Rule of Law – Maximizing Mishra’s Workshop in Vintage


The title is a bit redundant since Shop is only legal in Vintage, but I guess I don’t want cube drafters to get the wrong idea.

First, here is something I need to get off my chest. I’m begging, pleading, STOP PLAYING METALWORKER IN SHOP DECKS! Your goal with Shop is to lock the opponent out long enough to kill them with Lodestone or actually hard lock them with Crucible or Smokestack. Casting Metalworker implies you already have at least 3 mana. At this point, I’d rather have another lock piece than more mana. As you’ll see with my lists below, not much should cost more than 3-4 mana, and just trust me, if you play Metalworker, you will repeatedly generate a lot of colorless mana and watch your opponent get out of the lock a few turns later. Metalworker’s biggest flaw is that it disincentives playing Null Rod. Not playing Null Rod in your Shop deck is failing to account for the fact that the vast majority of decks play artifact mana and many decks play Vault+Key. Shutting off two Moxes with a Null Rod is almost like casting two Sphere’s of Resistance for 2 mana and 1 card. Its just too important a card to cut so that you can play a 1/2 for 3 that will get you some mana NEXT turn if it resolves and survives and you survive whatever the opponent does on his/her turn.

One of the reasons Metalworker sucks is because of a principle called “threat density.” Decks like Stax/Shop tend to consist of spells that do things to the opponent (threats, as a shorthand), and things that enable you to play said threats (mana, etc.). If you have too many threats and too little mana, you can’t use your threats. Too much mana, and not enough threats, and you aren’t doing enough. Metalworker is mana, but it only comes into play when you already have 3+ mana, so it is the worst of both worlds, lowering your threat density and only occasionally helping you cast the threats you did draw.

With that out of the way, here are the lists I suggest for 5c Stax and MUD, with card explanations below regarding 5c Stax, which I much prefer to MUD (I’m not sure its even appropriate to call it MUD without Metalworkers, but in any case, 5c is a better and more resilient deck choice). I’ll give you the MUD list first, then the more important 5x Stax list.


The MUD sideboard is geared towards having a prayer vs. the cards Oath of Druids and Trygon Predator. The Crucibles and Ghost Quarters strike me as the thing to be doing vs anyone without basics (especially the mirror). This sideboard can’t beat Dredge, but if you want to trim some numbers so that you can beat Dredge, feel free to try. My philosophy here is that you have to devote more than 3 slots to make the matchup reasonable, and why give away equity vs. so many other decks, just hope to not get paired vs Dredge (or play 5c Stax instead of MUD), or hope to get lucky with a couple of Spheres or a Trinisphere locking them out.

5c STAX:

I truly believe Lodestone Golem has elevated Shop decks from Tier 1.5 to Tier 1. The combination of “Clock and Lock” is as good as advertised. A “Sphere” piece that makes spells cost 1 more is only effective if the game isn’t going to last to the point where the opponent doesn’t care. A 5/3 makes sure they don’t have this kind of time. It also lets you devote zero slots to a card that “just” kills the opponent, such as Juggernaut.

The Lands


This deck’s lands do some impressive things. I want to squeeze a 2nd Bazaar in, and will try 3 Gemstone Mine 2 Bazaar in the near future. Only 3 Wasteland seems somewhat awkward, but this deck actually doesn’t want to draw more than one on a regular basis (because you’ll find along with this comes an inability to cast colored spells or 3+ mana artifacts, and often diminishing returns on the 2nd Wasteland). Crop Rotation and the tutors help you find Strip Mine when you have a Crucible, so the need for 4 Wasteland is mitigated by these colored tutors.

The Artifact Mana


In the first of what is perhaps many sacred cows to be disrespected, Mox Emerald is not in my list. Null Rods can make your Moxen into Lotus Petals, which is fine, since Lotus Petal is an acceptable effect when powering out things like Smokestack and Lodestone, but I think five Moxes is just a little too many. The Balance got moved to the board recently, but since it sits there alongside Swords and three Ray of Revelation which you need against Oath, Pearl gets the nod over Emerald.

I’ve seen lists that don’t play Mana Crypt, but I just assume it’s a typo. Spell Pierce is now very popular, and if I could play more Crypts I would.

The Lock Pieces

This is where things start to get really tough. Do I want to play more Spheres? Yes. Do I want a 4th Null Rod? Yes. Is Tangle Wire good? Yes. Is there room for 4 of everything? No.

The 3rd Crucible stands out as not an essential piece, but I really like it. In the mirror match it is the goddamn, and it is also the easiest way to hard-lock someone out in combination with Spheres/Trinisphere/Null Rod. Moving one to the board is reasonable, but I’m hesitant to do so, especially if I add the 2nd Bazaar.

Is it possible that Thorn of Amethyst is better than Sphere of Resistance given Lodestone and Welder? No. Making Bobs, Pridemages, Goyfs, Selkies, and especially Trygons cost more matters, trust me.

