Today we will look at a popular archetype which can be built in many various ways. I am speaking about Staxx-Oath. We saw this kind of deck on many tourneys and a lot of people tried to come up with their own specific builds. I will mainly present Kassow-Rossing´s build because he invested so much time on this thread http://www.magicplayer.org/forum/index.php?topic=513.0 to explore the possibilities of this deck.
His current build is the 3.0 version and he was kindly enough to share his insights. He has more than 1000 games with this deck and is testing it for a very long time. Because he is still in the progress of writing the article to this deck I will publish the whole guide as a series of multiple entries here on the blog. So check the blog for the next parts- If you are interested in the whole text he wrote, I suggest visiting the thread on www.magicplayer.org/forum. Today I present the introduction and land choices and of course his list. Keep in mind that I have to cut some parts of his article. I add the parts which seem crucial for the whole deck concept and offer some techs. I´ll appreciate his work and want to thank him for the time and work he put into the article.
Part 1 [List+Introduction+Lands]
Hello and welcome to my latest Highlander build. The idea of this deck comes from various sources but most credit must go to the tier 1.5 deck Staxx Legacy. The main focus of this deck is to lock down the opponent’s mana with Winter Orb, Static Orb, Armageddon, Ravages of War, Wildfire, Burning of Xinye, Devastation, Sphere of Resistance, Nether Void, Tangle Wire, Smokestack and/or Wasteland and Dust Bowl.
At the same time the deck tries to ramp the mana with either Signets or more powerful artifacts that all has great synergy with the above eight spells. If all goes well, the board is changing for the better each turn because the opponent will have less and less mana to spend for spells and this deck will hopefully have more and more.
The deck can be quite explosive and do incredible stuff out of nowhere. Adding Oath of Druids to the thirteen lock-down cards mentioned above, Oath-Staxx proves to be quite dangerous for the opponent to face. The key here is to get Crucible of Worlds to battlefield so Smokestack, from here the deck name, won’t hurt the deck itself as much as the opponent.
There are many substitutes to the Crucible-effect and therein lies much of the strength of the deck. Cards like Flagstones of Trokair, Awakening Zone and both Elspeth Planeswalkers will all provide the extra permanents needed for Smokestack. Crucible will be important after the five land destruction spells mentioned above. Signets and other mana producing artifacts will help tilt the board as well.
Another reason why the deck is as strong as it is, is because of the deck’s agility. It has many ways to win the game such as Smokestack with great synergy, Planeswalkers, Oath of Druids or Polymorph into Emrakul, the Thopter-Sword combo, Wasteland/Dust Bowl combo, Sacred Mesa, Saproling Burst or with cards like Wildfire and it can easily come back from a tight situation.
The deck is evasive too. Cards like Blood Moon and Armageddon, which some opponents can cast as well, won’t hurt the mana base that much due to all the colorless spells and the artifact ramp permanents. Same goes for Wasteland/Dust Bowl lock-down.
The deck only runs one creature and it is both pretty brutal and extremely difficult to get rid of. For that reason the opponent will often sit with “dead” cards in hand.Emrakul, the Aeons Torn will often, alone, win the game the following turn it enters the battlefield. Oath and Polymorph are here to help.
The lands are extremely important in the Staxx Oath deck. In here are so many lands that have an ability needed for the deck to run smooth. Being a very colorless deck, the deck has the opportunity to play many colorless producing lands. The advantages are being pushed to the maximum. Having that many colorless producing lands, the deck needs the best mana fixers and a few lands that produce all five colors to complete the fixing quickly.
Duals + Fetchlands
This deck needs all ten duals with no real disadvantage besides being non-basic. Furthermore being a deck that doesn’t care about the opponent’s life total, Grove of the Burnwillows is a free extra dual. Running all five colors usually means running all ten duels unless one plays a twisted color-scheme.
I have tested five, six, seven and eight fetch lands but seven seems to suit it better. Seven fetches will fix the color base and yet it is still not terrible much life payment. Running Ancient Tomb and City of Brass prevents the deck from running too much fetch.
