Smokestack– Urza’s Saga
Date Reviewed: October 31, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 3.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
In honor of Halloween, I thought it a fun idea to review a horrifying card that has never been reviewed on Pojo. And what better a name than the infamous Smokestack, an artifact that lent its name to the notorious “Stax” deck archetype and has generally been a hated and feared card since Urza’s Saga? Truly, I am a horrible person, and stuff.
Personal shortcomings aside, Smokestack is one of those seemingly symmetrical cards that is easy to break the symmetry on, thanks to how it is worded. Both of its abilities trigger at the start of your upkeep…but you decide their resolution order, which means you can put the counter on after being forced to sacrifice permanents. Couple that steady depletion of resources with being able to opt out of it when you’re in a position where it won’t help as much, and the thick clouds of smoke from the Smokestack can easily choke out a game. Paired with more tools of oppression like Winter Orb, Static Orb, and Stasis, and you can ensure that Nothing happens until you want it to.
While I’ve been positive so far about this very rude card, I will caution that it’s a slow card to get running; soot counters are exclusive to it, so cheating them on is a challenging task; it won’t start doing things for a full turn cycle unless you flash it in somehow; and if an opponent already has a board established, this will not do all that much to thin it out. Smokestack is more of a card to ensure you keep a lead instead of wresting one back; it’s very good at that, but it alone won’t be quite enough to wrest away your opponents’ will to proverbially live, and it also carries the risks of it being a very hated card that will put a target on you. It’s still a potent weapon in Legacy, but it’s definitely a weapon to be deployed with care.
Constructed: 4 (irreplaceable in its own deck, but it only has a couple homes)
Casual: 1.5 (there are few cards that will tilt a table harder than Smokestack and its friends)
Limited: 2 (sort of a weird piece, with only one Limited outing where it didn’t really do much)
Multiplayer: 3.25 (it works well in multiplayer, with the caveats about making a board loathe you)
Commander [EDH]: 3.25 (Stax is harder to establish in Commander, and while this can work, it’s usually just an invitation to get reamed)
Smokestack is another card with a long and feared pedigree. It’s the card that put the stack in Stax, and still turns up when people need something that gets things off the table with inevitability. As a disruptive effect, it’s surprisingly sub-par compared to discard or land destruction – even with ways to break the symmetry, it can prevent you from applying immediate pressure of your own. But in a deck that plays the long game, there’s not really anything else that does what it does: as a non-creature artifact, and a triggered ability that doesn’t depend on any other card, it demands specific kinds of answers, and is very effective at keeping an opponent from catching up or breaking out. It’s horrifying enough for Halloween, but it’s the creeping, lurking kind of horror, rather than the jump scare that seems to be so popular right now.
I like that the image it got recently, the one we’ve used on this page, is in an art style that we don’t often see in Magic. But it really weirds me out for some reason. I find it just as disturbing as some of the New Phyrexia stuff, but in a different direction, if you like. Fitting for Halloween, I guess!
Commander [EDH]: 3
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