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Vintage 101: Prison Break

Hurkyl's Recall - NeNe Thomas

Breaking Free from Prison Decks

Last week I went over the results from the last Power Nine Challenge, and I talked about the oversized representation of Mishra's Workshop decks in the top sixteen spots. In the comments section one of my readers asked me for a few tips on how to deal with Workshop decks. Often times players who are new to Vintage tell me that they've had trouble playing against Workshops, and I think discussing how to approach that matchup is an important resource for a new player. 

I'm going to preface this article by saying I have no intention of painting Workshop decks in a negative light. I've played Workshop decks myself, and they're not as simple to pilot as some would have you think. It takes a great deal of courage to show up to a Vintage table with a deck that cannot fight on the stack. There is no Force of Will to stop your opponent's turn one blowout play, and there is no real draw engine either. Sure, some Workshop decks have found ways to draw a few extra cards, but Treasure Cruise and Ancestral Recall is out of reach for Mishra's artifact army. 

As I said last week, Workshop decks play a vital role in providing opposition to decks with greedy mana bases.  Ritual-based Storm and Goblin Charbelcher decks are fun, flashy, and explosive decks, but without cards like Trinisphere and Chalice of the Void, they would have few natural predators in the Vintage ecosystem. The nature of how Workshop decks keep these decks in check causes the "feel bad" moments that end up making people dislike Workshops. 

How Prison Works

I like to think of "Prison" as a form of control. Normal control decks play reactively and seek to fight on the stack by countering spells or destroying permanents. Prison decks want to preemptively stop you from playing spells. Instead of countering one of your spells, their goal is to make that spell uncastable. The way Workshop decks accomplish this control is mostly through mana-superiority and effects that attack their opponent's mana base. 

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Three of the main parts of the Workshop deck's mana base.

Most Workshop decks fall into the categories of Workshops Aggro or Workshops Prison, but both of those sub-types will employ inhibitory "lock pieces" to impede their opponent's game plan. After deploying these cards to bog down the opposition, Workshop decks will set about attacking for lethal damage with their creatures (some of which also function as lock pieces). Some cards like Smokestack can create a lock that opponent's will be unable to break, but much of the time lock pieces act as little "Time Walks." Time Walk grants a player an extra turn, but Workshop decks often "steal" a turn from their opponent's by rendering their turn useless. Playing a Tangle Wire against an opponent buried under a Trinisphere illustrates the point quite clearly.

The inhibitory cards employed by workshop decks are varied. One of the most common type of lock-down effects are colloquially known as "Spheres." These Spheres (named after effects similar to Sphere of Resistance) make it harder to cast spells. There's even one Sphere effect that attacks for five each turn, Lodestone Golem.

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These cards were designed to be symmetrical in nature as they affect all players. Like all the effects Workshop decks play, these symmetrical effects are turned into asymmetrical effects through the use of Mishra's Workshop, artifact mana, and the "Sol Lands" (e.g. Ancient Tomb). Because a Workshop deck can produce so much mana, they have no problem paying more for their spells. 

There are other control elements used in contemporary Workshop decks. Some of the most common ones are Chalice of the Void, Phyrexian Revoker, and Tangle Wire.

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Chalice was more of a threat when it was unrestricted, but it is still very potent. On zero, an early Chalice of the Void can neutralize a hand full of moxen. With one counter, Chalice preemptively shuts off large portions of opposing decks. Generally speaking, Workshop decks play very few cards that cost exactly one mana, unlike nearly every deck in Vintage.  

Phyrexian Revoker is an interesting creature, it's basically a Pithing Needle on legs. Unlike Pithing Needle, however, it can stop mana abilities. Revoker has the power to shut off any mana artifact that is threatening to break the Workshop deck's stranglehold on the game. Other than mana rocks, popular targets for Revoker include Planeswalkers like Dack Fayden or even creatures like Griselbrand

Tangle Wire is one of my favorite lock pieces found in the Workshop decks. In Shops, Tangle Wire plays out a lot like a colorless Time Walk. If things go according to plan, opponent's won't be able to play many spells due to the inhibitory effects from Spheres, and subsequently they won't have many permanents to tap down when Tangle Wire comes into play. Tangle Wire is often the nail in the coffin that prevents someone from finally breaking free and casting spells. 

