Hello and welcome back! It's time for another Vintage article, and it's going to be an interesting one. In today's article, I'm going to be playing some games from the Grixis Control perspective against Martello Workshops, but to make things really interesting, I'm going to put the Grixis deck on the draw every game!
Understanding what to do with one's deck against Mishra's Workshop on the draw is a critically important set of skills to master in modern Vintage. Often, being able to steal one away from Workshops is the difference between making and failing to make Top 8. Imagine that your whole tournament comes down to beating Mishra's Workshop post-sideboard on the draw in the third and deciding game. It's certainly a tall order since Mishra's Workshop is overwhelmingly powerful when it gets the leverage being on the play—even against a slew of powerful sideboard cards from the blue deck's side.
The two decks I've selected to feature come from a recent Bloomsberg Vintage tournament:
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Time Vault
- 1 Voltaic Key
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Brainstorm
- 1 Echoing Truth
- 1 Flusterstorm
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Hurkyl's Recall
- 1 Lightning Bolt
- 2 Mana Drain
- 3 Mental Misstep
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Dreadbore
- 1 Merchant Scroll
- 1 Ponder
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
- 1 Duplicant
- 4 Kuldotha Forgemaster
- 4 Lodestone Golem
- 3 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 3 Phyrexian Revoker
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Sundering Titan
These games are all going to be played post-sideboard, so here are the changes that we decided to make to our decks for this matchup.
Martello sided out:
Nothing for nothing (leaves nothing except for another Billy Preston reference).
The Grixis deck sided out:
To make room for:
Let's check out how the games went!
I am on the draw.
I fan out the following opening hand:
Now, this isn't the greatest hand in the world, but it does have a Force of Will and some things to do. I also like that it has the ability to produce two basic lands to fight against Wastelands. Let's give it a try.
My opponent leads off with Mox Sapphire and Mishra's Factory to cast Thorn of Amethyst. This is an interesting predicament for me. Thorn is one of the worst cards in his deck against me, which generally means that I'd like to let it resolve. I also know that I can still Force of Will a better threat next turn through his Thorn.
By playing my Force, I do generate some tempo by being able to cast my Ponder on time. However, in this situation I think it's generally better to let the Thorn come down and try to fight the cards that actually beat me. It's significant that he has a Factory to bring the beats. The good news is that if I let the Thorn of Amethyst resolve, I know his turn is done unless he has Memnite or Ornithopter, which I know are not in his decklist.
I let the Thorn of Amethyst resolve, and he passes the turn.
For my turn I draw:
Not really much help to me right now, but it gives me something to work towards later if I can get out of this jam and make it to the midgame.
Generally speaking, playing the Island is better here since the only card that punishes me for making this play is Strip Mine, and I don't know yet if I'm going to want to fetch out a Mountain, Volcanic Island, or Underground Sea since I don't have a non-blue card to play yet.
I lay my Island and pass the turn.
Well folks, he has the Strip Mine.
"Goodbye Island, we barely knew ye."
He plays it and immediately kills my Island. In an act of futility, I tap it and float a blue mana. He moves to his second main phase and plays Mana Crypt off his Mox Sapphire and then taps the Mana Crypt and the Mishra's Factory to cast a Sphere of Resistance. My opponent informs me that he had the Sphere + Mana Crypt the turn before also, so if I would have Forced the Thorn he would have just played Crypt and then the Sphere then.
We are in bad shape here but still have outs. If he doesn't have a threat, the Factory doesn't technically race the Mana Crypt. Plus we can draw some lands and fight back into this game.
On our draw step, we draw:
"I wish I didn't play all these expensive one-drops…"
Well, this card could play a part in getting back into this game if we can draw some lands. I play my Tarn and pass the turn.
During his upkeep, my opponent loses the Mana Crypt roll and drops to 17 life.
He plays a Wasteland and casts a Mox Pearl and then another Thorn of Amethyst. He then uses his last remaining mana to activate his Mishra's Factory and attacks me down to 18 life before passing the turn.
During my draw step, we stay live…
"You've got to love it when the only possible draws you can play are lands…"
I play my second Tarn and pass the turn. Obviously, there's no reason to crack my fetches since all we are trying to do at this point is draw lands.
My opponent once again gets Lightning Bolted by his Mana Crypt.
I draw pretty much the best possible card:
I play it and pass the turn. I can now play cards that are free such as Force of Will for its alternate casting cost.
