Stomping Old Habitson March 7th, 2011
Article by Chris Zhou
History and Motivation
The first deck that I built for Legacy was Armageddon Stax. The archetype of prison decks was an entirely fresh one for me back then. During old extended season (circa 2001), I was a fourteen year old playing Urza Saga/Onslaught Goblins, Red Sligh, and Aluren packing 4 Vampiric Tutors, against a metagame of Monoblack Reanimator running 4 Vampiric Tutor and 4 Entombs powering Akroma out on turn two every game. I took a six year break from the game, and stumbled back to MTG in 2007 relooking into the Extended format. That’s when I found an awesome deck called Tron. It was a deck focused on establishing a Mindslaver lock, and that began my interest in prison decks.
Within just a month on my sojourn back to MTG, I became aware of a format called Legacy. Realizing that I could play all the awesome cards from my favorite sets (Tempest, Saga) and be able to play these cards for eternity, I knew this was going to be the format I would invest and enjoy. I bought the cards for my old Aluren deck, and started delving deeper into the format by reading the forums encyclopedically. I came across Christopher Coppola’s article on $T4K$ (Stax), which highlighted the $4K solution for the Vintage metagame at that time. Coppola’s article tied to the Legacy version of Vintage Stax, which he called the $400 solution to Legacy. I became immediately convinced that Stax was one of the best decks in the format, if not the coolest deck in the format (until Dredge was born later, and took the coolbro name of the format).
Of course, I was far from correct in thinking prison decks were one of the best decks in the format. The format itself is diverse and complex, and many strategies are not necessarily always going to succeed. I played ‘mental’ Stax for about a year, with myself, or on MWS with my best buddy ‘Player Left’, and slowly moved onto Stompy decks (prison-aggro decks). There was a joy in playing cards that denied interactions from an opponent. I guess you can say that playing combo Aluren to Tron to Stax followed the same spirit of enjoying decks that denied interactions.
Eventually, my involvement into Legacy got myself started on my collection of duals and staples. I could now build more decks, and the format started evolving as well. It was an era where Countertop was first being experimented in Legacy after seeing limited success in the Extended format. How ironic that Countertop was dismissed to be a slow and round-about strategy, and has now become one of the fundamental pillars in the format. I tried all variants of Stax and Stompy: Blue Stax, Armageddon Stax, Faerie Stompy, Dragon Stompy, Elephant Stompy, and Demon Stompy. Every variant was a blast to play, but it also blasted me into many game losses and frustrations. Over time, I became convinced that it was time for me to move on to more consistent dual-lands.decs. Every once in awhile, I’ll pick up Stompy with mixed feelings of joy and regret, always screaming,
“If Stompy could just be a little more consistent, it would be amazing!”
Over time, a local playgroup at Asgard Games grew into a vibrant comfortably-sized Legacy scene. We started with four people randomly meeting at Asgard Games, and coincidence and the love for the format attracted more people, and converted more people from other formats over. We have interesting metagames for most parts, metagames that are always shifting: tier and homebrew decks come in and out quite frequently and it was always fun and great to learn from every game. Over the years, deckbuilding and theory-crafting had always been my main interest in the format. Most of the time, my deck variants failed, but I always took back some interesting lessons. In this article, I would like to address some fundamental issues regarding the nature of Stompy decks, its strengths, its failures and my approach to a different kind of Stompy.
What is Stompy?
Stompy is fundamentally a prison-aggro deck that seeks to win games by disruption with prison cards and winning via an aggro strategy under these prison cards. For the following article, I would like to use the definitions:
Lockpieces: a card that generates a prison-effect, meaning, it stops an opponent from interacting in a specific manner e.g. Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere, Crucible of Worlds. Lockpieces often hinder an opponent’s gameplay and prevent him from executing his deck strategies the way he wants to perform them.
Beaters: a creature that is a win-condition for Stompy via an aggro-strategy.
Stompy is commonly identified to be a deck running a manabase of Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, with additional accelerants in the form of Chrome Mox, Spirit Guides, or Mox Diamond. The typical Stompy manacurve begins at 2cmc and 3cmc. The reason for such a manabase lies in the selection of cards, both lockpieces and beaters, which form the core strategy of Stompy.