The four 5-color lands
-City of Brass does this and is therefore an auto-include in this deck. The damage is not overwhelming.
-Glimmervoid has no disadvantage and will at all times fix half of your color-base. The only problem can be a turn two countered Signet with Glimmervoid on the battlefield.
-Tendo Ice Bridge is the land that goes from City of Brass to Darksteel Citadel. The land has, like Crystal Vein, one shot of glory. It will always add the mana needed for the right situation. I do not recommend Tendo Ice Bridge to other 5-colour decks but for this deck where you only need to resolve one bomb to win, it is amazing.
-Exotic Orchard is absolutely incredible because it will almost always be a dual or better. Worst case it only adds a mono colour mana, but that won’t hurt the deck. In the case it doesn’t add mana, the opponent is most likely to concede anyways.
The utility lands
-Academy Ruins is one quarter of the heart of this deck. Together will Smokestack, Crucible of Worlds and Winter Orb, Ruins is what the deck is all about. This card will almost always be fetched with Gifts Ungiven and it has tremendous synergy with so many artifacts including Crucible and any combo piece missing. Crucible protects Ruins, Ruins protects Crucible. Academy Ruins will bring back Tangle Wire after it goes to the graveyard for even more abused and bended dampness
-Darksteel Citadel first of all works with Armageddon and Ravages of War. Second of all Darksteel has synergies with Thirst for Knowledge, Burning of Xinye sometimes (But never Wildfire), Transmute Artifact and in some cases Thopter Foundry as well. The fact that it only produces colourless is no big of a problem and will be majorly over shined by the fact that it survives a resolved Armageddon. Darksteel won’t be the target by Wasteland or Dust Bowl as well as Vindicate which makes a neat little bonus. It will make Glimmervoid seem safer.
-Dust Bowl was here for potential lock-down with Crucible of Worlds
-Flagstones of Trokair are in here, like Darksteel Citadel, for its tremendous synergy with the land destruction cards as mentioned above.
-Mishras Factory is an amazing 3/3 blocker against aggro. Mishra’s Factory will be able to attack opposing Planeswalkers if there aren’t any blockers and of course it’s a target for Polymorph.
-Khalni Garden (Smokestack+Crucible and Polymorph and Planeswalkers).
-Crystal Vein is the only maybe-card but I’ve tested it and it suits really well. Being a non-basic land that produces colorless mana has proved to not be a problem with all the colorless spells and the mana-producing artifacts. This land will push the speed when needed and will otherwise be another regular land. It is not as strong as Ancient Tomb and City of Traaitors and it will maybe be cut one day.
Part 2 [Creatures+Planeswalker]
Basic Oath of Druids theory of creatures:
When deciding what creatures to add to this deck, the first thought that came to mind was playing Oath of Druids. Having Oath of Druids in a deck makes sure you have one card that will almost alone ensure you the win for as little as two mana if you build your deck around the Enchantment. For that reason, I decided to design a deck featuring Oath of Druids and with that decision follows a lot of questions. How many creatures the deck has to run is one of them. I’ve tested everything from a single creature to six of them. Two creatures were the options for the second version. Playing only two was a bit risky because the creatures could both be on the bottom four cards of the library, but I think it was a wise decision because the more creatures the deck contained, the lower power level they had in average. Also the creatures were often dead draws since they were really expensive to cast. Knowing this I’ve decided to cut yet another creature for the third version and only playing one.
Tainted Pact will every second resolution pass the creature before finding Oath. In the 1.0 version where I played six creatures, Tainted Pact could always find Oath of Druids, but for the later builds, I decided to let Tainted serve the many other functions in this deck other than finding Oath of Druids.
When designing a control deck featuring Oath of Druids, one has to decide to go for one of the following options:
A: To play a few important creatures that suit the deck really well and at the same time is castable within the range of mana available.
