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Welcome to Augustin's $4000 Solution!

I always played Stax and at some point tried to build decks in that style in every format I played. Around 10 years ago I played it in vintage, then legacy and I also tried it in extended. I've started playing Commander early in 2016 after a break of several years and until now I've constantly built on this Stax list. I assume most people will know what Stax tries to achieve and how it's usually done in other formats. My description therefore gives an insight in my card choices for Commander and the resulting strategy.

After my abstinence from Magic I was amazed to see how prices for certain cards have skyrocketed. In Vintage, Stax was also known as the $4000 Solution ($t4ks) back then because of the deck's average price tag. That was when a playset of Mishra's Workshop could be bought for less than 600 euros (which I did back then). Now the price of $4000 is true for Stax in commander (edit 09.2018: LOL, still keeping the deck name for nostalgic reasons), even though there are no old moxen and only one workshop and tabernacle involved. Having these top cards available is the foundation of how this deck is built and how it is played - heavy on artifacts, explosive speed and proactive control.

One important aspect of Stax is to consider how well we are able to break parity of the global disruption. In cEDH stax is often played with green because it's easy to get the needed acceleration with mana dorks and rocks, while nongreen decks only have to rely on artifacts. This means in UW we need to play stax in a way that makes it easy to break parity with the available cards in our colours, not just try to do the same as creature based stax decks but worse.

If you are interested in discussing this specific commander, feel free to join the GAAIV discord server

An overview on Augustin's crackdown plan...

The most important aspect of playing a classic Stax build is to start off much faster than any opponent, often at the cost of emptying one's hand in the first two turns. It is important to get an explosive start and to get it reliably, not by chance. Therefore I must play the best acceleration available in , which means...ARTIFACTS!

Mana rocks that produce more mana than they cost (the best category):

Mana rocks that cost more but fix colours (the 2nd best category):

Mana generators, which are also needed for combo kills:

Lands that produce 2 or more mana:

And the most recent addition to the deck, Inspiring Statuary , which doesn't produce real mana but has a similar constant cost reduction effect as Augustin. Also makes artifacts help with casting spells despite a null rod or stony silence (which otherwise hurts really bad).

With that much artifact power in the deck it is possible to cast Augustin on turn ONE, for example:

...Of course there are more possible openings that enable a turn one Augustin and most of them require 3 parts, of which some are interchangeable and therefore have a higher chance of appearing in the opening hand. It's almost always possible to cast Augustin on turn 2 and if I don't do it, it's usually because there's something better to do before. Another great way to start off with this deck are the cards given in the next section.

Of course, making pay players more to cast anything is the job of my Commander. He is accompanied by various other cards, which make everything or just specific types of spells cost more. I'm currently not using cards which make for example spells of certain colours more expensive, because they are too specific for the overall strategy. The following cards have been given their own category in the deck list above:

These taxing cards start at and end at with Lodestone Golem , so unless I start and drop a sphere or the commander on turn one, there's the need to deal with whatever the opponents managed to get into play before the cost increasing happens. In the Eye of Chaos , which doesn't hurt myself much because my few instants are mostly cmc 1, has proved itself worthy of the slot because it's an absolutely game warping early play. Let's see anyone try to cast that Ad Nauseam or pull off a dramatic scepter combo when the Eye is on the board. Doubling the costs for instants isn't something you can just play around with a Baral or Helm of Awakening either...

There are a few counterspells and removals that primarily deal with whatever the opponent(s) might cast in the very early game, before I can increase the cost of their spells.

This includes countering their Sol Ring s or mana elves with Mental Misstep before I have even had my first turn, getting rid of a mana rock or early tutor with Spell Pierce , countering their first spell with reasonable cost with Mana Drain for more tempo in my next turn, or disrupting the acceleration of the opponents with a well placed Chain of Vapor or Steel Sabotage . I also don't hold back with a Cyclonic Rift if it feels necessary to bounce something in the first few turns - the overload might win a game later, but bouncing something important early may be the needed tempo play in the beginning. Another rather big reset button I have considered running is Aether Gale because it's a one sided wipe but also can lift up my own pieces if needed, for example a Cursed Totem or Humility when I want to use the Metalworker combo. Strong targeted removal are for example Gilded Drake and Swords to Plowshares , perfect for taking out (or control over) an opposing commander. Other options include Puca's Mischief as it can trade global stax effects against useful things, Baral's Expertise , Supreme Verdict or Cataclysm .