Workshop decks can attack your mana base in more traditional ways by using land destruction. 

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While Crucible of Worlds and Ghost Quarter aren't seen in every Workshop list, Strip Mine and Wasteland most certainly are. In fact. Wasteland is the primary reason that a basic land is seen in nearly every Vintage deck's sideboard. Crucible is great in Workshop mirror matches, and it is sometimes used in conjunction with Smokestack to keep the 'Stack in play indefinitely. Some decks may play Crucible in the main, some play it sideboard only, and a few list omit it completely. Ghost Quarter acts as additional copies of Strip Mine, and it's especially potent against the few decks that run zero basic lands. 

The cards I've listed are some of the most common threats you'll see when facing Workshops. All of those cards are great in Workshop decks because of the massive mana production Mishra's Workshop offers. Spending a land drop to kill an opponent's land is normally a significant sacrifice, but in a Workshop deck you can essentially buy back that land drop by top-decking one of your five copies of Black Lotus (4 Shops and the one real Lotus). There are other cards that Workshop decks may play, including some cards with colored mana costs (colored Workshop decks were once the norm), but they aren't very common anymore. Cards like Smokestack, Uba Mask, and Goblin Welder are worth knowing about, but chances are you won't see them on Magic Online

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All of these can sometimes be found in Workshop decks, but most decks do not play them currently. 


Here's a recent Workshop deck, representative of the most popular build at the moment.

How to beat Workshops: Deck Construction

Constructing a deck to beat Workshops takes a lot more than just packing some hate cards in the sideboard. To truly stand a chance against this archetype you have to have a main deck that isn't completely devoted to beating Blue decks. There are several reasons why depending entirely on your sideboard to defeat a Workshop decks will fail.

First of all, Workshop decks play a ton of artifact threats that are worth killing. Sideboarding in four artifact removal spells isn't going to help you enough to enact your game plan. Imagine you were planning on beating a Standard format aggro deck by trading one-for-one with every single creature they play; such a scenario is simply impossible. There's no way to possibly keep that up and have any cards leftover with which to win a game. 

Secondly, even if you could somehow lean entirely on your sideboard, there's still the matter of having to win two of three games. Losing game one of each match puts you in a terrible position to win the whole round, and you're going to have to play one of your post-sideboarded games on the draw. Being on the draw against Workshops is a severe drawback because all of the various Spheres and other lock pieces can come down before you're able to create a meaningful board presence. Being on the draw means that you're always a land drop behind the Workshops deck, which makes Wasteland even stronger against you.

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Three great cards that are completely dead against Workshops

If your main deck isn't adequately prepared to play against Shops, chances are there are too many dead cards in your list and game one becomes simply unwinnable. Cards like Mental Misstep, Flusterstorm, and even Gitaxian Probe are great against other Blue decks, but they are mostly worthless against Workshops. One trick is to find cards that are good against Shops and decent enough against the rest of the field to warrant inclusion. This means that cards like Lightning Bolt can be great to include. Bolt can take out Lodestone Golems and Phyrexian Revokers all day, and it is decent removal against planeswalkers and many of the format's creatures.

Spell Pierce is weaker than Flusterstorm in most match ups, but unlike Flusterstorm there are at least several targets for it in a Workshop deck. Always remember that Workshop mana can't pay the two generic mana required by Spell Pierce; they will need artifact mana or mana from a Sol Land. 