The strategy of Stompy is straightforward: abuse the manabase of the deck to power out 2cmc and 3cmc lockpieces such as Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere on the early turns and try to win under these lockpieces. This strategy is a very powerful one due to the nature of the format. Legacy is a format that has a dense exchange of interactions during turns one to turns three. The resulting game states for most matches are usually determined by the player who establishes a superior game state in these early turns. As a corollary, it is only natural that a lot of 1cmc to 2cmc spells are played in Legacy due to the importance of this early game phase. Stompy is a deck that tries to capture this scenario in its favor. By tweaking a manabase to power out 2cmc and 3cmc spells like Chalice and Trinisphere, Stompy is essentially shutting down bulk of the early game phase. In the meantime, Stompy can also capture this tempo gain from prison effects by dropping creatures which are considerably above the game phase curve (e.g. a 3cmc creature is usually intended to be played on turns two or three but Stompy is able to power out these creatures many turns faster thanks to its manabase).
However, the strategy for Stompy is never as simple as it sounds. On paper, turn one Chalice and Trinisphere would seem to win bulk of games, but in real life, you are facing a host of decks running cards that answer these cards. For instance, Force of Will protects a player from Stompy’s turn one disruption. Recently, the popularity of Aether Vial, Noble Hierarchs and Mox Diamond has diminished the effectiveness of cards like Trinisphere and Blood Moon. Stompy can no longer rely on a simple strategy to win games. It is now often forced to play a game with an opponent, which is something Stompy does not want to do since Stompy really just want to restrict an opponent from playing a game at all.
Regardless, Stompy decks are still attractive to some players due to its unique strategy and deck shell. It’s a shell that has a decent chance to beat all three archetypes in the format (combo, control, and aggro). The ability to run Chalice of the Void, which shuts down 60% of the format’s most important spells, and having the ability to play over-costed cards at the same pace as regular cards, pushes Stompy’s tempo development above regular decks. Not to mention, lock-pieces and disruption in the form of Trinisphere, Chalice, Crucible, Armageddon, Choke, Blood Moon etc tend to skew the tempo in favor for Stompy.
Failures of Stompy
The heart of Stompy is to win the tempo game by creating prison-effects. If it fails to do this, Stompy falls back and loses to better cards that an opponent will be playing. Despite being in a terrific shell that beats all pillars of combo, control, and aggro, Stompy decks have in recent years been labeled to be the ‘bad’ decks of Legacy. A key reason is due to Stompy’s inconsistency. This is a well-known fact that Stompy faces. You lead with an opening seven and pray that it is fast and strong enough to create locks and win under them. If your opening seven is weak, you are forced to mull because your strategy will never work unless you have enough prison-effects to buy tempo to win games. Mulligans tend to spiral Stompy towards even greater inconsistent draws governed by how the decks are fundamentally built. Stompy also has to topdeck most of the time and the tempo it creates in the early games has to be captured in order to create a lock/win. Many times, Stompy would lead off with broken starts and seemingly control the game but fail to draw relevant cards and proceed to lose.
The inconsistency issue of Stompy is always a big reason that deters people from continually playing the deck. Personally, this was the very reason I stopped playing Stompy variants, and whenever I picked up Stompy again, it was always a mixed feeling of “Stompy beats most decks, and only loses to itself”. Many innovators and people who play Stompy seek to increase consistency. One way of doing this is to increase card draw/filter with cards like Thirst for Knowledge, Crystal Ball, Sensei’s Divining Top, or other oddity choices such as Bottled Cloister, Faerie Mechanist etc. However, this implementation ends up diluting the core strategy of the deck, and more importantly reduces the explosiveness of the deck, which leads to fundamental failures since the entire deck is no longer aligned to its explosive game plan. The other alternative, which is perhaps the only alternative for Stompy is to optimize card selection to reduce the chances of drawing dead cards. No one can control the topdeck, but the mathematics inbuilt into deck design and careful selection of cards can reduce the chances of dead draws. Improving consistency of Stompy, in my opinion, is the only way for Stompy to do well in big events. Stompy can easily win small events due to its surprisingly powerful starts that few decks can handle, but in bigger events, the inconsistency factor will become an issue when Stompy needs to not only battle good decks, but also to battle itself and pray that it does not undergo ‘dead draws’.
Winning with bombs vs. incremental advantage
This is an important section that I will briefly talk about two-core strategies that I feel every Legacy deck is based upon. Winning in Legacy can be safely summarized into two strategies:
The first case is winning with bombs. Legacy is a format of bombs. There are cards in the format that will win games by themselves if resolved. A few good examples include Show and Telling an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play, resolving Natural Order into Progenitus, or resolving Ad Nauseam/ Doomsday into a Tendrils of Agony pile. It takes quite a lot of exposure to the format to truly appreciate that game-winning bombs are the heart of the format. Why would you play this format if it didn’t contain bombs? It would be just like any other format, dull and lethargic. Decks focused on playing bombs often build their decks around these bombs, forcing them to resolve to win games. However, these decks usually falter when their bomb strategies are countered and disrupted.