This part of the deck goes hand in hand with increasing the costs of spells and should also take part in the early and mid game. This section explains which cards remove lands by either destroying or bouncing them and even prevent players from accumulating more lands than I have myself.

Land destruction:

Tapping/Skipping untap:

Land bounce: currently not in use because it is a little antisynergy with back to basics and winter orb

Special:

Land Equilibrium works well together with the effects that let you take lands back to your hand (while the same effects force your opponents to take back lands too, which they can't play again then) or mass removal on lands. It's one of my favourite stax pieces because it can "accidentially" result in a hardlock after a land wipe or when Back to Basics prevents untapping. Not being able to untap properly or having all lands destroyed would usually make people want to play additional lands, so they get untapped mana sources again...but Land Equilibrium prevents exactly that. If you have zero lands in play, opponents can't even play a land and tap it for mana before it has to be sacrificed again (yeah, the ruling of the card is that awesome). With taxing it can easily happen that oponents won't get any mana anymore for the rest of the game when they can't play lands and can't even pay for 0 cost rocks.

Mana Breach is a great card for several reasons. As described above, one aspect in this deck is to create a sort of lock with Land Equilibrium . It's cool that you have some options to get rid of all your previously played lands quickly without destroying them. Your own bounced lands can be used for huge card advantage with Scroll Rack too...or you can save a City of Traitors before playing other lands or bounce lands before your own Armageddon resolves. Words of Wind would work in a similar way there. I'm currently not running the land bounce effects in favor of Back to Basics and Winter Orb . It could probably be all together in the deck but it's not a big trick to have both effects in play together at the same time. Mana Breach is definitely a hot card on my maybe list and might be put into the deck again in the future.

At first it seems like attacking the lands isn't really effective in cEDH because everyone has many nonland mana sources anyway, but losing ALL lands in combination with taxes and having the nonland mana sources attacked as well is still a massive disruption. Everyone playing only around 30 lands also means that the Chance of drawing new lands is far lower than in casual decks. If you remove the first 2-4 lands of everyone it might take several turns until people get mana again and overcome taxes. Because of the reliance on artifacts as mana sources, our worst enemy in this deck is Null Rod , for which we always need an answer. Our own way to attack opponent's mana rocks is to counter or later bounce them, so that they have to be cast again or replaced with new rocks through the taxes. This is where Augustin as the commander becomes relevant in determining the stax plan.

I personally don't like the approach of tapping stuff with Stasis or Static Orb in GAAIV. Firstly, these cards are simply not good on their own and require a setup before you can be on the winning side of the nasty situation. Secondly, if these cards leave play again, everything works again. Augustin, unlike Teferi or Derevi, has no method of breaking parity under these effects. On the other hand, destroying, bouncing or sacrificing means that the cards are gone from the board. This is what helps us most with the inbuilt taxing ability of the commander. The goal isn't a complete lockdown (even though it's technically possible) but just to slow down the opponents enough to assemble our own winning combos. Back to Basics and Winter Orb are easier to break parity on in that context.

One part of the deck, which has been gradually reduced, was based on effects that trigger at the beginning of the upkeep, mostly in order to deal with stuff that is still on the board, despite the attempts of preventing anything from being played in the first place. These cards are given in their own custom category in the decklist. I had Paradox Haze in the deck for a while because it can be devastating with these upkeep triggers, but there aren't enough really awful cards to justify a card that does nothing besides giving someone an additional upkeep.