Cantrips, Gush, and Mana Bases

Many contemporary Vintage decks are designed with a small amount of lands and they use cantrips to compensate for this. This is the deck philosophy behind Gush decks, but playing less lands extends to many decks in Vintage. The reason a deck would want to cut lands is to create "virtual card advantage." Playing less lands means that each draw from the top of the deck is more likely to produce a non-land card, which in turn makes decks have a better chance at having card superiority. If two players are at card parity, but one player has drawn three superfluous lands and their opponent has drawn only one extra land, the player with less wasted draws is at a distinct advantage. This deck-building principle works well with Gush, and cards like Ponder. Brainstorm. Preordain. and even Gitaxian Probe, which allow these decks to hit their land drops even with skimpy mana bases. 

The problem with depending on cantrips to make land drops becomes apparent when cantrips start to cost two, three, or more mana to cast. All of a sudden land drops are being missed, and you feel yourself falling behind the Workshop deck. Finding your precious sideboard cards also becomes hard if you're unable to dig for them with Preordain. The Volcanic Islands you plan on using to cast that Ingot Chewer get Wastelanded before you can even make enough land drops to pay the extra mana it now costs. This example is the main reason basic lands become important when playing against Shops. 

When you're building your deck, you want to have at least one basic land of your base color in your deck, and if space permits I'd play two of them. Much of the time this means playing a couple Islands, but obviously it changes with whatever deck you're playing. In addition to this, it is vital to have basic lands for at least one of your support colors as well.

The second most important basic land type is going to be the color that you're using to cast all of your anti-artifact sideboard cards. Much of the time this means running basic Mountains in the sideboard and fetch lands that can find them, but it could also mean playing Forests or Plains, or additional Islands depending on your deck. When I build my Oath decks, for example, I'm using Green as my anti-Shops color. Green gives me access to Nature's Claim, and I'm already playing Green for Oath of Druids. There is really no good reason to skip playing these basic lands, and even though it's possible to get lucky and win without them, I don't recommend taking that risk. 

I mentioned Gush in the header for this section because it is a very common card in Vintage, and because many Gush decks play a small number of lands. Some Gush decks have a lot of artifact mana like Monastery Mentor decks, but decks built around Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer don't play many artifacts. Gush is great at drawing cards, but the cost of returning two lands to your hand can be troublesome when facing down a Workshop deck. It can be tempting to avoid losing a land to Wasteland by casting Gush in response to a land being destroyed, but it isn't always the correct play. If you're being buried under lock pieces and bouncing two lands would stop you from playing any spells for a few turns, it probably is a bad time to be playing Gush

Play Cheap Threats

One of the best things that you can do to have game against Workshops is to play cheap threats. These threats can take the form of cheap creatures like Delver of Secrets or Young Pyromancer, but it could also mean playing cards like Oath of Druids. Oath is one of the best main-deck cards you could run to give you game against Shops. Resolving an Oath means you're likely to tutor into a back-breaking creature. 

Delver of Secrets might not seem like a Vintage powerhouse to the uninitiated, but the Insectile Aberration is actually quite good against Shops. A turn-one Delver can do a ton of damage to a Workshop pilot, and it is not unheard of for the 3/2 flier to go the whole distance. Played on the first turn, Delver slips into play underneath all the Spheres, and there isn't many cards in a Shops deck that can kill it. Young Pyromancer, Delver's partner-in-crime, is also very good against Shops. It's worth noting that spells countered by Chalice of the Void still trigger Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor, so casting a handful of spells into a Chalice just to make tokens is a powerful play. 

Deathrite Shaman is also great against Workshop decks as a cheap threat. It has the added bonus of making mana to help counteract lock pieces and Wasteland, and being Black and Green goes well with Abrupt Decay and Nature's Claim

A lot of this article has pertained to Blue-based decks, but cheap threats are the hallmark of the various hatebears decks in Vintage. If you're a new player having trouble playing against Shops, or if you're just looking for a cheaper deck that's a little rogue, playing hatebears might be a good choice. 