The second case is a strategy that relies on carefully playing out spells while constantly maintaining the game state. By maintaining the game state, incremental-advantage strategies become quite powerful because it is based on a core selection of cards that work synergistically to generate advantage. Bulk of Legacy falls under this section (despite the fact that every deck has their own bombs, there are only a few decks that truly play bombs which win on the same turn). A few good examples include Jace the Mindsculptor, Countertop, Goblins gaining advantage from Goblin Ringleader and Goblin Warchief, Merfolks building up an army over turns while countering spells, etc. Incremental-advantage decks, unlike decks packing bombs, do not falter as much when they are being disrupted. This is because these decks have much more options to attack opponents whereas a deck with bombs loses when their bombs are disrupted/countered.
With these two concepts in mind, I would like to relate this to Stompy, an observation and train of thought I had been developing which led to revelations on developments towards a different approach when playing Stompy.
To Bomb or Not to Bomb
Relating back to the core strategy of Stompy, we recall that the strategy is to play out lockpieces and win under them. This very strategy implies that the lockpieces played out by Stompy are viewed as bombs from an opponent’s standpoint. If Stompy is capable of playing a lockpiece buying three to four turns to win, then the lockpiece is clearly considered to be a bomb from the opponent. Likewise, if an opponent is able to deal with this bomb, Stompy strategies tend to falter because they cannot fully capitalize the tempo gains they originally intended.
To demonstrate and summarize the common scenarios that Stompy undergoes, let’s look at three scenarios (summary of scenario is given in parenthesis italicized).
Scenario A (explosiveness, correct sequence of spells played out)
Stompy is on the play and powers out a turn one Trinisphere and proceeds to win the game with a big beater on turn two, while following up with more lockpieces like Blood Moon/Chalice. Why has the opponent lost in this scenario? The opponent has lost to the bomb Trinisphere. If he had been able to counter the Trinisphere, he would not be in a position unable to interact. Turn one Trinisphere is definitely a bomb in this scenario. Note that in this situation, if Stompy opened with a big beater followed by drawing lockpieces, the scenario would have been much different (refer to Scenario C).
Scenario B (bomb-strategy nullified)
Now imagine, Stompy is on the draw and the opponent leads with an Aether Vial. The same Trinisphere in the earlier case is now a terrible card. The opponent has nullified the bomb of Stompy with as simple a start as Aether Vial. Tying this back to the general rule that decks with bombs tend to win when bombs resolve and lose when bombs don’t resolve, we see this exact situation happening. Not only is Stomping suffering from a dead card (Trinisphere), but the entire strategy on winning on the back of Trinisphere/Blood Moon has been nullified. Another common example is having an early bomb lockpiece countered by an opponent’s Force of Will.
Now, there is one more dimension to take into consideration, and that is the nature of Stompy decks. Consistency will always be a problem and Scenario C usually occurs in many games:
Scenario C (Inconsistency)
Stompy is on the play and powers out a turn one Trinisphere and draws lockpieces and lands for the next few turns. The opponent is locked under Trinisphere but Stompy has been unable to capitalize the tempo gain from the lockpiece since he has not drawn a creature. The game either ends up with the opponent stabilizing and answering the lockpiece bomb or Stompy finally drawing creatures that are no longer as impressive if he had drawn them earlier.
These three scenarios are the key scenarios that I feel describe the picture of Stompy and they all revolve around a common topic of playing bombs v.s. incremental-advantage. For the longest time, Stompy’s approach was to play bombs and try to win under them, but it is my sincere opinion that this strategy is no longer as powerful as it once was. The popularity of Aether Vial, Noble Hierarch, higher basic lands, and diversification of hate towards Stompy has made the whole bomb-approach less feasible. Even if it is feasible, explosive Scenario A starts can be disrupted by opponents into Scenario B, or degrade into Scenario C due to the inherent inconsistencies enforced by the selection of cards.
With such, I have begun taking steps to testing an incremental-advantage approach to Stompy rather than playing bombs. I still play bombs but my selection of cards will seek to demonstrate how I am not bent on the traditional land-a-bomb-play-beater approach, but rather, my deckbuilding is focused on a more consistency and incremental-advantage approach.
Synergy and Redundancy in incremental-advantage
Earlier, I focused that the only viable solution to improve consistency in Stompy is to minimize dead draws. Every deck faces consistency issues, so Stompy is not alone. The goal in this section is to identify what really causes inconsistencies within Stompy.