I currently use 2 of the 3 available tabernacle effects
- The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
- Pendrell Mists (stays on board when lands are destroyed)
- Magus of the Tabernacle (has been removed because the 2/6 body isn't needed that much and he has the drawback of taxing himself while costing the same as the Enchantment)

The tabernacle and it's newer relatives are incredibly good at stopping creature based strategies, especially if it's about using a large number of creatures to do whatever you want to do. Suddenly having an upkeep cost for every creature means losing a lot of tempo and even having to sacrifice creatures. Removing mana sources in such a situation will also reduce the number of creatures everyone can keep. Cursed Totem to shut down mana producing creatures will kill a lot in combination with the upkeep costs. Tabernacle and Winter Orb / Back to Basics will also reduce the number of creatures on the board within a turn cycle...

Maybe more such upkeep effects will be printed that fit into the whole plan of this deck but until now I've put in all I know and which I've considered worth playing. Mana Vortex has been switched in and out several times - losing a land when casting it is a big downside and with white in the deck there are mass removal for lands and the much more flexible World Queller available, so I won't really need it. World Queller has also been an on/off piece, mostly because of cmc 5 and double white mana required, but today it's gone from the deck.

Last but not least, the classic Stax pieces Smokestack and Tangle Wire : these are killers in the mid game, perfect to stabilize a situation in which I am slightly ahead but about to lose tempo in the next few turns. They won't turn a game in your favour but they are important to establish control in the long run. Smokestack isn't in the deck anymore because it's simply too slow and other decks can deal with it better. Tangle wire on the other hand is a great tempo play, often shuts down interaction for the following turn(s) which is important for dropping more nasty stuff or even the killing combos undisrupted.

With a commander that doesn't provide card advantage, having strong sources for card draw in the 99 is crucial. A form of card advantage in this deck is that the stax pieces disable whole parts of the opponents' decks, so they will often draw dead cards. The taxing and resource denial results in effectively time walking the opponents, which also means we see more cards until they can play something relevant again. However, we still need cards that either improve the quality or the quantity of our draws. The quality improvement has to be cheap, so it can be applied in the early game or inbetween other actions during a turn. The quantity draws can also be fat engines that provide long-term value. In general we do want engines over one-time effects, even if they are a bit more expensive.

As the deck aims at dropping game warping pieces and ramp in the early game, the cheap card selection slots are limited to Brainstorm , Ponder , Sensei's Divining Top (also a combo piece) and Scroll Rack , maybe also Preordain . You might know Scroll Rack from ist use in "Parfait", an old mono White control deck that used it together with Land Tax to draw 3 additional cards per turn and exchanging the whole hand while shuffling the deck each turn.

The quantity draw slots start rather cheap at 3 mana with Windfall and Timetwister and also include Manifold Insights , which is a really interesting and surprisingly strong card. At worst people will give you all the mana rocks among the 10 revealed cards, at best people will give you stax pieces that hurt another opponent and the choosing becomes one of the rare political actions in cEDH. There's also the potential that so few nonland cards are among the top 10 that people can't really choose and you end up being given parts of your win cons. It has to be evaluated how people react to it and how often the "nonland draw" chosen by oppoennts is better than a "random draw" in wich opponents have no say.

The more expensive draw slots are Consecrated Sphinx , Time Spiral and Future Sight , which are still rather easy to cast with all the ramp and the cost reduction of Augustin. The third wheel is really good for keeping the gas pedal down in the mid and late game and the other two cards provide so much value under stax that they can be considered win cons on their own. Leaving a Sphinx unchecked even for one turn cycle adds at least 6 cards to your hand and not being able to remove it for longer will simply win the game.

Draw that exploits the already scarce resources of the opponents is Mystic Remora (no one can pay for it anyway) and Rhystic Study . The decision is upon the opponents but neither letting you draw nor slowing themselves down by not playing anything is really a trick against stax.

How to play the deck:

With this deck I feel it's pretty easy to keep any hand, as long as there is some acceleration present, because if we do nothing else, Augustin on turn 1/2 is always great. Having not so much acceleration but a counterspell in the opening hand is also a way to go. I recommend taking the free mulligan when the first hand isn't perfect - there's nothing to lose and it's harder to come back from a slower start than to play with fewer cards in the beginning.

The early game, which I would say are the first two or three turns in this case, is all about getting mana on the board and play taxing pieces. The land bouncing effects described above are perfect in this stage of the game as well. Do not hesitate and counter any mana rock if there's a Spell Pierce or Mental Misstep available. Getting a Cursed Totem to resolve can be great against certain decks and it fits easily inbetween the other cards we want to play in the beginning.

