The Metaworker: Stax, Tax, and Resource Denial James LaPage December 28, 2016 The Metaworker 2 In the last episode, we took a look at the different types of resources in Commander, and how to convert one type of resource to another. In this episode, we’re going to look at what can go wrong when you’re trying to convert one resource to another. How can we throw a wrench into a finely-tuned machine, so to speak. Not every deck is like pzlob’s Karametra deck – racing to amass huge amounts of mana, permanents on the battlefield, and cards in hand. Some decks look to deny their opponents access to resources. Reddit user /u/razzliox put it really clearly when he said: “In two-player games, having a resource is generally identical to denying your opponent the same resource. Similarly, allowing your opponent [access to] a resource and receiving the same resource is generally a net-0 action.” In this article we’re not going to be talking about two-player games, because I think plenty has already been written about the dynamics of 1v1 Magic with respect to resource parity and card advantage. Razzliox goes on to write: “In four-player games, this is not so. Me drawing a card and you drawing a card does not maintain card parity or generate resources equally, since now there are two players that have drawn a card and two players that haven’t. To maintain parity, all players must draw a card. Similarly, if I use my Strip Mine on you, I’m now down a land and so are you, but the other two players are fine. In these examples, there must be a really good reason to Strip you, like you have a Gaea’s Cradle. The general principle is that giving me more resources at the cost of one of my opponents having just as many additional resources is a good thing.” There are generally 3 ways that you can approach resource denial: Removing resources that people have already amassed (Stax) Preventing people from amassing new resources (Lock) Interfering with resource conversion (Tax) A good resource denial deck combines these elements in a way that allows them to deny access to resources at any point in the game, no matter who is ahead. In today’s article, we’re going to be looking at a resource denial deck submitted by TappedOut user elpollo66. He told me he wants this deck to be absolutely ruthless when it comes to denying resources, because he is feeling threatened by fast combo decks in his meta: Chainer, Dementia Master Resource Denial Artifact (19)1 x Altar of Dementia1 x Ashnod’s Altar1 x Crucible of Worlds1 x Ensnaring Bridge1 x Gilded Lotus1 x Jet Medallion1 x Lotus Petal1 x Mana Crypt – Book Promos1 x Mesmeric Orb1 x Mind Stone1 x Nevinyrral’s Disk1 x Oblivion Stone1 x Sensei’s Divining Top1 x Smokestack1 x Sol Ring1 x Sphere of Resistance1 x Tangle Wire1 x TrinisphereLand (34)1 x Bojuka Bog1 x Vesuva1 x Cabal Coffers1 x Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx1 x Reliquary Tower1 x Strip Mine27 x Swamp (339)1 x Urborg, Tomb of YawgmothCreature (17)1 x Gray Merchant of Asphodel1 x Kokusho, the Evening Star1 x Massacre Wurm1 x Merciless Executioner1 x Mindslicer1 x Myr Retriever1 x Nirkana Revenant1 x Pestilence Demon1 x Rune-Scarred Demon1 x Sadistic Hypnotist1 x Sangromancer 1 x Sheoldred, Whispering One – Prerelease Promo1 x Sidisi, Undead Vizier1 x Steel Hellkite1 x Viscera Seer1 x Xiahou Dun, the One-EyedEnchantment (8)1 x Bitterblossom1 x Bottomless Pit1 x Contamination1 x Desolation1 x Necrogen Mists1 x Necropotence1 x Oppression1 x Phyrexian ArenaPlaneswalker (1)1 x Liliana of the Dark Realms1 x Chainer, Dementia MasterSorcery (13)1 x Beseech the Queen1 x Buried Alive1 x Choice of Damnations1 x Death Cloud1 x Demonic Tutor1 x Exsanguinate1 x Living Death1 x Pox1 x Praetor’s Grasp1 x Reanimate1 x Smallpox1 x Toxic Deluge1 x Yawgmoth’s WillInstant (6)1 x Cabal Ritual1 x Dark Ritual1 x Entomb1 x Hero’s Downfall1 x Imp’s Mischief1 x Vampiric Tutor1 x Duplicant Buy This List What elpollo66 has done is put together a deck that utilizes all three elements, so to get a better idea for how the deck runs I’m going to break them out into three packages corresponding to our resource denial strategies above. 