Prison-style Workshop deck viable post thorn-restriction?

Hola gang,

Just getting back into Vintage after an extended hiatus, and I see that Thorn and Chalice are now restricted along with Lodestone. (Hey, let's just restrict all lock pieces until Workshop sucks.)

Any consensus as to whether a non-aggro Workshop deck that's heavy on the prison elements (whatever they might be) can work into today's meta?

-Dr. J


The lock pieces are not strong enough to consistently contain any of the blue decks and you will be at a severe disadvantage against the aggro-MUD decks, eldrazi, and Dredge.

I guess this depends on what you mean by viable. Any 75 cards jammed together are viable, but are not necessarily positioned well to win events. If you mean has someone else made a prison workshop deck that has consistently won events post thorn restriction that I am able to net-deck, I believe that the answer is no. Is it possible to make such a deck? Quite possibly. I am not going to pretend to know how or what such a deck would look like though. I know that I would start with the restricted artefact taxing cards, add spheres, bridges, smokestacks, null rods, revokers, and tangle wires.

Even after all of the Workshop restrictions, you still have access to more lock pieces than 5-color-Stax did the year it won champs. I think the real problem is that the creatures in aggro-shops are so powerful, there isn't a very good argument for running the 2nd-tier lock pieces instead of them.

I wouldn't personally back a Stax-style Workshop deck at the moment, but if I were, I would imagine the key cards to be Null Rod and maybe Ensnaring Bridge? Unless you're running cards that punish people for having Ravagers and Ballistas, you should have Ravagers and Ballistas. That's the problem to solve before anything else.

Recent 5-0 (which doesn't mean much), but this version looks quite good against AggroShops, Eldrazi, and Dredge.

AggroShops/Eldrazi has a hard time beating Ensnaring Bridge + Null Rod. Quad Peeking Needle (+2 actual needle in the board is great against Bazaar.

Could see shaving a Metamorph and the Wurmcoil for 2 more Bridges main if the expected meta is heavy on dudesweats. I would also want a Tabernacle or 2 in the board for the token strategies.

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Thanks for the suggestions, duderinos. I suspected, as some of you noted, that the lock pieces might not be dense enough to contain blue. I do like that decklist, but suspect it prob does suck against anything with access to Hurkyl's.

I'm actually going to have to work on a MUD prison deck very shortly. I have a feeling it won't be as consistent as an aggro deck, but I'm willing to spend the time to make it as optimal as it can be for old times sake.

I think you have to start with 4x null rod, 4x e-bridge, honestly. The beatdown decks are too fast and efficient, and then there's always oath swinging overhead with huge fatties. Bridge should do well at stalling humans, delver, oath, dredge (if you can dump fast enough a la bazaar/uba stax maybe?), and eldrazi. Balista/ravager is a quick clock as well as a non-attack win, so null rod is huge. Rod also stops paradoxical storm. If you are running revoker and spyglass (both great ideas for a prison style), you should be running 3x crucible with up to 9 strip effects. Crucible is also key with smokestack. Vs hurkyls, you have access to witchbane orb and orbs of warding, so I don't think you're terribly vulnerable to be hurked later game. If they do it turn 1-2, they're really just tapping out to pull up 1-2 artifacts plus your moxen. If they don't do it until turn 3, odds are you have an orb on the ground. Orbs also shut down oath and storm (can't target you). I'd think a solid prison list would look like:

3x smokestack
4x sphere of resistance
1x thorn
1x trini
1x chalice
1x golem
3x tangle wire
3x metamorph
3x crucible
4x revoker
4x null rod
4x ensnaring bridge
2x sorcerous spyglass

1x sol ring
5x mox (I'd eschew crypt and lotus with 4x null rod)
3x mishra's factory
4x wasteland
3x ghost quarter
1x strip mine
4x ancient tomb
4x mishra's workshop
1x bazaar of bagdad

4x witchbane orb
2x Uba Mask
1x pithing needle
3x kill switch (you aren't aggro, you don't care if your stuff is tapped)
3x grafdigger's cage
2x - whatever

The goal, as most prison decks have, is to lock things up until you get a hard lock, then sacrifice your e-bridges and beat down with the few creatures you do have and manlands (much like a landstill deck).

@The-Atog-Lord played this list to top 8 at eternal weekend 2016
It would be a good starting point.