My opponent once again takes the hit from Mana Crypt, dropping him down to 11. He attacks me down to 14 with the Factory and passes the turn. He either drew something really good that he doesn't want to get Force of Willed or something that gets countered by the Chalice of the Void.
My opponent once again takes three damage from his Mana Crypt, dropping him to 8 life. He then plays a Lodestone Golem, which bites my Force of Will pitching Snapcaster Mage. The awkward thing is that I don't have enough basics to protect myself from his Wasteland left in my deck. I fetch out a Mountain and an Underground Sea. My opponent left up his Wasteland for just such a situation and immediately Wastelands my land. He doesn't have enough mana left over to attack with the Factory, so as it stands life totals are him at 8 and me at 13.
I draw for the turn and stay live!
"I SEA some possible outs here!"
I play it and pass the turn.
My opponent finally wins a Mana Crypt roll! Congratulations…
"Uh oh, spaghetti-os."
He then animates his Factory and attacks me down to 11 before passing the turn.
On my turn I draw a Mox Pearl, which I can cast, so I do. Then I pass the turn.
My opponent takes three down to 5 from his Mana Crypt and attacks me with his seven power worth of monsters. I fall to 6 before he passes the turn.
I have to draw a land in order to Lightning Bolt his Lodestone Golem to stay alive and be on pace to win two more coin flips in order to have a shot in this game. I draw another Snapcaster Mage, which I can't play, and am dead on board. I concede, and we move on to the next game.
In this instance, I think it would have been better to Force of Will his Thorn of Amethyst, but only because he actually had the Strip Mine. The problem with actually Forcing is that the Strip Mine still probably beats me either way. In general, I think it was correct to let the Thorn resolve and try to play through it. Keep in mind that the first turn he did nothing.
He said he drew the Lodestone but held it because he was fairly certain that because I didn't play any Moxes that the only way it made sense for me to keep my hand was that I did in fact have the Force. He was going to wait until he drew another threat (he drew another Lodestone the next turn), until I tapped out to cast a Mox (which I would have had to do at some point in the game), or was absolutely under pressure to lose the game to his Mana Crypt.
What can I say—Strip Mine is pretty good.
My opening hand is:
Obviously, this is a snap keep kind of hand—pretty much about as good as I can ask for.
Before we start playing, my opponent says, "Do you even want to bother playing this game? You are 100% going to lose."
"If I can't win this one, I'll be very sad; my hand is very good."
"A key to my deck's plan."
I play Island and Key it up before passing the turn.
My opponent draws and plays Lodestone Golem. The Golem resolves. He then plays an Ancient Tomb and casts a Sphere of Resistance, which drops him down to 18 life but also resolves. He then passes the turn.
I draw Tinker for my draw step.
He taps his lands and casts another Lodestone Golem, dropping him to 16 life. He then attacks me for five down to 14 life before passing the turn.
I basically got completely run over even with the ability to Force of Will his turn 1 play. It was quite disturbing that I was never actually able to evoke an Ingot Chewer to get back into the game. Granted, my opponent's hand was about as good as it could be (hence his comment before the game).
One thing to note is that the Workshop nut draw on the play basically annihilates the Grixis deck's nut draw on the draw. In reality, it's probably true that if I were on the play and could slam a Jace that he would lose. This reinforces how important being on the play is against Workshop decks.
My opening hand is:
"If you're not going to take this session seriously, we might as well do something else," I say, rolling my eyes. Obviously, I don't have a Force of Will and am probably just dead on the spot here. On turn 3, I'll be able to evoke my Ingot Chewer if he has nothing else (he does only have one card in hand) and I draw a land in the meantime.
"YEAH BABY, RIGHT ON TIME"
I play a Scalding Tarn and pass the turn. I cannot cast my Mox because of his Chalice for zero.
He plays a Wasteland and plays the last card from his hand, a Thorns of Amethyst. I can't Force of Will it because Force of Will costs two more, so it comes into play. I take five and drop down to 15 life. Luckily it isn't a Sphere, so my plan of turn 2 evoke my Ingot Chewer is still alive.
I draw a Hurkyl's Recall during my draw step.
He plays a Tangle Wire. "Ok, I've seen enough of this particular game." I concede
The moral of this story is that I didn't have Force of Will and therefore didn't get to play the game." He basically had the kitchen sink, so I didn't feel too bad about losing this game. What's the old adage? "If you have Black Lotus on the play, you can't possibly ever lose."