1) Removing resources that people have already amassed (Stax) Mesmeric OrbOblivion StoneSmokestackBojuka BogStrip MineDeath-Mask DuplicantGrey Merchant of AsphodelKokusho, the Evening StarMassacre WurmMerciless ExecutionerMindslicerPestilence DemonSadistic HypnotistSangromancer Sheoldred, Whispering One – Prerelease PromoSteel HellkiteBottomless PitNecrogen MistsOppressionChoice of DamnationsDeath CloudExsanguinateLiving DeathPoxPraetor’s GraspSmallpoxToxic DelugeHero’s Downfall Buy This List Wow. That’s nearly half of the non-land cards in this deck that are devoted to dealing with resources that have already been amassed. I realize that Praetor’s Grasp doesn’t quite fit in this group, but if you have a good knowledge of your opponent’s deck list (or even their archetype) you can use it to blank your opponents’ tutors. 2) Preventing people from amassing new resources (Lock) ContaminationTangle WireDesolation Buy This List This package, in my opinion, is a little on the light side. We’re going to look a little closer at this in a minute. 3) Interfering with resource conversion (Tax) Sphere of ResistanceTrinisphere Buy This List I feel pretty comfortable with this as my high-level overview of how this deck runs: This deck is pretty relentless at removing threats on board and stripping opponents’ hands. This deck likely makes games go long due to the hand and land hate. This deck has a hard time dealing with decks that have explosive resource creation potential due to the lack of interference with resource conversion. On a personal note, I’d also like to send out some props to elpollo66. I had no idea that Oppression and Desolation were cards before I took a look at this list. They are absolutely devastating, and I love them. What direction would I take this deck to increase its effectiveness? I’m going to pare back the stax package in favour of a few more tax and lock elements. This prevents people from rebuilding after their resources are decimated. The tax package This package is definitely on the right track. If this deck is going to make the game go long, we want to prevent and disrupt as much early-game interaction as possible. Trinisphere turns off net-positive mana rocks and makes fast combo decks play the game the way Richard Garfield intended. I would take it one step further by adding the following tax effects: The lock package I don’t think the lock package needs a ton of work. A contamination package can pretty effectively lock opponents out of the game, and when paired with a source of sac fodder, it can go on long enough to draw or tutor into something that will actually close out the game. In that regard, I would recommend adding the following cards that synergize with Contamination (and Smokestacks, incidentally): Cuts Mesmeric OrbNirkana RevenantImp’s MischiefPraetor’s GraspViscera SeerSmallpox Buy This List Mesmeric Orb doesn’t work along the same axis as the rest of the deck (mill), and our GY recursion finisher is Living Death, rather than Rise of the Dark Realms, so this is a bit of a non-bo. To mill people for the win with a non-infinite combo you pretty much have to be running blue. Viscera Seer isn’t enabling a combo either. I like that the Ophiomancer/Bloodghast/Pawn of Ulamog package makes it a little stronger, but there are stronger effects we can get from sacrificing our creatures. The Mana Base This mana base is very close to being perfect. I would add High Market and Phyrexian Tower. Both protect against exile removal, and Phyrexian Tower pulls double duty by helping us cast spells after blowing up lands. With Crucible of Worlds, we could also get a ton of value out of Lake of the Dead. These are easy cuts – 3 swamps get the boot. We still have plenty of basics in the deck to play around Back to Basics and Blood Moon. Closing out the game Finally, this deck looks like it’s leaning really heavily on Recurring Kokusho and Grey Merchant repeatedly. I like this as a wincon, but in a resource denial deck I generally like being able to count on a reliable win condition that immediately ends the game. It makes the games a little more palatable for your playgroup, and you can get more games in in a single evening. For this reason, I’m going to suggest a combo finish. Entomb and Buried Alive are screaming to be abused in this list, and I feel like we can get there with a small Necrotic Ooze package. Triskelion and Phyrexian Devourer will get us there. This means that with only Chainer on board (or in the graveyard) and BBBB2 and 3 life we can win the game with Buried Alive. This also