to play The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale but I can play Magus of the Tabernacle which is of similar power and depending on the situation, better. Without a land wipe in White in Modern the deck has to play a bit differently but can still be very fun and agonizing.

The Hate

Magus of the Tabernacle Ghostly Prison Trinisphere Chalice of the Void

   Modern is getting to be a pretty fast format with decks capable of winning on turn 3 or 4. Our goal as the Stax deck is to grind them to a halt, keeping them from doing what they want to do as long as it takes until we crush them. The most popular Modern decks as I have seen lately are UWr, Affinity, Pod, Tron, Taxes, and I'll throw in Red/Aggro All-In variants. White has great hate for all of these archetypes and the best cards against them can often be main boarded for their versatility. Trinisphere is a great artifact that makes your opponent's life miserable when they're playing aggro or UWr. A lot of aggro decks only play 20-21 lands and only see 2 or 3 at the most in the first few turns of the game, slowing them down to 1 spell a turn makes them much easier to deal with. UWr relies on cheap removal and Snapcaster Mage to control the board and burn the face, they also tries to hold counter magic such as Cryptic Command. When all of their spells cost 3 to cast it becomes much harder to cast multiple spells a turn which is how they gain card advantage. In Stax, we won't even be playing Path, and will try to play spells that are a little more expensive for an added power boost. Another great Artifact that sees play in Legacy but has been ignored in Modern is Chalice of the Void. Playing it for 2 or 4 shuts down a ton of decks and neuters many of their draws. Burn can't beat a Chalice at 1 and RG will have trouble getting around one at 2. Turning off Path in many decks will make our Magus of the Tabernacle nigh unkillable in many matchups letting him make the creature decks squirm. Any deck that wants to win with creatures also hates Ghostly Prison. Yeah UR Twin, you have infinity fairies? I'll take... 2? Making your opponent pay way more for their spells and creatures on their turn allows you the freedom to do whatever you want on your turn without fear of counter magic which is a pain we can all do without. These effects are the back bone of the Stax archetype and give your opponent the biggest headache!

Denying Resources

Storage Matrix Crucible of Worlds Wrath of God

     In a deck that runs so few creatures a good wrath effect is always good to have in reserve. Wrath of God is the best option available and can wipe anything that’s bugging you. Still, kinda boring compared to the other pieces of denial. Storage Matrix is an interesting card, if an opponent wants to attack he can't untap his lands and vice versa. Since Stax doesn't care about untapping anything but lands there's no downside for us. It can make a huge impact on an opponent, and if they try to take a turn off the attack to play another creature or two we just make him lose them all. With the Magus out the opponent has no choice but to untap his lands or let his precious creatures die, it’s a lose-lose situation. Or win-win for us. It doesn't help the Affinity matchup very much but to be fair it’s a pretty good matchup to begin with. Crucible of Worlds is in the denial section because it combos quite well with cards like Tectonic Edge and Ghost Quarter which can lead to machine gunning through the opponent's lands. This keeps Trinisphere relevant through the entire game, since they can never get enough mana to play more spells.

Winning

Gideon Jura Elspeth, Knight-Errant Ajani Goldmane

    If your opponent doesn't want to concede defeat even they can't do anything we have some cards to earn the win. As a side note I would try to play quickly so as to beat your opponent on clock, the games get long! But sometimes you have to get your opponent to 0. The first way is Magus beats, they have big butts and are hard to remove, and 2 power is fine when your opponent is already at 12 from their fetches and shocks into turn 1 Thoughtseize. For added oomph to both power and denial there is also a singleton World Queller. Make your opponents sacrifice lands in the late game to keep them off of dealing with it and you're golden in just a few swings. The magic 4 toughness is too big to bolt and hopefully Chalice is already shutting down their Paths. 1 Sun Titan is for good measure to get lost permanents back and hit for big chunks of health. There is 1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant, 1 Gideon Jura, and 1 Ajani Goldmane. Planeswalkers are hard to deal with without creatures and your opponents will be lacking in that department. Elspeth and Gideon start making a threat right away and Ajani can get you some lost life back into a huge avatar. Save them for when you have stock control of the board and they should last as long as you need. Finally there are 2 Dread Statuary that can't be hit by sorcery speed removal or wraths and can be brought back with Crucible for a recoverable unstoppable force. 

   Those are the highlights of the deck. I added some Oblivion Rings and Dispense Justice for a splash of removal against anything I might run into. I hate the Bogle deck and with Metalcraft a fairly common possibility it can deal with many forms of creature based attacks. With that the complete list is as follows:

 

 

   The sideboard is fairly straightforward and hates against the most popular decks. Aggro shouldn't be too bad but Timely Reinforcements is always superb. Pod and Tron struggle with Grafdigger's Cage, which can't stop Living End by the way, you'll need Rest in Peace for that. Don't worry about turning off the graveyard support, if you bring in Rest in Peace they want their graveyard a lot more than you do. AND that includes Snapcaster Mage wielders. 

    This is a fun control deck that isn't seen very often. You don't have to hold up counter magic and your opponents will often lack hate to use against you. I've always liked prison decks and I think they can work in any format.

PS If you click on the link for "Infinity Fairies" go to 6:10, its hilarious.