Maybe we need a Survival-less Survival thread.
Anyway, @Boogdish and I have been on a similar wavelength, apparently.
I 5-0ed earlier this week with this deck and 4-1'ed over a dozen times with similar builds over the last three weeks.
I've found the Stonecoils/Ballistas to be better than Memnite here, since they not only can be cast for at least twice the power for the same cost with Bridge in the graveyard, but are easier to scale into formidable threats on their own. I've been shooting down Deathrite Shamans with Ballista and closing out games quickly with Stonecoils when the graveyard plan fails (pro multicolor is huge vs Bug/Dack).
Maindeck Leyline has been very powerful in this metagame. Many decks, even the Xerox variants, rely heavily on the graveyard (e.g., Wrenn, Arcanist). Further, making it harder to remove the Bridges gives you resiliency against removal. I only side them out versus Outcome.
The sideboard still needs some work, but I'm sold on the Leyline of Sanctities. They not only deal with Trap/Crypt, but also Hurkyl's Recall, which lets you pivot harder into a prison deck against Outcomes/Combo. With the Bazaar/Squee engine, you can keep piling on the lockpieces against them.
The Wastelands and Ghost Quarters are primarily there for Shops/Dredge. They're also useful against Xerox variants, since they they help to cast threats when you need to dodge graveyard hate and also keep pressure on their manabase while you're chipping away.
Usually, I have one to two Crucibles in the board for the Shops matchups over some number of Quarters/Revokers, which I think is correct.
I've tried to make Bridge work in these lists, and have found that like you suggest, it pushes the build too far in to Dredge territory at the expense of the other gameplans.
Regarding Ichorids: out of the several dozen lists I've tried, those with Ichorids have fared best for me. The list I 5-0ed with didn't have the Ichorids (looks like the list above), but on the whole the versions with some number of Ichorids have done best. I kept finding that the Dredge plan Game 1 is a little too anemic with just the Bloodhasts/Amalgams, so I've been trying to give it just a little more strength.
I have also wanted to explore Ballista in these shells, but have hesitated to explore that in the current list because of the dis-synergy with Null Rod. I think there is potential, though, perhaps in a very different list or for matches where Null Rods don't excel.
Also, after a month break from leagues, I took out the below list last night and ran back-to-back 4-1's:
Only losses were to Uba Stax (how fitting in this thread) and Outcome, both in Game 3.
Life From the Loam was fantastic all night. It was responsible for several match wins and felt much better than Crucibles when I've tried them. As both a tutor and recursion engine for the Depths plan, I am optimistic about its role in the deck.
Cursed Totem is a nod to Shops primarily. Shops, for me, has been the worst match-up for these lists. Null Rod is the best card in this match up, and buys a lot of time with Hollow One as a wall. Cursed Totem gets pretty close to Null Rod number 5 in that match-up.
Last night brings my last 7 leagues to 26-9 (somehow managing not to 5-0 in that span).
This opens up so much design space for Stax.
I've been trying to make Stax work for the last couple of years, and I've been torn between lists that do and don't play Null Rod.
Every time I play Stax lists with Null Rod, I feel like I'm weighed down. The card is burdensome in so many ways--there is serious dis-synergy with cards like Smokestack and Tangle Wire (these cards need to be doing something other than tapping down or sacrificing dead moxen), it increases the rate of dead draws (bad in multiples, and dead moxen, but ours this time, and Stax lists already suffer from rough top-decks), makes it harder to ramp to higher CMC spells (dead moxen again, reluctance to play Lotus and Crypt etc.), and it freezes rather than eliminates the opponent's artifact ramp (a single Ancient Grudge topples the house of cards).
For these reasons, I've much preferred playing without Null Rod in favor of maximizing synergies, like using Bomb/Keg to clear the board to magnify the effects of Smokestack/Tangle Wire. Of course, this comes at a cost-- Null Rod does so much for so little, and playing it dramatically increases the odds of making an impactful turn-1 play (all the more important after losing Thorn).
But this card is close to the best of both worlds. You get to play your ramp, since it doesn't do anything to yours. You get to play cards with activated abilities like Keg/Bomb. And you can even use an Expedition-Map toolbox . Hell, you can even go all out with a Serum-Powder build and retrieve exiled artifacts with the -2. And it's a win-con.
This is a good day for Stax.
I've only just started playing again after a couple of months off, but Null Rod has been working well for me against the Karn decks, since both the Shops and Eldrazi lists rely so heavily on the artifact accelerants.