B: To play one or a few expensive creatures that win the game when they hit the table or put the opponent on a hasty clock.
C: To play a few creatures that covers both categories to a certain degree.
The creatures are divided into several categories depending on their characteristics and strengths/weaknesses on the different areas. I’ve decided to go for four different categories and they are as follows:
1. Castable’s: are the ones that do something for the deck but can still enter battlefield without the help of Oath pretty easily. Oath will only be a “helping hand” in this line of strategy.
2. Protectors: are the ones that will almost entirely alone stabilize the board as soon as they enter the battlefield. Oath will be the easiest way to make these bombs enter the battlefield.
3. Clocks: are the ones that will provide the fastest win given in the game. Oath will almost be the only way to make these bombs enter the battlefield.
4. Indestructible’s: are the ones that will be very tough to remove once they’re on the table. Oath will almost be the only way to make these bombs enter the battlefield.
Castable, in order:
1. Lodestone Golem
2. Baneslayer Angel
3. Sharuum the Hegemon
Protectors, in order:
1. Empyrial Archangel
2. Sphinx of the Steel Wind
3. Iona, Shield of Emeria
Clocks, in order:
1. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
2. Hellkite Overlord
Indestructibles, in order:
1. Inkwell Leviathan
2. Empyrial Archangel
3. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
After many testing matches, I’ve decided to go for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and only him because seeing a creature being Sword’ed after having Oath’ed is not really a welcoming sight. Protection from spells is an amazing abilitie to keep removal off the bay. Also I wish to hit Emrakul with each Oath’ing instead of any other creature. In older version I dredge over Emrakul with Life from the Loam to trigger the shuffling ability, which caused me to not play the Eldrazi, but now that LftL is banned, there is no reason not to play the biggest guy in the game. One has to take care of Venser, Shaper Savant, Sower of Temptation, O-Ring, Karakas and the likes, but Emrakul really is difficult to deal with as well as providing the fastest cIock possible.
Converted mana cost 15, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn: Being the largest creature of the game, this alien will annihilate all or almost all of the opponents permanents once it attacks and is therefore often a reason for the opponent to scoop. The fifteen mana this Eldrazi costs is not completely out of reach in an Artifact ramp deck. Once you cast this creature, you win the game. It has great synergy with Awakening Zone. Emrakul is also the best creature to Oath into. Being the king of Gods (read: Emeria => Emrakul) of the sky on Zendikar plane gives it flying and makes it fly over Moat. On the downside Emrakul can still be removed by Oblivion Ring or the likes and be stolen by Sower as well as returned by Venser, which makes it a bit more vulnerable than creatures like Progenitus or Empyrial Archangel.
So far Emrakul has been really good and after including Polymorph, it seemed only right that Emrakul would be the only creature to include in the deck. The new version doesn’t play The Abyss any longer for meta game reasons and because Emrakul will be taken out by the World Enchantment. After excluding Life from the Loam from the older version due to bannings, Emrakul doesn’t have any natural downside in the deck. In the case that Oath of Druids is on the battlefield, a Chainer’s Edict or the likes won’t do much to Emrakul because it will enter the battlefield the following turn once again. A board-sweeper like Wrath of God will take out Emrakul and force it to be shuffled back into the library, which can be both good or bad depending on the current situation at the time.
The decision to play either six, seven or eight Planeswalkers in the deck all comes down to how many win conditions the deck needs and how many there are room for. For example Obelisk of Alara did count as a win condition and therefore took up a seat for a Planeswalker. Long time ago I decided to play around ten win conditions and therefore I’m most likely to run seven pieces of them, since Bitterblossom, Sacred Mesa and Saproling Burst is also in here. I don’t take Emrakul and the Thopter-Sword combo into consideration because they will require for Oath/Polymorph or the other combo piece to work. All seven Planeswalkers in Staxx are finishers except for Liliana Vess and are all very strong cards. All will add advantage when Smokestack is on the battlefield and all seven Planeswalkers (again except Vess) can defend themselves and will therefore be very difficult to get rid of. The Planeswalkers are the heart of the win conditions as well as a base of utility effects.