Attack Their Mana Base

Without the extra mana that the Sol Lands and Mishra's Workshop produces, paying the cost that cards like Thorn of Amethyst require becomes difficult if not impossible. This hidden flaw means Workshop decks can be somewhat vulnerable to Wasteland and Strip Mine, or even Ghost Quarter (Workshop decks don't generally play basic lands). Land destruction alone won't beat a Workshop deck, but it can buy you some much needed time. Also, a deck like BUG Fish can combine early pressure with Wasteland effects to do a lot of damage to a Shops deck, 

Blood Moon is also great at shutting off Mishra's Workshop, but at three mana it is kind of expensive. The old adage is that if you're able to resolve a three mana spell against Shops, you're already in good shape anyway. Even so, playing a deck built around Blood Moon is a viable strategy in Vintage. 

Null Rod is a card that can help against some builds of Workshop, generally by shutting down the large number of mana artifacts the decks employ. Null Rod is also good against Arcbound Ravager, Kuldotha Forgemaster, or any other artifact with an activated ability. It's important to be aware of the fact that some Workshop decks are actually built to use Null Rod themselves, and those decks are optimized to run well with their own copy. This means Null Rod won't be effective against every Workshop deck, so plan accordingly. 

Fetch Basic Lands

When I'm playing Vintage I will blindly fetch a basic land as my first land much of the time because of the high prevalence of Workshop decks. Strip Mine is restricted, so your basic land is four times less likely to be destroyed than a dual land would be. Unless you really need a dual land first, make fetching basic lands a habit. 

Beyond fetching basic lands, knowing when to crack your fetch lands is very important. There's no reason to crack a fetch land until you need the mana from it, aside from some cases where you need cards in your graveyard to delve away. There are only going to be so many basic lands in your deck, but if you leave your fetch land intact your opponent can't hit it with Wasteland. I know that this play seems like a simple thing, but you'd be surprised how many times I see people make this mistake. 


Knowing when to mulligan is one of the hardest and most important skill to learn in competitive Magic. Each deck mulligans differently, and each matchup changes what hands are acceptable or not. When playing against Mishra's Workshop decks, I've learned a few things about what hands to keep or toss back.

In many matchups I would consider mulliganing a hand with too many lands, but depending on exactly how many "extra" lands I had in my hand, I might actually keep the hand against Workshops. Earlier I mentioned how Vintage decks use cantrips to smooth out draws and to find lands. Well, when your cantrips cost two mana or even more, relying on them to find lands no longer works. I'd rather have a hand with three lands and only one cantrip than a hand with one land and three cantrips. The hand with three lands is at least guaranteed to hit the first few land drops. 

Force of Will is important against Workshops because it lets you stop the first sphere effect when you're on the draw or even sometimes on the play. That said, you probably don't want to lean too hard on Force of Will. You're still trading two cards for one, and if you can't use the turn that Force buys you to deploy a threat or build up a mana base, then it isn't going to be enough. 

What about keeping a hand with one land, a few moxen, two Blue cantrips, and a Force of Will? That is probably a decent hand on the play. On the draw, that hand is still ok, but you could be in trouble if your opponent is able to resolve a Chalice of the Void or Null Rod by baiting out your Force of Will. Whether you're on the play or on the draw this hand would have trouble with Null Rod as it leans so much on artifact mana. 

In the end, knowing whether to mulligan a hand against a Workshop deck is something you'll have to learn for yourself. There will be a lot of factors that play in to your decisions, but if you remember the generalities I mentioned in this section it should help. 


Sideboarding against Workshop decks can be tricky because there are many different builds you might face. In general, siding in basic lands is important, and cards that destroy artifacts or Strip Mine effects are helpful as well. The tips in this section are generalities, your specific plans will vary. 

Depending on the deck you've built, you're likely to have some number of cards that are useless against a Workshops player. These cards are the first ones to cut. Cards like Flusterstorm and Mental Misstep are garbage against Workshops. Some people keep in some number of Mental Misstep if they anticipate the Workshops pilot to sideboard in Grafdigger's Cage, but that's not something I do very often. 

Once you've cut the obvious cards, think about cards that will be tough to cast or just plain not good against the mana-taxing effects you're going to face. Expensive cards like Mind's Desire and Thirst for Knowledge, or cards that don't do much like Duress or Gitaxian Probe are good choices to remove. 