Tutors should be saved to get whatever solution we might want to find in the next turns, when we already know what our opponents actually managed to throw at us or to collect combo pieces. However, if it's necessary to speed up our otherwise perfect opening hand, we can use an Enlightened Tutor to find the missing mana rock for an explosive turn 2.

Now we enter the stage when we can attempt to get a softlock in place or to secure the situation we created in the first turns. Tangle Wire shines here, destroying all lands with Armageddon or Ravages of War also makes sense now. Getting a Land Equilibrium out in the early or mid game does a lot to stabilize the situation and buy more time for finding more lock pieces or a combo and it even might win the game on the spot. A best case scenario for example would consist of having a taxing sphere, having countered or otherwise removed the opponent's nonland mana sources, Land Equilibrium and then a method to destroy all lands.

As the hand is probably empty or almost empty by now, draw is important. The cards we want to see now can be found in the list above in their own category. The mid game is also the time for tutors, because we want to complete our locks and - if possible - dig for combo pieces.

Another important part of the mid game is to disable creature based strategies with the help of the Tabernacle effects, Humility , a well placed Swords to Plowshares and other cards that wouldn't be optimal in the very beginning. Aether Gale makes for a nice tempo play in the mid game, especially when taxing is already in place or people have to cast their stuff again through a Mystic Remora or Rhystic Study . Dropping a Consecrated Sphinx in this stage of the game can be a game winning move if it isn't dealt with immediately.

The late game is something we might not even get into, for example if it was possible to establish a hardlock in the mid game or if we happened to get a combo into play faster than expected. It depends a lot on the matchup what we need to do if the game drags on.

In most cases the goal will be to find a combo to end the game before someone else finds a way to break through the Stax pieces we have assembled in the earlier stages of the game. The combos, which end the game on the spot are:

Paradox Engine annd Divining Top also combo well with Words of Wind , because we can turn the carddraw into bounce instead. Even without the engine, top and words together say "2: every opponent returns a permanenent to their hand", which is a fine use for mana in the late game. This card currently isn't in the deck because it doesn't really fit my approach of high impact and game warping early game plays anymore.

When drawing through the deck with unlimited colourless mana we will find mana rocks that produce coloured mana and in the process we will come across the Helm/RIP combo as well as all our taxing spheres, counterspells, Timetwister to reshuffle if we want...if we get that far it's definitely over. Even if Helm/RIP isn't in the library anymore (for example because one part has been exiled for some reason), we can just use Cyclonic Rift and Armageddon to clear the whole table, drop all taxing and stax we have and use Tezzeret the Seeker for killing with his ultimate a turn later.

Apart from going for a combo it may be necessary to find a Cyclonic Rift in the late game. If that one resolves at the end of an opponent's turn it's not very hard to secure a win. Several games have ended in the late game with a rift followed by Armageddon .

A possible two card combo that doesn't win immediately but results in a lock is Smokestack and Sundial of the Infinite . Put a counter on the Smokestack, end the turn before sacrificing - we skip the draw, everyone sacrifices one permanent more each turn and eventually mills themselves. Add a taxing sphere and/or Land Equilibrium and it's safe to assume that no one will play anything anymore. both cards aren't in the deck anymore because it felt a bit situational and the other combo win cons don't require an additional potential hardlock in the deck.

I also tried one alternative win in this deck: Mechanized Production This card put on a Sphere of Resistance can do the job on its own. It must be removed immediately, as it gets harder to get rid of it with every turn. It's not only for the late game and it can be put on any artifact, even a mana rock. It's currently not in the deck but it's something to keep in mind. This cards much rather fits into a deck I built with Saheeli, the Gifted though...I've built her as an even more proactive stax deck and there the copied spheres are a more realistic win con.

