Everyone has an opinion about control decks – players either love it or absolutely hate it. But control needs good decision-making skills and careful use of your resources. They don’t lock the opponent out of the game.
Take control onto another level, and you have the term “stax.” Stax is an extreme play style of resource denial and creating a hard lock on players’ ability to even carry out the most basic plays in Magic.
Depending on who you ask, the term stax is derived from the card Smokestacks (which was part of a competitive deck in the early days of Magic), or the phrase “The 4 Thousand Dollar Solution” ($T4KS), also inspired by another deck.
Today, in multiplayer formats such as Commander, stax combos are getting increasingly frequent since you are dealing with 3 or more opponents in one fell swoop, raising the appeal of using the combo. Here are 10 of the most back-breaking stax combos that we’ve come up with, which should give you some ‘inspiration’ for your next deck. *cue evil laughter
Maralen of the Mornsong + Opposition Agent | Stax Combo
As one of the few stax combos that are in the same colour, be prepared to see more of this! On her own, Maralen of the Mornsong seems like a fair but risky card, allowing the opponent to search up any card they want at the cost of 3 life.
But thanks to Opposition Agent that has become a staple in competitive Commander builds, now you get to search, Exile a card and cast it later on. Your opponent still loses 3 life and is denied from drawing any cards.
There are some ways for opponents to get around this, such as through abilities that either Exile, “reveal,” or cast cards from the top of their Library without drawing them. Realmwalker and Mystic Forge are a couple of examples, but they are usually seen in very specific decks.
Rule of Law + Possibility Storm | Stax Combo
Rule of Law is a common sight in many stax decks, alongside Archon of Emeria and Deafening Silence which both have similar functions, limiting each player to 1 spell a turn. Doing that considerably slows down the game, allowing you to build your board at your own leisure.
Since nobody is unable to cast any spells, it’s all down to what Creatures players have on the board, and any activated abilities that they might have. If you planned it out carefully so that you already have a dominating force when the stax combo is unleashed, then no one can stand in your way to victory.
Drannith Magistrate + Knowledge Pool | Stax Combo
White may be weak in card draw, but they have some of the most oppressive, controlling effects in the game. Drannith Magistrate stops all your opponents from casting spells from outside the hand, and in Commander, this completely stops their game plan.
If that weren’t bad enough, combine it with Knowledge Pool for the ultimate one-sided stax combo. Your opponents will not be able to cast a single spell when both are on the board. You, on the other hand, are free to do as you wish.
Just like many other stax combos in this list, opponents will have to rely on abilities, rather than spells, to get themselves out of this mess. Make sure you deal with any potential threats such as Creatures that can destroy Artifacts or that can deal direct damage to your Magistrate.
Collector Ouphe + Blood Moon | Stax Combo
The Ouphe and Blood Moon stax combo isn’t as oppressive as some others here, but since Collector Ouphe stops all Mana Artifacts from generating coloured Mana, and Blood Moon turning all non-basic Lands into Mountains, players that aren’t running red will come to a standstill.
That said, this pair is still a rather fragile combo as Ouphe is a really small Creature. Opponents are still free to cast spells to remove them, but if you can protect in some way (maybe with Hexproof), then you can easily shut players out for a long time.
Living Plane + Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite | Stax Combo
This stax combo is particularly sadistic, because it kills off all your opponents’ Lands while keeping yours alive (that can also attack as 3/3s)!
Living Plane is an Enchantment from Legends that turns all Lands into 1/1s. Drop down a Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and the game’s practically over, because not only does everyone else not have any Lands, any new Lands instantly die as well thanks to Elesh Norn’s -2/-2 continuous effect.
Granted, you won’t see this stax combo much because Living Plane has never been reprinted and currently costs in excess of US$500 (Elesh Norn is a more reasonable US$20). But if you like brutality, this comes very close.
Nath of the Gilt Leaf + Sadistic Hypnotist | Stax Combo
There are other things that players detest apart from having their Lands destroyed, and one of them is discarding cards. Cards are crucial because you essentially need them to play Magic. No cards = no game.
Nath of the Gilt Leaf and Sadistic Hypnotist form a deadly stax combo that, if uninterrupted, will lead to your opponents with 0 cards in hand! It’s akin to having Jin Gitaxias, Core Augur on the Battlefield but without having to play blue.
There are some chinks in the armour in this combo that opponents can exploit. Sadistic Hyponotist’s ability can only be activated as a Sorcery, so there will be chances for opponents to draw cards and perhaps find a way to remove one of the combo pieces.
This pair may not be a hard lock, but one can imagine the glee of seeing your opponents with 0 cards, bored at the table with nothing to cast.
Decree of Silence + Solemnity | Stax Combo
Solemnity is an incredibly useful card all around. It stops +1/+1 counters being put on any Creature, and sometimes can save you from that annoying Infect deck and their Poison counters.
But when you combine it with Decree of Silence, you get a massive stax combo that counters all spells that the opponent plays. Unless the opponent has certain permanents already on the Battlefield with abilities it can activate or trigger, it’ll be tough to get out of this one.
Just note that certain spells can’t be countered. Carnage Tyrant, Banefire and Hullbreaker Horror are just a few examples where the opponent can sidestep the counters. Decree of Silence also costs a hefty 8 Mana, so not something that you can deploy in the early stages of the game.
Karn, the Great Creator/Stony Silence + Mycosynth Lattice | Stax Combo
With Mycosynth Lattice, that lock is taken to a completely new level, as the Lattice turns all Lands into Artifacts as well. That means both Lands and Artifacts cannot tap for Mana. Without any Mana to spend, this could very well be the most torturous stax combo.
Your Karn will henceforth become the target of any Creature attacks, so make sure you have some good blockers set up before putting both these combo pieces on the board.
Narset, Parter of Veils + Teferi’s Puzzlebox | Stax Combo
Yet another one of our most powerful Planeswalkers forms one half of a terrifying stax combos in Magic, and that is Narset, Parter of Veils. She already stops opponents from drawing more than 1 card a turn, so imagine emptying their hands and leaving only 1 card each time.
Teferi’s Puzzlebox is the partner in crime here, as every player (except yourself, thanks to Narset), will have to empty their hands while only being able to draw 1 card.
It’s not a complete wipeout or hard lock like Karn, the Great Creator[c] and [c]Mycosynth Lattice, but it severely limits your opponents’ options. They will have to cast or play that 1 card before the next turn otherwise they will lose it.
You, on the other hand, will have plenty more choices of cards that you can use to overrun the opponent.
Mirror of Life Trapping + Containment Priest | Stax Combo
Mirror of Life Trapping is a very new card from 2022’s Battle at Baldur’s Gate, which flickers any newly cast Creature and brings back old ones. That’s a pretty fair deal. However when you combine it with Containment Priest that stops all non-token Creatures from entering the Battlefield if they weren’t cast, that effectively means no Creatures for everyone.
This combo affects yourself too, but you can build your deck around other cards such as Planeswalkers or Vehicles, while using the vast array of board wipes in white (Wrath of God, Fumigate etc.) to clear the field.
While most people don’t want to be held back when playing Magic, just bear in mind that stax is a very real strategy that some players use to win. These cards and combos are not banned for a reason, so challenge yourself to get out of these control situations and it can also help you improve as a Magic player.
Are there any other stax combos that you felt we missed out on? Drop us an email!