Wastelands have been a great complement to Null Rod, too, especially against Eldrazi, since their threats are at a high, fixed cost, but Shops can simply choose to play their threats for less mana.
Congrats on the 5-0!
Echoing @ajfirecracker, I've found 1-3 Ichorids to be very strong in the maindeck. The biggest value in my mind is having another way to trigger Prized Amalgam. Adding just one Ichorid increases the probability of having a way to trigger Amalgam by 25%.
The down-side of Ichorid is that it is relatively inflexible across the match--it's much better Game 1 than in Games 2-3. I think in general that cards supporting only half of the plan in a hybrid deck need an especially-high cost to benefit ratio for consideration. I think that the first Ichorid meets that criteria comfortably, but I'm not 100% sold on additional copies, as the returns diminish quickly (at least regarding Amalgam triggers; +20%, +17%, and +14% for adding each Ichorid beyond the first).
I haven't had time to play in any leagues in weeks, but I did play in five leagues with 2-3 Ichorids and 1-2 Golgari Thug and went 18-7. A small sample size, but the Ichorids felt smooth.
Like you, I also have developed mixed feelings about Leyline of Sanctity. It's so good at ensuring lockpieces stick around against Outcome, does great things against Oath, and deals with targeted hate like Ravenous Trap and Tomord's crypt. Consequently, it synergizes with both halves of the deck, but it also doesn't help win the game and does so little on its own.
As I side-note-- I have adored your Stax lists since I started playing Vintage in the early 2000s. It's cool to see you back!
Got the 5-0 with the above list featuring Life From the Loam.
I've played Loam in six leagues, going 23-7 across two different lists. Four of those leagues were with the verbatim list posted above (17-3) and two were with a modified version that cut the Salvages/Ichorid for more Portals/Loams/Leyline of Sanctity (6-4).
Obviously a small sample size, but I think Dakmor Salvage may too important to cut. In the two leagues and a bunch of practice matches without it, I've had trouble reliably triggering the Bloodghasts or ensuring a land drop to get Loam going. Dredging a Salvage often accomplishes both in a single turn.
I can't overemphasize how good Life from the Loam has been. What's really impressed me is how good it's been against Shops and Eldrazi, which were the two match-ups that have given me the most trouble. Loam doesn't just help keep Marit Lage looming, but also undermines the ability of Shops and Eldrazi to overwhelm the board with threats by recurring Wasteland. Null Rod and Wasteland consequently buys a lot of time. The Spheres, which I keep in against Eldrazi, have also become more effective at keeping Thought-Knots and Smashers off the table with a stream of Wastelands flowing.
Thanks for the run-down on your sideboarding, I find your approach very interesting. I've always kept in the Shops and lockpieces against the Oath/Survival/U-Wasteland decks to hamper the ability to find and play answers to Marit Lage or the dredge plan and prevent their threats (e.g., keep Oath off the table or Survival from going off in a single turn through a Sphere).
But it looks like you are going for a more all-in attack strategy by keeping the threats and tossing the prison element. I'm going to try that. I think that might be the better approach (especially on the draw).
Also, what are your thoughts on Spyglass vs Needle? Are you going for the latter because you tend to board out Shops?
I'll start my post be saying that my opinion on the London Mulligan is not firm. It's a complex topic and relevant data are limited. Three weeks really isn't enough to gather sufficient data to make statistical comparisons (at least with the limited data that our benevolent overlords permit us to see). So we're left with weaker forms of evidence (trends, intuition, etc.)
In any case, my initial reaction to the new rule is net negative.
There are certainly positive aspects of the new rule. As others have articulated here, the new rule may increase the breadth and complexity of decisions in the early game and in deck building. In theory, this should reward skill/experience and make the decision process itself more mentally stimulating and enjoyable.
However, several factors make me especially concerned about adopting the new rule.
First, I don't think we have (or will have) the data necessary to have an idea of how the new rule will affect the metagame and play experience. I recognize that taking risks can be an important part of improving the format/game, but I feel like the magnitude of this proposed change needs a commensurate amount of data to inform it, which I don't think we'll get.
Second, I worry that the new rule incentives strategies that are broken, fast, proactive, and all-in. This could make Vintage more like its caricature, the "turn-1 format." It may also make the luck of the die roll more important.