Your sideboard should have at minimum four cards to bring in against Workshops. I usually run six or seven myself, counting the extra basic land in my sideboard. The sideboard cards that people do use vary in strength, and there are many sideboard cards I see people use that are somewhat questionable. Let's take a look at a few options available to Vintage players.

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Energy Flux is a card that I see a lot of people try to use to shut down Workshop decks. On first glance, Energy Flux is a potent card against artifact strategies. Mishra's Workshop can't pay the upkeep cost of Energy Flux, so the card is very hard for a Workshops deck to deal with once it's on the battlefield. The problem with Flux is that it costs three mana. Remember, resolving a three mana enchantment against a field of Spheres and Lodestone Golems is no easy task. Three mana starts to feel like three million mana when you're on lockdown. For this reason, I don't recommend Energy Flux. If you're able to play the card, you're already doing well. You need sideboard cards that can be played when you're under a ton of pressure. The next card I'm going to talk about is similar to Energy Flux but it looks weaker to the untrained eye. 

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Kataki, War's Wage looks like it would be less effective than Energy Flux, but in reality I would play it over Flux in any deck that could support its mana cost. The reason I like Kataki better is that the difference between two mana and three mana is astronomical when you're playing against a deck with mana-taxing effects. Additionally, Kataki is a creature. The majority of Workshop decks choose to play more copies of Thorn of Amethyst than Sphere of Resistance because Thorn works better with the aggro plan of the Arcbound Ravager Workshop builds that are currently quite popular. There's a decent chance of paying only two or three mana for Kataki. Energy Flux is always going to cost three or more.

It is true that Kataki is a little easier for a Mishra's Workshop deck to deal with, but being so much easier to cast makes Kataki the smarter sideboard choice. You can also attack profitably with Kataki, which is always a nice bonus. 

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Hurkyl's Recall is a classic anti-artifact sideboard card. It even has uses in the main decks of some archetypes. For a paltry two mana Hurkyl's can free you up for an entire turn, and give you a chance to make a comeback. Hurkyl's Recall is only a temporary fix, so it's best in decks that can put together a win on the following turn. Typically the various types of Storm decks would want this card in their sideboard, but other decks can take advantage of Hurkyl's Recall as well. 

I run Hurkyl's Recall in the sideboard of my Oath decks because it can scoop up multiple Grafdigger's Cages at the same time. Oath decks often play the Time Vault combo, so casting spells for one turn is often enough to set up a combo victory. This principle holds true to the various Time Vault decks in Vintage, and this tactic could also work well in Painter / Grindstone decks. 

Playing Hurkyl's Recall in a Delver deck, or a Mentor deck is much less common. In those decks winning the turn after a Hurkyl's is cast is far less likely, so the temporary benefit doesn't help as much as it would in combo decks. Still, Hurkyl's can be decent in one of these Gush decks because you can surprise someone by Foging an attack, or you could put together a large attack with tokens and Time Walk on the following turn. 

In addition to Hurkyl's Recall. there is a very similar card called Rebuild. Using a combination of Rebuild and Hurkyl's Recall can be a smart move because Rebuild gets around Leyline of Sanctity. Witchbane Orb, and Orbs of Warding. Many Workshop pilots are prepared for the dangers that Hurkyl's represents, so they play cards that stop it from functioning. 

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Pulverize is a card that used to see a lot of play. Sacrificing two Mountains is certainly not ideal, but casting a free Shatterstorm against a Workshop deck feels amazing. For those that aren't aware, a Pulverize is castable under a Trinisphere with only three lands in play, as long as two of them count as Mountains.

Unlike most board wipes, cards like Pulverize (and other artifact sweepers) can't be played around. If a Workshop player tries to hold back too many cards and avoids overextending, you're likely able to cast your spells and stay in the game. Most of the time your opponent will be forced to play right into your Pulverize

If you do choose to play Pulverize, make sure you're running at as many Mountains as possible. Personally I'd run four Volcanic Islands and at least one Mountain in the sideboard if I'm playing this card. I've never had to cast it more than once in a game, but you're going to want to have access to Red mana after you blow up the outside world. 

