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Vintage 101: The Cult of Mishra

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be doing yet another deep dive into one of Vintage's most pervasive archetypes: Workshops. We'll be talking about the two big versions of the deck right now and also discussing some gameplay concepts. Also we'll be discussing last weekend's Vintage Challenge and of course, the Spice Corner.

Without wasting much time, let's dive right in!

The Cult of Mishra

One of the most predominant archetypes of all time in Vintage, decks utilizing Mishra's Workshop have been around the format for quite a long time. Thanks to the nature of the format having access to plenty of fast artifact mana and Workshop itself, decks being able to power out powerful artifacts has been a popular thing for a lot of players in the format. Over the years, Workshop decks have evolved as they have had to deal with restrictions that were made to help keep it in check. This transition has led to Shops mainly becoming an aggro/tempo deck within the format, however 2019 changed much for these decks as they were forced to transition to a combo archetype with Karn, the Great Creator and Mystic Forge. This didn't last long as both Forge/Karn were restricted, and thus the deck found itself within a new world... one where it actually wasn't the top dog of the format anymore.

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One of the most impactful printings of the year was of course, Force of Vigor. This card combined with the general player knowledge within the format led to players being able to metagame a little better versus Shops decks, pushing the deck into a place where it was considered good, but not an unbeatable monster. This led to a bit of a fragmentation within the archetype as it splintered into two very distinct variants of the deck: Ravager Shops which is a typical aggro-tempo list, and Golos Stax which is more of a prison element deck. Let's begin by talking about Ravager Shops.

Ravager Shops

Ravager Shops is how Workshops decks evolved to after losing many of their 4-of's to restrictions, but then gained new tools like Walking Ballista. This version of the deck can be more classified as an Aggro/Tempo deck, likening it more to a Delver of Secrets deck than a classic prison deck. The deck's game plan is relatively simple in that it wants to stick a disruptive element followed by a fast clock to close the game out quickly and do what it can to keep that clock going.

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The current incarnations of Ravager Shops function from a basis of speed and redundancy in effects and threats. Newer cards like Stonecoil Serpent have given the deck a much larger threat to deal with, as the card's scaling ability is very strong. In addition, the current incarnations of the deck have largely abandoned cards like Steel Overseer which gives the deck a bit more of an edge against cards like Null Rod and Collector Ouphe.

The key to mastering this deck is all about understanding how to sequence plays and how to evaluate your opening hand, including mulligan decisions. The London Mulligan has changed much about how this deck mulligans, enabling the ability to be a little more aggressive with mulligan decisions overall. Sequencing on the other hand, can often be relatively difficult. Quite often this means running artifact mana into play first. This can often mask what deck you're on, as maximum effective use of overall mana in a turn is one of Shops biggest strengths and having an opponent realize that and counter effectively can be back-breaking.

One of the important things to look for is having a game plan however, and having a game plan that lets you leverage the available mana you have. The ideal Shops setup involves making plays or attacking with creatures every turn from the get go, so you should be looking for opening hands that involve Turn 1 into Turn 2 plays at best. You do not want to keep a situation that involves playing a land and passing turn, as that kind of tempo loss can be absolutely devastating to a Shops player.

Let's take a look at a few sample hands of Ravager Shops.


This is a reasonable hand with a good amount of disruption + action, and includes one of the more ultimately powerful restricted cards from 2019 in Mystic Forge. The Tolarian Academy is merely the cherry on the top that helps offset the cost of playing out Sphere of Resistance on Turn One.


This is an interesting hand, and I personally am unsure whether this is good enough or on the cusp, but since it is a Mulligan there is a decision to be made about the hand. Likely the card to drop here is Arcbound Ravager, since you can be more likely to draw another. The same case could be made for Ballista or Stonecoil as well, but both of those cards are really high impact, especially Stonecoil, and Ballista will function better with Tolarian Academy. This one is close, but I might be willing to go further to five cards at this point. I would be curious to know in the comments what your thoughts are on this hand.

Ravager Shops is still a very powerful option of play in the Vintage format, but it is not without its bad matchups. Decks like BUG Midrange can be pretty powerful versus Ravager Shops, thanks to the presence of both Force of Vigor and Collector Ouphe, in addition to Assassin's Trophy being able to be used as actual land destruction. PO Storm is another deck that Ravager can often struggle versus, as that deck plays Hurkyl's Recal main deck quite often in addition to being a Force of Will deck. That isn't to say that a good Shops player can't beat these decks it's that they are often considered lopsided matchups.

Ravager does shine however versus other blue decks like Jeskai variants, and is also very good when Wasteland is good, such as against the 4C Planeswalkers decks.

Golos Stax

On the other end of the spectrum, popping up late 2019 is Golos Stax. While Stax builds have long been a part of the format, they had largely fallen out of favor over time as their power level and speed were crunched out of the game. However, the printing of Golos, Tireless Pilgrim in Core Set 2020 seems to have given the archetype a new boost in life, combined as well with the card God-Pharaoh's Statue from War of the Spark.

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Golos Stax shares a lot of similar functions to Ravager Shops in that it definitely wants to make impactful plays early and that the London Mulligan really changes how that plays out. The major contrast to Ravager Shops is that this deck is attempting to assemble a game plan based on prison lock cards. This means the game plan of the deck is often more subtle and focused on knowing what you might be playing against. This can help inform some of your opening hands and plays.

Stax includes a good number of tiny micro-interaction cards, from Crucible of Worlds + Strip Mine as a lock to some variants using the restricted copy of Karn, the Great Creator in order to use sideboard space as well.

