Phyrexia

The primer is tailored for all 5 colors of Magic, has a massive list of both budget and non-budget cards, and will help you understand the mechanics and options of STAX strategies whether you play EDH, Duel Commander, Modern, Legacy, or even casual Multiplayer. I hope you enjoy!


What is STAX?


STAX is one of the most control oriented strategies in all of Magic and got its name from a powerful vintage deck called "the four thousand dollar solution" or "$T4KS." This deck ran an artifact based prison strategy and was designed to counter other high tier decks in the extremely fast format. The idea of STAX was then applied to other formats and leaked into EDH. EDH STAX strategies quickly became infamous among those who had to fight oppressive Braids, Cabal Minion decks until she was banned. A multitude of sacrifice effects hitting all kinds of permanents would slowly turn the game into a deadly war of attrition which a majority of decks could not win against. A STAX deck's primary philosophy is locking other players out of game with control spells or creating a unbeatable prison that the opponents cannot escape. Ensuring victory after victory, dominating every opponent at the table, or just causing a bit of senseless chaos is possible with a finely tuned STAX deck, but there are multiple paths one can take to achieve these goals.

Start off by thinking of and artifact global removal cards like Innocent Blood , Vona's Hunger , Barter in Blood , Dystopia , Grave Pact , Dictate of Erebos , Call to the Grave , Smokestack , Abyssal Gatekeeper , Plaguecrafter , Fleshbag Marauder , Merciless Executioner , Phyrexian Obliterator , Anowon, the Ruin Sage , Ob Nixilis, Unshackled , Butcher of Malakir , Sheoldred, Whispering One , Thraximundar , All Is Dust , Tragic Slip , Bile Blight , Toxic Deluge , Massacre , Yahenni's Expertise , Languish , Mutilate , Virulent Plague , Engineered Plague , Night of Souls' Betrayal , Pestilence , Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief , Kagemaro, First to Suffer , Bane of the Living , Massacre Wurm , Black Sun's Zenith , Crumbling Ashes , Blowfly Infestation , Harbinger of Night , The Scorpion God , Archfiend of Ifnir , Midnight Banshee , Carnifex Demon , Gate to Phyrexia , Xenic Poltergeist , Cannibalize , Oubliette , Ashes to Ashes , Sever the Bloodline , Eradicate , Gild , Vraska's Contempt , Settle the Score , Faceless Butcher , Tawnos's Coffin , Perilous Vault , Gaze of Granite , Pernicious Deed , Culling Scales , Oblivion Stone , Boompile , Nevinyrral's Disk , Virtue's Ruin , Perish , Forced March , Bontu's Last Reckoning , Damnation , Hellfire , Crux of Fate , Consume the Meek , Reign of Terror , Life's Finale , Deadly Tempest , Overwhelming Forces , Decree of Pain , Plague Wind , In Garruk's Wake , Attrition , Season of the Witch , Shriveling Rot , Lethal Vapors , No Mercy , Dread , Death Pits of Rath , Spreading Plague , The Abyss , Magus of the Abyss , and Horobi, Death's Wail when building a removal based STAX deck. The key to STAX cards in this list is that they all have repeatable value or have the keywords "each" or "opponents" which allow them to effect everyone at the table. As opposed to traditional control which mostly sport a package of targeted removal spells, STAX is geared up for a multiplayer environment with threats that scale with the number of opponents.

Other colors have access to strong permanent based control with having hard removal spells such as Swords to Plowshares , Path to Exile , Dispatch , Porphyry Nodes , Tariff , Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim , Teysa, Orzhov Scion , Anguished Unmaking , Vindicate , Leonin Relic-Warder , Fiend Hunter , Mangara of Corondor , Council's Judgment , Oblivion Ring , Grasp of Fate , Gideon, Champion of Justice , Forsake the Worldly , Return to Dust , Karmic Justice , Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker , Martyr's Bond , Planar Collapse , Supreme Verdict , Day of Judgment , Wrath of God , False Prophet , Magus of the Disk , Elspeth Tirel , Mageta the Lion , Archon of Justice , World Queller , Cataclysmic Gearhulk , Tragic Arrogance , Scourglass , Rout , Hallowed Burial , Hour of Revelation , Terminus , Akroma's Vengeance , Austere Command , Planar Cleansing , Final Judgment , Descend upon the Sinful , Merciless Eviction , Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts , Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter , Sublime Exhalation , Sunscour , Mass Calcify , Angel of Serenity , and Ashen Rider .

