Burning Through Type One, Part 3: The Prison Matchup, And The Future Of Long.dec

Nick Eisel says:”Even if you don’t play Vintage, reading Stephen’s articles will arouse your brain and get you involved instead of the usual zombie-like state that is achieved after reading another mundane Magic article. The format he uses to get this information into that mode of thinking is superb and I’d personally like to compliment him.” And given that Nick’s such a fan, shouldn’t you take a look at the third installment of how to play a deck that’s so fast that games only go to turn 4 once in every twenty games?

In Part One, we looked at a new deck, examined how it operated, basic principles for playing the deck, and presented a few sample games against Goblin Sligh just to get a glimpse, in the context of actual games, how powerful the deck can be in the face of minimal opposition.

In Part Two, we began to take a look at how to play Long.dec against one of its most difficult matchups, blue-based control, and I presented some fundamental ideas on how to beat it. I demonstrated how Long has the capacity to blitz by blue-based control by winning before it can optimize its hand, preemptively answer threats with cards like Duress, or get two blue mana into play for Mana Drain. We also looked at how Long can overpower a control deck by throwing out multiple threats in one turn through a precise combination of mana accelerants and game-breaking spells. I also explained how Long may actually want to slow down the game (as well as speed it up) depending on the situation – the point being that the goal shouldn’t always be to win as quickly as possible because you may end up giving the control player an inadvertent tempo advantage by walking into a Mana Drain. Finally, I made the point that a key to beating control is to think ahead and maximize all your threats so that each card, as far as possible, presents a real step towards you winning the game.

One final point that I could have made more clearly is that Long also has the capacity to quickly recover in a topdeck war, provided that it has sufficient mana available (and my only mana source isn’t countered), because each spell it topdecks is immediately effective, impacting the game. This is so because the majority of the deck is mana – and the vast majority of that is an accelerant.

Today, we are looking at the Workshop matchup. Mishra’s Workshop-based decks, aside from blue0based control, make up the other tough matchups that the Long player needs to understand.

Something that I should have mentioned in Part Two, but is equally important here, is that by simply knowing the matchup, you can change the very nature of the matchup. By understanding the principles that I have described and are familiar with the matchup, and if your opponent hasn’t done the same, then you have a significant advantage when you sit down for a tournament match. And with that let’s take a look at:

Long Versus Workshop Prison

Compared to the Control matchup, the analysis is surprisingly straightforward and boils down to a few key questions. Let’s take a look.

Long v. $T4KS

My test partner is Mike Lenzo, and he is playing Neo-Stax – Stax slightly modified to incorporate a full complement of Wastelands.

I win the coin flip.

Game One:

Turn 1:

I didn’t record my hand, but six of my cards were Mox Jet, Mox Sapphire, Mox Emerald, Timetwister, Dark Ritual, and Duress. I played a turn 1 Timetwister and drew into a Yawgmoth’s Bargain with sufficient acceleration to play it on turn 1. Instead of going for the kill immediately, I decided to wait one turn to untap with full resources mana resources available. This can be a risky play.

Let’s take a look at the Neo-Stax deck:

4 Mishra’s Workshop

1 City of Traitors (probably shouldn’t be here, we were testing it out)

4 Wasteland

1 Strip Mine

4 Volcanic Island

1 Badlands

4 Fetchlands

6 Moxen

1 Mana Crypt

1 Mana Vault

1 Grim Monolith

1 Lotus Petal

1 Black Lotus

1 Sol Ring

4 Goblin Welder

4 Sphere of Resistance

4 Tangle Wire

4 Smokestack

4 Meditate

1 Wheel of Fortune

1 Timetwister

1 Time Walk

1 Tinker

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Memory Jar

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Triskelion

1 Karn, Silver Golem

With my Yawgmoth’s Bargain successfully in play, if I wait one turn to go off, what is the worst he can throw at me? The worst, by far, is Sphere of Resistance, which can be accessed multiple ways. The only way I could probably lose, however, is if he plays two Spheres. I could answer one Sphere by using a Burning Wish to fetch out Primitive Justice, or, possibly, I might not even need to do that to win. I have plenty of mana sources on the table, including three Moxen, Sol Ring, and a land, having spent two Dark Rituals. Tangle Wire is not going to stop me, and it’s still going to be worth waiting a turn. Smokestack and Goblin Welder are both too slow, but if I start to draw cards and I don’t have enough tools to win this turn without first untapping, I risk being vulnerable to a draw 7 that he might play on turn one. Given the risks, and given that I have already drawn an abnormal amount of acceleration, which makes it less likely for me to get the tools I need to go off, I decide it is safer to wait one turn.

Mike played a Polluted Delta and fetched out a Volcanic Island. He played a Goblin Welder and passed the turn. I suppose he was lucky to have land at all after the Timetwister. Playing against decks without Force of Will is surprisingly simple; you merely have to play around key cards that they might play, such as a Sphere of Resistance.

I handily win off of my Bargain on my second turn.

Game Two:

My opening hand is Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Mana Crypt, Mox Diamond, Chromatic Sphere, Mystical Tutor, and Underground Sea.

Turn 1:

Stax goes first:

Mox Sapphire, Polluted Delta->Badlands.

I draw City Of Brass. I play the Mox Diamond, discarding the City. I play the Mana Crypt. I Mystical for Mind’s Desire off of the Underground Sea. I use one mana from the crypt to put a Chromatic Sphere into play.

Storm Count: 4.

Then I play both Lion’s Eye Diamonds. I sac both LEDs (discarding my hand), adding UUUBBB use the last colorless to sac the Chromatic Sphere and draw Desire, adding black to my pool.

I Desire for seven on turn 1… And the first card we flip over is Yawgmoth’s Bargain. Mike scoops.

He simply needs a more explosive hand than playing a land. He reveals his hand and he has Workshop, Tangle Wire, and Smokestack. None of those are sufficient to stop me, as I won on turn 1.

Game Three:

Opening hand: City of Brass, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Sol Ring, Chromatic Sphere, Duress, Tinker, and Ancestral Recall. He is playing first. And so this is one of those hands where the particular decisions I make depend heavily on what I draw, and if I want to use my Ancestral immediately or try and Tinker. That also depends on how much pressure Mike applies on turn 1.

Turn 1:

Mike starts with another bad opening of Volcanic Island, Goblin Welder.

Since Mike has done almost nothing of consequence, I decide to go the Ancestral route.

I play the City of Brass, cast Ancestral into Mox Emerald, Burning Wish, and Demonic Tutor. I break the Petal to cast Dark Ritual and Sol Ring. I play the Mox Emerald and tap it. I then Tutor up Black Lotus with 2B floating. With the remaining to mana I cast and use the Chromatic Sphere to get red mana and play the Burning Wish for Yawgmoth’s Will. I play the Lotus, sacrifice it for Black to cast the Will.

Storm Count: 10

I replay the Petal, the Black Lotus, Dark Ritual, and replay Demonic Tutor fetching out my maindeck Tendrils for thirty points.

This hand turned into one of those”I win now” hands. Usually, however, my Ancestral Recall’s aren’t that perfect. Ironically, the Brainstorm would have been just as good – I would have put back Tinker and Duress.

Game Four:

My opening hand is a little slow: Gemstone Mine, City of Brass, Dark Ritual, Demonic Tutor, Burning Wish, and Mind’s Desire.

Turn 1:

Mike plays Mishra’s Workshop, Mana Vault, and Sphere of Resistance – which is also called”Long loses.”

It is extremely difficult to play underneath a Sphere with this deck – but then, that’s the trick isn’t it? If you can beat Sphere, you’re golden. Even if you can’t fully beat it, we need to understand how it functions and probe for ways around it. Our most obvious answer is to Wish up Primitive Justice; the problem here is that I lack the acceleration to make that a reality in the near future.

I play Gemstone Mine and pass the turn.

Turn 2:

He drops a City of Traitors and casts Triskelion off of the Vault, Workshop, and City.