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Serenity is the next best mass-destruction spell after Pulverize. It's harder to cast at two mana, and it's slower than Hurkyl's Recall, but it doesn't cost you any lands. If you're playing White, I'd consider running a couple of these cards. 

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Mass destruction spells are great to have, but you'll also need to take out single targets in order to survive. One popular choice for one-for-one artifact removal is Ingot Chewer. Because it's a creature, Ingot Chewer doesn't get stopped by Thorn of Amethyst, and with a converted mana cost of five Chalice of the Void can't touch it. 

With Chalice restricted, Ingot Chewer lost one of the big reasons to play it, but it is still a very good card. The only real drawback is that Chewer is sorcery-speed. This means that Ingot Chewer is weak to Tangle Wire

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Nature's Claim's stock has risen since the restriction of Chalice of the Void. In the past, one-mana artifact removal wasn't as reliable because it could be easily shut down by a well-played Chalice. Nowadays Nature's Claim is the cheapest and most versatile sideboard card of its type. When I'm playing a deck like Oath that has access to Green, I never play less than three of these in my sideboard. 

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Engineered Explosives is a great little sweeper for the plethora of two-mana Spheres that Workshops decks play. The way the Sunburst keyword ability works with Sphere effects allows you to perform a neat little trick with Engineered Explosives. To do this, you simply cast the Explosives with X = 0, but you pay for the Sphere effects using exactly two colors of mana. This causes your Engineered Explosives to enter the battlefield with two counters on it, so it takes out every Thorn of Amethyst and Sphere of Resistance when it goes off! 

Engineered Explosives is also great at taking out token creatures, so some decks can get away with playing it in their main deck. Whenever you can play a card like Engineered Explosives in your main deck, it's a great help in your matches against Shops. 

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Ancient Grudge is another great option for taking out artifacts. It has built-in card advantage, and it's an instant so it takes out Tangle Wires before they do any damage. At two mana, Grudge is more expensive than some options, but it is still a fantastic card to use. 

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Much like Nature's Claim, Steel Sabotage is a better sideboard option in an environment where [[Chalice of the Void] is restricted. This is the kind of card that's decent; it can counter a Lodestone Golem or bounce a Blightsteel Colossus that's attempting to kill you. I wouldn't play too many of these, and I'd almost rather play them in my main deck. With a relatively low power level compared to some other options, it can be hard to make a case for wasting sideboard space on it 

Words into Action

We've discussed a few ways to make a deck competitive against Workshops, and we looked at ten different sideboard options for Vintage players. Now let's take a look at a deck designed by a skilled Vintage player. This deck was designed by someone well-versed in the Vintage metagame, and you can see the steps taken to prepare for the Workshops matchup. 

This is a pretty unique Delver variant played by Diophan. Previous builds of this list played the Jeskai colors, but as you can see this deck splashes a little bit of Green as well. Let's start breaking down the deck by looking at the foundation, the mana base.


There's a fetch land mana base, complete with a basic Island in the main deck to support the primary color, and there's a basic Mountain in the sideboard to support the secondary color. Green is a tertiary color in this list, and as such there are two Tropical Islands in the main deck to support the light Green splash. 

There are fifteen lands in the main deck, one in the sideboard, and three mana sources that are artifacts. The deck can go from eighteen mana sources to nineteen sources after sideboarding. This amount is plenty for a deck with such a low mana curve. I've seen Delver decks run less lands before, but I'm of the opinion that the extra land is important to have against Workshop decks. 

The reason that the deck has basic lands to support Red and not the other colors is that Red is the color of the majority of anti-artifact sideboard cards. Workshop players know that many of the best cards against their decks are Red, so they will instinctively point their Wastelands at Red sources. Diophan made a clever deck-building choice and splashed a tiny bit of Green for a miser's Nature's Claim and for the flashback cost for two Ancient Grudges. This gambit makes it slightly harder for a Workshops player to Wasteland away all the lands needed to cast these countermeasures. 