is the king of artifact based control involving Daretti, Scrap Savant , Feldon of the Third Path , Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer , Goblin Welder , Meltdown , Vandalblast , Shattering Spree , Hammer Mage , Shattering Pulse , Shatterstorm , Into the Core , Fiery Confluence , Trash for Treasure , Scrap Mastery , Liquimetal Coating , and Mycosynth Lattice .

Primarily a strategy and very powerful in 1 v. 1 EDH, discard can be used to control the opponents hands and win the game. Although thought to be grimy by many, hard hand locks can sometimes be needed considering we live in a world where Consecrated Sphinx , Greater Good , and Necropotence exist. Powerful discard engines like Unmask , Cabal Therapy , Inquisition of Kozilek , Thoughtseize , Blackmail , Mire's Toll , Raven's Crime , Cry of Contrition , Despise , Divest , Duress , Mind Twist , Mind Shatter , Torment of Hailfire , Hymn to Tourach , Wrench Mind , Gerrard's Verdict , Chain of Smog , Mind Swords , Strongarm Tactics , Miasmic Mummy , Rotting Rats , Cunning Lethemancer , Dreamstealer , Hypnotic Specter , Liliana's Specter , Liliana, Heretical Healer  Flip, Liliana of the Veil , Leshrac's Sigil , Chains of Mephistopheles , Mind Slash , Words of Waste , Warped Devotion , Oppression , Bottomless Pit , Necrogen Mists , Creeping Dread , Raiders' Wake , Persecute , Dark Deal , Syphon Mind , Delirium Skeins , Unnerve , Tasigur's Cruelty , Mindslicer , Cao Cao, Lord of Wei , Greel, Mind Raker , Sadistic Hypnotist , Larceny , Descent into Madness , Gibbering Descent , Herald of Anguish , Cabal Conditioning , Myojin of Night's Reach , Possessed Portal , Breathstealer's Crypt , Skull Rend , Sire Of Insanity , Identity Crisis , Crosis, the Purger , Cruel Ultimatum , Nicol Bolas , Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker , and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh are all incredible when paired with the right defense. Discard decks make people angry, especially in multiplayer, so running cards like Glacial Chasm , Glacial Crevasses , Solitary Confinement , Forcefield , Ensnaring Bridge , Crawlspace , Silent Arbiter , Noetic Scales , Portcullis , Null Brooch , Bottled Cloister , and Geth's Grimoire is very important. Remember that if your opponents can't keep a hand and can't retaliate, how are they even going to play the game and attempt to beat something degenerate like Quest for the Nihil Stone , Shrieking Affliction , Waste Not , The Rack , Wheel of Torture , Rackling , Lashwrithe , Abyssal Nocturnus , Painful Quandary , or a Bloodchief Ascension + Mindcrank combo? Unlike classic discard finishers like Megrim , Liliana's Caress , or Fell Specter that trigger off individual discards, these types of cards listed above will hurt players even when their hand is perpetually locked at zero.

also has access to specific deck exile spells to counter combo decks like Thoughtpicker Witch , Bitter Ordeal , Sadistic Sacrament , Praetor's Grasp , Cranial Extraction , Memoricide , Slaughter Games , Jester's Cap , and Neverending Torment . These sorts of cards can be absolutely devastating if one is knowledgeable about what decks they are fighting and what cards those decks use to win.

is notorious for spell control cards like Pact of Negation , Spell Burst , Swan Song , Spell Pierce , Disrupt , Abjure , Counterspell , Mana Drain , Declaration of Naught , Familiar's Ruse , Remand , Arcane Denial , Grip of Amnesia , Daze , Hesitation , Hindering Light , Spell Queller , Horribly Awry , Spell Shrivel , Faerie Trickery , Dissipate , Void Shatter , Vendilion Clique , Forbid , Perplex , Voidslime , Ertai, Wizard Adept , Dismiss , Rewind , Foil , Thwart , Cryptic Command , Mindbreak Trap , Glen Elendra Archmage , Mystic Snake , Plasm Capture , Force of Will , Venser, Shaper Savant , Disciple of the Ring , Draining Whelk , Ertai, the Corrupted and Sen Triplets .