Again, hard to know for sure. The format doesn't appear to have undergone a cataclysmic shift in this direction. But I really wouldn't expect it to happen that fast, either. There's bound to be inertia in the decisions people make--people like what they play, have emotional attachments to certain cards/decks, and don't necessarily have the time/motivation to find out how to capitalize on the new changes.
Of course, such an issue could be mitigated through restrictions. But we all know how long addressing format issues through restrictions can take. I'm worried about Vintage undergoing such a large upheaval and how long it will take things to settle.
Finally, I worry that the new rule could complicate our long history of knowledge and theories regarding deck building and in-play decisions. Honestly, I have not thought this one through as deeply, but I don't think I've seen that discussed elsewhere (but I haven't read much on the new rule, either, so I could absolutely be wrong here).
Again, my post is intentionally full of "coulds," "mays," and "appears." I really feel like I don't have a firm grasp on this. Looking forward to reading more discourse on the subject.
Snagged a 5-0 yesterday with this list:
The older style lists were performing well until Modern Horizons hit and dredge became ubiquitous. The first problem was that Force of Vigor severely weakened the previous plan of attack against Dredge. Leyline simply didn't buy enough time on its own to get Marit Lage on the table. The second problem was that graveyard hate became so rampant. This didn't only harm the dredge portion of the deck, but also the Marit Lage plan that leaned so heavily on Riftstone Portal and Life from the Loam.
To address these problems, I moved the Leylines into the maindeck and went with a full suite of Wastes/Strip. Even with Force of Vigor present, those Wastelands can buy a ton of time against Dredge. And of course, they don't always have Force of Vigor, so having Leylines in all three games helps. The maindeck Leylines are also great against Dreadhorde Xerox and Wrenn-and-Six decks.
I also doubled-down on the Marit Lage plan, since it can completely evade graveyard hate and cards like Swords/Repeal are fairly absent from the meta. Going back to the classic Vampire Hexmage and Urborg plan has been doing very well in post-board games.
Edit: followed right up with a 4-1 today
I 5-0'd twice last week. It would have been three times had I not been inattentive and punted a lethal attack (opponent couldn't empty hand with Ensnaring Bridge in play and I missed it). I also 4-1'd four times. Overall, I've gone 35-10 with this specific list:
I know the deck can seem like a pile of nonsense at first glance (perhaps for many more glances after that).
I plan to write a primer to explain the deck once I've tracked the critical details of at least 100 matches across the various recent lists (e.g., die-roll, match-up, hand size, lockpiece on turn 1, Bazaarless hands etc.). I've played more than that already, but I had not been diligent enough with the tracking to give a full picture.
I've been trying this in a Stax shell, and it's been great.
It can immediately threaten victory in a way that Stax has lacked since the loss of Lodestone Golem and Chalice of the Void.
Playing Karn and fetching Voltaic Key or Time Vault requires an immediate answer. I played one league with this as the plan, and won at least one game with Vault-Key in all five matches. The overall finish was mediocre at 3-2, but both losses were Game-3 nail-biters.
It's obviously impossible to make anything meaningful out of five competitive matches. But more important to me right now is the feel of the deck and figuring out how reliably Karn can be cast in a traditional Stax shell. Coupled with a bunch of practice room games, Karn hasn't been too challenging to cast. Some combination of City of Traitors, Urborgs, and just a couple of artifact accelerators seems to do the trick.
What excites me the most about Karn is how many different ways you can approach building a Stax deck with it. As a lock-piece that can potentially fetch up to 15 cards in the sideboard, I imagine that there is no one optimal style of Stax build that uses it. It's been years since Stax had this much latitude in design choices.
Thanks, I'm gonna miss playing/chatting with you, too! It's always a pleasure. Hopefully I can make it out to Gaming Etc. now and again when I'm in the area.
Norwalk is a great suggestion--that's only about 10 minutes longer than my current drive to Acton.
Thanks, I'd love to make it out there to play some games and talk Workshops with one of the pre-eminent disciples of Mishra (I use your lists and posts all the time for Stax inspiration). I may be able to make it to the NYSE for the first time this year. I've been dying to go for ages.
It's definitely an option that's worth exploring.
Workshop does have a couple of advantages over City of Traitors, but I'll admit that it's unclear how valuable these advantages are in the present style of builds.
Perhaps the most important advantage of Workshop is the ability to cast lockpieces on consecutive turns while letting Bazaar do its thing. For example, you can cast Sphere on turn 1, then Sphere on turn 2, and play Bazaar. That gets both plans online immediately, whereas City of Traitors would require a second, suicidal land drop.