Summary of key combos

Helm of Obedience + Rest in Peace
Metalworker + Staff of Domination (currently not in the deck)
Basalt Monolith + Rings of Brighthearth with Sensei's Divining Top or Staff of Domination as outlet
Paradox Engine + Sensei's Divining Top with Voltaic Key or Rings of Brighthearth
Land Equilibrium + mass LD

Changes and Feedback:

Here I will keep track of notable changes and I will also mention user feedback if it had an impact on my decisions. Feel free to leave a comment if you think anything could be further improved (without completely overturning the whole gameplan)!

25.07.17: Removed Sundial of the Infinite , Swords to Plowshares , Wasteland , Engineered Explosives in favour of Mind Stone , Sunder , Rhystic Study , Commit / Memory . I have tested the deck online with Xmage and I have frequently been unimpressed when the Sundial had shown up. EE, while being a repeatable removal with Academy Ruins, would often hit important pieces of my own board and Swords felt too random in most games. If creatures were a problem it's always a lot of them and I either need Humility, Moat or Ensnaring Bridge anyway. Sunder has been in the deck at the very beginning and went out when I bought Ravages of War . But in fact I'm always glad to see a mass land wipe showing up, so having a third one in the deck is a good idea. It's also great because it's an instant and I have Timetwister, Windfall and now I'm testing the 3rd Wheel with Commit / Memory too.

24.08.17: Trinket Mage , Long-Term Plans , Telepathy in, Serra Ascendant , Thorn of Amethyst , Mystical Tutor out. While I usually never felt the need to get a certain instant/sorcery on top, I often wanted to find ANY card in the deck, e.g. tabernacle, tezzeret, world queller and other stuff that no common white or blue tutor would find (Intuition doesn't make good enough piles in this deck). Therefore the choice of Long-Term Plans over Mystical Tutor. It always felt bad to get mana artifacts with fabricate, so trinket mage goes back in again - missed it quite often since I took it out a while ago. Maybe EE or pithing needle is justified again then, probably depends on what the other guys will be playing in the near future. Thorn of Amethyst is the sphere that hindered my own deck the most and might not even slow down creature based strategies at all so I will try to go without it. Serra ascendant goes out to test how effective Telepathy is in 3-4 player pods. Timing of counters, bounce and destruction is very important, so knowing the opponents' hands could greatly improve the performance of the deck. Sunder is out again for Wasteland , at least the invocation wasn't expensive.

07.12.17: added In the Eye of Chaos as a massive game warping piece. any competitive deck wants to play as much as possible at instant speed and this card punishes you for doing so. I still run counterspells, but only few and they are very cheap. I simply exchanged my X draw spell with Braingeyser , so that one is a sorcery now. Memory Jar is out because recently I disliked the discard at EOT more and more. It was great to fill the Hand for a metalworker/staff combo but the jar probably fits better in a deck with red that can get artifacts out of the graveyard better. Instead I have Manifold Insights because it's a draw 3 nonland cards for 1U with Augustin, it can be rebounded with Narset too...it's nice. Another recent change is the inclusion of Counterbalance again and also Condescend and Brainstorm . I've ordered an Idyllic Tutor but it's not yet in the decklist - not sure what to cut for that one, but it's probably needed. Telepathy is out again for now. Moat is out for the more interactive defense of Serra Ascendant and Monastery Mentor - testing how good they are now.

14.12.17: Thada Adel is back as a parity breaker and combo piece stealer. By cutting Moat I have removed the reason for not playing her and as we have only one deck here that uses food chain (bug sidisi) I have cut AEther Barrier - it's out as long as we don't get any more food chain or creature heavy decks like blood pod. Condescend has been swapped for Swan Song , expedition map for Idyllic Tutor .

20.02.18: Testing a more aggressive combo approach with Paradox Engine now. Not playing dramatic scepter because there are too few instants in the deck but the engine goes off pretty well with staff of domination and the other pieces I need for the monolith/rings and metalworker/staff combo. Added more mana rocks, Stroke of Genius , Force of Will as an additional counterspell. Aether Gale should serve as boardwipes to complement the land denial/tax strategy and Chain of Vapor goes in as another targeted removal. Also adjusted the lands a bit to fit the newly added Back to Basics .