Don't fret non- players, you have Counterspell s too! Mana Tithe , Rebuff the Wicked , Dawn Charm , Lapse of Certainty , Lifeforce , Deathgrip , Withering Boon , Guttural Response , Red Elemental Blast , Pyroblast , Artifact Blast , Burnout , Warping Wail , and Not of This World are all good options for those that can't fathom playing an island.

This smaller section is dedicated to a style of STAX that focuses on making spells more expensive so that opponent's cannot pay their mana cost. Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is a perfect example of what a death and taxes style of STAX aims to achieve. Taxation effects like Mystic Remora , Rhystic Study , Rishadan Cutpurse , Rishadan Footpad , Propaganda , Monastery Siege , War Tax , Energy Flux , Aura Flux , AEther Barrier , In the Eye of Chaos , Embargo , Pendrell Mists , Collective Restraint , Squeeze , Dream Tides , Invoke Prejudice , The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale , Ghostly Prison , Aura of Silence , Kataki, War's Wage , Leonin Arbiter , Suppression Field , Thalia, Guardian of Thraben , Glowrider , Vryn Wingmare , Windborn Muse , Archangel of Tithes , Magus of the Tabernacle , Spelltithe Enforcer , Norn's Annex , Sphere of Safety , Chancellor of the Annex , Elephant Grass , Hum of the Radix , Chalice of the Void , Sphere of Resistance , Thorn of Amethyst , Defense Grid , Trinisphere , Lodestone Golem , Feroz's Ban , Koskun Falls , and the ultimate Nether Void bog players down with spells they cannot afford to cast. This becomes a very powerful strategy when combined with a solid win condition such as your Commander, Vampire Hexmage + Dark Depths , Aura Thief + Enchanted Evening , Mikaeus, the Unhallowed + Triskelion , Rest in Peace + Helm of Obedience , Dovescape , Blightsteel Colossus or any number of degenerate finishers or un-interactive combos. The taxes only work if there is lots of death, however, since a rise in mana could slowly spell a Death and Taxes player's doom. In order to support these oppressive cards a strong control package from the cards in the permanent based control section is highly recommended. Having a collection of cards which make playing a single spell insanely difficult while also having any number of answers for the cards the opponents finally play is truly oppressive.

Do you hate lands? Are you tired of ramping? Do you want to destroy the "everything?" Look no further because cards like Strip Mine , Tectonic Edge , Ghost Quarter , Wasteland , Dust Bowl , Rishadan Port , Tsabo's Web , Mana Web , Winter Orb , Static Orb , Orb of Dreams , Tangle Wire , Arena of the Ancients , Kill Switch , Icy Manipulator , Sands of Time , Damping Engine , Mishra's Helix , Storm Cauldron , Overburden , Stasis , Mana Vortex , Mana Breach , Back to Basics , Rising Waters , Land Equilibrium , Frozen AEther , Acid Rain , Mist of Stagnation , Sunder , Upheaval (Banned in EDH), Sinkhole , Icequake , Choking Sands , Rain of Tears , Rancid Earth , Caustic Rain , Smallpox , Pox , Death Cloud , Desolation , Tainted AEther , Stench of Evil , Helldozer , Herald of Leshrac , Crack the Earth , Tremble , Impending Disaster , Tectonic Break , Tectonic Instability , Price of Glory , Bend or Break , Boil , Boiling Seas , Flashfires , Ruination , Omen of Fire , Epicenter , Burning Sands , Keldon Firebombers , Apocalypse , Territorial Dispute , Wake of Destruction , Jokulhaups , Burning of Xinye , Wildfire , Destructive Force , Devastation , Obliterate , Bearer of the Heavens , Worldfire (Banned in EDH), Decree of Annihilation , Myojin of Infinite Rage , Limited Resources (Banned in EDH), Balance (Banned in EDH), Equipoise , Cleansing , Ravages of War , Armageddon , Cataclysm , Global Ruin , Catastrophe , Authority of the Consuls , Imposing Sovereign , Blind Obedience , Damping Field , Thalia, Heretic Cathar , Loxodon Gatekeeper , Kismet , Hokori, Dust Drinker , Yosei, the Morning Star , Smoke , Uphill Battle , Mudslide , War's Toll , Urabrask the Hidden , Root Maze , Thermokarst , Ice Storm , Kudzu , Hall of Gemstone , Choke , Tsunami , Freyalise's Winds , Nature's Will , Nature's Wrath , Ritual of Subdual , Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger , and Razia's Purification are all great ways to limit the amount of resources in the game and make dirty ramp players groan. Land destruction may not be acceptable in all metas and is considered extremely cut-throat but can be required given the power of other decks. When a lot of EDH players splash green into decks only to be able to get degenerate amounts of mana, there has to be some form of punishment. The same logic could go for any infinite mana combo decks and artifact ramp decks, it is important to have answers like Null Rod or Torpor Orb to stop them from going out of control.