Ajani Vengeant: Ajani is good against aggro and better against control. Against aggro, Ajani’s best feature is being able to kill of the last creature on the board with a (-2): Lightning Helix ability. In other situations Ajani will shoot the best possible creature and go bravely to the graveyard leaving the math at 1:1 card trade and 3+x life gain, where x = the power of the creature attacking Ajani. Against control Ajani is nearly unstoppable. Being a devastating ticking clock waiting to ruin all lands one-sided, Ajani is a thread needed to be dealt with quite quickly. Ajani can, with help from other Planeswalkers, defend himself against the smallest of the creatures (and one big creature at a time). The (+1): ability has great synergy with the rest of the deck. Ajani will sometimes enter battlefield on turn three, and like any other Planeswalker, having it on battlefield one turn earlier makes it exceedingly deadly. The (-7): ultimatum ability of Ajani Vengeant will, sometimes alone, end games.
Elspeth, Knight Errant: In most other decks Elspeth, Knight-Errant usually has two functions: Spending one of the (+1): abilities to produce soldiers for blockers and attacking with a 4/4 flyer each turn. Elspeth has two more functions in Staxx which makes it of such great valuable to this deck. Like the majority of Planeswalkers in Staxx, Elspeth adds food in form of tokens for Smokestack. Elspeth + Smokestack is usually = win. Elspeth will sometimes enter battlefield on turn three, and like any other Planeswalker, having it on battlefield one turn earlier makes it exceedingly deadly. After adding Polymorph in v. 3.0, Elspeth, Knight-Errant also functions as a way of getting Emrakul to the battlefield. The (-8): ultimatum ability of Elspeth, Knight-Errant is not commonly used in any format but in Staxx it will prevent Armageddon, Ravages of War or Burning of Xinye from hurting you at all and they will all be one-sided for the rest of the game. Having that as a bonus is pretty convenient.
Elspeth Tirel: Elspeth Tirel is much like the old one. With the (-2): ability she will add a lot more tokens to the battlefield (1.5/turn instead of 1/turn). Taken into consideration that the first three tokens will enter battlefield right away makes it a lot more useful with Smokestack and Polymorph. This is the sole reason for playing this Elspeth in Staxx. Elspeth Tirel costs one more mana, which makes it a little slower giving that it will likely not enter battlefield before turn 4. The life gain from the (+2): ability is not amazing but a neat bonus when having this much pain in the deck from cards like Ancient Tomb and the seven fetch lands. The (-5): ultimatum ability of Elspeth Tirel is rarely used because it will wipe out all Artifacts and Enchantments.
Garruk Wildspeaker: Being perhaps the best of the first five Lorwyn walkers, Garruk works because of the (+1): untap ability not only well with Armageddon, Ravages, Burning, Wildfire and Devastation as well as Winter and Static Orb but also with Smokestack because of the (-1): Beast token ability. Almost all Planeswalkers in here add food to Smokestack. Garruk will sometimes enter battlefield on turn three, and like any other Planeswalker, having it on battlefield one turn earlier makes it exceedingly deadly. Garruk is more of a combo piece than an actual win condition though. Garruk’s only problem is the dual green mana cost which can be problematic turn three or four. For that we have Simic Signet and Selesnya Signet. The (-4): ultimatum ability of Garruk Wildspeaker was never used in 2.0 and is rarely used in 3.0. After adding this many tokens producers, the ability will sometimes, but rarely, win a game.