I would like to draw a case from a good Legacy deck: Zoo. Zoo is a deck built on a selection of cards with a principle of redundancy. Every card in Zoo is either a burn spell or a big beater. In the deck-design of Zoo, this can be further summarized as every card in the deck does the most damage squeezed into one card. Whether Zoo draws a Lightning Bolt, Kird Ape or Wild Nacatl, they mean almost the same value to a Zoo player. This redundancy in deck design makes Zoo a very consistent deck since every card drawn serves the purpose the deck desires, and there is theoretically no ‘bad draws’ aside from lands and creatures out of the manacurve.
Similarly, we see that Merfolks and Goblins are focused somewhat on redundancy. Despite the fact that these decks require a swarm strategy to be truly successful, these decks typically just want to draw enough creatures and eventually win with critical mass while playing some form of tempo to slow down opponent’s board development (e.g. Wasteland, Daze, Rishadan Port).
That is the power of incremental-advantage decks despite the powerful effects of game-winning bombs in the formats. Decks based on consistency, synergy and incrementally accumulating advantage, can survive better in the face of hate, and they have tremendously decreased the chances for dead draws since their selection of cards do not depend on each other.
Taking this to Stompy, I would like to highlight Scenario C where Stompy plays a bomb lockpiece but fails to win because it has not drawn a relevant card to follow up with the bomb. I want to highlight a key concept known commonly as redundancy as addressed above in the example case of Zoo, which adds to another dimension to reducing dead draws. Take for example, card X performs function X. When you need to utilize function X in a game, drawing card X will put the game in your favor. However, if the applications of function X are narrow in another matchup, then in other instances where you do not want to draw an X effect, drawing card X costs you games. At the same time, if a card Z can fulfill both functions x and y (where x is a similar effect to X but not as game winning), then that card is more flexible, and in the most cases, create less instances of bad ‘topdecks’. This is a simple way of analyzing cards and redundancy. Obviously the game state is more complicated than this, and sometimes, cards with multiple functions are not as powerful as card with a single game-winning functions. Synergy is a common term understood by many people. It involves a selection of cards with little effects working together to create an overall gamestate with a big effect.
To give a more tangible example of the story of redundancy and synergy from the viewpoints of Stompy, compare the effects of Blood Moon to something like multiple Phyrexian Revokers and Lodestone Golem. Blood Moon is an example of a card that has a single game-winning function. You resolve Blood Moon you should have the game in your favor against the decks affected by Blood Moon. On the other hand, drawing multiple Blood Moons or resolving Blood Moons against irrelevant decks creates useless cards/draws in your deck. Phyrexian Revoker and Lodestone Golem are an example of a card with a less game-winning effect (Pithing Needle effect), but drawing multiple Revoker is never bad (at worst it’s a 2/1 for two-colorless. The disruption adds up incrementally compared to Blood Moon. Obviously, Revokers will never win games the way Blood Moon does, and Revokers are in fact terrible if your deck has no other cards to back them up. But what Revoker does is creating a small lock while being a win-condition at the same time, and when more of such cards with similar purpose (Lodestone Golems, Crucible, Chalice) add up, the overall effect is synergistic, and is as strong as the lock generated by Blood Moon.
If one approaches Stompy in this manner, where cards are no longer performing specific tasks (i.e. requiring to draw lockpiece and a beater on separate cards), and when one approaches a new way to look at Stompy where every card incrementally adds up both as a lockpiece and beater, then we start looking into strategies where draws are more redundant, therefore reducing inconsistency, while at the same time redundant draws leads to an overall synergistic effect. This new strategy would require a new selection of cards over traditional bomb-approaches of Stompy, and arguably, the new version of Stompy would look quite different than traditional lists.
So, here’s a list before I lose you guys.
I really want to focus on the three Scenarios A, B, C which play a heavy role in the culmination of card selection for this deck. A brief recap:
Scenario A: (explosiveness, correct sequence of cards played, tempo, lockpieces)
Description: Stompy blowing out opponents with bombs and capitalizing on the tempo from lockpieces.
Scenario B: (no redundancy, no synergy, dead draws)
Description: Stompy losing to opponents because bombs have been answered and subsequent gameplays are affected since they relied on the bomb resolving.
Description: Stompy losing to itself due to inconsistency.
I want to keep the manabase as explosive as traditional Stompy lists i.e. I want to maximize Scenario A as much as possible (blowing out opponents with Stompy’s unfair speed). At the same time, I do not want Scenario C (consistency) to backfire on me.