Often in the form of weird and unique spells, these STAX cards work differently by manipulating the physical properties of the game. These are extremely powerful effects when properly abused and a deck built to survive the downsides is bound to win. Card's like Pithing Needle , Sorcerous Spyglass , Phyrexian Revoker , Stony Silence , Null Rod , Cursed Totem , Damping Matrix , Linvala, Keeper of Silence , Torpor Orb , Tocatli Honor Guard , Hushwing Gryff , Gaddock Teeg , Ethersworn Canonist , Meddling Mage , Sanctum Prelate , Nevermore , Gideon's Intervention , Narset Transcendent , Voidstone Gargoyle , Ward of Bones , Angelic Arbiter , Nullstone Gargoyle , Void Winnower , Iona, Shield of Emeria , Mana Maze , Arcane Laboratory , Leovold, Emissary of Trest , Paradox Haze , Fatespinner , Eon Hub , Word of Command , Maralen of the Mornsong , Spirit of the Labyrinth , Aven Mindcensor , Eidolon of Rhetoric , Rule of Law , Zur's Weirding , Mindlock Orb , Uba Mask , Omen Machine , Glaciers , Conversion , Magus of the Moon , Blood Moon , Blood Sun , Contamination , Infernal Darkness , Arboria , Island Sanctuary , Peacekeeper , Magus of the Moat , Moat , Teferi's Moat , Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir , Breath of Dreams , Mystic Decree , Angel's Grace , Phyrexian Unlife , Worship , Immortal Coil , Nefarious Lich , Lich , Lich's Tomb , Lich's Mirror , Soul Conduit , Mirror Universe , Magus of the Mirror , Axis of Mortality , Sorceress Queen , Vhati il-Dal , Natural Affinity , Living Plane , Nature's Revolt , Rude Awakening , Kamahl, Fist of Krosa , Titania's Song , Kormus Bell , Humility , Overwhelming Splendor , Godhead of Awe , Ixidron , Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite , and Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur alter properties of the game mechanics to lock players out of the game and completely neuter certain decks.

specifically is very strong at manipulating the battlefield and the ownership of cards, sporting powerful threats like Norin the Wary , Glitterfang , Crown of Flames , Krark's Thumb , Fork , Reverberate , Reiterate , Dualcaster Mage , Shunt , Wild Ricochet , Wheel of Fate , Wheel of Fortune , Magus of the Wheel , Reforge the Soul , Dragon Mage , Chaosphere , Gravity Sphere , Planar Chaos , Fiery Gambit , Puppet's Verdict , Mogg Assassin , Diaochan, Artful Beauty , Crooked Scales , Grand Melee , Stranglehold , Impulsive Maneuvers , Confusion in the Ranks , Possibility Storm , Radiate , Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded , Custody Battle , Grab the Reins , Flameshadow Conjuring , Splinter Twin , Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker , Zealous Conscripts Mass Mutiny , Tide of War , Grip of Chaos , Whims of the Fates , Risky Move , Mob Rule , Twist Allegiance , Molten Primordial , Thieves' Auction , Scrambleverse , Warp World , Avatar of Slaughter , and Insurrection combined with oppressive scaling finishers like Earthquake , Rolling Earthquake , Fault Line , Comet Storm , Molten Disaster , Goblin Bombardment , Repercussion , Chandra's Spitfire , Chandra, Torch of Defiance , Ruination , Past in Flames , Mizzix's Mastery , Sneak Attack , Outpost Siege , Purphoros, God of the Forge , Pyrohemia , Mana Geyser , Pyromancer's Goggles , Stuffy Doll , Warstorm Surge , and Vicious Shadows .