I play City of Brass and tap both lands to play Sol Ring. If I survive to untap, I can cast the Wish for Primitive Justice if I draw another land.

Turn 3:

He draws and then attacks with Triskelion. He plays another Sphere and I scoop. While I may have a shot at winning when one Sphere is on the table, I really have no realistic chance of winning pre-sideboard when two Spheres have resolved. One problem is that my Gemstone Mine isn’t going to stay around very long if I keep having to use it to play tutors to fetch out answers. If I had had a faster start, I might have been able to do something about it.

Game Five:

I Paris mulligan away a hand with all mana and a Tendrils into a juicy hand of six: Gemstone Mine, LED, Brainstorm, Wheel, Tinker, Duress.

Turn 1:

I debate whether to Brainstorm or Duress. If he has a Sphere, I lose; if he has a Wasteland, then I lose. And so, for some reason I have a brain fart and I play Brainstorm instead of Duress, and I see: Burning Wish, Tendrils, and another Brainstorm. I put back Tendrils and Tinker.

It doesn’t matter though, because he goes,”Wasteland, Waste your Mine,” – which is bad enough, but then he plays Mox Jet, Lotus Petal, Sphere of Resistance. I concede.

Game Six:

Tolarian Academy, City of Brass, Demonic Consultation, Vampiric Tutor, Brainstorm, Duress, Yawgmoth’s Bargain.

The obvious play is turn 1 Duress, and then vamp on my next upkeep for Lotus and then do some tricks on that turn to try and get Bargain into play.

Turn 1:

I duress him and I see Mox Pearl, Volcanic Island, Grim Monolith, Sphere of Resistance, Tangle Wire, Smokestack, and Meditate. I debated whether to take the Pearl or the Sphere; if I take the Sphere, he can play”Grim Monolith, Tangle Wire” – but if I take the Pearl, he may not be able to play the Sphere, or anything at all, before I win. I decide to take the Sphere.

He drew Wasteland. Wasted my only land. This also foiled my Vampiric Tutor plans.

Turn 2:

Luckily, I topdeck Lion’s Eye Diamond so I can actually use my Academy. I play both the LED and the Academy and cast Brainstorm into Necro, Dark Ritual, and Gemstone. I put back Bargain and Vamp. The fact that the Academy doesn’t produce Black means that the Wasteland has thrown me back into the Stone Age. It will be at least a few turns until I am able to do anything, as I not only have to plow through two non-mana producing cards, but hope to draw another black mana producer after them. Meanwhile, I’m a sitting duck to anything he plays during the next few turns. It looks grim.

He plays Grim Monolith off the Volcanic Island and Mox Pearl, and taps it for Tangle Wire.

Turns 3 and 4:

However, for the next two turns, he draws nothing and we both tap down.

Turn 5:

I draw and play Gemstone Mine (very lucky!), Dark Ritual, Necropotence. I Necro for eight into lots of mana and Burning Wish.

Mike still can’t get a third mana source.

Turn 6:

I play City of Brass, Mox Jet, Dark Ritual, Mana Vault, and Chromatic Sphere and cast Burning Wish. I fetch out Yawgmoth’s Will and simply recast all the stuff in my graveyard for an easy win, getting Tendrils with Vampiric Tutor and drawing it with Brainstorm for lethal damage.

This game was a little strange as he topdecked terribly; any other pressure and I would have had a difficult time turning this game around. But by the same token, it only takes a small opening to exploit and Long will turn a loss into a win.

Game Seven:

Opening hand: Underground Sea, Underground Sea, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Dark Ritual, Mox Sapphire, Time Walk, Burning Wish. He plays first.

Turn 1:

He Fetches out Badlands. He the plays a Mana Crypt and a Sphere of Resistance. Here we go again.

I play and tap Sea for a Mox Sapphire, which I tap for LED, then I pass the turn. This is a good start. I have Burning Wish with sufficient mana to actually answer the Sphere by sacrificing the Lion’s Eye Diamond and fetching out Primitive Justice. Can it be done?