One of the highlights of a Stompy manabase is 18 lands (4 Ancient Tomb, 4 City of Traitors), 4 Chrome Mox and 4 Spirit Guides. This configuration is well tested to power out Scenario A (explosiveness). However, when Scenario A degrades to Scenario B (dead draws), one starts seeing the risks of playing Chrome Moxes and Spirit Guides as unstable and unreliable mana sources. For myself, I have never liked playing with Chrome Moxes since it pitches an important business spell and cards are very valuable in Stompy. Sadly, the choice to run Chrome Mox cannot be solved for traditional Stompy lists such as Dragon Stompy and Faerie Stompy. These decks cannot afford a high land count to support Mox Diamonds without diluting their inherent strategies.
The best scenario for Traditional Stompy is Scenario A where the unstable manabase pays off in its explosiveness. However, Scenario B is becoming more frequent these days with anti-Stompy cards that we hate to see e.g. Sensei’s Divining Top, Noble Hierarch, Aether Vial, Force of Will etc. In this sense, it’s a cost-benefit analysis to see if the games won with Scenario A from an unstable manabase outweighs the game lost in Scenario B and C due to having a disrupted gameplan that can no longer function without a lockpiece or having multiple dead draws from Chrome Moxes and Spirit Guides. Most Stompy players follow the traditional saying: “That’s the way Stompy is, you win or you lose to yourself” and accept the traditional configuration. I, myself, cannot accept this if I am taking the deck seriously and plan to play in a big event. The traditional stompy lists does enjoy Scenario A more often than B, so this ties in closely with their willingness to run such a manabase, however, the mathematics and playtesting has also proven to work for the manabase that I have proposed.
Deep-diving into card choices, we see that Overseer Stompy runs 24 lands. Breaking these lands down, every land serves an important purpose and more importantly, since this deck is built with the principles of redundancy and synergy instead of a bomb-lockpiece approach, I’ll highlight the corresponding synergistic cards in parenthesis.
(Crucible of Worlds, Lodestone Golem)
This is simply the most powerful land in the format. This is the land that will destroy any deck, including yours when played correctly.
4 Seat of Synod
(Master of Etherium, Etched Champion, Mox Opal)
Metalcraft enabler but more importantly to pump and play out Master of Etherium
4 Mishra’s Factory + 3 Blinkmoth Nexus
(Crucible of Worlds, Master of Etherium, Steel Overseer)
Manlands are essential to the deck adding as additional threats that pair up very potently with Steel Overseer. They get pumped by Master, and occasionally enable Metalcraft. They are crucial to winning against control decks, while being on the defensive against faster aggro decks. With Crucible, they provide an inevitable win-condition. The clock with Overseer is impressive after two-activations. They give Jace/control decks a big headache even after a Firespout/EE.
4 Ancient Tomb + 4 City of Traitors
(the entire deck)Without these lands, the deck will not exist. It’s Stompy right? I used to run 3 City of Traitors, but realized that 4 were still needed to go crazy. The nice thing is City pairs up nicely with Crucible so you get a stable Stax-like mananbase compared to other Stompy builds and not tear your face with City of Traitors openings that are questionably unkeepable.
This Island is added because there was no reason to not play 1 basic and make Path to Exile the better removal over Swords to Plowshares. You want to show people why Path is a bad removal so run 1 Island. There is no loss in running this unless the fourth Blinkmoth is required. Since you hardly pump with Blinkmoth Nexus (it takes one colorless to pump), multiple Blinkmoths are not impressive when you only need 1 Nexus to carry an equipment over.
The manabase retains the explosiveness of regular Stompy lists with Mox Diamonds and Tomblands. 7 out of the 24 lands are manlands which count towards win-conditions (that pair very synergistically with Overseer on the offensive and Crucible on the defensive). 2 Mox Opal has been tested to be the ideal ratio i.e. I seldom draw double Opals, and Mox Opal is always active and powering out 3cmc spells on turn two. Since the list I propose is not as focused on dropping 3cmc bombs like Trinispheres on turn one, we see how Opal makes sense in the deck since there is no need to drop 3cmcs on turn one in this deck, making Opal a very consistent acceleration past turn two without any card disadvantage. 4 Wasteland pairs strongly with Crucible, and provides more synergy for the Chalice/Lodestone gameplan. In this deck, unlike other Stompy decks where 10 out of the 18 lands are basics, all my lands have a purpose (except Island). This selection is based on two fundamental reasons:
1) I want to minimize the mulligans I associate due to land screw. When traditional Stompy opens with 1 Ancient Tomb and a Chrome Mox, it is usually awesome until they Wasteland your Tomb and you proceed to topdeck no lands (since you only play 18) while they win under your own Trinisphere. If you mulled that hand, then you get 6 cards where you could have avoided the land screw problem entirely.