The other advantage of Workshop is that it stays around longer. Keeping the land count high on the battlefield can be important to leap over the deck's own taxing effects. Cards like Sphere and Loam get harder to cast in the longer games. So long as Workshop has an enabler like Urborg or Riftstone Portal, it can help support any part of the game plan.
All that being said, Workshops and City of Traitors aren't mutually-exclusive. It's possible that some number of each is a viable approach, or that the latter belongs in the sideboard.
As a final comment, although the deck features Stage/Depths, I generally don't try to "turbo" it out as is common with traditional dredge lists. I rarely keep hands that have Stage, Depths, and Tomb with no other gas--it's just too slow. Even in those cases where I have disruption and the Marit Lage triplet, I often prioritize the mana denial plan (Wastes/ Loams etc.) until I can make sure I can swing in without worrying about Swords, Repeal, etc. The real value of Stage/Depths, in my eyes, is that it increases the range of acceptable hands--you get to be more picky when you can win with the Dredge part, Marit Lage, or Hollow Ones, each of which have different enablers.
I love this list.
I completely agree that the way to handle Xerox is to hit their mana hard. Generally I've done that with Expedition Maps for Waste/Strip and Rishadan Ports.
But Ark of Blight is very intriguing. It's one of those cards that I come across when doing a deep dig looking for any new angle in Stax, but I've never mustered the courage to try it out. How has Ark been working for you overall? Do you plan to retain it as a four of? What turn do you generally play it on?
Hogaak is phenomenal. It addresses some serious weaknesses with the deck that I'd struggled to manage before. Most importantly, it offers a way to crash through an opponent's defenses when they manage to get an appreciable number of blockers on the board, like Pyromancer tokens. This has come up enough that I've even tried running Glory or Filth to get the appropriate evasion, but those cards require a lot of work to get online (but I must say, using Glory is a blast). Less importantly, Hogaak actually provides a way for the deck to buy time against Blightsteel Colossus, which was almost impossible to deal with before.
Hogaak is also certainly worth playing in multiples, but I think playing more than one depends on the metagame. It can make the dredge half of the deck way better, and I did try versions that played 3 to 4. But I think space is tighter than usual right now and that metagame has really encouraged minimizing the Dredge plan.
As for Mana Crypt, I go back and forth. I think my decision to omit it was primarily meta-dependent, actually. I do love Mana Crypt in Game 1, where it has effectively no drawback since we're pretty fast. And I sometimes love it in Game 2 and 3 for those quick Stage/Marit Lages. But there are a few things in the meta that have pushed me away from it: first, decks are really pressuring the life-total right now--not just the obvious culprits like Eldrazi, Shops, Survival, and Dredge, but there are also plenty of Tarmogoyfs and Dreadhordes throwing bolts at your face. The damage has mattered a lot when I've tested it--and I was playing it in pretty much every list again until a few days ago. Second, I rarely sideboard Null Rod out anymore, making the Crypt a blank too often. Third and finally, since PO/Combo have dropped off, getting a turn-1 lockpiece has been less important.
Yeah, I absolutely got very lucky there. And really, I got pretty lucky in the first game, too. Variance was much kinder to me than usual.
Played the above list to a middling 4-3 at the NYSE.
I won against the best match ups (Xerox, Dredge), lost two of my three medium match-ups (Karn Shops, BUG, Doomsday), and lost against the horrifying nightmare match-up (Dark Times with Crop Rotation into Bojuka Bog main deck. Quite rude if you ask me.):
Karn Shops: 1-2
Xerox (URW): 2-0
Big-blue BUG (Brian Kelly contraption): 1-2
Xerox (URW): 2-0
Dark Times: 0-2
Overall, I'm not too displeased with how the deck performed, as I only lost one more match than I would expect given performance in the leagues (around a 70% win-rate, which on average should result in a 4.90-2 record in 7 matches). I suppose that's to say that the result was below-par by one match.
I certainly made some questionable mulligan decisions in two of the match-ups I lost, especially when deciding which cards to bottom. The silver lining is that those skill-testing decisions were made possible by the London mulligan, which I otherwise detest for Vintage.
As a side note, four of my seven opponents knew exactly what I was on due to frequent run-ins in the leagues, so there was little surprise value to reap. Vintage is a small world.