Coronavirus epidemy is taking place also in Finland but Poroscope will still be published every week! At these times, it is apparently better to play at home or via the internet. Another good way of spending free time is building new decks or improving the old ones!
This spring Poroskooppi will cover some popular EDH deck archetypes in addition to the "10 Best commander cards for EDH" series. In this episode, we will start from probably the most controversial deck type: Stax. Deck Check will cover (as the gaming area is closed) my own deck which represents the archetype introduced in this article! Deck Check can be found again from the end of this article.
Smokestack, Frozen Aether, and Stasis are cards you can find from a Stax deck focusing on artifacts and enchantments. They slow down all the players but stax decks can usually take advantage of the effects better than the other deck archetypes.
Stax as a word (besides the legendary studio in the USA) originates from the card Smokestack which created a deck around the namesake card. Nowadays, stax is a synonym for an archetype that focuses on limiting the opponent's resources by, for example, limiting the number of spells one can cast during their turn or making the spells more expensive to cast, thus making room for its own strategy which is probably slower than the other deck's. Stax decks can be divided roughly into two archetypes: enchantment/artifact stax is usually playing blue and focuses on both mentioned card types. The other variant is the so-called Hate Bears which aim for the same result but by casting creatures that have similar effects. The name Hate Bear comes from the card Grizzly Bear (or other similar, Bear creature type cards), which mana cost is two and its power and toughness are also 2/2. Good examples from these cards are Gaddock Teeg and Collector Ouphe.
Roughly put, the stax archetype aims to make the playing miserable for others than itself. Is the archetype even reasonable to play if it makes the other players feel bad?
The question is relevant though the answer is not that simple. The multiplayer aspect of the commander limits the power of certain types of cards. A traditional control deck that focuses on counterspells lacks the power for the commander: In 1 vs, 1 formats, the idea of a control deck is to counteract the opponent's game plan and win slower but with greater card advantage. In the commander, this type of deck lacks the power as it would have to gain a huge card and mana advantage to be able to control all the opposing players. That's why the effects that limit all the players or all the opponents are most of the time more effective than counterspells in EDH. Control is a valid deck archetype in MTG but in EDH it is replaced with a deck archetype that restricts all players.
In casual gaming, stax players are usually attacked from all fronts because people are willing to play their own strategy instead of the situation where no one except the player playing stax can operate. The stax decks are split into two ways of restricting the game: The blue variants usually restrict more the creature-based strategies as the Hate Bear decks usually restrict more of the strategies that focus on spells or combos. Because of this, the Hate Bear archetype is not very well positioned in the more casual and creature-based EDH tables as besides some spot removal they have virtually no interaction against bigger creatures. In cEDH, the Hate Bears have more advantages as most of the combo decks don't usually play creatures or a large number of answers to them. The creatures are also valuable for drawing cards with, for example, Tymna the Weaver.
Playing stax in a commander table where all the players are new to each other might be a risk but it can be avoided with proper communication before the games start and asking is it ok to play stax in this particular table. In the more competitive tables, stax is valid and usually well-known archetype and people are more used to it. In these tables, it is also reasonable to communicate before gaming as it is always good to communicate with your fellow players! Playing stax is actually pretty fun for the player playing the deck since you can really affect the game with your cards. Most of the time, the player playing the stax gets some in-game hate from the other players but that is something you have to accept. With your own playgroups, the stax is at its best: the other players know what you are playing and what you try to achieve. They might as well have some answers in their decks against your strategies as they've learned the usual game patterns your deck makes. The games get more interesting when all the players have prepared and they try to navigate through multiple hate pieces to find the winning line. In these circumstances, stax doesn't ruin the game experience especially if the group enjoys longer and more complicated games.
Philosophically, you could say that stax is contradictionary for the original idea behind EDH which is having fun. Despite this, MTG is a very diverse game and ruling one archetype or certain types of cards out of the format makes a huge gap in cards that you can play. Since the dawn of MTG, control magic and denying other player's resources have been part of the game. It is, in a way, against the original nature of Magic to restrict certain archetypes or play patterns if they are designed for the game and not banned in the format. The most important thing again is to make sure everyone communicates clearly about their intentions to play a certain type of deck. If all the players are ok with the stax, you should definitely accept the challenge!
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst and Vryn Wingmare make the spells more expensive. These kinds of effects are extremely powerful against decks that play combos as their main wincon.
The deck aims to slow down the opponents with numerous sphere effects. Other powerful effects are anti artifact cards such as Collector Ouphe or Stony Silence. This deck is more focused on cEDH than casual playing. The commanders work as the card draw engine for this deck as Sidar Kondo makes small creatures virtually unblockable. The deck also builds up mana advantage by playing numerous mana producing creatures.
The deck can win with Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder by making the player's creatures infinitely large and attacking with them. These creatures can be tutored with Worldly Tutor and Natural Order.
Wincons in the deck are either honest combat damage with the help of Elesh Norn or by going infinite with Spike Feeder and Archangel of Thune. Otherwise, the creatures in the deck serve only the sole purpose of slowing the opponents down so that the wincon can be achieved.
Budget wise the deck is on the expensive mid-class.
Deck: Pekka "Löhis" Löhönen
These are difficult times and the most important thing is to take care of your health. Our weekly and weekend tournaments are off at least through 13.4. as the gaming area is closed. However, this does not mean that Magic or other games cannot be played even during this time. There was a funny thread posted on Reddit that guides you how to play Magic with a friend via video call. "Playing magic in Quarantine w / paper" can be found here.
We ask you, dear readers of the Poroscope, to post pictures of how you play Magic now that the gaming area is closed. Feel free to send us photos of your own gaming moments and setups by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to share our wonderful Magic Community's games even in such exceptional times. We will post the game pictures we receive (as well as our own) later on Facebook for all players to see.
Wash your hands, stay healthy and keep playing Magic!
Pekka "Löhis" Löhönen