2) Once in awhile, I get land-flooded but since all my lands serve important functions (1/3 of my lands are threats), this reduces the drawback on playing more land. The ability to play 3 Mox Diamond + 24 Lands with 4 Wastelands and 7 manlands + 3 Crucibles all tie in nicely to a land-based engine and selection of cards. The ratio supports Mox Diamonds, while allowing recycling and recursion of Waste/Manlands with Crucible, without any issues on manascrew and issues on manaflood is less severe when 23 out of the 24 lands have secondary purposes. In general, I feel that Stompy cannot afford tempo losses from manascrews but can afford some tempo losses from manafloods (best scenario is neither manascrew or flood but one can hope :P)
The creatures of these decks need to fulfill three key purposes addressed in earlier sections:
1) Redundancy and Synergy
2) Cost-efficient at all times
3) Disruptive and pressuring opponents to take actions
Redundancy and synergy is the main pillar on how the deck is built. On paper, choices like Phyrexian Revoker, Steel Overseer, and Lodestone Golem do not seem to justify as quality creatures in a Stompy deck, but I would encourage you to step out viewing the deck in the traditional-sense. I am shifting the strategy from playing cards with separate functions that perform tasks professionally to playing cards with multiple jack-of-all-trades functions that add up incrementally. Once again, this shift in philosophy is aimed to address consistency issues via redundancy and synergy leading to fewer dead draws.
All my creatures have to be cost-efficient. They have to do much more than what they cost. This is a simple fact. In Legacy, you are facing creatures that are above the manacurve. Your choice of creatures has to be as close to this philosophy as possible. It is hard to trump Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary when it comes to creature selection, but it should be a top priority to make sure that your creatures do something important and enough to justify its manacost.
All my creatures have to be disruptive and apply pressure, and in some ways asking my opponents to remove them if possible. Without this feature, the deck will fail, and the deck was not successful before the printing of Phyrexian Revoker since there were not enough creatures that disrupted and demanded attention. In this deck, you want your opponents to feel threatened, and under pressure from lockpieces or inevitability. It is for this reason that something as crappy as Steel Overseer generates so much fear (due to his synergy with other cards in the deck). When evaluating the card choices in this deck, you start to understand why I can make a bold statement to say that my creatures should be removal-magnets whereas decks like Dragon Stompy want to avoid having their creatures removed in any scenario. Dragon Stompy takes a lot of resource/investment to power out threats (using Chrome Mox, Spirit Guides, Seething Song all add to cards/resources to play out one threat). These decks cannot afford to have their creatures removed because they only have limited ways to powering them out. Thankfully, the bomb-lockpiece strategy (Scenario A) supports this philosophy but they have to hope this does not degrade to Scenarios B & C or their limited threats will face superior removal.
In the incremental-advantage build I’m approaching, you want your opponents to feel pressured from everything: Steel Overseers, Phyrexian Revokers, Lodestone Golems, Master of Etherium, Etched Champion, Manlands, Crucible, Jitte, Chalice etc. By doing so, they will be less able to develop their board position while focusing on answering your disruption/beaters while you are constantly building up again and again. The whole goal is to pressure your opponents, force them to be offset from their gamestate, which is exactly what the incremental-advantage strategy is about.
4 Steel Overseer
1) This is the single card that connects all pieces together. He is highly synergistic with all creatures in the deck (in particular growing manlands and Etched Champion). It is usually worthwhile to grow your dudes to 4/4, 5/5 before swinging in to make full use of his worth by putting your creatures outside the fragile x/3 toughness range. Steel Overseer grows manlands with just the manland spending one colorless on activation. This is a crucial strategy against faster aggro decks and control decks. You can afford to take some beating and early damage and when you have outgrown your dudes against theirs, they will be staring down on a board of additional creatures/manlands that are difficult to handle. Drawing multiple Overseer is both redundant and highly synergistic (pumping dudes +2/+2 a turn is very terrifying).