My opening hand is:
This hand isn't great but does have Sol Ring, which could get me a win. It also has Library that's alright on the draw. I'm willing to give this a try, if only for academic purposes.
For my turn I draw an Island. I now have a lot of land in my hand.
The question is how do I want to play this game out? He doesn't really have a lot of pressure to speak of, and I really need a way to find some cards that do something.
If he wants to Wasteland my Library then so be it, but otherwise if I try to make a land drop every turn, I won't be able to draw any cards.
I play Scalding Tarn and pass the turn.
I play my Volcanic Island and evoke the Chewer on the Sundering Titan; in response he sacrifices the Sundering Titan, Tangle Wire, and Sol Ring to use Forgemaster's ability. Sundering Titan's leaves play ability targets my Volcanic Island. He fetches up a Steel Hellkite. I pass the turn.
A pretty sweet turn sequence here:
He taps Strip Mine to turn Mishra's Factory into an artifact creature. He then attacks with the Hellkite and taps the Factory to destroy my Sol Ring. I take six in the process. He then taps Tolarian Academy, which makes four mana, to cast a Lodestone Golem. After the Lodestone Golem resolves, he taps the Forgemaster to sacrifice the Mishra's Factory, the Forgemaster, and the Chalice of the Void to search up the Trinisphere.
I am locked out.
This game might have been winnable if I hadn't kept. A random six:
The random six actually looks much better against the draw that he kept. Unfortunate, because I feel like this might have been a win if I had mulliganed. Although if he didn't have the Wasteland to kill the Library, I think that I would have been in really good shape. It's also possible that I would have mulliganed into a worse hand that didn't have ample mana and Sol Ring. Luck of the draw I guess, but I probably would have leaned toward mulliganing that hand in a tournament with everything on the line—though it would be close.
"I want the sample hand of six haha!"
I draw the following hand.
"If I don't win this game, I'll seriously quit Magic."
He opens up with Mox Jet, Mox Emerald, and Chalice of the Void. I think for a moment about how sweet it would be to actually be able to play my Mana Crypt. It's a tough situation since if he has the second Chalice I'm probably in really bad shape here, but it isn't necessarily game over. However, if he has a Workshop and a Lodestone, I'm probably going to lose. I must sacrifice my Crypt here.
I draw Lightning Bolt, a live one, play my Tarn, and pass the turn.
On my upkeep I tap down my Tarn and draw:
"Best possible draw?"
I play it and pass the turn.
If he draws a threat I can Force it, but if he doesn't I can draw a card.
He taps down his "sit in play artifacts" and doesn't have a play.
I hit my Library to draw a card. It's an Ingot Chewer.
He then passes the turn.
During my upkeep I fetch up basic Mountain and tap the Island and the Mountain to cast Ancestral Recall targeting myself. I then have exactly seven in hand, so with the Tangle Wire trigger on the stack I tap my Library to draw another card.
With the four draws + my draw step, the following cards are added to my hand:
My opponent draws and plays another Kuldotha Forgemaster, which I allow to resolve, dropping him to 14 life, and passes the turn.
I tap down my Island and use my Library to draw a card before my draw step; it's another Dark Confidant. I then Draw Sensei's Divining Top for my turn. During my main phase I sacrifice a fetchland to get another Underground Sea, evoke Ingot Chewer to kill the Forgemaster, and cast a Dark Confidant.
I then pass the turn. Life totals are him at 14 and me at 16.
"Will I ever get to use a Bob?"
I untap and finally am out from under the Tangle Wire.
"Finally I have you in play AAAAND Lava Axe to the face… Thanks!"
He attacks with his 2/1 Duplicant and his Factory. I spin my Top and see Tolarian Academy, Mox Sapphire, and Ingot Chewer. I trade with the Factory and drop to 5. He then plays Kuldotha Forgemaster and passes the turn.
I reveal Tolarian Academy to my Dark Confidant flip and then draw the Ingot Chewer for my turn. I hard cast the Chewer to destroy his Forgemaster and play polluted Delta. I then attack with Dark Confidant, dropping his life total down to 12. I spin my Top, which shows me Mox Sapphire, Mox Ruby, and another Dark Confidant.