All of these strategies are very powerful when used in a properly built deck and can win games when completely abused. Most of these cards are good on their own but some can devastate people when supported properly. This first section of the primer was about gaining card knowledge and learning about all the tools STAX players have available to them, however, this next section is about the more practical aspects of dealing with STAX such as how to build a functioning deck and how to win against a STAX strategy.

First off a STAX deck MUST have a low curve. A good prison deck should have a curve around 2.5 and the lower it is the better since a lot of these cards are causing prison effects on everyone's lands ( Winter Orb , Static Orb , Tangle Wire ). Having a low curve is vital because it allows a STAX deck to play in the playground of pain and taxation without being set back too much by the negative effects. Powerful ramp and land reanimation like Petrified Field , Lodestone Bauble , Groundskeeper , Gaea's Blessing , Life from the Loam , Loaming Shaman , Ramunap Excavator , Splendid Reclamation , and the Crucible of Worlds are great for STAX decks as well. Choosing the right form of ramp for your STAX deck is also important. For example, consider running mostly mana rocks like Sol Ring if your deck plans on using a Cursed Totem while mana-dorks like Birds of Paradise would be superior if you prefer things like Null Rod . Draw engines that can survive a STAX decks oppressive effects such as Vampiric Rites , Dark Tutelage , Dark Prophecy , Phyrexian Arena , or Necropotence are essential for maintaining tempo. The worst thing that can happen to STAX deck is for it to fizzle out midway through the match.

Since the curve of the deck should be low, most of the creatures in the deck shouldn't be very strong body wise. A STAX decks creature base should be filled with creatures that accelerate, defend, or are "Hate Bears" which help with your strategy. Equipment cards like Masterwork of Ingenuity , Blade of the Bloodchief , Bloodforged Battle-Axe , Blade of Selves , Sword of the Animist , Nim Deathmantle , Umezawa's Jitte , Sword of Fire and Ice , Sword of Light and Shadow , Sword of Feast and Famine , Sword of War and Peace , Loxodon Warhammer , Behemoth Sledge , Fireshrieker , Bludgeon Brawl , Grip of Phyresis , Sunforger , Grafted Wargear , Grafted Exoskeleton , Deathrender , Hammer of Nazahn , Assault Suit , and Batterskull are great in STAX decks since they allow the weak "Hate Bears" ( Grand Abolisher for example) and Reassembling Skeleton variants to actually have a chance at trading with something bulky. Having a reliable finisher whether it be a plethora of ridiculous equipment or a powerful combo is important to eventually close out the game and end the opponent's suffering. Forcing scoops is another way to win if your deck is built to completely lock other players out of the game but this strategy "should" only be employed by chaos decks where their only other win condition is a unreliable slap from Norin the Wary .

Once a strategy has been chosen, utility cards must be added so that the STAX deck can recuperate faster than the opponents. This is done by fielding strong reanimation like Mimic Vat , Yawgmoth's Will , Magus of the Will , Hell's Caretaker , Whisper, Blood Litergist, and Living Death to name a few or degenerate self-reanimating creatures like Gravecrawler , Dread Wanderer , Tenacious Dead , Reassembling Skeleton , Bloodghast , Nether Traitor , Nether Shadow , Nether Spirit , Brood of Cockroaches , Endless Cockroaches , Mortus Strider , Squee, Goblin Nabob , Squee, the Immortal , Vengevine , Phytotitan and Advanced Stitchwing . Another strategy is to abuse creature tokens (think of Bitterblossom , Zombie Infestation ,