2) It is amusing that people ignore the Overseer in the deck and end up getting killed by an army of big 5/5s. Overseer is somewhat slow in the deck, but the speed is compensated by playing with incremental lockpieces e.g. Chalice, Phyrexian Revokers, Wasteland/Crucible, Lodestones. Typically, I try to activate Overseer two times before swinging with him. Overseer also does another impressive feat to grow Lodestones out of the fragile x/3 toughness bracket. For costing two-colorless but having the ability to grow entire armies, he is well worth the cost, but more importantly, he is the most synergistic component in the deck. In any other deck, Overseer is janky as hell and topdecking Overseer on an empty board is terrible, but in this deck, topdecking Overseer is still powerful when you consider that you have plenty of manlands that could use the pump.
4 Phyrexian Revoker
1) Multiple Revokers drawn are never dead draws. The ability to just nail down Sensei’s Divining Top, and Aether Vial makes this guy important for this deck in stifling game state development. Decks relying on Top/Vial immediately have to play without Top/Vial, which entirely changes how these decks are meant to be played, forcing opponents into an unnatural position. He also protects the deck against previously problematic Qasali Pridemages and Engineered Explosives. Revoker can be played both pre-emptively or post-threat, making him very flexible. Against Zoo/Bant, I’ll drop him naming Qasali Pridemage, insuring myself from Pridemage. I’ll drop him naming Top against Countertop and watch them become helpless being unable to play the deck they originally intended. If they drop a Knight/Lavamancer, I’ll name them on my next turn. He is a very central piece to the philosophy of incrementally disrupting opponents while building up more disruption (Wasteland/Chalice/Lodestone)
2) I created the deck before Revoker was spoiled, and told my friends that “If WotC prints a good 2cmc artifact creature that disrupts, he’ll make it into this deck”. How ironic for things to happen after a month. For two colorless, you get a turn one castable 2/1 body with a strong ability and being able to swing in with Jittes and Swords. Revoker usually serves to lock up any relevant pieces on the board that escaped from Chalice/Wasteland/Lodestone locks.
4 Etched Champion
1) If this creature had no Metalcraft drawback, I think he would be highly regarded as one of the more powerful 3-drop in the format. Etched Champion single-handedly beats Zoo (aside from burn to the face), and in many ways makes the game state stall out the way Vedalken Shackles does. Multiple Etched Champions get out of control, and drawing an equipment seals up games. He gets synergistically pumped by Master of Etherium and Steel Overseer, and is the main win-condition for the deck.
2) For 3-mana, he is one of the more powerful 3-drop in the format since Metalcraft is seldom an issue for him in this deck.
4 Master of Etherium
1) Usually 7/7 on turn 3, a single master is bad for your opponents and multiples make your army huge.
2) I see no reason not to play him since he is far above the mana-curve in terms of P/T. He is also crucial to putting Revokers and Lodestones out of their fragile toughness range when paired up with more Masters/Overseers. He is a card that screams attention due to the huge P/T and amount of pressure he’s going to apply on your opponent.
4 Lodestone Golem
1) This card puts a tax on every resource your opponent plays. Coupled with wastelands, things will become increasingly expensive for the opponents. He dies to Bolt/StP but you should either have a Chalice out or at worst it’s a four-mana investment to an opponent’s two-mana investment in a 1-1 trade (four-mana can be valued equivalently as two-mana considering your manabase). When he is not removed, he’s a disruptive force to be reckoned with.
2) Lodestone is the only slot that does not flow well with the manacurve. Occasionally he is unplayable on turns two to three due to a shortage of lands. However, he’s the only other disruptive creature on legs for the format that is playable. If he does stick in play, four colorless for a 5/3 beater that grows with Overseer/Master is well worth the cost with a tagging one-sided sphere effect on him.
With 20 creatures powered out faster than most creatures, I feel that the 5 equipment ratio of 3 Umezawa’s Jitte and 2 Sword of Fire and Ice are required to support the mid-game beatdown strategies while lockpieces and disruption pieces are being built coherently by playing creatures. At worst scenario, your manlands are always available to swing with the equipment when needed. My selection of 3 /2 Jitte/SoFI initially started with a 3/2 Cranial Plating/Jitte breakdown. That selection was more aggressive and won games faster on Etched Champion/ Blinkmoth Nexus but does not solve the issues the deck faced against faster aggro decks. I reasoned that another aspect to reducing inconsistencies of Stompy is to play cards that fulfill multiple functions (as observed in the selection of creatures and manabase), likewise, the equipments need to follow a similar logic. Jitte, the best equipment ever printed, will win games by itself. Jitte stabilizes against faster decks with life-gain, kills off tribal with -1/-1 counters and unfairly wins games with Champion/Nexus. Sword of Fire/Ice was included to primarily combat Goblins/Merfolks, my weaker matchups out of the Bant/Zoo/Goblins/Merfolks aggro-cluster. Both equipments are great against control, and pair synergistically with 7 manlands on top of the 20 creatures control has to deal with.