He draws and casts another Kuldotha Forgemaster! I fetch away my Delta for a Volcanic Island and look for a blue card for my Force of Will in hand. I see: Time Walk, Lightning Bolt, and Scalding Tarn.
I Bob a Top and draw a Bolt (taking me down to 3 life).
I Lightning Bolt his Duplicant and attack him for five, which knocks his life total down to 7. I replay my Top, spin it (Ratchet Bomb, Underground Sea, Tarn), play my Tolarian Academy, and then play my Voltaic Key.
I tap my Top to draw, float mana from Academy in response, and then untap my Top with the Key. I draw Ratchet Bomb and Underground Sea. I then use my remaining Academy mana to replay the Top and spin it again. (Time Walk, Yawgmoth's Will, Scalding Tarn). I play Ratchet Bomb and pass the turn.
He draws, flashes me a Mox Pearl, and passes me the turn.
I use my Top to put a zero casting cost card on top of my deck and then attack him for five more damage. I set up the infinite turn combo, of which I only need one more turn to deal lethal damage to my opponent.
I win the game! FINALLY.
I finally won one! I think that I took the correct approach in playing conservatively around cards that would only have an impact during the first few turns of the game. It ended up paying off in spades exactly the way I had anticipated. I was be able to use my Force of Will and removal to actually target his "threat" cards as opposed to his "disruption" cards, which ended up being irrelevant once I progressed the game a few turns without being under any kind of aggressive pressure.
My opponent noted that he probably shouldn't have attacked with his Duplicant and his Mishra's Factory on the turn that he did, as his best route to victory was probably my Dark Confidants killing me. Trading the Factory for the Bob turned out to not be the greatest value. He said that clearing the way for the Lodestone Golem that ultimately got Bolted was a contributing factor in his decision making, but it ended poorly.
I still think that I would have easily won the game even with two Bobs in play because I would have gotten to Yawgmoth's Will and would have had two more life still with the Sensei's Divining Top. I was happy to win one after losing the previous four!
Notes on the Matchup (on the Draw Post-Board)
I only intended to play three or four games for this article but continued to play until Grixis actually got a win! From my vantage point, needing to win game 3 on the draw is a precarious predicament to find oneself in since getting that win is no small task.
It seems to me that there is this weird balance between needing to make mana and being able to play around certain kinds of cards. One needs to navigate between not getting locked but also riding out their disruption with a nose for not getting crushed by their "win the game threats" such as Forgemaster and Lodestone Golem. In particular, those were the cards that I found really dug the dagger in if I couldn't kill/counter them.
The other stuff—the Thorns, Chalices, and Spheres—allowed me some play and didn't kill me on the spot. Tangle Wire often ended the game from a lot of vantage points. Playing from the draw side really reinforced a lot of thoughts I have about the format, such as once somebody gets ahead it's really hard to come back since everything they get to do once they have positional leverage continues to nail the opponent to the ground. Workshop is perhaps the most efficient deck at doing this when it's on the play, as was proven in the games where I just got absolutely run over, even with hands that I felt were fairly respectable.
In general, I felt like there was a crossroads of the following situations. They had hands that I simply couldn't beat even with my best hands, or they had hands that I could beat with certain kinds of hands. For instance, if they didn't have a Chalice of the Void hand and I had a Moxes, I could win. Or if they did have Chalice of the Void and I didn't have Moxes, I could win. It felt like a game of Russian Roulette where I would keep a hand if it had a chance of beating certain imaginable keepable hands from the enemy.
The deck I played only had five good sideboard cards for Workshops, and it clearly had more cards that I wanted to side out for more cards against Mishra's Workshop. I also don't think it would be unreasonable to play even more Workshop hate out in the Grixis sideboard.
With Workshop being so good, I don't really understand people's fascination with playing a bunch of Mental Missteps and Flusterstorms maindeck. It simply creates situations where there aren't enough cards to bring in for the amount of cards you have to bring out. I've noticed this to be a trend with deck design in the past few matchup analyses I've done. People don't have enough cards or the right stuff to be good against Workshop on the draw post-board.
At least this way there are more cards to bring in against Workshops.
I hope you enjoyed this matchup from the hopeless side and that everybody had a happy holiday. The sad news is that winning on the play against Workshops is much more likely to happen than the Lions winning a football game on Thanksgiving Day. Frown.
As always, thanks for reading!