I've been testing Null Rod and I'm really not liking it. I'm gonna give Ratchet Bomb another whirl since it can actually kill the moxen, albeit symmetrically. The fact that it can also kill zombie tokens (and ballista) right away, as well as be amped up to kill an Oath makes it pretty appealing.

Kill Switch seems like an amazing sb card vs MUD aggro. Nice.

That list from 2016 has 3 extra slots once you take out the Thorns. Since it runs Bazaar, I'm curious if Buried Ruin would be a good card for it. Bazaars always have been clunky for me in MUD, so I'm not a fan.

Yeah, I've always wanted to fit Kill Switch somewhere in a deck. That and Mana Web. I've brewed up a 5-color Stax build with some unusual choices, which I would consider running Kill Switch in, if it weren't for the fact I'm running Null Rod already. Between shutting down Moxen, Ballista, Belcher, Helm, Grindstone, Time Vault, etc., I've come to consider it irreplaceable. Multiples suck though, which is why I run a tutor package.

@dr-j Hmm I wonder how Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth works with Mana Web. Only problem is that they can still use all the mana from their lands so I'm not sure Mana Web is a good card.

Oh, I don't think it's good in Stax. It's just an artifact I always thought had potential, but never found much of a use for. Many years ago you could use it in control decks to hamper your opponent's ability to use countermagic.

I'm not really sure Stax/prison is super viable when it's missing 3 Lodestones, 3 Thorns, and 3 Chalices.

That being said, Ratchet Bomb seems pretty good so far. Also I would recommend players trying to lock out their opponents add in Rishadan Port. When used during their upkeep, it's essentially another sphere effect for non-instant speed spells. They've always been awesome for me.

People can doubt it, but Expedition Map is pretty solid. You should be running at least 3 Crucibles anyway, and they find your Strip or Wasteland for a low investment. For 3 mana you can get another Workshop to break even....or better yet get your Tolarian Academy. I don't like it (because I find it less consistent), but Map allows for running singleton utility lands if that's your preference.

Anyone else have any thoughts?

last edited by Brass Man


I've been using Expedition Maps in a recent Stax build. It's been fantastic. Usually I'll just get Strip Mine for an early basic land, but getting Tolarian Academy has been game breaking multiple times.

@senor_bisquick What list are you currently using?


Below is the most recent version of what I've been playing. My formal testing has consisted of three leagues and a local paper event, which has culminated in the middling record of 11-7-1. A few cards have varied across the lists, but the core has remained steady.

There's definitely room for improvement, but I am also certain that this is NOT the best thing to be doing with your Mishra's Workshops. Like you, I simply have an unhealthy fixation on prison shops these days.

Generally, Expedition Maps for me have been expensive, colorless sinkholes, although I also use them for acceleration frequently to enable early plays. With all the basics around these days, getting a Strip Mine has often been game-breaking with or without Crucible. They are also an excellent enabler for Karn via getting Tolarian Academy.

Dunes of the Dead let's you keep a Smokestack at 2 with a Crucible out. Even without Crucible, it can allow you to keep a ramped Smokestack around a little longer. It also doubles as a finisher if you keep Smokestack at 1. Overall I've been pretty happy with it as a singleton.

Sadly, I've recently cut Tangle Wire, which has historically been one of my favorite cards. Without a reasonable clock on the board, they just don't do enough even with the synergy with Smokestack.

last edited by Guest

@senor_bisquick Thanks for the list. I'll post one soon enough.

The counts are a bit off, for example the Ancient Tomb is in the Business section and there are 8 Mana Rocks listed.

And yes I agree, Stax/Prison MUD isn't probably optimal right now but I do feel it's still a viable option despite that fact. Stax decks will always be my baby. I loved the consistency since that made up for the lack of card draw these decks were missing.

That being said, I'm not sure why only 3 Smokestacks. To be honest, if they printed another version of that card I'd probably run 2 more copies.

I'm curious, why 1 Keg and 1 Bomb? I would think Bomb is far superior.

Metamorph as a 4 of has always perplexed me. Probably because I'm more proactive though. I generally hate seeing 2 of them in opening hands.

Since you have 3 Maps, why not just singletons of the utility lands like Bazaar and Fair? I'm actually going to test out 4 Maps soon enough. Not like they gave us too many other choices to work with....

Keep up the good fight!


If I'm not mistaken I believe he's running a singleton Powder Keg for the shops mirror and Landstill matchup since it blows up man lands.

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