This gets to the section where most Stompy players would criticize the limited amounts of lockpieces I play.
4 Chalice of the Void
If there is a single lockpiece that cannot be cut from any Stompy list, it is Chalice of the Void. Chalice shuts down 60% of all important spells played in the format. By shutting down Bolts/StPs, you are also creating enough time for your deck to outgrow and race opposing decks.
3 Crucible of Worlds
Crucible as explained earlier, is the link to the synergy of the manabase and land-strategy. It increases the playability and value of manlands, and creates the dreaded Crucible-lock, a key feature of the deck’s lockpiece as I have selected this over Trinisphere. In many ways, this decision was based on my opinions on how cards like Trinisphere and Blood Moon have decreased in power level after recent printings/popularity of Noble Hierarchs/Qasali Pridemage and Aether Vial. Crucible does not necessarily solve this problem, but once it’s online, you are always maintaining an incremental check on your opponents. Most Legacy decks play at most two to three basics, so the Wastelock strategy is a highly effective one. As you are incrementally keeping their resource in check, drawing multiple creatures with incremental disruption adds to the overall strategy. Most games I end up sealing up with Wastelock and it is hard for me to convince myself to remove 3 Crucibles when it is not just a game-winning strategy, but also one that pairs up synergistically with the entire deck.
CARDS NOT PLAYED IN MAINDECK:
Trinisphere was in the initial iteration of the deck, but due to a number of reasons, were cut.
The deck is built on an incremental-advantage/lockpiece principal. Despite the fact that Trinisphere is synergistic and greatly supporting this incremental-advantage lockpiece strategy, it was still creating dead draws in multiple. Dropping down to 3 Trinisphere did not prove ideal either. Trinisphere has to be played as a 3-4-off or not played at all. The reasons being a turn one Trinisphere is a bomb while a turn two/three Trinisphere is no longer impressive and is not worth the inconsistency it creates (multiple dead draws or being useless past turn three).
Trinisphere is a horrible strategy against Vial and Bant with Hierarchs if you are on the draw. I sometimes feel that Trinisphere backfires on me when it sits dead in my hand against those matchups. Since my list is focused more on the 2cmc curve, Trinisphere is not ideal in my decklist for personal deck design constraints that I have implemented on my deck.
Finally, I feel that Trinisphere is only truly powerful against the matchups that it is good in. Against Zoo/Gobs/Merfolks/Bant, Trinisphere is not universally powerful and maybe or may not be powerful. Since I want to reduce inconsistencies, I feel that the ideal slots for Trinisphere would be in the SB, against Enchantress/control/Combo. I feel that my current maindeck without Trinisphere is decent enough against control/combo so I would prefer to strengthen my consistency when facing aggro matchups.
This is a fresh take on Stompy, based on the history of piloting many Stompy decks to success and failures. Instead of taking the sentence “This is Stompy, you blow out or get blown”, I feel it is more valuable to find reasons as to why this phenomenon happens. We all know the reasons why Stompy is inconsistent. From a very naïve standpoint, it’s like playing a combo deck without card filtering where your combo is to first accelerate, drop a bomb lockpiece and then have enough mana to play a creature and win under the combat phase. Some may think this is a bad analogy, but the truth is, this has been the traditional strategy of Stompy: Drop a lockpiece (bomb), play dudes and win before they recover.
Nothing is wrong with the strategy, and it is a strong one. Bomb-approach Stompy can blow out opponents when caught unprepared, which explains the continued success of Dragon Stompy and the new Welder/Forgemaster lists. However, bomb-centric Stompy tends to fall into the category as other bomb-decks, if your bomb is answered, chances are you will lose since you have invested in a lot of resources to powering out a bomb. This entire article is not about dismissing the traditional strategy. This article is exploring another strategy for stompy, a strategy much akin to how Zoo/Merfolks/Goblins apply pressure to other decks. An opponent can never let his guard down, and has to always play in check to the game state, and since every creature you play has a disruptive ability tagged to him, this creates a position where suddenly the opponent can not deal with it and he starts falling down into an unrecoverable state.
I hope you guys enjoyed the article, because I definitely enjoyed writing my thoughts and opinions on this archetype, one that I had thrown away for years, but recently picked up from some interesting train of thoughts, and seemingly the ideas seem to be working and meeting the expectations I have in designing the deck.