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor: All control decks must consider playing Jace 2.0 because he is filled with utility abilities for most situations. Jace needs not much backup to be a one-man-army of incredible utility. In the situation where the opponent has no creature on the battlefield, Jace has two options: (+2): “Fateseal 1/Scry 1” ability or (0): “Brainstorm” ability. Depending on the board situation and the cards in hand, Jace will use either of the two abilities. I often prefer the “Fateseal 1” ability because it will allow me to think ahead of the opponent and it will make it unlikely for him to get rid of my Mind Sculptor any time soon. Jace can, this way, win the game quite quickly. I stay away from “Fateseal 1” if my opponent has a shuffling-effect like a fetch land on the battlefield. Against a control player where you know he’s playing a deck packed with cards like Oblivion Ring, Maelstrom Pulse and Faith’s Fetters, Jace will almost always use Brainstorm ability for card advantage before he goes to waste. Against a board of one creature with power 3 or more, Jace will often use the (-1): “Unsummon” ability targeting that creature. Having three “Unsummon” packed into one spell is quite powerful even though one most likely won’t spend the last counter on the creature. When Jace is having one Loyalty counter left, he will draw you the card to replace himself and the opponent will be given the choice to either kill Jace or attack you. In this way, Jace will also give you life in the end. If the creature has power 2 or less, “Fateseal 1” will most likely be better because it will keep the creature at bay. If the opponent doesn’t attack Jace the first time possible, Jace will now suddenly have an arsenal of “Unsummons”. Having Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Oath of Druids on the battlefield is a devastating combination. The opponent will now stand with the option of casting a creature only to see you oath or to not cast a creature and see you exile his library. Jace, the Mind Sculptor will sometimes enter battlefield on turn three, and like any other Planeswalker, having it on battlefield one turn earlier makes it exceedingly deadly. The (-12): ultimatum ability of Jace, the Mind Sculptor is hard to reach but not impossible. This ability wins many games.
Liliana Vess: Due to the fact that Staxx Oath 3.0 runs a lot of key cards and a combo, a lot of tutors will work really great in the deck. Liliana is amazing in this deck because it’s (-2): tutor ability is extremely efficient in a 100 cards singleton format. Liliana is often a Planeswalker that functions too slowly in this format, but when the opponent is often pushed into being land-screwed, the expensive Planeswalker doesn’t seem so expensive at all. It obviously works a little slower than Tezzeret the Seeker, but Liliana will find cards like Armageddon, Mana Drain and other Planeswalkers against control which Tezzeret won’t be able to. Also the (+1): discard ability can sometimes win games against control. Against aggro, where Liliana is worst, it will go for Oath of Druids if there is time for it, Moat if there is less time and Crumbling Sanctuary if the aggro player is pressuring a bit too much. The (-8): ultimatum ability of Liliana Vess will never be used.
Tezzeret the Seeker: In a highly Artifact-based ramp and combo deck, I think it would be a mistake not to play with Tezzeret the Seeker. Tezzeret can sometimes use the (+1): untap ability for mana if any expensive spell is in the hand, and here is mostly focus on Gilded Lotus, Thran Dynamo, Khalni Gem or Worn Powerstone, but most often he will use the (-x): tutor for Artifact ability. The bomb here is Crucible of Worlds because it will set up combos alone and will always be the safe card. Crucible is the most common tutor target. Tezzeret can, however, also tutor for Sword of the Meek or Thopter Foundry if one of them has already been drawn to set-up the combo. If there is time for it, both Artifacts can be found for all four loyalty counters. Tezzeret will tutor for Nihil Spellbomb in matches when needed. If the opponent is completely tapped out Tezzeret can go for Winter Orb or Static Orb and if the opponent is land screwed, Tezzeret will go for Sphere of Resistance to push the advantage. In pressed situations, Tezzeret will find Tangle Wire to give the space needed to restore balance. When a land is needed, Darksteel Citadel or sometimes a bit more expensive mana artifact like Coalition Relic will be found. In rare situations, Tezzeret will find Sensei’s Divining Top for card advantage. Finally it is also possible to go all in for Smokestack itself even though it costs four loyalty counters. Tezzeret can be seen as the second Smokestack in the deck for the extra mana. Tezzeret is a powerhouse in the deck and is a toolbox of utility having an answer to every situation. The (-5): ultimatum ability of Tezzeret the Seeker will end many games against control.