As with Ravager, the key to mastering this deck is sequencing your plays properly and making the right micro-decisions. This can even be right down to what land to fetch with Golos and when. Another key point of playing this deck is patience. This deck can often take a long time to actually win the game, as its game plan is generally to deny its opponent of resources to the point of being unable to functionally do anything. Often times this means your opponent will end up conceding to you, but occasionally it does not and you will need to find a way to present a win condition. Typically once you find a rhythm within a game this can be easy to find, either by through Inventors' Fair or via Golos.

Let's also take a look at some sample hands on Golos.


This hand has a lot of potential, being able to lead off on Thorn of Amethyst into a Turn 2 Sorcerous Spyglass to shut down something of the opponent's deck. Alternatively, Spyglass could get played Turn 1 and this would inform you of what needs to be played around or what you're playing against. Regardless this has some potential.


This is another hand that is on the cusp. There is a lot to unpack here, but I think this could be fine depending on what the opponent does first. Being on the draw has its concerns however that something like Trinisphere or Sphere of Resistance might not be quick enough to stop a good Turn 1 from the other deck, but if you can deploy it, then it has a lot of potential. Golos x2 here is not bad because if one gets destroyed/countered you can deploy a second one. Golos being able to fetch mana denial is very real. Again, this hand is very much a hand dependent on what is going on at the time, but I'm the kind of guy that would keep it. What do you think of this hand? Let me know in the comments!

The major issues that Golos can have that a more focused deck like Ravager does not is draw consistency. Often times this deck's worst enemy is itself as it can draw itself into a corner. But when this deck gets going it can be incredibly strong and present a real disaster for the opponent.

Community Vintage Update

There isn't much going on here during these times, as paper Vintage play is on the outs quite a bit simply from the fact of everything being shut down. However, with people having renewed interests in Magic Online maybe there might be something to organize there for the community.

If you have any thoughts or ideas please feel free to get in touch!

Vintage Challenge 3/21

We had yet another Vintage Challenge last weekend on Magic Online, and this one broke more players than even the one the week before! Crazy! Let's dive right in and see what's going on with this event!

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
PO Storm 1st Alpha_Omega
4C Walkers 2nd Svaca
Grixis Xerox 3rd GnorilGrande
Oath of Druids 4th Keiesu
Golos Stax 5th Patxi
BUG Midrange 6th ReiderRabbit
Hollow Vine 7th Montolio
4C Walkers 8th Pun1sher

This was certainly an interesting Top 8 all around. It certainly feels like Vintage is in really a great spot right now, as there doesn't seem to really be one truly dominant strategy at the moment. However, at the end of the event it was PO Storm that took it all down.

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This is fairly what we've come to expect out of PO lists as of late, leaning more towards 4C in nature in order to have win conditions like Mentor but also answers like Pyroblast.

In Second Place we had Svaca on 4C Walkers!

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This list is classic Tomas Mar (who is Svaca on MTGO) where the fourth color is mainly just a splash (in this case black) and just boasts some incredibly powerful cards like Oko, Wrenn and Six, and Dreadhorde Arcanist.

In Third Place we have a sweet Grixis Xerox based list by GnorilGrande!

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With the Tinker package here I'm surprised there is no Bolas's Citadel since that seems to be one of the better targets for the card. Still, this is a great list and really focused.

Moving down to Fourth Place we have am Oath of Druids deck!

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Few interesting things here to note is the presence of Underworld Breach as a value 1-of and also Memory's Journey. There's no Gaea's Blessing which is super intriguing, and TWO Tabernacle in the board really speaks to how these decks are prepped for decks like Hollow Vine and Dredge.

Speaking of being prepped for those decks, Patxi sure is with Golos Stax in Fifth Place!

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I think the general norm of this deck is going to end up being on just having three Grafdigger's Cage main deck because it is so good against a wide variety of decks, not just Dredge/Hollow Vine. It's also worth noting that the sideboard is only 11 cards!

In Sixth Place we have the one and only Reid Duke (ReiderRabbit on MTGO) playing BUG Midrange!

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First off the sideboard of this list is fairly interesting, given that it's mostly a pile of 1-of''s. There's even a 1-of Tarmogoyf in the sideboard here! Very interesting list from an awesome pilot.

In Seventh Place we have another player we know, our good friend Andy Markiton playing Hollow Vine!

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This deck continues to look more and more interesting the more I see it. I can definitely see why this is doing so well, since it seems really strong overall.

Rounding out the Top 8 we have another 4C Walkers list, this one less focused on cards like Arcanist and more focused on midrange threats like Goyf and Leovold.

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Outside of the Top 8, one of the 5-2 lists caught my eye as it was White Eldrazi, but it was also taking a cue from Modern by including the card Leonin Arbiter!

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Pretty sweet list all around and they're even playing some Path to Exile to work with Arbiter which is really sweet.

Now let's take a look at the 2020 cards appearing in this event!

Card Name Number of Copies
Thassa's Oracle 5
Soul-Guide Lantern 4
Underworld Breach 2

It is continually intriguing how little Underworld Breach has had on the format of Vintage thus far given the power level of the card. The context of the format definitely shows how much it matters here for sure. On the other hand, Thassa's Oracle continues to be just exceptional in both Doomsday lists and in lists with Demonic Consultation.

The Spice Corner

Magic Online user redlose hit us with a little more Dragon Combo this week. This deck is sweet.

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Join us next week as we continue our journey into Magic's oldest format!

As always you can reach me on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! I'm also always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord Server.

Until next time, keep casting Animate Dead!

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