Turn 2:

He taps the Crypt and the Badlands to drop Grim Monolith and passes the turn.

I Time Walk. I then untap, play the Burning Wish, fetching Primitive Justice. I then blow up his Sphere. However, my hand is empty – I now need to topdeck.

Turn 3:

He played another Sphere. I had no way to answer that besides another Wish to get Vindicate. We played a few more turns, and I decide it is most valuable to spend out time moving onto another game. I scoop.

Game Eight:

Opening Hand: Tolarian Academy, Gemstone Mine, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Chromatic Sphere, Demonic Consultation, and Demonic Tutor.

Turn 1:

This is a tough hand to play out. I wasn’t as experienced with the deck as I am now, and so it took quite some time to figure this hand out. After some deliberation with some observers, the plan we decided upon was to play the Gemstone Mine and Consult for Wish on his turn 1 endstep, then untap, play both LEDs, tap the Academy for two and the Gemstone Mine, Demonic Tutor up Burning Wish, response sac the LEDs for RRRBBB, play the Wish and then Yawgmoth’s Will – then play all the stuff again and tutor up a lethal Tendrils.

Unfortunately, he plays Jet, Ruby, Demonic Tutor. He then plays Workshop, and Sphere of Resistance.

Ugh. I decide to play it out because I have Tolarian and a Wish.

Turn 2:

I play the Tolarian and drop an LED, then tap the Tolarian for another LED. I pass the turn. He strips Tolarian.

Now I am seriously stunted. For educational purposes, I should have played this game out, but I didn’t want to do the hard work at this point and so I scooped.


We decide to try some sideboarded games:

+ 3 Hurkyl’s Recalls

– 1 Tinker

-1 Tendrils

-1 Chromatic Sphere

This was somewhat early in my testing, and at the time, the consensus was that Hurkyl’s was the proper answer.

He sideboards in three Arcane Laboratories.

Game One:

Gemstone Mine, Underground Sea, Mox Jet, Chromatic Sphere, Dark Ritual, Burning Wish, and Hurkyl’s Recall,

Turn 1:

I play Mox Jet, and Underground Sea. I decide to keep mana up to play Hurkyl’s if need be. This is a new situation for me.

Mike plays Black Lotus, Mox Emerald, Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Goblin Welder, Tangle Wire, Sphere of Resistance.


My Hurkyll’s is dead. I am shut down. He got a very good draw, and can already start Welding Vault and Lotus.

Turn 2:

I tap down, draw Timetwister, and play my Gemstone Mine and pass the turn.

He draws and plays a Mana Crypt. He Welds Lotus back in after playing a Crypt. Then he plays Smokestack.

This is what Stax is about, and he doesn’t even have a land. He doesn’t even have a land!

Mike points out that of all our games, we haven’t even gotten to turn 3 yet. He speculates that if you can’t win by turn 2 you can’t get to turn 3 against Long.dec. What is readily apparent from that game is the sheer inadequacy of Hurkyl’s Recall. It is possible that that was just a very narrow situation in which Hurkyl’s was bad, but, it seems in general that the Stax player has time after a turn 1 Sphere because it takes at least two turns to get Primitive Justice and play it. Seal of Cleansing makes a lot more sense. Not only could I have played it on turn 1, but that fits the theme of the deck: set up your combo on turn 1 to win on turn 2.

Game Two:

I play first this game.

Opening hand: Gemstone Mine, Gemstone Mine, Black Lotus, Mox Pearl, Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond, and Demonic Tutor. This is one of those turn 1win hands.

Turn 1:

I play all my mana. Storm Count: 4

I Demonic up Burning Wish, play it sacking LED in response. I get Yawgmoth’s Will and play it. Storm Count: 7

I replay the LED, Lotus and Ritual, and Tutor up Tendrils. Storm Count 11. I Demonic up a Wish and then easily fetch out Tendrils and win.

Mike fans his hand: He had Mox Sapphire, Mox Pearl, Sphere, Tinker, Smokestack, and