The Creatures


4 Welder 4 Golem is the minimum I would play of those two cards. The Sundering Titan is the Robot of choice for Tinker since he combos well with Welder and is very castable if you draw him. The Duplicant draws the ire of many a spectator to my matches with the deck, but it’s an important card to have I think. Triskelion is shut off by Null Rod, making it a weaker maindeck choice, and besides, killing Goyfs is more fun than chump blocking Goyfs in my experience. The Oath deck with its Terastadons and Iona and Darksteel is not going to be happy to see Welder in play and Duplicant in the yard, one of the reasons I kind of want a 2nd Bazaar. Even without Welder, them Oathing Darksteel or Iona and you hardcasting Duplicant or tinkering for it (if they haven’t Iona’d blue) is very real.

The Colored Spells


Balance and Imperial Seal would be welcome additions, but I can’t find the space. The ones I am playing are just the best at what they do. Crop Rotation is better than Imperial Seal because the cost is minimal with 3 Crucibles main, and getting the land immediately matters A LOT. Still, Seal for Tinker or Lodestone or whatever is often better than getting a land, so its not out of the question.

If you’re a Shop player, please give this list a try and let me know what you think via Twitter @mtg_law_etc. Thanks for reading.

12 thoughts on “Rule of Law – Maximizing Mishra’s Workshop in Vintage”

  1. Why cut Mox Emerald over Mox Pearl when you play no white cards and one green card? Yes, yes, your sideboard cards– but if you go up to 2 Bazaar surely the green flashback cost comes up more often than the white cost for StP and Balance.

  2. Sure Josh, but if he has a Bazaar active then finding a five color land should be ezpz, whereas if he doesn’t have Bazaar active then he’ll need white more for a hardcast.

    Also, the one green card needs a land in play to be effective, and odds are if you don’t have a five color land for it then you already have the land you need to tutor for. Not always, but most of the time it shouldn’t be a problem.

    I appreciated the discussion of Metalworker. I’ve been using the card a lot, and I think it’s part of my love fetish for SoFI. I have lost too many games trying to finish them with a 1/2. I’ll try without.

  3. Thank you for the Vintage content!

    I have sleeved up 5c Stax already.

    Have you considered Ancient Stirrings at all? That is one card I want to test (at least as a 2 of for 2 maindeck cards. It digs for land, locks, beats, more moxen.

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  5. The name of the author who does this escapes me, but I think it would be fantastic if you posted pictures of your cards rather than using computer-generated images. Obviously, if you’re using proxies this is less exciting, but I still think it would be very, very cool.


  6. Awesome article. thanks.
    Love your 5c STAX list. Nature’s claim’s hurting the deck A LOT unfortunately

  7. can you weld a mox monkey into play? I think not!
    And null rod is the stone nuts vs many decks.
    Null rod in this build is obvious over a mox monkey.

    sperling great article as always!

  8. Wow, this five colour list is amazing. I’ve been playing it a bit and it’s a ton of fun, so long as you like vintage.

  9. 4 tormod’s crypt as your dredge hate package is pretty abysmal, you might as well play nothing at all. Even if you do make it to g3, once dredge is on the play and they’ve seen that all you have is crypts, they know they can keep any hand with bazaar + chalice OR Bazaar + natures claim. You should either respect dredge enough to bite the bullet and play 4 leyline+ 2-3 other cards or just try and dodge (although in my meta(NY/Philly) dodging dredge is unlikely).

  10. @Max,

    Agreed the dredge hate package is a bit sloppy. That said, you can always bring in the ancient grudges to kill their chalice on the draw, and as for nature’s claim, if they have bazaar + green mana + nature’s claim I don’t see how having Leylines instead is going to save you. The solution might be something like 3 Tormod’s Crypt 4 Leyline as you suggested, meaning you’d have to cut the thorns of amethyst and the rack and ruin. I admittedly don’t try as hard on the sideboards before publishing an article as I do the maindeck becuase metagames are so different and decisions like the one you suggest are easy for the reader to arrive at on his own.

    @ Mox Monkey over Null Rod:
    I find the Monkey to be a better card “on paper” than in practice. Imagine the opponent needs to get a mana or two to cast an artifact destruction or bounce spell, or an Oath of Druids, or the opponent has Vault/Key assembled in hand. Monkey does nothing to stop the opponent’s artifact mana from powering out their spells (it turns their moxen into Lotus Petals, IF you can spare 1 mana per to kill them on your turn or eot). Monkey only stops Vault/Key if you have 3 mana up, and Workshop can’t help. Null Rod does so much against Artifact Mana and Vault/Key that you really want to have it, even though it shuts off some of your own mana.

    @ Lotus Head
    Ancient Stirrings is not a card I have considered yet. Its worth a try. It is an interesting middle ground between Crop Rotation and Imperial Seal (don’t lose card advantage, but still don’t get your Shop or Strip first turn if you had to play a land to cast the Stirrings). On balance, I suspect Imperial Seal (which I can’t find room for) is a more powerful spell.

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