I mentioned earlier that playing cheap threats is one of the best things you can do to beat a Mishra's Workshop deck. This deck illustrates that perfectly. There are eight cheap and powerful threats in this list, four Delvers and four Young Pyromancers. This means that the chances of playing one of those two creatures on turn one or turn two are fairly high.

If you can stick an early threat against Workshops, you'll be able to get in damage while they're trying to build up a wall of Sphere effects. If instead the Workshops pilot decides to use their early mana on creatures instead of Spheres and other lock pieces, then you'll be free to use your removal to take out those creatures they are playing! This is why early threats like Delver of Secrets can threaten to go the distance and win a game on their own. 


This deck has Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to build card advantage, and Dack Fayden to filter out unwanted cards. Dack is also great against Workshops, and if you're able to resolve him he does a lot of work against Shops!


This deck has the usual copies of cards that are terrific against other Blue decks, but that are bad against Shops. There's Mental Misstep and Flusterstorm, two of the biggest offenders. This is a necessary evil, as you're not going to face Workshops in every round you play. There are only four Missteps and two Flusterstorms, so it isn't too bad. 

On the plus side there is the one Spell Pierce, a card that's much better than Flusterstorm when facing a deck full of artifacts. There's also two Lightning Bolts and a Swords to Plowshares, all of which are perfectly serviceable against Workshops. 

There is a copy of Stony Silence in the main deck, which is often times going to be very helpful against Workshops. Considering Arcbound Ravager variants are the most popular Workshop decks at the moment, Stony Silence seems to be very well-positioned right now. Luckily, Stony Silence is also good against most of the other decks in Vintage, so it has great cross-over utility. 


There aren't any sweeper effects like Pulverize in this deck, but Kataki, War's Wage and Ancient Grudge can take out multiple artifacts. There's also Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in the main deck that can replay artifact destruction spells. As I mentioned earlier in this article, it isn't possible to get ahead by doing nothing but trading one card for one card, the card advantage of Ancient Grudge and spells replayed by Jace is a major key to success. 


I like that this list has hedges against the Workshops matchup, and I like that it doesn't concede so much in other matchups to the point of making them significantly worse. This list has a decent chance of winning game one of a match against Shops, and sideboarded games should be even easier.

Even though the deck has plenty of game against Shops, there's still room for cards like Containment Priest, Grafdigger's Cage, and Rest in Peace. The Dredge and Oath of Druids matchups are very winnable with access to those cards. 


I certainly hope that these tips are helpful to all of the players out there that have recently begun to play Vintage. I've spoken with many people who have had issues with navigating the Workshops matchup, and I have a great deal of empathy for those folks. Just try to keep your chin up, and keep on learning and practicing. 

A lot of people pick a flashy combo deck for their first Vintage deck. That makes sense, after all it is the over-the-top, broken plays that feed people's imaginations when they think about our format. It's important to remember that some of the best decks in the format aren't necessarily the flashy ones. If you picked up Storm as your first deck and Shops is giving you trouble, maybe you should try to pick up a Delver deck like the one from this article instead. It's possible to beat Workshops with Storm, but it's going to be a lot harder than it would be if you were playing a different deck. 

There's room for all kinds of decks in Vintage. There's nothing wrong with picking up Delver, BUG Fish, or even Hatebears and playing them in a tournament. What those decks lack in flashiness, they make up for in substance. It doesn't matter how broken your deck is if you're not winning with it, right? 

If you do chose to play a proven list like the one listed in this article, make sure you play the deck as-is. Once you understand the nuances of piloting the list, and you're beating your tough matchups, then you can think about changing something. There's a good chance that you won't want to change anything at that point though, because the card choices were made through extensive playtesting. 

That's all the time I have for this week, thanks for joining me! I also want to thank Stefan and Thomas for answering my questions and helping to provide information for this article. People like you make the community as great as it is. 

You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on MTGO

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