Tournament Stax

by Salient on 22 April 2010

Main Deck (60 cards)

Sideboard (4 cards)

Artifacts (1)

Submit a list of cards below to bulk import them all into your sideboard. Post one card per line using a format like "4x Birds of Paradise" or "1 Blaze", you can even enter just the card name by itself like "Wrath of God" for single cards.

Deck Description

This is a Stax deck, built for Legacy tournaments.

Since many people are not familiar with Stax's prison strategy, here's the core of any tournament-ready Stax prison build, in theory and practice:


Unlike a control deck, which attempts to counter spells, the goal of a prison deck is to prevent the opponent from using their resources -- rather than counter spells, you prevent the opponent from playing their spells. It's more efficient than control, because you don't have to burn spells countering the opponent's actions, but it's also more dangerous, because until you "lock" the opponent down, they are more free to act against you.

With any prison deck, your goal is to render your opponent unable to play spells or use permanents on the board. One strategy would be to play many cards like Sphere of Resistance, which make spells more expensive. If you could prevent your opponent from putting too many land into play, you might lock them out by making each spell too expensive -- which is great if you can then beat on them with lands like Mishra's Factory.

Another strategy would be to tap down an opponent's lands with cards like Rishadan Port, and tap their creatures with Maze of Ith, preventing them from successfully using their lands or creatures. This strategy is employed by the prison deck known as Land. Another strategy would be to destroy their land base, and then destroy everything they have in play, so their board is empty and any permanents they play (like lands) get wrecked. That one is obviously the cruelest, most heartbreaking strategy. So it's the one I use. But is it really possible to do?

Yes. It is possible. When you look at the card choices below, notice how each one contributes meaningfully to wiping the opponent's board and/or preventing them from continuing to play spells. When you devote 60 cards to stopping an opponent, all you have to do is not lose long enough to snap a lock into place. You work in three stages: Delay, Develop, Destroy. And what do they do? Despair, Disappear, Die. :)

But how do you win, once they have a clear board? That's the easy part. With a prison deck, you want some access to a resource which your opponent does not have. If you are running sphere-prevention, you will want to use "manlands" like Mishra's Factory to beat down the opponent. If you are running land-destruction, you will want to use cards like Crucible of Worlds, which allow you to reuse lands which have been destroyed. Some folks use Barbarian Ring with Crucible of Worlds. But to see how *this* prison deck wins, let's look at the cards it uses:


12x Mox Diamond, Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors:
These accelerate your mana production. If you are careful with how you play them, you can regularly drop your powerful spells on turn two.

12x Armageddon, Wasteland, Crucible of Worlds:
This differentiates a Legacy Smokestacks deck from a Vintage Stax deck. In a Legacy Stax deck, the goal is to obtain control over permanents on the board, specifically through the land base. In a Vintage Stax deck, you need to respond to popular artifact mana production like Mox Sapphire, so the goal is to obtain broader control over the permanents on the board and the spells which the opponent can cast.

The deck's core mechanic is to wreck an opponent's land base, and then "lock them out" of land by Armageddon and/or using a Wasteland repeatedly, with Crucible of Worlds in play. The result: an opponent with no mana. If they had any creatures in play, they won't be able to pay for attacks or upkeep, which brings us to:

12x Smokestack, Magus of the Tabernacle, Ghostly Prison:
These cards work together to protect you from creatures which hit play, and then clear the board. When an opponent is short on mana, Ghostly Prison says "creatures cannot attack" -- and this deck frequently can play a Ghostly Prison on turn one, blocking early attacks. Later in the game, Magus of the Tabernacle serves both as blocker and upkeep-creator, eventually clearing the opponent's board of creatures -- how will opponents pay for their Tarmogoyfs if we've wrecked their land base? (Notice our own Mox Diamonds are not affected by Armageddon, so we can usually pay upkeep on Magus pretty easily.)

Smokestack deals with absolutely everything else. It, along with Trinisphere, is one of the most powerful non-mana-producing artifacts in the history of this game. It requires opponents to sacrifice their permanents, and you just sit there and sacrifice lands and bring them back with Crucible of Worlds (or just play more lands as you draw them -- there's nearly 30 in your deck!)

Once you have a Smokestack in play, an opponent must either quickly destroy it or watch as everything they have on the battlefield gets sacrificed to smokestack-soot. It's the centerpiece around which the rest of the deck produces synergy; the deck is named Stax after the set of Smokestacks it always plays.

12x Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void, Lodestone Golem:
These cards lock the opponent down, both early on and once the land base is destroyed, by preventing them from playing cheap spells or free countermagic like Force of Will. Notice that Trinisphere does not actually work terribly well with Lodestone Golem -- the Golem's effect is essentially wasted on 0-mana, 1-mana and 2-mana spells when a Trinisphere is in play. But a savvy player will play one and keep the other in hand, in case the first is destroyed, or play both for redundancy.

In fact, one could argue that Trinisphere is in the deck to wreck control counterspell strategies, Chalice is in the deck to wreck Zoo-like cheap-mana aggro strategies as well as decks which depend on one key spell like Life from the Loam, and Lodestone is in the deck as a kind of balancer, who provides mild support against any archtype.

Eventually, you win by beating down a locked-down opponent with a Magus and/or a Lodestone. My own little flair is to include Gargoyle Castle for a beatdown, since I can keep bringing the card back with Crucible of Worlds -- this isn't necessary often, since usually Magus does the work, but it's a fun little unexpected switch-up, especially with a Moat (which this deck currently isn't running).

Mainboard and Sideboard?
The mainboard of this variant is built to defend itself against creature-based aggro, specifically Zoo and Merfolk strategies. The sideboard is in an undecided stage, right now. Note that the sideboard of this deck will change from tournament to tournament. It might even include weird cards like Spectral Procession sometimes (vs. Marit Lage heavy metagames).

If you liked this information, please comment to say so, and/or rate the deck! Thanks!

Deck Tags

  • Prison

Deck at a Glance

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Mana Curve

Mana Symbol Occurrence


Card Legality

  • Not Legal in Standard
  • Not Legal in Modern
  • Not Legal in Vintage
  • Legal in Legacy

Deck discussion for Tournament Stax

The sideboard is always a work in progress. Your comments and questions are welcome!

Posted 22 April 2010 at 19:48


how wud u hurt the opponent seeing that u only have one creature

Posted 22 April 2010 at 20:32


Eight creatures -- 4 Lodestone Golem, 4 Magus of the Tabernacle.

If they're locked out and have nothing in play, that's all I need. This deck aims to shut down the opponent and win over the long term.

Posted 22 April 2010 at 21:27


yeah i really like the mechanics of this deck. excellent i love the playing lands from your graveyard combo also the trinsphere and chalice of the void combo is pretty sick too. i just started playing about a year ago i have a few hundred cards maybe like 1000 but i only buy boosters i like the challange i would just be interested in your thoughts on some of my decks if your interested i can put them up any time. also i started in the alara block so obviously i only have cards from then till now

Posted 29 August 2010 at 21:22


This Deck is great! I'm currently building a Prison + protection deck and could use some advice. check it out.

Posted 01 March 2011 at 13:23


why not 4 flagstones of troika ?

Posted 22 October 2011 at 00:34