30.07.18: Long playing time inbetween - cut stroke of genius in favour of new Teferi because it's not needed as a win con and it's too expensive as value draw. Also, X cost instant isn't cool with eye of chaos. Removed Grafdigger's Cage in favour of Fellwar Stone as additional ramp because Cage hasn't got much to stop in my meta recently (RIP and the other stax is enough). Currently testing Future Sight instead of Narset and Chalice of the void instead of Muddle the Mixture.

06.09.18: I "acidentially" sold my Teferi on cardmarket, so I took the opportunity to re-evaluate the usefulness and replaced the card with Winter Orb . Breaking parity with rocks is rather easy and it's fine to have another resource denial piece which is also cheap. Great synergy with tangle wire, tabernacle, pendrell mists... Haven't missed Narset and Muddle since the last update. Spellseeker is an awesome card btw.

30.10.2018: Replaced Pendrell Mists with Cataclysm . Our meta is very low on creatures and tabernacle effects do the same as Cataclysm to creatures - everyone only keeps the most important ones in play. The upside of Cataclysm is that it removes everything else too, including planeswalkers (which can be relevant against our Teferi for example). I already had cataclysm in the deck at some point and I can remember it sometimes resulted in "accidential" hardlocks because of what I kept in play. Knowing when to use it and floating mana to rebuild the board in the same turn is the trick there.

04.02.2019: The changes mentioned in the January update look good so far. Muddle, Time Spiral and Narset are definitely good to play. Preordain and Fragmentize help with having better early turns, even without a lot of ramp but they might be too low impact compared to card advantage engines. Karn was ok, producing solid blockers and drawing some cards...not overwhelming though. In general I found myself being in situations in which Gilded Drake and planeswalkers are in conflict with each other. There's almost nothing that blocks a 3/3 flyer and Planeswalkers would be great engines if they weren't attacked in the air. The latest additions to the deck were Lavinia, Azorius Renegade and Smothering Tithe .

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After testing for a while I have some impressions on how useful the most recent changes are. Upfront I have to say that most of them were fine but I have misjudged certain cards a bit.

Narset Transcendent , Muddle the Mixture and Time Spiral are the added cards I'm most happy with. Preordain and Fragmentize are solid because they are cheap and can help in making a questionable hand keepable. Fragmentize could possibly be something else though, not sure of I really need that single removal for artifacts/enchantments.

Karn, Scion of Urza looks nice because he's colorless but as an engine he isn't that impressive. Planeswalkers in general are really good engines in a stax but I think a few requirements have to be met:
- the card advantage ability has to be + or at least a 0
- a protective ability should be a + or
- cheap enough - removal ability that doesn't leave the walker at 1 loyalty if you have to remove something upon resolving
Karn has the basic card advantage on + but the protective ability is not as strong as it should be imo. Non-flying blockers won't even keep a traded Gilded Drake in check.

As for walkers, Tezzeret, Artifice Master has been brought to my atention. I would say he is the most reasonable next best include for my build because he protects himself for +, usually will draw 2 for 0 and it's not unrealistic to ultimate him. Other options would currently be Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Jace, the Mind Sculptor . Of these two I would prefer JTMS because the land untapping of Teferi is mostly irrelevant in this build and he draws fewer cards per activation. JTMS can potentially use the removal ability twice in a row and 4 times in a row after +2 once. As I am in a rahter low creature meta, keeping single creatures at bay for longer is the better removal ability. With another walker, Supreme Verdict becomes a better choice over Cataclysm and Porphyry Nodes is also worth testing imo.

Another card I have tested is Puca's Mischief . As I was looking for engines instead of one-time effects, this seemed to be interesting. Indeed, it worked well so far by exchanging global stax effects for useful things. I have counted around 14 or 15 cards I would happily trade against something else - this includes Trinket Mage and a used Mana Vault or Grim Monolith . Adding Spellseeker again along with Puca's Mischief seems to be reasonable.

Mana Breach is in again instead of Winter Orb because it's a lot easier to break parity on and it has better synergy with Land Equilibrium , Scroll Rack and Lavinia, Azorius Renegade . The possibility of drawing both Back to Basics and this is there but it's not much of a problem. I think I evaluated the card incorrectly at the time of cutting it.

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