gets around things like Torpor Orb and Angel of Jubiliation. Cuts Hero’s DownfallJet MedallionSheoldred, Whispering One – Prerelease Promo Buy This List These were really tough cuts. I like Hero’s Downfall in this deck as a versatile answer, but I feel being able to close out the game quickly once everyone’s hands are empty is extremely important. Jet Medallion gets a lot better in decks that play multiple spells per turn, and based on the coloured mana requirements of the spells in this list I think we’re looking at either 1 or 0 mana saved per turn. Sheoldred is really expensive for the benefit that it provides, and it doesn’t immediately impact the game state. This one was probably the toughest cut, but lowering the curve and increasing consistency ultimately wins out. 2 Free Cards Elpollo66 had 2 copies of Sensei’s Divining Top and was 1 card short in the list he sent me, so we get 2 free cards! This is my favourite part about this list, because cuts were actually really tough. I love this list as he sent it to me so I didn’t want to mess with it too much. I think the best thing we can do with this list is a copy of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Planeswalkers are incredibly powerful when you’re able to keep the board free of creatures. Ugin protects itself with both its plus and its minus abilities, and this deck runs a ton of permanents that will close the game out if you ever manage to activate its ultimate ability. For the last card to round out the list, I’m going to toss Hero’s Downfall back in because spot removal is rarely a bad thing. That leaves us with the following list: 1 x Bloodghast1 x Death-Mask Duplicant1 x Gray Merchant of Asphodel1 x Kokusho, the Evening Star1 x Massacre Wurm1 x Merciless Executioner1 x Mindslicer1 x Myr Retriever1 x Necrotic Ooze1 x Ophiomancer1 x Pawn of Ulamog1 x Pestilence Demon1 x Phyrexian Devourer1 x Rune-Scarred Demon1 x Sadistic Hypnotist1 x Sangromancer1 x Sidisi, Undead Vizier1 x Steel Hellkite1 x Triskelion1 x Xiahou Dun, the One-EyedInstant (5)1 x Cabal Ritual1 x Dark Ritual1 x Entomb1 x Hero’s Downfall1 x Vampiric TutorPlaneswalker (2)1 x Liliana of the Dark Realms1 x Ugin, the Spirit DragonArtifact (19)1 x Altar of Dementia1 x Ashnod’s Altar1 x Crucible of Worlds1 x Defense Grid1 x Ensnaring Bridge1 x Gilded Lotus1 x Lotus Petal1 x Mana Crypt – Book Promos1 x Mana Web1 x Mind Stone1 x Nevinyrral’s Disk 1 x Oblivion Stone1 x Sensei’s Divining Top1 x Smokestack1 x Sol Ring1 x Sphere of Resistance1 x Tangle Wire1 x Trinisphere1 x Winter OrbLand (34)1 x Bojuka Bog1 x Cabal Coffers1 x High Market1 x Lake of the Dead1 x Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx1 x Phyrexian Tower1 x Reliquary Tower1 x Strip Mine24 x Swamp (339)1 x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth1 x VesuvaSorcery (11)1 x Beseech the Queen1 x Buried Alive1 x Choice of Damnations1 x Death Cloud1 x Demonic Tutor1 x Exsanguinate1 x Living Death1 x Pox1 x Reanimate1 x Toxic Deluge1 x Yawgmoth’s WillEnchantment (8)1 x Bitterblossom1 x Bottomless Pit1 x Contamination1 x Desolation1 x Necrogen Mists1 x Necropotence1 x Oppression1 x Phyrexian Arena Buy This List And that’s it for this week! Let me know in the comments what you think of this list, or if you would have taken it in a different direction. What do you think of the Necrotic Ooze finisher? Would you have gone with Mike and Trike, or Helm / Leyline? Something else entirely? Next episode we’re going to talk stax and how it works, and how you can adapt if someone brings a deck like this to your table. Thanks and I’ll see you next time! 2 Responses Brandon Obcena December 28, 2016 Hey Jim! It’s great to see this artical go up, and though I’ve dropped Chainer/Gary/Kokusho for something I feel is better, I saw a lot of the cards listed here are in my current list. Good to know I’m on the right track. Hope I get a friday off to see what my deck is made off! Thanks again. Take it easy. Reply James LaPage December 28, 2016 I look forward to seeing it! I won’t be at A Muse N this Friday because we are doing a chaos draft for my brother’s birthday, but I plan on being there next week. I also have a brand new monoblack competitive deck that I am looking to gets reps in with. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName Email Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.