The Road to VSL: A Workshop on Workshop

Greetings to all my SHOPpers! In my last article Get in Losers, we’re going SHOPping I went over a brief history of the Mishra’s Workshop archetype and how it evolved over the years. Today I will be discussing powerful modern-day Mishra’s Workshop decks to play in 2017 and beyond. If you want to put a Thorn in the side of your opponent and lay Waste to their mana, get Wired for a Workshop on the archetype. I will leave no Lodestone unturned.

Let’s start with a question. How do you know if a Mishra’s Workshop deck is right for you? After all, Vintage isn’t necessarily a format where it’s easy to scrounge up a few decks and see which you like the most. As a burgeoning Vintage player, you should try proxying up decks and playing with friends, watching/reading Vintage content (Hi!), and researching before just jumping into a deck/archetype right off the bat. Measure twice, cut once.

So what kind of players would enjoy Mishra’s Workshop decks?

Do you hate fun? (Yes / No)

Oh, you answered “Yes?” Perfect, go out, buy your playset of Mishra’s Workshops and enjoy bringing misery on everyone around you! Buh-bye!

I’m just kidding of course, so let me take off my Jester’s Cap and get right to business.

Do you enjoy playing a top tier deck?
Do you enjoy playing prison or mana denial decks in other formats?
Do you like bringing the beatdown from time to time?
Do you like artifacts?
Do you enjoy locks/uninteractive games?
Are you good with die rolls?
Are you okay with being separated from our savior Ancestral Recall?

If you answered yes to some of these questions, perhaps we have a Workshop pilot in the making. On the contrary…

Do you like blue spells?
Do you like combo, control, or midrange decks?
Do you like tutors, card advantage, and planewalkers?
Do you dislike giving up control some games?
Do you dislike when powerful sideboard cards are played against you?
Are you average or worse with die rolls?
Can you not be separated from our savior Ancestral Recall?

If you answered yes to some of these questions, perhaps you may want to look at other decks in Vintage.

So what makes up a Workshop deck? You will find many cards do overlap between decklists. While they may only differ by a few cards, the roles those cards can play make the deck work differently enough that they should be assessed differently. Just because the decks share a game plan, doesn’t mean all shops decks are the same.

Cards like the following are typically found in all workshop decks, as they are what the deck wants to do at its core:

Tolarian AcademyWastelandCrucible of WorldsLodestone GolemThorn of Amethyst
Tangle WireTrinisphere

Cards like the following can define a particular type of shop deck that may branch off the traditional path:

Uba MaskFleetwheel CruiserSmokestackKuldotha ForgemasterMutavault

What better way to start off than with a couple of decks by Montolio? He is one of the most accomplished Vintage players in the world and is regarded as a specialist in the Mishra’s Workshop… Sphere. 😉

Arcbound Ravager

Oh boy, can you say, “Synergy?” There are more +1/+1’s in this deck than I can count… er? Arcbound Ravager is the primary beatstick in this deck and provides the deck with ways to win relatively quickly or attrition the opponent out in a longer game.

Steel Overseer

Steel Overseer is an excellent way to grow otherwise puny creatures into formidable threats in quick fashion. Including Mishra’s Factory, there are 24 creatures in the maindeck to grow and the counters provide synergy with Arcbound Ravager and Walking Ballista.

Walking Ballista

Speaking of Walking Ballista, this amazing addition to Vintage from Aether Revolt has been making waves. While it seems somewhat mana intensive at first glance, the flexibility provided by the Ballista make it an excellent, scalable threat that provides pressure and removal of sorts to creatures, planeswalkers, and of course, players. After all, many shops decks were playing Triskelion prior to this card’s printing and the Ballista is almost strictly better. This card works beautifully with Ravager as well, potentially finishing an opponent off out of nowhere. Hasta Ballista, baby!

Foundry Inspector

Foundry Inspector rounds out the notable inclusions for this deck and is no slouch. Admittedly, when I first saw Rich Shay win a Vintage premier event with four copies of this card, I was still hesitant. It just doesn’t look like it does enough in a world like Vintage, but after further inspection and testing it out myself, I am impressed. It has a respectable body, works in multiples, and makes larger Ballistas a more likely occurrence. Additionally, it makes some of the more costly sideboard options more manageable to cast.

The next list is another Montolio creation and while I have no experience with the decklist myself, it isn’t hard to see how it (metal)works.

Metalwork Colossus

This 10 power creature can be quite the threat if resolved. I do like the fact that it has the ability to be reliably recurred in the late-game. This should give this list a fair amount of advantage over other shops decks, however, I find that Crucible/Wasteland tends to win those kind of games more often. The Colossus has a type of pseudo-affinity, where it’s casting cost is reduced based on your board presence. It may not get a reduction from moxen or creatures, but it gets a hefty reduction to make up for it from the likes of Tangle Wire, sphere effects, and this next card…

Fleetwheel Cruiser

Start your engines with a car that can start itself! Fleetwheel Cruiser is unique addition to some shops decks from Kaladesh that effectively applies pressure to the opponent fast. Playing beatstick creatures like Juggernaut or Slash Panther isn’t unusual for shops decks. The goal is to make the opponent stumble on mana and resources long enough for you to finish them off. Workshop decks rarely establish hard locks, so frequently you will want to win the game sooner than later. The Cruiser does this job better than the previous cards and has the upside of being immune to cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Supreme Verdict. Crewing this vehicle is easier than expected and in instances where it is not turned on it does provide a discount on Metalwork Colossus.

Up next, we have a decklist that earned a top 4 finish from 2017 Swedish Vintage Nationals.


Smokestack is an extremely powerful and game-warping spell printed in a Magic era long-gone. While it may seem oddly symmetrical, much like Tangle Wire, Smokestack provides its user the ever-important choice of when/if to tick it up. This deck plays a resource denial plan excellently and will often peck you to death for two damage a turn, as you slowly lose everything you hold dear. As I like to say, Stax decks use Stacks, and stack triggers onto the stack to make you sac. Basically, it’s stacks on stacks on stacks.

Crucible of Worlds

This powerful artifact should see play in pretty much every Workshop decklist, if only for the fact that it is needed to combat the opponent’s copy. Getting Wasteland/Strip Mine locked is a real thing in Vintage and there is little way to prepare for it. A huge aspect of shops mirrors come down to who can stick a Crucible of Worlds and obliterate the opponent’s lands turn after turn. Crucicble sees maindeck play in many Smokestack decklists because it has additional synergy with the deck’s namesake card. Also, Crucible + Invetor’s Fair is like living the dream, even if it is perhaps a bit win-more.

Null Rod

What’s this? Null Rod in a deck full of artifacts? In fact, this deck plays more artifact abilities than most decks that don’t play Null Rod! So why does this deck play the powerful artifact hoser? It just boils down to the usual shops question of “Who can use it better?” Tangle Wire, sphere effects, Chalice of the Void, Smokestack, and Null Rod apply restrictions to BOTH players, but the Workshop decks often take advantage of the situation better than the opponent. It is worth it to sacrifice the utility of your moxen if you can do the same for the opponent (who can often use the moxen for far more broken things). Null Rod just does work in these shops decks and for that reason, expect to see this spell in many decklists.

That wraps up my discussion on Mishra’s Workshops decks. Do I have any aspiring shops players reading? Do these lists seem interesting? Even if every coffee is brown, you can still add different flavors for variety. Same goes for shops decks. Enjoy using one of the most broken lands ever printed and I will see you next time on Road to VSL. Thanks for reading!

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